During Krishna's time on earth, one of his greatest devotees was the sage Narada, who was also an incarnation of Vishnu as I discuss here. As I discuss in this answer, Narada was one of the sages who proclaimed Krishna's divinity. But the most famous story of Krishna and Narada is one that I can't seem to find a scriptural basis for.

The story as I understand it goes roughly as follows. (It's found, e.g. in this book which quotes Swami Vivekananda.) One day Narada comes to Dwaraka and asks Krishna to explain to him what Maya is. So Krishna takes Narada on a trip in the desert. In the middle of the desert, Krishna asks Narada for water, as he (claims to be) feeling thirsty. Narada goes a short distance and finds a nearby village, where he falls in love with a local village girl and forgets all about Krishna. He marries her, has children, and lives wit them 12 years. Then one a massive flood comes and his family is washed away, when suddenly he hears a voice saying "Narada, what about my water." He sees Krishna, and asks him what has happened to his wife and children. Krishna says that none of it was real, that Narada never had a wife or children and that the village didn't even exist. That is what Maya is.

My question is, what scripture does this story of Krishna producing an illusion for Narada comes from?

There is a similar story told in this chapter and subsequent chapters of the Devi Bhagavatam. In this account Narada asks Vishnu, not Krishna, what Maya is, and then Vishnu tells Narada to take a bath in a pond, after which Vishnu will take a bath. Then Vishnu turns Narada into a woman and makes him forget who he is, so the woman falls in love with a king, has children, and then her children die in a war. Finally Narada goes back to the pond, where he regains his male form, whereupon he hears Vishnu say "Narada, why are you still standing in the pond?" So then Vishnu explains that his experiences weren't real and that that is what Maya is. But the Devi Bhagavatam is considered by many to not be an authentic scripture, because it's not listed in the traditional lists of Upapuranas. So does anyone know if other Puranas mention this story of Vishnu and Narada?

And are there any scriptures that mention the Krishna and Narada version? I've seen claims that it's mentioned in the Matsya Puranas, but I'm not sure where.

In any case, both versions of the story, at least at first glance, seem to lend support to Adi Sankaracharya's philosophy of Advaita, which posits that the physical world is an illusion as I discuss here. So I'd be interested in how non-Advaitins interpret it. Assuming the story is mentioned in the Matsya Purana or some other Mahapurana, there's a good chance that one or more Vaishnava Acharyas have discuss it.

  • Well, Devi Bhagavatam is really a Purana or not is not concern for this question. There are many people who believe it as Purana rather than Upapurana.
    – The Destroyer
    May 3 '16 at 4:25
  • Narada is the greatest devotee of all times not just Krsna's time. :) Also I think the Narada as a husband story is a modified version of Narada as a wife story.
    – Surya
    May 3 '16 at 4:57
  • I don't think it leans very much on Advaita, because Narada asks Vishnu/Krsna what is Maya and not what is the meaning of this world. So it could be a display of Vishnu's Maya which causes one to forget everything. Again I am not saying it doesn't have an Advaita touch.
    – Surya
    May 3 '16 at 5:01
  • Hmm.. I also found it as story of Vivekananda. Though this story is very popular and also discussed at Upanishad Ganga ; +1 for good question (looking for scriptural source).
    – Pandya
    May 3 '16 at 10:56

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