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Sudama Vipra Blessed by Krishna

The following is an excerpt from Srila Prabhupada's "Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead", which is a summary study of the Tenth Canto of the Srimad Bhagavatam.

King Pariksit was hearing the narrations of the pastimes of Lord Krsna and Lord Balarama from Sukadeva Gosvami. These pastimes are all transcendentally pleasurable to hear, and Maharaja Pariksit addressed Sukadeva Gosvami as follows: "My dear lord, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna, is the bestower of both liberation and love of God simultaneously. Anyone who becomes a devotee of the Lord automatically attains liberation without having to make a separate attempt. Because the Lord is unlimited, His pastimes and activities for creating, maintaining and destroying the whole cosmic manifestation are also unlimited. I therefore wish to hear about other pastimes of His which you may not have described as yet. My dear master, the conditioned souls within this material world are frustrated by searching out the pleasure of happiness derived from sense gratification. Such desires for material enjoyment are always piercing the hearts of conditioned souls. But I am actually experiencing how the transcendental topics of Lord Krsna's pastimes can relieve one from being affected by such material activities of sense gratification. I think that no intelligent person can reject this method of hearing the transcendental pastimes of the Lord again and again; simply by hearing, one can remain always steeped in transcendental pleasure. Thus one will not be attracted by material sense gratification."

In this statement, Maharaja Pariksit has used two important words: visanna and visesa-jna. Visanna means "morose." Materialistic people invent many ways and means to become fully satisfied, but actually they remain morose. The point may be raised that sometimes transcendentalists also remain morose. Pariksit Maharaja, however, has used the word visesa-jna. There are two kinds of transcendentalists, namely the impersonalists and the personalists. Visesa-jna refers to the personalists, who are interested in transcendental variegatedness. The devotees become jubilant by hearing the descriptions of the personal activities of the Supreme Lord, whereas the impersonalists, who are actually more attracted by the impersonal feature of the Lord, are only superficially attracted by the Lord's personal activities. As such, in spite of coming in contact with the pastimes of the Lord, the impersonalists do not fully realize the benefit to be derived, and thus they become just as morose as the materialists do in pursuing their fruitive activities.

King Pariksit continued: "The ability to talk can be perfected only by describing the transcendental qualities of the Lord. The ability to work with one's hands can be successful only when one engages himself in the service of the Lord with those hands. Similarly, one's mind can be peaceful only when one simply thinks of Krsna in full Krsna consciousness. This does not mean that one has to have very great thinking power: one has to understand simply that Krsna, the Absolute Truth, is all-pervasive by His localized aspect of Paramatma. If one can simply think that Krsna, as Paramatma, is everywhere, even within the atom, then one can perfect the thinking, feeling and willing functions of his mind. The perfect devotee does not see the material world as it appears to material eyes, for he sees everywhere the presence of his worshipable Lord in His Paramatma feature."

Maharaja Pariksit continued by saying that the function of the ear can be perfected simply by engagement in hearing the transcendental activities of the Lord, and the function of the head can be fully utilized when the head is engaged in bowing down before the Lord and His representative. That the Lord is represented in everyone's heart is a fact, and therefore the highly advanced devotee offers his respects to every living entity, considering that the body is the temple of the Lord. But it is not possible for all men to come to that stage of life immediately, because that stage is for the first-class devotee. The second-class devotee can consider the Vaisnavas, or the devotees of the Lord, to be representatives of Krsna, and the devotee who is just beginning, the neophyte or third-class devotee, can bow his head before the Deity in the temple and before the spiritual master, who is the direct manifestation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Therefore, in the neophyte stage, in the intermediate stage or in the fully advanced, perfected stage, one can make the function of the head perfect by bowing down before the Lord or His representative. Similarly, one can perfect the function of the eyes by seeing the Lord and His representative. In this way, everyone can elevate the functions of the different parts of his body to the highest perfectional stage simply by engaging them in the service of the Lord or His representative. If one is able to do nothing more, he can simply bow down before the Lord and His representative and drink the caranamrta, the water which has washed the lotus feet of the Lord or His devotee.

