[Advaita-l] 'VinAyaka' in ShAnkara GItA BhAShyam

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Fri Jul 1 06:15:37 CDT 2011

श्रीगुरुभ्यो नमः

In the Bhashyam to the Bh.Gita 9.25:

*यान्ति देवव्रता देवान्* पितृ़न्यान्ति पितृव्रताः। भूतानि यान्ति भूतेज्या
यान्ति मद्याजिनोऽपि माम्।।9.25।।

Shankaracharya, for the word 'bhUtAni' comments: भूतानि
विनायकमातृगणचतुर्भगिन्यादीनि  यान्ति भूतेज्या भूतानां पूजकाः ।  [Those who
worship the spirits like vinAyaka-mAtRgaNa, etc. attain to those very
[Bhutejyaah, the Beings such as Vinayaka, the group of Sixteen (divine)
Mothers, the Four Sisters, and others.]

None of the traditional sub-commentators has elucidated on what Shankara
means by the term 'vinAyaka...etc.'  As a result a question arises as to
whether Shankara had in mind the popular 'vinAyaka', the Parameshwara putra,
while commenting for the verse.

The Gita verse in question has for its basis the different types of
aspirants and the particular type of aspirant discussed is the
rajasic/tamasic type who worship the spirits.  The term 'vinAyaka' therefore
should refer to some spirit/ugra devatA.  During a conversation with Dr.Mani
Dravid Sastrigal I got a clue from him that the Yajnavalkya smRti in its
second part known as 'vyavahArAdhyAyaH' has a reference to उग्रदेवाः and a
ritual equivalent to  the present day 'lie-detector test'.  Here, the
ugradevataa is 'bathed' and the water is asked to be imbibed by the
suspect.  The water, having entered the suspect's system, will make him come
out with the 'truth.'  In this connection it is said that the name
'vinAyaka' of an ugra devatA is stated. On a search as to whether such a
devataA exists, we find, for example, in the agni purANa: (pl. see verse
marked 11cd)


अघोर्य्यष्टकरूपो ऽन्यो द्वादशाङ्गश्चतुर्थकः । 4ab
पञ्चमस्तु षड़ङ्गः स्याच्छक्तिश्चान्यास्त्रचण्डिका 1 । 5ab
क्रीं ह्रौं क्लीं श्रीं क्रूं फट् त्रयं स्यात्तूर्याख्यं सर्व्वसाधकं 2 ॥ 5cd

मालिन्या नादिफान्तं स्यात् नादिनी च शिखा स्मृता । 6ab
अग्रसेनी 3 शिरसि स्यात् शिरोमालानिवृत्तिः शः ॥ 6cd
ट शान्तिश्च शिरो भूयाच् चामुण्डा च त्रिनेत्रगा । 7ab
ढ प्रियदृष्टिर्द्विनेत्रे च नासागा गुह्यशक्तिनी ॥ 7cd
न नारायणी द्विकर्णे च दक्षकर्णे त मोहनौ । 8ab
ज प्रज्ञा वामकर्नस्था वक्त्रे च वज्रिणी स्मृता ॥ 8cd
क कराली दक्षदंष्ट्रा वामांसा ख कपालिनी । 9ab
ग शिवा ऊर्द्ध्वदंष्ट्रा स्याद् घ *घोरा वामदंष्ट्रिका *॥ 9cd
उ शिखा दन्तविन्यासा ई माया जिह्वया स्मृता । 10ab
अ स्यान्नागेश्वरी वाचि व कण्ठे शिखिवाहिनी ॥ 10cd
भ भीषणी दक्षस्कन्धे वायुवेगा म वामके । 11ab
डनामा दक्षबाहौ तु ढ वामे च *विनायका *॥ 11cd
प पूर्णिमा द्विहस्ते तु ओकाराद्यङ्गुलीयके । 12ab
अं दर्शनी वामाङ्गुल्य अः स्यात्सञ्जीवनी करे ॥ 12cd
ट कपालिनी कपालं शूलदण्डे त दीपनी । 13ab
त्रिशूले ज जयन्ती स्याद्वृद्धिर्यः साधनी 4 स्मृता ॥ 13cd

In the above portion, it is clear that ugra devatA-s are spoken of with
descriptions.  This information contained in the prefacatory part of the
YajnavalkyasmRti is relevant for our study:


