The story of king Janaka and Shuka Deva



In India it is customary for a devotee to seek out spiritual teachers until he finds the one whom he recognises as his own God-chosen Master or Guru. The novice, through inner fitful urgings, receives lessons from various sources, but when his spiritual ardor becomes very great, God sends him a Guru. God uses the divine soul-vehicle of the Guru as His messenger or instrument to bring the novice back to his spiritual home in Omnipresence.

When Shuka Deva decided to go in search of his Guru, his father advised him to go to King Janaka, the ruler of the province. As Shuka Deva entered the royal palace he saw the king sitting on an emerald and diamond-studded golden throne surrounded by courtiers and by scantily clad women who were fanning him with big palm leaves [as is the custom in India during the hot season]. King Janaka was smoking a big oriental pipe. This sight shocked Shuka Deva; he turned back and started walking briskly out of the palace. He muttered, "Shame on my father for sending me to that matter-soaked king! How could such a worldly man be my teacher?"

But King Janaka was both a king and a saint. He was in the world, but not of the world. Highly advanced spiritually, he could telepathically sense the thoughts of the fleeing Shuka Deva. The saint-king sent a messenger after the boy, commanding him to come back. Thus the Master and the devotee met.

King Janaka put Shuka Deva through a process of discipline to teach him the art of living in the world without acquiring misery-making attachment to it. One day the king gave his new disciple two cup-shaped lamps, filled to the brim with oil. Janaka said, "Hold a lamp on the palm of each hand, and enter all the gorgeously furnished rooms of the palace. Come back to me after you have seen everything, but remember, I will refuse to train you further if you spill a single drop of oil on the carpets."

King Janaka instructed two messengers to accompany Shuka Deva and to refill the two lamps with oil as quickly as they burned down. It was a hard test, but after two hours, Shuka Deva returned triumphantly without having dropped any oil from the lamps in his hands.

The king said, "Young Shuka Deva, tell me in detail what you saw in chamber of my palace." To this Shuka Deva replied, "Royal Preceptor, my only accomplishment was that I did not spill any oil on your carpets. My mind was so concentrated on the thought of not dripping oil that I did not notice anything in the rooms."

King Janaka then declared, "I am disappointed! You have not completely passed my test. My injunctions were that you should see everything in all the chambers of my palace and that you should not drip any oil from the lamps. Go back with the lamps, and remember, no spilling of the oil while you are looking carefully at everything about the palace."

After ten hours, Shuka Deva calmly returned. He had not allowed any oil to drip, nor was he sweating with excitement as before. He could answer all the king’s questions about the contents, however minute, of all the palace chambers.

King Janaka was pleased. "My son", he said gently, "attachment to possessions is the source of misery. In this world we do not own anything – we are only given the use of things. Some have more to use than others, but remember, the millionaire and the poor man alike have to leave everything, all possessions, when death comes. One should not live a one-sided life thinking only of God and neglecting one’s duties in the world – like your concentrating on the oil lamps and not seeing my palace. But on the second trip you kept your attention principally on the lamps without spilling oil, and at the same time thoroughly and minutely saw everything in the palace. So should you keep your attention on God, not letting a drop of your desire slip away from the lamp of God-revealing wisdom, and yet devote part of your attention to thoroughly performing the God-given duties of maintaining yourself and others given into your charge."

This instructive story shows the basis of the world's troubles. Indifference to spiritual matters leads to selfishness and unequal prosperity amidst plenty, and finally to widespread economic depression. Hence those who want the unlimited divine Power to work for them in business and family affairs ought to be as earnest about meditation as they are about earning money. He who makes it his business to have communion with God first, will find imperishable inner happiness as well as outer material comforts. We must not be too busy to try to realise the presence of God. lf God stops our hearts from beating, we will not have any chance for business success. Since all our success depends upon powers borrowed from God, we should give enough time to God-communion.

Siddharameshwar Maharaj

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