[Advaita-l] What is Krishna's 'tattva'?
v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Sat Nov 18 13:52:48 EST 2017
The word 'tattva' means: tasya bhāvaḥ tattvam. The true nature of a thing
is called tattvam.
Shankara says BSB 1.1.21:
कथमेतदवगम्यते ? ‘येनाक्षरं पुरुषं वेद सत्यं प्रोवाच तां तत्त्वतो
(मु. उ. १ । २ । १३)
प्रकृतस्यैवाक्षरस्य भूतयोनेरदृश्यत्वादिगुणकस्य वक्तव्यत्वेन
Here the word 'tattva' of the Mundakopanishat is given the meaning: That
Source of the Beings that cannot be seen with the eye, etc.
We have in the Bh.Gītā the Lord saying:
यावान्यश्चास्मि तत्त्वतः ।
ततो मां तत्त्वतो ज्ञात्वा
विशते तदनन्तरम् ॥ ५५ ॥
He who knows Me as the Vishvarupa and also As I am actually in truth, thus
having known Me actually, he becomes one with Me immediately.
Shankara says: भक्त्या माम् अभिजानाति यावान् अहम् उपाधिकृतविस्तरभेदः, यश्च
अहम् अस्मि विध्वस्तसर्वोपाधिभेदः उत्तमः पुरुषः आकाशकल्पः, तं माम् अद्वैतं
चैतन्यमात्रैकरसम् अजरम् अभयम् अनिधनं तत्त्वतः अभिजानाति । ततः माम् एवं
तत्त्वतः ज्ञात्वा विशते तदनन्तरं मामेव ज्ञानानन्तरम् । नात्र
ज्ञानप्रवेशक्रिये भिन्ने विवक्षिते ‘ज्ञात्वा विशते तदनन्तरम्’ इति । किं
तर्हि ? फलान्तराभावात् ज्ञानमात्रमेव, ‘क्षेत्रज्ञं चापि मां विद्धि’ (भ. गी.
१३ । २)
Shankara gives the Tattva of Bhagavān: By devotion one knows Me with the
upādhi-created expansive form (Vishvarūpa), and 'As I am' free of all
upādhis, the Supreme Purusha, Brahman, just like ether, Advaitam, without
any kind of second, Pure Consciousness, free of old age, fear, death, thus
knowing Me 'tattvataḥ', As I Am in truth...Having secured the right
knowledge of Me, he 'enters' Me. Shankara raises a question, with a teaser:
Is this 'entering' the Lord mean anything like: After knowing, one enters
later?'. No. Then what does the Lord say: By using the word 'viśate
tadanantaram', 'enters immediately upon knowing'. There is no fruit other
than knowing, as the Lord has said in the 13.2: Know Me as the Kshetrajna
Shankara is reiterating the Vedānta siddhānta: there is no two-step
procedure here: first know and then enter. It is jnanamātrāt mokṣa. He has
said this elaborately in the BSB 184.108.40.206, samanvaya sutra bhashya. This is
The point that is made here is: There is a need to know the Truth 'as it
is.' And what is apparent is not the truth as it is. The tattvataḥ jnānam
is a must. This is because the Krishna that one sees and converses with is
a body-mind complex, that has a date of birth and a date of disappearance.
So with Rama or any other avatāra of Brahman. So, what one gets to see and
even hear is usually a sopādhika brahman. Hence the need to stress that the
liberating knowledge is of the nirupādhika Brahman which cannot be grasped
by the senses; it is not upāsya, which is a-brahma and an-ātmā, but the
nirupādhika Brahman which alone is/can be non-different from the Atma of
the seeker. Thus, it is the knowledge of the nirguṇa tattvam that
constitutes 'knowing Rāma or Krishna or any other tattvataḥ or tattvena'.
Only a Vedantin can know thus tattvataḥ; others who cannot grasp the
nirguna tattva of Krishna, etc. cannot get the Vedanta tattva; it is only
a-tattva, a-brahma, anātmā, that they end up with.
Even when one refers to one's iṣṭa devatā, it is the tattva that is being
actually referred there. So says Anandagiri, for example, in the
introduction-invocation of the Bh.Gi.Bhāṣya of Shankara: नारायणः
परोऽव्यक्तात्....Anandagiri says: it is the iṣṭadevata's *tattva* that is
being invoked here by Shankara.
Here are two etymological meanings for the word 'Kṛṣṇa' and 'Rāma':
In the Bhagavadgita Bhashyam 6.34 Shankara has given an etymology to the
कृष्ण इति कृषतेः विलेखनार्थस्य रूपम् । भक्तजनपापादिदोषाकर्षणात् कृष्णः,
तस्य सम्बुद्धिः हे कृष्ण ।
The word krsna is derived from the root krs in the sense of 'uprooting';
He is Krsna because He uproots the defects such as sin etc. of devotees.
There is a popular etymology in a verse form:
कृषिर्भू-वाचकः शब्दो णश्च निर्वृतिवाचकः ।
तयोरैक्यं परं ब्रह्म कृष्ण इत्यभिधीयते ।।
’kṛṣiḥ' connotes Existence, Sat, and 'ṇa' is Bliss. The combination of
these two is Supreme Brahman known by the name 'krṣṇa'. It is said to be
in the Gopālatāpinyupaniṣat.
The Mahabharata too contains a similar verse:
कृषिर्भूवाचकः शब्दो णश्च निर्वृतिवाचकः।
विष्णुस्तद्भावयोगाच्च कृष्णो भवति सात्वतः ।। 5-69-5a 5-69-5b
The name 'Kṛṣṇa' occurs in the Śivasahasranāma' too of the Mahabharata.