On hearing these statements of Maharaja Pariksit's, Sukadeva Gosvami was overwhelmed with devotional ecstasy because of King Pariksit's advanced understanding of the Vaisnava philosophy. Sukadeva Gosvami was already engaged in describing the activities of the Lord, and when asked by Maharaja Pariksit to describe them further, he continued to narrate Srimad-Bhagavatam with great pleasure.

There was a very nice brahmana friend of Lord Krsna. As a perfect brahmana, he was very elevated in transcendental knowledge, and because of his advanced knowledge, he was not at all attached to material enjoyment. Therefore he was very peaceful and had achieved supreme control over his senses. This means that the brahmana was a perfect devotee, because unless one is a perfect devotee he cannot achieve the highest standard of knowledge. It is stated in the Bhagavad-gita that a person who has come to the perfection of knowledge surrenders unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In other words, any person who has surrendered his life for the service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead has come to the point of perfect knowledge. The result of perfect knowledge is that one becomes detached from the materialistic way of life. This detachment means complete control of the senses, which are always attracted by material enjoyment. The senses of the devotee become purified, and in that stage the senses are engaged in the service of the Lord. That is the complete field of devotional service.

Although the brahmana friend of Lord Krsna was a householder, he was not busy accumulating wealth for very comfortable living; therefore he was satisfied by the income which automatically came to him according to his destiny. This is the sign of perfect knowledge. A man in perfect knowledge knows that one cannot be happier than he is destined to be. In this material world, everyone is destined to suffer a certain amount of distress and enjoy a certain amount of happiness. The amount of happiness and distress is already predestined for every living entity. No one can increase or decrease the happiness of the materialistic way of life. The brahmana, therefore, did not exert himself for more material happiness; instead, he used his time for advancement of Krsna consciousness. Externally he appeared very poor because he had no rich clothes and could not provide rich clothes for his wife. Because their material condition was not very opulent, they were not even eating sufficiently, and thus both he and his wife appeared very thin. The wife was not anxious for her personal comfort, but she felt concerned for her husband, who was such a pious brahmana. She trembled due to her weak health, and although she did not like to dictate to her husband, she spoke as follows.

"My dear lord, I know that Lord Krsna, the husband of the goddess of fortune, is your personal friend. You are also a devotee of Lord Krsna, and He is always ready to help His devotee. Even if you think that you are not rendering any devotional service to the Lord, still you are surrendered to Him, and the Lord is the protector of the surrendered soul. Moreover, I know that Lord Krsna is the ideal personality of Vedic culture. He is always in favor of brahminical culture and is very kind to the qualified brahmanas. You are the most fortunate person because you have as your friend the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Lord Krsna is the only shelter for personalities like you because you are fully surrendered unto Him. You are saintly, learned and fully in control of your senses. Under the circumstances, Lord Krsna is your only shelter. Please, therefore, go to Him. I am sure that He will immediately understand your impoverished position. You are a householder; therefore without money you are in distress. But as soon as He understands your position, He will certainly give you sufficient riches so that you can live very comfortably. Lord Krsna is now the king of the Bhoja, Vrsni and Andhaka dynasties, and I have heard that He never leaves His capital city, Dvaraka. He is living there without outside engagements. He is so kind and liberal that He immediately gives everything, even His personal self, to any person who surrenders unto Him. Since He is prepared to give Himself personally to His devotee, there is nothing wonderful in giving some material riches. Of course, He does not give much material wealth to His devotee if the devotee is not very much fixed, but I think that in your case He knows perfectly well how much you are fixed in devotional service. Therefore He will not hesitate to award you some material benefit for the bare necessities of life."

In this way, the wife of the brahmana again and again requested, in great humility and submission, that he go to Lord Krsna. The brahmana thought that there was no need to ask any material benefit from Lord Sri Krsna, but he was induced by the repeated requests of his wife. Moreover, he thought, "If I go there I shall be able to see the Lord personally. That will be a great opportunity, even if I don't ask any material benefit from Him." When he had decided to go to Krsna, he asked his wife if she had anything in the home that he could offer to Krsna, because he must take some presentation for his friend. The wife immediately collected four palmfuls of chipped rice from her neighborhood friends and tied it in a small cloth, like a handkerchief, and gave it to her husband to present to Krsna. Without waiting any longer, the brahmana took the presentation and proceeded toward Dvaraka to see his Lord. He was absorbed in the thought of how he would be able to see Lord Krsna. He had no thought within his heart other than Krsna.

