Act in haste and repent in leisure

There are many times in life when we act in haste and repent in leisure. More often than not, we tend to react to situations rather than responding to them with a level head. Our unthinking response could be due to a variety of factors.

Inability to think clearly, ignorance of the situation or person, misinterpretation, tactlessness, assumption, presumption among other such misgivings could be the reason why we might find ourselves in a spot. On the other hand, factors like over confidence, arrogance, wealth, power or position could have us consciously playing ourselves inadvertently into misfortunes.

An episode from Neelakantavijayam substantiates this point ever so well. It so happened that a celestial nymph offered prayers to goddess Gowri and received a garland of golden lotuses from the Devi. The nymph chanced upon sage Durvasa and offered the flowers as a mark of her respect to him. The sage sighted Lord Indra and his retinue on his way. The Lord of gods ignored Durvasa, despite being aware of the sage’s greatness and penchant to take offence rather quickly. He was apparently drunk with power.

Nevertheless, Durvasa offered the gift to Indra. He received the floral wreath rather disrespectfully with his left hand and placed it on the neck of the elephant he was mounted on. It appeared as if, Airavatha, the celestial elephant, felt encouraged by his master’s conceit. He picked the garland with his trunk and flung it down and trampled on it for good measure. The sight of this gross haughtiness and insolence triggered the ember of anger in the righteous sage. In a moment of disgust he cursed that Indra and the citizens of Amaravathi would lose their power and glory to their natural enemies, the Asuras. It was only then Indra and the other Devas came to their senses. They realised the gravity of the situation and apologised sincerely and profusely to the sage. Durvasa relented. He said the curse would be revoked if they offer penance to Lord Vishnu.

But then, the damage had been done. Indra could have continued as the sovereign of the Heavens if he had minded his manners and extended the courtesy the sage warranted. The fact that his behaviour was not objected to by the other gods only shows that they followed the bad example of their master who was wallowing in power. Airavatha’s impulsive act speaks volumes about how spoilt he was under the influence of Indra.

Though Indra did regain supremacy after a long-drawn penance and struggle, the fact remains that he could have maintained his equanimity and avoided the troublesome aftermath.

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