King Ambarish was a perfect devotee. He worshipped Krishna with his body and mind, in every word, thought and activity. In his heart he loved the lord deeply and wanted only to see Krishna and the devotees of Krishna pleased. King Ambarish ruled over the entire Earth, wielding incredible power and receiving great respect. But he wasn’t interested in his own comforts; his riches did not matter to him.
Once the king and his virtuous wife fasted for the special occasion of Ekadeshi*. Instead of just a day, they fasted for a year and at the end joyfully worshipped Lord Vishnu, offered tremendous charity and sumptuous feasts to all.
Afterwards, they were just preparing to eat themselves when the illustrious sage Durvasa Muni arrived unannounced. King Ambarish welcomed him with great respect and invited him to feast. Durvasa Muni agreed but said he would first bathe in the River Yamuna. King Ambarish did not mind waiting and watched patiently as the sage led a huge group of disciples to the river.
However, soon an awkward dilemma arose. In order to complete the year-long fast, the king was obliged to eat something within a certain period. But there was no sign of the sage and it would be offensive to eat before the guest. Consulting his spiritual advisers, King Ambarish decided to drink a few drops of water to honour the fast, without offending Durvasa Muni. It seemed a good compromise.
But not to Durvasa Muni! He was a powerful mystic and quickly understood the situation. Marching into the palace he trembled with anger.
“Cruel king, you invite me to eat but have eaten yourself first. You are just proud and think yourself better than god because of your power and position. You deserve to be punished.”
The insulted mystic pulled out a lock of his own hair to create a fearsome demon who charged at the king with a shining trident. King Ambarish stood with his head bowed humbly. He accepted the punishment and was unafraid of dying. Because he had surrendered himself so completely to Krishna, he was fearless. In his heart he simply meditated on his beloved lord.
Instantly a dazzling Sudarshan Chakra appeared and burned the demon to ashes. The Sudarshan weapon, a blazing golden disc used by Lord Vishnu to destroy demons, then moved towards Durvasa Muni, who was startled and began running out of the court.
The frightened sage tried to shake off the Sudarshan Chakra. He flew into the sky, raced across the Earth, dived deep in the ocean and took shelter in the heavens. Horrified, he saw the disc did not stop chasing him. Exhausted, he rushed to his father Lord Brahma, the creator of the universe. But Lord Brahma said he was helpless and sent Durvasa Muni to Mount Kailash to Lord Shiva, the mighty destroyer of the universe. Here too Durvasa Muni found no relief. Lord Shiva was unable to do anything and advised that only Lord Vishnu controlled the Sudarshan Chakra.
The Sage dashed to Vaikuntha, the home of Lord Vishnu, and begged, “Lord of Lords please protect me. I have offended your devotee but please forgive me, for you can do anything.”
“Dear Durvasa Muni, I cannot help you,” was the astonishing reply from Lord Vishnu. “My weapons protect my dearest devotees and only King Ambarish can send it away. I am completely under the control of my devotees who have given up their personal pleasures and chosen to serve me exclusively. I sit in the core of their heart and they sit within the core of my heart. They belong to me and I belong to them. You have offended my pure devotee. If you want forgiveness, you should go immediately to the king. Only he can save you.”
Durvasa Muni fell at King Ambarish’s feet in humble apology. The king was so embarrassed he quickly pleaded to the Sudarshan Chakra to spare the sage’s life. The king’s prayers were beautiful and heartfelt. Appeased, the lord’s burning weapon became peaceful and returned to Lord Vishnu.
Mindful, that Durvasa Muni was hungry, King Ambarish then begged him to eat. With much love and respect, the king served a wonderful feast. Happily satisfied, the sage affectionately urged the king to eat as well.
He said, “I now understand the great depth and greatness of the pure devotees of Lord Vishnu. At first I thought you were just an ordinary person, but dear king, you are such an exalted devotee of such exemplary character. I tried to kill you and you still prayed for my good fortune. You are truly glorious. Your wonderful example will be praised for all time.”
*Ekadeshi is a special fasting day that falls on every eleventh day after the new moon and full moon. Devotees abstain from grains as a sacrifice to Lord Vishnu to gain his affection and blessings. They dedicate the day to worship for his pleasure.