The logic of the mouse and the snake!

“The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Vishnu said: O demigods, fulfilling one’s own interests is so important that one may even have to make a truce with one’s enemies. For the sake of one’s self-interest, one has to act according to the logic of the snake and the mouse.”Srimad Bhagavatham – 8.6.20

What is this “logic of the snake and the mouse” and why this had to be invoked by the master of masters of all Acharyas, Lord Vishnu to the devas?

Surely, this has got to be the master of master of all raja-tantras or political brilliance of the highest standard to outwit the most strong and formidable opponent!

This advice was given to the devas by the Supreme Lord Vishnu because of a curse incurred to King of heaven, Indra from the mouth of angry sage Durvasa due to an act of negligence by Indra.

The strength of the devas reduced drastically and the demons/asuras taking full advantage of it defeated the devas and took the control of the entire universe.

The devas, having been driven out of their own residence, approached the supreme father of material universe Lord Brahma for help, who in turn approached his father, Supreme Lord Vishnu and offered prayers for assistance.

Lord Vishnu mentioned churning the milk ocean to produce nectar that would make them immortal is the only solution.

He asked them to sign a truce with the demons following “the logic of the mouse and the snake” because a massive physical labour is required to undertake this task and because the demons are in the rajasic mode of nature (Mode of Passion), they are very suitable for this purpose…

Thus the concept of signing an armistice with an ultimate enemy to achieve the ultimate purpose outwitting and utilise the resources of the enemy to achieve one’s own mission is the logic of the mouse and the snake

The logic (story) goes like this:

  1. Once a snake got into an earthen pot and was relaxing in it.
  2. A naughty but very clever mouse running around the pot jumped and fell into the pot accidentally and in the process closed the lid.
  3. Now both the mouse and the snake got caught inside the pot.
  4. The mouse got terribly afraid of the snake and pleaded not to eat It., mouse being natural food for the snake.
  5. The mouse said to the snake: “Both of us are now trapped inside this pot and so we both of us will be captured and killed!”
  6. The mouse continued: “If you will not eat me now, I have a plan by which both of us can overcome this danger and get out of this pot!”
  7. The snake thought: “I am anyway going to outwit this mouse and will eat it when I am out of this pot. So for the time-being, let me agree to this mouse’s proposal and cooperate with him to get out of this imminent danger.”
  8. The snake said to the mouse: “Let it be so!”
  9. The mouse said: “Okay. Sit tall and raise your hood so that I can climb and sit on top of it. And remember this: You should close your eyes and not open it till I say so, Otherwise this plan will not work out and we will continue to be trapped inside the pot!”
  10. Since the snake also wanted to make a desperate escape, it had no other alternative.
  11. The mouse, very happy, having convinced the snake about his plan, climbed to the top of the snake and sat on it and situated itself close to the lid.
  12. The mouse said to the snake: “Thank you very much for your cooperation. Just close your eyes for about 10 seconds and both of us will be done!””
  13. The snake said: “Okay, make it fast. We don’t have much time left!”
  14. The mouse with all his strength, jumped high, able to pierce the lid and escape to the outside world through that hole and started to run towards its hole as fast as possible.
  15. The snake opened his eyes and was happy to notice the hole, also escaped from the pot.
  16. The snake now thought about catching that mouse for prey, watched it running at a distance and started to chase it.
  17. By the time, this realisation came to the snake, the mouse was fast enough to reach its safe haven!
  18. The snake standing outside the rat hole said to the mouse: “Can you please come out of this rat hole for a minute? I want to thank you very much for what you have done to me and I have a gift for you!”
  19. The mouse said to the snake: “I very much know your plan. We are natural enemies and I am sure if I come out now, you will surely eat me because we are in our natural environment now. I only asked your assistance inside the pot because I was in dual danger that time. One was yourself and the other the owner of the pot who is sure to kill me when he find me inside. It’s only out of providence that my plan also provided the escape route for you! That truce is now over and we both are now back to our natural habitat.”
  20. The snake realised this mouse is too smart for him and so decided to let him go to search for a different prey.

The devas thus executed this plan to perfection in the Samudra Mandhan (Churning of Milk Ocean for Nectar) described in the 8th Canto of Srimad Bhagavatham to regain their lost glory.

Having been asked to accept to whatever be the demands made by the demons during the churning process by the Supreme Lord Vishnu – from the start of the churning process – to accept the tail portion of the snake Vasuki (since tail was considered inauspicious and head auspicious according to the demons) and leave the head to the demons to accede to the various outputs during the churning process like Vāruṇī, the lotus-eyed goddess who controls drunkards, a horse named Uccaiḥśravā, which was as white as the moon etc. to the demons.

The devas clearly realised that it is the final product of churning – the nectar – is what they ultimately want and the intermediate products are just transformations and hence there is not much value associated with them.

