Janaka Sulabha: Crossing the Antaraala

How Vyaasa and Shri Ramakrishna’s Janaka Evolves in Life

Shri Ramakrishna mentions Janaka numerous times in his conversations and discourses as recorded by Shri M in Kathaamrta. His Janaka is as an exemplary and ideal Grhii-Vijnaanii – the Ideal for his Grhii-devotees, just as Shuka is Ideal for his Sannyaasii disciples. [1] To Svami Vivekananda, Janaka symbolizes the Balance between Kshatriya-Power and Spiritual-Power. [2]

Shri M has recorded Shri Ramakrishna’s three different Janaka Narratives more than once. None of these Narratives finds mention in any Purana, and as we shall see, the Janaka Narratives, though variants, and very brief, are traceable in Classical Mahabharata.

They are:

1) A husband and wife’s conversation (in the context of Janaka-mention): the shadow of Janaka-Wife Narrative (12.18) [3] of Mbh.

2) Janaka and Bhairavii Narrative (mentioned twice in Kathaamrta): the shadow and echo of the Janaka (Dharmadhvaja) and Sulabhaa Narrative (12.308)

3) Janaka and Shuka Narrative: echo of Janaka and Shuka Narrative (12.312-313)

Janaka is the famous King of Mithila, Sita’s father in Valmiki’s Ramayana, Maarkandeya’s Ramayana (in Mahabharata, 3.258.9a), and also in Puranas [e.g. Agni Purana (10.1.7), Padma Purana (2.5.11), and Vishnu Purana (4.5.28)].

Traditionally Janaka is famous as a Wise Spiritual person of high merit, and Mithilaa as a cosmopolitan Rashtra of cultural excellence – the very seat of religious and academic debates. For example, in Mahabharata Mithilaa is hailed as dharmasetusamaakiirnaam (3.198.6a) – the Bridge of various Dharmas - an ideal on the basis of which Asoka Maurya formulated his own Dhamma-Ideology. Janaka also finds mention in four Buddhist Jatakas - and twice as Buddha's previous incarnation.

Cultural Memory seems to have merged all Janakas into one unified Symbol; however, rationally and logically, all Janakas could not have been of equal merit; even one single Janaka could not have been same in different phases of his life, that is, there must have been Self-Evolution in a single Janaka – as Shri Ramakrishna would say: “one cannot become Raja Janak all at once (phas kare Janaka Raajaa haoyaa yaay naa)."[4] That applies to “Non-Janakas” as well as to Janaka himself.

According to Vishnu Purana, the 21st ‘Janaka’ is Siiradhvaja, who found Sita while ploughing the Earth. [5] This shows that Janaka is a title, like Indra, and not any individual name.

In Mahabharata, the Janakas in different Janaka Narratives are different persons (names mentioned in some cases) belonging to different eras, and the placement of so many narratives in Shanti-Parvan alone and Yudhishthira’s enthusiastic listening to them, suggest one thing: the Ideal Grhastha Dharma-King must be in Janaka’s model.

I suggest, Vyasa has arranged the Janaka Narratives as they are with a definite purpose – of showing Spiritual Self-Evolution of Man (taking the Janakas as one Janaka’s Collective Consciousness and Janaka as representative of Man) – Self-Evolution in the direction of Moksha – from Self-Centric and parochial concept of Moksha to Moksha by working for all. This 'working' - karma - is both internal and external.

Spiritual Evolution involves at least three steps – the Immature phase (that Shri Ramakrishna calls Kaancaa Aami), the Transition phase, and the Mature phase (Paakaa aami) – and these three crucial phases in Janaka’s life correspond to Shri Ramakrishna’s three Janaka Narratives ringing the note of Psychological Truism pointing to a unity of Wisdom. The Spiritually Immature Janaka is rebuked and derided by his wife, while the Bhairavii’s appearance marks the Transition period of Spiritual Evolution to Shuka’s teacher Janaka. As we see, the Janaka Narratives as a whole in Mahabharata are also in this spirit, making it imperative to understand Janaka of Mahabharata and Vyasa’s Mind in the light of Shri Ramakrishna’s Reading of Janaka.

In this article I will attempt to show how Shri Ramakrishna’s Reading of Janaka can provide directions to proper Reading of the Janaka-Sulabhaa Narrative and its importance in the numerous Janaka Narratives in Mahabharata.

1. Shri Ramakrishna’s Janaka Narratives

1.1. Husband-Wife Narrative

Janaka is not the name of the husband in this tale; however, I count it as Janaka Narrative because Shri Ramakrishna narrates it in a context with Janaka at the centre following a Sub-judge’s joyful remark “We think we have become King Janaka outright!”

