XXXII - Page 324 Home | Index | Previous | Next

The Fire that brought out the Attachments of the Disciples

Suka decided to teach a lesson to all the people assembled there who were harboring such negative feelings. After some time, he interrupted his discourse suddenly and said, "Janaka, look at your kingdom. It is on fire!" King Janaka, who had closed his eyes and was totally absorbed in listening to the sacred teachings, took no notice of these words. He had fixed his mind on the Vedanta, and so he kept his concentration only on the Vedanta.

The other people who had assembled there saw the flames and smoke rising above the city. Some of the disciples, thinking of their relatives and belongings, began running towards the capital city, in the plain below. All the attachments which had lain hidden deep in their hearts now came to the surface and fully exposed themselves.

A few moments later, Suka told King Janaka, "Janaka, this fire has now spread to your palace." Even then, Janaka did not take any notice of Suka's statement; Janaka did not move from his seat. He had the true feeling of complete detachment and indifference to all things worldly. His interest was only in the atma. Except for this absorption in the atma he had no other feelings.

Among those in attendance at the discourse were a number of celebrated spiritual teachers having worldwide reputations. Suka wanted to demonstrate to them that they might be very great scholars but they had not killed their attachments. When these scholars saw the flames, they were apprehensive; they turned to King Janaka and began praying, "O, King! O, King! Please do something about this terrible catastrophe happening below!" But Janaka had entered into a state of samadhi; he was enjoying the bliss of the atma.

Tears of joy were coursing down Janaka's cheek. He did not waver for even a moment from the holy thoughts on which he had fixed his concentration. Suka observed Janaka's state and was very pleased. After some time, those disciples who had run away towards the capital returned, reporting that, in fact, there had been no fire at all. Then Suka began to explain to the disciples the meaning of all that had gone on.

Suka said, "Well, children, I did not delay starting my discourse for two hours because Janaka is the king and, therefore, a very important man. I delayed because he is a deserving person, a true seeker; and I believe in waiting for such a one. Because he has purged himself of ego and pride, because he has true humility, dedication and detachment he has the authority to hold up the discourse. You listen, but you do not hear what is said or put it into practice; therefore, you have no such authority.

"Instead of teaching hundreds of people who have made no effort in applying these teachings to their daily lives, I can teach at least one person who truly has a right to being taught, because he has integrated these sacred precepts into his very life. What is the use of teaching people full of attachment and egoism? It is something like throwing a stone into water. For any number of years the stone may lie in the water, but it will not absorb even a drop of water.

"Even if I can get just one person like Janaka, it is sufficient for me to go on. Why have useless shining stones in great numbers? If there is at least one gem which is truly valuable, that is enough. Why have ten acres of barren land if you can have even a small plot that is fertile and abundant in its yield? If one king like Janaka can become sacred, then he can transform his entire kingdom and turn it into a sacred realm that will be an example to the whole world." Suka's intent was to make Janaka a sacred king and at the same time to teach a valuable lesson to the conceited disciples who had gathered around him.