“While he was tilling a field with a plow in his hand, it is said that I, the daughter of that king, arose from underneath the earth’s surface.” (Sita Devi speaking to Anasuya, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 118.28)Download this episode (right click and save)
One of the names of the wife of Shri Rama is Vaidehi. This references her relationship to the person who was the king of Tirahuta. From a long line of kings sharing the same name of Janaka, this was Shira-dhvaja, the father of Sita. He gave the child that name after finding her in the field, while ploughing it with the intention of performing a religious sacrifice.
Sita’s name of Vaidehi says that she is the daughter of Videha, which is another name for Janaka. One of the most important kings to ever appear in this world, Janaka is mentioned in the Bhagavad-gita by Shri Krishna. What great men do, others follow. Janaka acted as king, but remained Videha throughout.
This is one literal translation to the word. Deha is the body and the “vi” prefix indicates a lack of or removal. How did Janaka rule a kingdom if he had no body? The idea is that the body was not a hindrance. From the Bhagavad-gita we learn that the body continues to change, starting at the time of birth. The soul inside is different.
“As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.13)
A person who is dhira is not bewildered by such changes. Janaka was dhira and more. He was so enlightened that the body worked for his interests instead of the other way around.
The meaning to the Sanskrit word is “addition” or “plus.” The first factor is the individual soul, the occupant within the temporary body. What is being added is the Supersoul, which is the expansion of God also residing within the heart. This isn’t a special benediction reserved only for pious souls. The Supersoul is there within everything that is living.
“The Supreme Lord is situated in everyone's heart, O Arjuna, and is directing the wanderings of all living entities, who are seated as on a machine, made of the material energy.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.61)
Yoga is also known as a link. Janaka was connected in this way. He was a well-respected yogi. Yoga brings amazing abilities, as the influence of the body is greatly diminished. The same spiritual spark animates both the ant and the elephant; the difference in ability we see between the species is due to the amount of obstruction the body places on the otherwise amazing spirit soul.
Janaka was Videha because he was detached. Attachment to the body leads to elation at the arrival of good news and extended sadness when something undesired occurs. Just as the dhira person is not bewildered by the changing of bodies, someone who is Videha does not let the highs and lows of life take them off the path of righteousness.
This Sanskrit word has different meanings based on the context. When discussing Janaka it refers to prescribed work. Despite being detached and expert at yoga, the king did not abandon his responsibilities. He worked, but with detachment. He still did the best job, which is very difficult to do. How do you excel at something when you are divested from the outcome?
“Even kings like Janaka and others attained the perfectional stage by performance of prescribed duties. Therefore, just for the sake of educating the people in general, you should perform your work.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.20)
It is possible when yoga is included. For this reason Shri Krishna referenced the king of Tirahuta when explaining to Arjuna the importance of doing some kind of work. Spiritual life is not an excuse to escape responsibility.
Despite being detached, Janaka was elated when he found that baby girl in the field. He developed affection immediately, taking her in his arms. A voice from the sky assured the king that the girl was his daughter in all righteousness.
Indeed, Sita’s appearance in the family was the reward for pious behavior. A person may be Videha, but if they are lacking devotion to God then they still have further to advance. The famous king not only had the goddess of fortune for a daughter, but soon he would have the pleasure of giving her hand in marriage to the Supreme Lord, who incarnated on earth at the time as Shri Rama.
For many reasons as Videha known,
Detachment from outcomes shown.
Despite in yoga time to fill,
Attention to responsibilities still.
Sober to changes life at him throwing,
Distinction between spirit and body knowing.
Blessed when one day ploughing the ground,
Fortune’s goddess as daughter found.