It was of course very difficult to reach the palaces of the kings of the Yadu dynasty, but brahmanas were allowed to visit. When the brahmana friend of Lord Krsna went there, he, along with other brahmanas, had to pass through three military encampments. In each camp there were very big gates, and he also had to pass through them. After the gates and the camps, there were sixteen thousand big palaces, the residential quarters of the sixteen thousand queens of Lord Krsna. The brahmana entered one palace which was very gorgeously decorated. When he entered this beautiful palace, he felt that he was swimming in the ocean of transcendental pleasure. He felt himself constantly diving and surfacing in that transcendental ocean.

At that time, Lord Krsna was sitting on the bedstead of Queen Rukmini. Even from a considerable distance He could see the brahmana coming to His home, and He could recognize him as His friend. Lord Krsna immediately left His seat and came forward to receive His brahmana friend and, upon reaching him, embraced the brahmana with His two arms. Lord Krsna is the reservoir of all transcendental pleasure, yet He Himself felt great pleasure upon embracing the poor brahmana because He was meeting His very dear friend. Lord Krsna had him seated on His own bedstead and personally brought all kinds of fruits and drinks to offer him, as is proper in receiving a worshipable guest. Lord Sri Krsna is the supreme pure, but because He was playing the role of an ordinary human being, He immediately washed the brahmana's feet and, for His own purification, sprinkled the water onto His head. After this the Lord smeared the body of the brahmana with different kinds of scented pulp, such as sandalwood, aguru and saffron. He immediately burned several kinds of scented incense and, as is usual, offered him arati with burning lamps. After thus offering him an adequate welcome and after the brahmana had taken food and drink, Lord Krsna said, "My dear friend, it is a great fortune that you have come here."

The brahmana, being very poor, was not dressed nicely; his clothing was torn and dirty, and his body was very lean and thin. He appeared not very clean, and because of his weak body, his bones were distinctly visible. The goddess of fortune Rukminidevi personally began to fan him with the camara fan, but the other women in the palace were astonished at Lord Krsna's behavior in receiving the brahmana in that way. They were surprised to see how eager Lord Krsna was to welcome this particular brahmana. They wondered how Lord Krsna could personally receive a brahmana who was poor, not very neat or clean, and poorly dressed; but at the same time they could realize that the brahmana was not an ordinary living being. They knew that he must have performed great pious activities; otherwise why was Lord Krsna, the husband of the goddess of fortune, taking care of him so much? They were still more surprised to see that the brahmana was seated on the bedstead of Lord Krsna. They were especially surprised to see that Lord Krsna had embraced him exactly as He embraced His elder brother, Balaramaji, because Lord Krsna used to embrace only Rukmini or Balarama, and no one else.

After the brahmana had been received nicely and seated on Lord Krsna's own cushioned bed, he and Krsna took each other's hands and began to talk about their early life, when they had both lived under the protection of the gurukula (a boarding school). Lord Krsna said, "My dear brahmana friend, you are a most intelligent personality, and you know very well the principles of religious life. I believe that after you finished your education at the house of our teacher and after you sufficiently remunerated him, you must have gone back to your home and accepted a suitable wife. I know very well that from the beginning you were not at all attached to the materialistic way of life, nor did you desire to be very opulent materially, and therefore you are in need of money. In this material world, persons who are not attached to material opulence are very rarely found. Such unattached persons haven't the least desire to accumulate wealth and prosperity for sense gratification, but sometimes they are found to collect money just to exhibit the exemplary life of a householder. They show how by proper distribution of wealth one can become an ideal householder and at the same time a great devotee. Such ideal householders are to be considered followers of My footsteps. I hope, My dear brahmana friend, that you remember all those days of our school life when you and I were living together at the boarding school. Actually, whatever knowledge you and I received in life was accumulated in our student life.

