Lord Siva: The Glance of Love

sivaQ&A with Swami B.V. Tripurari

Q. What is the position of Lord Siva from the perspective of the Gaudiya sampradaya?

A. Sankaracarya is said to be an incarnation of Lord Siva. The arch enemies of Sankara’s notion of Advaita Vedanta are found in the Madhva and Ramanuja sampradayas. Some in the Madhva sampradaya chant a mantra while passing urine which says they are urinating on Sankara. Such a strong opinion. In the Ramanuja sampradaya there are also very negative feelings about Lord Siva. It is said, perhaps by Ramanuja himself, that it would be better to enter the mouth of a tiger and be devoured than to enter a temple of Lord Siva. By this they mean that by entering the mouth of Sankara’s conception of Advaita Vedanta, which originated from Lord Siva, one loses all hope for any future prospect in Vaisnavism.

But Caitanya Mahaprabhu sought to bring some harmony to the ongoing war between the Saivites and the Vaisnavites. When he visited South India, Caitanya Mahaprabhu visited all the temples of Lord Siva and showed much regard for him. Lord Siva and Parvati even appeared to him in South India as a brahmana and his wife to get his darshan.

So we should have proper conception of, and proper regard for Lord Siva: vaisnavanam yatha sambhu. Mahaprabhu entered all the temples of Lord Siva with this in mind, that Siva is a great Vaisnava. Mahaprabhu reasoned in discussing with the Saivites, “Who is better, Visnu or Siva?” Although there were lengthy arguments, discussions and quoting so many scriptures, what did Caitanya Mahaprabhu say? He said, “The foot wash of Lord Visnu is the Ganges and Lord Siva takes the Ganges on his head. So Visnu must be in a superior position to Siva.” In this way, in a simple way, Mahaprabhu converted them. But in this there was no disregard for Lord Siva. How can we disregard someone who has the Ganges on his head constantly?

Q. What is Siva’s relationship to Visnu?

A. Out of love for all the jivas, the Lord glances at material nature to manifest them, that they may come to meet their maker and love him. Siva is this glance of Visnu, it is the glance of love for all jivas. It is said that God decides to become many. All the baddha-jivas are in a homogeneous form within Maha Visnu and upon his awakening, out of love for the jivas, he causes them to again become many by glancing over material nature. This goes on in perpetual cycles of creation and annihilation. It is said that Visnu does not associate with material nature. Material nature does not take precedence over him. He is intimately associated only with his svarupa sakti, which is his own nature and which conquers him, Radha conquers Krishna.

All the devotees conquer Krishna under the influence of this svarupa sakti. But the maya sakti does not conquer Krishna. Visnu does not associate with maya. But by glancing, he goes there. It is said in the Bible when you glance at a woman, you go there. Just by glancing you are implicated. So Visnu glances at maya and in that sense goes there. That glancing is Siva, all the jivas’ consciousness in touch with material nature, activating material nature and the whole world starts again.

It is said in Vedanta-sutra that the world is about love. We may think, “What? This world is a place of misery, suffering. How is it about love?” In fact all theologians have to deal with this problem: the world is full of suffering, God is full of love, but God created the world. How do we harmonize this? Gaudiya Vaisnavism has this idea: out of love for all the jivas, the Lord glances at material nature to manifest them, that they may come to meet their maker and love him. And within the world he goes to canvass them, he gives the scripture, so that they may learn how to regulate their lives and come to him. But being of the stamp of himself, a unit of consciousness with will, they don’t always take advantage. Still he comes after them. This glance of Visnu; this is Siva; it is the glance of love for all jivas. So how we can not appreciate Siva?

It is said in Padma Purana there are ten offenses to chanting the holy name. The second offense is to consider Lord Siva different from Visnu. Sometimes it is also rendered, “to consider the names of the demigods to have equal efficacy as that of Lord Visnu.” But it may be rendered in another way, “to consider the difference between Siva and Visnu.” Siva means auspicious. Krishna is all-auspicious, so Siva is also a name for God. Actually all the names of all the demigods are names for Krishna.

Q. Is Siva the greatest Vaisnava?

A. If we study Bhagavatam in its entirety we see that paradigmatically speaking, Siva represents jnana-misra bhakti, devotion mixed with knowledge. And above jnana-misra bhakti is Prahlada, suddha bhakti, pure devotion. This is shown in Sanatana Goswami’s commentary, Brhad Bhagavatamrta, which is an explanation of Srimad Bhagavatam, showing the gradation of all the different religious conceptions. So it goes in the highest realm to the gopis. But there we find Siva also: Mahadeva Gopisvara. Siva’s desire to become a gopi.

