Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Story of the churning of the ocean - 04

Vasuki, the great serpant, was used as the rope for the churning. Bhagavan with the devas got hold of the head part of Vasuki. The asuras did not like this. Seeing that the asuras did not like this, Bhagavan along with the devas caught hold of the tail of Vasuki. In all the places, asuras (denoting asuric tendencies) are always unsatisfied whereas the devas are ever ready to sacrifice and compromise. The churning of the ocean was started. But mandara parvatha was very heavy and it slipped out of the churning of the devas and asuras. Devas and asuras suddenly became very sad & worried. All of a sudden, Bhagavan took the shape of a huge tortoise and supported the mandara parvatha from below so that the devas and asuras were able to churn the ocean.


We again find in this part of Srimad Bhagavatham the compassion of the Lord in saving those who have taken refuge in him. This is the promise made by the Lord at the end of Bhagavad Gita that “renounce everything and take refuge in me; I will take care of your good and bad; do not worry”. This promise of the Lord is not like the general promises that we make daily which is broken at one point of time or the other; this promise of the Lord is an eternal one and kept by the Lord at all times.

When the mandara parvatha went down into the ocean, the Lord took the avatar of kurma or tortoise and supported the parvatha on his back. This is the compassion of the Lord. From the seeker’s side, the seeker just needs to completely surrender unto the Lord in order to feel the presence of the grace of the Lord. A seeker who has completely surrendered unto the ultimate reality of Lord is a pure devotee of the Lord. The Lord as we have been seeing in the various stories in Srimad Bhagavatham is a servant of the devotee. The Lord is helpless in that he cannot but help the devotee from anything and everything. This is the greatness of devotion towards the ultimate reality of Lord. A devotee doesn’t need to bother about anything because he has the omni-present and omni-potent Lord to take care of him. Whenever the devotee is in a situation of helplessness or trouble or sorrow or suffering, the Lord comes there to protect and save the devotee. A devotee sees the presence of the Lord in everything. Whatever the devotee sees is but the grace of the Lord. Whatever the devotee experiences is but the grace of the Lord. For a devotee, there is nothing but the Lord alone.

For the Lord, there is nothing but helping the devotee. Does the Lord help the devotee only in worldly pursuits? No, the Lord finally makes the devotee realize his own very nature of Lord. This is but the height of compassion of the Lord. A person following the path of scriptural learning without proper devotion of the Lord has to learn a lot with sharp intellect and struggle in the world to overcome the passions and attachments in the world. But for the devotee, everything is taken care of by the Lord. The Lord ensures that the devotee gets knowledge through a proper Guru when required. If the devotee is not willing to accept knowledge, then the Lord sees to it that the devotee takes knowledge and realizes the ultimate reality of Lord. This is either through sufferings or through beatings like the beating of a mother towards her child when the child is naughty and doesn’t hear to the mother’s words.

This avatar of kurma symbolizes the supporting of the world of burdens that we have by the Lord. When we encounter sufferings and sorrows, both the devas (good tendencies) and asuras (bad tendencies) are dormant. We enter into such a situation where we will not be able to think as to what to do – we will be totally down. It is in such situation that the Lord supports us through carrying of all those burdens thereby reducing the burden on us. For a real devotee, there is no burden because he totally offers them to the Lord. For a devotee who is still progressing in the spiritual path, he might encounter tough situations wherein he will not be able to control himself as well as offer the burdens unto the Lord. It is in such situation that the Lord takes the form of kurma through supporting of the burden. The Lord might not come in the same form of Vishnu or Siva, instead he will be there to support us in one or the other form. It is this that is openly shown through the various avatars of the Lord which are different in each case. Whatever help that a devotee gets at times of distress is but the hand of the Lord alone.

To see the churning of the ocean, all Gods including Brahma and Siva had come there. The ocean started shaking. Because of the poisoned breath of Vasuki, the asuras and devas lost their energy. But due to the grace of Bhagavan, they were able to continue their work. In order to get amrita, they had to churn the ocean and cannot stop in between as well. When they were thus churning the ocean, halaahala poison came out of the ocean. The poison started darkening all the four directions. Devas along with others became afraid. They then approached Sadasiva and praised him. They prayed to the ultimate reality of Lord in the form of Sadasiva to save the world from this big danger.

