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Under the patronage of a Hindu king, Maharaja Asoka, the Buddhist religion was spread all over India and the adjoining countries

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Srimad-Bhagavatam

SB Canto 1

There should be complete cooperation between the brāhmaṇas and the kṣatriyas for this common good. Even up to Mahārāja Aśoka, the same spirit was prevailing. Lord Buddha was sufficiently supported by King Aśoka, and thus his particular cult of knowledge was spread all over the world.
SB 1.17.45, Purport:

The brāhmaṇas and the sannyāsīs are expert in the spiritual advancement of society, whereas the kṣatriyas or the administrators are expert in the material peace and prosperity of human society. Both of them are the pillars of all happiness, and therefore they are meant for full cooperation for common welfare. Mahārāja Parīkṣit was experienced enough to drive away Kali from his field of activities and thereby make the state receptive to spiritual enlightenment. If the common people are not receptive, it is very difficult to impress upon them the necessity of spiritual enlightenment. Austerity, cleanliness, mercy and truthfulness, the basic principles of religion, prepare the ground for the reception of advancement in spiritual knowledge, and Mahārāja Parīkṣit made this favorable condition possible. Thus the ṛṣis of Naimiṣāraṇya were able to perform the sacrifices for a thousand years. In other words, without state support, no doctrines of philosophy or religious principles can progressively advance. There should be complete cooperation between the brāhmaṇas and the kṣatriyas for this common good. Even up to Mahārāja Aśoka, the same spirit was prevailing. Lord Buddha was sufficiently supported by King Aśoka, and thus his particular cult of knowledge was spread all over the world.

Other Books by Srila Prabhupada

Nectar of Devotion

Under the patronage of a Hindu king, Mahārāja Aśoka, the Buddhist religion was spread all over India and the adjoining countries. However, after the appearance of the great stalwart teacher Śaṅkarācārya, this Buddhism was driven out beyond the borders of India.
Nectar of Devotion 7:

The scripture known as Brahma-yāmala states as follows: "If someone wants to pose himself as a great devotee without following the authorities of the revealed scriptures, then his activities will never help him to make progress in devotional service. Instead, he will simply create disturbances for the sincere students of devotional service." Those who do not strictly follow the principles of revealed scriptures are generally called sahajiyās—those who have imagined everything to be cheap, who have their own concocted ideas, and who do not follow the scriptural injunctions. Such persons are simply creating disturbances in the discharge of devotional service.

In this connection, an objection may be raised by those who are not in devotional service and who do not care for the revealed scriptures. An example of this is seen in Buddhist philosophy. Lord Buddha appeared in the family of a high-grade kṣatriya king, but his philosophy was not in accord with the Vedic conclusions and therefore was rejected. Under the patronage of a Hindu king, Mahārāja Aśoka, the Buddhist religion was spread all over India and the adjoining countries. However, after the appearance of the great stalwart teacher Śaṅkarācārya, this Buddhism was driven out beyond the borders of India.

The Buddhists or other religionists who do not care for revealed scriptures sometimes say that there are many devotees of Lord Buddha who show devotional service to Lord Buddha, and who therefore should be considered devotees. In answer to this argument, Rūpa Gosvāmī says that the followers of Buddha cannot be accepted as devotees. Although Lord Buddha is accepted as an incarnation of Kṛṣṇa, the followers of such incarnations are not very advanced in their knowledge of the Vedas. To study the Vedas means to come to the conclusion of the supremacy of the Personality of Godhead. Therefore any religious principle which denies the supremacy of the Personality of Godhead is not accepted and is called atheism. Atheism means defying the authority of the Vedas and decrying the great ācāryas who teach Vedic scriptures for the benefit of the people in general.

Lectures

Bhagavad-gita As It Is Lectures

Under the king, under the Emperor Aśoka, the whole of India became Buddhist. But later on, Śaṅkarācārya appeared and he made against them, Vedantists. So India, Buddhist religion from India was practically banished.
Lecture on BG 4.6-8 -- New York, July 20, 1966:

But when India was too much addicted for animal slaughtering under the plea of Vedic sacrifice, the Lord Buddha appeared. Why? They misused the Vedic injunctions. They misused the injunctions of the Vedas. So he, he proclaimed, "No, this animal slaughter should be stopped." He did, he did not agree even with the Vedic injunction. Therefore Lord Buddha's preaching was not accepted. It was... Once it was accepted, whole of India accepted. Under the king, under the Emperor Aśoka, the whole of India became Buddhist. But later on, Śaṅkarācārya appeared and he made against them, Vedantists. So India, Buddhist religion from India was practically banished. So these are historical facts.

