There is a story from long ago India of a great yogi – Narada – who is requested by the sage Vishnu to fetch him a glass of water from the river. Narada is a highly evolved soul who has shunned the world but never understood the power of ‘maya’ – our enthrallment with the appearances and enchantments of the world – and is about to experience this.
At the river Narada sees a beautiful girl, and captivated by her beauty follows her to her village and requests her father for her hand in marriage. Years go by and Narada has forgotten his original purpose and Vishnu’s request – he is immersed in his human life in the world with his wife and family. One night a terrible storm comes, sweeping away the village and his family in a flood – desperate, Narada remembers his Guru Vishnu and calls out for his help. Vishnu appears before him and asks him:
‘Narada, where is my glass of water? I am still thirsty.’ The distraught Narada is still grieving though for his family, and does not understand.
‘Where does this pain and suffering come from, Narada?’ asked Vishnu with a smile. ‘I thought you had full knowledge of Maya before you set out to fetch water for me.
You knew all about the spiritual truths and realities. Yet you forgot all about them as soon as you experienced the material world – home, family, children, and village. Your understanding of Maya could have helped you in the tumult of pleasure and pain, but it did not. Such is the spell of Maya, the illusory nature and powerful enchantments of this world.’
The story remains relevant even today, our tendency to easily forget our deeper spiritual nature and purpose as we become absorbed in the human dramas of our lives that resemble, in Shakespeare’s words ‘a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more’. When we become interested in meditation though, there is a remembering of something more, a questing beyond the usual attractions of our lives that have failed to fully satisfy. This is a special time in our journey of self-discovery, an awakening to some deeper realisation. Vishnu has come to us and asks of us…
‘But where is my glass of water?’