A pure heart will take us close to God, said M.V. Anantapadmanabhachariar. A case in point is the story of the cobbler Raidas.

One day, a group of pilgrims came to Benares in the course of their pilgrimage. They approached Raidas to have their shoes mended. They asked Raidas how many times he had bathed in the Ganga. He replied that he had not bathed in the river even once. The pilgrims then abused him and said they wished they had not had their shoes mended by one who had so little bhakti. They then offered him a coin for his services. But he refused to take it saying he never took money from pilgrims.

He suggested that they offer the coin to Mother Ganga with the words that this coin was the humble offering of Raidas. The pilgrims left, and having had their bath in the Ganges, they said, rather mockingly: “Oh, Mother Ganga, accept this coin of Raidas.” They then tossed the coin contemptuously into the river. Two hands, which glittered because of the gold bangles on them, came out of the river and accepted Raidas' coin. The hands were those of Mother Ganga. A voice was heard, which said: “I am honoured to accept the offering of the great bhakta Raidas.” The hands then offered a bracelet of gold studded with precious stones to the pilgrims and the voice said this was Mother Ganga's gift to Raidas.

The pilgrims decided that this bracelet was worthy of being gifted to the King of Benares. So they offered it to him, without telling him the details of how they had come by it. The king gave the bracelet to his queen, who liked it so much that she wanted another! The pilgrims could not tell the king the truth. So they fell at Raidas' feet and told him what had happened and also asked him how they could get another bracelet. Raidas replied: “If one's heart is pure, Ganga will take up residence even in this small cup,” and he pointed to the cup beside him, which contained water which he used to wet the leather.

Raidas asked the pilgrims to look inside the cup. One of them put his hand in; inside the cup he found many exquisitely made bracelets! Thus, it is not our wealth that God values. A pure heart is what pleases Him.

Keywords: philosophy

More In: Faith | Friday Review