Naturally his father was enraged. First of all he was a father and on top of that a scholar. And his son hidden in the womb was saying such things! Not even born yet! He exploded in anger, became engulfed in fire: the father’s ego had been hit. And a scholar’s ego…he was a great pundit, a great debater, knowledgeable in scriptures.
In anger he uttered a curse: when born, the boy would be deformed; his limbs would be bent in eight parts. Hence his name: Ashtavakra means one whose body has eight bends. He was born crippled in eight places; eight places, hunchbacked like a camel. In a rage his father deformed his son’s body.
There are other stories like this….
It is said that Buddha was born standing up. His mother was standing under a tree; she gave birth standing and he was born standing up. He didn’t fall to the ground but started walking! He took seven paces and on the eighth he stopped and proclaimed the four noble truths – that life is suffering…! He took just seven steps on earth and proclaimed that life is suffering, that it is possible to be free from suffering, that there is a way to become free of suffering, that there is a state free of suffering – the state of nirvana.
About Lao Tzu the story is that he was born old, that he was born eighty years old, that he remained in the womb eighty years. Since he had no desire to do anything, he had no desire to leave the womb. Since he had no wants, he didn’t want to come into the world either. When he was born he had white hair, an old man of eighty years!
Zarathustra’s story is that he burst out laughing as soon as he was born.
But Ashtavakra has defeated them all. These are all events after birth; Ashtavakra made his full statement before he was even born.
These stories are significant. These stories contain the essence, the essential treasure of the life of these masters.
Buddha’s story contains the essence of what he taught his whole life…. Buddha taught the eightfold path, so he took seven steps and stopped on the eighth. There are eight parts in all; the last step is that of right samadhi, and only in that state of samadhi is the whole truth of life known. So he proclaimed the four noble truths.
Lao Tzu was born old. People live eighty years, still they don’t have the understanding Lao Tzu had at birth. Do you see people becoming intelligent just by getting old? Getting old and becoming intelligent are not synonymous. At a ripe old age hair may only be white because it has been bleached by sun.
Lao Tzu’s story simply says that if there is urgency, intensity in one’s life, then what might take eighty years can happen in one moment. If one’s understanding is intense it can happen in one moment, and without pure intelligence it does not happen even in eighty years.