Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Stories of King Janaka: Ashtavakra, the Guru with Eight Bends

Ashtavakra: Image Source, Wikipedia
King Janaka was the student of a young man with a dreadful physical condition.

It is said that in the womb, Ashtavakra listened to his learned father reciting Sanskrit slokas.

Once, his father made a mistake.

The fetus made a sound to indicate that a correction should be made.  Insulted, the man cursed his unborn child to be born with crippling deformities of eight kinds.

King Janaka and Ashtavakra, Image Source: Wikipedia
As a young boy, Ashtavakra entered the court of King Janaka, and despite his youth expounded with great wisdom, knowledge of the Self.

This conversation is recorded in the Ashtavakra Gita which presents the Self as Witness, pure, radiant and majestic consciousness.

It also discusses the nature of reality, freedom and bondage from the point of view of Advaita Vedanta, the classical school of Indian philosophy which emphasizes Jivanmukti, the idea that moksha (freedom, liberation) is achievable in this life.

It states:

If you wish to be free,
Know you are the Self,
The witness of all these,
The heart of awareness.
Set your body aside.
Sit in your own awareness.
You will at once be happy,
Forever still, Forever free.
You are everywhere,
Forever free.
If you think you are free, You are free.
If you think you are bound, You are bound.
Meditate on the Self.
One without two,
Exalted awareness.
— Ashtavakra Gita 1.4–14, Translator: Thomas Byrom[6][7]

There is an interesting rendition of this story on the Isha Blog.  In it, Sadhguru concludes,

"One’s progress within oneself has nothing to do with what a person does on the outside, what is most important is, what a person is doing within him or herself. What you are doing with the outside world is just social; you conduct yourself as it is suitable for the situation in which you exist. It has social relevance but no existential or spiritual relevance. How you are within yourself is all that matters."

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