History

The Mauryas

Inscriptions of Ashoka

Rock Edict (RE) XII

Original text of the Girnar edict as per estampage by Meena Talim

१. देवानं पियं पियदसि राजा सवपासंडानि च पवजितानि च घरस्तानि च पुजयति दानेन च विविधाय पूजाय पुजयति [.]
२. न तुं तथा दानं व पुजा व देवानं पियो मञते तथा किति साखढिय अस सवमूलं [.] सारवढीति बहुविधा [.]
३. तस तु सञ इदं मुलं य वचिगुत्य किंति आत्पपासंडापूजा व परपासंडगरहा वा नो भवे अपकरणम्हि लहुका व असं |
४. तम्हि तम्हि पकरणे पूजताय तु एव परपासंडा तेन पकरणेन एवं करुं आत्पपासंड वढयति परपासुंडस च उपकारोति [.]
५. तद्येथा करोतं आत्पपासंडे च छ्णति परपासंडस च अपकारोति योहि कोचि आत्पपासंडे पुजयति परपासंड वा गरहति
६. सवं आत्पपासंडभतिया किंति आत्पपासंड दिपयेम इति सो च पुन तथ करोता आत्पपासंडा बाढतर अपहनाति [.] तासमवायो एवं साधुं
७. किति आयामयास धमं सुणारु च सुसुसारचं एवं देवानं पियस्स इछा किति सवपासंडा च असु कलाणगमा च असु
८. ये च तता पसना तेहि वतव्यं पियो ना तथा दानं च पूजा व मंञते यथा किति सारवढि अस सवपासंडे न बहुका च एताय
९. अथा व्यापता धंममहामता  च ईथीझरव महामता च वचभूमिका च अये च निकाया अयं च एतस फला आत्पपासंड वढी च पि ते धमस दीपना |

English translation by Meena Talim

1. King Devanamppiya Piyadassi worships all sects, ascetics and those who live in the house. He worships them with clarity and in various ways of honoring (worshiping) them.
2. Devanamppiya does not hold the worship and gift as of a great value as the fame of growing essence of sectarian philosophy in various ways. Let there be growth of roots and of essence in various ways.
3. Therefore, one should have sense to understand the root, but watchful towards, speech. Do not indulge in praising one’s sect and blaming other’s sect; even for small reasons it should be less.
4. For those small reasons, even other sects should be praised (worshiped). By doing this act one increases his sect and favors (helps) other sects too.
5. If one acts otherwise, then he leaves (discards) his own sect and harms the other sects. The one who worships his own sect and blames other’s sect ,(he)
6. does it put of brotherly devotion to increase the fame of his sect or in order to enlighten his sect. If he does it again he immensely harms his own sect. Therefore, right (balanced) exertion is good.
7. Devanappiya desires that all sects should listen to one another’s Dhamma and (understand) its true essence. Let there be fame and all sects lead towards merit.
8. Whatever is pleasing that should be said.Devanamppiya wants charity and worship be increased as fame of essence be increased. This is an instruction to all and many sects.
9. Here, Dhamma-mahamattas, ministers looking after womenfolk, cattle, cultivators of land and other departments have been occupied with their work and these are the fruits, whereby glory of one’s sect will be increased and proper guidance to Dhamma will be given.

English translation of the Shahbazgarhi text by G Buhler

King Priyadarsin, beloved of the gods, honors men of all creeds, both ascetics and householders, by gifts and honors of various kinds. But the Beloved of the gods thinks not so much of gifts and honors as of what? – that an increase of essentials may take place among men of all creeds. But the increase of essentials may happen in various ways. But this is its root, viz. guarding one’s speech – how so? “Honoring one’s own creed and blaming other creeds shall not be in unimportant point, or it shall be moderate with respect to this or that important point.” But other creeds must even be honored for this or that reason. Acting thus, one exalts one’s creed and benefits also the other creeds. Acting differently, one hurts one’s own creed and injures the other creeds. How so? For he who honors his own creed and blames all other creeds out of reverence for his own creed thinking “I promote thereby the interests of my own creed,” however, acting thus, injures his own creed exceedingly. Hence self-restraint alone is commendable. How so? “They shall hear each other’s law and love to hear it.” For this is the desire of the Beloved of the gods. What? –“That men of all creeds shall have heard much and shall possess holy doctrines. And to those who adhere to this or that faith it must be said :”The Beloved of the gods thinks not so much of gifts and honors as of what? – “that an increase of essentials may take place among men of all creeds and a large one.” For this end are working the Overseers of the Sacred Law, the Superintendent of women, the Vachabhumikas and other bodies of officials. And this is its result, viz. the exaltation of one’s own creed and the promotion of the interest of the law.

