To get what you want in life requires a clear and peaceful mind, free from conflict. In ancient times, even the gods and demons were urged by Vishnu or God himself, to cooperate in order to produce the sacred Soma, the nectar of immortality

Churning the Ocean of Milk

One of the most illuminating stories and symbolic allegories in the entire Vedic tradition is the churning of the ocean of milk by the gods and demons. In fact, it is so significant that we have written three related articles based on this ancient historical tale. This is Part One. This account from the ancient Vedas is both fascinating and enlightening since it so clearly illustrates the need for the purification of the materially affected and mortally shackled mind by the cultivation of spiritual consciousness. The churning of the ocean of milk is symbolic of stirring up the unconscious or subconscious mind. Part of the process of becoming a conscious being is becoming conscious or aware of everything within your unconscious mind. We behave in particular ways due to our ignorance or lack of awareness of who we really are, that is, our higher identity as souls or spiritual beings. We also occasionally or even repeatedly do things that we don’t want to do, that is, we behave in ways which may cause regret or shame or sorrow for ourselves or others. But yet, we may find it very difficult to change, though we may want to more than anything. It all begins with owning our dark side — admitting our weaknesses, negative qualities, bad habits, shameful behaviors and the shadow of our lower, unrefined nature. As the unconscious mind becomes purified of all darkness, undesirable traits, bad habits and limiting beliefs, a surprising transformation occurs. And from that, many wonderful things begin to unfold in one’s life.

The eternal struggle of good versus evil does not only take place in the world around us but also within our very selves. It is occurring within our minds on a daily basis, on an hourly basis, and even from moment to moment. For every moment, we are faced with the choice of expressing our higher, compassionate, constructive nature or our lower, selfish, destructive nature.

In ancient times, the gods (angels), the higher universal beings, had offended a powerful sage and mystic named Durvasa who then cursed them to fall prey to old age more quickly than the usual course. To restore their youthfulness and stop the aging process, the gods turned to Vishnu, or God Himself to seek a remedy. Vishnu instructed them that the churning of the ocean of milk would eventually yield them the substance known as soma, the nectar of immortality. This soma had the capability of stopping the aging process, extending their life span and furthering their efforts toward self-fulfillment and universal sovereignty. Immortality does not simply mean long life, but also the knowledge of the infinite, knowing which one comes to understand the immortality of the spirit. It is vertical growth which is spiritual realization as well as horizontal growth which is material expansion.

It is explained in the Vedas that the universe contains various kinds of oceans, such as oceans of salt water, fresh water, milk, clarified butter (ghee), emulsified yogurt, sugar cane juice, and intoxicating liquor. The ocean of milk represents the primordial waters of creation upon which the universes are purported to rest. The sense here is that the milk ocean is like the mind in a state of unrealized potential and that when it is stirred up or distilled, it yields a refined, creative potency or essence, soma, by means of which all creative ideas and all manifestations of imagination and desire can be brought into being. Milk when churned thickens and becomes more refined until it yields its richest substance, butter. Similarly, the milk ocean when churned yields the most desirable and valuable things as we shall see, and best among them, the nectar of immortality.

Vishnu tells the demigods that fulfilling one's own interests is so important that sometimes one may even have to make a truce with one's enemies in order to bring this about. For the sake of one's self-interest, one has to act according to the logic of the snake and the mouse. A snake and a mouse were once caught in a basket. Since snakes like to eat mice, this was a great opportunity for the snake. However, this would not free him from the basket. The snake thought it wise to make an alliance with the mouse and ask the mouse to chew through the basket, thereby freeing them both. His intention was to have the mouse eat a hole through the basket, eat the mouse, then escape. Unlike the snake, however, the gods typically seek improvement for everyone with their actions. Humans typically seek improvement for themselves and their loved ones. Whereas demons or snakes seek benefit for themselves to the detriment of others.


The gods had to enlist the cooperation of the demons in order to achieve their purpose of generating this purifying, life-transforming substance. The allegory here is very instructive for it indicates that the dark side of the mind and its tendencies cannot simply be ignored and repressed if one chooses to bring about wholeness and integration of being, One cannot simply focus on one’s goodness and virtues while ignoring or denying the presence of the shadow side consisting of untruth, vice or other kinds of unwholesome tendencies or behavior that one hopes are never exposed to the light of day.

