Samudra Manthan literally means: The Churning of the Ocean.
Our Consciousness represents the Ocean or the Samudra.
And the process of churning, is the Spiritual and/or emotional process that one goes through while one experiences the difficulties/pleasures that life brings.
The story of the Samudra Manthan narrated in the Shrimad Bhaagvad is interesting!
Let us first understand the terms : Devas and Daityas.
Devas Represent ‘Good’, and Daityas represent ‘Evil’.
It is interesting to note that, it is mentioned in the Bhaagvad that both, Good and Evil or Devas and Daityas are born of the same father.
The King of the Devas is called Indra.
Once the Sage Durvaasa honored Indra by presenting him with a garland of flowers.
Indra, having become egoistic and insensitive, disrespectfully placed the garland on the tusk of an elephant who trampled it with his feet.
Durvaasa feeling humiliated cursed Indra that he would lose his power and position.
So, Paradise, the Land of the Devas fell into the hands of the Daityas.
The Devas prayed to the Lord for help. The Lord realized that though the Devas had committed an offence, it was more favorable for Creation, that Paradise should be in the hands of the Devas.
But for that victory to come to pass, a Samudra Manthan had to be performed.
To remind you what it means: ‘The Churning of the Ocean’.
The Samudra Manthan was not going to be easy, so the Devas would have to take the assistance of the Daityas.
The nectar that would come out of the Ocean after all the poison that would emerge first, would make the Devas immortal.
For the churning to take place, a big pole was inserted in the Ocean. But no matter what they did, the pole would continue to sink into the Ocean bed. So the Lord took the form of a tortoise. The pole was placed on His back.
The latter symbolizes the fact that whatever you undertake to do, its support must be God.
The rope that was used for the churning is symbolic of the string of cooperation.
One end of the rope was manipulated by the Devas and the other end by the Daityas.
When the churning commenced, at first an extremely potent poison emerged which threatened to destroy Creation.
That venomous potion had to be discarded. But where? No place was powerful enough to contain it.
The Devas and the Daityas finally decided to implore to God Shiv to help them.
Shivji did, by gulping it, yet retaining it in his throat.
This is the reason why Shivji is called ‘Neel-Kanth’ the ‘Blue Throated One’
Shivji teaches us to hold the poison in our throat. This can only be possible when we are also holding the Ganga of knowledge on our head.
Symbolically, when one is faced with troubles, take them to the Lord.
He will help you out by swallowing your difficulties!
Lord Shiva is the God of destruction. But when the work of destruction is taken up in the light of knowledge it becomes emancipating.
The churning of the Ocean continued. A lot of Divine gifts emerged from the Ocean.
These were shared by the Devas and the Daityas.
Finally, the much coveted Amrit (Nectar) appeared. The Daityas grabbed it and ran.
The Lord incarnated as a beautiful damsel named ‘Mohini’.
With His/Her help the potion was attained by the Devas, who got back their Paradise.
But two of the Daityas managed to partake of the Amrit.
And they both became immortal.
Therefore the strife between good and evil continues to this day.
Krishna in the ChIV, VerseVII of the Geeta claims:
Yada yada hi dharmasya glaanir bhavati Bhaarata
Abhyuthaanam adharmasya tadaatmaanam srujaamyaham
Paritraanaaya sadhunaam vinaashaaya cha dushkrutaam
Dharma sansthaapnaarthaaya sambhavaami yuge yuge
Whenever righteousness is on the vane, and unrighteousness increases, Then I come in the body (Incarnate) from age to age, to establish Dharma (Righteousness) firmly.
I protect the virtuous and destroy the evil –perpetrators.
During these troubled times specially, let us remind Krishna of His promise to help us, yet one more time.
This story can be applied to ourselves. We start out as the Heaven ruled by the devs. We have been graced by God with good qualities. But as we (mind – Indra) gets into pride and ego, it leads into our downfall and we get ruled by the daityas (anger, greed, lust, etc). During some time in our life, our soul turns to God for help. God then says, OK, I will help, by showing you the path, but you will also have to do some work. Hence the churning. Through prayers, meditations, etc., we churn our mind. We get pulled by both sides of our mind. Initially, in any detoxification process, the toxins come out. This is where God comes to our help by giving us the strength to overcome these problems.
Eventually, we get back to our God like state. The bad qualities which are left over, for us to keep on remembering God as we should not let the ego overtake us.