[Advaita-l] Anya Devata

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Mon Jul 26 23:10:02 CDT 2010

On Mon, 26 Jul 2010, Rajaram Venkataramani wrote:

> I had raised this question earlier but did not get an answer - hence
> raising again. I would like to know who is anya devata (BG 9.25)
> according to advaita tradition please. I know that some Vaishnavas
> hold the opinion that Sankara was a Vaishnava but he tradition got
> influenced over time.

Bhaskar pointed you to an earlier discussion we had on this topic (but it 
was 7 years ago not 3.  How time flies!)  The link is here


But as that discussion also involved other topics, let me restate it.

Bhagavan says that those who worship the Devas go to the Devas, those who 
worship the Pitrs go to the Pitrs and those who worship the Bhutas go to 
the Bhutas.  This is a description of three-fold Bhakti.

sattvika bhakti is when one worships Bhagavan purely out of love and duty. 
No self-interest, all such a bhakta craves is His divine presence. 
Vishnu Bhagavan, Shiva Bhagavan and other Devas are worshipped in 
this sattvika way.

rajasika bhakti is when one worships in the expectation of spiritual or 
material rewards.  The pitrs are worshipped in this way as they are the 
actual relatives of the bhakta and they themselves have reached their 
heavenly position because of their karma.

tamasika bhakti is when one worships out of fear that something untoward 
will happen if the Devata becomes angry with you.  It seems many cultures 
have this tradition of minor troublesome spirits.  For instance, I grew up 
in a small village in England and the local farmers had a tradition of 
putting a saucer of milk for "Hobgoblin." If they didn't, household tools 
might break, the roof might leak or animals might get sick etc.  This is 
not an official part of Christianity and the church officials in fact 
considered it to be "superstition" but it was widely followed anyway. 
These kind of minor divinities are called bhutas -- not evil but annoying 
if not appeased.  (bhuta is often translated as "ghost" but this is 
innacurate.)  It is in this context that Shankaracharya explains bhuta as:

bhutAni vinAyakamAtrugaNAchaturbhaginyAdIni

"The bhutas are Vinayakas, the hosts of Matrs, and the four sisters etc."

Note I have taken Vinayaka as plural.  The Sanskrit is ambiguous but given 
that the others mentioned are also groups it is plausible.  Furthermore 
there are other references in the shastras to multiple Vinayakas.  For 
instance 11th adhyaya of Yajnavalkyasmrti is called Vinayakakalpa.  It 
describes rituals to be practiced to avoid bad luck from the Vinayakas.

Who are these Vinayakas? they are the spirits of hindrance.  Ganesh 
Bhagavan is called Vinayaka because he is their leader and controller. 
Similiarly Rudra is the chief of the 11 (or 8) Rudras and Aditya is 
foremost of the 12 solar Gods called Adityas.

Matragana: the worship of saptamatrka or shodashamatrka is still prevalent 
to this day.  They are often propitiated at weddings so that the bride 
will not be barren etc.

Chaturbhagini "the four sisters" is still a mystery to me.  In the last 
thread Vidyashankara said it was a Buddhist Tantric upasana.

Shankaracharya indicates that the list is not exhaustive.  Other Advaita 
tikas on the Gita such as Madhusudani and Shankaranandi also mention 
yakshas, rakshasas, yakshinis, vetalas, pishachas, and kshetrapalas as 
examples of bhutas

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

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