Once, Lord Śiva, after giving a benediction to a demon named Vṛkāsura, the son of Śakuni, was himself entrapped in a very dangerous position.
Vṛkāsura was searching after a benediction and 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 Nārada 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 Brahmā, Lord Viṣṇu and Lord Śiva, who is most quickly satisfied?”
Nārada could understand the plan of the demon, and he advised him, “You had better worship Lord Śiva; then you will quickly get the desired result. Lord Śiva is very quickly satisfied and very quickly dissatisfied also. So you try to satisfy Lord Śiva.”
Nārada also cited instances wherein demons like Rāvaṇa and Bāṇāsura were enriched with great opulences simply by satisfying Lord Śiva with prayers. Because the great sage Nārada was aware of the nature of the demon Vṛkāsura, he did not advise him to approach Viṣṇu or Lord Brahmā. Persons such as Vṛkāsura, who are situated in the material mode of ignorance, cannot stick to the worship of Viṣṇu.
After receiving instruction from Nārada, the demon Vṛkāsura went to Kedāranātha.
The pilgrimage site of Kedāranātha still exists. 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. Kedāranātha is for the devotees of Lord Śiva.
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 śāstras that gods are to be offered something to eat through the fire.
The demon Vṛkāsura therefore went to Kedāranātha and ignited a sacrificial fire to please Lord Śiva.
After igniting the fire in the name of Lord Śiva, to please him Vṛkāsura began to offer his own flesh by cutting it from his body.
Here is an instance of worship in the mode of ignorance.
In the Bhagavad-gītā, different types of sacrifices 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, Kṛṣṇa consciousness, is the topmost yoga and the topmost sacrifice. As confirmed in the Bhagavad-gītā, the topmost yoga is to think always of Lord Kṛṣṇa within the heart, and the topmost sacrifice is to perform the saṅkīrtana-yajña.
Although Vṛkāsura continued his sacrifice for six days, he was unable to personally see Lord Śiva, which was his objective; he wanted to see him face to face and ask him for a benediction. Here is another contrast between demons and devotees.
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 does not worship Viṣṇu or Lord Kṛṣṇa for any benediction. Therefore a devotee is called akāma, free of desire, and a nondevotee is called sarva-kāma, or desirous of everything.
On the seventh day, the demon Vṛkāsura decided that he should cut off his head and offer it to satisfy Lord Śiva. 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 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 Śiva became very compassionate.
This compassion is a symptom of the quality of goodness. 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 Śiva was aroused not because the demon was offering his flesh into the sacrificial fire but because he was about to commit suicide. This is natural compassion. Even if a common man sees someone preparing to commit suicide, he will try to save him. He does so automatically. There is no need to appeal to him. Therefore when Lord Śiva appeared from the fire to check the demon from suicide, it was not done as a very great favor to him.
Lord Śiva’s touch saved the demon from committing suicide; his bodily injuries immediately healed, and his body became as it was before.
Then Lord Śiva told the demon, “My dear Vṛkāsura, you do not need to cut off your head. You may 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 śiva-liṅga in the temple or the form of Lord Śiva in the temple is worshiped simply by offering Ganges water, because it is said that Lord Śiva 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 Śiva and Goddess Durgā. The fruit of this tree is also offered to Lord Śiva.
Lord Śiva assured Vṛkāsura that he is satisfied by a very simple process of worship. Why then was he so eager 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 Śiva prepared to give him any benediction he liked.
When the demon was offered this facility by Lord Śiva, he asked for a 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 Śiva to bless him with such power that as soon as he would touch anyone’s head, it would immediately crack and the man would die.
Vṛkāsura, instead of asking Lord Śiva for something beneficial to human society, asked for something very dangerous to human society.
Lord Śiva is powerful enough to give any benediction, so the demon could have asked something beneficial from him, but for his personal interest he asked that anyone whose head would be touched by his hand would at once die.
Lord Śiva could understand the motive of the demon, and he was very sorry that he had assured him whatever benediction he liked.
He could 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. Devotees of the Personality of Godhead never ask any benediction from Lord Viṣṇu, or Kṛṣṇa, 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 Śiva and the worshipers of Lord Viṣṇu.
The demon, wanted to become immortal by killing everyone with the touch of his hand. Lord Śiva 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 Śiva and take away Gaurī (Pārvatī) for his personal enjoyment. He immediately decided to place his hand on the head of Lord Śiva. Thus Lord Śiva was put into an awkward position because he was endangered by his own benediction to a demon. This is an instance of a materialistic devotee’s misusing the power derived from the demigods.
