Between the time of the historical Buddha and state support by emperor Ashoka, were Buddhist monks evangelical?
In other words, did Buddhism spread through enthusiastic recruitment by the sangha, or did it spread more due to state support or something else?
Background This personally occurred to me after living a life as a crypto-Buddhist. There were not many Buddhists around me and no one knew I was a Buddhist. This is despite nominally believing in the Bodhisattva vow, which to my ears, sounds rather evangelical.
I'm trying this question out on Stack Exchange to see if it fares better than it did on a forum, where pretty much people only could agree that they really didn't like Christians knocking at the door and that just about any form of promoting the Dharma to someone not already inclined towards Buddhism (or possibly already a self identifying Buddhist) was a grave violation of respect for autonomy, i.e. forcing one's religion on someone else. And that sentiment sounds like the value system of contemporary ex-Christians in the US more than whatever the earliest Buddhists might have thought.