Mukunda, as a boy of sixteen, determined to see Krishna, meditated and prayed all night, with increasing intensity and devotion, until at last Krishna himself, walking on clouds of gold, appeared to his inner vision. Weeping with divine joy, Mukunda cried out his prayer of gratitude: “O Divine Krishna, lead all thy lost children, as thou hast led me, to thy realm of everlasting bliss!”

During the Muslim domination of India, there lived a great bhakta of Sri Krishna named Damaji. Wholly nonattached to the things of this world, seeing even his outward service to the Muslim king of Bedar as service to God, Damaji carried out his worldly duties so faithfully and honorably that the king placed him in charge not only of his revenues but even of his stores of grain in Mangalvedhe.

In Mangalvedhe Damaji and his family led a peaceful and godly life. Every day at noon, Damaji would feed—from his own supply of grain—all who came, for he saw in each visitor Lord Krishna, and he knew that what he gave to the visitor was in reality an offering to his Beloved.

Then came drought. The crops dried up; the fields were bare. Famine swept across the region. A brahmin priest, desperate for food, came to Damaji with hands folded in supplication. Damaji, seeing the Lord in this brahmin, bowed humbly, made him welcome, urged him to bathe in the nearby sacred waters, then to “come back quickly to receive God’s favor.”

Gratefully receiving and partaking of the blessed food, the brahmin suddenly burst into tears, lamenting his own selfish enjoyment while his wife and children continued to starve in Pandhari. Damaji’s heart overflowed with compassion. Promising the brahmin food sufficient for his family for the coming year, Damaji at once dispatched his servants to accompany the brahmin with the promised grain in ox-drawn carts.

The brahmin’s joy in bringing food to his family was short-lived. When the people of Pandhari saw the grain-laden oxcarts, gnawing hunger overwhelmed conscience. Ripping the bags open, the people carried off every grain. Nothing remained for the brahmin’s family.

The looted grain was soon devoured. Hunger again stalked the village of Pandhari. This time the people went all together to seek out the one who had so generously supplied their neighbor. His heart touched by the people’s suffering, Damaji turned within in prayer to find a way to help. His own supply of grain he had already given; yet, as a true devotee of God, he knew that what was asked of him was asked by God. His wife, herself a faithful devotee of Krishna, urged Damaji to follow his inner guidance in fulfilling what—through the assembled hungry people—God was asking.

Damaji knew that in the royal granaries was enough grain to end the famine. He knew too that if he gave this grain to the people, his own life would be forfeit: “By the loss of one life,” Damaji reasoned, “the people of the holy city of Pandhari will live. If I care more for my own life than for righteousness then death will come to all the people.” And so Damaji gave freely to all who came, without

distinction of caste or out-caste. When the people saw what he was doing for them, they said, “Krishna has entered his heart.” Thus were saved the lives of all the people of Pandhari—the wealthy and high-caste as well as the helpless, the weak, the desperately poor. As he gave, Damaji did so always in God’s name, for never did he see himself as the giver, but only as an instrument of the only true Giver.

They have heard Thy Name, The blind, halt, and lame. Those who are in despair, Wipe Thou their tears!

When the King’s soldiers came to take Damaji to the king at Bedar, Damaji knew that he was to be beheaded. His only request of his guards was to stop along the way at the temple in Pandhari, that he might worship his Beloved one last time. On the feet of the murti enshrined in the temple, Damaji placed his head in reverence and uttered words of self-offering: “O God supreme,” he prayed, “this is my last visit to You. Never leave off Your love for me.”

Hearing Damaji’s prayer, Krishna, who will play any role in order to come to the aid of his devotees, assumed the guise of an out-caste, a ragged beggar, and hastened to reach the king at Bedar ahead of Damaji. Bowing low to the King, Krishna, in tattered garments, presented himself as Vithonaik, hereditary Mahar servant of Damaji. To the king, Krishna-Vithonaik gave a letter, divinely manifested in Damaji’s handwriting, explaining that his master Damaji had sold the grain for the king’s profit, and he, Damaji’s servant, had brought with him for the king payment in full.

But the bag of gold was very small, too small to hold even a tiny part of the value of the grain. And yet when the bag was opened, money poured out—so much that all the king’s men grew weary trying to count it. The king, immensely pleased, gave to Krishna-Vithonaik a receipt, and sent with him to Damaji many gifts—a lifelong position at Mangalvedhe, garments and ornaments, a palanquin, elephants and a chariot!

Damaji, coming separately to the King, fully expecting to be executed for having given away the stored grain, met instead a smiling and affectionate welcome. At once he understood that Lord Krishna, with divine compassion, had exchanged his royal raiment for an out-caste’s humble garb simply to protect his devotee from harm. Tears of grateful devotion poured from Damaji’s eyes. Seeing Damaji’s holy grief, the king too understood that the humble out-caste had been Lord Krishna himself. Touched by the divine light, the proud and vengeful king became himself a humble fellow devotee: “God has become your debtor,” the king said to Damaji, “and through you I have met with Lord Krishna.”

Gratefully Damaji returned all the king’s gifts—for now he wished only to love and serve his Beloved: Where before he had given grain to the starving, now he would give spiritual nourishment to those who hungered after God-realization. With the king’s blessing, for the rest of his life, together with his family, Damaji lived in the temple at Pandhari, showering on all who came to worship the light and joy of his Beloved, Lord Krishna.

In divine friendship,

For Ananda’s “Thank You, God” Tithing

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