This is a story of a poor Brahmin boy whose name was Gopu. He was an orphan, but he was very hard working and believed that one day, GOD will surely help him get a home and family. One day, when he was working with a farmer, helping him in his field in return of food, a great old sage, Maharishi Dayananda was passing by.
He felt thirsty and hungry approached the farmer for some water. The farmer was a very selfish person refused him water and told him to go away.
Seeing this, Gopu came forward and asked the sage to take a seat under the shady peepal tree. He then ran to get water from the pot which he had filled up in the morning for the entire day. Without thinking even for a second, he brought that for the sage and offered him the water and the roti and jaggery which he had earned that day for his work. The farmer was surprised to see this and asked Gopu, ‘Why did you give your food and water to the Sage? Now, what will you have for lunch?’
Gopu said in a simple tone, ‘ If I will think about me, this old sage will suffer from hunger and thirst especially since he is coming from such a far distance and he has to travel so far again to reach his home. And when my mother was alive, she had told me that, ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’ (Guests are GODS), and so I did not think twice. I am going to accompany him till he reaches his home especially since he has to travel through the dense forest and he might lose his way in the evening. I know all the ways and I can always come back tomorrow. I shall never disappoint my parents who are watching my deeds from heaven. Their blessings are precious to me.’
The sage was listening to Gopu very intently and was very impressed with his sensitivity towards fellow human beings without expecting anything from anybody. He saluted Gopu parents in his mind for giving birth to such a nice boy and felt sad for Gopu that he lost his parents at such a tender age of 5 years. He decided something in his mind and smiled to himself.
After he rested for a while, he asked Gopu if he is ready to come with him. Gopu asked Maharishi, ‘Guruji, are you feeling all right? It’s a long way and on the way won’t get any rest since we have to cross the dense forest before sunset or we will be in the danger of ferocious animals and it is already past afternoon. We might have to walk very fast and I feel you are not in a state of walking 2 miles. You can always take rest in my hut and we will leave tomorrow early morning.’
Maharishi was very impressed and nodded. He was indeed very tired after walking so long in the scorching sun. Just then, as both of them started to proceed to Gopu’s hut, one of the devotees (whose name was Seth Manikchand) of Maharishi was passing by in his chariot. As soon as he saw Guruji, he immediately got down from his chariot and said, ‘Guruji, do accept my pranam. Where are you going, Guruji? What a co-incidence that I was going to your ashram to invite you and Guru Mata and all your students for the yagya arranged by me next month for my one and only son’s welfare and prosperity. And, for that I could think only about you since there is nobody as knowledgeable and gyani as you in this entire country. I shall be honored if I can accompany you till your cottage.’
Maharishi Dayananda was very pleased and said, ‘Thank you so much for your kindness, but I need a favor from you. If you don’t mind, I want this young man to accompany me.’ And he pointed his finger towards Gopu, who was standing a little farther, lost in his own world. Manikchand looked at Gopu clad in torn dhoti and no shirt to cover his body. He said, ‘Guruji, I have no problem in taking this young man with us. There is plenty of space in the chariot. Your wish is my command, Gurudev. Would you like to have some fruits before we start?’
‘No need, vatsa, we will have the refreshers once we reach ashram. Do not worry about my food. Gopu took care of it and I am not hungry now.’
Manikchand was puzzled as to how can I beggar alike Gopu take care of Gurudev’s lunch? But he was scared of Gurudev’s anger by probing any further. Gurudev could read the doubt on the face of his disciple and smiled and said, ‘You must be wondering as to how a poor boy can feed me? Well this young boy is certainly not an ordinary boy. He offered me his own lunch and believe me, I had never before had such a wonderful lunch. It was million times better than the lunch I had at kings’ palace.’
Manikchand was impressed and called his servants to bring a new pair of clothes for Gopu. When Gopu came in his new attire, Gurudev was so happy to see him. Gopu’s face was shining with happiness and he looked innocent like an angel. Manikchand ordered for some food for Gopu. After Gopu finished his lunch, all of them started for the journey. On the way, Gopu slept off since he had toiled so hard at the field that day. He dreamt of payasam, sweets, khichdi and all food items which he always loved to eat. This was his usual dream every night and it made him happy. He never complained to GOD that he did not have food or clothes or shelter. He always used to help others in whatever ways he could and would never expect more than what he deserved. He could never see tears in others’ eyes.