"If a man is sufficiently educated in student life under the guidance of a proper teacher, his life becomes successful in the future. He can very easily cross over the ocean of nescience, and he is not subject to the influence of the illusory energy. My dear friend, everyone should consider his father to be his first teacher because by the mercy of one's father one gets this body. The father is therefore the natural spiritual master. Our next spiritual master is he who initiates us into transcendental knowledge, and he is to be worshiped as much as I am. The spiritual master may be more than one. The spiritual master who instructs the disciple about spiritual matters is called the siksa-guru, and the spiritual master who initiates the disciple is called the diksa-guru. Both of them are My representatives. There may be many spiritual masters who instruct, but the initiator spiritual master is one. A human being who takes advantage of these spiritual masters and, receiving proper knowledge from them, crosses the ocean of material existence is to be understood as having properly utilized his human form of life. He has practical knowledge that the ultimate interest of life, which is to be gained only in this human form, is to achieve spiritual perfection and thus be transferred back home, back to Godhead.

"My dear friend, I am Paramatma, the Supersoul present in everyone's heart, and it is My direct order that human society follow the principles of varna and asrama. As I have stated in the Bhagavad-gita, human society should be divided into four varnas, according to quality and action. Similarly, everyone should divide his life into four parts. One should utilize the first part of life in becoming a bona fide student, receiving adequate knowledge and keeping oneself in the vow of brahmacarya, so that one may completely devote his life for the service of the spiritual master without indulging in sense gratification. A brahmacari is meant to lead a life of austerities and penance. The householder is meant to live a regulated life of sense gratification, but no one should remain a householder for the third stage of life. In that stage, one has to return to the austerities and penances formerly practiced in brahmacari life and thus relieve himself of the attachment to household life. After being relieved of his attachments to the materialistic way of life, one may accept the order of sannyasa.

"As the Supersoul of the living entities, I sit in everyone's heart and observe everyone's activity in every stage and order of life. Regardless of which stage one is in, when I see that one is engaged seriously and sincerely in discharging the duties ordered by the spiritual master and is thus dedicating his life to the service of the spiritual master, that person becomes most dear to Me. As far as the life of brahmacarya is concerned, if one can continue the life of a brahmacari under the direction of a spiritual master, that is extremely good; but if in brahmacari life one feels sex impulses, he should take leave of his spiritual master, satisfying him according to the guru's desire. According to the Vedic system, a gift is offered to the spiritual master, which is called guru-daksina. Then the disciple should take to householder life and accept a wife according to religious rites."

These instructions given by Lord Krsna while talking with His friend the learned brahmana are very good for the guidance of human society. A system of human civilization that does not promote varna and asrama is nothing but a polished animal society. Indulgence in sex life by a man or woman living single is never acceptable in human society. A man should strictly follow the principles of brahmacari life or, with the permission of the spiritual master, should get married. Single life with illicit sex is animal life, for the animals have no such institution as marriage.

Modern society does not aim at fulfilling the mission of human life, which is to go back home, back to Godhead. To fulfill this mission, the system of varna and asrama must be followed. When the system is followed rigidly and consciously, it fulfills this mission, but when followed indirectly, without the guidance of superior authority, it simply creates a disturbing condition in human society, and there is no peace and prosperity.

Krsna continued to talk with His brahmana friend: "My dear friend, I think you remember our activities during the days when we were living as students. You may remember that once we went to collect fuel from the forest on the order of the guru's wife. While collecting the dried wood, we entered the dense forest and by chance became lost. There was an unexpected dust storm and then clouds and lightning in the sky and the explosive sound of thunder. Then sunset came, and we were lost in the dark jungle. After this, there was severe rainfall; the whole ground was overflooded with water, and we could not trace out the way to return to our guru's asrama. You may remember that heavy rainfall -- it was not actually rainfall but a sort of devastation. On account of the dust storm and the heavy rain, we began to feel greatly pained, and in whichever direction we turned we were bewildered. In that distressed condition, we took each other's hand and tried to find our way out. We passed the whole night in that way, and early in the morning, when our absence became known to our gurudeva, he sent his other disciples to search us out. He also came with them, and when they reached us in the jungle they found us very much distressed.

