How do we reconcile different Puranic versions of the origin of Lord Shiva?
Trahscribed by : Geetanjali Nath
Question: How do we reconcile different Puranic versions of the origin of Lord Shiva?
Answer: Firstly we have to understand that the vedic scriptures are reciprocal in terms of the level of consciousness of the seeker. That means Krishna says “Ye yetha maam prapadyante, tams tathaiva bhajame aham, BG 4:11“, As all surrender to me I will reward accordingly. So this what does the reward refer to ? it can refer to many things in BG7:21-23 , Krishna describes the system of demigod worship, and there He says, yo yo yam yam tamam bhakta, shraddharyachitam icchati, tasya tasya chalam shraddhaham, tam eva vedadhamy aham “, As people desire to worship, accordingly I make their faith strong in that particular deity.so whatever deity a one long to worship that will make the faith strong. So tasy tasya achalam shraddaham. I will make the shraddha achalal, Krishna is saying. That means that Krishna gives faith to those who are worshiping the Gods to keep worshiping the god, those who desire to worship the god , Krishna gives them the faith by which their faith in those gods become strong. So does He give this faith ? many ways, one is that He as a super soul encourages what ever the inclination is, second is he arranges for them to associate with others who are worshiping that particular deity, thirdly he also gives picture which glorify that particular devata. Now matsya purana describes that the eighteen Purana are classified into three levels , goodness, passion and ignorance. So for the goodness recommend the worship of Vishnu, those in passion ,recommend the worship of Brahma, and those who are in ignorance, recommend the worship of Shiva. So now we may have , we have behaviourant description of the origin of Lord Shiva, depending on which puranas one refers to . That is because the reality is at-least as far as the seeker is concerned, as far as the worshiper is concerned, is stats specific. So its not that the Shiva puran will describe Vishnu as supreme, although Vishnu is described as a very important person, but Shiva puran will focus on describing Shiva as supreme. Why ? because, that is the way the faith of the Shiva worshipers will be enhanced. and that’s why tasya tasya achalam shraddhadam, tam eva vedadhamy aham, Krishna says,. That way the faith will be enhanced , that also involves describing the origin in a particular way. So that means the Shiva puran will not explicitly talk about ,say, how Shiva is subordinate to Vishnu. That is natural, because that is the way the faith of the worshiper is preserved. Now there are eighteen puranas, and after writing all these puranas , vyasadeva himself first was not satisfied, and that’s why he wrote the Bhagavatam. Actually, after writing the bhagavatam, he became fully satisfied,. So from the author’s own description, we understand that it is vyasadeva who is given the conclusion in the Bhavagatam. and therefore if we want to know how Lord Shiva originates, we should primarily focus on the Bhagavatam, So the Bhagavatam describes that Lord Shiva appears from Bhrhamaji, now we see where is Lord Shiva described in Bhagavatam. So third canto he is described, ofcourse his description comes in several places, but third canto there is the process of creation that is described, there it is described how after Brahma is born, Brahma becomes angry because the Kumaras are not ready to obey his instruction to procreate. and so that’s why his anger gets expressed from his fore head as rudra, so there it is described that …………sarvagnato bhavete, that means that Lord rudra emerged from his body and then he became omniscient , that’s the description. Omniscient means – all knowing. So it is described that Lord Shiva has omniscience within the universe. One of the name of Lord shiva is Vishvanath, Kashi Vishvanath is a famous temple. So Vishvanath refers to one who is the Lord of the universe, in contrast Lord Vishnu is described as anantakoti brahmanda nayak, that is not used for Shiva. So we move foreward, Bhagavatam the forth canto again talks about lord Shiva, but there it is said that it is Brahmaji who is going to worship lord Shiva, that in the fifth and sixth chapter where Daksha has offended Lord Shiva and then the Daksha’s daughter, Dakshayani, the wife of Lord Shiva, the self emulation, she commits suicide and Lord Shiva becomes angry and his followers are devasted Daksha sacrifice,and then after that again , to pacify Lord Shiva , Brahmaji goes himself, and there the way the things are described is Shiva is described as superior to Brahmaji. So Brahmaji himself glorifies him as much much more superior, and his abode is also described as extremely glorious. So in that sense , ofcourse there are again many other past times, but from the philosophical position perspective , these two are important . In the eight canto there are two past times, one is the amrut manthan, churning the ocean, at that time, one could say that in the seventh chapter when Lord Vishnu also asked devatas to go to Shiva to have the poison being drunk by him, some people caould interpret that Lord Shiva is superior to Vishnu, But in that same canto in twelveth chapter it is described also that how Lord Shiva becomes deluded by Mohini murti and runs after her, and there not only does he run after her, but what does he speak after that, after that he speaks that, ” actually you are the supreme lord and you alone could have put me in illusion. no body else could have put me in