Mahadeva Siva and Vaishnavism
Published on March 11th, 2021 | by Harmonist staff30
By Swāmī Śrī Bhaktivedānta Tripurāri
Sankaracarya is said to be an incarnation of Lord Siva. The archenemies of Sankara’s notion of Advaita Vedanta are found in the Madhva and Ramanuja sampradayas. Some in the Madhva sampradaya, while urinating, chant a mantra that says they are urinating on Sankara. Such a strong opinion. In the Ramanuja sampradaya there are also very negative feelings about Siva. It is said that it would be better to enter the mouth of a tiger and be devoured than to enter a temple of 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 Vaishnavism.
But Caitanya Mahaprabhu sought to bring some harmony to the ongoing war between the Saivites and the Vaishnavites. 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 darsana.
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 Vaishnava. 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 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?
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 desires 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, Gopisvara and Gopesvara. The famous Mahadeva Gopisvara temple is in Vrindavan, and in that lila Siva is said to have desired to become a gopi and enter the rasa dance, but ultimately was posted at the gate as a guard.
Why does Siva guard the rasa dance? Because unless we pass through what Siva represents, that detachment, how can we enter into the rasa dance with Krishna? That rasa dance, which 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 Vaishnavism 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 Vaishnavas 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.
Furthermore, Lord Siva has a high position in Gaudiya Vaishnavism. He 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. Katyayani is the wife of Lord Siva and sister of Krishna, so Siva is the brother-in-law of Krishna. Even Krishna’s guru, Sandipani Muni, was a Saivite, so Siva is in our guru parampara! We cannot avoid him.
Thus, there are ways to harmonize regard for Siva and regard for Krishna. We should consider these things and properly represent the harmonizing capacity of Gaudiya Vaishnavism. It is not about making enemies and drawing lines, black and white. We should know that the parameters of Gaudiya Vaishnavism are broad. It includes all that is spiritual, all possibilities. If we read and study the Bhagavatam we can find so much room to understand, accommodate, and appreciate Lord Siva.
Brilliantly put, revered Maharaja. And on this so auspicious occasion of Maha Sivaratri, let me post two very ancient Vedic slokas in glorification of Lord Hari and Lord Siva, the two greatest and most powerful entities in the entire creation, respectively.
AkAshAt patitaM toyaM yathA gacChati sAgaram
sarva deva namaskAraH keshavaM prati gacChati
“As all the water fallen from the sky flows to the ocean, similarly salutations to all the gods reach to the one Lord Keshava.”
oṃ tryambakaṃ yajāmahe sugandhiṃ puṣṭi-vardhanam
urvārukam iva bandhanān mṛtyor mukṣīya māmṛtāt
“OM. We worship and adore you, O three-eyed one, O Shiva. You are sweet gladness, the fragrance of life, who nourishes us, restores our health, and causes us to thrive. As, in due time, the stem of the cucumber weakens, and the gourd is freed from the vine, so free us from attachment and death, and do not withhold immortality.”
this is carthick shivam from chennai, plz tell me that sloga which is akashat patitam is from where (veda or bagavat gita or else where) plz let me know as soon as possibel waiting for ur reply sir,
thanks and regards
I’m unsure as to the exact original source of the verse, but have variously read that it either derived from some Upanishad or alternatively, came from Shankaracharya. Yet, in the ultimate analysis, that matters little. It remains a beautiful and inspiring shloka, and I for one am appreciative of it on that lone score, irrespective of whether it originates in an ancient or medieval text.
I think Siva may be Krsna’s brother-in-law as much as Indra thinks Vishnu to be his brother, but more importantly BS 5:45 says that govinda and sambhu are the same. Just different capacities.
I liked this article but it does raise a couple of questions for me.
