September 2020

Nothing in this world, which is but a two minutes’ dream, is worth worrying. – Chinmaya.

Why take life so seriously? It is no more than a mere dream. To illustrate this point there is a famous story of king Janaka.

One night, finishing all his royal commitments and having had his dinner, Janaka went to sleep. Suddenly he was awakened by the guards. “Your Majesty! We have been attacked by the enemy.”

Janaka quickly got up from his bed, wore his armour, took possession of his weapons and came out of his chamber. The army high-command briefed him regarding the grave situation. A quick plan of action was charted out. Escorted by the army officials, Janaka entered the battlefield. A terrible war broke out.

Very many of his soldiers were killed, and he himself was wounded badly. At last, the bloodiest war was over and Janaka was defeated. He was captured alive, chained and dragged in front of the enemy king.  

The conqueror said, “ Janaka! You have a reputation of being a good king. So I shall not kill you. I will take your empire and you are exiled. Leave my kingdom within 24 hours.”

Janaka, now exiled from his own empire, started walking out. All along the way, people, with the doors of their houses shut, peeped through their partly opened windows to get a glimpse of their erstwhile emperor – wounded and humiliated, tired and exhausted. But none dared to offer him food or drink out of the fear of punishment from the new king.

Janaka wondered at the new turn of events, “Destiny is strange! The emperor of yesterday has become a beggar of today. My own people who had honoured and revered me till the other day, now despise me. I can’t get even a glass of water to drink!”

After a long, long walk he managed to cross the border and reach the neighbouring kingdom. Tired and hungry, he frantically searched for food to keep himself alive.

As luck would have it, not far off, he saw a long queue. Prasad was being distributed in a temple after the arati.

With great relief, he also joined the queue. And finally, when his turn came, to his bad luck, everything was over. Even the last bit of food particle was scrapped off from the cauldron.

The man who was distributing prasad, looking at Janaka’s condition, felt pity for him and said, “You seem to me a good person going through bad times. I will not disappoint you. I have kept a little prasad for myself. I will give my share. I hope that is OK with you.” 

Janaka said in a pitiable tone, “Anything is OK for me, just anything. I am dying of hunger and exhaustion!”

The man brought his share, put it in a bowl and handed it over to Janaka. The erstwhile king, with trembling hands, received it in a great hurry. As he was about to eat, a hungry kite, in an attempt to snatch the food, swooped down in a hasty impatience. The bowl in his hand was knocked down to the floor, and the food got scattered all over in dust and mud.

Janaka could take it no more. Weeping and wailing, he collapsed on the ground.

Janaka jumped up from his bed. He looked around. He found himself comfortably seated on his bed in his palatial bed-room. He was sweating profusely and his heart, pounding heavily.

The guard came running. “Sir! You shouted. You need any help?”

Any other person would have said, “Oh! Nothing to worry. Just a nightmare!”, and would have gone back to sleep. But Janaka entered into a deeply pensive mood. To the guard who was awaiting an order, the king asked in a thoughtful tone, “Is that true, or this true?”

The guard was confused, unable to make the head or tail of what was being asked. The matter was immediately reported to the queen, Sunaina. The queen hurried to the king’s chamber. She asked anxiously, “Is everything alright?”

The king, remaining in a serious mood, repeated the question, “Is that true, or this true?”

The queen stared at the king for sometime and murmured, “What has happened to you? Till yesterday you were perfectly normal!”

Word was sent to the royal physician. In no time he rushed in. He took the pulse, and asked the king, “Sir! Everything appears normal and fine. Are you feeling any uneasiness anywhere?”

The king gave a blank look at the physician, and then mumbled, “Is this true, or that true?”

The gossip-media, waiting to munch upon any sensational news, were quick on their feet. The rumour spread like wildfire: “King Janaka has gone crazy!” 

As none could answer the question of Janaka, it was decided to have a discussion in this matter in the assembly of the learned scholars, thinkers and philosophers. All of them were invited, and they, at the opportune moment, assembled in Janaka’s court.   

It was at this time that the great sage Ashtavakra arrived. All the ones assembled there got up in great reverence, as they already had had a first-hand experience of the greatness of this spiritual giant, in their earlier meeting.

(The story of their earlier meeting went thus: Long back, for the first time Ashtavakra entered Janaka’s court to engage in a discussion. He had eight deformations in his body and hence walked in a peculiar way. The entire assembly, looking at his gait, burst into a peal of laughter. Ashtavakra, in response, gave a sweeping look to all, and then thundered out a louder roaring laugher. All became silent wondering why he laughed.

Ashtavakra then said, “O King! You have kept a bunch of cobblers as your advisors. Like cobblers, they see only the shine of the outer skin, not the glory of the inner Self!” The entire assembly hung their heads in shame. Ashtavakra then defeated all in spiritual discussions, and gave them a taste of his deep wisdom and spiritual illumination.)

The sage was duly worshipped and was seated comfortably by the king. After the exchange of pleasantries, the discussion began.

Ashtavakra: “O king! Your question is – is this true or that true.”

Janaka: “Yes Sir, this indeed is the question which is bothering me.”

Ashtavakra: “Now listen. When you were miserable in that (dream world), was this (waking world) existing in that?

Janaka: “No Sir, this was not present then.”

Ashtavakra: “Now when this is, is that existing in this?”

Janaka: “No Sir, that is not existing now.”

Ashtavakra: “When that was, this was not. And when this is, that is not. Hence O king, neither this nor that is true.”

Janaka (confused): “O Guro, does it mean, then, that there is nothing called truth?”

Ashtavakra (smiling): “Don’t jump to conclusions Janaka! Analyse your experience in even greater detail. Now tell me, were you present in that?”

Janaka: “Yes! I was the one who went through all the miseries. The experiencer must be present in every experience.”

Ashtavakra: “Good! Are you present in this?”

Janaka: “Yes. I experience this. Hence I am present in this.”

Ashtavakra: “O king, you have answered your question.  The proof of Reality is abaadhyatvam satyatvam– that which can never be denied in any state, in any period of time alone is true. You were in that. You are in this. In fact, both this and that are in You! You are the very substratum, the very witnessing Consciousness upon which the play of this and that is happening. Without You, neither this nor that could ever be possible. Hence O king, the Reality is neither this nor that. You are the only Reality. Tat Tvam Asi.”       

O   M         T   A   T         S   A   T

Posted in: Chintana

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