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India is one of the most culturally, philosophically and religiously diverse countries in the world. The roots, not only of these diversities but also of morally appropriate responses to them, i.e. to pluralism, go very deep. This presentation substantiates this claim by looking at the relevant edicts of Emperor Asoka who reigned in India in the 3rd century BCE. Asoka not only advises people with deeply divergent worldviews to live together face to face but also suggests what the basis for this coexistence could be. He claims that resources exist in all traditions to exercise self-restraints. These self-restraints are of two kinds: self-related and other-related. Everyone should exercise both these self-restraints, particularly in speech. This ‘control of tongue’ is crucial for morally legitimate and principled coexistence. In the article, I try to explicate the meaning of these edicts and flesh out this argument by providing a vivid, quasi-phenomenological account of what public life in Asokan times was like.


Institute for Social Justice

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Journal Article

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