Suka, son of Sage Vyasa, went to Mithila to meet King Janaka. He was invited into the palace. Suka was not in the least overjoyed by the attention he got in the palace.
Gnanis are never bothered about the treatment they receive. They are indifferent to warm welcomes, as they are to rude rejections. If they are garlanded, they are not delighted, and if they are stoned, they are not devastated, said Sengalipuram Rama Dikshitar in a discourse.
Janaka asked Suka why he had come to see him. Suka said his father had asked him to meet Janaka. Vyasa wanted him to get married, and that he himself was not inclined to do so. He asked Janaka what he should do. Should he follow his inclinations or pay heed to his father.
Janaka said all who are born in this world must seek moksha. To attain moksha, one must study the scriptures, adhere to their teachings, be generous to gnanis, and be content with the possessions one had. But one should marry, have children and after having done his duties could retire to the forest. Suka said this might be a sensible advice for those interested in worldly life, but not for him.
Janaka replied that one’s senses were wicked, and one could be tempted to do wrong. However, it was not the senses per se that were the cause of one’s troubles. It was the mind that leads one into trouble.
If one’s mind remained steadfast and focused on God, then one would not fall prey to the pulls of the senses.
Suka then asked Janaka how he managed to do his duties and yet remain like a sage. King Janaka said one had to do one’s duty. There would be no salvation for those who failed in carrying out their duties. As a king, he had more duties than most. But he carried them out without fear or favour.
Janaka warned Suka that he may go to the forest, but his desires would follow him. They may lie dormant, but what if they surfaced and led to trouble?
Therefore, Janaka’s advice was that Suka should marry, beget children, perform his duties as a family man, and then retire to the forest and meditate.