Viṣṇu Purāṇa | Book 3 - Chapter 18

Chapter XVIII

Buddha goes to the earth, and teaches the Daityas to condemn the Vedas: his sceptical doctrines: his prohibition of animal sacrifices. Meaning of the term Bauddha. Jainas and Bauddhas; their tenets. The Daityas lose their power, and are overcome by the gods. Meaning of the term Yagna. Consequences of neglect of duty. Story of Śatadhanu and his wife Śaivyā. Communion with heretics to be shunned.


After this, the great delusion, having proceeded to earth, beheld the Daityas engaged in ascetic penances upon the banks of the Narmadā river;

and approaching them in the semblance of a naked mendicant, with his head shaven, and carrying a bunch of peacock's feathers, he thus addressed them in gentle accents:

"Ho, lords of the Daitya race! Wherefore is it that you practise these acts of penance? Is it with a view to recompense in this world, or in another?"

"Sage," replied the Daityas, "we pursue these devotions to obtain a reward hereafter; why should you make such an inquiry?"

"If you are desirous of final emancipation," answered the seeming ascetic, "attend to my words, for you are worthy of a revelation which is the door to ultimate felicity.

The duties that I will teach you are the secret path to liberation; there are none beyond or superior to them: by following them you shall obtain either heaven or exemption from future existence. You, mighty beings, are deserving of such lofty doctrine."

By such persuasions, and by many specious arguments, did this delusive being misled the Daityas from the tenets of Vedas:

teaching that the same thing might be for the sake of virtue and of vice; might be, and might not be; might or might not contribute to liberation; might be the supreme object, and not the supreme object;

might be effect, and not be effect; might be manifest, or not be manifest; might be the duty of those who go naked, or who go clothed in much raiment:

and so the Daityas were seduced from their proper duties by the repeated lessons of their illusory preceptor, maintaining the equal truth of contradictory tenets;

and they were called Arahats, from the phrase he had employed of "Ye are worthy (Arhatha) of this great doctrine;" that is, of the false doctrines which he persuaded them to embrace.

The foes of the gods being thus induced to apostatize from the religion of the Vedas, by the delusive person sent by Viṣṇu, became in their turn teachers of the same heresies, and perverted others;

and these, again, communicating their principles to others, by whom they were still further disseminated, the Vedas were in a short time deserted by most of the Daitya race.

Then the same deluder, putting on garments of a red colour, assuming a benevolent aspect, and speaking in soft and agreeable tones, addressed others of the same family, and said to them:

"If, mighty demons, you cherish a desire either for heaven or for final repose, desist from the iniquitous massacre of animals (for sacrifice), and hear from me what you should do:

Know that all that exists is composed of discriminative knowledge. Understand my words, for they have been uttered by the wise:

This world subsists without support, and engaged in the pursuit of error, which it mistakes for knowledge, as well as vitiated by passion and the rest, revolves in the straits of existence."

In this manner, exclaiming to them, "Know!" (Budhyadwam), and they replying, "It is known" (Budhyate), these Daityas were induced by the arch deceiver to deviate from their religious duties (and become Bauddhas), by his repeated arguments and variously urged persuasions.

When they had abandoned their own faith, they persuaded others to do the same, and the heresy spread, and many deserted the practices enjoined by the Vedas and the laws.

The delusions of the false teacher didn’t stop with the conversion of the Daityas to the Jaina and Bauddha heresies, but with various erroneous tenets he prevailed upon others to apostatize, until they all were led astray, and left the doctrines and observances inculcated by the three Vedas.

Some then spoke evil of the sacred books; some blasphemed the gods; some treated sacrifices and other devotional ceremonies with scorn; and others calumniated the Brahmans.

"The precepts," they cried, "that lead to the injury of animal life (as in sacrifices) are highly reprehensible. To say that casting butter into flame is productive of reward, is mere childishness.

If Indra, after having obtained godhead by multiplied rites, is fed upon the wood used as fuel in holy fire, he is lower than a brute, which feeds at least upon leaves.

If an animal slaughtered in religious worship is thereby raised to heaven, would it not be expedient for a man who institutes a sacrifice to kill his own father for a victim?

If that which is eaten by one at Śrāddha gives satisfaction to another, it must be unnecessary for one who resides at a distance to bring food for presentation in person."

"First, then, let it be determined what may be (rationally) believed by mankind, and then," said their preceptor, "you will find that felicity may be expected from my instructions.

