BLOG STATUS: Updated 26 June 2017. New article "Criticism of Vishishtadvaita Vishleshana Vivecanam" Read here

Frequently Asked Questions

Contents:

  1. THE RATIONALE FOR THIS BLOG
  2. AN OVERVIEW OF INDIAN SYSTEMS OF PHILOSOPHY (DARSHANAS)
  3. VEDANTA - THE COMPLETE VAIDIKA DARSHANA
  4. THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SHAIVISM AND VEDANTA
  5. PROVING VISHNU’S SUPREMACY FROM THE SHRUTI AND SMRITI
  6. THE RELIGIOUS LANDSCAPE OF THE TAMIL SANGAM ERA
  7. ADVAITA VEDANTA AND ITS ORIGINAL VAISHNAVA CHARACTER
  8. INTRODUCTION TO VISHISHTADVAITA AND DVAITA (WITH SOME REFERENCES TO OTHER DARSHANAS)
  9. CONCLUSION

THE RATIONALE FOR THIS BLOG

  1. What is the purpose of this blog?
Ans. To show that Vaishnavism is the true conclusion of vedAnta and that all vedAntins of any persuasion – advaita, vishishtadvaita and dvaita are compulsorily Vaishnavas. Ie, to show that SrimannArAyaNa alone to the exclusion of all other devas is praised as Parabrahman by all shAstra.
  1. Is this blog aimed as a response to other websites or blogs?
Ans. Although this blog was indeed conceived after reviewing the misinformation propagated by certain websites and blogs such as the mahApashupatastra blog, it can be safely said that the vision and mission of the blog has now far exceeded the scope of mere rebuttals to petty misinformed websites/blogs.
  1. Why do you call other websites/blogs “petty”? Does it not mean you have a high opinion of yourself?
Ans. Rather, we have a high opinion of vaidikas like Adi Shankara, Ramanuja and Madhva whom these other petty blogs and websites contradict. Therefore, we regard the latter as petty as what we write here are only dutiful reproductions of the works of afore mentioned vedAntins.
  1. Who are you to communicate the works of vedAntins? What gives you the authority?
Ans. We are just honest sri vaishnavas/vishishtadvaitins who wish to highlight that the true greatness of vedAnta lies in acknowledging vishNu paratva. Any true follower of srIrAmAnuja possesses this authority.
  1. If you are followers of srI rAmAnuja, who are you to provide views on advaita and dvaita?
Ans. We only reproduce whatever is already written or interpreted by adi shankara and madhva and do not comment on its correctness or otherwise. We have not provided our own thoughts or spin on their works. That should be palatable to their true followers, though many modern day smArthas are not exactly true followers of adi shankara and hence would find it unpalatable. This blog is neutral and welcomes all genuine seekers of the truth.
  1. Have you refuted your opponents’ views?
Ans.Whoever has spoken against us, has been addressed, referenced and duly refuted by us in our articles and comments in the blog. Some are vitanDavAdins who, having abysmal knowledge of shAstra, indulge in circumvention and simply keep repeating the same old defeated arguments knowing these have already been proven wrong. But we have taken care to address these objections as well in various places in our comments and articles before moving on.
  1. Can the readers truly believe that you have addressed every objection?
Ans. If you are still not convinced, you are welcome to bring up anything before us and we will answer it for your sake. No problems with that. Or point out anything we may have missed. With all humility, we would state that it is highly unlikely we missed anything significant as we are very efficient by the grace of pUrvAchAryAs.
  1. Does this blog conduct a debate on advaita vs vishishtadvaita vs dvaita vs other philosophies?
Ans. No. While we are firmly convinced about Vishishtadvaita, we do not do philosophical debates here. There are other sites and groups for those subjects.
  1. Does this blog provide advice on general Vaishnava matters like how to do pooja, etc?
Ans. Generally no. However, if a question arises such as “how to worship anyadevata during Sandhya while dedicating it to nArAyaNa” or “can you do dhyAna of nArAyaNa as the inner self of Shiva in a Shiva temple”, it would be related to the scope of the blog and we would consider it.
  1. What is the actual scope of the blog?
Ans. The scope is to cover the entire range of knowledge related to vishNuparatva and not merely undertake refutations of a few views. It is important to address specifically issues which are not easily available on the internet – For example How the Vaishnava acharyas have interpreted Sri rudram, etc. SvamiNampillai says – “when one waters the plant, the weeds are automatically removed”. So, by merely bringing the truth out, false views will be rendered toothless automatically.
  1. What is the Vision behind the blog?
Ans. We hope that the convictions of those who agree with us are strengthened and the neutrals can atleast see how unbiased we are in our research. As for our opponents, there aren’t any who are significantly scholarly enough for us to take serious note of.
  1. Does this blog demean Shiva?
Ans. On the contrary, it establishes the true positions of Shiva and Parvati as jIvAtmas, vishNu bhaktas and lOka gurus, which is hardly demeaning. Only those who ascribe supremacy to Shiva who is not supreme by nature are actually demeaning Shiva. It is like a poet who praises a bald King as possessing lovely hair; sounds nice to hear, but when it is said in front of everyone in the King’s court, it could make even the King blush in embarrassment.
  1. Does this blog demean Shaiva/Shakta/Kaumara/Ganapatya and other matams?
Ans. Obviously not. The proponents of those matams themselves proudly accept that they are not vaidikas. The only aberration was AppayyaDikshita and even he was not consistent in his views. Only modern day “internet scholars” unaware of this would try to claim vedic lineage to Shaiva viewpoints.
  1. What are the authorities you use?
Ans. pratyakSha, anumAna and sabda. We use shruti and smriti to reinforce and prove our points. We consider each counter point and use the same authorities they use (barring the bogus “upanishads” and other concocted texts) to arrive at our conclusion. Two other pramAnAs would be honesty and common sense, but they probably fall under pratyaksha and anumAna anyway!
  1. What do you expect from the readers?
Ans. An open mind, a sincere intent, common sense and respect for the great acharyas.

AN OVERVIEW OF INDIAN SYSTEMS OF PHILOSOPHY (DARSHANAS)

  1. What does the term “darshana” mean?
Ans. The term “darshana” roughly translates in English to “a view, a system of viewpoint/philosophy”.
  1. What are the two major classifications of darshanas?
Ans. Astika darshana, which accept the authority of the Veda and cites them, and nAstika darshana, which do not accept the Veda as an authority.
  1. What darshanas are classified under nAstika?
Ans. Primarily, cArvAka/lokAyata, bauddha, and jaina systems are nAstika since they do not accept the Vedas and criticise them.
A short summary of the three nAstika darshanas are as follows. Other than the cArvAka darshana, the other two nAstika darshana believe in karma (good and bad deeds bearing fruition to affect one’s current situation), samsara (cycle of rebirth and death), and moksha (liberation):
  • cArvAka darshana was taught by Brihaspati in the Brihaspati Smrti. This is a completely materialistic and atheistic school. There is no Atman concept. They believe in only four tattvas (pa~ncabhUtas minus AkAsha) that intermingle to produce consciousness, just like a chemical reaction producing some effects. The only puruShArtha (ultimate purpose/end) is material enjoyment that satisfies the senses.
  • bauddha darshana: Gautama Buddha is the propagator in this age. They do not believe in the Vedas or in a Supreme Being. They recognize anityatA (impermanence), duHkha (suffering), and anAtman (non-self) as the three conditions of existence. One attains nirvana consisting of realizing that everything is ultimately void of any essence (shUnyavAda), from the  cycle of samsara. There are four schools recognized within the bauddha darshana: mAdhyamika, yogAcAra, sautrAntika, and vaibhAShika.
  • jaina darshana:mahAvIra is considered one of the most influential teachers of this system, regarded by the Jainas as the last tIrthankara. Unlike the Buddhists, jains believe in the individual soul and its purity. They also believe in cycles of birth and death, karma, and liberation from it. The two unique characteristics of this system are: (i) syAdvAda, or the doctrine that every phrase/statement is not classified as only one of two possibilities (true/false) but into seven possible categories – syAd asti, syAn nAsti, syAd asti nAsti, etc.,and (ii) the belief that the Atman is of the same measure as the. They believe in tIrthankaras, arihantas, and siddhas, but not in a Supreme Being.
  1. What are the six valid means of knowledge commonly used by Astika darshanas?
Ans. pratyakSha (perception, direct observation), anumAna (inference), upamAna (comparison),  arthApatti (deduction from circumstances), anupalabdhi (non-perception/negative proof), and shabda (Veda, statements of Aptas or reliable authorities).
  1. Are all these sources of knowledge accepted by all the Astika darshanas?
Ans. No. Some Astika schools like vaisheShika accept only pratyakSha and anumAna, while kumArila bhaTTa of the pUrvamImAMsa school accept all six. Vishistadvaitins accept three (pratyakSha, anumAna, and shabda) and maintain that the other three means are subsumed by these three.
  1. What darshanas are classified under Astika?
Ans. These schools are the naiyAyika, vaisheShika, sAMkhya, yoga, (pUrva) mImAMsa, and vedAnta schools as they accept the authority of Vedas.
A short summary of the six nAstika darshanas is as follows:
  • sAMkhya darshana: Kapila smriti and Ishvarakrsna’s sAMkhyakArika are the key texts in sAMkhya philosophy. This darshana accepts three pramANas: pratyakSha, anumAna, and shabda. Purushas, the individual souls, and mUla-prakrti or pradhAna/avyakta (insentient matter) are central to this system. The universal cause is the pradhAna i.e., insentient matter that come into action at the beginning of the creation.
  • Yoga darshana:This darshana was taught by hiraNyagarbha, the caturmukha brahma in the Yoga smriti. They accept the principles of the sAMkhya darshana, positing that pradhAna is the material cause of the universe, while Brahman is only the efficient cause. The path of yoga is taught as the means for liberation from samsara.
  • naiyAyika darshana (nyAya system):This was taught by akShapAda gautama in nyAya sUtras. This system holds that the existence of a Lord as the efficient cause of the universe can be proved by anumAna (inference). They accept four pramANas: pratyakSha, anumAna, upamAna, and shabda.
  • vaisheShika darshana: This was taught by kaNAda. This is based on an atomic theory of the universe, where atoms (paramANu) are taught to be the cause of the universe. The atoms are impelled by the individual soul’s karma in creation. They accept only two means as valid sources of knowledge: pratyakSha and anumAna. The Vaisheshika school also asserts that the Lord can be inferred to be the operative or efficient cause of the universe.
  • mImAMsa darshana:In this system, all six aforementioned sources of knowledge are accepted as valid.  Along with vedAntins, they affirm the apauruSheyatva of shruti. The system is based on a certain interpretations of Jaimini’s pUrva mImAMsa sUtras. It holds that the only purpose of the Veda is the performance of yajnas. shabarasvAmin’s commentary on Jaimini’s sUtras is an important authority on which this system is based. kumArila bhaTTa and prabhAkara were influential in codifying two sub-branches of this school (bhATTa and prAbhAkara matas).
  • vedAnta darshana:Vedantins affirm that Brahman taught by the Upanishads is the cause of the universe, and is the goal of liberation or mukti. Out of the six schools, Vedanta alone is considered the complete Vaidika darshana. The system accepts both the pUrva mImAMsa sUtras of Jaimini as well as bAdarAyaNa’s (veda vyAsa’s) uttaramImAMsa sUtras a.k.a. Vedanta Sutras or Brahma Sutras. In addition, the two itihAsas are held in high esteem as pramANa, as well as purANas and smritis that do not contradict the Veda.
  1. Do the mImAMsakas accept the Upanishads, which describe Brahman, as shruti? If so, does that not automatically make them Vedantins?
Ans. All vaidikas including mImAMsakas accept the Upanishads as genuine shruti. However, they argue that the Upanishads are to be understood as arthavAda to extol karma, i.e., they do not intend to teach parabrahman as the ultimate cause of the universe, but only serve a secondary purpose i.e., to encourage and exhort the individual to perform yajnas. They believe that karma itself yields fruits and there is no need for an Ishvara.
  1. So, even the mImAMsakas did not consider Upanishads to be “later texts”?
Ans. The idea that the Upanishads are “later in date” is a modern one championed by Western Indologists who are not knowledgeable. You must leave aside such ideas that are totally unfounded. As stated before, none of the vaidikas questioned the Upanishad portion of the shruti.
  1. You have not mentioned anything about the pAshupata (Shaiva) system here. Can you explain?
Ans. The pAshupata (Shaiva) darshana is not considered a Vaidika darshana. It is based primarily on the Agamas/Tantra taught by Pashupati (Shiva/Rudra) and accepts the Veda only as a secondary pramANa.
Moreover, unlike the other doctrines such as sAMkhya, yoga, etc., Shaivam cannot be subsumed be subsumed by Vedanta, the complete Vaidika system.
We will go into the details of this system in subsequent portions of this FAQ section.

VEDANTA - THE COMPLETE VAIDIKA DARSHANA

  1. You mentioned that Vedanta accepts the pUrva mImAMsA sUtras. How come? Don’t these sUtras say that only scriptural injunctions that pertain to the performance of karma have real purport?
Ans. Vedantins hold that the mImAMsakas do not interpret this sUtra correctly. We would not go into the details. The whole of the Veda is accepted as the authority in Vedanta, and the idea that Upanishads are arthavAda are rejected.
  1. Do all Vedantins traditionally subscribe to the same view, or are there different schools within Vedanta?
Ans. The three most well-known schools within Vedanta are: Advaita, Vishistadvaita, and Dvaita.
There is much historical evidence to show that Advaita and Vishistadvaita are very old, dating back to even earlier than Adi Shankara. Hence, Shankara and Ramanuja (or even Yamuna, Ramanuja’s predecessor in the Vishistadvaita school) are not “founders” of these schools though the lay populace generally say so. The Dvaita tradition similarly claims that their philosophy is the same as that of Veda vyAsa and is much older than AnandatIrtha’s (madhvAcArya) lifetime.
  1. Anterior to Shankara, were there other Vedantins? Were they all nirguNa brahma vAdins?
Ans. Of course, there were Vedantins anterior to Shri Shankara. Gaudapada, an advaitin who subscribed to the nirguNa-brahman view is well-known as the author of the gauDapAda kArikas, commented upon by Shankara. He is traditionally known to be Shankara’s guru’s guru.
No. They were not all nirguNa brahma vAdins.
  1. Besides advaitins, were there vedAntins of other persuasion prior to Shankara?
Ans. There were others who necessarily were not of the nirguNa brahma view, and included bhedAbheda vAdins and vishiShTAdvaitins. Some popular figures are, among others: bodhAyana, upavarSha, dramiDa, Tanka, guhadeva, kapardin, bhartRRiprapa~nca, brahmadatta.
Among them, yAmuna and rAmAnuja hold bodhAyana, upavarSha, dramiDa, Tanka, guhadeva, and kapardin to be vishiShTAdvaitins and perfect authorities. Srivatsanka Misra, whose bhAShya is held by yAmuna to be fully agreeable (ref: siddhitraya), perhaps lived later than Shankara but before bhAskara.
In the Vishishtadvaita system, the azhwars who are prior to srI rAmAnuja were all vishishtadvaitins as well.srI nAthamuni and yAmunAchArya followed them and there were several acharyas who were sishyas of srI yAmunAchArya and prior to srI rAmAnuja.
In addition to Yamuna and Ramanuja, Advaitins such as Shankara, Sarvajnatman, and Anandagiri hold dramiDa, Tanka, and bhartRRiprapa~nca in high esteem. Advaitins such as Shankara etc. probably viewed dramiDa and Tanka as conforming to their view.
  1. What are the other influential schools in the Vedanta darshana?
Ans. Historically, 1) the BhedAbheda School of bhAskara was very influential between the time of Shankara and mAdhva, 2) Nimbarka’s “dvaitAdvaita” is popular in North India, 3) Vallabhacharya’s “shuddhAdvaita” or “puShTimArga” is popular in Gujarat and surrounding regions, 4) The gauDIya vaiShNava sampradAya founded by Sri Chaitanya, based on “acintya-bhedAbheda” is quite popular in Bengal and surrounding regions.
All these sampradAyas have their own commentaries on the prasthAnatrayI, bhAgavata purANa, etc.
  1. Is it true that Vishishtadvaita had a degree of influence on other schools?
Ans. It is quite evident that the vishiShTAdvaita school of Sri Ramanuja influenced the development of Nimbarka, Vallabha, and Gaudiya sampradAyas. The rAmAnandI and Swaminarayan sampradAyas were also influenced by Sri Ramanuja’s vishiShTAdvaita shrIvaiShNava darshana. However, all these traditions are independent and eternal by themselves; it is only certain aspects that are influenced.
  1. Coming back to the basics, you mentioned that the Vedanta is a complete system that accepts the nyAya of both the pUrva and Uttara mImAMsA sUtras. Are there any other mImAMsA sUtras accepted in the Vedanta darshana?
Ans. Yes. In addition to the pUrvamImAMsA sUtras and the Uttara mImAMsA sUtras, the Vedanta and the mImAMsA schools accept the “madhyamakANDa” also known as “daivI mImAMsa”, “saMkarShakANDa” or “devatAkANDa sUtras”, which are authored by kAshakRRitsna. They are considered to be later part of the pUrvamImAMsa sUtras. Sri Jayatirtha, a guru in the mAdhva tradition provides us with the detail that these sUtras begin with “athAto daivI”, meaning it is begun to explain the nature of the devatAs described in the Veda.
Shabarasvamin, the commentator on the pUrvamImAMsA sUtras, as well as all Vedantins including from Shankara, Ramanuja (Brahma Sutra Bhashya, 3.3.43) up to Madhusudana Saraswati (in prasthAnabheda) accept this work.
  1. Explain the concept of Brahman central to the Vedanta darshana, in a few lines.
Ans. The Vedanta system accepts the Supreme Reality to be a conscious entity, the Supreme Lord Narayana who is:
    1. The material and efficient cause of the universe (dvaita only accepts the Lord to be the efficient cause),
    2. Proclaimed in the Vedas, is the only ultimate object of all praise in the Vedas, from beginning to end,
    3. Cannot be inferred independent of the shabda pramANa,
    4. Omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, the inner self of all, the basis of all existence,
    5. The in-dwelling controller of all,
    6. The creator, sustainer, and withdrawer of the entire universe,
    7. The creator of caturmukha brahmA, rudra, all devatas, and all beings up to the tiniest microorganism,
    8. Changeless and eternal, without origin and free from annihilation,
    9. Free from pApa karmas (anapahata-pApma),
    10. Whose wishes are all fulfilled (avAptasamastakAmaH),
    11. Whose wishes and resolve are true (satyakAmaH, satyasaMkalpaH),
    12. Treasure-trove of innumerable auspicious qualities (anantakalyANaguNagaNanidhiH),
    13. Benevolent and equally poised towards all beings (bhUtas),
    14. Not subject to delusion,
    15. Whose form is shuddha-sattva and not composed of the five gross elements,
    16. Dwelling in the mode of goodness and increases sattva in Jivas leading them to liberation (sattvasyaiSha pravartakaH),
    17. The refuge of all individual souls (sarvasharaNyaH), and
    18. Attained in liberation (paramapuruShArthaH).

  1. Do all schools accept this definition of Brahman?
Ans. Yes, they do. For vishiShTAdvaitins and dvaitins, the above are paramArtha and ultimate truths.
For advaitins, this definition is on-hundred percent acceptable as far as the distinction between the Supreme Lord and the individual souls are acknowledged.
Regarding the last point, there is some difference which will be discussed later in this FAQ.
  1. Which devatA is traditionally accepted by the Vedanta school as the Supreme Lord of the Upanishads?
Ans. The sUtras forming the upasaMhAra (concluding portion) of the saMkarShakANDa mentioned above answers this question tersely:
“ante harau taddarshanAt” [The ultimate deity to be worshipped is Hari],
“sa viShNur Aha hi” [He is called Vishnu],
“taM brahmety AcakShate | taM brahmety AcakShate” [(The shAstras) announce Him as Brahman, (indeed, the shAstras) announce Him as Brahman].
One should recall here that the uttara mImAMsa sUtras begin immediately after this section, with the sUtra “athAto brahmajij~nAsA” [Then, therefore the enquiry into Brahman]. In other words, the akhaNDa (undivided, combining both the pUrva and uttara bhAgas) mImAMsA shAstra proceeds to enquire into the philosophy behind the nature of Brahman, having identified it as the deity Vishnu.
Such a natural continuity itself shows that Vishnu is the Parabrahman for all Vedantins.
  1. Is this portion of the saMkarShakANDa that proclaims Vishnu as the parabrahman accepted by all, or only by some schools of Vedanta? It is reported by some indologists that these four sUtras are nowhere to be found in extant editions of the Sankarsha Kanda. What do you say?
Ans. This stems from the wrong notion that some of the sources used by Vedantins of certain schools are of “questionable authenticity”. To a true vaidika, such a doubt should not arise as all traditional vedAntins accept it.
For the record anyway, let us answer this. Swami Vedanta Desikan, Madhvacharya, and Jayatirtha have all quoted the four sUtras beginning “ante harau… brahmetyAcakShate”.
The “sarvamata saMgraha” which is the work of a post-Madhva advaitin mentions the following detail about saMkarShakANDa, confirming that the above four sUtras were originally present in the concluding portion of that work:
“evaM madhyamamImAMsA sarvadevatAtmano hareH pratipAdiketi saguNabrahmaparA bhavati”
[Thus, the conclusion of the madhyama-mImAMsA shows that its object is the Saguna Brahman, who is Hari, the antarAtmA of all devatas.]
This again shows that ancient advaitins considered only Vishnu to be Saguna Brahman who is the inner soul of all other deities.
  1. Explain “prasthAnatrayI”. What texts constitute it?
Ans. The term “prasthAna” means “source” or “reference point” or “starting point”.  In Advaita Vedanta, prasthAnatrayI is the triad consisting of the ten principal Upanishads, the Gita, and the Brahma Sutra. They are respectively called “shruti prasthAna”, “smRRiti prasthAna”, and “nyAya prasthAna”. Adi Shankara bhagavatpAda’s commentary on this triad of texts is popularly known as the “prasthAnatrayI bhAShya”.
  1. Among true Vedantins, are there peculiar texts that are accepted as pramANa only by a certain school or a sub-set of schools?
Ans. This question stems from an incorrect notion, thanks to Appayya Dikshita’s worthless objections on mAdhva in stating that the latter used “questionable sources”.
No such “questionable sources” question was raised prior to the time of Appayya Dikshita by anyone (see here).
Genuine Vedantins regard all pramANas quoted by vaidikas before 15th century to be pramANas, be they advaitins, vishiShTAdvaitins, or dvaitins.
  1. Explain shabda pramANa as understood in the Vedanta system.
Ans. shabda pramANa primarily includes the shruti (Vedas) which are affirmed to be apauruSheya (not man-made or made by any divine being). They are self-evident (svataH pramANa) and do not have any statements conflicting internally with other shruti statements, or externally with pratyakSha and anumAna. Vedanta holds that the shruti is the breath of the paramAtman and emanates from Him involuntarily.
  1. What do the terms “shruti”, “veda”, etc. mean for Vaidikas? Are only the saMhita/brAhmaNa portions termed “veda”? Are the Upanishads held to be later texts?
Ans. For all Vaidikas, the term “veda” or “shruti” includes all four portions, the saMhita, brAhmaNa, AraNyaka, and upaniShad belonging to all universally accepted vaidika shAkhas since ancient times. As per the vedAnta and mImAMsA darshanas, the whole of shruti is apauruSheya.
  1. Some say that there are “108 Upanishads”. Are they all accepted as pramANa by advaitins? Please explain.
Ans. Well, there is even one “muktika upaniShad” enumerating the 108, exhorting unsuspecting readers to believe that they are all authentic.
However, the concept of “108 Upanishads” is new and the idea is found nowhere in ancient texts. Close to eighty of the “Upanishads” mentioned in the muktika have never been named or quoted by anyone.
Neutral readers will infer that the “108 Upanishads” concept was invented by post-15th Century Shaiva advaitins who were jealous of Vaishnavism, as well as disgruntled with vishiShTAdvaita’s and dvaita’s criticism of the advaita philosophy.
  1. In that case, which Upanishads are genuine?
Ans. The authentic ones are:
    1. In their entirety:
      1. The ten principal Upanishads (from IshAvAsya to bRRihadAraNyaka),
      2. shvetAshvatara
      3. kauShiTaki
      4. nArAyaNopaniShad (with the aShTAkShara mantra as the subject matter),
      5. Nrsimha Tapini Upanishad (both pUrva and uttara)
      6. subAla upaniShad, and
      7. maitrAyaNI upaniShad (including the chapters/passages found in the Edward B. Colwell edition missing from the “108 Upanishads” collection but quoted by Vedantins).
    2. Not in their entirety but only those parts quoted by pre-15th Century Vedantins:
      1. Mahopanishad (only statements quoted by Yamuna, Ramanuja, Deshika, Yadavaprakasha, and Narayanacharya),
      2. Mahanarayana Upanishad (drAviDa pATha only; Andhra pATha definitely seems to be inauthentic; it is actually part of the taittirIya upaniShad and is called “nArAyaNa valli” )
    3. Statements quoted from these Upanishads by ancient Vedantins are definitely authentic, which probably are authentic in their entirety:
      1. Atmabodha
      2. Agnirahasya
      3. Jabala Upanishad
      4. Paingi Upanishad
      5. Mantrika Upanishad
      6. Amrtabindu Upanishad (or) Brahmabindu Upanishad
      7. Atharvashiras
      8. Atharvashikha
      9. Kaivalya Upanishad
      10. Sudarshana Upanishad (quoted by Desika, not included in the 108)
      11. Katyayana Upanishad (ditto)

