The Churning of the Milk Ocean
This chapter describes how the goddess of fortune appeared during the churning of the ocean of milk and how she accepted Lord Viṣṇu as her husband. As described later in the chapter, when Dhanvantari appeared with a pot of nectar the demons immediately snatched it from him, but Lord Viṣṇu appeared as the incarnation Mohinī, the most beautiful woman in the world, just to captivate the demons and save the nectar for the demigods.
After Lord Śiva drank all the poison, both the demigods and demons took courage and resumed their activities of churning. Because of this churning, first a surabhi cow was produced. Great saintly persons accepted this cow to derive clarified butter from its milk and offer this clarified butter in oblations for great sacrifices. Thereafter, a horse named Uccaiḥśravā was generated. This horse was taken by Bali Mahārāja. Then there appeared Airāvata and other elephants that could go anywhere in any direction, and she-elephants also appeared. The gem known as Kaustubha was also generated, and Lord Viṣṇu took that gem and placed it on His chest. Thereafter, a pārijāta flower and the Apsarās, the most beautiful women in the universe, were generated. Then the goddess of fortune, Lakṣmī, appeared. The demigods, great sages, Gandharvas and others offered her their respectful worship. The goddess of fortune could not find anyone to accept as her husband. At last she selected Lord Viṣṇu to be her master. Lord Viṣṇu gave her a place to stay everlastingly at His chest. Because of this combination of Lakṣmī and Nārāyaṇa, all who were present, including the demigods and people in general, were very pleased. The demons, however, being neglected by the goddess of fortune, were very depressed. Then Vāruṇī, the goddess of drinking, was generated, and by the order of Lord Viṣṇu the demons accepted her. Then the demons and demigods, with renewed energy, began to churn again. This time a partial incarnation of Lord Viṣṇu called Dhanvantari appeared. He was very beautiful, and he carried a jug containing nectar. The demons immediately snatched the jug from Dhanvantari’s hand and began to run away, and the demigods, being very morose, took shelter of Viṣṇu. After the demons snatched the jug from Dhanvantari, they began to fight among themselves. Lord Viṣṇu solaced the demigods, who therefore did not fight, but remained silent. While the fighting was going on among the demons, the Lord Himself appeared as the incarnation Mohinī, the most beautiful woman in the universe.
The following conversation is from Srimad Bhagwatam
Śukadeva Gosvāmī continued: Upon Lord Śiva’s drinking the poison, both the demigods and the demons, being very pleased, began to churn the ocean with renewed vigor. As a result of this, there appeared a cow known as surabhi.
The surabhi cow is described as havirdhānī, the source of butter. Butter, when clarified by melting, produces ghee, or clarified butter, which is inevitably necessary for performing great ritualistic sacrifices. As stated in Bhagavad-gītā (18. 5), yajña-dāna-tapaḥ-karma na tyājyaṁ kāryam eva tat: sacrifice, charity and austerity are essential to keep human society perfect in peace and prosperity. Yajña, the performance of sacrifice, is essential; to perform yajña, clarified butter is absolutely necessary; and to get clarified butter, milk is necessary. Milk is produced when there are sufficient cows. Therefore in Bhagavad-gītā (18.44), cow protection is recommended (kṛṣi-go-rakṣya-vāṇijyaṁ vaiśya-karma svabhāva jam).
O King Parīkṣit, great sages who were completely aware of the Vedic ritualistic ceremonies took charge of that surabhi cow, which produced all the yogurt, milk and ghee absolutely necessary for offering oblations into the fire. They did this just for the sake of pure ghee, which they wanted for the performance of sacrifices to elevate themselves to the higher planetary systems, up to Brahmaloka.
Surabhi cows are generally found on the Vaikuṇṭha planets. As described in Brahma-saṁhitā, Lord Kṛṣṇa, on His planet, Goloka Vṛndāvana, engages in tending the surabhi cows (surabhīr abhipālayantam [Bs. 5.29]). These cows are the Lord’s pet animals. From the surabhi cows one can take as much milk as one needs, and one may milk these cows as many times as he desires. In other words, the surabhi cow can yield milk unlimitedly. Milk is necessary for the performance of yajña. Sages know how to use milk to elevate human society to the perfection of life. Since cow protection is recommended everywhere in the śāstras, the brahmā vādīs took charge of the surabhi cow, in which the demons were not very interested.
