The Qun is a code of honor based on the writings of the Ashkaari Koslun, which encompasses everything from a philosophy, a set of laws, a legislative guide, and a social architecture to govern the Qunari ("People of the Qun"). The Qun defines the role of everyone and everything in the society of the Qunari, regardless of whether it is spiritual or mundane. For example, some Qunari are raised as soldiers from a very young age. They are expected to be strong, disciplined, and stoic, adhering without fail to the tenets of honor and duty as defined in the Qun.
As the Qun covers a broad and complex range of topics, summarizing or explaining it to those not raised within it is difficult for those not trained to do it. Most inquiries from outsiders will be met with refusal, not out of ill will, but because most Qunari know only those parts of the Qun that affect their specific duties. Only the priesthood is equipped to convey it, and even they have to study it rigorously.
An important concept in the Qun is the idea of "Asit tal-eb"—"It is to be": the idea that everything and everyone in the world has a nature, and all these things come together to form a proper order—such as the locust devouring crops. It is every individual's choice whether or not they act according to their nature and the nature of the world, or oppose the proper order, and as such fight against themselves and the world. The individual is not truly "individual", but part of the whole. Their own nature contributes to the larger nature of the world, and so their struggle against self-balance disrupts the balance of the whole, thus hurting themselves. Because of this, society is not considered artificial, but part of nature.
The Qun teaches that all living things have a place and a purpose, and only when they are in the correct place and in control of their self may a being attain balance. When balance is lost, suffering follows. Mastery of the self is, therefore, the first and greatest duty.
The Qun abhors waste, and every person is a valuable commodity under the Qun. The Ben-Hassrath are the police of the Qun and see rebellion and discontent as an illness that can be cured. Ben-Hassrath under the "Dangerous Actions" branch coordinate with the Qunari military to track the dreaded Tal-Vashoth rebels, a function similar to bounty hunting. The Ben-Hassrath reeducators under the "Dangerous Purpose" branch would then treat criminals and rebels against the Qun, determining whether they must destroy the subject's mind using a poison known as qamek or if they can be rehabilitated through treatment and education. Those that are rehabilitated are cured of their "illness" and assigned simple work detail. Yet even those poisoned by qamek, the Viddath-bas, serve a purpose in the Qun as mindless laborers.
Outside Qunari borders, Ben-Hassrath agents under the "Dangerous Questions" branch either sabotage or spy on outside cultures that could pose a threat to Qunari interests.
A priestess called the Viddasala, or "one who converts purpose," handles the conversion of foreigners, the reeducation of Qunari dissidents, and the collection and quarantine of magic. The Viddasala leads the "Dangerous Purpose" branch of the Ben-Hassrath.
Generally, the Qunari don't appear to coerce conversion to the Qun but rather encourage it. As Sten says, "The Qun is a path one follows, not a chain that binds." Qunari believe in tough love when exhorting potential converts or Qunari rebels to embrace the Qun. Qunari believe those who abandon the Qun are destined to ruin themselves or cause suffering to those they love with their lack of self-mastery; thus Qunari would let them struggle with the consequences of their own actions as a way to teach them the folly of their ways. Freedom from folly can only be attained through enlightenment, yet freedom cannot be given. Every person must choose it for themselves. If one rescues another of their tribulations, they learn nothing and are thus denied the salvation of the Qun.
That is not to say that the Qunari are passive when they proselytize their faith. Indeed, they may manipulate the circumstances, goad people, or simply persuade them of the merits of the Qun in order to get potential converts to reach their intended conclusion. The conclusion being that catastrophe is the resulting consequence of an individual's dependence on their pitiable vices, and thus the Qun's rigid order is needed to tame their destructive nature and also give people the best chance to improve the world as a community. To Qunari, this is giving people every chance to be amenable to the Qun's teachings. Every attempt to proselytize is to call to mind the concept of "Asit tal-eb"—"It is to be." For example, Karasten are soldiers. The Qun made it so. They can never vary from that assigned path, never be other than they are meant to be. But, they are free to choose within that role. To accept and succeed, or deny and die. Glory is clear and defined; and the Qun reputedly ensures certainty, discipline, rationality, and order for those that become Qunari.
Should proselytizing fail, those who reject the Qun even after being educated are declared Tal-Vashoth and the Ben-Hassrath are duty-bound by the demands of the Qun to assassinate Tal-Vashoth. Sometimes, one sincere assassination attempt as a formality is all that is required if Qunari leadership deems the Tal-Vashoth not a threat to Qunari society but must enforce the letter of their laws. If Qunari leadership believe a Tal-Vashoth must be neutralized, the Qunari must be committed to destroying or labotomize (with qamek) the Tal-Vashoth even if they must fight to the last man.
