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Lord Vithala and Pundalika

Janudev and Satyavati were a pious couple devoted to the Lord who lived in Dandirvan in Maharashtra. They had a son by name Pundalika (Pundarika). He was noble, respected his parents and was devoted to the Lord. At a suitable age, Pundalika got married. Under the influence of his wife, he neglected the worship of the Lord. He started abusing and ill-treating his parents. His wife started making them do all the domestic work. Tired and exhausted, sad and dejected at their plight they decided to go on a pilgrimage to Kashi. 

Pundalika and his wife also immediately decided to accompany them to Kashi. They made the old couple walk, while they rode on the horse-back. Throughout  the journey they harassed them enough that they even regretted having undertaken the pilgrimage. Enroute they arrived at Kukkuta Rishi’s ashram and decided to break the journey and stay there for a few days . 
At night when everyone was sleeping in the ashram, Pundalika was disturbed by the sound of anklets. He got up and went out to see from where the sound was coming. To his surprise he saw three young and beautiful women cleaning Kukkuta Rishi’s ashram. Their clothes were extremely dirty. And surprisingly, when they had finished cleaning the entire premises and were about to leave the ashram, their clothes were spotless white and clean! This happened consecutively for three days.

On the third day, unable to check his curiosity, Pundalika approached the women and asked them who they were and why their clothes were dirty and how their clothes became clean after cleaning the ashram. The women told Pundalika that they were the presiding deities of the rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati. They said, “every day thousands of devotees come and take a holy dip in our waters and wash off their sins because of which our clothes become dirty. As a result of serving the great Kukkuta Rishi by cleaning his ashram, we get rid off the sins of thousands of pilgrims and inturn our clothes again become spotless and clean and we once again regain back our lost glory.” And the river-deities continued, “of all the people, you are the most sinful one because you ill-treat and harass your parents. We are able to regain our glory because Kukkuta Rishi consistently and constantly served his old parents by looking upon them as the Lord himself. That is the Rishi’s Greatness and Glory .”

These words went straight into Pundalika’s heart. He immediately remembered how badly he had treated his parents. He was overcome with remorse. He narrated everything to his wife and told her that the rest of his life would be spent only in looking after his aged parents. He ran to his parents, fell at their feet and asked to be forgiven. He convinced his parents to return home and promised to look after them well. They were overjoyed at the transformation of their son whom they had totally given up and happily agreed to return back home. While coming back, the aged parents rode on horse-back and Pundalika and his wife walked by their side.
After coming back home, from that day onwards, day and night, Pundalika looked after and served his parents with all devotion. To him they were the manifestation of Lakshmi and Narayana. The Lord was very pleased with Pundalika’s devotion and decided to bestow his grace upon him and decided to come to the banks of the river Chandrabhaga where Pundalika was staying. Lord Shiva came to know about this and wished to accompany Sri Hari. The Lord agreed and asked Lord Shiva to occupy the crown on his head and Shiva seated himself on the crown of Hari in the form of Shiva-linga. 

Hari and Hara came to the dwelling of Pundalika and Hari called out to Pundalika and announced his arrival. Pundalika was massaging his father’s leg at that time and therefore told the Lord that he was busy serving his father and would not be able to leave his duties and come outside immediately. He threw a brick that was lying nearby and told the Lord to stand on it and wait. Lord Hari stood on the brick and with both his hands on his waist, waited for Pundalika. After his service, Pundalika came out of his house and was overwhelmed with the darshan of the Lord. He prostrated to the Lord. Pleased with his devotion to his parents, the Lord asked him what boon he wanted. Pundalika told the Lord that he wanted nothing for himself but asked the Lord to permanently stay there to bless all the devotees. The Lord agreed and stayed there standing on the brick with hands on his waist as Lord Vithala along with his consort, Rukmini in Pandharpur on the banks of the river Chandrabhaga.

Jai Sri Vithala! Jai Hari Vithala! Vithala Vithala! Panduranga Vithala!

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Bhima meets Hanuman – Lifting of the tail!

Hanuman and Bhima

The Pandavas were in exile living in the forest for twelve years. One day, as they were moving around in the forest, a gentle breeze carried along with it a beautiful celestial flower known as Saugandhika and dropped it on the ground in front of Draupadi. Draupadi was wonderstruck at the beauty of the flower and the divine fragrance emanating from it. She longed to have more of those flowers and requested Bhima to get them for her. Bhima obliged and went in search of the flowers.

Bhima walked through forests and mountains, roaring and thundering and exhibiting his might and strength.  Suddenly on his route, he found a huge, old monkey lying on a rock. Its long tail was obstructing Bhima’s path. Bhima shouted at the monkey to move away from his path. The monkey got up as if from sleep and asked Bhima who he was and why he was creating so much of disturbance in the otherwise quiet environment of the forest. Bhima boasted about himself and told the monkey that he was one of the Pandava brothers and that he was the son of Vayu and the brother of Hanuman. Again Bhima asked the monkey to move away, but the monkey replied that he was too weak and had no energy to move his tail. He asked Bhima to push his tail aside and move on.