The words of authority do not, mighty Asuras, fall from heaven: the text that has reason is alone to be acknowledged by me, and by such as you are."

By such and similar lessons the Daityas were perverted, so that not one of them admitted the authority of the Vedas.

When the Daityas had thus declined from the path of the holy writings, the deities took courage, and gathered together for battle. Hostilities accordingly were renewed, but the demons were now defeated and slain by the gods, who had adhered to the righteous path.

The armour of religion, which had formerly protected the Daityas, had been discarded by them, and upon its abandonment followed their destruction.

Thus, Maitreya, you should understand that those who have seceded from their original belief are said to be naked, because they have thrown off the garment of the Vedas.

According to the law there are four conditions or orders of men (of the three first castes), the religious student, the householder, the hermit, and the mendicant.

There is no fifth state; and the unrighteous man who relinquishes the order of the householder, and does not become either an anchoret or a mendicant, are also a naked (seceder).

The man who neglects his permanent observances for one day and night, being able to perform them, incurs thereby sin for one day; and should he omit them, not being in trouble, for a fortnight, he can be purified only by arduous expiation.

The virtuous must stop to gaze upon the sun after looking upon a person who has allowed a year to elapse without the observance of the perpetual ceremonies; and they must bathe with their clothes on should they have touched him: but for the individual himself no expiation has been declared.

There is no sinner upon earth more culpable than one in whose dwelling the gods, progenitors, and spirits, are left to sigh without worship.

Let not a man associate, in residence, sitting, or society, with him whose person or whose house has been blasted by the sighs of the gods, progenitors, and spirits.

Conversation, interchange of civilities, or association with a man who for a twelvemonth has not discharged his religious duties, is productive of equality of guilt;

and the person who eats in the house of such a man, or sits down with him, or sleeps on the same couch with him, becomes like him instantaneously.

Again; he who takes his food without showing reverence to the gods, progenitors, spirits, and guests, commits sin. How great is his sin!

The Brahmans, and men of the other castes, who turn their faces away from their proper duties, become heretics, and are classed with those who relinquish pious works.

Remaining in a place where there is too great an intermixture of the four castes is detrimental to the character of the righteous.

Men fall into hell who converse with one who takes his food without offering a portion to the gods, the sages, the manes, spirits, and guests.

Let therefore a prudent person carefully avoid the conversation, or the contact, and the like, of those heretics who are rendered impure by their desertion of the three Vedas.

The ancestral rite, although performed with zeal and faith, pleases neither gods nor progenitors if it be looked upon by heretics.

It is related that there was formerly a king named Śatadhanu, whose wife Śaivyā was a woman of great virtue. She was devoted to her husband, benevolent, sincere, pure, adorned with every female excellence, with humility, and discretion.

The Rājā and his wife daily worshipped the god of gods, Janārdana, with pious meditations, oblations to fire, prayers, gifts, fasting, and every other mark of entire faith, and exclusive devotion.

On one occasion, when they had fasted on the full moon of Kārtika, and had bathed in the Bhāgīrathī, they beheld, as they came up from the water, a heretic approach them, who was the friend of the Rājā's military preceptor.

The Rājā, out of respect to the latter, entered into conversation with the heretic; but not so did the princess; reflecting that she was observing a fast, she turned from him, and cast her eyes up to the sun.

On their arrival at home, the husband and wife, as usual, performed the worship of Viṣṇu, accordingly to the ritual. In a while the Rājā, triumphant over his enemies, died; and the princess ascended the funeral pile of her husband.

In consequence of the fault committed by Śatadhanu, by speaking to an infidel when he was engaged in a solemn fast, he was born again as a dog.

His wife was born as the daughter of the Rājā of Kāśī, with a knowledge of the events of her pre-existence, accomplished in every science, and endowed with every virtue.

Her father was anxious to give her in marriage to some suitable husband, but she constantly opposed his design, and the king was prevented by her from accomplishing her wedding.

With the eye of divine intelligence she knew that her own husband had been regenerate as a dog, and going once to the city of Vaidiśā she saw the dog, and recognised her former lord in him.

Knowing that the animal was her husband, she placed upon his neck the bridal garland, accompanying it with the marriage rites and prayers:

but he, eating the delicate food presented to him, expressed his delight after the fashion of his species;

at which she was much ashamed, and, bowing reverently to him, thus spoke to her degraded spouse:

"Recall to memory, illustrious prince, the ill-timed politeness on account of which you have been born as a dog, and are now fawning upon me.

