Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Story of King Rantideva

Those were the glorious days in ancient India (Bharat) when men were honest and
truthful and kings were ever engaged in striving for the welfare of their people. In such
times there once lived a king whose named was Rantideva. He had a large and generous
heart and every being came within his embrace of love for he saw Lord Vishnu in every
living creature.

King Rantideva was always making gifts to the poor and the needy. He was famous
in the world for his warm hospitality which he extended to rich and poor alike. Thus
passed many years of prosperity and people basked in the generous love of their king.
But then a time came when the country was hit by famine. The crops failed, the
cattle died and men, women and children starved in large numbers. They flocked to the
gates of the king‛s palace. Rantideva would sit and pray, “O Lord, give me the strength
to remove their suffering.” Then he would go out and distribute to his people what little
he had left. And yet the famine continued. In fact it grew worse from day to day.

And there was a time when he did not have enough to eat for himself. He could not
even feed his family. None of his family members ate unless the masses had been fed.
Sometimes there would be food for his family members, but he himself would have to
go hungry. Nevertheless, he was happy, because his mind was satisfied when his people
were fed.

As the conditions grew worse, the king did not have anything left to give to the
hungry and the starving people. No help came to him. And yet his faith in Lord Vishnu
only increased. Day after day, the king and his dependents starved and the famine

When the king had thus fasted for forty-eight days, someone brought him a bowl
of porridge made of flour, milk and ghee. By this time the king was in no position to
even move, so weak had he become due to continuous starvation. Overcome by hunger
and thirst, Rantideva and his family were indeed glad to see an unexpected meal before
them. They were about to eat when there came to the door, a wrinkled old Brahmin,

much in need of food. The king received him respectfully and gave him some of the
porridge to eat. As they were about to eat again, a beggar came to the door. His face
appeared pinched with hunger, so Rantideva gave him too, some of the meal to eat. Then
there came a sweeper and he brought with him his dogs. He looked at the king pitifully
and said, “Maharaj! My dogs and I have not had any food for many days now. We are
starving for want of food. Now we have come to you, for if you will not help us, who will?”

So the king gave him the remaining porridge.

Now the king and his family had again no food to eat. There was just a little
drink left. Just then, came a Chandala, his throat parched with thirst, his eyes heavy
with exhaustion. He begged the King to moisten his dry lips with a little bit of water.
Rantideva held the cup to his cracked lips. He prayed to the Lord and said, “Please, Lord!
I do not care for the rewards of this earth. Nor do I care for powers of any kind. My
only prayer is - give me the capacity to feel the pain of others and the power to serve
them. Let me not ever be indifferent to their sorrows and their sufferings. Make me
the instrument to give them relief, to make them happy.”

The man drank the water. The life came back into his eyes. And what a surprise!!
the king felt his own hunger, thirst and fatigue dropping away from him. He and his
family members felt refreshed and fulfilled. Suddenly, the Maya, the consort of Lord
Vishnu, appeared before him. She smiled at him and said, “O King, I am indeed pleased
to see your devotion and your extraordinary love for your people. You have suffered
much. If you worship me now, I can remove all your wants for all time to come. I can give

you the riches and the entire wealth of the world.”

Rantideva showed Maya due respect, but asked her for nothing. He said to her,
“I have no use for all the riches you have to offer me. I have no wish to live any longer
than I have to. I do not hanker for the enjoyments of the world, because my mind does
not run after them.” Maya, then, vanished like a dream does when a person awakes.

Then Rantideva was blessed by the presence of the Lord Himself. He worshipped
Him and prayed that he might never be separated from Him. In time, Rantideva became
one of the greatest yogis of the land. He merged himself in meditation. By his wonderful
service to his people and his love for all living creatures whom he worshipped as Lord
Vishnu, he attained the blissful Being of Lord Narayana.

No comments:

Post a Comment