English translation of the Girnar  text by V A Smith

His Sacred and Gracious Majesty the King does reverence to men of all sects,  whether ascetics or householders, by gifts and various forms of reverence. His Sacred Majesty, however, cares not so much   for gifts or external reverence as that there should be a growth of the essence of the matter in all sects. The growth of the essence of the matter assumes various forms, but the root of it is restraint of speech, to wit, a man must not do reverence to his own sect or disparage that of another without reason. Depreciation should be for specific reasons only, because the sects of other people all deserve reverence for one reason or another. By thus acting a man exalts his own sect, and at the same time does service to the sects of other people. By acting contrariwise a man hurts his own sect, and does disservice to the sects of other people. For he who does reverence to his own sect while disparaging the sects of others wholly from attachment to his own. with intent to enhance the splendor of his own sect, in reality by such conduct inflicts the severest injury on his own sect. Concord, therefore, is meritorious, to wit, hearkening and hearkening willingly to  the Law of Piety as accepted by other people. For this is the desire of His Sacred Majesty that all sects should hear much teaching and hold sound doctrine. Wherefore the adherents of all sects, whatever they may be, must be informed that   His Sacred Majesty does not care so much for gifts or external reverence as that there should be growth in the essence of the matter and respect for all sects. For this very purpose are employed the Censors of the Law of Piety, the Censors of the Women, the (?) Superintendents of pastures, and other [official] bodies. And this is the fruit thereof  the growth of one’s own sect and the enhancement  of the splendor of the Law of Piety.

English translation by D R Bhandarkar

King Priyadarsin, Beloved of the gods, honors men of all sects, ascetics and householders, with gift and manifold honor. But the Beloved of the gods does not think so much of gift and honor as – what? – as that there should be a growth of the essential among (men of) all sects. The growth of the essential, however, is of various kinds. But the root of it is restraint of speech, – how? – namely, there ought not to be any honor to one’s own sect or condemnation of another’s sect without any occasion, or any depreciation (of the latter) on this and that occasion. On the contrary, other’s sect should be honored on this and that occasion. By so doing one exalts one’s own sect, and does service to another’s sect. By doing otherwise one injures one’s own sect and also harms another sect. For one who does honor to one’s own sect and condemns another’s sect, all through the attachment to one’s own sect, – why? – in order that one may render one’s own sect effulgent, in reality by so doing injures severely one’s own sect. Concourse is therefore condemnable, – why?- in order that they may hear and desire to hear (further) one another’s Dhamma. For this is the desire of the Beloved of the gods, – what? – that all sects shall be well-informed and conducive of good. and those who are favorably disposed towards this or that sect should be informed: “The Beloved of the gods does not so much think of gift or honor as – what? – as that there may be a growth of essential among all sects and also mutual appreciation.” For this end are engaged the Dharma-Mahamatras, Superintendents of women, the Vrajabhumikas and other bodies (of officials). And this is its fruit – the exaltation of one’s own sect and ths illumination of Dharma.

English translation of the Girnar text by R K Mookerji

His Sacred and Gracious Majesty the King is honoring all sects, both ascetics, and house-holders; by gifts and offerings of various kinds is he honoring them. But his Sacred Majesty does not value such gifts or honors as that how should there be the growth of the essential elements of all religious sects. The growth of this genuine matter is, however, of many kinds. But the root of it is restraints of one’s speech, that is, that there should not be honor of one’s own sect and condemnation of other’s sect without any ground. Such slighting should be for specified grounds only. One the other hand, the sects of others should be honored for this ground and that. Thus doing, one helps his own sect to grow, and benefits the sects of others, too. Doing otherwise, one hurts his own sect and injures the sects of others. For whosoever honors his own sects and condemns the sects of others wholly from devotion to his own sect, i.e., the thought, “How I may glorify my own sect,” – one acting thus injures more gravely his own sect on the contrary. Hence concord alone is condemnable, in this sense that all should listen and be willing to listen to the doctrines professes by others. This is, in fact, the desire of His Sacred Majesty, viz., that all sects should be possessed of wide learning and good doctrines. And those who are content in their respective faiths, should all be told that His Sacred Majesty does not value so much gift or external honor as that there should be growth of the essential elements, and breadth, of all bodies. And the fruit of this is that the promotion of one’s own sect takes place as well as the glorification of the Dharma.

