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In the fourth generation after Bharadvaja, appeared King Rantideva, who is glorified in the society of demigods as well as that of human beings. King Rantideva never endeavored to earn a living, but instead would enjoy whatever he got by the arrangement of providence. Because he used to offer whatever he had to guests, Rantideva and his family members underwent considerable hardship. Indeed, the bodies of Rantideva, his wife, and his children trembled for want of food and water, and yet, the king always remained sober.
One morning, after fasting for forty-eight days, Rantideva received some food made from milk and ghee, as well as some water. However, just as he and his family were about to eat, a brahmana guest arrived at their house. Because King Rantideva could perceive the presence of the Supreme Lord everywhere, and within every living entity, he received his guest with great respect and then gave him a share of the food. The brahmana guest ate what was offered to him, and then left.
After distributing the remaining food to his family members, when King Rantideva once again sat down to eat his portion, a shudra guest arrived at his house. Because he could see the shudra’s relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, King Rantideva gave him a share of the food. After eating what had been offered to him, the shudra went away, and then another guest arrived, surrounded by a pack of dogs. The visitor pleaded, “O King, I and my dogs are very hungry. Please give us something to eat.”
While giving all of the remaining food to the dogs and their owner, Rantideva offered them all respects and obeisances. Then, after their departure, the king saw that only some drinking water remained, and that it was only enough to satisfy one person. Then, just as he was about to quench his thirst, a chandala came to Rantideva’s house and said, “O King, although I am lowborn, please give me some water to drink.”
Rantideva felt very aggrieved upon hearing the pitiable words of the poor, fatigued chandala, and so he gave the following nectarean reply: “I do not pray to the Supreme Lord for the eight perfections of mystic yoga, nor for liberation from the cycle of repeated birth and death. I only want to stay among all of the conditioned souls, and suffer on their behalf, so that they might become freed from all miseries. By offering my water to maintain the life of this poor chandala, I have become freed from all hunger, thirst, fatigue, trembling of the body, moroseness, distress, lamentation, and illusion.”
Although Rantideva was on the verge of death due to thirst, he gave his water to the chandala without hesitation, for he was by nature very kind. At this, the great demigods revealed themselves to the king, for it was actually they who had come to him in the guise of a brahmana, shudra, owner of dogs and chandala. Although he could have asked the demigods for benedictions, King Rantideva had no ambition to enjoy material benefits. Therefore, he simply offered them his respectful obeisances while fixing his mind at the lotus feet of Lord Vishnu.
By his good association, King Rantideva’s officers, friends, relatives and citizens followed in his footsteps, and thus they also became first-class devotees of the Lord.