The sublime, the terrible.

This Deva of such intense personality, this Indra possesses so many attractive qualities, such brilliance, benificence, and boldness, as to entangle the worshipper in thoughts of beauty that exclude the horrific and shadowy. An indispensible, unforgettable part of Indra is his contradictory nature, the simultaneous expression of sharp contrasts. The rider of the thought-controlled chariot, master of the senses, brave warrior, elephant-tamer, strength and truth, wielder of the lightning striking solid blows against ignorance, demon-slayer – is also a thief, defiler of marriage vows, leader of faithful worshippers away from devotion and into blindness, impulsive, fearful, overbearingly proud, filled with sensuous weakness, delighting in confusion and destruction, killer of the holy. He leads the way to truth with clear light; he assumes disguises, sets traps, and blocks all ways to the truth. He is a father to some who praise him. Others he gives up to be devoured by wolves, and he brags about their slaughter. He is magnificent. He is horrible. That horrible God is the greatest and most infuriating friend to the ignorant.

But even when described with such unflattering words, Indra still reads like some sort of sympathetically conflicted superhero, yes? Poetic language gives a compelling drama to ideas like “darkness” and “terror” and “destruction” – like the entire preceding paragraph should have been read aloud by James Earl Jones – so let me give an example of how non-awesome those concepts can be, when they play out in real life.

June through November marks hurricane season in my hometown and – like a crying baby in the seat next to you, mediocre food at Applebee’s, and the defeat of any villain who pronounces his invincibility – storms are inevitable but greeted with dismay nonetheless. In 2005 I was living in a sturdy apartment building on Bayou St. John, an active practitioner of Vodou, and having just returned to New Orleans after a few years away, feeling immensely satisfied with life, I was certainly not eager to leave. Hadn’t our parents had survived some of the worst of the worst; weren’t New Orleans folk strong and resilient? Shouldn’t I have one major storm to my credit? Hadn’t we prayed about this, for Gods’ sakes? I could do this, dammit, so I bought some food and water, and just ate and drank and started waiting for the gale.

28 August 2005, 5 a.m., and a maelstrom beyond imagining raged madness. The wind was ripping arms from trees and throwing signs and cars around like toys. I barely dove to a corner in time as the window shattered inward, spraying thick knife-shards of glass. I put my arms up. The wind screamed. The matted clouds glowed with unearthly purple-blue-silver flashing in the darkness. And then the lightning came for me. It cracked whips of fire around my feet. It lashed the walls, the floor, it touched everything around me as if to boast its killing strength, and I could smell the ozone burn and the agitated air and then, came the worst sound of all: a horribly delighting triumph that was the hiss of the crying wind and the sizzle of the lightning-sheets, and it came from a being outlined in sheets of gusting rain and illumined for brief moments in the flashing sky, and that being was laughing while I cowered for my life. Of course you can stay. Do you want to?

I nearly leaped out of bed in a sweating frenzy, half-saying and half-thinking the storm is worse and running to the television downstairs to see, indeed, a category 5 hurricane, and haggard newscasters comparing Katrina to the worst of the worst. I paced, I agonised, I researched and read all about “contraflow” and wondered where to go and whether it was really worth all the trouble and whether the apartment would hold. Then I remembered that laughter, and I realised that I was being a puffed-up braggadocio acting like survival was a game, and suddenly earning a set of storm chops wasn’t important anymore. Only a few minutes later my parents called, prepared to argue me down if I still insisted on staying, and then the mayor ordered evacuation, and the city sprang into motion. But He was the one who broke my pride, the only real bar to my own departure.

I cannot speak to anything that happened after, to the decision of anyone else; I only know what I did, and why. Those lashes brought me down to insignificance and humility and silence, forced me to stop demanding to be convinced and to just leave, to respect the sound and terror of this Indra, the horrible, the mocking, who follows his own whims, whose thoughts cannot be known, my greatest and most terrifying friend.

Much later I discovered his identity – for I had assumed that in my chosen religion of the time, had the truth appeared – and learned how I had known him and not recognised him, Indra, the hidden one, appearing when and how he wills. I did occasionally tell the story of that crazy dream, but chose to leave Indra out of it until now. Until, for the last month, I have been moved to describe it, unable to write anything else until it was done, unable to complete it until now. Perhaps more ropes of ego needed to break, because even in writing words dedicated to the Lord of Truth, honouring him for being a frustrating, goading, and glorious Friend, it still wasn’t easy to relate a story of myself which begins with, Hey, let me tell you all about that time I was really, really stupid, and nearly stayed in the path of a category 5 hurricane because I thought it’d be kinda cool.

