Once, long ago, on the shore of the river Sarasvati, a discussion arose among a group of sages as to which of the three chief lords-Brahmā, Vishnu or Shiva-is the greatest. They deputed Bhrigu Muni to investigate the matter.
Bhrigu decided to test the lords’ tolerance, for that quality is a sure sign of greatness. First he entered the court of Lord Brahmā, his father, without offering him any respect. This enraged Brahmā, who suppressed his anger because Bhrigu was his son. Next Bhrigu went to Lord Shiva, his older brother, who rose from his seat to embrace him. But Bhrigu rejected the embrace, calling Shiva a deviant heretic. Just as Shiva was about to kill Bhrigu with his trident, Goddess Pārvati interceded and pacified her husband. Next Bhrigu went to Vaikuntha to test Lord Nārāyana. Going up to the Lord, who was lying with His head on the lap of the goddess of fortune, Bhrigu kicked His chest. But instead of becoming angry, both the Lord and His consort stood up and offered Bhrigu respects. “Welcome,” said the Lord. “Please sit down and rest awhile. Kindly forgive us, dear master, for not noticing your arrival.” When Bhrigu went back to the assembly of sages and told them all that had happened, they concluded that Lord Vishnu is certainly supreme.
Srila Prabhupada comments, “Of course, Lord Vishu is all-merciful. He did not become angry at the activities of Bhrigu Muni, for Bhrigu Muni was a great brāhmana. A brāhmana is to be excused even if he sometimes commits an offense, and Lord Vishnu set the example. Yet it is said that from the time of this incident, the goddess of fortune, Lakshmi, has not been very favorably disposed toward the brāhmanas, and therefore because the goddess of fortune withholds her benedictions from them, the brāhmanas are generally very poor.
“The so-called brahmanas of the Kali-yuga are sometimes very proud that a great brāhmana like Bhrigu Muni could touch the chest of Lord Vishnu with his foot. But in fact when Bhrgu Muni kicked the chest of Lord Visnu it was the greatest offense, although Lord Visnu, being greatly magnanimous, did not take it very seriously.
So when such great personalities like Bhrigu Muni, Parashara Muni, Vasistha, and Atreya, are so much contaminated, what to speak of others? How they will understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead by mental speculation? They will conclude naturally, “Imperson.” That’s all. It is not possible for them to understand God. Only the devotees can understand what is the actual identification of the Absolute Truth.”
[An excerpt from the Srimad Bhagavatam (BBT) Tenth Canto Chapter 89]