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

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Fri Jul 1 16:52:09 CDT 2011

On Fri, 1 Jul 2011, V Subrahmanian wrote:

> 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
> spirits.]
> [Bhutejyaah, the Beings such as Vinayaka, the group of Sixteen (divine)
> Mothers, the Four Sisters, and others.]

It seems to me that vinayaka should be taken as plural because all the 
others mentioned are also groups so vinayakamatR^igaNa = "the hosts of 
vinayakas and matrs" not "vinayaka and the hosts of mothers"  Would anyone 
care to comment on the legitimacy of this interpretation?

> None of the traditional sub-commentators has elucidated on what Shankara
> means by the term 'vinAyaka...etc.'

However if we compare the comments of other Advaitic tikakars such as 
Swami Shankarananda, Swami Madhusudana Saraswati, etc. we see their lists 
of bhUtAni do not include the same items but do include kShetrapAlas, 
yakShas, rAkShasas etc.  In other words the minor devayonis which are part 
of folk Hinduism to this very day.

In fact it seems it is a widespread belief in many cultures that there are 
minor spirits who range from malignant to mischeivious but whose chief 
characteristic is that they can cause chaos in the lives of men if not 
properly appeased.

> As a result a question arises as to
> whether Shankara had in mind the popular 'vinAyaka', the Parameshwara putra,
> while commenting for the verse.

If vinayakas are taken as plural, they are one of these types of 
devayonis.  They can cause obstacles in successful pursuit of purusharthas 
if not propitiated.  Ganesha Bhagavan is the remover of all obstacles.  He 
has power of these vinayakas so he is called Vinayaka on the analogy of a 
king who is called by the name of the country or people that he rules.

> 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.

I think we are looking at this from the wrong direction.  It is not the 
worship of spirits that makes bhakti tamasic but the tamasic attitude to 
bhakti that leads people to worship certain forms of devatas.

sattvika bhakti - done purely out of love of God with no expectations.

rajasika bhakti - done for ulterior motives such as heaven or material 
wealth, power, etc.

tamasika bhakti - done out of fear.  "Bad things will happen to me if I 
don't worship."

We can worship Ganesh Bhagavan or mataji in any of these three ways.  We 
can worship Krishna Bhagavan in any of these ways.  Or any other devata. 
It is the bhaktas attitude which is important.

>  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'.

yAGYavalkyasmR^iti has an even more pertinent text in adhyaya 1.11 which 
is called vinAyakakalpAdiprakAraNa.

Which leads me to...

On Thu, 30 Jun 2011, Satish Arigela wrote:

> The gItA bhAShya gives some clues on his hostile attitude towards some
> devata-s widely worshiped in shaiva, smArta and to some extent in
> vaiShNava circles.

And you gave reasons why this is a reference to a particular system of 
tantric upasana.  However note that the rite mentioned in 
yAGYavalkyasmR^iti is not tantric except in the broadest vaguest sense of 
the word.  In fact it belongs to the genre of vedic literature known as 
vidhanas (the translator also notes its parallels to a section of 
mAnavagR^ihyasUtra) which could perhaps be described as proto-tantric but 
are certainly nothing like fully-developed systems such as vamashrota.  So 
the hostility is not towards the devata per se but particular modes of 
worship.  This is also a more satisfying explanation in my opinion as to 
why worship of vinayaka, matrkas are still accepted by Smartas when other 
"hostile" forms such as Buddhism as roundly rejected rather than "it was 
snuck in later on."

Also, it has been been mentioned before but I must once again bring up 
brahmasUtrabhAshya 2.2.44 where an agamic doctrine (the chaturvyuhavAda of 
the pa~ncharAtrAgamas is explicitly criticized but Shankaracharya takes 
pains to note that the worship of Vishnu bhagavan in temples etc. is _not_ 
being criticized.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

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