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Business Ethics from an Exemplary Ruler King Ashoka

Business Ethics from an Exemplary Ruler King Ashoka

“Well, let me begin by saying that the sense of identity changes as one changes one’s understanding of one’s past. Historical changes do bring about changes of identity.” Dr. Romila Thapar

Today we talk about Business Ethics and teach in school all the ethics that a student can absorb. But are they really teaching ethics? Or are those just scary tactics not the real ethics?

King Asoka an evil king turned Buddhist was regarded as one of the most exemplary rulers in world. King Asoka was the third monarch of the Indian Mauryan dynasty. He ruled the Kingdom according Buddhist Principles.

“Dhamma is good, but what constitutes Dhamma? (It includes) little evil, much good, kindness, generosity, truthfulness and purity.” Ven. S. Dhammika King Asoka’s name shines brightly as a Lone Star in the Dark Sky according to scholars.

You can read more about King Asoka here. http://www.cs.colostate.edu/~malaiya/ashoka.html

Let’s look at Business Ethics today. Lot of buzz but little regards of this subject if you ask me. We know the Enron fall, Murdock and many stories popping up from the Wall Street mishaps. And Harvard Student misbehavior.

Looking at all these problems isn’t it time Companies have a separate manual for Company Ethics? King Asoka instituted Moral Principles in his vision to achieve a humane society. King Asoka’s decrees had been found scattered in many regions such as Nepal, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

Asoka had written in his own words the good deeds he had performed not to boast but to convince the reader of his action and to follow his footsteps. He was lost in history for more than 700 years and was brought into light in 1915.

Although Asoka was a practicing Buddhist, he was tolerant towards other religions and encouraged them to practice theirs with the same conviction he practiced his.

King Asoka’s Practice with a narration of today’s practice:

1. To enhance individual morality he asked to respect parents, elders, teachers, friends, servants, ascetics and Brahmins.How could we bring back this respect to our work place? We have kids who invented the companies today. Do they or will they respect an elder who wants to contribute his wisdom? How can we make them understand respect?

2. King Asoka encouraged generosity towards the poor, to ascetics, Brahmins, friends and relatives.Today most of the Companies are involved with Charity work. But are they really interested in doing good or is it a way of profiting their companies?

3. Asoka encouraged harmlessness towards all beings. If you are in an industry of providing meat you might want to consider the well-being of those animals who give life for others consumption. Animal cruelty is not something we should tolerate as a society or humans.

4. Treating people properly was much more important than performing rituals for Good Luck. Because it helps promote tolerance and mutual respect. I think as companies and individuals tolerance and mutual respect can bring prosperity to all. People live in fear and their greed, jealousy and insecurities can do more harm than they imagine to people and the society.

5. King Asoka said people should be well versed in their own doctrines. And practice spirituality. Companies can definitely give people a little breathing space and encourage them to practice Spirituality. And in return enjoy a healthy and happy workforce.

6. Asoka recommended qualities of Heart. They are:
a) Kindness
b) Self-Examination
c) Truthfulness
d) Gratitude
e) Purity of Heart
f) Enthusiasm
g) Loyalty
h) Self-control
i) And Love of Dhamma

I think these guide lines not only can create a workable political philosophy of a country but a healthy work place. In Ven. Dhammika’s words; “Today, with widespread disillusionment in prevailing ideologies and the search for a political philosophy that goes beyond greed (capitalism), hatred (communism) and delusion (dictatorships led by “infallible” leaders), Asoka’s edicts may make a meaningful contribution to the development of a more spiritually based political system.”

With a workable, ethical political philosophy, as Companies, and Individuals we could make an attempt to live by these rules as much as we can. “A little evil, much good, kindness, generosity, truthfulness and purity.”

So what are your thoughts? Could we together put a manual for Company Ethics?

P.S. Material credit and picture credit goes to its respective originators. LoC, Ven. S. Dhammika, …

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