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The brahmana, Sudama, visits Lord Krishna in Dvaraka.
How could anyone who knows the essence of life and who is disgusted with endeavoring for sense gratification give up the transcendental topics of Lord Krishna after hearing them repeatedly? Actual speech is that which describes the qualities of the Lord. Real hands are those that work for Him. A true mind is that which always remembers Him, dwelling within everything, moving and nonmoving. Real ears are those that listen to topics of Him. An actual head is one that bows down to Krishna and real eyes are those that see only the Lord. Actual limbs are those that regularly honor the water that has bathed the Lord’s lotus feet, or those of His pure devotees.
Krishna had a brahmana friend named Sudama who was very learned in Vedic knowledge and detached from material enjoyment. Although a householder, he maintained himself with whatever came of its own accord. He did not work to accumulate money. His mind was peaceful and his senses were under control. Because he was very poor, Sudama did not eat or dress properly and, he and his wife appeared very thin.
Although she was trembling due to weak health, Sudama’s wife was not anxious for herself. She was only concerned for her husband. Although she certainly did not like to dictate to her husband, she once approached him and said, “Your friend, Krishna, is the husband of the goddess of fortune and the well-wisher of the brahmanas. Please go and see Him, for He is the real shelter for all saintly persons. He will surely give abundant wealth to a suffering householder like you.”
Sudama had no desire to ask for any material benefit from Krishna, but after his wife repeatedly implored him in this way, he thought, “To go and see Krishna would be the greatest achievement of my life, even if I don’t ask Him for anything.”
Sudama then asked his wife if there was anything in the house that he could present as a gift. For this purpose, Sudama’s wife begged four handfuls of flat rice from the neighboring brahmanas, tied it in a torn piece of cloth and gave it to her husband as a present for Krishna.
Taking the flat rice, Sudama set out for Dvaraka, and while going, he remained absorbed in thinking about how he would see Krishna. Although the palaces of the Yadus were very difficult to approach, Sudama was joined by some local brahmanas and thus passed through three military encampments and then three large gates. After walking through the neighborhood of the Vrishnis, Sudama finally entered a gorgeously decorated palace that belonged to one of Lord Krishna’s queens.
As soon as he entered the palace, Sudama felt as if he were constantly diving and surfacing in the ocean of transcendental pleasure, having attained the bliss of liberation. Inside, Sudama saw Lord Krishna seated on Rukmini’s bed. Krishna recognized His friend from a distance, and so quickly went and embraced him. The Lord felt great pleasure by touching the body of His friend, and because of this, He shed tears of joy.
After seating Sudama upon Rukmini’s bed, Krishna washed his feet and sprinkled the water on His head. The Lord then personally brought all kinds of drinks and fruit to offer His friend, and He smeared sandalwood paste over his body, along with aguru and saffron. Krishna then offered Sudama arotika, after which He welcomed him with sweet words.
All the while, Rukmini, the goddess of fortune, fanned Sudama with her chamara, even though his clothing was torn and dirty and he was so thin that his bones were distinctly visible. The other palace women were astonished by this reception, thinking the brahmana to be lowly and contemptible. But then, they could understand that the he must not be ordinary. After all, Krishna had embraced Sudama, even though He ordinarily only embraced Rukmini or Balarama.
Taking each other’s hands, Krishna and Sudama began to pleasantly remember how they had lived together in the gurukula of their spiritual master.
Lord Krishna said, “After offering remuneration to our guru and returning home, did you marry a compatible wife or not? I am very aware that, even though you are involved in household life, your mind is unaffected by material desires, nor do you take pleasure in acquiring wealth.”
“Do you remember how we lived together in our spiritual master’s school? I, the Soul of all beings, am not as satisfied by ritual worship, brahminical initiation, penance or self-discipline, as I am by faithful worship rendered to one’s spiritual master.”
“Do you remember how our guru’s wife once sent us to fetch some firewood, and after we entered the forest, an unseasonal storm arose? In the dust storm, we lost our way, and there was lightning and thunder. By sunset, it began to pour down rain, which appeared to be more like a kind of devastation, and so we became very distressed. Thus, we spent the whole night holding each other’s hands, wandering aimlessly in the darkness.”
“Then, in the morning, when our guru understood that we were missing, he called for his disciples and along with them, entered the jungle to look for us.”
“When he found us, our guru said, ‘My children, you have suffered so much for my sake! The body is most dear to all creatures, but you are so dedicated to me that you completely disregarded your own comfort. This is indeed the duty of all true disciples- to repay the debt to their spiritual master by offering him, with pure hearts, their wealth, and even their very lives. I am very satisfied with you boys. May all of your desires become fulfilled, and may whatever knowledge you have acquired never lose its meaning for you, in this life or the next.’ ”
Sudama then said, “O Lord of lords, what could I possibly have failed to achieve, since I was able to live with You at the home of our teacher?”