Ashoka

Ashoka was an Indian emperor known for embracing Buddhism and non-violence, eventually.  Born in 304 BC, he was called “He Who Regards Everyone Amiably” due to his expansionist military campaigns.  After regarding 100 000 civilians to death in the Battle of Kalinga, Ashoka found some personal time to execute his brother.  Maharani, his brother’s wife and a Buddhist, was upset by this.  She gave Ashoka an earful about the morality of killing living beings, particularly when those beings included her husband.  And wouldn’t you know it, Ashoka started to feel guilty about all the things he’d done.  He felt so sorry that he insisted Maharani move in with him.  Isn’t that nice?

With the help of his new lady-friend, Ashoka became the first Buddhist ruler and instituted a strict policy of non-violence.  He didn’t return any of the lands he’d conquered in his less non-violent days, though.  That wouldn’t bring anyone back.  You may ask how Ashoka solved the problem of maintaining an empire without the use of force.  Well, wherever it looked like there might be trouble, Ashoka moved his army.  He didn’t tell them to hurt anybody, but he didn’t tell them not to, either.  If somebody provoked a band of bored soldiers, the blame could hardly be put on poor Ashoka.

Ashoka had many monuments built to tell passers-by how nice he was.   On them he boasted that no animals were killed for his kitchen except deer and two kinds of peacock.  He said was going to get rid of those, too, as soon as they stopped being delicious.  He was so dedicated to protecting animals (except the deer and peacocks) that he banned Hindu sacrifices in the capital.  He is praised for promoting religious tolerance because the Hindus didn’t overthrow his Buddhist dynasty until after he’d died in 232 BC.  They didn’t want an army relaxing on their doorsteps.

Ashoka’s life is an example of how great it is to renounce violence, as long as you’ve already got everything you want and aren’t hungry.

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