“The example is given that small lamps may become agitated by a little breeze, but the greatest lamp or the greatest illuminating source, the sun, is never moved, even by the greatest hurricane. One’s greatness has to be estimated by one’s ability to tolerate provoking situations.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 2, Ch 34)
1. Do you know who I am?
“I am literally the definition to the concept of ‘I am.’ When you give your identity, I am a part of that. You would not exist were it not for me. All beings are in me, but I am not in them. My identity is not dependent on you.
“How could you even think of doing such a thing? You give respect to teachers. You pay homage to the demigods. You are aware of the high quality of your ancestry. The people who appeared before you – they paved the way for everything you have today.”
मया ततम् इदं सर्वं
न चाहं तेष्व् अवस्थितः
mayā tatam idaṁ sarvaṁ
na cāhaṁ teṣv avasthitaḥ
“By Me, in My unmanifested form, this entire universe is pervaded. All beings are in Me, but I am not in them.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.4)
2. How dare you?
“A kick to the chest. Really? Are you out of your mind? Do you have any idea what I am capable of? I create the many universes without effort. I lie down in rest. The work of the universe takes place through an involuntary act.
“People take so many breaths in the course of a day. They don’t count them. Even if they tried to pay attention, their attention would eventually turn elsewhere. But the breathing continues. That’s how effortless it is.
“If I create the universes without breaking a sweat, what do you think I can do to someone who attacks me in a cowardly way? If you want a fight, you will get one. I will face you in battle in the material world, and we can settle things fair and square. If you want to see how you measure up to the greatest, I am more than happy to show you.”
3. I will cut off your foot
“You think you’re clever, eh wise guy? You think you pulled a fast one on me. You’re probably laughing it up on the inside. I bet you can’t wait to tell your friends what you did to me.
“Not so fast. Before you return, there is something I need to take from you. You see this spinning disc? It is better known as the sudarshana-chakra. What do you say I chop off your foot? Then you explain to your buddies why you are walking around with a limp. I bet they’ll get a good laugh out of that.”
4. You will never sleep in peace again
“It is only fair that I return the favor. As you attacked me while I was not suspecting anyone, so the same will apply to you. I will see to it that you never sleep in peace. You will always keep one eye open. You will always worry that someone is going to do the same to you. Except I doubt that your chest will be able to tolerate such a blow.”
5. You are banned from Vaikuntha
“I have informed the gatekeepers to never allow you entry again. You are henceforth banned from the spiritual world. You cannot visit Vaikuntha anymore. This is a lifetime punishment. Maybe after some time in atonement, a blue ribbon panel will consider your reinstatement. That is all for now. The guards will see you out.”
Of course this is not how Vishnu reacted at all. As His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada explains, one of the ways to measure greatness is to test the degree of tolerance. In fact, this is exactly what Bhrigu Muni was doing.
The revered member of the brahmana community was conducting an experiment. Rather than rely on theoretical knowledge or the results of a debate based on hypothetical understanding, he went into the field, so to speak.
He offended Lord Brahma. He offended Lord Shiva. Both were upset at the offense. They did not tolerate it so well, and neither should they have been expected to. The test with Vishnu was on the extreme side. Bhrigu kicked the husband of Lakshmi in the chest.
Vishnu was not offended in the least. He was worried that Bhrigu might have hurt his foot. As God is renunciation personified, there was no attachment to prestige. There was no requirement of honor.
This means that the worship conducted in the temple is ultimately not for His benefit. He does not insist that anyone worship Him. He does not compel a relationship, especially if the other party is not willing.
इति ते ज्ञानम् आख्यातं
गुह्याद् गुह्यतरं मया
यथेच्छसि तथा कुरु
iti te jñānam ākhyātaṁ
guhyād guhyataraṁ mayā
yathecchasi tathā kuru
“Thus I have explained to you the most confidential of all knowledge. Deliberate on this fully, and then do what you wish to do.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.63)
Even in the famous discourse known as Bhagavad-gita, the Supreme Personality of Godhead does not force Arjuna to follow a certain way. There is the full presentation. There is the argument in favor of a specific choice, supported by logic, reasoning, and authority. There is an appeal from all angles of vision.
Whether Arjuna is inclined towards atheism, ascension to the heavenly realm in the afterlife, or the wellbeing of his adversaries, the choice to continue in dharma is the right one. Work for the interests of Vishnu. This is the very meaning of yajna.
The person conducting the yajna benefits most. Though they carry the mentality of urgency in need, that God requires their association, the lasting impact is the connection. This is known as yoga, and those who are always connected remain dear to Vishnu, even if they happen to include Him in their science experiments.
Bhrigu concluding his test,
With swift kick to the chest.
To Vishnu with Lakshmi lying,
To provoke resistance trying.
But Supreme Lord most tolerant so,
Insight into His kindness to know.
That worship for our benefit through,
Never compelled to do.
Categories: the five