Angels,Demons and Mohini

The story of how demons and angels fight and finally settle scores makes interesting reading in Bhagavata.
The demons were decidedly stronger of the two both physically and mentally. Added to that they were also very cunning in their warfare especially with their mind games. They would,all on a sudden,vanish only to reappear in a different terrifying form. These occult practices(display of ‘Maya’) made it all the more difficult for the angels to engage in any reasonable fight.
In one of their battles,the angels were totally outwitted. And as they felt totally helpless,they started meditating on the Almighty Narayana. Instantly Narayana made an appearance on the battle-front. As the story goes the moment He descended on the scene,all the powers of Maya exhibited by the demons came to an abrupt halt and the entire battleground became tranquil even as the demons fled the scene. This incident is significant in two ways: Firstly,one does not have to actively seek His help when in trouble. A mere sincere meditation and a silent communication of helplessness is good enough to bring in the invisible help. Secondly,all Occult practices by human beings come to naught under the influence and powerful presence of the master of ‘Maya’ – Narayana.

The other story of angels and demons is even more interesting. It is the story in which both angels and demons are working for a common purpose – that is churning the ocean using mount Mandara for agitation. The purpose of churning was to extract ‘Amrit’ – the so called eternal juice by drinking which one remains alive for ever.
Without going into so many details,they together succeed in their common pursuit but come to blows at the time of sharing the fruits of their labour. Lord Narayana,sensing the inherent dangers of granting a share of Amrit to the demons,decides to appear as MOHINI – an attractive damsel. Both demons and angels approach ‘Mohini’ and ‘Mohini’ offers to distribute ‘Amrit’ among them in an equitable and fair manner. Rest of the story is all about how ‘Mohini’ uses her charm to deceive the demons of their share of ‘Amrit’ before disappearing into his abode Vaikunta.

Quite interestingly both angels and demons put in the same efforts for ‘Amrit’; however,the results obtained are quite different for the two. It goes to show that besides the quality of efforts,our intentions also play a decisive role in achieving results. In fact the very fight between angels and demons is said to symbolize the several battles that take place within all of us between our good and evil tendencies and intentions.

To continue with the story, Lord Siva hears about the incredible story of Mohini and decides to go to Vaikunta along with Parvati to get a first hand account of the episode from the Lord Narayana himself. Therefore He wishes to see a reenactment of the whole episode (Action Replay?)for his sake.
Narayana,in order to satisfy the curiosity of Siva, reappears as Mohini. As it turns out,Lord Siva himself gets so enchanted by Mohini’s charms that He starts chasing her all over the worlds as if intoxicated. Mohini plays ‘hide and seek’ with Siva and at the end of it all, Siva realizes his folly and aplogises to Parvati for His acts indiscretion.

The story is in fact allegorical and one has to understand the powerful symbolism to fully appreciate its significance.
The word ‘Moh’ in Sanskrit means delusion and ‘Mohini’ is the one who deludes our senses through unfulfilled desires. Indeed all of us are tormented and deluded by several ‘Mohinis’ in our lives,which we keep chasing. If a powerful God like Siva did succumb to the charms of Mohini,there is no chance whatsoever for angels,demons or lesser mortals like us to find an easy escape from the delusion.
The parallel between the the characters in the story and our lives is indeed quite compelling. Angels and Demons are our good and evil tendencies respectively,while our delusions (prompted by unfulfilled desires) are our ‘Mohinis’ distracting us from our real goal which is ‘Amrit’.

The correct interpretation of the story is not to suggest that desire is the root cause of all evil. It is just the opposite.To paraphrase Ayn Rand,desire is probably the root cause of all good! It is not desire per se which is the evil,rather the manner in which the mind goes on a hot pursuit of desire trampling all Dharma in the process is what causes all evil and self-destruction. One will find a similar message contained in Bhagavad Gita verse #5 of Chapter 6, which reads as “Atmaivahi Atmano bandhuh Atmaiva ripuratmanah”.
“Our mind alone is our best friend as well as our worst enemy”.

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Published in: on June 13, 2009 at 7:45 am  Comments (2)  
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  1. Nice blog. It’s not clear how you mean that desire is the root cause of all good, especially in the context of the rest of this article. You say it is the “manner in which the mind goes on a hot pursuit of desire trampling all Dharma” that is evil. I think that desire can only be good if you pursue it single-mindedly and to the very end. I think Ayn Rand’s perspective was that that wanting something badly enough to dedicate a lifetime to it is the highest virtue. As to the trampling of Dharma, I think it was for such cases that the adage “All’s fair in love and war” was invented! Look at Lord Krishna’s own actions – I can’t say he was entirely fair in his dealings; a small example is the slaying of Jarasandha.

    • One must appreciate that the demons were indeed characterized as evil minded geniuses in many of our mythological stories. Their methods to obtain results as well as their ultimate objectives(or desires)were of questionable ethics. This is in stark contrast to what Krishna wanted to achieve through his somewhat dubious actions at times.
      Even in the present story the intense desire for Amrit on the part of demons was prompted by ulterior motives. Krishna desired ‘Lok kalyaan’ through His actions whereas the demons desired personal glory and domination.
      I should probably add that desire is the root cause of all good provided it is not a selfish desire causing harm to others.


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