A Lifetime Or Just An Illusion?

It is common to get the feeling that time flies. When I look back at the 45 years that I have lived it seems they just passed in a blink of the eye. But while those years were passing as the present time, at times a moment seemed like eternity. The present time never seems to pass in the blink of an eye, but past years appear to have gone like that. To me, this, at the level of the layman, is the theory of relativity given by Einstein. The theory says that time is not absolute but relative. An hour for somebody may be a period more or less than an hour for somebody else. Time, thus, is not absolute but relative.

The relative nature of time is brought out in a beautiful mythological story involving Lord Krishna and the divine sage Narad. The two were once taking a walk when Narad asked Krishna to explain to him His maya, or the illusion of the world that He creates. Krishna replied that he would do so. They strolled for some time and Narad again asked him to show him what maya is. Krishna again promised that he would. They kept on wandering in meadows talking about various things, but Narad was getting impatient to understand from Krishna what maya is.

After some time, Krishna told Narad that he was thirsty and asked him to fetch him some water. Narad went in search of water. He found a river after a while with an ashram on its bank. He decided to get some vessel from the ashram to carry water from the river for Krishna. He knocked on the door of a hut in the ashram and the most beautiful woman Narad had ever seen opened the door. Narad was bewitched by her beauty and filled by a desire to marry her. The woman was delighted when she found that the great sage Narad was at her door. She called her father, the head of the ashram, and the three sat down to have an enchanting discussion on spiritual matters. Soon it was dusk and the ashram sage asked Narad to stay with them in the night. Narad was captivated by her daughter and readily agreed.

Narad stayed at the ashram for many days and had wonderful talks with the ashram’s sage and his daughter on different issues. The ashram’s sage and his daughter felt delighted and privileged that they had the good fortune to be in the company of the renowned Narad. Narad’s love for the woman kept growing and one day he proposed to her. She said she would be most happy to marry him if his father consented. How could her father have any problem in an illustrious person like Narad marrying his daughter? So Narad married the woman and a period of pure marital bliss began for the couple. After some time, the sage of the ashram died and Narad took over as head of the ashram. He had two children and a great time as a householder. Twelve blissful years passed and Narad felt in heaven in his little world.

Then one night a flash flood came in the river and swept away the ashram. The currents of the river were very swift and the ashram was completely uprooted and lost in the flood. Narad’s beloved wife and children also started drowning in the river. Narad tried his best to save them but the river consumed them, leaving him alone and devastated on its bank. The flood was over in a few days and Narad sat on the bank of the river, overtaken by grief and anguish. He wailed, ‘Oh God! What enmity did you have with me? You do not allow anybody to be happy. Why did you do this to me? What wrong had I done? You drowned my little world in water. Oh what heavenly happiness I experienced for 12 years. My beautiful wife, my lovely children, my little home ... you drowned it all in water...’

While immersed in his grief, cursing God and accusing him of destroying his little world of happiness, he felt a hand on his shoulder. He looked up and saw Krishna looking at him with a smile on his lips. Krishna said, ‘What are you talking about Narad? Twelve years... your home, your wife, your children, all drowned in water? It’s been just half an hour since you went in search of water for me. When you did not return soon I came looking for you.’

Narad was stunned. He said, ‘What are you saying Lord? It’s been just half an hour? But I spent 12 years as a householder. I had a wife and children, a divine life. A flood destroyed everything. What was all that?’ Krishna’s wondrous smile kept playing on his face as he replied, ‘Narad, you were asking me what my maya is ... I think you know by now.’

Even I am waiting for that hand on my shoulder as my world with all its play dances around me.

The author is a senior journalist and columnist
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