Jun 04

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Asoka and the Missions (from Extended Mahāvaṁsa V, XII-XV, XVIII-XX)

King_asokaThe text concerned is mainly of importance for the information it gives on the early years of Asoka, his conversion to Buddhism, holding the Third Council, and then the spread of Buddhism in the Missionary period of the Dispensation.

In the first selections, which are made from Chapter V of the text, we are informed about Asoka’s career when he was vice-sovereign, the birth of his children Mahinda and Saṅghamittā and his ascension to the throne after murdering his brotherly rivals.

This is followed by his meeting with the novice Nigrodha, who so greatly impressed him, his disillusionment with the other ascetic groups and his growing faith in Buddhism.

Once converted Asoka proved to be a great support to the Dispensation and besides building 84,000 monasteries in honour of the 84,000 teachings that the Lord Buddha had given he also gave his children for ordination, purified the Saṅgha and organised the Third Council which ratified the Teaching.

Incidently as these stories are being told there are also many interesting accounts included in the text, like a previous life-story of Asoka and his relatives; his seeing of an image of the Buddha thanks to the Nāga-King Mahākāla; and a retelling of the Partridge Birth-Story (Tittirajātaka, Jā 319) in verse.


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