The real fact is that as soon as the natural sequence of living entities is jeopardized, at that time, non-religious principle, unnatural life, becomes prominent and people become embarrassed. At that time, the incarnation of Lord is, I mean to say, appeared. Yadā yadā hi dharmasya glānir bhavati bhārata: (BG 4.7) "Whenever there is discrepancy in the natural life..." Like I explained to you. Religion means the natural sequence of life. When there is some discrepancy in that natural sequence of life and there is artificial way of life, at that time, the Lord or His representative comes, either as incarnation or the representative of God. That is the rule. Yadā yadā hi dharmasya glānir bhavati bhārata.

Later on, Lord Buddha was patronized by a great emperor, Aśoka, and therefore practically all Indian population turned to be Buddhist, with few exceptions.
Lecture on BG 4.7 -- Montreal, June 13, 1968:

Generally, according to Buddha philosophy, there is no soul, no God. But they have to obey Lord Buddha. So there is also God because Lord Buddha is accepted by the Vedic literature. Just in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam there is a great list of incarnations, and Buddha, Lord Buddha, is accepted as one of the incarnations who would appear. It is in future tense. Kīkaṭeṣu bhaviṣyati. Buddho nāmnā añjana-sutaḥ kīkaṭeṣu bhaviṣyati. Now bhaviṣyati means "He will appear in future." Because Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam was compiled by Vyāsadeva five thousand years ago, and Lord Buddha appeared about two-thousand-six-hundred years ago. Therefore before the appearance of Lord Buddha the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam was written. This is called śāstra. Because there is accurate date and accurate calculation. Everything is there. Buddho nāmnā añjana-sutaḥ kīkaṭeṣu bhaviṣyati. The mother's name also given there, añjana-suta. And kīkaṭeṣu means Gayāpradesh. In India there is a province called Bihar. In that province there is a district Gayā. In that district Lord Buddha appeared. Lord appeared in Bihar province. He was kṣatriya, He was Hindu, and He propagated this religion of nonviolence, Buddhism.

His specific propaganda was to stop animal killing. So animal killing is recommended in the Vedic literature. Therefore people wanted to give him Vedic evidences that "In the Vedic literature animal sacrifice is recommended under certain condition. So how do you preach? You are Hindu and you are followers of Vedas. Why you are preaching nonviolence?" Therefore he had to give up Hindu religion. He said that "I do not care for your Vedas. It is my propaganda to stop animal killing. So if you follow me, then you must stop animal killing." Ahiṁsā paramo dharmaḥ. So later on, of course, Lord Buddha was patronized by a great emperor, Aśoka, and therefore practically all Indian population turned to be Buddhist, with few exceptions.

Srimad-Bhagavatam Lectures

Lord Buddha was patronized by the then emperor, Ashoka. And anything patronized by the state, it becomes very popular.
Lecture on SB 6.1.40 -- Surat, December 22, 1970:

Mālatī: (break) ...that Lord Buddha, he adopted a new type of religion, but those who were strict followers of Vedas, they would not accept him. Does that mean that there were still people who were following those beliefs, scriptures, at his time, or did he convert all of India?

Prabhupāda: Yes. Lord Buddha was patronized by the then emperor, Ashoka. And anything patronized by the state, it becomes very popular. Yad yad ācarati śreṣṭhaḥ lokas tad anuvartate (BG 3.21). So Lord Buddha converted Ashoka, Emperor Ashoka, to this religion. Therefore whole India became Buddhist. And later on, when Buddhism was driven out of India, the Jainism and similar other religious principles became visible. Ahiṁsā paramo dharmaḥ. Lord Buddha... Ahiṁsā paramo dharmaḥ is also Vedic religion, but they stressed especially on ahiṁsā.

Lord Buddha, of course, did not come to convert... Ashoka liked it, that's all.
Lecture on SB 6.1.40 -- Surat, December 22, 1970:

Revatīnandana: You were saying Lord Buddha gave impetus to Buddhism by converting the Emperor Ashoka. What is...?

