Once there was a holy man named Narada, whose great learning impressed the gods, even Vishnu who sleeps on a bed of cobras above the dark lake of infinity and whose very own dream is the universe.
One day Vishnu came to Narada and offered him a single wish; Narada answered that he would like to understand Maya, the illusion of the worlds dreamed by Vishnu. "Very well" said the god. "Let's go for a walk."
So Vishnu and Narada began a trek that would take them across the whole of Hindustan: through the teeming streets of Calcutta, along the banks of the holy Ganges, into the stifling forests that belonged to the Bengal tiger, and out across the plains of Uttar Pradesh, which grew hotter and hotter until the grass disappeared and their feet trod the burning desert of Rajasthan.
In the desert, Vishnu beckoned Narada to him: "My son, I am thirsty. There is an oasis around this dune. Please go and fetch me some water." So Narada went. He found the oasis, where spring water greened the fields of a small village. Seeking permission to draw from the well, he knocked on the door of the first hut. A young woman answered, and at the moment that Narada's eyes met hers he forgot his mission, forgot everything from before.
Narada stayed and married the beautiful young woman. They had two children. He was very happy, coaxing grain from the soil, working beside his loving wife and watching his children grow.
Twelve years went by, and one day an unusually dark storm rolled in from the north. Thunder boomed and rain came down in sheets. Narada tried to gather his family in his arms but the flood hit too quickly and plunged them into an inky swirl that separated them all. In a frenzy, he dove and thrashed and cried the names of his wife and children, but in the dark swirling water he could grasp nothing. Exhausted and heartbroken, he gave in to the raging current and the water swept him away.
Narada awoke face down in the sand under the blazing sun. He heard a voice: "My son, where is the drink you promised me? It's been half an hour." Narada looked into Vishnu's face. After a moment the god said, "Now you understand my dream."
- From Living in a Dream, Chong Hae Sunim JDPS
" ...before time began there was no heaven, no earth and no space between. A vast dark ocean washed upon the shores of nothingness and licked the edges of night. A giant cobra floated on the waters. Asleep within its endless coils lay the Lord Vishnu. He was watched over by the mighty serpent. Everything was so peaceful and silent that Vishnu slept undisturbed by dreams or motion. From the depths a humming sound began to tremble, Om. It grew and spread, filling the emptiness and throbbing with energy. The night had ended. Vishnu awoke. As the dawn began to break, from Vishnu's navel grew a magnificent lotus flower. In the middle of the blossom sat Vishnu's servant, Brahma. He awaited the Lord's command. Vishnu spoke to his servant: 'It is time to begin.' Brahma bowed. Vishnu commanded: 'Create the world.' A wind swept up the waters. Vishnu and the serpent vanished. Brahma remained in the lotus flower, floating and tossing on the sea. He lifted up his arms and calmed the wind and the ocean. Then Brahma split the lotus flower into three. He stretched one part into the heavens. He made another part into the earth. With the third part of the flower he created the skies. The earth was bare. Brahma set to work. He created grass, flowers, trees and plants of all kinds. To these he gave feeling. Next he created the animals and the insects to live on the land. He made birds to fly in the air and many fish to swim in the sea. To all these creatures, he gave the senses of touch and smell. He gave them power to see, hear and move. The world was soon bristling with life and the air was filled with the sounds of Brahma's creation.
- From The Lotus in Hinduism
Vishnu, the God, sleeps, and the activity of his mind stuff creates dreams, and we are all his dream: the world is Vishnu's dream. And just as, in your dreams, all the images that you behold and all the people who appear are really manifestations of your own dreaming power, so are we all manifestations of Vishnu's dreaming power. We are no more independent entities than the dream figures in our own dreams.
Hence, we are all one in Vishnu: manifestations, inflections, of this dreaming power of Vishnu; broken images of himself rippling on the spontaneously active surface of his subtle mind stuff. Moreover, this sleeping god's divine dream of the universe is pictured in Indian art as a great lotus plant growing from his navel.
- From Hinduism, Joseph Campbell
There is an old story from India about the God, Brahma, who was all alone. Nothing existed but Brahma, and he was completely bored. Brahma decided to play a game, but there was no one to play with. So he created a beautiful goddess, Maya, just for the purpose of having fun. Once Maya existed and Brahma told her the purpose of her existence, she said, "Okay, let's play the most wonderful game, but you have to do what I tell you to do." Brahma agreed, and following Maya's instructions, he created the sun and the stars, the moon and the planets. Then he created life on earth, the animals, the oceans, the atmosphere, everything.
Maya said, "How beautiful is this world of illusion you created. Now I want you to create a kind of animal that is so intelligent and aware that it can appreciate your creation." Finally Brahma created humans, and after he finished the creation, he asked Maya when the game was going to start."
We will start right now," she said. She took Brahma and cut him into thousands of teeny, tiny pieces. She put a piece into every human and said, "Now the game begins! I am going to make you forget what you are, and you are going to try and find yourself!" Maya created the Dream, and still, even today, Brahma is trying to remember who he is. Brahma is there inside you, and Maya is stopping you from remembering who you are.
- From Bored Brahma