The first of the ten duties is to be liberal and generous in giving, to be charitable. A ruler should not be attached to the wealth accumulated through position. Rather, it should be given away for the benefit and well-being of all people. Second, a ruler should be of high moral character and follow the precepts. Third, a ruler should be ready to sacrifice everything for the good of the people. He or she must be prepared to give up personal comfort, status and fame, even life itself, in the interest of those being served. This is a pretty extraordinary teaching. What would it be like if the highly visible figures in the life of a nation started to set examples of moderation and humility rather than excessiveness and arrogance? What would a model of such high moral standards do for a nation?

The fourth duty of a ruler is honesty and integrity. A ruler must be free of fear and favor in discharging the duties of office. There must be sincerity of intention and a commitment not to deceive the public. Fifth, a ruler must manifest kindness and gentleness, and possess a genial temperament. Sixth, a ruler should enjoy austerity in personal habits, leading a simple life and not indulging in luxuries, exercising self-control. Seventh, a ruler must bear no grudges, and be free from hatred or ill-will.

The eighth duty is to actualize nonviolence, which means not only avoiding harming anyone but also actively promoting peace, preventing war, and opposing any activity that involves violence and destruction of life. Ninth, a ruler must practice patience, forbearance, tolerance, understanding, and be able to bear hardships, difficulties, and insults without becoming angry. The last duty is nonopposition, or nonobstruction. The ruler should not oppose the will of the people but should be in harmony with the welfare of all.

These guidelines actually became embodied in one political leader, King Ashoka of India, during the third century B.C.E. Ashoka’s father and grandfather wished to conquer the whole Indian peninsula. When Ashoka came into power, he followed in their footsteps and continued the bloody conquest of the lands. He was directly responsible for the deaths of thousands of people.

Glen Gulley