Maayai – Illusions in life – is an elusive term that reflects the unsteady state of human life. Philosophers and Saints who achieved realisation say that everything around us and we ourselves are the facets of illusion or illusion itself. But that definition does not seem to give a complete insight or understanding to a layman about what Maayai actually is. This is where our great epics – The Ramayanam and The Mahabharatham – come to deal with such situations. Though the mainline of these epics is well known to the world, there are many stories/legends that come along with the mainline of these epics. They ancillary legends are called the Upakadhai meaning stories that form as an ancillary part. They line and the situations mentioned in these Upakadhai are a bit different from the main epic, but the characters involved in the Upakadhais are the same as those in the main epic.

Well, lets get back to our Maayai concept. Though people have explained pages and pages of things about this, the Upakadhais explain it in a very simple manner that whole concept is understood to people of all categories. One such story comes from Mahabharatham. The story goes like this.

Once Naradhar had the same question that we have started here. What is Maayai? He asked various people and saints he knew, but nobody gave him an answer that was so satisfactory. So he wanted to know a concrete answer to that question. Finally he went to Lord Krishna and asked the question. Lord Krishna promised to give him an answer so concrete that Naradha would completely understand what Maayai was. Lord Krishna also told Naradha that He will take him somewhere the next day to show and explain what Maayai was. Naradha agreed.

The next morning, Lord Krishna and Naradha started very early that Naradha could not find time to take his bath. On the way, Naradha found a pond and said to Lord Krishna that he will be back in a few minutes after taking his bath immersing himself in the pond. Lord Krishna agreed to it and asked him to be back quickly as they would be late to where they are heading. Naradha consented and went ahead to the pond. This is when the Omnipotent Being, Lord Krishna, got prepared to unleash the Maayai. When Naradha immersed completely inside the water, Lord Krishna unleashed Maayai and thats where things started for Naradha.

Then later, both were walking for a long distance. Lord Krishna felt very thirsty and asked Naradha to go get some water in house that visible at short distance from where they were. Until then Lord Krishna said that he will take rest under a tree.

Naradha went to that house to get some water. When he went inside the house calling for people in there, a beautiful and charming young lady appeared from the house and asked what he wanted. He was taken aback by the beauty of that girl and he lost himself. He fell madly in love with that girl and wanted to marry her. Naradha completely forgot about Lord Krishna asking water. He was completely obsessed that only girl’s beauty was in his eyes.

He wanted to marry her and spoke to his father saying that he was Naradha, son of Brahma, The Creator. The girl’s father consented to Naradha marrying the girl. The wedding was over and the couple lived happily ever after for twelve years. They had 12 children and the family became big and so was its burden. The family was getting into poverty as Naradha could not manage such a big family. Every day was painfully bad because of the increasing poverty.

One day rains poured heavily that started to cause floods in that area. Naradha with all his family members was sitting together in the old dilapidated hut. He grasped as many children as the others cuddled together. Slowly the flood waters began to rise and washed away Naradha’s home and children. He grasped to the hands of as many children as he could and took a few in his shoulders so that they could be in safety. When the floods washed them, Naradha caught hold off a branch of a tree and stayed in safety with a few children on his shoulder and in his grasp. Slowly the floods started to gain speed and washed away all the children. Naradha was exhausted, that he could not move or hold on anymore and the floods were continuously rising and he was immersed completely.

And then he mustered his energy to pull himself out of water and with a big gasping sound for a breath of air, he came out of the water. And then he realised, that he was in the pond that he immersed himself to take bath. He was shocked to see that he did not move out of the pond and yet he had the pleasurable and worst experiences in life. By then he heard Lord Krishna saying, “Naradha, why is it taking you 45 minutes to immerse yourself and take a bath?” Naradha was more shocked when Lord Krishna said this.

He came out of the pond and asked Lord Krishna about all this. He said that he had spent 12 years of life that was peaceful and miserable, but how come just 45 mins have passed. Lord Krishna smiled at Naradha and told – “That is Maayai (that 12 years of his life)”. Naradha fell at his feet.

Well that is one fine story that explains a subtle concept in a simple manner. These stories are not only easy to understand, but they also contain a great message that does not need any special learning to understand it. Though these stories might sound like a fairy tale suitable for children, they explain concepts that have been explained in Physics (Concept of time dilation as in this story), Management etc. These stories have to be interpreted correctly that they will serve a greater purpose to every aspect of human life.

Let us find out and preserve these Upakadhais as we do with our epics so that they are not only interesting to hear, but also mention the various facts of our lives.

More to come, until then…