Monday, January 12, 2009

Notes on Indian History: the Ruler Ashoka

It is awesome that the Indus Valley civilization can be traced all the way back to c. 2900 BC, while ancient Hebrew tradition, by contrast, goes back to only about 2000 BC. I learned a little about the cities of Mohenjo-Daro and Patina. I also learned about the ruler Chandra-Gupta.

I was very positively impressed by the historical records of Ashoka, a later ruler, a man from whom our current American government could learn several invaluable lessons in compassion. He was a very brilliant supporter and defender of nonviolence; he had learned very much from the terrible and bloody war of Kalinga. He established an entire beautiful political order founded on nonviolence and compassion. He wrote a famous document which became the fore-runner to the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights. All human beings, he wisely said, were one family.

He established the first Animal Rights legislation in history, cared for the poor and elderly, and the sick and ill. (India still has one of the oldest animal hospitals in the world.) For the sake of animal-compassion, he officially promoted vegetarianism. He realized that people reveal their true selves with animals, who cannot report them, and cannot seek vengeance. His reign united the known world in
peace, like Solomon the great mystic had done in his own time (c. 1000 BC). He also worked to create peace among many religions. His goal, he said, was to pursue and manifest dharma, the law of all life. (The "Wheel of Ashoka" is the symbol on the modern Indian flag.) He managed to allow to survive the rhino and the porpoise, among many other species.

Tragically, later, in the Middle Ages in India, Buddhism was allowed to die, in the land of its birth.

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