Today is the next day after New Year Day. When I was young, the day after Yugadi, the Indian new year day was celebrated as “Varsha Todaku” – Difficult to translate – but something like :Hurdle day for the new year 🙂 If you did anything good on this day, it is believed that you would do that through the whole year. No doubt that I was expected to do things that were considered good by my parents. 😉 Extending that principle, today is the “varsha toDaku” day for the Gregorian calendar , and I want to do something good. Such as telling a nice old story.
India has been the home to one of the ancient civilizations of the world. Some of the thinkers from the early period, four thousand years ago, seem to have had thoughts very advanced for their times. The Rig Veda says: “The truth is one – the wise call it by many names“. Another Samskrita couplet says : “Just like the water from the rains ultimately reaches the ocean – your prayers will reach the almighty, whatever you call him.”Starting with these roots, India supported everything from Atheism to Monotheism to a multitude of Gods and Goddesses.
Ancient Indians saw Gods and Goddesses in all forms of nature. The Sun, the Moon, planets, the air, rivers, the ocean, and even animals were seen as personification of the almighty. With so many gods, can mythological stories fall behind? This story is from Indian mythology, but could be true irrespective of where we come from!
Vishnu, also known by names such as Hari, and Narayana, and thousand other names, is the God responsible for maintaining the universe. Narada, the celebrated celestial singer, is a great devotee of Vishnu and chants Vishnu’s names all the time.
One day Narada came to Vaikuntha, the heavenly abode of Vishnu, located in the ocean of milk, and asked what he always wanted to ask – “Oh Hari, pray tell me who your greatest devotee is.” Narada was indeed expecting his lord Vishnu to pat his back and tell that it was indeed Narada, who was the greatest of them all. But to Narada’s utter surprise, Vishnu uttered an unfamiliar name. Narada, shocked and furious, asked who this person was. Vishnu, almost in a Google Earth way, zoomed on a farm down below on the earth and showed him a farmer working there.
Narada felt his stomach burning with jealousy. He wanted to check how could this farmer be better devotee than himself? Narada, with his special powers, flew down to earth, followed the farmer unseen like a shadow for 7 days and seven nights and returned back to Vaikuntha.
When he returned, he was really mad at his Lord Hari. He told Vishnu “ Oh Hari, do you think I am a fool to believe that this farmer is your greatest devotee? I followed him like a shadow for a week. In total, he chanted your name seven times! And, you call him your greatest devotee?
Vishnu said – Let me give you an important assignement. After you finish that, lets discuss about him. Vishnu, then he took a golden bowl, and filled it with oil. and told Narada. – “Oh my child, now I will place this bowl filled with oil on your head. Go around my palace 7 times, but make sure not a drop spills.” As Narada was about to leave, Vishnu added “ And, by the way, please do not touch the bowl, please”
It was indeed a difficult task. Narada somehow managed to tiptoe around the palce 7 times and returned and told Vishnu. “Oh, Hari! See this. I have come back without spilling a drop of oil, and without touching the bowl even once”. Vishnu said – “Wonderful, Narada. I was confident you would do this task amazingly. Pray tell me how many times did you think of me when you went around my palace”? Narada says – “Oh Narayana, do not be silly and try to make fun of me! It was such a balancing act, I did not think of anything else apart from the bowl filled with oil”
Vishnu said – “Narada, now think of that poor farmer. His wife is ill, and he has young kids to take care of. His parents are old. As the village chielf, he has to help other farmers in the village matters. Life is a tight rope walk to him; Everything he does, he does with devotion. He is a devoted father, a devoted husband, a devoted farmer, a devoted son. He takes my name once before going to sleep, and only asks for strength to carry on with his duties. Now tell me – Who is better? You or He?”
Having understood what the Lord of three worlds had in mind, Narada could only remain silent.
I think our lives are no different than Narada’s with a bowl filled with oil on top of the head – always trying to balance the load of responsibilities on our head!
If only we carry out all our responsibilites with true devotion, do we ever need to pray to any God?