Chapter Seven
Lord Śiva Saves the Universe by Drinking Poison
The summary of the Seventh Chapter is as follows. As described in this chapter, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, appearing in His incarnation as a tortoise, dove deep into the ocean to carry Mandara Mountain on His back. At first the churning of the ocean produced kālakūṭa poison. Everyone feared this poison, but Lord Śiva satisfied them by drinking it.
With the understanding that when the nectar was generated from the churning they would share it equally, the demigods and the demons brought Vāsuki to be used as the rope for the churning rod. By the expert arrangement of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the demons held the snake near the mouth, whereas the demigods held the tail of the great snake. Then, with great endeavor, they began pulling the snake in both directions. Because the churning rod, Mandara Mountain, was very heavy and was not held by any support in the water, it sank into the ocean, and in this way the prowess of both the demons and the demigods was vanquished. The Supreme Personality of Godhead then appeared in the form of a tortoise and supported Mandara Mountain on His back. Then the churning resumed with great force. As a result of the churning, a huge amount of poison was produced. The prajāpatis, seeing no one else to save them, approached Lord Śiva and offered him prayers full of truth. Lord Śiva is called Āśutoṣa because he is very pleased if one is a devotee. Therefore he easily agreed to drink all the poison generated by the churning. The goddess Durgā, Bhavānī, the wife of Lord Śiva, was not at all disturbed when Lord Śiva agreed to drink the poison, for she knew Lord Śiva’s prowess. Indeed, she expressed her pleasure at this agreement. Then Lord Śiva gathered the devastating poison, which was everywhere. He took it in his hand and drank it. After he drank the poison, his neck became bluish. A small quantity of the poison dropped from his hands to the ground, and it is because of this poison that there are poisonous snakes, scorpions, toxic plants and other poisonous things in this world.
śrī-śuka uvāca
te nāga-rājam āmantrya
phala-bhāgena vāsukim
parivīya girau tasmin
netram abdhiṁ mudānvitāḥ
ārebhire surā yattā
amṛtārthe kurūdvaha
śrī-śukaḥ uvāca—Śrī Śukadeva Gosvāmī said; te—all of them (the demigods and the demons); nāga-rājam—the king of the Nāgas, snakes; āmantrya—inviting, or requesting; phala-bhāgena—by promising a share of the nectar; vāsukim—the snake Vāsuki; parivīya—encircling; girauMandara Mountain; tasmin—unto it; netram—the churning rope; abdhim—the ocean of milk; mudā anvitāḥ—all surcharged with great pleasure; ārebhire—began to act; surāḥ—the demigods; yattāḥ—with great endeavor; amṛta-arthe—for gaining nectar; kuru-udvaha—O King Parīkṣit, best of the Kurus.
Śukadeva Gosvāmī said: O best of the Kurus, Mahārāja Parīkṣit, the demigods and demons summoned Vāsuki, king of the serpents, requesting him to come and promising to give him a share of the nectar. They coiled Vāsuki around Mandara Mountain as a churning rope, and with great pleasure they endeavored to produce nectar by churning the ocean of milk.
hariḥ purastāj jagṛhe
pūrvaṁ devās tato ’bhavan
hariḥ—the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Ajita; purastāt—from the front; jagṛhe—took; pūrvam—at first; devāḥ—the demigods; tataḥ—thereafter; abhavan—took the front portion of Vāsuki.
The Personality of Godhead, Ajita, grasped the front portion of the snake, and then the demigods followed.
tan naicchan daitya-patayo
na gṛhṇīmo vayaṁ puccham
aher aṅgam amaṅgalam
prakhyātā janma-karmabhiḥ
tat—that arrangement; na aicchan—not liking; daitya-patayaḥ—the leaders of the demons; mahā-puruṣa—of the Supreme Personality of Godhead; ceṣṭitam—attempt; na—not; gṛhṇīmaḥ—shall take; vayam—all of us (the Daityas); puccham—the tail; aheḥ—of the serpent; aṅgam—part of the body; amaṅgalam—inauspicious, inferior; svādhyāya—with Vedic study; śruta—and Vedic knowledge; sampannāḥ—fully equipped; prakhyātāḥ—prominent; janma-karmabhiḥ—by birth and activities.
The leaders of the demons thought it unwise to hold the tail, the inauspicious portion of the snake. Instead, they wanted to hold the front, which had been taken by the Personality of Godhead and the demigods, because that portion was auspicious and glorious. Thus the demons, on the plea that they were all highly advanced students of Vedic knowledge and were all famous for their birth and activities, protested that they wanted to hold the front of the snake.
The demons thought that the front of the snake was auspicious and that catching hold of that portion would be more chivalrous. Moreover, Daityas must always do the opposite of the demigods. That is their nature. We have actually seen this in relation to our Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement. We are advocating cow protection and encouraging people to drink more milk and eat palatable preparations made of milk, but the demons, just to protest such proposals, are claiming that they are advanced in scientific knowledge, as described here by the words svādhyāya-śruta-sampannāḥ. They say that according to their scientific way, they have discovered that milk is dangerous and that the beef obtained by killing cows is very nutritious. This difference of opinion will always continue. Indeed, it has existed since days of yore. Millions of years ago, there was the same competition. The demons, as a result of their so-called Vedic study, preferred to hold the side of the snake near the mouth. The Supreme Personality of Godhead thought it wise to catch hold of the dangerous part of the snake and allow the demons to hold the tail, which was not dangerous, but because of a competitive desire, the demons thought it wise to hold the snake near the mouth. If the demigods were going to drink poison, the demons would resolve, “Why should we not share the poison and die gloriously by drinking it?”
In regard to the words svādhyāya-śruta-sampannāḥ prakhyātā janma-karmabhiḥ, another question may be raised. If one is actually educated in Vedic knowledge, is famous for performing prescribed activities and has been born in a great aristocratic family, why should he be called a demon? The answer is that one may be highly educated and may have been born in an aristocratic family, but if he is godless, if he does not listen to the instructions of God, then he is a demon. There are many examples in history of men like Hiraṇyakaśipu, Rāvaṇa and Kaṁsa who were well educated, who were born in aristocratic families and who were very powerful and chivalrous in fighting, but who, because of deriding the Supreme Personality of Godhead, were called Rākṣasas, or demons. One may be very well educated, but if he has no sense of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, no obedience to the Supreme Lord, he is a demon. That is described by the Lord Himself in Bhagavad-gītā (7.15):
“Those miscreants who are grossly foolish, lowest among mankind, whose knowledge is stolen by illusion, and who partake of the atheistic nature of demons, do not surrender unto Me.” Āsuraṁ bhāvam refers to not accepting the existence of God or the transcendental instructions of the Personality of Godhead. Bhagavad-gītā clearly consists of transcendental instructions imparted directly by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. But asuras, instead of accepting these instructions directly, make commentaries according to their own whimsical ways and mislead everyone, without profit even for themselves. One should therefore be very careful of demoniac, godless persons. According to the words of Lord Kṛṣṇa, even if a godless demon is very well educated, he must be considered a mūḍha, narādhama and māyayāpahṛta jñāna.
iti tūṣṇīṁ sthitān daityān
vilokya puruṣottamaḥ
smayamāno visṛjyāgraṁ
pucchaṁ jagrāha sāmaraḥ
iti—thus; tūṣṇīm—silently; sthitān—staying; daityān—the demons; vilokya—seeing; puruṣa-uttamaḥ—the Personality of Godhead; smayamānaḥ—smiling; visṛjya—giving up; agram—the front portion of the snake; puccham—the rear portion; jagrāha—grasped; sa-amaraḥ—with the demigods.
