Story of Markandeya | Bhaktamal-11
Salutations to Lord Narayana
“I salute to the Lord who is the master of wealth and prosperity. The one who is none of other than the Supreme Being, having a vast body enfolding within itself the entire creation (Vishwaroop). He stands, unique among the Devatas and shines brightly as the greatest of Gurus. He incarnated as the Swan (hansavatar) to deliver the Vedas. Being an object of worship for the Goddess of Sound, Oh Narayana, accept my humble prayers for you are the greatest of Brahmins.”
The Supreme Bhagawan incarnated as Nara-Narayana to establish the supremacy of Tapa (austerity) over all other means to attain God-realization. These two enlightened brothers were the protectors of Brahmins and were worshiped by them.
Story of Markandeya’s penance for Nara-Narayana ?
Once, Markandeya Rishi, the son of Sage Mrikundu performed severe penance on the banks of Pushpabhadra River (situated in the Himalayas). He observed Brahmacharya to bring his penance to fruition. With one-pointed focus, he withdrew all attention from worldly objects and fixed it on his deity. This gesture perturbed Indra. He immediately instructed Vasant devata, Kam dev, and the apsaras to deter Markandeya from his meditation.
Devatas and Apsaras test Markandeya
Due to the powers of Vasant Devata, the meditation spot turned into a pleasurable resort. Flowers blossomed and its sweet fragrance wrapped itself in the air. The celestial smell created a mesmerizing atmosphere around the Rishi and it invited birds to build their nests. They sang sweet melodies which had potential to attract the greatest of Rishis. But, Markandeya was not one of them as he remained undisturbed.
Now, the apsaras who are idols of beauty tried to trap the sage by engaging in playful sports. Their graceful dance that followed the rhythmic beats of the Gandharvas were intentioned to promote sensuous moods in the rishi. Such an ambience proves to be hostile for Sadhakas today and also in the past. This is why Vedic teachings encourage man to meditate in solitude and caution us from falling prey to worldly desires. The apsaras passed the ball to each other and periodically laughed loudly after whispering some pranks into each other’s ears. But, the efforts went in vain as Markandeya had disconnected himself from the external plane.
The defeat of the Apsaras, instigated Kamdev, (the God of Love) to release the Sammohan Vaan or (arrow of attraction) from his flower bow on Markandeya Rishi. However, even that attempt proved to be a total failure.
In conclusion, the benevolence of the two divine brothers, Nara-Narayana protected Markandeya from all distractions. Nobody could harm his penance and austerity.
Devatas realize their mistake
The intensely grave face of the muni absorbed in Sadhana, transmitted a realization in the Devatas. Now, they could understand their folly for the muni had traversed the domain of the senses. It was obvious by now that Markandeya had his eyes fixed on a higher goal and not swarga. They realized the deeper intentions of the sage which could be nothing other than spiritual attainment of Bhagawan. Therefore, the celestial nymphs along with Gandharvas, Kam devata and Vasant devata took flight to Indra Loka, leaving Markandeya rishi alone.
Brief description of Nara-Narayana
Markandeya rishi had emerged victorious from the attack of lust and other worldly objects of attraction. Yet, he attributes all his achievements to Nara-Narayana Bhagawan and there lies his humility. His deep desire to have darshan of Bhagawan grew intense, as he could see the direct involvement of his Ishta Dev in his life. Out of sheer gratitude and love for his Ishta he would take up spiritual activities although he was internally connected to them at all times. The two divine brothers, who were embodiments of love and compassion could no longer resist from appearing before Him.
Lord Narayan has dark-complexioned skin like that of rainy clouds. His brother is golden in complexion like that of molten gold. Both the Lords possessed lotus-like eyes, adorned by the nectar of compassion and love. Clad in deer skin, they had long matted hair like that of Tapasvis. Feeling awe and reverence for his deity, Markandeya Muni immediately fell at their feet with folded palms.
The ever compassionate Lord, bent low to raise His dear devotee. Markandeya immediately regained his balance and rendered an elaborate worship for the two divine brothers. Pleased with his services, the Lords asked Markandeya to seek a boon.
