SIVA, THE SUPREME VAISHNAVA
by Gaur Sharan Das
Srimad Bhagavatam is an amazing collection of the glories and activities of Sri Krsna and His devotees, the Vaisnavas. The Bhagavatam declares Lord Siva to be the greatest of all Vaisnavas (vaisnavanam yatha sambhuh, 12.13.16). Lord Siva’s special position, his personality and activities are very fascinating to now.The following is a short collection of various attributes and activities of Lord Siva from the Bhagavatam.
Srila Prabhupada writes about Lord Siva (in 4.30.24P) as follows: “Lord Siva is not actually like a living entity, but he is not the Supreme Personality of Godhead. His position is somewhere between Visnu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and Brahma, the living entity. Lord Siva is therefore explained in Brahma-samhita (5.45) in this way:
ksiram yatha dadhi vikara-visesa-yogat
sanjayate na hi tatah prthag asti hetoh
yah sambhutam api tatha samupaiti karyad
govindam adi-purusam tam aham bhajami
Lord Siva is considered to be like yogurt (dadhi). Yogurt is nothing but transformed milk; nonetheless, yogurt cannot be accepted as milk. Similarly, Lord Siva holds almost all the powers of Lord Visnu, and he is also above the qualities of the living entity, but he is not exactly like Visnu, just as yogurt, although transformed milk, is not exactly like milk.”
Learned scholars in transcendental subjects have carefully analyzed the summum bonum Krsna to have sixty-four principal attributes. All the expansions or categories of the Lord possess only some percentages of these attributes. But Sri Krsna is the possessor of the attributes cent percent. And His personal expansions who are all visnu-tattva, possess up to ninety-three percent of these transcendental attributes. Lord Siva, who is neither avatara nor avesa nor in between them, possesses almost eighty-four percent of the attributes. (SB 1.3.28P)
Lord Siva is considered the father of this universe, and material nature goddess Durga is considered the mother. Siva is neither the Supreme Lord nor a living entity. He is the form through which the Supreme Lord works to beget living entities within this material world.
Siva’s Post – A Gunavatara
Lord Siva is the god of annihilation responsible for the destruction of the universes during the partial and complete devastations of the universe, that happen at the end of the day and the end of the life of Brahma respectively. The transcendental Personality of Godhead is indirectly associated with the three modes of material nature, namely passion, goodness and ignorance, and just for the material world’s creation, maintenance and destruction He accepts the three qualitative forms of Brahma, Visnu and Siva. (SB 1.2.23P)
The dissolution of the three worlds is effected by the incarnation of darkness, Rudra (Siva), represented by the fire of eternal time which blazes over the three worlds (3.11.28P). The Supreme Lord Himself in the form of Rudra, the destroyer, will annihilate the complete creation as the wind displaces the clouds (2.10.43P).
Siva’s Personality – Asutosa
From being simple hearted to being tricky, from being easily pleased to blazing with anger, we can see mutlifacets of Lord Siva’s personality, all in the service of his dear Lord Sri Krsna. He exhibits dependence, surrender and service to Krsna and His devotees.
One of the prominent attributes of Lord Siva is being pleased with anyone very quickly. Amongst all the demigods, Lord Siva can be pacified even by the lowest class of men, who need only offer him obeisances and leaves of a bael tree. Thus his name is Asutosa, which means that he is pleased very quickly (4.24.25P). Being Asutosa, Siva is approached by various people who could be demigods, demons, human beings both pious and impious, devotees of Krsna and so on.
However, as Lord Siva knows the intentions of everyone, he tricks the demons, satisfies the materialists and blesses the simple hearted with devotional service, offers heartfelt benedictions to devotees and takes association of advanced devotees of the Supreme Lord. In this way Lord Siva benedicts different people according to their position and at the same time exhibits his devotion unto the Lotus feet of the Supreme Lord.
Siva’s Mercy On The Vaisnavas
Although Lord Siva bestows benedictions to various people including devotees and demons alike, there is a gulf of difference in the way he benedicts them. With the pure devotees of Lord Krsna, Siva is always pleased. How much he is pleased with Krsna’s devotees can be seen in the manner he appears even uninvited.
yah param ramhasah saksat
prapannah sa priyo hi me
Lord Siva says, “Any person who is surrendered to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna, the controller of everything—material nature as well as the living entity—is actually very dear to me.” (4.24.28) Pracetas are the ten sons of Pracinabarhi, a king in the dynasty of Dhruva. They went to perform devotional austerities to please Lord Krsna, before taking up the charge of the kingdom. Knowing this, Lord Siva voluntarily came in front of them to show his mercy upon them by guiding them in devotional service of Vasudeva. Thus He taught them the Rudra-gita. (4.24)
Similarly, Lord Siva voluntarily came to Markandeya Rsi, a great devotee of the Supreme Lord and glorified his devotional attributes and gave him benedictions of knowledge, renunciation, realization of Krsna and the post of spiritual master of the Puranas. (12.10) Siva also had appeared to a brahmana who was sincere in spiritual life and guided him to Sanatana Gosvami.
