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Once the gods and the demons were engaged in a war in which the gods emerged winners. However they attributed their success to themselves, ignorant about the fact that their power to conquer sprang forth from the Brahman or the ultimate reality.
The Brahman then appeared before them in the form of a ghost to reveal the truth to them.
On seeing it, the gods wondered what it was.
So the gods turned to Agni to find out who it was. Agni, the lord of fire, went to the Brahman who had manifested as a spirit.
The spirit asked Agni, “Who are you?"
Agni replied proudly that he was the 'God of fire'
The spirit, “I see, but what is your power?"
Agni said, “Well I can burn up anything!"
The spirit placed a straw in front of Agni and challenged, “Let me see if you can burn this straw!"
Agni tried all his might to burn the straw, but he was unsuccessful. He then returned to the gods with shame having faced defeat.
When the gods were thinking of sending someone else, Vayu, the lord of wind, came forward.
He too rushed to find out who the spirit was.
The spirit asked, “Who are you"
Vayu replied, “I am Vayu, the lord of wind"
“What power do you have," asked the spirit.
“I have the power to blow off anything," said Vayu
The spirit placed a straw in front of it and said, “Is that so, then let me see if you can lift this straw!"
Vayu, the lord of wind, tried his level best to blow off the straw but failed miserably.
He thus like Agni, went back to the gods, ashamed to have failed in the venture.
For the third time, Indra, the highest in the hierarchy went to the spirit.
When Indra approached, the spirit suddenly disappeared and Goddess Uma appeared in place of it.
Indra asked Uma prayerfully, “Who have we been seeing here?"
The goddess replied, “It was the supreme Brahman, due to the power of which you have emerged victorious in the war, don't you know it?"
It was only then Indra understood.
The story reveals the reason as to why Agni, Vayu and Indra rank higher than the other gods. It was because they were nearest to the Brahman, the ultimate reality or the truth. Indra is ranked the first as it was to whom the truth was revealed.
The Brahman is verily one's true self sans the body, mind complex, which is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent.
It's nature is Sat (Truth)-Chit(Knowledge)-Ananda (Bliss). Seeking happiness in desires is actually, ignorantly seeking the Brahman, which is one's true self, the realisation of which is the ultimate end of all desires.
The sages and the saints advise to meditate on it.
The story thus reveals the truth of the unmanifest, formless Brahman (Parabrahman), manifesting itself ; the darkness of ignorance(Maya) in the jivas (Jivatma) and the ultimate realisation of the self.