Tales : The Meaning of Maya

Narada Muni is known in Hindu mythology as a divine sage, a constantly wandering musician who also serves as a messenger of the gods. It happened once upon a time that Narada Muni felt a deep longing to understand the nature of maya, the great illusion. Therefore he asked Krishna to explain it to him.

“It is not so easy to explain maya in words,” Krishna replied. “I have to show you. Come with me.”

Krishna led Narada Muni out into the desert. They walked there for a long time and the further they went, the more puzzled Narada Muni became. What can I learn here in the empty desert? he thought.

Then Krishna suddenly stopped, and said, “Narada Muni, I am thirsty. Please find water.”

Narada Muni looked in all directions, but there was nothing to see. At last, he chose a direction at random and began to walk. After trudging through the sand for a long time, he finally came to a small village, and at the edge of it, there was a well. A young woman was drawing water when he came there, and Narada Muni thought he had never seen such beauty in all his life. In just a glance at her, his heart was given.

The young woman offered water to Narada Muni, but he had nothing to carry it in. “Then come to my house,” she said, and led him into the village.

He discovered that she was the daughter of the village chief. He was offered food, and a place to rest, but Narada Muni found he could not take his eyes off the young woman. At last he told the chief that he would like to marry her.

The chief agreed that they could marry, but said the Narada Muni would have to live in their house. Therefore they began to live together, and before long they had started a family.

After some time, the chief passed away, and his responsibilities fell upon Narada Muni, to care for his wife, their four children, and the whole village.

Then suddenly disaster struck: a mighty storm came, with winds and rain so powerful that houses were blown down, and flood waters began to rise around them. Narada Muni got his family into a boat, but the huge waves made it pitch and roll. Before he knew it, the boat capsized and all his family were swept away from him. He tried desperately to save them, but could not rescue even one.

When at last the storm abated, Narada Muni found himself stretched on the wet sand, weeping for the loss of his dear ones: his wife, his children, all gone.

Then a familiar voice interrupted his sorrows: “Narada Muni, I am thirsty. When will you bring me water?”

Narada Muni looked, and saw that he was with Krishna in the desert, as before. “But…” he said, not understanding, “my family. The storm. I lost all…”

“You lost what you never had,” Krishna said. “All was illusion, including the cause of your sorrow. That,” concluded Krishna, “is maya.”

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