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On 24th February,2022, the Russian President Vladimir Putin declared “Special Military Operations” in Ukraine. In just a couple of days, many innocent people have already lost their lives. There has been a huge-scale destruction to property. In the light of the Russia-Ukraine crisis, the global community has brought to the forefront a term, “anti-war ethics in international relations.”

Anti-war ethics broadly focuses on the belief that the war is immoral as it harms the innocent and benefits none. Therefore, as far as possible all the conflicts and tensions shall be solved through dialogue and negotiations. When it comes to anti-war ethics, one of the most renowned episodes in the ancient history of India is that of King Ashoka and his drastic transformation after the War of Kalinga.

Ashoka, one of the greatest kings in the history of India, decided to invade Kalinga in order to expand his empire. The War of Kalinga was one of the deadliest wars ever been fought in the world. This war resulted in the death of lakhs of people apart from causing huge-scale damage. Despite of emerging victorious in the war, Ashoka wasn’t pleased with his victory. He felt guilty of causing a huge-scale destruction to life and property and held himself responsible for it. The war changed his conscience to such an extent that post-war he gave away his policy of annexation and developed a new policy of DHAMMA. (Read more about Ashoka) Also, Here you can find Daily Current Affairs.

Ashoka’s Policy of Dhamma

What is Ashoka’s Dhamma?

Dhamma, is a Prakrit word derived from the Sanskrit word “Dharma”. Dhamma, according to Ashoka was neither a new religion nor a policy of the royal government. For Ashoka, Dhamma was a way of life or a Code of Conduct for people to live their lives in a peaceful and happy manner. Some of the principles of Ashoka’s Dhamma are;

  1. Practice of Ahimsa (Non-violence)
  2. Love for the Truth. (Satya)
  3. Tolerance amongst all the religious sects.
  4. Practicing Gratitude (Kritjnata)
  5. Having Purity of Thoughts (Bhav-shuddhi)
  6. Prohibition of animal sacrifices and festive gatherings.
  7. Social welfare through effective organization of administration.
  8. Reverence to teachers.
  9. Kindness (Daya)
  10. Compassion (Karuna)
  11. Charity (Daan)
  12. Service (Sushrusa)

Relevance of Ashoka’s Dhamma in 21st Century.

In the midst of the Russia-Ukraine crisis, Ashoka’s Dhamma becomes all the more relevant. Apart from the ongoing crisis, there are a plethora of other problems that humanity is facing today. Ashoka’s Dhamma presents a viable solution to deal with these issues. Let us analyze them;

  1. Increase in violence and extremism: Mankind, in the 21st century is facing with an issue of increasing violence. Be it the coming of Taliban in Afghanistan or the invasion of Ukraine by Russia or terrorist activities under the pretext of religious fundamentalist ideas. All these possess a great threat to the existence of mankind. Ashoka, through his Dhamma propagated non-violence and religious tolerance.
  2. The issue of Climate Change: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has highlighted the need to control and limit the global rise in temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius as compared to the pre-industrial level. Already, the impact of Climate Change is visible in the form of an increase in the number of disasters such as cyclones and heat waves; melting of polar ice; increase in the global sea levels; change in agricultural patterns etc. These changes pose a huge challenge in front of the global community. In the light of this, Ashoka through his Dhamma had suggested to maintain a harmonious relationship between man and environment.
  3. Cruelty against animals: Recently, there occurred an incidence in Kerala where a elephant was fed a pineapple containing firecrackers. Consequently, it led to the death of the elephant. Apart from this, there have been a plethora of cases which display humans acting in the most inhumane way while treating animals. Ashoka, through his Dhamma aimed to promote the ideals of “Daya” (pity, kindness) and “Karuna” (compassion). These ideals were not only applicable for other humans, but were applicable to animals also.
  4. The persistent problem of Corruption: Corruption, in India has been a persistent problem since the time of the British rule. Today, corruption has deepened its roots to such an extent that it people practicing it find nothing wrong in it. However, slowly but steadily, this evil of corruption has been rusting the iron pillar of Indian Administration, i.e., the Indian bureaucracy. This leads to issue of maladministration as thereby it is the common people at large who have to suffer. Ashoka, through his Dhamma aimed at establishing a “welfare state” through efficient organization of administration. Moreover, Ashoka also aimed to propagate the principle of “truthfulness”, which is necessary to promote accountability and transparency in administration.
  5. Social Issues: Although we say that 21st century India is a modern India driven with the ideas of equality, liberty, justice and freedom, it is this very India where there is an increase in the cases of sexual harassment and rapes; it is this very India where till date we find that the downtrodden castes are forced to clean sewers (manual scavenging); it is this very India where till date women are not given their freedom due to the presence of patriarchal norms. Ashoka, through his Dhamma aimed at propagating the principles of “Bhaav-Shuddhi” (purity of thoughts), Kritgyata (gratitude) and reverence. These are the core principle’s that need to be followed in order to fight the social evils that we face today.

In the light of the above pointers, it can be said that what Ashoka framed in the 3rd   century BCE is of great relevance even in the 21st century. It has now become the need of the hour to promote these ideals of Ashoka in letter and spirit if we want Earth to become a better place for humans to live. In order to promote these Ashokan ideals, it is imperative that we reform our education system to incorporate these ideals. Apart from that, spreading awareness amongst the masses about these ideals is the need of the hour. These steps would at least become the first step forward in making world a better place to live.


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