My dear friend Dr.Han Tun, MD... emailed this article to me(he lives in Bangkok, retired from World Health Organization years ago..I truly have respect for him)...This article is very interesting..please let me share with you all.
*********** King Asoka and Buddhism ..Historical & Literary Studies
[Edited by Anuradha Seneviratna]
In the book that I have referred to, there is an interesting account of the figure (84,000). We have heard about 84,000 Dhamma-khandha. But nobody knows how it was calculated. In the book it is mentioned that 84,000 is the *symbolic* representation of the Buddha's dhammakaya, the corpus of his Teaching, or the 84,000 atoms that traditionally were thought to make up a human body, and thus representing the Buddha's ruupakaaya, his physical form. ----------
4. The 84,000 Stuupas or Vihaaras Despite this failure to gather all the relics of the Buddha, Asoka proceeds, at least in the Asokaavadaana, to redistribute and re-enshrine those that he has collected into 84,000 stuupas which he has built throughout the whole of Jambudiipa. This was to become Asoka's most famous legendary act, and, for centuries, pilgrims visiting the holy sites of India habitually ascribed almost every ancient stuupa they came across to Asoka. The Asokaavadaana version of the episode is as follows: [Then Assoka had eighty-four thousand boxes made of gold, silver, cat's eye, and crystal, and in them were placed the relics. Also eighty-four thousand urns and eighty-four thousand inscription plates were prepared. All of this was given to the yaká¹£as for distribution in the eighty-four thousand stuupas he ordered built throughout the earth as far as the surrounding ocean, in the small, great, and middle-sized towns, wherever there was a population of one hundred thousand persons. Asoka then went to the Kukkuá¹aaraama Monastery and spoke to the Elder Yasas: "This is my wish; I would like to complete the building of all eightyfour thousand stÅ«pas on the same day, at the same time." "Very well," replied the Elder, "when the moment comes, I shall signal it by hiding the orb of the sun with my hand." Then, not long thereafter, he eclipsed the sun with his hand, and all at once the eighty-four thousand stuupas were completed.] This relation corresponds to the similar account, in the Mahaava.msa, of Asoka's construction of 84,000 monasteries (vihaaras):
[When he heard: "There are eighty-four thousand sections of the Dhamma," the king said: "Each one of them I will honour with a vihaara." Then, bestowing ninety-six koá¹is of money in eightyfour thousand towns, the ruler bade the kings all over the earth to begin to build vihaaras, and he himself began to build the Asokaaraama. All those beautiful vihaaras then begun they duly finished in all the cities within three years; and, by the miraculous power of the Thera Indagutta, who watched over the work, the aaraama named after Asoka was likewise quickly brought to completion. On every side, from the eighty-four thousand cities came letters on one day with the news: "The vihaaras are completed."] There are numerous parallels between these two versions of the story. For example, in both texts, all the stuupas (vihaaras) are completed on the same day, and this completion then signals the occasion for a great festival of merit-making. Moreover, both construction projects are supervised by a monk with magical powers (Indagutta in the Pali tradition, Yasas in the Sanskrit). Both are symbolic of the spread and establishment of Buddhism throughout Asoka's empire, and both mark an official change in Asoka's status: up until this time, he had been known as Ca.n.daasoka; thenceforth he is to be known as Dharmaasoka. But there are some noteworthy differences between these two accounts as well, and these are worth exploring here. First, and not be minimized, is the difference between stuupas and vihaaras. In the Asokaavadaana, Asoka's concern is with honouring the remains of the Buddha's physical body, his relics, and the construction of commemorative markers (stuupas) over those. In the Mahaava.msa, no mention is made of the relics in this context. Instead, Asoka seeks to honour the Sangha by building not stuupas but monasteries (vihaaras) for monks.
Secondly, related to this are the different accounts of what inspires Asoka to build eighty-four thousand stuupas or vihaaras. The number 84,000 is, of course, symbolic of totality in the Buddhist tradition, but its specific connotations here should not be overlooked. In the Mahaava.msa, we are told that Asoka decides to undertake the vihaara construction project when he learns from Moggaliputta Tissa that there are 84,000 sections of the Buddha's Dhamma, his Teaching. The vihaaras are thus not just for the Sangha, but also symbolic of the Dhamma; they represent, so to speak, the Buddha's dhammakaya, the corpus of his Teaching. The 84,000 stuupas, on the other hand, do not directly symbolize the Dharma but are commemorative of the 84,000 atoms that traditionally were thought to make up a human body. They represent, therefore, the Buddha's ruupakaaya, his physical form.
Love Buddha's dhamma,