One of these concerns a devotee’s observance of Siva Ratri. Full observance for Lord Siva’s devotees involves fasting throughout the day and night, without even drinking water if possble, as well as bathing the Siva Lingam and chanting Om Namah Sivaya. I find it a real strugle fasting till midnight on Krishna Janmastami, and that’s with drinking water. Even half a day without water I think of as almost impossible. Devotees of Krishna consider that what we are approaching Lord Siva for his blessings and assistance with is much greater than the material benedictions or liberation that we say is the Siva devotees’ motivation. If as you say 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” to enter into Krishna’s lila (leaving aside for the moment which particular type of lila a devotee might be hoping for) it does put into some perspective just how far short at least myself, and probably a few other devotees, really are in coming even close to reaching eligibility.
Another question arises from the statement about Siva’s family relationship to Krishna. Generally I think of Krishna’s sister growing up and marrying Arjuna. I am not trying to challenge your statement that as Katyayani she is the chaste wife of Lord Siva because it makes a lot of sense to me and there other instances where someone in lila is described as being one person but also someone quite different as well, but it does illustrate just how tricky it is to understand and harmonise what we read in and about the lila of Krishan or any of his lila avatars. I would like to know how this one is harmonised but I suspect that trying to understand all of the seeming contradictions in lila isn’t going to happen and isn’t really a realistic or suitable aim for a devotee.
Finally, on the topic of Siva taking Vishnu’s foot wash water on his head as evidence of who is greater. Here it is put forward that this shows Vishnu is superior, but it seems to me that it could be used to show exactly the opposite, that Siva is superior. This is because in a debate that recognises divinity in both this lila shows Lord Siva with the additional characteristic as being a devotee of the Lord. So it is true that the Lord is greater than the jiva devotee, everything there is eminates from him, but it is also true that the pure devotee in this world is greater than his Lord because he is able to act as guru and give his Lord to others, something that the Lord doesn’t do directly himself. It’s the same reasoning that allows us to see Lord Caitanya as the the most munificent incarnation and to feel such a high regard for Advaita Acharya, who is both Mahavisnu and Sadasiva, because feeling inadaquate to deliver all the fallen souls in kali yuga he called loudly for Krishna to come himself.
Hello Adrian. You wrote:
Brilliant question. Rarely does one come across such an astute inquiry. Usually people just want to cause some sort of intellectual havoc or simply ask obvious questions.
Your logic is perfect. Although you refer to Mahabharata you seem not to know the story that tells us how the pancha pandavas appeared. And I am not talking about the well-known-to-everybody story about Kuntidevi and her mantras received from Durvasa. I am talking about a story explaining why Draupadi had to marry five husbands. Search for it and try to find the answer.
Thank you Pablo, I think I am not nearly as well or widely read as most people who post on this site and I don’t know the story you are referring to but I will take your advice and the clue you have given and try and find it.
On Draupadi marrying the Five Pandavas: The same question was asked by Draupadi’s father to Vyasadeva, after which Vyasadev narrated the story of who the Pandavas were, and what is the position of Draupadi.The story can be found in the Mahabharata translation at Sacred Texts by Kishan Mohan Ganguli.Its quite interesting.
Additional explanation is also given by Sri Madhvacarya in his commentary on Mahabharata, Mahabharata-Tatparya Nirnaya.
It sure seems like everything we learn about Lord Siva in shastra contradicts his Sariraka-bhasya.
If we ignore Sankar’s commentary on Vedanta and actually understand Siva as Siva and not Siva as Sankar, then we can understand something about the heart of Lord Siva.
We can’t judge Siva on his Sankar incarnation. That had nothing to do with Siva’s own nature as he came in a disguised form for the express purpose of guiding the atheists down their path to spiritual suicide as a result of their envy of Krishna.
We can’t blame Siva for teaching Advaita Vedanta. He was ordered to do such by Lord Vishnu. Lord Siva had no personal ambition to preach Advaita Vedanta. He was just being an obedient servant of Lord Vishnu.
I truly liked your intelligent reflections on this riveting article. I believe that Sanatana Gosvami’s pastimes with Cakalesvara Siva at Manasi Ganga can provide contemporary devotees with a possible approach to some of the issues raised, regarding the inclusion of Lord Siva and Mother Sakti in vaisnava-bhakti.
