As we approach the month of Margashira and eagerly wait to recite the glories of vAtapurAdhIsha by singing the mellifluous hymns of shrImannArAyaNIyam, the racing mind has already entered the limits of gurupavanapura.
The heart of the parama bhAgavata Sri Narayana Bhattathiri sees in Shankara a parama vaiShNava for Shankara is a crystal mirror that reflects one's own belief system, retaining always the light of kevalAdvaita:
shrIsha~Nkaro.api bhagavAn sakaleShu tAvat
tvAmeva mAnayati yo nahi pakShapAtI |
tvanniShThameva sa hi nAmasahasrakAdi
vyAkhyad bhavatstutiparashcha gatiM gato.ante || 5 ||
O Lord, Jagadguru Adi Shankara Bhagavatpada is regarded widely as unbiased and equally respectful towards all saguNa mUrtis of Brahman. But it seems to me that it is your form as mahaviShNu that he is more attached to. He wrote commentaries on viShNu sahasranAma, on bhagavdgItA and not on shiva sahasranAma or shiva gItA. While he could have commented on many such works referring to shiva shivaparatayA) as parama puruSha, he chose to sing praises of shrImannArAyaNa even in works that refer to concepts beyond the saguNa mUrti. Traditionally, it is also believed that the final composition of sha~Nkara was shrImatpAdAdikesha stuti that celebrates the divya ma~NgaLa svarUpa of the parama puruSha. These suggest that Thou Lord were his iShTa mUrti.
Like every bhakta who sees his iShTa as the Supreme, Bhattathiri sees shrIhari as the paramotkR^iShTa mUrti and states his reasoning for the same:
Shvapi tava hi mahattvaM sarvasharvAdijaitram |
sthitamiha paramatman niShkalArvAgabhinnaM
kimapi yadavabhAtaM taddhi rUpaM tavaiva ||
Dear Lord! From various purANic episodes such as those of vR^ikAsura, bhR^igu, ambarISha etc., your atishaya mAhAtmya that transcends the glory of other forms such as sadAshiva becomes easily evident. We have also studied episodes such as indrayAga, nandaharaNa, bAlAnayana etc., where your mAhatmya has been described as transcending that of deities such as indra, varuNa, yama, anala, brahma and others. The reason such a statement can be made is because Thou verily are the Brahman without attributes who shines in forms such as brahmA and sha~Nkara.
The same is stated in bhAgavata as below:
sattvaM rajastama iti prakR^iterguNAstaiH
yuktaH paraH puruSha eka ihAsya dhatte |
sthityAdaye hariviri~nchihareti saMj~nAH
shreyAMsi tatra khalu sattvatanornR^iNAM syuH || [1, 2, 23]
But don't we have similar statements about other forms like mahAdeva such as the one below:
evameko mahAdevo mAyayA guNarUpayA |
nAmarUpakriyabhedaiH bhinnavat pratibhAsate ||
Bhattathiri replies thus:
prAhuH parAtmavapureva sadAshivo.asmin |
tatreshvarastu sa vikuNThapadastvameva
tritvaM punarbhajasi satyapade tribhAge ||
The shaivas describe the Supreme as Paramashiva or Sadashiva, who is panchAtmaka, embodying the five forms namely brahmA, hari, rudra, mahesha and sadAshiva. But you have been saluted as viShNuM pa~nchAtmakaM vande in bhAgavata and viShNu purANa indicating your abhedatva from the Supreme Vastu that the shaivas call sadAshiva. It is Your Supreme form that manifests as the triad in satyAdi lokas.
While this does establish the fact that Thou are Supreme, is shiva keshavAbheda stated repeatedly and variously:
ahaM tvaM sarvago deva tvamevAhaM janArdana |
AvayorantaraM nAsti shabdairarthairjagatpate || [harivamshe]
The bhAgavata hR^idaya of Bhattathiri is immediately equipped with an answer to this argument:
tatrApi sAttvikatanuM tava viShNumAhuH
dhAtA tu sattvaviralo rajasaiva pUrNaH |
sattvotkaTatvamapi chaste tamovikAra-
cheShTAdikaM cha tava sha~NkaranAmni mUrtau ||
Among the three forms of the Supreme, it is the mUrti of mahaviShNu that is described as shuddhasattvamayI:
rAjaso bhagavAn brahmA sAttviko viShNuruchyate |
IShattamoguNo rudraH sR^ijatyavati hantyajaH ||
But has not the worship of mahAdeva been prescribed for all, by statements such as the one below:
ambikApatirIshAna upAsyo guNamUrtibhiH |
IshvaraH paramAtmaiko mAyayA sa tridhA sthitaH ||
Now Bhattathiri begins to explain his stand:
taM cha trimUrtyatigataM parapUrushaM tvAM
sharvAtmanApi khalu sarvamayatvahetoH |
shamsantyupAsanavidhau tadapi svavastu
tvadrUpamityatidR^iDhaM bahu naH pramANam ||
But Lord, you are the Supreme that is beyond the three guNAtmaka mUrtis that the shaivas describe as shiva. There is ample scriptural proof that sharva is thy aspect.