Thereafter, a horse named Uccaiḥśravā, which was as white as the moon, was generated. Bali Mahārāja desired to possess this horse, and Indra, the King of heaven, did not protest, for he had previously been so advised by the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
As the next result of the churning, the king of elephants, named Airāvata, was generated. This elephant was white, and with its four tusks it defied the glories of Kailāsa Mountain, the glorious abode of Lord Śiva.
Thereafter, O King, eight great elephants, which could go in any direction, were generated. They were headed by Airāvaṇa. Eight she-elephants, headed by Abhramu, were also generated.
The names of the eight elephants were Airāvaṇa, Puṇḍarīka, Vāmana, Kumuda, Añjana, Puṣpadanta, Sārvabhauma and Supratīka.
Generated thereafter from the great ocean were the celebrated gems Kaustubha-maṇi and Padmarāga-maṇi. Lord Viṣṇu, to decorate His chest, desired to possess them. Generated next was the pārijāta flower, which decorates the celestial planets. O King, as you fulfill the desires of everyone on this planet by fulfilling all ambitions, the pārijāta fulfills the desires of everyone.
Next there appeared the Apsarās [who are used as prostitutes on the heavenly planets]. They were fully decorated with golden ornaments and lockets and were dressed in fine and attractive clothing. The Apsarās move very slowly in an attractive style that bewilders the inhabitants of the heavenly planets.
Then there appeared the goddess of fortune, Ramā, who is absolutely dedicated to being enjoyed by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. She appeared like electricity, surpassing the lightning that might illuminate a marble mountain.
This peace formula for the world is given in Bhagavad-gītā (5.29). When people know that the Supreme Lord, Kṛṣṇa, is the supreme enjoyer, the supreme proprietor and the most intimate well-wishing friend of all living entities, peace and prosperity will ensue all over the world. Unfortunately, the conditioned souls, being placed into illusion by the external energy of the Lord, want to fight with one another, and therefore peace is disturbed. The first prerequisite for peace is that all the wealth presented by Śrī, the goddess of fortune, be offered to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Everyone should give up his false proprietorship over worldly possessions and offer everything to Kṛṣṇa. This is the teaching of the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement.
Because of her exquisite beauty, her bodily features, her youth, her complexion and her glories, everyone, including the demigods, the demons and the human beings, desired her. They were attracted because she is the source of all opulences.
Who in this world does not want to possess wealth, beauty and the social respectability that come from these opulences? People generally desire material enjoyment, material opulence and the association of aristocratic family members (bhogaiśvarya-prasaktānām). Material enjoyment entails money, beauty and the reputation they bring, which can all be achieved by the mercy of the goddess of fortune. The goddess of fortune, however, never remains alone. As indicated in the previous verse by the word bhagavat-parā, she is the property of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and is enjoyable only by Him. If one wants the favor of the goddess of fortune, mother Lakṣmī, because she is by nature bhagavat-parā one must keep her with Nārāyaṇa. The devotees who always engage in the service of Nārāyaṇa (nārāyaṇa-parāyaṇa) can easily achieve the favor of the goddess of fortune without a doubt, but materialists who try to get the favor of the goddess of fortune only to possess her for personal enjoyment are frustrated. Theirs is not a good policy. The celebrated demon Rāvaṇa, for example, wanted to deprive Rāmacandra of Lakṣmī, Sītā, and thus be victorious, but the result was just the opposite. Sītā, of course, was taken by force by Lord Rāmacandra, and Rāvaṇa and his entire material empire were vanquished. The goddess of fortune is desirable for everyone, including human beings, but one should understand that the goddess of fortune is the exclusive property of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. One cannot achieve the mercy of the goddess of fortune unless one prays both to her and to the supreme enjoyer, the Personality of Godhead.
The King of heaven, Indra, brought a suitable sitting place for the goddess of fortune. All the rivers of sacred water, such as the Ganges and Yamunā, personified themselves, and each of them brought pure water in golden waterpots for mother Lakṣmī, the goddess of fortune.
The land became a person and collected all the drugs and herbs needed for installing the Deity. The cows delivered five products, namely milk, yogurt, ghee, urine and cow dung, and spring personified collected everything produced in spring, during the months of Caitra and Vaiśākha [April and May].
