King Janaka was one of the favorite students of sage Yajnvalkya. Yajnavalkya would always keep an empty front seat in his classes, so that if Janaka came, he could sit there and listen to his teachings.
Yajnavalkya had many bright students, and some dull ones too. The dull ones complained among themselves that ‘Sage Yajnavalkya valued wealth of King Janaka more than the knowledge of his “bright” students and that was why he always kept an empty seat in the front’. Sage Janaka was aware of his students’ dissatisfaction about this.
One day King Janaka was listening to a discourse by Sage Yajnavalkya at his forest Ashram along with the other students of sage Yajnavalkya. There was a huge forest fire at a distance, it was moving everywhere rapidly, one of the soldiers came running to the king and informed, “Lord the forest fire has burnt parts of the palace.”
“Go do what is necessary then.” said the King, instructed him on whom to contact and what to do and kept listening to the discourse.
The other students of the sage ran in various directions to save their clothes and stuff, while King Janaka was attentively listening to the words of Sage Yajnavalkya. When the other students of Yajnavalkya came back after the forest fire receded, they saw Janaka sitting there, fully involved in the learning not bothered about the kingdom. They felt ashamed.
Sage Yajnavalkya retorted “The king with all his wealth, queen and palace wasn’t as much worried as you were for the sake of your torn loin clothes. Now you must have realized why we keep an empty seat for him to occupy whenever it is possible for him to take time out and come here from his busy life. Come on now, sit, let’s study.”