Amongst Brahma’s many sons was one Narada. Narada refused to marry. He did not want anything to do with the material world. Like Suka, he preferred the realm of Narayana, when time and space do not exist, where Maya casts no spells. He went a step further; he encouraged Brahma’s other sons to stay celibate like him. He did not see the point of engaging with Prakriti. He did not understand the point of constructing Brahmanda.
Many of Brahma’s sons agreed with Narada. They also refused to marry. This happened several times, until an enraged Brahma cursed Narada, ‘you will stay trapped in the material world until you appreciate the value of Maya.’
Narada went to Vishnu and asked him the meaning of Maya. In response, Vishnu said, ‘I will explain after you quench my thirst. Go fetch me some water.’
Narada went to a river to fetch water. But as he was collecting the water, he saw a beautiful girl. He was so drawn to her that he followed her to her village and asked her father for her hand in marriage. The father agreed and the two got married. Before long, Narada was a father and then grandfather and then great grandfather. Narada felt content. Suddenly one day, it rained. And the rains refused to stop. The river swelled and broke its banks. Water rushed into Narada’s house, and to his horror, swept away his wife, his children, his grandchildren and his great grandchildren. He screamed and shouted for help as the water dragged him under. Suddenly he was pulled up and found himself in Vaikuntha (Vishnu’s abode) before Vishnu.
‘Narada,’ said Vishnu, ‘where is my water? I am still thirsty.’ Narada did not understand. Where was his family, his wife’s village, the river?
‘Where does this pain and suffering come from, Narada?’ asked Vishnu with a smile. ‘I thought you had full knowledge of Maya before you set out to fetch water for me.’
Narada bowed his head in realization. He knew Maya but had never experienced Maya. Brahma was encouraging his sons to marry so that they experience Maya. Knowledge of Maya is not experience of Maya. Unless one experiences Maya, one will not be able to empathize with those who are trapped in it.
Said Vishnu, ‘you knew all about measuring scales and subjective realities. Yet you forgot all about them as soon as you experienced the material world – home, family, children, and village. Your understanding of Maya and Brahmanda could have helped you in the tumult of pleasure and pain, but it did not. Such is the spell of Maya. Now that you have experienced Maya, I want you to go and meet people, shake up their measuring scales, challenge their subjective realities, until they realize that the only way out of Maya is seeking answers out of material reality. I want you to provoke them into following the spiritual path.’
– The story of Narada. Devdutt Pattanaik. Seven Secrets of Vishnu