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King Ashoka, who ruled
from 268 BCE to 232 BCE, played an integral role in spreading
Buddhism throughout the Maurya Empire; he also expanded Buddhism outside of
India, and transformed Buddhism into a world religion through his edict.1
King Ashoka underwent a personal transformation, which
resulted in a parallel transformation of the entire kingdom. He implemented Buddhist teachings into
his policies such as promoting social responsibilities and tolerance of all
citizens within the Maurya Empire to create a more peaceful and prosperous society that was
fair and just for all. He
also embarked on several religious pilgrimages that led to the expansion of
Buddhism beyond India so it would prosper in other countries. In addition, King
Ashoka built several permanent stone pillars and created an edict that outlined
his policies, reforms, and Buddhist teachings. These were made to last forever helping
to transform Buddhism into a world religion. Lastly, King Ashoka’s participation
in the brutal Kalinga War, affected him so deeply to the point of converting to
Buddhism, which inspired a transformation in his kingdom as well.

King Ashoka incorporated many of the Buddha’s teachings into his policies and used Buddhist
principles in his governing style. He promoted morality and ethics, advocated
for tolerance and justice, and promoted the Ten Precepts of Buddhism along with
the Four Noble truths. These reforms led to compassion, peace, and prosperity
throughout the Maurya Empire. The kingdom flourished as new roads, Buddhist
schools, universities, libraries, museums, and hospitals were built. This in
turn inspired the grateful citizens to embrace Buddhism, and a new era of
Buddhist architecture, artand science soon followed. King Ashoka ruled fairly and justly, stating that “the
power of love is greater than the power of the sword.”2

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In accordance with his expansion plans, King Ashoka took many
religious pilgrimages, not only to learn and study Buddhist values and
principles, but to also spread the word. King Ashoka also constructed
thousands of temples, monuments, monasteries, and stupas dedicated to Lord
Buddha throughout his empire. This ensured the presence of Buddhism would last
forever. In addition, his family journeyed beyond the kingdom’s borders and traveled to places such as
Sri Lanka, Japan, Korea, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia to help spread
Buddhism. Buddhist missionaries were also sent as far away as Greece, Syria,
Iran, Turkey, and Egypt. King Ashoka successfully helped transform simple
Buddhist philosophy into a world religion as Buddhism successfully took hold in
many parts of the world such as Sri Lanka, Thailand, Myanmar, Tibet, and

King Ashoka’s legend and
history is
well documented and recorded by his many monuments, pillars and edicts found
throughout India today – many with elaborate and detailed inscriptions
providing historians with plenty of information. King Ashoka’s edict offered lessons
in the form of Buddhist policies and reforms. The inscriptions were carved in local
dialects and languages making his edict available to everybody. For
example, in King Ashoka’s first major rock edict, he describes how the hunting
and killing of animals is cruel and he declares the practice illegal.3 By doing so, he
is establishing a rule prohibiting animal cruelty and at the same time he is
also promoting Buddhist values through his edict. Thus, his edict served to
promote Buddhist values while offering a moral lesson and also introduce his new
policies/reforms. His famous words were carved
on several large stone pillars (many 40-50 feet tall) found all over the
kingdom, making them accessible to all residents and visitors.4
This further helped Buddhism to spread throughout the Maurya Empire and

King Ashoka’s personal journey and
transformation not only affected him, but also helped transform an entire
empire and inspire a world religion. In 261 BCE, King Ashoka invaded and
conquered the neighboring kingdom of Kalinga, in one of the most fiercest and
bloodiest battles in ancient Indian history.5 The mass casualties and staggering loss of
life caused a profound and drastic change in King Ashoka, as he was so deeply
affected by the death and destruction of war. He sought peace/non-violence and
found Buddhism, which he embraced whole-heartedly. Initially, the Maurya
Empire was predominantly a Hindu/Jain society, which transformed into a
Buddhist kingdom during King Ashoka’s reign. The transition from a largely
Hindu/Jain society to a Buddhist empire
was a relatively peaceful one.

King Ashoka’s unique personal
journey helped transform ancient India into a peaceful and prosperous country. As
the first Buddhist king, he was the embodiment of truth, justice, compassion,
and kindness – all of the best qualities one could hope for in both a person
and in a ruler. King Ashoka was responsible for a significant “religious
transformation” that changed ancient India dramatically from predominately a
Hindu/Jain society into a Buddhist country. King Ashoka truly did earn his
title as “Ashoka the Great” and can fondly be remembered by his famous quote: “All men are my children.
What I desire for my own children, and I desire their welfare and happiness
both in this world and the next, that I desire for all men.”6

Ashoka’s reign was instrumental in the spreading
Buddhism, which led to the prosperity of the Maurya Empire. His religious
sojourns fostered the expansion of Buddhism throughout Asia, and his edicts and
pillars helped transform Buddhism into a world religion. In addition to these
contributions, historians and scholars are still studying the policies,
reforms, and lessons from his edict and pillars today.



Christian Violatti, “Ashoka.” Ancient History Encyclopedia, September 2, 2013.


Harish Singhal and Paul Chaffee, “Reclaiming Ashoka – An Iron
Age Interfaith Exemplar.” The Buddhist
Channel, October 14, 2011.,10505,0,0,1,0#.Wig_-baZNZJ.


Ven S Dhammika. “The
Edicts of King Ashoka.” KING ASHOKA:
His Edicts and His Times. 1993. 



Szczepanski. “Ashoka the Great
.” ThoughtCo. July 16, 2017.

“Kalinga War,”,
last modified December 12, 2014. 


“Ashoka,” Ashoka – New
World Encyclopedia, last modified November 25, 2016.




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