short story from the upanishad
upanishads are the concluding part
of the vedas, india’s most venerable
and ancient scriptures. below is a
short story from the chandogya
what the thunder says
you've been in a storm -- you know
what thunder sounds like. but, do
you know what the thunder is saying?
ages ago, in india, sages meditated
on the thunder and they tell this
when creation began, there was only
the creator. one of his names -- the
one in this story -- is prajapati.
tired of being alone, prajapati gave
birth to three kinds of beings:
gods, men, and, of course, demons.
(demons always make stories more
well, as young people did in olden
times, all these children had been
studying with their father, living a
disciplined life. the day came when
that stage of life was finished and
they were about to leave home and go
out into their respective worlds --
the gods to their heavens, the men
to earth, and the demons to the
before leaving, the gods came to
their father, prajapati, saying,
"give us a final word, sir, before
we leave, if you please." he was a
close-mouthed old man, and besides,
he wanted to test their learning, so
he gave them even less than a word!
he gave them only a syllable, the
sanskrit syllable "da".
"have you understood me?" their
"yes, sir," said the gods, "that
must be short for damyata, meaning
"yes," said prajapati.
then it came the turn of the men to
say goodbye. they too asked their
father for a final word, but he gave
them the same syllable, "da". "have
you understood?" he asked.
"yes, sir," said the men, "this must
be short for datta, meaning 'give in
"yes," said the father. and when the
demons came, it was the same story.
prajapati said "da" and asked if
"yes, sir," said the demons (showing
surprising intelligence), "it must
be short for dayadhvam, and you mean
'be kind, be merciful'".
"yes," said prajapati. then they all
bowed down before him and went their
what do you understand by this
the demons, you see, are very cruel
by nature. but if they can somehow
bring some kindness and mercy into
their miserable lives, then there is
hope for them to go up to a higher
human beings, on the other hand, are
better, but selfish; what they need
is to help and serve one another on
this earth. then they too will
become fit for rising higher.
now the gods are busy enjoying
themselves in heaven, and there they
have such a good time that they
forget about truth and how to search
for it. without self-control, they
will never find truth.
so, prajapati told each group the
same thing, knowing full well that
each sort of offspring would
understand it in exactly his own
way. great teachers often do this.
so, it is said that, even today,
when you hear the thunder's "da, da,
da" it is the voice of old prajapati,
the creator, repeating from time to
time his instructions to all kinds