A Little History: The Real Ashoka

Our Mentee, Mert Özbay, did a little research on the name behind Ashoka!

     On October 13th, Nick Mcgirl visited us and talked about social entrepreneurship, Ashoka and Ashoka fellows. As fellow SEC members told, it was a great visit and we learned a lot about what qualities social entrepreneurs should have and the different areas they work on. We also learned a little about Ashoka and several Ashoka Fellows. However, there was a little question in my mind: Where did the name “Ashoka” come from?

    Turns out, Ashoka was a legendary Indian Emperor of the Maurya Empire. He controlled almost all of India. One of the symbols associated with him, the Ashoka Chakra, can actually be seen on the Indian flag. He is known for his legend, which is also the reason his name was chosen for the initiative.

    Ashoka used to be a bad tempered emperor, also a cruel one. He was called “Ashoka the Fierce” during those times, and he is even known to have built a torture chamber. As the emperor, he wanted to make his empire larger. He went on and made many conquests, the bloodiest of them all being the Kalinga War. Conquest of Kalinga was a total destruction. There were hundreds of thousands of dead people, including many innocent mothers and children. However, in this war, he also saw the mass killing made just because of his selfish desire to conquest. He felt quite guilty. He realized he didn’t want to be this vengeful and feared emperor, but a peaceful and loved one instead. He converted to Buddhism shortly after, and dedicated the rest of his life to spreading Buddhism, culture, and love throughout his empire and hopefully, the rest of the world.

    Ashoka was probably one of the oldest social entrepreneurs in a sense. He, like the Ashoka Fellows, realized that there is a lot more to the world than earning things for yourself or “winning”. Most of the time, the real victory is helping others and changing the world in a positive way. There are now many Ashoka Fellows who are going on the same path Ashoka went, and I personally am quite happy to have the chance to do the same thing.