(The samudra manthana story is given in great detail in the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. As for Lakshmi, some of the Puranas state that she was born as the daughter of Khyati and the sage Bhrigu. She was then married to Vishnu. But the demons defeated the gods and Indra. The sage Durvasa therefore cursed Lakshmi that she would have to live in the ocean. And when the ocean was churned, Lakshmi emerged yet again.)
Indra, the other gods, and the sages were charmed at Lakshmi’s beauty when she appeared. “Who is this wonderful goddess?” they asked Vishnu.
“This is Lakshmi,” replied Vishnu. “She is also known as Shakti. It is with her help that I delude the universe and its inhabitants with my illusions (maya). It is Lakshmi who gives me all my powers, although she is no different from me in essence.”
Vishnu then proceeded to tell the gods and the sages the story of Indradyumna.
Many years ago, there was a king named Indradyumna. He ruled the world well and, when he died, was reborn as a brahmana, (The brahmanas constitute the first of the four classes, their primary duties are to study the Vedas and perform sacrifices.)
As a brahmana, Indradyumna observed religious rites and meditated. He also stared to pray to the goddess Lakshmi. When Lakshmi appeared, Indradyumna begged of her, “Please tell me about yourself. Please give me insight into what constitutes true knowledge.”
“Even the gods and the sages are unable to comprehend my true nature,” replied Lakshmi. “I an Vishnu’s illusions and there is no difference between him and me. As for knowledge, it is beyond my powers to grant you that. You will have to pray to the great Vishnu himself.”
Having said this, Lakshmi disappeared, and Indradyumna started to pray to Vishnu. Several years passed, but Indradyumna continued to meditate. Finally, Vishnu appeared and instructed Indradyumna on the path to true knowledge.
“What did you tell Indradyumna?” asked the gods and the sages. “What was this wonderful knowledge?”
“I will repeat it for your benefit,” replied Vishnu.
Since Vishnu repeated his teachings while in the form of a turtle of Kurma, these sacred words are known as the Kurma Purana. There are many subjects that Vishnu’s instructions covered, but let us first start with the concept of varnashrama dharma, Dharma means righteousness and these precepts lay down the fundamental principles of righteous conduct. This is typified in the system of four varnas (classes) and four ashramas (stages of life).