A story of Ashoka
These days a brutal civil war is going on in Syria, with brother fighting against brother. Thousands have died and much blood has been spilt. In this scenario, it is worthwhile recalling a story from the life of Ashoka, one of the greatest kings of ancient times. Long ago, in a little village in India, there lived a child called Jaya. One day Gautama Buddha paid a visit to his village where he was warmly welcomed by the villagers. They made him comfortable under the cool shade of a peepul tree. The women washed the dust off his feet, and offered him fruit to eat and cool water to drink. The child was fascinated and could not take his eyes off the face of the Buddha, at his calm countenance and his air of contentment. He couldn’t understand much of what the Buddha said, but listened enraptured. The Buddha spoke all day and through the night. Sometime during the night, he fell asleep, and when he awoke, he saw that the Buddha was getting ready to leave. ‘Don’t go,’ cried the child in his heart, but he knew it was not what the Buddha would want of him. The child felt an overwhelming feeling of love for the Buddha. The child saw the grown-ups gather round the Buddha. Each was offering him something. The child had nothing to give the Buddha, nothing at all in the world. So, he gathered the dust from the earth, and holding it out in his two little hands ran to the Buddha with his offering. The Buddha was touched by the faith he saw in the child’s eyes. He smilingly accepted the child’s offering and blessed him. The child never saw the Buddha again, but carried his image in his heart forever.
It is said that this child was reborn as Ashoka, one of the greatest emperors of ancient India. He fought many wars of conquest, but after the bloody war in Kalinga, where thousands died, Ashoka gave up war forever. He embraced the teachings of the Buddha, and spent his long reign in improving the life of his subjects. He also sent missionaries to spread the teachings of the Buddha far and wide.