After all, ten metres from the janmasthana temple at Yogapitha in Mayapura is a small shrine housing two lingas, one representing Gopisvara Mahadeva and the other being the symbol of Ksetrapala Mahadeva. It is recommended that one pays one’s obeisances to these murtis prior to performing parikrama of Sri Navadvipa-dhama, for doing so with faith and respect greatly increases one’s chance of being blessed with Gaura-prema. This aside, we do know that Vrddha Siva and Praudha Maya are the eternal guardians of the transcendental realm of Sri Caitanya.
I myself am of mixed north Indian parentage, with genealogical lines traced to no less than three states: Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Bengal, and the family background I hail from has a history steeped in the worship of Sambhu, as a natural corollary of our kuladevi, or family deity, being Goddess Kali, his wife. In fact, I take the evolution of the slant of my personal path towards Caitanya Vaisnavism as the benediction of Lord Sadasiva, due to my having many a time implored his great self to guide and lead me to the supreme absolute truth. Principally for this reason but also partially as a consequence of my cultural conditioning and psychological inheritance, I shall forever reserve a privileged position in my own spiritual life for Siva, and shall encourage those close to me to do likewise, since as Tripurari Swami nicely demonstrates with his numerous citations from sastric accounts, there can be no conflict between Hari-bhakti and Siva-puja, when everything is viewed in perspective, given the exemplary relationship of love and devotion that exists between Bhagavan and his expansion and devotee, Mahadeva.
In truth I am not familiar with Sanatana Gosvami’s pastimes with Cakalesvara Siva at Manasi Ganga. I have read that Sanatana Goswami stayed near the temple of Cakelesvara Mahadeva towards the end of life, circumambulating Govardhana every day, and that it was here that Madana Gopala brought him milk, arranged for a kuti to be built for him and impressed his foot into a stone form Govardhana so that Sanatana in his old age could circumambulate his lord in that form instead. I would be very pleased to hear any other stories you think I might benefit from if I could prevail on you to relate them or tell me where I might find them.
My statement in this regard is not meant to be taken literally in the sense that Siva becomes Krsna’s brother in law in Krsna-lila. I am merely highlighting another connection between the two somewhat poetically. The tattva I refer to is mentioned in SB 10.4.13, where Krsna’s sister assumes many forms and reveals herself to be Devi (manifesting as Kali, Bhadra, Durga, etc), Mahadeva’s consort.
Your statement may not be taken literally. Still, it is a fact that Arjuna married Krishna’s sister, who revealed herself to be Devi. Who then Arjuna was in relation to Shiva that he could do so?
When I wrote the article I was thinking only of the fact that Krsna’s sister was Mahadeva’s consort and not that she also in one of her forms married Arjuna. That makes Krsna Arjuna’s brother in law and Arjuna Siva’s as well in a sense.
In Krsna book (Chapter 2, pp. 25-26) Subhadra devi is described as Yogamaya, not Mahamaya or Durga (Siva’s consort). Vishnu tells Yogamaya that “People who are after materialistic perfection will worship you under the different forms of your expansions, which will be named Durga, Bhadrakali,…” etc. So I’m not sure why you are identifying Subhadra as Durga rather than her original identity as Yogamaya. That would make Krishna’s sister the wife of Vishnu, not the wife of Siva.
“People who are after materialistic perfection will worship you under the different forms of your expansions, which will be named Durga, Bhadrakali,…”
This verse says that Krsna’s sister also goes by the name Durga. Durga is Siva’s consort.
Where is Yogamaya described as the wife of Visnu?
Sorry, I guess I’m a little confused. In one part of “Krsna Book” Subhadra-devi is described as Yogamaya, the “principal potency” summoned by Vishnu, but then She appears to Kamsa as Durga (described as the “eight-armed, younger sister of Vishnu”). Are we to see Subhadra-devi as Yogamaya, Durga, or both? I am accustomed to viewing Subhadra-devi as Yogamaya but it seems you are viewing Her more as Durga (the wife of Siva). Is Durga a more accurate identity of the Subhadra-devi we worship alongside Lord Jagannatha?
