Building a good foundation.

Knowledge is a good foundation from which to raise oneself in life.

So is a pile of bricks.

Section II.1.2. of the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa – the “Brāhmaṇa of a Hundred Paths” – gives a detailed analysis of when the householder should ideally set up his household fires, for various desired results. In section II.1.2.13, the auspiciousness of Citra nakṣatra is explained by the following story:

Both the Devas and the Asuras (a word now used to mean “demons,” though its original sense was not such) came forth from the god Prajāpati, and both groups wanted Heaven for themselves. So the Asuras began building a great fire-altar, confident that if they could finish the altar, they would reach Heaven first.

I’ve read two interpretations of this plan: that either the Asuras schemed to win Heaven by offering fire-sacrifice in their shiny new altar, and thereby gaining merit enough to rule, or else it was not a specifically-shaped altar they wanted to build, but a sort of sky-ward ladder by which to reach Heaven directly. Either way, it doesn’t matter, as Indra saw what they were doing and went to the site, disguised as a brāhmaṇa just passing by.

The Asura priests each brought a brick and began constructing the altar together. Indra, ever-generous, also brought an offering for the altar-in-progress – a brick wrapped in lightning, easily identifiable as his – and laid that brick down with the others. But when the structure was nearly complete, Indra decided to take his brick back and be on his way.

The altar collapsed. Indra then transformed the scattered bricks into thunderbolts and brick-bolted all of the Asuras to death.

Such is one of many explanations of why the Devas gained Heaven over the demons, and also the reason that Citra nakṣatra is considered “wonderful,” because of this wondrous action of Indra. (In my opinion, it also bears an uncanny similarity to the game Jenga – Wikipedia’s assertion of African origin notwithstanding.)

More seriously, if one considers the demons as personifying our own demon-like tendencies, then this story could illustrate how worship conducted only for selfish ends is no worship worth doing, and give instruction for the aspirant to empower and awaken the universal Self (the bold Indra) in order to destroy egotistical desires. The simple message may be that “Heaven” – Svarga, Light, union, realisation – may only be reached by the noble-hearted and pure-souled.

The tale may seem terribly weird, but indicates nonetheless a vital part of Lord Indra’s essence: trickster, shapeshifter, the teacher through misdirection and diversion, “whose misdeeds are never sin.”

© Arjunī and ridiculously reverent. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Arjunī and ridiculously reverent with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


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