The Restless Gemini

Έν οίδα ότι ουδέν οίδα --- Hen oida hoti ouden oida

December 08, 2005

The One Without Sorrow

Influenced by a post in Tony's blog, I googled my way to find a link about King Ashoka, the Great(273 - 232 BC), whose name in Sanskrit translates to "The One Without Sorrow".

In the history of the world there have been thousands of kings and emperors who called themselves 'Their Highnesses', 'Their Majesties' and 'Their Exalted Majesties' and so on. They shone for a brief moment, and as quickly disappeared. But Ashoka shines and shines brightly like a bright star, even unto this day. So wrote H.G. Wells, British historian and noble seeker of the truth about mankind's tumultuous past.

Ashoka was once a bloodthirsty tyrrant, who wanted to annex all the provinces in ancient India, under his mighty empire which was even larger than the present day Republic of India. But the Kalinga War, changed the course of his life and his thoughts. The pretext for the start of the Kalinga War (265 BC or 263 BC) is uncertain. One of his soldiers might have fled to Kalinga and found official refuge there. This enraged Ashoka immensely. He was advised by his ministers to attack Kalinga for this act of treachery. Ashoka then asked Kalinga's royalty to submit before his supremacy. When they defied this diktat, Ashoka sent one of his generals to Kalinga to make them submit.

The general and his forces were, however, completely routed through the skilled tactics of Kalinga's commander-in-chief. Ashoka, baffled at this defeat, attacked with the greatest invasion ever recorded in Indian history until then. Kalinga put up a stiff resistance, but they were no match for Ashoka's brutal strength. The whole of Kalinga was plundered and destroyed: Ashoka's later edicts say that about 100,000 people were killed on the Kalinga side and 10,000 from Ashoka's army; thousands of men and women were deported.

As the legend goes, one day after the war was over, Ashoka ventured out to roam the city and all he could see were burnt houses and scattered corpses. This sight made him sick and he cried the famous quotation, "What have I done?"

(Iam reminded of these famous sayings:
"My God, what have we done?" - Robert Lewis, the co-pilot of Enola Gay, the B-29 that dropped the first atomic bomb.

J. Robert Oppenheimer, the Scientist involved in the Atomic Bomb project code named Manhattan Project, though ecstatic about the success of the project, quoted a remembered fragment from the Bhagavad Gita. "I am become Death," he said, "the destroyer of worlds." Ken Bainbridge, the test director, told Oppenheimer, "Now we're all sons of bitches." )

The brutality of the conquest led him to adopt Buddhism and he used his position to propagate the relatively new philosophy to new heights, as far as ancient Rome and Egypt. During the remaining portion of Ashoka's reign, he pursued an official policy of nonviolence or ahimsa and adopted the dharma, which consists of basic virtuous teachings that can be practiced by all men regardless of social origins. "Dharma" is derived from the Sanskrit word for "duty".

Ashoka saw the dharma as a righteous path showing the utmost respect for all living things. The dharma would bring harmony and unity to India in the form of much needed compassion. Serving as a guiding light, a voice of conscious that is the dharma can lead one to be a respectful and highly responsible human being. Edward D'cruz interprets the Ashokan dharma as a "religion to be used as a symbol of a new imperial unity and a cementing force to weld the diverse and heterogeneous elements of the empire". Ashoka's intent was to instigate "a practice of social behavior so broad and benevolent in its scope, that no person, no matter what his religion, could reasonably object to it".

One need not become an Ashoka to stop bloodshed or go all out to found a new religion. I guess it would be enough, before training a Gun on a fellow human being, if one gives a thought that the person he is going to kill is somebody's son, somebody's brother or somebody's husband and that he has a family to return to like himself.

Iam ending this longish post with few lines, from one of the beautiful songs by Michael Jackson,Heal The World.

"There's a place in your heart
And I know that it is love
And this place could be much
Brighter than tomorrow.
And if you really try
You'll find there's no need to cry
In this place you'll feel
There's no hurt or sorrow.
There are ways to get there
If you care enough for the living
Make a little space, make a better place."


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