In consequence of speaking to a heretic, after bathing in a sacred river, you have been condemned to this abject birth. Do you not remember it?"

Thus reminded, the Rājā recollected his former condition, and was lost in thought, and felt deep humiliation. With a broken spirit he went forth from the city, and falling dead in the desert, was born anew as a jackal.

In the course of the following year the princess knew what had happened, and went to the mountain Kolāhala to seek for her husband.

Finding him there, the lovely daughter of the king of the earth said to her lord, thus disguised as a jackal:

"Dost thou not remember, oh king, the circumstance of conversing with a heretic, which I called to thy recollection when thou wast a dog?"

The Rājā, thus addressed, knew that what the princess had spoken was true, and thereupon desisted from food, and died.

He then became a wolf; but his blameless wife knew it, and came to him in the lonely forest, and awakened his remembrance of his original state:

"No wolf art thou," she said, "but the illustrious sovereign Śatadhanu. Thou wast then a dog, then a jackal, and art now a wolf."

Upon this, recollecting himself, the prince abandoned his life, and became a vulture; in which form his lovely queen still found him, and aroused him to a knowledge of the past:

 "Prince," she exclaimed, "recollect yourself: away with this uncouth form, to which the sin of conversing with a heretic has condemned you!"

The Rājā was next born as a crow; when the princess, who through her mystical powers was aware of it, said to him:

"Thou art now thyself the eater of tributary grain, to whom, in a prior existence, all the kings of the earth paid tribute."

Having abandoned his body, in consequence of the recollections excited by these words, the king next became a peacock, which the princess took to herself, and petted, and fed constantly with such food as is agreeable to birds of its class.

The king of Kāśī instituted at that time the solemn sacrifice of a horse. In the ablutions with which it terminated the princess caused her peacock to be bathed, bathing also herself;

and she then reminded Śatadhanu how he had been successively born as various animals. On recollecting this, he resigned his life.

He was then born as the son of a person of distinction; and the princess now assenting to the wishes of her father to see her wedded, the king of Kāśī caused it to be made known that she would elect a bridegroom from those who should present themselves as suitors for her hand.

When the election took place, the princess made choice of her former lord, who appeared amongst the candidates, and again invested him with the character of her husband.

They lived happily together, and upon her father's decease Śatadhanu ruled over the country of Videha:

He offered many sacrifices, and gave away many gifts, and begot sons, and subdued his enemies in war; and having duly exercised the sovereign power, and cherished benignantly the earth, he died, as became his warrior birth, in battle.

His queen again followed him in death, and, conformably to sacred precepts, once more mounted cheerfully his funeral pile.

The king then, along with his princess, ascended beyond the sphere of Indra to the regions where all desires are forever gratified, obtaining ever-during and unequalled happiness in heaven, the perfect felicity that is the rarely realised reward of conjugal fidelity.

Such, Maitreya, is the sin of conversing with a heretic, and such are the expiatory effects of bathing after the solemn sacrifice of a horse, as I have narrated them to you.

Let therefore a man carefully avoid the discourse or contact of an unbeliever, especially at seasons of devotion, and when engaged in the performance of religious rites preparatory to a sacrifice.

If it be necessary that a wise man should look at the sun, after beholding one who has neglected his domestic ceremonies for a month, how much greater need must there be of expiation after encountering one who has wholly abandoned the Vedas? One who is supported by infidels, or who disputes the doctrines of holy writ?

Let not a person treat with even the civility of speech, heretics, those who do forbidden acts, pretended saints, scoundrels, sceptics, and hypocrites.

Intercourse with such iniquitous wretches, even at a distance, all association with schismatics defiles; let a man therefore carefully avoid them.

These, Maitreya, are the persons called naked, the meaning of which term you desired to have explained. Their very looks vitiate the performance of an ancestral oblation; speaking to them destroys religious merit for a whole day.

These are the unrighteous heretics to whom a man must not give shelter, and speaking to whom effaces whatever merit he may that day have obtained.

Men, indeed, fall into hell as the consequence of only conversing with those who unprofitably assume the twisted hair, and shaven crown; with those who feed without offering food to gods, spirits, and guests; and those who are excluded from the presentation of cakes, and libations of water, to the manes.