Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Story 38 – Story of the churning of the ocean - 01

Before we enter into the next story in Srimad Bhagavatham, it is important to remember that these stories are not just meant to be heard but are to be remembered all throughout our lives. These stories are not mere glories of the Lord but they explain the ultimate reality of Lord and the way to realization of our own very nature of Lord which alone can lead us from sorrow to eternal bliss. As we all are seeking eternal bliss each and every moment, it is but essential to remember the ultimate reality of Lord who is the import of each and every story of Srimad Bhagavatham.

Most of the people would already be knowing all the stories in Srimad Bhagavatham but in most of the places where the paarayana (chanting or telling of the stories in Srimad Bhagavatham) happens, emphasis is not given to the import of the ultimate reality of Lord. This is either because the person telling the story himself doesn’t know the ultimate reality or because the person wants a huge gathering. It is but true that if the ultimate reality of Lord is propounded the way it is in the scriptures without any glories, there would be very few who would seek it and still fewer who would understand it. Thus in many of the cases, we forget the ultimate reality of Lord but just remember the story alone. This is like throwing the banana all the while holding on to the banana peels. Without the ultimate reality of Lord, the stories are of no use. If we remove the ultimate reality of Lord from the stories, it is like removing Consciousness from the world which would lead us to a state of non-existence as Consciousness alone illumines all existences.

We have already learnt how Bharatha was engrossed in the form of the Lord alone heard through the various glories and hence had to take a couple of births to realize the ultimate reality of Lord. Thus if we forget the ultimate reality of Lord while listening to the stories of Srimad Bhagavatham, we would still be struggling in the ocean of samsaara. The Lord who is to be remembered and realized through the stories is in most of the cases forgotten. Here we are trying to remember the Lord through his glories – all the while keeping our focus fixed on the ultimate reality of Lord not deviating even a bit.

The ultimate reality of Lord alone is real – everything else, the duality that we perceive, is only an illusion in the ultimate reality of Lord. The duality is only names and forms in the ultimate reality of Lord even as various gold ornaments are names and forms in gold. Since the Lord alone is present here, we are also nothing but the Lord alone of the nature of Consciousness. It is only ignorance which has caused us to think that we are different from the Lord and are in bondage. In fact, as Sankara propounds in his Brahma Sutra Bhashya, we are the nitya shuddha Buddha muktha atma (ever pure, ever enlightened, ever liberated Self). We seem to have forgotten our own very nature of Lord – the same blissful Lord whom we experience during the state of deep sleep. Scriptural study as well as listening to the glories of the Lord all help in contemplation or nidhidhyaasana which is the way to realizing our own nature of Lord through removal of ignorance or avidya. When we always contemplate on the ultimate reality of Lord and see the Lord alone present as/in everything, we get rid of the dual notions of the mind. When the dual notions of the mind are removed, we realize that the duality is a mere superimposition on the non-dual reality of Lord. When we realize that duality is a mere illusion, we come to know our own very nature of non-dual Lord thereby ever rejoicing in the eternal bliss which is our very nature. This is what Vedanta calls as moksha and what we all are seeking (eternal bliss).

Remembering the ultimate reality of Lord as the one and only real entity present, let us get into the next story of the churning of the ocean. In this story, we learn symbolically as to how to get amritam or eternality in the world. Amritam couldn’t have achieved just by devas alone but only with the help of asuras, the devas got amritam. Amritam here signifies eternality or realization or moksha. Moksha is not possible just with devas or good qualities alone. We need to transcend both good and bad qualities by becoming a mere witness to all qualities and activities. Until we are averted towards bad qualities, we still are attached to the bad qualities in the form of aversion. This aversion itself causes a negative attachment. So long as we are attached to things in the world (whether they are qualities or objects), we will not be able to realize the ultimate reality of Lord as the witness of illusory good and bad qualities. Good and bad are creations of the mind. A seeker needs to transcend both good and bad in order to become a mere witness to both of those. As long as good is there, bad also will be there. Both are mutual and one cannot remain without the other. If a seeker wishes to get rid of all attachments, he needs to go beyond attachment and aversion by becoming a mere witness to everything. This witness-hood is achieved through knowledge of one’s nature as a mere witness. Witness-hood is also achieved easily through devotion wherein everything is seen as the Lord alone – thus there is nothing to get attached or averted – there is no good or bad but the Lord alone exists, one without a second. Thus the devotee very easily transcends good and bad by knowing them as mere illusions in the Lord.

This story of the churning of the ocean has many imports to be learned and implemented in life. We will start the story from the next day.

