स समित्पाणिः पुनरेयाय तं ह प्रजापतिरुवाच मघवन्यच्छान्तहृदयः प्राव्राजीः सार्धं विरोचनेन किमिच्छन्पुनरागम इति स होवाच यथैव खल्वयं भगवोऽस्मिञ्छरीरे साध्वलंकृते साध्वलंकृतो भवति सुवसने सुवसनः परिष्कृते परिष्कृत एवमेवायमस्मिन्नन्धेऽन्धो भवति स्रामे स्रामः परिवृक्णे परिवृक्णोऽस्यैव शरीरस्य नाशमन्वेष नश्यति नाहमत्र भोग्यं पश्यामीति ॥ ८.९.२ ॥
sa samitpāṇiḥ punareyāya taṃ ha prajāpatiruvāca maghavanyacchāntahṛdayaḥ prāvrājīḥ sārdhaṃ virocanena kimicchanpunarāgama iti sa hovāca yathaiva khalvayaṃ bhagavo’smiñcharīre sādhvalaṃkṛte sādhvalaṃkṛto bhavati suvasane suvasanaḥ pariṣkṛte pariṣkṛta evamevāyamasminnandhe’ndho bhavati srāme srāmaḥ parivṛkṇe parivṛkṇo’syaiva śarīrasya nāśamanveṣa naśyati nāhamatra bhogyaṃ paśyāmīti || 8.9.2 ||
2. Indra returned with fuel in hand. Prajāpati asked: ‘Indra, you left with Virocana happy in mind. What has made you come back?’ Indra replied: ‘Lord, when the body is well decorated, the reflection is also well decorated. When the body is in fine clothes, the reflection is also in fine clothes. When the body is neat and clean, the reflection is also neat and clean. Again, suppose a person is blind. Then the reflection will show a blind body. Or if the body is lame, the reflection will show a lame body. Or if the body is hurt in some way, the reflection will show the same. Then again, if the body is destroyed, the reflection is gone. I don’t see anything good in this’.
Saḥ, he [Indra]; punaḥ eyāya, again went back; samitpāṇiḥ, with fuel in hand; tam, to him; prajāpatiḥ ha uvāca, Prajāpati said; maghavan, O Maghavan [Indra]; yat prāvrājīḥ, you left; śāntahṛdayaḥ, satisfied; sārdham virocanena, along with Virocana; kim icchan, what do you want; punaḥ āgamaḥ iti, that you have come back again; saḥ ha uvāca, he [Indra] said; bhagavaḥ, lord; yathā era, just as; asmin śarīre sādhu-alaṅkṛte, with this body being well decorated; khalu ayam, this [reflection of the body]; sādhu-alaṅkṛtah bhavati, is also well decorated; suvasane suvasanaḥ, when the body is in fine clothes, the reflection is wearing fine clothes; pariṣkṛte pariṣkṛtaḥ, when the body is neat and clean, the reflection is neat and clean; evam era, like this; asmin andhe, if [the body] is blind; ayam andhaḥ bhavati, this [reflection] is of a blind person; srāme srāmaḥ, if the body is lame, the reflection is of a lame person; parivṛkṇe parivṛkṇaḥ, if the body is hurt, the reflection is of an injured body; asya śarīrasya eva nāśam anu, on the body’s destruction; eṣaḥ naśyati, this [reflection] is destroyed; aham atra bhogyam na paśyāmi iti, I see nothing good in this.
Again Indra went to Prajāpati with fuel in hand as a symbol of surrender and humility. Śaṅkara makes a very significant comment here. The question is raised, ‘Virocana went away satisfied, but why did Indra come back?’ Śaṅkara says that we understand a thing according to our own level and inclination—according to our own nature.
Śaṅkara cites the example given in the Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad of Prajāpati’s instruction to the gods, humans, and asuras. To all of them Prajāpati gave the same instruction: he simply said, ‘da.’ The gods understood him to be saying dāmyata, be self-controlled. The human beings took it to mean datta, give in charity. And the asuras thought he was saying dayadhvam, be compassionate.
They all heard the same thing, but they interpreted it differently, according to their nature. The gods have the purest nature. They are the closest to Brahman. What is preventing them from being united with Brahman? Just a very thin layer of ignorance. They have to have a full measure of purity, and self-discipline is what leads to this purity. This is why they took the instruction to mean they should practise self-control.
The next are human beings. They are good, but they could be better. How? By practising selflessness. They should give whatever they can, share what they have with others, and not be selfish.
But the demons are not ready for self-control or charity. They are very cruel and passionate by nature. Therefore they took the instruction to mean that they
These are the three characteristics we find among people. One kind of person needs to practise self-control; another kind, charity; and a third kind, mercy. It all depends on the level one is at.
Vedānta says you have to be ready to receive Self-knowledge. You have to be prepared. How a person understands the instructions is based on how much preparation he has had. Prajāpati was not trying to deceive Indra and Virocana. He was testing them, but he knew they were not prepared to receive Self-knowledge.