Monday, February 15, 2010

Visnu-tattva (Isvara-tattva)


The existence (satta) and nature (svarupa) of God have been largely described in all sruti and smrti. Being so, the theistic philosophical systems that accept the authority of the Vedas are called ‘astika’ (asti-there is), referring to the open acceptance of a Supreme controller over all the other elements. On the other hand, those who deny the authority of the Vedas, and consequently the existence of God, are called ‘nastika’ (nasti- there is not).

Those who do not accept the existence of God argue that the concept of God as the creator of the universe is untenable, because God does not possess a body for the purpose of creating the universe. But such arguments are not valid because, as stated in the sruti, Isvara can create the universe by his will (sankalpa) without the aid of a body. Neither inference (anumana) nor the statements of the atheists can disprove the existence of God. Sruti or revealed scripture is the sole authority for knowing the existence of God.

The advaitavadis question the view that Brahman is to be known through the revealed scripture. They emphasise the point that Brahman, as the transcendental reality, is self established and is beyond all speech and thought. It cannot be grasped by the intellect. Thus the Upanisadic texts say that its reality is unperceivable and ungraspable:

yat tad adresyam agrahyam (Mundaka Upanisad, I.1.5)

Another text states-

yato vaco nivartante aprapya manasa saha (Taitiriya Upanisad, II.9.1l)

“From whom speech and mind turn away, because they are unable to reach him.” Brahman is therefore avedya - beyond all empirical pramanas and cognition.

The vaisnavas criticise this view. It is not correct to say Brahman cannot be known by means of scriptural texts. The very Upanisads say that Brahman is only knowable by sruti. Thus the sruti says-

sarve vedah yat padam amananti (Katha Upanisad, II-15)

"All Vedas speak of this nature". Several texts affirm that Brahman is describable by words and also knowable:

tasyoditi nama (Chandogya Upanisad, I.6.7)

The Upanisadic text which speaks of Brahman as beyond words and thought can only mean that Brahman which is infinite cannot be adequately described by words, and cannot be also known in all its fullness by our finite minds. If this interpretation were not accepted, there would be conflict with both the earlier and later statements made in the same Upanisadic passage.

Another impersonalist argument is that the terms Brahman, atma, etc. mentioned in the Upanisads do not have a primary import (mukhyartha) in respect of Brahman, but they only have a secondary meaning(laksana). That is, these words do not refer directly to Brahman, but indirectly. This is explained in the analogy of the moon seen through the branch of a tree (sakha-candra-nyaya). The moon visible as if close to the tree branch is made use of to identify the real moon which is far distant in the sky. Though there is no connection between the branch and the moon, the former serves the purpose of identifying the moon in the sky. In the same way, the term Brahman in the Upanisads serves to convey the knowledge of Brahman without having direct reference to Brahman.

According to the vaisnava schools, there is no difficulty at all in accepting the primary import in respect of Parabrahman, the higher reality postulated by the impersonalists. The word Brahman, atma, etc. and all the Upanisadic texts related to the discussion on the nature of Brahman refer directly to the higher Brahman. If it is argued that direct reference is only to the lower Brahman (apara-brahman), then the statements relating to the higher Brahman become invalid, and the very existence of such a Brahman would be questionable. It is impossible to maintain that Brahman is unknowable. Even if Brahman were the content of the indirect reference, it would become the object of knowledge to that extent. It is therefore more appropriate and logical to accept that Brahman is known through the scripture and that scripture is the sole authority for proving its existence.

After accepting the existence of God, one should appreciate the nature of His transcendental existence, Names, forms, attributes, activities, etc. It is said:

vijnanam anandam brahma ratir datuh parayanam
(Brhad-aranyaka Upanisad (3.9.28); Govinda-bhasya, 3.2.40)

"The Supreme Personality of Godhead is full of knowledge and bliss. It is He Who gives the fruits of actions to those who perform yajnas."

