Deadly test at the court of the great king, Janaka

1001 Tales Discourses

“You are living surrounded by death, and if this can be remembered, this can become the greatest stimulation for meditation, for awareness,” says Osho.

Harem dance

Buddha wants you to remember death continuously.

Don’t think that he is a pessimist. Don’t think that he is death-obsessed, no, not at all. He simply wants you to remember death so that the sword of death hanging on you keeps you aware, alert.

It happened once:

A sannyasin was sent by his master to the court of the great king, Janaka. The sannyasin was a little puzzled; he said, “Why should I go to the court of the king?”

The master said, “You have to learn one thing, and you can learn it more easily there than anywhere else; hence I am sending you. Go and watch and be very alert. You are going to be enriched tremendously.”

The sannyasin was not convinced. Remaining with such a great master, if he cannot learn something, then how can he learn in the court of the king? He used to think the king a fool because he has so many possessions, such a big kingdom, and he had renounced all, so he had always thought himself holier than the king. Now, going to the king to learn something he felt a little insulted. But when the master was saying it he had to go. So he went, reluctantly, deep down resisting, but he went.

When he reached to the king’s court he was shocked. In a way, his doubts were confirmed. The king was sitting, drinking wine; beautiful women almost naked were dancing around, and all the courtiers were there, completely drunk. The sannyasin thought, “What kind of a lesson have I to learn from these fools?” When he thought this, Janaka started laughing. He said, “Why are you laughing?”

Janaka said, “I am laughing because your old man knows something, he understands something, but you don’t believe in him. You don’t believe in your master. You have come, but reluctantly.”

He was surprised: how had Janaka come to know this? He asked, “You seemed to be almost drunk and still you can understand? – and I have not said anything.”

Janaka said, “About this wine we will talk later on. Right now you do one thing; otherwise I am going to kill you.” He ordered his soldiers to take their swords out of their sheaths and surround the court and give the sannyasin a cup full of oil, so full that it could not contain even a single drop more. And he told the sannyasin, “Put this cup on your head, and go around the court seven times. If even a single drop of the oil falls, your head will be cut off.”

Now the sannyasin thought, “I’m amongst lunatics and I cannot even escape.” Those naked swords were there all around.

And the king said, “Remember it, I mean business. When I say something I do it. So be careful.”

Looking at the cup, so full, he could not believe that he would be able to save his head – but there was nothing else he could do. He had to put the cup full of oil on his head and go round the court seven times. And the dance continued, and the beautiful women continued, and of course he was an old type of sannyasin, deep down very much interested in women. Many times the desire came just to have a look, but the fear of death and those naked swords…. He managed seven rounds, although it was almost impossible.

Then the king asked, “How did you manage? It was impossible.”

The sannyasin said, “I could manage because of these naked swords all around. I have never felt death so close, just a foot from my side. Any moment….”

And the king said, “What about these beautiful women? And I know sannyasins; they may not be interested in anything else, but they are bound to be interested in women. And what about this beautiful, delicious food? And the aroma of the food, and the wine… and these are the things that you have suppressed, so they are deep down in your being, they want to surface.”

The sannyasin laughed. He said, “Who cares about these things when death is so close by?”

The king said, “You have learned the lesson. This was the lesson the master has sent you to learn.”

Remember death. It is closer than those swords, it is always closer than anything else. You are living surrounded by death, and if this can be remembered, this can become the greatest stimulation for meditation, for awareness.

Hence the emphasis. Buddha says: “Death overtakes the man who, giddy and distracted by the world, cares only for his flocks and his children. Death fetches him away as a flood carries off a sleeping village.”

Don’t be a sleeping village; otherwise death will come like a flood and you will be gone.

Be awake, be alert, be mindful.

Osho, The Dhammapada: The Way of the Buddha, Vol 8, Ch 3 (excerpt)

Series compiled by Shanti
All excerpts of this series can be found in: 1001 Tales

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