When individuals, families, cultures or societies repress or deny their corruptions and prejudices, these qualities will inevitably rear their ugly heads at some point in time and wreak disruption or destruction in their individual and collective lives. Repressed or swallowed too long, these dark forces will overwhelm the mind and take the helm, setting a stormy course toward the jagged rocks of self-undoing. People fail and kingdoms fall. Anything held down for a long time is similar to “contents under pressure.” It eventually must find an outlet or a release. And by then, all hell may break loose. For example, since 20th Century Europe would not own its own darkness, Nazi Germany was spawned from this collective denial and repression, and ultimately, all hell broke loose in the form of the First and Second World Wars. It seems one war wasn’t enough and the lesson hadn’t been learned the first time round!

Vishnu was well aware of the need for the cooperation between the gods and demons, the forces of light and darkness, in order to produce balance and harmony in the universal scheme. This universal requirement is eloquently summed up in the words of American mythologist, Joseph Campbell, “As Westerners we have yet to learn that every action sets up a counter-action at the opposite end of the scale. It is as if we live on a seesaw, with the fulcrum in the exact center. A high cultural achievement will engender a corresponding darkness. A creation sets in motion a corresponding destruction. The cultural or creative act can be maintained if its corresponding opposite is honored and given equal consciousness. We are so abysmally unaware of this law that we have no adequate language for it. How can you say that you must destroy as much as you create without sounding as if you were denying the whole cultural process? To create without paying tribute to destruction is as impossible as attempting to breathe in without breathing out.”

Vishnu told the gods that enlisting the help of the demons in churning the ocean meant that the gods must agree to whatever the demons requested. With patience and perseverance, all things can be achieved. To start with, He explained that a poison would be generated from the ocean but there would be no need to fear it. Various products would be generated from the ocean. Upon seeing these wonderful things, three attitudes would arise within their minds which must be avoided. They are: desire for the attainment of the object. Greed to have these things for yourself at any cost and without regard for others. And finally, frustration when you do not achieve a desired object which often degenerates into anger or envy toward those who achieve the thing that you desire.


The gods approached the demons and struck a truce followed by an agreement. Then together, they uprooted Mount Mandara to use as a churning rod and began to carry it to the shore of the ocean of milk. Being made of gold, it was very heavy and they became fatigued and dropped the mountain, unfortunately killing most of the gods and demons. The all-knowing Vishnu, riding on the back of his carrier Garuda, the man-eagle, appeared there and looked upon them with His rejuvenating glance and brought them back to life.

The indication here is that when one truly sets out to improve and transform the self, it is no small task, It is a commitment and bears a weight or responsibility that most people do not anticipate, much like carrying a mountain. Once it’s picked up, it must be carried to its destination. There’s no turning back and there’s no setting it down for a while. Underestimating the task, the demons and gods could not bear the weight or responsibility of their commitment and subsequently dropped the mountain, killing most of them. Few people will undertake a course of self-realization which, if completed, will deliver the elixir of immortality, the divine soma, the Holy Grail. But abandonment or failure by those who actually take to the spiritual path, ultimately leads to death. Death will be followed by an opportunity for rebirth or, in rare cases, God Himself will intervene and make a correction, that is, save the day. However, most of those who set out to realize the self, do not remain on the path and are once again faced with their own mortality. That’s why it takes innumerable lifetimes to complete the transformation from limited human being to liberated soul. Best advice — don’t drop the mountain!

Life cannot be improved by simply waiting around for the divine grace of God to land on your head. Humans must do their part in the process by qualifying and embodying the godly traits within the human form and experience. It is common among born-again Christians in particular to believe that Jesus Christ has already saved them and nothing remains to be done on their part to qualify themselves for divine grace. Further, they believe it is perfectly alright for them to carry on with unChristian-like behavior since Jesus has already promised to save them. He died on the cross for their sins so in their minds they’re already saved. Once having accepted Jesus as their saviour, they are then free to continue their nonsense.

