Asoka, grandson of Chandragupta, was one of the first royal patrons of Buddhism. The first was, perhaps, Bimbisara, who lived at the time of the Buddha. Asoka's legend is recorded in a second century book called the "Asokavadana" which was translated into Chinese by Fa-ch'in in 300 A.D. He is also known from his edicts written on rocks and pillars throughout India.
In his youth. Asoka was known as Canda Asoka, the fierce Asoka, due to his aggressive nature. As a prince, he was appointed governor of Vidisa (modern Bhilsa) where he married a rich merchant's daughter. On hearing of his father's impending death, he hurried to the Capital, Pataliputra, where, after occupying it, he killed all of the rival princes with the exception of his own brother. This brutality met with the opposition of the populace, delaying his coronation for four years. He ascended to the throne in 270 B.C. Eight years into his reign, he invaded Kalinga (modern Orissa) killing many thousands of people in battle whilst many thousands died from the effects of the war.
This was the turning point of his life. He halted his military campaigns and, being a Buddhist, he focused his attention instead to religious conquests, known as Dharmavijaya. He appointed his officers to tour the country on religious missions. After twenty years of his reign, he visited the Buddha's birthplace at Lumbini in modern Nepal, where he erected a pillar recording his visit. He also visited Bodh Gaya, where the Buddha attained Enlightenment, as well as Sarnath, where the Buddha preached his first sermon. It was here that he erected a pillar threatening excommunication to any monk who caused a schism in the Sangha. He abandoned meat eating for himself and advocated moral values for his subjects. He also promoted tolerance towards all religions which he supported financially.
The prevalent religions of that time were the sramanas or wandering ascetics, Brahmins, Ajivakas and Jains. He recommended that all religions desist from self praise and condemnation of others. His pronouncements were written on rocks at the periphery of his kingdom and on pillars along the main roads and where pilgims gathered. He also established many hospitals for both humans and animals At one stage, he conferred many gifts on the Buddhist Sangha which resulted in the attraction to its ranks of non-Buddhist hangers-on and disreputable people looking for an easier life. This resulted in a degeneration, and lack of purity in the Sangha. He decided to rectify this problem by convening a Sangha Council at Pataliputra to determine the true nature of Dharma practice and to banish those who would not adhere to it.
Following this Council, he decided to extend his missions to other countries, which included the Ionian Greeks, Ghandar, Kashmir, the Himalayan Regions, Mysore. Ceylon. Burma, Malaya and Sumatra. He sent his son, Mahendra, and his daughter Sanghamitra to Ceylon and their visit is celebrated in Sri Lanka by public holidays to this day. His 13th Rock Edict records that he tried to spread Buddhism to the kingdoms of Antiochus II, King of Syria, Ptolemy of Egypt, Antigonos of Macedonia, Alexander of Epirus (Northern Greece) and Magas in Cyrenia (North Africa). What a difference modern history may have been had he succeeded. Under Asoka, nearly the whole of the Indian Continent was unified for the first time in history. Dharma meant for Asoka morality, active social concern, religious tolerance, ecological awareness, observance of ethical precepts and renunciation of war.
The Seeker's Glossary of Buddhism
By Sutra Translation Committee of USA/Canada
This is a revised and expanded edition of The Seeker's Glossary of Buddhism. The text is a compendium of excerpts and quotations from some 350 works by monks, nuns, professors, scholars and other laypersons from nine different countries, in their own words or in translation. The editors have merely organized the material, adding a few connecting thoughts of their own for ease in reading.
In the course of it His Holiness briefly addressed the audience about the background of his relation with the Kalachakra Initiations... His Holiness shared with the audience an “interesting dream” that he had at the conclusion of the initiation in Dharamsala.
Ven. Dr. Thich Thien-An came to Southern California in the summer of 1966 as an exchange professor at UCLA. Soon his students discovered he was not only a renowned scholar, but a Zen Buddhist monk as well. His students convinced Dr. Thien-An toteach the practice of meditation and start a study group about the other steps on the Buddhist path, in addition to the academic viewpoint.
Venerable Ajahn Chah was born on June 17, 1918 in a small village near the town of Ubon Rajathani, North-East Thailand. After finishing his basic schooling, he spent three years as a novice before returning to lay life to help his parents on the farm. At the age of twenty, however, he decided to resume monastic life, and on April 26, 1939 he received upasampada (bhikkhu ordination).
A yellow-colored Buddhist temple adorned with flags and golden dragons on its pointed roofs in a quiet town outside Tokyo presents a stark contrast to the typically somber-looking Buddhist places of worship usually found in rural Japan.
But the steady stream of out-of-town weekend visitors and their nationality also set it apart, for the temple was built by and serves members of the large Vietnamese community in the Tokyo metropolitan area.