As a great devotee of Krsna, King Pariksit was already liberated, but for clarification he was asking various questions of Sukadeva Gosvami. In the previous chapter, King Pariksit's question was, "What is the ultimate goal of the Vedas?" And Sukadeva Gosvami explained the matter giving authoritative descriptions from the disciplic succession, beginning with Sanandana down to Narayana Rsi, Narada, Vyasadeva, and then he himself. The conclusion was that devotional service, or bhakti, is the ultimate goal of the Vedas. A neophyte devotee may question, "If the ultimate goal of life, or the conclusion of the Vedas, is to elevate oneself to the platform of devotional service, then why is it observed that a devotee of Lord Visnu is generally not very prosperous materially, whereas a devotee of Lord Siva is found to be very opulent?" In order to clarify this matter, Pariksit Maharaja asked Sukadeva Gosvami: "My dear Sukadeva Gosvami, it is generally found that those who engage in the worship of Lord Siva, whether in human, demoniac, or demigod society, become very opulent materially, although Lord Siva himself lives just like a poverty-stricken person. On the other hand, the devotees of Lord Visnu, who is the controller of the goddess of fortune, do not appear to be very prosperous, and sometimes they are even found to be living without any material opulence at all. Lord Siva lives underneath a tree or in the snow of the Himalayan Mountains. He does not even construct a house for himself, but still the worshipers of Lord Siva are very rich. Krsna, or Lord Visnu, however, lives very opulently, whether in Vaikuntha or in this material world, but His devotees appear to be poverty-stricken. Why is this so?"
Maharaja Pariksit's question is very intelligent. The two classes of devotees, namely the devotees of Lord Siva and the devotees of Lord Visnu, are always in disagreement. Even today in India these two classes of devotees still criticize each other, especially in South India, the followers of Ramanujacarya and the followers of Sankaracarya hold occasional meetings for understanding the Vedic conclusion. Generally, the followers of Ramanujacarya come out victorious in such meetings. So Pariksit Maharaja wanted to clarify the situation by asking this question of Sukadeva Gosvami. That Lord Siva lives as a poor man although his devotees appear to be very opulent, whereas Lord Krsna or Lord Visnu is always opulent, and yet His devotees appear to be poverty-stricken, is a situation which appears contradictory and puzzling to a discriminating person.
Sukadeva Gosvami began to reply to King Pariksit's inquiry about the apparent contradictions regarding the worship of Lord Siva and that of Lord Visnu. Lord Siva is the master of the material energy. The material energy is represented by goddess Durga, and Lord Siva happens to be her husband. Since goddess Durga is completely under the subjugation of Lord Siva, it is to be understood that Lord Siva is the master of this material energy. The material energy is manifested in three qualities, namely goodness, passion and ignorance, and therefore Lord Siva is the master of these three qualities. Although he is in association with these qualities for the benefit of the conditioned soul, Lord Siva is the director and is not affected. Although the conditioned soul is affected by the three qualities, Lord Siva, because he is the master of these qualities, is not affected by them.
From the statements of Sukadeva Gosvami we can understand that the effects of worshiping different demigods are not, as some less intelligent persons suppose, the same as the effects of worshiping Lord Visnu. He clearly states that by worshiping Lord Siva one achieves one reward, whereas by worshiping Lord Visnu one achieves a different reward. This is also confirmed in the Bhagavad-gita: Those who worship the different demigods achieve the desired results which the respective demigods can reward. Similarly, those who worship the material energy receive the suitable reward for such activities, and those who worship the pitas receive similar results. But those who are engaged in devotional service or worship of the Supreme Lord, Visnu or Krsna, go to the Vaikuntha planets or Krsnaloka. One cannot approach the transcendental region or paravyoma, the spiritual sky, by worshiping Lord Siva or Brahma or any other demigod.
