Your circumstances don’t define you. They don’t matter to you really. What you are being called by others, or what you are experiencing right now, is not who you are. If you understand this, if you are able to look inward, and find your inner light, you will find tremendous beauty and a great peace within you!
King Janaka was once holding a contest to decide who’s the most intelligent of all the scholars in his kingdom. A prize of a thousand cows, with their horns studded with gold and diamonds, was announced for the winner. Five years in a row, a famous philosopher in the kingdom, Yagnavalkya had been winning the contest. As soon as he arrived, Yagnavalkya asked for the prize to be taken away to his home, because he was sure he would win. The contest had not even begun. But no one dared stop him. Because he had a track record. Not even Janaka had the slightest doubt that Yagnavalkya would win this year too. As the contest went on, an unknown scholar was seated there too. His wife sent her son Ashtavakra to fetch him back because she felt her husband was wasting his time at a contest which he was certain not to win. As Ashtavakra entered the court of Janaka, everyone was shocked. Here was a man, totally deformed, ugly to look at – one limb longer than the other, the face looking weird, the eyes popping out and the whole body was crooked. That’s why he was named so – Ashtavakra. The whole court started laughing at Ashtavakra. They were laughing at his appearance, at the sight of his deformed body. So, Ashtavakra too joined in. He too laughed. And he laughed loudly, above everyone’s laughter. So much so, that his laughter silenced everyone else’s. Janaka was surprised at what he was seeing.
He said: “I can understand why these people started laughing. They were seeing you this way, crooked and weird looking. And so they laughed. But why did you laugh? And how did they stop laughing when you laughed?”
Ashtavakra replied: “I thought this contest is for scholars. I did not realize it was for shoemakers. They are all laughing at my body, at my skin. They are obsessed with the outer. And they don’t see the inner.”
Janaka dissolved the contest. He ordered for the prize cows to be brought back. And started to inquire from Ashtavakra why he was able to say something so profound despite his despicable state.
Ashtavakra replied: “When people used to laugh at me for the way I look, I would enquire within me. And I would observe this body. That’s how I came to the realization that if I can observe this body, then I am not the body. So I developed the attitude to not let my looks or my situation define me.”
The deeper you look inward, the deeper your awareness grows. And the greater your ability is to stay detached from your circumstance or others’ opinion of you. So, don’t allow your situations to define you. Think of Ashtavakra every time people laugh at you or label you. You are as special and extraordinary a creation as there has ever been. Stay only with that awareness. And you will be forever in bliss.