English  translation of the Shahbazgarhi text by D C Sircar

King Priyadarsi, Beloved of the Gods, honors men of all religious communities with gifts and with honors of various kinds, irrespective of whether they are ascetics or householders. But the Beloved of the Gods does not values either the offering of gifts or the honoring of people so highly as the following, viz., that there should be a growth of the essentials of Dharma among men of all sects.
And the growth of the essential of Dharma is possible in many ways. But its root lies in restraint in regard to speech, which means that there should be no extolment of one’s own sect or disparagement of other sects on inappropriate occasions and that it should be moderate in every case even on appropriate occasions. On the contrary, other sects should be duly honored in every way on all occasions.
If a person acts in this way, he not only promotes his own sect but also benefits other sects. But, if a person acts otherwise, he not only injures his own sect but also harms other sects, Truly, if a person extols his own sect and disparage other sects with a view to glorify his own sect owing merely to his attachment to it, he injures his own sect very severely by acting in that way. Therefore, restraint in regard to speech is commendable, because people should learn and respect the fundamentals of one another’s Dharma.
This indeed is the desire of the Beloved of the Gods that persons of all sects became well-informed about the doctrines of different religions and acquire pure knowledge. And those who are attached to their respective sects should be informed as follows: “The Beloved of the Gods does not value either the offering of gifts or the honoring of people so highly as the following, viz., that there should be a growth of the essentials of Dharma among men of all sects.”
Indeed many of my officers are engaged for the realization of the said end, such as the Mahamatras in charge of the affairs relating to Dharma, the Mahamatras who are superintendent of matters related to the ladies of the royal household, the officers in charge of my cattle and pasture lands, and other classes of officials. And the results of their activities, as expected by me, is the promotion of each one’s sect and the glorification of Dharma.

 English translation by S Dhammika

Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Piyadasi, honors both ascetics and the householders of all religions, and he honors them with gifts and honors of various kinds. But Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Piyadasi, does not value gifts and honors as much as he values this — that there should be growth in the essentials of all religions. Growth in essentials can be done in different ways, but all of them have as their root restraint in speech, that is, not praising one’s own religion, or condemning the religion of others without good cause. And if there is cause for criticism, it should be done in a mild way. But it is better to honor other religions for this reason. By so doing, one’s own religion benefits, and so do other religions, while doing otherwise harms one’s own religion and the religions of others. Whoever praises his own religion, due to excessive devotion, and condemns others with the thought “Let me glorify my own religion,” only harms his own religion. Therefore contact (between religions) is good. One should listen to and respect the doctrines professed by others. Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Piyadasi, desires that all should be well-learned in the good doctrines of other religions.
Those who are content with their own religion should be told this: Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Piyadasi, does not value gifts and honors as much as he values that there should be growth in the essentials of all religions. And to this end many are working — Dhamma Mahamatras, Mahamatras in charge of the women’s quarters, officers in charge of outlying areas, and other such officers. And the fruit of this is that one’s own religion grows and the Dhamma is illuminated also.

Observations:

Ashoka, the Secular Emperor – Ashoka continues from RE VII to build up his image as a secular emperor. He tells that all should honor all religions or sects even if they belong to some other sect. He also explains this behavior with its merits. Though his emphasis is to follow Dhamma, however he does not seem here to force upon his Dhamma onto others. He shows concern towards following this principle, respecting all sects, and for that he appoint few officers like Dhamma-mahamatras, whose work was to make sure that this is followed among the subjects of Ashoka.

One thing to take concern here is how many sects were present at that point of time. We can be sure of three, Hindu or Vedic, Buddhism and Jainism. Were there many others apart from these three? In one statement of his, Ashoka points to the existence of many sects at his time. Were there further divisions among the above mentioned three major sects by his time?

Veiled Reference of Third Buddhist Convocation – Is this edict a result of the Third Buddhist Convocation which as per legends was sat during the time of Ashoka at Pataliputra? In this convocation, various disputes among different Buddhist sects were settled in the presence of Thera Mogaliputta. This edict might be result after that convocation therefore. But then why Ashoka is silent about such a great convocation in his inscriptions. Why he had to take the route of a veiled reference instead of direct communication?

His essential growth, viz., retrain on speech, is clear indication that such ill-talks between various sects were in practice and quite frequent. This might have resulted in some great discord between major sects and hence it reached to the ears of the emperor, that’s why he had to tell his subject to restrain over their speech against other’s sect.

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