(Delivered in London, 10th November 1896)
Shvetaketu was the son of Âruni, a sage, most probably a recluse. He was brought up in the forest, but he went to the city of the Panchâlas and appeared at the court of the king, Pravâhana Jaivali.
The king asked him, "Do you know how beings depart hence at death?" "No, sir." "Do you know how they return hither?" "No, sir." "Do you know the way of the fathers and the way of the gods?" "No, sir."
Then the king asked other questions. Shvetaketu could not answer them. So the king told him that he knew nothing.
The boy went back to his father, and the father admitted that he himself could not answer these questions.
It was not that he was unwilling to answer these questions. It was not that he was unwilling to teach the boy, but he did not know these things.
So he went to the king and asked to be taught these secrets. The king said that these things had been hitherto known only among kings; the priests never knew them.
He, however, proceeded to teach him what he desired to know.
In various Upanishads we find that this Vedanta philosophy is not the outcome of meditation in the forests only, but that the very best parts of it were thought out and expressed by brains which were busiest in the everyday affairs of life.
We cannot conceive any man busier than an absolute monarch, a man who is ruling over millions of people, and yet, some of these rulers were deep thinkers.