This is confirmed by the following statements:

satyam jnanam anantam brahma (Taittiriya Upanisad (2.1.1); Govinda-bhasya, 1)

"The Supreme Personality of Godhead is limitless, eternal, and full of knowledge."

yah sarvajnah sarvavid
(Mundaka Upanisad (1.1.9); Govinda-bhasya, 1.2.21)

"The Supreme Personality of Godhead knows everything."

These and so many other quotes prove that God’s body is not composed of material elements, but rather by spiritual knowledge, eternity and blissfulness, as confirmed:

om namah
sac-cid-ananda-rupaya krsnayaklista-karine
namo vedanta-vedyaya gurave buddhi-saksine
(Gopala-tapani Upanisad, 1.1; Govinda-bhasya, 1.1.2)

“I offer my respectful obeisances to Sri Krsna, whose form is eternal and full of knowledge and bliss, Who is the rescuer from distress, Who is understood by Vedanta, Who is the supreme spiritual master, and Who is the witness in everyone's heart.”

isvarah paramah krsnah sac-cid-ananda-vigrahah
anadir adir govindah sarva-karana-karanam
(Brahma-samhita, 5.1; Govinda-bhasya, 3.2.17)

“Krsna, Who is known as Govinda, is the Supreme Godhead. He has an eternal blissful spiritual body. He is the origin of all. He has no other origin and He is the prime cause of all causes.”

His status among all the living entities and even among the greatest demigods is that of Supreme Controller unto Whose power all are subordinated.

tamisvaranam paramam mahesvaram tam devatanam paramam ca daivatam
patim patinam paramam parastad vidama devam bhuvanesamidyam
(Svetasvatara Upanisad, 6.7; Govinda-bhasya, 3.3.46)

“We meditate on the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is the controller of all other controllers, and He is the greatest of all the diverse planetary leaders. Everyone is under His control. All entities are delegated with particular powers only by the Supreme Lord; they are not supreme themselves. He is also worshipable by all demigods and is the supreme director of all directors. Therefore, He is transcendental to all kinds of material leaders and controllers and is worshipable by all. There is no one greater than Him, and He is the supreme cause of all causes.”

sa karanam karanadhipadhipo na casya kascij janita na cadhipah
(Svetasvatara Upanisad (6.9); Govinda-bhasya, 3.3.8)

"The Supreme Personality of Godhead is the cause of all causes. He is the king of all other causes. No one is His creator. No one is His king."

It should be understood that when the scriptures speak of the birth of the Lord, that simply refers to His appearance in the external world, since He has no material body. The appearance and disappearance of an avatara are fully under the will of the Lord, Who displays His eternal pastimes through the agency of His internal potency. So, under the light of this view, one should understand the meaning of the word ‘janma’ when applied to God, as stated:

ajayamano bahudha vijayate
(Purusa-sukta, Yajur Veda, 31.29; Govinda-bhasya, 3.3.10)

"Although He is never born, the Lord takes birth again and again in many different forms."

And Lord Krsna Himself affirms:

ajo 'pi sann avyayatma bhutanam isvaro 'pi san
prakrtim svam adhisthaya sambhavamy atma-mayaya
(Bhagavad-gita, 4.6)

“Although I am unborn and My transcendental body never deteriorates, and although I am the Lord of all living entities, I still appear in every millennium in My original transcendental form.”

And the very appreciation of this truth gives one liberation:

janma karma ca me divyam evam yo vetti tattvatah
tyaktva deham punar janma naiti mam eti so 'rjuna
(Bhagavad-gita, 4.9)

“One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna.”