Since this material world is a product of the three qualities of material nature, all varieties of manifestations come from those three qualities. With the aid of materialistic science, modern civilization has created many machines and comforts of life, and yet they are only varieties of the interactions of the three material qualities. Although the devotees of Lord Siva are able to obtain many material acquisitions, we should know that they are simply collecting products manufactured by the three qualities. The three qualities are again subdivided into sixteen, namely the ten senses (five working senses and the five knowledge-acquiring senses), the mind, and the five elements (earth, water, air, fire and sky). These sixteen items are further extensions of the three qualities. Material happiness or opulence means gratification of the senses, specifically the genitals, the tongue and the mind. By exercising our minds we create many pleasurable things just for enjoyment by the genitals and the tongue. The opulence of a person within this material world is estimated in terms of his exercise of the genitals and the tongue, or, in other words, how well he is able to utilize his sexual capacities and how well he is able to satisfy his fastidious taste by eating palatable dishes. Material advancement of civilization necessitates creating objects of enjoyment by mental concoction just to become happy on the basis of these two principles: pleasures for the genitals and pleasures for the tongue. Herein lies the answer to King Pariksit's question to Sukadeva Gosvami as to why the worshipers of Lord Siva are so opulent.
The devotees of Lord Siva are only opulent in terms of the material qualities. Factually, such so-called advancement of civilization is the cause of entanglement in material existence. It is actually not advancement, but degradation. The conclusion is that because Lord Siva is the master of the three qualities, his devotees are given things manufactured by the interactions of these qualities for satisfaction of the senses. In the Bhagavad-gita, however, we get instruction from Lord Krsna that one has to transcend the qualitative existence. Nistraigunyo bhavarjuna: the mission of human life is to become transcendental to the three qualities. Unless one is nistraigunya, he cannot get free from material entanglement. In other words, favors received from Lord Siva are not actually beneficial to the conditioned souls, although apparently such facilities seem to be opulent.
Sukadeva Gosvami continued: "The Supreme Personality of Godhead Hari is transcendental to the three qualities of material nature." It is stated in the Bhagavad-gita that anyone who surrenders unto Him surpasses the control of the three qualities of material nature. Therefore, since Hari's devotees are transcendental to the control of the three material qualities, certainly He Himself is transcendental. It is stated, therefore, in the Srimad-Bhagavatam that Hari, or Krsna, is the original Supreme Personality. There are two kinds of prakrtis, or potencies, namely the internal potency and the external potency, and Krsna is the overlord of both these prakrtis or potencies. He is sarva-drk, or the overseer of all the actions of the internal and external potencies, and He is also described as upadrasta, the supreme advisor. Because He is the supreme advisor, He is above all the demigods, who merely follow the directions of the supreme advisor. As such, if one directly follows the instructions of the Supreme Lord, as inculcated in the Bhagavad-gita and the Srimad-Bhagavatam, then gradually one becomes nirguna, or above the interaction of the material qualities. To be nirguna means to be bereft of material opulences because, as we have explained, material opulence means an increase of actions and reactions of the three material qualities. By worshiping the Supreme Personality of Godhead, instead of being puffed up with material opulence one becomes enriched with spiritual advancement of knowledge in Krsna consciousness. To become nirguna means to achieve eternal peace, fearlessness, religiousness, knowledge and renunciation. All these are symptoms of becoming free from the contamination of the material qualities.
Sukadeva Gosvami, in answering Maharaja Pariksit's question, went on to cite an historical instance regarding Pariksit Maharaja's grandfather, King Yudhisthira. He said that after finishing the Asvamedha sacrifice in the great sacrificial arena, King Yudhisthira, in the presence of great authorities, inquired on that very same point: how is it that the devotees of Lord Siva become materially opulent, whereas the devotees of Lord Visnu do not? Sukadeva Gosvami specifically referred to King Yudhisthira as "your grandfather" so that Maharaja Pariksit would be encouraged to think that he was related to Krsna and that his grandfathers were intimately connected with the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Although Krsna is always very satisfied by nature, when this question was asked by Maharaja Yudhisthira He became even more satisfied because these questions and their answers would bear a great meaning for the entire Krsna conscious society. Whenever Lord Krsna speaks about something to a specific devotee, it is not only meant for that devotee, but for the entire human society. Instructions by the Supreme Personality of Godhead are important even to the demigods, headed by Lord Brahma, Lord Siva and others and anyone who does not take advantage of the instructions of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who descends within this world for the benefit of all living entities, is certainly very unfortunate.
