By Shelby Sue Park
Once upon a time, there was a little boy named Jaya. He lived in a little Indian village where the Gautam Buddha happened to come across one day. The villagers all came to welcome the Buddha and offered him fruits and water to drink. The Buddha spoke throught the day and night to the villagers along with Jaya. Jaya watched and listened to the sound of Buddha’s voice until he fell asleep; he was fascinated with Buddha with his calm presents and the conviction in his words. When the child a woke from his slumber he saw the Guatam Buddha leaving, the child wanted to scream out and beg Buddha to stay. Instead Jaya watched as the villagers offered Buddha more fruit and grain to take on his journey. Jaya having nothing to offer to Buddha so instead he gathered dust and soil from the earth and offered it to Buddha. Buddha saw the faith and love in Jaya’s eyes and blessed him.
Many people believe that this child was later reincarnated as Emperor Asoka the Great (304BC -232BC). Emperor Asoka was the third know emperor of the Mauryan dynasty from 271BC to 232BC. During his rule he lead many wars and gained the throne after he attacked Kalinga (Orissa present day), his brothers kingdom, in order to expand his kingdom. This particular war resulted in the death of thousands of people, including his brother. However, it was after this particularly bloody war that Asoka decided to give up war and violence forever and he became a Buddhist. Asoka sent missionaries to South East Asia, Egypt, Macedonia, Cyrene (Libya present day), Syria, and even sent his son, Mahinda a Theraveda monk, to Sri Lanka. All religions were accepted in Asoka`s kingdom but Buddhism was embraced. Due to his Buddhist beliefs he became very dedicated and devoted to the well being of his kingdom.
Emperor Asoka the Great earned his name by improving his kingdom. He introduced public health care for humans, animals and all living things. In his kingdom he built several hospitals, dispensaries, and even hospices for the elderly and dying. He also banned animal sacrifices, which at the time were part of the culture and very accepted. Asoka also built veterinary hospitals and dispensaries and even banned pollution of water. To further protect all living things in his kingdom he built botanical and herbal gardens to preserve nature and to utilize medicinal herbs. Asoka believed that all medical knowledge should be freely shared for the greater good.
Asoka also created wildlife reserves, improved agriculture and horticulture. He also sponsored cave exploration to provide traveling monks with shelter. In the second half of Emperor Asoka’s life he lived his life devoted to peaceful coexistence with all living things, tolerance, social welfare, education, justice, and ecological responsibilities to mother earth. Asoka’s Empire was the first powerful Buddhist practicing monarch. He united his empire under Buddhist philosophies and drastically changed his empire for the better.