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DharmaIts Early History in Law, Religion, and Narrative$
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Alf Hiltebeitel

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780195394238

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195394238.001.0001

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Aśoka Maurya

Aśoka Maurya

(p.35) 2 Aśoka Maurya

Alf Hiltebeitel

Oxford University Press

This chapter treats Aśoka Maurya as the “watershed” figure in the history of dharma. It observes that a history of classical Buddhist and Brahmanical dharma texts must effectively begin with his edicts, written mostly in Prakrit in the Brāhmī script, as a record of the dhaṃma campaign he sought to implement through them. Aśoka's allegiance to Buddhism is taken to be quite pervasive, as evidenced in his more than equal mention of Samaṇas along with Brahmins, and his emphasis on meditation. Attention is given to Harry Falk's new interpretation of the Minor Rock Edicts, and to ways that the Rock and Pillar Edicts anticipate how subsequent dharma texts will thematize change in dharma over time with respect to the role of the king; to dharma over dynastic time (but not yet genealogical time); to dharma over cosmic time (Rock Edicts 4 and 5 being probably the earliest texts to use the term kalpa); and to dharma and the (auto)biographical.

Keywords:   Aśoka Maurya, Aśokan Edicts, Brāhmī script, Buddhism, Samaṇas, Sramaṇas, kalpa, dynastic time, genealogy, autobiography, meditation

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