God behind the gods

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God behind the gods

The gods and the demons had been having a war. Somehow the gods won, at least for the time being. But they did not realize that the power of Brahman, the Supreme Being, had made their victory possible. The gods took the credit themselves. When Brahman saw them congratulating each other, he decided to act, and to teach them a good lesson.

So he appeared before them in a form something like a ghost. The gods said to each other in great wonder, "What is this awesome spirit?"

Then they asked Agni, the god of fire, if he would try to find out who it was, and he agreed. He ran toward the spirit and that spirit said, "Stop! Who are you?"

"I am Agni, the god of fire," he proudly replied.

"I see. And what power do you have?" asked Brahman.

"Why, I can burn anything on the earth," said Agni.

So Brahman, in that spirit form, put a straw on the ground in front of him, saying, "is that so? Burn this, then!" Agni went toward it, his fiery breath crackling and arms ablaze, but in no way could he burn that straw, for some strange reason, no matter how hard he tried. Going back to the other gods, he told them shamefully that he had not been able to find out who that being was. Now they had to ask someone else to try.

This time they chose Vayu, the god of the wind. "You please try to find out who this spirit is," they said. Vayu agreed and ran boldly toward the spirit, who told him, "Stop! Tell me who you are."

"I am Vayu, god of air and wind," he answered.

"Oh! What power do you have?" asked Brahman.

"Why, I make hurricanes and cyclones. I can lift up anything on this earth," said Vayu.

"Is that so?" said the spirit, placing a straw in front of him. "Then lift up this!" Vayu rushed at it with a terrific noise but no matter how he huffed and puffed, the straw remained on the ground. He too returned to the gods, ashamed, and let them know that the spirit baffled him.

Finally the gods chose Indra, their highest and best, and asked him to do the job. Indra agreed to it. But when he approached that spirit, it suddenly disappeared! In its place was seen the shining form of the goddess Uma, a lovely woman adorned with gems, who is called the revealer of Truth. "Who is that spirit," Indra asked her, "whom we have been seeing here?"

"That is Brahman, the Supreme Spirit," she answered. "It is all due to the power of Brahman that you have had victory over the demons, and have become great. Don't you know that?"

Then Indra understood.

This story explains why Agni, Vayu and Indra rank higher than the other gods. They came "nearest" to Brahman. And, of these, Indra deserves first place, for it was to him that the Truth was first revealed. That Truth is Brahman, the desire of every heart. Meditate on him, the sages say, for those who know him are rare and very precious to the world.

Kenopanishad