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This week we see the start of our new series entitled "It's not fair."  At a time when we are facing all kinds of issues that seem to be unfair, it gives us a chance to look at some of the wisdom that can be found in different religious traditions and worldviews.  The first story comes from the Hindu tradition and looks at the concept of Karma.

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It's not Fair! - Hindu
There are lots of ideas about what is fair within the Hindu tradition. But one idea which runs through a lot of stories, is karma. The story of Sudama and Krishna helps some Hindus understand what karma means. It is not just ‘do good and you will get good back’; it is about doing the right thing without expecting reward or punishment.

This story comes from the vat Purana ('purana' means history), which is made of poetic verses. It was spoken and written in the language of Sanskrit. No one knows when exactly it was told but some historians date it to about 2500BC


The Story of Sudama and His Friend Lord Krishna

When Krishna was a young boy, one of his closest friends was Sudama. Sudama came from a poor family. When they grew up, Krishna lived in a palace, and because he was wise, advised princes about their kingdoms. However, Krishna remained honest and modest. Sudama was not as wealthy as Krishna but he helped everyone in his village. They remained good friends.

One day, Sudama’s wife asked him, “Why don’t you ask Krishna, your close friend, for some help? We have very little and our home needs fixing.” On hearing this, Sudama became nervous. He didn’t feel bad because he was poor, but he didn’t like to ask his friends for help even though he was in difficulty. Despite this, he decided to travel to see his Krishna. “Don’t go empty handed,” said his wife, “you must take something to offer him.” It was a tradition in India to not go empty-handed when you visit someone. But what could poor Sudama take? He didn’t have clothes, jewels or even the finest food to take. All he had was plain cooked rice. So, he packed it in a small cloth and went to see Krishna.  

Sudama entered the beautiful palace. As soon as Krishna saw Sudama, he rushed down and greeted his old friend. “You must be tired,” he said, “please sit!” and he offered Sudama a seat next to the throne. Sudama sat down shyly. Seeing the cloth Sudama was holding, he asked, “What have you brought for me?” Sudama tried to hide his rice, but Krishna took the cloth from him. “Rice! I could eat this with some lentils, thank you.” Sudama relaxed and they shared a meal. Chatting together was so joyful that Sudama forget to ask for help – the very thing he had come to do! Sudama left the palace and returned to his home, which still needed fixing!

When he got there, Sudama was shocked and surprised to see plenty of food and that all of his home had been repaired! His wife was pleased but she didn’t know that Sudama had forgotten to ask for help. Sudama realised the wonder of his good friend, Krishna. He thought the offer of rice to Krishna had demonstrated that a good act, no matter how small or simple, will get good results in return. Likewise, Krishna gave Sudama what he needed because he knew that Sudama was a true person who worked hard.
(This story comes from the Bhagavat Purana)
Follow up questions:
  1. Why was Sudama nervous? Do you think Sudama should have asked Krishna for help?
  2. Can you describe why sometimes money is important and at other times friendship?
  3. Should you be unkind to someone because they do not have as much money as you?
  4. Do people always have to do things because they want a reward or because they fear punishment?
  5. In this story did Krishna decide what should happen to Sudama or did Sudama's own actions mean he had a happy ending?
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