In 272 B.C. he in turn was succeeded by Asoka, the Buddhist emperor, the religious side of whose reign has already been described.
The first figure, that of the date of Asoka, is arrived at by the mention in one of his edicts of certain Greek kings, as then living.
It seems probable that the Vinaya and the four Nikayas were put substantially into the shape in which we now have them before the council at Vesali, a hundred years after the Buddha's death; that slight alterations and additions were made in them, and the miscellaneous Nikaya and the Abhidhamma books completed, at various times down to the third council under Asoka; and that the canon was then considered closed.
According to tradition it was invaded by an Aryan-speaking colony from the valley of the Ganges in the 6th century B.C. It received Buddhism from north India in the time of Asoka, and has had considerable importance as a centre of religious culture which has influenced Burma and Siam.
King Asoka in the 3rd century B.C. sent Buddhist missionaries from India to the Mediterranean lands; their preaching has, it is true, left little or no trace in our Western records.
The name here used by the chronicler for Pali is "the Magadhi tongue," by which expression is meant, not exactly the language spoken in Magadha, but the language in use at the court of Asoka, king of Kosala and Magadha.
Of Asoka, of the Guptas of Maghada, or of the ancient Hindu kingdom of Vidarbha (Berar); and inscriptions and numerous discoveries of coins prove that, during the middle ages, the open spaces were occupied by a series o Rajput dynasties.
"If a man's fame," says KOppen, "can be measured by the number of hearts who revere his memory, by the number of lips who have mentioned, and still mention him with honour, Asoka is more famous than Charlemagne or Caesar."
24 a of slight additions made to this Nikaya as late as the time of Asoka, 3rd century B.C. And the developed doctrine, found in certain portions of it, shows that these are later than the four old Nikayas.
Asoka recognized proselytism by peaceful means as a state duty.
The inscription is of the same type as the Asoka inscriptions, but, in Buhler's opinion (Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, xxx., 1898, p. 389), is older than Asoka's time.
It is heard of first as the residence of Asoka (afterwards emperor), when viceroy of, the western provinces.
James Prinsep was then devoting his rare genius to the decipherment of the early inscriptions of northern India, especially those of Asoka in the 3rd century B.C. He derived the greatest assistance from Tumour's work not only in historical information, but also as regards the forms of words and grammatical inflexions.
The first empire, called Maurya,reached its greatest extent in the time of Asoka (264-227 B.C.), who ruled from Afghanistan to Madras.
See also Asoka, by Vincent Smith (Oxford, 1901); Inscriptions de Piyadasi, by E.
Senart (Paris, 1891); chapters on Asoka in T.
After the death of the great Buddhist king, Asoka (c. 231), the Maurya empire began to break up, and it was finally destroyed about fifty years later when Pushyamitra Sunga murdered the Maurya king Brihadratha and founded the Sunga dynasty.
Descendants of Asoka continued, however, to subsist in Magadha as subordinate rajas for many centuries; and as late as the 8th century A.D.
On the coins struck in India, the well-known Indian alphabet (called Brahmi by the Indians, the older form of the Devanagari) is used; on the coins struck in Afghanistan and in the Punjab the Kharoshthi alphabet, which is derived directly from the Aramaic and was in common use in the western parts of India, as is shown by one of the inscriptions of Asoka and by the recent discovery of many fragments of Indian manuscripts, written in Kharoshthi, in eastern Turkestan (formerly this alphabet has been called Arianic or Bactrian Pali; the true name is derived from Indian sources).
These works of the oldest period, the two centuries and a half, between the Buddha's time and that of Asoka, were followed by a voluminous literature in the following periods - from Asoka to Kanishka, and from Kanishka to Buddhaghosa, - each of about three centuries.
To the north-east of this spot has been found an inscribed pillar, put up by Asoka as a record of his visit to the Lumbini Garden, as the place where the future Buddha had been born.
North-west of this another Asoka pillar has been discovered, recording his visit to the cairn erected by the Sakyas over the remains of Konagamana, one of the previous Buddhas or teachers, whose follower Gotama the Buddha had claimed to be.
We can see now that the very event which seemed, in the eyes of the world, to be the most striking proof of the success of the new movement, the conversion and strenuous support, in the 3rd century B.C., of Asoka, the most powerful ruler India had had, only hastened the decline.
About the middle of the 3rd century B.C. Asoka, the king of Magadha or Behar, who reigned from 264 B.C. to 227 B.C., became a zealous convert to Buddhism.
In 246 B.C. Asoka is said 1 to have convened at Pataliputra (Patna) the third Buddhist council of one thousand elders (the tradition that he actually convened it rests on no actual evidence that we possess).
Asoka did not think it enough to convert the inferior races without looking after their material interests.
Asoka, however, not only took measures to spread the religion; he also endeavoured to secure its orthodoxy.
The northern canon, or, as the Chinese proudly call it, the " greater vehicle of the law," includes many later corruptions or developments of the Indian faith as originally embodied by Asoka in the " lesser vehicle," or canon of the southern Buddhists.
The monuments of the great Buddhist monarchs, Asoka and Kanishka, confronted him from the time he neared the Punjab frontier; but so also did the temples of Siva and his " dread " queen Bhima.
On the east, in the Gangetic valley, Chandragupta (320-296 B.C.) firmly consolidated the dynasty which during the next century produced Asoka (264-228 or 227 B.C.), and established Buddhism throughout India.
Antiochus Theos (grandson of Seleucus Nicator) and Asoka (grandson of Chandragupta), who ruled these two monarchies in the 3rd century B.C., made a treaty with each other (256).
It was also the seat of the Nlaurya Empire, founded by Chandragupta, which extended over all India under Asoka; and, later, of the powerful Gupta dynasty.
In this way Kanishka and his Kashmir council became in some degree to the northern or Tibetan Buddhists what Asoka and his council had been to the Buddhists of Ceylon and the south.'
Smith, Edicts of Asoka (1909).