Chapter 89 — The Story of the Lovers Indra & Ahalya, the Fixation of Their Minds on Each Other

The Sun said:—

The mind is the maker and master of the world. The mind is the first supreme being (purusha). Whatever is done by the mind is said to be done. The actions of the body are held as no acts. Look at the capacity of the mind in the example of the sons of Indu. They were only ordinary brahmins, but by their meditation of Brahma in their minds, they became assimilated in Brahma.

One thinking himself as composed of the body becomes subject to all the incidents of physicality. But he who knows himself as bodiless is freed from all evils that attend the body. Looking on the outside, we are subject to the feelings of pain and pleasure, but the inward-sighted yogi is unconscious of the pain or pleasure of his body. Thus it is the mind that causes all our errors in this world. Evidence of this is the example of Indra and his consort Ahalya.

[The Yoga Vasishta’s story of two adulterous lovers, Indra and Ahalya, has many connections with another story that would have been well known to an India reader, that of Indra, king of the gods, seducing Ahalya, the wife of sage Gautama, one of the Seven Rishis. The sage cursed both Indra and his wife. The curse on Ahalya was removed by Rama. As the story became popular over time, the curse was that Ahalya was turned into a stone and came back to life when touched by Rama’s foot.]

Brahma said, “Tell me, my Lord Sun, who was this Indra and who that Ahalya, so that by hearing my understanding may have its clear-sightedness.”

The Sun said:—

It is related my lord! In former times there reigned a king at Magadha, Indra-dyumna (Glorious Indra) by name and similar to his namesake (in prowess and fame). He had a wife fair as the moon with eyes as beautiful as lotuses. Her name was Ahalya and she resembled Rohini, the moon’s favorite. In that city lived a rascal at the head of all the libertines. He was the cheating son of a brahmin, and was known by the same name of Indra.

10 Now this Queen Ahalya came to hear the story of the former Ahalya, wife of Gautama, and her lust related to her at a certain time. [The story of God Indra seducing Ahalya, the wife of sage Gautama.] 11 Hearing the story, Queen Ahalya felt a passion for the other Indra, the libertine, and became impatient in the absence of his company. She was thinking only how he should come to her. 12 She was fading like a tender vine thrown adrift in the burning desert. She was burning with an inner flame on beds of cooling leaves of watery lotus and plantain trees. 13 She was pining amidst all the enjoyments of her royal state, like a poor fish lying exposed on the dry bed of a pool in summer heat. 14 She lost her modesty with her self possession. She repeated in her frenzy, “Here is Indra, and there he comes to me.”

15 Finding her in this pitiable plight, a lady of her palace took compassion on her, and said, “I will safely conduct Indra before your ladyship in a short time.” 16 No sooner did she hear her companion say, “I will bring your desired object to you,” than she opened her eyes with joy and fell prostrate at her feet, like one lotus flower falls before another. 17 Then as the day passed on, and the shade of night covered the face of nature, the lady made her haste to the house of Indra, the brahmin’s boy.

18 The clever lady used her persuasions as far as she could, and then succeeded to bring this Indra with her and present him before her royal mistress. 19 She then adorned herself with pastes and paints, and wreaths of fragrant flowers, and conducted her lover to a private apartment where they enjoyed their fill. 20 The youth, also decorated in his jewels and necklaces, delighted her with his sweet caresses, as spring season renovates the tree groves with his luscious juice. 21 Henceforward this ravished queen saw the world full with the figure of her beloved Indra, and she did not think much at all of the excellences of her royal lord, her husband.

22 After sometime, certain facial indications by the queen caused the great king to know of her love for the brahmin Indra. 23 For as long as she thought of her lover Indra, her face glowed like a full blown lotus, blooming with the beams of her moonlike lover. 24 The brahmin boy Indra also was inflamed with all his enraptured senses for love of her, and he could not remain for a moment in any place without her company. 25 The king heard the painful news of their affections for each other and of their unconcealed meetings. 26 He also observed many examples of their attachment, and at different times gave them his reprimands and punishments as they deserved.

