It might seem a mythological tale but in reality is about the search for knowledge, liberation, enlightenment, consciousness and the questions on absolute realities of life.
“Janaka and Ashtavakra” is the story of the ancient King Janaka (Sita’s father) who becomes obsessed in his quest for spiritual liberation. It explores his turbulent life, an impending war in his kingdom, and the treachery and intrigue within the secretive world of his palace. When the whole world believes a calamity is imminent, Janaka upholds his conviction and deep-rooted faith that there’s a connection between what is inside and outside a person, and realizes that war is not a solution.
Hence, he goes deep within himself with his guru Ashtavakra, unravelling a new world – and eventually a new reality unfolds for the kingdom and the palace.
“At first glance, it may seem like a mythological story, but it’s an instrument to introduce subjects about the search for knowledge, liberation, enlightenment, consciousness and the questions on absolute realities of life,” the author, Ashraf Karayath, told IANS in an email interview.
“Janaka is a true spiritual seeker, who has always asked existential questions. He is king who understood the follies and meaninglessness of the luxuries which surrounded him, and was also a saint who always sought the right path to be liberated, to be enlightened. Although the story is set a few thousand years ago in India, it throws light on the modern reader’s questions about existence, and one can easily relate himself to the king and his struggles,” Karayath added.
To this extent, “Janaka and Ashtavakra” is a compelling story that sheds light on a reader’s own existential questions, leading oneself to relate to the king and his struggles – and even has a message in these coronavirus times.
“When the whole world is gripped by fear and uncertainty, people lose their expectations and faith, and they will have anxiety, stress and fear. These are all negative emotions and they will impact our mental health very badly, which in turn, will affect our immune system.
“This is the time where we all need to calibrate ourselves to the strength of our inner wellbeing, which is dominant and inherent in us Spirituality is nothing but untapping those innate strengths. We need to have faith in a universal, timeless principle, such as ‘Where there’s a problem, there’s a solution’. Every adversity carries with it an equivalent benefit or truth,” Karayath explained.
The seeds of the book grew out of the knowledge he gained in the hustle and bustle of Dubai’s business world, said the author, who was born in the rural hamlet of Nadapuram in Kerala and moved to Abu Dhabi in the early 1990s after finishing his MA in English Literature.
“As part of my professional and business life, I had many opportunities to study management studies, self-help theories, and principle-centered leadership which we applied in our day-to-day business. I realized that it’s not the hard work that determines a person’s success, but it’s the inspired action that comes from within, when a person identifies his innate strength and vision. Although most of the management theories are deal with quick-fix approaches, some of them were deep, where one can connect truly to his inner vision.
“This is where I have realized that one can connect to his dominant inner being, which a person can unravel only if he goes within himself, and this is where spirituality becomes relevant. It’s actually about how we can cope up with our day-to-day situation, how we can find more meaning in what we are doing. Good artists, scientists, businessmen are highly spiritual, as they have realized their potential consciously or unconsciously, hence they pursue. It is the confidence that is driving them to achieve what they want to achieve,” Karayath explained.
That led him to explore literature and mythology and he had the opportunity to read many books, attend various self-development and spiritual programs. In that path, he found the wisdom contained in Ashtavakra’s Gita “interesting and shockingly revealing” and led him to question “how we can balance our life both with the existential and spiritual questions, and lead our business life”.
“Existentialism was a favourite subject of mine, but what I found in Ashtavakra‘s lessons were more advanced and revealing than what (Jean Paul) Sartre or other thinkers told during the beginning of the 20th century. I was always intrigued about the influence of subjectivity in our life, and how a world evolves out of our consciousness. When I found the profound message of Ashtavakra Gita, an idea was born in my mind to write about it,” the author said.
What’s next on the cards?
“My next project is about the concept and mystery of death and the Kathonipashad (considered one of the primary Upanishad’s) will have some influence on this,” Karayath concluded.