During his rule of India under the Maurya Empire, Asoka converted to Buddhism, rejected violence, and resolved to rule by moral example. He published messages on stone pillars all across the lands of his empire to pronounce moral edicts, or commands, and describe the just actions of his government. The following are excerpts from several of the pillars.
All men are my children. Just as I seek the welfare and happiness of my own children in this world and the next, I seek the same things for all men.
It is difficult to achieve happiness, either in this world or in the next, except by intense love of Dharma [teaching of the Buddha], intense self-examination, intense obedience, intense fear [of sin], and intense enthusiasm. Yet as a result of my instruction, regard for Dharma and love of Dharma have increased day by day and will continue to increase…. For these are the rules: to govern according to Dharma, to administer justice according to Dharma, to advance the people's happiness according to Dharma, and to protect them according to Dharma.
The faiths of others all deserve to be honored for one reason or another. By honoring them, one exalts [raises up] one's own faith and at the same time performs a service to the faith of others. By acting otherwise, one injures one's own faith and also does disservice to that of others…. Therefore concord [friendly relations or peace] alone is commendable.
Whatever good deeds I have done the people have imitated, and they have followed them as a model. In doing so, they have progressed and will progress in obedience to parents and teachers, in respect for elders, in courtesy to priests and ascetics [people who choose a life of self-denial], to the poor and distressed, and even to slaves and servants.
There is no gift that can equal the gift of Dharma…. If one acts in this way, one achieves … happiness in this world and infinite merit [worth] in the world to come.
I have commanded this edict on Dharma to be inscribed so that it may last forever and so that my descendants may conform to it.
The Analects of Confucius (551–479 B.C.) is a collection of teachings by the great Chinese philosopher published in China around the year 1190. Divided into 20 “books,” the Analects features Confucius dialoguing with his students about numerous moral and ethical matters. Among the topics are how to respect one's elders, how to comport oneself in society, and how to maintain a government that is honest and principled.
… CHAP. III. The Master said, “Fine words and an insinuating [subtle, crafty] appearance are seldom associated with true virtue.” CHAP. IV. The philosopher Tsang said, “I daily examine myself on three points:–whether, in transacting business for others, I may have been not faithful;–whether, in intercourse [conversation] with friends, I may have been not sincere;– whether I may have not mastered and practiced the instructions of my teacher.” … CHAP. VI. The Master said, “A youth, when at home, should be filial [respectful of one's parents], and, abroad, respectful to his elders. He should be earnest and truthful. He should overflow in love to all, and cultivate the friendship of the good. When he has time and opportunity, after the performance of these things, he should employ them in polite studies.” CHAP. VII.