AN EXAMPLE OF PERFECT UNSELFISHNESS AND DEVOTION.
BY SWAMI SARADANANDA.
(A Story from the Bhagavat IX. 21)
(Introduction: - The book of Job in the Christian Bible contains a solitary example of man’s love for righteousness and trust in God. The Puranas of the Hindus, abound with such noble examples, but while the former is extolled so much by students and preachers of religion, the latter have been uniformly neglected. We offer here a specimen from the Bhagavat, to enable the reader to judge for himself its excellence. It is a free rendering of the story, but we may assure him that nothing has been inserted, which is no in the original.)
In the glorious days of old India, when men loved to know and walk in the ways of the Lord, there lived a patriarch, whose virtues were extolled in heaven and earth. He was a king and had a large family and retinue, but he thought he would never be anxious for their support and maintenance. For was it not true that all the necessaries of life would be brought to his door, if he trusted in the Lord and served his fellow-beings, looking upon them all as the veritable image of Hari, the Lord of the Universe? And strangely enough, food, clothing, and all that he needed used to come to him, though he never toiled like other men. The king was quite satisfied with what he obtained by depending upon the Lord, and shared his benefits with all around him. His hospitality was famous and never would he say nay, to anyone, who came to him for food or drink, however low his caste might be. For them, the sympathy of the good king knew no bounds. He tried in every way to supply their wants and felt grieved when he had not the power to do so. Thus years rolled on and the king was glad to think that the Lord Hari, had made him the refuge of the destitute and needy.
But there came a time when the king himself was in want, and his dependents. It was indeed a period of great trial for him, but he continued relieving the distress and misery of the poor, as formerly, and placed his entire confidence in the Lord. The scarcity grew worse, but he would not think of feeding himself and those that he called his own, before he had satisfied the hunger of the poor, who came for his help. Thus, many a day, the virtuous king had to go without food, but was contented, that by depriving himself he could serve his suffering fellow-beings.
The pressure grew harder still and there came a day when he found he had nothing to offer to the strangers who came to his door nor anything with which to feed himself and family! Nothing came to him, even though he depended on the Lord more than ever! So he with all his relations fasted day after day, but never did he disbelieve in the power and righteousness of Hari! Forty-eight days had thus passed without any food or drink, when a pot of porridge, made of flour, milk and ghee was brought to him. The king and his people could hardly move by that time, so much overcome were they with hunger, thirst, and weakness of body occasioned by their fast. As they were going to take their meal, in came a hungry Brahmana who wanted some food. The king receiving him with respect as the image of Hari, gave him a part of the porridge. When the Brahmana went away satisfied, in came a Sudra and begged for food. So the king satisfied him with a portion of the reminder of the porridge. Then entered a Chandala accompanied by dogs, and told the king the he and his dogs had not any food for days. The king gave him a hearty welcome, and saluting him and his dogs as Hari, offered him the rest of the porridge. Then there was nothing left for the starving king and his family, excepting a little drink. At this juncture, a man of even a lower caste than a Chandala, entered and asked the king for a drink, as he was dying of thirst. The noble king seeing him quite tired out and thirsty, addressed him in these sweet words: “I desired not of the Lord, the greatness which comes by the attainment of the eight-fold powers, nor do I pray Him that I may not be born again; my one prayer to Him is, that I may ever feel the pain of others, as if I were residing within their bodies and that I may have the power of relieving their pain and making them happy”! Thus saying, the king gave him the drink, and remarked that his own fatigue, hunger, thirst, and the unrest and despondency of his mind, had all disappeared, when giving drink to one, who needed it so badly!
Now the rulers of the different spheres who could shower wealth and power on him who worshipped them, and the greatest of them all, the creative principle of Vishnu, Maya, the mistress of this universe, appeared before the devoted king and told him to worship them all, that he might attain the riches of this world, and so become free of the wants from which he had been suffering so acutely. The king saluted them all as the different forms of Hari, his only beloved, but asked for nothing, as he had no desire for things of this world, even though he had suffered from the want of them. He placed his heart on Hari, loving and worshipping Him without any thought of selfish gain. So Maya, the queen of the world, and her attendants, disappeared like a dream, finding him thus determined not to worship her for what she had to offer.
Through the great love which he had for his fellow-beings this noble king Rantideva became a Yogi, and realized Hari, the One Indivisible Ocean of Knowledge, Existence, and Bliss, the Soul of all souls, knowing Whom, one attains to everlasting blessedness, becoming free from all wants and doubts. As a result of the exemplary life of this great king, his followers also devoted themselves to the worship of Narayana and ultimately became Yogis.