Wanted: Asoka in Burma/Myanmar

I have written at least once about Emperor Asoka Maurya, who had flourished in the 3rd century B.C. and had conquered most of India today and several kingdoms outside it.

He was considered one of the most brutal rulers until he made war and conquered Kalinga, known today as Orissa. Revolted by the horrors of the war he had waged, where hundreds of thousands were killed, he had a change of heart and became the best of kings. He publicly expressed his repentance and promised that he would never draw his sword again for any conquest. The greatest conquest, he declared, was the conquest by goodness (dhamma-vijaya).

Since then, agreed scholars, there was peace throughout the land and countries outside his empire that no longer had to wait in fear of his armies of invasion. What he sent instead were missionaries, for he became a devout Buddhist, and it was through them that Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and others became Buddhist countries.

Portrait of Ashoka
Yet his successors in our country, while proudly claiming themselves as Buddhists, have waged war on their countrymen for over 60 years, creating widespread suffering in their wake.

It is high time these senseless wars come to an end, especially in the year when political negotiations have been planned to start.

If the country still fails to achieve peace this time, I would suggest all our leaders stop being Buddhists and adopt religions that are better tailored to their temperaments. Asoka would surely turn in his grave if he knew what his descendents were doing in the name of the religion that he had propagated.

SHAN therefore calls upon you: Senior General Than Shwe, Vice Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, and others unnamed here, to come to your senses once and for all and become worthy successors of this great king who was ‘friend of man and beast.’ Make Buddhists, who constitute the majority of your people, proud of being the followers of the Lord Buddha.


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