Lord Krsna answered the question of Maharaja Yudhisthira as follows: "If I especially favor a devotee and especially wish to care for him, the first thing I do is take away his riches." When the devotee becomes a penniless pauper or is put into a comparatively poverty-stricken position, his relatives and family members no longer take interest in him, and in most cases they give up their connection with him. The devotee then becomes doubly unhappy. First of all he becomes unhappy because his riches have been taken away by Krsna, and he is made even more unhappy when his relatives desert him because of his poverty-stricken condition. We should note, however, that when a devotee falls into a miserable condition in this way, it is not due to past impious activities, known as karma-phala; the poverty-stricken position of the devotee is a creation of the Personality of Godhead. Similarly, when a devotee becomes materially opulent, that is also not due to his pious activities. In either case, whether the devotee becomes poorer or richer, the arrangement is made by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This arrangement is especially made by Krsna for His devotee just to make him completely dependent upon Him and to free him from all material obligations. He can then concentrate his energies, mind and body--everything--for the service of the Lord, and that is pure devotional service. In the Narada-pancaratra it is therefore explained, sarvopadhi-vinirmuktam, which means "being freed from all designations." Works performed for family, society, community, nation or humanity are all designated: "I belong to this society," "I belong to this community," "I belong to this nation," "I belong to this species of life." Such identities are all merely designations. When, by the grace of the Lord, a devotee becomes freed from all designations, his devotional service is actually naiskarmya. Jnanis are very much attracted by the position of naiskarmya, in which one's actions no longer have material effect. When the devotee's actions are freed from effects, they are no longer in the category of karma-phalam, or fruitive activities. As explained before by the personified Vedas, the happiness and distress of a devotee are produced by the Personality of Godhead for the devotee, and the devotee therefore does not care whether he is in happiness or in distress. He goes on with his duties in executing devotional service. Although his behavior seems to be subject to the action and reaction of fruitive activities, he is actually freed from the results of action.
It may be questioned why a devotee is put into such tribulation by the Personality of Godhead. The answer is that this kind of arrangement by the Lord is just like a father's sometimes becoming unkind to his sons. Because the devotee is a surrendered soul and is taken charge of by the Supreme Lord, whenever the Lord puts him into any condition of life--either in distress or happiness--it is to be understood that behind this arrangement there is a large plan designed by the Personality of Godhead. For example, Lord Krsna put the Pandavas into a distressed condition so acute that even grandfather Bhisma could not comprehend how such distress could occur. He lamented that although the whole Pandava family was headed by King Yudhisthira, the most pious king, and protected by the two great warriors Bhima and Arjuna, and although, above all, the Pandavas were all intimate friends and relatives of Lord Krsna, they still had to undergo such tribulations. Later on, however, it was proved that this was planned by the Supreme Personality of Godhead Krsna as part of His great mission to annihilate the miscreants and protect the devotees.
Another question may be raised: Since a devotee is put into different kinds of happy and distressful conditions by the arrangement of the Personality of Godhead, and a common man is put into such conditions as a result of his past deeds, then what is the difference? How is the devotee any better than the ordinary karmi ? The answer is that the karmis and the devotees are not on the same level. In whatever condition of life the karmi may be, he continues in the cycle of birth and death because the seed of karma, or fruitive activity, is there, and it fructifies whenever there is an opportunity. By the law of karma a common man is perpetually entangled in repeated birth and death, whereas a devotee's distress and happiness, not being under the laws of karma, are part of a temporary arrangement by the Supreme Lord which does not entangle the devotee. Such an arrangement is made by the Lord only to serve a temporary purpose. If a karmi performs auspicious acts, he is elevated to the heavenly planets, and if he acts impiously, he is put into a hellish condition of life. But whether a devotee acts in a so-called pious or in an impious manner, he is neither elevated nor degraded, but is transferred to the spiritual kingdom. Therefore a devotee's happiness and distress and a karmi's happiness and distress are not on the same level. This fact is corroborated by a speech by Yamaraja to his servants in connection with the liberation of Ajamila. Yamaraja advised his followers that persons who have never uttered the holy name of the Lord nor remembered the form, quality and pastimes of the Lord should be approached by his watchguards. Yamaraja also advised his servants never to approach the devotees. On the contrary, he instructed his messengers that if they meet a devotee they should offer their respectful obeisances. So there is no question of a devotee's being promoted or degraded within this material world. As there is a gulf of difference between the punishment awarded by the mother and the punishment awarded by an enemy, so a devotee's distressed condition is not the same as the distressed condition of a common karmi.
