Random Thoughts

Indras and Indriyas

As an amateur etymologist and professionally curious individual, I always wondered why these strange, so called Aryans, who gave much of the world their language, chose to call their supreme God Indra and the crucial senses Indriyas. Finally I found my answer and it was an ambiguous matter of control. Gods are all powerful and while they control us, they need to be controlled too. I will give you two classic stories of Hindu mythology. Once a year in Brahma the creator's year, which is almost the equivalent to our billion years, the creator holds a durbar and gives an audience to his creation, which consists of Devas, Danavas and Manushyas. The last time he gave an audience, he said just one letter "DA". His sage advice to the Danavas was Daya or mercy, which would make them human, To the manushyas, it was Daan, which could make them divine and to the Devas was Daman or control, which allowed them to be sublime. Thus control was the primary thing, as we know from evolution of the cerebral cortex.

Another critical story, which mocks their supreme god and his hubris has even been quoted by Joseph Campbell. Indras are chosen periodically like Presidents in the USA and have a penchant for redecorating the White House or Swarga. They are not above impeachment, as our myths tell us and Nahusha And Yayati were appointed as Indras, inspite of being human. There is a story of a newly appointed Indra, who wants to redecorate the White House and is discussing the plans with his architect, Vishwakarma and sees a file of ants, crossing the marble floor of his mansion and is visibly annoyed. He chastises the architect for less than a perfect job and asks him, who these ants are and what they are doing in his exclusive country club of Swarga. Vishwakarma replies that they are former Indras, reluctant to leave their abode inspite of having used up their Punyas and being justly reborn as ants.

Now consider the classic analogy of depicting the senses as horses, which only Plato the Greek did, of all other humanity except for the Hindus, who did the same, a millennium before him and the story of the Upanishadas, where the senses like any horse need a rein and I begin to see a far fetched etymological connection, why senses should be equated with gods and be worthy of Daman. 

In the Upanishadas, the emphasis is on Prana, the breath and hence Prani, an animal and Pranava. The American version is funnier and pregnant with meaning. There is a quarrel amongst the organs and they decide to have a democratic contest. Every organ can throw its hat into the ring and at the end of the process. There is a squeak from the lowest orifice contesting the election. The method of solving the ascendancy to supremacy is for the contesting organ to stop functioning. To cut a long story short, when the lowest orifice clamps down, the eyes begin to blur, the mouth and stomach throw up, the brain cannot think and the legs get wobbly. They all concede that the anus is the boss. The moral of the story is not smartness, but how much of an asshole you are, which makes you the boss.  


More by :  Gaurang Bhatt, MD

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