Siva’s ‘Mercy’ On The Demons
(Siva’s Dependence On Visnu)
Although Siva’s mercy is easily available for Krsna’s devotees, the demons and others have to undergo some endeavor at least to please him, although he is easily pleased. Lord Siva utilizes these demons to show his dependence, subordination and shelter under his worshipable Lord Krsna. He also tricks them by offering them benedictions which externally seems favoring them however ultimately leads to their destruction. Various materialistic and demoniac people like Salva, Ravana, Bana, Jayadratha and Kasiraja were eventually destroyed even though they had summoned Lord Siva by their austerities and received benedictions. Siva appears before these demons as an official formality as a part of his post.
For instance, once a demon named Vrkasura worshipped Lord Siva by offering pieces of his own flesh as oblations into the fire. But Siva did not appear. So Vrka prepared to cut off his head. Then the supremely merciful Lord Siva rose up out of the sacrificial fire, and stopped him offering him whatever boon he chose. Vrka said, “May death come to whomever I touch upon the head with my hand.” Upon hearing this, Lord Siva seemed somewhat disturbed. Nonetheless, he was obliged and vibrated om to signify his assent, granting Vrka the benediction with an ironic smile, as if giving milk to a poisonous snake. Wicked Vrka tried to test the benediction by putting his hand on Siva’s head. Terrified, Siva fled and finally reached Lord Visnu in svetadvipa. Then Visnu disguised Himself as a young student and went before Vrkasura and bewildered him to put his hand on his own head thus causing his destruction. (10.88)
Thus the benedictions Lord Siva gives to the demons generally end up glorifying Visnu as the ultimate protector. Siva thus takes pleasure in praising his beloved Lord.
Another aspect of Lord Siva’s personality is his anger.He exhibits anger as part of his post for the destruction of the universe. However, Rudra annihilates the entire universe with his anger born out of compassion as well as intolerance due to seeing conditioned souls not taking to devotional service and wasting time.
Lord Siva exhibited anger towards Daksa not because he insulted him but he caused the death of Sati, his dear devoted wife. Previously when Daksa cursed Lord Siva in the great sacrificial assembly, he didn’t react but silently tolerated. When he saw the cursing and countercursing of the brahmanas and his own followers he became morose and left the arena without saying anything (4.2.33). However, when he heard from Narada Muni that Sati was now dead because of Daksa’s insulting her, Siva became greatly angry and created Virabhadra from his hair and ordered him to kill Daksa (4.5).
Siva actually uses anger to rectify people as a rightful father or spiritual master of all beings. He told Lord Brahma that he doesn’t take the offenses of the demigods seriously, but would punish them only to reform them as a teacher (4.7.2). In this way Siva’s anger is in the service of the Lord and to rectify the living beings and never for his personal end.
When the demigods and the demons churned the of milk, deadly poison came out in the beginning. All of them, being helpless took shelter of Lord Siva by offering him fervent prayers. Lord Siva who is always benevolent toward all living entities spoke to his consort Sati, “It is my duty to give protection and safety to all. Even though conditioned souls fight with each other in animosity, devotees, even at risk of their lives, save them. When one performs benevolent acts, Lord Visnu is pleased, and that pleases all jivas and me. Let me drink poison for the happiness of all jivas.” Bhavani, who knew perfectly well Lord Siva’s mood and capabilities, gave him her permission. Auspicious Siva drank the poison for the benefit of everyone. The poison created a blue line on his neck. However, it is now accepted as an ornament of the Lord Siva.
sadhavah prayaso janah
Great personalities almost always accept voluntary suffering because of the suffering of people in general. This is considered the highest method of worshiping the Supreme Lord, who is present in everyone’s heart. (8.7.44)
Thus Lord Siva’s various attributes of mercy, anger, benevolence and his several activities are a display of his great character and devotion to the Supreme Lord Visnu. In his great devotional ecstasy, he even holds the water (Ganges) that emanates from the Supreme Lord’s lotus feet on his head. He is the epitome of devotion to Visnu, and thus is the topmost Vaisnavas.