The Effects of Buddhism on the Structure of the Mauryan Empire

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Many tales begin with Ashoka the ruthless leader who had killed dozens of people including his own family to seize the throne. From those ruthless beginnings he became a king that was very wise and just. Third century B.C.E King Ashoka had seized much of the Indian subcontinent. He had successfully spread Buddhism throughout during his conquest. Using his guide of Dharma along the way, he began the spread of Buddhism while he was conquering all of India. Ashoka had been fighting a war with another empire when the Buddha revealed himself to Ashoka. He had realized that persecuting people was the opposite of what was morally right. Feeling guilty after all of his conquests, he converted to Buddhism and truly started spreading Buddhist principles. He even gave up many of his worldly possessions and meditated for many days in order to achieve inner peace. Since he had previously conquered lands before converting, he began spreading Buddhism throughout the land which greatly affected the Mauryan Empire. Following Buddhist principles, the message of peace was spread throughout the lang and an improved rule system and military was implemented while uniting the people under a single religion.

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Buddhism spread peace over the Indian subcontinent and promoted region-wide peace. Buddhism was spread by the Mauryan empire and more specifically by their leader Ashoka. By spreading this religion, people put down their weapons and began living a more peaceful lifestyle. All the citizens began to work more towards a common goal of Nirvana. The religion appealed to all the people of the Mauryan Empire, even people with very little money and status. Everyone could reach the eternal peace of nirvana through meditation. Poor people were able to convert to Buddhism since they could easily give away their worldly possessions and they could gain nirvana through their meditation for several days. The upper class could pay for luxury items giving them a sense of Nirvana, whereas, with the principles of Buddhism, the lower class could reach Nirvana without money.

Many people also found this religion very easy to convert to because it did not have a definitive god. This allowed for people to peacefully convert and still retain some of their other religions. Based upon Ashoka’s conversion to Buddhism he himself converted the whole Mauryan empire to a calmer religion. He had been conquering people and killing them mercilessly before he realized that he wanted to be a calmer person who conquered people more peacefully. However, this ended up causing the decline of his own empire due to the passive nature of the new system. While the empire existed, it was a great change for the people to follow. Overall the spread of this religion was very peaceful and people were not forced to convert to Buddhism.

On top of spreading Buddhism, Ashoka donated to the people and created new Stuptas for the people to worship Buddhism. Overall this contributes to the peace since he allowed the people to worship and gave the tools with which to do so. Therefore, the people were not fighting over who gets to worship in the temples. Another way that he promoted peace was thought tolerance of other people and religions. Ashoka wanted to practice his religion, and, while he encouraged people to practice with him, he respected people who had their own religions that they wanted to practice. Since he was so calm, many people agreed with his belief system, and the Mauryan empire, after switching to Buddhism, was much more peaceful. Since population of his empire was incredibly diverse, Ashoka’s rule required him not only be a strong political leader but to also bring his culture of Buddhism throughout the empire.

Buddhism improved the rule system and the military of the Mauryan Empire. After King Ashoka converted himself to Buddhism, the rule of this empire was much more successful and peaceful in retaining their subjects. Ashoka had killed many people throughout his conquests, and, as a result, many did not forgive him. Therefore, people continued to attack him but overall the structure of the new empire became much more appealing to most people. Ashoka himself gave up many of his worldly possessions in order to pursue his own Dharma and to go towards his goal of nirvana. Using his position as ruler he was able to successfully resolve some of the major social conflicts within his empire. Before he had come to power, there were many problems with the way the empire was ruled. Since he was able to change the system, he was one of the most memorable rulers of the Mauryan Empire.

King Ashoka had his own version of Dharma that he used while he was in control of the Mauryan Empire. His version of Dharma was to enforce moral discipline and to prevent people from fighting each other and injuring themselves and others. To conduct moral discipline, certain people’s actions were punished in society to retain order. To retain the overall peace through Dharma, he used his position as leader to enforce the rules and make sure they were followed. His Dharma ended up being perfect for his society and they prospered as Mauryan citizens. In his society he successfully used Buddhism to simultaneously keep himself in power and to help the society function as a whole. This strategy ended up working very well as he was able to stay in power for thirty-six years and he kept the whole empire in tact.

Since Ashoka had converted to Buddhism, he made the military more compassionate and they didn’t choose to start wars between empires. Instead of starting wars with other empires in order to gain land he chose to retain the land that he already owned. Thus allowing him to make his empire stronger and the people content with the lives they lead. When Ashoka adopted Buddhism as his religion he also brought in a basic sense of morality. He gave up his overall form of predatory government in which he persecuted people to take on a lighter form of government in which he promoted the ways of peace. In the beginning, it was all about the amount of control and land that you had over other empires, but, after his conversion, he changed his ways and began to coexist with other empires and not destroy them. When Ashoka adopted Buddhism as his religion he also brought in a basic sense of morality. Since he had vowed to stop being a ruthless leader, he had formed a basic trust with his citizens and from there they developed a trust that the way that he rules must be the right way since he was kind to his subjects. He created the first real Buddhist Polity as a form of government with Buddhism being the main component of peace in his empire. In his case he set an example for the world to follow on how to use Buddhism to make a successful empire. He create the idea that religion could be a more prominent ideology in government and it influence other governments to have religion as a major aspect within them.

