The religious policy of Ashoka
This spirit of philanthropy, humanitarianism lay at the bottom of the religious policy of Ashoka the Great.
Maurya Emperor Ashoka found that in his vast empire there were various races, sects and diverse cultures. Ashoka found that application of force was no solution to the problem of separatism and disintegration. The frequent revolts during his father’s reign awakened him regarding the urgency of the problem.
Maurya King Ashoka sought to promote sense of unity by his philanthropy and religious policy. The common ethics which he tried to inculcate was aimed to bind the people together by a common culture. He hoped that most people would be loyal to Ashoka for his religious policy. Ashoka wants to unite the divergent groups by his policy of toleration. His new faith was to act as a cementing force among them and consolidate the authority of Ashoka.
There was economic evolution of North Indian society had led to the growth of new social classes. They were quite prosperous and influential but the traditional pattern of caste ridden society did not allow them to enjoy due importance like the high castes. The growth of trade had led to the rise of merchants who had no aristocracy of birth but had aristocracy of wealth. They resented the vested class interests of the so-called high born.
Ashoka tried to solve this problem caste system for all his subjects, stressing of non-violence and toleration. Brahmanism, due to its caste distinction rooted to it failed to offer any panacea to the deep socio-economic conflict. Buddhism with its concept of social democracy and non-violent principle appeared to Ashoka as the suitable remedy to the ills that affected the society.
Ashoka considered Buddhism to be the best tool for consolidation of his empire. Ashoka preached toleration and non-violence to cement the people with a bond of unity. He hoped to reconcile the sects rather than aggravate their conflict.
Hence he maintained that people should not condemn other religions. Ashoka wanted to conquer the the heart of the people.