But how to follow these attributes in life? In this connection, Asoka in Rock Edict XIII and many other Edicts describes the Code of Duties or practical Dhamma, comprising the following:
1. Susrusa: obedience to mother and father, elders, teachers and other respectable persons.
2. Apichiti: respect towards teachers.
3. Sampratipatti: proper treatment towards ascetics, both Brahmanas and Sramanas, relations, slaves, servants and dependents, the poor and miserable, friends, acquaintances, and companions.
4. Danam: liberality towards ascetics, friends, comrades, relatives and the aged.
5. Anarambho Prananam: abstention from killing of living beings.
6. Avihimsa Bhutanam: non-injury to all living creatures.
7. Apa-vyayata apa-bhandata cha: to spend little and to accumulate little wealth or moderation in spending and savings (Rock Edict III).
8. Mardavam: mildness in case of all living creatures.
9. Satyam: truthfulness (Minor Rock Edict II, Pillar Edicts II and VII).
10. Dhamma-rati: attachment to morality.
11. Bhava-Suddhi: purity of heart.
The Dhamma of Edicts is not merely a guide to action. It is distinguished by several characteristic doctrines and philosophical positions, bringing out the originality of Asoka’s ideas of moral reform. Toleration was insisted on as an absolute duty in a multi-religious country like India.
Asoka tried to instill Moral Law (Dhamma) as the governing principle and force in every sphere of life, and to spiritualise politics and all human activities. The Dhamma thus presented in these Edicts is but another name for the moral or virtuous life and takes its stand upon the common meeting ground of all religions.
It is not sectarian in any sense, but is completely cosmopolitan, capable of universal application and acceptance as essential of all religions. Thus, he laid the basis of a universal religion and was probably the first to do so in history.
Why did Asoka enunciate the principles of Dhamma and so zealously propagate them? After the Kalinga war Asoka considered the Dhamma Vijaya, I he victory based on piety and morality, as the real victory. In Pillar Edict-I, he sums up his intentions by saying that he wants the maintenance, governance, happiness and protection of the people to be regulated by Dhamma.
He further stressed the paternal concept of monarchy: “All men are my children, and just as I desire for my children that they obtain welfare and happiness, both in this world and the next, so do I desire the same for all men.”
Asoka’s Dhamma was intended to strengthen social solidarity or social relationships, whether between parents and children, elders and young friends or various ideological sects. It was intended as an ethical concept related to the individual in the context of his society.