The spirit Nil continues to reveal random secrets of
past, present and future to a captive audience.
Suppose we do accept that you have been incarnated on this earth a hundred or more times. You must have learned a lot about history that you could pass on to us.
Not really. A lot of the time I was a world away from the big events you think of as history. I’ve talked about my part in the Russian Revolution and as an African Queen resisting slavery. But mostly I was just Olga Ordinary or Abdul Average, looking after the rice crop or rearing children. And you don’t want to hear about those.
All the same, once you get back to the ether you must be able to put it all in historical perspective.
Well, I suppose I did once serve the greatest leader in human history.
Who was that? Alexander the Great? Elizabeth I? Ronald Reagan?
Mere warlords, the lot of them. I’m talking about a truly great leader who renounced wars, armies and all the suffering they cause.
Oh, you mean José Figueres, who abolished the army in Costa Rica in 1948 – we’ve just been reading about that. [Ed: see article]
Actually no. I have in mind Asoka, last of the great Mauryan emperors of India, over 2,000 years ago. He started out as a chip off the old block, trying like his dad to expand the empire to embrace all of India, and conquering the eastern country of Kalinga (now Orissa state) in a vicious military campaign. But he was so horrified by the bloodshed that he renounced warfare and dedicated himself to good works.
Easy enough when he’d just won the war anyway. A bit like Blair and Clinton pushing peace and harmony after bombing Belgrade to bits.
No, Asoka was different. He converted to Buddhism and devoted his life to putting its principles into practice: ‘conquest by dharma (principles of right life),’ that’s what he called it.
Oh, we get it. He turned into a religious maniac foisting his ideas on all and sundry.
It’s true he sent Buddhist emissaries to Burma and Ceylon. But he didn’t even make Buddhism a state religion at home – he guaranteed freedom of worship for all sects and promoted non-violence. It was good works that he saw as more important: he built hospitals for humans and animals, planted roadside trees, dug wells. A New Deal, you might say.
And what was your part in all this, then? An adviser or minister?
Well, no. I cleaned the palace latrines. But it was honourable work; Asoka didn’t look down on that kind of labour. Sad to say, though, his successors didn’t continue his legacy after he died. The empire fell apart straight away and Buddhism in India went down the tube with it. And my own descendants were locked into a shit-shovelling subdivision of the caste system. Probably they still are, though I must admit I’ve lost touch with that branch of the family.
So Asoka’s work was all to no avail.
Don’t you believe it. Buddhism may not have taken off in India but it certainly took root in Burma and Ceylon. And of course he was directly cited as an inspiration when the Global War Renunciation Treaty was signed in 2058 – oh, sorry, that hasn’t happened yet, has it?
Next issue: etheric broadcasts are
suspended to allow a Jumbo crossword.