Thus the demons remained silent, opposing the desire of the demigods. Seeing the demons and understanding their motive, the Personality of Godhead smiled. Without discussion, He immediately accepted their proposal by grasping the tail of the snake, and the demigods followed Him.
kṛta-sthāna-vibhāgās ta
evaṁ kaśyapa-nandanāḥ
mamanthuḥ paramaṁ yattā
amṛtārthaṁ payo-nidhim
kṛta—adjusting; sthāna-vibhāgāḥ—the division of the places they were to hold; te—they; evam—in this way; kaśyapa-nandanāḥ—the sons of Kaśyapa (both the demigods and the demons); mamanthuḥ—churned; paramam—with great; yattāḥ—endeavor; amṛta-artham—for getting nectar; payaḥ-nidhim—the ocean of milk.
After thus adjusting how the snake was to be held, the sons of Kaśyapa, both demigods and demons, began their activities, desiring to get nectar by churning the ocean of milk.
mathyamāne ’rṇave so ’drir
anādhāro hy apo ’viśat
dhriyamāṇo ’pi balibhir
gauravāt pāṇḍu-nandana
mathyamāne—while the churning was going on; arṇave—in the ocean of milk; saḥ—that; adriḥ—hill; anādhāraḥ—without being supported by anything; hi—indeed; apaḥ—in the water; aviśat—drowned; dhriyamāṇaḥ—captured; api—although; balibhiḥ—by the powerful demigods and demons; gauravāt—from being very heavy; pāṇḍu-nandana—O son of Pāṇḍu (Mahārāja Parīkṣit).
O son of the Pāṇḍu dynasty, when Mandara Mountain was thus being used as a churning rod in the ocean of milk, it had no support, and therefore although held by the strong hands of the demigods and demons, it sank into the water.
te sunirviṇṇa-manasaḥ
āsan sva-pauruṣe naṣṭe
te—all of them (the demigods and demons); sunirviṇṇa-manasaḥ—their minds being very disappointed; parimlāna—dried up; mukha-śriyaḥ—the beauty of their faces; āsan—became; sva-pauruṣe—with their own prowess; naṣṭe—being lost; daivena—by a providential arrangement; ati-balīyasā—which is always stronger than anything else.
Because the mountain had been sunk by the strength of providence, the demigods and demons were disappointed, and their faces seemed to shrivel.
vilokya vighneśa-vidhiṁ tadeśvaro
duranta-vīryo ’vitathābhisandhiḥ
kṛtvā vapuḥ kacchapam adbhutaṁ mahat
praviśya toyaṁ girim ujjahāra
vilokya—observing; vighna—the obstruction (the sinking of the mountain); īśa-vidhim—by the providential arrangement; tadā—then; īśvaraḥ—the Supreme Personality of Godhead; duranta-vīryaḥ—inconceivably powerful; avitatha—infallible; abhisandhiḥ—whose determination; kṛtvā—expanding; vapuḥ—body; kacchapam—tortoise; adbhutam—wonderful; mahat—very great; praviśya—entering; toyam—the water; girim—the mountain (Mandara); ujjahāra—lifted.
Seeing the situation that had been created by the will of the Supreme, the unlimitedly powerful Lord, whose determination is infallible, took the wonderful shape of a tortoise, entered the water, and lifted the great Mandara Mountain.
Here is evidence that the Supreme Personality of Godhead is the supreme controller of everything. As we have previously described, there are two classes of men—the demons and the demigods—but neither of them are supremely powerful. Everyone has experienced that hindrances are imposed upon us by the supreme power. The demons regard these hindrances as mere accidents or chance, but devotees accept them to be acts of the supreme ruler. When faced with hindrances, therefore, devotees pray to the Lord. Tat te ’nukampāṁ susamīkṣamāṇo bhuñjāna evātma-kṛtaṁ vipākam. Devotees endure hindrances, accepting them to be caused by the Supreme Personality of Godhead and regarding them as benedictions. Demons, however, being unable to understand the supreme controller, regard such hindrances as accidental. Here, of course, the Supreme Personality of Godhead was present personally. It was by His will that there were hindrances, and by His will those hindrances were removed. The Lord appeared as a tortoise to support the great mountain. Kṣitir iha vipulatare tava tiṣṭhati pṛṣṭhe. The Lord held the great mountain on His back. Keśava dhṛta-kūrma-śarīra jaya jagadīśa hare. Dangers can be created by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and they can also be removed by Him. This is known to devotees, but demons cannot understand it.
tam utthitaṁ vīkṣya kulācalaṁ punaḥ
samudyatā nirmathituṁ surāsurāḥ
dadhāra pṛṣṭhena sa lakṣa-yojana-
prastāriṇā dvīpa ivāparo mahān
tam—that mountain; utthitam—lifted; vīkṣya—observing; kulācalam—known as Mandara; punaḥ—again; samudyatāḥ—enlivened; nirmathitum—to churn the ocean of milk; sura-asurāḥ—the demigods and the demons; dadhāra—carried; pṛṣṭhena—by the back; saḥ—the Supreme Lord; lakṣa-yojana—one hundred thousand yojanas (eight hundred thousand miles); prastāriṇā—extending; dvīpaḥ—a big island; iva—like; aparaḥ—another; mahān—very big.
When the demigods and demons saw that Mandara Mountain had been lifted, they were enlivened and encouraged to begin churning again. The mountain rested on the back of the great tortoise, which extended for eight hundred thousand miles like a large island.
surāsurendrair bhuja-vīrya-vepitaṁ
paribhramantaṁ girim aṅga pṛṣṭhataḥ
bibhrat tad-āvartanam ādi-kacchapo
mene ’ṅga-kaṇḍūyanam aprameyaḥ
sura-asura-indraiḥ—by the leaders of the demons and the demigods; bhuja-vīrya—by the strength of their arms; vepitam—moving; paribhramantam—rotating; girim—the mountain; aṅga—O Mahārāja Parīkṣit; pṛṣṭhataḥ—on His back; bibhrat—bore; tat—of that; āvartanam—the rotating; ādi-kacchapaḥ—as the supreme original tortoise; mene—considered; aṅga-kaṇḍūyanam—as pleasing scratching of the body; aprameyaḥ—unlimited.
O King, when the demigods and demons, by the strength of their arms, rotated Mandara Mountain on the back of the extraordinary tortoise, the tortoise accepted the rolling of the mountain as a means of scratching His body, and thus He felt a pleasing sensation.
The Supreme Personality of Godhead is always the unlimited. Although the Supreme Personality of Godhead, in His body as a tortoise, held on His back the largest of mountains, Mandara-parvata, He did not feel any inconvenience. On the contrary, He apparently felt some itching, and thus the rotation of the mountain was certainly very pleasing.
tathāsurān āviśad āsureṇa
rūpeṇa teṣāṁ bala-vīryam īrayan
uddīpayan deva-gaṇāṁś ca viṣṇur
daivena nāgendram abodha-rūpaḥ
tathā—thereafter; asurān—unto the demons; āviśat—entered; āsureṇa—by the quality of passion; rūpeṇa—in such a form; teṣām—of them; bala-vīryam—strength and energy; īrayan—increasing; uddīpayan—encouraging; deva-gaṇān—the demigods; ca—also; viṣṇuḥ—Lord Viṣṇu; daivena—by the feature of goodness; nāga-indram—unto the King of the serpents, Vāsuki; abodha-rūpaḥ—by the quality of ignorance.
Thereafter, Lord Viṣṇu entered the demons as the quality of passion, the demigods as the quality of goodness, and Vāsuki as the quality of ignorance to encourage them and increase their various types of strength and energy.