  1. Do you accept any other “Vaishnava” upaniShads as pramANa, such as varAha upaniShad, hayagrIva upaniShad, etc.?
Ans. Whether the “Upanishads” in question support Vaishnavism/Vishishtadvaita or not, the standard is the same. In other words, we would not accept any new “Upanishads” even if it supports our siddhAnta. They may be accepted if you can show an authentic work by any pre-15th Century vaidika naming them and quoting them in part or in full.  Unlike shaivAdvaitins, we do not have anything to gain from accepting spurious “Upanishads”.  So you would likely not find many fake Upanishads supporting Vishishtadvaita!
  1. Any further exceptions?
Ans. The tripAdvibhUti nArAyaNa upaniShad, dvayOpanishad and the mudgalopaniShad appear to be authentic, quoted sparingly by a few Srivaishnava AcAryas. Further research may be needed to prove their authenticity one way or the other. It can be stated though that these two Upanishads do not contradict the shruti.
  1. You said some Upanishads are spurious. Is the authenticity of any of the extant portions of Samhita, Brahmana, or Aranyaka questionable?
Ans. None at all. Most of them are (with a few exceptions of shAkhas like bhallaveya, indradyumna etc.) chanted and recited by vaidikas of the respective shAkhas with proper intonations (svara) across all over India. They are all one-hundred percent authentic.
This should clarify what pramANas are accepted as shruti in vaidika darshanas.
  1. What other pramANas are accepted by the Vedanta system?
Ans. smRRitis, the two itihAsa, purANas (including upa-purANas) are accepted as long as they do not contradict the shruti. The Bhagavad Gita is especially important, upon which the AcAryas of many different Vedanta schools commented upon. Vedanta Desika (in Tatparya Chandrika, 18.66) mentions the well-known commentators such as Shankara, Bhaskara, “and a hundred others” from non-Vishishtadvaitic schools.
  1. Are all smRRitis acceptable pramANas?
Ans. No, the general rule is that Smritis that contradict the Veda are not acceptable. For this reason, Kapila Smriti and Yoga Smriti are not accepted.
  1. Is this an opinion confined to vishiShTAdvaita circles only?
Ans. No, not at all. This rule is explained well in the pUrva mImAMsA sUtras, commented upon by Shabarasvamin and others, and is very well accepted by Shankara in the smRRityadhikaraNa (Brahma Sutra Bhashya, 2.1.1)
  1. What about the Itihasas?
Ans. Both Valmiki’s Ramayana and Vyasa’s Mahabharata are entirely immaculate and in harmony with the Vedas, and hence are valid pramANas. The mahAbhArata is called “the fifth veda”. Vishistadvaitins hold Valmiki’s Ramayana in even higher esteem. Dvaitins consider a “mUla rAmAyaNa”, which is supposed to be a discourse by Hayagriva, to be more credible than vAlmiki’s work and is not available in this world. However, they have no problems accepting vAlmiki’s work, though the mahAbhArata is given more importance by them. Both Itihasas declare Sriman Narayana as the Supreme Being and that Brahma and Rudra are jIvAs who are subservient to Him.
  1. How is it concluded that the two itihAsas only talk about Sriman Narayana throughout?
Ans. The upakrama (opening) and upasaMhAra (conclusion) of these two itihAsas clearly trumpet Sriman Narayana’s supremacy. These are called “tAtparya lingas” or indications that what is described is indeed true. This is one of the easiest ways to check the purport of a body of shAstra. We shall cover other statements in detail in the section dedicated to Vishnu’s supremacy.
  1. Explain how Srimad Ramayana begins and concludes with Vishnu’s supremacy.
Ans. Srimad Ramayanam begins with the questions asking “who possesses super excellent qualities?” and the answer is given to be Sriman Narayana.
The upasaMhAra of Valmiki Ramayana shows Sri Rama’s ascent to Sri Vaikuntham granting liberation for all the beings in the city of ayodhyA.
  1. Explain how the Mahabharata begins and concludes with Vishnu’s supremacy.
Ans. Mahabharata similarly says in the first chapter that it was composed to extol Sriman Narayana’s supremacy:
“nAsti nArAyaNasamaM na bhUtaM na bhaviShyati
etena satyavAkyena sarvArthAnsAdhayAmyaham “
[There is no being equal to Sriman Narayana. There was none, and there will be none. With this statement of truth, I will explain all the meanings.]
Similarly, the mahAbhArata has the following statement in anushAsana parvan:
“AloDya sarvashAstrANi vicArya ca punaH punannam .
idamekaM suniShpannam dhyeyo nArAyaNaH sadA ..”,
[Having analysed all the shAstras, enquiring into them many times, this one fact is derived: That Narayana is always the one to be meditated upon.]
(Mahabharata, anushAsana-parvan, 186.11)
Sri Shankara says in the Vishnu Sahasranama bhAshya that the above statement of vyAsa is the upasaMhAra (conclusion) of mahAbhArata.
  1. Do you accept the bAlakANDa and Uttara kANDa portions of the Ramayana as authentic?
Ans. We do. Just for your information, objections against the authenticity of these two kANDas are modern. Such objections are fit to be rejected by Vedantins. The Vedantins who commented on the Ramayana did not raise any question about the authenticity of these two kANDas. Nor did any of the poets like Kalidasa, bhAvabhUti etc. raise or mention any such doubts.
  1. Nonetheless, some vedAntins did not comment on the Uttara kANDa. Why is this so?
Ans. vedAntins do quote important tattvas from this section. They explain that it is    not commentated upon only because of sentiment. The events of this kANDa include Sita’s separation from rAmA and the departure of rAmA to parama-pada. Since all Vaidikas had extreme affection for srI rAma, they felt it would be better to end with the joyous incident of rAma defeating rAvaNa and did not proceed to comment further.
  1. Do you accept the Upamanyu episode, Shiva Sahasranama, and other incidents such as the ones in droNa parva where Shiva is declared to be superior to Vishnu as authentic portions of the Mahabharata?
Ans. No, they are definite interpolations. They also contradict the veda which says Narayana is Supreme Being and is the creator of Brahma and Rudra. Details are available here.
  1. Which pramANa is more favoured by Vedantins, the Itihasa or the Purana?
Ans. Definitely the two Itihasas, since they are in their entirety in agreement with the Vedas, as stated above. The statement “itihAsapurANAbhyAM vedaH samupabRRiMhayet” (Vedas are to be expounded using the Itihasa and Purana statements) found in Mahabharata and Vyasa Smriti shows that Itihasa has greater weight than the Purana.
  1. Can you explain how a preference over the order “Itihasa, Purana” over “Purana, Itihasa” implies that Itihasas are greater in value?
Ans. There is a pANinI sUtra which states “alpAshtaraM pUrvaM”. Its meaning is as follows: any listing of objects should be in ascending order of the number of syllables in their names. By this logic, “purANetihAsa” should be the preferred order. However, the vArttika “abhyarhitaM pUrvam” says that this rule is overridden and that the important/respectable one should come prior to the others, when greater esteem needs to be placed for other reasons.
  1. What does this show?
Ans. That the two itihAsas, both of which are concerned only with the greatness of Vishnu, are abhyarhita-vedopabRRiMhaNa (held in higher esteem, in expositions of the Veda) while purANas, which include some that extol Rudra etc. as supreme, are anabhyarhita-vedopabRRiMhaNa (held only second to Itihasa for expounding on the Veda).
  1. How about the Puranas? Are all of them pramANa for Vedantins?
Ans. No. Puranas are classified into sAttvika, rAjasa, and tAmasa purANas. Excepting Vishnu and bhAgavata purANas which are entirely sAttvika, the other purANas have varying proportions of sAttvika, rAjasa, and tAmasa sections. See here.
  1. Among Vedantins, what is the special esteem placed to Vishnu and Bhagavata Puranas?
Ans. As stated before, they are held to be predominantly of sattva character. Not only are the statements in these two purANas quoted most often by Vedantins including Shankara, etc., but also they enjoy the status of being commented upon by every major school since ancient times.
  1. In what way is the status justified?
Ans. For example, the Vishnu Purana has the following commentaries available today from various Vedanta schools:
    1. Vishistadvaita: viShNucittIyam of  “engaLAzhvAn” also known as “Vishnucitta” (not to be confused with one of the 12 AzhvArs of the same title)
    2. Advaita: citsukhIyam of Citsukha Muni, shrIdharIyam of Sridhara Svami, and ratnagarbhIyam.
    3. Dvaita: dattAtreyIyam
Similarly, the bhAgavata purANa has been commented upon by Chitsukha, Sridhara, Sudarshana Suri (10th skandha only), Veeraraghava, Madhva, Vijayadhvaja Tirtha, many Goswamis of the Gaudiya sampradAya, and by gurus of the Vallabha and other sampradAyas.
  1. Do any of the Shaiva purANas such as Skanda, Linga, and Shiva purANa enjoy acceptance to such a measure?
Ans. None at all.
  1. Does that mean no Vedantin would ever quote from these rAjasa/tAmasa purANas?
Ans. Those portions of the rAjasa-tAmasa  purANas that are in accordance with the shruti are duly accepted and quoted by all ancient Vedantins. There are many such portions quoted by Adi Shankara, Parashara Bhatta, Vedanta Desika, and Madhva.
They would only not quote from sections found in Shaiva purANas such as upamanyu upAkhyAna, sUta saMhita, shiva gItA, etc. This is the truth.
  1. You stated that the bhAgavata purANa is entirely sAttvika. However, there seems to be a praise of Shiva as the Supreme by devas, in the kAlakUTa poison episode! Has this escaped your attention, as you say that the whole of that purANa is pramANa for you?
Ans. This has been answered to satisfaction already. Read here.
  1. What about the 18 upa-purANas? Are they taken as pramANa by Vedantins?
Ans. Yes, and the rule is similar. They are divided as sAttvika, rAjasa, and tAmasa as well, and anything that contradicts shruti is to be rejected. The most popular ones taken as pramANa by Vedantins are Vishnudharma, Vishnudharmottara, and Narasimha Purana.
  1. What about the shrauta-, kalpa­-, dharma-, and gRRihya sUtras? Do you accept them as pramANas?
Ans. Yes.
  1. What about vyAkaraNa (pANinI sUtras), nighaNTu (lexica) etc?
Ans. vyAkaraNa shAstra is one of the six vedAMgas. Hence, they are authoritative in determining the meanings of sentences (found in both shruti and smRRiti). nighaNTus (lexica) are authoritative in determining the object conveyed by words/names, and in the usage of words. The amarakosha, vaijayantI and halAyudha nighaNTus are widely accepted and often quoted by Vedantins.
  1. You have stated that the other five darshanas i.e., sAMkhya etc. are not fully vaidika. Does that render them totally useless in Vedanta?
Ans. Not at all. Sri Vedanta Desikan wrote "Sesvara Mimamsa" and "Mimamsa Paduka" to show that these schools are wrong only because they are incomplete in the sense of not being complemented by Uttara Mimamsa (Vedanta) and not wrong in the sense of being opposed to the Veda. Thus, these darshanas like Samkhya, Nyaya, Vaiseshika, Mimamsa are subsumed by Vedanta itself.
  1. When it comes to anuShTAnas (religious practices of vaidikas), didn't the brAhmaNas who were naiyAyikas, vaisheShikas, sAMkhyas, mImAmsakas (kumArila/prabhAkara) etc. perform the below?
    1. Begin and end vedAdhyayana with "hariH Om"
    2. Perform with the Sankalpa "bhagavat prItyartham, bhagavatkainkarya rUpam" etc. and do sAttvika tyAga with "nArAyaNeti samarpayAmi"?
    3. Do Achamana and anganyAsa with bhagavannAmas?
    4. Do gAyatri mantra japa which is basically a meditation on nArAyaNa, the savitRRimaNDalavarttI?
    5. Perform mahAsankalpa during upAkarma, wherein it is stated that the entire universe is “Vishnu mayaM” and originated from Vishnu?
    6. Finish all yaj~nas with “Krishna anusmaranam” and “sarvam Sri Krishnarpanam astu”?
Ans. Yes, they did and this is why they are regarded as among the Astika schools which can be integrated into Vedanta. See the answer to the question above.
  1. Weren't naiyAyikas and vaisheshikas primarily Siva bhaktas who considered Rudra to be the jagat-kAraNa?
Ans. Some probably were of Shaiva disposition who were attracted to the naiyAyika and vaisheshika logic.The acharyas specify that the nyAya-vaiSheshika tenets can be integrated into Vedanta (with appropriate extensions or corrections). It does not include the other predispositions of the authors.

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SHAIVISM AND VEDANTA

  1. What is the fundamental difference between Saiva/Shakta philosophies and Vaishnavism?

    Ans. Vaishnavism is based on the Vedas and all Vaishnavas are Vedantins. Saivas and Shaktas have historically been non-vedantic sects.
  2. Saivas worship Siva, who is accepted as a vedic deity by Vaishnavas. Does that not make Saivasvedic?

    Ans. Saivas worship Siva as the Supreme Brahman which goes against both the Vedas as well as the works of all Vedantins who have identified Narayana as the Supreme Brahman.
  3. How does the concept of Siva as Brahman go against the Vedas?

    Ans. “eko ha vai nArAyaNa AsIt, na brahmA, neshAnaH”, “nArAyaNAt rudro jAyate”, birth of Siva in the Satapatha, etc.
  4. How does the concept of Siva as Brahman go against the Vedantins?

    Ans. The 3 vaidikaacharyas – AdiShankara, Ramanuja and Madhva – consider vishNu alone as Brahman. None of them eulogized Siva as Brahman.
  5. Has the Saiva mata been explicitly condemned by these Acharyas?

    Ans. Yes. These acharyas show all the characteristics of Vaishnavas in that – they have eulogized vishNu alone as Brahman, they have referenced Siva as a being lesser than vishNu (a jivA), they have rejected the pAsupatamatam wholesale while accepting the pAncharAtra (even AdiShankara accepts nArAyaNaparatva and chaturvyuhatattva from the pAncharAtra) and do not quote stories of tAmasapurAnAs.
  6. In general, Why is the Saiva mata unvedic?

    Ans. There are two reasons. Firstly, Saivas only held the Vedas as equal to (and in some cases, inferior to) their own sectarian agamas, so long as the former did not contradict the latter. This is diametrically opposed to the vedantic concept of all shastras being inferior and subject to the Vedas. Secondly, the Brahma Sutras written by vedavyAsa condemn the pAsupata sects openly.
  7. What proof is there that the Saivas considered the Vedas as only equally valid to their own agamas? Do not the Saiva poets sometimes eulogise Siva as Brahman of the Veda and Agama, thus implying a high regard for the Vedas?

    Ans. Notice that such statements by the nAyanmars, tirumUlar, umApati sivAcArya etc always mention the Veda and (Saiva) Agama in the same breath. This shows a tendency to regard both on an equal footing, and even considering the Agama as superior and part of “SabdapramAna”. Eulogies of the Veda by Saiva poets and philosophers are only mere praise and not backed up by a rigorous analysis. They did not venture to do so as they believed in their own agamas more. While some insisted that the vedas and agamas could be reconciled, others argued for the relative supremacy of the Saiva agama. This shows a lack of a cohesive system reconciling the veda with their agama. Random upanishadic quotations of “Siva eva kevala:” and Satarudriya interspersed with Saiva agamas do not constitute a vedAntic system without an emphatic reconciliation.
  8. Can you highlight some statements where Shaivasequate the Veda to their Agamas?
Ans. tirumUlar says in his tirumantiram –
"வேதமொடு ஆகமம் மெய்யாம் இறைவனூல்
ஓதும் பொதுவும் சிறப்பு மென்றுன்னுக
நாதன் உரையிவை நாடில் இரண்டந்தம்
பேதம தென்னில் பெரியோர்க்க பேதமே."
“The Vedas and Agamas are both of them true, both being the word of the Lord. Think that the first is a general treatise and the latter a special one. Both form the word of God. When examined, and where difference is perceived between Vedanta and Siddhanta, the great will perceive no such difference.”
In essence, – 1) He calls both the Veda and the Agama as the words of Siva, thus not caring to address the apAurushEyatva issue, 2) Once again, the Veda and Agama is equated and a claim is made that the great perceive no difference without analysis.
  1. Is this not similar to the vaishnavas who claim the same for pAncharAtra?
Ans. The vaishnavas say the pAncharAtra is the very veda in the sense of it being the essence of vedic truths. But unlike Saivas, vaishnavas do not say the Veda is the word of bhagavAn like the pAncharAtra (Veda is apauruSheya) and nor do we say that the veda is a more general treatise (on general truths) and pAncharAtra has more special truths. They are harmonious. And we also do not rely solely on the pAncharAtra and give secondary importance to the Veda. The Saivas rely mainly on their Agamas and do not do much other than pay lip service to the Veda.
  1. Still, are there more open statements from Shaivas rejecting Vaidika Shastra?
Ans. In the introduction to the Rudra Gita here, we have given the example of ArulnandiSivAchArya who rejected bhagavadgIta, a valid part of the prasthAnatraya.
  1. Besides rejection of the Gita, what about statements on the Veda by Shaivas?
Ans. The ancient Shaiva scholar Haradatta writes in his ShrutiSuktimAla (108) – vedAh SvayaM bhavatu vA yadivA praNIta:  - he is saying that he does not care whether the Veda is apAuruSheya or not, which is completely opposed to the fundamental basis of the vaidikas who strive to show the ApAurushEyatva of Veda. In the very next sloka, he says “the essence of the Veda is seen in the Agama taught by Siva”.
  1. What is the inference drawn from Haradatta’s statements?
Ans. Note that – 1) He does not care for the apArushEyatva of veda, which is crucial for a vedAntin, 2) He then says that the essence of the Veda is the Agama of Siva without a proper analysis and proof, 3) By saying the essence of the Veda is the SivAgama and that apAurushEyatva is not important, he is clearly more concerned about the SivAgama only.
  1. Are there more such statements by Haradatta?
Ans. In the shruti sUkti mAlA, shloka 112 we find the following claim:
“If even the kalpa sutras etc. which are authored by human Rishis are valid pramANa, why can’t the Agamas and Tantra authored by you (Shiva), who is the Supreme Rishi, be accepted as pramANa? Certainly it must be accepted. Just because some people destitute of intelligence deem them non-authoritative, it does not become so:”
“kalpAH pramANaM RRiShibhiH yadi naH praNItA
kiM na pramANaM RRiShiNA mahatA maharShe |
shakyaM na vaktumaparigrahadUShitAni
tantrAntarANi bhavatA shivakartRRimanti ||”
  1. What does Haradatta imply by this and why is his reasoning wrong?
Ans. Haradatta’s reasoning again shows the incorrect logic applied in placing shaiva Agamas over shruti (the kalpa sUtras are part of vedAN^ga). In fact, such a statement shows a certain disrespect to the Rishis who revealed the apauruSheya vedas to the people.
If this logic were to be used by the vedAntins, even the bauddha shAstra must be accepted since it was propounded by vAsudeva who is eternally all-knowing. But such is not the case.
In vedAnta, the litmus test for the acceptance or rejection of the statements of Rishis or bhagavAn is not the puNyAtmatva (in the case of Rishis) or paramAtmatva (in the case of Sriman Narayana). The litmus test is that they must agree with the shruti. Whatever does not agree with the shruti, propagated by the Rishis or paramAtmA for whatever reasons, is rejected.
  1. What is the summary opinion of Saivas on the Veda and VaidikaShAstras?
Ans. Shaivas fall into two broad groups – 1) Those who outright reject the Veda and ShAstras like Gita, 2) Those who not only pay lip-service to the Veda ONLY in association with the SivAgama (which is obviously more important for them), but also do not accept its apAuruSheyatva or do not care either way.
All this is irrelevant of course, considering that the Brahma Sutras categorically reject the Saiva agamas. As mentioned earlier, the pAncharAtra is accepted partially by AdiShankara and wholly by other vedAntins.
  1. How do the Brahma Sutras reject the Saiva agamas?
Ans. The pAsupataadhikaraNam of the brahma sUtra-s reject the kApalika, kAlamukha, pAsupata and Saiva sects on account of – 1) their philosophical theories, 2) their practices. Their system of differentiating the material and efficient cause, holding Isvara to be only the latter as well as their ritualistic and devotional practices (smearing oneself with ashes, etc) are condemned. Their doctrine of 36 tattvas composed of Pati (Siva), Pasu (Jiva), and Pasham (Malaja, Karmaja, Maayeya, TirodhanaShaktija and Binduja) is arrived at by dividing of Siva Tattva into Siva Tattva, SakthiTattva , sadAsivaTattva , IsvaraTattva and VidhyATattva, adding the Asuddhatattvas and SankhyaTattvas. This is wholly unvedic and rejected in the sUtras by srI vedavyAsa.
  1. It can be accepted that the sUtras do indeed refute the doctrine of the pAsupatas with respect to Isvara being the efficient cause alone and also on the issue of dividing reality into 36 tattvas. But that doesn’t mean the sUtras outright reject the devotional practices to Siva and the consideration of Siva as Brahman. Can we not consider this?

    Ans. In the Sri Bhashya and Sruta Prakasika, the fact is made clear that the tenets of Isvara being the sole efficient cause and the doctrine of the 36 tattvas are derived directly from the Agamas of the pAsupatas which also advocate devotion to Siva. So, any criticism of the tenets of these texts also directly implies a criticism of the related views of (Siva as Brahman) as advocated by these Agamas. So, a criticism cannot be merely made of the doctrine contained in the agamas, leaving aside the practice of devotion to Siva in the agamas since the religious practices support and advocate the actual doctrine condemned by the brahma sUtras. These religious practices contradict statements like “nArAyaNa para tattva:” in the Vedas as well.
  2. The mahAbhArata and the rudra gita do contain certain statements like “the pAsupata mata is appropriate indeed, suited to the Veda”. Based on this, can we not say that while the brahma sUtras make an exception for Saivas in that their devotional practices are accepted?

    Ans. One cannot say that an exception can be made that an Agama which is rejected for its tenets can be accepted for its devotion to Siva. Exceptions are valid only when the consequence of accepting an exception does not lead to multiple contradictions. If one states that devotion to Siva can be accepted while rejecting the philosophy underpinning such devotion, it leads to contradictions. Neither can it be said that the purpose of devotion to Siva has a different context than devotion to Narayana, for this is just an evasive tactic and one can then use this logic to accept just about anything like Buddhism, Jainism, etc.
  3. But what of the statements in smriti mentioned previously? 

    Ans. The statements in the mahAbhArata and rudra gita do not provide “absolute legitimacy” to the Saiva path – rather, those statements declare that this flawed path is “relatively better” than other flawed paths, suited for people in rajO/tamO guNa. There are also statements condemning the path in comparison to Narayana bhaktas as well. The pAsupata mata indeed mixes vedic practices with unvedic practices, but the emphasis is on the latter than the former. So, it is a better path than other worse paths, but is itself inferior to the true vaidika darshana of worshipping Narayana. A commentary on the Rudra Gita of Varaha Purana has been posted on this blog explaining those statements. See here.
  4. It seems that the Saiva mata has been discounted by all Shastra as unvedic. But shouldn’t the experiences of the Siva devotees count for something?

    Ans. Vedanta does not take personal experiences into account unless verified by shruti. Gita 7.21 shows that it is Lord Narayana who, as the indweller of deities like Siva and having them as his body, nurtures the devotion and conviction of these devotees. But the fruits are temporary as it is an incorrect mode of worship. 
  5. Nonetheless, for argument’s sake, we know that Saiva devotees such as the nayanmars have had experiences. Can Vedantins philosophically explain how Narayana enables such experience of lesser deities as Brahman?

    Ans. According to the Vishishtadvaita theory of error (Sat Khyati), an error is due to a perception of something real and a non-apprehension. If a person thinks a shell is silver, it is because he saw the luster of the Shell which is real and similar to Silver and non-apprehension of the other properties which highlight the difference between the Shell and Silver. This is applied to explain the experiences of Siva bhaktas who viewed Siva as Supreme.
  6. How is Sat Khyati applied to explain the experiences of Siva bhaktas?

    Ans. They saw Siva and considered him as Brahman, attributing certain qualities of Brahman to Siva. The perception of Siva is real, as the perception of the luster of the Shell is. So is the perception of the attributes of Supremacy. The error lies in non-apprehension of the difference between the entity (Siva) and the attributes of Supremacy, etc which belong to Narayana, who is the indweller of Siva, and also the non-apprehension of Narayana who is different from Siva and the actual possessor of those attributes. It is Narayana who thus made their devotion steady according to the Gita 7.21 verse and it is his attributes which are wrongly attributed by them (due to his maya) to Siva. The perception is real, but the error is due to non-apprehension of the qualities which show Siva is not Brahman.
  7. Are there any additional pramAnAs directly from shAstra, since laypeople only believe what they perceive?

    Ans. In the panchAgni vidyA prakaraNa of the Chandogya, it is said that when a person attains the deva-loka, the devas “eat” him. This is a negative metaphor that they treat the said person as their “special servant” and regard him as inferior to them. Whereas, Narayana considers his devotees to be higher than him.
  8. In what way does Siva treat his “special servants”?

    Ans.  There are two examples. In the harivamSa, after the battle with Krishna, Banasura (a devotee of Siva) was wounded, with his arms chopped off and bleeding. He wanted to attain the abode of Siva. Nandi approached him and asked him to dance in front of Siva to appease the latter, whereby his wish would be granted. Banasura danced despite the pain and blood, thus appeasing Siva and attaining Kailasa. In contrast, Bhagavan Narayana would never expect his devotees to do such things, especially when they are in pain.
  9. Are there examples among Siva’s devotees besides Banasura?

