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Sri Vishnu Puranam: section 1 - chapter 1

From: Ramesh Sarangapani (
Date: Mon Dec 07 1998 - 17:30:03 PST

Srimathe Lakshmi Narasimha Parabramhane namaha:
Srimathe Srivan Satakopa vedantha Desika Yathindra desikaya namaha:
Srimathe Lakshmi Narasimha divya paduka sevake Srivan Satakopa
Sri Narayana Yathindra Maha Desikaya namahe:

Vishnu Puranam: Section 1: Chapter 1:

One fine morning sage Maitreya after completing his nitya
anusthanam approached his acharyan, sage Parasara, with the
intent of learning the "paramartha tattuvam".

Maitreya: (with all humility) Gurudeva! By your divine grace 
I has learnt the vedas and the shastras. Now a few questions
have arisen in my mind. You should kindly address these
as well.

Parasara: Feel free to ask your questions.

Maitreya: I am interested to know the origin of this universe. 
What is the primal force behind its creation? How is it sustained?
How is it going to end? 

Sri Vishnu Puranam was composed as an answer to these and
other questions that sage Maitreya puts forth during the course
of his discussion with his acharyan, sage Parasara. Before he
answers sage Parasara pauses for a moment and contemplates
on his acharyas, showing us by "anushtanam" (practice) that
before we start to discuss vedantha vidya we should always
stop for a few seconds to think about our acharya paramparai and
feel humble and thankful for the knowledge we have gained
from them.

He then narrates to sage Maitreya the following story.

Not long ago there lived a king by the
name Kalmashapadan. He was a disciple of sage Vashista. While
he was sporting in the jungle, hunting wild animals, he happened
to pass along a narrow one way path. Half way down this path
he noticed another person walking in the opposite direction. This
other person was sage Shakthi, the eldest son of sage Vashista.
Both approached closer expecting the other to give way. When
they met headon (!) the haunty king ordered sage Shakthi to move
aside and give way to him. Shakthi was one who always followed
the dharma-shastra and kindly mentioned to the king that according
to the shastra when a king and brahmin meet under these circumstances
it is the brahmin who has the 'right of the way'.

An argument ensued but the egotistic king, blinded by his wealth 
and fame, was in no mood to listen to the good advise of the sage.
He insisted that his orders had to be obeyed. When sage Shakthi 
stood his ground, this angered the king and he wiped sage Shakthi
and dragged him out of the way. seeing that the king behaved in a
demonic fashion, the wounded and humiliated Shakthi cursed the
king to turn into a human flesh eating demon. After this incident the
king returned to his kingdom, but he was besieged with all kind of
problems and his life turned miserable. He was deeply saddened
by the turn of events and this sadness slowly turned into anger toward
sage Shakthi. One day, in a fit anger, he attacked sage Shakthi and
ate (!) him.

When sage Vashista (Shakthi's father) came to know of these events
he felt terrible and went to visit his grief stricken daughter-in-law. 
that time his daughter-in-law, sage Shakthi's wife, was pregnant.
Vashista consoled her and asked her to depend on Perumal's grace at
her time of despair. During this conversation Vashista was perplexed
to hear the Veda's being chanted (since he was alone with his daughter-
in-law). When he mentioned this to his daughter-in-law and asked her
if she know from where these vedic chants were emanating, his daughter-
in-law pointed to her womb and told him it was her unborn child that
was chanting (having constantly heard his father chant the Vedas the
featus had mastered the Vedas in the womb!). When sage Vasistha 
heard this he was immensely pleased.