Shri Ramakrishna laughs and says that “it is wise for you to fight from a fort (kellaa thekei yuddha bhaalo),” and then he narrates the tale of a man and his wife:

“A man once said to his wife, 'I am going to leave the world.' She was a sensible woman. She said: 'Why should you wander about? If you don't have to knock at ten doors for your stomach's sake, go. But if that is the case, then better live in this one place."[6]

It is a clear parallel to Vyasa’s Janaka-Wife Narrative (12.18) in its content and import. When Janaka (in Arjuna’s narrative to Yudhishthira) wants to leave family life, his wife points out that without true Vairaagya, he would just be stepping out of one Power-System to enter another. Her saying that without being true muktabandhana at Heart, he is a mere Dharmadhvaja (wearing externally false Signs of renunciation) is akin to what Shri Ramakrishna regards False Vairaagya – “Bhaaver ghare curii” or “Markat-Vairaagya”. [7]

In the Buddhist Jataka tale - Mahajanaka Jataka too - Janaka's wife argues against his renunciation.

1.2. Janaka-Bhairavii Narrative

In the context of saying that it is simultaneously possible to “attain spirituality, (and) living the life of a householder,” though “it is extremely difficult,” Shri Ramakrishna regards Janaka a sage who achieved that because he “entered the world after attaining Knowledge (Jnaana-laabh).” He narrates the Janaka-Bhairavii Narrative to explain that “still the world is a place of terror,” and “even a detached householder has to be careful (nishkaama samsaariir-o bhay)”:

“Once Janaka bent down his head at the sight of a bhairavi (mukh hent karechilo). He shrank from seeing a woman (Strii-darzane samkoc hayechilo). The bhairavi said to him: 'Janaka, I see you have not yet attained Knowledge (Jnaana hay ni). You still differentiate between man and woman (tomaar ekhano Strii-Purush bodh rayeche).'” (Gospel, 275)

Shri Ramakrishna points out the vulnerability of Sattva Guna when he says: "If you move about in a room filled with soot, you will soil your body, however slightly, no matter how clever you may be." [8] He regards, “Sattva-Rajah-Tamah Guna are robbers, they snatch away Jiiva’s Tattva-Jnaana." [9]

Elsewhere, he speaks of Bhanga Bhaava (broken Bhaava) [10] – referring to Male vulnerability before Female Seductive Power, and points out a Hidden Kaama in Male Psyche that “The company of a young woman evokes lust even in a lustless man (yuvatiir sange nishkaameo Kaama hay)" [11]

In the second mention of the Narrative, the Bhairavii says: “O Janaka, even now you are afraid of a woman!' (tomaar ekhano strii-lok dekhe bhay!" [12]

It reminds of what Raakhaal (Svaamii Brahmaananda) once says quoting Naren shortly after Shri Ramakrishna’s death: “Woman exists for a man as long as he has lust. Free from lust, one sees no difference between man and woman" [13] – that is, "Kaama in the Mind/Brain" creates the entity of Kaaminii. [14]

The Bhairavii’s role in Janaka’s life has to be crucial because without being aware of this Hidden Kaama in the Self, he could not have overcome his Spiritual Blocks and attained the Higher Sattva GunaShuddha Sattva. Perhaps, Shri Ramakrishna creates the Bhairavii as Janaka’s Guru in remembrance and as tribute to his own first Guru – the Bhairavii Braahmanii.

Janaka’s vulnerability of Sattva and Bhaava is a remarkable parallel to Vyasa’s Janaka in presence of Sulabhaa-Bhikshukii.

Shri Ramakrishna’s Janaka bends his head down on seeing Bhairavii, and Vyasa’s Janaka, does not look down; Janaka and Sulabhaa make Eye Contact - and Janaka reveals his Attachment by his Visual Delight at Sulabhaa’s Physical Beauty (12.308.13) – actually a guise she has taken to examine the veracity of Janaka’s much vaunted Mukta-State (12.308.8-11).

Having noticed and sensed the King’s Bhaava, she doubts again whether Janaka is really Mukta in Dharma (dharmeshu mukto, 12.308.16a), that is, she doubts not only his Mukta status but also his Dharma-status. Sulabhaa, apt in Yoga (yogajnaa) now enters Janaka’s Sattva with her Sattva (sattvam sattvena yogajnaa praviveza mahiipate, 16c) [15] – indicating the vulnerability in Sattva Guna.

Indeed Janaka does Bhaaver Ghare Curii by approving Sulabhaa’s Bhaava with his Bhaava (pratijagraaha bhaavena bhaavam asyaa nrpottamah, 18c), though criticizing her calling it Dharmasamkara (62c).

