A Single Diamond Is Enough

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In ancient times, there lived in India, a great seer, his name was Ashtavakra. He was the son of Rishi Kahoda and Sujata, the daughter of Rishi Uddalaka. Ashtavakra spoke truth without any artifice. His father was a great scholar and while Ashtavakra was in his mother’s womb, his father recited the Vedas daily and Ashtavakra listened to them from the womb.

One day, a voice spoke from the womb, “Stop all this nonsense. There is no truth in mere words, they are just a heap of ashes. Truth is within oneself.” Hearing this, his father became angry. First of all he was a father and on the top of all a great scholar of Vedas, scriptures, and a debater. His ego was hurt and in anger he cursed the womb that when born, it would be bent at eight segments. Accordingly the boy when born had eight bent segments, thus he was known as Ashtavakra.

When he was twelve years old, the King Janaka, held a great debating conference. He invited all the scholars of the country to participate. At the gate of the palace, Janaka placed one thousand cows with their horns plated with gold and diamond jewellery hung over their necks. He proclaimed, “Whoever will be victorious will take possession of these cows.”

It was a great debate and Ashtavakra’s father took part in it. By evening, he received a message that his father was losing against a great scholar named Vandin, son of Varuna, God of Ocean. Hearing this, Ashtavakra left for Janaka’s palace. The debate was at the point of ultimate conclusion, his father’s defeat was almost a certainty.

Ashtavakara entered the court, the pundits saw that his body was bent at eight places. His very movement was a matter of laughing. The whole assembly broke into laughter and Ashtavakra also laughed.

Then Janaka asked him, “I can understand why all others laughed but why did you laugh?”

Ashtavakra replied, “I am laughing because truth is being discussed in this meeting of cobblers.”

There was utter silence in the assembly. Janaka asked, “Cobblers! What do you mean by this word?”

Ashtavakra replied, “It is only a simple matter. They only see my skin but they don’t see me. They are cobblers because they only judge by the skin. My body is twisted but not `me.’”

He then asked Janaka, “O King, in the curve of the temple, is the sky ever curved? If the pot is smashed, is the air present in it ever smashed? The sky is unalterable. The one who lives within, look at him, you can’t find anything straight and purer than him.”

Janaka was shocked. He could not say anything because he himself had laughed too. That night he could not sleep.

Next morning, Janaka went to Ashtavakra and requested him, “Please visit my palace and resolve my questions. I could not sleep the whole night. You said rightly that those who recognise only the body and have no deep understanding. They go on debating about the soul, but attraction and repulsion for the body is still there in them. They speak about the deathless but still they are looking at death. My sleep is broken. Please come and resolve my questions.”

Janaka took the twelve-year-old boy Ashtavakra to his palace and seated him on the golden throne and asked him questions.

Ashtakvakra then imparted his famous teachings, which are beyond words, caste, creed and religion -- known to us today as Ashtavakra Gita.

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