Prior to being known as Jada Bharata, the first-born among the hundred sons of Rishabha Deva, who was not only a remarkable king but also an embodiment of divinity, Bharata held the position of the King and was King Bharata. Following Rishabha Deva's prolonged reign, he passed on the mantle of kingship to Bharata before renouncing worldly affairs to become an ascetic wanderer. As a result, Bharata ascended to the throne and became known as King Bharata.
King Bharata was a compassionate ruler who ruled his kingdom with great affection and care for his people. He was so beloved by his subjects that India was named after him, as Bharatavarsha. In addition to his successful reign, he also performed numerous sacrifices and dedicated the fruits of these offerings to the Lord, Vasudeva (Shri Krishna). Through these practices, his heart was purified, and his devotion to the Lord deepened.
Eventually, the time came for King Bharata to follow in his father's footsteps and relinquish his rule over the kingdom. He decided to spend his remaining years solely dedicated to the worship and meditation of God. Accordingly, he divided his kingdom among his five sons and retired to live a secluded life in an ashrama called Pulaha Ashrama.
King Bharata embarked on an ascetic life of worship and meditation at the secluded and sacred Pulaha Ashrama, situated on the banks of the river Gandaki and surrounded by forests. The ashrama had been the site of divine visions for many holy men. Immersed in the holy atmosphere, King Bharata experienced immense joy as he devoted himself to his spiritual pursuits. Tears would flow from his eyes while he worshipped, meditated, and prayed fervently to see God. His mind became completely absorbed in his devotion to the Lord.
While performing his morning worship on the banks of the river Gandaki, Bharata was chanting the sacred syllable Om when a pregnant doe arrived to drink from the river. Suddenly, the roar of a lion echoed through the ashrama, terrifying the doe. In her attempt to flee, she gave birth to her fawn mid-jump and the little one fell into the river's flow. Sadly, the mother doe died of shock. Bharata, who witnessed the whole scene, felt deep compassion for the motherless fawn. He rescued the fawn from the river's current and brought it back to the ashrama.
Bharata took it upon himself to care for the motherless fawn with great devotion. He recognized that the fawn had no one else in the world to care for it and thus considered it his duty to do so. Over time, Bharata's affection for the fawn continued to grow as he gathered food for it to eat, protected it from potential dangers, and cradled it in his lap. His love for the fawn became so consuming that he would fret over its whereabouts if it were out of his sight for even a moment, leading him to devote less time to worshipping Shri Krishna and more time to caring for the animal.
Eventually, Bharata's devotion to the fawn consumed him completely. He neglected his meditation and worship, instead spending all his time searching for the fawn and caring for it. Whenever the fawn wandered off, Bharata would frantically search for it, consumed with fear that something terrible had happened to it. The fawn had become the sole focus of Bharata's life, leaving no room for anything else.
In the end, King Bharata's moment of death arrived, as it does for everyone. As he lay there, powerless, he gazed at the fawn sitting by his side. With his entire focus fixed on the fawn, he left his physical body.
What happens to a person after death is determined by the
thoughts that are in his mind at the time of death. King Bharata was
thinking of his deer when he died, so he was soon reborn as a deer.
Despite being born as a deer, Bharata was able to remember his past life through his devotion and meditation. He was filled with remorse for becoming attached to the deer and leaving his spiritual path. As a result, he left his deer-mother and went to live near the Gandaki river at Pulaha Ashrama. There he lived alone, waiting for the day when he could abandon his deer body. Finally, Bharata was able to leave his deer body behind by submerging it in the river.
After his death as a deer, Bharata was reborn to virtuous Brahmin parents who were deeply devoted to God. Bharata was determined not to be entangled in the world this time, so he pretended to be deaf, dumb, and intellectually slow to avoid people. Despite appearing foolish, Bharata was always meditating on Shri Krishna in his mind. Due to his behavior, people called him Jada, meaning "inert." Jada's father attempted to teach him the duties of a Brahmin boy, but Jada refused to learn.