"With great compassion our gurudeva said, ‘My dear boys, it is very wonderful that you have suffered so much trouble for me. Everyone likes to take care of his body as the first consideration, but you are so good and faithful to your guru that without caring for bodily comforts you have taken so much trouble for me. I am glad to see that bona fide students like you will undergo any kind of trouble for the satisfaction of the spiritual master. That is the way for a bona fide disciple to become free from his debt to the spiritual master. It is the duty of the disciple to dedicate his life to the service of the spiritual master. My dear best of the twice-born, I am greatly pleased by your acts, and I bless you: May all your desires and ambitions be fulfilled. May the understanding of the Vedas which you have learned from me always continue to remain within your memory, so that at every moment you can remember the teachings of the Vedas and quote their instructions without difficulty. Thus you will never be disappointed in this life or the next.'"

Krsna continued: "My dear friend, you may remember that many such incidents occurred while we were in the asrama of our spiritual master. Both of us can realize that without the blessings of the spiritual master no one can be happy. By the mercy of the spiritual master and by his blessings, one can achieve peace and prosperity and be able to fulfill the mission of human life."

On hearing this, the learned brahmana replied, "My dear Krsna, You are the Supreme Lord and the supreme spiritual master of everyone, and since I was fortunate enough to live with You in the house of our guru, I think I have nothing more to do in the matter of prescribed Vedic duties. My dear Lord, the Vedic hymns, ritualistic ceremonies, religious activities and all other necessities for the perfection of human life, including economic development, sense gratification and liberation, are all derived from one source: Your supreme personality. All the different processes of life are ultimately meant for understanding Your personality. In other words, they are the different parts of Your transcendental form. And yet You played the role of a student and lived with us in the house of the guru. This means that You adopted all these pastimes for Your pleasure only; otherwise there was no need for Your playing the role of a human being."

Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the Supersoul of all living entities, knows everyone's heart very well. He is especially inclined to the brahmana devotees. Lord Krsna is also called brahmanya-deva, which means that He is worshiped by the brahmanas. Therefore it is understood that a devotee who is fully surrendered unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead has already acquired the position of a brahmana. Without becoming a brahmana, one cannot approach the Supreme Brahman, Lord Krsna. Krsna is especially concerned with vanquishing the distress of His devotees, and He is the only shelter of pure devotees.

Lord Krsna engaged for a long time in talking with Sudama Vipra about their past association. Then, just to enjoy the company of an old friend, Lord Krsna began to smile and asked, "My dear friend, what have you brought for Me? Has your wife given you some nice eatable for Me?" While addressing His friend, Lord Krsna looked upon him and smiled with great love. He continued: "My dear friend, you must have brought some presentation for Me from your home."

Lord Krsna knew that Sudama was hesitating to present Him with the paltry chipped rice, which was actually unfit for His eating. Understanding the mind of Sudama Vipra, the Lord said, "My dear friend, I am certainly not in need of anything, but if My devotee gives Me something as an offering of love, even though it may be very insignificant, I accept it with great pleasure. On the other hand, if a person is not a devotee, even though he may offer Me very valuable things, I do not like to accept them. I actually accept only things offered to Me in devotion and love; otherwise, however valuable a thing may be, I do not accept it. If My pure devotee offers Me even the most insignificant things -- a little flower, a little piece of leaf, a little water -- but saturates the offering in devotional love, then not only do I gladly accept such an offering, but I eat it with great pleasure."

Lord Krsna assured Sudama Vipra that He would be very glad to accept the chipped rice he had brought from home, yet out of great shyness Sudama Vipra hesitated to present it to the Lord. He was thinking, "How can I offer such an insignificant thing to Krsna?" and he simply bowed his head.

