Asoka or Ashoka the Great, was an Indian emperor of the Maurya Dynasty who ruled almost all of the Indian subcontinent from 269 BCE to 232 BCE. He embraced Buddhism after witnessing the Kalinga War, which he himself had waged. The Kalinga war had reportedly resulted in more than 100,000 deaths and it was one of the largest and bloodiest battles in ancient history. Ashoka thereafter regarded Buddhism as a doctrine that could serve as a cultural foundation for political unity, and he initiated a series of Buddhist missions the far corners of his kingdom.
This translation is done by Anandajoti Bhikkhu in 2012 and a lot of it has never been translated into English before, and it expands on the original story with new information. The story begins with Asoka’s birth and follows his life through to his appointment as vice-sovereign in Avanti, his murdering of his 99 rival siblings and his ascendancy to the throne. His conversion is figured here with his initial dissatisfaction with the Brahmans his Father had supported, and the deep impression a young Buddhist monk makes on him. Having gained faith in the Buddha’s Dispensation, he quickly becomes one of its greatest supporters, building 84,000 monasteries in honor of the 84,000 sections of the Teaching and giving his children for ordination. The emphasis in the story then shifts away from Asoka and on to the various Missions, and especially to the one which was led by his son Mahinda to Sri Lanka. The story in this translation is brought to a close with the deaths, first of Asoka, then King Devanampiyatissa, followed by the Arahats Mahinda and Saṅghamittā and the other missionaries who followed them on their journey.
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