Following the death of his parents, Jada Bharata's brothers made a brief attempt to teach him, but their efforts proved futile, leading to his expulsion and forced independence. He faced ridicule and exploitation at the hands of many people and was subjected to arduous labor and even starvation. Despite these difficulties, he remained unfazed, finding inner bliss in the contemplation and loving remembrance of Shri Krishna.
On a certain day, while King Rahugana was travelling by palanquin to Kapila's ashrama, one of the bearers fell sick and was unable to continue working. The captain of the bearers then spotted Jada Bharata, who was sitting under a tree, and asked him to take the place of the sick bearer. Despite being approached, Jada Bharata did not respond, and as a result, the bearers forcefully grabbed him, placed the palanquin's pole on his shoulder, and proceeded with their journey.
Jada Bharata, despite his physical strength, moved slowly and cautiously, paying close attention to the ground to avoid harming any insects or worms. This caused the palanquin to move unevenly, which drew the attention of King Rahugana. When the captain explained the situation, the king ridiculed Jada Bharata, taunting him for being old and sickly and implying that he had been carrying the palanquin for a long time. Jada Bharata remained unaffected by the king's words and continued walking in the same manner. Eventually, the king's frustration turned to anger, and he threatened to beat Jada Bharata and turn him into a corpse. Only then did Jada Bharata speak for the first time in his life.
Jada Bharata broke his silence and spoke to the king, saying, "O King, whom do you call a fool? Whom do you say is tired? Whom do you call 'you'? If you are referring to this body, then it is made of the same materials as your body and is inanimate. It cannot feel pain or fatigue. However, I am not this body. I am the Atman, the soul. You refer to me as a living corpse. This is true of this body and everything that has a beginning and an end. Our positions as king and servant are temporary, and aside from convention, there is no difference between us. We are both the Atman, the soul. O King, if I am behaving peculiarly because I am established in the knowledge of the Atman, then a beating would have no effect on me. And if I am truly a fool, then likewise, a beating would have no effect on me!" Jada Bharata, though appearing to be an idiot, was, in reality, an inexhaustible storehouse of knowledge.
King Rahugana, who was a devotee of God, was amazed upon hearing Jada Bharata's words and recognized him as a great saint. Realizing his mistake, he got off the palanquin and prostrated at Jada Bharata's feet, asking for forgiveness for insulting him. He acknowledged his ignorance and expressed his eagerness to receive spiritual knowledge from Jada Bharata, recognizing him as a great sage. The king admitted that he had lost his discrimination due to his pride as a king and sought Jada Bharata's guidance to rectify his mistake and understand the knowledge of the Atman, the soul.
Jada Bharata proceeded to give spiritual guidance to the king and also shared his backstory: "In a former life, I was known as King Bharata. As I neared the end of my life, I devoted myself to prayer and contemplation. However, in my final moments, I became attached to a fawn that I had saved. As a result, in my next life, I was reborn as a deer, but due to my dedication to prayer and devotion, I retained the memory of my past life. Now, I have been reborn in the body you see before you. I keep my distance from people to avoid forming attachments."
‘There is only one Truth, the Supreme Lord, and one goal, knowledge of Him. You cannot attain this knowledge without the holy company of saints and sages. O King, this world is like a dense forest where people, roaming about looking for happiness, lose their way. There are six terrible thieves in this forest—the five senses, and their evil leader, the confused intellect. They attack and rob travelers of their possessions. Wandering around, lost in this forest, they become entangled in the creepers of worldly attachments and suffer from various sorrows and afflictions. O King, you too are in this jungle. What is the way out? Love all beings, practise detachment, offer all your work to the Lord, and with the sword of knowledge, sharpened by the worship of Sri Hari, cut your way out of the jungle of ignorance. Finally, you will gain the knowledge that you are the Atman and not
the body, and will attain Shri Krishna.’
Having imparted his teachings to King Rahugana, the great sage Jada Bharata departed to wander throughout the country. The king, following the sage's guidance, came to the realization that he was the Atman, the soul, and eventually attained Shri Krishna through his Bhakti towards him.
Read the story of Ajamila at https://www.divineleelas.com/post/ajamila.