Agni Mantra

Agni Mantra

Monday, May 29, 2006

Meaning Behind The Madhu Kaitabha Story

From: Narasimha P.V.R. Rao <>
Date: May 28, 2006 11:56 PM
Subject: [sohamsa] Meaning Behind The Madhu Kaitabha Story
To:, ,

Namaste learned friends,
Someone queried a while back on the meaning behind the story of Madhu Kaitabha. Here is a quick reply based on my limited understanding.
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Madhu means honey. "Madhu keeta" means an insect of honey, i.e. honey bee. Madhu kaita means belonging to honey bees. It can be the qualities or nature of honey bees. One of the meanings of "bha" is "having a similarity to". Thus, in my judgment, "Madhu Kaitabha" means "having a semblance to the nature of honey bees".
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Like I keep saying, Sanskrit is a fantastic language. Sanskrit names selected by Rishis for expressing various concepts and stories are very thoughtful. Depending on how deep one goes, there are many meanings of the same word. Thus, Rishis expressed concepts that may have one meaning to a layman and a different meaning to one who is ready to understand the deeper meaning! I salute to the wisdom of our Rishis!
I was saying the same thing at Arsha Vidya Gurukulam last weekend. When somebody said at an open discussion that the idea is important and not the name, as there are many names of the same thing in many languages, I made a quick point about the value of Sanskrit names. I said that Sanskrit names have not one meaning, but layers of meanings that can be understood based on the capability of the reader. Rishis used this to hide some special meanings and to keep some higher knowledge as secret, even though it is very much out there! The example I gave was of bhava and pada. Parasara described bhavas (houses) and how to find their respective padas (arudha padas of houses) and said that a bhava and its pada should be judged to see the matters of a house. Though he did not explain the difference between a bhava and its pada further and did not elucidate when to use which one, I said that the very choice of names is a huge clue! Bhava, which is usually translated as a house, also means "a thought/concept/feeling" and pada means "a symbol/word" used to express a thought/concept. Thus, houses are to their arudha padas what thoughts (bhavas) are to the words (padas) that attempt to express them. For example, if the 4th house shows one's happiness, the pada of 4th house shows the tangible articles that attempt to throw light on one's happiness (e.g. vehicle owned by one, TV owned by one etc). Houses (bhavas) show intangible/internal aspects of a matter (just like thoughts inside one's head), while their arudha padas show tangible/external aspects of a matter (just like the external words spoken that attempt to express the thoughts in the head). If you use the English words to translate Parasara, this hidden meaning may be lost! So, I argued that Sanskrit names used by Rishis are not like words in any language.
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Anyway, let us come back to the Madhu Kaitabha story. As I said, Madhu Kaitabha means "having a semblance to the quality of honeybees". What is the quality of honey bees? Well, they keep working hard to accumulate the sweet honey! They are not intelligent enough to think about any higher things in life. Thus, Madhu Kaitabha are an allegory to the quality within us which makes us work hard, like honeybees, with a single-minded focus on accumulating material comforts. Like honeybees accumulate honey, we accumulate material objects and spend whole life working hard doing just that.
Vishnu is a personification of the sattwa guna of the Parama Purusha (Universal/Absolute Being). Within us, Vishnu is an allegory to the sattwa guna within us. Madhu Kaitabha were born from Vishnu's earwax when He was alseep. The ability to work hard like a bee is not really a terrible thing. This ability is essentially born from the sattwa guna within us, when it is in deep slumber (i.e. sattwa guna covered by taamasi shakti, i.e. sattwa guna that "manifests" in a taamasik way).
There are so many good people in this world, who just spend their entire lives in honest labor like the honeybees and accumulate things for themselves and others around them. Their sattwa is in deep sleep and Madhu Kaitabha born from that asleep sattva are very much active.
The problem with this focus on hard work and accumulation of material objects is that it keeps us away from supreme bliss. Madhu Kaitabha's attack on Brahma and Vedas is symbolic of that. Vedas symbolize the supreme and liberating knowledge of self and Brahma, the carrier of Vedas, symbolizes the sadhana to achieve the supreme knowledge. The focus on working like honeybees and accumulating material objects tries to kills one's ability to do sadhana and obtain supreme knowledge of self.