Janaka finally becomes Self-Aware of the vulnerability of Sattva and Bhaava, and learns from Sulabhaa to be Kshetrajna to both Sattva and Bhaava (kshetrajna iti caapy anyo gunas, 105a) and then goes Beyond the bondage of three Gunas as suggested by the next Janaka and Shuka Narrative (12.312-313).

When Svaamii Vivekaananda says that Janaka represents the principle of Nishkaama Karma – and that requires “pure Sattva” [16] – he is obviously pointing out the vulnerability in Sattva and the necessity to make it “fool-proof” to be true Nishkaama.

1.3. Janaka-Shuka Narrative

Shri Ramakrishna narrates the Janaka-Shuka Narrative in the context of his discourse on the relation of Guru and Shishya before and after the Shishya attains high Jnaana. Once asked by a Brahmo devotee whether “spiritual knowledge is impossible without a Guru”, Shri Ramakrishna mentions Janaka’s words [17] which he later represents in dialogic form to Shri M:

"Once Sukadeva went to Janaka to be instructed in the Knowledge of Brahman; Janaka said, 'First give me my fee.' 'But', said Sukadeva, 'why should I give you the fee before receiving the instruction?' Janaka laughed and said: 'Will you be conscious of guru and disciple after attaining Brahmajnana? That is why I asked you to give me the fee first.'"[18]

This Janaka is clearly the Adhikaarii of Ananda that manifests in his Sense of Humour.

2. Janaka-Sulabhaa Narrative in the light of Shri Ramakrishna’s Reading

As we have seen, Shri Ramakrishna’s Janaka Narratives show a distinct Evolution in Janaka, and the Bhairavii-Narrative poised between a Spiritually Immature and a Spiritually Mature Janaka is crucial to understand Janaka’s Spiritual Evolution.

In this light, if we consider the Janaka (Dharmadhvaja) and Sulabhaa Narrative (12.308) as central to all Janaka Narratives, we are surprised to find on careful reading that it is indeed so.

Scholars – to my knowledge – have never given the Janaka-Sulabhaa Narrative this central importance because they have not taken the Janaka Narratives as a Whole.

Sutton (1999) and Fitzgerald (2002b) have opined that the narrative is a powerful denial of the viability of KKarma Yoga doctrine. [19] Sutton thinks “it appears to refute the teachings of the Bhagavad-Gita” (Sutton 2000, 441) [20] Vanita thinks “Janaka argues in favor of women's subordination,” and finally Sulabhaa has a “logical victory in debate.” (Vanita 2003) [21] Black and Brodbeck think that Sulabhaa’s debate “put forth positions that question altogether the validity of gender distinction” (2009) [22] - and here they are right to some extent, but is nowhere near Shri Ramakrishna’s Reading that here the problem is Janaka’s Hidden Kaama in the Self that prompts his Gender Discrimination or Distinction – that is, the problem of Kaaminii, or, the “Fantasy-Woman in the Mind/Brain

The learned scholars have missed to take note of one single word that occurs only twice in the whole of Mahabharata – the word Antaraala. And unfortunately, they have also missed the import of the two other words – Sattva and Bhaava in understanding Vyasa’s message.

2.1. Crossing the Antaraala

Sulabhaa tells Janaka:

ssa gaarhasthyaac cyutaz ca tvam moksham naavaapya durvidam

ubhayor antaraale ca vartase mokshavaatikah (12.308.175) [23]

“You have fallen away from the householder pattern of life without having reached moksa that is so hard to understand; you exist between these two, babbling about moksa. (12.308.175; Fitzgerald trans. modified by Hiltebeitel)”

In Shanti-Parvan, Nakula also uses the same word Antaraala about Yudhishthira. This is Vyasa's poetic way of suggesting that Yudhishthira actually aspires to be Janaka. Elsewhere I will discuss how Asoka Maurya had the same ambition - to be Yudhishthira and Janaka.

The point is: the English translation for Antaraala - “exist between these two” - falls much short of the significance of Antaraala - a remarkable Imagery represented metaphorically in Temple Architecture, denoting the connective vestibule of Mandapa and Garbhagrha (Sanctum Sanctorum). The Bhakta must pass through the Antaraala to reach the Purusha. That the word Antaraala evokes Bhakti theme is another significant point, and as we shall see, this Temple Architecture Imagery is central to Shri Ramakrishna’s reading of Janaka.