Everyone in this material world is under the different modes of material nature. There were three different parties in the churning of Mandara Mountain—the demigods, who were in the mode of goodness, the demons, who were in the mode of passion, and the snake Vāsuki, who was in the mode of ignorance. Since they were all becoming tired (Vāsuki so much so that he was almost going to die), Lord Viṣṇu, to encourage them to continue the work of churning the ocean, entered into them according to their respective modes of nature—goodness, passion and ignorance.
upary agendraṁ giri-rāḍ ivānya
ākramya hastena sahasra-bāhuḥ
tasthau divi brahma-bhavendra-mukhyair
abhiṣṭuvadbhiḥ sumano-’bhivṛṣṭaḥ
upari—on the top of; agendram—the big mountain; giri-rāṭ—the king of mountains; iva—like; anyaḥ—another; ākramya—catching; hastena—by one hand; sahasra-bāhuḥ—exhibiting thousands of hands; tasthau—situated; divi—in the sky; brahma—Lord Brahmā; bhava—Lord Śiva; indra—the King of heaven; mukhyaiḥ—headed by; abhiṣṭuvadbhiḥ—offered prayers to the Lord; sumanaḥ—by flowers; abhivṛṣṭaḥ—being showered.
Manifesting Himself with thousands of hands, the Lord then appeared on the summit of Mandara Mountain, like another great mountain, and held Mandara Mountain with one hand. In the upper planetary systems, Lord Brahmā and Lord Śiva, along with Indra, King of heaven, and other demigods, offered prayers to the Lord and showered flowers upon Him.
To balance Mandara Mountain while it was being pulled from both sides, the Lord Himself appeared on its summit like another great mountain. Lord Brahmā, Lord Śiva and King Indra then expanded themselves and showered flowers on the Lord.
upary adhaś cātmani gotra-netrayoḥ
pareṇa te prāviśatā samedhitāḥ
mamanthur abdhiṁ tarasā madotkaṭā
mahādriṇā kṣobhita-nakra-cakram
upari—upward; adhaḥ ca—and downward; ātmani—unto the demons and demigods; gotra-netrayoḥ—unto the mountain and Vāsuki, who was used as a rope; pareṇa—the Supreme Personality of Godhead; te—they; prāviśatā—entering them; samedhitāḥ—sufficiently agitated; mamanthuḥ—churned; abdhim—the ocean of milk; tarasā—with great strength; mada-utkaṭāḥ—being mad; mahā-adriṇā—with the great Mandara Mountain; kṣobhita—agitated; nakra-cakram—all the alligators in the water.
The demigods and demons worked almost madly for the nectar, encouraged by the Lord, who was above and below the mountain and who had entered the demigods, the demons, Vāsuki and the mountain itself. Because of the strength of the demigods and demons, the ocean of milk was so powerfully agitated that all the alligators in the water were very much perturbed. Nonetheless the churning of the ocean continued in this way.
śvāsāgni-dhūmāhata-varcaso ’surāḥ
davāgni-dagdhāḥ saralā ivābhavan
ahīndra—of the King of serpents; sāhasra—by thousands; kaṭhora—very, very hard; dṛk—all directions; mukha—by the mouth; śvāsa—breathing; agni—fire coming out; dhūma—smoke; āhata—being affected; varcasaḥ—by the rays; asurāḥ—the demons; paulomaPauloma; kāleyaKāleya; baliBali; ilvalaIlvala; ādayaḥ—headed by; dava-agni—by a forest fire; dagdhāḥ—burned; saralāḥsarala trees; iva—like; abhavan—all of them became.
Vāsuki had thousands of eyes and mouths. From his mouths he breathed smoke and blazing fire, which affected the demons, headed by Pauloma, Kāleya, Bali and Ilvala. Thus the demons, who appeared like sarala trees burned by a forest fire, gradually became powerless.
devāṁś ca tac-chvāsa-śikhā-hata-prabhān
samabhyavarṣan bhagavad-vaśā ghanā
vavuḥ samudrormy-upagūḍha-vāyavaḥ
devān—all the demigods; ca—also; tat—of Vāsuki; śvāsa—from the breathing; śikhā—by the flames; hata—being affected; prabhān—their bodily luster; dhūmra—smoky; ambara—dress; srak-vara—excellent garlands; kañcuka—armaments; ānanān—and faces; samabhyavarṣan—sufficiently rained; bhagavat-vaśāḥ—under the control of the Supreme Personality of Godhead; ghanāḥ—clouds; vavuḥ—blew; samudra—of the ocean of milk; ūrmi—from the waves; upagūḍha—bearing fragments of water; vāyavaḥ—breezes.
Because the demigods were also affected by the blazing breath of Vāsuki, their bodily lusters diminished, and their garments, garlands, weapons and faces were blackened by smoke. However, by the grace of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, clouds appeared on the sea, pouring torrents of rain, and breezes blew, carrying particles of water from the sea waves, to give the demigods relief.
mathyamānāt tathā sindhor
yadā sudhā na jāyeta
nirmamanthājitaḥ svayam
mathyamānāt—sufficiently being churned; tathā—in this way; sindhoḥ—from the ocean of milk; deva—of the demigods; asura—and the demons; varūtha-paiḥ—by the best; yadā—when; sudhā—nectar; na jāyeta—did not come out; nirmamantha—churned; ajitaḥ—the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Ajita; svayam—personally.
When nectar did not come from the ocean of milk, despite so much endeavor by the best of the demigods and demons, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Ajita, personally began to churn the ocean.
megha-śyāmaḥ kanaka-paridhiḥ karṇa-vidyota-vidyun
mūrdhni bhrājad-vilulita-kacaḥ srag-dharo rakta-netraḥ
jaitrair dorbhir jagad-abhaya-dair dandaśūkaṁ gṛhītvā
mathnan mathnā pratigirir ivāśobhatātho dhṛtādriḥ
megha-śyāmaḥ—blackish like a cloud; kanaka-paridhiḥ—wearing yellow garments; karṇa—on the ears; vidyota-vidyut—whose earrings shone like lightning; mūrdhni—on the head; bhrājat—gleaming; vilulita—disheveled; kacaḥ—whose hair; srak-dharaḥ—wearing a flower garland; rakta-netraḥ—with red eyes; jaitraiḥ—with victorious; dorbhiḥ—with arms; jagat—to the universe; abhaya-daiḥ—which give fearlessness; dandaśūkam—the snake (Vāsuki); gṛhītvā—after taking; mathnan—churning; mathnā—by the churning rod (Mandara Mountain); pratigiriḥ—another mountain; iva—like; aśobhata—He appeared; atho—then; dhṛta-adriḥ—having taken the mountain.
The Lord appeared like a blackish cloud. He was dressed with yellow garments, His earrings shone on His ears like lightning, and His hair spread over His shoulders. He wore a garland of flowers, and His eyes were pinkish. With His strong, glorious arms, which award fearlessness throughout the universe, He took hold of Vāsuki and began churning the ocean, using Mandara Mountain as a churning rod. When engaged in this way, the Lord appeared like a beautifully situated mountain named Indranīla.
nirmathyamānād udadher abhūd viṣaṁ
maholbaṇaṁ hālahalāhvam agrataḥ
nirmathyamānāt—while the activities of churning were going on; udadheḥ—from the ocean; abhūt—there was; viṣam—poison; mahā-ulbaṇam—very fierce; hālahala-āhvam—by the name hālahala; agrataḥ—at first; sambhrānta—agitated and going here and there; mīna—various kinds of fish; unmakara—sharks; ahi—different kinds of snakes; kacchapāt—and many kinds of tortoises; timi—whales; dvipa—water elephants; grāha—crocodiles; timiṅgila—whales that can swallow whales; ākulāt—being very much agitated.
