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“This is because of the boon that Devi granted these asuras”, thought Sri Vishnu as he continued to battle them. “Only she can show me a way to get the better of them.”
And so, Sri Vishnu prayed to Devi Mahāmayā, who appeared before him, and said…
“Sri Vishnu, you have called for me. Tell me what I can do for you.”
“O Devi Mahāmāyā”, said Sri Vishnu with two folded hands, whilst the other two battled the twins, “I have been fighting these asurās for five thousand years, but am no closer to victory than when I started. They have been strengthened by your own boon, and so please show me a way to overcome them.”
“O Sri Narayana, I have heard your prayer. These two asurās have been born of you, and so it is difficult for you to defeat them. Their weakness is their ego, and I will help you to awaken their egos. You will then be able to have your victory.”
Saying this, the Devi turned her gaze to Madhu and Kaitabha, who fell under the spell of Mahāmāyā, and got confounded. While they retained their ability to fight, they lost their ability to reason.
Sri Vishnu observed this, and said “I am impressed by your bravery, O Madhu and Kaitabha. No one has been able to equal me in battle, and that too for such a long time! I am pleased, and I will grant you a boon. Ask me whatever you want, and it shall be yours.”
Still under the influence of Mahāmāyā, Madhu and Kaitabha looked at each other and laughed loudly. “You are losing this battle, Sri Vishnu. You are in no position to grant us a boon. We will be victorious, so instead, let us grant you a boon”, said Madhu, still laughing hard. “Tell us what you want, and it shall be yours”, continued Kaitabha.
“In that case, I accept. I ask for you to reveal to me, how you can be killed”, replied Sri Vishnu.
The twins realized their folly, but it was too late. A boon granted had to be fulfilled. They looked around, all they saw is a vast expanse of water. “We can only be killed where the urvī (earth) is not covered by water, on dry land”, said Madhu.
“Tathastu”, said Sri Vishnu, and transformed into his Vishwaroopa avatar. He then lifted Madhu and Kaitabha onto his ūrvī (thighs) and using his Sudarshana Chakra, beheaded the twins in an instant.
Madhu and Kaitabha are born out of the dirt of Sri Vishnu, a representation of the Mala (which means dirt), the first of the three obstacles to enlightenment. They represent tamas (Madhu) and rajas (Kaitabha), two gunas that trouble the sattva or intellect (Brahma) in our mind (Vishnu). Our intellect realizes that tamas has gripped our mind (Vishnu), but the mind refuses to listen. It needs the intervention of a higher force to awaken and fight the tendencies that make us lazy, or constantly disturbed.
The twins realized their mistake but a boon given had to be fulfilled. They looked around and saw only water [rasa, pleasure] everywhere and thus mentioned to Sri Vishnu that they could be killed only on dry land [dryness, penance, austerity, tapas]. One can get rid of tamas and rajas, but it takes self-control, and the use of the intellect.
Madhu also means honey, or nectar, and Kaitabha means an insect, which can be thought of as a honey-bee. If you want the sweet honey of life, you have to also be prepared of the sting of the bee. Madhu is also tāmsic, as is any sweet that is more in quantity. A bee is always rājsic (as busy as a bee).
The lowest category of opposition is of the nature of dirt, Mala; and psychologically, from the point of view of the seeking soul, this dirt is in the form of Kama, Krodha and Lobha. “Kama esha krodha esha rajo-guna samudbhavah”, “Kamah krodhastatha lobhah tasmat etat trayam tyajet”: It is desire and anger born of Rajas; desire, anger and greed – these three therefore should be abandoned, says the Bhagavadgita.Swami Krishnananda
Devi also mentions to Vishnu (mind), that Madhu and Kaitabha are born of him…they are reflections of his own and hence it is difficult to defeat them. You can fight the enemy outside you, but the enemy within is much stronger than them. And it takes a lot of sādhanā to achieve this.
The wise have told us that Mala or dirt of the psychological structure can be removed by Karma Yoga, by unselfish and dedicated service.
But when you get rid of kāma, krodha and lobhā, that is just the first step. A celebration is not in order. There are more challenges on the way – challenges that will involve the Devi fighting with Mahishasura and Raktabija. How does she win? What is the inner meaning? Keep reading to find out!
ॐ देवी कूष्माण्डायै नमः॥
Om Devi Kushmandayai Namah॥
या देवी सर्वभूतेषु माँ कूष्माण्डा रूपेण संस्थिता। नमस्तस्यै नमस्तस्यै नमस्तस्यै नमो नमः॥
Ya Devi Sarvabhuteshu Maa Kushmanda Rupena Samsthita।
Namastasyai Namastasyai Namastasyai Namo Namah॥