Indra Offends His Spiritual Master by Srila Sukadeva Goswami
Maharaja Pariksit inquired from Sukadeva Goswami: O great sage, why did the spiritual master of the demigods, Brhaspati, reject the demigods, who were his personal disciples? What kind of offense did the demigods commit against their spiritual master to cause this terrible misfortune? Please describe to me the entire incident.
Sukadeva Goswami said: O King, once in a previous time, feeling extremely proud because of his great opulence of mastership of the three worlds, the King of heaven Indra, transgressed the norms of Vedic etiquette. Seated on his throne, he was flanked by the demigods like the Maruts, Vasus, Rudras, Adityas, Rbhus, Visvadevas, Sadhyas, Ashvini-kumaras, Siddhas, Caranas and Gandharvas and by great saintly persons. Seated in his court also were the Vidyadharas, Apsaras, Kinnaras, Patagas and Uragas. All of them were offering Indra respect and service, and the Apsaras and Gandharvas were dancing and singing accompanied by very sweet musical instruments. Over Indra’s head was held a white umbrella as effulgent as the full moon. Fanned by yak-tail whisks and served with all the paraphernalia of a great king, Indra was sitting with his wife, Sacidevi, who occupied half the throne. At that time the great sage Brhaspati arrived at that assembly. Brhaspati was the spiritual master of Indra and the demigods and was respected by the demigods and demons alike. Nevertheless, although Indra saw his spiritual master before him, neither did he rise from his seat nor offer a sitting place to his spiritual master. Indeed, Indra did nothing to honor him, neglecting to even offer him a respectful welcome. Seeing Indra’s transgression of etiquette, the allknowing sage Brhaspati easily surmised that Indra had become proud of his material opulence. Although competent to curse Indra, understanding what would happen in the future Brhaspati did not do so. Instead, he simply left the assembly without saying anything and returned to his home in silence.
The King of heaven Indra, could immediately understand his mistake. Realizing he had disrespected his
spiritual master, he condemned himself in the presence of all the members of the assembly saying, “ Alas, what a regrettable deed I have committed because of my lack of intelligence and pride in my material opulence. I failed to show respect to my spiritual master when he entered this assembly, and thus I have insulted him. Although I am King of the demigods, who are situated in the mode of goodness, I was proud of a little opulence and polluted by false ego. Under the circumstances, who in this world would accept such riches at the risk of falling down? Alas! I condemn my wealth and opulence. If a person says, “One who is situated on the exalted throne of a king should not stand up to show respect to another king or a brāhmaṇa,” it is to be understood that he does not know superior religious principles. Leaders who have fallen into ignorance and who mislead people by directing them to the path of destruction are, in effect, boarding a stone boat, and so too are those who blindly follow them. A stone boat is certainly unable to float and it sinks in the water along with its passengers. Similarly, those who mislead people go to hell, and their followers go with them. King Indra said: Therefore with great frankness and without duplicity I shall now bow my head at the lotus feet of Brhaspati, the spiritual
master of we demigods. Because he is in the mode of goodness, he is fully aware of all knowledge and is the best of the brāhmaṇas. Now I shall touch his lotus feet and offer my obeisance unto him to try to
satisfy him. “
While Indra, the King of the demigods, thought in this way and repented in his own assembly, Brhaspati, the most powerful spiritual master, understood his mind. Thus he became invisible to Indra and left home, for Brhaspati was spiritually more powerful than King Indra. Although Indra searched vigorously with the assistance of the other demigods, he could not find Brhaspati. Then Indra thought, “Alas, my spiritual master has become dissatisfied with me, and now I have no means of achieving good fortune.” Although Indra was surrounded by demigods, he could not find peace of mind. Hearing of the pitiable condition of King Indra, the demons, following the instructions of their guru, Sukracarya, equipped themselves with weapons and declared war against the demigods. The demigods’ heads, thighs and arms and the other parts of their bodies were injured by the sharp arrows of the demons.
The demigods, headed by Indra, saw no other course than to immediately approach Lord Brahma with bowed heads for shelter and proper instruction. When the most powerful Lord Brahma saw the demigods coming toward him, their bodies gravely injured by the arrows of the demons, he pacified them by his great causeless mercy and spoke as follows.
