8.31 Ashoka

Ashoka ruled nearly the entire Indian subcontinent in the 3rd century BC. According to legend, after becoming disgusted with the bloodshed and destruction of War, in Repentence Ashoka devoted himself to the practice and propagation of Dharma and Buddhism.

He is said to have constructed tens of thousands monasteries and places of worship after ordering the construction of 84,000 stupas throughout the world in towns that had populations greater than 100,000.

He ordered regular tours of his officials to inspect their jurisdictions and preach Dharma, and began accelerating Social Welfare activities throughout adjacent kingdoms.

Dharma is a term that extends beyond Buddhism, and generally connotes concepts such as Righteousness, Law, Duty, and Right Way of Being which govern individual conduct in accordance with Rta, the supreme (order / rule / truth / reason / law / Logos) that regulates, coordinates, and makes possible the Universe. It is akin to Tao and Logos.

Ashoka’s understanding of dharma led to such reforms as the abolition of the death penalty, construction of rest houses and wells along the roads, the planting of fruit trees, the construction of medical facilities for both people and animals, instructions to officers to work for the welfare and happiness of the poor, the aged, the infirm, women, and children, restrictions on the killing of animals for food, prohibition of animal sacrifice, declarations that it is not good to injure living things, and promotion of the welfare of all beings “in this world and the next”.

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