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Lord Matsya, the Fish Incarnation.
Once upon a time, at the end of Brahma’s day, when the Grandsire felt sleepy and wanted to lie down, the Vedas came out from his mouth. At that time, a great demon named Hayagriva stole the Vedic knowledge and so, because everything was inundated by water, the Supreme Lord assumed the form of a fish, to rectify matters. Actually, because Agastya Muni had cursed Svayambhuva Manu, the devastation took place at the beginning of the first manvantara, which may therefore also be termed the night of Brahma. After killing the demon, Hayagriva, Lord Matsya returned the Vedas to Lord Brahma and then vanished from sight.
Thereafter, in the Chakshusha manvantara, there was suddenly another devastation when, by the will of the Lord, Brahma felt sleepy for a short time in the middle of his day. During this Chakshusha manvantara, there lived a king of Dravida-desha, named Satyavrata, who was a great devotee of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
For some time, Satyavrata performed austerities while subsisting by drinking only water. One day, as King Satyavrata was making an offering of water, while seated on the banks of the river Kritamala, a small fish appeared in his cupped hands. Without a second thought, the king threw the fish into the river, along with the handful of water.
However, with an appealing voice, the poor small fish spoke to the merciful ruler: “My dear King, protector of the helpless, why have you thrown Me into this river, where there are other aquatics who can easily kill me? I am very much afraid of them.”
King Satyavrata could not understand that the fish was, in actuality, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Still, just for his own satisfaction, he cheerfully decided to give it protection. This is an example of agyata-sukrti, devotional service that is performed unknowingly. By such service, one receives the favor of the Supreme Lord. Being moved by the pitiable words of the fish, the merciful king put Him in a water jug and then returned to his palace.
But, in just one night, the fish grew so much that He could no longer move about comfortably in the water pot. So He said to Maharaja Satyavrata: “I do not like staying in this small container and so please find some better reservoir of water, where I may live comfortably.”
King Satyavrata took the fish out of the water pot and threw Him into a large well. However, within just a moment the fish grew to three cubits and said, “My dear King, this well is not a fit place for my residence. Please find Me a more extensive pool of water. After all, I have taken shelter of You.”
King Satyavrata then took the fish out of the well and threw Him into a lake. However, the fish immediately assumed such a gigantic form that His body exceeded the extent of the water. He then told Maharaja Satyavrata, “O King, I am a large aquatic and so this lake is not at all suitable for Me. Please save Me by finding some reservoir of water that will never shrink”
King Satyavrata next took the fish to the largest reservoir of water within his kingdom, but that also proved to be insufficient. Therefore, as a last resort, the king had to throw the gigantic fish into the ocean. At this time, the fish said to the king, “O hero, there are many very powerful and dangerous sharks in the water that will eat Me. You should not have thrown Me into this place.”
After hearing these sweetly-spoken words from the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the bewildered king asked, “Who are You? Your activities simply astonish us.”
“My Lord, in just one day You have expanded Yourself to one hundred yojanas. Before this, I have never seen nor heard of such an aquatic.”
“My Lord, You must certainly be the inexhaustible Supreme Personality of Godhead, Narayana, Who has assumed the form of a fish just to show mercy to all living entities. Because You are the leader and destination of surrendered souls like us, I offer my respectful obeisances unto You. Please let me know the purpose for which You have incarnated in this form of a fish.”
The Supreme Lord said, “O King, on the seventh day from today, the entire three worlds will merge into the water of inundation. At this time, a large boat sent by Me will appear before you, and so you should collect all kinds of seeds and herbs and load them onto this great vessel.”
“Accompanied by the sapta-rishis, and surrounded by all species of living entities, you should fearlessly board the boat, for it will enable you to travel safely on the ocean of inundation. At that time, when the only illumination will be the effulgence of the seven rishis, the boat will be violently tossed about by the powerful winds. Therefore, you should attach the vessel to My horn, by means of the great serpent, Vasuki, for I shall appear there by your side. Thereafter, until Brahma’s night is over, I will pull the boat on the water, while thoroughly instructing you about knowledge of Myself. By My favor, all of the truths regarding My glories will become manifest within your heart.”
After saying this, Lord Matsya disappeared, then and there, and thereafter Satyavrata waited for the time that He had indicated. After spreading kusha grass with its tips facing east, the King sat down facing northeast and began meditating upon the Supreme Lord in His from as a fish.
After some time, gigantic masses of clouds began incessantly pouring water so that the ocean swelled more and more, until it overflowed onto the land. In this way, the whole world gradually became inundated. Then, while remembering the words of the Supreme Lord, King Satyavrata suddenly saw a wonderful boat coming nearby. He quickly collected various herbs and creepers, and then, along with the rishis, he boarded the boat.
Being pleased with Satyavrata, the brahmanas advised him, “O King, please meditate upon the Supreme Personality of Godhead, so that He may save us from this impending danger and arrange for our welfare.”
Thereafter, as King Satyavrata steadily meditated upon the Supreme Lord, a large golden fish appeared before him in the ocean of inundation. This extraordinary fish was one million yojanas in length and had a large horn on His head. Following the instructions that he had formerly received from the Lord, King Satyavrata anchored the boat to the fish’s horn by using Vasuki as a rope.
With great satisfaction, the king then offered his prayers unto the Lord as follows: “I offer my respectful obeisances unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead, by whose grace those persons who have lost their self-knowledge, since time immemorial, obtain a chance to meet His devotee. In hopes of becoming happy, the foolish conditioned soul performs so many fruitive activities that simply result in suffering. However, by rendering devotional service unto the Supreme Lord, one can become free from such false desires for happiness. May that supreme spiritual master cut the knot of false material desires from the core of my heart.”
“As gold or silver becomes purified of all dirt when treated with fire, so one can regain his original position by rendering devotional service unto the Supreme Lord. Neither all of the demigods nor the so-called gurus can offer even one ten-thousandth the mercy that the Supreme Lord bestows upon His devotees. As a blind man accepts another blind man to guide him, a person who does not know the goal of life accepts a fool and a rascal as a guru, to instruct him about economic development and sense gratification. The instructions of these so-called gurus insure that the foolish disciples remain in the darkness of material existence.”
“On the other hand, Your Lordship bestows upon one the eternal knowledge that allows him to become reinstated in his original constitutional position. Therefore, my dear Lord, I accept You as my spiritual master.”
“O Supreme Lord, I surrender unto You. By Your instructions, please reveal life’s purpose, so that I may understand my ultimate destination.”
Thereafter, while moving about in the water of inundation, Lord Matsya explained to King Satyavrata the spiritual science known as sankhya-yoga, or bhakti-yoga, whereby one can distinguish between matter and spirit. In addition, the Lord discoursed on the subject matters of the Puranas and Samhitas. Thus, while seated upon the boat, King Satyavrata and the rishis became fully enlightened about the existence of the Absolute Truth.
At present, this same King Satyavrata, who was illuminated with Vedic knowledge by the mercy of the Supreme Lord, has taken birth as Sraddhadeva, the son of Vivasvan, who is also known as Vaivasvata Manu.