Lord Krsna, the Supersoul, knows everything in everyone's heart. He knows everyone's determination and everyone's want. He knew, therefore, the reason for Sudama Vipra's coming to Him. He knew that, driven by extreme poverty, he had come there at the request of his wife. Thinking of Sudama as His very dear class friend, He knew that Sudama's love for Him as a friend was never tainted by any desire for material benefit. Krsna thought, "Sudama has not come asking anything from Me; being obliged by the request of his wife, he has come to see Me just to please her." Lord Krsna therefore decided that He would give more material opulence to Sudama Vipra than could be imagined even by the king of heaven.

He then snatched the bundle of chipped rice which was hanging on the shoulder of the poor brahmana, packed in one corner of his wrapper, and said, "What is this? My dear friend, you have brought Me nice, palatable chipped rice!" He encouraged Sudama Vipra, saying, "I consider that this quantity of chipped rice will satisfy not only Me but the whole creation." It is understood from this statement that Krsna, being the original source of everything, is the root of the entire creation. As watering the root of a tree immediately distributes water to every part of the tree, so an offering made to Krsna, or any action done for Krsna, is to be considered the highest welfare work for everyone, because the benefit of such an offering is distributed throughout the creation. Love for Krsna is distributed to all living entities.

While Lord Krsna was speaking to Sudama Vipra, He ate one morsel of chipped rice from his bundle, and when He attempted to eat a second morsel, Rukminidevi, the goddess of fortune herself, checked the Lord by catching hold of His hand. After touching the hand of Krsna, Rukmini said, "My dear Lord, this one morsel of chipped rice is sufficient to cause him who offered it to become very opulent in this life and to continue his opulence in the next life. My Lord, You are so kind to Your devotee that even this one morsel of chipped rice pleases You very greatly, and Your pleasure assures the devotee opulence in both this life and the next." This indicates that when food is offered to Lord Krsna with love and devotion and He is pleased and accepts it from the devotee, Rukminidevi, the goddess of fortune, becomes so greatly obliged to the devotee that she has to go personally to the devotee's home to turn it into the most opulent home in the world. If one feeds Narayana sumptuously, the goddess of fortune, Laksmi, automatically becomes a guest in one's house, which means that one's home becomes opulent. The learned brahmana Sudama passed that night at the house of Lord Krsna, and while there he felt as if he were living on a Vaikuntha planet. Actually he was living in Vaikuntha, because wherever Lord Krsna, the original Narayana, and Rukminidevi, the goddess of fortune, live is not different from the spiritual planets, Vaikunthaloka.

The learned brahmana Sudama did not appear to have received anything substantial from Lord Krsna while at His palace, yet he did not ask anything from the Lord. The next morning he started for his home, thinking always about his reception by Krsna, and thus he merged in transcendental bliss. All the way home he simply remembered the dealings of Lord Krsna, and he felt very happy to have seen the Lord.

The brahmana thought, "It is most pleasurable to see Lord Krsna, who is most devoted to the brahmanas. How great a lover He is of the brahminical culture! He is the Supreme Brahman Himself, yet He reciprocates with the brahmanas. He also respects the brahmanas so much that He embraced to His chest such a poor brahmana as me, although He never embraces anyone to His chest except the goddess of fortune. How can there be any comparison between me, a poor, sinful brahmana, and the Supreme Lord Krsna, who is the only shelter of the goddess of fortune? And yet, considering me a brahmana, with heartfelt pleasure He embraced me in His two transcendental arms. Lord Krsna was so kind to me that He allowed me to sit on the same bedstead where the goddess of fortune lies down. He considered me His real brother. How can I appreciate my obligation to Him? When I was tired, Srimati Rukminidevi, the goddess of fortune, began to fan me, holding the camara whisk in her own hand. She never considered her exalted position as the first queen of Lord Krsna. I was rendered service by the Supreme Personality of Godhead because of His high regard for the brahmanas, and by massaging my legs and feeding me with His own hand, He practically worshiped me! Aspiring for elevation to the heavenly planets, liberation, all kinds of material opulence, or perfection in the powers of mystic yoga, everyone throughout the universe worships the lotus feet of Lord Krsna. Yet the Lord was so kind to me that He did not give me even a farthing, knowing very well that I am a poverty-stricken man who, if I got some money, might become puffed up and mad after material opulence and so forget Him."