But still one may wonder about the relation between Lord Krsna and the demigods like Lord Siva, Lord Brahma and Indra, after all they also display great powers and are known as the lords of the universe. The answer is that just like a king conveys some power to his representatives, in the same way Lord Krsna empowers the demigods to rule the universe, but as the king still holds the supreme post in the kingdom, Lord Krsna stands as the Supreme under all circumstances, as stated above. Moreover, it is known that He existed before the appearance of Lord Brahma and Lord Siva:

atha puruso ha vai narayano 'kamayata prajah srjeti
narayanad brahma jayate narayanad prajapatih prajayate
narayanad indro jayate narayanad astau vasavo jayante
narayanad ekadasa rudra jayante narayanad dvadasadityah
(Govinda-bhasya, 1.3.30; Narayana Upanisad, 1)

"Then the Supreme Personality Narayana desired to manifest living entities. From Narayana, Brahma is born, and from Narayana, the patriarchs are also born. From Narayana, Indra is born, from Narayana, the eight Vasus are born, from Narayana the eleven Rudras are born, and from Narayana, the twelve Adityas are born."

eko ha vai puruso narayana asin na brahma na ca sankarah. sa munir bhutva samacintayat. tata ete tyajayantam visvo hiranyagarbho 'gnir varuna-rudrendrah
(Maha-Narayana Upanisad, 1.1)

"In the beginning only Lord Narayana, the Supreme Person, existed. Neither Brahma nor Siva existed then. Lord Narayana began to meditate, and from His meditation the material universe was manifested. From His meditation Brahma, Siva, Indra, Varuna, and Agni were born." Lord Brahma says:

yasya prasadad aham acyutasya bhutah praja-srsti-karo 'nta-kari
krodhac ca rudrah sthiti-hetu-bhuto yasmac ca madhye purusah purastat
(Visnu Purana, 3.19.85; Govinda-bhasya, 1.40.28)

“I, the creator of the living beings, was born from Lord Narayana’s happiness. Siva, the destroyer of the worlds, was born from Lord Narayana’s anger. From Lord Narayana was also born Lord Visnu, Who is greater than the greatest, and who is the maintainer of the worlds.”

Lord Krsna says:

prajapatim ca rudram capy aham eva srjami vai
tau hi mam na vijanito mama maya-vimohitau
(Moksa-dharma, quoted by A.C.Bhaktivedanta Prabhupada in his commentary on Gita,10.8; Govinda-bhasya, 2.3.41)

“The patriarchs, Siva and others are created by Me, though they do not know that they are created by Me because they are deluded by My illusory energy.”

narayanah paro devas tasmaj jatas caturmukhah
tasmad rudro bhaved devah sa ca sarvajnatangatah
(Varaha Purana, quoted in the Govinda-bhasya, 1.3.30)

"Narayana is the Supreme Personality of Godhead and the Supreme conscious Being. From Him the demigod Brahma was born, and due to Him Lord Siva became a demigod. "

And Lord Krsna Himself states in the Bhagavad-gita:

na me viduh sura-ganah prabhavam na maharsayah
aham adir hi devanam maharsinam ca sarvasah
(Bhagavad-gita, 10.2; Govinda-bhasya, 3.3.18)

“Neither the hosts of demigods nor the great sages know My origin or opulences, for, in every respect, I am the source of the demigods and sages.”

aham sarvasya prabhavo mattah sarvam pravartate
iti matva bhajante mam budha bhava-samanvitah
(Bhagavad-gita, 10.8; Govinda-bhasya, 2.3.14)

“I am the source of all spiritual and material worlds. Everything emanates from Me. The wise who perfectly know this engage in My devotional service and worship Me with all their hearts.”

Some may argue that Lord Siva is also called the Supreme Lord by names like Mahesa, Mahadeva, etc. But Lord Indra is also called Mahendra, and here the word ‘maha’ does not add anything to the meaning, for it is well known that Indra is not the Supreme, being dependent on the results of his previous sacrifices. Similarly, by adding ‘maha’ to Lord Siva’s names it does not mean he is the greatest of all beings. The Mahabharata corroborates Lord Brahma’s and Lord Siva’s subordinated position:

yuga-koti-sahasrani visnum aradhya padmabhuh
punas trailokyadhatrtvam praptavan iti susruma
(Quoted by Baladeva in his Vedanta-syamantaka, 2.7)

“After worshipping Lord Visnu for a thousand yugas, a certain faithful devotee was born in a lotus flower and attained the post of Brahma, the creator of the worlds.”

