The greater teacher Prajapati said, ‘The Self is pure, free from decay and death, free from hunger and thirst and free from sorrow. This is Atman, the Spirit in man. The only thing this Spirit desires is truth. This is the Spirit that we must seek and know: we must each find our own Self. When we have found our Self and got to know it, we have reached the ultimate, and there is nothing more to desire.’
The King of Gods, Indra, and the King of Demons, Virochana both heard what Prajapati said and thought, ‘We must find that Self, that Spirit, so that we can obtain all our desires.’
So Indra, the godly, and Virochana, the demonic both went independently to Prajapati, carrying gifts as a sign that they wanted to be his pupils, and for thirty-two years they lived as religious students with him. At the end of the thirty-two years, Prajapati asked why they had stayed with him for so long.
Indra and Virochana answered, ‘We have heard your inspiring words: the Self is pure and beyond old age and death, free from hunger, thirst and sorrow; a Spirit who desires only truth, and whose thoughts are truth. You say that we must find this Spirit and understand it because when we do all of our desires will be met. This is why we have become your pupils.’
Prajapati said to them, ‘When you look into another person’s eyes what you see is the Self, fearless and deathless. That is the Higher Spirit, Brahman, the Supreme.’
They asked, ‘What is it we see reflected when we look in a mirror?’
‘It is the Self that you see in all of these. That same Self is seen in all. Go and look at yourself in a bowl of water and tell me what you see.’
They did, and responded, ‘We see ourselves clearly, our doubles, even our hair and our nails.’
‘Then dress up, put on beautiful clothes and jewellery, and look at yourselves again and tell me what you see this time.’
They did, and answered, ‘We see ourselves as we are, all dressed up.’
‘That is also the Self, fearless and deathless.’
Indra and Virochana went away satisfied, but Prajapati said to himself, ‘They have seen the Self, but they have not understood. They have not yet found the Self. They mistake the Self as the body. If you think that the Self is the body then you lose your way in life.’
Virochana, certain that the Self is the body, went back to the demons and began to teach them that the body alone is to be saved and adored. He taught them that if you live with indulgence of the senses you will find joy in this world and the next.
Even today, we lack faith, love and charity, we are called godless.
Before Indra returned to the godly, he could see the danger of this teaching and thought, ‘If our Self is the body and it is dressed in beautiful clothes, then when the body is blind, the Self must also be blind, and when the body is lame, then the Self must be lame, and when the body dies, our Self dies also. I don’t understand the spiritual benefits of this teaching.’ So he went back to Prajapati with gifts in hand as a sign that he wanted to be his pupil again.
‘Why have you come back?’ asked Prajapati. ‘You left here satisfied.’
Indra replied, ‘Lord, if the body is all adorned, so is its reflection; but if the body is blind, lame or crippled, the Self would be blind, lame or crippled; if the body is dead, the Self would be dead. I don’t see any benefits to this understanding.’
‘You are correct. Stay with me for a further thirty-two years and I will teach you more about the Self.’ So Indra lived with Prajapati for a further thirty-two years, and after this time said to him, ‘The Self is that which moves about in joy in the dreaming state, fearless and deathless.’
Indra went away satisfied, but later began to question this knowledge and went back a third time to Prajapati. ‘Why have you returned? Aren’t you satisfied?’ the sage asked Indra.
Indra replied, ‘In the dreaming state, the Self is not blind when the body is blind, nor lame when the body is lame; yet in this sate the Self may seem to be killed and suffer and even weep. I can find no joy in this teaching.’
Then Prajapati said to him, ‘Live with me for a further thirty-two years and I will teach you more about the Self.’ So Indra lived with him for another thirty-two years, and at the end of this time his teacher said, ‘When a person is fast asleep, at peace with himself, serene and dreamless, that is the Self, the Immortal beyond fear. That is the Supreme Reality, called Brahman.’
Now Indra left with peace in his heart, thinking he was ready to start teaching about the Self, but before be reached his pupils, he saw the danger of this teaching and he returned once more to Prajapati. Again Prajapati asked why he had returned and Indra replied, ‘When you are in a state of deep dreamless sleep, you are not aware of yourself or of anyone else. I think that in this state you are very close to extinction. I don’t see any knowledge in this teaching either.’
‘You are thinking very clearly, Indra’ said Prajapati. ‘Live with me for a further five years and I will teach you to realize the Self.’ So Indra lived with Prajapati for another five years, making a total of 101 years that he lived with his teacher. People often said that the great Indra lived with Prajapati the pure life of a spiritual student for 101 years in order to learn to master the Self.
After this time Prajapati revealed the highest truth of the Self to Indra: ‘It is true that the body will die, but within the body lives the imperishable Self. The body experiences pleasure and pain, so no one that is ruled by his body can ever be free from pleasure and pain. But those that know they are not the body can pass beyond pleasure and pain to live in a state of joy.
‘The wind, clouds, thunder and lightning have no body, but when they rise up and reach the light, they show their own shapes. Likewise when the Self is in silent quietness it arises, leaves the body and, becoming the Spirit Supreme, it finds body of light. This is the land of infinite liberty where, beyond the mortal body, the Spirit of man is free. There he can laugh and sing and forget that while he was on earth, he was attached to his body. As a beast is attached to a cart, so on earth the Self is attached to a body.
‘When we see, smell, speak, hear or think, it is the Self that sees, smells, speaks, hears and thinks, The senses are only the instruments of the Self. It is because of the light of the Spirit that the human mind can see and think and enjoy this world. When you know your own Self in truth and light, you experience peace and joy.’