We should note this about all the great persons in the Bhagavatam like Prahlada, and Narada. They are representing something theologically but that representation does not entirely represent their personhood, potential, or prospect in spiritual life. Therefore the Gaudiya Vaisnavas also find them all in Krishna lila. Narada Kunda is there, where Narada bathed and came out as a gopi. Lord Siva appeared as a gopi and gopa also, Gopesvara, Gopisvara. And the famous Mahadeva Gopisvara temple is here in Vrindavan and in that lila Siva is said to have desired to become a gopi and enter the rasa dance.

Why? Because unless we pass through what Siva represents, that detachment, how can we enter into rasa dance with Lord Krishna? That rasa dance that looks like ordinary love, in every respect is completely selfless. It is selfless love camouflaging itself as selfishness. We have to look closely to see what it is. The idea of Lord Siva being posted at the gate of the rasa lila is that we have to pass through what Siva represents, complete detachment from sense objects, if we are to interact with them in such a way as to not be implicated. In love of Krishna, Gaudiya Vaisnavism is really about interacting with sense objects, properly understanding that every sensual opportunity in the world is an opportunity to satisfy the senses of Krishna.

This is why in regards to high, maha-purusa Gaudiya Vaisnavas who are not acting as acaryas, it is sometimes difficult to understand some of the things they do, like Ramananda Raya teaching the devi dasis how to dance. When Mahaprabhu sent Pradyumna Misra to learn about Krishna bhakti from Ramananda Raya he came back a little bewildered. But Mahaprabhu sent him back. That is a very high thing. We should know how to understand that. To apply that, to live in that, we have to cross through the plane of Lord Siva. He is posted at the gate of the rasa lila and no one can get by him. So symbolically it means this.

So in this way Lord Siva has a high position in Gaudiya Vaisnavism. Lord Siva is actually the brother-in-law of Krishna. From Yasoda a daughter and a son were born. When Vasudeva exchanged Devaki-nandana Krishna for the daughter, Devaki-nandana Krishna merged into Nanda-nandana Krishna and the daughter was taken and she showed an eightfold form, Katyayani, Durga and chastised Kamsa. So Katyayani is the wife of Lord Siva and sister of Krishna. So Lord Siva is the brother-in-law of Krishna. In this way he is part of the extended family. Krishna’s guru, Sandipani Muni, was a Saivite. In Mathura, Krishna was initiated by a Saivite, so Siva is in our guru parampara! You see, we cannot avoid Lord Siva.

In this way we can find ways to harmonize regard for Lord Siva and regard for Lord Krishna. So we should mull over these things and properly represent the harmonizing capacity of Gaudiya Vaisnavism. It is not about making enemies and drawing lines, black and white. We should know that the parameters of Gaudiya Vaisnavism are broad. There are parameters, but they are very broad. It includes all that is spiritual, all possibilities, all spiritual possibilities and that means all the way up to the highest possibility that Mahaprabhu particularly came to represent and to make available.

So in this way we should have a proper understanding of Gaudiya Vaisnavism. It is the highest ideal to get some service of Radha. Radha’s name is also Kartika since she is the daughter of Kirtika. Her mother was named Kirtika because it was the custom to name all of the ladies of Vrindavana after the daughters of Daksa—and then we recall the relationship between Daksa and Siva. So if we read and study the Bhagavatam we can find so much room to understand, accommodate, and appreciate Lord Siva.

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9 Responses to Lord Siva: The Glance of Love

  1. “Some in the Madhva sampradaya chant a mantra while passing urine which says they are urinating on Sankara. Such a strong opinion.”

    I would call this offensive, even if only stated to make a point about the disagreement between the two perspectives. In truth, in the 44 years I have been interested and involved in various forms of Indian spirituality, the ONLY
    individuals, whether they were natives of India or from the West, who I have ever heard criticize the Saivite religion were devotees of Krsna coming from the lineage of S Prabhupada. The only criticism I have ever heard aimed at those who worship Vishnu/Krsna is that they tend to attack other religions.

    • I once passed through Singapore and dinned at a Saivate restaurant and met the owner. We chatted for some time both philosophically and otherwise and he took a liking to me. Then he told me the story of how Iskcon devotees were kicked out of the country by the government through the influence of his Saivaite group. Apparently these “devotees” repeatedly offended the Saivaite sensibilities of the group with their religious fanaticism and the group complained to the government who revoked the Iskcon devotees’ visas. Siva kicked them out.

      Differences should be philosophical/theological and expressed in the spirit of sharing or comparing perspectives while honoring one another and respecting one another’s faith. From the Vaisnava perspective of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Saivism finds it highest reach in Mahesa Dhama in devotion to Sadasiva, and this same Sadasiva plays a very important role in Vrndavana Dhama as the ksetra pal, or protector of the dhama. In this latter role Siva stands as the gate keeper of the rasa lila. One has to go through him to get in. As the Bhagavatam says, “vaisnavanam yatah sambhu.”

