After receiving instruction from Nārada, the demon Vṛkāsura went to Kedāranātha. The pilgrimage site of Kedāranātha still exists near Kashmir. It is almost always covered by snow, but for part of the year, during the month of July, it is possible to see the deity, and devotees go there to offer their respects. Kedāranātha is for the devotees of Lord Śiva. According to the Vedic principle, when something is offered to the deities to eat, it is offered in a fire. Therefore a fire sacrifice is necessary in all sorts of ceremonies. It is specifically stated in the śāstras that gods are to be offered something to eat through the fire. The demon Vṛkāsura therefore went to Kedāranātha and ignited a sacrificial fire to please Lord Śiva.
After igniting the fire in the name of Lord Śiva, to please him Vṛkāsura began to offer his own flesh by cutting it from his body. Here is an instance of worship in the mode of ignorance. In the Bhagavad-gītā, different types of sacrifices are mentioned. Some sacrifices are in the mode of goodness, some are in the mode of passion, and some are in the mode of ignorance. There are different kinds of tapasya and worship because there are different kinds of people within this world. But the ultimate tapasya, Kṛṣṇa consciousness, is the topmost yoga and the topmost sacrifice. As confirmed in the Bhagavad-gītā, the topmost yoga is to think always of Lord Kṛṣṇa within the heart, and the topmost sacrifice is to perform the saṅkīrtana-yajña.
In the Bhagavad-gītā it is stated that the worshipers of the demigods have lost their intelligence. As revealed later in this chapter, Vṛkāsura wanted to satisfy Lord Śiva for a third-class materialistic objective, which was temporary and without real benefit. The asuras, or persons within the mode of ignorance, will accept such benedictions from the demigods. In complete contrast to this sacrifice in the mode of ignorance, the arcana-vidhi process for worshiping Lord Viṣṇu or Kṛṣṇa is very simple. Lord Kṛṣṇa says in the Bhagavad-gītā that He accepts from His devotee even a little fruit, a flower or some water, which can be gathered by any person, rich or poor. Of course, those who are rich are not expected to offer only a little water, a little piece of fruit or a little leaf to the Lord; a rich man should offer according to his position. But if the devotee happens to be a very poor man, the Lord will accept even the most meager offering. The worship of Lord Viṣṇu or Kṛṣṇa is very simple, and it can be executed by anyone in this world. But worship in the mode of ignorance, as exhibited by Vṛkāsura, is not only very difficult and painful but is also a useless waste of time. Therefore the Bhagavad-gītā says that the worshipers of the demigods are bereft of intelligence; their process of worship is very difficult, and at the same time the result obtained is flickering and temporary.
Although Vṛkāsura continued his sacrifice for six days, he was unable to personally see Lord Śiva, which was his objective; he wanted to see him face to face and ask him for a benediction. Here is another contrast between a demons and devotees. A devotee is confident that whatever he offers to the Deity in full devotional service is accepted by the Lord, but a demon wants to see his worshipable deity face to face so that he can directly take the benediction. A devotee does not worship Viṣṇu or Lord Kṛṣṇa for any benediction. Therefore a devotee is called akāma, free of desire, and a nondevotee is called sarva-kāma, or desirous of everything. On the seventh day, the demon Vṛkāsura decided that he should cut off his head and offer it to satisfy Lord Śiva. Thus he took a bath in a nearby lake, and without drying his body and hair, he prepared to cut off his head. According to the Vedic system, an animal to be offered as a sacrifice has to be bathed first, and while the animal is wet it is sacrificed. When the demon was thus preparing to cut off his head, Lord Śiva became very compassionate. This compassion is a symptom of the quality of goodness. Lord Śiva is called tri-liṅga, “a mixture of the three material qualities.” Therefore his manifestation of the nature of compassion is a sign of the quality of goodness. This compassion, however, is present in every living entity. The compassion of Lord Śiva was aroused not because the demon was offering his flesh into the sacrificial fire but because he was about to commit suicide. This is natural compassion. Even if a common man sees someone preparing to commit suicide, he will try to save him. He does so automatically. There is no need to appeal to him. Therefore when Lord Śiva appeared from the fire to check the demon from suicide, it was not done as a very great favor to him.