Here another question may be raised. If God is all-powerful, why should He try to reform His devotee by putting him in distress? The answer is that when the Supreme Personality of Godhead puts His devotee into a condition of distress, it is not without purpose. Sometimes the purpose is that in distress a devotee's feelings of attachment to Krsna are magnified. For example, when Krsna, before leaving the capital of the Pandavas for His home, was asking for permission to leave, Kuntidevi said, "My dear Krsna, in our distressed condition You were always present with us. Now, because we have been elevated to a royal position, You are leaving us. I would therefore prefer to live in distress than to lose You." When a devotee is put into a situation of distress, his devotional activities are accelerated. Therefore, to show special favor to a devotee, the Lord sometimes puts him into distress. Besides that, it is stated that the sweetness of happiness is sweeter to those who have tasted bitterness. The Supreme Lord descends to this material world just to protect His devotees from distress. In other words, if devotees were not in a distressed condition, the Lord would not have come down. As for His killing the demons or the miscreants, this can be easily done by His various energies, just as many asuras are killed by His external energy, goddess Durga. Therefore the Lord does not need to come down personally to kill such demons, but when His devotee is in distress He must come. Lord Nrsimhadeva appeared not to kill Hiranyakasipu but to see Prahlada and to give him blessings. In other words, because Prahlada Maharaja was put into very great distress, the Lord appeared.
When, after the dense, dark night, there is finally sunrise in the morning, it is very pleasant. When there is scorching heat, cold water is very pleasant and when there is freezing winter, hot water is very pleasant. Similarly, when a devotee, after experiencing the condition of the material world, relishes the spiritual happiness awarded by the Lord, his position becomes still more pleasant and enjoyable.
The Lord continued: "When My devotee is bereft of all material riches and is deserted by his relatives, friends and family members, because he has no one to look after him, he completely takes shelter of the lotus feet of the Lord." Srila Narottama dasa Thakura has sung in this connection, "My dear Lord Krsna, O son of Nanda Maharaja, You are now standing before me along with Srimati Radharani, the daughter of King Vrsabhanu. I am now surrendering unto You. Please accept me. Please do not kick me away. I have no shelter other than You."
When a devotee is thus put into so-called miserable conditions and is bereft of riches and family, he tries to revive his original position of material opulence. But although he tries again and again, Krsna again and again takes away all his resources. Thus he finally becomes disappointed in material activities, and in that stage of frustration in all endeavors, he can fully surrender unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Such persons are advised by the Lord from within to associate with devotees. By associating with devotees they naturally become inclined to render service to the Personality of Godhead, and they immediately get all facilities from the Lord to advance in Krsna consciousness. The nondevotees, however, are very careful about preserving their material condition of life. Generally, therefore, such nondevotees do not come to worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead, but worship Lord Siva or other demigods for immediate material profit. In the Bhagavad-gita it is said, therefore, kanksantah karmanam siddhim yajanta iha devatah: "The karmis, in order to achieve success within this material world, worship the various demigods." It is also stated by Lord Krsna that those who worship the demigods are not mature in their intelligence. The devotees of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, therefore, because of their strong attachment for Him, do not foolishly go to the demigods.