Lord Brahma said: O best of the demigods, unfortunately, because of madness resulting from your material opulence, you failed to receive Brhaspati properly when he came to your assembly. Brhaspati is aware of the Supreme Brahman and fully in control of his senses and thus he is the best of the brāhmaṇas. Therefore it is very astonishing that you have acted impudently toward him. Due to your misbehavior toward Brhaspati, you have been defeated by the demons. My dear demigods, since the demons were weak, after having been defeated by you several times, how could you who were so advanced in opulence, be defeated by them? O Indra, your enemies the demons, were extremely weak because of their disrespect toward Sukracarya, but since they have now worshiped Sukracarya with great devotion, they have again become powerful. By their devotion to Sukracarya, they have increased their strength to such an extent that now they are even able to easily seize my abode from me. Because of their firm determination to follow the instructions of their guru Sukracarya, the demons, are now unconcerned about you demigods. In fact, kings or others who have determined faith in the mercy of brāhmaṇas, cows and the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna, and who always worship these three are always strong in their position. O demigods, I instruct you to approach Vishvarupa, the son of Tvasta, and accept him as your guru. He is a pure and very powerful brāhmaṇa due to always undergoing austerity and penances. Pleased by your worship, he will fulfill your desires, provided that you tolerate his being inclined to side with the demons. Thus advised by Lord Brahma and relieved of their anxiety, the demigods went to the sage Vishvarupa, the son of Tvasta. My dear King, they embraced him and spoke as follows.
The demigods said: Beloved Vishvarupa, may there be all good fortune for you. We, the demigods, have come to your āśrama as your guests. Please try to fulfill our desires according to the time held tradition, since we are on the level of your parents. O brāhmaṇa, the highest duty of a son, even though he has sons of his own, is to serve his parents, and what to speak of a son who is a brahmacārī?
The ācārya, the spiritual master who teaches all the Vedic knowledge and gives initiation by offering the sacred thread, is the personification of all the Vedas. Similarly, a father personifies Lord Brahma; a brother, King Indra; a mother, the planet earth; and a sister, mercy herself. A guest personifies religious principles, an invited guest personifies the demigod Agni, and all living entities personify Lord Vishnu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Dear son, we have been defeated by our enemies, and therefore we feel very aggrieved. Please mercifully fulfill our desires by relieving our distress through the strength of your austerities.
Please fulfill our heart’s prayers. Since you are completely aware of the Supreme Brahman, you are a perfect brāhmaṇa, and therefore you are the spiritual master of all orders of life. We accept you as our spiritual master and director so that by the power of your austerity we may easily defeat our enemies who have conquered us. Do not fear criticism for being younger than us. Such etiquette does not apply in regard to Vedic mantras. Generally seniority is determined by age, but in relationship to Vedic mantras it is different. Thus, one may offer respectful obeisance even to a younger person who is advanced in chanting Vedic mantras. Therefore although you are junior in relationship to us, you may become our
priest without hesitation. When all the demigods requested the great Vishvarupa to be their priest, Vishvarupa, who was advanced in austerities, was very pleased. He replied to them as follows.
Sri Vishvarupa said: O demigods, although the acceptance of priesthood is decried as causing the loss of previously acquired brahminical power, how can someone like me refuse to accept your personal request? You are all exalted commanders of the entire universe. I am your disciple and must take many lessons from you. Therefore I cannot refuse you. I must agree for my own benefit. O exalted governors of various planets, the true brāhmaṇa, who has no material possessions, maintains himself by the profession of accepting śiloṣchana. This means that he picks up grains left in the field and on the ground in the wholesale marketplace. By this means, householder brāhmaṇas who actually abide by the principles of austerity and penance maintain themselves and their families and perform all necessary pious activities. A brāhmaṇa who desires to achieve happiness by gaining wealth through professional priesthood must certainly have a very low mind. Thus how shall I accept such priesthood? All of you are certainly my superiors. Therefore although accepting priesthood is sometimes reproachable, I cannot refuse even a small request from you. I agree to be your priest and shall fulfill your request by dedicating to you my life and possessions.
After making this promise to the demigods, the exalted Vishvarupa, surrounded by the demigods, performed the necessary priestly duties with great enthusiasm and attention. The opulence of the demons, who are generally known as the enemies of the demigods, was protected by the talents and tactics of Sukracarya, but Vishvarupa, who was very powerful, composed a protective prayer known as the Nārāyaṇa-kavaca. By this intelligent mantra, he took away the opulence of the demons and gave it to Mahendra, the King of heaven. Vishvarupa, who was most liberal, revealed to King Indra the secret hymn that would protect him from attack and then Indra conquered the military power of the demons.
— Srimad-Bhāgavatam » Canto 6 » Chapter 7: Indra Offends His Spiritual Master, Brhaspati. » Verses: 1-40