Lord Krsna Himself explains:

maya srstah pura brahma mad-yajnam ajayat svayam
tatas tasya varan prito dadav aham anuttaman
mat-putratvam ca kalpadau lokadhyaksatvam eva ca
(Ibidem)

“In ancient times I created Brahma. When Brahma worshipped Me, I became pleased and offered him many boons. At the beginning of the kalpa I allowed him to become My son. Then I gave him mastery over the worlds.”

In consoling the grieving Yudhisthira, Lord Krsna also said:

visvarupo mahadevah sarvamedhe mahakratau
juhava sarvabhutani svayam atmanam atmana
mahadevah sarvamedhe mahatma hutvatmanam devadevo babhuva
visval lokan vyapya vistabhya kirtya virajate dyutiman krttivasa
(Ibidem; Govinda-bhasya, Introduction)

“Lord Siva performed a great sarvamedha-yajna where he offered all living entities, including himself.

“Lord Siva performed a great sarvamedha-yajna where he offered himself. As a result he became glorious and effulgent. His fame filled all the worlds.”
Lord Visnu arranged that invincible Lord Siva would kill the demon Tripura. In the Maha-bharata it is said:

visnur atma bhagavato bhavasyamita-tejasah
tasmad dhanur-jya-samsparsat sa visehe mahesvarah
(Quoted by Baladeva in his Vedanta-symantaka, 2.10)

“The Supreme Lord Visnu touched limitlessly powerful Siva’s bowstring. That is how Siva became able to kill the Tripura demon.”

In the smrti it is said:

tripuram jaghnusah purvam brahmana visnupanjarah
samkarasya kurusrestha raksanaya nirupitah
(Visnu-dharma Purana, 69.15)

“O best of the Kurus, as Lord Siva prepared to kill the Tripura demon, Lord Brahma spoke a mystic amulet to protect Lord Siva, an amulet that was a description of Lord Visnu’s transcendental form.”

In Banasura’s battle, Lord Krsna attacked Lord Siva with a yawning weapon. This is described in the following words:

jrmbhanastrena govindo jrmbhayamasa sankaram
tatah pranesurdaiteyah pramathas ca samantatah
jrmbhabhibhutas ca haro rathopastham upavisat
na sasaka tada yoddhum krsnenaklista-karmana
(Brahma Purana, 206,14-15; Govinda-bhasya, 3.3.9)

“Throwing His yawning weapon, Lord Krsna made Lord Siva yawn. Then all the demons were easily killed.

“Defeated by the yawning weapon, Lord Siva stepped down from the chariot. He had no power to fight. He was defeated by Lord Krsna, whose will is never thwarted.”

Lord Parasurama says:

tada tu devatah sarvah prcchanti sma pitamaham
sitikanthasya visnos ca balabalaniriksaya
abhiprayam tu vijnaya devatanam pitamahah
virodham janayam asa tayoh satyavatam varah
virodhe ca mahad yuddham abhavad romaharsanam
sitikanthasya visnos ca parasparajayaisinoh
tada taj jrmbhitam saivam dhanur bhimaparakramam
humkarena mahadevah stambhito 'tha trilocanah
devais tada samagamya sarsisamghaih sacaranaih
yacitau prasamam tatra jagmatus tau surottamau
jrmbhitam tad dhanur drstva saivam visnuparakramaih
adhikam menire visnum devah sarsiganas tada
(Ramayana, 1.74.14-19; Govinda-bhaya, 2.3.45)

“One day, after Lord Siva killed the demon, the demigods went to Lord Brahma and curiously inquired, ‘Who is more powerful, Lord Siva or Lord Visnu?’ To resolve their doubt, Lord Brahma arranged to create some conflict between the two. As a result, a fierce battle ensued. During the fight, Lord Visnu cut off Lord Siva’s bow string and then, simply by releasing a tumultuous roar, He stunned Lord Siva’s senses. At the behest of the demigods, the fighting was then stopped and everyone who witnessed the duel concluded that Lord Visnu is superior to Lord Siva in all respects.”