The fish, sharks, tortoises and snakes were most agitated and perturbed. The entire ocean became turbulent, and even the large aquatic animals like whales, water elephants, crocodiles and timiṅgila fish [large whales that can swallow small whales] came to the surface. While the ocean was being churned in this way, it first produced a fiercely dangerous poison called hālahala.
tad ugra-vegaṁ diśi diśy upary adho
visarpad utsarpad asahyam aprati
bhītāḥ prajā dudruvur aṅga seśvarā
arakṣyamāṇāḥ śaraṇaṁ sadāśivam
tat—that; ugra-vegam—very fierce and potent poison; diśi diśi—in all directions; upari—upward; adhaḥ—downward; visarpat—curling; utsarpat—going upward; asahyam—unbearable; aprati—uncontrollable; bhītāḥ—being very much afraid; prajāḥ—the residents of all the worlds; dudruvuḥ—moved here and there; aṅga—O Mahārāja Parīkṣit; sa-īśvarāḥ—with the Supreme Lord; arakṣyamāṇāḥ—not being protected; śaraṇam—shelter; sadāśivam—unto the lotus feet of Lord Śiva.
O King, when that uncontrollable poison was forcefully spreading up and down in all directions, all the demigods, along with the Lord Himself, approached Lord Śiva [Sadāśiva]. Feeling unsheltered and very much afraid, they sought shelter of him.
One may question that since the Supreme Personality of Godhead was personally present, why did He accompany all the demigods and people in general to take shelter of Lord Sadāśiva, instead of intervening Himself. In this connection Śrīla Madhvācārya warns:
rudrasya yaśaso ’rthāya
svayaṁ viṣṇur viṣaṁ vibhuḥ
na sañjahre samartho ’pi
vāyuṁ coce praśāntaye
Lord Viṣṇu was competent to rectify the situation, but in order to give credit to Lord Śiva, who later drank all the poison and kept it in his neck, Lord Viṣṇu did not take action.
vilokya taṁ deva-varaṁ tri-lokyā
bhavāya devyābhimataṁ munīnām
āsīnam adrāv apavarga-hetos
tapo juṣāṇaṁ stutibhiḥ praṇemuḥ
vilokya—observing; tam—him; deva-varam—the best of the demigods; tri-lokyāḥ—of the three worlds; bhavāya—for the flourishing; devyā—with his wife, Bhavānī; abhimatam—accepted by; munīnām—great saintly persons; āsīnam—sitting together; adrau—from the top of Kailāsa Hill; apavarga-hetoḥ—desiring liberation; tapaḥ—in austerity; juṣāṇam—being served by them; stutibhiḥ—by prayers; praṇemuḥ—offered their respectful obeisances.
The demigods observed Lord Śiva sitting on the summit of Kailāsa Hill with his wife, Bhavānī, for the auspicious development of the three worlds. He was being worshiped by great saintly persons desiring liberation. The demigods offered him their obeisances and prayers with great respect.
śrī-prajāpataya ūcuḥ
deva-deva mahā-deva
bhūtātman bhūta-bhāvana
trāhi naḥ śaraṇāpannāṁs
trailokya-dahanād viṣāt
śrī-prajāpatayaḥ ūcuḥ—the prajāpatis said; deva-deva—O Lord Mahādeva, best of the demigods; mahā-deva—O great demigod; bhūta-ātman—O life and soul of everyone in this world; bhūta-bhāvana—O the cause of the happiness and flourishing of all of them; trāhi—deliver; naḥ—us; śaraṇa-āpannān—who have taken shelter at your lotus feet; trailokya—of the three worlds; dahanāt—which is causing the burning; viṣāt—from this poison.
The prajāpatis said: O greatest of all demigods, Mahādeva, Supersoul of all living entities and cause of their happiness and prosperity, we have come to the shelter of your lotus feet. Now please save us from this fiery poison, which is spreading all over the three worlds.
Since Lord Śiva is in charge of annihilation, why should he be approached for protection, which is given by Lord Viṣṇu? Lord Brahmā creates, and Lord Śiva annihilates, but both Lord Brahmā and Lord Śiva are incarnations of Lord Viṣṇu and are known as śaktyāveśa-avatāras. They are endowed with a special power like that of Lord Viṣṇu, who is actually all-pervading in their activities. Therefore whenever prayers for protection are offered to Lord Śiva, actually Lord Viṣṇu is indicated, for otherwise Lord Śiva is meant for destruction. Lord Śiva is one of the īśvaras, or the controllers known as śaktyāveśa-avatāras. Therefore he can be addressed as having the qualities of Lord Viṣṇu.
tvam ekaḥ sarva-jagata
īśvaro bandha-mokṣayoḥ
taṁ tvām arcanti kuśalāḥ
prapannārti-haraṁ gurum
tvam ekaḥ—Your Lordship is indeed; sarva-jagataḥ—of the three worlds; īśvaraḥ—the controller; bandha-mokṣayoḥ—of both bondage and liberation; tam—that controller; tvām arcanti—worship you; kuśalāḥ—persons who want good fortune; prapanna-ārti-haram—who can mitigate all the distresses of a sheltered devotee; gurum—you who act as a good advisor to all fallen souls.
O lord, you are the cause of bondage and liberation of the entire universe because you are its ruler. Those who are advanced in spiritual consciousness surrender unto you, and therefore you are the cause of mitigating their distresses, and you are also the cause of their liberation. We therefore worship Your Lordship.
Actually Lord Viṣṇu maintains and accomplishes all good fortune. If one has to take shelter of Lord Viṣṇu, why should the demigods take shelter of Lord Śiva? They did so because Lord Viṣṇu acts through Lord Śiva in the creation of the material world. Lord Śiva acts on behalf of Lord Viṣṇu. When the Lord says in Bhagavad-gītā (14.4) that He is the father of all living entities (ahaṁ bīja-pradaḥ pitā), this refers to actions performed by Lord Viṣṇu through Lord Śiva. Lord Viṣṇu is always unattached to material activities, and when material activities are to be performed, Lord Viṣṇu performs them through Lord Śiva. Lord Śiva is therefore worshiped on the level of Lord Viṣṇu. When Lord Viṣṇu is untouched by the external energy He is Lord Viṣṇu, but when He is in touch with the external energy, He appears in His feature as Lord Śiva.
guṇa-mayyā sva-śaktyāsya
sarga-sthity-apyayān vibho
dhatse yadā sva-dṛg bhūman
guṇa-mayyā—acting in three modes of activity; sva-śaktyā—by the external energy of Your Lordship; asya—of this material world; sarga-sthiti-apyayān—creation, maintenance and annihilation; vibho—O lord; dhatse—you execute; yadā—when; sva-dṛk—you manifest yourself; bhūman—O great one; brahma-viṣṇu-śiva-abhidhām—as Lord Brahmā, Lord Viṣṇu or Lord Śiva.
O lord, you are self-effulgent and supreme. You create this material world by your personal energy, and you assume the names Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Maheśvara when you act in creation, maintenance and annihilation.
This prayer is actually offered to Lord Viṣṇu, the puruṣa, who in His incarnations as the guṇa-avatāras assumes the names Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Maheśvara.
tvaṁ brahma paramaṁ guhyaṁ
nānā-śaktibhir ābhātas
tvam ātmā jagad-īśvaraḥ
tvam—Your Lordship; brahma—impersonal Brahman; paramam—supreme; guhyam—confidential; sat-asat-bhāva-bhāvanam—the cause of varieties of creation, its cause and effect; nānā-śaktibhiḥ—with varieties of potencies; ābhātaḥ—manifest; tvam—you are; ātmā—the Supersoul; jagat-īśvaraḥ—the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
You are the cause of all causes, the self-effulgent, inconceivable, impersonal Brahman, which is originally Parabrahman. You manifest various potencies in this cosmic manifestation.
