Churning of the milk ocean

Important lessons a devotee of Krishna learns from churning of the milk ocean or Samudra Manthan

By Purushottam Kumar - 14.9 2022

There are many valuable lessons which a practicing devotee of Krishna can learn from the churning of the milk ocean or Samudra manthan. Srimad Bhagavatam describes in detail about the momentous event in which devtas and demons came together to churn the ocean of milk.

The purpose was to retrieve nectar of immortality from the Ocean of Milk.  It was one of the rarest occasions when the fiercest enemies were cooperating with each other.

Vasuki, the king of the serpent was being used as a rope and the Mandara Mountain was the churning rod. Both the parties were anticipating that the moment churning will start the nectar will appear.

But to their surprise as they began to churn the ocean, they found that the ocean has become very turbulent. The big and small animals of the ocean like fish, sharks, tortoises, snakes, whales, crocodiles etc. got disturbed and came to the surface frightening all.

The misery of the devtas and demons got compounded when from the ocean came hālahala, the most dangerous poison. Everyone was aghast because instead of nectar, deadly and obnoxious substances were coming out.

Lord Vishnu who was supervising the entire activity was demonstrating to all that getting nectar isn’t so easy, it requires lots of effort.

Let us see what lessons a practicing devotee of Krishna can learn from the churning or milk ocean pastime or Samudra manthan.

Fighting our inner enemies in our pursuit for spiritual nectar

We can relate the churning of the ocean with our very own life. Chanting the holy names of the Lord like the Hare Krishna mahamantra means churning our heart.

We all have the experience that as soon as we start chanting, we become more agitated. The anarthas (or vices) like lust, greed, pride, anger, envy, illusion start attacking us vigorously.

We would have taken the process of mantra meditation or chanting with a hope that our mind will become peaceful, and we will experience serenity. But the opposite happens.  To our dismay, it appears as if we are at peace when we do not chant than when we chant.

Why so? Is mantra meditation ineffective or counter-productive? Definitely not. Then why anarthas start troubling us more.

Let us try to understand it with an analogy.

Cleaning an abandoned house

If you had an experience of cleaning a house which had been unattended for several months or maybe even years then you can easily understand what I am trying to say. But if you did not have that experience then do not worry, just use your imagination while reading further.

You are standing in front of the house with a big broom. You open the lock and push the door with all your might. The door slowly opens.

You look inside the house, you see mess everywhere. Lots of dirt on the floor, on chairs, on tables, and many cobwebs. Whatever dirt is there on the surface and the wall, you can easily see.

With the broom in your hand, you begin cleaning. And slowly you find yourself in a big mess. The dirty house showed its dirt and cobwebs but had hidden many surprises from you.

You just wants to run away

Soon you find yourself surrounded by horrible creatures who were living there peacefully. They are angry that their privacy has been invaded.  

These creatures angrily start running hither and tither upset at being evicted out. Few cockroaches may cling to your trousers and may try to enter into your pants to teach you a lesson. Rats with their big tummy may jump on your feet and may try to bite you too. Some spiders may be crawling on your shoulders and other parts of your body. They will scare the hell out of you.

You will try to scream but could not do so because you are surrounded by layers of dust and nauseating smell. Pigeons and bats which had made that house their home may be dancing on top of your head.

And you will be cursing yourself or the person who handed a broom in your hand and encouraged you to get inside it. In few moments you might have told yourself multiple times that if I knew I am going to go through this then I would have never come here.  You may feel that it is beyond your capability to clean the house and you may want to run away from there.

If you do not give up

But suppose that if with patience you persist and continue cleaning then what happens? Slowly the dirt gets removed, spiders are driven out, cobwebs demolished, rats and cockroaches will find the place inhabitable and will flee, pigeons and bats will fly away from there and will begin looking for new dwelling.  

After putting lots of efforts, you will have a perfectly clean house in which you can live comfortably and peacefully.

Our unattended heart

Now you can compare the unattended house with your unattended heart. You and I have abandoned our heart for years. And if we go by the Vedic scriptures then for many lifetimes. So, now our heart is full of dirt in the form of so many anarthas (or impurities).