Prabhupāda: No, no. Lord Buddha, of course, did not come to convert... Ashoka liked it, that's all.

Revatīnandana: But because of that, that gave impetus to the spreading of Buddhism.

Prabhupāda: That is natural. If the state is after some religion... Just like Christian religion spread in India because there was Christian government. The Muhammadan religion spread because there was Muhammadan government. That is natural. If the state is following a certain type of religion, then naturally... And that is said in the Bhagavad-gītā: yad yad ācarati śreṣṭhaḥ (BG 3.21). Just like in India, at least in Bengal, we have got the history that educated persons, they saw that "In Christian religion one can drink, one can eat meat. So why not become Christian?" So the drunkards and meat-eaters, they became Christians. Similarly the Muhammadans also, they thought a clue to deviate from the Vedic principles, and they turned themselves. Just like Aurangzeb enacted the lidia(?) tax, that all the Hindus will have to pay this tax. So the untouchables... Because Hindus made these untouchables, so untouchables, they thought that "Why shall I pay the tax? Better become Muhammadan." So so many people, they became converted into Muhammadans. So a state controls anything, if the state... Now the state is secular, atheist. The people are becoming atheist. They are teaching that "Throw away these scriptures. You eat everything. What is the wrong in eating flesh, eating meat, eating chickens?" They are advertising, "Eggs are available here." When the state supports, so people follow.

Sri Caitanya-caritamrta Lectures

During the time of Emperor Aśoka, Buddhism was patronized by Aśoka. So practically the whole of Far East, including India, all over, the Buddhism was broadcast and everyone become Buddhist.
Lecture on CC Madhya-lila 20.353-354 -- New York, December 26, 1966:

So accept or no accept, His work, His activities, His characterize, characteristics will be known because God will be known. Just like Lord Buddha. Lord Buddha is accepted as incarnation in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. And during the time of Emperor Aśoka, he was patronized, Lord Buddha was patronized, not Buddha, or Buddhism was patronized by Aśoka. So practically the whole of Far East, including India, all over, the Buddhism was broadcast and everyone become Buddhist. Whole of India, practically, became Buddhist during his time. But later on, after Śaṅkarācārya's drive against Buddhism, Buddha-ism... Śaṅkarācārya wanted to establish the difference of Buddhism and Hinduism is that Buddhism, Lord Buddha did not accept Vedic authority. He did not accept Vedic authority. But according to Hindu culture, if somebody does not accept the Vedic authority, then he's not a authority.

Correspondence

1968 Correspondence

For the time being, Lord Buddha's philosophy was accepted by emperor Asoka, and due to royal influence, it spread all over India. But later on, when Sankaracarya preached the Vedic principle, the voidism of Lord Buddha was driven out of India.
Letter to Hayagriva -- Montreal 10 July, 1968:

In the Bhagavad-gita, it is explicitly said that the worshippers of different demigods ultimately reach the planets of respective demigods; the worshippers of forefathers also go to different pitri planets, respectively; the worshippers of mammon remain in the mammonish world; and the persons in Krishna Consciousness, ultimately reach to the planet of Krishna loka. So our mission is to reach the supreme planet, in the spiritual sky, namely the Abode of Krishna. As such, we cannot compromise that all sorts of meditation gives the same result. This sort of view is practiced and preached by the impersonalist missionaries like the Rama-Krishna mission, that one may follow any path, but he reaches the same destination. There is no Vedic evidence, neither any proof of the acharya principles. You know that Lord Buddha was Hindu, born in India, in a royal family, but because He advocated voidism, His philosophy was not accepted by the leaders of Vedic principles. For the time being, Lord Buddha's philosophy was accepted by emperor Asoka, and due to royal influence, it spread all over India. But later on, when Sankaracarya preached the Vedic principle, the voidism of Lord Buddha was driven out of India. Similarly, when Ramanujacarya found Sankaracarya a second edition of Buddhist philosophy, he also expunged Sankaracarya as compromising the Buddha, and he established Personal worship of Lord Visnu. Later on, other acaryas, including Sri Caitanya, developed the transcendental reciprocation of devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead and Lord Caitanya preached that loving service in the highest conjugal love with Krishna is also possible. So we are preaching the highest principles of loving service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and as such, there is no scope for compromising with any of the kinds of philosophies of the impersonalist school.