There is a sea of difference between bravado and an earnest promise meant to be kept. People make tall promises in a moment of generosity or false pride.
When they do keep their word, they end up compromising on their well being or losing their possessions and peace of mind. If we are afraid of going back on our promises, we must give considerable thought to the commitments that we make, lest we end up feeling frustrated or shortchanged for lack of pragmatism.
A story from the Vishnu and Vamana Purana, deals with this aspect of promises in a telling manner. Once Mahabali, an Asura king, wanted to gain power over the three worlds performed a related Yajna. He gave away rich gifts of the receivers’ choice when they came to attend the rites. Then, Mahavishnu manifested himself in front of the king as a dwarfed Brahmana.The Asura king welcomed him with due respect and rituals and requested the lustrous young man to seek gifts from him. When Vamana sought land measuring three times his feet, Mahabali could not help feel amused.
He urged the recipient to ask for more. After all, he was a mighty sovereign, hoping to have the whole universe under his custody. He could certainly afford to give more than three feet of land measured by the tiny feet of the celibate who stood in front of him. The young man refused to alter his stance.The king set out to fulfill his promise in a ceremonial way, much against the counsel of his Guru Shukracharya who thought something was fishy. Mahabali was also intelligent enough to understand that the young midget who stood in front of him was no ordinary boy. Yet, he did not want to retract his vow. When the time came for the mysterious midget, to measure out his land, he grew magically. His giant feet measured the earth in one pace, the heavens in the other. When there was no other place to gain his third measure, Mahabali kneeled humbly before Mahavishnu, offering his head for the third pace.
Nevertheless what needs to be commended is that he made good of his promise even at the cost of his own life, which cannot be expected of mere mortals.
Most of us are compassionate by nature and we do not mind helping out people within our radar, if it is within our capacity. Yet, when the individuals or the organization we extend help to come back to us time and again to seek further help, we become uncomfortable.
We start suspecting the recipient of our charity to be dubious or greedy by nature. Sooner or later most of us become wary or aggressive. It really takes a mighty large heart and a sound conviction to accommodate and assist somebody in need unquestioningly.
An instance from the Agni Purana enumerates one such experience of king Satyavrata who was offering his morning prayers on the banks of river Kritamala. When the king scooped up the water from the river, he found a tiny little fish wriggling in the little water in his palms. Satyavrata instantly wanted to return the fish to the river, but he was taken aback when the fish spoke to him and requested that the king protect him from the mighty river.
Satyavrata was filled with compassion for the tiny creature and dropped the fish into his Kamandalam (water jug). When he reached the palace, he was surprised to see that the fish had enlarged and he transferred it to a large golden bowl. A little while later, the fish seemed to have outgrown its station and at its request, the king got it transferred to the water tank in the palace. In no time the size of the fish matched that of the tank. The king was puzzled by the constant growth of the creature. He understood that it was no ordinary living being. Though Satyavrata did not quite understand the happenings with the fish, his sense of confidence prevented him from panicking. His consideration for the fish which sought his refuge did not diminish. At that point of time, Satyavrata did not quite realize that Lord Vishnu had manifested himself as a fish and sought his help to save the world. All the same he got his gigantic refugee transferred into a large river and then the sea. Perhaps this was the reason why lord Vishnu selected Satyavrata to help the world regenerate after the impending deluge which would annihilate the earth.