“What is Maya?” asked Narada, the devoted student.
“The world is my Maya. He who accepts this, realizes me,” said Vishnu. “Before I explain further, will you fetch me some water?” requested the Lord pointing to a river.
Narada did as he was told. But on his way back, he saw a beautiful woman. Smitten by her beauty, he begged the woman to marry him. She agreed.
Narada built a house for his wife on the banks of the river. She bore him many children. Loved by his wife, adored by his sons and daughters, Narada forgot all about his mission to fetch water for Vishnu.
In time, Narada’s children had children of their own. Surrounded by his grandchildren, Narada felt happy and secure. Nothing could go wrong.
Suddenly, dark clouds enveloped the sky. There was thunder, lightning, and rain. The river overflowed, broke its banks and washed away Narada’s house, drowning everyone he loved, everything he possessed. Narada himself was swept away by the river.
“Help, help. Somebody please help me,” he cried. Suddenly, Narada awoke face down in the desert sand under the blazing sun. The flooded river was nowhere to be seen. He heard a voice: "My son, where is the drink you promised me? It's been half an hour since you went to fetch it for me!"
“How can you be so remorseless? How can you ask me for water when I have lost my entire family? Narada responded.
Vishnu smiled. “Calm down, Narada. Tell me, where did your family come from? From Me. I am the only reality, the only entity in the cosmos that is eternal and unchanging. Everything else is an illusion – a mirage, constantly slipping out of one’s grasp.”
“You, my greatest devotee, knew that. Yet, enchanted by the pleasures of worldly life, you forgot all about me. You deluded yourself into believing that your world and your life were all that mattered and nothing else was of any consequence. As per your perspective, the material world was infallible, invulnerable, perfect. That is Maya.”