Viṣṇu Purāṇa | Book 3 - Chapter 17

Chapter XVII

Of heretics, or those who reject the authority of the Vedas: their origin, as described by Vasiṣṭha to Bhīṣma: the gods, defeated by the Daityas, praise Viṣṇu: an illusory being, or Buddha, produced from his body.


Thus, in former days, spoke the holy Aurva to the illustrious monarch Sāgara, when he inquired concerning practices proper to be practised by mankind; and thus I have explained to you the whole of those observances against which no one ought to transgress.


You have told me, venerable sir that an ancestral rite is not to be performed in presence of certain persons, amongst whom you mentioned heretics.

I am desirous to learn whom you intended by that name; what practices bestow such a title upon a man; and what is the character of the individual to whom you alluded.


The Rig, Yajur, and Sāma Vedas constitute the triple covering of the several castes, and the sinner who throws this off is said to be naked (or heretic). The three Vedas are the raiment of all the orders of men, and when that is discarded they are left bare.

On this subject hear what I heard my grandfather, the pious Vasiṣṭha, relate to the magnanimous Bhīṣma:

There was formerly a battle between the gods and demons, for the period of a divine year, in which the gods were defeated by the demons under the command of Hrāda.

The discomfited deities fled to the northern shore of the milky ocean, where engaging in religious penance they thus prayed to Viṣṇu:

"May the first of beings, the divine Viṣṇu, be pleased with the words that we are about to address him, in order to propitiate the lord of all worlds; from which mighty cause all created things have originated, and into whom they shall again dissolve!

Who is able to declare his praise?

We, who have been put to shame by the triumph of our foes, will glorify thee, although thy true power and might be not within the reach of words:

Thou art earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, crude matter, and primeval soul: all this elementary creation, with or without visible form is thy body; all, from Brahmā to a stock, diversified by place and time.

Glory to thee, who art Brahmā, thy first form, evolved from the lotus springing from thy navel, for the purpose of creation. Glory to thee, who art Indra, the sun, Rudra, the Vāsus, fire, the winds, and even also ourselves.

Glory to them, Govinda, who art all demons, whose essence is arrogance and want of discrimination, unchecked by patience or self-control.

Glory to thee, who art the Yakṣas, whose nature is charmed with sounds, and whose frivolous hearts perfect knowledge cannot pervade.

Glory to thee, who art all fiends, that walk by night, sprung from the quality of darkness, fierce, fraudulent, and cruel. Glory to thee, Janārdana, who art that piety which is the instrument of recompensing the virtues of those who abide in heaven.

Glory to thee, who art one with the saints, whose perfect nature is ever blessed, and traverses unobstructed all permeable elements.

Glory to thee, who art one with the serpent race, double-tongued, impetuous, cruel, insatiate of enjoyment, and abounding with wealth.

Glory to thee, who art one with the Ṛṣis, whose nature is free from sin or defect, and is identified with wisdom and tranquillity.

Glory to thee, oh lotus-eyed, who art one with time, the form that devours, without remorse, all created things at the termination of the Kalpa.

Glory to thee, who art Rudra, the being that dances with delight after he has swallowed up all things, the gods and the rest, without distinction.

Glory to thee, Janārdana, who art man, the agent in developing the results of that activity which proceeds from the quality of foulness.

Glory to thee, who art brute animals, the universal spirit that tends to perversity, which proceeds from the quality of darkness, and is encumbered with the twenty-eight kinds of obstructions.

Glory to thee, who art that chief spirit which is diversified in the vegetable world, and which, as the essence of sacrifice, is the instrument of accomplishing the perfection of the universe.

Glory to thee, who art everything, and whose primeval form is the objects of perception, and heaven, and animals, and men, and gods.

Glory to thee, who art the cause of causes, the supreme spirit; who art distinct from us and all beings composed of intelligence and matter and the like, and with whose primeval nature there is nothing that can be compared.

We bow to thee, O lord, who hast neither colour, nor extension, nor bulk, nor any predicable qualities; and whose essence, purest of the pure, is appreciable only by holy sages.

We bow to thee, in the nature of Brahma, untreated, undecaying; who art in our bodies, and in all other bodies, and in all living creatures; and besides whom there is nothing else.

We glorify that Vāsudeva, the sovereign lord of all, who is without soil, the seed of all things, exempt of dissolution, unborn, eternal, being in essence the supreme condition of spirit, and in substance the whole of this universe."

Upon the conclusion of their prayers, the gods beheld the sovereign deity Hari, armed with the shell, the discus, and the mace, riding on Garuḍa.

Prostrating themselves before him, they addressed him, and said:

"Have compassion upon us, O lord, and protect us, who have come to thee for succour from the Daityas:

They have seized upon the three worlds, and appropriated the offerings which are our portion, taking care not to transgress the precepts of the Veda.

Although we, as well as they, are parts of thee, of whom all beings consist, yet we behold the world impressed by the ignorance of unity, with the belief of its separate existence.

Engaged in the duties of their respective orders, and following the paths prescribed by holy writ, practising also religious penance, it is impossible for us to destroy them.

Do thou, whose wisdom is immeasurable, instruct us in some device by which we may be able to exterminate the enemies of the gods."

When the mighty Viṣṇu heard their request, he emitted from his body an illusory form, which he gave to the gods, and thus spoke:

This deceptive vision shall wholly beguile the Daityas, so that, being led astray from the path of the Vedas, they may be put to death;

for all gods, demons, or others, who shall be opposed to the authority of the Veda, shall perish by my might, whilst exercised for the preservation of the world.

Go then, and fear not: let this delusive vision precede you; from now on this will be of great service unto you, oh gods!"