Sitting on the banks of the river Ganga, the sage Vishvamitra spoke to Shri Rama and Lakshmana about the greatest of rivers. He explained how the holy river purifies not only living beings but the whole universe. Vishvamitra, the son of Gadhi, went on to perform his daily prayers together with a host of holy men from the forest. After which the three of them walked together drawing closer to the great city of Mithila. Shri Rama felt great delight after seeing Mithila on the horizon. He could see many great tanks filled with sweet water. The city was beautifully constructed and there were wells and rivers and great palaces, all covered in jewels. The bees hummed a beautiful sound, as if drunk on the honey they produce. Flowers of innumerable colours adorned the many gardens, their sweetest fragrances permeating throughout the land.
The beauty of the city cannot be described. The flowers, orchards, groves and surrounding nature formed a stunning visual tapestry. Every soul in the city was captivated by its sweet beauty. The town’s market place teemed with traders buying and selling precious jewels and beautiful ornaments. Nobody was poor in Mithila, it was as if Kubera the God of wealth had blessed everybody. The paintings which adorned the buildings invoked feelings of bliss; even the water looked as sweet as it tasted. The people of the city were pious, lived virtuous lives and were very beautiful. It was as if cupid had ordained Mithila to be such a wonderful place.
Most beautiful of all was Janaka’s palace, which was the envy of the entire universe. Every step leading to the throne was decked with fine jewels and crystals. The doorways to the palace were covered with diamonds. The palace was buzzing with activity…there were dancers, entertainers and poets. There were stables full of elephants and horses adorned with jewels and coupled to chariots of great splendour. The King’s ministers discussed royal concerns peacefully in the gardens of the palace and all work was completed in a comfortable manner.
Vishvamitra stopped and said, “This orchard is the perfect place for us to rest; let us stay here.” Shri Rama agreed and set up the tents for the holy men to stay. Janaka quickly became aware of the news that the great sage Vishvamitra had entered Mithila. He sent ministers, warriors, noble brahmanas, family members, and many dignitaries to greet the sage and invite him to the palace.
When Vishvamitra arrived at the palace the King of Mithila placed his head upon Vishvamitra’s feet out of great respect. Vishvamitra duly blessed the King with a prayer for long life. The King then said, “What great deeds I must have performed in past lives to have been blessed with this opportunity to be in your presence. Please tell me of your welfare, how are you?” The sage smiled and raised the King from the floor. He called for Shri Rama and Lakshmana, who had been exploring the gardens. One of fair complexion and the other dark, together the two young brothers stole the hearts of every living being they came across. When Janaka saw the two boys he became overcome with joy. His eyes filled with tears and he felt nothing but love.
Seeing Shri Rama in front of him smiling, Janaka said, “My lord, who are these two magnificent beings? Are they the children of a great sage? Are they the children of a royal dynasty? Or are they the atman (individual self) and brahman (absolute existence)? They appear like manifestations of the Vedic pronouncement: neti neti, which means not this, not this. Through many years of meditation and austerity I have achieved a dispassionate mind, but after seeing Shri Rama, I feel like the Chakora bird upon seeing the moon. Vishvamitra, hide nothing from me; who are these great souls who you have brought here? I would give up the quest for enlightenment just to remain in their presence and see them.”
Vishvamitra smiled and said, “Your words please me Janaka. These two boys are the embodiment of unconditional love in this world. All living beings which exist in the world hold an innate love for these two boys. They are the sons of Dasaratha, the King of the Raghu dynasty. He has sent them to live with me and help me fight my cause. They are beauty, wisdom, virtue and strength personified. They protect the virtuous and destroy the wicked.”
“It is the result of lifetimes of religious merit that I am with you here today. Seeing the love between you two brothers is beyond any description. The affinity I see between Shri Rama and Lakshmana is like that of Brahman and atman.” said the King Janaka. Unbeknownst to him, the King was experiencing spiritual ecstasy. The hairs on his body stood on end as his heart overflowed with love. The King guided the guests to a palace where they could rest, rendering to them every possible hospitality.
For most of us, King Janaka is a very important example of a person living in the world as an enlightened being. Sure he fulfilled his role as a great king, but he had also achieved self-realization. He saw himself in every living being and hence was known as the king without a body. Janaka was in the world but not of it. His mind was perfectly balanced.
Here however, Tulasidas is not speaking about Janaka’s traits as a being who works perfectly in the world, fulfilling all of his duties; he is speaking about spiritual ecstasy. Janaka’s encounter with Shri Rama in the above excerpt demonstrates that even the most equanimous of saints can become filled with love in Shri Rama’s presence. The tears of love, the spiritual ecstasy, the tingling sensation of the hairs standing on end, the feeling of complete fulfillment, these are the feelings of bhakti–the deepest depths of love