SOAS University of London

Centre of Jaina Studies

Why Aśoka (and therefore the Buddha and Mahāvīra) should be older than we take him (/ them) to be

Ashok Aklujkar, Professor Emeritus, University of British Columbia, Canada

Date: 22 January 2014Time: 1:00 PM

Finishes: 22 January 2014Time: 2:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: 443

Type of Event: Lecture


Most historians have placed Aśoka, well-known as the patron and propagator of Buddhism, in the third century B.C. and assigned him a reign period of 269/268-233/232 B.C. They have done this, mainly or ultimately, on the basis of two rock edicts ascribed to Aśoka which refer to five rulers to the west of Aśoka's domain: Antiochus II Theos, ruler of Syria and Western Asia, 261-246 B.C., Ptolemy II Philadelphus, ruler of Egypt, 285-247 B.C., Antigonus Gonates, ruler of Macedonia, 278-239 B.C., Magas, ruler of Cyrene, 300-258/250 B.C., and Alexander, ruler of Epirus, 275-255 B.C. (or Alexander, ruler of Corinth, 252-247 B.C.). However, I will point out that it is not certain that the edicts meant Aśoka as a contemporary of Antiochus et al. When the evidence is objectively and collectively analyzed, it seems more justifiable to proceed on the assumption that Aśoka ruled much earlier than is commonly stated at present. This conclusion affects the dating of the Buddha, usually accepted to be 100 or 218 years earlier than Aśoka, and the dating of Mahāvīra, usually taken to be a pre-Buddha founder of historical Jainism.


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