[Advaita-l] Supremacy of Shiva over Vishnu
v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Fri Sep 2 08:22:11 CDT 2016
On Fri, Sep 2, 2016 at 1:09 AM, Gerald Penn via Advaita-l <
advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org> wrote:
> Supremacy of Shiva over Vishnu / Vishnu over Shiva are irrelevant topics
>> in advaita.
>> And that is why, to sort of these petty issues, Acharya Sankara
>> incarnated to unify us.
> That's what I had thought, but I was recently reading a summary of the
> arguments that Adi Shankaracarya was a vaishnava in Matthew Clark's
> recent book on the Dashanami samnyasis. Some of them are more in the
> vein of absence-as-evidence, which I find rather specious, but others are
> rather more affirmative:
> - an alleged refutation in the Brahmasutrabhasya (2.2.36-41) of shaiva
> (spec. Maheshvara) doctrine.
> - Padmapada's expression of reverence in his Pancapadika to his teacher,
> who "had merely the name of Shankara, whom he contrasts with the real
> Shiva. He states that Shankara (the teacher) did not wear ashes smeared
> over his body like Shiva and his ascetic devotees, nor does [his teacher]
> have any of the marks or emblems of Shiva."
> - the BSB refers to the shalagrama three times in the context of a
> metaphysical analogy, but not the lingam.
> - the BSB refers to the superimposition of the spiritual vision of Lord
> Vishnu onto idols (pratimaa) four times, as instances of religious ideas
> being superimposed on objects.
> - similar vaishnava imagery occurs throughout Adi Shankaracarya's
> commentaries on the Upanishads.
> - imaginary persons used by Adi Shankaracarya in explanations are
> frequently vaishnava characters, e.g. Devadatta, Yajnadatta, Vishnumitra,
> - in his commentary on the Gaudapada mandukyakarika, Adi Shankaracarya
> equates Sambuddha with Narayana.
> - in the BSB (3.4.20), Adi Shankaracarya equates vanaprasthas with a
> group of orthodox vaishanavas called vaikhaanasas.
> - a disparaging remark that Adi Shankaracarya allegedly makes on the
> worship of Vinayaka in his Gitabhasya, to the effect that it amounts to the
> worship of a bhuta.
> What do the learned members of this list think of these observations?
Dear Shri Gerald,
Sri Shankaracharya has in his Gitabhashya said:
sarva shāstravit api asampradāyavit mūrkhavadeva upekṣaṇīyaḥ = Even if one
is an expert in all disciplines, if his knowledge is not in accordance with
the sampradāya, tradition, he is best ignored just as a fool is.
The views of western scholars are to be so treated in accordance with
Shankara's advice. This applies to all those views you have listed above as
his and his ideas expressed below.
> This matter is important, I believe, to advaita philosophy, particularly
> as Clark adduces this evidence on the way to making a different point,
> namely calling into question the legitimacy of claims that Adi
> Shankaracarya had founded either the Sringeri or Kanchi maths, both
> of which Clark regards as predominantly shaiva institutions.
Also, the views expressed by him are not in any way new; they are already
in existence. They have been amply replied too keeping in view the very
Shankara bhashyas. I shall just give one sample to show how Clark's
understanding of the Bhashya, if at all he had made a deep study of it, is
wanting. I shall take up his following view:
//- an alleged refutation in the Brahmasutrabhasya (2.2.36-41) of shaiva
(spec. Maheshvara) doctrine.//
At the outset Shankara sets the background for the refutation: इदानीं
केवलाधिष्ठात्रीश्वरकारणवादः प्रतिषिध्यते । [Now, the view that holds that
God is the mere efficient cause of the creation is refuted. Why? It is the
settled view of the Sūtrakāra that the Supreme God is both the efficient
and material cause of creation.
पशुपतिरीश्वरो निमित्तकारणमिति ; They hold Paśupati Iśvara is the efficient
Throughout the section on the refutation of this school, Shankara does not
give even a single reason that this school is inadmissible in Vedanta
because they hold Lord Śiva as their Supreme God. One can easily see how
hollow Clark's conclusion is.
This takes us to another related point that Clark makes: I am grouping two
of his remarks here:
//- the BSB refers to the shalagrama three times in the context of a
metaphysical analogy, but not the lingam.
- the BSB refers to the superimposition of the spiritual vision of Lord
Vishnu onto idols (pratimaa) four times, as instances of religious ideas
being superimposed on objects.//
Shankara has said in more than one place: यथा वा प्रतिमादिषु
विष्ण्वादिबुद्धि...Just as invoking / superimposing the idea of Viṣṇu, *etc*
. in idols, *etc*. The highlighted 'etc.' is crucial in understanding that
expression. If that is done, the conclusion that Clark and many others
like him, arrived at could have been avoided. This is because the 'etc.'
supplies so many other deities and worshiping aids apart from pratimā.
Shankara himself has supplied these in the Kenopanishat bhashya 1.5: Viṣṇu,
Iśvara (Śiva), Indra, Prāṇa, etc. as upāsya devatās. Thus, all these other
deities explicitly mentioned by Shankara and other ones too are included in
another 'etc.' Shankara himself uses in grouping these in just the earlier
line: brahmādidevān (deities that are Brahmā, etc.).
Thus, even if Linga, etc. are not mentioned by Shankara, he does include
them as well in his 'etc.'. Such subtleties can be grasped ONLY by those
who have studied the Shankara commentaries under traditional Acharyas who
will not gloss over these sentences/expressions of Shankara while teaching.
Evidently Clark does not have such an exposure. So, the traditional
Advaitin will not take his views seriously. I gave the above explanation
just because you brought his views with a question:
//What do the learned members of this list think of these observations?//
While I had amply covered before most of the points you have cited by you
(in my writings that are available on the internet and also in the archives
of this forum), one aspect I had not taken up and that I am addressing
//- in the BSB (3.4.20), Adi Shankaracarya equates vanaprasthas with a
group of orthodox vaishanavas called vaikhaanasas.//
Shankara does not do such a grouping. Nor does the term 'vaikhānasa'
pertain to a vaiṣṇava sect here. It is a general term used to denote a
I shall add that quite contrary to Clark's conclusion, Shankara has not
endorsed in his prasthātraya bhashyas even a single important tenet of
Vaiṣṇavism as we understand that term/following today. On the contrary he
has denounced several of such tenets explicitly as unvedāntic. Shankara's
commentary on the Vishnu Sahasra Nāma (which many vaishnavas hold as his
authentic work) espouses and establishes Shiva-Vishnu non-difference.
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