As we know, in the Janaka-Sulabhaa Narrative (12.308) King Janaka is Word-Centric and literal – “zukno paanditya” in Shri Ramakrishna’s words – he boasts he is the best in Mokshazaastra (yasya naanyah pravaktaasti mokshe, 23c) until Bhikshukii Sulabhaa helps him find out, he has not yet gone Beyond Gender Consciousness and nourishes Hidden Kaama for Woman. Sulabhaa points out Janaka’s deficit in understanding the true Artha of Moksha. The Narrative ends with Sulabhaa’s ending her Speech with the declaration that she would stay in Janaka’s Zariira-Pura (Body-House), and Janaka’s Silence (zrutvaa naadhijagau raajaa kim cid anyad atah param, 191c) – indeed a pregnant Silence that indicates Janaka’s willing acceptance of the position.. Shri Ramakrishna’s Janaka too remains Silent after Bhairavii points out his Hidden Kaama.

Shri Ramakrishna too speaks of Janaka’s Self-Evolution; citing Janaka as Jiivanmukta with no Body-Consciousness, he says: “But the extinction of body-consciousness is a far off thing. IIt needs a lot of spiritual practice (khub saadhan caai).” [24] (Trans. Author)

Indeed, Janaka crosses the Antaraala because we find that the very next Janaka-Narrative is the famous Janaka and Shuka Narrative (12.312-313), in which Janaka acts as Shuka’s teacher in Moksha – a teacher whom none other than Vyasa recommends for his son.

It is as if, after crossing the Antaraala in the Sulabhaa Narrative, Janaka finally Spiritually Evolves to qualify as Shuka’s teacher – the Jiivanmukta becoming the teacher of Nitya-Siddha. From a locationless Antaraala of Neither-Here-Nor-There – that Janaka’s wife has pointed out; to a Static Antaraala of Neither-Here-Nor-There – which Sulabhaa points out; to the Shuka’s worthy teacher Janaka who is Both-Here-and-There, taking both Nitya and Liilaa - such is Janaka’s Self-Evolution or Spiritual Evolution. Janaka finally reaches his own Self – Janaka-Purusha – passing through the Antaraala – evoking the Imagery of a devotee’s passage through the steps, and then Antaraala to reach the Sanctum Sanctorum.

One finds more in the Janaka-Sulabhaa Narrative in the light of Shri Ramakrishna’s Reading.

2.2. Coded Message of Taantrik-Yogik Significance

If the very presence of Bhairavii in Shri Ramakrishna’Bhairavii has a TTaantrik-Yogik Significance, that is further confirmed when Shri Ramakrishna says about Janaka that “Loka-Shikshaka one needs God’Ajnaa. In the light of this Reading, Crossing the Antaraala thus also takes on the significance of Kundalinii ShaktiCakra to reach 5th and/or 6th Cakra to reach Sahasraar, that is, Janaka-Sulabhaa’Union is in fact, an allegory for the rise of Kundalinii Shakti.

Antaraala corresponds to the Anaahata Cakra, given that one of its derivations in Scriptures - Bhujaantaraala (that equals bhujaantara) connotes “

The Fifth Plane in Taantrik-Yogik discipline is called Vizuddha Cakra which is at the throat. The Cakra has sixteen petals and the deity (Biija) Ambara’s Vaahana is a white elephant, signifying Sattva Guna. The Vizuddha Cakra relates to communication and growth through expression; emotionally it governs independence; mentally, fluent thought; and spiritually, sense of security and creativity. (Mercier 2007, 233) It is also associated with hearing and speaking.

All these are hinted in the Janaka-Sulabhaa Narrative: Sulabhaa enters Janaka’s Suukshma-Zariira through Sattva and establishes Connection with Janaka’s Bhaava with Saattvikaa (White) motive; her eyes are compared with Lotus; Janaka speaks of NNon-Attachment in the metaphor of Lotus; Sulabhaa speaks of elephant; Sulabhaa speaks of the 16th principle of Kshetrajna; both Sulabhaa and Janaka engage in communication and Self-Expression through Vaak-Speech; both speak of Svatantraa (Independence) etc.

Between the Vizuddha Cakra and the higher Ajnaa Cakra is a secret Cakra called the Lalanaa Cakra (female energy or the tongue). When the Saadhaka reaches Lalanaa Cakra, sweet nectar starts dripping on the tongue. (Swami Sivapriyananda 1996, 21-3)

The 12 red or white petals of Lalanaa Cakra correspond to the virtues of respect, contentment, offense, self-control, pride, affection, sorrow, depression, purity, dissatisfaction, honor and anxiety. The red circular moon inside-region acts as a reservoir for Madhu or Amrta.

