The Vishnu Purana, translated by Horace Hayman Wilson, , at sacred-texts.com
Of heretics, or those who reject the authority of the Vedas: their origin, as described by Vaśisht́ha to Bhíshma: the gods, defeated by the Daityas, praise Vishńu: an illusory being, or Buddha, produced from his body.
PARÁŚARA.--Thus, in former days, spake the holy Aurva to the illustrious monarch Sagara, when he inquired concerning the usages 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.
MAITREYA.--You have told me, venerable sir, that an ancestral rite is not to be looked upon by certain persons, amongst whom you mentioned such as were apostates. I am desirous to learn whom you intended by that appellation; what practices bestow such a title upon a man; and what is the character of the individual to whom you alluded.
PARÁŚARA.--The Rig, Yajur, and Sáma Vedas constitute the triple covering of the several castes, and the sinner who throws this off is said to be naked (or apostate). The three Vedas are the raiment of all the orders of men, and when that is discarded they are left bare 1. On this subject hear what I heard my grandfather, the pious Vaśisht́ha, relate to the magnanimous Bhíshma:
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 Hráda 2. The discomfited deities fled to the northern shore of the milky ocean, where engaging in religious penance they thus prayed to Vishńu: "May the first of beings, the divine Vishńu, be pleased with the words that we are about to address to 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 Brahmá to a stock, diversified by place and time. Glory to thee, who art Brahmá, 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 Vasus, fire, the winds, and even also ourselves. Glory to they, 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 Yakshas, 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, Janárddana, 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 Rishis, 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, Janárddana, 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 3. 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 every thing, 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 Vásudeva, the sovereign lord of all, who is without soil, the seed of all things, exempt from 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 Garud́a. 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 Vishńu heard their request, he emitted from his body an illusory form, which he gave to the gods, and thus spake 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; it shall this day be of great service unto you, oh gods!"
334:1 This idea is expressed in nearly the same terms in the Váyu P.: 'The three Vedas are the covering of all beings, and they who throw it off through delusion are called Nagnas, naked.' The notion is probably original with neither of the Puráńas, and the metaphorical sense of the term is not that in which it was first employed; ascetics, whether of the Bauddha or of the Digambara order of Jains, being literally Nagnas, or going naked. The qualified application of it, however, was rendered necessary by the same practice being familiar to ascetics of the orthodox faith. To go naked was not necessarily a sign of a heretic, and therefore his nudity was understood to be, rejecting the raiment of holy writ. Thus the Váyu P. extends the word to all ascetics, including naked Brahmans, who practise austerities fruitlessly, that is, heretically or hypocritically: 'The Brahman who unprofitably bears a staff, shaves his head, goes naked, makes a vow, or mutters prayers, all such persons are called Nagnas and the like.'
335:2 A son of Hirańyakaśipu (p. 124).
336:3 See p. 35. n. 5.