Once Janaka, the wise king, called a meeting of all scholars, saints and wise men of his kingdom. He asked them-
“Who among you can expound on Self- Knowledge, within a very short time? I invite such a person to occupy the seat of honour on the dais.”
There was pin drop silence in the court. Not a single person came forward to answer the king.
At that juncture Ashtavakra, a deformed person entered the hall. The gathering of scholars laughed at his uncouth appearance. When they stopped laughing, Ashtavakra began to laugh loudly.
The King asked the reason for his laughter.
“I thought there were scholars and jnanis in this gathering. But I find only leather merchants and pimps here.
The leather merchants feel happy when they look at beautiful skin. They are not interested in what is inside. Similarly, those who engage in prostitution attach great significance to external appearance.
But inner beauty and strength are more important than the external form.”
The king was happy with Ashtavakra’s explanation and invited him to occupy the seat of honour on the dais.
Translated by : Dr. Sharada Jayagovind