Lord Siva: The Glance of Love
Published on February 20th, 2020 | by Harmonist staff9
Q&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.