The following is a story of a young monk who approached Janaka to test his wisdom and spirituality.
One can see from the story that constant remembrance of one's physical death, a spiritual exercise highly rated in many world scriptures, enabled Janaka to live in mental equanimity and Self-awareness while engaged in the midst of his kingly duties and surrounded by worldly pleasures.A wandering monk once visited the city of Mithila. The city was ruled by the Sage King Janaka. After going around in the city, he asked people around, “Who Is the best spiritual teacher here?” To his surprise, almost every person in the town referred to him the name of King Janaka.
The monk was both puzzled and irritated. He wondered how a king who lives in affluent palace and lead a luxurious life can be so highly spiritually developed. He imagined the people to be under the fear of Janaka or those people probably did not understand the true meaning of spirituality and hence did not know better.
Out of curiosity, finally, he went to the king and asked him, “O King, learned people around here, speak highly of you? How can you a worldly man of pleasures be more spiritual than those who have given up their everything for the sake of knowing the highest truth?“
“Dear one, you have come from a far place to this town. You must be tired from the long journey. You should eat and later take a rest and we can discuss further tomorrow,”, Janak said.
The King took him to the royal dinner table, fed him with a variety of dishes and pleased his palates. Extending the royal hospitality, the king took him to a spacious room with plenty of comforts and advised him to relax and sleep in the room.
The monk was highly pleased. However, when he entered the room and looked up, he was surprised. There was a huge sword hung from the ceiling, hanging just above the bed. “Why is this sword hanging here, just above the bed?” asked the perplexed monk.
“Oh, please don’t be bothered about it. This has been a tradition and old custom. It has been here since several generations. Please have a good sleep and I will see you tomorrow morning.” said the King and left him in the room with a sword hanging above his bed.
The monk was worried that the sword might fall on him and kill him during the night. He couldn’t close his eyes even though he was tired. The worry kept the sleep away.
The king met him in the morning the next day and enquired, “Sir, how was the night, I hope you slept well”.
“How could I have slept? There was this huge sword hanging at my neck.” monk explained his predicament.
The king smiled and said, “When one knows death is certain, how can the pleasures of world sway him away, how can the worldly duties ever limit his eyes from the supreme goal? The knowledge of the sword kept you awake the whole night. Similarly, the awareness of fragility of life and true nature of life does not let me indulge in the worldly pleasures while I live in this palace carrying out my duties.” The monk was happy that the king helped him with the answer he was looking for.