The Mithila Matrix
It's time to meet Keshav.
In Vedic times, there lived a lineage of kings who ruled over the ancient region known as Mithila (also known as Videha). It is located in the Eastern part of the South-Asian Peninsula. In the royal tradition at the time, the entire lineage of kings were known as Janak, which literally means ‘father’.
One such King Janak was known to hold regular assemblies of scholars and philosophers to discuss spiritual and philosophical topics. He had a deep desire within his heart to discern the real from the unreal. In Hinduism, this notion is known as vivek (discretion).
After a long day filled with discussions and lavish meals, Janak retired to bed. Half way through the night he awoke to the sound of horns and the beatings of drum. His attendants ran into the room shouting, “Your majesty! The kingdom of Mithila is under attack!”
Janak shot up, put on his battle attire, prepared his horse and weapons, and rode into battle under the night sky. He was captured by the invaders, forced to surrender his kingdom and go into exile in order to protect the people of his kingdom. He obliged, walking away with nothing left to his name. He felt humiliated and weak, travelling around and begging food from one and all. Everyone rejected him. No one wanted anything to do with a begging man. Ravaging with hunger, he eventually came to a shelter which provided food for the poor. When it was his turn to get something to satisfy his hunger, there were only a few scraps of food left. He accepted it. He couldn’t go another day without food. Just as he was about to put a morsel of food into his mouth, it was knocked out of his hands into a small hole. He cried in agony at his own condition. Then he woke up. Janak looked around and saw himself on his bed, in his chambers, within his palace. The lanterns were burning and the crickets were chirping.
“Is this real or was that real?” He muttered to himself.
Awoken by the noise from his quarters, his attendants ran into his room and asked the king what had just happened. “Is this real or was that real?” Janak asked his attendants. His guards were confused as to what their king was talking about. From that day on, whoever he met or spoke to, he asked one question: Is this real or was that real?
He asked this same question to his queens, his ministers, and the scholars and philosophers of his kingdom. Word quickly spread throughout the kingdom that the king had gone mad. One young scholar named Ashtavakra came to hear about this, and he made his way towards the palace. Ashtavakra literally means ‘eight bends’, and described him perfectly. He suffered deformities from birth, resulting in physical handicaps. Despite being one of the youngest scholars in the kingdom, he was wise, and so Janak often confided in him and saw him as a teacher.
“King Janak! I shall answer your question” Ashtavakra said staring Janak straight in the eyes, “If this is real, then that was real. If that was real, then this is real. If this is false, then that was false. But you should know Janak, if that is false, then this is false too.”
Ashtavakra didn’t need any context. He very well knew what Janak was talking about. “Janak, look around you. Here, you are surrounded by jewels, luxuries, women, wealth, comfort and respect. Tell me, did any of this exist in your dreams?”
Janak, confused, shook his head.
“What you experienced in your dream, is any of that currently present?”
“No, it isn’t,” responded Janak.
“Janak, no objects or feelings are real, whether they be in your dream state or woken state. One dream finishes when your eyes open, and the other dream ends when your eyes close.”
“If it is all false, should I to believe that nothing is real?” Janak asked curiously.
Ashtavakra smiled and then revealed, “The experience itself is not real, but you experienced it. You are the common unchanging element in both states. You are real. You are on a level deeper than the physical and subtle bodies. You are the ātmā.”
Janak soon grasped the fundamental meaning to human existence. He ignored the false credo that ‘ignorance is bliss’ (in this context). Janak realised the path to the focused life. Alexander the Great was enveloped by this very ignorance. Howard Hughes, Napoleon, Stalin, and Hitler too. The list can go on. Probably all of us are affected by this ignorance to some greater or lesser extent. When we fail to adopt vivek in our lives, we fall prey to ignorance in all of its deceptive forms.
In a world enveloped by ignorance, we are immersed deep within that very ignorance that we fail to realise the discretion between pleasure and pain, joy and sorrow, failure and success. Along with many other truths of life, Janak realised this, and that was what set him free.
Keshav is a small attempt at unveilling the ignorance that stops us from distinguishing between the truth and untruth. I am not some elevated individual who has reached the highest truth and wishes to reveal it to you. I am very much on the same path as you.
What I can say though is that I have personally witnessed those who live the truth. I have interacted with those who have risen above the ignorance that surrounds us all – living in an elevated state of joy and peace – living the ultimate focused life. We will be exploring three domains: the body (the physical), the mind (the mental), and the soul (the spiritual).
No one will tell you this stuff because most people don’t benefit from doing so. But I aim to share some with you, unconventional truths that afflict our minds and show you practical, ancient and scientifically-supported ways to enable you to live a more focused life. Experience is more important than theory.
In my previous book, The Keshav Way, I wrote about happiness in a very broad sense. In which I sometimes referred to happiness as a mood that fluctuates in our daily lives and at other times I referred to the state of bliss and fulfilment. In this book, when we discuss happiness, it’s about an internal state – a feeling of peace and fulfilment. It follows that, happiness isn’t merely a fleeting mood, but a state of being. You can be amidst the turmoils of modern life and still remain fulfilled. You can be frustrated (a fleeting mood), yet still be happy (content from within).
Socrates admonished one to know thyself. To know oneself is to know one's body, mind, and soul. Keshav takes you on the first steps to doing just that. It aims to map out a path that everyone, of any background, can follow, offering a framework at a level that even a newcomer into the world of spirituality and philosophy may grasp.
So, now that Janak has woken up and seen his kingdom, isn’t it time for us to see ours?
I know I have been awfully quiet the past couple of months! This is partly due to me writing my book, being overloaded on a project at work, as well as being in a flare of my illness.
I am slowly getting back into schedule and these posts will now be more regular.
Thank you for staying connected and showing your support!
With love and prayers. Always,