Also, I only assumed Yogamaya was the wife of Vishnu since She was His principal shakti. Do some of Vishnu’s shaktis have relationships to Him other that that of being wives? And does that make Yogamaya the sister of Vishnu, just as Subhadra and Durga are?
Thanks for your patience in helping me to understand this more clearly…
Yogamaya and Mahamaya are for the most part the same potency acting differently under different circumstances. See Paramatma-sandarbha. In Prabhupada’s words think of them as electrical energy heating or cooling. As Mahamaya she is the chaste wife of Siva, but in Krsna’s Vraja-lila lila the manifestations of Yogamaya tend to be single, Vrinda-devi, Paurnamasi . . . or in the case of Subhadra in the Dvaraka-lila married to Arjuna. But in Gaura-lila she is married to Advaitacarya (Sita). Complex no doubt.
I think it was (Prabhupada’s KB) description of Yogamaya as “Vishnu’s principal potency” that threw me off. Wouldn’t Vishnu’s principal potency be Laksmi, with Yogamaya being an expansion of Her? Or are Yogamaya and Laksmi one and the same? It is indeed very complex, maybe over my head, but I’m trying to understand so I can describe these sakti-tattvas properly to others. Also, is the difference between Yogamaya and Mahamaya comparable to the difference between Vishnu and Siva–the main difference being that Mahamaya and Siva contact the material energy whereas Yogamaya and Vishnu never do?
In that passage Prabhupada is referring to Yogamaya as Krsna’s primary or internal deluding sakti as opposed to his secondary external deluding potency. But she is both in the ultimate issue. Look at it like this: Krsna has a deluding potency that functions in relation to the spiritual and material worlds. Keep it simple. Otherwise it quickly gets complicated: Yogamaya is Krsna’s sister and Siva’s wife and Vrinda-devi, Paurnamasi, Advaita’s wife Sita, and a host of other persons related to samvit (enlightened delusion) of the antaranga-sakti as well as the entire bahiranga-sakti (unenlightened delusion) . . . the word yogamaya is used to describe either deluding influence, for example, in the Gita 7.25, depending on the commentary one reads.
“In that passage Prabhupada is referring to Yogamaya as Krsna’s primary or internal deluding sakti as opposed to his secondary external deluding potency. But she is both in the ultimate issue. Look at it like this: Krsna has a deluding potency that functions in relation to the spiritual and material worlds. Keep it simple. Otherwise it quickly gets complicated: Yogamaya is Krsna’s sister and Siva’s wife and Vrinda-devi, Paurnamasi, Advaita’s wife Sita, and a host of other persons related to samvit (enlightened delusion) of the antaranga-sakti as well as the entire bahiranga-sakti (unenlightened delusion) . . . the word yogamaya is used to describe either deluding influence, for example, in the Gita 7.25, depending on the commentary one reads.”
If that is keeping it simple, I would hate to get a real technical explanation…. 😉
I sort of prefer the ‘traditional Hindu’ explanations, where all these personalities are explained as manifestations of the eternal male and female principles. Lord Shiva is personification of the male principle of this material world, his wife is personification of the female principle, while Lord Vishnu (or in our case Lord Krsna) is the overall male principle of the entire creation and his consort is the female principle.
This is what I meant by keeping it simple:
The rest of the post was an example of how quickly it gets complicated.
Thank you, I see it better now.
Still, the use of the term ‘deluding potency’ implies some serious complexity. Is delusion really the most basic principle and function of those energies?
Anyway, going back to the main topic, I really enjoyed reading Sri Sivastakam – Eight prayers glorifying Lord Siva, spoken by Sriman Mahaprabhu as recorded in Murari Gupta’s “Sri
Caitanya Carita Mahakavya”, not something devotees often talk about.