Lord Krsna said to King Yudhisthira: "My devotee is not deterred by any adverse conditions of life; he always remains firm and steady. Therefore I give Myself to him, and I favor him so he can achieve the highest success in life." The mercy bestowed upon the tried devotee by the Supreme Personality is described as Brahman, which indicates that the greatness of that mercy can be compared only to the all-pervasive greatness. Brahman means unlimitedly great and unlimitedly expanding. That mercy is also described as paramam, for it has no comparison within this material world, and it is also called suksmam, very fine. The Lord's mercy upon the tried devotee is not only great and unlimitedly expansive, but it is of the finest quality of transcendental love between the devotee and the Lord. Such mercy is further described as cin-matram, completely spiritual. The use of the word matram indicates absolute spirituality, with no tinge of material qualities. That mercy is also called sat, eternal, and anantakam, unlimited. Since the devotee of the Lord is awarded such unlimited spiritual benefit, why should he worship the demigods? A devotee of Krsna does not worship Lord Siva or Brahma or any other subordinate demigod. He completely devotes himself to the transcendental loving service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Sukadeva Gosvami continued: "The demigods, headed by Lord Brahma and Lord Siva and including Lord Indra, Candra, Varuna and others, are apt to become very quickly satisfied and very quickly angered by the good and ill behavior of their devotees. But this is not so with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Visnu." This means that every living entity within this material world, including the demigods, is conducted by the three modes of material nature, and therefore the qualities of ignorance and passion are very prominent within the material world. Those devotees who take blessings from the demigods are also infected with the material qualities, especially passion and ignorance. Lord Sri Krsna has therefore stated in the Bhagavad-gita that to take blessings from the demigods is less intelligent because when one takes benedictions from the demigods, the results of such benedictions are temporary. It is easy to get material opulence by worshiping the demigods, but the result is sometimes disastrous. As such, the benedictions derived from demigods are appreciated by the less intelligent class of men. Persons who derive benedictions from the demigods gradually become puffed up with material opulence and neglectful of their benefactors.
Sukadeva Gosvami addressed King Pariksit thus: "My dear King, Lord Brahma, Lord Visnu, and Lord Siva, the principal trio of the material creation, are able to bless or curse anyone. Of this trio, Lord Brahma and Lord Siva become very easily satisfied, and at the same time they become very easily angered. When they are satisfied they give benedictions without any consideration, and when they are angry, they curse the devotee without any consideration. But Lord Visnu is not like that. Lord Visnu is very considerate. Whenever a devotee wants something from Lord Visnu, Lord Visnu first of all considers whether such a benediction will ultimately be good for the devotee. Lord Visnu never bestows any benediction which will ultimately prove disastrous to the devotee, He is, by His transcendental nature, always merciful; therefore, before giving any benediction, He considers whether it will prove beneficial for the devotee. Since the Supreme Personality of Godhead is always merciful, even when it appears that He has killed a demon, or even when He apparently becomes angry toward a devotee, His actions are always auspicious. The Supreme Personality of Godhead is therefore known as all-good. Whatever He does is good."
As for the benedictions given by demigods like Lord Siva, there is the following historical incident cited by great sages. Once, Lord Siva, after giving benediction to a demon named Vrkasura, the son of Sakuni, was himself entrapped in a very dangerous position. Vrkasura was searching after a benediction and was trying to decide which of the three presiding deities to worship in order to get it. In the meantime he happened to meet the great sage Narada and consulted with him as to whom he should approach to achieve quick results from his austerity. He inquired, "Of the three deities, namely Lord Brahma, Lord Visnu and Lord Siva, who is the most quickly satisfied?" Narada could understand the plan of the demon, and he advised him, "You had better worship Lord Siva; then you will quickly get the desired result. Lord Siva is very quickly satisfied and very quickly dissatisfied also. So you try to satisfy Lord Siva." Narada also cited instances wherein demons like Ravana and Banasura were enriched with great opulences simply by satisfying Lord Siva with prayers. Because the great sage Narada was aware of the nature of the demon Vrkasura, he did not advise him to approach Visnu or Lord Brahma. Persons such as Vrkasura who are situated in the material mode of ignorance, cannot stick to the worship of Visnu.
After receiving instruction from Narada, the demon Vrkasura went to Kedaranatha. The pilgrimage site of Kedaranatha still exists near Kashmir. It is almost always covered by snow, but for part of the year, during the month of July, it is possible to see the deity, and devotees go there to offer their respects. Kedaranatha is for the devotees of Lord Siva. According to the Vedic principle, when something is offered to the deities to eat, it is offered in a fire. Therefore a fire sacrifice is necessary in all sorts of ceremonies. It is specifically stated in the sastras that gods are to be offered something to eat through the fire. The demon Vrkasura therefore went to Kedaranatha and ignited a sacrificial fire to please Lord Siva.