This prayer is offered to the impersonal Brahman, which consists of the effulgent rays of Parabrahman. Parabrahman is the Supreme Personality of Godhead (paraṁ brahma paraṁ dhāma pavitraṁ paramaṁ bhavān [Bg. 10.12]). When Lord Śiva is worshiped as Parabrahman, the worship is meant for Lord Viṣṇu.
tvaṁ śabda-yonir jagad-ādir ātmā
prāṇendriya-dravya-guṇaḥ svabhāvaḥ
kālaḥ kratuḥ satyam ṛtaṁ ca dharmas
tvayy akṣaraṁ yat tri-vṛd-āmananti
tvam—Your Lordship; śabda-yoniḥ—the origin and source of Vedic literature; jagat-ādiḥ—the original cause of material creation; ātmā—the soul; prāṇa—the living force; indriya—the senses; dravya—the material elements; guṇaḥ—the three qualities; sva-bhāvaḥ—material nature; kālaḥ—eternal time; kratuḥ—sacrifice; satyam—truth; ṛtam—truthfulness; ca—and; dharmaḥ—two different types of religion; tvayi—unto you; akṣaram—the original syllable, oṁkāra; yat—that which; tri-vṛt—consisting of the letters a, u and m; āmananti—they say.
O lord, you are the original source of Vedic literature. You are the original cause of material creation, the life force, the senses, the five elements, the three modes and the mahat-tattva. You are eternal time, determination and the two religious systems called truth [satya] and truthfulness [ṛta]. You are the shelter of the syllable oṁ, which consists of three letters a-u-m.
agnir mukhaṁ te ’khila-devatātmā
kṣitiṁ vidur loka-bhavāṅghri-paṅkajam
kālaṁ gatiṁ te ’khila-devatātmano
diśaś ca karṇau rasanaṁ jaleśam
agniḥ—fire; mukham—mouth; te—of Your Lordship; akhila-devatā-ātmā—the origin of all demigods; kṣitim—the surface of the globe; viduḥ—they know; loka-bhava—O origin of all planets; aṅghri-paṅkajam—your lotus feet; kālam—eternal time; gatim—progress; te—of Your Lordship; akhila-devatā-ātmanaḥ—the total aggregate of all the demigods; diśaḥ—all directions; ca—and; karṇau—your ears; rasanam—taste; jala-īśam—the demigod controller of the water.
O father of all planets, learned scholars know that fire is your mouth, the surface of the globe is your lotus feet, eternal time is your movement, all the directions are your ears, and Varuṇa, master of the waters, is your tongue.
In the śruti-mantras it is said, agniḥ sarva-devatāḥ: “Fire is the aggregate of all demigods.” Agni is the mouth of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. It is through Agni, or fire, that the Lord accepts all sacrificial oblations.
nābhir nabhas te śvasanaṁ nabhasvān
sūryaś ca cakṣūṁṣi jalaṁ sma retaḥ
parāvarātmāśrayaṇaṁ tavātmā
somo mano dyaur bhagavan śiras te
nābhiḥ—navel; nabhaḥ—the sky; te—of Your Lordship; śvasanam—breathing; nabhasvān—the air; sūryaḥ ca—and the sun globe; cakṣūṁṣi—your eyes; jalam—the water; sma—indeed; retaḥ—semen; para-avara-ātma-āśrayaṇam—the shelter of all living entities, low and high; tava—your; ātmā—self; somaḥ—the moon; manaḥ—mind; dyauḥ—the higher planetary systems; bhagavan—O Your Lordship; śiraḥ—head; te—of you.
O lord, the sky is your navel, the air is your breathing, the sun is your eyes, and the water is your semen. You are the shelter of all kinds of living entities, high and low. The god of the moon is your mind, and the upper planetary system is your head.
kukṣiḥ samudrā girayo ’sthi-saṅghā
romāṇi sarvauṣadhi-vīrudhas te
chandāṁsi sākṣāt tava sapta dhātavas
trayī-mayātman hṛdayaṁ sarva-dharmaḥ
kukṣiḥ—abdomen; samudrāḥ—the oceans; girayaḥ—the mountains; asthi—bones; saṅghāḥ—combination; romāṇi—the hairs of the body; sarva—all; auṣadhi—drugs; vīrudhaḥ—plants and creepers; te—your; chandāṁsi—Vedic mantras; sākṣāt—directly; tava—your; sapta—seven; dhātavaḥ—layers of the body; trayī-maya-ātman—O three Vedas personified; hṛdayamcore of the heart; sarva-dharmaḥ—all kinds of religion.
O lord, you are the three Vedas personified. The seven seas are your abdomen, and the mountains are your bones. All drugs, creepers and vegetables are the hairs on your body, the Vedic mantras like Gāyatrī are the seven layers of your body, and the Vedic religious system is the core of your heart.
mukhāni pañcopaniṣadas taveśa
yais triṁśad-aṣṭottara-mantra-vargaḥ
yat tac chivākhyaṁ paramātma-tattvaṁ
deva svayaṁ-jyotir avasthitis te
mukhāni—faces; pañca—five; upaniṣadaḥ—Vedic literatures; tava—your; īśa—O lord; yaiḥ—by which; triṁśat-aṣṭa-uttara-mantra-vargaḥ—in the category of thirty-eight important Vedic mantras; yat—that; tat—as it is; śiva-ākhyam—celebrated by the name Śiva; paramātma-tattvam—which ascertain the truth about Paramātmā; deva—O lord; svayam-jyotiḥ—self-illuminated; avasthitiḥ—situation; te—of Your Lordship.
O lord, the five important Vedic mantras are represented by your five faces, from which the thirty-eight most celebrated Vedic mantras have been generated. Your Lordship, being celebrated as Lord Śiva, is self-illuminated. You are directly situated as the supreme truth, known as Paramātmā.
The five mantras mentioned in this connection are as follows: (1) Puruṣa, (2) Aghora, (3) Sadyojāta, (4) Vāmadeva, and (5) Īśāna. These five mantras are within the category of thirty-eight special Vedic mantras chanted by Lord Śiva, who is therefore celebrated as Śiva or Mahādeva. Another reason why Lord Śiva is called Śiva, which means “all-auspicious,” is that he is self-illuminated, exactly like Lord Viṣṇu, who is the Paramātmā. Because Lord Śiva is directly an incarnation of Lord Viṣṇu, he is situated as Lord Viṣṇu’s direct representative. This fact is corroborated by a Vedic mantra: patiṁ viśvasyātmeśvaraṁ śāśvatam. śivam acyutam. The Supersoul is called by many names, of which Maheśvara, Śiva and Acyuta are especially mentioned.
chāyā tv adharmormiṣu yair visargo
netra-trayaṁ sattva-rajas-tamāṁsi
sāṅkhyātmanaḥ śāstra-kṛtas tavekṣā
chandomayo deva ṛṣiḥ purāṇaḥ
chāyā—shadow; tu—but; adharma-ūrmiṣu—in the waves of irreligion, like kāma, krodha, lobha and moha; yaiḥ—by which; visargaḥ—so many varieties of creation; netra-trayam—three eyes; sattva—goodness; rajaḥ—passion; tamāṁsi—and darkness; sāṅkhya-ātmanaḥ—the origin of all Vedic literatures; śāstra—scriptures; kṛtaḥ—made; tava—by you; īkṣā—simply by glancing; chandaḥ-mayaḥ—full of Vedic verses; deva—O lord; ṛṣiḥ—all Vedic literatures; purāṇaḥ—and the purāṇas, the supplementary Vedas.
