Brahma's son was Bhrigu. Once Bhrigu wanted to know who among the trinity was the greatest: his father, Vishnu or Shiva. He decided that he would be the examiner because he did not want others to make the decision on his behalf.
Bhrigu began his examination with his father. While Brahma was reading the scriptures, Bhrigu came before him in a very haughty way, without bowing. Brahma said, “What! You are coming into my room without showing me any respect? I never thought that you would be so insolent and undivine!” He scolded his son mercilessly.
Silently Bhrigu went away, saying to himself, “This proves that my father cannot be the greatest of the three.”
Next Bhrigu went to see Shiva. When Shiva saw Bhrigu coming towards him, he did not know how to greet him. Why? Because Shiva was very unclean, even filthy. In spite of this, Shiva grabbed Bhrigu and embraced him. “You are so dirty and filthy! Why do you have to make me dirty also?” protested Bhrigu.
Shiva became furious. “You have to call me dirty and filthy? This is what I get for embracing you! I came to you with such affection! I love you. You are Brahma's son. Now you have to say all kinds of things against me?” Shiva was so furious that he wanted to kill Bhrigu.
Bhrigu hastily left Shiva's presence. On the way, he concluded, “Like my father, Shiva is also not good. Both of them have not conquered their anger. Since they have not conquered their anger, what kind of spiritual greatness do they have?”
Vishnu was the last member of the trinity to be examined by Bhrigu. When Bhrigu arrived at Vishnu's abode, Vishnu was fast asleep. Bhrigu thought to himself, “Since both my father and Shiva showed their anger, let me see if I can also make Vishnu angry. I am sure it will be quite easy.”
While Vishnu was still asleep, Bhrigu started mildly kicking him. Vishnu did not wake up. Then Bhrigu kicked Vishnu extremely hard right on his chest. Vishnu woke up and immediately grabbed Bhrigu's feet. “Are you hurt, are you hurt, my child? Please tell me. You kicked me so hard! I am deeply concerned that you have hurt yourself. Please tell me what I can do for you.”
Bhrigu replied, “My Lord, among the trinity— Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva —you are by far the greatest.”
This was Bhrigu's realisation. His father scolded him because he showed no respect to his father; Shiva became enraged because Bhrigu insulted him; but Vishnu, in spite of being kicked ruthlessly, forgave Bhrigu and showed him such compassion and concern.
It is said that the mark of Bhrigu's foot is still visible on Vishnu's chest. Because of this incident, Bhrigu became known as Pada Bhrigu. ‘Pad' means ‘foot,' so Pada Bhrigu means ‘the sage who used his feet to examine the gods.'
From The Earth-Illumination-Trumpets of Divinity's Home (Stories from the Indian Scriptures: the Puranas)
by Sri Chinmoy