Many years ago, there was a terrible drought on earth. There was no food to be had and famine prevailed. There were several sages who lived in the forest, and they too, suffered from a lack of food.
Goutama was a very powerful sage and he had a hermitage in the forest. Such were the powers that Goutama had that it never stopped raining in his hermitage. There was no famine there and plenty of food was to be had. The other sages therefore went to Goutama’s hermitage and begged him to provide them with food and shelter. This request Goutama readily agreed to, and the sages lived there happily.
After twelve years had passed, it began to rain again. The drought had passed and foodgrains started to grow. The sages no begged their leave of Goutama.
“Stay for a few more days,” said Goutama. “Be my guests and bless my household.”
The sages tarried, but they were jealous of Goutama and his powers. They therefore plotted to bring about Goutama’s downfall. With their own powers, they created a black calf. This calf was nothing but an illusion. But having created it, the sages sent it to Goutama. Goutama found the calf wandering around and decided to take it to his cowshed. But as soon as he touched the calf, the calf seemed to die. All this was because of the illusion, but Goutama did not know this. He was thunderstruck at having killed a cow.
“You are evil, you have killed a cow,” the sages told Goutama. “It would be a sin to remain as your guest. We are leaving.”
By then, Goutama had got to know that the calf had been an illusion. He was extremely angry with the sages and cursed them, “because you have been evil, you have deviate from the path laid down by the Vedas. You will rot in hell and will have to be born several times to be freed of your sins.”
The sages started to pray to Vishnu and Shiva. They wished that their sins might be cleansed. “What shall we do with these sages?” Shiva asked Vishnu. “Shall we pardon them? They are
praying for deliverance.”
“Never,” replied Vishnu. “Those who do not follow what is laid down in the Vedas will surely rot in hell. But since they are not permitted to follow the sacred shastras, let us compose some other shastras for them. They will follow those evil shastras, rot in hell and be born on earth several times. That is their penance.”
To delude the sages, Shiva himself pretended to be a great religious teacher. He preached evil ways and the stupid brahmanas began to follow what he preached.