"रमन्ते योगिनोऽनन्ते सत्यानन्दे चिदात्मनि ।
इति रामपदेनासौ परं ब्रह्माभिधीयते ।।"
The word Rāma is derived thus: ra-ma - ramante yogino anante satyānande
cidātmani. iti rāmapadena asau param brahma abhidhīyate. That Para Brahman
which is Infinite, Eternal, Bliss, Consciousness in which yogin-s revel is
denoted by the name 'rāma'.
'Keśava' - Shankara, alternatively, has given an etymological meaning for
the name in the VSN Bhāṣya number 23: कश्च अश्च ईशश्च त्रिमूर्तयः केशास्ते
यद्वशेन वर्तन्ते स केशवः ।
[Brahmā, Vishnu and Shiva are the trimūrti-s - all of whom are under the
control of that entity which is called Keśava.] Thus Shankara clubs Viṣṇu
too along with the other two and shows Viśṇu is also under the control of a
higher authority. This is the greatest contribution of Shankara to the
lofty cause of Vaiṣṇavism : ) This is in addition to his naming Viṣṇu as a
samaṣṭi jīva in the Mundaka bhāṣya and quoting from the Kaṭharudropaniṣad
in the Brhadaranyaka bhashya (for sannyasa, which is also cited by
Vishveshvara Saraswati in the yatidharma sangraha) which also holds Viṣṇu
as the foremost of jivas by showing Shiva as the Jagatkāraṇam. Of course
the VSN reference to Rudra as the 'Shivah parama kāraṇam' of the (tāmasic)
Shiva purāṇa is another such service to Vaishnavism by Shankara. All these
will go down in the history of Vaishnavism with Shankara as the greatest
There is another way of looking at the 'tattva' of Krishna:
The Skandopanishat and the Mahabharata have explicitly said शिवाय
विष्णुरूपाय शिवरूपाय विष्णवे....whereby Viṣṇu's/Kriṣṇa's tattva, heart, is
Śiva. Krishna has said in the Mahabharata that he worships his Self, Shiva
(nārāyaṇātmaka = he who is the ātmā of nārāyaṇa), thereby exemplifying the
Brhadaranyaka statement 1.4.8 तदेतत्प्रेयः पुत्रात्प्रेयो
वित्तात्प्रेयोऽन्यस्मात्सर्वस्मादन्तरतरं यदयमात्मा ।' That which is the
innermost is the dearest for oneself. Shankara commenting on this
अन्तरतरम् , यदयमात्मा यदेतदात्मतत्त्वम् । That which is the innermost is
this Atmatattvam (taught by the Upanishad). Thus, for Krishna, the
ātmatattvam is Shiva.
शिवाय विष्णुरूपाय शिवरूपाय विष्णवे ।
शिवस्य हृदयं विष्णुः विष्णोश्च हृदयं शिवः ॥८॥
यथा शिवमयो विष्णुरेवं विष्णुमयः शिवः ।
यथान्तरं न पश्यामि तथा मे स्वस्तिरायुषि ॥९॥
यथान्तरं न भेदाः स्युः शिवकेशवयोस्तथा ।[Skandopaniṣat]
[(obeisance to Śiva who is of the form of Viḷṣṇu, and to Viṣṇu of the form
of Śiva. Śiva's heart (self) is Viṣṇu and Viṣṇu's self is Śiva. Just as
Viṣṇu is fully verily Śiva, so too Śiva is fully verily Viṣṇu. As I do not
see any difference between them, let me be prosperous and long-lived. Let
there be no difference between Śiva and Keśava. In fact the Mahabharata
itself contains a similar verse:
शिवाय विष्णुरूपाय विष्णवे शिवरूपिणे ।।
दक्षयज्ञविनाशाय* हरिरूपाय* ते नमः। 3.39.76 (*हरिरुद्राय*) [These are the
words of Arjuna to Lord Śiva.]
In the Harivamśa, an extension of the Mahabharata, we have Markandeya's
मार्कण्डेय उवाच॥ शिवाय विष्णुरूपाय विष्णवे शिवरूपिणे। अथान्तरं न पश्यामि
तेन ते दिशतः शिवम् ।
Sridhara Swamin has, in the invocation to the Srimadbhāgavatam, captured
the essence of this purāṇa:
माधवोमाधवावीशौ सर्वसिद्धिविधायिनौ। वन्दे परस्परात्मानौ परस्परनुतिप्रियौ॥
I bow to Mādhava and Umādhava (Shiva) who are both 'Isha-s' Supreme Lords. They
are capable of bestowing all accomplishments (to their devotees). They are
both the selves of each other and both love to engage in the stuti of each
other. Thus, the Self, which is the dearest for one, is Shiva in the case
of Krishna/Vishnu. The Vishnupurana commentary of Sridharaswamin contains
the episode of Vishnu offering his very eye in worship of Shiva. One can
gauge the love of Vishnu for his Self.
Also, the Nrsimha uttara tāpini upanishat has given an advaitic etymology
for the name 'nr-simha'. Thus Nrsimha tattva is also Nirguna Brahman. To
sum up, Keshava, Krishna, Vishnu (vyāpana śīla), Rāma, Nrsimha - all have a
tattva that is different from what is generally connoted by those names.
That tattva is Nirguna Brahman. In the Shiva sahasra nāma occurs the name
Says the Mahabharata:
रुद्रो नारायणश्चैव सत्त्वमेकं द्विधा कृतम्।
लोके चरति कौन्तेय व्यक्तिस्थं सर्वकर्मसु।। 12-350-27a 12-350-27b.
O Kaunteya, Rudra and Narayana are one principle manifesting as two going
about in the world...
Om Tat Sat
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