Teaching Story - SKIN-DEEP VISION
by Life Positive
He acquired his name when he was in his mother’s womb and overheard his father reciting the Vedas with an impure pronunciation and could not resist the temptation to correct his father. Enraged, his father cursed him and thus he was born bent in eight places (ashta vakra).
Nevertheless, he grew into a wise and enlightened being. When he was 12 years old, King Janaka (the father of Sita and considered to be an enlightened king) hosted a huge debating conference which Ashtavakra decided to attend.
Because of his deformed body, Ashtavakra attracted ridicule everywhere. It was no different at the court of King Janaka, filled to the brim with learned scholars and revered sages.
As soon as he entered the court’s portals, he was greeted with a loud peal of derisive laughter. The scholars and sages could not help laughing at the sight of this young boy, so twisted and malformed. Ashtavakra joined in the merriment and laughed along. King Janaka was astonished. Beckoning him, he said, “I can understand why the others are laughing, but why are you?”
With a look of immeasurable composure, Ashtavakra said, “I laugh because I expected to see enlightened souls in your court, but I see that they are nothing more than chamars (cobblers and the like who work with leather). “They are not able to see beyond the skin. All they see is my bent body. In the curve of a temple is the sky curved? When a pot is smashed, is the sky smashed? The sky is beyond change. My body is twisted, but I am not.”
Silent with respect, King Janaka prostrated before Ashtavakra and took him as his guru.
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