In the Vedic literature, a number of the famous stories mention even older stories of King Janaka. He seems to be prior to stories from about 7,000 years ago but it’s hard to say. The Yog Vasishta mentions Arjuna’s story from the Gita. It wasn’t to happen for another several thousand years. In the literature, they place great value on key events but none on chronology. Add in the sages ability to see at a distance and in the past and future and you have a historians nightmare. 😉
But to the story. King Janaka ruled Videha, one of 16 kingdoms in what is now India. In the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad is a story of how the great sage Yagyavalkya demonstrates the depth of his understanding over all other sages. In another story, Yagyavalkya has granted the king a boon and the king asks that he answer every question.
After asking about the Self (Atman) and dreams, the king asks “What is real joy?” Yagyavalkya explains:
Your Majesty, imagine a person who is healthy, wealthy, admired by others, and provided with all human pleasures. This is the greatest joy of humans.
A hundred times this joy
is the joy of the world of the ancestors.
A hundred times the joy of the ancestors
is the joy of the world of the Ghandarvans. [music loka]
A hundred times the joy of the Ghandarvans
is the joy of the world of the Devas. [gods]
A hundred times the joy of the Devas
is the joy of the world of Prajapati. [the Creator]
A hundred times the joy of Prajapati
is the joy of Brahman. [transcendent Being, totality]
This is the joy of one who is pure and free of desire. This is the supreme joy, the highest bliss, the world of the spirit.
In the past, I’ve spoken of life is bliss, the evolution of bliss, and the raptures. I explored how intense bliss evolves into normalcy, then another layer unfolds. Here, Yagyavalkya has laid out the primary levels of bliss.
And most remarkable of all, they are open to everyone. How to be free of desire? Such joy fulfills all desires. The simple act of transcendence purifies the physiology, allowing us to experience these progressively finer and fuller values. The path itself is its own fulfillment.