Episode 3 - Story of King Jānaśruti and Raikwa


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Stories from Upanishads

Religion & Spirituality


Transcript of the podcast


Today I’m going to retell the story of Jānaśruti and Raikwa, which is found in the fourth Prapāthaka of Chāndogya Upanisad which is a part of Sama Veda. King Jānaśruti was the great-grandson of King Jānaśruta. He was the ruler of the kingdom of Mahavrsa. He was a good king, just, pious, knowledgeable, known for huge charities and cooked food in large quantities. He built free of cost rest-houses and eateries everywhere throughout his kingdom so that he could feed travellers and other people. He believed that he was the greatest patron and there was no one else like him. His generosity was on the lips of each individual of his kingdom. He measured his merits by the amounts of gifts and money he distributed. He often felt very proud of the offerings he had made and thought that was the best way to accumulate religious merits and get peace of mind. One night, Jānaśruti lay down on the upper storey of his palace and was looking at the star-filled night. He saw a pair of white swans flying past and conversing with each other. One of the swans said –“Don’t you see the bright band of lights from the king’s palace? You must be careful while flying over the flaming lights of the King’s fame. You may get burnt. So beware my friend. You must know that today there is none as famous as he is for his abundant wealth and charities. The other swan laughed and said –“Why do you threaten me, my friend? We are wanderers of skies and know more of the world than the others. Is this king’s merits more than that of Raikwa the cart puller? The first swan was taken back and said –“Who is this Raikwa? Is he greater than king Jānaśruti? The second swan smiled and continued - “The king is great, but he is mad after his name and fame. These drive him to action and donates generously. With all his charities and donations, he is still restless and always thinking of his name and fame!  He just runs after his praise. But Raikwa, he can draw and attract all merits towards him just like a lake draws water from the nearby slopes. He is at peace with himself as he is not worried about tomorrow!” The king overheard the flying swans as they flew out of his sight as the night engulfed the horizon and the kingdom fell deep asleep. However, the king was restless. He wanted to know who was Raikwa! Why did the swans think he is greater than him? He was determined to find this man at any cost as he understood that he was at peace with himself and with the world. Gradually the king too was engulfed in his sleep.[JG]At dawn, the bards began to sing the songs in the king’s praise. As the king rose and opened his eyes, he was restless and unhappy. He realized that there were people in his kingdom who is greater than him. He rushed to the bards and stopped them from singing any other song. He told them that there was another man to was greater than him. He ordered them to scan his entire kingdom for Raikwa the cart puller and find him at any cost. The servants and bards searched the length and breadth of the kingdom. With great difficulty they finally found Raikwa scratching an itch under the shade of the cart. They approached him and asked him –“Sir, are you Raikwa the cart puller?” Startled Raikwa got up and said nervously –“Yes! Indeed I am!”  The bards and servants thought that maybe their king has lost his mind. How can a poor cart puller like Raikwa be greater than the generous and charitable king Jānaśruti? They left for the king to inform him about Raikwa’s whereabouts. [AG]King had a sigh of relief on getting the news that his servants and bards have located Raikwa. So he immediately set out for Raikwa with well-fed six hundred milch cows with calves, a gold necklace and a chariot drawn by a she-mule. Raikwa was scared to see the king at his doorstep. He was not able to understand what he has done so the king himself has come to visit him. As soon as the king reached the cart puller’s cottage, he told him –“Raikwa, o divine soul! Here are six hundred best-fed milch cows, a gold necklace and a she-mule-driven chariot. Please accept them and teach me that divinity and spiritual knowledge which keeps you calm and happy!” Raikwa was taken aback! He politely told the king –“O great king, please don’t waste your wealth on me! I don’t need these at all. All these cannot buy spiritual knowledge. The knowledge of Self cannot be bought! These things don’t mean anything to me! Please take them back!” Disappointed, the king failed in his mission to understand divinity from the cart puller and went back to his palace. He heard more stories of Raikwa, and how people with sore hearts met him and came back consoled and calmed. The king was more eager to know about the divinity and spiritualism of the cart puller. He really wanted his knowledge at any cost. He got more and more adamant. So hellbound and obstinate, the king came back to Raikwa with one thousand best-bred cows, a gold necklace, a she-mule-drawn chariot and his daughter. He pleaded with Raikwa to accept these gifts and his daughter as his wife. The king with folded hands again pleaded Raikwa to teach him divine and spiritual knowledge.  Raikwa said he was not moved by any of the gifts which the king has brought, rather he was moved by the perseverance of the king to know the higher existence of life and his sincerity to learn from whoever can give him knowledge. Raikwa thought one who has these two virtues is suited for a perfect disciple. Raikwa agreed to impart divine knowledge to the king. He said –“O king, in this creation there are many elements, which we worship as gods. The Vāyu or the Wind blows away everything in its way. The Agni or Fire burns out anything which comes in its contact. The wind can blow out the fire. When the water dries, its vapours go up into the sky. So truly the wind gets everything, it's divine. Breath or Prāna is also worshipped as gods by many. There is a vital breath which activates a living being and all these are moved by the Spirit within. This Spirit is not created by anyone as it exists itself. It creates and sustains creation. This entire creation is a complex process carrying out its work at the behest of the Spirit. The Spirit eats nothing, doesn’t need anything, it’s self-supporting and self-satisfied.” Raikwa continued –“O great king, please don’t have pride or have vanity for the charities. Please go back and continue dispensing charities generously without pride. Donate them without any arrogance or thinking of the outcome such as fame or greatness. Give but not as something that is yours but something is given to you by the Spirit for giving to others. One who discovers this simple truth becomes calm, he needs nothing and he enjoyer of things.” The king was very satisfied with these words of wisdom from Raikwa. He felt calmness and tranquillity from within. He was happy that he has ultimately understood the secrets of happiness in dispensing charity and the answer that he was pining for so long. Before departing the king gave the thousand milch cattle, a gold necklace, and the she-mule-driven chariot. He married Raikwa with his own daughter and also named the village “Raikwaparna”.  That was another interesting story from Chandogya Upanisad, in which we learnt about how a poor cart puller named Raikwa taught a great king Jānaśruti about the divine Spirit and the joy of giving generously without thinking of any outcome and fame. In fact, in today’s world, we all work in offices, earn well, have our own houses, spouses, children, parents and many more responsibilities. But how many of us are really contented and happy with life? Maybe we are all Janasruti’s of today’s world trying to prove in everything, as a husband or wife, as a father or mother, as a son or daughter, as an employee. How long we will be in this rat race? Why can’t we all be like Raikwa? That’s something to ponder!As I have been doing a customary practice in my podcast series. I will ask you three questions and I will refer to the names of those lucky ones who have provided me with all the correct answers in the future episode. So the first question - “What was king Janasruti proud of?”

Second question -“Whom did the swan think to greater than the King?”And the last one - “What did the king gave to Raikwa finally in return?


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The background music is sourced from various royalty-free music sources, Apple Loops and Internet Archives with a Non-Commercial 4.0 International license. Aum Shantih chants are from Youtube - source - Gaiea Sanskrit.


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