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Lord Shiva saved from Vrikasura.
Maharaja Parikshit inquired, “If worship of Lord Vishnu is actually the ultimate goal of life, then why are the devotees of Lord Vishnu usually quite poverty-stricken, whereas the devotees of Lord Shiva are often very wealthy? Lord Shiva is a strict renunciate, whereas Lord Vishnu is the husband of the goddess of fortune. It appears that the results attained by the worshipers of these two lords of opposite character are contrary to what one would expect.”
Shukadeva Gosvami replied, “Lord Shiva is always united with his consort, the material nature, and thus his worshipers are materialists, desiring material assets. Lord Vishnu, however, has no connection with the material nature, and one who worships Him becomes similarly free from nature’s influence.”
“At the conclusion of the performance of Ashvamedha sacrifices, your grandfather, King Yudhisthira, asked Lord Krishna the same question. The Lord was very pleased, and he replied to Maharaja Yudhisthira as follows: ‘If I especially favor a devotee and wish to care for him, the first thing I do is take away his riches. When the devotee is thus poverty-stricken, his family members no longer take interest in him and so he becomes doubly unhappy. When My devotee is bereft of all material riches, and is deserted by his relatives, friends and family members, he has no one to look after him, and thus he at last completely takes shelter of My lotus feet.’ ”
“Lord Vishnu is very kind, and so, before giving any benediction, He first considers whether or not it will be for the ultimate good of the devotee. On the other hand, the demigods may very quickly award benedictions, but they do so without consideration. Just to illustrate this point, I shall narrate to you an interesting story.”
There was a demon named Vrika, the son of Shakuni. He desired to get a benediction, but could not decide which demigod to worship. Once, he met Narada Muni on the path and so asked, “O sage, of the three principal demigods, who can be pleased most quickly?”
Understanding the demon’s motives, Narada replied, “Worship Lord Shiva and you will soon achieve success. Lord Shiva quickly becomes pleased by seeing his worshiper’s slightest good quality, and he also quickly becomes angered at the slightest fault. Ravana and Banasura were both awarded unprecedented prowess by worshiping Lord Shiva.”
Being so instructed, Vrikasura went to Kedarnatha, and after igniting the sacrificial fire, he began cutting pieces of flesh from his body and offering them as oblations for the satisfaction of Lord Shiva. For six days, Vrikasura continued in this way, but when Lord Shiva failed to appear, he became frustrated. So, on the seventh day, the demon bathed in a nearby lake and without drying his body, he prepared to cut off his own head.
At that very moment, lord Shiva became compassionate. Rising out of the sacrificial fire, he grabbed Vrikasura’s arms, thus preventing him from committing suicide. As soon as Lord Shiva touched the demon’s body, all of his wounds became healed.
Lord Shiva said, “My friend, please stop! Ask from me whatever you want, and I shall give it to you. You have tortured your body for no reason, for I am pleased with even a little water offered by one who approaches me for shelter.”
Vrikasura said, “This is what I would like. When I touch anyone on the head with my hand, may it crack open and that person die!”
Lord Shiva felt some regret upon hearing this, but being unwilling to withdraw his promise, he vibrated “om” to signify his assent. Indeed, Lord Shiva was smiling ironically, as if he were giving milk to a poisonous snake.
Immediately after receiving this benediction, Vrikasura decided to test it on Lord Shiva and then take away his wife, Parvati, for his personal enjoyment. When the demon went to place his hand on Shiva’s head, the lord became so frightened that his body trembled.
Thereafter, Lord Shiva fled here and there as the demon chased him, on the land and in the sky, from planet to planet, seeking help from the predominating deities. The great demigods, even Lord Brahma and King Indra, remained silent, however, finding no way to save Lord Shiva from the impending danger.
At last, Lord Shiva approached Lord Vishnu in Svetadvipa, which is the local Vaikuntha planet. Understanding the situation very well, Lord Vishnu approached Vrikasura disguised as a brahmachari, with deerskin garment, rod and prayer beads. Lord Vishnu’s shining effulgence was very attractive, not only to Lord Shiva, but to Vrikasura as well.
The Supreme Lord said, “My dear son of Shakuni, you appear to be very tired. Why have you come from such a great distance? Please rest here for a minute. After all, it is with the help of the body that one fulfills all desires.”
“O mighty one, please tell Us what is your intention? Usually one accomplishes his purposes with the help of others.”
Lord Vishnu’s speech poured down upon Vrikasura like sweet nectar, and it relieved him of his fatigue. The Lord had spoken to him very respectfully, just to draw his attention and sympathy, and because He had addressed him as the son of Shakuni, the demon considered that the Lord must be a friend of the family.
In reply, Vrikasura related everything of what had happened. Lord Vishnu then said, “I cannot believe that Lord Shiva has spoken truthfully. After all, he is not in a very sane condition, having been cursed to become like a ghost, after quarreling with his father-in-law, Daksha. Still, if you have any faith in Lord Shiva’s words, then put your hand on your head as an experiment. If his benediction proves false, you can suitably chastise the liar so that in the future, he will not give any more false benedictions.”
By expanding His illusory energy, Lord Vishnu was able to bewilder the foolish Vrikasura with His clever, enchanting speech. Thus it came to be, that without even realizing what he was doing, the demon placed his hand upon his head. Immediately, Vrikasura’s head shattered, as if struck by lightning, making the demon fell down dead. From the sky was heard shouts of “Well done!” “Victory!” and “Obeisances!” and flowers fell in torrents.
Lord Vishnu then said, “Just see, O Mahadeva, how this wicked man was killed by his own sinful reactions. What good fortune can anyone expect if he offends great souls, and so what to speak of offending the spiritual master of the universe?”