My wife sat scribbling amid a pile of papers strewn across our bed as I entered the room. "Watcha doin'"I asked. She shot me a look that said, "I'm grading papers, what does it look like I'm doing?", before muttering, "I am preparing a pot roast that is both juicy and tender." "Uh-huh, I see.", I said dismissively. I was not really interested in an answer. My first question was merely a rhetorical means of introduction to my second question. "You wanna hear a story?" My wife sighed and rolled her eyes. "I shall now begin the story of Maya!" I proclaimed, not truly wanting an answer to my second question either.
"Maya is the ancient Hindu goddess explaining what is known as the contingent world." My wife continued scribbling with her red pen. "Are you even listening to me?", I asked indignantly. "Maya is the ancient Hindu goddess of the contingent world." She parroted, "Yes I'm listening, unlike you, I have the uncanny ability to walk and chew bubble gum simultaneously." She said, drawing out the word "simultaneously" for added effect.
"Anyway", I continued obliviously, "It is called the contingent world due to its impermanent nature. Everything in this world is subject to creation, sustenance and decay. Because of that, Hindu's often describe this world as transitory."Uh-huh", Tricia said continuing to mark with her red pen. "I get it, it's like The Matrix. If that's the case and everything is transitory, what would be considered permanent?" "Great question!" I said, "The Ultimate Reality, known in the Hindu Faith as Brahman or what we call, God is permanent. It is man's purpose in life to realize this." "Maya," I continued, "The goddess that tricks man into getting caught up in the contingent world. With stuff like jobs, mortgages, bills, clothes, jewelry, cars, even life itself. It is all transitory." "Great story!" she said, "Can I finish grading my papers now?" "That wasn't really the story, that was the prelude to the actual story about the nature of Maya." My wife groaned, "I really need to finish grading these" "This then is the story of Maya and Brock!!" I interrupted, because I had not asked a third question and even if I had it's doubtful that I would have been interested in an answer.
A couple thousand years ago there lived a man named Narada. He lived in what is now modern day India. However for the purposes of this story we shall call him Brock and we shall say he lived down the street. We shall do this for three important reasons. The first being, I'm telling this story, so I can do what I want. Secondly, I have never been to India but I have ventured down the street. And third, I like the name Brock for it truly is a manly name.
Brock was a very astute holy man and had studied the scripture of the Hindu Faith for years before retiring to the forest to live the life of an ascetic. As it happened, (don't ask me how,) he met Krishna, Supreme deity in the Hindu Faith. They talked for hours on end about philosophy, the flora and fauna and football. Though I imagine since it was India they talked about cricket. Trish rolled her eyes and mumbled something under her breath.
Finally Brock said, "You know Kris. May I call you Kris?" "No you may not." Krishna said. "Kris." Brock continued obliviously, "I've always wanted to know about the nature of Maya. I've meditated upon it for years and I just can't figure it out. Can you explain it to me." Krishna laughed and said, "Nah. No way. Can't be done."
Brock was confused since he thought they had bonded pretty well. "Aww c'mon Kris!" "Krishna." Krishna corrected. "Right. That's what I said" Brock looked at Krishna pleadingly trying his best to make his bottom lip quiver for sympathy. Krishna thought about it for a minute then said, "OK I'll tell you what, go to the well and fetch me some water and then I will explain to you the nature of Maya."
Brock ran to the well, excited that all of his burning questions would finally be answered. But when he arrived at the well, he saw the most stunning woman he had ever seen. Which might not have been that impressive, since he had spent the last five years alone in the forest, meditating, performing austerities, subsisting only on berries and bugs. Most of his days had been consumed by contemplating the creation of the universe, reflecting on the meaning of life, and trying to remember which berries would kill him. He had very little time to contemplate the mystery and the beauty of women. It had simply slipped his mind. He stood with his mouth agape for a few seconds.
"Hello?...", She said, looking at him suspiciously. Even to people who are accustomed to seeing women on a daily basis, Alexandra stood out as being exceptionally beautiful. . (In the original story her name was Rati, but I think names that have more than three syllables sound infinitely more dramatic, so I shall call her that.)
