Ashoka was a great Emperor of India. He was an enlightened and noble king. One day he was walking in a garden outside the palace with his minister. They came across an ascetic who was sitting under a tree and reciting the name of God.
The Emperor took off his crown, and placed it at the feet of the holy man and offered his respects to him. Having spent a few minutes in the presence of the holy man and having obtained his blessings, the king and his minister left. The Minister did not approve of his master’s gesture. He said, “My Lord, you are an Emperor. It was not proper of you to bow to the ascetic in that fashion. The respect of the throne gets demeaned by such an action.” The king just smiled, but he thought he would some day, drive the point home when the time was right.
Months passed. One day, the Emperor asked his minister, “Can you get me the heads of a deer, a sheep and a human?” The minister was puzzled at a request, but he thought it best not to argue. So he went out to get the same. The heads of a sheep and a deer were easy to procure. After making a lot of effort he was also able to procure a human head.
The Minister placed the three heads on separate trays and presented them to the king in his court. The king said, “You have done well. Now go out into the town and sell each of these heads.”
The Minister had no choice but to carry out the command of the Emperor. He was able to sell the heads of the sheep and the deer without any difficulty. But there was no buyer for the human head. After trying to sell it all day, the minister returned to the palace, and narrated the day’s happenings to the king. The king said, “All right, go and give this human head to anyone. Even if you give it for free, but you must dispose it off.” The minister literally begged people to take the human head from him, but no one was willing to take it even for free. So the Minister came back, holding the head in his hand with the task yet unaccomplished.
Then Emperor Ashoka said, “So, no one is a taker for the head of a human being. Is this the value of a human head? Well! If this is its value, why then should we think twice before bowing it before an enlightened soul! Of what use is it to hold our head high with pride, when eventually its value is nothing!”
Needless to say, the Minister understood the relevance of the drama and the point was driven home.