    • But regarding the “mantra” of the Madhvas and the friction between the Vaisnavites and Saivaites in South India, I would image that over the centuries there have been unpalatable statements and actions on both sides of the divide. Sankara tried to unite but his way of uniting did not sit well with Madhva and Ramanuja. I believe that Sri Caitanya on the other had does offer solution to the divide worthy of consideration. My own Vaisnava name in his lineage—Tripurari—is a name for Siva at a time in which he was empowered by Krsna.

    • To be balanced it should be pointed out that while Advaitins tend not to criticize Gaudiyas and Gaudiya tend to criticize Advaitins, Advaitins lack of criticism includes within it a denial of the spiritual reality of the Gaudiyas. In other words, Advaitins often accept that the Gaudiya path is a viable alternative, and that sounds ecumenical. However, under scrutiny this acceptance is only on the grounds that the Gaudiya path and others all end up in the Advaitin notion of absolute monism, which in turn offends the spiritual sensibilities of the Gaudiyas and others.

      • You may be right about “Advaitins”, especially the recent crop of suddenly “enlightened beings” who are as common in the spiritual market place as dandelions but not nearly as useful. 🙂

        Anyone who doesn’t value devotion in some form, I ignore. Aside from them, I have only seen a few veiled criticism from Saivites associated with Hinduism Today. Their attitude seems to be that all rivers flow to their religion, which gives them a sweetly patriarchal attitude that I also don’t care much for. But at least they are civil and kind hearted.

        I once visited Prabhupada’s Palace of Gold, in 1981. A group of devotees were heading out with axes and machetes, saying they going to kill Mayavadis who reincarnated as trees. Perhaps they were making a joke but I didn’t think so then… 🙂

        One of my dearest friends is a Krsna devotee. He is enough proof to me that chanting Hare Krsna is a very good thing to do.

        Hare Krsna…Om Namah Shivaya!

  2. Appreciate your comment. Fanatical opposition to another religion, race etc may be a good way to build an organization, through opposition but those who engage in it are very far from humility.

  3. charlie hopkins

    Dear Swamiji,

    Thank you for the nice exchange. I am writing this mainly because I didn’t think to address you as Swami Tripurari, which I regret. No rudeness meant.

    Best Wishes,


  4. First time I have seen this article. Swami, you have beautifully referenced so many angles of vision regarding Lord Siva that are within our literatures. Nice to see these all brought together in one article.

    And the exchange that follows very good.

    I will share this article with others that have some interest in Lord Siva, but often with incomplete understanding.

    I would love to see an article referencing the relationship between Lord Siva, Sada-Siva, and Maha-Vishnu.

    Warm regards, Jagadish

  5. Madhvas’s attitude is guided by their strong opposition to advaita preached by demon Manimam born as Sankara (Garuda Purana 3.16.70-71, Venkatesvara Steam Press http://sanskritdocuments.org/doc_purana/garuDapurANa.itx):

    maNimAn nAma daityas tu saMrAkhyo bhaviSyati
    sarveSAM saMkaraM yas tu kariSyati na saMzayaH
    tena saMkara nAmAsau bhaviSyati khagezvara
    dharmAn bhAgavatAn sarvAn vinAzayati sarvathA

    “Vayu will be born as Maniman daitya, known as Sankara. He will be so called, for he will abolish caste and destroy dharma.” (translation by J.L. Shastri/A board of scholars, Ancient Indian Tradition and Mythology 12-14, Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi 1982.)

    Actually there’s no mention of caste in these two verses but of a complete destruction of bhagavata dharmas (in the last line). But then again, Garuda Purana is allegedly related specifically to Tarksya kalpa.

    Srila Prabhupada never mentioned this verse afaik, but used other anti-advaita quotes related to Sankara and Siva (from Padma Purana etc.) in Teachings of Lord Chaitanya 19 (http://www.vedabase.com/en/tlc/19) and his other books.

    As far as devotees attacking other religions, SP wasn’t in favor of that. But when they attacked KC out of immaturity, lack of knowledge, opposition to master/servant paradigm (advaitists) or other reasons or agendas he obviously defended it and other devotees can’t avoid it as well. Usually when he talked with followers of other religions he encouraged them to strictly follow their own paths and told them if they want to learn more they can study KC. He never tried to convert them.

    For a description of Vaisnava persecution by Theravada Buddhists and Sankara advaitists check http://www.salagram.net/gp-U-warriors.htm

    Hinduism Today once didn’t allow posting my comment mentioning Visnu/Krsna. That was my only interaction with them.

    As Jagadish, I’d also like to see any sruti and smrti quotes on Sadasiva.

    Hari Hari
    ys Jan

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