The story of Samudra Manthan – churning of the milk ocean is found in the Bhagavata Purana, the Mahabharata, and Vishnu Purana. It tells of how the Devas and Asuras join together for this churning of the ocean in order to obtain Amrita – the nectar of immortality. It also relates how Vishnu in the form of a turtle (Kurma Avatar) provides his help as well as Shiva coming to the aid of the Devas when they implore his help.
Vishnu assures the Devas that Amrita will be theirs and the Asuras (evil ones, demons) will not partake of this nectar. Vasuki, king of the serpents, is used as the churning rope which is wrapped around the mountain called Mount Mandara or Mandar Parvat which is the churning rod. The Devas are positioned at the tail end of the serpent while the Asuras are at its head. The pulling back and forth caused the mountain to rotate, however, it began to sink in the ocean and Vishnu, in the form of the turtle, Kurma Avatar, comes to the rescue by supporting the mountain on his back.
In the process of the churning of the ocean, poisons are brought to the surface which are powerful enough to destroy all creation. Alarmed at this prospect, the devas ask Shiva for help. In an act to protect the world Shiva consumes the poison. Parvati, his wife, pressed her hand on Shivas’s throat which turned blue. Thus he is also known as “Nilakantha” – The blue – throated One. Amrita, the nectar of immortality, is raised along with other treasures.
In the light of Kriya Yoga, our sadhna is like Samudra Manthan – churning the ocean with the ocean relating to the human consciousness. Mount Mandara (churning rod) is the spine in which Sushumna Nadi is located. The toxins, poisons, can infer human greed, anger, jealousy, hatred, lust, ego, selfishness, etc. While the treasures which do arise from the depths of this ocean can be inferred as our unselfishness, our kindness, unconditioned love, genuine caring, compassion, humbleness, etc.
Devas represent the upward flow of prana which reaches the spiritual planes (inhalation). Vasuki, the serpent, is the energy, prana, kundalini, (whichever word one chooses to call it). The Asuras is the descending prana flowing downward to matter. “Upon offering the in-breath to the out-breath, out-breath to the in-breath one performs oblations, and true yajna (fire ceremony)” (Bhagavat Gita). This friction is the churning. The serpent, Vasuki, flows through Mount Mandara – the Sushumna generating heat, light, coolness, and the internal OMkar sounds.
Contributed by Nancy Swanson, a Kriya Yoga practitioner
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