Pañca-gavya, the five products received from the cow, namely milk, yogurt, ghee, cow dung and cow urine, are required in all ritualistic ceremonies performed according to the Vedic directions. Cow urine and cow dung are uncontaminated, and since even the urine and dung of a cow are important, we can just imagine how important this animal is for human civilization. Therefore the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa, directly advocates go-rakṣya, the protection of cows. Civilized men who follow the system of varṇāśrama, especially those of the vaiśya class, who engage in agriculture and trade, must give protection to the cows. Unfortunately, because people in Kali-yuga are mandāḥ, all bad, and sumanda-matayaḥ, misled by false conceptions of life, they are killing cows in the thousands. Therefore they are unfortunate in spiritual consciousness, and nature disturbs them in so many ways, especially through incurable diseases like cancer and through frequent wars and among nations. As long as human society continues to allow cows to be regularly killed in slaughterhouses, there cannot be any question of peace and prosperity.
The great sages performed the bathing ceremony of the goddess of fortune as directed in the authorized scriptures, the Gandharvas chanted all-auspicious Vedic mantras, and the professional women dancers very nicely danced and sang authorized songs prescribed in the Vedas.
The clouds in personified form beat various types of drums, known as mṛdaṅgas, paṇavas, murajas and ānakas. They also blew conchshells and bugles known as gomukhas and played flutes and stringed instruments. The combined sound of these instruments was tumultuous.
Thereafter, the great elephants from all the directions carried big water jugs full of Ganges water and bathed the goddess of fortune, to the accompaniment of Vedic mantras chanted by learned brāhmaṇas. While thus being bathed, the goddess of fortune maintained her original style, with a lotus flower in her hand, and she appeared very beautiful. The goddess of fortune is the most chaste, for she does not know anyone but the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
The goddess of fortune, Lakṣmī, is described in this verse as śriyam, which means that she has six opulences—wealth, strength, influence, beauty, knowledge and renunciation. These opulences are received from the goddess of fortune. Lakṣmī is addressed here as devī, the goddess, because in Vaikuṇṭha she supplies all opulences to the Supreme Personality of Godhead and His devotees, who in this way enjoy natural life in the Vaikuṇṭha planets. The Supreme Personality of Godhead is pleased with His consort, the goddess of fortune, who carries a lotus flower in her hand. Mother Lakṣmī is described in this verse as satī, the supremely chaste, because she never diverts her attention from the Supreme Personality of Godhead to anyone else.
The ocean, which is the source of all valuable jewels, supplied the upper and lower portions of a yellow silken garment. The predominating deity of the water, Varuṇa, presented flower garlands surrounded by six-legged bumblebees, drunken with honey.
When bathing the Deity in the abhiṣeka ceremony with various liquids, such as milk, honey, yogurt, ghee, cow dung and cow urine, it is customary to supply yellow garments. In this way the abhiṣeka ceremony for the goddess of fortune was performed according to the regular Vedic principles.
Viśvakarmā, one of the prajāpatis, supplied varieties of decorated ornaments. The goddess of learning, Sarasvatī, supplied a necklace, Lord Brahmā supplied a lotus flower, and the inhabitants of Nāgaloka supplied earrings.
Thereafter, mother Lakṣmī, the goddess of fortune, having been properly celebrated with an auspicious ritualistic ceremony, began moving about, holding in her hand a garland of lotus flowers, which were surrounded by humming bumblebees. Smiling with shyness, her cheeks decorated by her earrings, she looked extremely beautiful.
The goddess of fortune, mother Lakṣmījī, accepted the ocean of milk as her father, but she perpetually rests on the bosom of Nārāyaṇa. She offers benedictions even to Lord Brahmā and other living entities in this material world, yet she is transcendental to all material qualities. Although she appeared to have been born of the ocean of milk, she immediately resorted to her eternal place on the bosom of Nārāyaṇa.
While walking among the Gandharvas, Yakṣas, asuras, Siddhas, Cāraṇas and denizens of heaven, Lakṣmīdevī, the goddess of fortune, was scrutinizingly examining them, but she could not find anyone naturally endowed with all good qualities. None of them was devoid of faults, and therefore she could not take shelter of any of them.
The goddess of fortune, Lakṣmīdevī, having been generated from the ocean of milk, was the daughter of the ocean. Thus she was allowed to select her own husband in a svayaṁvara ceremony. She examined every one of the candidates, but she could not find anyone suitably qualified to be her shelter. In other words, Nārāyaṇa, the natural husband of Lakṣmī, cannot be superseded by anyone in this material world.
The goddess of fortune, examining the assembly, thought in this way: Someone who has undergone great austerity has not yet conquered anger. Someone possesses knowledge, but he has not conquered material desires. Someone is a very great personality, but he cannot conquer lusty desires. Even a great personality depends on something else. How, then, can he be the supreme controller?