Qunari believe the universal influence of the Qun is inevitable. "Struggle is an illusion. The tide rises, the tide falls, but the sea is changeless. There is nothing to struggle against. Victory is in the Qun."
Those born with magic are at a terrible disadvantage, for demons can always rob them of their self. Because of this, the Qunari name them saarebas, meaning "dangerous thing," and treat them with the utmost caution. Saarebas must be carefully controlled by someone else, an arvaarad, "one who holds back evil," because they cannot truly control themselves. The evil is not the mage, but the loss of the mage, the loss of the mage's self, and the suffering that inevitably follows.
The Qunari pity and honor the saarebas, for striving while under constant threat from within is truly selfless, which is the highest virtue of the Qun.
Every aspect of the Qunari's lives is dictated by the Qun, which they follow unquestioningly, and they see it as their moral duty to forcefully "educate" those who do not comprehend (to Qunari, the Qun is not "believed", it is "understood"). To the Qunari, the Qun is their only truth for morality, and all societies that reject it will live in debauchery and suffering. To bring these societies to the Qun is to liberate them from their own self-inflicted torment. Even Qunari attempts at trade with other races and nations are done primarily to assess potential opponents, rather than to amass resources or wealth.
The Qunari think that those who live outside the Qun are plagued by selfishness and want because the lack of order and guidance to a goal has allowed their societies to fester. It is the hope of the Qunari for the world to see this chaos as a problem. Thus the Qunari strives to guide people to the Qun's teachings in order to improve everyone's lot.
Within Qunari borders, the priesthood under the Ariqun firmly controls Qunari society to keep the Qun's goals alive. Outside of Qunari society, the Qunari lacks the authority to maintain order and discipline and thus must balance between persuading sincere converts to follow the Qun, and imposing an influence when the chaos of the outside cultures prove to be a menace to the Qunari's way of life.
Since the Qunari believes that the Qun is an inevitability however, the Qunari generally believes that they can afford to be patient, tactful, and diplomatic in the conversion of neophytes—atleast for the moment. The Qunari learned much from the Qunari Wars and despite signing a peace treaty with most other nations of Thedas, the Qunari have no intention of relenting their spread of the Qun. The Qunari spend their days preparing the rest of Thedas for their conversion to the Qun; and the only reason they take such a disciplined and patient approach is to spare the kabethari the suffering that the Qun's enemies would inflict on them if they had done otherwise.
The Qunari view their whole society as a single creature: a living entity whose health and well-being is the responsibility of all. Each individual is only a tiny part of the whole, a drop of blood in its veins. Important not for itself, but for what it is to the whole creature. The Qun regards the Antaam as if it were the physical body: arms, legs, eyes and ears, the things a creature needs in order to interact with the world. Workers, whom the Qun calls the mind, produce everything the Qunari require. The soul, the priesthood, seeks a greater understanding of the self, the world, and exhorts the body and mind to continually strive for perfection. The body serves as the go-between for the mind, the soul, and the world. Everyone and everything has a place, decided by the Qun, in which they work for the good of the whole. To embrace the Qun is to live a life of certainty, of equality, if not individuality.
In terms of how the Qunari govern themselves: the Qunari priesthood figures out how the Qunari should live in theory, the matriarchy makes it work in practice, and the military makes the Qunari safe from outside threats. Although there are disagreements, the priesthood resolves them by guiding others in order to ensure their efforts are correctly benefitting the Qunari, or assassinating those who put their own gains over the needs of their society. The Qunari's head leaders are the Triumvirate, three individuals who represent the three 'parts' of Qunari society. According to Iron Bull, the Qunari don't pick leaders from the strongest, or the smartest, or even the most talented. They pick the ones willing to make the hard decisions and are willing to live with the consequences.
All Qunari are defined by their social role, which is supposed to be a defining part of the person's nature, unchangeable and fundamental. The Qunari also draw distinctions between what is counted as men's work and women's work. Tamassrans evaluates every Qunari and places them where their talents merit. Under the Qun, all are equal and every person is expected to devote themselves to fulfilling their function in Qunari society. From laborers to leaders, all are afforded respect for their role in satisfying the demands of the Qun.
Qunari value their tools highly and consider them part of their worthiness, as extensions of their role and duties. For example, a Qunari soldier must never be separated from his weapon; such an individual will likely be shamed and/or executed upon returning to the homeland, as it is considered the object that carries the "soul" of the individual (as opposed to the body, which is only a vessel). Others, like the Ben-Hassrath, are allowed to use whatever tools they see fit to do their job, as most of their duties are more cerebral.
Qunari who have abandoned the Qun are called Tal-Vashoth and live away from the Qunari homelands, often working as mercenaries, while those who are born outside the Qun are called Vashoth.
