This is the first part of the 3 stories from Hinduism and second post in the 5-part series. This is about Sudama, a Brahmin who is a reincarnation of the immortal sage Narada in Hindu mythology.
Sudama looked up from his bed at his wife and three kids sprawled out on the dirt floor in exhaustion and hunger. Their lean bodies expanding and contracting with labored breaths in their stupor. He looked up at the heavens and wondered why he, a poor devout Brahmin suffered this way when he had given himself to a life of pure devotion. He thought of his childhood with Krsna who was revealed to him as an incarnation of Vishnu the object of his worship, the supreme deity that he lived each day to meditate on. Krsna had moved beyond the squalor and simplicity of the Yadavs, the cowherds he was raised with, and taken his place as a royal ruler at Dwarka in the splendor of a magnificent palace, devoted subjects and riding on the crest of breathtaking military victories against the forces of evil.
Sudama's wife looked up at him and asked him what he was thinking. "About Krsna, my dear. Didn't you hear of his siege of the Kuru kingdom?"
"Yes, I did." said Susheela, tucking the loose end of her tattered saree into its hip. "I was wondering if you could request him to help us."
Sudama was silent. Susheela looked into his face. She knew what he was thinking. "You don't have to, you know."
Tears came into his eyes as he looked at Susheela. They had no clothes except the ones they wore. The food was meagre, the alms they received from people they prayed for. There was little left and if they did not get some soon they will surely die. All this in the middle of a devastating drought in Mathura.
"I will go, my dear." Sudama stood up, his mind made up. Surely if anyone would help, it had to be Krsna. After all he had lived out his days worshipping him.
As Sudama prepared to go on his journey by foot, Susheela tore a part of her saree's end and packed together some crisp rice, mingled with the dust of their house, wrapping it in the worn cloth as a gift for Sudama's friend.
For days he walked through the forests that ranged between the cities of Mathura in Northern India to the Western city of Dwarka. As he approached the citadel, he looked up to see the goldem dome of its palace glittering in the noonday sun. But Sudama's mind was filled with awe on meeting his friend.
He approached the palace doors and the two Yadav guards glanced enquiringly at his appearance. He explained that he was Krsna's friend. The guards looked shocked, but deciding in their minds that this was a Brahmin in whom there is no falsehood, they decided to check with Krsna himself.
As Krsna heard that Sudama was at the door, he came to meet him himself, embracing his long lost friend.
Days passed as Sudama listened in rapt attention to Krsna's telling of his exploits, the lessons he had imparted to Arjun at the battle of Kurukshetra, the moral quandaries he had faced, defined and solved in war, justice, judgment and relationships.
In Krsna's company Sudama forgot his poverty and was filled with joy. As he prepared to return the thought of requesting a gift was far from his mind. Perhaps it was the unalloyed joy of being in Krsna's presence. Perhaps it was that a tiny voice at the back of his head kept telling him not to ask anything while the friendship was still pure and unworldly. Sudama simply did not ask for anything. As Krsna rode out to meet another evil enemy in battle, he packed up his belongings and bade farewell to Rukmini, Krsna's wife, and left for home.
As he walked back, Sudama thinks about his friendship and his heart is filled with gratitude. He finally reached the forested area where he made his home and suddely realizes what he had failed to do. Weeks had passed. Apprehensive as to whether Susheela and the kids were still alive, he turned the corner of the acacia tree that marked the beginning of the clearance which was his frontyard. He looked up and what he saw took his breath away- a magnificent palance in the place of his lowly thatched hut! Susheela had seen him coming up and ran out to meet him, dressed in a fine saree. Sudama realized that his unspoken needs were met in the worship of his Lord. He vowed to continue in his austerity as he felt that it was desirable and good to be away from the transient pleasures of life and to be utterly devoted to God.