Sanatkumar says: O sage! Faith has the greatest significance. Achievement of everything and appeasement of Lord Vishnu depend upon the faith. Nothing is attainable without faith. Such as a human being faces inertia in the absence of life and is rendered motionless. Similarly, faith is like a spiritual light without which, religious actions of a man come to cease. Similarly, devotion is also known as the life of all the achievements. It is also the giver of four supreme goals of life like Dharma, Arth, Kama and Moksha.
No action succeeds without the input of devotion and faith. Even the menial jobs done with faith gives everlasting results. On the contrary, even the pious actions of envious people go futile. Attainment of God by envious people is impossible.
Envy is the greatest enemy of the human being. It creates a gap as big as the one that separates the sky from the nether world. O Brahmanandan! Only those people, who remain engrossed in faithful devotion of God attain to the abode of Vishnu. Fallen are those who, despite having the knowledge of Vedas, do not comply with the moral code of conduct of their clan. Neither Vedas nor even devotion can save such people. In other words, moral conduct is everything. O great sage! Devotion is like a mother who is the base of life for every living being.
O Narad! Company of the pious people and the saints is the best means to cherish devotion. Saints are the teachers of the entire world. When the sins that have been accumulating all throughout the previous births decay only when one gets pious company and those who once get pious company experiences eternal joy.
Narad says: "O great devotee of Lord Vishnu! Kindly relate the actions and appearance of the Lord's devotees to me."
Sanatkumar says: "During the period of Pralay, when all the world was inundated, Lord Vishnu was sleeping on a Banyan leaf. That scene had amazed Markandeya, the supreme devotee of the Lord."
The sages asked: "When all the world was inundated, how did Markandeya escape? Sutaji kindly remove our doubt."
Sutaji says: "O great sages! Now, I am going to narrate the tale of Markandeya. Listen to it carefully."
Once upon a time, there lived a fortunate sage in the pious land of India. The sage was famous as Mrikandu. He had observed a very severe penance at the holy pilgrimage center of Shaligram. His penance began to cause worry for Indra. So, accompanied by other gods, Indra reached to Lord Vishnu who was resting on Sheshnaag in Ksheersagar, the ocean of milk. The gods prayed to the Lord to protect them from the radiance of Mrikandu. Listening to the prayers offered by the gods, Lord Vishnu appeared in His four-armed form holding conch, wheel, mace and lotus in each of those arms. His radiance was enough to beat the shine of crore Suns. His radiance caused tremendous joy for the gods, who fell flat at the feet of the Lord.
The Lord said: "O gods! Get up. I am fully aware about your miseries. But your worries are meaningless because Maharshi Mrikandu is really a gentleman. He is not going to harm you in any way. Even if the situation arises, I am always ready to protect you."
Saying these words, the Lord disappeared. Thus assured by the Lord's words, the gods also returned to their abode. On the other hand, pleased by Mrikandu's penance, the Lord appeared before him. As soon as Mrikandu opened his eyes, he saw Lord Vishnu standing before him. The Lord's four-armed, blue and radiant appearance caused great exhilaration for Mrikandu. He fell flat at His feet and prayed to Him with tearful eyes. Pleased with his prayers, the Lord asked Mrikandu to seek a boon. But Mrikandu refused, saying that he had attained salvation just by having His sight. Still, the Lord said that His appearance never goes in vain," So, I will be your son who will live a long life." Granting this boon, the Lord disappeared."
Narad says: "O great sage! Why did Lord Vishnu appear as the son of Mrikandu? What did He do as his son? The Puranas say that during the Pralay, Markandeya had witnessed the direct appearance of Lord Vishnu's illusion. Kindly narrate these things in detail."
Sanatkumar says: "Listen O Devarshi! After observing severe penance, the sage Mrikandu got married and received an equally virtuous and chaste wife. In the tenth month after their marriage, his wife gave birth to an extremely beautiful baby. The baby, in fact, had incorporated the radiance of the Lord. Mrikandu carried out all the necessary rituals and consecrations of the baby happily. In his fifth year, he carried out the thread ceremony of his son and started to educate him in the Vedas. His education developed all the pious virtues in his son whom he had named Markandeya. After finishing his education, sage Markandeya also started a severe penance to please Lord Vishnu.
Pleased by his penance, Lord Vishnu blessed him with a boon of creating Purana Samhita. This is the reason why the sage Markandeya is also known as Narayana. O Brahmins! Lord Vishnu did not annihilate Markandeya during the Pralay only to show him His illusions. It was due to this grace that Markandeya survived the Pralay and passed that time floating on a Banyan leaf. As long as the Lord slept, Markandeya kept floating on that leaf. As long as the night of the Lord lasted, Markandeya stayed on that flimsy leaf. At the end of the night, when the inundating Pralay receded and the Lord awakened from His prolonged sleep, He began the work of creation again.
It was even more amazing for Markandeya to see the inundating water recede and new creation taking place. He began to pray to the Lord with folded hands. Pleased by his prayers, the Lord said that He always protected His devotees,even during the most severe crises. Markandeya then asked about the appearance of the true devotees of the Lord. He also expressed his curiosity to know the reasons for their birth.
Lord Vishnu says: "O great among the sages! The greatest devotees are those who do not harm others with their mind, words and actions and who are free from envy. Those who have impartial view are best among the devotees. Those who protect the human beings, cows, Brahmins, vegetation and remain engrossed in discussion of the Lord's virtues. Those who salute the garden of basil and put the earth from basil's roots on their heads, those who are beloved to Lord Shiva, put Tripund on their forehead and worship Him performing yagyas facing south. Those who always donate water and cereals, cows and daughters are the excellent among all the devotees. O great sage! These are some of the characteristics of a true devotee. Cherish these characteristics and you will also attain salvation in the last."
Thus, preaching, Lord Vishnu disappeared. Markandeya thereafter led a pious life and observed penance and in the last, he too attained to the supreme abode of the Lord.