To prove his point, Bhattathiri resorts to the example of Adi Shanakara, described verily as the Shankara, and the knower of All:
mUrtitrayAtigamuvAcha cha mantrashAstra-
syAdau kalAyasuShamaM sakaleshvaraM tvAm |
dhyAnaM cha niShkalamasau praNave khalUktvA
tvAmeva tatra sakalaM nijagAda nAnyam ||
The Great Guru composed a treatise on Mantra Shastra named prapa~nchasAra. He commences the work with the stuti of Thy mUrti:
svaniShpattiM cha kR^ityaM cha te vichintya samAvidan |
vaktAramajamavyaktamarUpaM mAyinaM vibhum ||
mUrtyAbhAsena dugdhAbdhau jhaShasha~NkhasmAkule |
shayitaM shAr~NgiNaM sharvashauripadmabhuvastathA |
X X X
taM dR^iShTvA taralatmAno vidhyadhokShajasha~NkarAH |
svAmin prasIda vishvesha ke vayaM kena bhavitAH |
kiM mUlAH kiM kriyAH sarvamasmabhyaM vaktumarhasi ||
Thus, Adi Acharya has described Thou residing in mahAvikuNTha as transcending the mUrtitraya. Further, after describing niShkala praNavopAsanA for the uttamAdhikArin, shrImadAcharya, when dealing with the saguNa dhyAna for shuddha praNava, describes Thy form and not of others. He declares the mantra to be sarvamantrasamavAyI in line with the shAstras and the devatA of this mantra as paramAtmAkhyastathA devatA:
shronIbhUShaM savakShomaNimakaramahAkuNDalAmaNDitA~Ngam |
vidyotadbhAsamudyaddinakarasadR^ishaM padmasaMsthaM namAmi ||
Does he not state thus, dear Lord, that Thou indeed are the Truth beyond the Trinity as also the special significance of Thy mUrti named shrImannArAyaNa?
Sri Bhattathiri views a personality such as mAdhava vidyAraNya (described here as shivapara probably due to his association with Hakkaraya, Harihara and others) asserting the Supremacy of shrImannArayaNa in his work purANasAra (with which we shall deal shortly in a separate thread):
yadbrAhmakalpa iha bhAgavatadvitIya-
skandhoditaM vapuranAvR^itamIsha dhAtre |
tasyaiva nAma harisharvamukhaM jagAda
shrImAdhavaH shivaparo.api purANasAre ||
Note: Alternatively, Bhattathiri here could be referring to the work purANasAra as shivapara rather than shrIvidyAraNya and this interpretation seems to be more logical.
But has not vyAsa declared the pracChannatva of viShNu's tAmo guNa by describing his sattva as merely vyApArika:
goptA viShNustamomUrtiH vyApAreNa tu sAttvikaH ||
Bhattathiri responds thus:
ye svaprakR^ityanuguNAM girishaM bhajante
teShAM phalaM hi dR^iDhayaiva tadIyabhaktyA |
vyAso hi tena kR^itavAnadhikArihetoH
skAndAdikeShu tava hAnivacho.arthavAdaiH ||
Dear Lord, has the following not been told in the shAstra:
yasyecChA jAyate yasmin taM devaM sa samAshrayet ||
Based on ones inclination that arises out of vAsanA, one should worship the desired mUrti of the Supreme.
Based on that, for those whose adhikAra is in the worship of girisha, vyAsa has made such statements that seemingly deprecate you and elevate the mAhAtmya of Shambhu. When the Antarya of bAdarAyaNa is understood, it becomes clear that such statements are mere arthavAda.
There are three forms of arthavAda:
The statements belonging to the category described above are merely viruddhavAda (pramANAntaraviruddhArthakathanam) and their objective is not to deprecate nArAyaNa but rather to describe the glory of the upAsanA of girisha to tadadhikArins.
Finally, Bhattathiri submits to the feet of Lord thus:
yatki~nchidapyaviduShA.api vibho mayoktaM
tanmantra shAstra vachanAdyabhidR^ishTameva |
kleshAn vidhUya kuru bhaktibharaM parAtman ||
O Lord, whatever I have stated here, ignorant as I am, is not svayaM kalpita but instead the words of great men such as vyAsa and sha~Nkara and statements from mantra shAstra and purANa. Their words are to be accepted as pramANa for various reasons apart from the fact that there is shAstra pramANa for what they have stated. They are recognized as men of wide learning and as knowers of various modes including those dealing with shivAdi svarupas. And more importantly, they are qualified to comment on the Antarya of various shAstra vAkyas because of their realization of the Supreme Tattva which pervades Agama and nigama as the core essence. And my practice of gurUpadiShTa mantra shAstra has, through direct experience, confirmed these statements. Please accept my namana, dispel my ailments and instill in me firm devotion to Thy Lotus Feet.
AviShkR^itaM sapadi yena nR^isiMharUpaM
nArAyaNaM tamapi vishvasR^ijaM namAmi ||