what was Ashoka's dhamma ?

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Ashoka's dhamma was a humanitarian approach towards governance and policy making. It spread kindness, generosity, ahimsa and piety. His transformation to a benevolent ruler and acceptance of Buddhism inspired him to formulate the basic tenets of dhamma and he got these basic principles inscribed on rocks and pillars for all to read and follow. Some of the basic principles are:

  1. Tolerance towards all including slaves and servants.
  2. Obedience to elders and aged.
  3. Generosity to the needy and the religious men.
  4. Practice of non-violence towards men and animals.
  5. It also encouraged welfare measures like the construction of rest houses, hospitals and dispensaries, planting trees alongside highways, condemned animal sacrifices and such rituals
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The word Dhamma is the Prakrit form of the Sanskrit word Dharma. There have been attempts to define and find equivalent English words for it, such as "piety", "moral life" and "righteousness" but scholars could not translate it into English because it was coined and used in a specific context. The word Dharma has multiple meanings in the literature and thought of ancient India. The best way to understand what Ashoka means by Dhamma is to read his edicts, which were written to explain the principles of Dhamma to the people of that time throughout the empire.

Dhamma was not a particular religious faith or practice, or an arbitrary formulated royal policy.Dhamma related to generalized norms of social behavior and activities; Ashoka tried to synthesize various social norms which were current in his time. It cannot be understood by assuming it is one of the various religions that existed that time. To understand why and how Ashoka formulated Dhamma and its meaning, one must understand the characteristics of the time in which he lived and to refer to Buddhist, Brahmanical and other texts where norms of social behavior are explained.
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