King Ashoka's Question: What Is Your Secret?
The following legend is told of King Ashoka, a powerful ruler in India at about 250 B.C.
A messenger, sent by the Master of the Royal Torture Chamber, informed the king of a remarkable event. A heretic, although being tortured, showed complete indifference to the pain. The king was immediately interested and went himself to witness this phenomenon. Inside the desolate room he saw, in a pot of vigorously boiling water, an old man. This gentleman was chatting affably with the servants who were attempting to make the flames even hotter. When the king recovered from his astonishment, he ordered that the man be released and escorted to the palace.
Later at the palace the king had an interview with the fellow, now dressed in the saffron robe of a Buddhist monk. King Ashoka began by asking, "What is your secret?"
According to the legend, the monk replied by telling the king about the Buddha and Buddhist teachings, how these liberated him from all suffering. King Ashoka then had the monk instruct him in these teachings. The king converted to Buddhism and made it the national religion. He himself changed from a despotic conqueror into a beneficent ruler.