By chanting Lord Krsna’s holy names, Lord Siva was able to neutralise the kalakuta poison. This is described in the smrti :

acyutananta govinda mantram anustubham param
om namah samputikrtya japan visa-dharo harah
(Quoted by Baladeva in his Vedanta-syamantaka, 2.11)

“Chanting the mantra ‘Acyuta ananta govinda om namah’, Lord Siva cupped his hands and drank the poison.”

After the cosmic devastation only Lord Narayana remains, and before the creation only Lord Narayana is present. It is said:

eko ha vai narayana asin na brahma na ca sankarah
(Maha-Narayana Upanisad, 1.1)

"In the beginning there was only Lord Narayana. There was no Brahma and no Siva."

In the Maha-bharata it is said:

brahmadisu pralinesu naste loke caracare
abhuta samplave prapte praline prakrtau mahan
ekas tisthati sarvatma sa tu narayanah prabhuh
(Quoted by Baladeva in his Vedanta-symantaka, 2.12)

“When Brahma, the demigods, the moving and unmoving beings, and all the worlds are merged in the unmanifested material nature, only the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Narayana, the master of all, remains.”

In the Visnu-dharma Purana it is said:

brahma sambhus tathaivarkas candramas ca satakratuh
evam adyas tathaivanye yukta vaisnava-tejasa
jagat karyavasane tu viyujyante ca tejasa
(Ibidem)

“Brahma, Siva, Surya, Candra, Indra and all the demigods have power given by Lord Visnu. When the universe is destroyed, their powers are removed.”

The Bhagavatam confirms:

aham evasam evagre nanyad yat sad-asat param
pascad aham yad etac ca yo 'vasisyeta so 'smy aham
(Bhagavatam, 2.9.33)

“Brahma, it is I, the Personality of Godhead, who was existing before the creation, when there was nothing but Myself. Nor was there the material nature, the cause of this creation. That which you see now is also I, the Personality of Godhead, and after annihilation what remains will also be I, the Personality of Godhead.”

It is said:

prakrtir ya mayakhyata vyaktavyaktasvarupini
purusas capy ubhavetau liyete paramatmani
paramatma ca sarvesam adharah paramesvarah
visnu-namna sa vedesu vedantesu ca giyate
(Visnu Purana, 6.3.39-40)

“The individual spirit souls and the manifest and unmanifest material nature, which is called maya, all merge into the Supreme Personality of Godhead at the time of cosmic devastation. At that time everything rests in the Supreme Personality of Godhead, whose name is Visnu, and who is glorified in the Vedas and Vedanta.”

This prayer is offered to Lord Krsna:

naste loke dvi-parardhavasane maha-bhutesv adi-bhutam gatesu
vyakte 'vyaktam kala-vegena yate bhavan ekah sisyate 'sesa-samjnah
(Bhagavatam, 10.3.25)

“After millions of years, at the time of cosmic annihilation, when everything, manifested and unmanifested, is annihilated by the force of time, the five gross elements enter into the subtle conception, and the manifested categories enter into the unmanifested substance. At that time, You alone remain, and You are known as Ananta Sesa-naga.”

In this way, because Brahma and Siva are born from Lord Krsna and also enter into Him at the time of cosmic annihilation, it is proved that neither Brahma nor Siva can be considered the master of Lord Krsna.

Thus, it is seen that Brahma, Siva and the demigods are all devotees of Lord Krsna (Govinda-bhasya, 3.3.47). In the Bhagavatam it is said:

athapi yat-pada-nakhavasrstam jagad virincopahrtarhanambhah
sesam punaty anyatamo mukundat ko nama loke bhagavat-padarthah
(Bhagavatam, 1.18.21)

“Who can be worthy of the name of the Supreme Lord but the Personality of Godhead Sri Krsna? Brahmaji collected the water emanating from the nails of His feet in order to award it to Lord Siva as a worshipful welcome. This very water (the Ganges) is purifying the whole universe, including Lord Siva.”

yac-chauca-nihsrta-sarit-pravarodakena
tirthena murdhny adhikrtena sivah sivo 'bhut
dhyatur manah-samala-saila-nisrsta-vajram
dhyayec ciram bhagavatas caranaravindam
(Bhagavatam, 3.28.22)

“The blessed Lord Siva becomes all the more blessed by bearing on his head the holy waters of the Ganges, which has its source in the water that washed the Lord's lotus feet. The Lord's feet act like thunderbolts hurled to shatter the mountain of sin stored in the mind of the meditating devotee. One should therefore meditate on the lotus feet of the Lord for a long time.”