The statement of the brahmana Sudama is correct. An ordinary man who is very poor and prays to the Lord for benediction in material opulence, and who somehow or other becomes richer in material opulence, immediately forgets his obligation to the Lord. Therefore, the Lord does not offer opulences to His devotee unless the devotee is thoroughly tested. Rather, if a neophyte devotee serves the Lord very sincerely and at the same time wants material opulence, the Lord keeps him from obtaining it.

Thinking in this way, the learned brahmana gradually reached his own home. But there he saw that everything was wonderfully changed. He saw that in place of his cottage there were big palaces made of valuable stones and jewels, glittering like the sun, moon and rays of fire. Not only were there big palaces, but at intervals there were beautifully decorated parks, in which many beautiful men and women were strolling. In those parks there were nice lakes full of lotus flowers and beautiful lilies, and there were flocks of multicolored birds. Seeing the wonderful conversion of his native place, the brahmana began to think to himself, "How am I seeing all these changes? Does this place belong to me or to someone else? If it is the same place where I used to live, then how has it so wonderfully changed?"

While the learned brahmana was considering this, a group of beautiful men and women with features resembling those of the demigods, accompanied by musical chanters, approached to welcome him. All were singing auspicious songs. The wife of the brahmana was very glad on hearing the tidings of her husband's arrival, and with great haste she came out of the palace. The brahmana's wife appeared so beautiful that it seemed as if the goddess of fortune herself had come to receive him. As soon as she saw her husband present before her, tears of joy fell from her eyes, and her voice became so choked up that she could not even address her husband. She simply closed her eyes in ecstasy. But with great love and affection she bowed down before her husband, and within herself she thought of embracing him. She was fully decorated with a gold necklace and ornaments, and while standing among the maidservants she appeared like a demigod's wife just alighting from an airplane. The brahmana was surprised to see his wife so beautiful, and in great affection and without saying a word he entered the palace with her.

When the brahmana entered his personal apartment in the palace, he saw that it was not an apartment but the residence of the king of heaven. The palace was surrounded by many columns of jewels. The couches and the bedsteads were made of ivory and bedecked with gold and jewels, and the bedding was as white as the foam of milk and as soft as a lotus. There were many whisks hanging from golden rods, and many golden thrones with sitting cushions as soft as lotus flowers. In various places there were velvet and silken canopies with laces of pearls hanging all around. The structure of the building stood on excellent transparent marble, with engravings made of emerald stones. All the women in the palace carried lamps made of valuable jewels. The flames and the jewels combined to produce a wonderfully brilliant light. When the brahmana saw his position suddenly changed to one of opulence, and when he could not determine the cause for such a sudden change, he began to consider very gravely how it had happened.

He thus began to think, "From the beginning of my life I have been extremely poverty-stricken, so what could be the cause of such great and sudden opulence? I do not find any cause other than the all-merciful glance of my friend Lord Krsna, the chief of the Yadu dynasty. Certainly these are gifts of Lord Krsna's causeless mercy. The Lord is self-sufficient, the husband of the goddess of fortune, and thus He is always full with six opulences. He can understand the mind of His devotee, and He sumptuously fulfills the devotee's desires. All these are acts of my friend Lord Krsna. My beautiful dark friend Krsna is far more liberal than the cloud, which can fill the great ocean with water. Without disturbing the cultivator with rain during the day, the cloud brings liberal rain at night just to satisfy him. And yet when the cultivator wakes up in the morning, he thinks that it has not rained enough. Similarly, the Lord fulfills the desire of everyone according to his position, yet one who is not in Krsna consciousness considers all the gifts of the Lord to be less than his desire. On the other hand, when the Lord receives a little thing in love and affection from His devotee, He considers it a great and valuable gift. I am a vivid example of this: I simply offered Him a morsel of chipped rice, and in exchange He has given me opulences greater than those of the king of heaven."