Vishnu swooped down and easily lifted the mountain with one hand and placed it on the back of Garuda, His man-eagle vehicle. Flying to the ocean of milk, Vishnu set the mountain in the middle of the ocean to serve as a churning rod. The serpent of wisdom, Vasuki, wound his powerful body around the mountain to serve as the rope. Soma, the nectar of immortality, the elixir of life, could be produced only by violent revolutions of Mount Mandara. They would effectively turn the milk ocean into a butter churn. Since the mountain had no support, it began to sink into the water with the rapid churning. The mountain became bogged down in the ocean and the devas (gods) and the demons could not move it no matter how hard they tried. Thus, the gods and demons became disheartened once more.


Here again we witness the need for divine intervention when undertaking a task as daunting as the transformation and transmutation of self. The mountain represents the sum total of all material experience. It is the crystallized mass of all material impressions and mundane conditioning generated by the aggregate of lifetimes which have recorded themselves upon the unconscious mind since the beginning of one’s embodiment on the physical plane. Without divine grace, without help from God, there is in reality, no possibility of a human being who is afflicted by limitation and material conditioning to succeed on his own. Knowing that this situation had been brought about by the divine hand of fate, the all-knowing Vishnu, who is Himself the divine hand of fate, had to come to their aid for a third time, This time, He assumed His divine incarnation as Kurma, the giant tortoise, offering his gargantuan shell as the resting place for the mountain. Vishnu’s role as the gigantic tortoise, Kurma, served a dual and reciprocal purpose. It was a resting place or support for the mountain and it also served to scratch the back of Vishnu as the tortoise. What have you done for God lately?

Vasuki, the serpent of wisdom, is also present in the allegory of Adam and Eve. He is hanging out, minding his own business in the tree of the knowledge of good and evil which are the dualities, such as good/bad, dark/light, pleasure/pain, etc. These dualities can only be experienced in the material world, never in the spiritual world, the garden of Eden. God had warned them not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil because it would result in separation from Him and forgetfulness of their true, eternal, spiritual nature. The serpent fulfilled a dual function, firstly as a tempter and secondly as a witness, just in case they succumbed to the temptation to taste the forbidden fruits of this one tree in the entire garden. In that unlikely event, the serpent was there to test their faith in God. For, no matter in what you may place your faith in life, it must be tested. That is a fact and a universal law. In the allegory, Adam and Eve failed this test and were subsequently banished from paradise which means they lost their awareness of their eternal, divine nature as a part of God. All living beings are parts of God just as drops of ocean water contain all the properties of the ocean itself. The serpent was not their enemy. He was only doing his job in testing their faith. As the serpent of wisdom, he was, in truth, trying to raise their consciousness upward toward greater understanding, just as the yogis raise the kundalini, the serpent energy, up the spine which results in an increased spiritual awareness. In his role here as serpent of wisdom, Vasuki once again is playing his part in the purification and elevation of consciousness for both the gods and the demons alike. Vasuki is also a manifestation of the mythical Oriental dragon which represents strength, change and transformation. It makes its home in the eastern direction which stands for new beginnings and initiatory proceedings.


Vishnu then told them to toss all varieties of plants, grass, vines and herbs into the ocean which they did. Vishnu instructed the gods to grab the front portion of the serpent and the gods complied. The demons, however, decided that the tail was the most inauspicious or unsavory portion of the snake and refused to hold it. Vishnu smiled and without objection, immediately instructed the devas to grasp the tail end of the snake which they did. Thinking they had outmaneuvered the gods, the demons happily took the head of Vasuki and the churning began.

Agitation or emotional force is required to enable the human body to transmute the energy of the divine into a force acceptable to the physical world. To use an astrological metaphor, the mind (emotional nature) is represented by the Moon planet. The mind is, in effect, the bridge between the spiritual reality and the physical plane. The Sun represents the soul or divine nature. It is powerful, pure illumination. The Moon or mind is capable of reflecting the light of the Sun (spiritual nature) which is symbolized by the bright fortnight of the waxing Moon. However, the mind is just as capable of reflecting the darkness of matter or the earth-bound reality, which is represented by the dark fortnight of the waning Moon. We cannot accommodate the intensity of the Sun or soul power without some sort of a buffer and that buffer is the mind (Moon). A materialist whose goals are sense pleasure and various mundane, earthly achievements would be scorched by the purity and power of the Sun as it is. Therefore, the mind or Moon serves as a buffer and reflects or reduces the light of the Sun or Self. The mind and emotions, however, can just as easily be focused on matter and earthly concerns and have no qualification whatsoever for reflecting the higher spiritual nature, as is the case with most materially absorbed people. Therefore, the mind and emotional body must be purified and made fit to reflect the light of the Sun (Self). The churning of the ocean of milk which is the universal mind, is a metaphorical process of agitation and purification to make that universal mind fit to host or produce a purified essence of divine energy which, in this case, is soma.

