Sunday, January 1, 2012

Samudra Manthan: The churning of the Milk Ocean. By Gaby

(a modern interpretation)
Dear yogis, you have probably heard the story of the churning of the milk ocean, one of the most famous story of the Puranas. If not let me recall here a summary:

The Devas (demi-god) made an alliance with the Asuras (demon) to jointly churn the Milk Ocean in search for Amritam, the nectar of immortality. They used mount Mandarachala as a churning rod and Vasuki, the king of serpent as the churning rope. But together with Amrita also emerged Halahala a poison so toxic that it could destroy all creation. Shiva was called and, out of compassion, kept the poison in his throat to protect the world form destruction (in the process Shiva’s throat turned blue hence one of his many name: Neela-Kantha, the blue throated God). When the heavenly nectar of immortality emerged, fierce battles ensued between Devas and Asuras for its possession.

I always loved this story, it had an incomprehensible appeal, something more real than its mythological exoticism. I could not stop to compare this ancient myth to a more recent story. Here is another summary:

Homo Sapiens have been digging the earth and the ocean floor to extract pockets of Sun (coal, oil, gas...). Two liters of oil provide energy equivalent to the work of a single bare-handed-man for a year. Today humans consume in a year the energy from oil alone, the equivalent of 400 years of their bare handed work. For example, we can now travel around the globe in a day, allowing us to live in a single lifetime what may have taken hundred of life time before the age of oil.

As a specie, this energy has allowed us to grow from a 2.5 billions in the 50’s (when oil digging really started to get serious) to 7 billions by the end of 2011 (almost 300%!). In a single year we extract from the earth energy captured during millions of years by millions of plants and this more than a hundred million years ago. During this recent period our life expectancy has doubled.
Doing in a life time what could have only been done in a thousand lifetime may not be “immortality” but it comes very close. I would dare to say that oil is our modern “Amrita”.

Further parallel with the myth: since the industrial exploitation of oil, there is hardly a conflict in the world which does not find its source in the dispute for its control. The demi-gods and the asuras are still fighting today.

So tell me where is Halahala?

A confluent of the Bishnumati Khola, Buddhanilkantha, Nepal
 All the toxic products derived from the oil industry, all the plastic bags polluting our rivers, our oceans, all the toxic chemical and pesticides killing animal life at a rate 1000 time the natural rate, the air pollution and acid rains destroying forests. All the carbon that we are returning to the atmosphere and that was once absorbed by the plants to make life on earth possible. Everywhere we can see destruction due to a model imposed by our dependance on oil.

Shall I go further? I think the Halahala of our modern time is for all to see.

In Kathmandu, Halahala is so obviously present that people wear mask for air pollution. In a city of around 1 million inhabitant still surrounded by a lot of nature, it is unusual. Kathmandu won the sad honor of the most polluted city in Asia in 2006, with 6 time more air pollution then the maximum healthy international standard. For the water, the picture above speaks for itself and Nepali specialist Govind P.S. Ghimire calls this a "major crisis" in his 1985 environmentalist report. Any one living in Kathmandu will tell you that it has only gone worse since. But other burdens are also very obvious, traffic has become hell and crossing the city at rush hour is a true challenge for such a small city.

Halahala is everywhere in Kathmandu, catching the city at the throat and asphyxiating it. What was once an exquisite urban mandala, built to honor the Divine Absolute and to respect cosmic harmony, is falling into the darkest pit of the Kali Yuga (The age of loss) in total disconnection with the environmental awareness that should sustain the city.

Back to our mythological story: Kathmandu protector God is Bhairav, a wrathfull form of Shiva. But the benevolent Lord Shiva must be busy somewhere else these days, and it seems we are missing the compassionate yogi who is ready to protect the world from destruction.

May be we need to do more penance and meditation to call him back to this place he once loved so much that he was hiding under the form of a deer in its surrounding forest (see previous post). 

For more information on yoga in Nepal:

Kathmandu, Nepal
January 1, 2012


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