In this article we’ll make a collection of Swami Vivekananda‘s quotes on Maurya Emperor Ashoka. Note: in Complete Works, the spelling “Asoka” has been used. In article title we have follower standard spelling (eg. Wikipedia article), but in the quotes we’ll not make any change is spelling.
- Emperor Asoka sent preachers to this Egypt during the reign of the Ptolemy dynasty. They used to preach religion, cure diseases, live on vegetable food, lead celibate lives, and make Sannyasin disciples.[Source]
- Every day in Central Asia some inscription or other is being found. India had forgotten all about Buddha and Asoka and everyone. But there were pillars, obelisks, columns, with ancient letters which nobody could read. Some of the old Mogul emperors declared they would give millions for anybody to read those; but nobody could. Within the last thirty years those have been read; they are all written in Pali.[Source]
- In Buddhism, one of the most missionary religions of the world, we find inscriptions remaining of the great Emperor Asoka — recording how missionaries were sent to Alexandria, to Antioch, to Persia, to China, and to various other countries of the then civilised world. Three hundred years before Christ, instructions were given them not to revile other religions: “The basis of all religions is the same, wherever they are; try to help them all you can, teach them all you can, but do not try to injure them.”[Source]
- In course of time, under the regime of Emperor Asoka, his son Mahinda and his daughter Sanghamittâ, who had taken the vow of Sannyasa, came to the Island of Ceylon as religious missionaries. Reaching there, they found the people had grown quite barbarous, and, devoting their whole lives, they brought them back to civilisation as far as possible; they framed good moral laws for them and converted them to Buddhism.[Source]
- India should send forth missionaries. She used to do so under the Emperor Asoka, in the days when the Buddhist faith was young, when she had something to teach the surrounding nation.[Source]
- Instead of antagonising, therefore, we must help all such interchange of ideas between different races, by sending teachers to each other, so as to educate humanity in all the various religions of the world; but we must insist as the great Buddhist Emperor of India, Asoka, did, in the second century before Christ, not to abuse others, or to try to make a living out of others’ faults; but to help, to sympathise, and to enlighten.[Source]
- It is true that the Emperor Asoka saved the lives of millions of animals by the threat of the sword; but is not the slavery of a thousand years more dreadful than that? Taking the life of a few goats as against the inability to protect the honour of one’s own wife and daughter, and to save the morsels for one’s children from robbing hands — which of these is more sinful?[Source]
- Men and women are to be found in every race whose lives are blessings to humanity, verifying the words of the divine Emperor Asoka: “In every land dwell Brâhmins and Shramanas.”[Source]
- Some say that the name Yavana was first used to designate a tribe of Greeks inhabiting the place called “Ionia”, and hence, in the Pâli writs of the Emperor Asoka, the Greeks are named “Yonas”, and afterwards from this “Yona” the Sanskrit word Yavana, was derived.[Source]
- The great emperor Asoka insisted that none of his descendants should go to conquer.[Source]
- The story of our conquest has been described by that noble Emperor of India, Asoka, as the conquest of religion and of spirituality.[Source]
- Then came, three hundred years after, two hundred years before Christ, the great emperor Asoka, as he has been called by your Western historians, the divinest of monarchs, and that man became entirely converted to the ideas of Buddha, and he was the greatest emperor of the world at that time. His grandfather was a contemporary of Alexander, and since Alexander’s time, India had become more intimately connected with Greece.[Source]
- There are some bold enough to say that Christianity is the direct offspring of Buddhism just as the earliest heresy in the Christian religion — the Monecian [Manichaean] heresy — is now universally regarded as the teaching of a sect of Buddhists. But there is more evidence that Christianity is founded in Buddhism. We find it in recently discovered inscriptions from the reign of Emperor Oshoka [Asoka] of India, about 300 B.C., who made treaties with all the Grecian kings, and whose missionaries discriminated [disseminated ?] in those very parts, where, centuries after, Christianity flourished, the principles of the Buddhistic religion.[Source]
Chandashoka to Dharmashoka and Ashoka’s religious conversion
From a lecture delivered at the Shakespeare Club, Pasadena, California, on 2 February 1900—[Source]You know how this great emperor Asoka was converted. This great emperor in his youth was not so good. [He had a brother.] And the two brothers quarrelled and the other brother defeated this one, and the emperor in vengeance wanted to kill him. The emperor got the news that he had taken shelter with a Buddhistic monk. Now, I have told you how our monks are very holy; no one would come near them. The emperor himself came. He said, “Deliver the man to me” Then the monk preached to him: “Vengeance is bad. Disarm anger with love. Anger is not cured by anger, nor hatred by hatred. Dissolve anger by love. Cure hatred by love. Friend, if for one evil thou returnest another, thou curest not the first evil, but only add one evil more to the world.” The emperor said: “That is all right, fool that you are. Are you ready to give your life — to give your life for that man?” “Ready, sir.” And he came out. And the emperor drew his sword, and he said: “Get ready.” And just [as he] was going to strike, he looked at the face of the man. There was not a wink in those eyes. The emperor stopped, and he said: “Tell me, monk, where did you learn this strength, poor beggar, not to wink?” And then he preached again. “Go on, monk”, he said, “That is nice”, he said. Accordingly, he [fell under] the charm of the Master — Buddha’s charm.
Hospitals for men and for animals
From a lecture delivered at the Shakespeare Club, Pasadena, California, on 2 February 1900—[Source]
This great Emperor Asoka built hospitals for men and for animals. The inscriptions show they are ordering hospitals, building hospitals for men and for animals. That is to say, when an animal gets old, if I am poor and cannot keep it any longer, I do not shoot it down for mercy. These hospitals are maintained by public charity. The coasting traders pay so much upon every hundredweight they sell, and all that goes to the hospital; so nobody is touched. If you have a cow that is old — anything — and do not want to keep it, send it to the hospital; they keep it, even down to rats and mice and anything you send. Only, our ladies try to kill these animals sometimes, you know. They go in large numbers to see them and they bring all sorts of cakes; the animals are killed many times by this food. He claimed that the animals should be as much under the protection of the government as man. Why should animals be allowed to be killed? [There] is no reason. But he says, before prohibiting the killing of animals for food even, [people] must be provided with all sorts of vegetables. So he sent and collected all kinds of vegetables and planted them in India; and then, as soon as these were introduced, the order was: henceforth, whosoever kills an animal will be punished. A government is to be a government; the animals must be protected also. What business has a man to kill a cow, a goat, or any other animal for food?