The story of dispute of Brahma and Vishnu – Shiva Purana
In Shiva Purana, the story of birth of Brahma ji and dispute with Vishnu ji has been written. The story has been told by Brahma ji to sages.
Brahma ji said to sages, “When Sri Narayana continued into to sleep amidst the waters, an excellent lotus of huge size came out of his navel as desired by Shiva. It was very beautiful with the brilliance of ten million suns. Shiva with Parvati created me from His right limb and placed through the umbilical lotus of Vishnu. Thus, it was that I came to be known as Lotus-born and conceived in a golden womb. I had four faces, red complexion and Tripuṇḍra-marked forehead. I was eager to go up on to the top of the lotus but could not reach. Then I heard an auspicious voice – perform penance. On hearing the voice of the sky, I exerted myself for twelve years in performing a terrible penance in order to see my progenitor. At the same time, the four-armed Sri Vishnu of beautiful eyes suddenly appeared before me in order to bless me. He was holding the conch, the discus, the mace and the lotus in his hands. He was wearing the yellow silken cloth and had cloud-blue complexion all over his body. He had a crown. He was bedecked in great ornaments. His lotus-like face beamed with pleasure.” (Ch-7 /Sh.1-19)
Vishnu said, “Welcome, welcome to you, dear child, O Pitamaha of great brilliance. Do not be afraid. Undoubtedly, I shall confer on you all that you desire.” (Ch-7 /Sh.26)
Brahma said, “how is it that you speak of me trivially as - Dear child, me who am the cause of annihilation of everything, as a preceptor addresses his disciple?” Roused by the Rajoguna, Brahma further said, I am the creator of worlds, the direct activator of Prakriti, unborn, the eternal, all-pervasive Brahma. I am born of Vishnu. I am the soul of universe, the originator, creator, and the lotus-eyed. You must explain to me quickly why you speak like this. The Vedas speak of me invariably as self-born, unborn, all-pervasive, grandfather, self-governed and the excellent supreme Being.” (Ch-7 /Sh.28-32)
Vishnu said, “I know you, for the sake of creation of the world and support you are descended from my un-decaying limbs. You have forgotten me, the supreme soul, invoked by many, praised by many, all-pervasive, imperishable, ruler, the source and origin of universe, the long armed and the omnipresent lord. There is no doubt in this that you are born of the lotus from my umbilicus. I am the creator, sustainer and destroyer. There is no powerful person equal to me. I am the supreme Brahman, the greatest Truth. I am the greatest light. It was I who created the twenty-four manifest Tattvas. I have created the atoms. I have created the attributes. I have created the Intellect and the threefold Ego therein. I have evolved the five subtle elements, the mind, the body and the sense-organs. I have created the five elements Ether etc. and all created beings out of sheer sport. Realising this, O Brahma, seek refuge in me. I shall certainly protect you from all miseries.” (Ch-7 /Sh.33-42)
Brahma said, “On hearing these words, I, proud of being Brahma, became angry. Being deluded by illusion in a threatening attitude I asked him, who are you? Why do you talk so much? You are neither the lord, nor the supreme Brahman. There must be a creator of yours. Deluded by the illusion, I fought a terrific battle with Vishnu. Meanwhile a phallic image appeared before us in order to enlighten us and to settle out dispute. It had no beginning, middle or end. It was as furious as hundreds of the fire of death with thousands of leaping rows of flames. It was unequalled, inexpressible unmanifest universal Being. The Vishnu became unconscious by its thousand flames. When I too became senseless, Vishnu said to me. Oh, why do you contend with me now? A third person has now come. Let our quarrel cease. Let us examine this fire-Being. I shall go down to find the root of this matchless column of fire. You will please go up to examine its top.” (Ch-7 /Sh.43-52)
Brahma continues the story, “Vishnu assumed the form of a Boar. I became a swan immediately. Very white of complexion and endowed with wings on either side I flew up and up with the speed of the mind and wind. The body of Narayana was white & as huge as the mountain Meru. He had white sharp teeth. His brilliance resembled the sun at the time of dissolution. His snort was long and his roar tremendous. His feet were short. His limbs were of diverse colours. His form as the boar was of matchless firmness which assured his eagerness to be victorious, and he went down quickly. For a thousand years his downward course continued. The Boar did not find even the smallest trace of the root of the Linga. I too spent the same time in going up. I exerted myself and was exhausted. Unable to see the top I came down after some time. Similarly, lord Vishnu too became weary. He too rose up. He stood aside with a gloomy mind as he too was deluded by the illusion of Shiva. We bowed down to Linga at His back, sides and in front. Both of us, Hari and I, became eager to perform obeisance. Thus, performing obeisance and prayer to quell our earlier pride, we spent a hundred autumns therein.” (Ch-7 /Sh.54-69)