    Ans. Sri Pillai Lokacharya quotes the story of SiruThonda Nayanmar who was asked by Siva to kill his own child and offer it as food to the latter. Of course, Siva later on restored his son back to life, but there is no doubt of the fact that until such time, the devotee was under stress and had to literally kill his son to prove his devotion. Narayana does not test his devotees this way.
All this points to the fact that Siva, despite favoring his devotees, does not possess the gracious attributes of Parabrahman, Sriman Narayana and hence this behavior can be seen.
  1. Can it not be said that the nAyanmAr was a jnAni and so was not attached to his son?
Ans. Even Veda VyAsa was not unattached towards his son, Suka and mourned his departure. The nAyanmAr was a simple Siva bhakta. He did it to obey Siva, but there is no doubt of the pain he felt. Even if he was not attached, a deity who is paramAtma would not test a bhakta by asking him to kill and cook his son. This is purely a worldly servant-master relationship, just that the master is more benevolent and good natured than normal ones.
  1. What about the conduct of the devotees of Siva?
Ans. Neither is the conduct of the Siva bhaktas wholly sAttvic. bAnAsura is a proven example as he was an asurA by nature. However, another example is that of kOtpuLi nAyanmAr who killed his relatives for taking food meant for Siva when they were starving. And Siva approved of the act.
  1. How is the conduct of kOtpuLi nAyanmAr not sAttvic as he was doing it in the name of Siva bhakti?
Ans. His relatives were starving. The Chandogya Upanishad says that in such circumstances, it is dharma to even eat meat, and definitely a compassionate supreme being would allow them to eat food meant for him. Although Siva took the slain relatives and the nAyAnmAr to Kailasa, the act of slaying them for this reason is adharma as per the vaidikamatam. And the approval of Siva shows he is not paramAtma interacting with true jnAnIs, but rather Siva is one who treats his devotees as respected servants and also that he knows the disposition of his devotees is not wholly sAttvic.
  1. What is the conclusion drawn from this section?

    Ans. That Siva is not Brahman and the pAsupatamatam consisting of kApAlika, kAlamukhA, Saiva SiddhAntha and pAsupata sects is unvedic.

PROVING VISHNU’S SUPREMACY FROM THE SHRUTI AND SMRITI

  1. So far, you have been claiming that Vishnu is the Supreme Brahman proclaimed in the Vedas. Can you prove this?
Ans. This is quite easy, and has been repeatedly proclaimed by several AcAryas belonging to different schools in Vedanta. Take the characteristics of parabrahman described in a previous question here such as jagatkAraNatva, mokShapradatva, etc. With proper examination of the shAstras, it will be clear that only Sriman Narayana has all these characteristics, while the devatas such as Brahma, Rudra, Indra, Skanda, Uma, Durga, etc. have none of these.
  1. What are the various pUrvAcArya works that establish this conclusion clearly?
Ans. (i) Sri yAmuna’s Agama prAmANya, (ii) Vedartha Samgraha of Bhagavad Ramanuja, ,(iii) the commentaries to the Divya Prabandha by Nampillai, Periyavachan Pillai and others, (iv) Swami Desikan’s various works such as “saccarita rakShA” etc., (v) Vedanta Kaustubham and other works written by Srivaishnava AcAryas against Appayya Dikshita’s Shaiva propaganda are among the works in which this conclusion is derived logically by citing various shruti/smR^iti passages.
We have also used a few pramANas quoted by shrI madhva, vijayIndra tIrtha etc. from the dvaita tradition.
  1. Are you going to use only the pramANas quoted by these above works?
Ans. For the large majority of the quotes, yes.And this goes without stating explicitly every time.
There may be one or two extra passages which we have used and may not be cited in any of the pUrvAcAryas’ works. This minority of quotes may be considered as secondary evidence without any harm to the ultimate conclusion about Sriman Narayana’s supremacy.
  1. The Veda also contains statements that apparently show Hiranyagarbha, Rudra, Indra, Surya, Agni, etc. as supreme. What is your position on them?
Ans. There are two types of such statements: (i) where the words Indra, Rudra, Soma, etc. are used to describe the Supreme Being, and (ii) where the characteristics of the devatA are clearly identifiable with the statement that the particular devatA is the paramAtmA.
In the former case, it should be noted that the words Indra, Rudra/Siva, Agni etc. are not interpreted as the popular devatas bearing that name, but in an etymological manner (i.e., as adjectives). Moreover, the Supreme Being bears all these names.
In the second case, the identification of an inferior devatA with the Supreme is through sharIrAtma bhAva (body-soul relationship). Hence when for example, Indra declares in the Pratardhana vidyA – I am to be worshipped, it means that the antaryAmin of Indra, Sriman Narayana, is Supreme and is to be worshipped.
  1. This sounds pretty convoluted. Why would you not just literally interpret that all the devatAs are declared to be Supreme in the shruti? Why, even the shruti says “ekaM sat viprAH bahudhA vadanti”.
Ans. There are two reasons. Firstly, That would result in a bundle of contradictions. The same Veda says:
“bhISAsmAdvAtaH pavate bhIShodeti sUryaH bhIShAsmAdagnishcandrashca mRRityurdhAvati pa~ncamaH”
[From fear of Him, the wind blows. From fear of Him, the sun rises. The fire and the moon, similarly act fearing Him. Death  runs to and fro as the fifth.]
The Kenopanishad says that Indra, Vayu, Agni among other devatas were, in one instance, filled with ego. The shruti then says that they did not realize Brahman was their antaryAmin and enabler, and had to be proven wrong by Brahman who came in the form of Yaksha defeating them in strength.
In addition to this, there are a million other places says that the Supreme Being is the creator, annihilator, and controller of all these devatas on whom they depend. We will see such statements soon.
Secondly, the sharIrAtma bhAva is not convoluted because even according to the nyAyAs, it is the *direct* interpretation. For instance consider the sentence – “I am Devadatta”. What does the “I” denote here?  It directly denotes the sentient self that is associated with the body designated as Devadatta, for “I” cannot merely denote the body. vidvAns declare that interpreting “I” without connoting the inner self is the actual indirect route.
  1. Why can’t we say that such statements of subordination are arthavAda? What we mean is that these statements are not to be taken literally, but as a statement of praise for those specific “amshas” such as Vishnu, Rudra, Indra, etc.
Ans. Such an interpretation cannot be considered authoritative. Such an “interpretation” is tantamount to throwing portions of shruti down the drain. It is as good as saying such statements do not serve any purpose.
Moreover, in our interpretation we do not deem any significant portion of the shruti as “arthavAda”. All statements are taken seriously in our interpretation.
  1. Is your interpretation supported by the smRRitis, itihAsas, and purANas?
Ans. Yes, as we shall see in the subsequent answers here.
  1. Who is designated as the Supreme tattva (Truth) in the shruti/smRRitis?
Ans.
“nArAyaNaparaM brahma tattvaM nArAyaNaH paraH |
nArAyaNaparo jyotirAtmA nArAyaNaH paraH”
[Narayana is the Supreme Brahman, the Supreme Truth is Narayana. Narayana is the Supreme Light, the Supreme Soul is Narayana.]
“nArAyaNAya vidmahe vAsudevAya dhImahI tanno viShNuH pracodayAt”
[So that we know nArAyaNa, may we meditate upon vAsudeva. For that purpose, may Vishnu enlighten us.]
(Taittiriya Upanishad, Narayana Valli)
“bhavAnnArAyaNo devaH shrImAMshchakrAyudhaH prabhuH ||
ekashRRi~Ngo varAhastvaM bhUtabhavyasapatnajit |
akSharaM brahma satyaM cha madhye chAnte cha rAghava ||
lokAnAM tvaM paro dharmo viShvaksenashchaturbhajaH |”
[You are the Lord Narayana himself the glorious god, who wields the discus. You are the Divine Boar with a single tusk, the conqueror of your past and future enemies.You are Brahma, the imperishable, the Truth abiding in the middle as well as at the end of the universe. You are the supreme righteousness of people, whose powers go everywhere. You are the four-armed.]
(Ramayana, Yuddha kANDa)
“tattvaM jij~nAsamAnAnAM hetubhiH sarvatomukhaiH |
tattvameko mahAyogI harirnArAyaNaH smRRitaH ||”
[Due to many reasons of various kinds, The Supreme Narayana is declared as the Truth by those who are engaged in enquiring about the ultimate truth.]
(Mahabharata, shAntiparvan)
“satyaM satyaM punaH satyamuddhR^itya bhujamuchyate  |
vedashAstrAtparaM nAsti  na daivaM keshavAtparam  ||”
[This is the truth! This is the truth! And again this is the truth! It is declared with raised hands thus: There is no shAstra higher than the Veda, and there is no deity higher than Keshava (Vishnu).]
(Harivamsa, sheShadharma-prakaraNa)
  1. Who is the Supreme Truth, as mentioned in the shruti as the One who is sung in all Vedas?
Ans. The shruti (kaThopaniShad) says “sarve vedA yatpadaM Amananti” [The Supreme state that all Vedas talk about.] This may be understood differently by different schools of Vedanta, but all of them agree that this statement means that Lord Vishnu is the paramAtmA praised everywhere in the Vedas. Smriti also agrees with this:
“vedaishca sarvairahameva vedyaH” (Bhagavad Gita, 15.15)
[I (Lord Vasudeva) alone am praised by all Vedas.]
“vede rAmAyaNe puNye bhArate bharatarShabha|
Adau madhye tathA cAnte viShNuH sarvatra gIyate” (Harivamsa, 3.132.95)
[In the Vedas, Ramayana, as well as in the Mahabharata, in the beginning, middle, and end, Vishnu is praised everywhere.]
These pramANas are well-known to all schools of Vedanta.
  1. Who is declared as the jagatkAraNa, or the cause of the universe? Who is declared as the origin (during creation) and the resting place (during annihilation) of all beings, from Brahma, Rudra, up to a blade of grass?
Ans.
“eko ha vai nArAyaNa AsIt, na brahmA neshAnaH” (Mahopanishad)
[Alone indeed there was Narayana. Neither Brahma nor Ishana (Rudra) existed.]
“eko ha vai nArAyaNa AsIt, na brahmA, na ca shaN^karaH” (Paingirahasya Brahmana)
[Alone indeed there was Narayana. Neither Brahma nor Shankara (Rudra) existed.]
“nArAyaNAt brahmA jAyate, nArAyaNAt rudro jAyate” (Narayana Upanishad)
[From Narayana, Brahma is born. From Narayana, Rudra is born.]
“nArAyaNAdeva samutpadyante | nArAyaNAt pravartante | nArAyaNe pralIyante”  (Narayana Upanishad)
[Everything in this universe is produced from Narayana, are sustained because of Narayana, and in the end enter into Narayana.]
“tvaM trayANAM hi lokAnAmAdikartA svayaMprabhuH |
siddhAnAmapi sAdhyAnAmAshrayashchAsi pUrvajaH ||” (Ramayana, yuddha kANDa)
[You are the first creator of all, the three worlds, and the self-constituted Lord of all. You are the refuge and the forbear of Siddhas (a class of demi-gods endowed with mystic powers by virtue of their very birth) and Sadhyas (a class of celestial beings.)]
“yaH purA pralaye prApte naShTe sthAvarajaN^game |
brahmAdiShu pralIneSHu naShTe loke carAcare ||
AbhUtasaMplave prApte pralIne prakRRitau mahAn |
ekastiShThati vishvAtmA sa tu nArAyaNaH prabhuH ||” (Mahabharata, Sabha parvan)
[During ancient times, the universe including all beings including the movable and immovable ones, right from Brahma, was annihilated.  During this great deluge, the one Great person who remains, the soul of the entire universe, is none but Lord Narayana.]
See also the explanation to the shlokas starting with “samayas te mahAbAho” in Srimad Ramayana here where it is stated that Brahma was created by Narayana in the lotus springing from His navel, and was ordered by Him to continue with the process of creating the universe.
  1. Explain how the shruti specifically details the birth of Rudra from Narayana/Brahma, with proper upabRRiMhaNas from itihAsa/purANa.
Ans. There are two kinds of statements. The first kinds of statements, like these below, show that Rudra was born from Narayana’s wrath:
“trayyakShaH shUlapANiH puruSho ajAyata” (Mahopanishad)
[The three-eyed person bearing the trident was born (from Narayana).]
“lalATAt krodhajo rudro jAyate” (Subala Upanishad)
[From (Narayana’s) forehead Rudra, whose origin is in anger, was born.]
“brAhme rAtrikSaye prApte tasya hy amitatejasaH |
prasAdAt prAdurabhavat padmaM padmanibhekSaNa |
tatra brahmA samabhavat sa tasyaiva prasAdajaH ||
ahnaH kSaye lalATAc ca suto devasya vai tathA |
krodhAviSTasya saMjajJe rudraH saMhArakArakaH ||
etau dvau vibudhazreSThau prasAdakrodhajau smRtau |
tadAdezitapanthAnau sRSTisaMhArakArakau |
nimittamAtraM tAv atra sarvaprANivarapradau ||”
[In the brahma muhurta, at the end of the night, due to the mercy of the extremely brilliant Lord, a lotus emerged from His navel and in that lotus, Brahma was born, ofcourse, due to His grace.At the end of the day, the Lord created Rudra out of krodha-guna, to enable him to be the 'samhara-karta'. Thus, these two 'fine-among-wise', Brahma and Rudra, are known to have been born out of grace and anger respectively.Thus, they carry out the instructed tasks of creation and destruction. However, they, the givers of boons to all the creatures, are just the agents.]
(Mahabharata, shanti parvan)

yasya prasAdAdahamachyutasya mUrtiH prajAsRRiShTikaro .antakArI  .
krodhAchcha rudraH…
[By whose grace I, the creator of beings, am the form of Acyuta (i.e., I am a body and acyuta is my soul), and by whose anger, Rudra the annihilator is his form (i.e., he is a body and acyuta is is soul).]
(Vishnu Purana, 4.1.85)
tvatkrodhasaMbhavo rudras tamasA cha samAvRRitaH |
tvatprasAdAjjagaddhAtA rajasA cha pitAmahaH ||
[Rudra, who was born from Your (Vishnu’s) wrath is covered with tamas, and Brahma, the grandsire of the universe, who was born from Your grace is covered with rajas.]
(Linga Purana, 1.36.7)
  1. Explain the second class of statements.
Ans. There are other statements (for example, in the shatapatha brAhmaNa), that show Brahma to be the creator of Rudra. The  Chandogya Brahmana also mentions Rudra as the son of Brahma:
“virUpAkShAya brahmaNaH putrAya jyeShThAya shreShThAya…”
The purANAs’ account of the creation of Rudra from the wrath of Brahma is well-known. The reader can check Vishnu Purana and bhAgavata purANas for this. Another well-known reference in as follows:
“yat tat padmamabhUt pUrvaM tatra brahmA vyajAyata |
brahmaNashcApi shivaH saMbhUtaH ityavadhAryatAM ||”,
[Inside that which became the lotus, Brahma was specially born. From Brahma as well, Shiva was born. This is to be taken note of.]
(Mahabharata, shanti parvan)
  1. How do you explain this apparent contradiction between the two kinds of statements?
Ans. It is possible that in one kalpa, Rudra is born as Brahma’s son and in another kalpa, directly as Narayana’s son. This would explain it. However, we need not even resort to this. It can be said that it is indeed from Brahma (when he became angry, as per Vishnu Purana) Rudra is born, but since Narayana is the antaryAmin of Brahma, it is stated in other places that Rudra is born from the wrath of Narayana.
This is similar to Adi Shankara’s statement in the introductory part of the gITA-bhAShya that Narayana created Sanatkumara and Prajapatis, while the purANas state that they were created by Brahma. It is only an indirect (sadvAraka) creation by Narayana through Brahma.
  1. Explain further from scriptures how Brahma and Rudra are subject to Vishnu who is their Lord.
    Ans.
“yo brahmANaM vidadhAti pUrvaM yo vedAMshca prahiNoti tasmai”
[He who creates Brahma, and bestows the Veda unto him.]
(Shvetashvatara Upanishad)
“asya devasya mIDhuSho vayA viShNoreShasya prabhRRite havirbhiH | vide hi rudro rudriyaM mahitvaM…”
[By propitiating the branches of Vishnu who is the resplendent one the bestower of wishes and is to be sought after, in a grand sacrifice (called “sarvamedha”) with offerings (which included his own Atman), Rudra obtained the greatness connected with his Rudra-position.]
(Rigveda, 7.40.5)
mayA sR^iShTaH purA brahmA mAM yaj~namayajatsvayam ..
tatastasmai varAnprIto dattavAnasmyanuttamAn .
matputratvaM cha kalpAdau lokAdhyakShatvameva cha ..
[Brahma himself, who was created by me long ago, worshipped me through yajna. Pleased thus, I bestowed upon him the boons, which were (i) the status of being my son, and (ii) the status of being the creator/manager of the universe, (among others).]
(Mahabharata, Shanti Parvan)
“yugakoTi sahasrANi viShNumArAdhya padmabhUH |
punastrailokyadhAtRRitvaM prAptavAniti sushrumaH ||”
[Worshipping Vishnu for 10 billion years, the lotus-born Brahma obtained once more the status of being the creator of the three worlds, we heard thus.]
(Mahabharata, Shanti Parvan)
The shlokas beginning with “samayas te mahAbAho” in uttara kANDa in Srimad Ramayana are also fit to be mentioned here. They are detailed here.
“adhikaM menire viShNuM devAH sarShigaNaastadA”,
[The devas, along with the groups of Rishis, understood Vishnu to be superior (to Rudra).]
(Ramayana, bAla kANDa, 75th sarga)
“mahAdevaH sarvamedhe mahAtmA
hutvA.a.atmAnaM devadevo babhUva .
vishvA.NllokAnvyApya viShTabhya kIrtyA
virAjate dyutimAnkR^ittivAsAH ..”,
[In the sarvamedha yAga, mahAdeva (Rudra) the great soul offered everything including himself. He thus earned the title “deva of all devas”. Through his fame, he pervaded the entire universe and stopped it (i.e., his fame spread all over the universe in such a manner that everyone stopped to notice him). The wearer of the elephant hide thus shines gracefully.]
(Mahabharata, shanti parvan)
“viShNurAtmA bhagavato bhavasyAmitatejasaH |
tasmAddhanurjyAsaMsparshaM sa viShehe maheshvaraH ||”,
[Vishnu is the soul of bhava (Rudra) of great strength. Hence, he (maheshvara - Rudra) was able to bear the strength of the bow (designed by vishvakarmA to destroy the three cities built by the demons).]
(Mahabharata, Karna parvan)
“rudraM samAzritA devA rudro brAhmaNam AzritaH
brahmA mAm Azrito rAjan nAhaM kaM cid upAzritaH
mamAzrayo na kaz cit tu sarveSAm Azrayo hy aham
evam etan mayA proktaM rahasyam idam uttamam”
[The (lower) devatas (like Indra, Varuna, Surya, Chandra, etc.) take refuge in Rudra. Rudra in turn takes refuge in Brahma. Brahma takes refuge in Me (Sriman Narayana) oh king! But I do not take refuge in anyone. For me, there is no (need to seek) refuge and everyone indeed seeks refuge in Me. This is the greatest secret, which has been told by me thus.]
(Mahabharata, ashvamedha-parvan, 118.37-39)
  1. Who is declared as the sarvAntaryAmin, the inner controller of all, existing with the whole universe within Himself?
    Ans.
“brahmA nArAyaNaH, shivashca nArAyaNaH, shakrashca nArAyaNaH, kAlashca nArAyaNaH, dishashca nArAyaNaH… nArAyaNa evedaM sarvaM yadbhUtaM yashca bhavyam”
[Narayana is indeed everything (since he is the antarAtman), including Brahma, Shiva (Rudra), Shakra (Indra),  time, directions… all these are indeed Him, and whatever existed before and whatever will exist in future are Him.]
(Narayana Upanishad)
“puruSha evedaM sarvam yadbhUtaM yashca bhavyam”
[The Purusha (Narayana, described as the consort of Lakshmi and bhUdevi) is indeed everything.]
(Purusha Suktam, Rigveda 10.90, Taittiriya Aranyaka 3.12)
“eSha sarvabhUtAntarAtmA apahatapApmA divyo deva ekao nArAyaNaH”
[He is the antarAtman of all beings, free from all pApa and is the only one who is naturally deva (other devas have been granted that position temporarily). He is the one Narayana.]
(Subala Upanishad)
“antarbahishca tatsarvaM vyApya nArAyaNaH sthitaH”
[Narayana prevails pervading everything internally and externally.]
(Taittiriya Upanishad, Narayana-valli)
“sa brahmA sa shivaH sendraH”   
[He is (the in-dweller) of Brahma, Shiva, and Indra.]
(Taittiriya Upanishad, Narayana-valli)
“sa AtmA angAnyanyA devatAH”
[He is the Soul, all the other devatas are His limbs.]
(Taittiriya Upanishad)
  1. Who is the Saguna Brahman possessing the characteristic of apahata-pApmatva (free from all pApa) revealed in the shruti? Is it Sriman Narayana or Siva?
Ans. The shruti declares that Narayana is the apahata-pApman, whereas Rudra is described as “anapahata-pApman” (one who is not freed from all pApa):
“apahatapApmA divyo deva eko nArAyaNaH”
[He is free from all pApa and is the only one who is naturally deva (other devas have been granted that position temporarily). He is the one Narayana.]
(Subala Upanishad)
“so’bravIdanapahatapApmA vA.asmi anAhitanAmA”
[He (Rudra) said: “I am not freed from pApa since I have not been given names”]
(Shatapatha Brahmana)
  1. Who is declared as the Supreme Goal in the shruti and smriti? Who is the bestower of liberation?
Ans.
“nAnyanyaH panthA vidyate’yanAya”
[(Other than resorting to the Purusha), no other way to liberation exists.]
(Purusha Suktam)
“mahAn prabhurvai puruShaH sattvasyaiShaH pravartakaH”
[The Great Lord, who is the Purusha, increases the quality of sattva alone.]
(Shvetashvatara Upanishad)
  1. Are there any “upabRRiMhaNas” as you mentioned, to the above verses, in Itihasa and Puranas?
Ans.
“jAyamAnaM hi puruShaM yaM pashyenmadhusUdanaH .
sAtvikastu sa vij~neyo bhavenmokShe cha nishchitaH ..
pashyatyenaM jAyamAnaM brahmA rudro.atha vA punaH.
rajasA tamasA chaiva mAnasaM samabhiplutam ..”
[If Lord Vishnu, the slayer of Madhu casts his eyes on a newborn person, that person becomes filled with the quality of sattva and for sure will attain liberation. On the other hand, if that person during his birth is seen by Brahma or Rudra, his mind becomes immersed in the qualities of Rajas and Tamas.]
(Mahabharata, shAntiparvan)
“shreyAMsi tatra khalu sattvatanornRRiiNAM syuH”
[(Of the trimUrtis, who are possessed of sattva, rajas and tamas) goodness and welfare are indeed obtained from the one whose body is sattva (Vishnu).]
(Srimad Bhagavatam)
“sattvena mucyate jantuh sattvam nArAyaNAtmakam |”
[By sattva, all beings are liberated and Narayana is filled with, ie, of the nature of sattva.]
(Varaha Purana, 70.20)
“AloDya sarvashAstrANi vicArya ca punaH punannam .
idamekaM suniShpannam dhyeyo nArAyaNaH sadA ..”,
[Having analysed all the shAstras, enquiring into them many times, this one fact is derived: That Narayana is always the one to be meditated upon.]
(Mahabharata, anushAsana-parvan, 186.11)
  1. All of the above seem biased. You seem to choose the deity “nArAyaNa” as your fixed reference point from which you proceed to interpret everything else. Why not take some other deity “Rudra” instead as the reference point and interpret everything else, including the name “nArAyaNa” as the Supreme Lord Siva?
Ans. The Panini Sutra (8.4.3) “pUrvapadAt saMj~nAyAM agaH” prevents such an interpretation. The “Na”-kAra instead of the “na-kAra” in the “nArAyaNa” implies that it is a name and not an adjective that can be interpreted etymologically. Whereas, Rudra, Siva, Hiranyagarbha, Indra, AkAsha, etc. can all be interpreted as adjectives without violating grammar.
Hence, the shruti itself states that “nArAyaNa” is the name of parabrahman. The innumerable upabRRiHmaNas cited above from itihAsa/purANa corroborate this, and shows that Sriman Narayana is proclaimed as the paramAtman in the shruti.
  1. What other justifications (nyAyas) are used in establishing that your Vaishnavite interpretation is the only correct way?
Ans. In addition to the Panini Sutra mentioned above, there are other nyAyas used, from the Purva Mimamsa Sutras and other vedic texts. Some of them are listed below. Describing them in detail is beyond the scope of this FAQ and the interested reader can consult the scholarly works such as Vedanta Kaustubham etc.:
    1. Purva Mimamsa Sutra 3.3.14 which says that when there is a clash with “shruti-liN^ga-vAkya-prakaraNa-sthAna-samAkhyA” all occurring in the same place, the preceding ones is more powerful than the succeeding ones, in determining the meaning of a text.
    2. “upakramAdhikaraNa” of Purva Mimamsa Sutra, which says that the entire text is to be interpreted in accordance with the opening portion which establishes the context, when there is an apparent contradiction.
    3. “ChAga-pashu nyAya” which states that when the context is the same, statements that are more specific have to be used to determine the meaning of statements that are general.
    4. “bhUyasAM syAd balIyastvam” which means, “the higher the number, the greater the strength”. This means that the Upanishads have to be interpreted to show Vishnu’s supremacy, since names like Purusha, Ananta, Vishnu, Narayana, Hari, Acyuta, Matsya, Kurma, Varaha, Narasimha, Vamana, Trivikrama, Krishna, etc. are more abundantly used to describe theSupreme than the names such as Rudra, Hiranyagarbha, Indra, etc. commonly denoting other deities.

