Once there was a poor brahmana called Sudama, who had been a co-student of Sri Krshna under Guru Sandipani Muni. Lord Krishna and Sudama had wandered together in the forest as good friends. After their studies, Sudama had married and had many children. He received very little money, but always worshipped Lord Vishnu.
Sudama and his family had to beg for their livelihood, but performed their duties well. One day, Sudama’s wife asked him to visit Lord Krishna. She begged and collected a handful of flat rice and packed it in a small bag, with which he went to Lord Krishna. Lord Krishna knew about Sudama’s arrival and He therefore arranged a red carpet welcome to greet His earnest devotee. He decorated the house and the entrance.
Sudama wore torn clothes and appeared like a worn-out beggar, but none of the guards of Dvaraka questioned him and instead saluted him as ordered by Lord Krishna, although it astonished everyone in the palace. Sudama too was astonished to see the hearty welcome which he received. The Lord came down and took Sudama to His own chamber and seated him comfortably. The Lord then washed his feet and that water carrying the dust of his feet was sprinkled upon Himself, Rukmini and all over the house. The Lord said, “The water that washes the holy feet of a pure devotee of Lord Vishnu purifies all.”
The Lord seated Sudama comfortably, gave him water to drink, and asked, “Where is My gift?” Having received such great hospitality, Sudama felt ashamed to show him the small bag of flat rice he had brought and shielded it in the ugly dress he wore. The Lord searched his dress and found it. Krishna ate one handful of rice and said, “Never in My life have I eaten such sweet rice.” The rest Rukmini snatched away from the Lord and ate, uttering similar remarks. She refused to give any more to Lord Krishna. In fact, Rukmini was none other than Mother Lakshmi, the goddess of fortune.
Then the Lord offered him a grand feast. He waited until his guest was sumptuously satisfied before he ate himself. Lord Krishna and Rukmini ate the remaining food with great reverence for their guest. Having received such incredible hospitality, Sudama forgot to ask Lord Krishna to help him, which had been the purpose of his visit. In fact, the Lord knew it and so did not ask.
After lunch, Sudama left Dvaraka. While returning, he thought, “I forgot to ask Lord Krishna for help. What will I say when I meet my wife and children?” Worried about meeting his family, he arrived near his house. However, he couldn’t find his house there and felt he might have missed the way. He looked around for a while. He couldn’t find his home, but instead he saw a wonderful palatial mansion with guards, swimming pool, and all luxury. He couldn’t believe his eyes.
Soon his wife and children came out to receive him. They were well-dressed, wore wonderful ornaments, and appeared beautiful and cheerful. They took him to his opulently-furnished home. With all those wonderful facilities, Sudama was not overjoyed – He continued to be a great devotee of the Lord. Although living in luxury, he neither accepted it as his own nor selfishly enjoyed the pleasures afforded. Thus a perfect devotee of the Lord, although neglected by people in the beginning, became the most admired person in the whole of his village.
A perfect devotee can attain anything because in him the Lord verily dwells. Without sacrifice, no-one can become a perfect devotee. True devotion should not be for material gains.
The Lord knows what a perfect devotee wants in life. Therefore, until Sudama lost the charm of wealth and pleasures, the Lord did not bless him with opulence, for it would only have boiled his ego and plunged him into the deep gorge of materialism, forgetting spiritual consciousness. Therefore, only when a devotee becomes fully detached and surrendered, will Krishna be inclined to award such opulences.
Dhirasanta dasa Goswami