There are many subjects flitting through my thoughts lately, none coherent enough for an entire essay.
Artistically, Indra is always shown with a horizontal third eye, instead of the customary vertical one. I don’t grok this, and the few academic efforts aren’t too helpful:
*The horizontal eye of Indra serves to distinguish Indra from Śiva. But there are a host of other attributes that differentiate the two – sitting posture, weapons, dress, crown – so a 90-degree ocular rotation just seems excessive.
*Indra as the “thousand-eyed” (Sahasrākṣa) bears one eye on his forehead as symbolic of the many others. By that logic, Indra is also the thousand-crowned, the thousand-nosed, and the thousand-naveled, though those titles sound less regal. And it still doesn’t explain the eye’s angle.
In contemplating it, I think of the third eye, the sixth chakra point, heightened vision and divine awareness. The tilted/vertical third-eye of other Devas could symbolise the changed perspective, the altered vision, that results when the Kuṇḍalinī energy awakens: a feeling of the world tilting on its axis. And perhaps Indra’s horizontal third eye symbolises, in a different fashion, the same spiritual reinvention: one learns to see head-on and break through illusion, awakening to a penetrative, truthful vision.
Or I could be inflating a simple style choice out of all proportion. The Eye could just be one of those art things I don’t get, like the
tiresome, talentless starkly unadorned quadrilaterals of Piet Mondrian, and the blobby, Cthulhu-esque undulating designs of Antoni Gaudí.
In The Religion of the Veda, Hermann Oldenberg writes: “To the curriculum of the Sāmaveda belongs the Śakvarī-song. Embodied in it is Indra’s weapon and the symbol of omnipotence, the Vajra, through which, as said in the Ṛgveda, the Vasiṣṭhas, to the accompaniment of deafening noise, infused strength into Indra: it is, therefore, one of those texts whose study was confined to the forest alone on account of their holy, awe-inspiring character. The pupil who wanted to learn this song was prescribed observances to be kept for periods ranging from twelve to nine, six to three years–according to some, only for a year. Amongst them the following are found: he has to ‘touch the water’ three times a day; he has to wear black clothes and to enjoy black nourishment; if it rains, he has to sit down, but must not seek shelter; he must say to the pouring sky: ‘Water is the Śakvarī-song’; if there is lightning, ‘Śakvarī-song looks like that’; if there is thunder, ‘The Great One is making a great sound’. He should not cross the running waters without ‘touching the waters’; he should board a ship only if there is danger to his life and only on ‘touching the water’, ‘because, it is said, the excellence of the Śakvarī-song dwells in the water.’ If the pupil is to finally ‘learn to sing the song by himself’, a vessel with water is kept, into which plants of all types are put; he must dip his hands in it’. It is said, of these observances, that ‘Parjanya will send rain at the behest of one who lives thus’.”
The students of this song wear all black and sit outside in the rain, thus answering two questions at once:
1. “What are some observances to be followed in learning the sacred Śakvarī-song?”
2. “What did the very first Goths do?”
But to speak seriously for a moment, what a wondrous thing; such I would learn if the choice were mine. Not because of any prestige in calling the rain – why would anyone reveal the ability, and be pestered from then on! – but for the sheer joy of befriending the waters. And it would be nice to have an actual excuse for running outside every time it rains – though I usually just tell people, “because that’s what I do,” and that works as well.
Rain, rain, lovely rain, and Indra….”who keeps good things apart from each other.” The quote in context held a different meaning, but the words brought my thoughts to Indra’s nature as the divider.
Whether dividing pure light into the visible spectrum, splitting the mountains to release the waters, or dividing the earth and sky, or the waters into falling drops of rain, or winnowing the illusory from the genuine – this world looks like the shattered fragments of the seamless whole.
Indra – the vessel in which the Soma-drops collect, the sacrifice’s heart which all yajña infuses, Vāsava in whom the world’s treasures are collected, the primordial muse who is the model for all things – through all of this shining dust is a glimpse of his smile.
And so I love. Love not only the fall of raindrops, but the offering-reach of the sun’s rays, their glimmerings on water, the waves pouring over the sea’s surface, the colours streaming through glass and jewels, and all of the myriad wondrous divisions through which flashes the mercilessly-hidden Lord of Māyā.
Lately I have been asked, several times, why I intend to learn these “Veda” things and what I hope to gain; specifically, what career could I have after completing these studies? It’s an understandable question: my friends and family likely fear my poverty and unemployability after years of religious study, especially as they’re my support system if all else fails. It is as if we speak different languages, theirs of this world and mine of a different one. All I can say is that I want to learn for the sake of love, devotion, and service, and it’s not my thought to ask what Vedas can do for me, though I do feel calm in the knowledge that a path will unfold. And sometimes the path that unfolds is unexpected and sudden.
Blog post endings, too.
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