[Advaita-l] 'Vishnu' is also 'anya devatā' according to Shankara

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Wed Apr 26 13:31:46 EDT 2017

In continuation of the original post on this topic, here is an additional
key reference in the Bhagavadgita and the bhashya:

The theme of the original post is: if a person looks upon a deity as
different from himself, and therefore, realizing himself as limited,
propitiates a deity for limited fruits, such deity is 'anya devata' 'that
which is different from the aspirant.'  Shankara brings out this idea with
great force in this bhashya for the Gita 4.12:

काङ्क्षन्तः कर्मणां सिद्धिं यजन्त इह देवताः ।
क्षिप्रं हि मानुषे लोके सिद्धिर्भवति कर्मजा ॥ १२ ॥

4.12 Longing for the fruition of actions (of their rites and duties), they
worship the gods here. For, in the human world, success from action comes

Shankara introduces this verse with the following question:

यदि तव ईश्वरस्य रागादिदोषाभावात् सर्वप्राणिषु अनुजिघृक्षायां तुल्यायां
सर्वफलप्रदानसमर्थे च त्वयि सति ‘वासुदेवः सर्वम्’ इति ज्ञानेनैव मुमुक्षवः
सन्तः कस्मात् त्वामेव सर्वे न प्रतिपद्यन्ते इति ? शृणु तत्र कारणम् —

['If Your wish to be favourable is the same towards all creatures on
account of the absence of the defects of love and aversion in You who are
God, and You are there with Your capacity to grant all rewards, why then do
not all, becoming desirous of Liberation, take refuge in You alone with the
very knowledge that Vasudeva is everything?' As to that, hear the reason
for this:]

काङ्क्षन्तः अभीप्सन्तः कर्मणां सिद्धिं फलनिष्पत्तिं प्रार्थयन्तः यजन्ते इह
अस्मिन् लोके देवताः इन्द्राग्न्याद्याः ; ‘अथ योऽन्यां देवतामुपास्ते
अन्योऽसावन्योऽहमस्मीति न स वेद यथा पशुरेवं स देवानाम्’ (बृ. उ. १ । ४ । १०)
श्रुतेः ।* तेषां हि भिन्नदेवतायाजिनां फलाकाङ्क्षिणां *क्षिप्रं शीघ्रं हि
यस्मात् मानुषे लोके, मनुष्यलोके हि शास्त्राधिकारः ।

4.12 Kanksantah, longing for, praying for; siddim, fruition, fructification
of the results; karmanam, of actions; yajante, they worship; iha, here, in
this world; devatah, the gods, Indra, Fire and others- which accords with
the Upanisadic text, 'While he who worships another god thinking, "He is
one, and I am another," does not know. He is like an animal to the gods'
(Br. 1.4.10). [This text points out that the reason for adoring other
deties is the ignorance of the Self, which gives rise to the ideas of
difference between the worshipped and the worshipper. As animals are
beneficial to human beings, so also is the sacrificer to the gods, because
through oblations he works for their pleasure!]

The key sentence of the bhashya to be noted is: * तेषां हि
भिन्नदेवतायाजिनां फलाकाङ्क्षिणां..*

These people offer worship to deities who are different from themselves.
The vision of difference stems from the aspirant, that Shankara articulates
as:  "He is one, and I am another," on the basis of the Bṛ.up. he has cited

One can see the exact reflection of this idea in the Kenopanishat 1.5
bhashya, where too, Shankara has stated the case of those who meditate on
gods with the idea that  "He is one, and I am another,".

So, the criterion for 'anya devatā' is: the perception of difference by the
aspirant with respect to a deity. If he thinks 'Vishnu is one and I am
another', then the deity Vishnu is also 'anya' for him. [ananyāḥ cintayanto
mām...is the opposite of this]. If the difference were not to be perceived,
he will be at once non-different from Brahman. One can recall Shankara's
remark in BGB 9.23:

ननु अन्या अपि देवताः त्वमेव चेत् , तद्भक्ताश्च त्वामेव यजन्ते । सत्यमेवम् —

Is it not that even the 'other' devata-s are also You (Nirguna Brahman)
alone and therefore those who worship those 'others' are also actually
worshiping you alone? Yes, it is true. [In this remark Shankara holds that
there is no real difference across devata-s (including Vishnu); they are
all vivarta-s of Nirguna Brahman.].


On Tue, Apr 25, 2017 at 10:48 PM, V Subrahmanian <v.subrahmanian at gmail.com>

> 'Vishnu' is also 'anya devatā' according to Shankara
> My post on the above topic appears to be not listed in the Advaita l
> forum, perhaps due to length of post.  Those interested can read the post
> here:
> https://adbhutam.wordpress.com/2017/04/25/vishnu-is-also-
> anya-devata-according-to-shankara/
> regards
> subrahmanian.v

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