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Approach:

  1. State the concept of Dhamma advocated by Ashoka.
  2. Discuss with examples why his concept of Dhamma is relevant even today.
  3. Conclusion

After the war in Kalinga, Ashoka advocated a code of social ethics based on pillars of tolerance, liberalism and compassion, termed as ‘Ashoka’s Dhamma’. It was neither a new religion nor a new political philosophy. It was a way of life, a code of conduct and practically stood for absence of sin, good deeds, charity, donation, truthfulness and purity. It is basically a moral code to guide individual behaviour in society according to universal moral laws. This doctrine becomes essential, especially for public servants in a society mired with challenges such as inequalities, intolerance and various ethical-political dilemmas.

Present day relevance in the context of public life:

  • Secularism and tolerance: Ashoka’s dhamma explicitly mentions that ‘one shouldn’t extol one’s own sect or disparage those of others, as doing so will harm others’.
  • Duties of Public servant– Special officials were appointed for distribution of alms to all sects so that all thrive and co-exist. They also taught people about ethics and read out messages for people who could not read.
  • Foreign Policy and Soft Diplomacy: Internationally, his policy is also relevant in today’s approaches to soft diplomacy, as he sent messages to spread ideas about Dhamma to other countries.
  • Sustainable Development Goals: Invoking these ideas in present day governance and administration, will not only create social capital and harmony, but also enable India to achieve targets in Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Human face to administration: It advises public servant to be free from jealousy, anger, cruelty, hastiness, laziness and fatigue.
  • Environmental democracy and justice (Environmental Ethics): The idea planting of trees along the roads to provide shade; building of guest-houses for travellers and construction of several watering places lays the foundation of modern environmental ethics by highlighting the importance of nature for a sustainable life.

Therefore, Ashoka’s policy of Dhamma becomes imperative in present times as it always kept people above profits, focuses on moral duties and secular harmony among all.

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