by Venerable Master Hua
King Asoka is also known as King Without Worry. Since he feared nothing, he had no worries. He has born in eastern India two hundred years after the Buddha entered Nirvana. Ancient Indian was divided into five kingdoms. He was born in the eastern kingdom, and became the third-generation king of the Maurya Dynasty. He was very ugly: probably his nostrils pointed upwards and mouth slanted downwards. When people saw him, they felt no affinities at all with him. He had a very willful and obstinate personality. Therefore, his father didn't place much trust in him. Nevertheless, he was a man of great capability. Even though he was ugly, he was very ambitious and talented. He had the ambition to unify all of India.'In the several wars which occurred at the time, he came out victorious. Earning merit in helping the country, his reputation and position were established. After his father died, all the civil and military officials supported him in becoming the king. But once he gained power as king, he started a regime of cruelty. In order to control the people, he built a hell on earth; it wasn't a hell in the Hells. He was pretty much like Emperor Shihuang of the Qin Dynasty in China. Those who criticized him were killed. The people had no way to resist, for if they did, they'd be killed for sure.
Later on, he encountered a Bhikshu named Ocean who influenced him to believe in the Buddha. He came to have deep faith in Buddhism. Although he used to love killing, after coming to believe in Buddhism, he changed this kind of conduct in himself and also wanted everyone else to refrain from killing. Before, he had built a hell on earth and was very eager to kill. But now, he wanted everyone to stop killing. Why? Because he understood the law of cause and effect. Frequently, he also practiced charity and assisted others. He constructed eighty-four thousand stupas for holding the Buddha's sharira(relics), so that people could make offerings to the Buddha's sharira all over the world. How does a person come to have sharira" if one can cultivate the Way without thoughts of lust and without lustful behavior, one will have sharira. If one can cultivate the precepts in this way, one will have sharira.
King Asoka also built numerous stone pillars in many places, carved with imperial edicts telling people not to interfere with one another's religious beliefs. There must be religious freedom, and no one should interfere with or oppose the religious belief of anyone else.
King Asoka also sent eminent monks to propagate the Buddhadharma in other countries. He built and offered many to the Sangha in order to encourage people to leave the home-life and cultivate. But because of that, those of other religions were also able to infiltrate Buddhism. These "thief" monks intended to destroy Buddhism. Right now there are many "thief" monks who wear the clothing of left-home people in Buddhism, eat the food of Buddhism, and then corrupt the moral precepts of Buddhism. These are called "thief" monks. They have modified the Three Treasuries of the Canon, the Sutras, Vinaya, and Shastras. They don't hold the precepts, and they don't want to follow the Buddha's teachings. It was for these reasons that the sutras were compiled for the third time in the Pali language. Pali was the name of an island in India. The compilers wrote the sutras onto palm leaves in the language used on the island of Pali. These were the sutras of the Southern Transmission.
King Asoka's brother, the Bhikshu Tisya, also propagated the Buddhadharma in the country of Ceylon. Because King Asoka favored the Mahasanghikah compilation and rejected the Sthavirah compilation, early Buddhism was divided. The followers of the Mahasanghikah and Stavirah compilations started their own sects and claimed their own version to be the correct one.
A Verse in Praise Says:
The Buddha teaches evil people
To reform and renew themselves.
There was a King named Asoka
Who killed off his close relatives.
When he met the Bhikshu Ocean
He came to understand cause and effect.
Thereupon, he repented of his past offenses
And made offerings to the Kind and Honored One.
The Buddha teaches evil people to reform and renew themselves. "Evil people" doesn't only refer to King Asoka. Its scope encompasses all bad people, for they must all change their faults and turn over a new leaf.
There was a King named Asoka in the past who killed off his close relatives. He had one hundred brothers, and he killed ninety-nine of them. Only one was left, and he forced that one to leave the home-life. That's why it says he killed off his close relatives. What do you think happened to him the? When he met the Bhikshu Ocean, he came to understand cause and effect. He realized that if he killed people, he would have to pay with his own life in the future; if he incurred debts, he would have to repay the money. The law of cause and effect was not off by the slightest bit in its operation. Thereupon, he repented of his past offenses, and made offerings to the Kind and Honored One. He made offerings to the Triple Jewel: the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.
Another Verse Says:
An evil king repented of his offenses and supported the holy Sangha.
Venerating the Triple Jewel, he put an end to greed and strife.
Jeweled stupas were built throughout Jambudvipa
And the Sutras were recompiled in Pataliputra.
He propagated the proper Dharma and influenced neighboring kingdoms.
Great jeweled banners were erected to rescue the souls of enemies and kin.
The Tathagata's sharira have been passed down to future generations
Enabling us to increase our blessings and wisdom and reach the other shore.
An evil king repented of his offenses and supported the holy Sangha. Originally, King Asoka was very evil, for he built a human hell. Perhaps he was a reincarnation of King Yama. I'm King Yama's reincarnation, too, didn't you know? But I haven't killed anyone. Venerating the Triple Jewel, he put an end to greed and strife. He paid homage to the Triple Jewel, thus quelling greed and fighting. Jeweled stupas were built throughout Jambudvipa. The people of Jambudvipa are "able to endure". The Saha World is called the World Which Can Be Endured, because we living beings are able to endure the suffering of this evil age of five turbidities. And the Sutras were recompiled in Pataliputra. Another compilation of the Sutras was done at Pataliputra.
He propagated the proper Dharma and influenced neighboring kingdoms. He taught the people of the neighboring countries. Great jeweled banners were erected to rescue the souls of enemies and kin. He saved those who had ties of kinship with him, as well as those who had enmity against him. The Tathagata's sharira have been passed down to future generations, enabling us to increase our blessings and wisdom and reach the other shore. He has caused the Buddha's relics to be preserved down to the present, so that people today still know about them. We should all bow to the Buddha's sharira as much as possible, for it can increase our blessings and foster our wisdom. When our blessings and wisdom are perfected, we will reach the other shore.