O lord, your shadow is seen in irreligion, which brings about varieties of irreligious creations. The three modes of nature—goodness, passion and ignorance—are your three eyes. All the Vedic literatures, which are full of verses, are emanations from you because their compilers wrote the various scriptures after receiving your glance.
na te giri-trākhila-loka-pāla-
jyotiḥ paraṁ yatra rajas tamaś ca
sattvaṁ na yad brahma nirasta-bhedam
na—not; te—of Your Lordship; giri-tra—O King of the mountains; akhila-loka-pāla—all the directors of departments of material activities; viriñca—Lord Brahmā; vaikuṇṭha—Lord Viṣṇu; sura-indra—the King of heaven; gamyam—they can understand; jyotiḥ—effulgence; param—transcendental; yatra—wherein; rajaḥ—the mode of passion; tamaḥ ca—and the mode of ignorance; sattvam—the mode of goodness; na—not; yat brahma—which is impersonal Brahman; nirasta-bhedam—without distinction between demigods and human beings.
O Lord Girīśa, since the impersonal Brahman effulgence is transcendental to the material modes of goodness, passion and ignorance, the various directors of this material world certainly cannot appreciate it or even know where it is. It is not understandable even to Lord Brahmā, Lord Viṣṇu or the King of heaven, Mahendra.
The brahmajyoti is actually the effulgence of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. As stated in Brahma-saṁhitā (5.40):
“I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, who is endowed with great power. The glowing effulgence of His transcendental form is the impersonal Brahman, which is absolute, complete and unlimited and which displays the varieties of countless planets, with their different opulences, in millions and millions of universes.” Although the impersonal feature of the Absolute is an expansion of the rays of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, He does not need to take care of the impersonalists who enter the brahmajyoti. Kṛṣṇa says in Bhagavad-gītā (9.4), mayā tatam idaṁ sarvaṁ jagad avyakta-mūrtinā: “In My impersonal feature I pervade this entire universe.” Thus the avyakta-mūrti, the impersonal feature, is certainly an expansion of Kṛṣṇa’s energy. Māyāvādīs, who prefer to merge into this Brahman effulgence, worship Lord Śiva. The mantras referred to in text 29 are called mukhāni pañcopaniṣadas taveśa. Māyāvādīs take all these mantras seriously in worshiping Lord Śiva. These mantras are as follows: (1) tat puruṣāya vidmahe śāntyai, (2) mahā-devāya dhīmahi vidyāyai, (3) tan no rudraḥ pratiṣṭhāyai, (4) pracodayāt dhṛtyai, (5) aghorebhyas tamā. .., (6) atha ghorebhyo mohā. .., (7) aghorebhyo rakṣā. .., (8) aghoratarebhyo nidrā. .., (9) sarvebhyaḥ sarva-vyādhyai, (10) sarva-sarvebhyo mṛtyave, (11) namas te ’stu kṣudhā. .., (12) rudra-rūpebhyas tṛṣṇā. .., (13) vāmadevāya rajā. .., (14) jyeṣṭhāya svāhā. .., (15) śreṣṭhāya ratyai, (16) rudrāya kalyāṇyai, (17) kālāya kāmā. .., (18) kala-vikaraṇāya sandhinyai, (19) bala-vikaraṇāya kriyā. .., (20) balāya vṛddhyai, (21) balacchāyā. .., (22) pramathanāya dhātryai, (23) sarva-bhūta-damanāya bhrāmaṇyai, (24) manaḥ-śoṣiṇyai, (25) unmanāya jvarā. .., (26) sadyojātaṁ prapadyāmi siddhyai, (27) sadyojātāya vai namaḥ ṛddhyai, (28) bhave dityai, (29) abhave lakṣmyai, (30) nātibhave medhā. .., (31) bhajasva māṁ kāntyai, (32) bhava svadhā. .., (33) udbhavāya prabhā. .., (34) īśānaḥ sarva-vidyānāṁ śaśinyai, (35) īśvaraḥ sarva-bhūtānām abhaya-. .. [Bg. 18.61], (36) brahmādhipatir brahmaṇodhipatir brahman brahmeṣṭa-. .., (37) śivo me astu marīcyai, (38) sadāśivaḥ jvālinyai.
The impersonal Brahman is unknown even to the other directors of the material creation, including Lord Brahmā, Lord Indra and even Lord Viṣṇu. This does not mean, however, that Lord Viṣṇu is not omniscient. Lord Viṣṇu is omniscient, but He does not need to understand what is going on in His all-pervading expansion. Therefore in Bhagavad-gītā the Lord says that although everything is an expansion of Him (mayā tatam idaṁ sarvam), He does not need to take care of everything (na cāhaṁ teṣv avasthitaḥ), since there are various directors like Lord Brahmā, Lord Śiva and Indra.
bhūta-druhaḥ kṣapayataḥ stutaye na tat te
yas tv anta-kāla idam ātma-kṛtaṁ sva-netra-
vahni-sphuliṅga-śikhayā bhasitaṁ na veda
kāma-adhvara—sacrifices for sense gratification (like Dakṣa-yajña, the sacrifices performed by Dakṣa); tripura—the demon named Tripurāsura; kālagaraKālagara; ādi—and others; aneka—many; bhūta-druhaḥ—who are meant for giving trouble to the living entities; kṣapayataḥ—being engaged in their destruction; stutaye—your prayer; na—not; tat—that; te—speaking to you; yaḥ tu—because; anta-kāle—at the time of annihilation; idam—in this material world; ātma-kṛtam—done by yourself; sva-netra—by your eyes; vahni-sphuliṅga-śikhayā—by the sparks of fire; bhasitam—burned to ashes; na veda—I do not know how it is happening.
When annihilation is performed by the flames and sparks emanating from your eyes, the entire creation is burned to ashes. Nonetheless, you do not know how this happens. What then is to be said of your destroying the Dakṣa-yajña, Tripurāsura and the kālakūṭa poison? Such activities cannot be subject matters for prayers offered to you.
Since Lord Śiva considers the great acts he performs to be very unimportant, what was to be said of counteracting the strong poison produced by the churning? The demigods indirectly prayed that Lord Śiva counteract the kālakūṭa poison, which was spreading throughout the universe.
ye tv ātma-rāma-gurubhir hṛdi cintitāṅghri-
dvandvaṁ carantam umayā tapasābhitaptam
katthanta ugra-paruṣaṁ nirataṁ śmaśāne
te nūnam ūtim avidaṁs tava hāta-lajjāḥ
ye—persons who; tu—indeed; ātma-rāma-gurubhiḥ—by those who are self-satisfied and who are considered to be spiritual masters of the world; hṛdi—within the heart; cintita-aṅghri-dvandvam—thinking of your two lotus feet; carantam—moving; umayā—with your consort, Umā; tapasā abhitaptam—highly advanced through practice of austerity and penance; katthante—criticize your acts; ugra-paruṣam—not a gentle person; niratam—always; śmaśāne—in the crematorium; te—such persons; nūnam—indeed; ūtim—such activities; avidan—not knowing; tava—your activities; hāta-lajjāḥ—shameless.
Exalted, self-satisfied persons who preach to the entire world think of your lotus feet constantly within their hearts. However, when persons who do not know your austerity see you moving with Umā, they misunderstand you to be lusty, or when they see you wandering in the crematorium they mistakenly think that you are ferocious and envious. Certainly they are shameless. They cannot understand your activities.
