Body - Mind - Heart - Spirit
There was once a great sage and his disciple. The sage send this disciple to the court of King Janak to learn how to meditate. The disciple did not want to go. Here he was, a Brahmin, a monk who had renounced the world. What could a King who was only a Kshatriya teach him. But since the master had ordered him he went. When he reached the court of the King, he saw the King living a very luxurious lifestyle. He was disgusted; a great condemnation arose in him. What could such a person have to teach a monk. He bowed to the king. King Janak saw his mental state and said that if he wanted he "the monk" could return the very next day. On this condition the monk agreed to stay the night.
King Janak took every care of the monks needs. After having him fed and washed he personally escorted the monk to the bedroom where he was to spend the night. As can be expected the bedroom was luxurious and comfortable. The monk got into bed and tried to sleep. Just then he saw hanging above him a sword suspended from above from a thin thread. The slightest touch of breeze and the sword could fall injuring or even killing him.
The monk spent the entire night in a state of fear and extreme alertness since he knew that if he stopped being watchful for even a moment he might lose his life.
The next morning King Janak asked the monk if he had spent a comfortable night. The monk grew indignant and asked what was the meaning of having him sleep under a naked sward. He said that he had not slept the whole night despite being very tired from his long journey.
King Janak replied that this was exactly the lesson on how to meditate that he had wanted the monk to learn. The monk had to be alert and aware the whole night. It was a matter of life and death to him. This was the teaching of King Janak. King Janak said that despite living in luxury and all else he remained aware of the sword hanging over his head. The sword was invisible, but it was very real. It was his own impending death. Since King Janak kept the awareness of death in his mind, he was able to stay detached from his luxurious lifestyle. He knew that it could end any moment; that in fact it would inevitably end one day. In this manner he lived in the palace and yet was a hermit.
This is exactly the attitude to be brought when we are learning how to meditate or to life itself. You can remain unaware if you think that you will live forever. But how can you be unaware when you know that life can end any moment. You will be constantly aware and on your guard.
About King Janak (Source: Wikipedia)
Janaka (Sanskrit: जनक, Khmer: Janak, Tamil: Chanakan, Thai: ชนก (Chanok), Malay: Maharisi Kala) or Raja Janaka (राजा जनक,rājā janaka) were the kings of Videha Kingdom. Their capital was Mithila, which is believed to be present day Janakpur, Nepal. The most famous Janak was Seeradhwaj; he is mentioned in the Ramayana as the father of Sita and also there are references to him in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, Mahabharata and Puranas.
The Janakas were known to versed in the knowledge of the Atman, and remained free from attachments even while living as householders and rulers.
Janaka in Ramayana
In Baal Kand of Valmiki's Ramayana, Seeradhwaj Janaka (more popularly known merely as Raja Janak or King Janak) proposed a test of strength in which suitors vying for his daughter's hand in marriage would have to string the great bow of Lord Shiva. Lord Rama passed this test of strength, and Janaka's daughter Sita (also referred to as Janaki) wed Rama and together they resided in Ayodhya.
Seeradhwaj Janaka was not only a brave king, but was also as well-versed in the shastras and Vedas as any rishi. He was the beloved pupil of Yaajnavalkya, whose exposition of Brahman to the king forms one chapter of the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. In the Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna cites Seeradhwaj Janaka as an illustrious example of the Karma yoga.
Seeradhwaj Janaka was also said to be a Rajarshi having spiritually advanced and reached the state of a rishi, though he was a king administrating the kingdom of Mithila. He was also instructed by sage Ashtavakra upon the nature of the self or Atman; this exposition forms the content of the famous treatise Ashtavakra Gita.
According to the epic Ramayana and Mahabharata, the Janakas were a race of kings who ruled Videha Kingdom from their capital Mithila. The father of Sita (the wife of Rama) was named Seeradwaja Janaka. These epics mention many other Janaka kings who were all great scholars and lead the life of a sage though they were kings. They engaged in religious conversations with many sages.