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A Tale of Sincere Piety—King Ashoka

Buddha nature is inherent in every one of us; it has only been shrouded by our delusions. As long as we adhere to our path of spiritual cultivation with a firm faith and strong resolve, and take every step steadfastly on the Bodhi Path, we will be able to return to our pure, innate (Buddha) nature.


20191002 A Tale of Sincere PietyKing Ashoka
(Photo by Afif Kusuma on Unsplash)

Sincerity from one’s heart is the greatest offering to the Buddha. It is stated in the Lotus Sutra: “Those who create a Buddhist temple out of earth in desolate lands, even if it be a child at play, who with sand, builds a Buddhist stupa; all of these people would have attained the Buddha Path.”

There is a famous story from the collection of tales about King Asoka which illustrates this.

Turning the wheel of the Dharma to benefit all living beings

One day, as the Buddha and his attendant Ananda were out asking for alms, they saw two children playing in a small village alley. The children created a “city” from mounds of earth and built the likenesses of houses and warehouses within it; for grain stores, the same soil too, was used.

As the Buddha walked past, they raised their heads and perceived his dignified countenance. Filled with respect and admiration for the Buddha, one of the boys took a fistful of earth from the “warehouse” and presented it to the Buddha saying, “I offer this premium flour to the Buddha!”

After presenting his offering to the Buddha with such pure innocence, the boy continued: “I vow that should I be a great king ruling over vast lands in future, I will spread the Buddha’s teachings far and wide to benefit countless living beings. May I be beautiful in countenance and possess great merits and virtues to bring benefit to all.”

The Buddha accepted his offering with a smile and blessed the boy. He then told Ananda that a hundred years after his own passing, the child would be reborn as a great wheel-turning king ruling over vast dominions, turning the wheel of the Dharma and bringing great benefit to his people—he would be replete with unsurpassed merits and virtues.

The child, who later grew up and lived his whole life embracing sincere piety, was reborn in a royal family after his passing. After he took over the throne as King Ashoka, he ruled his kingdom righteously. Under his reign, the Mauryan empire flourished and 84,000 sharira stupas were built. King Ashoka left his mark in the annals of India’s history, where he is heralded as one of the most exemplary rulers of all time.

Buddha nature is inherent in every one of us; it has only been shrouded by our delusions and deeply hidden within. As long as we adhere to our path of spiritual cultivation with a firm faith and strong resolve, and take every step steadfastly on the Bodhi Path, we will be able to return to our pure, innate (Buddha) nature.

We must ensure that we do not deviate from the right Dharma in our every thought and action as we open our hearts and give of our love selflessly and spread the good teachings at all times and places. Then, our sincerity will be able to touch the hearts of others and guide them towards the Buddha Path.

Extracted from Tzu Chi Monthly, Issue 556
Translated by the Tzu Chi Singapore translation team