'Samudra Mathanam' - The churning of the milky ocean! - Part 1

Hello all,

Namaste! We discussed how historical figures like Sri Krishna and our own ancestral archetypes can affect our behavior and thought patterns. How about today we analyze one particular mythological story and connect it to our every day life and see how we can learn to overcome some negative processes and thought patterns we get associated with.

Many of you have heard about the story that is called 'Samudra Mathanam' that occurs in Hindu Mythology in Mahabharatha, Vishnu Purana and Bhagavath Purana. Let us visit the story to brush up our memory and for those persons who have not heard the story, this would be a chance to read it. So here is how it happens.

Indra, the king of demigods (Devas) and the other Devas  were cursed by the sage Durvasa, who was famous for his terrible temper. Being cursed by the sage brought about depletion of energy, strength and power for the Devas. Devas are considered the good folks among the demigods while Asuras are the bad ones among them. Both Devas and Asuras always fight to get the control of the World or the Universe.

Now due to the curse of the sage Dursava, Devas started losing every battle with the Asuras and got driven away from their abode of heaven. The Asura king Bali took over the charge of the heavens and  started ruling over the whole world. Now Indra and Devas got upset with this status quo and wanted to change this and recapture their right to heaven. They started thinking deeply what to do? Finally they decided to ask the  Supreme God Mahavishnu what can be done to reclaim their glory.

Mahavishnu, always the strategist among the Gods, told the Devas to churn the milky ocean (Ksheerasagara), to get and drink Amrita, the nectar of immortality,which can bring the strength and power back to Devas. He also told them as they cannot churn the ocean alone, to become diplomatic and get the help of Asuras as well. So armed with the help of Asuras, using Mount Mandara as the churning stick and Vasuki, the serpent king as the rope, Devas and Asuras started churning the milky ocean. When Mount Mandara started sinking into the milky ocean, Mahavishnu took the form of a turtle (Kurma avatar) and helped to keep the mountain afloat.
Samudra Mathanam (Churning of the milky ocean)
Both sides kept on churning the ocean for a very long time and  the first thing that came out of the churning was the most vicious poison named Halahala (Kalkoot), which can destroy the whole world and to save the world, the other God Shiva swallowed the poison. But as Parvathi, his consort became afraid of his well being, caught hold of his neck and the poison spread on his throat and he became known as Neelakanda (the blue throat-ed one). After this many divine gems started coming out of the ocean, which was accepted by Gods, some by the Devas and some by Asuras.

Later divine animals like Kamadhenu (divine cow), Airavatha (divine elephant) and Uchchaihshravas (divine horse) all came out which was given to sages and to Indra. After that  Chandra (Moon), Lakshmi (Goddess of prosperity, who became consort of Mahavishnu), many Apsaras (divine dancers) and Varuni (Goddess of liquor) came out. Then came Dhanvantari (God of health and herbs, divine physician) came out with the pot of Amrita (divine nectar of immortality). This is the story how the Amrita came out of the ocean. Then there are many more things that happened later, which we are not going into in this particular post.

Now this is the Mythological story. Is it just a story or can we find some hidden gems from this story towards our every day normal worldly life?  Can we dissect the story and see what we can find that gives us some lesson towards our true potentiality as humans? Let us start from the Devas and the Asuras. Are they just mythological characters or can we extrapolate them to something else? Okay, let us start the analysis. Here we go.

Think the Devas are the good qualities we have like honesty, patience, justice, integrity, humility and diligence. Let us also take the Asuras as the vices we can have like greed, envy, fear, pride, lust, anger and sloth. What is the milky ocean? It is our mind where constant churning of thoughts in the form of waves happens.Here let us assume the churning of our mind happens constantly with the virtues on one side and the vices on the other side. The rope is our unending desires and the churning rod Mount Mandara is our ego. So our ego gets constantly churned or tossed in the materialistic desires with the virtues on one side and the vices on the other side.

Kurma avatar (MahaVishnu)
 All this churning is supported by the divine grace (Mahavishnu) in the form of turtle, which means even in the midst of worldly chaos of  vices and virtues there is the constant presence of God that helps our ego not to sink in the materialistic world and lose ourselves in the 'Samsara Sagara' (the ocean of materialistic existence). But this presence is not explicit, as the turtle was underneath the  Mount Mandara and the waves, hidden from plain view, but always present underneath the churning mind of thoughts and emotions.So only after removing or balancing our ego (Mount Mandara) and our emotions (waves in the milky ocean) we can see the divine providence.

May be we can even relate the milky ocean or the Ksheerasagara to the material existence. Think that it is our mind or our mind space that constantly reacts to the thoughts and the external stimuli that is bombarding us. Every time the mind churns with a thought we become happy, elated, sad, angry, irritated or furious. If we can control our mind, calm our ocean of thoughts with the help of the divine grace (Mahavishnu, the turtle) and keep our ego ( the churning rod-Mount Mandara) constant without toppling over, then we can continue the constant churn of our mind space (Ksheerasagara) and see what jewels or rocks we can get out of it.

There is the remaining story of the gems, divine animals and other divine beings that came out of the 'Samudra Mathanam' (Churning of the milky ocean). That part of the story let us tackle next week. The first part of the story may be enough Philosophy and Mythology for one week. Let us think and try to digest this part of the story first. Deep Philosophy only makes sense after extensive contemplation and  review. So let us all keep our personal 'Mandara mountain' (Ego) without toppling in the constant churn of the ocean of thoughts and emotions (Ksheerasagara), between virtues and vices (Devas and Asuras) with the constant grace of the divine presence (Mahavishnu, in the form of the turtle).

 I wish you a good weekend and I'll see you next Friday! 😉

Next week: 'Samudra Mathanam' - The churning of the milky ocean! - Part 2

Note: Images taken from Wikimedia Commons.

Ralph Waldo Emerson writes, "There is a time in every man's education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance ; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better for worse as his portion that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried".  

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