"Religious toleration is the theme of one of Asoka's rock edicts, "The King, beloved of the Gods, honours every form of religious faith, but considers no gift or honour so much as the increase of the substance of religion; whereof this is the root, to reverence one's own faith and never to revile that of others. Whoever acts differently injures his own religion while he wrongs another's." "The texts of all forms of religion shall be followed under my protection." (The twelfth Rock Edict). The Hindu and the Buddhist rulers of India acted up to this principle with the result that the persecuted and the refugees of all great religions found shelter in India. The Jews, the Christians, the Parsees were allowed absolute freedom, to develop on their own lines."






(from p.349, “A Book of India” edited by B. N. Pandey, Rupa & Co. 1977)


King Priyadarsi [Asoka], Beloved of the Gods, wishes that all religious sects should live harmoniously in all parts of his dominions. In fact, all of them desire to achieve self-control and purity of thought. People, however, are of diverse inclinations and diverse passions. They will perform either the whale or only a part of their duty. However, even if a person practises great liberality but does not possess self-control, purity of thought, gratitude and firm devotion he is quite worthless.


King Priyadarsi, Beloved of the Gods, honours men of alI religious communities with gifts and with honours of various kinds, irrespective of whether they are ascetics or householders. But the Beloved of the Gods does not value either the offering of gifts or the honouring of people so highly as the following, viz. that there should be a growth of the essentials of Dharma among men of all sects.


And the growth of the essentials of Dharma is possible in many ways. But its root dies in restraint in regard to speech, which means that there should be no extolment of one's own sect or disparagement of other sects on appropriate occasions and that it should be moderate in every case even on appropriate occasions. On the contrary, other sects should be duly honoured in every way on all occasions.


If a person acts in this way, he not only promotes his own sect but also benefits other sects. But, if a person acts otherwise, he not only injures his own sect but also harms other sects. Truly, if a person extols his own sect and disparages other sects with a view to glorifying his sect owing merely to his attachment to it, he injures his own sect very severely by acting in that way. Therefore restraint in regard to speech is commendable, because people should learn and respect the fundamentals of one another's Dharma.

This indeed is the desire of the Beloved of the Gods. that persons of all sects become well-informed about the doctrines of different religions and acquire pure knowledge. And those who are attached to their respective sects should be informed as follows: "The Beloved of the Gods does not value either the offering of gifts or the honouring of people so highly as the following, viz. that there should be a growth of the essentials of Dharma among men of all sects:"

Indeed many of my officers are engaged for the realisation of the said end, such as the Mahamatras in charge of the affairs relating to Dharma, the Mahamatras who are superintendents of matters relating to the ladies of the royal household, the officers in charge of my cattle and pasture lands, and other classes of officials. And the result of their activities, as expected by me, is the promotion of each one's sect and the glorification of Dharma.


Inscriptions of Asoka (269-232 B.C.) Rock Edicts 7 and 12, translated by D.C.SIRCAR

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