“The Terrible One, of whom they ask, Where is He? and they even say of Him, He is not at all; He diminishes the wealth of the enemy like gambling-stakes. Believe in Him! He, O folk, is Indra.”
ṚV II.12.5

Such praise, of reassurance and warning alike, is rightly His. Oṁ ghorāya namaḥ.

© 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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6 thoughts on “The sublime, the terrible.

  1. Mahalaya 10 September 2012 at 15:40 Reply

    It is fitting He would come to you in such a glorious display. You hear garden variety tales of other guys coming in bushes…or on a mount:P But how grand an enterance He made.

    He saved your life too.

    Of course He had to, You are Beloved<3

    The other night, Friday we had terrible night of storms. Trees down everywhere…our power out for the night. As the clouds parted above our home on the hill i wondered how it came to be that we seem always to part the storm in such a way. What meteorological anomaly exists which makes our home seem to always split the wall cloud? I can not say. But i sat upon my porch and watched Him roll on…and sang to HIm with such a heart full of Love. That if He had reached down and took me at that moment…i could not find a more wonderful way to exit.

    I think you must have some important work to do here, Beloved Beloved friend.

    • Kāmya 10 September 2012 at 23:06 Reply

      To be completely fair, I will add that my apartment was intact when my relatives went to clean it out weeks later; though I can’t speculate about other factors (food, illness, etc.), it seems that at least I was not in direct mortal danger from the storm itself.

      Yes, glorious, and horrible in what I saw, too. I like to think I am always doing my best, but Indra doesn’t allow even the comforting illusions; I had to confront a careless, vain side of myself I didn’t much care to see.

      But I try not to think of ‘why’ because I dread falling into the trap of believing myself somehow blessed or favoured. It’s the same reason that siddhis are poison – seductive distractions from surrender and devotion.

      I think that the storms part around your home to keep you safe. :)

      And I can’t help but hope you’re mistaken, about me; I fear greatly the idea that I have some kind of important work to do here…

      …besides, this all happened seven years ago, and if I was touched by Him for some specific reason, you’d think I’d have started doing something useful by now. ;)

      • Mahalaya 11 September 2012 at 12:55 Reply

        Beloved, this writing you are doing is very very important! It will go on forever…and many others will come to read..and learn. You have already been doing the useful work! <3<3<3

        I hope the storms do not part to keep me safe. I saw somewhere a lengthy blog on "how to live longer and look younger". Why???

        lol that's the last thing i want to do:P My daughter came to me last night and said…and this was just last night mind you…

        "Mommy i have a wish! I want you to LIVE FOREVER!" and i was all like…Wish granted we can never die Arya! and she tilted her head to the side and said…hmm..okay mommy i know about Shiva and him being inside and everything but i mean i want you to live HERE forever in this body! and i turned white.:P

        I said Arya, why in the world would you want your poor mommy to be a ….ZOMBIE?

        And you know she hadn't thought about that.:P But then i went on to tell her how gross and old…and icky my body is going to get…and like in 200 years i would be SO gross and scary with eye balls popping out, that even she would run!:P "Ahah!" she proclaimed. "I get it!"

        Yup. I said…you have to be careful what you wish for!

        So no zombie mommy here.


  2. lykeiaofapollon 10 September 2012 at 22:06 Reply

    Incredible description. I was also living in New Orleans a the time of Hurricane Katrina…and had also thought to stick it out but my roommates hussled me out of their when the mandatory evacuation came heh. Since we had been awake very late the night before celebrating the coming of the storm, it is a miracle that any of us woke up to hear the alert. And even more of a miracle that when our car broke down in Mississippi (yes I KNOW that is the wrong way…but the highway going west was backed way up lol) that a final police patrol found us before the storm hit so we got to a shelter. I thank Zeus and Apollon Telchinios (the wolfish Apollon of the storms) for that.

    • Kāmya 10 September 2012 at 23:11 Reply

      A phenomenal story. I am very glad to know that not only were you saved at the right time and place – wrong way for everyone else, right way for you! – but that you know some of the area and spirit of which I speak…

      Your roommates were smart. I was engaged at the time and had to make the decision for both of us, since my fiancé was from the Midwest and barely knew what a hurricane was. It was then that I once and for all decided, no kids, ever, ever, ever, because I never wanted to be responsible for other lives again.

      …Then again, declaring “never, ever, ever” is a great way to make something happen, so I’m going to shut up now. :P

  3. Mahalaya 11 September 2012 at 12:58 Reply

    Yep, be careful about the never thing. I once said i was “Never having children”. See how that worked out?:P

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