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Monday, August 18, 2008

Achievement Motivation : Asokan Inscription

Once upon a time there was a king who was fighting a battle with a neighboring kingdom. Sensing imminent defeat, he ran away from the battle field and took shelter in a cave. While he was resting, his eyes fell on a spider which was engaged in making a large web. The king observed that the spider was falling down again and again but finally it succeeds in creating a beautiful web after some relocation. Taking a cue from the spider the king leaves the cave, reorganizes his army and attacks his enemy from a different front and wins.

Some 84 km's. from Jabalpur towards Katni, there is a Hindu religious place ( a Shiv Linga), Roopnath near Sleemnabad. It is here that we come across a rock (sheltered in a canopy) bearing the inscriptions of Asoka the Great (3rd Century BC). Quoting his own example, he advocates vigorous efforts to be made for achieving success. He stresses that not only the rich, even people of lower means could succeed in attaining heavenly pleasures provided determined efforts are made.
Generally we have found that most of the rock inscriptions speak of the achievements of the king in a highly exaggerated manner, couched in a spicy language. But the Asokan inscription, we are discussing about is plain and simple. We provide hereunder an English version of the contents:

"Thus speaks the Beloved of the Gods, (Asoka): I have been a Buddhist layman for more than two and a half years, but I did not make much progress. Now for more than a year I have drawn closer to the Order and have become more ardent. The gods, who in India up to this time did not associate with men, now mingle with them, and this is the result of my efforts. Moreover this is not something to be obtained only by the great, but it is also open to the humble, if they are earnest and they can even reach heaven easily. This is the reason for this announcement that both humble and great should make progress and that the neighboring peoples also should know that the progress is lasting, And this investment will increase and increase abundantly, and increase to half as much again. This matter must he inscribed here and elsewhere on the hills, and wherever there is a stone pillar it is to be engraved on that pillar. You must go out with this document throughout the length and breadth of your district. This announcement has been proclaimed while on tour; 256 nights have been spent on tour."
(Scholars are not unanimous about the exact translation. Interpretations differ.)
One may observe from the above translation that the sentence beginning "The Gods, who in India ........(in italics)" looks meaningless (absurd). Some scholars are of the view that "Deva" also means "Clan". Therefore the term "Deva" occuring in the original inscription is not a reference to "God". If this view is accepted, it would mean that the Clans which followed a faith of their own, were pursuaded to accept Buddhism. An extreme view could be that the places of worship were converted into Buddhist shrines.
(For an abridged Hindi version click here)