Friday, March 22, 2013

Sukadev's test by Janaka for Initiation

Sukhadev was the son of the great rishi Vedavyasa, and due to his previous samskaras, he was endowed with True Knowledge even while in the womb of his mother. As a child, he used to spend all of his time meditating in the forest near his father's ashram.

One day while he was meditating, a desire arose in his mind to go to Vaikuntha to see Lord Vishnu. However, when he reached there, the gatekeepers informed Lord Vishnu who came and told him, "We are very sorry, but you have no Guru and those without a Guru can never enter here."

Suka returned to his father and told him what had happened. He was a bit vain and proud, thinking that he was the son of a great rishi, that he had already done so many years of tapas, and so there was no need of a Guru. However, as Lord Vishnu Himself had said that a Guru was necessary, Suka sought his father's advice as to who he should select as his Guru. His father told him, "There is only one Guru for you and that is King Janaka of Videha."

"Father, have you lost your mind? What is there in common between a king and a sannyasi? How can I take him as my Guru?" asked Suka. "There is nobody else who could be your Guru," replied the sage.

Twelve times the sage sent the boy to King Janaka and twelve times he returned even before  reaching there due to his doubts and misgivings. Once he even reached the palace, but on seeing the richness of the palace and the great assemblage of worldly people, he thought that the king must be one who is given up to sensual pleasure, and so he was not prepared to accept him as his Master.

The more doubts and suspicions one has about a Realized Soul, the more one harms oneself. Suspecting or slandering a Mahatma destroys one's merits (punyam). When Suka was being sent back to the king for the thirteenth time, the sage Narada took pity on him. He disguised himself as an old brahmin and was carrying a basket of earth on his head.

As he approached a small river which was flowing nearby, he would throw the earth into it and it would get washed away. Seeing this, Suka accosted him and said, "Look here, old man. First put some sticks across the stream and then some large lumps of earth on them and then only throw the earth on that. Otherwise it will be only fruitless labour if you are trying to build a dam across the river the way you are doing it."

"I am only losing my day's effort," said Narada, "but there is a young man who is a bigger fool than I am, and he is Suka Deva, the son of Vedavyasa. For he has already lost twelve of the fourteen merits that he possessed. He has only two left." When Suka heard this, he fell down in a faint. When he regained consciousness, he was all alone, but he remembered the words of the old man and rushed to the king's palace.

Still having some pride that he was the son of Vedavyasa, he thought that the king would come and meet him on the way. But no one came to meet him. When the king was informed of his arrival, he gave the orders, "Let him stand right where he is." Suka just happened to be standing on the spot where the palace garbage was thrown over the wall, and as a result, it was not long before he was buried under the refuse.

Four days passed in this way when the king enquired, "What happened to Suka who had come to see me?" "He has been standing in the same spot, Maharaj," replied the servant."Let him be extricated from the heap of rubbish, bathed, dressed and brought here," ordered the king. King Janaka, knowing that Suka was proud of his renunciation, created an illusion. Just after Suka entered the room, a servant came running in with a report that the entire town was on fire. "It's all God's Will," said Janaka cooly.

After a short while another report came that all of the king's courts were reduced to ashes. "God's Will," said the king. Then the news came that the king's own palace was on fire. "All God's Will," repeated the king. Suka was thinking what a fool the king was not to do anything about the fire. Suka grabbed his bag and started to run away to save himself from the approaching fire, but the king caught hold of his arm.

"Look," said the king, "all of my wealth and possessions have been burnt to ashes, but I haven't bothered about them. Now that the fire has reached the palace, you have taken hold of this small bundle of your possessions with the intention  of saving them. After all, what are your things worth? Now, who exactly is the greater renunciate - you or I?"

Suka realized that the king was a true renunciate and sought initiation from him but the king said, "You do not deserve it." Now the king ordered that a great festival be held in honour of Suka's visit to the city.

Festivities, dances, plays and various stalls were set up. All was to entertain Suka. When everything was ready, the king ask Suka to go through the city and enjoy everything, "But," said the king, "please carry this full cup of milk with you wherever you go."

He then bade the soldiers who were to accompany Suka, "Take Suka through every part of the city. Let him see everything and miss nothing. But if he should spill a single drop of milk from this cup, my orders are that you should behead him on the spot."

Suka went out with the soldiers and came back in the evening. "I am sure that you had a nice time? How did you enjoy everything?" "O king, as it turned out, I saw nothing, for at every moment all of my thoughts were concentrated on this cup, lest I should spill a drop and lose my life," said Suka.
"Suka, that is how I live in the midst of all this luxury and grandeur. I see nothing. For at every moment my thoughts are centered on the Lord lest I too should lose my life," said the king. "Imagine that the cup is death, the milk is your mind, and the festivities are the ephemeral pleasures and splendours of the world. I pass through this world with great caution, so that the milk of the mind is not spilled, or agitated, and all attention is concentrated every moment on Him. For even a moment spent in not thinking of Him would be death to me."

The king could now see that Suka's mind was cleansed of pride and was ready, so he initiated him.