After igniting the fire in the name of Siva, he began to offer his own flesh, by cutting it from his body so as to please Lord Siva. Here is an instance of worship in the mode of ignorance. In the Bhagavad-gita, different types of sacrifice are mentioned. Some sacrifices are in the mode of goodness, some are in the mode of passion, and some are in the mode of ignorance. There are different kinds of tapasya and worship because there are different kinds of people within this world. But the ultimate tapasya, Krsna consciousness, is the topmost yoga and the topmost sacrifice. As confirmed in the Bhagavad-gita, the topmost yoga is to think always of Lord Krsna within the heart, and the topmost sacrifice is to perform the sankirtana-yajna.
In the Bhagavad-gita it is stated that the worshipers of the demigods have lost their intelligence. As will be revealed later in this chapter, Vrkasura wanted to satisfy Lord Siva for a third-class materialistic objective, which was temporary and without real benefit. The asuras or persons within the mode of ignorance will accept such benedictions from the demigods. In complete contrast to this sacrifice in the modes of ignorance, the arcana-vidhi process for worshiping Lord Visnu or Krsna is very simple. Lord Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita that He accepts from His devotee even a little fruit, a flower or some water, which can be gathered by any person, poor or rich. Of course, those who are rich are not expected to offer only a little water, a little piece of fruit or a little leaf to the Lord. A rich man should offer according to his position, but if the devotee happens to be a very poor man the Lord will accept even the most meager offering. The worship of Lord Visnu or Krsna is very simple, and it can be executed by anyone in this world. But worship in the mode of ignorance, as exhibited by Vrkasura, is not only very difficult and painful, but it is also a useless waste of time. Therefore Bhagavad-gita says that the worshipers of the demigods are bereft of intelligence; their process of worship is very difficult, and at the same time the result obtained is flickering and temporary.
Although Vrkasura continued his sacrifice for six days, he was nevertheless unable to personally see Lord Siva, which was his objective; he wanted to see him face to face and ask him for a benediction. Here is another contrast between a demon and a devotee. A devotee is confident that whatever he offers to the Deity in full devotional service is accepted by the Lord, but a demon wants to see his worshipable deity face to face so that he can directly take the benediction. A devotee, however, does not worship Visnu or Lord Krsna for any benediction. Therefore a devotee is called akama, free of desire, and a nondevotee is called sarva-kama, or desirous of everything. On the seventh day, the demon Vrkasura decided that he should cut off his head and offer it to satisfy Lord Siva. Thus he took a bath in a nearby lake, and without drying his body and hair, he prepared to cut off his head. According to the Vedic system, an animal which is to be offered as a sacrifice has to be bathed first, and while the animal is wet it is sacrificed. When the demon was thus preparing to cut off his head, Lord Siva became very compassionate. This compassion, however, is a symptom of the quality of goodness. Lord Siva is called trilinga. Therefore his manifestation of the nature of compassion is a sign of the quality of goodness. This compassion, however, is present in every living entity. The compassion of Lord Siva was aroused because the demon was offering his flesh to the sacrificial fire. This is natural compassion. Even if a common man sees someone preparing to commit suicide, it is his duty to try to save him. He does so automatically. There is no need to appeal to him. Therefore when Lord Siva appeared from the fire to check the demon from suicide, it was not as a very great favor to him.
The demon was saved from committing suicide by the touch of Lord Siva; his bodily injuries immediately healed, and his body became as it was before. Then Lord Siva told the demon, "My dear Vrkasura, you do not need to cut off your head. You can ask from me any benediction you like, and I shall fulfill your desire. I do not know why you wanted to cut off your head to satisfy me. I become satisfied even by an offering of a little water." Actually, according to the Vedic process, the Siva linga in the temple or the form of Lord Siva in the temple is worshiped simply by offering Ganges water because it is said that Lord Siva is greatly satisfied when Ganges water is poured upon his head. Generally, devotees offer Ganges water and the leaves of the bilva tree, which are especially meant for offering to Lord Siva and the goddess Durga. The fruit of this tree also is offered to Lord Siva. Lord Siva assured Vrkasura that he becomes satisfied by a very simple process of worship. Why then was he so anxious to cut off his head, and why was he taking so much pain by cutting his body to pieces and offering it in the fire? There was no need of such severe penances. Anyway, out of compassion and sympathy, Lord Siva prepared to give him any benediction he liked.
