He became enlightened, but his body was too rigid to change with his inner change. His eyes started showing something of the beauty, but the whole body was in such a mess.
The story is that the emperor of India in those days was Janak and he was very much interested in philosophical discussions. Each year he used to call a big conference of all the scholars, philosophers, theologians or whoever wanted to participate. It was a championship competition.
One very famous philosopher, Yagnavalkya came a little late. The conference had started and he saw standing outside one thousand beautiful cows. Their horns were covered with gold and diamonds. This was going to be the prize for the champion. It was a hot day and the cows were perspiring.
He told his disciples, “You take these cows. As far as winning the competition is concerned, I am certain. Why should the cows suffer here? You take them to our place.” They had their own place in the forest.
Even Janak could not prevent him, because he knew that he had been the champion continuously for five years, and he would be the champion this time, because there was nobody else who could defeat him. It is not right to take the reward before you have won, but his victory was so certain to everybody that nobody objected. And his disciples took away all the cows.
While Yagnavalkya was discussing, a very unknown scholar was also present in the conference. Ashtavakra was this unknown philosopher’s son. His mother was waiting for her husband to come home. It was getting late and the meal was getting cold. So she sent Ashtavakra to bring his father home, because he could not win the competition. Why should he unnecessarily waste his time? He was a poor scholar and there were great scholars there. Ashtavakra went. There were at least one thousand people in the conference, the highly cultured and sophisticated scholars of the country.
As Ashtavakra entered, looking at his distorted body they all started laughing. But Ashtavakra was a man of tremendous integrity. As they started laughing, he laughed even louder. Because of his loud laugh they stopped. They could not believe that he was laughing.
Janak asked him, “I can understand why they are laughing – because of your body; but I cannot understand why you are laughing. And you stopped all their laughing with your laughter.” A single man stopped one thousand people’s laughter.
Ashtavakra said to Janak, “I thought this conference was for scholars and philosophers, but these are all shoemakers. They can understand only the skin. They cannot see the inner, they can only see the outer.”