Every day was a new day and somehow or other he will manage to get food for one meal a day and he will be content.
While Gopu was lost in his blissful dream, they reached ashram. It was very late in the night and so Gurudev asked Manikchand to stay back at ashram for the night and take rest instead of going back in the night through the dense forest. Manikchand willingly went to sleep in the guest cottage arranged by students. He had his dinner and went to sleep.
Gopu was gently wakened by Gurumata. He was surprised to find himself in a complete environment, Gurudev had already briefed Gurumata about Gopu and had asked her, “Do you agree with my decision to let him stay with us in our ashram and help us out with our chores? He can help us get wood for fire from the forest, milk the cows, wash vessels, get flowers for puja, help you in preparing prasadam and be there with you whenever you will need him…..?” Gurumata liked Gopu’s innocent eyes and she could feel that he is no ordinary boy. There was something about him which was divine.
When Gopu was asked whether he wanted to stay with them, he was pleased beyond words and could not speak. He immediately touched the feet of Gurudev and Gurumata and took their blessings. He said in a modest tone,
“Gurudev, I have no words to express my gratitude and I assure you that I will surely do my best to help you and Gurumata in whatever way I can. You have given life to an orphan.”
Life was smooth after that for Gopu and he was very happy there. He will work hard to please everybody and will never complain about being tired. He learnt wonderful dishes from Gurumata and will prepare prasadam under her instructions. One day Gurumata asked him, ‘Gopu, what do you want from your life, my child?” to which Gopu answered, ‘I got everything without asking anything. I am very content with my life and I am happy that Lord Jaggannath listened to this orphan’s prayers.’
Gurumata was so overwhelmed that tears started flowing from her eyes. Gopu became Gurumata’s favorite disciple very soon. He will obey all her wishes and will work hard to help her with kitchen works.
Slowly, one month passed away and one fine day, when Gopu was preparing the prasadam under the guidance of Gurumata, Gurudev came inside the kitchen. He looked very worried, to which Gurumata said, ‘what is wrong, swami? Is everything all right with you? Do you need water?’ Even Gopu was worried to see Gurudev like this. He immediately ran inside the hut to get some misri (sweet candy) lemonade.
After having the lemonade, Gurudev looked better and asked Gopu to sit beside him. Then, he told Gurumata, “I forgot to inform both of you that Manikchand has organized a yagya for his son and for that I need all my desciples to come with me. Since we have to stay there for one week, I will take you also with me because I cannot leave you in Ashram alone in a jungle. In that case, there will be nobody left to take care of the Ashram and our GOD whom we offer prasadam everyday and do puja regularly. And so, who will take care of ashram and GOD?’
Gopu immediately stood up and went near Gurudev and sat near his feet with folded hands and said, ‘Gurudev, will you trust me with the responsibility of taking care of ashram and GOD? I don’t know the mantras but I know how to prepare prasadam and I will never keep GOD hungry and I will keep the Ashram neat and clean like it is now. Trust me, Gurudev and give me this opportunity to prove myself. I am sure that I will succeed in this endeavor of mine since I have the blessings of you and Gurumata.”
Tears started rolling down the eyes of Gurudev and Gurumata and they were speechless. They were proud to have a sincere, honest and hard working boy like Gopu with them.
Finally the day came when Gopu waved bye to all his friends and Gurudev and Gurumata for one week. He was not nervous at all. He decided to go to sleep early that night since he has to prepare breakfast for GOD early morning. So, he went to sleep early that night. Early morning even before it was dawn, he got up and started his work. Today he was very happy and excited since he has to carry out the most important work of taking care of GOD.
