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

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In 2015, our Most Beloved Supreme Master Ching Hai (vegan) told a story from the venerated Ānanda (vegan) about how the Worshipped Shakyamuni Buddha (vegan) foretold King Ashoka’s arrival.

“‘One morning, I and the Buddha, the Buddha and I,’ I means Ānanda, ‘went to the city for alms. And then there was a group of children. They were playing in the middle of the road. They were making a citadel, with earth and water. They made it complete with doors, and windows, and many houses. Inside a wall, like a city with houses and storage of food, and everything, everything, like a real city. It was just small, with earth and water. And one of them saw the Buddha, suddenly he saw the Buddha coming, with Light so brightened, and so bright, and so radiant everywhere. He saw the Buddha’s Light and then he was so, suddenly he became so respectful and happy. And when the Buddha came next to him, he put his palms together, bowed to Him, and gave Buddha a piece of clay.’ The one that they were playing with. They gave Him one to play with. Children, you know. [...]

The Buddha took the piece of clay from the boy and gave it to Ānanda and told him, ‘Later, after we come home, you must use that to smear around where the Buddha sleeps.’ And then Ānanda did that, and then the Buddha explained that, ‘Ānanda, just now, the little boy was very glad. He sincerely offered me a piece of clay like that. That merit will bear fruit in 500 years. After my Nirvana, he will be a king named Ashoka, and all his, the boy’s buddies in the group will also be great court officials, and they will rule many countries on Earth. And he will also propagate the Buddha’s Dharma. He will build temples, citadels, and stupas to spread the Buddha’s teaching 500 years after my Nirvana. He will also divide the Buddha relics.’ [...]”

As Shakyamuni Buddha prophesied, Ashoka became a king whose devotion to Buddha’s Dharma earned him the epithet of Dharmashoka. He is renowned as one of history’s most benevolent and peaceful rulers, whose mercifulness not only brought prosperity but also expanded his domain. He made it his mission to truly expound on the teachings of Buddhism as they relate to compassion, goodwill, honesty, and nonviolence.

Considerate of other people’s faiths and ideologies, he hoped to promulgate a universal set of principles, or dharmas, by which his people would live by and adhere to; thus, the edicts of King Ashoka came to be. In his edicts, King Ashoka explained: “All people are like my children. Just as I desire that my own children may be provided with complete welfare and happiness both in this world and the next, so do I desire the same for all people.”

King Ashoka advocated the sanctity of life and kindness toward animal-people. Within the 14 Major Rock Edicts, he prohibits the slaughter and sacrifice of animal-individuals. Medical treatment was afforded to people from both the human and animal kingdoms, which resulted in the establishment of hospitals and veterinary clinics.

Forest and wildlife reserves were established under King Ashoka’s reign, as well as the prohibition of forest-burning to maintain the welfare of our animal friends and their homes. It can be surmised that King Ashoka elevated vegetarianism into the forefront of Indian culture. He also reformed the judicial system, making it more compassionate and fair, even giving detainees amnesty.
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