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My reflection on Advaita/Vishishadvaita

Discussion in 'Same Faith Debates' started by Viraja, Mar 1, 2013.

  1. Viraja

    Viraja Jaya Jagannatha!

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    Namaste everyone,

    I am going through Fundamentals of Vishishtadvaita siddhanta (by S.M.S.Chari) where many points are given about Advaita too and thus slowly reflecting on both siddhantas when I am reading about god and other matters pertaining to vedanta.

    It is discussed that while some shrutis/smritis claim Narayana to be the supreme, some others consider Shiva to be the supreme. And there are, as one could expect in a book on Vishishtadvaita, support given to the 'Narayana Brahman' view as one could expect 'Shiva Brahman' view in a book on Advaita.

    However in Vishishtadvaita siddhanta, when discussing a Jivatman, attributes are discussed. Such as knowledge being an attribute of Jivatman. Similarly all dhravyas are considered being formed of attributes, and god or Brahman is a 'dhraya' or one who is a substrate for attributes.

    At this point, I started wondering about Shiva and Narayana. I started wondering, because our scriptures uniformly declare Narayana as being the 'preserver', and Shiva being the 'destroyer', and in many places declaring that 'Narayana is Shiva' or Narayana or Shiva themselves saying 'I am HE'. (I know a story where Shiva says this about Narayana). Then I started wondering why cannot there be a part of the same Brahman that is called Narayana and another part 'Shiva'?

    If we look at the picture of Narayana, he lies on serpent bed on an ocean. This to me signifies that Narayana verily forms the 'antaryami' or 'soul' of all created beings and as such, does his duty of preserving them while in bondage (serpent) until they are ready for moksha...

    And Shiva who drank poison which resides in his Blue throat has a coiled serpent around his throat which to me signifies as if Shiva saying, "I am incharge, as lord of destruction, to relieve a bonded Jivatman (poison in the throat) when time comes and promote him to mukti (serpent around the neck)". He is also said to give 'Rama nama taraka mantra' to souls who passed away in Kashi - the city that grants mukti and thus to me, it appears he is the grantor of mukti..

    I know this may sound as not making sense to some as Sriman Narayana is also known to grant mukti and Shiva is also supposed to be the 'father soul', but based on their declared function and some reflection on what their pictures could signify - this is some attempt at looking beyond the mystery.

    Please let me know your thoughts.

    I am sorry if my post inadvertently insults anyone, as it is not supposed to.

    To moderators - if my post isn't appropriate for any reason, kindly delete it.
     
  2. Thorbjorn

    Thorbjorn Þórsmaðr Staff Member Premium Member

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    Shivasya hridayam vishnur vishnoscha hridayam shivah - "Vishnu is the heart of Shiva and likewise Shiva is the heart of Vishnu".

    I believe they are flip sides of the same coin... one and the same.
     
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  3. Viraja

    Viraja Jaya Jagannatha!

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    I agree. As my post suggests, I have started to regard as Brahman is truly '1' but there are special parts of him related to preserving function viewed as Narayana and other parts related to the destructive/moksha-giving function that is called as 'Shiva' - and I think while these two are inter-related being part of the same Brahman, they still maintain distinctness by way of doing separate roles - which is why Narayana accepts Tulsi while Shiva rejects it and while Shiva accepts Bilwa, Narayana rejects it.
     
  4. Viraja

    Viraja Jaya Jagannatha!

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    Our scriptures are indeed 'mysterious' to say the least...! We have a ton of them and we also do not lack in the amount of saints that had real knowledge and access to god, but nobody has laid down any work establishing both Shiva and Narayana to be one at the same or atleast related very closely... I wonder why.
     
  5. Thorbjorn

    Thorbjorn Þórsmaðr Staff Member Premium Member

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    The quote comes from the Skanda Purana, I believe. But Swami Sivananda repeated it. It's the basis of the Swaminarayan school. There's a little article on Wiki under Harihara. I'm not pushing it, just that there is indeed a basis for it.
     
  6. Viraja

    Viraja Jaya Jagannatha!

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    Thank you, Jai. I will look through Wiki under Harihara.
     
  7. atanu

    atanu Member

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    The highlighted part above is insulting to many. Frankly speaking, the one who writes such purport is foolish. The purport is directly against Vedas and Upanishads and also contradicts the Bhagavatam itself.