  1. What about shvetAshvatara, atharvashikha, and atharvashiras? They definitely seem to portray Shiva as the supreme, do they not?
Ans. There are solid upabRRiMhaNas to show that even shvetAshvatara etc. holds Sriman Narayana alone to be Supreme. See this article.
Moreover, the mantra “mahAn prabhur vai puruShaH sattvasyaikaH pravartakaH” in shvetAshvatara has a clear upabRRiMhaNa in the Mahabharata:
“mahApuruShashabdaM sa bibhartyekaH sanAtanaH”
[The eternal One alone (Narayana) bears the name “mahapuruSha”.]
This quote occurs in the dialogue between Brahma and Rudra. Moreover, “sattvasyaiShaH pravartakaH” is explained by the shloka “jAyamAnaM hi puruShaM…” explained here in the question before the last.
In the ashvamedhika parva, where bhAgavata-dharma is explained, Sri Krishna says that even those who worship Him with atharvashiras are bhAgavatas:
atharvashirasA chaiva nityamAtharvANA dvijAH .
stuvanti satataM ye mAM te vai bhAgavatAH smR^itAH .. 14-118-35
The shruti itself (Nrsimha Purva Tapini) says that the nR^isiMha mantra is the essence of Sri Rudram, Atharvashikha, and atharvashiras.
Sri Puthur Swamy’s “Vishnu Chitta Vijayam” has elaborate discussions of these three Upanishads, and shows that it is indeed Vishnu who is declared to be Supreme in these Upanishads. Any neutral reader will get convinced by this.
  1. Isn’t Rudra saying that he is the Supreme Being, in Atharvashiras?
Ans.: The verse in question is this. It is spoken by Rudra:
“so’bravIt ahamekaH prathamam Asam, vartAmi ca bhaviShyAmi | nAnyaH kashcinmatto vyatiriktaH | iti so’ntarAdantaraM prAvishat | dishashcAntaraM prAvishat | so’haM nityAnityo vyaktAvyakto... ”
[He (Rudra) said “I alone was in the beginning, I alone exist, and I alone will exist. None is apart from me. Thus, He entered the subtler than the subtle. He entered all the directions and the space in-between. He is indeed me, everything that is eternal and non-eternal, manifest and unmanifest…”]
The catch phrase is this: “He entered (sa prAvishat) the subtler than the subtle (antarAdantaram)” which means that Rudra identifies himself with (“entered”) the Supreme since the Supreme is his inner self that has entered the subtler than the subtle i.e., the jIvAtman.
This is neither different from Prahlada (in Vishnu Purana) declaring that he alone is everything, nor from each of the Gopikas (also in Vishnu Purana) declaring that they alone are Vishnu. All this only means that Rudra, Prahlada, and Gopika are attesting to the fact that the paramAtman Sriman Narayana is their in-dweller.
Vamadeva similarly declares “I was Manu, I was Surya” in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, 1.4.10.
This nyAya is declared in the Brahma Sutras: “shAstradRRiShTyA tUpadesho vAmadevavat.”
The shaivite interpretation places “iti so’ntarAdantaraM prAvishat” at the end of the whole statement, saying ‘iti’ signifies the end. This is a biased interpretation, since it is possible to perfectly interpret it keeping the phrase where it occurs originally.
  1. But then, it is stated that Vishnu has birth in Atharvashikha. How do you reconcile that?
Ans. The verse in question is this:
“sarvamidaM brahmaviShNurudrendrAste (sarve) saMprasUyante sarvANi cendriyANi saha bhUtaiH na kAraNaM kAraNAnAM dhyAtA kAraNaM tu dhyeyaH sarvaishvaryasaMpannaH shambhuH”
[All this here, Brahma, Vishnu, Rudra, and Indra all have birth. So do all the indriyas and the bhUtas (five elements/beings). The cause of all causes is not the meditator. That cause, though is the one to be meditated upon. He is the one endowed with all Lordship and the bestower of auspiciousness (shambhuH).]
What the shruti is explaining here is the nature of the cause of all causes, and about the nature of meditation.
The shruti answers two questions in one go: (i) what is the cause of all causes, to be meditated upon? (ii) is that cause of all causes accessible in some form, or is it inaccessible?
The answer is given in “brahmaviShNurudrendrAste saMprasUyante” [Brahma, Vishnu, Rudra, and Indra all have births.] This answer means: (i) Brahma, Rudra, and Indra who are created and have births induced by their puNya/pApa karmas are not the cause. (ii) The cause of all causes, Vishnu is accessible as He takes birth amidst devas (and by extension, in this world), through his own will and not due to any karmas as he is free from them.
This too occurs just after the Upanishad says that the meditation is to be identified with “Vishnu” and the meditator is to be identified with “Rudra” [dhyAnaM viShNuH… dhyAtA rudraH].
It is wrong to interpret the verse as “Brahma, Vishnu, Rudra, and Indra all have birth and hence are not the cause of all causes,” as some shaivas/shaivAdvaitins do today. This is not the correct anvaya, and even shaivite webpages agree to it.
  1. What about the statement in the Paingirahasya Brahmana that says Vishnu is one of the created beings?
Ans. The verse in question is this:
“eko ha vai nArAyaNa AsIn na brahmA na ca shaN^karaH | sa munirbhUtvA samacintayat | tata ete vyajAyanta | vishve hiraNyagarbho.agniryamo varuNaviShNurudrendrAH ||”
[Narayana alone was there initially. Neither Brahma, nor Shankara (Rudra). With the thought to create, he resolved. From then, everyone including Brahma, Agni, Yama, Varuna, Vishnu, Rudra, and Indra were born.]
All this only means that nArAyaNa took the avatAra of Vishnu among the devatas to complete the count of devatas.
This is statement in shruti moreover clearly explains what it is meant in the atharva-shikha when it says “Brahma, Vishnu, Rudra, and Indra all are born”.
  1. Are there any upabRRiMhaNas to the interpretation in the previous answer?
Ans. This shruti is quite clearly explained in the 17th Chapter of the Varaha Purana, as follows:
sarve devA sapitaraH brahmAdayAshcANDamadhyagAH |
viShNoH sakAshAdutpannA itIyaM vaidikIshrutiH ||
indro jagatpatirviShNuH yamo rudraH shashI tathA |
pitarashceti saMbhUtA prAdhAnyena jagatpateH ||
[There is a statement in the shruti which says: “All devas from Brahma, along with the Pitrs were born from Vishnu. Indra, the Lord of the universe Vishnu, Yama, Rudra, Chandra, and Pitrs are the notable ones who were born from the Lord of the Universe (Narayana).]
Moreover, we have already quoted a Vishnu Purana shloka and Linga Purana shloka which say that Brahma and Rudra were born from his wrath and grace respectively. Let us closely look at what the shlokas continue to say:
yasya prasAdAdahamachyutasya mUrtiH prajAsRRiShTikaro .antakArI  .
krodhAchcha rudraH sthitihetubhUto yasmAch cha madhye puruShaH parasmAt
[By whose grace I (brahmA), the creator of beings, am born as the form of Acyuta (i.e., I am a body and acyuta is my soul), and by whose anger, Rudra the annihilator was born as his form (i.e., he is a body and acyuta is is soul). And in addition, from Whom the Purusha (Vishnu) was born in between these two, for the purpose of protection.]
(Vishnu Purana, 4.1.85)
tvatkrodhasaMbhavo rudras tamasA cha samAvRRitaH .
tvatprasAdAjjagaddhAtA rajasA cha pitAmahaH ..
tvatprasAdAtsvayaM viShNuH sattvena puruShottamaH .
[Rudra, who was born from Your (Vishnu’s) wrath is covered with tamas, and Brahma, the grandsire of the universe, who was born from Your grace is covered with rajas.By your grace (again), You Yourself was born as Vishnu, the Purushottama, through sattva.]
(Linga Purana, 1.36.7)
All these pramANas show that Vishnu’s birth declared in the shAstras is avatAra.
Moreover, the creation of brahmA, rudra, etc. are mentioned in places where the sRRiShTi krama (order of creation of the universe) is explained in the shruti. On the other hand, Vishnu is not said to be created from rudra in this way anywhere in the shruti.
  1. The mantra “somaH pavate” in the Rigveda, by stating “… janitotA viShNoH” says that Vishnu was born from Soma. Does that mean Vishnu was born from Rudra, since Soma = sa + umA = one who is consorted by Uma?
Ans. This idea, championed by Appayya Dikshita and others, is an avaidika one. This birth of Vishnu is very well understood to be an avatAra, while the births of the other devatas who are jIvAtmans are due to karma, just as in the other shruti statements above. “sa + umA” can also be taken to indicate vishNu, who is always consorted by fame.
Other genuine vaidikas who were advaitins, such as Maheshvara Tirtha in his explanation of Aditya Hridayam in his Ramayana commentary, have also taken this mantra and explained that the “Soma” here is only Vishnu, thereby maintaining Vishnu’s supremacy consistently.
  1. Just like the shaivites who have developed a “turIya sadAshiva” concept to explain away the shruti statements that clearly show that Rudra is a jIvAtmA, do you need a “turIya viShNu” concept to explain away the shruti statements which show Vishnu were born?
Ans. No. We do not propose a “lower Vishnu” and a “higher Vishnu” to explain away the statements in shruti that say Vishnu has birth.
Moreover, the “turIya shiva” concept has no support in Vedanta. One may as well propose a “turIya hiraNyagarbha”, “turIya indra”, “turIya vaishvAnara”, “turIya AkAsha”, “turIya vAyu”, and such similar insane ideas to hold on to their own pet theories that the deities such as Hiranyagarbha, Indra, etc. and even insentient entities like AkAsha etc. are supreme since there are statements in the shruti that appear to say so.
  1. Can you give pramANas to show that Vishnu’s body is Shuddha Sattva, and unlike our bodies, is not composed of the pa~ncabhUtas?
Ans. In the Varaha Purana and the Mahabharata we find the clear statements:
“na tasya prAkRRitA mUrttirmAMsamedo.asti saMbhavA” (Varaha Purana, 75.42)
[His form does not have a basis in the prakriti. His form does not consist of flesh, fat, bones, etc.]
“na bhUtasaN^ghgasaMsthAno deho.asya paramAtmanaH” (Mahabharata, 12.206.60)
[This body of paramAtmA is not due to the mixture of the five elements.]
The above two are quoted by Swami Desikan in Tatparya Chandrika, Bhagavad Gita 4.6.
Moreover, we have from the shruti itself: “AdityavarNaM tamasaH parastAt”, “rajasaH parAke”, which show that the Supreme Lord is beyond Rajas and Tamas, and hence Shuddha-sattva. Also, we have from Ramayana: “tamasaH paramo dhAtA shaN^khacakragadAdharaH” in Yuddha kANDa, where Valmiki, through mandodarI’s words when Ravana was killed, shows the real nature of Lord Rama.
  1. Do dvaitins accept that the Lord’s form is beyond prakriti?
Ans. Yes. They have stated this clearly in their works.
  1. What about advaitins?
Ans. Sridhara Swami explains thus while commenting on Bhagavad Gita 7.24:
“Those who do not know the real nature of Me (Lord Vishnu), think that I am similar to the other devatas whose bodies are made of pa~ncabhUtas due to karma, while the truth is that I take shuddha-sattva forms due to My own volition and not impelled by karma. Hence, they are not interested in honouring Me exceedingly. On the other hand, they resort to worshipping the lesser deities who shower results on them very quickly. By this means, they only gain limited results.”
The Sanskrit text of the above is shown below:
“ato jagadrakShArthaM lIlayAviShkRRitanAnAvishuddhorjitasattvamUrtiM mAM parameshvaraM svakarmanirmitabhautikadehaM devatAntarasamaM pashyanto mandamatayo mAM nAtIvAdriyante pratyuta kShipraphalaM devatAntarameva bhajanti te choktaprakAreNAntavatphalaM prApnuvantItyarthaH”
In all advaitic literature, the form and characteristics of Vishnu, the Saguna Brahman, are admitted to be shuddha-sattva.
  1. Thus far, you have shown pramANas mainly from the shruti, itihAsa, and purANa for the Supremacy of Bhagavan Vasudeva over Brahma and Rudra. What about the Smritis i.e., dharma-shAstras?
Ans. The Smritis authored by various Rishis also unanimously proclaim Sriman Narayana as the Supreme.
  1. By the term Smritis, what texts are meant here?
Ans. Manu Smriti, Atri Smriti, Harita Smriti, Yajnavalkya Smriti, Vishnu Smriti, Shaunaka Smriti, Vashishta Smriti, etc. These are texts that lay down the conduct of the four varNas (brAhmaNa, kShatriya, vaishya, and shUdra) as well as for women, etc.
  1. Can you show some evidence from these texts?
Ans. They are too numerous to be cited here. The interested reader should refer to “Vishnu Chitta Vijayam” of Sri Puthur Swami, vol. 2 available for free download from the Digital Library of India (DLI) site.
  1. Where are the Smriti texts sourced from, in the above book?
Ans. Manu, Atri, Yajnavalkya, and Vishnu Smriti have been commented in full and many editions are available. The other less well-known Smritis have been quoted by various vedAntins and authorities on dharma-shAstra known as “nibandhakas.”
Two major works called “Smriti Samuccaya”, and “Smriti Sandarbha”  containing all the chapters of various well-known and less-well-known Smritis have been published respectively in Poona and Calcutta in the early 20th Century. These two books are also available for free download from the Digital Library of India (DLI) site.
Many of these Smritis have been published from non-Srivaishnava manuscript collections, edited by non-Srivaishnava editors thereby casting aside any doubts on their authenticity.
  1. Can you mention the names of a few notable Smritis that are used by the Vishnu Chitta Vijayam text to show Vishnu’s supremacy?
Ans. Notable are Vashista Smriti (Calcutta edition), Shandilya Smriti,Aushana Smriti, and Vriddha Harita Smriti, among others. These Smritis lay down the rules of conduct for Vaishnavas, and proclaim that Vaishnavism is the highest dharma for men and women of all four varNas and even those who are outside of the four-varNa system. Sri Puthur Swami observes in his book that many shlokas occurring in these four Smritis have been quoted by Srivaishnava pUrvAcAryas.