Again, the resemblances are quite evident. Sulabhaa is Lalanaa – the Feminine Zakti; Janaka at first thinks her to be Dushtaa (wanton) with magical powers; Sulabhaa speaks on VaakVaak is Sarasvatii and resides in tongue; Janaka regards Union as Amrta; Sulabhaa enters Janaka’s Sattva (White) with Saattvikaa motive (White), but her act is Aggressive like Rajah Guna (Red); Sulabhaa indeed brings Amrta to Janaka through Vaak-Amrta.

The Sixth Plane is the Ajnaa Cakra located between the eyebrows (Third-Eye of Ziva). The visage of Ajnaa Cakra is the form of white lotus with only two petals. In the centre of the lotus is a white, inverted triangle (Yoni) within which is the Linga called Itara (the 'other'). The Itara Linga is Shiva as Pashupati.

The Itara Linga and the downward pointing white triangle symbolize Shiva-Shakti Union – and Ardhanaariizvara – the Masculine-Feminine Balance.

The Puranik Narrative of Shiva’s incinerating Kaama with his Third-Eye is an allegory and metaphor that Kaama can be conquered with Ajnaa Cakra. Further, Shiva as Ardhanaariizvara suggests that Ajnaa Cakra activates and is activated by Masculine-Feminine Balance in the Self.

The Janaka-Sulabhaa Union at Sattva and Bhaava level, is therefore, the allegory of unity of Vizuddha Cakra and Lalanaa Cakra; and after this Union, Janaka gains AjnaaAuthority – to give Loka-Shikshaa.

What proof else of Janaka’s worthiness as Loka-Shikshaka than Shuka himself, and the Symbolic Value that “Janaka” carries!

2.2.1. Allegory of Saamkhya Kaarikaa Principle

Sulabhaa’s father’s name is Pradhaana (pradhaano naama raajarshir, 12.308.182a) – and I consider it a clue to further understand the significance of Janaka-Sulabhaa Spiritual Union.

Pradhaana means the muulaprakrti or Primitive Nature in Saamkhya Kaarikaa.(3, 11, 21, 37, 57, 68); Sulabhaa as Pradhaana’s daughter is thus Prakrti.

In this light, the Janaka-Sulabhaa Union may be seen as an allegory of Saamkhya Kaarikaa 21:

purushasya darzanaartham kaivalyaartham tathaa pradhaanasya /

pangvandhavad ubhayor api samyogas tatkrtah sargah // ISk_21 //

“For the exhibition of Pradhaana to the Purusha and for the emancipation of the Purusha,, (there is conjunction between the Spirit and Nature) like the union between the lame and the blind; from this conjunction proceeds creation.” [26]

Swami Virupakshananda explains, “The Pradhana needs an enjoyer…The Spirit (Purusha), ignorant of its distinction from Pradhana, while in union with that, considers the three kinds of pain which are really the constituents of Pradhana, to be his own; and seeks liberation from this bondage. And this liberation is possible only on the knowledge that the Purusa is distinct from Pradhana. This knowledge of distinctness of Purusa from Pradhana cannot take place without the Pradhana (with all its evolutes). Thus, for its own liberation, the Purusa needs Pradhana. This union is eternal due to the continuous series of connections between the Spirit and the Nature. Though the Spirit unites with Nature for the purpose of enjoyment, it unites again with it for the purpose of achieving liberation.”


Here, the “three kinds of pain” for Janaka are his Visual-Centricity (he is impressed by Sulabhaa’s beauty and youth), and his vulnerability of Sattva Guna and Bhaava. Janaka’s Visual-Centricity is ironically his Spiritual Blindness, and Sulabhaa despite being a wanderer has been Lame until she wanted Janaka’s Darzana (darzane jaatasamkalpaa janakasya babhuuva ha, 12.308.9c) and came to him. It is indeed a Union (samyoga) of the Blind and the Lame – to proceed to Moksha crossing the Antaraala.

2.3. Vijnaanii as Anandamaya

Vyasa does not prominently show Janaka as Anandamaya, however, Shri Ramakrishna shows Janaka as Anandamaya as Shuka’s teacher; besides he drinks brimming Milk from pot, an indicator, in the light of Vedic and Upanishadik Milk-Imagery, of Janaka’s Vijnaanii status because he has actually drunk Milk, become healthy (Hrshta-Pushta in Shri Ramakrishna’s words), and has enjoyed (Sambhoga) IIzvara’s Ananda in a VVizesha way. [27]

In the light of Shri Ramakrishna’s portrayal of Janaka as Anandamaya, Vyasa’s Janaka’s crossing the Antaraala may be interpreted as Janaka’s transcendence from Lower Koshas to Higher Koshas: to be precise, Janaka’s wife helps him to overcome the block of Annamaya; Sulabhaa helps him to move on from Manomaya to Vijnaanamaya.