Both the Andrastian Chantry and Imperial Chantry consider the Qun to be a threat to their teachings—a test of faith to be fought and vanquished. There have thus been several Exalted Marches declared on the Qunari by both of them. While the Qunari possess superior technology, they are far more reluctant than the Chantry to turn to the use of magic, which they view as a major contradiction to the Qun and its teachings. This extreme mistrust of magic helped push them to develop technologically, but as a result their knowledge of magic is very limited, and their mages' powers are underdeveloped. By 7:85 Storm, they had been pushed back to Northern Rivain and Par Vollen.
Extracts from the Qun
- "Shok ebasit hissra. Meraad astaarit, meraad itwasit, aban aqun. Maraas shokra. Anaan esaam Qun." ("Struggle is an illusion. The tide rises, the tide falls, but the sea is changeless. There is nothing to struggle against. Victory is in the Qun.")
- "As a fish stranded by the tide knows the air or a drowning man knows the sea, so does a mage know magic."
- (possible extract) "Doubt is the path one walks to reach faith. To leave the path is to embrace blindness and abandon hope."
- "To call a thing by its name is to know its reason in the world. To call a thing falsely is to put out one's own eyes."
- (about the dangers of mages) "An ashkaari walked among the fields once, observing the laborers at work. Flax bloomed all around him, the color of still water. The air rippled like a curtain. As he stopped to examine a blossom, a bee stung him on the hand. The ashkaari turned to a laborer for aid, and noticed for the first time the heavy gloves and coat she wore. As she tended to him, the ashkaari asked them why she was dressed so in such stifling heat. "To avoid your fate." She replied. "But there are many thousands of bees here," the ashkaari said to her, "and only one stung me. Surely your caution is unwarranted?" "The stinger is always a surprise," agreed the laborer. "But so is the bee that simply passes one by.""
- (about the world) "A great ashkaari during his travels came upon a village in the desert. There, he found the houses crumbling. The earth so dry and dead that the people tied themselves to each other for fear a strong wind would carry the ground out from under their feet. Nothing grew there except the bitter memory of gardens. The ashkaari stopped the first man he saw, and asked, "What happened here?" "Drought came. And the world changed from prosperity to ruin," the man told him. "Change it back." The ashkaari replied. The villager became angry then, believing the ashkaari mocked him, for no one could simply change the world on a whim. To which the ashkaari answered, "Then change yourself. You make your own world."
The Body Canto
Tonight, in the desert, with emptiness all around,
The sky, endless, the earth, desolate,
Before my eyes the contradiction opened like a night-blooming flower.
Emptiness is an illusion. Beneath my feet,
Grains of sand beyond counting.
Above my head, a sea of stars.
Alone, they are small,
A faint and flickering light in the darkness,
A lost and fallen fragment of earth.
Alone, they make the emptiness real.
Together, they are the bones of the world.
Solitude is illusion. Alone in the darkness,
I was surrounded on all sides.
The starlight dripped from the petals
Of cactus flowers,
A chorus of insects sang across the dunes.
How much abundance the world carries
If every fistful of sand
Is an eternity of mountains.
Existence is a choice.
There is no chaos in the world, only complexity.
Knowledge of the complex is wisdom.
From wisdom of the world comes wisdom of the self.
Mastery of the self is mastery of the world. Loss of the self is the source of suffering.
Suffering is a choice, and we can refuse it.
It is in our own power to create the world, or destroy it.
When the Ashkaari looked upon the destruction wrought by locusts,
He saw at last the order in the world.
A plague must cause suffering for as long as it endures,
Earthquakes must shatter the land.
They are bound by their being.
Asit tal-eb. It is to be.
For the world and the self are one.
Existence is a choice.
A self of suffering, brings only suffering to the world.
It is a choice, and we can refuse it.
The Soul Canto
A traveler asked the Ashkaari: "What was your vision of our purpose?"
The Great Ashkaari replied: "I will tell you a story."
A vast granite statue stands on an island, holding back the sea.
The heavens crown its brow. It sees to the edge of the world.
The sea drowns its feet with every tide.
The heavens turn overhead, light and dark. The tide rises to devour the earth, and falls back.
The sun and the stars fall to the sea one by one in their turn, only to rise again.
The tide rises, the tide falls, but the sea is changeless.
Struggle is an illusion. There is nothing to struggle against.
The deception flows deeper. The statue resists the ebb and flow of the sea.
And is whittled away with each wave.
It protests the setting sun, and its face is burned looking upon it. It does not know itself.
Stubbornly, it resists wisdom and is transformed.
If you love purpose, fall into the tide. Let it carry you.
Do not fear the dark. The sun and the stars will return to guide you.
You have seen the greatest kings build monuments for their glory
Only to have them crumble and fade.
How much greater is the world than their glory?
The purpose of the world renews itself with each season. Each change only marks
A part of the greater whole.
The sea and the sky themselves:
Nothing special. Only pieces.