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INDRA

INDRA

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Published by: tralalalalala22 on Feb 02, 2011
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02/02/2011

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INDRA'S LESSON
 There is a wonderful story in one of theUpanishads about the god Indra. Now, ithappened at this time that a great monster hadenclosed all the waters of the earth, so therewas a terrible drought, and the world was in avery bad condition. It took Indra quite a while to realize that he hada box of thunderbolts and that all he had to do was drop athunderbolt on the monster and blow him up. When he did that, thewaters flowed, and the world was refreshed, and Indra said, "Whata great boy am I."So, thinking, "What a great boy am I," Indra goes up to the cosmicmountain, which is the central mountain of the world, and decidesto build a palace worthy of such as he. The main carpenter of thegods goes to work on it, and in very quick order he gets the palaceinto pretty good condition. But every time Indra comes to inspectit, he has bigger ideas about how splendid and grandiose the palaceshould be. Finally, the carpenter says, "My god, we are bothimmortal, and there is no end to his desires. I am caught foreternity." So he goes to Brahma, thecreator god, and complain.Brahma sits on a lotus, the symbol of divine energy and divine grace. The lotusgrows from the navel of Vishnu, who is thesleeping god, whose dream is the universe.So the carpenter comes to the edge of thegreat pond of the universe and tells his story to Brahma. Brahmasays, "You go home. I will fix this up." Brahma gets off his lotusand kneels down to address sleeping Vishnu. Vishnu just makes agesture and says something like, "Listen, fly, something is going tohappen."
 
Next morning, at the gate of the palace that is being built, thereappears a beautiful blue boy with a lot of children around him, justadmiring his beauty. The porter at the gate of the new palace goesrunning to Indra, and Indra says, "Well, bring in the boy." The boyis brought in, and Indra, the king god, sitting on his throne, says,"Young man, welcome. And what brings you to my palace?""Well," says the boy with a voice like thunder rolling on thehorizon, "I have been told that you are building such a palace as noIndra before you ever built." And Indra says, "Indras before me,young man— what are you talking about?"The boy says, "Indras before you. I have seenthem come and go, come and go. Just think,Vishnu sleeps in the cosmic ocean, and thelotus of the universe grows from his navel. Onthe lotus sits Brahma, the creator. Brahmaopens his eyes, and a world comes into being,governed by an Indra. Brahma closes his eyes, and a world goesout of being. The life of a Brahma is 432,000 years. When he dies,the lotus goes back, and another lotus is formed, and anotherBrahma. Then think of the galaxies beyond galaxies in infinitespace, each a lotus, with a Brahma sitting on it, opening his eyes,closing his eyes. And Indras? There may be wise men in your courtwho would volunteer to count the drops of water in the oceans orthe grains of sand on the beaches, but no one would count thoseBrahmin, let alone those Indras."While the boy was talking, an army of ants parades across thefloor. The boy laughs when he sees them, and Indra's hair standson end, and he says to the boy, "Why do you laugh?" The boyanswers, "Don't ask unless you are willing to be hurt."Indra says, "I ask. Teach." (That, by theway, is a good Oriental idea: you don't teachuntil you are asked. You don't force your
 
mission down people's throats.) And so the boy points to the antsand says, "Former Indras all.Through many lifetimes they risefrom the lowest conditions to the highest illumination. And thenthey drop their thunderbolt on a monster, and they think, 'What agood boy am I.' And down they go again."When the boy is talking, a crotchety old yogi comes into the palacewith a banana leaf parasol. He is naked except for a loincloth, andon his chest is a little disk of hair, and half the hairs in the middlehave all dropped out.The boy greets him and asks him just what Indra was about to ask."Old man, what is your name? Where do you come from? Where isyour family? Where is your house? And what is the meaning of this curious constellation of hair on your chest?""Well," says the old fella, "my name is Hairy. I don't have a house.Life is too short for that. I just have this parasol. I don't have afamily. I just meditate on Vishnu's feet, and think of eternity, andhow passing time is. You know, every time an Indra dies, a worlddisappears— these things just flash by like that. Every time anIndra dies, one hair drops out of this circle on my chest. Half thehairs are gone now. Pretty soon they will all be gone. Life is short.Why build a house?"Then the two disappear. The boy was Vishnu, the Lord Protector,and the old yogi was Shiva, the creator and destroyer of the world,who had just come for the instruction of Indra, who is simply a godof history but thinks he is the whole show.Indra is sitting there on the throne, and he is completelydisillusioned, completely shot. He calls the carpenter and says,"I'm quitting the building of this palace. You are dismissed." Sothe carpenter got his intention. He is dismissed from the job, andthere is no more house building going on.

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