THE RELIGIOUS LANDSCAPE OF THE TAMIL SANGAM ERA

  1. What is the purpose of beginning this discussion topic about Tamil Sangam Era?
Ans. Tamil Sangam literature is regardedeven by historians to be among those in Inda authored thousands of years ago. The tolkAppiyamand eTTuttokai texts are especially dated to be very old.
We shall show by analysing this literature that only the Vaishnava darshana was considered to be vaidika during those times, in the Tamil region. Coupled with thefact established thus far in this FAQ that the two most ancient epics in Sanskrit i.e., Ramayana and Mahabharata maintain Vishnu to be supreme, it will serve to show that the Vaishnava darshana was alone held to be Vedic.
  1. What ancient works constitute the Tamil sangam literature?
Ans. Many texts are lost, and are not available today. We know of their past existence only through references to their names in existing literature. Today, we have:
  1. tolkAppiyam, written by tolkAppiyar (this must be a title, real name unknown) is available in full and is probably the most ancient among available works. It is an ancient grammatical treatise dealing with Tamil grammar.
  2. patineNmElkaNakku and  patineNkIzhkaNakku collection, with the former being the earlier by date.
At a few places, we quote cilappatikAram and other texts which belong to the “kAppiyam” category. These belong to a later era, and should be considered secondary but supportive evidence here.
  1. What are the most notable texts that you have used to establish your points?
Ans. The evidences come from all over, but most notably from tolkAppiyam and eTTuttokai (an anthology of eight works belonging to the patineNmElkaNakku). In particular however, paripATal from the eTTuttokai has been extensively used since it contains many hymns on tirumAl (viShNu).
  1. Are you only considering poems on tirumAl to establish your points?
Ans. No, we have considered poems where the other deities are praised as well, wherever necessary. The neutral reader will be convinced that we are right. However, any interested person can challenge us with a quote from any ancient Tamil work, if they feel that we are wrong.
  1. Describe in short one unique feature of ancient Tamil literature, in matters related to Vedic deities.
Ans. A division of land into five regions is described, along with an association of each one to a deity.
  1. What are the five different geographical divisions of land mentioned in Tamil sangam literature?
Ans. kuRi~nci (hilly/mountainous), mullai (forests), marutham (arable croplands), neytal (coastal), and pAlai (desert/scrubland).
  1. What are the respective deities associated with them?
Ans.
kuRi~nci – murugan (skanda)
mullai – mAl/mAyOn (viShNu)
marutam – vEntan/intiran (Indra)
neytal – varuNan (varuNa)
These four associations are mentioned by tolkAppiyam. Modern scholars associate pAlai with koRRavai (koTavI, a form of kAlI). However, this is not mentioned by tolkAppiyar.
  1. Does this not show the rudimentary nature of this worship, and that there was no notion of supremacy, especially among scholars, during that time?
Ans. The association of different landscapes to these deities does not automatically mean that the people belonging to these landscapes only worshipped the deity associated with it. There are other reasons for such an association.
Most people incorrectly interpret such an association as follows: either that (i) the particular deity was worshipped only in the geographical region associated, or that (ii) the people worshipped all these deities equally as supreme. The real test for such a conclusion should consider the following questions:
  1. Is there any difference in the manner by which these four deities are praised by the poets?
  2. Are the temples and worship mentioned by the poets located only in these specific geographical regions?
If we can answer these two questions with proper analysis, we can further try to understand what the poets meant when they associated deities with one region each.
  1. Coming to the first point, is there any difference in the manner by which these deities were sung?
Ans. The scholarly ancient Tamil poets mention that mAl/tirumAl/mAyon (viShNu) possesses all the characteristics of Parabrahman mentioned in the shruti, without any exception.
On the other hand, none of these characteristics are mentioned to be belonging to the other deities wherever these other deities are mentioned or praised by them.
  1. Coming to the second question, wasn’t the worship of Vishnu confined only to the “mullai” or the forest regions?
Ans. No. The literature mentions that Vishnu’s temples were in many different geographical regions.
  1. Give examples of Vishnu temples mentioned.
Ans. There are many Vishnu temples belonging to many different regions, mentioned in the Tamil sangam literature. Some of them are:
Srirangam, Kanchi (tiruveHkA), Madurai (kUDalazhagar) – marutam (aerable/cultivated land)
Tirupati, Azhagar Kovil (tirumAliru~ncOlai), and Padmanabha Swamy (Trivandrum) – kuri~nci
All this shows that Vishnu was worshipped not just in the “mullai” or forested regions. It also shows that these divyadesams are quite ancient.
In addition, the paripATal mentions that there is nobody in the entire universe who does not worship Vishnu: “நின் சேவடி தொழாரும் உளரோ? அவற்றுள் கீழ் ஏழ் உலகமும் உற்ற அடியினை” (3rd song).
  1. Where is the Srirangam temple mentioned?
Ans. In the akanAnURu, paripATal, and cilappatikAram.
“After the festival of paN^guni in arangam had passed, the lush green plantations that bore a festive appearance before now looked forlorn” (akanAnURu, 137.9-11).
The above lines refer only to the paN^guni uttiram festival in Srirangam (indicated as ‘arangam’ in the above lines). This is confirmed in the previous lines itself, where the nearby place of uRaiyUr is mentioned, along with “the two sand-filled banks of the kAvEri river” being the venue for the festival.
“... in the middle of the blissful river,
and on the hill that cuts off
all that is accumulated in time, and elsewhere,
You (Vishnu) bear various names in those forms!”
(paripATal, 4.67-69)
These lines, occurring in a song about Vishnu, say that He bears different names while appearing in Srirangam, Tirupati, etc. Srirangam is indirectly referred to as “the island in the middle of the river”, while Tirupati is mentioned as “the hill that grants liberation by cutting off the pApa and puNya karmas accumulated from beginningless time.“
The cilappatikAram of iLango aTikaL (1st century CE) mentions Srirangam explicitly, saying that the Lord in whose chest Lakshmi always resides, lies in yoganidrA on Adi Shesha as bed, praised by many, in the island of Srirangam in the middle of kAvEri river (maturaik kANTam, kATukAN kAtai, lines 35-40):
“I wish to behold that form which is like
a bluish cloud resting on a hill
golden in colour and vast in size,
of the Lord who bears shrI in His chest
reclining on the thousand-hooded AdisheSha
surrounded by many who sing His praise
in the island situated amidst waves
billowing in the river of Kaveri”
  1. Where is Tirupati mentioned in the Tamil sangam literature?
Ans. In akanAnURu, paripATal, cilappatikAram, and in puRapporuL veNpA mAlai:
The akanAnURu mentions:
the Hills of neTumAl where the sound of owls echo back” (9.12-14)
as the northern limit of the Tamil region beyond which men who sought wealth traveled north to trade and earn money. neTumAl is the name of Sriman Narayana who took the trivikrama avatAra.
Moreover, the 61st song of akanAnURu mentions “விழவுடை விழுச்சீர்வேங்கடம்,” referring to the periodic festivities in Tirupati and to its great fame.
We have already shown where paripATal mentions (4th song, lines 67-69) about Tirupati. Refer to the previous question’s answer.
In cilappatikAram, Tirupati is described in the same place where Srirangam is described, just after. These lines describe Lord Venkatesha as the bearer of the shaN^kha, cakra, whose hands are like the lotus, on whose sides the sun and moon prevail, who is like the rain-bearing cloud adorned by lightning and rainbow, who took the trivikrama avatAra (neTiyOn):
“atop the lofty Venkata Hills
abounding in water from falls
I wish to behold now that form too,
the standing posture of the red-eyed trivikrama (neTiyOn)
like the rain-bearing cloud with the sun and
the moon standing on either sides, while
a streak of lightning and a rainbow
adorn it! That form has His discus feared by demons
and the milky-white conch
adorning His beautiful lotus-like palms!
The beautiful necklace on His chest
and the golden garment with flowers embedded!”
(maturaik kANTam, kATu kAN kAtai, lines 41-51)
Another interesting fact is that the poet appears to praise Vishnu on the lines of the shruti: “விரி கதிர் ஞாயிறும் திங்களும் விளங்கி, இரு மருங்கு (the sun and the moon standing on either sides)” (lines 43-44) is comparable to “ahorAtre pArshve” (Purusha Suktam), and “மின்னுக் கோடி உடுத்து, விளங்கு வில் பூண்டு, நல் நிற மேகம் நின்றது போல (like the rain-bearing cloud...a streak of lightning and a rainbow adorn it)” (lines 45-46) is comparable to “nIlatoyada madhyastha vidyullekhaiva bhAsvaraH” (nArAyaNa sUktam),
In the literary work called “puRapporuL veNpA mAlai,” the author says:
“the Venkata hill adorned by waterfalls is presided over by Lord Vishnu, the bearer of the cakra discus, who bestows liberation to its visitors by the elimination of all worldly attachments that lead to darkness.”
(pATAN paTalam, 42)
  1. Where is the tiruveHkA (kA~ncipuram) viShNu temple mentioned in the Tamil Sangam literature?
Ans. In perumpAN ARRuppaTai, lines 372-392:
“There (in tiruveHkA), in that place of the Lord reclining on the AdisheSha couch, like an elephant resting on a hillside with lilies in full bloom… worship that Lord of unconquerable strength, in that temple that looks like the eternal transcendental abode that is hard to attain.”
These lines describe the “anantashayana” posture of Lord Vishnu in tiruveHkA, likening it to that of a majestic elephant resting on a mountain blooming with flowers. Note that the “eternal transcendental abode that is hard to attain” comparable to the sthala is shrI vaikuNTha.
  1. Where is the temple of Sri Anantapadmanabhaswami of modern-day tiruvanantapuram (Trivandrum) mentioned by ancient literature?
Ans. In the fourth decad of patiRRup pattu, which is a poetic work on the kings of the cEra country (modern-day Kerala), we find the following lines:
“With a flower garland buzzing with bees, interlaced with the tulsi leaves, whose chest is preferred by Lakshmi Devi, Lord Vishnu reclines with a chakra that is blindingly effulgent. Worshiping the feet of that Lord…”
(patiRRup pattu, 31.7-12)
The old commentary published by U. Ve. Swaminatha Iyer identifies these lines as referring to Sri Padmanabha Swami of tiruvanantapuram only.
Again, in the cilappatikAram (26.62) we have the line “ஆடக மாடத் தறிதுயி லமர்ந்தோன்” where the ancient “arumpata urai” commentator has identified this as a reference to the Sri Padmanabhaswami kShetra.
  1. Where is the divya-desam of “Azhagar Kovil” mentioned by the Tamil poets?
Ans. In the paripATal collection, the fifteenth song is entirely dedicated to describing Lord Vishnu enshrined in the tirumAliru~ncOlai (“azhagar kovil”). It describes the beauty of the temple, the surrounding natural beauty of the azhagarmalai hill. Besides, this song says that those who visit this temple attain liberation, which is hard to attain otherwise.
The text and commentary (in Tamil) can be accessed here: http://tamilvu.org/library/l1250/html/l1250paf.htm
Similarly, iLaN^gO aDigaL’s cilappatikAram also describes Lord Vishnu enshrined in the Azhagar hills and its surroundings.
  1. Where do the ancient poets sing about “kUDal azhagar” temple which is situated in modern Madurai city?
Ans. In the paripATal tiraTTu, the first song is entirely dedicated to describing the temples of “kUDal azhagar” also known as “iruntaiyUr” and addresses the Lord in the seated posture (“iruntaiyUr amarnta celvA”). From this song, we learn that a temple dedicated to Sri AdisheSha also existed alongside in a sthala called “kuLavAy”. It describes in detail the city of Madurai and the vaidika community of that time.
The text and commentary can be accessed here.
Similarly, iLaN^gO aDigaL’s cilappatikAram also describes Lord Vishnu enshrined in this temple and its surroundings.
  1. Any other evidences to show that the deities were not just worshipped in the respective regions assigned?
Ans. The Sangam literature mentions the temple at tirucendUr by the name cIRalaivAy, as a temple of Skanda. This is a coastal town and the murugan temple exists even today. Going by the incorrect theory, one would expect to find a Varuna temple and not a murugan temple, since Varuna is mentioned as the deity of coastal regions called “neytal.”
  1. Are there any temples to Indra or Varuna mentioned in the literature?
Ans. None. Going by the incorrect interpretation of the “deity vs. landscape” association, one would expect to find temples dedicated to these two devatAs as well, when there were temples to Vishnu and Skanda who are also mentioned as the respective adhipatis of two other regions.
  1. Then what is the reason for assigning the following assignment of deities to the respective geographical regions? The ancient Tholkappiyar also mentions this classification, does he not?
Ans. The tolkAppiyam verse in question is found in the “poruL atikAram” chapter “akattiNai  iyal” section, fifth sUtra:
“The forest region attached to Vishnu,
The mountainous region attached to Skanda,
The arable region attached to Indra, and
The coastal region attached to Varuna
are respectively called ‘mullai’, ‘kuRi~nci’,
‘marutam’, and ‘neytal’ in that order”
The meaning of the verse is simple, logical, and supported by all the evidences quoted. The infinitive “mEya”, translated literally as “attached to” means “having as the protector.”  We have:
  1. Vishnu as the protector of the forests, since He took Krishna avatAra and performed many divine activities in the Brindavana forests.
  2. Skanda is the protector of the hills, since he courted and married vaLLi, a hunter-girl dwelling in the mountains, and performed many valorous activities in the mountainous regions, such as the slaying of asuras.
  3. Indra is the protector of the arable croplands, since he is the wielder of the thunderbolt, and without rains crops will not be nourished.
  4. Varuna is the protector of the coastal regions and the sea, since he is well-known as the lord of the seas and marine beings.
This association is poetical, based on the descriptions of devatAs found in scriptures. It has little to do with the religious practices of people.
  1. Only shaivas accept that murugan/skanda has a consort called “vaLLi”. Outside the Tamil-speaking region, nobody acknowledges this. How come you base your interpretation on a Tamil Shaiva legend, being Srivaishnava?
Ans. The existence of “vaLLi” as a consort of Skanda is unique to Tamil Nadu where it is recognized. This is attested by AzhvArs also who say that Shiva and his gaNas, including Skanda who is the consort of vaLLi were humbled in war during the Banasura episode by Lord Vishnu, specifically in periya tirumozhi (divya prabandha, second thousand, no. 1512). Hence, Vaishnavas also accept vaLLi as one of the consorts of Skanda.
  1. Alright. So, this classification has some basis in the vaidika and paurANika literature, and the understanding that these deities were confined to those regions was wrong. So what? That still does not mean Vishnu was held supreme, does it? In fact, it seems now that the people worshipped both Vishnu and Skanda equally, does it not?
Ans. This comes from a general confusion between “worship” and “religion.” All Astikas recognize the existence of different devatAs. They may worship a particular devatA as a means for a particular end in mind. It does not automatically mean that all these deities were considered to be equal.
A person who holds Vishnu to be supreme may worship Skanda, Rudra, etc. for reasons other than obtaining liberation, such as accumulating wealth, protection from diseases, etc.
  1. So, you are now saying that the ancient Tamils were not Srivaishnavas who were ekAnta bhaktas. That does not help your cause, does it?
Ans. We have never claimed this in the first place. At any given time, it is hard to expect everyone to be desirous of liberation alone and nothing else, especially in the dvApara and kali yugas.
Those who do not have complete detachments from worldly desires and abounding in rajas and tamas may worship lesser deities since they tend to get pleased easily. It does not mean that these worshippers considered them as supreme.
The relevant discussion point here really is to find out who was praised by the scholarly poets in the ancient times as parabrahman, and possessing all its relevant characteristics.
  1. What are the characteristics of parabbrahman found in the description of Vishnu, in the ancient Tamil literature?
Ans. Eight important characteristics are taken up for discussion here. There are many more. Vishnu is mentioned to be:
  1. The creator of the universe, being both its material and efficient cause,
  2. The annihilator of the universe in mahA-pralaya,
  3. The in-dweller of all, including Brahma, and Rudra,
  4. The changeless and eternal one,
  5. The one sung as the Supreme in all the Vedas,
  6. Possessor of ananta-kalyANa guNas,
  7. Free from karma, takes avatAra out of His own will, and
  8. Bestower of liberation.
The poets say that these are mentioned as in the Vedas, and not something that they themselves have composed arbitrarily for the purpose of praising.
  1. How is Vishnu’s form mentioned? Is there any difference between the tirumAl/mAyOn of the Tamils and the Vishnu of the Vedas, Smritis, Itihasa and Puranas?
Ans. There is no difference between the tirumAl/mAyOn of the ancient Tamils and Vishnu of the Vedas. The literature mentions mAyOn as follows:
As the lotus-eyed puNDarIkAkSha, dark blue in colour, having shankha, cakra, Lakshmi in the chest, in yellow robes, having a flag with the insignia of Garuda:
“You with eyes like a lotus! Whose body has the same complexion as the atasI flower! In whose chest shrI devI resides with pleasure! And the kaustubha jewel is worn there! Who wears a golden garment like a fiery mountain! Bearer of the Garuda flag! The entire universe attends You by Your side, worshiping You and basking under Your protection! Thus say the Vedas!”
(paripATal, 1)
Note also the poet says that the Vedas describe Him as possessing such a form.
Moreover, the avatAras of Vishnu, especially trivikrama/vAmana, Krishna, Varaha,  Nrsimha, and Mohini are praised where tirumAl is sung.
Hence, there is no room to entertain a difference between “tirumAl” and Vishnu.
  1. Who in the works of these ancient poets, is praised as the creator of the universe, being both its material and efficient cause?
Ans. The following verses say that the Vedas praise Vishnu as the material and efficient cause of the Universe, from whom all the animate (the jIvAtmas like the devatAs) and inanimate objects (like the pa~ncabhUtas) originated from:
Fire, air, ether, earth, and water - these five,
the sun, the moon, the sacrificer, and the five planets,
the sons of diti, and the children of vidhi,
the blemishless eight, and the eleven rudras,
the two equines, yama, and mR^ityu,
the twenty one worlds, and everything therein,
mAyOn! We declare these to have
Sprung from you, following the eternal Veda”
(paripATal, 3)
[sons of diti = daityas, children of vidhi = twelve Adityas, who are the children of kAshyapa (through aditi) himself a mind-born son of Brahma (vidhi), blemishless eight = 8 vasus, two equines = the ashvini devatAs, twenty one worlds = the higher seven worlds, the lower seven worlds and the seven divisions of bhUloka. ‘mAyOn’ = Vishnu’s name in Tamil, which means ‘controller of mAyA’]
In maturai-kA~nci (lines 453-455), Lord Vishnu, who holds the nAndaka sword and who held the axe as the weapon in parashurAma avatAra, is the cause of the pa~ncabhUtas and hence is the jagatkAraNa:
நீரும் நிலனும் தீயும் வளியும்
மாக விசும்போடு ஐந்து உடன் இயற்றிய
மழு வாள் நெடியோன் தலைவன் ஆக
  1. Who is praised, like in the Vedas, to be the one from whose navel the lotus that bears the entire universe sprang? Who is said to have created the four-faced brahmA out of that lotus, in the manner that shruti says?
Ans. There are many pramANas in the Vedas, such as “ajasya nAbhau adhyekaM arpitam” etc. that describe the Lord to be the one in whose navel the entire universe rests (through the lotus).
The shruti also praises the paramAtman to be the one who created caturmukha-brahmA (“yo brahmANam vidadhAti pUrvam”, “vishvAdhiko rudro maharShiH hiraNyagarbham janayAmAsa”) who springs from this lotus (“sa prajApatirekaH puShkaraparNe samabhavat”, “brahma vai brahmANam puShkare.asR^ijat”).
The ancient sangam poets unanimously declare this paramAtmA to be Sriman Narayana alone:
பூவனும், நாற்றமும், நீ
[You (tirumAl) are (the basis of) brahmA who sprang from the lotus and his activity of creation. – paripATal, 1]
மா நிலம் இயலா முதல்முறை அமையத்து,
நாம வெள்ளத்து நடுவண் தோன்றி
வாய்மொழி மகனொடு மலர்ந்த
தாமரைப் பொகுட்டு நின் நேமி நிழலே!
[In the waters of the universal deluge, when the earth was non-existent, the lotus that sprang along with brahmA who recites the Vedas constantly. At that time, your sudarshana chakra protected the universe – paripATal, 3]
நின்னில் தோன்றிய நிரை இதழ்த் தாமரை
அன்ன நாட்டத்து அளப்பரியவை…
நின்ஓர் அன்ஓர் அந்தணர் அரு மறை.
[You are infinite in extent, just like the lotus that sprang from your navel. Thus says the Veda recited by the brAhmaNas. – paripATal, 4]
மாயோன் கொப்பூழ் மலர்ந்த தாமரைப்
பூவொடு …
பூவினுள் பிறந்தோன் நாவினுள் பிறந்த
நான்மறைக் கேள்வி நவில் குரல் எடுப்ப
[The city of Madurai is like the lotus that sprung from the navel of Lord Vishnu. The chants heard across the city are of the Vedas, which manifested from the tongue of brahmA who was born from that lotus. – paripATal, 7]
நீல் நிற உருவின் நெடியோன் கொப்பூழ்
நான்முக ஒருவற் பயந்த பல் இதழ்த்
தாமரைப் பொகுட்டின் காண்வரத் தோன்றி,
[The lotus flower, which yielded the four-faced brahmA, sprang from Sriman Narayana who is dark blue in hue. – perumpAN ARRuppaTai, lines 402-]
  1. Who is declared by these poets as the antaryAmin of Brahma and Rudra? In other words, who is the single entity that is the creator, sustainer, and annihilator of the universe?
Ans. In the first song of paripATal, praising Lord Vishnu, we find the lines:
ஐந் தலை உயிரிய அணங்குடை அருந் திறல்
மைந்துடை ஒருவனும், மடங்கலும், நீ;
… பூவனும், நாற்றமும், நீ;
[You are (the basis of) Rudra who possesses five faces, a destructive power that frightens enemies. You are (the basis of) his act of destruction as well. You are (the basis of) brahmA and the work of creation that he undertakes.]
These lines do not support aikya (oneness) between the trimUrtis when it is said that Vishnu Himself is Brahma and Rudra. Rather by also attributing, in addition, their activities/positions of destructorship and creatorship to Vishnu alone, it is intended that He is the inner controller of both.
In the same song, the line “இருவர் தாதை” [You are the father of the two] shows that Lord Vishnu is the janaka of brahmA and rudra.
The following lines show that even though tirumAl is the one who (directly or indirectly) performs creation, sustenance, and destruction of the universe, the activity of sustenance is liked by Him especially and is suited to His nature, and that is why He leads it entirely:
“ஒருமை வினை மேவு முள்ளத்தினை” [paripATal, 13]
  1. Who is declared to be the sarva-vyApin, i.e., all-pervading paramAtmA and the sarvAntaryAmin i.e., inner controller of all as their Atman?
Ans. The second song of paripATal, which is on Vishnu, states as follows:
“வடு இல் கொள்கையின் உயர்ந்தோர் ஆய்ந்த
கெடு இல் கேள்வியுள் நடு ஆகுதலும்,”
[You (Vishnu) are declared in the immaculate Vedas, which is enquired by guileless great men, as the in-dweller of everything. – paripATal, 2nd song, lines 24-35]
“உவ்வும் எவ் வயினோயும் நீயே.”
[All that exists, is indeed You (since You are the in-dweller of everything). – paripATal, 2nd song, lines 58-59]
The line “கீழ் ஏழ் உலகமும் உற்ற அடியினை” [paripATal, 3rd song] says that Vishnu as trivikrama pervaded the seven lokas when He took his three steps.
It is also declared that tirumAl/Vishnu is the essence of everything in this universe, and He is said to be everything because He exists as their in-dweller:
“தீயினுள் தெறல் நீ; பூவினுள் நாற்றம் நீ;
அனைத்தும் நீ; அனைத்தின் உட்பொருளும் நீ;”
[You are the warmth of the fire, the fragrance of the flower… you are everything, (since) you are their in-dweller. – paripATal, 3rd song, lines 63-68]
The following lines say that Vishnu exists as the best in everything:
“நின் வெம்மையும் விளக்கமும் ஞாயிற்று உள;
நின் தண்மையும் சாயலும் திங்கள் உள;
நின் சுரத்தலும் வண்மையும் மாரி உள;
அதனால், இவ்வும், உவ்வும், அவ்வும், பிறவும்,
ஏமம் ஆர்ந்த நிற் பிரிந்து,
மேவல் சான்றன, எல்லாம்.”
[Your wrath and clarity is in the sun. Your grace and softness is in the moon. Your extensive mercy and generosity is in the rain… Hence, these and everything else that has not been declared here, all exist with You as the basis even though they have been brought forth from You, who protect all these. – paripATal, 4th song, lines 25-35]
It is also declared that Vishnu is the antaryAmin of the five tanmAtras, the j~nAnendriyas, and the pa~ncabhUtas (which progressively have 1,2,3,4, and 5 of the tanmAtras), and hence everything in the universe has Him as their basis:
taste, hearing, vision, smell, and touch
are indeed you! Formidable valorous Lord!
So are the respective sense organs.
Of these five declared here,
AkAsha having the first one,
vAyu having the first two,
agni having the first three,
jala having the first four,
and pRRithvI having all five,
are all You! Hence,
within You are the twenty-one lokas,
the mUla prakRRiti, dharma, time,
ether, air, and fire and the beings!”
(paripATal, 13th song, lines 14-25)
  1. Who is described as paramAtman, in the same manner as the Purusha Sukta of the Vedas?