What the devotee actually offers the Lord is not needed by the Lord, for He is self-sufficient. If the devotee offers something to the Lord, it acts for his own interest because whatever a devotee offers the Lord comes back in a quantity a million times greater than what was offered. One does not become a loser by giving to the Lord; one becomes a gainer by millions of times.

The brahmana, feeling great obligation to Krsna, thought, "I pray to have the friendship of Lord Krsna and to engage in His service, and to surrender fully unto Him in love and affection, life after life. I do not want any opulence. I only desire not to forget His service. I simply wish to be associated with His pure devotees. May my mind and activities be always engaged in His service. The unborn Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna, knows that many great personalities have fallen from their positions because of extravagant opulence. Therefore, even when His devotee asks for some opulence from Him, the Lord sometimes does not give it. He is very cautious about His devotees. Because a devotee in an immature position of devotional service may, if offered great opulence, fall from his position due to being in the material world, the Lord does not offer opulence to him. This is another manifestation of the causeless mercy of the Lord upon His devotee. His first interest is that the devotee not fall. He is exactly like a well-wishing father who does not give much wealth into the hand of his immature son, but who, when the son is grown up and knows how to spend money, gives him the whole treasury house."

The learned brahmana thus concluded that whatever opulences he had received from the Lord should be used not for his extravagant sense gratification but for the service of the Lord. The brahmana accepted his newly acquired opulence, but he did so in a spirit of renunciation, remaining unattached to sense gratification, and thus he lived very peacefully with his wife, enjoying all the facilities of opulence as the prasadam of the Lord. He enjoyed varieties of food by offering it to the Lord and then taking it as prasadam. Similarly, if by the grace of the Lord we get such opulences as material wealth, fame, power, education and beauty, it is our duty to consider that they are all gifts of the Lord and must be used for His service, not for our sense enjoyment. The learned brahmana remained in that position, and thus his love and affection for Lord Krsna increased day after day; it did not deteriorate due to great opulence. Material opulence can be the cause of degradation and also the cause of elevation, according to the purposes for which it is used. If opulence is used for sense gratification it is the cause of degradation, and if used for the service of the Lord it is the cause of elevation.

It is evident from Lord Krsna's dealings with Sudama Vipra that the Supreme Personality of Godhead is very, very much pleased with a person who possesses brahminical qualities. A qualified brahmana like Sudama Vipra is naturally a devotee of Lord Krsna. Therefore it is said, brahmano vaisnavah: a brahmana is a Vaisnava. Or sometimes it is said, brahmanah panditah. Pandita means a highly learned person. A brahmana cannot be foolish or uneducated. Therefore there are two divisions of brahmanas, namely Vaisnavas and panditas. Those who are simply learned are panditas but not yet devotees of the Lord, or Vaisnavas. Lord Krsna is not especially pleased with them. Simply the qualification of being a learned brahmana is not sufficient to attract the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Not only must a brahmana be well qualified according to the requirements stated in scriptures such as Srimad Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam, but at the same time he must be a devotee of Lord Krsna. The vivid example is Sudama Vipra. He was a qualified brahmana, unattached to all sorts of material sense enjoyment, and at the same time he was a great devotee of Lord Krsna. Lord Krsna, the enjoyer of all sacrifices and penances, is very fond of a brahmana like Sudama Vipra, and we have seen by the actual behavior of Lord Krsna how much He adores such a brahmana. Therefore, the ideal stage of human perfection is to become a brahmana-vaisnava like Sudama Vipra.

Sudama Vipra realized that although Lord Krsna is unconquerable, He nevertheless agrees to be conquered by His devotees. He realized how kind Lord Krsna was to him, and he was always in trance, constantly thinking of Krsna. By such constant association with Lord Krsna, whatever darkness of material contamination remained within his heart was completely cleared away, and very shortly he was transferred to the spiritual kingdom, which is the goal of all saintly persons in the perfectional stage of life.

Sukadeva Gosvami has stated that all persons who hear this history of Sudama Vipra and Lord Krsna will know how affectionate Lord Krsna is to brahmana devotees like Sudama. Therefore anyone who hears this history gradually becomes as qualified as Sudama Vipra, and he is thus transferred to the spiritual kingdom of Lord Krsna.

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