Krishna: The Supreme Personality
The King of Dwarka is sitting on the floor. Righteousness radiates from his lotus eyes. His skin, as dark as a lightning cloud, is covered with yellow, silk garments. His bare chest is adorned with a garland made from jasmine flowers, and a green gem (the Instrument of Peace) sparkles off the gold pendant on his necklace. The soles of his feet are etched with inexplicable symbols: a flag, a thunderbolt, an elephant goad, barleycorn, and a lotus. A peacock feather is nestled between the pleats of the saffron-coloured turban he wears on his head and the ends of his curly hair float above his broad shoulders. He is washing the feet of an old friend.
The palace staff appear perplexed. They talk amongst themselves: “Who is this lowly person? What pious acts has he performed to be treated with such rare affection from our King?”
The friend is Sudama. He studied at Sandipani Ashram with the King. They parted ways during childhood, but Sudama’s love for the nobleman has remained, tucked away in his spirit. Today, it flows from every pore on his body. Sudama is perched on top of the cherry-coloured silken sheets of the royal bed, and the Queen is fanning him. His clothes are torn, and his veins are as visible as his fatigue.
The King wipes droplets of water off Sudama’s feet with the end of his lotus-silk scarf. “Take some rest, my friend,” he tells Sudama.
When Sudama is fully energised, he leaves the royal chambers for lunch.
Downstairs, the dining hall whispers a layer of aromas: sweet notes of saffron, cardamom, and rose. They overpower the earthy scents of cumin and turmeric. Large gold plates are decorated with various types of vegetable curries. They are served with flatbreads, fried bread, and tamarind rice. For dessert, Sudama is presented with tempting desserts: rice pudding, carrot and semolina confectionary, rich-coconut squares, and sweet milk cakes topped with pistachio and garnished with rose petals.
“Eat, my friend. You must leave here satisfied,” the King says.
“Thank you for this food.”
“Sudama, thank the food itself. Thank these servers, thank the cooks, thank the farmers. Thank the earth. In doing this, your gratitude will reach me, always.”
Sudama nods. His appetite becomes as limitless as the King’s favour. He eats with vigour, savouring every bite. Sometimes, he glances at the King in rue, but the King offers a smile as a gesture of consent.
Sudama wipes his mouth. “Do you remember that time Guru Sandipani sent us out for firewood and the storms came? We had to spend the night a-top a tree!”
“Hmm, I remember everything. What fun,” the King says.
“My King, I have a confession to make.”
“What is it, brother?”
“That night, you told me you were hungry… I had food with me, but I never shared it with you. Please forgive my greed.” Sudama’s eyes are soaked in guilt. He looks down at his feet.
The King chortles. “Is that all? Sudama, do you not think I knew?”
The King’s smile is so wide, his eyes smile too.
“I’ve come to make up for it. I do not have much, but I have brought with me some flat rice. It may not be enough for a king like yourself, but please, have some. It will make this old heart happy. If you eat, I’m sure the entire universe will be satisfied.”
“My friend, if someone offers me with love and devotion a flower, a leaf, fruit, or water, I accept it. And you, Sudama, are overflowing with love for me. How can I deny this flat rice you offer.” The King takes the rice and eats a handful.
As he goes for a second handful, Queen Rukmini stops him. “That’s enough,” she chuckles. “Another handful and the universe will be showered with wealth.”
“What is wealth? A piece of gold is not better, or less, than a piece of straw, Krishna says, “Life is just perspective.”
Sudama is perplexed by both of their statements.
Before Sudama had left to see the King, his wife wanted him to ask for some of the King’s wealth. ‘Surely, a king who has everything would not mind if his childhood friend were to ask him for a morsel?’ She had said. ‘I am a Brahmin. How can I ask for anything in return but his friendship? This is enough for me,’ Sudama had replied.
Sudama returns to his village. He is unable to confess to his wife that he had not asked the King for anything. The people of the village are gathered outside a tall house covered in gold. The roof is made from crystal quartz that reflects a rainbow of light out towards the city. Clay planters sit outside large glass windows. The garden is stocked with red, yellow, and pink rose flowers. Two mango trees adorn the entrance.
“Whose house is this?” Sudama asks.
Sudama’s wife comes out of the crowd. She looks healthy, as though she too has been fed well. She wears a heavy-embroidered, canary-yellow sari. “This is ours. Can you believe this is ours? Your friend, the King, is gracious indeed.”
Sudama’s eyes fill up with body water. “I did not ask for anything, but he knew what was in my heart, and more. A friendship with The King of Dwarka is the highest of friendships.”
Sudama continues to remember the wisdom of his friend, every second of every day. He lives in opulence but he does not allow himself to become attached to it. He shares his wealth with his neighbours. He grows an abundance of food in his garden, which feeds the people, the animals, and the birds.
When Sudama departs from the earth, his soul is united with the King of Dwarka: Krishna.
Thank you for reading. This story has been adapted from the ancient Sanskrit scriptures, dating back 5000 years ago and contain within them historical events of the life of Krishna: a major deity in Hinduism, and the original speaker of The Bhagavad Gita; a 700-verse poem containing essential spiritual philosophy.