//The second book on Vyavahara is also met with in the Agni Purana. Weber,
in his History of Indian Literature p. 281, writes :
" Its second book reappears literally in the Agni Purana ; whether adopted
into the latter, or borrowed from it, cannot as yet be determined."
It is probable that the book on Vyavahara has been borrowed from the Agni
PurAna. The compiler of Yajnavalkya Smriti has not considered it necessary
to borrow all the verses on Vyavahara, thus omitting many which did not suit
his purpose. This will be evident from a comparison of the Vyavahara Adhyaya
the above-named Purina.//

It is quite common in the Hindu scriptures to have names of sattva-devatAs
also appearing in the list of ugra-devatAs.  Krishna, for example, is the
most familiar God.  Yet there is a Krishna who is a demon.  So with
'vAsudeva'.  In fact this very agni purANa contains several verses, in great
detail, about the worship of the Parameshwara-putra 'vinAyaka' too (one can
search for these verses in the above URL of agni purANam).   The name of the
ugra devatA 'vinAyakaa' in the feminine gender in the agni purANa is no
matter of concern for us.  The Gita commentary expression of Shankara
could be seen as a total compound of all ugra-devatA in the feminine.  The
sub-commentary 'भाष्योत्कर्षदीपिका’ of 'dhanapati sUri' replaces the part
चतुर्भगिन्यादीनि with 'catuShaShTiyoginI' which name very closely resembles
a name in the SrIlalitAsahasranaama.  I am told that a particular
(AnandAshram) edition of the GitAbhAShya has in a footnote stated the above
as a pAThabheda in the BhAShya itself.

It is also common knowledge for those who follow the Vedas that the entire
creation is a mixture of ghora and aghora.  We find this expressed
repeatedly in various Vedic and other scriptural hymns.  For example in the
11th chapter विश्वरूपाध्याय  of the Bh.Gitaa the benign as well as the
terrible facets of God (कालोऽस्मि लोकक्ष्यकृत्)  are depicted.  The
SrIrudram is also a fine example of this depiction.  So also the
srIlalitaasahasranAma.  All Astika-s indulge in the devout chanting of these
hymns, as exemplified by the AchAryas, so that a vision of samatva comes to
us.  Life is a mixture of the benign and the terrible.  It is nothing but
the manifestation of the One Power, the Chitshakti, a vivarta, that we
experience every day, every moment of our lives.  A favourable moment is
upturned by a tragedy and vice versa.  It is the one who has gained a vision
of equanimity in the face of dvandva-s that becomes a yogi, fit for Atma
jnAnam and mokSha.

What the scripture, for example the bh.gita verse taken up for study, warns
is that one should not be a 'devotee' of the terrible.  It is in this
context that the tAmasic aspect of Ishwara is highlighted.

To conclude:

   - The ShAnkara BhAshyam is not referring to the Ishwara-putra, ambAsuta,
   - The reference is to a tAmasic deity, a 'ugra devatA'.
   - The Acharyas of the Shankara-established Peethas who have carried on
   the tradition of according a duly important place for the LalitAsahasranAma,
   the worship of Ganapati, etc. have definitely not defied Shankara (the
   bh.Gita bhashya referenced vinAyaka or mAtR-gaNas).
   - In fact Jagadguru Sri Abhinava VidyAtirtha MahaswamigaL once
   inaugurated a temple of 'saptamAtRtka-s' near Mysore and in His benedictory
   address chanted the names 'brAhmI mAheshwarI.....chAmuNDaa..' and exhorted
   the people in that locality to regularly come to the temple and engage in
   sat-sang and other religious activities and elevate themselves.  I have
   heard this speech. Every navarAtri srI ShAradAmbaa in Sringeri and Bangalore
   takes the form of these mAtrkaa-s every day for all the aastikas to witness
   - Jagadgurus Narasimha BhArati swaminaH, Sri Chandrashekhara Bharati
   swaminah, Sri Abhinava VidyAtirtha MahaswamigaL and Sri BhAratI Tirtha
   SwaminaH who have devoutly worshiped DevI LalitA/ambA and Ganapati and even
   composed soul-stirring hymns on these deities, are never objects of our
   'pity' for Their 'misconceived notions' about Devi and Ganapati in 'gross
   defiance of Bhagavatpada Shankara's teachings.  These luminaries are
   regarded as BrahmajnAnis by the tradition.  No one in the tradition
   considers Them as having met the fate of भूतानि यान्ति भूतेज्या: On the
   other hand They are regarded as examples of यान्ति मद्याजिनोऽपि माम्.

Om Tat Sat

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