The Edicts of King Asoka

Dhamma is good, but what constitutes Dhamma?
(It includes) little evil, much good, kindness,
generosity, truthfulness and purity.
King Asoka

I watched a movie about the life of King Asoka (starring Shahrukh Khan). Because not a lot is known about the man, it’s a fictionalized account. However, it does include the battle at Kalinga which was supposed to be really rather violent and vicious and a turning point in Asoka's life. After that Asoka becomes king and a Buddhist. He is credited with spreading Buddhism throughout Asia.

What survive of his writings are his Edicts – written into stone. For more information and complete translated text visit:

In his edicts King Asoka encouraged:

  • Respect towards other (parents, teachers, servants etc), 
  • Generosity towards the poor, 
  • Harmlessness towards all life (which is interesting for a guy who killed so many people), 
  • Moderation in spending and in saving,
  • Treating people properly was apparently more important than any ceremony,
  • He encouraged tolerance and respect,
  • He thought all people should be well learned in the “good doctrines” of other people’s religions (in other words those doctrines that promoted tolerance, love, compassion, respect etc), 

The qualities of heart (personal virutues) that are recommended by Asoka in the edicts include: kindness (daya), self-examination (palikhaya), truthfulness (sace), gratitude (katamnata), purity of heart (bhava sudhi), enthusiasm (usahena), strong loyalty (dadha bhatita), self-control (sayame) and love of the Dhamma (Dhamma kamata - the rules of how to act).

Sounds a lot like Humanism to me.

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