The saga of ‘Samudra Manthan’ – churning of the ocean- holds a special place in the history of this creation. A prologue to the origin and development of the human kind, this story portrays the conflict between the devas and the danavas. The event of ‘Samudra Manthan’ relates to the era when the earth and the related realms were yet to develop. That was an era of fierce confrontation between the devas and the danavas in the celestial settings above the earthly realms of the divine plan of creation.
Both, the devas and the danavas were inspired to churn the Kshira Sagara. Here it must be kept in mind that the Kshira Sagara is not the ordinary ocean that we see around us, nor are the bodies of the devas and the danavas made up of gross elements, unlike bodies of human beings. Kshira Sagara is the ocean of the Causative elements, and is the resting place of Bhagvan Vishnu, the aadipurush of this creation. However, without going into the details of the enigma of creation, we continue with our inspiring story of the Samudra Manthan.
For manthan, (the churning), the Vaasuki Naga- having a body formed by the circular vibrations of energy- was used as the rope. Mandrachal mountain- A symbol of the central stream of the universal force – was used as Mathani –the churning rod.
The process began.
The aim was to extract amrita -,the nectar of immortality- through churning of the Kshira Sagara by rotating the Mathani- the Mandrachal mountain-, with rope – the Vaasuki Naga. The devas and the danavas were opposite each other holding the two ends of the Vaasuki Naga, with its body coiled around the mathani. It was to be pulled from one side by the devas and from the other by the danavas, in an opposite direction. The danavas, held the ‘mouth’-end, while the devas held the ‘tail’-end of vaasuki.
Although staunch adversaries, the devas and the danavas, had decided to collaborate in quest of a common goal –the amrita, which would make them immortal.
The two opposite forces, applied in unison, caused the great task of manthan to be accomplished. A common goal can stimulate extraordinary co-ordination of forces, even opposite to each other, for achieving the desired results. A Mahayogi can achieve immortality even within this human body, by aligning the forces of opposite elements – pran-apan, Sury–Chandra, vish-amrit etc.. Only such a mahayogi can become a guiding light for millions and millions, by interweaving the opposite forces of Tamoguna and Rajoguna on a practical plain.
The Churning had started.
Numerous divine elements surfaced at different stages of churning.
Kamdhenu-the legendry cow with unending milk; Airawat-the four toothed elephant; uchcheshrava- the white horse; Apsaras-the celestial beauties; Kaustabha mani; Madira- the wine; Shankha-the conch shell; Kalpavriksha-the divine wish-fulfilling tree; Chandrama, Lakshmi and so on.
All elements are attracted by their natural counterparts. It is natural for the iron filings to be attracted towards a magnet; for Ganga to flow towards the ocean; for the calf to run to its mother, the cow. Similarly all elements surfacing after churning, started adorning the heaven. Kaustabha mani; Shankha; Airawat Lakshami became an inseparable parts of lord Vishnu himself.
Danavas chose to gulp down Madira-the wine.
There was no trace of the nectar yet. The Manthan continued- with increased vigour. It reached a crucial stage. Fierce flames could now be seen flashing. Halahal-the lethal venom had begun to surface, and started spreading rapidly. So terrifying was its speed, that it threatened the creation’s existence itself. There was commotion all over. Who will save us now? With the concurrence of BhagwanVishnu, it was decided to seek the help of lord Shiva.
Shiva- kindness and compassion personified- agreed to ingest the Halahal, to save the creation from this deadly poison. The entire Halahal was drunk by him. His kanth (throat) showed blue hue of the deadly poison. Shiva became neel kanth. Blended with loving compassion, the lethal Halahal, was absorbed and circulated within his divine form. Not a drop of what went into his mouth was allowed to drop out. However minute droplets that fell down from his palm, while drinking Halahal, originated poisonous animals like snakes, scorpions etc., as also poisonous medicines like poppy etc.
This great deed made Shiva, the Mahadeva and enthroned him as Mrtiyunjai(one who has overpowered death).
Shiva became Mrtiyunjay, even without drinking the amrita. The selfless compassion, love and renunciation transformed the lethal Halahal itself into amrita- the nectar of immortality.
Rendered fearless, by the benevolence of Lord Shiva, the Devas and Danavas resumed the manthan. Finally, appeared Dhanvantri, with the Amrita- Kalasha (the vessel containing Amrita).
Here came the turning point.
The cooperation with which the manthan had been going on so far, suddenly vanished. Now there was commotion all-over. As soon as the Amrita- Kalasha appeared, the animosity between the Devas and Danavas
surfaced again, violently.
“We shall have the amrita first”. Shouting so, the Danavas rushed to grab the Amrita- Kalash. Infighting began even within the Danavas- the stronger ones pushing the weaklings back.
In such a charged atmosphere, Vishnu came to the rescue of the Devas. He donned the Mohini- avtara( Incarnation as a beautiful woman). Already under the toxic influence of the Madira-the Danavas could not resist the charms of Mohini. Momentarily forgetting the amrtita, they rushed after the Mohini.
Devas got the right to have amrita- because they relied on God. His power was their power; his wisdom was their wisdom.
Despite vigorous efforts, and in spite of their infinite power, the Danavas could not get hold of the nectar. The Devas relished amrita served by the very Mohini, who enticed the Danavas away from the nectar. By the time the Danavas realized what was happening, the Devas had already finished the amrita. Rahu and Ketu’s cunningness itself cost them the nectar (the details will be out of context here. Those desirous of knowing the details may read Bhagwat Puran or Mahabharata etc.) .
The Danavas could not get the right to amrita, because relying on their own ego and animal force, they remained Danavas; they could not become the god oriented Devas.
Devas became immortal but they could not become Mrtiyunjai. To achieve the Mrtiyunjai state, simply drinking amrita is not enough. One also has to awaken the inner power of assimilating the halahal.
Achieving immortality is the sadhana of liberation of the self. However, to achieve the Mrtiyunjai state, one will have to renounce the wish for liberation of the self and will have undergo the Sadhana of liberation of all (in contrasts with the liberation of self).
The Devas liberated their own self through the amrita. Hence they can be called as being somewhat selfish. But the Mahadev Shiva, renouncing even his wish to take amrita, agreed to absorb the Halahal for protecting the creation. He achieved the Mrtiyunjai state.
To establish our form in the Mrtiyunjai state, it is not enough to absorb the amrita sprinkling from the sahasrar; it is also necessary to absorb the strand of fire (Agni Shikha) of the Nabhi kund after stoking it to its maximum intensity. However this great Sadhana can be possible only through the circulation of the nectar of the selfless vishwatma mai, compassion.