Sadasiva with permission from Devi who occupied half of his body decided to have the poison. Compassionate Lord thus took the poison in his hands & drank it. Since the poison was stopped at his neck, even today Siva is called as Nilakanta (one whose kanta or neck is blue in color because of the poison).


It may seem that we are again and again coming towards the same essence of the Lord saving the devotees who have surrendered to him – this is but a fact that all the various stories of the Lord propound the Lord being compassionate towards his devotees. These re-emphasizing and repetition of the compassionate nature of the Lord is in order to cultivate the sense of pure devotion in each one of us. There is no way out of the sorrows and sufferings in the world unless the seeker develops pure devotion towards the ultimate reality of Lord. Pure devotion is that in which there is total and complete surrender. If there is total surrender, then the Lord will be there to protect the devotee whatever be the situation. We see here Siva drinking the poison in order to save his devotees of devas who had completely surrendered to the Lord.

There are only two ways to liberation from the bondages of the world – one is the path of knowledge wherein the intellect is used to ascertain about the reality of Brahman amidst the illusory world & the second is the path of devotion where the devotee totally surrenders to the non-dual reality of Lord. Both these are not separate ways but they lead to the same goal of realization of one’s own nature of Lord. It is this realization which is termed by Sankara as jnaana or brahma atma aikya jnaana in his bhashyas and by Narada as paraa bhakthi or ultimate devotion.

The path of scriptural learning is dangerous in that it gives ample opportunity for the ego to dominate thereby making the seeker a mere intellectual person rather than making him humble and give him realization of the ultimate reality of Lord. The ultimate reality of one’s own nature of Lord can be realized only when the ego is vanquished. It is the ego which causes association with things and people – it is this association that causes attachment and aversion. These attachments and aversions lead to sorrow and sufferings. Thus the basic problem for a seeker is out of the Ego alone. Through scriptural knowledge, the seeker learns that the ego is only an illusion in the subject of atman or Self. Thus contemplating on one’s own nature of Consciousness, the seeker becomes a mere witness to the ego and its activities. This is tough because it requires one’s own effort to conquer the ego. In the path of devotion, the devotee totally surrenders to the ultimate reality of Lord. This surrender automatically vanquishes the ego. Thus there is no scope of ego for a pure devotee.

Once a devotee progresses in the path of devotion, he knows the nature of the Lord as the non-dual reality of Consciousness (that which is propounded in the scriptures as nirguna parabrahman). This is knowledge. Thus a devotee gains knowledge as well about the Lord towards whom he is devoted. The devotee with the help of knowledge completely merges into the Lord – thereby the Lord alone exists, one without a second.

In the case of a seeker who is following the path of knowledge, he knows the ultimate reality of Brahman as different from the ego and as the Self or Subject of everything. Knowing the nature of Brahman as the witness of all activities, the seeker develops devotion towards Brahman. This devotion in turn makes the seeker realize his own nature of Brahman. Thereby what remains behind is the seeker alone of the nature of the ultimate reality of Brahman.

Thus both the path of devotion and the path of knowledge lead to realization of the non-dual reality of Lord (which Sankara terms as jnaana or knowledge).

It is for a seeker to decide as to which path to take. Whatever be the path, he will be made to get devotion and knowledge both. As we saw in the previous days, the Lord himself will make the devotee learn the scriptural truth through a Guru thereby making him realize the ultimate reality of Lord as his own very nature.

For normal people in the world who are ignorant about scriptural knowledge and whose intellect is not that sharp to apprehend the logic in the scriptures, the path of devotion is the best. Such seekers need to develop pure devotion through total and complete surrender unto the ultimate reality of Lord. The Lord himself will then take the devotee from the illusory world to the ultimate reality of Lord. This is what is denoted in this part of the story through Siva’s drinking of the poison. The poison denotes worldly problems and bondages. For a seeker who is inflicted with these and who has surrendered to the ultimate reality of Lord, the Lord takes care of his problems drinking the poison of bondages. Thus the Lord liberates the seeker from all the bondages of the world making him realize his own nature of Lord (who is ever blissful and non-dual Consciousness).

We will continue with the story in the next day.

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