Rock Edicts of Ashoka

World History Honors
Unit 8: Early and Classical India
Rock Edicts of Ashoka, ca. 257 B.C.E.
Mauryan emperor Ashoka communicated his policies throughout his realm by inscribing them on stone
formations or pillars. In these rock and pillar “edicts,” Ashoka issued imperial decrees, encouraged his
subjects to observe Buddhist values (he converted to Buddhist about 257 B.C.E., and expressed his intention to
serve as a fair, just and humane ruler.
The Fruit of Exertion
THUS saith His Sacred Majesty: --- For more than two-and-a-half years I was a lay disciple,
without, however, exerting myself strenuously. But it is more than a year since I joined the
Order, and have exerted myself strenuously. During that time the gods who were regarded as true
all over India have been shown to be untrue. For this is the fruit of exertion. Nor is this to be
attained by a great man only, because even by the small man who chooses to exert himself
immense heavenly bliss may be won. For this purpose has the precept been composed:--- "Let
small and great exert themselves." My neighbors too should learn this lesson; and may such
exertion long endure! And this purpose will grow---yea, it will grow immensely---at least oneand-a-half-fold will it increase in growth. And this purpose must be written on the rocks, both
afar off and here; and, wherever there is a stone pillar, it must be written on the stone pillar. And
according to this text, so far as your jurisdiction extends, you must send it out everywhere. By
(me) while on tour was the precept composed. 256 departures from staging-places (or possibly,
days spent abroad).
Summary of the Law of Piety
Thus saith His Sacred Majesty:--- Father and mother must be hearkened to; similarly, respect for
living creatures must be firmly established; truth must be spoken. These are the virtues of the
Law of Piety which must be practiced. Similarly, the teacher must be reverenced by the pupil,
and towards relations fitting courtesy must be shown. This is the ancient nature (of piety)---this
leads to length of days, and according to this men must act. Written by Pada the scribe.
The Sacredness of Life
This pious edict has been written by command of His Sacred and Gracious Majesty the King.
Here in the capital no animal may be slaughtered for sacrifice, nor may the holiday-feast be held,
because His Sacred and Gracious Majesty the King sees much offense in the holiday-feast,
although in certain places holiday-feasts are excellent in the sight of His Sacred and Gracious
Majesty the King. Formerly, in the kitchen of His Sacred and Gracious Majesty the King each
day many hundred thousands of living creatures were slaughtered to make curries. But now,
when this pious edict is being written, only three living creatures are slaughtered for curry, to
wit, two peacocks and one antelope---the antelope, however, not invariably. Even those three
living creatures henceforth shall not be slaughtered.
World History Honors
Unit 8: Early and Classical India
The Prompt Dispatch of Business
Thus says His Sacred and Gracious Majesty the King:---For a long time past it has not happened
that business has been dispatched and that reports have been received at all hours. Now by me
this arrangement has been made that at all hours and in all places---whether I am dining, or in the
ladies' apartments, in my bedroom, or in my closet, in my carriage, or in the palace gardens---the
official Reporters should report to me on the people's business, and I am ready to do the people's
business in all places. And if, perchance, I personally by word of mouth command that a gift be
made or an order executed, or anything urgent is intrusted to the superior officials, and in that
business a dispute arises or a fraud occurs among the monastic community, I have commanded
that immediate report must be made to me at any hour and in any place, because I never feel full
satisfaction in my efforts and dispatch of business. For the welfare of all folk is what I must work
for---and the root of that, again, is in effort and the dispatch of business. And whatsoever
exertions I make are for the end that I may discharge my debt to animate beings, and that while I
make some happy here, they may in the next world gain heaven. For this purpose, have I caused
this pious edict to be written, that it may long endure, and that my sons and grandsons may exert
themselves for the welfare of all folk. That, however, is a difficult thing save by the utmost
Visit to the Birthplace of Buddha
His Sacred and Gracious Majesty the King, when he had been consecrated twenty years, having
come in person, did reverence; and, because "Here Buddha was born, the Sakya sage," a great
railing of stone was prepared, and a stone pillar erected. Because "Here the Venerable One was
born " the village of Lummini was made free of religious cesses and declared entitled to the
eighth share of the produce claimed by the Crown.
Eva March Tappan, ed., The World’s Story: A History of the World in Story, Song and Art, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1914),
Vol. II: India, Persia, Mesopotamia, and Palestine, pp. 91-94. Text modernized by Jerome S. Arkenberg.