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Long, long ago, there was an assembly of great sages on the bank of the River Sarasvati who performed a
great sacrifice of the name Satrayajna. In such assemblies, the great sages present usually discuss Vedic subject matters and philosophical topics, and in this particular meeting the following question was raised: The three predominating deities of this material world, namely, Lord Brahma, Lord Visnu and Lord Siva, are directing all the affairs of this cosmos, but who among them is the Supreme? After much discussion on this question, the great sage named Bhrgu, the son of Lord Brahma, was deputed to test all three predominating deities and report to the assembly as to who is the greatest.
Being thus deputed, the great sage Bhrgumuni first of all went to his father's residence in Brahmaloka. The
three deities are the controllers of the three material qualities, namely the qualities of goodness, passion and ignorance. The plan decided upon by the sages was for Bhrgu to test which of the predominating deities possesses the quality of goodness in full. Therefore, when Bhrgumuni reached his father, Lord Brahma,
because he wanted to test whether he had the quality of goodness, he purposely did not offer his respects to his father, either by offering obeisances or by offering prayers. It is the duty of a son or a disciple to offer respects and recite suitable prayers when he approaches his father or spiritual master. But Bhrgumuni purposely failed to offer respects, just to see Lord Brahma's reaction to this negligence. Lord Brahma was very angry at his son's impudence, and he showed signs which definitely proved this to be so. He was even prepared
to condemn Bhrgu by cursing him, but because Bhrgu was his son, Lord Brahma controlled his anger with his great intelligence. This means that although the quality of passion was prominent in Lord Brahma, he had the power to control it. Lord Brahma's anger and his controlling his anger are likened to fire and water. Water is produced from fire, but fire can be extinguished with water. Similarly, although Lord Brahma was very angry due to his quality of passion, he could still control his passion because Bhrgumuni was his son.
After testing Lord Brahma, Bhrgumuni went directly to the planet Kailasa, where Lord Siva resides.Bhrgumuni happened to be Lord Siva's brother. Therefore, as soon as Bhrgumuni approached, Lord Siva was very glad and personally rose to embrace him. But when Lord Siva approached, Bhrgumuni refused to embrace him. "My dear
brother," he said, "you are always very impure. Because you smear your body with ashes, you are not very clean. Please do not touch me." When Bhrgumuni refused to embrace his brother, saying that Lord Siva was
impure, the latter became very angry with him. It is said that an offense can be committed either with the body, with the mind or by speech. Bhrgumuni's first offense, committed towards Lord Brahma, was an offense with the mind. His second offense, committed towards Lord Siva by insulting him, criticizing him for unclean habits, was an offense by speech. Because the quality of ignorance is prominent in Lord Siva, when he heard Bhrgu's insult his eyes immediately became red with anger. With uncontrollable rage, he took up his trident and prepared to kill Bhrgumuni. At that time, Lord Siva's wife, Parvati, was present. Her personality is a mixture of the three qualities, and therefore she is called Trigunamayi. In this case, she saved the situation by evoking Lord Siva's quality of goodness. She fell down at the feet of her husband, and with her sweet words she talked him out of killing Bhrgumuni.
After being saved from the anger of Lord Siva, Bhrgumuni went directly to the planet Svetadvipa, where Lord Visnu was lying on a bed of flowers, accompanied by His wife, the goddess of fortune, who was engaged in massaging His lotus feet. There Bhrgumuni purposely committed the greatest sin by offending Lord Visnu by his bodily activities. The first offense committed by Bhrgumuni was mental, the second offense was vocal, and the third offense corporal. These different offenses are progressively greater in degree. An offense committed within the mind is a positive offense, the same offense committed verbally is comparatively more grave, and when committed by bodily action it is superlative in offensiveness. So Bhrgumuni committed the greatest offense by touching the chest of the Lord with his foot in the presence of the goddess of fortune. Of course, Lord Visnu is all-merciful. He did not become angry at the activities of Bhrgumuni, for Bhrgumuni was a great brahmana. A brahmana is to be excused even if he sometimes commits an offense, and Lord Visnu set the example. Yet it is said that from the time of this incident the goddess of fortune, Laksmi, has not been very favorably disposed towards the brahmanas, and therefore, because the goddess of fortune withholds her benedictions from them, the brahmanas are generally very poor. Bhrgumuni's touching the chest of Lord Visnu with his foot was certainly a great offense, but Lord Visnu is so great that He did not care. The so-called brahmanas of the Kali-yuga are sometimes very proud that they can touch the chest of Lord Visnu with their feet. But when Bhrgumuni touched the chest of Lord Visnu with his feet, it was different, because although it was the greatest offense, Lord Visnu, being greatly magnanimous, did not take it very seriously. Instead of being angry or cursing Bhrgumuni, Lord Visnu immediately got up from His bed along with His wife, the goddess of fortune, and offered respectful obeisances to the brahmana. He addressed Bhrgumuni as follows:
"My dear brahmana, it is a great blessing for Me that you have come here. Please, therefore, sit down on this cushion for a few minutes. My dear brahmana, I am very sorry that when you first entered I could not receive you properly. It was a great offense on My part, and I beg you to pardon Me. You are so pure and great that the water which washes your feet can purify even the places of pilgrimage. Therefore, I request you to purify the Vaikuntha planet where I live with My associates. My dear father, O great sage, I know that your feet are very soft, like a lotus flower, and that My chest is as hard as a thunderbolt. I am therefore afraid that you may have felt some pain by touching My chest with your feet. Let Me touch your feet to relieve the pain you have suffered." Lord Visnu then began to massage the feet of Bhrgumuni. The Lord continued to address Bhrgumuni. "My dear lord," He said, "My chest has now become sanctified because of the touch of your feet, and I am now
assured that the goddess of fortune, Laksmi, will be very glad to live there perpetually." Another name for Laksmi is Cancala, indicating that she does not stay in one place for a long time. Therefore, we see that a rich man's family sometimes becomes poor after a few generations, and sometimes we see that a poor man's family becomes very rich. Laksmi, the
goddess of fortune, is Cancala in this material world, whereas in the Vaikuntha
planets she eternally lives at the lotus feet of the Lord. Because Laksmi is famous as Cancala, Lord Narayana indicated that she might not have been living perpetually by His chest, but because His chest had been touched by the feet of Bhrgumuni, it was now sanctified, and there was no chance that the goddess of fortune would leave. Bhrgumuni, however, could understand his position and that of the Lord, and he was struck with wonder at the behavior of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Because of his gratitude, his voice choked up, and he
was unable to reply to the words of the Lord. Tears glided from his eyes, and he could not say anything. He simply stood silently before the Lord.
After testing Lord Brahma, Lord Siva and Lord Visnu, Bhrgumuni returned to the assembly of great sages on
the bank of the River Sarasvati and described his experience. After hearing him with great attention, the sages concluded that of all the predominating deities, certainly Visnu is situated in the mode of goodness in the highest degree.
(Adopted from Krishna Book By Srila Prabhupada)