There was this story from a book by Sudha Murthy that I was reading which was thought-provoking. While reading this, it also reminded me of a shloka from the Gita which addressed the same problem wherein Krishna acknowledges that it is indeed difficult to overcome his web of illusion(Maya) unless we surrender our mind unto him/Truth.
When this comes from the God himself, it just goes to reinforce the gravity required when dealing with his illusion which is spun by none other than God himself. This should break the shackles of ignorance of knowing it all. The idea of ‘knowing it all’ is itself rutted in avidya, isn’t it?
Daivī hyeṣhā guṇa-mayī mama māyā duratyayā
Mām eva ye prapadyante māyām etāṁ taranti te// 7.14
Anyways, let’s get to the story. Will try to make it as short as possible.
So, it begins with Sage Narada being reprimanded by Brahma for poking his nose in common man’s business and advising them to become a sage like him.
Brahma thought this wasn’t right as Narada had no understanding of mortal life. However, this didn’t go quite well with Narada and therefore he approached his mentor Vishnu for some advice.
As always Vishnu had that mischievous smile on him which Narada couldn’t understand. While Narada went about explaining his stance, he was interrupted by Vishnu for a glass of water. Now he didn’t have any water left in his kamandalam so Vishnu advised him to fetch some from the nearest lake.
While Narada dipped the pot into the lake, he saw a series of white steps below the surface of the water and he couldn’t resist going down the stairs. He went deep under the water and came across a beautiful maiden.
Their eyes met and they got talking. They had a lot in common and what swept him off was her deep devotion towards Vishnu. By the end of it, he had fallen in love with her and they got married.
Decades went by, and Narada became the father of sixty children. Life was utterly blissful. But one day, a terrible storm destroyed all that he cherished. One by one, he saw all his children die before him. He and his wife wept bitterly at their helplessness.
Suddenly, a big wave emerged and his wife was swept away by it too. Still holding on to a tree he cried and remembered Vishnu and chanted with all that he had.
And then he felt someone tapping on his shoulder. He opened his eyes and found Vishnu with the same mischievous smile. Narada couldn’t understand where the storm disappeared and still sobbing he told Vishnu what went by.
Vishnu chuckled. Then he finally admitted that he was the one who created that Maya for Narada. For Narada had never tasted attachment-he absolutely had no understanding of the illness(attachment) and yet he advised medication(detachment) to the common man.
So, Vishnu said to Narada that if an accomplished sage like him can get caught in this web of illusion, then how hard it is for the men to stay detached.
So, that is the story and poor Narada had to go through all that to understand what it means to lose whatever he gained here living. The only way out for Narada or for anybody is total surrender. The moral of the story is to remind us of the impermanence and to seek refuge in him who is busy spinning 🙂
As much as we think we understand Maya- it further fools us into believing that we are in full control. Just like the storm, it comes from nowhere and hijacks our mind into illusions of fantasy. Without any difficulty, it can keep us occupied with it for decades together.
We all have an experience of how our thoughtless state can be swept into a never-ending wreck of drama with a simple idea of either raga(love) or dvesha(hatred). I am sure no one is devoid of this experience. I believe from this experience should arise the knowledge that Vidya and avidya are two faces of the same coin. If we understand one, we will eventually understand the other.