“My dear father, O great sage, I know that your feet are very soft, like a lotus flower, and that My chest is as hard as a thunderbolt. I am therefore afraid that you may have felt some pain by touching My chest with your feet. Let Me therefore touch your feet to relieve the pain you have suffered.” (Lord Vishnu, Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 2, Ch 34)
It is not the typical direction following voluntary choice. Usually, a person seeks upward mobility. See the strife, anger and resentment in the world, and at the root will likely be envy of others.
“Just see how much they have. Look at what they have been able to build on the backs of privilege. They tortured my ancestors and now it is time for payback. Yes, I realize many of these people only arrived in this country within the last fifty years, but don’t get too cute. Because of their skin color, they are still enjoying off the privilege established by others before them.”
The brahmana community turns the other way. Poverty, sometimes to the extreme, and voluntarily accepted. They believe wholeheartedly in the recommendation of tapasya established by shastra, that the human life is meant for restricting enjoyment on the senses.
There are a few external causes, as well, involving an incident with the Supreme Personality of Godhead and one of His devotees.
1. Bhrigu’s test
There are three components to this world, as it relates to the effect of time. Creation, maintenance and dissolution. Vedic teachings reveal that there is a presiding deity for each. Three powerful figures are responsible for action at an inconceivable level.
Lord Brahma is the creator. He has many other names, like Svayambhu, Vidhata and Chaturanana. Brahma is something like the painter working on a blank canvas. The paint is supplied to him and he gets to work.
The resulting output is a variety of vessels. 8,400,000 unique types. Brahma’s work stops there. He does not populate the species with living beings. Those are eternal in nature and beyond Brahma’s control.
Lord Vishnu is the maintainer. He has a bluish complexion, is opulently adorned, and remains in complete relaxation. He is the one responsible for placing the living beings into the creation of Brahma. Vishnu maintains, and quite effortlessly. Life is what dominates matter, and Vishnu is the source of life.
Lord Shiva is the destroyer. When the time arrives, he annihilates to different degrees. There are cycles of a particular universe, involving population and the like, and then there is a destruction of the entire cosmic manifestation. Time is infinite in both directions, so there really is no such thing as a beginning and an end.
Bhrigu Muni one time settled upon a test to see which of the three deities is superior. He decided he would insult each of them and then judge the reaction.
2. Vishnu’s chest
Both Brahma and Shiva got angry, but Vishnu did not. In fact, the reaction with Vishnu was astonishing. Bhrigu had kicked the Lord in the chest, and Vishnu was not upset at all. He was afraid that Bhrigu might have injured his foot in the process. It is something like a parent not minding if their small child decides to jump on them in bed, while they are sleeping.
Though Vishnu was forgiving, His wife was not. Lakshmi Devi, the goddess of fortune, retaliated by cursing the brahmana community to be poor. In other words, she would generally not remain in their homes for long.
This is actually a blessing, for the brahmanas do not require much to carry on with life. Asceticism is their wealth. When the brahmana is a Vaishnava, there is even more impetus for eschewing sense gratification.
They may even worship Lakshmi and Vishnu together in the home. In this way, the goddess of fortune has an established presence, but not in the material sense. She is the beloved of the Supreme Lord, and so there is automatic love and affection from the devotee.
To be dear to Vishnu is to succeed in life, for the greatest benefactor is always in the background, ready to support the life in devotion, in whichever way it may turn. In sickness and in health, in poverty and in wealth, the husband of Lakshmi remains a supportive well-wisher.
A voluntary choice for sure,
The brahmanas becoming poor.
Since tapasya recommendation made,
But also from curse long ago stayed.
Where Bhrigu making a test,
With kick to Vishnu’s chest.
Lakshmi not pleased at the time,
But blessing later to find.
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