It is a shame that schools and universities don't teach students about the incredibly inspiring
14 EDICTS of Ashoka
who didn’t follow any religion but was an agnostic/deist
The Edicts of Ashoka consist of 33 inscriptions commissioned by Ashoka the Great, an Indian ruler. These edicts were meticulously engraved on pillars, large stones, and cave walls, making them accessible for public reading. Despite being created over 22 centuries ago, the principles of humanity conveyed in these edicts demonstrate remarkable advancement for their time.
If you are a proponent of humanity, you will find great enjoyment in reading them.
King Ashoka, has caused this Dhamma edict to be written. Here (in my domain) no living beings are to be slaughtered or offered in sacrifice. Formerly, in the kitchen of King Ashoka, hundreds of thousands of animals were killed every day to make curry. But now with the writing of the Dhamma edict, only three creatures, two peacocks and a deer, are killed, And in time, not even these creatures will be killed.
…everywhere has King Ashoka, made provision for two types of medical treatment: medical treatment for humans and medical treatment for animals. Wherever medical herbs suitable for humans or animals are not available, I have had them imported and grown. Wherever medical roots or fruits are not available I have had them imported and grown. Along roads I have had wells dug and trees planted for the benefit of humans and animals.
Decree concerning inspection tours by Ashoka's officials to instruct the populace in Dhamma and policy of non-violence and benevolence toward all.
Decree concerning non-violence. Notes how heavenly signs were absent in the past when the king pursued violent means to achieve his ends but now, having adopted a policy of non-violence, heavenly signs are appearing again as celestial approval. Discusses the importance of Dhamma and right behavior toward all. Instructs his successors to adhere to Dhamma and uphold Ashoka's vision.
King Ashoka, speaks thus: To do good is difficult. One who does good first does something hard to do. I have done many good deeds, and, if my sons, grandsons, and their descendants up to the end of the world act in like manner, they too will do much good. But whoever amongst them neglects this, they will do evil. Truly, it is easy to do evil. [The remainder of the edict addresses compassion for convicts and their families and the proper application of and instruction in Dhamma].
King Ashoka, speaks thus: In the past, state business was not transacted nor were reports delivered to the king at all hours. But now I have given this order, that at any time, whether I am eating, in the women's quarters, the bed chamber, the chariot, the Palanquin, in the park, or wheresoever, reporters are to be posted with instructions to report to me the affairs of the people so that I might attend to these affairs wherever I am. [The remainder of this edict emphasizes Ashoka's availability to all, how he intends to settle debates in council chambers quickly, and his commitment to the welfare of all his subjects].
King Ashoka, desires that all religions should reside everywhere, for all of them desire self-control and purity of heart. But people have various desires and various passions, and they may practice all of what they should or only a part of it. But one who receives great gifts yet is lacking in self-control, purity of heart, gratitude and firm devotion, such a person is mean.
In the past, kings used to go out on pleasure tours during which there was hunting and other entertainment. But ten years after Beloved-of-the-Gods had been coronated, he visits and give gifts of gold to the aged, visits to people in the countryside, instructing them in Dhamma, and discussing Dhamma with them as is suitable. It is this that delights King Ashoka, and is, as it were, another type of revenue.
Decree concerning proper and improper ceremonies. Ashoka claims that many ceremonies – those engaged in without proper understanding of Dhamma – are “vulgar and worthless” but Dhamma ceremonies, by those fully informed, bear the greatest fruit. He describes such ceremonies as involving “proper behavior towards servants and employees, respect for teachers, restraint towards living beings, and generosity” as well as right behavior toward relatives, friends, and neighbors. He concludes by noting how, even if Dhamma may seem to have no effect on this world, it does in the next but that when Dhamma is clearly seen to achieve its purpose, it does good in both this life and the one to come.
King Ashoka, does not consider glory and fame to be of great account unless they are achieved through having my subjects respect Dhamma and practice Dhamma, both now and in the future. For this alone does King Ashoka, desire glory and fame. And whatever efforts King Ashoka, is making, all of that is only for the welfare of the people in the next world, and that they will have little evil. And being without merit is evil. This is difficult for either a humble person or a great person to do except with great effort, and by giving up other interests. In fact, it may be even more difficult for a great person to do.
King Ashoka, speaks thus: There is no gift like the gift of the Dhamma, (no acquaintance like) acquaintance with Dhamma, (no distribution like) distribution of Dhamma, and (no kinship like) kinship through Dhamma. And it consists of this: proper behavior towards servants and employees, respect for mother and father, generosity to friends, companions, relations, Brahmans and ascetics, and not killing living beings. Therefore, a father, a son, a brother, a master, a friend, a companion or a neighbor should say: “This is good, this should be done.” One benefits in this world and gains great merit in the next by giving the gift of Dhamma.
Decree concerning religious tolerance and mutual respect among adherents of different faiths. Ashoka condemns the practice of elevating one's own religion at the expense of someone else's: “Growth in essentials can be done in different ways, but all of them have as their root restraint in speech, that is, not praising one's own religion, or condemning the religion of others without good cause. And if there is cause for criticism, it should be done in a mild way. But it is better to honor other religions for this reason. By so doing, one's own religion benefits and so do other religions, while doing otherwise harms one's own religion and the religions of others. Whoever praises his own religion, due to excessive devotion, and condemns others with the thought 'Let me glorify my own religion', only harms his own religion…One should listen to and respect the doctrines professed by others.” The edict concludes with the admonition that an individual's religion grows through Dhamma and so all faiths are improved by tolerance and understanding.
Famous decree concerning the Kalinga War in which Ashoka describes the aftermath of the campaign, repents, and describes how he now “conquers” people through Dhamma and the universal love and understanding which binds people together and leads to harmonious existence. It reads, in part: “King Ashoka, conquered the Kalingas eight years after his coronation. One hundred and fifty thousand were deported, one hundred thousand were killed and many more died (from other causes). After the Kalingas had been conquered, Beloved-of-the-Gods came to feel a strong inclination towards the Dhamma, a love for the Dhamma and for instruction in Dhamma. Now Beloved-of-the-Gods feels deep remorse for having conquered the Kalingas…Now it is conquest by Dhamma that Beloved-of-the-gods considers to be the best conquest…I have had this Dhamma edict written so that my sons and great-grandsons may not consider making new conquests, or that if military conquests are made, that they be done with forbearance and light punishment, or better still, that they consider making conquest by Dhamma only, for that bears fruit in this world and the next. May all their intense devotion be given to this which has a result in this world and the next.
King Ashoka, has had these Dhamma edicts written in brief, in medium length, and in extended form. Not all of them occur everywhere, for my domain is vast, but much has been written, and I will have still more written. And also, there are some subjects here that have been spoken of again and again because of their sweetness, and so that the people may act in accordance with them. If some things written are incomplete, this is because of the locality, or in consideration of the object, or due to the fault of the scribe.
Please note that these summaries are abridged versions of the edicts. The original edicts contain more detailed content.