Without further deliberation, the demon Vṛkāsura approached Lord Śiva to place his hand on Lord Śiva’s head.
Lord Śiva was so afraid of him that his body trembled, and he fled 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 Śiva fled from one place to another, but the demon Vṛkāsura continued to chase him.
The predominating deities of other planets, such as Brahmā, Indra and Candra, could not find any way to save Lord Śiva from the impending danger. Wherever Lord Śiva went, they remained silent.
At last Lord Śiva approached Lord Viṣṇu, who is situated within this universe on the planet known as Śvetadvīpa. Śvetadvīpa is the local Vaikuṇṭha planet, beyond the jurisdiction of the influence of the external energy.
In Śvetadvīpa 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 activity, namely religiosity, economic development, sense gratification and liberation.
Anyone who enters into that Vaikuṇṭha planet never returns to this material world. Lord Nārāyaṇa is celebrated as a lover of His devotees, and as soon as He understood that Lord Śiva was in great danger, He appeared as a brahmacārī and personally approached Lord Śiva to receive him from a distant place.
The Lord appeared as a perfect brahmacārī, with a belt around His waist, a sacred thread, a deerskin, a brahmacārī stick and raudra beads. (Raudra beads are different from tulasī beads. Raudra beads are used by the devotees of Lord Śiva). Dressed as a brahmacārī, Lord Nārāyaṇa stood before Lord Śiva. The shining effulgence emanating from His body attracted not only Lord Śiva but also the demon Vṛkāsura.
Lord Nārāyaṇa offered His respects and obeisances unto Vṛkāsura just to attract his sympathy and attention.
Thus stopping the demon, the Lord addressed him as follows: “My dear son of Śakuni, you appear 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 fatigued, so I request you to take a little rest. You should not unnecessarily tire your body. Everyone greatly values his body because only with the body can one fulfill all the desires of one’s mind. We should not, therefore, unnecessarily give trouble to the body.”
The brahmacārī addressed Vṛkāsura as the son of Śakuni just to convince him that He was known to his father, Śakuni.
Vṛkāsura then took the brahmacārī to be someone known to his family, and therefore the brahmacārī’s sympathetic words appealed to him.
Before the demon could argue that he had no time to take rest, the Lord informed 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 Vṛkāsura became convinced about the importance of his body.
The demon was greatly pacified by the sweet words of Lord Nārāyaṇa in the form of a brahmacārī, and at last he disclosed all that had happened in regard to the benediction offered by Lord Śiva.
The Lord replied to the demon as follows: “I Myself cannot believe that Lord Śiva has in truth given you such a benediction. As far as I know, Lord Śiva is not in a sane mental condition. When he had a quarrel with his father-in-law, Dakṣa, he was cursed to become a piśāca (ghost). Thus he has become the leader of the ghosts and hobgoblins. Therefore I cannot put any faith in his words. But if you still have faith in the words of Lord Śiva, my dear King of the demons, then why don’t you make an experiment by putting your hand on your own head? If the benediction proves false, then you can at once kill this liar, Lord Śiva, so that in the future he will not dare give out false benedictions.”
In this way, by Lord Nārāyaṇa’s sweet words and by the expansion of His superior illusion, the demon became bewildered, and he actually forgot the power of Lord Śiva 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 a thunderbolt, and he immediately died.
The demigods from heaven showered flowers on Lord Nārāyaṇa, praising Him with shouts of “All glories!” and “All thanksgiving!” and they offered their obeisances to the Lord.
Thus Lord Viṣṇu in the form of a brahmacārī released Lord Śiva from the impending danger and saved the whole situation.
Lord Nārāyaṇa then informed Lord Śiva that this demon, Vṛkāsura, 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 Śiva.
Lord Nārāyaṇa then told Lord Śiva, “My dear lord, a person who commits an offense to great souls cannot continue to exist. He is 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, Nārāyaṇa, who is transcendental to all material qualities, Lord Śiva was saved from being killed by a demon.
( This story is frim Srimad Bhagavatam narated by Srila Šrabhupada in his Bhaktivedanta purport of the Eighty-eighth Chapter of Kṛṣṇa, “The Deliverance of Lord Śiva.” )
Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare
Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
PS: I humbly request all the devotees to please forward and share this moral / instructive stories they hear so that everyone can be benefited by hearing about Krishna and his dear devotees.