King Janaka (Devanagari: जनक) was the foster-father of Sita. He was called “Videhi Janaka” or “Vaidehi Janaka”. (for not identifying himself as a body (Swami Vivekananda described “Videha” as “without a body”[Source]) and for his non-attachment towards worldly things). Although Janaka is not one of the most prominent characters of Ramayana, he has been mentioned many times in the discourses of Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda.
In this article, we’ll make a collection of Swami Vivekananda‘s quotes and comments on Janaka.
Swami vivekananda on King Janaka
Swami Vivekananda told—
- At all times and in every country, the priests gird up their loins and try their best to preserve the ancient customs and usages, while on the other side stand in opposition kings like Janaka, backed by Kshatriya prowess as well as spiritual power. We have dealt at length already on this bitter antagonism between the two parties.[Source]
- Charity never faileth; devotion to an ideal never fails in sympathy, never becomes weary of sympathising with others. Love to enemies is not possible for ordinary men: they drive out others in order to live themselves. Only a very few men lived in the world who practised both. King Janaka was one of them. Such a man is superior even to Sannyasins. Shukadeva, who was purity and renunciation embodied, made Janaka his Guru; and Janaka said to him, “You are a born Siddha; whatever you know and your father taught you, is true. I assure you of this.”[Source]
- Do not pretend to be like Janaka when you are only the “progenitor” of delusions. (The name Janaka means “progenitor” and belonged to a king who, although he still held his kingdom for the sake of his people, had given up everything mentally.) Be honest and say, “I see the ideal but I cannot yet approach it”; but do not pretend to give up when you do not. If you give up, stand fast.[Source]
- “Give up,” says the Veda, “give up.” That is the one way, “Give up”.न प्रजया धनेन त्यागेनैकेऽमृतत्वमानशुः — “Neither through wealth, nor through progeny, but by giving up alone that immortality is to be reached.” That is the dictate of the Indian books. Of course, there have been great givers-up of the world, even sitting on thrones. But even (King) Janaka himself had to renounce; who was a greater renouncer than he? But in modern times we all want to be called Janakas! They are all Janakas (lit. fathers) of children — unclad, ill-fed, miserable children. The word Janaka can be applied to them in that sense only; they have none of the shining, Godlike thoughts as the old Janaka had. These are our modern Janakas! A little less of this Janakism now, and come straight to the mark![Source]
- Is it so easy to be Janaka — to sit on a throne absolutely unattached, caring nothing for wealth or fame, for wife or child? One after another in the West has told me that he has reached this. But I could only say, ‘Such great men are not born in India![Source]
- Nishkâma Karma, or work without desire or attachment. People nowadays understand what is meant by this in various ways. Some say what is implied by being unattached is to become purposeless. If that were its real meaning, then heartless brutes and the walls would be the best exponents of the performance of Nishkama Karma. Many others, again, give the example of Janaka, and wish themselves to be equally recognised as past masters in the practice of Nishkama Karma! Janaka (lit. father) did not acquire that distinction by bringing forth children, but these people all want to be Janakas, with the sole qualification of being the fathers of a brood of children! No! The true Nishkama Karmi (performer of work without desire) is neither to be like a brute, nor to be inert, nor heartless. He is not Tâmasika but of pure Sattva. His heart is so full of love and sympathy that he can embrace the whole world with his love. The world at large cannot generally comprehend his all-embracing love and sympathy.[Source]
- Our King Janaka tilled the soil with his own hands, and he was also the greatest of the knowers of Truth, of his time.[Source]
- Strictly speaking it is almost impossible to work like that for the good of the world from the householder’s position. In the whole of Hindu scriptures there is the single instance of King Janaka in this respect. But you nowadays want to pose as Janakas (lit. fathers) in every home by begetting children year after year, while he was without the body – consciousness![Source]
Teaching of Janaka✔ This is an interesting story. From Swami Vivekananda’s book Karma Yoga—[Source]
There was a great sage in India called Vyâsa. This Vyâsa is known as the author of the Vedanta aphorisms, and was a holy man. His father had tried to become a very perfect man and had failed. His grandfather had also tried and failed. His great-grandfather had similarly tried and failed. He himself did not succeed perfectly, but his son, Shuka, was born perfect. Vyasa taught his son wisdom; and after teaching him the knowledge of truth himself, he sent him to the court of King Janaka. He was a great king and was called Janaka Videha. Videha means “without a body”. Although a king, he had entirely forgotten that he was a body; he felt that he was a spirit all the time. This boy Shuka was sent to be taught by him. The king knew that Vyasa’s son was coming to him to learn wisdom: so he made certain arrangements beforehand. And when the boy presented himself at the gates of the palace, the guards took no notice of him whatsoever. They only gave him a seat, and he sat there for three days and nights, nobody speaking to him, nobody asking him who he was or whence he was. He was the son of a very great sage, his father was honoured by the whole country, and he himself was a most respectable person; yet the low, vulgar guards of the palace would take no notice of him. After that, suddenly, the ministers of the king and all the big officials came there and received him with the greatest honours. They conducted him in and showed him into splendid rooms, gave him the most fragrant baths and wonderful dresses, and for eight days they kept him there in all kinds of luxury. That solemnly serene face of Shuka did not change even to the smallest extent by the change in the treatment accorded to him; he was the same in the midst of this luxury as when waiting at the door. Then he was brought before the king. The king was on his throne, music was playing, and dancing and other amusements were going on. The king then gave him a cup of milk, full to the brim, and asked him to go seven times round the hall without spilling even a drop. The boy took the cup and proceeded in the midst of the music and the attraction of the beautiful faces. As desired by the king, seven times did he go round, and not a drop of the milk was spilt. The boy’s mind could not be attracted by anything in the world, unless he allowed it to affect him. And when he brought the cup to the king, the king said to him, “What your father has taught you, and what you have learned yourself, I can only repeat. You have known the Truth; go home.”
Nag Mahasaya (Durga Charan Nag)From Complete Works, Volume VII—[Source]
Then the conversation drifted to the subject of Nag Mahashaya. Swamiji said, “One does not find a second devoted Bhakta like him — oh, when shall I see him again!”
Disciple: He will soon come to Calcutta to meet you, so mother (Nag Mahashaya’s wife) has written to me.
Swamiji: Shri Ramakrishna used to compare him to King Janaka. A man with such control over all the senses one does not hear of even, much less come across. You must associate with him as much as you can. He is one of Shri Ramakrishna’s nearest disciples.