Durvasa once gave a maala made out of the flowers of kalpakavriksha from devaloka to Devendra. Since Indra was traveling in Airavatha therefore he kept the maala on the head of airavatha and started tying up his air. Not able to withstand the trouble given by bugs attracted to the maala kept on its head, airavatha took the maala and threw it on the floor. Seeing himself insulted by throwing of the maala, Durvasa cursed all devas including Indra. The curse was that let the aishwarya of devas be lost. Thereby devas began suffering due to sickness and aging. They thus got together and took shelter unto Brahma. Brahma then took them to Vishnu.


We find here Bhagavatham emphasizing a couple of things – one that we have to be very careful about our own activities as well as the activities of our subordinates or whoever is being controlled by us. The second thing is that whatever happens, we have to take refuge in the ultimate reality of Lord. It is better if we seek the Lord during good times instead of bad times which would be tough indeed to remember the Lord as our mind will be sad during bad times.

Durvasa was one of the saints who were known for getting angry soon. Most of the case, he used to get angry because of some valid reason. We shouldn’t really judge these saints by their activities. Still it is bad to get angry at a thing which is a sign of uncontrolled mind. It is the same anger which almost cost Durvasa his life when he became angry with Ambariksha, a realized jeevan muktha who was protected by none other than the Lord. Here in this story we find Bhagavatham emphasizing on the various activites done by a seeker. As different saints mention, the law of karma is so strong that no one can overcome it. The law of karma can be overcome only through knowledge as the Lord propounds in Gita that karma is totally removed through knowledge of the ultimate reality of Lord. The law of karma is mentioned by the Lord as eternal from the empirical view. Even the trinities of Brahma, Vishnu and Siva cannot overcome the law of karma. We find in the puranas the mention of many brahmas, vishnus and sivas convening together. We also find mentioned in the hanuma ashtottara shata naamavali that he will be the next brahma. We can consider Brahma, Vishnu and Siva as mere positions like we have in current day politics. As the current day prime minister has to resign when the next minister comes, similar is the case with the trinities as well. The more good karmas a person does, he becomes eligible for better fruits like svarga etc. The more bad karmas a person does, the more lower he goes (into the lower worlds like paathala etc.).

Until a person gets knowledge about the ultimate reality of Lord which alone can remove all bondages of karma, a seeker should ensure that he does good actions most of the time. If possible, a seeker should always offer all activities unto the Lord as an offering and do it without any sense of doership. If a person does activities being attached to the activity as the doer, he will be affected by the outcome of the activity as such. It is this that we find in this particular story. The activity of airavatha was not proper as it was insulting the sage durvasa and his gift to Indra. This activity done wrongly led the entire devas into trouble. As the wrong activity of airavatha led Durvasa to curse all the devas, similarly one bad activity from our side will lead the entire family and clan into bad fruits. Thus a seeker should always try to be aware of the activities that he is doing. He should always analyze the activities before doing them – think twice before doing any activity. The couple of questions to be asked before doing any activity are: will someone benefit from the activity and will the activity harm anyone in anyway. These questions are not out of selfish motive but for the welfare of the entire world. It is for this reason that during the chaturmaasya (the four months of rainy season), saints stay in a particular place (not roaming) lest they may kill some small creatures while walking. All our activities should be done keeping in mind the welfare of the world. When we do activities having a broad mind, our mind expands – such a mind becomes eligible enough to apprehend the Lord who is present in all the objects of the world. If a seeker doesn’t do his activities properly, it will lead him to all sorts of trouble.

All these limitations of actions are valid as long as the sense of doership is there. For a devotee who offers all activities unto the Lord & the jnaani who does activities as a mere witness, the activities and the fruits do not affect. For the bhaktha, the fruits of the activities are only blessings of the Lord whereas for the jnaani, the fruits are for the ego alone and not the Self with which the jnaani is associated. The attitude of a bhaktha is very easy. All seekers should strive to have this attitude. As the saying goes “everything happens for the best”, even if something wrong is done & bad fruits are achieved, they are for the good only. The bad fruits help in gaining more confidence on the Lord & seeking the Lord with full fervor. Even a curse is nothing but the grace of the Lord only. This is illustrated by the oft-quoted story by AMMA thus:

Once a king and his minister were going through a forest. All of a sudden, an accident happened & the king’s hand was injured and started bleeding. At that time, the minister replied saying that “everything is for the good”. The king didn’t like this & ordered the minister to be put in jail. The king continued and lost track of his soldiers. All of a sudden some tribal folks caught the king and were planning to make a dish out of him. They did all preparations for the same. They had to remove all the dress of the king for burning him. At that time, they found that there was a bruise in his hand. As per tradition, they were not supposed to take a person who had bruises – hence they took the king back to his kingdom safely. After reaching the kingdom, the king went running to the minister & hugged him after releasing him from the jail. The king then realized the minister’s statement that “everything happens for the best”.

Thus a seeker should always do activities without getting attached to the fruits. If something good happens, the devotee should take it as the grace of the Lord. If something bad happens, he should take it as the will of the Lord.

We will continue with the story the next day.

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