Lord Śiva is the topmost Vaiṣṇava (vaiṣṇavānāṁ yathā śambhuḥ). It is therefore said, vaiṣṇavera kriyā-mudrā vijñe bujhaya. Even the most intelligent person cannot understand what a Vaiṣṇava like Lord Śiva is doing or how he is acting. Those who are conquered by lusty desires and anger cannot estimate the glories of Lord Śiva, whose position is always transcendental. In all the activities associated with lusty desires, Lord Śiva is an implement of ātma-rāma. Ordinary persons, therefore, should not try to understand Lord Śiva and his activities. One who tries to criticize the activities of Lord Śiva is shameless.
tat tasya te sad-asatoḥ parataḥ parasya
nāñjaḥ svarūpa-gamane prabhavanti bhūmnaḥ
brahmādayaḥ kim uta saṁstavane vayaṁ tu
tat-sarga-sarga-viṣayā api śakti-mātram
tat—therefore; tasya—of that; te—of Your Lordship; sat-asatoḥ—of the living entities, moving and not moving; parataḥ—transcendentally situated; parasya—very difficult to understand; na—nor; añjaḥ—as it is; svarūpa-gamane—to approach your reality; prabhavanti—it is possible; bhūmnaḥ—O great one; brahma-ādayaḥ—even such persons as Lord Brahmā; kim uta—what to speak of others; saṁstavane—in offering prayers; vayam tu—as far as we are concerned; tat—of you; sarga-sarga-viṣayāḥ—creations of the creation; api—although; śakti-mātram—to our ability.
Even personalities like Lord Brahmā and other demigods cannot understand your position, for you are beyond the moving and nonmoving creation. Since no one can understand you in truth, how can one offer you prayers? It is impossible. As far as we are concerned, we are creatures of Lord Brahmā’s creation. Under the circumstances, therefore, we cannot offer you adequate prayers, but as far as our ability allows, we have expressed our feelings.
etat paraṁ prapaśyāmo
na paraṁ te maheśvara
mṛḍanāya hi lokasya
vyaktis te ’vyakta-karmaṇaḥ
etat—all these things; param—transcendental; prapaśyāmaḥ—we can see; na—not; param—the actual transcendental position; te—of Your Lordship; mahā-īśvara—O great ruler; mṛḍanāya—for the happiness; hi—indeed; lokasya—of all the world; vyaktiḥ—manifested; te—of Your Lordship; avyakta-karmaṇaḥ—whose activities are unknown to everyone.
O greatest of all rulers, your actual identity is impossible for us to understand. As far as we can see, your presence brings flourishing happiness to everyone. Beyond this, no one can appreciate your activities. We can see this much, and nothing more.
When the demigods offered these prayers to Lord Śiva, their inner purpose was to please him so that he would rectify the disturbing situation created by the hālahala poison. As stated in Bhagavad-gītā (7.20), kāmais tais tair hṛta jñānāḥ prapadyante ’nya-devatāḥ: when one worships demigods, this is certainly because of deep-rooted desires he wants fulfilled by the mercy of those demigods. People are generally attached to the worship of demigods for some motive.
śrī-śuka uvāca
tad-vīkṣya vyasanaṁ tāsāṁ
kṛpayā bhṛśa-pīḍitaḥ
sarva-bhūta-suhṛd deva
idam āha satīṁ priyām
śrī-śukaḥ uvāca—Śrī Śukadeva Gosvāmī said; tat—this situation; vīkṣya—seeing; vyasanam—dangerous; tāsām—of all the demigods; kṛpayā—out of compassion; bhṛśa-pīḍitaḥ—greatly aggrieved; sarva-bhūta-suhṛt—the friend of all living entities; devaḥMahādeva; idam—this; āha—said; satīm—unto Satīdevī; priyām—his very dear wife.
Śrīla Śukadeva Gosvāmī continued: Lord Śiva is always benevolent toward all living entities. When he saw that the living entities were very much disturbed by the poison, which was spreading everywhere, he was very compassionate. Thus he spoke to his eternal consort, Satī, as follows.
śrī-śiva uvāca
aho bata bhavāny etat
prajānāṁ paśya vaiśasam
kālakūṭād upasthitam
śrī-śivaḥ uvāca—Śrī Śiva said; aho bata—how pitiable; bhavāni—my dear wife, Bhavānī; etat—this situation; prajānām—of all living entities; paśya—just see; vaiśasam—very dangerous; kṣīra-uda—of the ocean of milk; mathana-udbhūtāt—produced by the churning; kālakūṭāt—because of the production of poison; upasthitam—the present situation.
Lord Śiva said: My dear Bhavānī, just see how all these living entities have been placed in danger because of the poison produced from the churning of the ocean of milk.
āsāṁ prāṇa-parīpsūnāṁ
vidheyam abhayaṁ hi me
etāvān hi prabhor artho
yad dīna-paripālanam
āsām—all of these living entities; prāṇa-parīpsūnām—very strongly desiring to protect their lives; vidheyam—something must be done; abhayam—safety; hi—indeed; me—by me; etāvān—this much; hi—indeed; prabhoḥ—of the master; arthaḥ—duty; yat—that which; dīna-paripālanam—to give protection to suffering humanity.
It is my duty to give protection and safety to all living entities struggling for existence. Certainly it is the duty of the master to protect his suffering dependents.
prāṇaiḥ svaiḥ prāṇinaḥ pānti
sādhavaḥ kṣaṇa-bhaṅguraiḥ
baddha-vaireṣu bhūteṣu
mohiteṣv ātma-māyayā
prāṇaiḥ—by lives; svaiḥ—their own; prāṇinaḥ—other living entities; pānti—protect; sādhavaḥ—devotees; kṣaṇa-bhaṅguraiḥ—temporary; baddha-vaireṣu—unnecessarily engaged in animosity; bhūteṣu—unto living entities; mohiteṣu—bewildered; ātma-māyayā—by the external energy of the Lord.
People in general, being bewildered by the illusory energy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, are always engaged in animosity toward one another. But devotees, even at the risk of their own temporary lives, try to save them.
This is the characteristic of a Vaiṣṇava. Para-duḥkha-duḥkhī: a Vaiṣṇava is always unhappy to see the conditioned souls unhappy. Otherwise, he would have no business teaching them how to become happy. In materialistic life, people must certainly engage in activities of animosity. Materialistic life is therefore compared to saṁsāra-dāvānala, a blazing forest fire that automatically takes place. Lord Śiva and his followers in the paramparā system try to save people from this dangerous condition of materialistic life. This is the duty of devotees following the principles of Lord Śiva and belonging to the Rudra-sampradāya. There are four Vaiṣṇava sampradāyas, and the Rudra-sampradāya is one of them because Lord Śiva (Rudra) is the best of the Vaiṣṇavas (vaiṣṇavānāṁ yathā śambhuḥ). Indeed, as we shall see, Lord Śiva drank all the poison for the benefit of humanity.
puṁsaḥ kṛpayato bhadre
sarvātmā prīyate hariḥ
prīte harau bhagavati
prīye ’haṁ sacarācaraḥ
tasmād idaṁ garaṁ bhuñje
prajānāṁ svastir astu me
puṁsaḥ—with a person; kṛpayataḥ—engaged in benevolent activities; bhadre—O most gentle Bhavānī; sarva-ātmā—the Supersoul; prīyate—becomes pleased; hariḥ—the Supreme Personality of Godhead; prīte—because of His pleasure; harau—the Supreme Lord, Hari; bhagavati—the Personality of Godhead; prīye—also become pleased; aham—I; sa-cara-acaraḥ—with all others, moving and nonmoving; tasmāt—therefore; idam—this; garam—poison; bhuñje—let me drink; prajānām—of the living entities; svastiḥ—welfare; astu—let there be; me—by me.
