Deep in the mountains of the Himalayas, there lived the Sage Narada in his ashram located on the banks of the river Ganga. Such was the power of his meditation, all of his past impurities were washed away. The King of the heavens, Indra became jealous, and he felt great distress due to Narada achieving such a blissful state of existence on Earth, greater than even the bliss of heaven.
Indra summoned Cupid and demanded that he do everything in his power to sway the great Yogi from his blissful state. Cupid departed with his associates with great plans of deception in mind. He brought forth the season of spring throughout the Himalayas, he brought damsals of heavenly beauty to try and entice Narada. The birds sang songs of joy and the bees hummed as the sweet fragrance from the most beautiful flowers permeated the air but as soon as Cupid set his eyes on Narada sat cross legged in meditation, unaffected by the presence of the damsals, something happened to him. He was overcome with shame, at once he fell crying at the feet of the great sage and apologised for trying to deceive him.
Narada smiled and without any anger reassured Cupid with great love. But something about this victory over desire kindled Narada’s ego. A few days after the incident, Lord Shiva appeared at Narada’s ashram and the sage related the whole story to him. Lord Shiva said, ‘my dear Narada, great is your victory, but please never speak of it again, especially not to the Lord himself. Know that everything happens due to the grace of Shri Rama alone and the seeds of the ego should never be allowed to grow’.
But Narada was too proud of his victory to take heed of Lord Shiva’s advice, such is the power of Maya (illusion) in the world. As he journeyed to the abode of Shri Hari, the Lord of all beings, he could not wait to relate his victory to everyone he met. Against the wishes of Lord Shiva, Narada told Shri Hari all about the vicory over desire. The Lord said, ” The mind is only susceptible delusion if one lacks spiritual knowledge and dispassion. Your austerities and power of meditation are the weapons by which desire was defeated.” The Lord held Narada, close and Narada said, “my Lord, it is only due to your grace that the victory occurred.” The all knowing Lord smiled, and felt that although Narada spoke words of wisdom, the seed of pride was growing within his mind and then unfolded destiny in such a way as to help his great devotee Narada overcome pride.
As Narada departed to return back to his ashram, he came across an illusory city, more illustrious than anything he had ever seen. The exquisite architecture greater than even the Lords abode. The City was inhabited by wonderful people, who had very desire fulfilled. There was a King called Silanidhi who gracefully ruled the kingdom and was an embodiment of wisdom. His daughter was incredibly beautiful, indeed by the maya of the lord, her beauty was beyond description. As was custom, the Princess was able to choose her own groom, and as the King became aware of the presence of Narada in the city, he invited the sage to his court.
When Narada saw the princess in the court of the King, his dispassion and yogic disposition was all but gone. Her beauty had captured his mind and he was lost in lust. Narada said to the King, whoever marries this Princess will never be defeated in battle. But as he was saying these words, he longed to be the one who would be fortunate to marry her. He left the Palace gates and his equanimity was gone. He longed to have her for his bride. No more did Narada have time for meditation or recitation of mantras, he was immersed in scheming to win over the Princess.
Narada knew that Shri Hari was his Lord and greatest friend, he prayed to him in the hope that he would help him gain the Princess for his bride. The Lord appeared within his lila and Narada felt assured that his desires would be fulfilled.
The Lord smiled and said, “Narada, listen carefully, I do only that which is best for you, for I love you dearly. My words are always true. If a patient whilst delirious with a sickness asks a doctor for drugs which could harm him, a good doctor would never provide them.” Saying this, the Lord disappeared leaving Narada confused, but time was of the essence. The occasion for the Princess to choose her suitor had come, and many great men had arrived. The sage felt that with the Lords support, he would appear the most beautiful and win over the heart of the Princess with ease. But quite the opposite, the Lord had made Narada appear hideous to the Princess alone.
Two of the Lords attendants who knowing of the Lords intentions also attended the event. They saw Narada gleaming with pride and even listened to Narada as he boasted of his beauty. The Princess arrived and walked passed her suitors and was filled with fright at the sight of the hideous Narada. The Lord arrived in the form of a King, and the princess immediately ran to him and placed a garland of flowers around his neck.
Narada felt as if he had been robbed. His infatuation had filled his mind with anger, and now all reason was lost. Cursing everyone he saw Narada ran from the palace and looked at a reflection of his face in a lake, he saw the most hideous sight, his face was like that of a monkey. Then he looked away and looked back at the water to see his original form return.
Knowing this to be the Lords doing, Narada threatened to even curse the Lord himself. The Lord appeared before him and Narada who was filled with rage and devoid of all reason said, “Filled with jealousy and pride of me, you have cursed me to your lack of discrimination. You have become selfish and have lost your mind to passion have cursed me to look like a monkey. For this, I curse you! At your time of need, your helpers will be monkeys! As as you have wronged me, you will suffer the pangs of separation from your beloved partner.”
Smilingly, the Lord accepted the curse of Narada. The Lord removed the veil of maya, by making the City disappear, the Princess, the King, the heavenly throne and all of the delights were gone. Narada at once realised that the whole thing was a show, he fell to the floor, clasping the feet of the Lord begging for forgiveness. Narada said, “my Lord, how can I atone for my sins?” Shri Hari said, “Repeat the name of Lord Shiva, again and again. This will remove the burden from your heart. Shiva is most dear to me, as I am to him. Never forget this. He who does not earn the trust of Lord Shiva does not gain my trust, similarly he who does not gain the trust of Shri Hari does not gain the trust of Lord Shiva. Know that God is one. My maya shall delude you no more.”
The humbled sage left with his eyes opened. He chanted the name of the Lord and now realised how easily ones mind can be overcome with pride and lust. Clinging to the Lords name and feet, Narada became the greatest of Sages. The Divine takes form in every age, but always for the good of all beings..