You’ve heard of Ashtavakra? Hmm? Ashtavakra means eight types of deformities he had in his body.
He was born this way because he was cursed by his own father, when he was in his mother’s womb. His father was also a very famous sage and a great scholar, acquired many things, we don’t know how many lifetimes. When the wife is pregnant – it’s part of the culture that when a woman is pregnant, she must hear all the scriptures and all the good things and knowledge, because she should not hear wrong things, negative things, she should hear nice pleasant music, she must hear good things, people read Bhagavat Gita to her, Vedas to her. Whether she understands or not, it doesn’t matter – the child will listen. Slowly its evolution will be affected by what the child listens to.
So as a part of it, the father was saying something, explaining something about a scripture. Then suddenly they heard a voice disagreeing with what the father was saying. The child from within the womb said “No, that’s not it, you didn’t get it right.” The father got so incensed by this, an unborn son already negating him.’ It should happen after he is eighteen years of age. An unborn one already saying you are wrong! It happens when they come to teenage. He got so incensed and cursed him, that let him have eight types of deformities. So he was born almost an inhuman form, twisted out body, so he was named as Ashtavakra – eight types of deformities.
Father was a, what to say, he was in the king’s court, in King Janaka’s court as a scholar, a very accomplished scholar. King Janaka has such a thirst to know, he wants to become enlightened. So he gathered all kinds of sages and scholars and the works. Anybody who could get anywhere, he brought them into his court, and he want to listen to their teachings. And he himself became an accomplished yogi over a period of time, but he’s still not realized.
Then one day, Ashtavakra’s father took this little boy to the court. When the King Janaka saw Ashtavakra, Ashtavakra held the king’s eyes. When the king looks at you, you are supposed to look down, which all the scholars and everybody do. But this boy just looked at him straight. So Janaka was little taken back, such a distorted body, he almost has not even a human-looking body, but the boy’s eyes were such, he just stared at the king, and said, “All these scholars who are sitting here, with all due respect to all of them, nobody, none of these people including my father will be able to give you what you’re looking for.” The king was flabbergasted. This eight or nine-year-old boy saying this to him and his father wanted to nasukufy [strangle] him, because this fellow has this habit of saying these things right from the beginning.
Then Ashtavakra at the age of twelve or fourteen, he left the family and went into the forest. One day, King Janaka went hunting with his retinue of soldiers and the works. And in the heat of hunt, he got separated from the soldiers and he got lost in this forest. Then he found Ashtavakra sitting in the jungle. So King Janaka sitting on his horse looked at him and said “You are here?” He said “Yes.” And Ashtavakra in his own way said, “And it’s me who has drawn you here, from your people, away from all of them.” “If you are willing to just take instructions from me, I’ll get you there, what you’re looking for.” So King Janaka wanted to ask “Did you see any of my soldiers, did you see any of the royal retinue around?” because he wants to find them and go back home.
So Ashtavakra asked “What is more important for you? What you’ve been claiming all your life that you want or you want to find your way home. Which way is it?” This hit the king so much. He said “No that’s the only thing I want. I don’t care whether I go back to the palace or not.” And he wanted to get down from the horse. He took one leg off the stirrup and he was up – one leg up, one leg here. Ashtavakra said “Just stop, stop right there.” When he was just getting off the horse, he asked him to just stop there. Stuck in an uncomfortable position on the horse like this – one leg up, one leg in the stirrup – he said “Just stay there.” This is the first act of Zen, okay? This is some 8000 years ago. And Janaka realized, in that uncomfortable position, he suddenly burst into enlightenment.
He got down and bowed down to Ashtavakra and wanted to stay there. After a certain period of time, Ashtavakra said “You go back to the palace.” King Janaka said “No way, the palace means nothing to me, I’m not going back.” So Ashtavakra said “The question is not about whether you want to be a king or not, the people of this nation need an enlightened king, so you must go.” So he sent him back.