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Buddhism and Hinduism have different ideas of what the
duty of a good person is. When he was a Hindu, Ashoka
believed that as a leader his duty was to conquer other
tribes in war. When he became Buddhist, he changed his
way of life to agree with the teachings of Buddha. In the
first passage below, Ashoka describes his efforts to
become a truly devoted Buddhist.
We do not know who the speaker is in the second
passage taken from the Upanishads (a series of ancient
Hindu religious texts). This speaker writes about the
actions of a good person from a Hindu viewpoint. He
praises those who seek wisdom and criticizes those who
do not.
• Reading 1: Buddhism:
• From The Edicts of Ashoka
• For more than two-and-a-half years I was a lay [ordinary]
disciple, without, however, exerting [pushing] myself
strenuously. But it is more than a year since I joined the
Order [group of sincere Buddhist], and have exerted [worked]
myself strenuously. During the time the [deities] who were
regarded as true all over India have been shown to be untrue.
For this is the fruit of exertion. Nor is this to be attained by a
great man only, because even by the small man who chooses
to exert himself immense [ great] heavenly bliss may be won.
For this purpose has the precept [teaching] been composed: “ Let small and great exert themselves.
Reading 2: Hinduism: Upanishads
The better…is one thing, and the pleasanter…quite another…Of these two,
well it is for him who takes the better;
He fails of his aim [goal] who chooses the pleasanter.
Both the better and the pleasanter come to a man. Going all around the
two, the wise man discriminates [decides which to choose].
The wise man chooses the better, indeed, rather than the pleasanter.
The stupid man…chooses the pleasanter…
The abiding [staying] man in the midst of ignorance
Self-wise , thinking themselves learned,
Running [here] and [there]…
Like blind men led by one who himself is blind…He…who is not
Who is mindful and ever pure,
Reaches the goal
From which he is born no more…
A difficult path is this – poets… declare!
-from The Thirteen Principal Upanishads,
by Robert Ernest Hume
1. What was the difference between Ashoka’s actions
during his first 2 and a ½ years as a Buddhist and his
actions after that.
2. According to Ashoka, who can win “heavenly bliss” and
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Answer the Following Questions