Chapter 22 of Bhāgavatam continues… The four child-sages have appeared at King Pṛthu’s ceremonial arena, and he has welcomed them. Now he begins talking with them and will ask his first question.
When they were seated on their golden seats, the boys seemed like sacred fire in an altar. With deeply appreciative deference for these older brothers of Śiva, the king said, “Aho! What auspicious deeds must I have done to warrant the company of you auspicious beings? Simply seeing you grants benedictions that even yogis cannot find! What could remain impossible to attain, in this world or beyond, for a person who has achieved the grace of great scholars like yourselves?”
The boys appeared uncomfortable with the praise. So the king said, “You are, like your brother Śiva, devotees of Viṣṇu, so my praise is not an exaggeration.”
The boys accepted this but still tried to dodge the king’s praises. “We always travel everywhere, so what is the big deal about our coming here?”
“You always travel everywhere,” the king replied, “but do so beyond the sight of common people, just as we don’t see the all-seeing consciousness that is the cause and essence of everything we see.”
The boys remained silent so the king continued, “Your appearance among us is the greatest wealth! Even a poverty-stricken home should be treated like the wealthiest home in the world if it welcomes sādhus like you.”
“You have welcomed us with expensive golden thrones and many other fancy things,” the boys said. “A poor home has no such things, so how would they properly welcome a sādhu?”
“Wealth is not important to a sādhu,” the king said. “Every home at least has water, with which they can welcome you.”
“What if their well has run dry?” the boys asked.
“They can spread some grass on the ground for you to sit on.”
“What if their land is barren, and they have no grass?”
“If they don’t even have grass they can sweep a portion of the ground for you to sit there.”
“What if they are striken with illness and cannot even get up?”
“They can simply offer you their heartfelt feelings.”
“Is this inferior to the fancy reception you have given us?” the boy-sages asked.
“Not at all,” the king replied. “Wealth is not important, the feelings of affection and respect for the sādhu is. A home may overflow with opulence and wealth, but if it is devoid of the water that washes the feet of sādhus, it is like a tree full of snakes. One should not recline in its shade.”
The boys’ faces glowed with delight and appreciation for the King’s deep and sincere realization.
“Svāgataṁ!” The king declared, “We welcome you! You are the greatest scholars! You have taken up strict vows in your quest for enlightenment, and, although you are the most serious, devoted, and deep persons, you move about in the form of children! My question for you is this: Most people know nothing except what their senses show them. Plagued by this disease, they value nothing except external objects, and get completely dragged down by their own endeavors to enjoy these objects. O masters, is there any hope for them? Can anything cure them and bring them true happiness?”
Feeling bad for having jumped quickly into his question without asking anything about his guests themselves the king explained, “I don’t ask you how you are doing because there is no doubt that you must be doing well. You are delighted by virtue of your own consciousness, and therefore have no concern with good and bad, or any other illusions. People say you are ascetics, but in fact they are the ones who suffer difficulties, not you. You are friends and guides of us all, so I am asking you – what is the most effective way for people suffering in this world to get relief?”
– Excerpt from an early draft of Part 4 of
Beautiful Tales of the All-Attractive
A translation of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam’s fourth canto
By Vraja Kishor
Parts 1, 2, and 3 of Beautiful Tales of the All Attractive
are available at VrajaKishor.com