When the demon was offered this facility by Lord Siva, he asked for a very fearful and abominable benediction. The demon was very sinful, and sinful persons do not know what sort of benediction should be asked from the deity. Therefore he asked Lord Siva to be benedicted with such power that as soon as he would touch anyone's head, it would immediately crack, and the man would die. The demons are described in the Bhagavad-gita as duskrtinas, or miscreants. Krti means very meritorious, but when dus, is added, it means abominable. Instead of surrendering unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the duskrtinas worship different demigods in order to derive abominable material benefits. Sometimes such demons as material scientists discover lethal weapons. They cannot show their meritorious power by discovering something which can save man from death, but instead they discover weapons which accelerate the process of death. Because Lord Siva is powerful enough to give any benediction, the demon could have asked of him something beneficial for human society, but for his personal interest he asked that anyone whose head would be touched by his hand would at once die.
Lord Siva could understand the motive of the demon, and he was very sorry that he had assured him whatever benediction he liked. He would not withdraw his promise, but he was very sorry in his heart that he was to offer him a benediction so dangerous to human society. The demons are described as duskrtinas, miscreants, because although they have brain power and merit, the merit and brain power are used for abominable activities. Sometimes, for example, the materialistic demons discover a lethal weapon. The scientific research for such a discovery certainly requires a very good brain, but instead of discovering something beneficial to human society they discover something to accelerate the death which is already assured to every man. Similarly, Vrkasura, instead of asking Lord Siva for something beneficial to human society, asked for something very dangerous to human society. Therefore Lord Siva felt sorry within himself. Devotees of the Personality of Godhead, however, never ask any benediction from Lord Visnu or Krsna, and even if they ask something from the Lord, it is not at all dangerous for human society. That is the difference between the demons and the devotees, or the worshipers of Lord Siva and the worshipers of Lord Visnu.
While Sukadeva Gosvami was narrating the history of Vrkasura, he addressed Maharaja Pariksit as Bharata, referring to King Pariksit's birth in a family of devotees. Maharaja Pariksit was saved by Lord Krsna while he was in his mother's womb. Similarly, he could have asked Lord Krsna to save him from the curse of the brahmana, but he did not do so. The demon, however, wanted to become immortal by killing everyone with the touch of his hand. Lord Siva could understand this, but because he had promised, he gave him the benediction.
The demon, however, being very sinful, immediately decided that he would use the benediction to kill Lord Siva and take away Gauri (Parvati) for his personal enjoyment. He immediately decided to place his hand on the head of Lord Siva. Thus Lord Siva was put into an awkward position because he was endangered by his own benediction to a demon. This is also another instance of a materialistic devotee's misusing the power derived from the demigods.
Without further deliberation, the demon Vrkasura immediately approached Lord Siva to place his hand on Lord Siva's head. Lord Siva was so afraid of him that his body trembled, and he began to flee from the land to the sky and from the sky to other planets until he reached the limits of the universe, above the higher planetary systems. Lord Siva fled from one place to another, but the demon Vrkasura continued to chase him. The predominating deities of other planets, such as Brahma, Indra and Candra, could not find any way to save Lord Siva from the impending danger. Wherever Lord Siva went, they remained silent.
At last Lord Siva approached Lord Visnu, who is situated within this universe on the planet known as Svetadvipa. Svetadvipa is the local Vaikuntha planet beyond the jurisdiction of the influence of external energy. Lord Visnu in His all-pervasive feature remains everywhere, but wherever He remains personally is the Vaikuntha atmosphere. In the Bhagavad-gita it is stated that the Lord remains within the heart of all living entities. As such, the Lord remains within the heart of many low-born living entities, but that does not mean that He is low-born. Wherever He remains is transformed into Vaikuntha. So the planet within this universe known as Svetadvipa is also Vaikunthaloka. It is said in the sastras that residential quarters within the forest are in the mode of goodness, residential quarters in big cities, towns and villages are in the mode of passion, and residential quarters in an atmosphere wherein indulgence in the four sinful activities of illicit sex, intoxication, meat-eating and gambling predominate are in the mode of ignorance. But residential quarters in a temple of Visnu, the Supreme Lord, are in Vaikuntha. It doesn't matter where the temple is situated, but the temple itself, wherever it may be, is Vaikuntha. Similarly, the Svetadvipa planet, although within the material jurisdiction, is Vaikuntha.