For days and weeks the intense churning by the demons and gods seemed to yield nothing from the ocean and they became disheartened, Vishnu then manifested Himself in yet another form and personally began to churn the ocean. Very quickly, the entire ocean became turbulent and the fish, sharks, turtles, snakes, whales, crocodiles, etc., were forced out of the ocean from the violent churning. Here again, it is Vishnu to the rescue. The gods and demons had become disheartened after weeks of churning with no tangible result. Here in the material world, there are always obstacles to all endeavors, especially ones that promise a big result. The materially conditioned mind at some point will become overwhelmed with the task at hand and want to give up the effort. Especially when there seems to be no measurable result. When it comes to efforts toward spiritual growth, the results can be even less tangible or more difficult to measure, and therefore, disillusionment can easily set in. Here again, in this circumstance, God intervenes to offer encouragement, overcome obstacles and produce results. Once again, man’s dependence on the help and favor of God is clear and evident, not to mention indispensable.

The first things to emerge from the churned ocean of milk were fish, sharks, turtles, snakes, whales, crocodiles, etc. These represent deep subconscious thoughts, memories, beliefs, habit patterns, limitations, fears, doubts, delusions, impurities and imperfections. In a process of deep purification, these inevitably must come to the surface and be released and this is usually not an easy or comfortable process. As this is accomplished, there are then subtler and subtler levels of purification of these things that will continue over time. Sometimes people endeavoring for emotional purification and spiritual cleansing may go through a difficult time when they are bringing up stuff they didn’t even know they had (buried in the depths of the ocean of the unconscious). Then when it seems they’ve come out the other end of the process, more stuff will bubble up to the surface and they will become discouraged, thinking they had made so much progress and now they find they are not yet finished. In actuality, they did make significant progress, but now the subtler levels of the release of the mental and emotional conditioning will continue.

For example, suppose a person has a real problem with anger to the point where she throws things at people or physically attacks and beats them. In the initial stages of purification, she will still have the same intense feelings of anger, but she will respond to them differently over time. She may cease to explode and act out in an uncontrolled manner in terms of throwing things or attacking others. But she may yell and scream since the emotions still remain strong. This, in fact, is progress and should be recognized as such. At a future point, when she is able to tangibly control her emotional outbursts, her anger may be expressed in nothing more than a frown and she will have reached a much subtler level of emotional manifestation and control. Remember, patience, patience …

While the ocean was being churned so earnestly by Vishnu, the next thing to emerge was a deadly poison in liquid form, the pungent fumes of which made the devas and demons faint. If it fell on the earth, the earth would be destroyed. Fearing for their lives, the gods and demons approached Shiva to save them from this fiery poison which was spreading throughout the ocean. This poison represents all toxic emotions that are carried in the psyche or collective unconscious. The prominent ones are frustration, anger, resentment, criticism, blame, and guilt.

Frustration arises when desires cannot be fulfilled and goals remain unachieved. When frustration rises to a climax, anger erupts and the mind becomes polluted with this toxic, destructive emotion.

Anger can result in various forms of harmful, reckless or dangerous behavior toward the self or others. Anger held for a very long time is called resentment and this is the emotion that typically leads to cancer and other forms of terminal illness, as in the phrase, “What’s eating you?”

Criticism or nitpicking is the constant questioning, doubting or finding of fault with one’s own actions or those of others. This is what takes place when nothing one does is considered to be good enough, sufficient or adequate as judged by others, People who have the same self-critical voice in the back of their minds have usually been conditioned to behave in this way by those around them since early childhood.

