Krishna and Sudama were childhood friends studying together in the ashram of their Guru Sandeepani. After their education was over, both of them went back to their homes, married and settled down.
Krishna became the King of Dwaraka whereas Sudama and his family were steeped in poverty. Even one square meal a day was difficult for them. But that did not in the least affect Sudama. In spite of all the diffculties, he would constantly remember and revel in the memories of his childhood friend and Lord of all the worlds – Sri Krishna. Often, Sudama would wonder if the Lord of Dwaraka still remembered his poor friend, but then he would console himself because the Lord had promised that he would never forget him. Sudama’s wife would often tell him to approach Dwarakadhish, his dear friend, whom he so often talked about and ask for some monetary help. But he refused. However, when she insisted day after day, he finally decided to go to Dwaraka and meet his friend. Sudama asked his wife to give him something to carry as a gift. After all how could he go empty handed to meet his dearest friend? Since there was nothing in the house she went to her neighbour, explained the situation and borrowed a handful of rice flakes, tied it up carefully in a cloth and gave it to Sudama. With this small bundle flung over his shoulders and a stick in his hands, he proceeded to Dwaraka.
At the gates of the palace in Dwaraka, the soldiers on guard turned him away and did not let him inside inspite of telling them that he was Krishna’s childhood friend. They laughed and scoffed at him. How could a beggar in tattered clothes be the friend of the Lord of Dwaraka? Lord Krishna who was in the inner chambers of the palace with his wives, immediately knew of Sudama’s arrival. He got up and came running all the way to the main entrance where Sudama was. The moment both of them saw each other, they were overwhelmed and with tears in their eyes hugged each other in a tight embrace. Krishna lovingly took Sudama into the palace and seated him on the throne. He called Rukmini who came with a golden vessel full of water. The divine couple washed the brahmana-guest’s feet. Thereafter Sudama was treated to a royal feast. Amidst the feast, Sudama remembered his own hungry children far away in his hometown, but did not utter a word. He rested for a while with Krishna pressing his feet and Rukmini fanning him. He was totally embarrassed, but at the same time was very happy that Krishna, now the King of Dwaraka had not forgotten his poor friend. One whole day Sudama spent with Krishna revelling in the Lord’s glory. He simply forgot to ask the Lord for any help.
Next day when Sudama came forward to take leave of Krishna, the All-knowing Lord asked him what he had brought for him as a gift. Sudama was too embarassed and shy to give the little rice flakes to Krishna. But what else could he a poor beggar bring for the Lord as a gift? He hesitated. However the Lord had seen the bundle of rice flakes tucked behind and asked for it. Sudama refused to give, but Krishna snatched the bundle from him and opened it to find his favourite rice flakes there. Thanking Sudama for bringing what he liked, the Lord very happily took one handful of rice flakes and put it in to his mouth and relished it. When He went for a second helping, Rukmini came forward and took away the bundle saying it was her share now, but with a look suggesting that one handful was enough for the Lord to bestow on Sudama all the riches he needed for a lifetime!
A happy Sudama took leave of Krishna and left for his hometown. All the way through he kept thinking what he would tell his wife because he had not asked the Lord for any help. He came to his place, approached his lane and walked through, but he could not find his simple, humble hut. In its place stood a huge mansion. Thinking that he had entered the wrong lane, he turned around but heard someone calling out to him. He turned back. Standing right in front of the palatial dwelling, were his wife and children dressed in silken clothes and wearing beautiful golden ornaments. Sudama just could not believe his eyes! He asked them what happened. They too were overwhelmed! Overnight their destiny had changed – in fact everything had changed. Sudama knew that this was all Lord Krishna’s grace and blessings. The Lord had more than fulfilled all their requirements — and all for a handful of rice flakes! In sheer gratitude, with tears streaming from his eyes, Sudama invoked the Lord and humbly prayed that his faith and devotion to His Lord should never waver, and he should ever remain steadfast, inspite of all the riches and luxuries around. The Lord had indeed kept up His promise to his childhood friend!
Who is a friend? He who comes to you with love and cheer, when all others have left you, is a true friend. Such a true friend is discovered not by searching outside for the right person to be friend, but by your growing to be the right person to deserve a friend! - Swami Chinmayananda
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