It is said:

brahmadayah surah sarve visnum aradhya te pura
svam svam padam anupraptah kesavasya prasadatah
(Nrsimha Purana, 32.16)

“In ancient times Brahma and all the demigods worshipped Lord Visnu. It is by Lord Visnu’s mercy that the demigods attained their posts.”

In the Narayaniya it is said:

te devah rsayas caiva nana-tanu-samasritah
bhaktya sampujayanty enam gatim caisam dadati sah
(Maha-bharata, santi-parva, 321.46; Govinda-bhasya, 1.4.28)

“Manifest in a great variety of forms, the demigods and sages worshipped Lord Visnu with devotion. Then Lord Visnu placed them in their respective posts.”

Here someone may protest: To rescue Samba, Lord Krsna worshipped Lord Siva, as described in the Maha-bharata. The reply is that Lord Krsna eventually also worshipped Narada and the sages. These actions are part of Lord Krsna’s pastimes and should also be considered from the viewpoint that he was playing the role of a king and was supposed to set the example to be followed by common men, as stated in the Gita:

yad yad acarati sresthas tat tad evetaro janah
sa yat pramanam kurute lokas tad anuvartate
(Bhagavad-gita, 3.21; Govinda-bhasya, 3.4.43)

“Whatever action a great man performs, common men follow. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues.”

yadi hy aham na varteyam jatu karmany atandritah
mama vartmanuvartante manusyah partha sarvasah
(Bhagavad-gita, 3.23)

“For if I ever failed to engage in carefully performing prescribed duties, O Partha, certainly all men would follow My path.”

These quotes are sufficient to prove that Lord Krsna or Lord Visnu is the Supreme. When some Puranas refer to some demigod as the Supreme Lord, it should be understood that each Purana belongs to a particular mode of nature and is thus meant for people in the mode of goodness, passion or ignorance. In this way, for those in the mode of ignorance it is advised to worship Lord Siva as the supreme, for he is the controller of the mode of ignorance. It is so advised for tamasic people who due to their contaminations are unable to engage themselves in the whorship of Lord Visnu, which basically is in the mode of pure goodness.

It is said:

asankhyatas tatha kalpa brahma-visnu-sivatmakah
kathita hi puranesu munibhih kala-cintakaih
satttvikesu tu kalpesu mahatmyam adhikam hareh
tamasesu sivasyoktam rajasesu prajapater
(Kurma Purana, uttara, 43.48-49, Govinda-bhasya, 1.1.4)

“In the Puranas, the wise sages, considering the present time and circumstances, described numberless religious rituals for the worship of Brahma, Visnu and Siva. In the religious rituals meant for people in the mode of goodness, the sages said the worship of Lord Visnu is best. In the religious rituals meant for people in the mode of ignorance, they glorified the worship of Lord Siva. In the religious rituals meant for people in the mode of passion, they glorified Lord Brahma.”

Manu explains that any smrti-sastra that contradicts the four Vedas should be rejected. He says:

ya veda-bahyah smrtayo yas ca kas ca kudrstayah
sarvas ta nisphalah pretya tamo-nistha hi tah smrtah
(Manu-samhita,12.95)

“Any smrti-sastra that contradicts the four Vedas is wicked and useless. Anyone who follows such a sastra should be considered bewildered by the mode of ignorance.”
The supremacy of Lord Visnu is vastly praised in all the sattvic Puranas, therefore one should not be bewildered by apparent contradictions in the scriptures.

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