Bhima, the most powerful and strong who had the strength of ten thousand elephants was now being asked by an old monkey to lift its tail! He was furious by this time. He tried to push the monkey’s tail aside with his mace but could not move it even by an inch. He was surprised! Bhima tried again and again to move the monkey’s tail with all his might but miserably failed. Exhausted, Bhima realized that this was no ordinary monkey. With folded hands he requested the monkey to reveal his true identity.Then, Lord Hanuman revealed his true form. Bhima was overjoyed to see his brother Hanuman. They both embraced each other joyfully.

Lord Hanuman told Bhima not to be arrogant of his might and strength, and this was just a lesson for Bhima to remain humble. Hanuman also advised him on the duties and responsibilities of the various categories into which the society is divided into – the intellectuals, the warriors, the tradesmen and the working class.  Bhima asked Hanuman to show him his huge colossal form with which he had crossed the ocean in search of Seeta. Hanuman showed his magnificent, effulgent, gigantic form to Bhima. Bhima was overwhelmed to see the awesome form of Hanuman and saluted him again and again. Hanuman showered his grace and blessings on Bhima and promised Bhima that during the Kurukshetra war, he would be on their side as a source of inspiration, might and strength. Hanuman also told Bhima that his thunderous roar would resonate along with terrible roar of Bhima during the war which would send shivers down the spine of the Kauravas. Hanuman also told Bhima that he would adorn the flag-post of Arjuna’s chariot and lead them on the path to victory. 

Keep the attitude of the humble-servant of the Lord and watch how your work can progress..... when ego rises in us, the harmony is lost and thereafter our work​ dims in its divine glow. He alone is the Sole Doer and Accomplisher; we are, at best, only mere instruments​. - Swami Chinmayananda

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Krishna and Sudama

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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Vipra Narayana

Vipra Narayana was one of the twelve azhwars (Sri Vaishnavite Saints) belonging to the 8th century. He was born in Tirumandangudi, Tamilnadu. As a child he was very bright, intelligent, and very sattvic in nature. He mastered all the scriptures, was well versed in Sanskrit, good in poetry and music. As he grew up, his devotion to Lord Ranganatha also became more intense. He decided to dedicate his entire life to the service of the Lord and remained a celibate. 
Once he went on a pilgrimage to the divine vaishnava kshetras and came to Srirangam. He was so overwhelmed by the divine darshan of Sri Ranganatha, that he decided to settle there. He cultivated a beautiful flower garden – Nandanavanam. Every day he would make beautiful flower garlands and offer them to the Lord in the temple. This became his daily devoted service. 

One day, two sisters who were temple dancers, after their performance in front of the king were going back when they saw this beautiful flower garden. They also saw the young Vipra Narayana whose face shone with a divine aura. They tried to disturb his serene mind, but could not. The younger sister, Deva devi who was very beautiful felt humiliated because he could not be tempted by her beauty and charm. She challenged her sister and vowed to break his celibacy. 

Next day she came dressed in simple attire posing as a great devotee of Sri Hari. She engaged in conversation with Vipra Narayana and convinced him that she was very pious. Every day she would go and help him to look after the garden, make garlands etc. As months passed by, his mind slowly changed and he started giving her more and more attention and yielded to all her charms. He neglected the garden, garland-making, going to the temple – he had completely become a slave to her and her beauty. Ultimately she had won the challenge! The very next day she walked out taking away the little wealth he had. Vipra Narayana was in a state of shock. However he was so infatuated by Deva devi that he went pleading to her, but she closed the door on him. Every day he would go to her and come back disappointed. He was completely a shattered person. It is at this time that the Lord of Compassion decided to reclaim his long-lost devotee. 

One morning a stranger identifying as Vipra Narayana’s servant knocked at Deva devi’s door and said that his master had sent him to give her a gift — a beautiful golden vessel. She was so happy to receive such a priceless gift and when Vipra Narayana came she allowed him into her house. He did not understand her sudden change but was extremely happy. Next day in the temple of Sri Ranganatha, the priest found one of the golden vessels in the sanctum missing. They started searching for it and finally they found it with Deva devi. It was reported to the king. On questioning, she said that it was Vipra Narayana’s gift to her. On the other hand, he was shocked to see her take his name, because he was totally unaware of this transaction. He pleaded innocence, but the king had him imprisoned. He then realized his mistake, his slavery to her and his total neglect of the Lord’s seva.

The day prior to the day of punishment, early in the morning, the Lord, Sri Ranganatha came in the king’s dream and told him that Vipra Narayana was innocent and it was He, the Lord who had taken the guise of a sevak and handed the golden vessel which belonged to the temple to Deva devi. The Lord told the king to release Vipra Narayana from the prison because he is totally innocent and specifically told the king that Vipra Narayana was one of His greatest devotees. In the morning, when the king narrated this to one and all, and asked Vipra Narayana to forgive him. Vipra Narayana had completely forgotten the Lord, but the Lord still acknowledged him as His greatest devotee! With the Lord’s grace and blessings, he completely dedicated himself to the service of the Lord. With great humility, he called himself “Thondaradippodi Azhwar” which means “the dust at the feet of the bhaktas”. His compositions on Lord Ranganatha are exquisite poetry dipped in the honey of devotion!

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