Blame is refusing to accept responsibility for the things which happen in your life. You are either looking for a scapegoat, someone to blame as the cause of your problems and/or you are assuming a victim role and suggesting that people and circumstances are conspiring against you to hold you back, keep you down or create sorrow in your life. “It’s all so unfair!”

Guilt which is usually generated by actions from a previous lifetime or lifetimes is the unconscious refusal to accept a positive outcome or success in some area of your life because deep down you feel as though you don’t deserve it. Self-sabotage and self-undoing are the pillars of its foundation.

Since the ocean of milk is considered to be the primordial waters of universal existence, these dark emotions are the accumulated negative feelings stored in the collective unconscious. In other words, beings of every stripe and description from everywhere in the universe have contributed to this poisonous cesspool of emotion. The spreading of this poison throughout the ocean is also somewhat reminiscent of a modern day oil spill, highly toxic and possessing the power to destroy everything in its path including the ecosystem. The poison may also be regarded as the symbol of the extreme anguish and desperation that often precedes illumination, the dark night of the soul that is the precursor to ultimate enlightenment.


Shiva, who has the power to assimilate even death, then proceeded to drink the poison from the ocean. (In the universe, Brahma is the creator, Vishnu the maintainer and Shiva the destroyer) Shiva is considered to be a highly advanced being, second only to Vishnu, God Himself. But Shiva’s role is to handle the darker, more destructive side of things. It is Shiva as Nata-raj (king of the dance) who performs the cosmic dance of destruction to end each subsequent universal manifestation. Something or someone was needed to transmute this potent poison generated from the churning and Shiva was the only one who would be able to do it without being decimated by it. His wife, Parvati, who was by his side, immediately took hold of his throat and applied pressure so that the poison would not go down into his stomach and kill him. Brahma, the Creator, who is also concerned with the world's welfare, closed Shiva's mouth so that he might not spit it back out and destroy the earth. The poison stabilized itself in Shiva's throat, turning it blue. From this incident, Shiva came to be known as Nila-kantha or the ‘blue-throated one.’

Feeling compassion toward the gods and demons, Shiva said, "People in general, being bewildered by maya or illusion, often show animosity toward one another. In spite of this behavior, great souls are willing to risk their lives to help them. They often undergo inconvenience and suffering for others for it is considered the highest method of worshiping the Supreme Lord who is present in everyone's heart." All those who had witnessed this act praised Shiva for his munificence.


The devas and the demons began to churn the ocean with renewed vigor. A cow known as surabhi then appeared from the churning. The Vedas state that Krishna who is God in His pastime as a cowherd boy, herds only surabhi cows in the spiritual world. Surabhi cows are said to give an unlimited supply of milk and are also able to fulfill any desire. Respected sages, elevated souls who were present there, took this cow into their charge in order to use her to produce clarified butter (ghee) for the performance of spiritual rites and purificatory rituals and for offering as fuel into the sacred fire.

We now begin to see desirable things emerging from the ocean of milk. The beings who begin to come forth from this point are considered to be products or precursors of the divine soma. And the first thing to appear, interestingly enough, is the cow, the symbol of the divine mother (please read the article entitled, “Mother Earth and Sacred Cow”). The fulfillment of all desires becomes possible once the poison has been released or neutralized. The surabhi is a particular type of cow whose milk yields all desires. And since ghee is always used to pour or offer into the sacred fire while mantras and prayers are being chanted, the sages or rishis would make the best use of this cow. Rishis, by definition, are evolved souls who are always thinking about the welfare of the world and devising ways and means to improve the well-being of the universe and its inhabitants.

Symbolically, once the poison or negative conditioning has been released from the psyche, the real process of nurturing the soul can begin in earnest, as represented by the wish-fulfilling surabhi cow. Further, we are now, probably for the first time in our life, in a position to actually fulfill our pure heart’s desires — not the desires that are a product of material conditioning, status and style, fear and desperation, but the ones that are truly reflective of our life purpose. The ones that will actually have lasting benefit for our soul and subsequently, for the welfare of the world in which we live.

