Tuesday, 6 September 2011
Discuss the principles of Ashoka’s Dhamma in the light of his edicts. Do you think that it is still relevant to the present society?
Ashoka’s dhamma meant ‘righteousness’. The concept of dhamma is well discussed in Ashoka edicts which were the oldest surviving documents of Indian history. The edicts found scattered all over the Indian subcontinent are basically official pronouncement of policy, and instructions of Ashoka to his officials and subjects. Ashoka is said to have underwent a complete charge of heart after Kalinga war during his eight regnal year and thus visualized ‘Dhamma’.
The traditional policy of territorial expansion was substituted by Dhamma. As mentioned in Ashokan edicts, Dhamma calls for certain virtues to be possessed and the negative traits to be abstained from. It gives a moral guidance to the subjects and stresses on social harmony and religious tolerance. Respect to elders, parents teachers; equal treatment to all religious sects, ahimsa, moderate accumulation of wealth and judicious spending etc, are dealt with in detail in the Major Rock Edicts VII and III respectively.
The major rock edict IX condemns rituals as ‘the source of ignorance’ and Ashoka appeals for non-sacrifice of animals in ceremonies and food habits. The Major Rock Edict V speaks about the welfare activities undertaken and the appointment of Dhamma Mahavratas to propagate Dhamma. Ashoka strived for the moral and spiritual development of his subjects. He even undertook pilgrimages and sent his kith and kin as missionaries to propagate Dhamma abroad. In totality, Dhamma was not a religion but a ‘way of life.’
Ashoka’s Dhamma holds good even in the present society. Dhamma is distinguished by several characteristic doctrines and philosophical positions. Tolerance was insisted upon as an absolute duty, which is very much necessary for multi-religious country India. Dhamma is completely cosmopolitan and has universal applicability. It can act as a panacea for the religious and social unrest currently prevailing in India.
In conclusion, Dhamma being secular in nature and advocates humanitarian approach, making it a very practical solution. Dhamma promotes social equality and is realistic. So, Dhamma is the need of the hour of the present India. Ashoka’s Dhamma has all-time applicability in a divergent Indian society.