Here’s a good explanation on Subhadra as well:
Subhadra Devi is Lord Krishna’s internal shakti, yoga-maya. She is the facilitator of devotional service, and makes all arrangements for the devotees to serve Lord Krishna.
The internal (spiritual) energy of Lord Krishna and the external (material) energy of Lord Krishna are ultimately the same divine potency acting in two different functions. Srila Prabhupada explains that just as electricty can power both a heater and refrigerator (which have oposite effective qualities), in the same way, the one divine energy of the Lord acts to either cover the living entities spiritual knowledge of the Lord, or reveal the presence of the Lord. When that energy acts as a curtain to cover the view of the Lord, it is termed as Mahamaya (material energy). When that same divine energy acts to open the curtain and reveal the Lord’s form, it is known as Yogamaya (spiritual energy). Subhadra Devi is the internal spiritual energy of the Lord, she is not connected with the three modes of material nature.
Durga devi is also known as Bhadra, which is her form for controlling the three modes of nature. When the divine energy acts on a higher spiritual platform, she is known as Subhadra.
Subhadra is distinct from Bhadra, in that her only function is in facilitating devotional service to Lord Krishna. She is never in contact with the material energy.
“Look at it like this: Krsna has a deluding potency that functions in relation to the spiritual and material worlds. Keep it simple.”
Thank you for this – it is an excellent explanation and makes a lot of sense.
Could you also explain the position of Lord Shiva in such simple terms? I have heard many conflicting explanations about his position. In Bhagavatam there is the story of Rudra being born from Lord Brahma’s anger. Is this describing the birth of Lord Shiva?
Is Lord Shiva Vishnu tattva? Jiva tattva? What is the significance of Shiva taking the ganges on his head?
Alex, that depends on what sort of explanation you’re after, one to strengthen your Vaishnava convictions or an independently-thought/realised exposé to make you try thinking a tad differently about this most mysterious and intriguing of divinities. For my part, I draw my knowledge of Shiva and Shakti from mainstream Hinduism as well as from Shaiva and Shakta authorities, i.e. those who have spent their entire lifetime serving these deities; in the exact same way that I wouldn’t go to a Shaivite if I wanted to understand the glories of Lord Vishnu or Krishna, Vaishnava sources are not the best resource for one to tap, if gaining a proper understanding and appreciation of Mahadeva is the actual objective.
As for the standard Chaitanyite response to questions about Shiva’s identity and position, perhaps you’d find this rather informative, and to your liking:
Though my scholarship is like a drop in the big ocean, my huble limited knowledge submission is that the chants of Shiva are in the NARAYANOPANISHAT.
The strong dislike Vaishanvites had/have towards shaivism is rooted in the demonic approach adopted by the kings to force shaivism on those
who took the path of Vishnu. Even Ramanujacharya had to escape to the neighbouring Mysore state and many of his disciples were tortured.
These animositie towards each other were strong and at present things are changing. These days you can see a Vinayaka in the shrine of Venkateshwara.
mādhavomādhavāv īśau sarva-siddhi-vidhāyinau
vande parasparātmānau paraspara-nati-priyau
I offer my obeisances to the two Īśvaras – Kṛṣṇa, the husband of Mā (Lakṣmī), and Śiva, the husband of Umā (Pārvatī), Who are the source of all ability and perfection. They are always united, and filled with mutual love and respect for each other. (One of the auspicious invocatory prayers from Śrīla Śrīdhara Svāmī’s commentary on the first verse of the Bhāgavatam)
Gravely misleading article… Maadhwas don’t consider Adi Sankara to be an incarnation of Shiva… Study his Siddhanta properly first before blurting out allegations like these… Maadhwas are undoubtedly against Adi Sankara, but at same time, everyone including Shriman Madhwacharya has composed stotras and built shrines of Shiva… Shiva is topmost Vaishnavottama was first told by Madhwacharya in Mahabharata Tatparya Nirnaya only…
Thanks for the correction. Details matter. That said, I do believe that here are scriptural references that identify Siva with Adi Sankara, or at least lend themselves to that interpretation.