Ashoka didn’t follow the traditional Buddhist principles, but, instead, he took the ideas and ideologies of peace and formed his own Buddhist foundation. Although his ideas were very similar to the original Buddhist principles, his most important goal while promoting Buddhism was to help all people in his empire better understand the varying religions. In order for Ashoka to continue to be a peaceful ruler, he needed ideology that would appeal to diverse populations. He became very tolerant of other religions after converting which allowed him to become more popular with his subjects and also to maintain control over his empire. Even though he had assumed a new role as a Buddhist, he never gave up his most important role as the leader of the empire. Ashoka made the people of the Mauryan Empire his main concern. He gave them generous donations and allowed the people to practice their own religions and to make other civilizations. Ashoka gave up his own personal trips and most of his pleasures and he instead replaced them with religious outings. Ashoka, after he converted to Buddhism, wrote out rules for the people of the empire to follow. He wrote them specifically to keep order and to convince the people that he was a reliable leader. Before he had converted, he didn’t have specific rules and people who broke his laws would be unfairly persecuted. Buddhism created a more stable form of rule; under actual laws and regulations, the people did not feel as pressured and they began to expand their ideas and wisdom.

Buddhism throughout time united many people under a similar religion. After Ashoka converted to Buddhism, his empire converted as well and he was able to spread Buddhism very far. He was even able to spread it farther north and south past his empire. It was overall a peaceful religion and was able to spread very well. It allowed for people to have this religion as well as another religion that they share with their friends and family. Since they were not forced into a religion with a god, the people were happy under this religion and they could live peacefully retaining their culture as well.

Once again the religion Buddhism applied to all the social classes in India. Ashoka was able to use this to his advantage and he united all the social classes under this one religious way of life. All the people were happy to be united since Buddhism did not require anything special to become part of it. Since they don’t need material possessions the lower class can easily join as they have little to no money and they could just meditate. All the people really needed was time since they just needed to meditate avidly and try to work towards their goal of gaining Nirvana. Since this religion applied to most every person in the Mauryan empire Ashoka was easily able to spread Buddhism so they were all united and they all understood each other. Therefore there would be less wars, fighting, and rebellion from the subjects in the empire.

Their empire prospered under Buddhism due to it’s peaceful nature among all the other religions; since all the people were extremely happy and content with their lives they were inclined to complete their Dharma in life. Thus they became extremely powerful in both their ruling aspect and in everyday society of the Mauryan empire. Ashoka’s overall influence is still known today as one of the most important people to the spread of Buddhism. Since he was such a good king, the people were content until he had died after which their whole society fell apart. United under Buddhism their society lasted through the rule of Ashoka and thrived, and was full of culture and a new found happiness. Since the citizens had been thriving they were also able to share that happiness and wealth with other people since they spread it to other places. They were also able to complete their own Dharma and they could get closer to their state of Nirvana.

Ashoka was tolerant of other religions and he contributed to the aspect of a peaceful life. Since he became tolerant of others beliefs, people did not need to live in fear of his leadership and what he would do to them. He was so avid in spreading Buddhism all over the world he even taught the religion to new people around his empire and many more as well as reading sacred scriptures to both people and to himself in his freetime. Overall he took his religion very seriously. He influenced the people by spreading this religion everywhere and uniting the people. Although he did spread the religion all over his empire, he never forced the people to convert to Buddhism. Ashoka instead used his ability as a leader to instead form an understanding between the different religions that existed throughout the empire. This brought the people more together as they understood the people with other religions and a peaceful bond was formed between them.

Also using his power as an emperor he was able to fund major projects for building new Buddhist temples and other structural projects. Through building new temples and projects he united the whole population stronger under Buddhism as he encouraged the widespread religion of Buddhism. He also used these temples as a place where every person in the Mauryan Empire could gather and meditate. The people could now come together and find out about different religions and share their ideas. Through this strategy he was able to make the strongest network of Buddhism during that time period. Even now, Buddhism still exists as a main religion in India. His efforts to unite the entire empire managed to make a worldwide impact and a future impact for the main religion of India. Ashoka’s extremely powerful influence and the Buddhist religion together united the people and integrated religion into their society.

Ashoka spread Buddhism all throughout the Mauryan empire and he affected the structure of the Mauryan empire greatly. By spreading Buddhism with conquest and his overall conversion, he also changed the structure of the world religion today. In the Mauryan empire his conversion to Buddhism affected how peaceful the entire empire became as a whole. He also affected the structure of the political and military systems. The people, after the spread of Buddhism, were much more united under Ashoka as a leader. Although Buddhism already existed before Ashoka came into power, he became the most important figure to the spread Buddhism and the Mauryan empire was greatly affected by his decision. As a result, the Mauryan empire became a more peaceful, effective, and efficient society based on his new policies he created.

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The Effects of Buddhism on the Structure of the Mauryan Empire. (2019, Jul 09). Retrieved June 7, 2023 , from

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