Tuesday, December 25, 2012

66 Bhagavatha -- Sudama

Bhagawan Sukha continues the narration of Srimad Bhagavatha to Parikshit:
There was a certain knowledgeable brahmana, Sudama who was a close friend of Krishna. Although a poor
householder, he was contented with whatever he got without effort. He was always ill-clad and emaciated, the veins visible. His wife too had no sufficient clothes to cover herself. They could hardly have one meal a day and his wife became feeble due to starvation. One day, Sudama's devoted wife said to him: "The spouse of Lakshmi, Bhagawan SriKrishna himself is your friend. He is like the wish-yield tree and the refuge of all. O blessed one, be pleased to approach him.  When he comes to know that you are a householder suffering from want, he will bestow abundant wealth on you. He now resides in Dwaraka. For one who is known to give away himself to his devotees -- it wouldn't be a wonder obtaining worldly materials and wealth from him, although very undesirable."
Thus frequently but gently entreated by his wife, Sudama agrees to visit Krishna. He thought it would give him an opportunity to see Krishna, a gain by itself. "Dear! Is there anything in the house fit to taken to him as a present?" The wife quickly borrows four handful of parched and beaten rice. She ties it up in a piece of rag and hands it to Sudama.
With those handfuls of beaten rice, Sudama sets out on his journey to Dwaraka along with a group of devotees, thinking all the way how it would be possible for him to get a glimpse of Krishna.
In Dwaraka, Sudama passes through three camps of guards and three successive protective walls and reaches the innermost ring of the city, where the palaces of the consorts of Krishna were situated.  He enters one palace which was specially decorated, with the feeling of one who found himself merged in the bliss of god-realisation.
Krishna was at that time seated in a couch with Rukmini. Seeing Sudama from a distance, he suddenly rises from his seat and advances towards him, joyously folding him with both his arms, shedding tears of joy. He holds Sudama with his hands and makes him sit on his own couch. Rukmini stood fanning Sudama with a chowry. Krishna himself brings the articles of worship and washes Sudama's feet. He sprinkles that water on his own head. He smears Sudama with sandal paste and other perfumes. The women of the palace were astonished to see the divine couple thus honouring a near-naked brahmana. They wondered what meritorious deed was done by this man to deserve such an honour, to be hugged by the Lord as though he were his brother Balarama.
Krishna greets his friend with sweet words, "I know that although you are a householder, your heart is free from worldly desires." He enquires about Sudama's life ever since he left their guru's house. Krishna recounts the sweet incidents of their boyhood, when they lived together in guru Sandipani's ashram. "Remember how we got caught in a storm while fetching firewood for our guru's wife? We were stranded in the flood and moved about in the forest in total darkness holding our hands, until our guru found us next morning and said 'My dear boys, you have been put to great hardship on my account. You have shown your devotion disregarding your own self. Let the knowledge you have gained be fresh forever with you.'"
Krishna glorifies the role of the teacher in one's life and says: "I am not so pleased with the performance of daily obligatory sacrifices nor the study of the scriptures, nor the penance of the ascetic, nor the quietism of a recluse, as I am with services rendered by a disciple to his preceptor."
Sudama replies: "O Jagadguru, what else remains to be achieved by me? I have stayed with you in our preceptor's house. The vedas, which are the repository of the four objects of life {Dharma (virtue), artha (prosperity), kama (worldly enjoyments) and moksha (salvation)}constitute your body. You went to the guru's house to study those very vedas, only to initiate the ways of men, as a matter of sport."
Krishna, knowing Sudama's mind, now speaks to him in jest: "O friend! what present have you brought me from your house? I accept heartily with joy even a little offering (a leaf, a flower, a fruit or water) with love and devotion than a lot of presents offered without devotion." Though encouraged by the Lord, Sudama was shy and did not offer the handful of beaten rice which he had brought. He hung his head. Krishna, knowing the mind of his devotee, snatched from Sudama's clothes, the offering of beaten rice tied in a piece of rag, "What is this, dear friend? You have brought me something which I like most. These grains will not only satisfy me, but the entire world!" Krishna partakes one handful of the beaten rice and took another handful to eat, when his consort Rukmini (Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth) holds his hand and stops him. "O Lord! One handful is sufficient to please you and bring one abundant wealth of all kind, in this as well as the next world. Please do not part with me as well."
Sudama spends the night in Krishna's palace, happy as if he were in God's own paradise. Next day, he took leave of Krishna and left for his home. Krishna follows him to some distance, delighting Sudama with his words and bows to him before bidding farewell.
Sudama neither asked for anything, which he thought would be mean, nor was he given any fortune directly. He however felt supremely happy for just having been able to meet him. "He folded me in his arms close to his chest, which is the abode of Lakshmi" he thought. "He did not give me any wealth because it would turn my head away and and make me forget him. He has been merciful not showering me with material fortune." He arrives home, only to find a palatial building surrounded by gardens and ponds. Well-adorned men and women welcome him with songs accompanied by various instruments. Sudama was puzzled. Is this the place he lived? Hearing about the return of Sudama, his wife hurried out in joyous impatience, looking like Lakshmi herself. She bowed to him and closing her eyes, mentally embraced him. Sudama recognizes her to be his wife and enters his home which was transformed into a veritable palace of Indra. "It must be the gracious look of Krishna," he thought. "Oh! his infinite grace! -- he underrates his abundant gifts, and makes so much even out of a small present given by his devotee! May I secure his love, friendship and service in every birth." Sudama, along with his wife, enjoyed worldly pleasures sparingly and without attachment. Their devotion to Krishna grew with time. 

No comments:

Srimad Bhagavatham