(This is the first story with main theme as bhakti. Hence we recommend readers to go through all previous morals before reading about bhakti.)
After the kalyāṇam of Padmāvatī devi, the daughter of Akāśarāja, and Śrī Venkaṭeśvara, the Lord made the Saptagiris as His abode and accepted the pūjas of bhaktas. Akāsharāja ruled a maṇḍala by name Toṇḍa and had a brother by name Toṇḍamān. Toṇḍamān was a great bhakta of Śrī Venkaṭeśvara. On His ājña Toṇḍamān built a divya-ālayam for the Lord. Toli-pūja, nitya-seva and nitya-sambhāṣhaṇam with the Lord were the bhāgyas he had. Brahmādi devatas come to this ālayam everyday and have the darshanam of Śrīṇivāsa, the pūrna avatār of Mahāviṣhṇu. Toṇḍamān ruled his kingdom on the ājña of Śrī Venkaṭeśvara. He gave Navaratna khacita svarṇa kirīṭas, svarṇa kusumas, ratnahāras, many patakas, many golden bhūṣhaṇas, svarṇa gopuram and many other things to the Svāmi. With great śraddha he used to do all the sevas.
Once ākāśavāṇi praised Toṇḍamān "O cakravarti! There is no greater Viṣhṇu bhakta than you". Toṇḍamān did vitarka within himself feeling that what ākāśavāṇi said is true! Aaha! How many forms does ahankār have! Finally, even in Bhakti ahankār can enter. When 'Me' , 'I' are related to this deham all anarthas happen. However once if you come under His śaraṇāgati He will only remove all your doṣhas. Since Toṇḍamān said "ananya śaraṇaH śaraṇam prapadye| Śrī Venkaṭeśa charaṇau śaraṇam prapadye||", God decided to teach Toṇḍamān a lesson and thus save him.
Meanwhile Toṇḍamān's ahambhāvam increased and once he asked Śrīṇivāsa directly "Svāmī! There is no greater bhakta than me in the tribhuvanas. Do you have any bhakta other than me?" Śrimannārāyaṇa maintained maunam; in this maunam only he did śrīkāram for a lesson to Toṇḍamān.
One day, as usual Toṇḍamān with great bhakti did suprabhāta seva to Svāmi and closed his eyes and concentrated on the God. He opened his eyes and saw the kali-nāśaka pādas of Śrī Venkaṭeśvara. He was about to remove the nirmālyam near the padapankajas of the Lord. He then saw a kanḍola filled with tulasīdalas. He observed that they had little paṅkam (wet mud) on them and was surprised who brought them in. He thought why will Svāmi accept pūja with such tulasīdalas. He asked this directly to the Svāmi. The smitapūrvāvibhāṣhi, Svāmi, told Toṇḍamān "O son! In this anata-viśvam there are many bhaktas who are under my āśrayam. Similar to how you built an ālayam for Me Here, others bhaktas also make their hṛdayam as my āsanam and their śarīras as My ālayam and do yathā-śakti pūjā to Me, in the way they came to know from their elders. Such one bhakti of Mine lives in a poor village near by. He does not have as much sampada as you and cannot construct suvarṇamaya prākāras for Me. His name is Bhīma. He is a kulāla (potter). He has prema for Me which has no limits. While preparing the paṅkam, while rotating the wheel, while making the ghaṭam, always he thinks about Me only. Not only he, his entire family do not know anything except Me. They do my seva through a wooden vigraham of Mine. And where my bhaktas want me to be present, I will be there. Poor bhakta, he does not know any mantras, tantras, yāgas. He never compares his bhakti with others. Actually except Me, he does not even think of anything else. What his varṇāśrama āchāram says, that only he does. He rises well before the Sun, and he takes bath the way taught by his elders, he knows only a few nāmas of Me that he learnt and always offers Me tulasīdalas. What tulasīdalas he put there, you are seeing them here. The vairāgyam, bhakti of Bhīma made Me his bandhi.". Listening to the vāk-amṛtam of the veda vedya, Svāmi, all the māya, moham of Toṇḍamān were completely removed. With bhāṣhpa-pūrita nayanas, he cried "Prabhū!", falling on His divya pādas. After sometime he controlled himself and in gadgada svaram said "Svāmi! Please forgive me. With ahankār I said that there is no bhakta greater tham me. How much of this universe did I see. How many few mahātmas I know". Taking Svāmi's anujña, he immediately ran to have the darśan of the bhakta.
Knowing that a puṇyakṣhetram must always be visited by walk, he did not take his ratham to Bhīma's place. Since it is well known that "Nāham vasāmi vaikuṭhe, na yogi hṛdaye ravau. MadbhaktāH yatra gāyanti tatra tiṣhṭhāmi nārada!", going to Bhīma's place is indeed a tīrtha yātra. Asking the villagers finally he traced the house of Bhīma. He was running towards the house and was able to hear Viṣhṇu sankīrtanam from inside the Bhīma's house. Since the King was never used to bend down his head, he in the hurry to meet Bhīma, banged his head by mistake against the dvāram, which was too low. On hearing the sound, Bhīma came and helped the King. Toṇḍamān said "O mahānubhāva! Śrī Venkaṭeśvara, who is praised by everyone, praised you. I came to make myself pure with your pādadhūli".
Suddenly a mahāteja-kānti punjam came and from the middle of that prabhāmaṇḍalam, Mahāviṣhṇu came along with Lakṣhmī devi on Garuḍa. Bhīma did stuti of Mahāviṣhṇu, with whatever small padas he knew, with great bhakti. He said "Svāmi! I do not even deserve to be a sevaka of great bhaktas like Vidura, Śabarī, Gajendra, Vibhīṣhaṇa, Uddhava. But you are the greatest dayāmaya. What can I offer you." Immediately tamālinī, the wife of Bhīma, with whatever śuci, śubhrata she knew, prepared a food item with the stem of lotus and offered it to Lakṣhmi and Nārāyaṇa. Before the eyes of everyone the couple got sārupya-mukti and went to Vaikuṇṭham.
Witnessing all this divya leela, Toṇḍamān asked "Svāmi! Please save me too". Śrīṇivāsa replied very kindly "Cakravartī! after leaving this śarīram, in your next janma you will be a ekānta-bhakta and then I will grant you mokṣham". Svāmi continued: "In your previous janma you were a bhakta by name Rangadāsa and were the śiśya of a mahātma by name Vykhānasa. You used to do all required preparations of his pūja and help him. Once you saw a Gandharva rāja and his wifes doing jalakrīḍa in a puṣhkariṇi and you forgot your Guru seva in it. You later had great paścāttāpam. Because of your otherwise impeccable Guru seva and good deeds you did in that janma, you got My sāngatyam in this janma. I will grant you mukti in your next janma". Thus Toṇḍamān finally attained mokṣham.
Morals in the story:
- Ahankār is the start for one's fall. One must be very careful when others praise so as to never get ahankār.
- The power of śaraṇāgati to God is shown well in the story. Śrīṇivāsa seeing the buddhi doṣham in Toṇḍamān, taught him a lesson and saved him.
- Śrī Venkaṭeśvara was so impressed by Bhīma's sat-guṇas and bhakti that He Himself praised Bhīma.
- The importance of Guru bhakti can be learnt from Toṇḍamān's previous janma story.
Search Terms: Tondaman, Bhima, Tamalini, Rangadasa