So they are happy to let them go, but when the jug of nectar was snatched by the demons from the hands of Dhavanthari, the expansion of Lord Vishnu as God of Medicine, the devas became morose.

The Supreme Lord Vishnu, to fulfil His promise, appeared as Mohini-murti incarnation, bewildered the demons by creating a quarrel among them, retrieved the nectar from the demons and distributed the entire nectar to the devas.

This entire episode – “the logic of the snake and the mouse” or the churning of the milk ocean for nectar by devas and asuras is best summarised by these last two verses of Srimad Bhagavatham in Canto 8: Chapter 9 – The Lord Incarnates as Mohinī-Mūrti.

The place, the time, the cause, the purpose, the activity and the ambition were all the same for both the demigods and the demons, but the demigods achieved one result and the demons another. Because the demigods are always under the shelter of the dust of the Lord’s lotus feet, they could very easily drink the nectar and get its result. The demons, however, not having sought shelter at the lotus feet of the Lord, were unable to achieve the result they desired.” – Srimad Bhagavatham 8.9.28

In human society there are various activities performed for the protection of one’s wealth and life by one’s words, one’s mind and one’s actions, but they are all performed for one’s personal or extended sense gratification with reference to the body. All these activities are baffled because of being separate from devotional service. But when the same activities are performed for the satisfaction of the Lord, the beneficial results are distributed to everyone, just as water poured on the root of a tree is distributed throughout the entire tree.” – Srimad Bhagavatham 8.9.29

Samuthra Manthan – Swarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok, Thailand.


  1. Śvetadvīpa – Ocean of milk – The abode of Lord Maha Vishnu (White – Pure Goodness or Suddha-Sattva)
  2. Vasuki – The Serpent – Mode of Ignorance/Darkness – Churning Rope.
  3. Asuras / Demons – Mode of Passion
  4. Devas / Demigods – Mode of Goodness
  5. Mandra Mountain – Mountain of Gold – The Pivot/Churning Rod
  6. Tortoise / Kurma – Incarnation of Lord Vishnu – Resting point of Mandra mountain for churning the milk ocean.
  7. Lord Vishnu as Ajitha – the supreme controller, standing atop the Mandara mountain to control the affairs.

Related Posts:

  1. Asuras or Demons
  2. Conversation 026 – Modes of material nature (and beyond)
  3. Conversation 025 – Demoniac Nature

Author: Rajini

"Knowledge is the ultimate perfection of self-realization.". (Srimad Bhagavatham 3.26.2) Trying to seek that knowledge through life experiences that leads to compassion, dispassion and ultimately satisfaction.

8 thoughts on “The logic of the mouse and the snake!”

  1. simple and good!

    I have a doubt. When the mandara was churning, Vishnu took the avatar of Kurma right? And is it after this that he took the form of Mohini? or while the churning was still going on – as per scripture? I just got this doubt in mind.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. After churning the milk ocean and when the nectar was brought by another incarnation of lord Vishnu as dhanvanthari the demons snatched the jug of nectar from Him. Lord Vishnu to keep up the promise of delivering the nectar to the devas had to incarnate as a beautiful woman Mohini Murti to bewilder the demons by initiating a quarrel among them and in the process deliver the nectar as promised to the devas. Thus we have as much as 4 incarnations of lord Vishnu involved here. Ajitha as initiator and controller, Kurma the tortoise as resting point of Mount Mandara during churning, lord dhanvanthari as deliverer of nectar immediately after the results of churning and finally Mohini Murti incarnation for playing tricks on the asuras/demons to deliver the nectar back to the devas to keep up the promise that was mentioned to them when He was mentioning about the logic of the cat and the mouse while answering to the prayers of the devas.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hmm … Thanks.

        Now, let us go into some details. What doe sit imply to a spiritual inquirer of the “incarnation” of lord at same time – as tortoise, mohini, Dhanwantri, etc? How does his incarnation as tortoise, which took place in 10 great incarnation list, differs from others? Also, what of simultaneous incarnations? Lets not take the “lord is all forms or everything …” kind of redundant answers, for, then devas and asuras are also lords and no use to study further 😛 ….So, What are your view points on these matters?.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. This sure. Needs a lot of thinking the target audience also need to be taken into account. At basic level everything is God or expansion of God or expansion of expansion of God sure this needs a bigger explanation to fit in here this requires explanation that is beyond the purview of a post as simple as this shall we take offline?

          Liked by 1 person

          1. We already have many for offline. But I was curious as to what was this simultaneous incarnation concept. Same occurs in Rama and Parasurama, krishna and Balarama, etc. Of course incarnation is different from a being, but then, why multi incarnations? I was thinking and hence asked.


            1. There is a chapter on Bhagavatham multiple incarnation multiple purposes a really beautiful one and Srila Prabhupada purports add a lot of value and information

              Liked by 1 person

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