Another creation tale from Myths & Legends of India
The Creator Brahma, who is also known as Prajapati, created three orders of beings: gods (Devas), people (Manavas) and anti-gods (Asuras). But none of them were contended.
The Asuras were programmed to be violent, greedy and wicked. They caused all sorts of disasters and miseries among people. They attacked villages, abducted women, and stole people’s wealth. They became as a result enormously rich: the underworld realm where they lived was heaped with treasure. But their conquests, rapine and riches did not bring them happiness. Their restless, aggressive nature brought them no peace of mind.
They realized this, and decided to go to Prajapati, to ask him how they could be happier.
The Manavas were not happy either. On top of the disturbances caused by anti-gods, they were divided and quarrelsome amongst themselves. They were clever at making things, but then laid an individual claim to what every they made. They accumulated possessions and were jealous of those who had more possessions. They were also subject to the vagaries and cruelties of nature: tempest, flood and drought, crop failures from lack of rain, blights and diseases among their crops, illnesses afflicting people themselves so that many died young, leaving others behind them to grieve.
They too realized that all was not well, and the wisest among them decided that they should, like the Asuras, go to Prajapati for advice.
And what of the Devas? You might think they had every advantage. They lived in peace and comfort in heave; they had all the pleasures and luxuries they could want; they had nymphs to sing and dance for them; fine clothes and exquisite jewelry; magic powers to travel where they wished, change themselves into any shape they wished, satisfy any desire they wished.
But they weren’t happy either. Their pleasures did not bring the m contentment. So, they too resolved to go to Prajapati for advice.
One day, when Prajapati was resting after the labors of Creation, with the six eyes of his three faces closed in meditation. The Asuras, Manavas and Devas gathered before him. The noise of their arrival woke him. He looked at them calmly, and they said together: ‘O grandfather of him. He looked at them calmly, and they said together: ‘O grandfather of all, Prajapati, we are not at peace. Please tell us how we may be happy.’
Prajapati said only one word, but it was an enormous, rumbling word, a mighty thunderclap that sent waves of deafening sound rolling through the universe: DA!
Then he closed his eyes again, the crowd before him understood that he would say no more.
The returned to heaven, earth and the underworld, to consider and debate what Prajapati had meant.
The Devas were the first to reach a conclusion. One of them said, “DA must stand for damyata which means “be self-controlled”. Prajapati has told us to restrain ourselves, not to seek unlimited luxury and pleasure. That way, we shall be happier.’ This made sense to the other Devas, and they all agreed.
The Manavas reached a different conclusion. They decided that DA was the first syllable of datta which means ‘give’. Their wise leaders said, ‘Prajapati means that we should be more giving, and less possessive. We should share what we make with each other, and we should share the earth peacefully with other creatures.’ This made good sense too, and the other Manavas agreed.
The Asuras pondered for longest. But in the end – hard though it was for them, given their nature, to reach this conclusion – they decided that DA stood for dayadhvam, which means ‘be merciful’. One of them said, ‘Prajapati says we should be merciful to those who fall under our power. We should treat them with compassion.’ Soberly, the other Asuras agreed.
So, that was the lesson of Prajapati! That gods should be self-controlled, that people should be kind and giving, and demons should be merciful. But alas, it is a hard lesson to follow, and all three groups frequently fail to follow it, bringing misery to themselves and to others. That is why the thunder continues to rumble at times – DA, DA, DA! – as a reminder of Prajapati’s lesson.
PP. 14 – 15