He took his bath in the cold river and came back running. He had already arranged the fire woods near the wooden stove the previous night. He lighted the fire woods and put a vessel full of milk to boil. In the meantime, he made dough to make pooris. When the milk started to boil, he added basmati rice to it and cardamom also for flavoring. Once payasam was ready, he put a vessel full of water and chana dal on to the stove. After Chana dal curry was made, he deep fried hot pooris and took all the prepared food, payasam, pooris and chana dal curry to puja room. He cleaned the room nicely, opened the windows to let in fresh breeze and sunshine. He lighted diyas and karpooram, made garlands from fresh flowers. He then, brought a big vessel of warm water and fresh towel. Then, he took each GOD from their respective ashanas and made them take bath individually in the big vessel of warm water. After gently rubbing each one of them with the soft towels, he put them back on their previous positions. He then asked all of them to wait till he serves the breakfast and he ran outside to get fresh, washed banana leaves (as plates) to serve food.
Suddenly he remembered that he forgot to light ‘diyas’ and so he came back and lighted ghee diyas around all the Gods and the entire room was filled with nice aroma of ghee diyas and incense sticks.
He then said to himself, ‘All done; now all I have to do is to serve food. It is so late. They must be very hungry. Okay, let’s hurry up…’ and he carried the vessels with food one by one to the puja room. He then carried water and plates and earthenware vessels to serve curry.
He served with great care and tried not to overlook minute details. Then he started fanning all the Gods with hand held palm leaf fan and said, ‘Now, everything is done, Prabhu. Please have your breakfast because until you finish the breakfast, even I cannot have mine and moreover I have to start preparing lunch as well. So, please have your breakfast and do forgive me if anything is wrong. I promise to improve my skills with each day and you can always guide me and help me improve. I am sure that I will be an obedient student.’ He waited and waited and waited……….but nobody came and he got worried that there must be something wrong with the food or with his puja. So, he carried back all the vessels back to kitchen and warmed the food again and also added more ghee to the diyas and opened all doors and windows of the puja room. He thought, ‘They must be feeling stuffy inside this room and that must be the reason for their not taking breakfast.’ He thought and thought and then came to the conclusion that he will set the breakfast under the big, old banyan tree. He brought silk clothes from inside Gurumata’s closet kept in the puja room and also all the special silver vessels out. He also carried a new cot out all by himself, and then he spread the silk bedsheet, decorated the sides with fresh flowers and also got new banana leaves
(all washed and dried) and then warmed the food again. And laid the food with great affection. Then he carried all the idols very very carefully on the cot and got them seated on nice individual cushions made with flower bed. Then, he served them food and waited with bated breath for them to come and have food. But, alas!! Nobody came.
What happened? What did I do wrong? What went wrong?
All these questions made him restless and impatient. He was feeling guilty that since he did not his scriptures, all these happened. Today, God will stay hungry only because of him.
And so he went inside his hut and started sobbing uncontrollably. Suddenly, this thought came into his mind, “Why don’t I check Gurudev’s daily scripture lessons? May be I will get some help from there.”
He ran towards Gurudev’s hut and opened the daily lessons. The lesson for that day said, “God understands the language of love and innocence and HE never craves for complicated scriptures to please HIM.”
Gopu wiped his tears and went out towards the banyan tree and stood there in front of all the idols and said in an authorative tone, “ See, I don’t know what made you upset today. You know very well that I don’t know how to pronounce ‘mantras’ and I don’t know how to become innocent. But I surely prepared the breakfast with true love in my heart. Then, why are you not having it? Why are you testing my patience now? You are not even talking to me and telling me what went wrong, where? You tell me and I will rectify my mistakes. I woke up so early and cooked for you and did whatever I could think of with my limited vision and understanding. Don’t you have any pity on me? I am so hungry myself, but how can I have when you have not touched a morsel of food?”
He waited and waited but nobody came to have food. He was hungry and now anger enveloped him and he got up and got a big stick from behind his hut which he used to manage the cattle, and said with tears filled eyes, “Look, I don’t know why you are doing this to me, but I can’t see you and myself hungry. Since Gurudev is not here, I am your care taker and mother and when a child is naughty, mother has to be strict and that is exactly what I am going to do. If all of you won’t come to have food by the time I count 10 shells, I have to beat you, which I hate to do.”
And lo behold! All of them came. Lord Krishna, Jagannath, Hanuman, Ganesha, Shiva and Goddess Durga, Parvathy, Saraswati and Lashmi.