Vijnaanamaya is characterized by Shraaddha, Rta (= Dharma), Satya, Yoga, and Mahas (largeness) – and the role of all these are evident in Janaka-Sulabhaa Narrative.

For Crossing the Antaraala of Manomaya and Vijnaanamaya, it is essential to realize the true Suukshma Artha of Dharma – that includes (for a Grhii) Recognizing and Acknowledging the Evolutionary Nature of Woman, other than learning and realizing that Dharma is superior to Moksha-Concept. Dharma indeed is the transcended Antaraala that is poised between Samkiirnaa Dharma-Artha-Kaama on one side and Moksha on the other.

Sulabhaa points out that to Janaka:

trivarge saptadhaa vyaktam yo na vedeha karmasu /

sangavaan yas trivarge ca kim tasmin muktalakshanam (12.308.129) [28]

That the Centrality of Dharma is Moksha is Vyasa’s Central Message as evident in the Paandavas’ final Journey [29] and in Vyasa’s final lamentation. [30]

Svami Vivekananda too has noted that in Ancient India “Dharma was compatible with Mukti,” and mentions Janaka’s name at par with Vyasa and Shuka as “aspirants of Mukti.”[31]

The scholars who think that Sulabhaa speaks against Karma-Yoga are clearly wrong; Sulabhaa in fact establishes Janaka firmly in Karma-Yoga based on Dharma with an expanded Vision of Power that sees Self-in-the-Other and Other-in-the-Self.. [32] Shri Ramakrishna says: “The duties that Janaka performed are also called karmayoga.”[33]

Sulabhaa then suggests that he should continue his duty as King because without governance there is no Dharma, and without Dharma there is no Moksha..[34]

If Janaka as Vijnaanii is Anandamaya, then Svami Vivekananda’s Ananda in his caustic Sense of Humour cannot miss piercing the vain-Janakas. To Svami Vivekananda there has been no “greater renouncer” than Janaka with “Godlike thoughts.” However, he observes humourously that “in modern times we all want to be called Janakas,” taking Janaka in the literal sense of becoming progenitors of children. [35]

Interestingly, Shri Ramakrishna once speaks of the Koshas, and in that context he mentions Svami Dayananda who regarded the experience of the AAnandamaya as “inner apartment” [36] – that throws light on the significance of Janaka’s Zariira-Puura.

2.4. Acceptance of Feminine in the Self

The fact that Sulabhaa enters Janaka through his Bhaava, and then Janaka approves/resists Sulabhaa’s Bhaava with his Bhaava to finally accepting her presence in his Self (Zariira-Pura) are not mystic, rather psycho-spiritual, and its significance can be understood in the light of Shri Ramakrishna’s sayings on the essentiality of incorporating the Feminine in Male Psyche.

Shri Ramakrishna suggests that a Male’s Sada Ripus including Kaama is destroyed if he can assume Prakrti-Bhaava (Prakrti-bhaav aarop karle krame kaamaadi ripu nashta haye yaay). [37] He suggests that to conquer Indriyas, one should assume Feminine attitude (Apnaate meyer bhaava aarop karte hay). Without this, a Male is prone to be seduced – or he might be vulnerable to perceived Female Power – a case that Shri Ramakrishna regards Bhanga Bhaava (broken Bhaava). [38] Krshna, to him, is one who became Prakrti-Bhaava to be entitled to companionship of Prakrti” [39] Shri Ramakrishna further explains that one has to take shelter of Prakrti-Bhaava to know Purusha (Purushke jaante gele Prakrti-Bhaava aazray karte hay). [40]

Given the vulnerability of Bhaau Pancashikha speaks of Bhaava as KKshetrajna (sthito manasi yo bhaavah sa vai kshetrajna ucyate, 12.212.40c) – it is the 16th principle that arises from Consciousness of the Kshetra of 15 principles that includes the Bhaava of the three Gunas- Sattva-Rajah-Tamah (saattviko raajasaz caiva taamasaz caiva te trayah, 25a). Niilakantha mentions the Kshetrajna-Bhaava as Sattaa.

Both Shri Ramakrishna’s Janaka and Vyasa’s Janaka need to be aware of the Hidden Kaama in his Self to be aware of Prakrti-Kshetra to be Kshetrajna. The Acceptance of the Feminine is imperative to gain Masculine-Feminine Balance that characterizes the non-gendered, therefore, Kaama-free Kshetrajna – and it also evokes the Image of Ziva as Ardhanaariizvara.

