1. Matsya (the fish)- 1st stage of sadhana:
Once a king named Satyavrata was performing a sacred thread
ceremony beside a river. While scooping water from the river, he
accidentally caught a tiny fish in the palm of his hand. The fish
begged him not to throw it back into the river where it could
become a victim of larger fish. The king felt sorry for the small
fish and took it home to his palace and placed it in a bowl of
The next morning, the fish had outgrown the bowl. The king
then transferred it into a pond. Soon, it outgrew even the pond.
Later, the king shifted the fish into a lake. In no time, the
fish even outgrew the largest lake in the kingdom and had to be
transferred into the ocean.
By this time, the king was so fascinated by the growth of the
fish that he inferred that the fish had to be an incarnation of
He prayed and asked it why it had taken this form. Matsya
replied that in a week, a huge devastation would engulf the lower
part of the universe. He told the king to call 7 great sages and
to gather samples of all herbs, seeds and living creatures. He
promised to send a large boat to save them.
As Matsya predicted, huge clouds appeared from all directions
and it rained heavily on land and sea. Soon, the ocean
overflowed. Then Satyavrata and all his companions saw a large
boat floating towards them.
Matsya who was by now a golden fish of gigantic size appeared
in the ocean. Using the enormous serpent, Vasuki, they tied the
boat to Matsya and Matsya then began towing it across the stormy
waves, awaiting the return of calm waters. During their journey,
Matsya instructed the king, the sages and the rest of the party
in the spiritual knowledge of the vedas.
1st Stage of Sadhana - Before a person starts his sadhana, he
is swimming in the ocean of sensuality and ignorance, surrounded
by tamas (darkness and unawareness) and very much involved and
attached to worldly life. The small fish accidentally scooped up
from the river represents a faint light attracting a person to
begin spiritual journey and then once the person pursues his
sadhana, he would be rescued from the great worldly ocean.
2. Kurma (Tortoise) - 2nd Stage of sadhana:
Once the Asuras (demons) were fighting with the Devas
(demi-gods) and the Devas were losing. In desperation, they went
to seek help. Brahma told them to go to the ocean of milk where
Vishnu resides and to churn the ocean of milk until they obtain
Amrit (divine nectar of immortality).
They immediately went to the ocean and used the mountain,
Mount Mandara as the churning rod and the king of serpents,
Vasuki as the churning rod. Later the Devas realised that they
could not churn the ocean on their own and they needed help.
The Devas then decided to make peace with the Asuras and
requested their help in the churning of the milk ocean. They
tried to churn but the mountain sank into the ocean floor. Vishnu
then took the form of a gigantic tortoise, Kurma and supported
the mountain on his back. Using kurma as a base, they started to
As the churning resumed, poison (hal hala) first emerged from
the ocean. Lord Shiva took the poison and drank it. Parvati held
his neck preventing him from swallowing the poison. This is why
Shiva is called the blue-throated one. After that, great wealth
like jewels, gold, the wish-fulfilling cow and Laxmi herself
emerged from the ocean but this did not stop them from
Finally Amrit flowed out from the ocean and immediately the
Asuras had desires to steal it. On seeing this, Vishnu took the
form of a beautiful divine female called Mohini.
The Asuras, not knowing that the Mohini is Vishnu himself but
infactuated by her beatiful appearance prayed her to distribute
amrit among them.
Mohini condescended to do it but on condition that they would
not question her actions, whatever they might be. The Asuras, not
knowing who she was and totally under the spell of her charm,
readily agreed to her condition. "Go bathe and assemble
yourselves in one row with your cousins, the Devas in another
row." ordered Mohini. When they were all assembled in two
separate rows, Mohini began serving the Nectar to the Devas
The Asuras were uneasy but chose to keep quiet as they had
promised not to question her actions. By the time the last of the
Devas in their row had been served, Mohini had made sure that
there was no Nectar left to be served to the Asuras. Nectar of
immortality would only cause untold harm and destruction, if
granted to aggressive and unscrupulous beings like the
Then to the amazement of Asuras, Lord Vishnu assumed his own
form and the Asuras realised that it was Vishnu who had appeared
before them as Mohini. They demanded of Vishnu their share of
Nectar; but they got only a smile from him in return. Mounting
GARUDA, Lord Vishnu flew away from them.
The Asuras felt cheated and immediately started attacking the
Devas. With God on their side and with the Nectar inside, the
Devas had regained their original splendour and strength and they
were able to conquer the Asuras, who had to flee before the might
of Devas. On the advice of Lord BRAHMA, conveyed through Sage
Narada, INDRA called off the hostilities and returned to his
realms with the Devas.
The Lord thus did revive and restore the lost glory of those
who were righteous and who sought refuge in him; and subdue those
who were aggressive an unrighteous and who didn't repose
faith in him.
Lord VISHNU in this manner saved his True Devotees from
dissolution so as to hand down divine knowledge and saved the
VEDAS from destruction so as to ensure CREATION after the
2nd Stage of Sadhana - when we begin our sadhana, we will
experience instead of good thoughts, bad thoughts invading our
mind. This is like the poison that came out of this ocean. In
order to cleanse our mind, the filth and poison has to first flow
out before the purity can be experienced.
The Devas denote the good tendencies in us and the Asuras
denote the negative tendencies. We should not stop our sadhana
despite bad fortune striking us although our actions have been
good. As the giant tortoise supported the Devas, the Lord will
certainly support our sadhana. He is our foundation and He will
never allow us to crumble and fall. We should continue our
sadhana until we receive the amrit of self-realisation.