Here is an attempt to find the supreme controller, or īśvara. Everyone may be accepted as an īśvara, or controller, but still such controllers are controlled by others. For example, one may have undergone severe austerities but still be under the control of anger. By a scrutinizing analysis, we find that everyone is controlled by something else. No one, therefore, can be the true controller but the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa. This is supported by the śāstras. Īśvaraḥ paramaḥ kṛṣṇaḥ: [Bs. 5.1] the supreme controller is Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa is never controlled by anyone, for He is the controller of everyone (sarva-kāraṇa-kāraṇam [Bs. 5.1]).
Someone may possess full knowledge of religion but still not be kind to all living entities. In someone, whether human or demigod, there may be renunciation, but that is not the cause of liberation. Someone may possess great power and yet be unable to check the power of eternal time. Someone else may have renounced attachment to the material world, yet he cannot compare to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Therefore, no one is completely freed from the influence of the material modes of nature.
The statement dharmaḥ kvacit tatra na bhūta-sauhṛdam is very important in this verse. We actually see that there are many Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists and religionists of other cults who adhere to their religious principles very nicely but are not equal to all living entities. Indeed, although they profess to be very religious, they kill poor animals. Such religion has no meaning. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (1.2.8) says:
One may be very expert in following the religious principles of his own sect, but if he has no tendency to love the Supreme Personality of Godhead, his observance of religious principles is simply a waste of time. One must develop a sense of loving Vāsudeva (vāsudevaḥ sarvam iti sa mahātmā sudurlabhaḥ [Bg. 7.19]). The sign of a devotee is that he is a friend to everyone (suhṛdaṁ sarva-bhūtānām). A devotee will never allow a poor animal to be killed in the name of religion. This is the difference between a superficially religious person and a devotee of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
We find that there have been many great heroes in history, but they could not escape from the cruel hands of death. Even the greatest hero cannot escape from the ruling power of the Supreme Personality of Godhead when Kṛṣṇa comes as death. That is described by Kṛṣṇa Himself: mṛtyuḥ sarva-haraś cāham. The Lord, appearing as death, takes away a hero’s so-called power. Even Hiraṇyakaśipu could not be saved when Nṛsiṁhadeva appeared before him as death. One’s material strength is nothing before the strength of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Someone may have longevity but not have auspiciousness or good behavior. Someone may have both auspiciousness and good behavior, but the duration of his life is not fixed. Although such demigods as Lord Śiva have eternal life, they have inauspicious habits like living in crematoriums. And even if others are well qualified in all respects, they are not devotees of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Śukadeva Gosvāmī continued: In this way, after full deliberation, the goddess of fortune accepted Mukunda as her husband because although He is independent and not in want of her, He possesses all transcendental qualities and mystic powers and is therefore the most desirable.
The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Mukunda, is self-sufficient. Since He is fully independent, He was not in want of the support or association of Lakṣmīdevī. Nonetheless, Lakṣmīdevī, the goddess of fortune, accepted Him as her husband.
Approaching the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the goddess of fortune placed upon His shoulders the garland of newly grown lotus flowers, which was surrounded by humming bumblebees searching for honey. Then, expecting to get a place on the bosom of the Lord, she remained standing by His side, her face smiling in shyness.
The Supreme Personality of Godhead is the father of the three worlds, and His bosom is the residence of mother Lakṣmī, the goddess of fortune, the proprietor of all opulences. The goddess of fortune, by her favorable and merciful glance, can increase the opulence of the three worlds, along with their inhabitants and their directors, the demigods.
According to the desire of Lakṣmīdevī, the goddess of fortune, the Supreme Personality of Godhead made His bosom her residence so that by her glance she could favor everyone, including the demigods and ordinary human beings. In other words, since the goddess of fortune stays on the bosom of Nārāyaṇa, she naturally sees any devotee who worships Nārāyaṇa. When the goddess of fortune understands that a devotee is in favor of devotional service to Nārāyaṇa, she is naturally inclined to bless the devotee with all opulences. The karmīs try to receive the favor and mercy of Lakṣmī, but because they are not devotees of Nārāyaṇa, their opulence is flickering. The opulence of devotees who are attached to the service of Nārāyaṇa is not like the opulence of karmīs. The opulence of devotees is as permanent as the opulence of Nārāyaṇa Himself.
The inhabitants of Gandharvaloka and Cāraṇaloka then took the opportunity to play their musical instruments, such as conchshells, bugles and drums. They began dancing and singing along with their wives.