Vishnu battles Madhu Kaitabha for 5,000 years. Devi Bhagavatam even describes that Vishnu wondered in the middle how to defeat Madhu Kaitabha, as He finds them quite formidable! Even when the sattva in us awakens, it is difficult for it to overcome the formidable instinct to lead the life of a honeybee and to accumulate the material objects for oneself and others.
When Madhu Kaitabha finally agree to be slain by Vishnu, they ask Him to kill them in a place where there is no water. They see that there is water all around and think that there is no place where there is no water. The Mooladhara, Swadhishthana, Manipoora, Anahata and Visuddhi chakras are the seats of earthy, watery, fiery, airy and ethery elements respectively. Swadhishthana chakra is supposed to control desires and hence water symbolizes desire. As long as there is desire, it is tough to overcome the instinct of just working for material objects!
When they want a place that has no water, Vishnu shows his thighs. There is no water there and only earthy element. This suggests that Parama Purusha's Mooladhara chakra is in the thighs of Vishu. (Note: If Chandra Hari is reading this, he will probably realize that this point supports his view on Mooladhara! But I will not say anything more on it for now, as it is a totally different topic. But I do want to acknowledge that this supports his view.)
According to Parasara, thighs are seen from the 9th house of dharma. The earthy element symbolizes the commitment and stability. The fact that earthy element came from the thighs of Vishnu shows that it is the dharma of sattwa guna sustaining this universe that ensures that there is commitment and stability in this creation.
Moreover, it is apt that someone born in the ears (3rd house) of Vishnu found end in the thighs (9th house, i.e. 7th house of death from the 3rd house) of Vishnu! Similarly, Brahma, who is born from the navel (6th house) of Vishnu should naturally find His end in the 12th house of Vishnu (feet), which is the 7th house of death from the 6th house! That may be why Vishnu goes to sleep, when there is a change of Brahma.
Thus, the instinct within us to keep accumulating material objects like honey bees accumulate honey finds its end in the dharma of the sattwa guna, i.e. when the sattwa guna within us follows its dharma. Then we are fully awake spiritually. Naturally, the path to self-knowledge becomes open then and Brahma becomes elated.
Thus, the story of Madhu-Kaitabha refers, allegorically, to the instinct most of us have towards leading a "regular" life, working hard like honeybees and accumulating objects for self and others and how that instinct needs to be defeated by waking up the sattwa guna and allowing to perform its dharma.
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Lest I am misunderstood, I need to clarify one thing. I am not saying that these stories are not real. These stories ARE very much real. In fact, when a Yogi is able to transport consciousness to a particular plane, He/She can vividly see these stories actually happening. The stories are as real as our own existence as beings made of flesh and blood is, in the normal plane of consciousness.
What I am saying is that there is an allegorical link between various planes of consciousness. What is real in one plane of consciousness is an allegory in another plane of consciousness. If one is atleast capable of understanding a story as an allegory, that will serve a valuable purpose!
If you did not understand my last point, please feel free to ignore it. It is not that important.
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The Shata Chandi Homam we did in Chennai during March 1-7 was for a specific goal - relief for a spiritual master of south India from unfortunate legal troubles. Interestingly, after exactly 64 days passed since the poornaahuti of that homam, some political events happened in Chennai, which MAY bring some relief. We'll see.
We intend to do more Shata Chandi homas, this time without any specific goal but just for universal well-being, in the coming years. If She is willing, we may perhaps do the next Shata Chandi homam in the Pune area in 2007 or 2008. If any of you practice reading Durga Saptashati, you can volunteer and help us the next time. In a Shata Chandi homam, Durga Saptashati is to be recited 100 times. If you can read it well, you can come there and contribute towards the count of 100. If interested, please start practicing the recital of Durga Saptashati.
I heard Durga saptashati for the time in this life in October 2005 and read it for the first time on the morning of March 3, 2006. Still I ended up contributing 15 or so readings to the Shata Chandi homam. If some of you practice from now, you should easily be able to read a few times at the next Shata Chandi homam! If there are enough reciters, who knows, we may even be able to do a Sahasra Chandi Homam soon!
Please spread Durga Saptashati reading among people you know.
May the light of Brahman shine within,
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*tat savitur varenyam*

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