This is an incident in the life of Emperor Ashoka, after having embraced Buddhism. Emperor Ashoka had a minister by the name of Yasha, who did not approve of the Emperor bowing or doing obeisance to all the Buddhist monks, since he thought most of them came from low castes.
One day he drew the attention of the Emperor to this effect, saying it was improper that a person....an Emperor...should keep on doing obeisance to any monk, not knowing his qualifications. Emperor did not reply. This was not an opportune moment, he thought.
Some time afterwards he decreed that all his ministers should each acquire an animal's head and go to a public market to sell these heads. He called Yasha and ordered him that he should take with him a human head only and not an animal's head.
This was a very queer order. None liked the idea. But what could they do? None could oppose it. It must be carried out at any cost lest the Emperor's displeasure be invoked.
It happened that all the animal heads were quickly disposed of, leaving only Yasha lingering alone at the market place in anticipation of a buyer.Yasha waited, but no avail.
All the ministers had by now returned to the courtroom to report, except Yasha. In due time, he had to be summoned to report. He returned looking very dejected and dismayed. In a low tone he told of his plight...his inability to dispose of the human head.
"What could the reason be?" asked Emperor Ashoka.
"They simply abhorred its sight," replied Yasha.
"Did they suspect the head to be a layman?"
"Not that. It could have been anyone's"
"Supposing it was my own head, could you have then found a buyer?"
"Not even then, my Lord. No one would want to look at the human head, whether it be an ordinary citizen or an Emperor's...it is still a head and obnoxious head."
"You say people would not differentiate between heads be they of layman or emperor. This has been your experience. It is too true. Why then, should you feel so embarrassed when my head bows to the monks, which is purely as a token of respect for their spiritual knowledge and life of self-abnegation. Place not your assumption on a person's status but what is in him...virtues and wisdom. Even under a shattered or ugliest of bodily flesh there can exist the purest of hearts.
Do not let your mind be illusioned at the sight of mere physical body. Minister Yasha could now clearly see the logic of Emperor' actions.