In due course a beautiful baby boy was born to Shakthi's wife. Sage
Vashista named the child Parasara (One who can provide effective
counter arguments to his opponents while discussing Vedantha). The
child having seen only Vashista from the time of his birth assumed
Vashista was his father and started calling him "appa". When Vashista
pointed to Parasara that he was not his appa (father) but was his 
(grandpa), the innocent child immediately asked the whereabouts of 
his father. Vashista narrated to Parasara how his father met a cruel
end at the hand of the demon king, Kalmashapadan. This event sowed
the seed of hatred against all "raksheshaas" (demons) in Parasaras 
heart. As the boy grew into a young man his hatred for those in the
"raksheshaas lineage" grew manifold. One day the young Parasara 
decided to conduct the "Satrama yaga" with the intent of destroying 
all "raksheshaas". This "yaga" (ritual sacrifice) was started and as it 
progressed a number of "raksheshaas", attracted by the "mantra-shakthi"
(power of the mantras chanted during the yaga), were drawn into the
sacrificial fire and were destroyed.

When sage Vashista came to know of this yaga, he immediately came 
to Parasaras "ashramam" (place of residence) and advises him to stop the
yaga. Vashista explains to Parasara that he should not hold accountable 
all the raksheshass for the deeds of one demonic king and that it is not 
advisable to act in hatred and anger. Vashista then points out that it 
his father's anger that led him to curse the king to become a "human 
eating demon". Vashista then asks, "if such a demon turns to the very 
person who cursed him to be so and kills and eats him, is it the fault 
the demon or the person who cursed him? Wise men do not succumb 
to anger. So Parasara, my child, take my advise and stop this yaga". 
When Parasara heard the good advise of his "pitamahan" (grandfather),
he immediately stops the yaga. (Here again  sage Parasara shows by 
his "anushtanam" how one should respect and abide by the wishes of 
ones elders). Sage Vashista is extremely to see this.

At this time Sage Pulasthiya comes to Parasara's ashramam. He is the
son of Brahma and the first among the forefathers in the raksheshass
lineage. Both sage Vashista and Parasara welcome this "mahan" and
inquire about his trip to their "kutil" (hermitage). The gentle 
praises Parasara for following the wise advise of his grandfather and 
stopping the yaga. He tells Parasara that if the yaga had continued any
longer all his "santhathi" (lineage) who have been engulfed by the
sacrificial fire and none of his progeny would have survived. He then
grants a boon to Parasara that some day the Parasara will compose
a sacred Purana that will bring to light the nature of "Parabrahmam"
and the route to attain the "Paramporul" (the supreme being).

Parasara (after narring this story to Maitreya): I now recollect the
words of sage Pulasthiya. My answers to your questions will take
the shape of a Puranam. So listen carefully! This knowledge that
I am going to impart to you, I have obtained through a bonafide
"guru-parampara" (Acharya-lineage). The Pajapathies got this
knowledge from the four faced Brahma and them taught this to
a king called Purukutsan.  This king taught this brahma-vidya to
sage Saarasvathar and he in turn taught it to me. The knowledge
that I have received from these elders, I know am going to teach
you. So listen with attentively.

Parasara (continues): The primal cause for this universe is Lord
Narayana. However he is immune to the constant change that this
universe undergoes. He is distinct and stands apart from this
universe and at the same time this universe is contained in Him
and He pervades all that is see and unseen in this universe. He lacks
nothing nor does he desire anything. He is neither born nor does 
he ever die. The elders call Him Vasudevan. He is the repository
of all supreme qualities and is blemishless. He is the 
"parabrahmam". He is the one who creates and destroys this

With Perumal's anugraham this series will continue. Stay tuned!

Side Comments 1: Other puranas such as "Liga-Puranam" were
composed in response to specific questions such as "please explain
the qualities of the Liga".  However the questions raised sage
Maitreya are general (such as "please explain the nature of this
universe and its cause"). In response to these questions sage 
Parasara need not have started to eulogize Lord Narayana. The
fact that Parasara does just that (!) and all  this sounds appropriate
shows the uniqueness Sri Vishnu Puranam and the greatness
of our Lord.

Side Comment 2: In my next post I will attempt to summarize the
remaining portions of this chapter and then shift gears to move to
adiyEn's favorite chapter on Prahalada Charittram.

adiyEn rAmAnuja dAsan
Ramesh Sarangapani