A beautiful horse, as white as the moon then appeared who was called Ucchai-shrava which means “rising glory.” Bali, king of the demons, took this horse which symbolizes power, courage and fleetness of foot for his own.


Next to appear was the best of the elephants known as Airavata who was also white in color and whose name means “lightning.” He possessed four tusks and resembled a mountain. He had the ability to travel anywhere in the universe. Indra, king of the devas and the god of rain, took this elephant for his vehicle. The elephant is symbolic of strength, intelligence, memory and wealth. Here the two kings of the demons and gods, Bali and Indra, respectively, are shown honor by being given the best of the animals/vehicles that emerged from the churning of the ocean. The allegory also demonstrates that as the mundane mind becomes purified, one’s power, courage, strength, intelligence, memory and wealth will also improve and increase.

Next came the celestial gems known as Kaustubha and Padma-raga. The Kaustubha jewel which resembles a pearl, is engraved with a beautiful calf. It represents love, purity and innocence. And the Padma-raga or ruby represents pure spirit, untainted by material desire, and uncontaminated by contact with the world of birth and death. Vishnu accepted both these gems to adorn His own chest. Because these gems were placed on the chest of God Himself, the beauty of the stones was enhanced rather than vice versa.

Historically, gems have been recognized to possess certain powers, potencies and and healing abilities. Each gem vibrates on its own wavelength or frequency, related to particular planets. All divine beings wear precious stones and we follow their lead down here on earth as well. Kings and queens have always worn or possessed crown jewels. The gems are symbolic of higher powers and expanded potencies that are the result of the purification process. For more information on the power of gemstones, please refer to the following articles on this website:

Gemstones: Their Hidden Value and Purpose

The Effects of Wearing Planetary Gemstones

The gems were followed by the appearance of the Parijata flower which grows only in the heavenly planets and has an absolutely wonderful fragrance that is unparalleled on the earth. Inhaling this fragrance yields the fulfillment of all desires. Can you imagine a flower that fulfills all your desires simply from smelling it? Here again, the ocean of the purified mind is continuing to yield the fulfillment of all desires on its way to producing the nectar of immortality or soma. The mind is the container of desire and the fulfillment of desire here in the material world brings temporary peace and satisfaction to the mind. But how difficult is it for most of us to realize goals and fulfill material desires? What if it was as easy as inhaling the fragrance of a beautiful flower? The symbolism here is that the purified mind can deliver one’s desires very quickly without so much difficulty, time and effort being required. The more you bring your mind into balance and refined spiritual consciousness, the easier it is to manifest exactly what you want in life. It also follows that grosser, unrefined desires connected to your lower nature will begin to fall away in time since they will deliver less and less material satisfaction over time. This is known as the law of satiation which simply states, “I’ve had enough. I’m bored. This doesn’t satisfy me any more.” As you evolve spiritually, your desires become more and more purified, that is more spiritual and less mundane. They become more connected to the soul and less driven by the body.


Next, the Apsaras appeared from the ocean of milk. They are stunningly beautiful women of heavenly society, skilled in all the fine arts, feminine wiles, the science of sensuality, the social graces, and possessing great refinement who dwell in the heavenly planets. They were dressed in fine, attractive clothing and adorned with golden ornaments. Their beauty bewildered even the inhabitants of the heavenly planets. We had better hope they don’t come down to earth for a visit — the men here are already quite bewildered by the beauty of earthly women!

The paramount desire for humans is love. To love, be loved, find a lover, to unite with one who loves and cherishes you for who and what you really are. In the final analysis, it is all about love and relationship for the vast majority of us here in the material universe. To be united with your opposite sex partner is to feel complete and fulfilled as a person. This is what is represented by the Apsaras — the fulfillment of love and relationship and the heavenly pleasure of sexual congress, arguably the greatest physical pleasure in the material world.

The message is the more purified and refined the mind becomes, the greater the likelihood of finding your true love, your soul mate. The more you vibrate in harmony with your own truth and the more you come into perfect balance, mentally and emotionally, the more likely you are to find your complementary opposite, your mate. Also, the Apsaras are symbolic of unbelievably beautiful women with outstanding qualities and skills. This is the type of woman or man you would be able to attract when you vibrate on a much higher level of consciousness and refinement. For more information on finding your soul mate, please see the article on this website entitled:

How To Recognize Your Soul Mate

Then came the goddess of fortune, Lakshmi herself. (Lakshmi’s wonderful story will be detailed in Part Three of this article entitled, “Attracting the Goddess of Fortune”) Because Lakshmi, the goddess of beauty and good fortune, barely took notice of them, the demons became depressed and dejected.