They all came and took their seats and had food. Gopu started crying and apologized profusely for being strict. They invited him to join them and he did. They had their breakfast and asked Gopu to prepare an equally delicious lunch for the afternoon as well and for dinner also.
Gopu was delighted that Gods were not angry with him and he was thrilled to prepare lunch.
This ritual went on for the whole week and finally the day came when Gurudev and all the disciples accompanied by Gurumata as well. They were pleasantly surprised to find the ashram well maintained. But Gopu was not to be seen anywhere. They got worried when they did not find him anywhere near the ashram. Suddenly, one of the students shouted, “Gurudev! Here comes Gopu with a basket on his head.”
Gurumata ran towards him to hug him and tears of relief rolled down her cheeks. Gopu’s eyes also moistened with tears to see Gurumata after one full week.
“Where were you, Gopu? We got so worried when we did not see you around. You should not have gone to the deep forest all by yourself. We enough food in the store room for more than a week.”
Gopu looked surprised and said, “Gurudev, the food was over three days before because I had to cook for so many guests as well and so food got over. But, God did help by getting me the rice, pulses and wheat flour and I used to get fruits from forest for making fruit payasam. Don’t worry; I did not go alone there. Lord Ganesh accompanied me everytime I went and we had lots of fun in the forest. Gurudev, can I prepare Gods’ meals every day? If you would permit me, I will be very happy. I will prepare under Gurumata’s guidance.
Gurudev and evrybody were looking at Gopu as if they have seen stars in the afternoon and were not sure what to believe and what not to believe?
Gopu went on rattling what happened and all the while he was oblivious of his surrounding, eyes were wide open, surprise was written all over the faces of everybody present there including Gurudev and Gurumata.
His face was shining and there was no doubt that he was telling the truth.
The very next moment, Gurudev bowed his head onto Gopu’s feet. Gopu sprung up in shock and tears started rolling down his cheeks that he said something to hurt Gurudev. But Gurumata came forward and held Gopu’s hands and wiped away his tears with her sari.
Then, Gurudev hugged him and started talking in a trembling voice overwhelmed with emotions, ‘ You were there with me for such a long time and I could never realize that all this while you were the only one close to GOD because you were doing pooja every living moment of your life and without any expectation. And like an ignorant soul, I was thinking that scriptures are everything. You have opened my eyes, son. May God bless you always with HIS mercy!! Because of your innocence and devotion, God came to our ashram and henceforth, only you will offer prasadam to God. I will never take that happiness away from you ever and nobody will enter the room when you are offering prasadam because God will come only for you.”
“Go my son; it’s time for preparing dinner for God. Won’t you get delayed if I keep on talking? We all you help you and do as you guide us in preparing food.”
So, this is the story of Gopu……an innocent boy who won GOD by his truthfulness and devotion.
Gopu lost himself in God’s service and after Gurudev and Gurumata attained samadhi, he took care of the Ashram and his Gods. His wife also was a great devotee of God and he was blessed with twin daughters. They lived happily thereafter.
Meanings of some Indian words used in the text:
Roti – Tortillas
Sage – Saint
Maharishi – A great Sage
Pranam – A form of offering regards to elders with folded hands
Yagya – A ceremony performed around holy fire
Gyani – Intelligent
Dhoti – a white piece of cloth worn in a particular fashion around legs like pyjama
Vatsa – My disciple
Payasam – rice pudding
Khichdi – rice cooked with various vegetables
Gurumata – Wife of a saint
Prasadam – Offerings made to GOD
Swami - beloved husband
Poori – Puffed small tortillas ( deep fried)
Basmati rice- special long grained rice
Chana dal – a type of pulse
Diyas - Small earthen vessels in which ghee is filled and a piece of cotton ( rolled into a long shape) is dipped and lighted to ward off darkness in olden days. It’s customary to light diyas in front of God in Hindu custom which is considered auspicious and it is a way of asking GOD to remove all darkness from soul and surroundings with HIS divine powers.
Karpooram – Camphor balls, auspicious part of offerings to Hindu Gods and Goddesses
Ashanas – A piece of square cloth which is offered to guests to sit on ground while having their food.
Ghee – Saturated fatty acids made from Cow’s milk. It is considered as pure and auspicious.