The great puranas are always expansions of the answers given by great masters to questions asked by suffering, ignorant or at times brilliant students. In the Devi Bhagavatam too, Sage Markandeya is narrating the story of how a king, Suratha, who was driven out of his kingdom and had an estranged family, and Samadhi, a trader who was deprived of all his wealth, ask Sage Medhas. Their question is, in their similar situations, despite being shunned by people around them, why is their mind refusing to give up and begin anew and why is it going back and pondering about those situations and people?
Sage Medhas says, pointing out to some birds nearby, “Just as humans, these birds also have knowledge. They eat, sleep, mate, hunt for food and feed their young ones with the sense of ‘mine’. The humans also do the same thing. The birds, animals and humans are caught in a web of delusion called ‘Mine’, and that is created by Mahamaya, the cosmic power of the Lord. This Mahamaya is the Lord of the Universe as she has six qualities of total knowledge, total lordship, controller of total actions, total fame, total wealth and complete dispassion too. Her controlling influence of delusion is exercised even in the intellect of knowledgeable and wise men.
It is by her power of cosmic dynamism that this whole universe is created and dissolved. If she wills, she can even grant liberation from her clutches to the devoted seeker. She is that supreme knowledge who is eternal and is the cause for liberation too. She is also the cause for a person to be bound in the wheel of change characterised by birth and death. She is the Lord of all lords in the Universe.
O Sage, asks the King in between, “Who is that goddess that you speak about? How did she manifest and what are the types of actions she does?” The Sage narrates that she is eternal and of the form of this universe. The whole existence is covered by her presence. Even then, may you hear about her birth, actions and glories. She manifests every time to fulfil the prayers of the gods.
At the end of a Kalpa or a long period of time after the dissolution of the worlds, Lord Vishnu was lying in deep meditative slumber in the causal waters of the milky ocean. There were two asuras or beings that were in search of sensory pleasures. They emerged out of the wax in the ears of Vishnu. Their target was the creator Brahma, who was happily nestled in meditative poise in the lotus that sprang from the navel of Maha Vishnu. To arouse Vishnu from his yogic sleep, Brahmaji invoked the goddess Nidra Devi who was the power behind his closed eyes. What happened next?
The author is Acharya, Chinmaya Mission, Tiruchi firstname.lastname@example.org