Markandeya seeks a boon
The latter recited stutis in praise of the Lord and said: “Oh Bhagawan, man’s full potential can only be accessed, if You bless him with your darshan. What more remains after having witnessing Divine form? But, I shall seek a boon for your instructions are meant to be followed. Just like I have been blessed to perceive your divine form, I shall be able to witness Your Maya (or moving energy) as well.” The Lord reciprocated by uttering the word “एवमस्तु, Evamsatu, which means ‘So be it’.” Everything returned back to normalcy after the two Lords returned to Badrikashrama.
Experience of Maya
One fine day, as usual Markandeya sat down for his morning prayers.
Black monsoon clouds veiled the sky, engulfing the surroundings into darkness. Suddenly, a lightening echoed in the sky and it started pouring heavily. Uncommonly big and fat, the rain drops clogged narrow paths. Nothing subsided, but instead, these symptoms grew fiercer, eventually turning into a calamity.
The entire earth drowned in the ocean waters. The 4 directions were flooded with water which ultimately destroyed flora and fauna. Huge mountains and trees, lifelessly floated on the contaminated waters of the ocean.
Markandeya Rishi witnesses Maya
The fearsome calamity took Markandeya Rishi in its wake and propelled him to swim insanely. He tried protecting himself. No streak of hope could strike his mind as the entire universe enveloped itself in darkness. The sky bereft of both the sun and the moon had no sight of light, as if since ages. Markandeya struggled to combat the mighty waves which sometimes flung him on the eastern coast while at other times in the opposite direction. Many times he attempted, with great difficulty, to prevent himself from drowning.
Markandeya was tossed like a coin from one side to another and drained him of his individual strength that could draw him out of this calamity. The moment he found time to sigh, a mighty wave would strike his body infusing lethargy through out his body. His hair lock untied from his bun due to the erratic force of water. Along with physical weakness, his intellect stopped supporting him.
Markandeya meets an infant
Ultimately Markandeya’s spiritual-self awakened and he sought the Lord for protection. Right then, a gigantic Banyan tree, rooted in centre of the ocean appeared before him. The tree had numerous tender leaves. As Markandeya went closer to it, his astonishment reached its peak for he saw the leaves creating room for a small infant.
The child had lotus, red feet while his complexion resembles to that of Lord Narayana. His lips are stretched up to the end of his cheeks creating an enchanting smile on his moon-like face. His two mesmerizing eyes occupy most space on His face. While inhaling and exhaling, his round belly moves up and down. The radiance emitted from his body far-exceeds the power of thousands of suns put together. Markandeya observed that the child’s aura lit up the entire universe and instantly arresting darkness.
The baby drew his feet closer to his mouth with the aid of his slender little finger. He pulls his toes into his mouth and is now joyfully sucking them. This darshan is beyond description. Just like an iron nail gets attracted to a piece of magnet, the awe-struck Markandeya got drawn into the child’s tummy. This exceptional vision did not end there, instead it expanded in its glory.
What are the signs of divine experience?
Now, Markandeya Muni could witness the entire cosmic creation, unseen species, trees, mountains, plateaus, valleys, water bodies, etc all housed within the boundless tummy of the child. As he further travelled, he reached the Himalayan Mountains where his ashram is situated.
He could not only see his residence, but also his surroundings and River Pushpabhdra where he had invoked his Ishta. Although, everything rapidly manifested in the womb of Bhagawan, a major time lag followed. The wheel of time on Earth, spun through many Yugas, while it was just a few moments since Markandeya had entered into the child. But, Markandeya who witnessed the vastness of Bhagawan savored this priceless experience.
Markandeya Rishi realizes Bhagawan
He closed his eyes to feel content and was delighted to gain this opportunity. Simultaneously the child exhaled, and the divine experience was put to an end as he was thrown into the stormy ocean waters, once again. Markandeya recollected the torturous experience and also could identify the divinity personified child. He very well knew that the infant is no ordinary being and has answers for all his questions. So, he approached him to gain insight regarding the calamity.
But, the child disappeared. All his surroundings transformed, revealing to him his Ashram. He opened his eyes and found himself seated on his asana, meditating. He observed that all the catastrophic experiences had no tangible existence. The tress, oceans, divine child, etc had all disappeared. It was as if the curtains opened to reveal the reality. He thanked his Ishta from saving him from the clutches of Maya and concluded the experience as a blessing of the Lord.
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