Some of the anarthas we may see and many we may not be able to see because it is lying deep with the heart and is in dormant state. Also, how thick these impurities are that also we may not know.

So, when we begin the process of dusting our heart of the impurities by chanting the names of Krishna then many unseen impurities we begin to see. Impurities lying at the bottom of our heart come to the surface.

Just like when the churning of the milk ocean started ferocious creatures and poisonous substance which were deep in the ocean started coming out. This is one of the important lessons we learin from the churning of milk ocean pastime. But as the devtas continued churning the ocean to get the nectar similarly we will have to continue churning our heart by chanting the names of Krishna.

Just as the devtas were disturbed by unwated subsntace coming out of the ocean, similarly initially, we will also be agitated as the impurties start churning in our heart.

Continuously chant with determination

At that time, we need patience and strong faith in the holy name. During that agitating phase, if with dogged determination, we continue chanting the names of Krishna then our heart will eventually get cleansed of all the impurities which is making our life miserable.

But chanting has to be done daily and with complete focus. Srila Prabhupada says that we should chant at least 16 rounds of Hare Krishna Mahamantra daily.

If we do so, then we will be successful in fighting with our anarthas which are our real enemy. They have been in control of our lives for years so they will not give up their dominion so easily. They will fight tooth and nail, will create many obstacles and will throw many challenges.

Starve the inner enemies

But we have to tolerate these onslaughts with great determination and continue chanting sincerely.

While practicing mantra meditation we also have to make sure that we do not indulge in any activities which may give strength to our inner enemies.

This is why scriptures ask us to follow the four – regulative principles of no meat eating, no gambling, no intoxication and no illicit sex including watching pornography.  

These wrong indulgences will stunt our spiritual progress and bind us to this miserable material world.  As we start starving the enemies and continue chanting enthusiastically the enemies become weaker day by day.

Krishna loves a sincere devotee

Our effort and sincerity will attract the mercy of the munificent Lord. Krishna is always ready to help us in our devotional endeavour. In fact, he personally takes the responsibility of helping his sincere devotees.

He supplies us with all necessary intelligence and guidance which will help us to come closer to Him.

This he confirms in Bhagavad Gita 9.22, “But those who always worship Me with exclusive devotion, meditating on My transcendental form – to them I carry what they lack, and I preserve what they have”.  

And once Lord gets pleased with our efforts then he would drive away these enemies from our life forever. 

Devotees are always victorious

During the churning of the ocean also in spite of facing all the hardships, demigods and demons continued working tirelessly for the nectar.

And finally Dhanvantari appeared with the pot of nectar. Upon seeing the pot, the crooked demons snatched it immediately. They did not want the demigods to have even a drop of the nectar.

But the demigods were under the protection of Lord Vishnu. And those who take shelter of the Lord never ever get deprived of anything auspicious. The Lord of the Universe personally took the responsibility of delivering the nectar to the demigods.

He took a beautiful feminine form of Mohini Murti and tricked the demons. The lusty demons got captivated by Her extraordinary beauty and readily handed the invaluable container to Mohini Murti.

She then cleverly distributed the nectar to the demigods and the demons were left dumbfounded. They could not do anything.  It is verily said that if we are with the Lord then there is no chance of us ever getting defeated or cheated.  

The demigods after drinking the ambrosia and taking complete shelter of the Lord vanquished the demons and emerged victorious.

Never give Krishna’s shelter, if you want Krishna’s nectar

Churning of the milk ocean or Samudra manthan teaches many invaluable lessons to a devotee and one of that is that we should be determined not to leave shelter of Krishna.

So, if we want to vanquish our inner demon our anarthas then we should always take shelter of God because the Supreme Personality of Godhead is the best friend and well-wisher of the three worlds (Srimad Bhagavatam 8.9.27).

In order to take shelter of God, we should always chant the names of God like the Hare Krishna Mahamantra.

Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu assures us that if we chant the names of Krishna constantly then our heart will be cleansed of all the impurities – ceto darpana marjanam.

Churning of the milk ocean pastime of Lord or Samudra manthan has many important lessons for the devotees of Krishna. If we apply it in our devotional journey then we will surely become successful in our spiritual life.