From Sashoka to Ashoka : the Story of a Bliss-Giving Tree

 Long ago, once upon a time, there was a hard-hearted man who made his living by inflicting grief upon imagesothers and his environment: he robbed and killed for a living. His name was “sashoka” – “with grief” or “full of grief.”

 One day, he set out on his daily path, and came to a rishi’s hut. He walked straight in thinking to go about his usual criminal business. The rishi was in deep meditation and did not come out of his meditative trance. It was the very first time Sashoka was witnessing the sight of deep meditative trance. The rishi did not heed him at all and stood still glowing in his silent bliss. Sashoka stood there, intrigued, drawn by the peace surrounding the rishi.
When the rishi finally opened his eyes, Sashoka was a changed man. He said to the rishi: “I want to be in peace like you. . Give me that peace that can take away my mental torment, the memory of my sins, and my sins.”
The rishi taught him how to meditate but cautioned him: “I do not have the power to get rid of your sins. However, keep meditating. In your next life, you will be reborn as a tree. You will be the tree under which Ravan will come to keep Sita hostage. Sita will be in deep grief, away from her beloved Ram. You will shelter Sita and help relieve her pain. When the monkey God Hanuman finally finds her and comes to give her the news of her imminent release from Ravan’s abduction, he will climb your branches, and through the contact of his body you will gain liberation from your sins.  And then, you will be known as the tree “a-shoka:” the one without grief and that removes grief.”
This is the time-old story of the origin of the ashoka tree as told in the Bhavishya Puran.
But there are other beautiful stories about this powerful plant. In the vedic tradition, the ashoka tree is known as a powerful grief-reliever and bliss-giver. The shastras say that one of the arrows of kamdeva, the god of love, was made from ashoka flowers! Buddhists hold that the birth of the buddha happened under the ashoka tree in Lumbini. There is also a ritual in West Bengal that occurs in the Spring, when young girls and women dance around the tree to propitiate a fortunate love-life.
The Ashoka tree is a bliss-giving tree. But did you know that science has found it to have proven properties, such as:
analgesic
anti-bacterial
anti-diabetic
anti-cancer
anti-inflammatory
anti-menorrhagic
antioxidant
anti-ulcer
cardioprotective
antipyretic    – and so many more….
Ashoka can be particularly helpful for women. Find out more, join Vaidya Mishra at his 5th SVA Cafe dedicated to this wondrous plant – from sutra to science!