King Yayati goes to Heaven1

There was a good king named Yayati. He ruled his kingdom for a long time and then he gave his kingdom to his son, Puru, and went into the forest. There he practised austerities for a long time. When he died, he went to the highest Heaven.

When he arrived in Heaven, Lord Indra asked him, “How did you come to Heaven?”

King Yayati replied, “Why, I have practised austerities more than anybody else. By virtue of my austerities I have come here.”

Lord Indra became furious. “You are too proud. This kind of pride I can’t tolerate. Only I am entitled to have such pride, because of my boundless power.”

The King was shocked at Indra’s behaviour. He could not believe his ears. Indra continued, “You have to return to earth. I won’t allow you to stay here.”

Poor Yayati was about to return to earth because Indra was forcing him when suddenly Ashtaka, his grandson, appeared. Ashtaka was accompanied by two of his friends, Vasuman and Shaivi. Ashtaka said to his grandfather, “Please stay in the highest Heaven with us. Here I will give you shelter. Our region perhaps is not as great as you deserve, but please accept our heart’s humble offering.”

Vasuman and Shaivi also said the same: “We would be honoured to be able to give you shelter here, O Yayati. Do stay.”

On hearing this, Indra got furious. “What right do you have to say that to this shamelessly proud human being? Heaven is all mine; each part belongs to me. I forbid you to give him shelter in my Heaven.”

“Please, Indra,” the three friends pleaded, “we beg you to allow Yayati to stay with us.”

“All right!” cried Indra. “For this disobedience, all four of you must descend into the world.”

“Impossible!” the three friends replied.

But Indra forced them to return to earth, along with King Yayati. When they descended to earth, they started praying and meditating very soulfully. After a few years, again Yayati was in a position to go to Heaven. Just through his meditation power he had developed the capacity to leave his body and go back to Heaven.

But Ashtaka, Vasuman and Shaivi hadn’t yet acquired that kind of power, so Yayati said to them, “I have the power to go to Heaven, but I shall not go. Because you three were very kind to me when we were in Heaven, now I shall wait for you.”

All three friends immediately said, “No, you should go. When our time comes, when we have acquired this power, when we are illumined like you, then we shall also ascend to Heaven.”

But Yayati said, “No, I can’t do that. I shall wait.”

So the King waited and eventually the others also were in a position to go to Heaven. This time Indra again asked Yayati, “How did you come?”

Yayati said wisely, “Oh, I have practiced a little austerities, but it is all due to your Grace. The very fact that I practised those austerities was also due to your Grace.”

Indra was extremely pleased with Yayati’s answer. “Yayati, this kind of humility is good. Now you can stay in Heaven as long as you want to. You can stay because you have learned the true meaning of humility,” he said.

GIM 101. 27 January 1979