My dear gentle wife Bhavānī, when one performs benevolent activities for others, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Hari, is very pleased. And when the Lord is pleased, I am also pleased, along with all other living creatures. Therefore, let me drink this poison, for all the living entities may thus become happy because of me.
śrī-śuka uvāca
evam āmantrya bhagavān
bhavānīṁ viśva-bhāvanaḥ
tad viṣaṁ jagdhum ārebhe
śrī-śukaḥ uvāca—Śrī Śukadeva Gosvāmī said; evam—in this way; āmantrya—addressing; bhagavān—Lord Śiva; bhavānīmBhavānī; viśva-bhāvanaḥ—the well-wisher of all the universe; tat viṣam—that poison; jagdhum—to drink; ārebhe—began; prabhāva-jñā—mother Bhavānī, who perfectly knew the capability of Lord Śiva; anvamodata—gave her permission.
Śrīla Śukadeva Gosvāmī continued: After informing Bhavānī in this way, Lord Śiva began to drink the poison, and Bhavānī, who knew perfectly well the capabilities of Lord Śiva, gave him her permission to do so.
tataḥ karatalī-kṛtya
vyāpi hālāhalaṁ viṣam
abhakṣayan mahā-devaḥ
kṛpayā bhūta-bhāvanaḥ
tataḥ—thereafter; karatalī-kṛtya—taking in his hand; vyāpi—widespread; hālāhalam—called hālahala; viṣam—poison; abhakṣayat—drank; mahā-devaḥ—Lord Śiva; kṛpayā—out of compassion; bhūta-bhāvanaḥ—for the welfare of all living entities.
Thereafter, Lord Śiva, who is dedicated to auspicious, benevolent work for humanity, compassionately took the whole quantity of poison in his palm and drank it.
Although there was such a great quantity of poison that it spread all over the universe, Lord Śiva had such great power that he reduced the poison to a small quantity so that he could hold it in his palm. One should not try to imitate Lord Śiva. Lord Śiva can do whatever he likes, but those who try to imitate Lord Śiva by smoking ganja and other poisonous things will certainly be killed because of such activities.
tasyāpi darśayām āsa
sva-vīryaṁ jala-kalmaṣaḥ
yac cakāra gale nīlaṁ
tac ca sādhor vibhūṣaṇam
tasya—of Lord Śiva; api—also; darśayām āsa—exhibited; sva-vīryam—its own potency; jala-kalmaṣaḥ—that poison born of the water; yat—which; cakāra—made; gale—on the neck; nīlam—bluish line; tat—that; ca—also; sādhoḥ—of the saintly person; vibhūṣaṇam—ornament.
As if in defamation, the poison born from the ocean of milk manifested its potency by marking Lord Śiva’s neck with a bluish line. That line, however, is now accepted as an ornament of the Lord.
tapyante loka-tāpena
sādhavaḥ prāyaśo janāḥ
paramārādhanaṁ tad dhi
tapyante—voluntarily suffer; loka-tāpena—because of the suffering of people in general; sādhavaḥ—saintly persons; prāyaśaḥ—almost always; janāḥ—such persons; parama-ārādhanam—the topmost method of worshiping; tat—that activity; hi—indeed; puruṣasya—of the Supreme Person; akhila-ātmanaḥ—who is the Supersoul of everyone.
It is said that great personalities almost always accept voluntary suffering because of the suffering of people in general. This is considered the highest method of worshiping the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is present in everyone’s heart.
Here is an explanation of how those engaged in activities for the welfare of others are very quickly recognized by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The Lord says in Bhagavad-gītā (18.68–69), ya idaṁ paramaṁ guhyaṁ mad-bhakteṣv abhidhāsyati. .. na ca tasmān manuṣyeṣu kaścin me priya-kṛttamaḥ: “One who preaches the message of Bhagavad-gītā to My devotees is most dear to Me. No one can excel him in satisfying Me by worship.” There are different kinds of welfare activities in this material world, but the supreme welfare activity is the spreading of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Other welfare activities cannot be effective, for the laws of nature and the results of karma cannot be checked. It is by destiny, or the laws of karma, that one must suffer or enjoy. For instance, if one is given a court order, he must accept it, whether it brings suffering or profit. Similarly, everyone is under obligations to karma and it reactions. No one can change this. Therefore the śāstra says:
(Bhāg. 1.5.18)
One should endeavor for that which is never obtained by wandering up and down the universe as a result of the reactions of karma. What is that? One should endeavor to become Kṛṣṇa conscious. If one tries to spread Kṛṣṇa consciousness all over the world, he should be understood to be performing the best welfare activity. The Lord is automatically very pleased with him. If the Lord is pleased with him, what is left for him to achieve? If one has been recognized by the Lord, even if he does not ask the Lord for anything, the Lord, who is within everyone, supplies him whatever he wants. This is also confirmed in Bhagavad-gītā (teṣāṁ nityābhiyuktānāṁ yoga-kṣemaṁ vahāmy aham [Bg. 9.22]). Again, as stated here, tapyante loka-tāpena sādhavaḥ prāyaśo janāḥ. The best welfare activity is raising people to the platform of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, since the conditioned souls are suffering only for want of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. The Lord Himself also comes to mitigate the suffering of humanity.
yadā yadā hi dharmasya
glānir bhavati bhārata
abhyutthānam adharmasya
tadātmānaṁ sṛjāmy aham
“Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion—at that time I descend Myself. To deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of religion, I advent Myself millennium after millennium.” (Bg. 4.7–8) All the śāstras conclude, therefore, that spreading the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is the best welfare activity in the world. Because of the ultimate benefit this bestows upon people in general, the Lord very quickly recognizes such service performed by a devotee.
niśamya karma tac chambhor
deva-devasya mīḍhuṣaḥ
prajā dākṣāyaṇī brahmā
vaikuṇṭhaś ca śaśaṁsire
niśamya—after hearing; karma—the act; tat—that; śambhoḥ—of Lord Śiva; deva-devasya—who is worshipable even for the demigods; mīḍhuṣaḥ—he who bestows great benedictions upon people in general; prajāḥ—the people in general; dākṣāyaṇīBhavānī, the daughter of Dakṣa; brahmā—Lord Brahmā; vaikuṇṭhaḥ ca—Lord Viṣṇu also; śaśaṁsire—praised very much.
Upon hearing of this act, everyone, including Bhavānī [the daughter of Mahārāja Dakṣa], Lord Brahmā, Lord Viṣṇu, and the people in general, very highly praised this deed performed by Lord Śiva, who is worshiped by the demigods and who bestows benedictions upon the people.
praskannaṁ pibataḥ pāṇer
yat kiñcij jagṛhuḥ sma tat
dandaśūkāś ca ye ’pare
praskannam—scattered here and there; pibataḥ—of Lord Śiva while drinking; pāṇeḥ—from the palm; yat—which; kiñcit—very little; jagṛhuḥ—took the opportunity to drink; sma—indeed; tat—that; vṛścika—the scorpions; ahi—the cobras; viṣa-auṣadhyaḥ—poisonous drugs; dandaśūkāḥ ca—and animals whose bites are poisonous; ye—who; apare—other living entities.
Scorpions, cobras, poisonous drugs and other animals whose bites are poisonous took the opportunity to drink whatever little poison had fallen and scattered from Lord Śiva’s hand while he was drinking.
Mosquitoes, jackals, dogs and other varieties of dandaśūka, or animals whose bites are poisonous, drank the poison of the samudra-manthana, the churned ocean, since it was available after it fell from the palms of Lord Śiva.
Thus end the Bhaktivedanta purports of the Eighth Canto, Seventh Chapter, of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, entitled “Lord Śiva Saves the Universe by Drinking Poison.”

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