The Mahabharata consists of many seemingly unrelated small stories, each of them having a deeper meaning that seamlessly connects with the overall essence of the scripture. One such reference is to the story of Kacha and Devyani and about the long-standing conflict between the Devas and the Asuras for the supremacy of the three worlds.
Devas means beings of higher states of consciousness and positive emotions (simply, gods) while asuras means demons. Brihaspati was the guru of the devas and Shukracharya of the asuras. In the battles that were fought, every time asuras died, Shukracharya brought them back to life through Sanjivani, a mystical power that he possessed. So, the devas were effectively helpless against the asuras.
To deal with the situation, the devas approached Kacha, Brihaspati’s son, requesting him to go to Shukracharya as his disciple and learn the very powerful technique of Sanjivani. They explained to him that Shukracharya would not part with his art; to obtain it, Kacha would have to win over the admiration of Devyani, Shukracharya’s daughter. Then, Shukracharya would have no option but to share his art with Kacha as he loved his daughter very much.
Kacha approached Shukracharya and requested to be accepted as a disciple. He started living in Shukracharya’s household, performing tasks a disciple does for his guru. As his aim was to win over Devyani, he kept her happy by performing song, dance, and music; he went into the forest and bought her fruits and flowers, charming her in all possible ways. Over time, Devyani became devoted to Kacha.
The asuras became aware that Kacha was there to learn the secret art of Sanjivani from their guru and recognised the fact that if he was successful in doing so, they would lose their supremacy in their battle with the devas. So, they decided to kill him. One day, when Kacha was tending to Shukracharya’s cows in the forest of solitude, the asuras cut him up and fed his pieces to wolves and jackals.
When Kacha did not return by night, Devyani got upset and pleaded with her father to find Kacha. Shukracharya divined the incident and told Devyani that the asuras had killed him. Devyani then implored her father to bring him back to life for she could not live without him. Using the power of Sanjivani, Shukracharya bought Kacha back to life.
Then, the asuras again cut him up and threw his pieces into the ocean. Once again, Shukracharya had to bring him back to life. The third time, the asuras cut him into pieces, burned those pieces, ground the burnt pieces into powder, dissolved the powder in wine, and gave the wine to Shukracharya to drink. They did this to ensure that Shukracharya could not bring him back to life again.
Shukracharya figured what had happened when he called out to Kacha, who answered from his stomach. He explained to Devyani that it was not possible to bring back Kacha for he would have to die. Devyani answered, “I don’t want either of you to die and if one of you dies, I will follow him into the realms of death”. Shukracharya had no option but to teach Kacha the secret art of Sanjivani. He thus used the art to bring Kacha back to life and Kacha, in turn, brought Shukracharya back to life.
Thus, through the folly of the asuras, Kacha fulfilled his aim of learning the art of Sanjivani. He decided to return home to the gods with his newly acquired knowledge. Devyani asked Kacha to marry her but he refused saying that as both, she and him had come out of her father’s stomach, they were now siblings. Devyani, sensing the whole matter, cursed Kacha that he would never be able to use his vidya. Kacha countered that he would pass it on to a worthy disciple who would make proper use of it.
Let us understand the hidden meaning of this story now. Shukracharya represents the sex centre within us; ‘Shukra’ meaning sex. Sex energy has three functions, (1) to bring continuity in nature through birth of children (2) being unlimited, the sex energy can connect and provide energy to any other centre, and (3) the potentiality of returning to the source (the sex cell can become divine). This upward movement of sex energy is called ‘Dev ayan’ and is symbolized by the daughter of the sex centre ‘Devyani’.
Demons of asuras represent the negative emotions within us. They never die, for every time we express negativity whether through anger, jealousy, hatred, self-love or irritation, we misuse sex energy and revive these negative emotions. Shukracharya using the Sanjivani vidya to keep bringing demons back to life symbolises the revival of negative emotions.
Brihaspati represents the power of higher thinking and Kacha (meaning to shine) is the knowledge gained through higher thinking. For higher thinking to perform effectively it must connect with sex energy, that is, it must possess the secret of Sanjivani (an unlimited supply of energy). This has to be stolen away from the negative emotions. Kacha goes to learn this art buy fails on two initial occasions but the third time, on account of the folly of negative emotions, is able to gain this vidya.
How do negative emotions keep repeating? Once a situation that caused a negative emotion passes away, the remnant negativity connects to the sex centre, draws energy from it, which paves the way for a recurrence. Recurrence happens mechanically whilst to recall is a conscious act. Recalling from the dead using Sanjivani implies a conscious act, so if we can recall positivity, the cycle of the recurrence of negative emotions breaks. This is done by introducing a pause in the negativity. If this happens, then the sex energy channelizes and starts moving upward, called ‘Dev Ayan’, the daughter of Shukracharya.