After they had finished eating the rice kheer, Narada continued with the story of how he learnt about Maya.
"You know we have very little time now" Brahma reminded Narada.
"Yes, I do. I am almost ready. Would you like to hear about how Vishnu explained Maya to me?"
"Yes, go on" Brahma said.
So Narada began -
"This happened in the time of Dwapara. Vishnu had taken the avatar of Krishna and slain the arrogant Kamsa. I was visiting him to get an update about the kingdoms in Bharatvarsha, and also to share with him observations from my wanderings. We got talking and the Lord asked me to take a stroll with him."
"While we were crossing the desert near Dwaraka, I turned to the Lord and asked "O Greatest Lord, what is the secret of this life and the appearances of this world? You claim everything to be maya, illusion. It sounds virtually impossible. I can touch a tree. I can grab your arm. A mosquito stings me. I feel these things. How can all this be an illusion?"
The Lord smiled and made no reply. We continued for a while, and then Vishnu finally said "Narada, the sun is scroching here, I am thirsty. I can't walk any further. Ahead you will find a village. Can you go there and fetch me a cup of water?"
I set off. Arriving at the village I approached the first house. To my greatest disbelief I saw the most beautiful maiden in the yard. The moment I looked into her eyes, I was mesmerized. I forgot all about the Lord's wish and the reason of my being there in the village".
The woman ushered me into the house, where I was warmly welcomed by her family. They requested me to eat supper with them, and then stay for the night. Smitten by the maiden's beauty, I stayed on enjoying the family's warm hospitality, and secretly marveling at the young woman's loveliness.
A week went by, then two. I stayed on, and on, and soon became part of their household. I even began to share in the household chores.
After the appropriate amount of time passed, I asked for the girl's hand in marriage. The family has been expecting nothing less, and so everyone was overjoyed.
We married and settled down in her family's house, where she soon bears me three children, two sons and a daughter. Years passed with bliss. I had completely forgotten about my original chore.
Eventually my wife's parents passed away. I took over as head of the household. I opened a small shop in the village and due to my glib storytelling and warmth, it prospered. Before long I was an honoured citizen of the community and a prominent member of the town council. Giving myself up to the age-old joys and sorrows of village life, I lived contentedly for many years.
Then one evening during the monsoon season a violent storm breaks over head, and the river rises
so high from the sudden rains that the village begins to flood. I gather my family and lead them through the dark night toward higher ground. But the winds blow so violently and the rain pelts down with such force that one of my sons is washed away."
"I reach for the boy, but ... in so doing, I let go of my second son!"
Here Narada's voice becomes heavy with emotion. He is almost living the experience again. After a while he continues.
"A moment later a gales wind tore my daughter from my arms. Then my beloved wife is washed away into the roaring darkness. I wail helplessly and claws at the sky. But my cries are drowned by a towering wave that rises from the depths of the terrible night and washes me headlong into the river. All goes black."
" Many hours pass; perhaps days. Slowly, painfully, I come to my senses, only to discover that I have been washed onto a sandbank far down the river. It is daytime now, and the storm has passed."
"But there is no sign of my family anywhere, nor, for that matter, of any living creature."
"For a long time I remain lying on the sand, almost mad with sorrow and abandonment. Bits of wreckage float past me in the river. The smell of death is on the wind."
"Everything has been taken from me now; All things life-giving and precious have disappeared into the swirling waters. There is little to do, it seems, but weep."
"Then, suddenly, I hear a deep voice behind me that makes the blood stop in my veins."
"Child," the voice asks, "where is my glass of water?"
I suddenly realize that all these years was nothing but illusion. It made me forget my real purpose.
I turn and see Krishna standing at his side, smiling mischivously. The river vanishes, and once again I and the Lord are alone in the empty desert.
"Where is my water?" Krishna asks again. "I have been waiting for you to bring it now for alomost half an hour now."
I threw myself at the Lord's feet, tears in my eyes, and yet with a smile on my face.
"O Master, I forgot! ... Forgive me. I forgot what you asked for!"
The Lord smiled and said,
"Now do you understand the secret behind your life, and the appearances of this world?"
Narada smiled as he finished his story, and turned to Brahma.
"... And that is how the Lord explained Maya to me. I have been teaching this to the mankind since then. I told this story to Dharmaraja Yudhishthir when he was in exile."
Brahma cleared his throat. "Yes, indeed. But that is not why you should renounce married life. Why did you need to wander from place to place and not have a house and a family?"
"O Father, that is not going to happen, you know."
"But why? I do not understand. What was the need to live like a mendicant? You could have stayed with us, you know."
" Oh Father! But you know the answer to this question. I seek my destiny. I seek to understand Life and the welfare of the people, and I wish to spread my knowledge to all. I wish to give counsel to those in need. Even at this time of the Kalpa, when the Kali is at its strongest, there are individuals on the Earth who are pious and worthy of our counsel."
"I know, I know" ... Brahma said, getting up, " but you know why I have come now, don't you?"
"Yes, I do. I know the time is up, and my work here is done. It is time for me to come with you. The end of the Kaalchakra is fast approaching, and we are to merge with the Eternal Vishnu along with everything else. It is the time of Pralaya, and from which a new beginning will be sought. I am indeed looking forward to this, Father."
He gets up.
"Father, just let me get my Taanpura, and let us haste towards Vaikuntha."
07 May 2009