FROM “REFLECTIONS OF A PILGRIM”- MY OTHER BLOG –
One morning I found myself waking up from a dream. As dreams are, this was so real that I could continue feeling the dream even after I woke up. It was so incredibly real that it took me a while to realize that it was just a dream.
The moment I woke up, I remembered the story of Ashtavakra and King Janaka. This is the story of how once King Janaka had a dream. In his dream he was attacked by some neighboring kings and he lost his kingdom. He found himself being chased into the jungle and desperate for his life, he kept running.
Then King Janaka found himself hungry and tired. Looking around, he saw a hut in the distance and decided to go there to ask for some food. On reaching the hut, he found an elderly person who offered him some rice and dhall and he was left alone to prepare his own meal.
Hungry and exhausted, King Janaka walked to a nearby clearing in the forest and with much difficulty, prepared some kichadi (a soft mixture of rice and dhall )of some sort with the ingredients given and lay it on some grass to cool the hot food. Just as he was going to take his first mouth, he sees 2 wild boars running his way and they trample on his food which was on the ground. Giving up all hope, tired and hungry, his heart heavy and dejected King Janaka started to weep.
He weeps piteously, and tears roll down his cheeks. When the cool tears touches his cheeks he wakes up and finds himself in his palace, lying on his comfortable bed, being fanned by 2 beautiful girls standing near him.
The dream affects the King so much, that he calls all his ministers and advisors to explain the dream to him. Many come from far and near to give an explanation to his dream. Some say that, that was a dream and due to his good karma, he was saved from a life of poverty and it came only as a dream. Many came and gave various interpretations of their own to his dream. No answer was able to satisfy King Janaka and he offered the kingdom as a gift, if someone could interpret his dream. He also proclaimed that if the person could not give him a satisfactory answer, they will be put in jail.
No one was able to satisfy King Janaka . One day, Ashtavakra (a small boy) whose father was imprisoned by the King approaches him. He walks into the court of King Janaka and finds all those seated there laughing in jest of him. Ashtavakra – some one who’s body is deformed and crooked in eight places. Ashta meaning 8 and Vakra meaning twisted, walks towards the king with confidence.
He asks the king, “Why are you having shoe- makers in your court oh King ?” The King and all those in the court of the palace were shocked to hear a small and ugly looking boy uttering such arrogant words. All the ministers in the court become angry and start shouting at the boy. The king silencing the courtiers, looked at Ashtavakra and asked him the reason for his question. Ashtavakra without fear said, “Oh King! Only shoe makers judge a skin for its leather. They identify the leather from its quality and kind”.
“Here, I find your court filled with shoe-makers, who are only judging me by my skin and form. Hence I called them all shoe-makers” said the little boy. The court became silent and the King was taken aback by the wisdom of a child as such. Then the boy asks the King what he wanted to know. The king related his dream to Ashtavakra and asked his interpretation of the dream.
Ashtavakra, without any hesitation asked the King, “What were you having with you in your dream oh King?” The King recalled remembering holding a begging bowl. Ashtavakra asked where the bowl was now. The King said that he did not have it with him anymore. Ashtavakra then said to the King that, it was only a dream and hence he was not able to bring the bowl with him. This satisfied the King and then the little boy, looking around the huge palace sees the paintings of King Janaka’s ancestors.
He asks the King who they are and where they are now. King Janaka tells him that they were his ancestors, who lived before him and now they are no more. Then the boy asked the King, who this kingdom belonged to. The King said that the kingdom belonged to his fore-fathers and now that they are no more, it belonged to him now. Then Ashtavakra asked the king, “why did they not take the kingdom with them when they went?” King Janaka tells him that, now that they have died, they could not take anything with them from this world.
Then the boy asked the King who’s kingdom this was now. The King replied that it belonged to him. Ashtavakra asked the King whether he would take the kingdom with him when he dies. King Janaka said that he could not do so. Ashtavakra looking at the king said, “since you cannot take anything with you from here, Oh King! Then this too is a dream.!”