Sulabhaa’s residing in Janaka’s Zariira-Pura is actually Buddhi’s residing in his Self, because in Mbh. Buddhi is Feminine Principle [42] and that Krshna calls the highest principle (buddhau zaranam, Gita-2.49). It is with Sulabhaa-BuddhiiiBuddhi (Vyasa’s pun and irony must be noted in the word Sulabhaa – easy to attain) that Janaka crosses the Antaraala to move on to Vijnaanamaya Kosha as a Vijnaanii.

Sulabhaa’s Janaka claims that he is firmly established in the feet of God (ekah pade paramake sthita, 12.308.28c), and tells her that cleansed of all sins by means of Jnaana alone, and living the while in the feet of parama one becomes Mukta (mucyante pade paramake sthitaah, 12.308.46c). Thus trace of Bhakti is already evident in Janaka, when he is stuck at Antaraala.

To Shri Ramakrishna, Bhakti is Feminine, and Jnaana is Masculine:

“Reasoning and Jnaana are like men who can only enter the outer rooms (baarir baarbaarii paryanta yaay). But Bhakti is like women who can go into the inner apartments (meyemaanush - antahpur paryanta yaay).”[43]

Since Sulabha enters Janaka’s “inner apartment” (both his palace and Shariira, Shariira-Pura), in the light of Shri Ramakrishna’s Wisdom she is Bhakti – and Janaka must admit her to purify his Jnaana to Vijnaana. It is interesting to note that Janaka, at this Antaraala-stage, uses the word Jnaana 13 times, and the word avijnaana once (63c), but he never uses the word Vijnaana. However, in the next episode of Janaka acting as Shuka's Guru in Mahabharata, the word Vijnaana is prominently used.

Janaka and Sulabha act as each other's teacher - Guru - and Sulabha too Crosses her Antaraala - her curiosity in Male (Janaka as representing male) indicates where she had been stuck. Her interest and curiosity in Janaka may also be interpreted as Electra Complex (Janaka is literally father). I would not go to the extent of mentioning Freud, because Freud said nothing new about Male and Female sexuality that is not already stated in "Hindu" Itihasa-Purana.

Janaka attains this Higher State through reasoning with Sulabha – and in the light of Shri Ramakrishna’s wisdom, Janaka’s Jnaana now becomes Jnaana-Bhakti “which is love of God based on reasoning.”[44]

Without this Self-Evolution, Janaka could not have been Janaka, the Ideal.

Undoubtedly, this is one reason, why all the great thinkers of Bengal/Indian Renaissance - Ramamuhun Roy, Devendranath Tagore, Keshab Chandra Sen, Swami Vivekananda, Rsi Aurobindo, and Rabindranath - thought Janaka as the central Cultural Symbol - and Ramakrishna himself is the Antaraala of Bengal/Indian Renaissance through which Rammohun's Janaka passes to evolve into Rabindranath's Janaka.

I will explore that theme in another article.


