Darkness in Paradise

I read something today about being in darkness. It struck me. “Fall in love with the moon”, it said.

There is beauty all around. Not only in the obvious breathtaking views and warm, easygoing island lifestyle. But also in the scariest of the snakes and spiders, in the depths of the lonely jungle, and in the spaces in cultural differences.

My 8 year old daughter Leila says to me that the Gods live in her heart, but that the demons do too. Underneath the Gods. So I tell her that they all need space, the angry, disgusted, jealous, and sad beings too, just as the joyful, kind, and pleasant ones do.

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I can’t wait to attend what I can of Richard Freeman and Mary Taylor’s retreat at Samahita this March and April. Richard often tells us stories from Indian mythology. He tells the story of the churning of the oceans, of the gods (devas) and the demons (asuras).

The gods and the demons battle to get the amrita (nectar of immortality) out of the oceans of milk. They churn one of Shiva’s serpents, Vasuki, around Mount Mandara. Vishnu advices the devas to hold on to the tail side of the snake, the proud asuras choose the head.  The demons being at the head side of the serpent inhaled poisonous fumes that Vasuki the serpent breathed out and they were weakened.

The two sides pull back and forth around mount Mandara which collapses in the middle of the story due to the incredible strength used, and is quickly held up by an incarnation of Vishnu – Kurma (the great turtle).

The gods and the demons churn like they would butter. A number of things came out of this process, including haalahala a devastating poison, amrita the nectar of immortality, the goddess Lakshmi, Chandra the moon, Dhanvatari the physician of the Gods and so on.

The gods and the demons prayed to Shiva to save them from the poison – the haalahala. Shiva took it into his mouth and held it in his throat. He didn’t swallow it. It was so strong that his neck turned blue. Hence one of Shiva’s names is Neelakantha (blue throated one).

The gods and the demons faught over the the amrita (nectar of immortality). Vishnu in the form of Mohini the enchantress tricks the asuras to obtain it and distributes it to the devas.

The devas needed the asuras to obtain the amrita. The asuras needed the devas. There is constant churning going on in our inner lives. And it is needed to progress, to evolve.

With proper guidance and good choices, understanding, compassion and love can come out of this inner work.

There’s a larger than life size statue depicting this story in the Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok!

 

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