Viṣṇu Purāṇa | Book 3 - Chapter 7

Chapter VII

By what means men are exempted from the authority of Yama, as narrated by Bhīṣma to Nakula. Dialogue between Yama and one of his attendants. Worshippers of Viṣṇu not subject to Yama. How they are to be known.


You have indeed related to me, most excellent Brahman, all that I asked of you; but I am desirous to hear one thing which you have not touched yet:

This universe, composed of seven zones, with its seven sub-terrestrial regions, and seven spheres--this whole egg of Brahmā --is everywhere swarming with living creatures, large or small, with smaller and smallest, and larger and largest; so that there is not the eighth part of an inch in which they do not abound.

Now all these are captives in the chains of acts, and at the end of their existence become slaves to the power of Yama, by whom they are sentenced to painful punishments.

Released from these inflictions, they are again born in the condition of gods, men, or the like: and thus living beings, as the Śāstras apprise us, perpetually revolve.

Now the question I have to ask, and which you are so well able to answer, is, by what acts men may liberate themselves from subjection to Yama?


This question, excellent Muni, was once asked by Nākula of his grandfather Bhīṣma; and I will repeat to you the reply made by the latter.

Bhīṣma said to the prince:

"Long time ago my friend paid a visit to me, a Brahman, from the Kalinga country, who told me that he had once proposed this question to a holy Muni, who retained the recollection of his former births, and by whom what was, and what will be, was accurately told.

Being annoyed by me, who placed implicit faith in his words, to repeat what that pious personage had imparted to him, he at last communicated it to me; and what he related I have never met with elsewhere.

"Having, then, on one occasion, put to him the same question which you have asked, the Kalinga Brahman recalled the story that had been told him by the Muni—

the great mystery that had been revealed to him by the pious sage, who remembered his former existence--a dialogue that occurred between Yama and one of his ministers:

"Yama beholding one of his servants with his noose in his hand, whispered to him, and said:

 'Keep clear of the worshippers of Madhusūdana. I am the lord of all men, the Vaiṣṇavas excepted. I was appointed by Brahmā, who is reverenced by all the immortals, to restrain mankind, and regulate the consequences of good and evil in the universe.

But he who obeys Hari, as his spiritual guide, is here independent of me; for Viṣṇu is of power to govern and control me.

As gold is one substance still, however diversified as bracelets, tiaras, or earrings, so Hari is one and the same, although modified in the forms of gods, animals, and man.

As the drops of water, raised by wind from the earth, sink into the earth again when the wind subsides, so the varieties of gods, men, and animals, which have been detached by the agitation of the qualities, are reunited, when that disturbance ceases, with the eternal.

He who through holy knowledge diligently adores the lotus foot of that Hari, who is reverenced by the gods, is released from all the bonds of sin; and you must avoid him as you would avoid fire fed with oil.'

"Having heard these injunctions of Yama, the messenger addressed the lord of righteousness, and said: 'Tell me, master, how am I to distinguish the worshipper of Hari, who is the protector of all beings?'

Yama replied:

'You are to consider the worshipper of Viṣṇu, him who never deviates from the duties prescribed to his caste; who looks with equal indifference upon friend or enemy; who takes nothing (that is not his own), nor injures any being.

- Know that person of unblemished mind to be a worshipper of Viṣṇu. Know him to be a devout worshipper of Hari, who has placed Janārdana in his pure mind, which has been freed from fascination, and whose soul is undefiled by the soil of the Kāli age.

Know that excellent man to be a worshipper of Viṣṇu, who, looking upon gold in secret, holds that which is another's wealth but as grass, and devotes all his thoughts to the lord.

Pure is he as a mountain of clear crystal; for how can Viṣṇu abide in the hearts of men with malice and envy, and other evil passions? The glowing heat of fire abides not in a cluster of the cooling rays of the moon.

He who lives pure in thought, free from malice, contented, leading a holy life, feeling tenderness for all creatures, speaking wisely and kindly, humble and sincere, has Vāsudeva ever present in his heart.

As the young Sāl-tree by its beauty declares the excellence of the juices which it has imbibed from the earth, so when the eternal has taken up his abode in the bosom of any one, that man is lovely amidst the beings of this world.

Depart, my servant, quickly from those men whose sins have been dispersed by moral and religious merit, whose minds are daily dedicated to the imperceptible deity, and who are exempt from pride, uncharitableness, and malice.

In the heart in which the divine Hari, who is without beginning or end, abides, armed with a sword, a shell, and a mace, sin cannot remain; for it cannot coexist with that which destroys it, as darkness cannot continue in the world when the sun is shining.

The eternal makes not his abode in the heart of that man who covets another's wealth, who injures living creatures, who speaks harshness and untruth, who is proud of his iniquity, and whose mind is evil.

Janārdana occupies not his thoughts who envies another's prosperity, who calumniates the virtuous, who never sacrifices nor bestows gifts upon the pious, who is blinded by the property of darkness.

That vile wretch is no worshipper of Viṣṇu, who through avarice is unkind to his nearest friends and relations, to his wife, children, parents, and dependants.

The brute-like man whose thoughts are evil, who is addicted to unrighteous acts, whoever seeks the society of the wicked, and suffers no day to pass without the perpetration of crime, is no worshipper of Vāsudeva.

Do you proceed afar off from those in whose hearts Ananta is enshrined; from him whose sanctified understanding conceives the supreme male and ruler, Vāsudeva, as one with his votary, and with all this world.

Avoid those holy persons who are constantly invoking the lotus-eyed Vāsudeva, Viṣṇu, the supporter of the earth, the immortal wielder of the discus and the shell, the asylum of the world.

Come not into the sight of him in whose heart the imperishable soul resides, for he is defended from my power by the discus of his deity: he is designed for another world (for the heaven of Viṣṇu).'

"'Such,' said the Kalinga Brahman, 'were the instructions communicated by the deity of justice, the son of the sun, to his servants, as they were repeated to me by that holy person, and as I have related them to you, chief of the house of Kuru' (Bhīṣma).

So also, Nākula, I have faithfully communicated to you all I heard from my pious friend, when he came from his country of Kalinga to visit me.

I have thus explained to you, as was fitting, that there is no protection in the ocean of the world except Viṣṇu;

and that the servants and ministers of Yama, the king of the dead himself, and his tortures, are all unavailing against one who places his reliance on that divinity."

I have thus, resumed Parāśara, related to you what you wished to hear, and what was said by the son of Vivaswat. What else do you wish to hear?