"Ummm…hello" Brock stammered before he immediately fell to the ground and started doing push-ups. He did this because everyone knows that women are impressed by displays of strength. Naturally it worked. She laughed and they began chatting. He surprised himself. After many years of seclusion it would seem he was absolutely charming. The hour grew late, so she invited him back to her family's house for dinner. There he met Alexandra's parents. Though the food they ate was simple, it was delicious. It was much better than the berry and grub salad he had grown accustomed to.
Her father, who was the leader of the community, was impressed both with Brock's humble wisdom and his uncanny push-up ability. Indeed, he was so impressed, that he asked if Brock would mind staying until the next evening in order to help him sort out some pressing matters in the village. Brock gladly obliged since it would afford him more opportunity to look at Alexandra's lovely butt.
Days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months and months to years. Soon the people of the village could scarcely remember a day when Brock had not been in their midst. He was beloved by all and Alexandra's father groomed him to take his place as leader of the village. He eventually did and Alexandra and Brock were soon married and before long they had two wonderful children.
And so it was. Alexandra spent her days tending their garden of berries and grubs and raising their children. Brock became a trusted leader who advised the community with his Humble Wisdom™ and trained the young volunteers of the villages push-up battalion. Life was indeed good and pleasant.
Then one day a horrible storm came, flooding the nearby riverbank. The deluge was intense and quickly became a deadly torrent. Brock did everything he could but the downpour soon became overwhelming. Finally the entire town was inundated and swept down the river, taking with it his beautiful wife and children.
Brock however would be spared. Though while he was tossed and swept along the raging waters, he prayed for them to take him under and end his life as well. In fact he tried to drown himself several times. Each time though, the stubborn current would push him violently to the surface, sending him sailing before catching him and propelling him even further downstream as if he were nothing more than a lifeless, wet, rag doll. Presently, he grew tired of thoughts of self-destruction and he eventually allowed himself to slip into blackness.
At last he was deposited onto a riverbank under a large tree with low hanging branches. He was wet and cold and his mouth tasted like the gritty silt of the river. When he found that he was still alive, he wept deeply, remembering his extraordinary loss. His grieving was soon, interrupted by a soft tap on his shoulder. He turned to find Krishna looking down at him. He smiled warmly and gently wiped the tears from Brock's face. Brock sighed heavily and Krishna held him, stroking his matted hair. Many days passed, Brock cried, laughed and then cried some more. Krishna said nothing and only cradled him in his arms like a small child. At long last Brock stood up and stretched. He sighed heavily and blinked at the warm sun. Krishna finally spoke, "Did you get my water?" He asked with a wink.
Trish sat twirling her red pen between her fingers. "Now that story wasn't bad." She said. "I get it. Maya is something that cannot be described, it is something that must be experienced in order to truly understand. Although Brock was able to understand and recognize it intellectually at a distance, he could not avoid experiencing it directly." "Yes.", I said. "That's one way of looking at the story. Do you want to know what I think?" I asked rhetorically. "I'm afraid to ask" Trish said hesitantly.
"The way I see it, everyone has a divine purpose or mission. There is something we are meant to do that is intrinsic to us, but often we get distracted. Whether it's marriage, children, work or other peoples expectations of us, we often neglect the one thing that's within us. The one thing that nags at us that we wish we could do, but don't for whatever reason. Brock literally had a divine mission given to him by Krishna himself. Get a cup of water. However, he was soon distracted by the allure of sex, symbolized by Alexandra and her amazing butt, duty and other peoples expectations symbolized, by the father and children… symbolized by the children. Which I suppose isn't really all that symbolic. The trick as I see it, is to balance those things and still remember to get the cup of water.
"That's what I think anyway."
Trish paused and then looked at her watch before fixing her gaze on me. "What?" I asked defensively. "Once every seven hundred and fifty six days," she said, "You say something that not only makes sense, it's actually a bit profound. It makes me actually think I married you for a reason."
"Uh huh.", I said absentmindedly. I had suddenly become preoccupied with the thought that, out of all the animals in the world, Hollywood has suddenly become obsessed with the penguin. I mean when you think about it, aside from Riki Tiki Tavi, there has not been one feature film, dedicated to the mongoose. What the hell is that about?
Seriously. Think about it. The Mongoose. How awesome would that movie be?!
"Hey!", I said abruptly, "Where's that juicy and tender pot roast you were talking about earlier?" Trish sighed, put her chin in her hand and went back to grading her papers.