Lord Brahmā, Lord Śiva, the great sage Aṅgirā, and similar directors of universal management showered flowers and chanted mantras indicating the transcendental glories of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
All the demigods, along with the prajāpatis and their descendants, being blessed by Lakṣmījī’s glance upon them, were immediately enriched with good behavior and transcendental qualities. Thus they were very much satisfied.
O King, because of being neglected by the goddess of fortune, the demons and Rākṣasas were depressed, bewildered and frustrated, and thus they became shameless.
Next appeared Vāruṇī, the lotus-eyed goddess who controls drunkards. With the permission of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa, the demons, headed by Bali Mahārāja, took possession of this young girl.
O King, thereafter, while the sons of Kaśyapa, both demons and demigods, were engaged in churning the ocean of milk, a very wonderful male person appeared.
He was strongly built; his arms were long, stout and strong; his neck, which was marked with three lines, resembled a conchshell; his eyes were reddish; and his complexion was blackish. He was very young, he was garlanded with flowers, and his entire body was fully decorated with various ornaments.
He was dressed in yellow garments and wore brightly polished earrings made of pearls. The tips of his hair were anointed with oil, and his chest was very broad. His body had all good features, he was stout and strong like a lion, and he was decorated with bangles. In his hand he carried a jug filled to the top with nectar.
This person was Dhanvantari, a plenary portion of a plenary portion of Lord Viṣṇu. He was very conversant with the science of medicine, and as one of the demigods he was permitted to take a share in sacrifices.
Dhanvantari, who was carrying the jug containing nectar, was a plenary incarnation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, but although he was very strong, the asuras were able to take the jug of nectar from his hands.
Upon seeing Dhanvantari carrying the jug of nectar, the demons, desiring the jug and its contents, immediately snatched it away by force.
When the jug of nectar was carried off by the demons, the demigods were morose. Thus they sought shelter at the lotus feet of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Hari.
When the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who always desires to fulfill the ambitions of His devotees, saw that the demigods were morose, He said to them, “Do not be aggrieved. By My own energy I shall bewilder the demons by creating a quarrel among them. In this way I shall fulfill your desire to have the nectar.”
O King, a quarrel then arose among the demons over who would get the nectar first. Each of them said, “You cannot drink it first. I must drink it first. Me first, not you!”
This is the symptom of demons. The first concern of a nondevotee is how to enjoy his personal sense gratification at once, whereas the devotee’s first concern is to satisfy the Lord. This is the distinction between the nondevotee and the devotee. In this material world, since most people are nondevotees, they regularly compete, fight, disagree and war among themselves, for everyone wants to enjoy and satisfy his own senses. Therefore, unless such demons become Kṛṣṇa conscious and are trained to satisfy the senses of the Lord, there can be no question of peace in human society or any society, even that of the demigods. The demigods and devotees, however, always surrender to the lotus feet of the Lord, and thus the Lord is always anxious to satisfy their ambitions. While the demons fight to satisfy their own senses, devotees engage in devotional service to satisfy the senses of the Lord. The members of the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement must be alert in regard to this point, and then their preaching of the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement will be successful.
Some of the demons said, “All the demigods have taken part in churning the ocean of milk. Now, as everyone has an equal right to partake in any public sacrifice, according to the eternal religious system it is befitting that the demigods now have a share of the nectar.” O King, in this way the weaker demons forbade the stronger demons to take the nectar.
The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Viṣṇu, who can counteract any unfavorable situation, then assumed the form of an extremely beautiful woman. This incarnation as a woman, Mohinī-mūrti, was most pleasing to the mind. Her complexion resembled in color a newly grown blackish lotus, and every part of Her body was beautifully situated. Her ears were equally decorated with earrings, Her cheeks were very beautiful, Her nose was raised and Her face full of youthful luster. Her large breasts made Her waist seem very thin. Attracted by the aroma of Her face and body, bumblebees hummed around Her, and thus Her eyes were restless. Her hair, which was extremely beautiful, was garlanded with mallikā flowers. Her attractively constructed neck was decorated with a necklace and other ornaments, Her arms were decorated with bangles, Her body was covered with a clean sari, and Her breasts seemed like islands in an ocean of beauty. Her legs were decorated with ankle bells. Because of the movements of Her eyebrows as She smiled with shyness and glanced over the demons, all the demons were saturated with lusty desires, and every one of them desired to possess Her.
Because of the Supreme Lord’s assuming the form of a beautiful woman to arouse the lusty desires of the demons, a description of Her complete beauty is given here.