illusion like this. So now what , if we look at the broad scope of the Bhagavatam.it is understood that from there that there is the eternal abode vaikuntha then there is devidham, there is material world which is presided over by the godess, in between them, between Haridham and Devidhamm, is Mahesh dham. and that Mahesh dham is also eternal. So now devi dham includes not just this universe but all universes. So now if we have Shiva who is born in this world also , in this universe through Brahmaji who is creator of this universe, then how can we have Lord Shiva’s existence as above Davis dhama, whose dhama includes all the material universes. so this indicates that there are multiple manifestations of Lord Shiva , So the Shiva who exists above the devi dham , is , named as Sada shiva. and His abode is eternal. also and that’s why he is called as sada Shiva, and there he along with his followers eternally glorify and worship the Supreme Lord. But for his followers, they glorify him, understanding that he is the glorious devotee or the Lord. But for all practical purposes, their primary object of glorification combined is the Supreme Lord but their glorification is done through Shiva . So they are Shivaite vaishnavas. So they are ultimate vaishnavas, because they are glorifying the Supreme Lord, but they are Shivaite vaishnavas. So it is like we can have Ramanuja vaishnavas, or Sri vaishnavas, Madhav vaishnavas, gaudia vaishnavas, so like that they are Shiva vaishnavas. and so the worship of the devatas can be done in various ways, one is of-course , where people consider a particular devata to be independent supreme, second is that they consider devata to be a temporary manifestation of Brahma, that means if I want to go to the devata’s above and I consider devata which is considered as pratik upasana, Pratik means symbol, in english it is called as catanotheism, . Theism means worship of God. Enotheism means that , that absolute is formless but you can worship him in some form. and Catanotheism means you can worship him in which ever form you like. So the catanotheistic form of worship of the devatas can also be done. some people have that idea that ultimately if we go beyond the devata and merge with the particular with the brahaman, who is beyond the devata. Then demigod worship the devata worship can also be done using the idea of the devatas are departmental heads and one want specific things and one goes to devatas, one is not really concerned about who is the supreme. and the fourth is that one understands that the devatas are the devotees of the supreme Lord and one worships them as devotees and as one’s spiritual guide. So that’s why we cannot just simplistically categorize a particular devata upasak in any particular catagory, it may be depending on the individual conception and consciousness. The consciousness of the absolute truth and consciousness in terms of one’s own level of practice , sat guna, raja guna, tamo guna that way. So in general if we look at the vedic scripture in totality the bhagavatam is the amala puran, it is the ……puran and it is called as sarva pramana chakravarty bhutah, it is emperor of all the pramanas. so that’s why we focus primarily on the Bhagavatam for understanding who is supreme , but beyond that and how the different devatas manifest, but if find other , the worshipers of other devatas , giving different version based on the scripture , which they have faith in, then we don’t have to have a major conflict with them, so we see that Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu at one time a shiva upasak came, and Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu appreciate him in navadveep, and actually that |Shiva upasak was glorifying Lord Shiva and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu heard the glories of Lord Shiva pleasurly. So Chaitany |Mahaprabhu also composed Shivashtaka, which is actually in the forth …….. that means. he glorify Lord Shiva as a great devotee of Lord Vishunu, but that does not mean that in every verse he is emphasizing it, that aeeeyyeee he is not supreme , he is not supreme, it is not like that, he is just saying that oh how great is that Lord Shiva on whose head the ganga dissends and who protects the fall of the ganga, So he glorifys him , but then its clear that this the Lord Shiva who’s heart if constantly absorbed int he glories of the Lord Hari. So rather than creating conflict or having controversies we have to understand that the vedic path is a allows for multilevel worship and we encourage people to open-mindedly inquire and to understand the vedic conclusion but if people are , say, attracted to a particular devata, then our goal should be to elevate people, not contradict and confuse people. So it may happen that somebody is a Shiva upasak, and then we have conflict and then he quotes from shiva puran and we quote from vishnu puran or bhagavat puran and then the person becomes confused and says hey all scriptures are all contradicting and I cannot understand anything, and let me forget all this whole thing and I will become materialistic atheistic. Then we have not done any service actually we have done dis service, so therefore what is important is that we get a clear understanding based on scripture and then we practice sincerely, the more we practice sincerely, things will become clearer and clearer to us further also things will our practice and our resulting purification will enable others also to understand more clearly , how they should best progress in their spiritual life.