Dhamma and its Relevance

As per Buddhism

  • The Dhamma, as taught by the Buddha, is about overcoming dissatisfaction or suffering, which Buddhists call dukkha. The Dhamma refers to Buddhist doctrine and is often interpreted to mean the ‘teachings of the Buddha’.
  • This doctrine was originally passed through word of mouth from the Buddha to his group of followers. These teachings were not written down for many years. They first appeared in written form in the Pali canon, also known as the Tipitaka. Other teachings followed, including the Mahayana Sutras.
  • The Dhamma reveals truths as taught by the Buddha. It also gives people a way to live life that can lead them towards achieving enlightenment. It encourages Buddhists to follow the Noble Eightfold Path and to practise meditation. Buddhists believe that following the Dhamma in their daily practice, can help them to overcome suffering.
  • The Dhamma is one of the ‘Three Refuges’ of Buddhism, which are the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha. Buddhists see these refuges as ways through which they can be protected from suffering they encounter in the world.

As per Ashoka

  • The word Dhamma is the Prakrit form of Sanskrit word Dharma, which was used by the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka (268–232 BCE) in a specific context. It was neither a particular religious faith nor was an arbitrarily formulated royal policy. It was a generalised norm of social behaviour and activities, based on the following fundamental principles:
    • Samyam : Mastery of senses
    • Satya : Truthfulness
    • Saucha : Purity
    • Sushrusa : Service
    • Sampritipati : Support
    • Daan : Charity
    • Daya : Kindness
    • Dridh-bhakti : Steadfastness of devotion
    • Kritjnata : Gratitude
    • Apichiti : Reverence
    • Bhav-suddhi: Purity of thoughts
  • Taking these principles as the foundation, Asoka expounded his policy of Dhamma through his edicts. A few references from his inscriptions can give us a clear idea of the policy propagated by Ashoka and its relevance in the today’s world.

Relevance in Today’s World

These tenet of Ashoka’s Dhamma are as relevant today as they were in the 3rd century BCE. In fact, their relevance in the present time is far greater than ever because:

1.  Humanity is currently facing extreme violence in various forms all over the world. This bloodshed can be stopped by following the “principles of Ahimsa” enunciated in Ashoka’s Dhamma, which stands for non-violence indeed, words and thoughts.

2.  Cruelty against Animals: We humans are well known for our inhuman acts against the other living creatures. The recent death of a pregnant elephant in Kerela is just a manifestation of our true nature. Such acts can be countered by following the principles of “Daya” and “Karuna”, which sees life even in the smallest of living creatures.

3.  Principles of Sar adharma sambhav and Brahashruti can be productively used to promote peace and prosperity among different sects and religions.

4. Bilateral relations between the two hostile nations can be improved by following the ‘principles of Dhamma Vijay’, with greater cultural engagements and people to people interactions.

5. Principle of Truthfulness is necessary to promote transparency and accountability. It is the foundation stone for honest conduct and probity in public life.

6.  The Ashokan principles of Paternal kingship can become the bedrock of good governance in our country. It can help fight challenges like corruption, scam, misappropriation of public resources, nepotism and favouritism in Governance.

7.  Ideals of Sanyam (mastery of senses) and Bhavashuddhi (purity of thoughts) are key to strengthening of character and building a league of morally and ethically enlightened citizens.

8. Ideals of Kritgyata (Gratitude) and Apichiti (Reverence) are key to strengthen the institution of family. These principles will guide us to take care of our elders throughout life.

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