27 They were both cast in the cold water of a tank in cold weather where, instead of betraying any sign of pain, they kept smiling together as in their merriment. 28 Then the king had them to be taken out of the tank and ordered them to repent for their crimes, but the infatuated pair was far from doing so, and replied to the king in the following manner.

29 “Great king! As long we continue to reflect on the unblemished beauty of each other’s face, so long are we lost in the meditation of one another and forget our own selves. 30 We are delighted in our persecutions, as no torment can separate us from each other. We are not afraid of separation, even though you can separate our souls from our bodies.”

31 They were thrown in a frying pan upon fire, where they remained unhurt and exclaimed, “We rejoice, O king, at the delight of our souls in thinking of one another.” 32 They were tied to the feet of elephants to be trampled, but they remained uninjured and said, “King, we feel our hearty joy at our memories of each other.” 33 They were lashed with rods and straps and many other sorts of scourges which the king devised from time to time. 34 But being brought back from the scourging ground and asked about their suffering, they returned the same answer as before.

Moreover, said the brahmin Indra to the king, “This world is full with the form of my beloved one. 35 All your punishments inflict no pain on her because she views the whole world as full of myself. 36 Therefore all your punishments to torment the body can give no pain to the mind (soul) which is my true self and constitutes my personality (purusha) that resides in my person. 37 This body is only an ideal form and presents a shadowy appearance to view. You can pour out your punishments upon it for a while, but it amounts to no more than striking a shadow with a stick. 38 Nobody can break down a brave (firm) mind. Then tell me great king, what do the powers of the mighty amount to?”

39 “The causes that conspire to disturb the nature of the resolute mind are the false conceptions of external appearances. Therefore it is better to chastise such bodies which mislead the mind to error. 40 The mind is forever firm that is steadfast to its fixed purpose. The mind identifies with the object which it has constantly in its thoughts. 41 Being and not being are words applicable to bodies. They do not apply to the mind because what is positive in thought cannot be negated of it in any way. 42 The mind is immovable and cannot be moved by any effort like one can move bodies. It is impregnable to all external actions, and neither your anger or favor can have any effect on it.”

43 “It is possible for men of strong resolutions to change the course of their actions. But where is such a strong minded man to be found who is able to withstand or change the currents of his thoughts? 44 It is impossible to move the mind from its fixed fulcrum, just as it is impracticable for tender stags to remove a mountain from its base.”

“This black-eyed beauty is the fixed prop of my mind. 45 She is seated in the lofty temple of my mind like Goddess Bhavani on Mount Kailash. I fear nothing as long as I see this beloved preserver of my life and soul before me. 46 I sit amidst the conflagration of a burning mountain in summer’s heat, but wherever I stand or fall, I am cooled under the shadow of her showering cloud. 47 I think of nothing except the only object of my thought and wish. I cannot persuade myself to believe me as any other than Indra, the lover of Ahalya.”

48 “It is by constant association that I have come to this belief of myself. I cannot think of me otherwise than what is in my nature. Know, O king, that the wise have only one object in their thought and view. 49 The mind, like Mount Meru, is not moved by threat or pity. It is the body that you can tame by the one or the other means. The wise, O king, are masters of their minds. There is none and nothing to deter them from their purpose.”

50 “Know it for certain, O King, that neither these bodies about us nor these bodies and sensations of ours are realities. They are only shows of truth and not the movers of the mind. On the contrary, it is the mind that supplies the bodies and senses with their powers of action, just like water supplies trees and branches with their sap. 51 The mind is generally believed to be a sensuous and passive principle, wholly moved by the outward impressions of senses. But in truth the mind is the active and moving principle of the organs of action. Because all the senses become dormant in absence of the action of the mind, so the functions of the whole creation are at a stop without the activity of the Universal Mind.”