Ans. Vishnu is declared to be the Purusha who exists with everything as His body, possessing many arms, many legs and many bodies:
“பதிற்றுக் கை மதவலி! நூற்றுக் கை ஆற்றல்!
ஆயிரம் விரித்த கைம் மாய மள்ள!
பதினாயிரம் கை முதுமொழி முதல்வ!
நூறாயிரம் கை ஆறு அறி கடவுள்!
அனைத்தும் அல்ல பல அடுக்கல் ஆம்பல்
இனைத்து என எண் வரம்பு அறியா யாக்கையை”
[You are the all-powerful, all-knowing Primordial One declared in the Vedas, with ten, hundred, thousand, ten thousand, and a hundred thousand arms! You are the possessor of innumerable bodies! – paripATal, 3rd song, lines 31-45]
  1. What do the Sangam-era poets say about the “sharIrAtma bhAva” of the vishiShTAdvaita vedAnta school?
Ans. We have already seen a few quotes that say “Vishnu is everything, since He is their in-dweller.” This is precisely the sharIrAtma bhAva, and shows that the ancient poets were well-versed with the vishiShTAdvaita view. Another example is given below:
“விறல் மிகு விழுச் சீர் அந்தணர் காக்கும்
அறனும், ஆர்வலர்க்கு அருளும், நீ;
திறன் இலோர்த் திருத்திய தீது தீர் கொள்கை
மறனும், மாற்றலர்க்கு அணங்கும், நீ;
அம் கண் வானத்து அணி நிலாத் திகழ்தரும்
திங்களும், தெறு கதிர்க் கனலியும், நீ;
ஐந் தலை உயிரிய அணங்குடை அருந் திறல்
மைந்துடை ஒருவனும், மடங்கலும், நீ;
நலம் முழுது அளைஇய புகர் அறு காட்சிப்
புலமும், பூவனும், நாற்றமும், நீ;
வலன் உயர் எழிலியும், மாக விசும்பும்,
நிலனும், நீடிய இமயமும், நீ.”
[The dharma protected by the best of brAhmaNas, and the grace that you bestow upon your votaries is indeed You.  The corrective measures that you take against those who stray the path of dharma, and the fear/punishment that you instill in those who are against the dharma is indeed You. The moon and the sun that shine in the sky are indeed You. Rudra of great strength and his work of annihilation is indeed You. The Vedas, which bestows everything good including the true adhyAtma vidyA, is indeed You. The lotus-born Brahma and his work of creation is indeed You. The clouds, the sky, the earth, and the Himalaya mountains are indeed You. – paripATal, 1st song, lines 37-48]
The following lines from the third song says that Vishnu is brahmA as well as His father i.e., Vishnu Himself. This again shows sharIrAtma bhAva:
“'வாய்மொழி ஓடை மலர்ந்த
தாமரைப் பூவினுள் பிறந்தோனும், தாதையும்,
நீ' என மொழியுமால், அந்தணர் அரு மறை.”
[Brahma, who was born in the universal lotus (springing from the navel of Vishnu) proclaimed in the Vedas, is indeed You. You are his father as well. Thus says the Veda. – paripATal, 3rd song, lines 12-14]
  1. How many principal tattvas were recognized by the Tamil sangam poets? Who is said to be their antaryAmin?
Ans. The Sangam-era poets enumerate 25 tattvas (and not 36 as enumerated by the Shaivas), and say that tirumAl/Vishnu is their inner controller:
“பாழ் என, கால் என, பாகு என, ஒன்று என,
இரண்டு என, மூன்று என, நான்கு என, ஐந்து என,
ஆறு என, ஏழு என, எட்டு என, தொண்டு என,
நால்வகை ஊழி எண் நவிற்றும் சிறப்பினை:”
[The one puruSha (individual soul), the (five) bhUtas beginning with AkAsha, the (five) karmendriyas beginning with vAk, (the five tanmAtras beginning with) the first (shabda), the second (sparsha), the third (rUpa), the fourth (rasa), and the fifth (gandha), the six indriyas (j~nAnendriyas or sensory organs + manas or mind), the seventh (ahaN^kAra, which is one), the eighth (buddhi, which is one), and the ninth (the mUla-prakR^iti or pradhAna, which is one)  are the various ways in which You are praised in various yugas – paripATal, 3rd song, lines 77-80]
  1. Who is the bestower of liberation, as per these poets?
Ans. The poets say that Vishnu is the one who breaks the cycle of births for jIvas:
“மாஅயோயே! மாஅயோயே!
மறு பிறப்பு அறுக்கும் மாசு இல் சேவடி
மணி திகழ் உருபின் மாஅயோயே!”
[You are the controller of prakR^iti! Your sublime feet sever the cycle of repeated births. Your appearance is blue, just like the neela maNi! – paripATal, 3rd song, lines 1-3]
The poets sing about Vishnu’s power to grant liberation in the 15th song on the tirumAliru~ncOlai temple. They say that without Vishnu’s favour, it is practically impossible to attain vaikuNTha, the place of the liberated. Such being the case, they also say that He is accessible to those who surrender to Him in the Azhagarmalai hills, where people worship Him and easily attain vaikuNTha:
“நாறு இணர்த் துழாயோன் நல்கின் அல்லதை
ஏறுதல் எளிதோ, வீறு பெறு துறக்கம்?
அரிதின் பெறு துறக்கம் மாலிருங்குன்றம்
எளிதின் பெறல் உரிமை ஏத்துகம், சிலம்ப.”
[Without the favour of Vishnu who wears a fragrant tulsi garland, isn’t it indeed very difficult to attain, by one’s own effort, the place of the liberated? That place which is attained with such immense effort is granted with little effort by these mAliru~ncOlai hills! Hence, let us loudly praise them! – paripATal, 15th song, lines 15-18]
  1. Give us a few more instances where tirumAl/Vishnu is praised as the one who grants liberation:
Ans.
“பருவம் வாய்த்தலின் இரு விசும்பு அணிந்த
இரு வேறு மண்டிலத்து இலக்கம் போல,
நேமியும் வளையும் ஏந்திய கையான்
கருவி மின் அவிர் இலங்கும் பொலம் பூண்,
அருவி உருவின் ஆரமொடு, அணிந்த நின்
திரு வரை அகலம் தொழுவோர்க்கு
உரிது அமர் துறக்கமும் உரிமை நன்கு உடைத்து.”
[You bear the conch and the discus on your hands, like a dark rain-bearing cloud with sun and moon appearing on two different sides. You wear the shining yellow robes, tied with a girdle made of beads which looks like a waterfall. Those who worship your broad chest where Sri resides, attain the eternal loka where there is no death i.e., Vaikuntha. – paripATal, 13th song, lines 7-13]
“இருமைவினையும் இல, ஏத்துமவை”
[Those who worship you are freed from pApa and puNya karmas (and hence attain liberation). – paripATal, 13th song, line 48]
In the fifteenth paripATal, the words “கண்டு மயர் அறுக்கும் காமக்கடவுள்” state that those who worship Vishnu are freed from aj~nAna, and hence are not reborn.
In the paripATal thiraTTu song on Vishnu, it is stated that the Adi sheSha temple in iruntaiyUr resembled “துளங்கா விழுச் சீர்த் துறக்கம்” which literally means “the undecaying heavenly abode that grants everlasting bliss”, thus referring to shrI vaikuNTha loka indirectly.
In the 358th song of puRanAnURu, it is stated “those who give up their desire for material wealth and aiming for liberation will never be neglected by Sridevi (the consort of Vishnu) and those who have not given up their desire for the material wealth are the ones who are neglected by Her”:
“விட்டோரை விடா அள் திருவே விடாஅ தோரிவள் விடப்பட் டோரே”
It means that through Lakshmi’s recommendation to Vishnu, jIvAtmas attain liberation.
  1. Who is the paramAtman declared in the eternal apauruSheya Vedas, as per these poets?
Ans. As we have seen above, in many places the poets have praised Vishnu as the supreme. We shall now show that these poets stated that they praise Him in this manner because the Vedas say so, and not because of their own imagination or bias:
“சேவல் அம் கொடியோய்! நின் வல வயின் நிறுத்தும்
ஏவல் உழந்தமை கூறும்,
நா வல் அந்தணர் அரு மறைப் பொருளே.”
[Bearer of the Garuda flag! The Vedas recited by brAhmaNas who excel in speech say that you have all the aforementioned qualities and that the entire universe functions to Your command. – paripATal, 1st song, lines 11-13]
“நலம் முழுது அளைஇய புகர் அறு காட்சிப்
புலமும்… நீ;”
[The Vedas, which guide all beings by showing them all that is good to them, which are blemishless, which convey all knowledge, which luminate everything, is indeed You (i.e., controlled by You) – paripATal, 1st song,  lines 48-49]
“வாய்மொழிப் புலவ”
[You are the one to be known from the Vedas which are transmitted orally – paripATal, 1.68]
“வடு இல் கொள்கையின் உயர்ந்தோர் ஆய்ந்த
கெடு இல் கேள்வியுள் நடு ஆகுதலும்,”
[You are declared as the antaryAmin in the blemishless shruti (kELvi) that is analysed by great souls who are free from guile. – paripATal, 2.24-25]
“என்னும் நா வல் அந்தணர் அரு மறைப் பொருளே”
[The Vedas describe your form thus. – paripATal, 2.56-57]
“மாயோய்! நின்வயின் பரந்தவை உரைத்தேம்
மாயா வாய்மொழி உரைதர வலந்து”
[We have thus described the creation of everything from You, oh controller of mAyA! We stated them in the manner that the eternal shruti has stated. – paripATal, 3.10-11]
“'வாய்மொழி ஓடை மலர்ந்த
தாமரைப் பூவினுள் பிறந்தோனும், தாதையும்,
நீ' என மொழியுமால், அந்தணர் அரு மறை.”
[The Vedas state that You are the one born in the lotus (i.e., you are the antaryAmin of brahmA) and You are his father as well! – paripATal, 3.12-14]
“பதினாயிரம் கை முதுமொழி முதல்வ”, “முன்னை மரபின் முதுமொழி முதல்வ”
[You are the Purusha having innumerable hands, and are declared the Supreme in the beginningless Vedas. You are sung as the foremost in the eternal beginningless tradition of Vedas – paripATal, 3.42, 3.47]
“கால முதல்வனை; ஏஎ இன கிளத்தலின் இனைமை நற்கு அறிந்தனம்”
[You are the Primordial One! Since the sAma Veda that is sung to tune says so, we know thus. – paripATal, 3.61-62]
“வேதத்து மறை நீ”
[You are the hidden purport of the Vedas – paripATal, 3.66]
“தொல் இயல் புலவ”
[You are revealed in the ancient and eternal Veda – paripATal, 3.86]
“அவை நின்ஓர் அன்ஓர் அந்தணர் அரு மறை”
[(Your matchless form and greatness) is thus spoken of in the Vedas – paripATal, 4.64-65]
“பாப்புப் பகையைக்
கொடியெனக் கொண்ட கோடாச் செல்வனை;
ஏவல் இன் முது மொழி கூறும்,
சேவல் ஓங்கு உயர் கொடிச் செல்வ!”
[You are the One who possesses undecaying wealth and has the enemy of snakes (garuDa) as His flag! One who has the Garuda bird as his flag! The authorless eternal Vedas describe your greatness! – paripATal, 13.38-41]
“நலம் புரீஇ அம் சீர் நாம வாய்மொழி
இது என உரைத்தலின்”
[(We have described Vishnu’s greatness) since the oral tradition of the glorious Vedas which bestows what is good to everyone say thus. – paripATal, 15.63-64]
“ஞாலத்து உறையுள் தேவரும் வானத்து
நால் எண் தேவரும் நயந்து நிற் பாடுவோர்
பாடும் வகையே: எம் பாடல்தாம் அப்
பாடுவார் பாடும் வகை.”
[The brAhmaNas who are devas residing in this earth, as well as the devas who reside in the heavenly abodes sing you thus. My poetry follows them. – paripATal, 3.27-30]
  1. What do the poets say about the four vyUhas of Sriman Narayana?
Ans. The poets say that paravAsudeva manifests in four vyUha forms and that each manifestation is associated with specific colours:
“செங் கட் காரி! கருங் கண் வெள்ளை!
பொன் கட் பச்சை! பைங் கண் மாஅல்!”
[You are vAsudeva, whose body is black with reddish eyes! You are saN^karShaNa who has black eyes and a white body! You are pradyumna, who has a reddish body! You are Aniruddha who has a green body! – paripATal, 3.81-82]
  1. How are bhagavad-avatAras praised by these ancient poets?
Ans. It is stated that bhagavAn Sriman Narayana takes innumerable avatAras among several classes of living beings for performing the threefold activities of creation etc. It is also stated that He is born out of His own will and nobody caused Him to be born:
“முதல்முறை, இடைமுறை, கடைமுறை, தொழிலில்
பிறவாப் பிறப்பு இலை; பிறப்பித்தோர் இலையே”
[paripATal, 3.71-72]
This follows the Purusha Sukta which says the same thing in Sanskrit: “ajAyamAno bahudhA vijAyante”
Hence, the poets agree that Vishnu’s avatAras are not a product of pApa and puNya karmas which cause jIvAtmas to be born.
Moreover, it is stated that the greatness of His manifestation in this earth cannot be understood even by j~nAnis of great merit:
தெருள நின் வரவு அறிதல்
மருள் அறு தேர்ச்சி முனைவர்க்கும் அரிதே;
[paripATal, 1.32-33]
  1. Who is declared to be the one who takes many avatAras for the protection of jIvAtmans?
Ans. In praising tirumAl/Vishnu in the paripATal, the poets say that He takes many avatAras out of His own will, to remove the afflictions of all beings, i.e., to liberate them:
“எவ்வயின் உலகத்தும் தோன்றி, அவ் வயின்
மன்பது மறுக்கத் துன்பம் களைவோன்”
(paripATal, 15.51-52)
  1. List the avatAras are praised in the Tamil sangam literature.
Ans. Krishna, Balarama, Varaha, Nrsimha, Trivikrama, Hamsa, and Mohini among others.
  1. Please provide some details on how Krishna is praised.
Ans. There are many places where kR^iShNAvatAra is praised. We saw that the assignment of “mullai” or forests to Vishnu itself is due to His pastimes in that avatAra. Besides, the poets sing about His “kuravai koothu” dance with the gopis (paripATal, 3), the killing of the asura “keshI” who came in the form of a horse (paripATal, 3), etc.
puRanAnURu also praises vAsudeva and saN^karShaNa (Krishna and Balarama) in a couple of places.
cilappatikAram has a section called “Aycciyar kuravai” where the famous song “vaDavaraiyai mattAkki” occurs, where Krishna and other avatAras like kUrma, shrI rAmacandra, etc. are praised.
  1. How do they describe the varAha avatAra?
Ans. The varAha avatAra is especially praised as the personification of yaj~na, and that the various components of yaj~na are parts of His body:
“செவ்வாய் உவணத்து உயர் கொடியோயே!
கேள்வியுள் கிளந்த ஆசான் உரையும்,
படி நிலை வேள்வியுள் பற்றி ஆடு கொளலும்,
புகழ் இயைந்து இசை மறை உறு கனல் முறை மூட்டித்
திகழ் ஒளி ஒண் சுடர் வளப்பாடு கொளலும்,
நின் உருபுடன் உண்டி;
பிறர் உடம்படுவாரா
நின்னொடு புரைய
அந்தணர் காணும் வரவு.”
[paripATal, 2.60-68]
It is moreover stated “the fact that an entire kalpa (shveta-varAha kalpa) is named after Vishnu’s single act of rescuing the submerged earth, is enough to show that He is eternal and beginningless”:
“கேழல் திகழ்வரக் கோலமொடு பெயரிய
ஊழி ஒருவினை உணர்த்தலின், முதுமைக்கு
ஊழி யாவரும் உணரா;
ஆழி முதல்வ! நிற் பேணுதும், தொழுது.”
[paripATal, 2.16-19]
varAha mUrti’s act of lifting up the earth is also mentioned in the third song of paripATal (lines 23-24).
  1. Are any other notable avatAras mentioned?
Ans. In the fourth song of paripATal, the slaying of Hiranyakashipu by Narasimha is praised (lines 20-24).
The hamsa-avatAra, where bhagavAn took the form of a swan to fan and evaporate the waters of the Universal deluge, is described in “மா விசும்பு ஒழுகு புனல் வறள அன்னச் சேவலாய் சிறகர்ப் புலர்த்தியோய் ” [paripATal, 3.25-26]
  1. In the lines that talk about the other deities, such as Rudra, Skanda, etc., is there any praise of these deities as parabrahman? Are they said to possess any of the characteristics of paramAtmA (in the saguNa aspect)?
Ans. paripATal in the form that is available today has 6 songs on Vishnu, 8 about Skanda, and the rest about the city of Madurai and the river Vaigai.
The other anthologies in Sangam literature, such as puRanAnURu etc. also have other devatAs such as Rudra, Skanda, Durga, etc. in their subject matter. Their characteristics are described as they are, in these places.
Nowhere in any of the poems, even in those which have Rudra, Skanda, etc. as the main theme, do we find any of these deities said to possess any of the characteristics of paramAtman, which are found aplenty in the songs about tirumAl/viShNu as we saw before.
The same poet, who sung about Vishnu and praised Him as paramAtman, has also sung about Skanda (murugan/cevvEL). His son on Skanda, however, Skanda is not praised as the paramAtman. On the other hand, we find poems (paripATal, 5) where Skanda’s birth from the mundane union between Siva and pArvati is narrated, showing none of them can be paramAtmA.
  1. You said that Siva etc., are not praised with the attributes of the paramAtman. But the a Shaiva internet site says that line “ஐந்து உடன் இயற்றிய மழு வாள் நெடியோன்” is showing Siva as the creator of the pa~ncabhUtas! They say that “மழு வாள் நெடியோன்” is Siva, the one who has an axe (மழு) for his sowrd (வாள்). Your interpretation as “parashurAma, the wielder of axe” seems indirect. What do you say for this?
Ans. First of all, “மழுவாள் நெடியோன்” is directly used as a name of parashurAma in other places. See akanAnURu of Sangam period as well as maNimekalai of later period:
மன்மருங் கறுத்த மழுவாள் நெடியோன்”
[akanAnURu, 220 & maNimEkalai (ciRaicey kAtai, line 25)]
It is unmistakable who this “மழுவாள் நெடியோன்” here is, since the adjective “மன்மருங் கறுத்த” means “one who destroyed the lineage of kings (kShatriya vaMsha)”.
Moreover, “நெடியோன்” is a name of Vishnu in Sangam literature, and refers to bhagavAn’s trivikrama avatAra where He grew taller and taller to measure out the seven lokas in one step.
Hence, our interpretation is correct. Randomly attributing it to Siva is incorrect, when it can be interpreted as Vishnu in consistency with the usage of these words in other places in the literature.
  1. There are many stories such as lingodbhava, Rama worshipping Shiva in Rameshwaram, Vishnu plucking out his eye, sharabha, matsya-samhAra-mUrti, kUrma-samhAra mUrti, varAha-samhAra mUrti etc., which are found in the tAmasa purANas as well as in the works of shaivas, establishing the superiority of Shiva over Vishnu. Did the Sangam-era poets sing about these stories?
Ans. None of these stories, narrated by nAyanmArs and tAmasa purANas, are ever to be found in the Sangam-era literature.
Trivikrama is praised in many places as “நெடியோன்” “கீழ் ஏழ் உலகமும் உற்ற அடியினை” etc. Nowhere do we find the nAyanmArs’ story that Siva defeated trivikrama.
Nowhere do we find the story that Vishnu as varAha mUrti searched for Shiva’s feet, though the lifting up of the earth is praised many times.
In fact, while the nAyanmArs say that Shiva destroyed varAha and took his tusks as ornaments, the Sangam-era poets say that Vishnu is “the varAha mUrti with unconquered tusks” [தோலாக் கோட்ட! – paripATal, 3. ]
In the same paripATal (3.91-94), as we saw earlier, it is stated “during mahApraLaya when the lower realms of the universe were non-existent and the lotus that sprang from Vishnu bore Brahma, the universe was under the protection of Vishnu’s Sudarshana chakra.”
This means the poets subscribed to the view that Vishnu’s association with the Sudarshana chakra is beginningless. Hence, they did not accept the story that He gained it by worshipping Shiva with 999 lotuses and plucked out His eye as the 1000th lotus. Moreover, as per the shAstras, Rudra was yet to be born when Brahma appeared from Vishnu’s nAbhI kamala.
  1. What about in the poems praising Shiva, Skanda, Durga, etc. found in the sangam literature?
Ans. We have seen many poems that praise tirumAl/viShNu and His avatAras. However, even in the Sangam-era poems of Shiva, Skanda, Durga etc., these stories that intend to show Vishnu as subordinate are not found.
  1. If so, how do we poets sing about these anya devatAs?
Ans. Typically, what we find are such stories as (i) Siva’s destruction of tripurAsuras, dakSha yajna, etc. (ii) Siva’s act of beheading brahmA (kalittogai invocatory verse), (iii) Siva drinking the kAlakUTa poison during the churning of the ocean, (iv) Birth of Skanda from the union of Siva and pArvati (paripATal, 5), (v) Killing of a number of asuras by Skanda, (vi) Skanda’s marriage with vaLLi and devasenA etc.
None of these stories are narrated with a view to establish Siva-paratva. Unlike the later nAyanmArs and Shaiva siddhAntins, the poets do not say “Vishnu prayed to Shiva to do these acts”, “even Vishnu was not able to kill these demons”, “Vishnu was afraid of them” etc. in these places.
This was the case during the reign of the moovendhars (Chera, Chozha, and Pandiya kings).
  1. What about the literature of the later times (“sangam maruviya kAlam”)?
Ans. There is only one song in cilappatikAram which says that koRRavai (durgA) is the controller of the trimUrtis and that she is praised in the Vedas. In another song, we learn of a new trend where Shiva was praised as “piRavA yAkkai periyOn” which translates as “mahAdeva, who has a birthless body”, seemingly aimed at deriding Vishnu’s avatAras like rAma, kR^iShNa, etc.
However, cilappatikAram is is post-sangam literature, of much-later date than the eTTuthogai and pattupATTu anthologies. These poems were composed during the reign of the kaLabhras. This was a period when Buddhism, Jainism, and religions based on the pAshupata/shAkta tantras gradually spread among the educated poets. From the words of the Sangam-age poets, however, the neutral reader will understand that these darshanas were not regarded praiseworthy by the scholars.
  1. What about the invocatory verses (kaDavuL vAzhttu) songs associated with various Sangam-era  anthologies, where Shiva is apparently praised as the supreme?
Ans. A few later-day authors and commentators wrote invocatory verses for the Sangam-era works.
For example, bhAratam pADiya perundEvanAr composed invocatory verses for naRRiNai, kuRuntogai, aiN^kuRunURu, aganAnURu, and puRanAnURu. The first two are respectively on Vishnu and Skanda, while the last three are on Siva.
Even here, only Vishnu is praised as “வேத முதல்வன்” and it is stated He has the entire universe as His body.
The song on Skanda praises his beauty, and it is stated that his “vEl” (spear) protects the universe. Such descriptions are ordinary and are not characteristic of paramAtman. Shiva is praised in three songs as ardhanArIshvara, as one who swallowed the kAlakUTa poison during the churning of the ocean, and as the one “under whose feet the world takes shelter”, “the world blossomed (in knowledge) under his feet” etc. This does not necessarily mean superiority, but may mean that Shiva is vishva-guru who imparts brahmaj~nAna.
Anyhow, these are certainly not written by Sangam-era authors, but were written when the works were compiled and divided into various anthologies. Hence, what is stated in these invocatory songs written by those who compiled them need not necessarily be the opinion of Sangam-era scholars as well, which is a point to note.
  1. The nAyanmArs say that Shiva is supreme since he destroyed the tripurAsuras and their cities with a mere smile, and did not have to use any of the accessories provided by the devas. What do the Sangam poets say in this regard?
Ans. All such stories were not regarded by the scholarly poets of Sangam era. In fact, they state that Shiva burned the cities by shooting the arrow:
“ஓங்கு மலைப் பெரு வில் பாம்பு ஞாண் கொளீஇ,
ஒரு கணை கொண்டு மூஎயில் உடற்றி,
பெரு விறல் அமரர்க்கு வென்றி தந்த
கறை மிடற்று அண்ணல்”
(puRanAnURu, 55)
And in fact, it is stated that AdisheSha the nityasUri, granted Shiva the title of “tripurAntaka”, by serving as the bowstring of Shiva’s bow:
“பணிவு இல் சீர்ச்
செல் விடைப் பாகன் திரிபுரம் செற்றுழி,
கல் உயர் சென்னி இமய வில் நாண் ஆகித்
தொல் புகழ் தந்தாரும் தாம்.”
(paripATal tiraTTu)
  1. Did the Sangam-era poets talk about the 36 tattvas accepted in Shaivism?
Ans. No, as we saw earlier, they accepted only the 26 tattvas of vedAnta (25 tattvas of sAMkhya + paramAtman).
Shaiva siddhAnta tenets like 36 tattvas etc. do not occur even in the poems praising Shiva etc.
  1. What is the nature of liberation, as per the Sangam-era poets?
Ans. The attainment of Vaikuntha loka, designated as “வீறு பெறு துறக்கம்”, “அமர் துறக்கம்”, “துளங்கா விழுச் சீர்த் துறக்கம்” etc. alone is considered as liberation from samsara, in the Sangam-era poetry. We have already shown this earlier from the poems.
The attainment of no other devatA’s loka is stated to be liberation. Note also that liberation is not described as a “realizing the attributeless Brahman state”.
The word “துறக்கம்” is a loka or a heavenly abode, as we have seen earlier, when the Vishnu temples of Kanchi (tiruveHkA) and Madurai (iruntaiyUr) were compared to it. Another line “சாறு கொள் துறக்கம்” [paripATal, 19.6] describes deva loka as a place where those who acquired merit enjoy various pleasures of the devaloka. This also shows that “துறக்கம்” means only a place of residence and not a state.
  1. What does the Sangam literature say about the Advaita vedAnta school?
Ans. The important tenets that are uniquely characteristic of advaita vedAnta are:
    1. Brahman is the only truth, while the universe is mithyA (illusion/false).
    2. Jiva and Brahman are one.
    3. Brahman is attributeless.
    4. Liberation consists of realising the attriuteless Brahman.
None of these tenets are found in the works of Sangam-era poets. For example, paripATal while talking about creation as described in the Upanishads does not say that the world is an illusion or that “the universe is like a mirage appearing in the desert”, or that “the universe is false, like a snake perceived on a rope” etc.
  1. What about dvaita vedAnta and its presence in the literature of the Tamil poets?
Ans. Dvaita vedAnta propounded by Sri madhvAcArya has many unique tenets, such as:
    1. jIvas are different, and the difference is intrinsic and eternal,
    2. Ananda tAratamya, which says that even among the liberated jIvas the Ananda experienced in Sri vaikuNTham is different according to their intrinsic capacities,
    3. Brahman is only nimitta kAraNa and not upAdAna kAraNa
None of these unique tenets are to be found anywhere in the Tamil Sangam literature. (That does not however, deny that Dvaita is also as eternal as Advaita and Vishishtadvaita; It is just that the tamil poets did not subscribe to it, or were unaware of it.)
In fact, the poets only accepted sharIrAtma bhAva and Brahman’s state of being both the material and efficient cause of the universe, which is not accepted in dvaita. We have already seen proofs of this.
  1. What about vishiShTAdvaita vedAnta?
Ans. It is clear from the previous answers in this section that the Sangam-era literature accepts the unique tenets of vishiShTAdvaita vedAnta.
Moreover, we have clearly stated that this jagat-kAraNa vastu is only SrIman nArAyaNa, who has innumerable kalyANa guNas, and who has a charming and divine form, existing in SrIvaikuNTha where the liberated jIvas reside.
We have seen that when praising SrIman nArAyaNa, they cite the fact that the Vedas say so too. This feature is not found in the praise of the other devatAs, for whom they anyway do not attribute the characteristics of Brahman even for the purpose of praising.
Moreover the tolkAppiyam, while giving the lakShaNas of a yati in the sannyAsa Ashrama, says that they are characterised by (i) the sacred thread, (ii) water pot (kamaNDalU), (iii) the triple staff (tridaNDa), (iv) wooden seat (maNai):
“நூலே கரகம் முக்கோல் மணையே
ஆயுங் காலை அந்தணர்க் குரிய”
[marabiyal, 615]
Several places in kalittogai etc. refer to them as “முக்கோற் பகவர்” “முக்கோல் கொளந்தணர்” and so on.
This sannyAsa (characterised by tridaNDa and retaining yaj~nopavIta) is prevalent even today in vishiShTAdvaita school, but not in the advaita/dvaita schools.
Hence, the Sangam-era scholars considered the vishiShTAdvaita vedAnta and vaiShNavism as the only Vedic religion.

