Narad Muni, the celebrated sage who travelled about the universe singing prayers and narrations of Lord Narayan, once came to a village on Earth and met a Brahmin priest who was just completing his morning prayers on the banks of a river. The man, well-known and respected for his impeccable routine, was delighted to see Narad Muni and welcomed him warmly.
During their small talk, the Brahmin marvelled that Narad Muni could see Lord Narayan, lord of the spiritual realm of Vaikuntha, at any time. It prompted him to ask, “Since you travel about freely, when you next go to Vaikuntha, could you ask Lord Narayan when I will see him there?”
The Brahmin was confident that his daily worship and rituals ensured a swift welcome into the beautiful spiritual planets.
Narad Muni promised he would ask the question and went on his way. A little distance on, he met a poor cobbler mending shoes by the roadside. The old man sat under a tree and sang devotional songs as he tapped away on the soles of various shoes.
“Welcome great sage, how nice to see you,” he said, “you are so fortunate to see Lord Narayan in his home, I wonder if I will ever see him?”
“I will certainly ask him,” said Narad Muni, looking piteously at the cobbler.
Back in Vaikuntha, millions of miles away from Earth, Narad Muni entered the glittering abode of Lord Narayan and offered his love and respects to the handsome and radiant Lord.
“I met a Brahmin and a cobbler – both were eager to know when they might see you?” said the sage.
“Ah, tell the Brahmin he will return to me after one hundred lifetimes and tell the cobbler he will see me at the end of his present life,” said Lord Narayan affectionately.
Narad Muni was intrigued. According to social standards, the Brahmin was of higher status and considered more likely to see the Lord because he performed rituals that others could not. The cobbler was assumed much less qualified because he handled the skin of dead animals to make shoes and did not know any rituals.
Lord Narayan understood Narad Muni’s mind and smiled. He said, “When you go to meet them they will ask you what I was doing here. Tell them I was threading an elephant through the eye of a needle.”
Perplexed, Narad Muni returned to Earth. He shocked the Brahmin who frowned in disbelief when he heard it would take one hundred lifetimes to enter Vaikuntha.
“This isn’t possible! I do all my rituals diligently and I come from an elevated family,” he said. “I don’t think you even went to Vaikuntha and if you did then tell me what Lord Narayan was doing?”
“He was threading an elephant through the eye of a needle.”
“That’s ridiculous. You can’t thread a huge animal like that through a tiny needle. You’re obviously making this all up.”
Shrugging his shoulders, Narad Muni went over to the cobbler and told him he would meet the Lord soon. Surprised and overjoyed, the cobbler said, “Me, he’ll have me back at the end of this lifetime? Oh, how kind. I don’t deserve such favour. He is truly full of grace. Tell me Narad Muni, what was our dear Lord doing when he told you this?”
The sage repeated his previous statement and was startled at the cobbler’s response.
“Oh how wonderful, that is wonderful.”
“Do you actually believe this?” asked Narad Muni.
“Of course I do dear Muni. Look over there at the grand old oak tree. Isn’t it amazing that it came from a tiny acorn. Our ingenious Lord can pack a huge tree in a tiny seed, so why not thread an elephant through a needle? He can do anything.”
“Cobbler, you are also wonderful. I’m so glad to have met you. You’re humility and faith is heart-warming; it is no wonder that you will see Lord Narayan soon!”