There is a wonderful story in the Upanishads about the god Indra. Now it happened at this time that a great monster had enclosed all the waters of the earth, so there was a terrible drought, and the world was in a very bad condition. It took Indra quite a while to realize that he had a box of thunderbolts and that all he had to do was drop a thunderbolt on the monster and blow him up. When he did that, the waters flowed, and the world was refreshed, and Indra said. “What a great boy am I”.
So, thinking, “What a great boy am I”, Indra goes up to the cosmic mountain, which is the central mountain in the world, and decides to build a palace worthy of such as he. The main carpenter of the gods goes to work on it, and in very quick order he gets the palace into pretty good condition. But every time Indra comes to inspect it, he had bigger ideas about how splendid and grandiose the palace should be. Finally, the carpenter says, “My god, we are both immortal, and there is no end to his desires. I am caught for eternity. So he decides to go Brahma, the creator god, and complain.
Brahma sits on a lotus, the symbol of divine energy and divine grace. The lotus grows from the navel of Vishnu, who is the sleeping god, whose dream is the universe. So the carpenter comes to the edge of the great lotus pond of the universe and tells his story to Brahma. Brahma says, ” You go home. I will fix this up.” Brahma gets off his lotus and kneels down to address sleeping Vishnu. Vishnu just makes a gesture and says something like, “Listen, fly, something is going to happen.”
Next morning, at the gate of the palace that is being built, there appears a beautiful blue-black boy with a lot of children around him, just admiring his beauty. The porter at the gate of the new palace goes running to Indra, and Indra says, “Well, bring in the boy.” The boy is brought in, and Indra, the kind 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 the horizon, “I have been told that you are building such a palace as no Indra before you ever built.”
And Indra says, “Indras before me, youn man – what are you talking about?”
The boy says, “Indras before you. I have seen them come and go, come and go. Just think, Vishnu sleeps in the cosmic ocean, and the lotus of the Universe grows from his navel. On the lotus sits Brahma, the creator. Brahma opens his eyes, and a world comes into being, governed by an Indra. Brahma closes his eye, and a world goes out of being. The life of a Brahma is four hundred and thirty-two thousand years. When he dies, the lotus goes back, and another lotus is formed, and another Brahma. Then think of the galaxies beyond galaxies in infinite space, each a lotus, with a Brahma sitting on it, opening his eyes, closing his eyes. And Indras? There may be wise men in your court who would volunteer to count the drops of water in the oceans of the world or the grains of sand on the beaches, but no one would count those Bramin, let alone those Indras.”
While the boy is talking, an army of ants parades across the floor. The boy laughs when he sees them, and Indra’s hair stands on end, and he says to the boy, “Why do you laugh?”
The boy answers, “Dont ask unless you are willing to be hurt.”
Indra says, “I ask. Teach.”( That, by the way, is a good Oriental idea: you don’t teach until you are asked. You don’t force your mission down people’s throats.)
And so the boy points to the ants and says, “Former Indras all. Through many lifetimes they rise from the lowest conditions to the highest illumination. And then they drop their thunderbolt on a monster, and they think, ‘What a good boy am I.’ And down they go again.”