“In this way, by Lord Narayana’s sweet words and by the expansion of His superior illusion, the demon became bewildered, and he actually forgot the power of Lord Shiva and his benediction. He was thus very easily persuaded to put his hand on his own head. As soon as the demon did that, his head cracked, as if struck by thunder, and he immediately died.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 2, Ch 33)
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1. Meeting Vrikasura
Who can be more glorious than Lord Shiva, whose very name means auspiciousness? Who can be more kind and compassionate than Mahadeva, who sets forth the means of liberation for countless generations into the future through his narration of the glories of Shri Rama? Where else can you find a larger ocean of mercy than from Parvati’s husband, who is so easily pleased by his worshipers that he is known by the name of Ashutosha?
One time a demon named Vrikasura was contemplating to whom to approach for a benediction. He happened to run into Narada Muni and received the advice that Lord Shiva would be best. Narada understood the asura’s ways, that the motives were not pure.
Vrikasura eventually sacrificed to such an extent that he met Mahadeva personally. He requested and received the odd benediction of being able to kill someone simply by touching their head. To show his miserly ways, Vrikasura then proceeded to chase after Lord Shiva, hoping to touch the head and take Parvati as his wife.
Though Mahadeva is fully capable of destroying the entire universe at the appropriate time, in this instance it was Vishnu who put an end to the madness. He took the form of a brahmachari [celibate student monk] and tricked Vrikasura into touching his own head. The demon immediately died, showing the truth to the words of Mahadeva, who is immeasurably kind towards those who worship him, even if it might cause issues in the future.
2. Breaking the armor of Hiranyakashipu
The leader of the Daityas famously received ninety-nine percent immortality. He tried to construct the impossible through individual pieces. Like a giant fortress built through various shapes and tiles laid out on the ground, even after what he considered to be proper arrangement there was still one hole. Hardly anyone could see it, but Vishnu’s eyes are everywhere.
The Supreme Personality of Godhead took the avatara of a half-man/half-lion named Narasimha. He manifest through a pillar that was just struck by the fist of Hiranyakashipu. That leader of the Daityas was frustrated by his son Prahlada, who seemed to have this mystic ability that made him invincible. The child was only five years old and he had not approached any of the demigods to receive such an ability.
The appearance of Narasimha maintained the boons of protection Brahma had previously offered. In other words, Hiranyakashipu’s ninety-nine percent immortality was standing tall. It was the one percent that Vishnu exploited. He outsmarted that demon and gave to him the handsome reward he richly deserved, for having persecuted the innocent Prahlada for so long.
3. Killing Ravana
This was another case of a demon rising to power on the strength of the favor of Mahadeva. Ravana similarly had almost full immortality. He created the armor through listing off the various kinds of beings found in this world. He wanted protection against any and all of them. Wish granted.
The problem is he forgot to mention human beings. Ravana figured that if no demigod could kill him, what would any mortal be able to accomplish? He forgot to consider that the Supreme Lord is everywhere and anywhere. He can take an avatara of a human being, if so desired.
Vishnu did just that, appearing as the eldest son of King Dasharatha of Ayodhya. Through a series of events immortalized in the Ramayana poem, Shri Rama eventually made His way to Lanka and defeated Ravana in a fair fight. The boons of protection were still intact, but Rama found a way around them.
A person hearing of such encounters may become upset with Vishnu. They think it is unfair what went down and they lodge a complaint:
“Shouldn’t God play fair? Of course He is smarter than Hiranyakashipu and Ravana. Of course He has more potency. What was the sport in such meetings? He simply flexed His muscles and defeated people who didn’t really stand a chance.”
An appropriate response lays the blame at the feet of the asuras. It was their behavior that caused the problem. If they knew that God existed, why challenge Him? If I know that a wall is too high for me to scale, who is to blame when I eventually fall off it? If I try to climb over, going against sound judgment and reason, ignoring the warnings of friends and well-wishers, is my subsequent defeat the fault of the wall?
In one sense such demons are the most fortunate. They get the Supreme Lord to reveal a glimpse of His amazing potency, in dramatic fashion. They are fully conscious of Vishnu at the time of death, and so they are guaranteed liberation from the cycle of birth and death.
Thinking nature’s laws to trick,
But really like wall of brick.
Where attempting to scale,
And then miserably to fail.
Ever upon the structure to blame,
For pain and resulting shame?
Asuras better should have known,
But blessed by avatara shown.
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