ADVAITA VEDANTA AND ITS ORIGINAL VAISHNAVA CHARACTER


  1. What are the fundamental tenets of Advaita Vedanta?
Ans: It is usually summarized as follows: Attributeless Nirguna Brahman, which is pure consciousness, is the only truth while the entire universe, with its multitude of objects and beings and experiences of duality, is false. Advaitins say that this is the ultimate teaching of the shruti (especially upanishads).
  1. How does Advaita explain duality experienced in everyday life, as well as the various statements in shruti and smRRiti about the universe, its creation, and its multitude of existence?
Ans: Advaitins hold that these dualities are also truths, but in a limited sense where the sphere of operation is within a certain level. However, they are not purely false like non-existent objects such as “the horn of a hare” or “the lotus in the sky” etc.
They also postulate that there is another level of truth where attributeless pure consciousness is the only truth that exists.
  1. Name the two levels of truth in Advaita.
Ans: They are called “vyAvahArika” (where the reality of the universe is admitted) and “pAramArthika” (where attributeless Brahman only exists).
  1. Among these two, which level is considered ultimate truth?
Ans: The ultimate truth in Advaita is in the pAramArthika level.
  1. How is this relevant to sAdhana?
Ans: In Advaita (Shankara’s system), the cessation of avidyA that leads to the perception of duality and the realisation that pure consciousness alone exists as the paramArtha tattva is the state of liberation.
  1. What is the connection between Nirguna Brahman and the vyAvahArika realm?
Ans: Due to beginningless avidyA, nirguNabrahman appears as the individual beings (jIvas) who are afflicted by saMsAra (cycle of birth and death due to pApa and puNya karmas), the insentient matter in the universe, and the eternally perfect Supreme Lord (Ishvara) who is free from saMsAra and the creator of the universe.
  1. How do Advaitins explain this?
Ans: They say it is due to avidyA, nescience or wrong knowledge, just like the identification of bodily sufferings to the individual soul (jIvAtman). They liken it to the perception of a mirage in a desert on what is really pure uniform sand, a snake on what is really a piece of rope, silver in what is really sea shells, etc.
They also frequently invoke two analogies:
  1. Space/ether (AkAsha) is really an unlimited single entity appearing as the “space in the pot”, “space in the cup”, “space in the room” etc. due to temporary barricades. Upon the removal of these barricades, what is really left is the real essence of empty space. This is called “avacChedavAda” [avacCheda = division/limitation].
  2. Reflections of the sun in various water sources of various natures appear to be different. However, the original sun is unaffected by the natures of the various reflecting media. When the reflecting media are removed, what remains is the original sun alone. This is called “AbhAsavAda”.
Besides, there are intricate differences between the “bhAmati school”, the “vivaraNa school” and other sub-schools within Advaita.
  1. Does Shankara’s system have any role for a Supreme Being?
Ans: The acceptance of a Supreme Being is fundamental to Shankara. The AcArya says that it is the lokAyatas who are avaidika, that do not believe in Ishvara (Gita Bhashya, 16.8).
In Advaita, the Supreme Being is the Brahman associated with pure sattva upAdhis, also known as saguNabrahman or Ishvara who is the cause of creation, sustenance, and destruction of the entire universe.
  1. How is the Supreme Being supposed to help the sAdhaka, in Shankara’s system?
Ans: The j~nAna that leads to liberation can only occur through the grace of the Supreme Being (Ishvara prasAda), says Shankara (Brahma Sutra Bhashya, 2.3.41)
  1. Is there a role for bhakti in Shankara’s system?
Ans: Yes, and it is indispensable. Shankara says “one should understand the statement of the Lord as a promise (pratij~nA), and keeping in mind that bhakti definitely leads to liberation one should take refuge solely at the feet of bhagavAn”. (Bhagavad Gita Bhashya, 18.65)
Also, Shankara says that the paramArtha tattvaj~nAna imparted in the bhagavadgItA should never be taught to those who lack devotion to Lord vAsudeva. Shankara adds that these are the people who cannot bear Him and not knowing that He is the Lord, deride Him as an ordinary man who boasts about himself. (18.67)
  1. Is Saguna Brahman/Ishvara (Supreme Lord) one or many, as per Advaita?
Ans: As in the other schools of Vedanta, Shankara accepts only one Ishvara, and not many. He says that accepting more than one Ishvara is impossible since it would lead to a contradiction of wishes between the many Ishvaras leading to universal chaos (Bhagavad Gita Bhashya, 11.43).
  1. Can subjective opinion dictate what is and what is not true in the “vyAvahArika” realm?
Ans: No. Traditional Advaitins cannot hold to such an opinion. If that were the case, the vidhi-niShedhas given in the shAstra would be subjective.
Shankara says that the injunctions given by dharma shAstras are never to be transgressed by a j~nAni (in UpadeshaSahasri, first chapter, which is a genuine work of Shankara). Sureshvara also asks in Naishkarmya Siddhi (4.62) “If one awakened to the truth of non-duality would do as he pleases, what is the difference between truth-seers and dogs in eating what is impure?” If this is the case with those who have realised nirguNa brahman, the scriptural injunctions of do’s and don’ts are all the more strictly applicable to those who are in ignorance.
  1. Is Shankara the promulgator of the “Shanmatas”, as many claim?
Ans: No. It is clear from the pronouncements in Shankara’s prasthAna trayI bhAShya that Shankara cannot be the “Shanmata sthApakAcArya”, a belief which sees the worship of Vishnu, Shiva, Shakti, Ganapati, Skanda, and Surya equally as the Saguna Brahman.
  1. What texts have you taken as the authority to determine the true system of Shankara?
Ans: Shankara’s prasthAna trayI bhAShya (commentaries on the Brahma Sutra, ten principal Upanishads, and Bhagavad Gita), and Vishnu Sahasranama Bhashya.
  1. Why do you not consider the various stotras such as Sivananda lahari, Saundarya lahari, etc.? Is it because you are Vaishnava and you do not like the message conveyed in these works?
Ans: We do not consider these stotras to be authentic. This is not because we are Vaishnavas and on a personal level do not subscribe to the message of these works. It is because these works contradict Shankara’s innumerable statements in the prasthAna trayI bhAShya that Lord Vishnu is the Supreme Being and is the creator of Brahma, Rudra, etc. In addition, none before the 16th century has ever even attested to the existence of these works as Shankara’s. More importantly, none has written commentaries or sub-commentaries on them. Not even one person has named these works and quoted any statements from them.
For that matter, we do not even consider as evidence ‘Bhaja Govindam’, ‘Lakshmi Nrsimha Karavalamba Stotram’, ‘Rama Bhujanga Stotram’, ‘RanganathaAshtakam’ etc. even though they proclaim Sriman Narayana to be superior to Brahma, Rudra, etc. Again, this is precisely for the reason that they seem to have been composed by someone else, and have come to be erroneously passed on as Shankara’s works.
  1. However, some modern day smArtas claim that the same can be said of the “gadya traya” of srI rAmAnuja. As bhagavad rAmAnuja has not explicitly mentioned prapatti in his prasthAna trayI bhAShya, and the concept is clearly seen only in the Gadyas, are you not practising hypocrisy in rejecting Saundarya lahiri, etc and accepting Gadya Traya?
Ans: This is resolved by two simple answers. Firstly, it is only the unlearned and ignorant who claim prapatti is not found in srI rAmAnuja’s prasthAna trayI bhAShyas. It is certainly present, but we will not elaborate here as it is out of scope.
The second, and most important/relevant answer is this – the gadya traya has been commented upon by immediate acharyas like srI vedAnta desikan and srI nAyanar Achan pillai. Furthermore, srI vedAnta desikan quotes commentaries of the gadya traya by acharyas like srI kurEsha, srI parAsara bhattar who were direct disciples of srI rAmAnuja. These commentaries were lost during the muslim invasion of Srirangam. SrI pillai lOkAchArya also wrote a commentary which has been lost during the same invasion. This proves the authenticity of the gadyas.
In contrast, there is no commentary on “saundarya lahiri” and other such works by any follower of Adi Shankara such as Sureshvara, Anandagiri, Amalananda, Sarvajnatman, Citsukha, Sridhara, Madhusudhana and the like. So, this matter is effectively settled that the comparison cannot hold.
  1. Prior to say the 16th century, has the term “Shanmata” been used anywhere to denote Shaiva, shAkta, saura, kaumAra, gANApatya, and vaiShNavamatas?
Ans: None at all.
There are several works by Advaitins themselves describing various darshanas such as the Sarva Siddhanta Sangraha, Sarva Mata Sangraha, and Sarva Darshana Sangraha. None of them mention these “Shanmatas”.
From time immemorial, authentic works mention the Sankhya, Yoga, Naiyayika, Vaisheshika, Mimamsa, and Vedanta darshanas as the “six darshanas” (ShaDdarshana). Nowhere is such a description of “Shanmata” found.
This itself shows that the “Shanmata sthApakAcArya” theory is modern and has no historical evidence.
  1. Is Advaita Vedanta compatible with the belief “all devatAs are one and the same, they are equally supreme”?
Ans: No. Shankara says that the aishvarya of the devatas do not naturally belong to them, but are only due to the Supreme Lord’s grace (Brahma Sutra Bhashya, 1.2.17).
Moreover, it is stated that the worshippers of the other devatas attain only a temporary result, while the worshippers of Vishnu, the Vaishnavas attain the unlimited result of liberation (Bhagavad Gita Bhashya, 7.20-23, 9.23-25).
  1. Which devatA has been accepted as saguNabrahman or Ishvara in Advaita?
Ans: Lord Vishnu (Sriman Narayana) alone, and none else.
  1. Where does Shankara say that Lord Vishnu alone is the Supreme Being?
Ans: Read the home page of this blog for the innumerable references given. For example, see the commentaries to:
  1. The pA~ncarAtra adhikaraNa (Brahma Sutra, 2.2.42)
  2. First sUtra of the smRRityadhikaraNa (Brahma Sutra, 2.1.1)
  3. Kathopanishad, 1.3.9
  4. Mundaka Upanishad, 2.1.4
  5. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, 3.7.3
  1. What does Shankara say about the unity of the trimUrtis – Brahma, Vishnu, and Rudra?
Ans: The following points summarize the position taken by Shankara in the prasthAna trayI bhAShyas:
  1. Among the trimUrtis, Vishnu is declared to be the Supreme Lord in many places.
  2. Also, the Supreme Lord alone is apahatapApmA (free from the effects of karma), and not any jIva in saMsAra.
  3. It is stated that chaturmukha brahmA is subject to the effects of pApa and puNya
  4. Chaturmukha Brahma’s obtains his position through the grace of the Supreme Lord, and is not independent.
  1. Can you show where Shankara says the above?
Ans:
  1. As shown already, this has been proved by us beyond doubt. Refer to the home page of this blog for some references.
  2. Brahma Sutra Bhashya 1.1.20
  3. Brahma Sutra Bhashya, 1.1.4
  4. Brahma Sutra Bhashya, 1.3.30
  1. What else is the significance of these statements?
Ans: That trimUrti aikyatva can never be attributed to Shankara. The AcArya says clearly that brahmA is subordinate to the Supreme Lord, whose identity has been declared to be Vishnu. Moreover, statements such as “one should not see the difference between Vishnu, Brahma, and Siva” quoted by Shankara/Sureshvara etc. means that one should see the paramArtha tattva that they are all in essence Nirguna Brahman only (though the upAdhis differ, making one Ishvara and the others jIvas).
Moreover, it shows that it is incorrect to say that Shankara considered Vishnu and Shiva to be the one and the same, quoting such examples. One would then have to accept that Shankara considered the trimUrtis to be equal, which as we have shown is untenable.
Thus, today’s advaitins who constantly invoke trimUrti aikyatva to prove Hari-Hara aikyatva are contradicting Shankara directly.
  1. The author of bhAmati (vAcaspati mishra) praises Siva as the eternal one. This does not seem to agree with your claim that Shankara’s system accepts only Vishnu as the supreme. Can you explain?
Ans: vAcaspati mishra did not declare himself as an advaitin or a vedAntin. He was simply a scholar interested in writing commentaries of the six traditional Astika darshanas. He in fact has written commentaries on the naiyAyika and vaisheShika schools, which Shankara refuted in his prasthAna trayI bhAShyas.
Later advaitins simply found the logic developed in bhAmati to be useful in their defence of advaita and hence adopted them. Their acceptance need not necessarily extend to its author’s personal tastes.
  1. What are the verses of vAchaspati eulogising Siva?
Ans. The mangala sloka of bhAmati is:
ShaDbhira~NgairupetAya vividhairavyayairapi/
shAshvatAya namaskurmo vedAya ca bhavAya ca//
Translation: Let us worship the eternal Veda and Bhava (Siva) who possesses six limbs, and various indeclinables/undiminishing characteristics.
The author was more a liberal Shiva-bhakta rather than a staunch vedAntin. The concept of Ishta-Devata is a new practice evolved recently and was not present in those times. That Ishta-Devata concept is not present during these times is made clear by the commentary of advaitins to this verse.
  1. What are the commentaries available on bhAmati and were the commentators vaishnavas?
Ans. There are two commentaries on bhAmati. One by amalAnanda (vedAnta kalpataru) and another one called “RRijuprakAshika” by one akhaNDAnanda. Both these were vaishnavas and begin their commentary with salutations to Narasimha and Hari respectively, using such adjectives as “sukhAdvayavapuH”, “AnandarUpa”, “advaya”, “vedAntavedya”. These adjectives imply a dual eulogy of Hari/Nrsimha who is saguNa, but nirguNa in essence, which also shows they regarded vishNu as parabrahman (reference to narasimha as “satsukhAdvayavapuH”, etc negates any stupid argument that only nirguNa essence is eulogised by such terms).
Amalananda openly accepted the pAncharAtra Agama wholly as well, which shows  his stance since the pAncharAtra is completely Vaishnava in character. Note that acceptance of Rudra as jIva is paramount in the pA~ncarAtra system. The viShvaksena saMhitA says that Rudra etc. are jIvas who are not fit for meditation by mumukShus.
  1. In general, what is Siva’s position as per the advaitins who followed Shankara immediately?
Ans. sureshvara and jnAnOttama compare Siva to Adi Shankara, where the former bears the river Ganga that flows from the feet of Lord Vishnu, while the latter bears the river of brahma-vidyA that flows from the Lord Vishnu’s feet/His essence as nirguNa brahman:
viShNoH padAnugAM yAM nikhila bhava nudaM sha~Nkaro.avApa yogAt
sarvaj~naM brahma saMsthaM munigaNaiH sahitaM samyag abhyarchya bhaktyA |
vidyAM ga~NgAm ivAhaM pravara guNa nidheH prApya vedAnta dIptAM
kAruNyAt tAm avochaM jani mRRiti nivaha dhvastaye duHkhitebhyaH ||
(Naishkarmyasiddhi, 4.76)
Translation: The River Ganga, which flows from the (toe nail on the left) foot of Vishnu was obtained by Shankara (Lord Rudra) through yogic effort. Later Bhagiratha worshiped the all-knowing Rudra, who is surrounded by groups of sages, whose mind is ever fixed on Brahman, with devotion to obtain the river for the salvation of the people of the earth. Similarly, I worshiped the one endowed with great qualities who is challed Shankara, who is also all-knowing, surrounded by sannyasis, who is ever meditating on Brahman, who obtained the brahmavidyA that flows from Vishnu’s feet, so that I can compassionately disseminate that brahma-vidyA to those who are in sorrow due to cycles of births and deaths, so they may rid themselves of the same.
Here, sureshvara shows the superiority of Vishnu, by saying that Shiva bears on his head the waters that washed His feet.
Sridhara too celebrates him as a realised guru. Amalananda too says that Siva dispels the sorrow of samsara by imparting knowledge as DakshInAmUrthy, saluting Siva as a guru. Then he goes on to praise Narasimha as saguna brahman using specific terms “who dispels the ignorance of maya”. So, he regards Siva as the granter of knowledge of saguNa brahman and Vishnu as the saguNa brahman who dispels the avidya of duality.. So, to advaitins, Siva is a guru who leads one to saguNOpAsaNa, which is meditation on vishNu. The comparison with Adi Shankara is to be noted.
  1. Let us take them one by one. What does Amalananda say to the Saiva verses in bhAmati?
Ans. Amalananda comments thus:
ShaDbhiriti Ishvarasya ShaDangAni purANoktAni -
sarvaj~natA tRRiptiranAdibodhaH svatantratA nityamaluptashaktiH |
acintyashaktishca vibhorvidhij~nAH ShaDAhura~NgAni maheshvarasya ||
iti | avyayAni vAyupurANe paThyante -
j~nAnaM vairAgyataishvaryaM tapaH satyaM kShamA dhRRitiH |
sraShTRRitvamAtmasaMbodho hyadhiShThAtRRitvameva ca |
avyayAni dashaitAni nityaM tiShThanti sha~Nkare || iti
vedasya ShaDa~NgAni niruktAdIni | avyayAni ca cAdayaH |
Translation: The six limbs (characteristics) of Ishvara (Siva) are given in the purANa as “omniscience, satisfaction, beginningless intelligence, independence, undwindling prowess, unfathomable power, are declared by those who know the rules as the six limbs of Maheshvara”. The undiminishing qualities are declared in the vAyu purANa as “knowledge, state of being detached, lordship, austerity, truth, patience, firmness, creatorship, knowledge of the Atman, rulership, these are the ten indestructible ones that exist in Shankara”. The six limbs of Vedas are the nirukta etc. The indeclinables in the Veda are the ca-kAra, etc.
So, the logic is very clear. Amalananda’s approach appears to be to reconcile the author of bhAmati’s opinion that Siva is eternal (shAsvataH). However, he has quoted several vAyu purAna verses which state that Siva is a sarvaj~na, who is self-satisfied (blissful in meditating on the self), etc.
The six angas/undiminishing qualities of Siva are described by the quoted vAyu purAna slOkas to be jnAna, vairAgya, aishwarya (here taken as wealth of Brahman), tapaH, satyaM, kShama, dhRRitih among others like beginningless intelligence, lordship etc. According to Amalananda, these 6 angas of Siva are eulogised by the author of bhAmati.
These 6 angas/undiminishing qualities need not imply supremacy in any way as these are qualities possessed by all jnAnIs . Even the Gita slokas contain descriptions of a sAdhu to possess such qualities. Neither do adjectives used like "beginningless intelligence, independence" etc signify paratva in advaita as a jnAni is considered in the tradition to possess these qualities. Descriptions of "unfathomable power, lordship, ruler, creatorship (of the prajas) etc" are also general adjectives used to praise Siva's status in a relative sense and not in the absolute sense for the commentators.
Hence, Amalananda, by quoting these, is attempting a reconciliation of bhAmati to his personal Vaishnava convictions. Note that as a commentator, he had to quote the slokas eulogising the 6 limbs of Siva since the mUla Grantha referenced it. Amalananda does not however, describe Siva as saguna brahman or add further comments of his own. But obviously, there seems to be no sattvika source describing the 6 limbs of shiva, so he had to quote it from the vAyu purANa. It's telling that he doesn't provide an explanation for those verses in his commentary though. Also, there were no shruti, itihAsa or dharmashAstra that amalAnanda could provide.
He does not comment directly on the statement “Veda and Bhava are eternal” because some vedAntins have the practice of ignoring certain statements without criticizing them if they are commenting on the same work. Rather, Amalananda chooses reconciliation.
We must note that the author of bhAmati has eulogised Siva in conjunction with the Veda. However, Amalananda chooses not to talk about this connection of Siva with Veda. He merely describes Siva in the best way possible (as a jnAni) and ignores the comparison with the Veda because it does not suit his beliefs (which are Vaishnava).
Contrast this with shaivas like Appayya Dikshita who take this bhAmati verse as central to his argument in Sivadvaita Nirnaya, saying “vAcaspati knew that Shankara intended shiva-paratva. Hence, he salutes Bhava (Rudra) as eternal in the opening invocatory verses”.
  1. How does akhaNDAnanda explain this mangala slOka in his commentary?
Ans: AkhaNDAnanda essentially repeats Amalananda’s commentary. But in addition, he chooses to address the comparison between the Veda’s 6 limbs and Siva’s 6 limbs directly by stating the following:
"vedAntashAstrasya vyAkhyAtRRitvAt svasya vedArtha sphUrtyarthaM sva-upAsya-Ishvara-prasAda-siddhyarthaM ca yathAkramaM vedam IshvaraM ca samAnavisheShaNaM kRRitvA namaskaroti -- ShAdbhiriti | … evaM vedasya shAshvatatvam | tacca vedasya-apauruSheyatva-vAdimatam-AdAya-bodhyam |"
Translation: To secure the manifestation (in the author's intellect) of the meanings of the Veda and to obtain the grace of one's upAsya-devatA, the author worships the Veda and Rudra who is called “Ishvara”
Note the words here. First, AkaNDAnanda separates the prayers into two which is demarcated by “yathAkramam”  – he says that the author of bhAmati first prays to the Veda for its manifestation in the author’s intellect. Next, he says another prayer is made to “sva-upAsya-Ishvara-prasAda-siddhyartham”
Here, he says “sva-upAsya Ishvara prasAda”. AkanDAnanda is pointing out that the author of bhAmati is invoking the grace (prasAda) of Siva (Ishvara) who is the author’s own upAsya mUrthy (sva-upAsya). Here, “Ishvara” refers to the popular name of Siva who has that appellation by virtue of knowledge. It does not mean “saguNa Ishvara”, but rather, the name of Siva as Ishvara. It can also mean “the Lord (Ishvara) worshipped by the author (sva upAsya)”, but context suggests that “Ishvara” refers to the name of Siva.
The usage of “sva upAsya” shows the neutrality of akhanDAnanda in commenting that Ishvara is the upAsya mUrthy for the author but not necessarily for the commentators.
Moreover, akhaNDAnanda says in his own mangaLa shloka that Hari is veda/vedAnta vedyaH. If he was a believer in Hari-Hara aikyatva, this shloka of vAcaspati would have been a perfect place to insert that Shiva is also vedAnta-vedyaH. He refrains from doing so, and instead only says Siva was the upAsya for vAcaspati-mishra.
  1. An objection can be raised as to whether we can take “sva upAsya” as Ishta devata aradhana, ie, that akhanDAnanda’s chosen deity was Vishnu, but he had no objection to the worship of Siva as the Saguna Brahman by the bhAmati author?
Ans. That does not stand for several reasons. Firstly, Ishta devata is an emotional concept devoid of philosophy and hence does not arise in prasthAna trayI discussions.
Secondly, Amalananda chose to remain silent on the verse connecting Veda and Siva, his silence implying a neutrality and indifference. And akhanDAnanda by following his commentary is not doing anything different.
Thirdly, if indeed Siva had been accepted as saguNa Ishvara by the commentator, we would have seen the acknowledgement. In various works of sarvajnAtman and sureshvara, wherever krishNa/vishNu/narasimha is mentioned, the commentators take pains to quote purAnic verses that declare his supremacy in glorious terms and point out that this is saguNa brahman under sattva upAdhIs directly. There is no mention of “sva upAsya Ishvara” or the like wherever vishNu is eulogised, rather, a complete description of saguNa Brahman is given in the commentaries.
In addition, when Sarvajnatman refers to "murAreH" as paramaM padam, commentators like Rama tirtha first explain murAreH is krishna who destroyed the demon mura and then take time to state that he is the saguNa brahman. However, note that for the bhamati's reference to "bhava", the commentators do not even care to elaborate why Siva is known by that name
Amalananda and AkhaNDAnanda in contrast, merely quote vAyu purAna slokas that talk of general things like jnAna, vairAgya being Siva’s limbs and make no mention of saguNOpAsaNa. This itself is proof.
  1. Is there further proof in akhaNDAnanda’s commentary?
Ans. Yes. After introducing the purpose of the shlokas, akhaNDAnanda continues his commentary by giving an explanation on the six angas and avyayas (indeclinables) in the Veda, after which he says:
“evaM vedasya shAshvatatvam | tacca vedasya-apauruSheyatva-vAdimatam-AdAya-bodhyam |"
After following to the letter Amalananda’s explanation see previously,
“evaM bhavasya shAshvatatvaM prasiddhameva”
First, he explains the eternality of the Veda by saying “Thus is the Veda’s eternality. That (the eternality) has to be understood by accepting the apauruSheyatva of the Veda.
Then, he addresses the eternality of Siva by saying, “In this manner, the eternality of Bhava is well-known” and ends it at that without explanation. By the words “in this manner”, what he means is that the eternality of Siva is well-known or understood from the vAyu purAna verses which were quoted previously by himself and Amalananda. And those verses only talk of Siva always situated in jnAna, vairAgya, etc. which is true for all jnAnIs.
So, while akhanDAnanda gives an explanation of his own for eternality of Veda, he abruptly leaves the eternality of Siva by referencing the previously quoted vAyu purAna verses. We have already seen Amalananda does not offer a commentary for the final verse.
This is enough to show that AkanDAnanda too did not regard Siva as Brahman, but as a guru. If it had been a Saiva or Saiva advaitin commenting, one would expect the commentator to connect the eternality of Veda with eternality of bhava. However, while Amalananda chooses to remain silent on this final line, AkhanDAnanda takes “eternality” literally for the Veda, but links the “eternality” of Siva to vAyu purAna slOkas that talk about his nature of always being situated in Atma-guNas. He separates the prayers to Veda and Siva as well rather than forging a connection when the author of bhAmati specifically tries to show a connection by talking about 6 limbs of both Veda and Siva.
Note also the explanation given for Veda’s eternality. It is in the sense of apauruSheyatva. On the other hand, akhaNDAnanda does not say that Shiva’s eternality is understood based on his position as Saguna Brahman, vedAnta vedyaH etc.
  1. So what would be the conclusion of the bhAmati analysis?
Ans. The author of the bhAmati was not purely an advaitin, but a scholar interested in commenting on vaidika darSanas like vedAnta, who happened to be a Shiva-bhakta. The commentators of the bhAmati were, like all Vaidikas, vaishnavas in disposition. They found the bhAmati exposition to be very useful and erudite, in spite of the personal tastes of its author.
That they did not consider vAcaspati as a pure advaitin and did not give a lot of importance to his salutation of Siva is also borne out by the manner in which akhaNDAnanda introduces vAcaspati in the RRijuprakAshikA: "kashcidvipashcidagragaNyo vAcaspatiH shrImaccha~NkarabhagavatpAdakRRitaM shArIrakabhAShyaM vyAcikIrShuH", which translates as "someone - a person considered the best among learned, called vAcaspati, endeavored to write a commentary on shrI sha~Nkara bhagavatpAda's shArIraka bhAShya".
This acceptance could also be due to the fact that the author of bhAmati also wrote in a highly dignified manner by not introducing his own preference for Shiva into the explanations to the sUtras, unlike Appayya Dikshita etc.
  1. One last query on this subject. Is there any other instance of a vedAntin commenting on someone’s work whom he does not agree with fully, and attempts such reconciliation or just ignoring those statements contradicting his own position?
Ans. Within Vishishtadvaita tradition, there is shOlingur mahAchArya, who in his commentaries, ignores statements of the mUla which contradict his position.
It is actually very common among vaidikas and there is a reason – when you are taking up a text to comment on, accepting its content to some extent, it is not respectful to criticize those parts you disagree with. The opponent would also question the intent behind your usage of the text as a pramAna if that happens. So, the logical way is to attempt a half hearted reconciliation or ignore the offending verses. The former method was adopted by AkhanDAnanda whereas the latter was adopted by Amalananda.
  1. With clear evidence, explain why Shankara could not have accepted the “saura” mata of the present-day Shanmata narrative.
Ans: It is quite bizarre to claim that Shankara accepted the worship of sUrya as Ishvara or saguNabrahman, while he has clearly stated that sUryadevatA (sung god) is a jIva:
“Selfhood cannot be ascribed to the sun, on account of his externality (parâgrûpatva). Immortality,&c. also cannot be predicated of him, as Scripture speaks of his origin and his dissolution. For the (so-called) deathlessness of the gods only means their (comparatively) long existence. And their lordly power also is based on the highest Lord and does not naturally belong to them; as the mantra declares, 'From terror of it (Brahman) the wind blows, from terror the sun rises; from terror of it Agni and Indra, yea, Death runs as the fifth.'--Hence the person in the eye must be viewed as the highest Lord only.”
(Brahma Sutra Bhashya, 1.2.17, Thibaut’s translation)
Hence, sUrya cannot be Ishvara or Saguna Brahman endowed with shuddha-sattva upAdhis and thus Shankara could not have accepted the “saura” mata.
All this clearly shows that the “shaNmata sthApaka” story about Adi Shankara is fake.
  1. But then, Madhusudana - a follower of Shankara - writes a shloka in the gUDhArtha dIpikA that says “I am that supreme auspicious one who pervades the shaivas, sauras, gANApatyas, vaiShNavas, and shAktas”:
shaivAH saurAshcha gANeshA vaiShNavAH shakti-pUjakAH |
bhavanti yanmayAH sarve so.ahamasmi paraH shivaH ||3||
This occurs at the end of the 15th Chapter. Does this not show that advaitins subscribed to the ShaNmata view?
Ans. There is no contradiction with Shankara’s position shown earlier that sUrya-devatA is a jIva and not paramAtman.
Here, Madhusudana is simply saying that he is identifying himself with the Brahman (as per the advaitic interpretation of “tattvam asi”) who is the upAdAna kAraNa of the entire jagat, which includes these worshippers. “paraH shivaH” is just an adjective and has nothing to do with the pArvatIpati who dwells in kailAsa.
This is similar to the case of annamAcArya’s carnatic kriti “enta mAtramuna” in Telugu. The composer was a staunch Srivaishnava who praised Sri Ramanuja as the saviour of the entire mankind in kaliyuga, in the kriti “gatulanni khilamaina”.
In “enta mAtramuna”, the composer-saint whom the whole Astika world holds in high esteem, says:
“You (Lord Venkatesha) are praised as Vishnu by the Vaishnavas, as brahman by the vedAntins, as shiva by the shaivas, as bhairava by the kApAlikas, and as Adishakti by the shAktas. People chant your praise in a number of ways. Ignorant people assume that you are insignificant. The wise recognise that your greatness is infinite.”
The last two sentences must especially be noted. Sri Annamacharya is echoing the statement of shrI kR^iShNa, the gItAcArya:
“te.api mAmeva kaunteya bhajanti avidhi pUrvakam”
[The worshippers of the other devatAs indeed worship Me, but wrongly out of ignorance. - Gita, 9.23]
  1. What about the gAyatri mantra? Isn’t the purport of the mantra that sUrya devatA is the Supreme Being?
Ans: The gAyatri mantra is actually a meditation on Sriman Narayana, the antaryAmin of sUrya and the savitRRimaNDala-madhyavartin (in-dwelling ruler of the sphere of the sun). This is spelled out clearly for example in the Ratnaprabha sub-commentary in the last adhikaraNa (jagad-vyApAraadhikaraNa) of the Brahma Sutras (4.4.18)
The shruti and smRRiti also enjoin meditation only on the  savitRRimaNDala-madhyavartin.
  1. Where do shruti, itihAsa, and purANa say that gAyatrI mantra is to be recited with the antaryAmin of sUrya in mind? Who is declared to be this antaryAmin of sUrya, to be meditated upon during gAyatrI mantra-japa?
Ans: The Chandogya Upanishad (1.6.7), Maitrayani Upanishad (6thprapAThaka), and many other shruti portions enjoin meditation upon the paramAtmA Sriman Narayana who dwells in the sun, spoken of by the gAyatrI mantra.
The following shlokas from Itihasa/Purana also emphatically state that Vishnu is to be meditated upon during gAyatrI mantra japa:
“UrdhvabAhustatobhUtvA sUryamIkShet samAhitaH
tanmaNDalasthaM mAM dhyAyet tejomUrttiM chaturbhujam |
udutyaM cha japenmantraM chitraM tachchakShurityapi
sAvitrIM cha yathAshakti japtvAsUktaM cha mAmakam ||”
[(Krishna says): “With raised hands, one should then look at the Sun. Then one should meditate upon Me standing in its orb, with an effulgent form, having four arms. One should then chant the mantras ‘udutyaM jAtavedasaM’, ‘citraM devAnAM…’, and ‘taccakShurdevahitaM…”. Chanting the sAvitrI (gAyatrI mantra) as per one’s capability, one should also chant the sUktas associated with Me.” – Mahabharata, AshvamedhikaParvan, 14.104.47-48]
This clearly refers to the mAdhyAhnikanitya karma performed by all vaidikas, and states that Lord Narayana is their object of worship.
“archanti sUrayo nityaM japena (jalena) ravimaNDale ||
AdityamaNDale divyaM devadevamanAmayam |
sha~NkhachakragadApANiM dhyAtvA viShNumupAsate ||
dhyeyaH sadA savitRRimaNDalamadhyavartI |
nArAyaNaH sarasijAsanasanniviShThaH||
keyUravAn makarakuNDalavAn kirITI |
hArI hiraNmayavapurdhRRitashaN^khacakraH ||”
[The wise ones worship daily with arghya water/japa Lord Vishnu who is (the only one naturally) effulgent, seated in the orb of the sun, the luminous deity of all devas, free from the disease of saMsAra. One must always meditate upon Lord Narayana, seated in the lotus in the middle of the orb of the sun, who wears bracelets, fish-shaped earrings, a kirITa crown, a necklace, having a golden-coloured body, bearing the conch and the discus – Narasimha Purana, 62.16-17]
The second part of the above quote is quite well known to smArtas, shrIvaiShNavas, and mAdhvas.
There are also similar statements by parAshara maharShi in shrI viShNu purANa (2.11.7-2.11.14)
  1. Are there other statements in the smRRitis?
Ans: There are many more statements showing that gAyatrIpratipAdyaH (object of worship of gAyatrI) is Sriman Narayana alone. Examples are in Yoga-Yajnavalkya, Yama, and ShankaSmritis.
  1. What about Aditya hRRidayam of rAmAyaNa? Isn’t sUrya declared to be the Supreme?
Ans: Sri Govindaraja, the Vishistadvaita commentator on Srimad Ramayana has pointed out that an old commentary by uDAri does not have the Aditya Hridayam chapter. Moreover, Sri Govindaraja says that there is no harm otherwise also, since it can be explained fully without compromising Vishnu’s supremacy.
Leaving aside non-advaitins, even an advaitaAcArya who commented on the Ramayana, Sri Maheshvara Tirtha does not see this chapter praising the sUryadevatA as the supreme. In fact, Maheshvara Tirtha has given detailed commentaries showing that Aditya Hridayam is actually intended to be a hymn on Sriman Narayana, the antaryAmin of sUrya devatA.
  1. Why can’t it be said that the “saura” religion is nothing but upAsanA of the antaryAmin of sUrya?
Ans: That would be absurd. First of all, Vaishnavas also worship Sriman Narayana as the antaryAmin of sUrya during gAyatrI mantra japa. Would we say that they follow both “saura” and “vaiShNava” matas? Obviously, not.
Secondly, one would have to start naming a “mata” after every object in this universe, since Sriman Narayana can in principle be meditated as the antaryAmin of all of these objects!
  1. What does Shankara say about Rudra (Siva) of the trimUrtis?
Ans: Shankara says that Rudra is also one of the jIvAtmas who undergoes creation by the Supreme Lord, endowed with the attribute of tamas and carries out indirect universal annihilation (sadvAraka saMhAra) before the Supreme Lord takes over and completes the process of annihilation (advAraka saMhAra).
  1. Where does Shankara say that Rudra is created?
Ans: In the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad Bhashya, 1.4.10. The text says “Rudra was created”, explained by Shankara as “Rudra, the Lord of pashus (pashupati) was also created”.
  1. Where does Shankara say that Rudra is bhagavAn’svibhUti through whom He carries out sadvArakasaMhAra?
Ans: In Vishnu Sahasranama Bhashya, while explaining the names “bhUtakRRit” and “saMpramardanaH”.
Explaining “bhUtakRRit”, Shankara says that Lord Vishnu, by assuming the quality of tamas through Rudra, carries out the destruction of beings:
“tamoguNamAsthAya rudrAtmanA bhUtAni kRRitant ikRRiNoti hinastIti bhUtakRRit”.
Immediately after that, while explaining “bhUta bhRRit”, he says that Vishnu directly carries out the act of sustenance through the quality of sattva:
“sattvaguNam adhiShThAya bhUtAni bibharti pAlayati dhArayati poShayatItivA bhUtabhRRit”
Shankara does not say “viShNu-rUpeNa” (through the form of Vishnu) here, but says paramAtman Himself carries out sustenance, showing paramAtman is only Vishnu and not Rudra.
Explaining “saMpramardanaH”, Shankara says that bhagavAn Sriman Narayana Himself carries out universal annihilation through His vibhUtis such as Rudra, Kala, etc:
“samyak pramardayati rudrakAlAdibhir vibhUtibhir iti sampramardanaH”
  1. What does Sridhara, the advaitic commentator on bhAgavatam say?
Ans. Sridhara clearly says that Vishnu is the Supreme, with Brahma and Rudra being subordinate to Him. This has been explained in this article. See the introductory portion before the commentary to 8.7.21, with points 1 to 6. Note especially the comments by Sridhara to the 10th skandha, 88th adhyAya.
  1. But then, after Sridhara’s shlokas that say “Vishnu is sAttvika, while Brahma and Rudra are respectively rAjasa and tAmasa”, we see the statement “tattadbhaktAnAM kalahastu vyAmohArthameva” which means “the in-fighting among the worshippers of the trimUrtis serves only the purpose of bewildering”. Doesn’t this mean that Sridhara condemns the worshippers of Vishnu doing “kalaha” (quarrel) with the devotees of Siva (and Brahma) by claiming Vishnu is superior to Siva (and Brahma)?
Ans. That is a grand misunderstanding of the context.
Sridhara does not define “kalaha” as “argument over who among Shiva and Vishnu is greater”. Suggesting that would be silly, as the argument already settled by Sridhara. One would also then lead to the unfortunate result that Sridhara contradicts Shankara by accepting trimUrti aikyatva where brahmA is also accepted as saguNa Ishvara.
One would also have to say that Sridhara is bewildering himself by proclaiming Hari to be Supreme over Brahma and Rudra in this and various chapters. We cannot simply ignore all of the emphatic statements about Hari’s supremacy in Sridhara’s commentary and give an interpretation to that suits our whims.