Lord Siva finally entered Svetadvipa Vaikuntha. In Svetadvipa there are great saintly persons who are completely freed from the envious nature of the material world and are beyond the jurisdiction of the four principles of material activities, namely, religiousness, economic development, sense gratification and liberation. Anyone who enters into that Vaikuntha planet never comes back again to this material world. Lord Narayana is celebrated as a lover of His devotees, and as soon as He understood that Lord Siva was in great danger, He appeared as a brahmacari and personally approached Lord Siva to receive him from a distant place. The Lord appeared as a perfect brahmacari, with a belt around His waist, a sacred thread, deerskin, a brahmacari stick and raudra beads. (Raudra beads are different from tulasi beads. Raudra beads are used by the devotees of Lord Siva.) Dressed as a brahmacari, Lord Narayana stood before Lord Siva. The shining effulgence emanating from His body attracted not only Lord Siva but also the demon Vrkasura.
Lord Narayana offered his respects and obeisances unto Vrkasura, just to attract his sympathy and attention. Thus checking the demon, the Lord addressed him as follows: "My dear son of Sakuni, you appear to be very tired, as if coming from a very distant place. What is your purpose? Why have you come so far? I see that you are very tired and fatigued, so I request you to take a little rest. You should not unnecessarily tire your body. Everyone greatly values his body because with this body only can one fulfill all the desires of one's mind. We should not, therefore, unnecessarily give trouble to this body."
The brahmacari addressed Vrkasura as the son of Sakuni just to convince him that He was known to his father, Sakuni. Vrkasura then took the brahmacari to be someone known to his family, and therefore the brahmacari's sympathetic words appealed to him. Before the demon could argue that he had no time to take rest, the Lord began to inform him about the importance of the body, and the demon was convinced. Any man, especially a demon, takes his body to be very important. Thus Vrkasura became convinced about the importance of his body.
Then, just to pacify the demon, the brahmacari told him, "My dear lord, if you think that you can disclose the mission for which you have taken the trouble to come here, maybe I shall be able to help you so that your purpose will be easily served." Indirectly, the Lord informed him that because the Lord is the Supreme Brahman, certainly He would be able to adjust the awkward situation created by Lord Siva.
The demon was greatly pacified by the sweet words of Lord Narayana in the form of a brahmacari, and at last he disclosed all that had happened in regard to the benediction offered by Lord Siva. The Lord replied to the demon as follows: "I myself cannot believe that Lord Siva has in truth given you such a benediction. As far as I know, Lord Siva is not in a sane mental condition. He had a quarrel with his father-in-law Daksa, and he has been cursed to become a pisaca (ghost). Thus he has become the leader of the ghosts and hobgoblins. Therefore I cannot put any faith in his words. But if you have faith still in the words of Lord Siva, my dear King of the demons, then why don't you make an experiment by putting your hand on your head? If the benediction proves false, then you can immediately kill this liar, Lord Siva, so that in the future he will not dare to give out false benedictions."
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 Siva 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. The demigods from heaven began to shower flowers on Lord Narayana, praising Him with all glories and all thanksgiving, and they offered their obeisances to the Lord. On the death of Vrkasura, all the denizens in the higher planetary systems, namely, the demigods, the pitas, the Gandharvas and the inhabitants of Janoloka, began to shower flowers on the Personality of Godhead.
Thus Lord Visnu in the form of a brahmacari released Lord Siva from the impending danger and saved the whole situation. Lord Narayana then informed Lord Siva that this demon, Vrkasura, was killed as the result of his sinful activities. He was especially sinful and offensive because he wanted to experiment on his own master, Lord Siva. Lord Narayana then told Lord Siva, "My dear lord, a person who commits an offense to great souls cannot continue to exist. He becomes vanquished by his own sinful activities, and this is certainly true of this demon, who has committed such an offensive act against you."
Thus, by the grace of the Supreme Personality of Godhead Narayana, who is transcendental to all material qualities, Lord Siva was saved from being killed by a demon. Anyone who hears this history with faith and devotion certainly becomes liberated from material entanglement as well as from the clutches of his enemies.
Thus ends the Bhaktivedanta purport of the Eighty-eighth Chapter of Krsna, "Deliverance of Lord Siva."