[1] Shri Ramakrishna used to regard Svami Vivekananda as Shuka
[2] Complete-Works / Volume 4 / Translations: Prose / MODERN India / (Translated from a Bengali contribution to the Udbodhana, March 1899)
[3] All references are from C.E. of Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute
[4] Gospel, 683, 969
[5] asya putrartham yajanabhuvam krshatah siire siitaa duhitaa samutpannaa // ViP_4,5.28
[6] Gospel, 705
[7] Gospel, 172; 455-6
[8] Gospel, 275
[9] Gospel, 296
[10] Gospel, 659
[11] Gospel, 408
[12] Gospel, 972
[13] KA, 2.27.Appendix I; Diary of 8 May 1887
[14] Naarada Parivraajaka Upanishad mentions this aspect of Visual Delight in Male Psyche: “On seeing a young handsome woman (he) becomes inflamed with passion,” VI-35); and Mahaa Upanishad mentions how Fantasy (Thought) and Kaama are related: “Craving in the waters of transmigratory life – a net made of the cords of (variegated) thoughts” (VI-31-32). Interestingly, Kaama and Memory both are connotated by Smara.
[15] In Mahabharata, Woman has the Power or Sixth-Sense Intuition to detect a Male’s Hidden Kaama and Vyasa himself offers himself as an example – and Vyasa’s Self-Realization is related to Janaka because the episode happens after Shuka leaves Vyasa for Moksha following Janaka’s (also Naarada’s) teaching. When Shuka leaves Vyasa and travels in the Himaalayas, the Apsaraas sporting (kriidanty) on the bank of Mandaakinii remained unmoved in their natural state on seeing Shuka as ‘bodiless’ (shuunyaakaaram niraakaaraah Shukam drshtvaa vivaasasah, 17c) (12.320.16-7); however, when Vyasa passed the same place in grief thinking of Shuka (anucintayan), the Apsaraas “became all agitated with grave shame, and some of them, plunged into the stream (jale nililyire kaash cit), and some entered the groves hard by (kaash cid gulmaan prapedire), and some quickly took up their clothes, at beholding the Rishi (vasanaany aadaduh kaash cid drshtvaa tam munisattamam).” (12.320.28-9) Vyasa realized Shuka had been Mukta (30a), and that he was still Attached (saktataam aatmanaz, 30c). In other words, the Apsaraas could see Vyasa’s Kaama through the Surface Layer of his grief, just as Shri Ramakrishna’s Bhairavii could see Janaka’s.
[16] Complete-Works / Volume 4 / Lectures and Discourses / THOUGHTS ON THE GITA
[17] Gospel, 239
[18] Gospel, 369; also Gospel, 524
[19] Sutton Nicholas. ‘An exposition of early Saamkhya, a rejection of the Bhagavad-Giitaa and a critique of the role of women in Hindu society: the Sulabhaa-Janaka-Samvaada,’ Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute 80: 53-65
Fitzgerald (2002) ‘Nun befuddles king, shows Karma Yoga does not work: Sulabhaa’s refutation of King Janaka at MBH 12.308’, Journal of Indian Philosophy 30.6: 641-77
[20]Sutton Nicholas (2000). Religious Doctrines in the Mahaabhaarata. Motilal Banarsidass Publ.
[21] Vanita Ruth. The Self Is Not Gendered: Sulabha's Debate with King Janaka. NWSA Journal, Vol. 15, No. 2 (Summer, 2003), The Johns Hopkins University Press, pp. 76-93
[22] Gender and narrative in the Mahaabhaarata, Introduction, Ed. by Simon Brodbeck, Brian Black
[23] The other occasion is when Nakula tells Yudhishthira in same spirit: chinnaabhram iva gantaasi vilayam maaruteritam / lokayor ubhayor bhrashto hy antaraale vyavasthitah (12.12.32)
[24] Gospel, 969
[25] Gospel, 270
[26] Swami Virupakshananda. Sa?khya Karika of Isvara K???a. Sri Ramakrishna Math, 1995, p- 40-42
[27] Gospel, 516
[28] Niilakantha comments that dharma-artha-kaama are three separate things in parochial sense (Samkiirnaa), the grouping as three like Dharma-Artha, Dharma-Kaama, and Artha-Kaama are also in Sankiirnaa sense; finally Dharma-Artha-Kaama as one, that is, seeing each Purushaartha in the other, and seeing the three as inseparable One is another way of seeing the Purushaarthas – making “7.” Sulabhaa says that unless one sees the 3 Purushaarthas Dharma-Artha-Kaama in these seven manifestations in all Karma (trivarge saptadhaa vyaktam yo na vedeha karmasu, 3.308.129a) one is not Mukta (129). Implied in this saying is that, the Muktalaksha?a (Signs of being Mukta) Dhaarmik is the "8" above these – and Krishna represents the "8"bodiless
[16] Complete-Works / Volume 4 / Lectures and Discourses / THOUGHTS ON THE GITA
[17] Gospel, 239
[18] Gospel, 369; also Gospel, 524
[19] Sutton Nicholas. ‘
Fitzgerald (2002) ‘
[20]Sutton Nicholas (2000). Religiou
[21] Vanita Ruth. The Self Is Not Gendered: Sulabha'
[22] Gender and narrative in the Mahaabhaarata, Introduction, Ed. by Simon Brodbeck, Brian Black
[23] The other occasion is when Nakula tells Yudhishthira in same spirit: chinnaabhram iva gantaasi vilayam maaruteritam / lokayor ubhayor bhrashto hy antaraale vyavasthitah (12.12.32)
[24] Gospel, 969
[25] Gospel, 270
[26] Swami Virupakshananda. Sa?khya Karika of Isvara K???a. Sri Ramakrishna Math, 1995, p- 40-42
[27] Gospel, 516
[28] Niilakantha comments that dharma-artha-kaama are three separate things in parochial sense (Samkiirnaa), the grouping as three like Dharma-Artha, Dharma-Kaama, and Artha-Kaama are also in Sankiirnaa sense; finally Dharma-Artha-Kaama as one, that is, seeing each Purushaartha in the other, and seeing the three as inseparable One is another way of seeing the Purushaarthas –
[29] The Pandavas quit Hastinaapura “dharma.kaamyayaa” (17.1.6)- it is for earning Dharma; not Moksha, nor Svarga.
[30] Vyasa questions Human - dharmaa


More by :  Indrajit Bandyopadhyay

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