  1. What is the important point that Sridhara makes in this context?
Ans. One has to note the logical order here.
Sridhara first says that while the trimUrtis (and by logical extension, we jIvAtmAs as well) are all understood to be nirguNa brahman in essence (as per the paramArtha level in advaita), Vishnu alone possesses sattva and hence is quite close to His essence as pure consciousness.
However, says Sridhara, the upAdhis of Brahma and Rudra, being rajas and tamas respectively, cause the essence to be hidden (as in, they are jIvas). Hence, the worshippers of Vishnu alone reach mokSha quickly. They do not gain wealth quickly, and whatever is gained is a by-product of /accessory for upAsana.
He then says that while the worshippers of Brahma and Rudra gain wealth quickly, they only slowly attain liberation (after many janmas). Sridhara says this is the tattva or tAtparya, which is an emphatic declaration. Remember that Brahma and Rudra are arvAk-devatAs or lower devatAs compared to Vishnu, as per Sridhara’s shloka summarising this chapter in the beginning.
This has to be kept in mind first.
  1. What then is your explanation to this apparent contradiction?
Ans. Sridhara then says the above is the reason why the bhAgavata has the following two classes of statements, and that there is no contradiction anywhere: the first class of statements appear to proclaim equality of the trimUrtis, while the second class says Hari is the best among the trimUrtis. He then says they have to be reconciled the manner described above.
Sridhara then says that “the quarreling among the respective bhaktas serves only the purpose of bewilderment”. This statement only means that the worshippers must understand that there are jIvAtmas at various levels of realization, and the scriptures enjoin worship of different devatAs according to the differing tendencies arising due to the level one is at. Not understanding this, and instead developing dhveSha towards the devatAntaras and their bhaktas by quarrelling causes bewilderment, which leads to aj~nAna.
  1. Do you accept the interpretation of the author called “vaMshIdhara” who argued for Hari-Hara abheda here, in his sub-commentary to Sridhara’s commentary?
Ans. Obviously, no. It is a biased interpretation, as we have shown above. This author reproduces the gauDIya commentaries in many places, and hence it can be inferred that he belonged to the 17th century or even later.
  1. What is significant about Shankara’s statement that Rudra is created?
Ans: We have seen earlier Shankara’s statement (in Brahma Sutra Bhashya, 1.2.17) that anybeing that is declared to have an origin and dissolution cannot be the Supreme Lord. In addition to Shankara’s stance in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad Bhashya 1.4.10, the Veda itself says Rudra is created and annihilated (nArAyaNAtrudrojAyate… nArAyaNepralIyante). Hence, Shankara cannot have considered him as paramAtmA.
Moreover, vishNu is referred to as the antaryAmin of rudra and the same rudra is declared to be a vibhUti in the sahasranAma bhAshya as well. These are irrefutable.
Some miscreants claim that Shankara’s statements like “Rudra, Lord of Pashus” etc. refer to some other being and not the popular Rudra. That view is severely lacking in logic. For when Rudra is mentioned in the singular without adjectives it only refers to the popular Rudra and no-one else. The arguments given by these ignorant people are quite bizarre, such as “it refers to any one of the 11 rudras and not Siva” --- as one can see, this is just desperately clutching at straws. The simple reason why Shankara mentions “Rudra” or “Pashupati” is because this is the well known Rudra who warrants no further description. If any other deity was intended, a clarification would have been made. Moreover, the creation of the eleven Rudras is mentioned separately in the shruti immediately after.
  1. In the debates between Advaitins and Vishistadvaitins/Dvaitins during ancient times, is there any evidence of a debate on the identity of the Supreme Being?
Ans: Vishistadvaitins and Dvaitins who accept Vishnu to be the Supreme have debated advaitins in their works, from the 11th Century AD to early 15th Century (Ramanuja, Deshika, Madhva, Jayatirtha, etc.). Similarly, Advaitins have given several counters to vishiShTAdvaitins and dvaitins in their works. Such debates are also described in the Srivaishnava guruparamparA texts (for eg., Yajnamurti who later became Devaraja Muni vs. Sri Ramanuja, mAdhavAcArya who later became nanjeeyar vs. Sri Parashara Bhatta, etc.). Nowhere in these discussions has the question of Vishnu’s supremacy been raised.
It shows that before Appayya Dikshita’s time, all serious Vedantins accepted Sriman Narayana paratva.
In the conclusion of the Sata dhUshani, srI vedAnta desikan has gone as far as to condemn the ritualistic practices of advaitic sanyasis. However, even here, he has not said that these sanyAsis wear bhasma or worship Rudra as the supreme or as equal to Vishnu. At the same time, svAmI desikan has highlighted other practices of advaitins (such as the removal of shikha tuft and yaj~nopavIta in sannyAsa) which he deemed were objectionable. This shows that advaitic sanyAsis did not have these shaivite emblems, and hence the sata dhUshani did not make any mention of such things. In addition, he clearly refers to Shankara as a Vaishnava in his tAtparya chandrika for Gita bhAshya (18.66).
  1. After Shankara’s time, how many Advaitins held the view that Vishnu is Supreme?
Ans: Every serious follower of the advaita school did, until the time of vidyAraNya. Even in later times, Madhusudana Sarasvati, Nrsimhashrama, Ramatirtha, and Narayana Bhattathiri considered Vishnu alone to be the Supreme Lord and Siva to be subordinate to Him.
Madhusudana Sarasvati makes a statement in Gudhartha Dipika, 12.6-7 where it is stated that one who intends to do saguNa upAsana should worship Vishnu, Rama, Krishna, or Narasimha.
The Prabodha Chandrodaya, an allegorical play authored by an advaitin by name Krishna Mishra, written before Sri Vedanta Desika’s time is very clear in this matter. Here, Krishna Mishra states that highest bliss is to be obtained either through contemplation on the nature of pure attributeless consciousness, or through the worship of the divine form of Lord Hari (Act V, verse 27).
In both instances, there is no option of anya-devatA forms given for the saguNau pAsaka aiming at highest bliss.
  1. Give a few more key points on how ancient advaitins considered Vishnu alone as the Supreme Being?
Ans: About the pA~ncarAtra Agamas of the Vaishnavas, Shankara himself stated that ekAnta bhakti (practised by Srivaishnava AzhvArs/AcAryas), i.e. undivided devotion on Sriman Narayana with the exclusion of others is acceptable as per the shrut (Brahma Sutra Bhashya, 2.2.42)i:
“bhagavato.abhigamanAdilakShaNam ArAdhanam ajasram-ananya-cittayA.abhipreyate, tadapi na pratiShidhyate”
Only some relatively minor aspects, such as the vyUha theory and some statements seemingly contradicting the Veda are refuted in Shankara bhAShya.
Amalananda who wrote vedAnta kalpataru was another Advaitin who was favorable to the pA~ncarAtra doctrine of the Vaishnavas. Moreover, Amalananda says that the whole of pA~ncarAtra is in agreement with the shruti and even rejects Shankara’s relatively minor objections against the system. (see vedAnta kalpataru and shAstra darpaNa, in the pA~ncarAtra adhikaraNa sections)
Note however that neither Shankara who accepts the upAsana aspects of pA~ncarAtra and its one-pointed devotion, nor amalAnanda who unconditionally declared it to be in accordance with the Vedas make any such exceptions to the pAshupata system. If they were hari-hara abheda vAdins, they would have at least made such sympathetic statements about the pAshupata system such as the acceptance of shiva-bhakti of the shaivas. Instead, we see that they (in Brahma Sutra Bhashya, and in Vedanta Kalpataru) just focused on rejecting it.
Finally, we have already seen that in the work “Sarva mata saMgraha” written by an advaitin detailing the various darshanas, it is stated that the madhyama mImAMsA (Sankarsha devatA kANDa) sUtras culminate with the saguNa brahman Lord Hari who is the inner soul of all devatAs. Refer to the “Vedanta Darshana” section within this FAQ. This is one of the many clinching evidences to show that Vishnu’s supremacy was accepted without any qualms by advaitins of ancient times.
There are many more proofs, such as Sridhara Svamin’s statement in the astra bhUShaNa adhyAya of Vishnu Purana (1.22) that Sriman Narayana’s form is “kRRitsnaM brahmarUpam” (complete form of Brahman) and not aMshas like caturmukha-brahmA and the other devatAs. In fact, the number of such evidences that we can offer may range close to a hundred or even more.
  1. At what point did this change, and who brought in such a change of trend in Advaita?
Ans: Shaivism and Shaivadvaita spread among advaitins and smArtas of Southern India through the influence of the Sringeri Mutt which was actually started by vidyAraNya.
The Sringeri Mutt’s foundations seem to have had strong Shaiva influence, though it is claimed later that it has direct lineage from Shankara. See these two links: [Link 1] [Link 2].
A discerning mind cannot accept this since Shankara was against the pAshupata doctrine of the Shaivas. Later on, Appayya Dikshita who became influential due to the patronage of the ruler Chinna Bomma Nayakka, and his followers championed Shaivism among smArtas as a response to Vaishnavism. One of the ways in which this was achieved is to portray Shankara as a bhasma-wearing Shaiva, favouring either the worship of Shiva predominantly or claiming that Shiva and Vishnu are to be equally worshiped.
The practice of Shanmata in all likelihood was popularized by VidyAraNya initially, whereas Appayya Dikshita tweaked it to give more focus on Shaiva thought. The consequence can be seen among modern day smArtas.
  1. When Shankara is illustrated in portraits in the real world and in the internet, he always seems to don the Shaiva symbols like bhasma. How could a Vaishnava, as you claim Shankara is, have these symbols?
Ans. These illustrations are highly popular today. However, the people who propagated them are not erudite and may have a hidden anti-Vishnu agenda, such as Appayya Dikshita. The reason is that we have overwhelming evidence that Shankara did not bear these symbols.
  1. What evidence do you have, to show that Shankara did not don the bhasma?
Ans. Padmapada, a direct disciple of Shankara, has authored a text called “pa~ncapAdikA”. In its extant form, it is an exposition of the chatussUtrI portion (first four sUtras) of Shankara’s Brahma Sutra Bhashya.
Sri Padmapada salutes his guru by composing the following sloka at the beginning of the work (Mangala sloka):
namAmyabhogiparivArasampadaM nirastabhUtiM anumArddhavigrahaM
anugraM unmR^iditakAlalA~ncanaM vinAvinAyakaM apUrvashaN^karaM

The above sanskrit verse is a double entendre. Each word/sentence can be interpreted in two ways:
apUrva shaMkaraM namAmi = I salute the new Shankara who is different from the commonly known Shankara (Shiva)
abhogiparivAra sampadaM = He is surrounded by sages (abogi-s or those who do not indulge in “bhoga” or enjoyments) / he is not surrounded by snakes (bhogi-s)
nirasta bhUtiM = He has got no material wealth (bhUti) (as he is a sannyasi) / he is devoid of ashes (bhUti)
anumArdha vigrahaM = He has logic (anumA) as his other half / he does not have Uma as his other half
anugraM = He is not fierce
unmR^idita kAla lA~ncanaM = He has surpassed the mark of time (ie., samsara, as he is a jIvanmukta)/ he is devoid of the black-mark (on the throat)
vinA vinAyakaM = He is not accompanied by vinAyaka
  1. How do you say “nirasta bhUtim” means “devoid of ashes”? Is it your own interpretation?
Ans. The commentaries "Ruju Vivarana" (by Vishnu Bhatta) and "Tattva Dipana" (by Akhandananda Muni) conform to this interpretation. Both are 13th century works. The former says "nirasta bhUtiM - bhasma-rahitam, nirasta aishvaryaM vA" [Without ‘bhUti’ = devoid of wealth (or) devoid of ashes], and the latter says "bhUtiH = bhasitam, tadanuliptagAtraH saH, ayaM tvaishvaryalakShaNabhUtividhuraH" [He (the other well-known Shankara) has a body smeared in ashes; This one though, is devoid of wealth.]
Note that akhaNDAnanda says that the message of the verse is two-fold: to differentiate from the other well-known “Shankara” i.e., Rudra (“prasiddhashaN^karAt vilakShaNam”) as well as to explain the qualities of the “Shankara” in consideration i.e., bhagavatpAda AcArya ("paramahaMsaparAyaNam shaN^karAcAryam").
Padmapada’s invocatory verse has also been expounded by the late 19th/early 20th century Vidwan Tiruvisanallur Ramasubba Shastri in his work “anubhAShya gAmbhIrya”.
  1. What other evidence is there to claim that bhasma, rudrAkSha, and other Shaiva insignia were newly introduced into the Advaitic/smArta community?
Ans. In his work vAdanakShatramAlA, Appayya Dikshita enthusiastically says that Rudraksha and Bhasma are “sakala parabrahma vidyAngas”, which means they lead to the knowledge of all upaniShadic vidyAs related to the Supreme Brahman. Similar works have been written by post 16th-century advaitins, such as “bhUtirudrAkShamAhAtmya” by one paramashivendra sarasvatI.
Such an aggressive interest in the Shaivite symbols cannot be seen in earlier works of Advaitins.
  1. Where can we obtain more information about the deterioration of original Vaishnava thought and practices among advaita circles into contemporary shaiva-shAkta-centric ones?
Ans: There will be future articles in this blog detailing this matter. Keep checking the green line under the menu bar and the sitemap page for updates.

INTRODUCTION TO VISHISHTADVAITA AND DVAITA (WITH SOME REFERENCES TO OTHER DARSHANAS)

  1. What is the difference between Vishishtadvaita and Dvaita? Are the two the same?
Ans. The two are quite different. Some issues of VA vs Dvaita include tattva trayam vs pancha bhedam, aprthak siddhi vs viSesa, samyApati moksha vs ananda tAratamya, jIvasvarUpa abheda vs trividha jIva svarUpa, sat khyAti vs asat anyatha khyAti, upAdaNa kAraNatva vs kevala nimitta kAraNatva and so on.
  1. Why do some people claim Vishishtadvaita and Dvaita lead to Advaita?
Ans. It is only some ignorant scholars such as Appayya Dikshita and the “shAstri-s” of the modern era who helped propagate the delusion of both schools being the same by stating something like Advaita being the top step, Vishishtadvaita the middle step and Dvaita being the low step to realization. This demonstrates the pitiful level of their understanding of the two profound systems of Vedanta – Vishishtadvaita and Dvaita. Of course, acharyas have pointed out that there are a lot of issues more compatible between these two systems than with advaita, but that doesn’t mean that either school endorses the other as a valid means to liberation.
  1. What are the core principles of Vishishtadvaita?
Ans. Tattva Trayam (Cit, Acit, Ishvara), SharIrAtma bhAva,Artha Panchakam (jIvAtma svarUpa, paramAtma svarUpa, upAya svarUpa, virOdhi svarUpa and puruSartha svarUpa), dharma bhUta jnAna, sat khyAt ivAda, lakshmi puruShakAratva, sAmyapati moksha and bhakti yOga-prapatti mArga bhEda
  1. What are the core principles of Dvaita?
Ans. Pancha Bheda, Bimba-Pratibimba, viSesa, ananda tAratamya, jIva svarUpa bhEda, vAyu jIvOttama, asat-anyatha khyAti vAda
  1. Do Vishishtadvaita and Dvaita use the same way to prove HarisarvOttama?
Ans. Both traditions accept sarvashabdavAchyatva – all names refer to Hari. But vishishtadvaita uses sharIrAtma bhAva in its ultimate analysis to arrive at Hari as the Supreme Being, while Dvaita does not accept this, though the other tools used in the analysis are common for both sects.
  1. What is the position of Siva in Vishishtadvaita?
Ans. A jIvAtma. More specifically, Siva is accepted as the best of yOgIs – who perform upAsaNa or bhakti yOga to attain vishNu. But since this bhakti yOga is an inferior path to prapatti (also called sharanAgati or nyAsa vidyA), Vishishtadvaita considersthat the prapannas are greater jnAnIs than Siva (who is only the best of bhakti yOgIs) and he is not a guru for Vishishtadvaitins.
  1. By saying Siva is not even a guru, do not Vishishtadvaitins disrespect him?
Ans. This is not an insult to him considering Vishishtadvaitins lump even vedavyAsa in this category of bhakti yOgIs. He is respected, but not worshipped as a guru for those following the prapatti marga. vyAsa is also considered inferior to prapannas despite having the AvEsha of bhagavAn, but since he blessed us with the brahma sUtras, he comes in the parampara and is invoked in worship before commencing the study of the Veda.
  1. What is the position of Siva in Dvaita?
Ans. A jIvAtma.Dvaitins do regard Siva as a jnAni, perhaps to a greater extent than Vishishtadvaitins as they do not have a distinction between bhaktas and prapannas, but he is still lesser than Brahma or vAyu according to their tAratamya. However, they give more emphasis to worshipping Siva for obtaining purity of mind in order to meditate on nArAyaNa, as Siva is the presiding deity of the mind.
  1. On a similar note, how is Siva regarded in other Vaishnava traditions as compared to Dvaita and Vishishtadvaita?
Ans. Advaitins (the true followers of Shankaracharya) and Gaudiyas consider Siva as the greatest of vishNu bhaktas and a celebrated omniscient guru, so these two groups do revere Siva as the best jnAni. For them, he is the superior-most guru who leads them to knowledge of Brahman. Neither of these groups consider Siva as Brahman (or saguNa Brahman, in the case of advaita).
  1. Is it true that Dvaita does not accept upAdAna kAraNatva of Brahman?
Ans. Yes. In contrast, all other vedAntic systems do accept upAdAna kAraNatva.
  1. You have said in the introduction to the article on Rudra Gita that since the doctrine of Siva bhakti connected to wrong knowledge like non-acceptance of upAdAna kAraNatva, Saiva matam in totality is rejected according to the brahma sUtras. Is this not then, applicable for Dvaita who do not accept upAdAna kAraNatva as well?
Ans. In a way, Vishishtadvaitins do criticize that Dvaita is no better than the pAsupatas in non-acceptance of upAdANa kAraNatva. However, srImAdhva takes that section of the brahma sUtras to be refuting the pAsupatas on their consideration of Siva as Brahman.Dvaitins justify their rejection of Saivas and their own non-acceptance of upAdANa kAraNatva differently.
  1. Then, can we question Vishishtadvaitins asking that if Siva bhakti and consideration of Siva is discarded because it leads to wrong knowledge like non-acceptance of upAdAna kAraNatva, then can we not say that vishNu bhakti and acceptance of vishNu as Brahman can be discarded since it leads to wrong knowledge of non-acceptance of upAdAna kAraNatva as in the case of Dvaitins?
Ans. Not so, for Vishishtadvaitins can reply saying vishNu bhakti also leads to vishishtadvaita which is the right knowledge for them. In contrast, all Saiva sects adhere to a deviant philosophy.
  1. What other reasons can you give for rejecting Saivas based on upAdAna kAraNatva but accepting vaiShnavadvaita darShana as a vedic sect despite its rejection of upAdAna kAraNatva?
Ans. Firstly, all sects of Saivas reject upAdAna kAraNatva while it is only one sect of vaiShnavas who reject it. Besides this, Saivas have other wrong concepts like 36 tattvas, etc which is rejected by all vedAntins. So wrong knowledge is absolute for all forms of Siva bhakti, but not so for vishNu bhakti. Secondly, if the right knowledge is Vishishtadvaita (which is assumed by the pUrvapakSin as well), then the deity who provided this knowledge is vishNu and hence, there is no case for rejection despite him being worshipped by advaitins and dvaitins (who diverge from vishishtadvaita). Then, it follows that vishNu, being Brahman, propagates both right and wrong doctrines for different purposes by his Supreme Will, whereas Siva worship in the manner of pAsupatas can only lead to ignorance; there is no sect that gets it right. Furthermore, vishNu as the highest Brahman is affirmed by the vedAnta and not Siva – this is also a factor considered by vedavyAsa in rejecting Saiva mata in the sUtrAs – and by srI adi shankara, srI rAmAnuja and srI mAdhva.
  1. How do other sects of vedAnta consider this viewpoint?
Ans. Dvaitins do not consider the pAsupata adhikaraNa as a rejection of non-acceptance of upAdAna kAraNatva and reject it citing the fact that Siva is not Brahman. Advaitins like Adi Shankara go by the simple logic that a shAstra can be accepted partly or wholly depending on its compatibility to the Veda – he considered pAncarAtra as a defective shAstra but accepted nArAyaNa paratva which he thought was right, while rejecting the entirety of Saiva Agama because even the concept of Siva as Saguna Brahman is opposed to the Veda. Later advaitins even accepted pAncharAtra wholly as a blemishless shAstra.
  1. And in conclusion?
Ans. So, different traditions follow different ways, but ultimately all end up rejecting the Saiva mata. srI Adi Shankara rejects them for their non-acceptance of upAdAna kAraNatva and secondarily for worshipping Siva as saguNa brahman instead of vishNu. SrI rAmAnuja rejects Saivas for non-acceptance of upAdAna kAraNatva and says that the concept of Siva as supreme is allied to it, hence it is also rejected. SrImAdhva rejects them for their acceptance of Siva as the Supreme and non-acceptance of Ishvara being embodied.

CONCLUSION

  1. What was the need of this FAQ? Is it not a bit lengthy?
Ans. Various concepts in this FAQ are used in the articles. So, reading this provides a base for what you can expect in this blog. Length shouldn’t be a problem as the content is always varied and never repetitive.
  1. Do you have a future for this blog besides refuting those who malign Vaishnavas?
Ans. We have a lot of material left to cover which could take quite a while yet, so we haven’t been thinking of it. But eventually, we will consider the distant future as well. We leave this to our readers.
  1. What do you mean by leaving it to the readers?
Ans. Once we get to some perceivable end, we will ask the readers to give us suggestions on what they would like to see on this blog. We will accept their suggestions if feasible.
  1. What is the procedure for accepting suggestions?
Ans. Easy. Please use the contact form.
  1. Finally, give a one line summary of the blog?
Ans. Sarva dEsa dasA kAleshu avyAhata parAkrama rAmAnujArya divyAjnyA vardhatAm abhivardhatam||
Meaning: Let the most magnificent instruction of Sri Ramanuja increase and pervade through all places at all times, without any hindrance or impediment.

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