6 October 2022

#45. Janaka

2 min read

The narrative was identifiied by Goloubew (1927, 16).

King Janaka of Videha believed that a person’s willpower was responsible for his successes. Once he was rescued from a shipwreck by a deity after he managed to keep afloat for a while on the sheer strength of his will. His will power also helped him secure the kingship of Mithilā as also Princess Sīvalī’s hand. But Janaka was aiming even higher, he wished to be free of all human desires and live as a hermit. He refused to hold dance performances in his court and was not at all amused at the sight of animals that roamed in his park. He had decided to leave the palace and renounce the worldly life. Even the seven hundred ladies of his court could not make him change his mind. Nor was he moved by the double blow of a fire in his palace and the capture of his kingdom by forest tribes.

When he left his palace with his advisors, a forest hermit, Nārada, asked him why he had taken this tough decision. He replied that a person could lead a free and happy life without belongings and possessions. He anointed his son the king on Sīvalī’s request and asked her to follow him on the path to renunciation. The queen was infuriated when Janaka ate food discarded by a dog. So Janaka decided to leave his wife and go alone. He observed that if one bangle was worn it would not make a noise and a bow maker was able to check the curvature of the bow with closed eyes. On the basis of these two observations, he asked his wife to leave him and decided to remain alone for the rest of his life.—King Janaka was none other than the Buddha in a former existence.

—Source: Singh 2019, 24-26; cf. Schlingloff 2013, I, 217-221 .

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