Sage Narada was devoted to Lord Vishnu. He would go around the world reciting the Lord’s name — Narayana, Narayana.
One day, Narada met Lord Vishnu. “Lord, I have a question. Who is your greatest devotee in this world?” Narada asked.
Lord Vishnu pointed to a farmer ploughing the filed. “He is my greatest devotee.”
Narada was surprised to hear this. The farmer was a good fellow, working hard for a living. But he took the name of the Lord only once or twice a day, whereas Narada recited the Lord’s name thousands of times a day.
Lord Vishnu could see that the sage was not convinced with the answer he had given. So, he gave Narada a pot filled with oil filled to the brim.
“Narada,” said Lord Vishnu pointing out a hill, “I want you to go around that hill, carrying this pot of oil on your head. Take care not to spill oil, not even a drop.”
Narada placed the pot filled with oil on his head and started going around the hill. He took measured steps, walked slowly, and kept himself steady all the time so that the pot on his head stayed still. It took him the whole day to complete one round. He returned to Vishnu and gave the pot of oil back to the Lord.
“You can see that the pot is still filled with oil to its brim. Not a drop has been spilled,” said Narada.
“Yes, I can see that. Now tell me, how many times did you remember to take my name?”
“Oh lord!” Narada cried out. “Not even once. My entire attention was on the pot on my head. I forgot everything except the oil. I’m sorry, Lord, I could not remember you even once,” confessed Narada.
“And that farmer remembers me, amidst all his work, at least twice a day,” said the Lord.
Narada agreed that the farmer was a greater devotee than him!