As the devas and the demons resumed their churning of the ocean, the lotus-eyed Varuni, the goddess of intoxication, appeared. Being inclined toward intoxication by nature as well as activities that promote diminished discretion, the demons happily accepted her as a gift from Vishnu. Intoxicating beverages and liquors may well be regarded as the soma of the demons and darker forces of the universe. The arrival of Varuni and the promise of intoxication is less an indication of purification and spiritual growth but turns out to be a useful device employed by Vishnu as we shall see in Part Two of this article, “Mohini — the Divine Seductress.”


Next to emerge was a partial incarnation of God (avatar) known as Dhanvantari, appearing as a beautiful, young man versed in Ayurveda, the science of health and longevity. His body had all good and auspicious features. He was stout and strong like a lion and his arms were adorned with golden armlets. At last, the blessed bearer of the urn filled with the nectar of immortality, the divine soma, had arrived. In Vedic history, Dhanvantari is the empowered representation of God who inaugurated medical science.

Bhaktivedanta Swami comments on the appearance of Dhanvantari as follows, “As stated in the Vedas, everything emanates from the ultimate source which is the Personality of Godhead; it is therefore understood that medical science or knowledge in medicine was also inaugurated by God in His incarnation of Dhanvantari, and thus the knowledge is recorded in the Vedas. The Vedas are the source of all knowledge, and thus knowledge in medical science is also there for the perfect cure of the diseases of the living entity. The embodied living entity is diseased by the very construction of his body. The body is the symbol of diseases. The disease may differ from one variety to another, but disease must be there just as there is birth and death for everyone. So, by the grace of God, not only are diseases of the body and mind cured, but also the soul is relieved of the constant repetition of birth and death.”

Upon seeing Dhanvantari carrying the jug of nectar, the demons, desiring the sweet soma, and losing all sense of decorum as is their wont, immediately snatched the jug by force. Seeing the demons with the jug of soma, the gods once again, sought out the shelter of Vishnu. As the gods began discussing whether or not to attack the demons, the demons began to fight among themselves. Beings who are envious by nature are either not able to share at all or can only pretend to want to share. Vishnu pacified the gods by telling them He had a plan. Thereafter, the gods did not attack the demons but remained silent and patient. While the conflict was going on among the demons, the most beautiful woman alive, appeared in the midst of the gods and demons. She was the enchantress, Mohini and not a single person could take his eyes off her. Why? Because she was none other than Vishnu Himself in female form! (Please see Part Two of this article, entitled “Mohini — The Divine Seductress” and find out what actually happens with the distribution of the cherished nectar of immortality)

Probably the most important thing revealed in this story is that we are incapable of saving ourselves or fulfilling our heart’s desires without the intercession or the blessing and grace of God. To accomplish the task at hand was virtually impossible for either the demons or the gods, of their own accord. In fact, they would have to combine forces and work together to achieve their final objective. This they would have never done without the influence of Vishnu. Even when they agreed to this proposition of mutual cooperation, they failed miserably. They actually dropped Mount Mandara on their own heads and most were killed. Without divine sanction and aid, we meet with death and destruction sooner or later. To ignore God is to meet with certain death — over and over again! To cooperate with God, that is, with the divine plan, means there is every likelihood of success. Because their interests and God’s interests were the same, Vishnu restored them all back to life. Throughout this event, Vishnu must continually rescue the gods and demons so that they may reach their ultimate goal. From this allegory we learn that dependence on God is the most rational course of action. And surrendering to the will of God can deliver one’s most cherished desire.

The Nectar of Immortality had finally appeared. This was the thing that all had coveted, that they had all gone to so much trouble to produce from the churning of the ocean. Who would get it and what would it mean for those who didn’t? Please continue with Part Two of this three part article, “Mohini — the Divine Seductress.”