Brahma said, “we were eager to have a vision of the Supreme Brahman. Our haughtiness had been curbed. We waited there patiently. There arose the sound “Oṃ Oṃ” in the prolate accent. It was very clear. What shall be this great sound? Thinking like this I stood perplexed. Vishnu saw the eternal being’s manifestation on the right side of the Linga. First, he saw the syllable “A” and he saw the syllable “U” thereafter. He saw the syllable “M” in the middle and Nada (the mystical sound) in the form “Om” in the end. He saw the first syllable on the right like the blazing sphere of the sun. Thereafter he saw the syllable “U” dazzling like fire. In the middle he saw the syllable “M” glittering like the lunar sphere. Above that what he saw was the supreme Brahman, the greatest refuge. It was the pure Being beyond the Fourth (Turiya), the unsullied & free from extraneous harassment. It was single (isolated), void, free from exterior and interior though stationed in the exterior and the interior, devoid of beginning, middle and end, the primordial cause of Bliss, the truth, The Bliss and the Nectar. Vishnu thus meditated on the universal soul enveloped by the two Vedic sounds and wished to examine the source whence the Fire-column arose and to go deep down the unequalled fiery column. Then there came a sage who told him the essence of the truth. Vishnu realised that the sage himself was the great lord and the supreme Brahman embodied in the Sabda Brahman. (i.e., the mystic syllable Om). (Ch- 8/Sh.1-13)
The single syllable “A” is the source of the lord Brahma. The single syllable “U” is the source of Vishnu, the ultimate cause. The single syllable “M” is the source of Rudra. (Ch-8 /Sh.16-17)
Shiva revealed his form embedded in letters. The mantra beginning with Oṃkara with its Kalas five in number, consisting of the auspicious thirty-eight syllables, being pure as crystal, increases intelligence and is an effective medium of accomplishing sacred rites. The mantras in the Gayatri metre of twenty-four syllables and having four Kalas are conducive to enjoyment. The five-syllabled mantra of eight Kalas consisting of thirty syllables is employed for black magic. Mantras of Yajurveda consisting of twenty-five syllables and eight Kalas are used for conciliatory purpose. The mantra of thirteen Kalas consisting of sixty-one syllables is conducive to outcome, increase and destruction. The lord Vishnu secured these five mantras: —Mṛtyunjaya mantra, five-syllabled mantra, Chintamaṇi mantra, Dakṣiṇamurti mantra and the “tattvamasi” mantra which is Hara’s Mahavakya. Lord Vishnu performed Japa by means of these mantras. The lord Vishnu and I being glad at heart eulogised the boon-bestowing lord Shiva with appropriate words,—Shiva who was seen in the form of Kalas, Varṇas (syllables), Ṛk, Yajus, Saman, Īshana, Isa, Puratana Puruṣa (the ancient Being), the merciful, pleasing to the heart, hidden from all, ever auspicious, a great deity, of beautiful feet, bedecked with huge serpents, with legs, eyes and hands extending on all sides, the lord of Brahma, and the cause of creation, sustenance and destruction of the world.” (Ch-8 /Sh.41-53)
Brahma said, “On hearing his own eulogy from the mouth of Vishnu, the delighted Shiva revealed Himself along with his consort. He had five faces and three eyes, and the crescent moon on his forehead. He wore matted hair. He was white-complexioned and had wide eyes. His body had been dusted with the ashes. He had ten arms. His neck was blue in colour. Shiva, the merciful, who was delighted breathed the Vedas into Vishnu and conferred Perfect Knowledge on him, the secret of the supreme Atman.” (Ch-9/Sh. 1-6)
Shiva said to Vishnu, on asking about his worship:
“Worship my Linga and do always meditate upon the form which you see just before you. When I am worshipped in the phallic form I will be delighted and will bestow different benefits upon all people, all that they wish for in their minds. Whenever any misery befalls you, it shall be destroyed when my Linga is worshipped. You two are born of my own Prakriti, out of my left and right sides. I am the lord of everything. This Brahma, grandfather for all people, is born of my right side. You, Vishnu, are born of my left side. I am the supreme Atman. Delighted I shall confer boons and whatever you desire. May your devotion to me be steady. With my permission you can make my form in clay and perform adoration. After rendering different kinds of service like this sensibly you shall attain happiness. O Brahma, strictly adhering to my direction you carry on the work of creation. Dear child, dear Hari, you shall sustain the mobile and the immobile beings.”
Vishnu said, “O Sankara, the ocean of mercy, the lord of the universe, be pleased to hear. I shall do all these things strictly adhering to your behests. The rite of the worship of the Linga is instituted ever since in the world. Shiva installed in the Linga bestows worldly pleasures and salvation.” (Ch-10/Sh.27)
The story of dispute of Brahma and Vishnu symbolizes the disputes seen in the material world. Lord Buddha categorized pride into seven forms. One of the categories is “Pride by judging others” i.e., by comparing oneself with the people around, one become either too arrogant or too shy, depending upon one’s false judgement about others as well as oneself. Bhagavad Gita has listed humility or absence of pride as first virtue (13.7).
In fact, Supreme Consciousness reveals itself into non-matter (Jivatma) and matter (Prakriti), which take the form of material and living world. There is a principle of oneness among the constituents of this world. Hence, there is no cause for dispute.
Reference: Shiva Purana, Second Samhita - Rudra-saṃhita: Sṛṣṭi-khaṇḍa, Chapter: 7,8 and 9.