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Theosophical Encyclopedia


(Aśoka) Also known in his Magadha dialect as Asoka, both names meaning “without sorrow.” Emperor of India from c. 274 to 232 BCE. His birth and death dates are not known with any certainty. What details we have about his reign are gathered from rock and pillar inscriptions that are scattered throughout India, Sanskrit literature and Pali writings of Sri Lanka.

According to some Pali material, Asoka gained the throne by murdering his brothers, but this charge seems utterly untenable when contrasted with accounts of his reign which describe a compassionate and spiritually aware monarch. For instance, he is said to have suppressed the traditional royal hunt and emphasized the sanctity of animal life. In the second decade of his reign he began periodic circuits of officials charged with the duty of proclaiming moral law and behavior. Many inscriptions praise Asoka for his religious toleration.

According to Helena P. BLAVATSKY (TG, p. 35) there were two monarchs called Asoka, the first being the grandfather of the second. The first Asoka was generally known by the name Chandragupta, also Piadasi (P) “the beautiful” and Devanam-piya “the beloved of the gods.” The second Aśoka was often called Dharmasoka which means “Asoka of the good law” because of his devotion to Buddhism. It appears that Asoka was a generous supporter of Buddhism, maintaining about 60,000 monks from his own funds. He sent his son, Mahendra, to Sri Lanka to promote Buddhism, and his son is credited with the conversion of a large number of the inhabitants to that philosophy.



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