Long ago there lived a powerful sage named Astavakra Risi. The sage was curved in eight parts of his body, and when he walked his movements were quite peculiar and awkward. He was also very ugly, and ordinary people often laughed at the sight of him. Although externally he was awkward and crooked, internally his heart was pure because he had realized his eternal transcendental identity. He knew and realized the difference between the body and the soul. Once, Astavakra Risi was invited by the great king Maharaja Janaka to attend an assembly of saintly persons. As he entered the assembly, everyone present began to laugh at him. Hearing them, Astavakra Risi also began to laugh. The members of the assembly were surprised and said to each other, "We are laughing at him, but he is laughing even more loudly than us. Why is this?"
Janaka Maharaja rose from his throne and asked Astavakra Risi, "Why are you laughing so loudly?" The sage replied, "I thought I was coming to join an assembly of saints and sages, but instead I have stumbled into a convention of shoemakers. A shoemaker's interest is in leather and skin, and I see that all of you are just looking at my skin. Your interest is in seeing if someone is beautiful or ugly, healthy or disabled, young or old. Your minds are absorbed in these temporary things. You are not seeing my soul as saintly persons would. It is simply illusion to place importance on the external temporary body while being oblivious to the eternal soul
Janaka Maharaja's heart was deeply penetrated by Astavakra Risi's words. He realized that the sage was a liberated soul, and fit to sit on the throne. He very lovingly placed him on his own throne, bowed down to him, and accepted him as his instructing spiritual master.