“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)
As described in Bhagavata Purana and retold countless times throughout the ages, there is the story of Bhrigu Muni conducting his test of the three primary deities of the Vedic tradition: Brahma, Shiva, and Vishnu.
While there are no credentials involving an institution of higher learning or publication in a respected journal of the industry, there is science all the same. If doctors want to test if a new type of medication is effective at treating a particular disease, they gather a group of participants together.
They try to keep the conditions uniform, to the best extent possible. People of and around the same age, with the same metrics of health. The doctors give the medication to half the group and leave the other half alone. After the period of treatment is complete, they measure to see if there was any noticeable difference in the group given the medication.
Bhrigu took three of the most respected personalities and introduced a stimulus of offense. No experiments are ever perfect, and the primary flaw with Bhrigu’s work was that the offense was not the same for all the participants.
He offended Brahma by thoughts and Shiva by words. Both of them took offense, as they should have. The foundation of Vedic culture is respect. From birth until death a person offers respect to someone. It is the way to be humbled, to understand the universal teaching that the living entity is ultimately not the doer in their work.
गुणैः कर्माणि सर्वशः
कर्ताहम् इति मन्यते
guṇaiḥ karmāṇi sarvaśaḥ
kartāham iti manyate
“The bewildered spirit soul, under the influence of the three modes of material nature, thinks himself to be the doer of activities, which are in actuality carried out by nature.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.27)
The last participant in the test was Vishnu, and He happened to receive the grossest offense. Bhrigu kicked the husband of Lakshmi in the chest. This was a surprise attack. It was the worst kind of insult that could be respectable enough to assess later on, for the purpose of the experiment.
The reaction on the other side was so stunning that a person can spend many lifetimes studying the incident. The results from the experiment were not simply a declaration of superiority or a ranking system within the objects of worship.
1. Devotees are not afraid of the Supreme Lord
In the modern day, whenever there is gross negligence in terms of societal responsibility or the flaunting of values and etiquette, it is not uncommon to hear the following commentary:
“These people must not be afraid of God. They have not heard how He is vengeful, spiteful, and observing everything. I am God-fearing and proud of it. I would never tempt fate in that way. These people are in for a world of hurt in the afterlife.”
In Vishnu’s relationship with the devotees, there is no fear. The closest equivalent is the transcendental mellow known as shanta-rasa. This is devotion through awe and respect. A person essentially keeps their distance. They observe the greatness of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Bhrigu’s test shows that there is a higher standard to reach. That respected brahmana intentionally failed to show respect. He must not have been afraid of the potential consequences. He must have had an inkling of Vishnu’s nature towards those who worship Him.
2. The brahmanas are dear to Vishnu
A genuine brahmana is so dear to Vishnu that they can come so close as to kick Vishnu in the chest, without fear of repercussion. They are not afraid of being sentenced to hell. They do not mind living in the heavenly realm or on earth. They are always connected to Vishnu in consciousness, so they understand that no one can be a greater well-wisher than the one who uses the sudarshana-chakra to punish the wicked.
न कुतश्चन बिभ्यति
na kutaścana bibhyati
“Devotees solely engaged in the devotional service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Narayana, never fear any condition of life. For them the heavenly planets, liberation and the hellish planets are all the same, for such devotees are interested only in the service of the Lord.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 6.17.28)
3. Vishnu is able to tolerate the greatest provocation
This was the clear observation from the immediate aftermath. Vishnu was not angry. He was not upset. He did not show any signs of agitation. It is difficult for others to not be offended. We become proud over our accomplishments. If the entire world were to honor us on a daily basis, a single instance of lack of respect would likely cause agitation.
Moreover, the many viral videos on the internet show the damaging effects of being offended so easily. People get into physical altercations over accidental mistakes. One person utters a single negative word and pandemonium ensues.
This is not the best way to behave, and for Vishnu there is no provocation that can make Him break from His kind disposition towards those who love Him. He is willing to do anything for them. He is concerned for their welfare, such as with Bhrigu’s foot.
Because so easily agitated,
By single word instigated.
Immediately into fighting set,
After reflection to regret.
When kick to the chest daring,
Vishnu for Bhrigu caring.
That possible injury to him came,
As most tolerant to proclaim.
Categories: the three