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King Ashoka the Great (vegetarian): From Tyrant to Benevolent Buddhist, Part 1 of 2

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Although Ashoka later went on to become a wise and just king, he first went through a phase when he had an insatiable desire to fight in foreign territories, which led to him being called “cruel Ashoka.” In the eighth year of his reign, Ashoka attacked the Kingdom of Kalinga, situated on the northeast coast of India (modern-day Odisha or Orissa), finally merging this kingdom under the umbrella of his rule. Upon entering the fallen state, he witnessed firsthand the aftermath of the battle, the destruction that abounded, and the innumerable lives lost and displaced. The king recalled his grandfather’s warning about the sword that only delivers agony and death. Ashoka became extremely remorseful.

King Ashoka had an immediate change of heart. The emperor made a solemn vow to never take up a sword again, repenting his past wrongdoings. Thus, Kalinga would be his last and final conquest. In his attempt to right a wrong, King Ashoka enacted the principle of Dharma Vijaya, triumph by righteousness and piety, through which the promotion of peace, harmony, and prosperity would be the new law of the land.

Accounts of King Ashoka’s conversion to Buddhism vary. Another version from “Ashokavadana,” tells the story of Lord Padmasambhava (vegetarian) appearing as Samudra during His manifestation as Guru Shakya Sengé, the student of the venerated Ānanda (vegan). Taking on the form of Samudra, Lord Padmasambhava arrived at King Ashoka’s torture chamber. As He was being subjected to gruesome torment, He miraculously cooled the cauldron filled with boiling oil and then sat in meditation, cross-legged, on a lotus that sprouted. King Ashoka inquired about Samudra’s identity. In response, Lord Padmasambhava revealed Himself as a disciple of the Worshipped Shakyamuni Buddha (vegan). He reprimanded King Ashoka for constructing the torture chamber and inflicting agony on people. Samudra talked to him about the terrible consequences of taking the lives of other sentient beings.

During a lecture in Pingtung, Taiwan (Formosa), in 1992, our Most Beloved Supreme Master Ching Hai (vegan) explained how King Ashoka became a good ruler. “Like yesterday, I told you the story about King Ashoka. After he was awakened and appreciated the Buddhist teaching, he became a good king, and the whole country became good. All the people take the precepts, and don't steal, don't lie, and don’t kill, and things like that, and the whole country became different. So it is important to have one or two leaders in the country, or in any place, to guide the people, and to guide mankind. Therefore, people often like to come to see the enlightened Master or the sages because they believe these persons are the few who can guide mankind.”
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2024-04-14
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