Every human being (nara, in Sanskrit) has two parts: who they are and what they have. Scriptures separate the two parts. The former is called Narayan. The latter is called Narayani. Narayana is the truth of man. Narayani is the container of that truth. What are we attracted by – the content, Narayan, or the container, Narayani? We know we are more than the beauty, the intelligence and the wealth that we possess; and yet, we understand and estimate every human being on the basis of these possessions. The tragedy of man is that in the pursuit of Narayani, he has forgotten Narayan. To draw attention to this is the mission of the wily sage, Narada.
The story goes that when Narada was created out of the imagination of Brahma, he went around encouraging everybody to renounce the world and become ascetics and attain liberation from all things material. So Daksha, some say, Brahma himself, cursed him, that he would never attain liberation. He would be trapped forever in the material realm of Devas, Asuras and Manavas, gods, demons and humans. So he goes about singing praise of Narayan and provoking quarrels over Narayani.
In classical tradition, Narada is more famous as a musician and a great devotee of Vishnu who spread the bhakti path through songs across the three worlds. In folklore and traditional theatre, however, the arrival of Narada spells trouble. He is the sage, son of Brahma, who travels between the realms of gods, demons and humans, gossiping about what he has seen, and willy-nilly creating trouble.
To break free from the clutches of Narayani we have to keep Narayana as the reference point, stop comparing and be happy with whatever we are.
Devdutt Pattanaik is an Indian physician turned leadership consultant, mythologist, author and communicator whose works focus largely on the areas of myth, religion, mythology, and management.