Q: Gurudev, King Janaka and Buddha both got enlightened. While King Janaka continued to be surrounded by all the wealth and comforts, Buddha lived the life of a monk, so is there a difference? Are there different levels of self-realization?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Not at all. If there is a difference then it is not enlightenment at all. The mind does not depend on what clothes you wear. Whatever you wear on the outside, you will still remain the same inside. So self-realization is the inner awakening, it has no relation to the outer appearance or make up. In this regard, a king, pauper or monk, all are the same.
Buddha became a monk, and made everyone a monk.
In those days, India had reached the helm of its prosperity, and there were no beggars. This is the reason why Buddha encouraged people to become monks. He encouraged people to become monks and beg for their food as there is no better way to tackle the ego of the egoistic.
When a beggar begs for food, it is natural. But just imagine if a wealthy person has to beg for his food, it is like doing the impossible, and it hurts the ego. So, to hurt the ego, Buddha made all the wealthy people become monks, to make them dispassionate.
King Janaka’s story was different. Janaka was already established in dispassion. Being in dispassion, being enlightened and then ruling the kingdom was also a kind of tapasya (austerity).
Arjuna also wanted to become a monk and go into the forest; he did not want to fight the war. Lord Krishna said, ‘No, sit, don’t become an escapist.’
Yogastha kuru karmani sangam thyakthva dhananjaya, make yourself centered on the Self and then do action, then work in the society.
Do not think that there is a low or high level of enlightenment.
Maharishi Sukhdev, who was a renunciate went to King Janaka, and he waited for three days at the door of King Janaka to obtain knowledge from him. So, being in an Ashram does not mean that one has more knowledge.
One cannot assume that brahmachari (celibate) is less knowledgeable when compared to a saint. The greatest of saints can learn even from a child or a brahmachari (celibate). In fact sometimes you have to learn.
Once a person is established on the Self, the outer circumstances or situations do not make any difference.