    Bhagavatam is primarily a Vaisnava purana, which is not sruti. Yet, the Bhagavatam, itself has the following:

    Churning of the Ocean
    17. The Supreme Lord appeared like a blackish cloud. He was dressed with yellow garments, His earrings shone on His ears like lightning, and His hair spread over His shoulders. He wore a garland of flowers, and His eyes were pinkish. With His strong, glorious arms, which award fearlessness throughout the universe, He took hold of Vasuki and began churning the ocean, using Mandara Mountain as a churning rod. When engaged in this way, the Lord appeared like a beautifully situated mountain named Indranila.
    18. The fish, sharks, tortoises and snakes were most agitated and perturbed. The entire ocean became turbulent, and even the large aquatic animals like whales, water elephants, crocodiles and timingila fish [large whales that can swallow small whales] came to the surface. While the ocean was being churned in this way, it first produced a fiercely dangerous poison called halahala.
    19. O King, when that uncontrollable poison was forcefully spreading up and down in all directions, all the demigods, along with the Lord Himself, approached Lord Siva [Sadasiva]. Feeling unsheltered and very much afraid, they sought shelter of him.
    21. The prajapatis said: O greatest of all gods, Mahadeva, Supersoul of all living entities and cause of their happiness and prosperity, we have come to the shelter of your lotus feet. Now please save us from this fiery poison, which is spreading all over the three worlds.
    22. O lord, you are the cause of bondage and liberation of the entire universe because you are its ruler. Those who are advanced in spiritual consciousness surrender unto you, and therefore you are the cause of mitigating their distresses, and you are also the cause of their liberation. We therefore worship Your Lordship.
    23. O lord, you are self-effulgent and supreme. You create this material world by your personal energy, and you assume the names Brahma, Visnu and Mahesvara when you act in creation, maintenance and annihilation.
    24. You are the cause of all causes, the self-effulgent, inconceivable, Supreme Brahman. You manifest various potencies in this cosmic manifestation.
    25. O lord, you are the original source of Vedic literature. You are the original cause of material creation, the life force, the senses, the five elements, the three modes and the mahat-tattva. You are eternal time, determination and the two religious systems called truth [satya] and truthfulness [rta]. You are the shelter of the syllable om, which consists of three letters a-u-m.
    26. O father of all planets, learned scholars know that fire is your mouth, the surface of the globe is your lotus feet, eternal time is your movement, all the directions are your ears, and Varuna, master of the waters, is your tongue.
    27. O lord, the sky is your navel, the air is your breathing, the sun is your eyes, and the water is your semen. You are the shelter of all kinds of living entities, high and low. The god of the moon is your mind, and the upper planetary system is your head.
    28. O lord, you are the three Vedas personified. The seven seas are your abdomen, and the mountains are your bones. All drugs, creepers and vegetables are the hairs on your body, the Vedic mantras like Gayatri are the seven layers of your body, and the Vedic religious system is the core of your heart.
    29. O lord, the five important Vedic mantras are represented by your five faces, from which the thirty-eight most celebrated Vedic mantras have been generated. Your Lordship, being celebrated as Lord Siva, is self-illuminated. You are directly situated as the supreme truth, known as Paramatma.
    30. O lord, your shadow is seen in irreligion, which brings about varieties of irreligious creations. The three modes of nature--goodness, passion and ignorance--are your three eyes. All the Vedic literatures, which are full of verses, are emanations from you because their compilers wrote the various scriptures after receiving your glance.
    31. O Lord Girisa, since the impersonal Brahman effulgence is transcendental to the material modes of goodness, passion and ignorance, the various directors of this material world certainly cannot appreciate it or even know where it is. It is not understandable even to Lord Brahma, Lord Visnu or the King of heaven, Mahendra.
    32. When annihilation is performed by the flames and sparks emanating from your eyes, the entire creation is burned to ashes. Nonetheless, you do not know how this happens. What then is to be said of your destroying the Daksa-yajna, Tripurasura and the kalakuta poison? Such activities cannot be subject matters for prayers offered to you.
    33. Exalted, self-satisfied persons who preach to the entire world think of your lotus feet constantly within their hearts. However, when persons who do not know your austerity see you moving with Uma, they misunderstand you to be lusty, or when they see you wandering in the crematorium they mistakenly think that you are ferocious and envious. Certainly they are shameless. They cannot understand your activities.
    I have highlighted the important points with red fonts that show that the purport itself is foolish. Girisa, mahadeva is described by the sages, and including Vishnu, as the Supreme Truth. Mahadeva is described as source of brahmA, Visnu, mahesvara. He is the source of the Vedas, the world, the gods, the beings. Exalted persons worship His feet. He being situated transcendentally, the material directors of the universe, namely, brahmA, Vishnu, or Indra, do not know where He is.
    ------------------------
    My intention is not to fuel any argument, since it is immature and fooilish to imagine that the Supreme Truth, in whatever name known, can have a second to it. My intention is that in this western forum, non-indians should not get a distorted view.

    Some western translators have naively or maliciously equated importance of vedic names with their number of occurences, entirely ignoring the fact that all worship is directed towards the Inner Being, which is nameless yet is called advaita shiva.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 7, 2013
  8. atanu

    atanu Member

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    Your question is about the darsanas or about the Deities?:)
     
  9. Viraja

    Viraja Jaya Jagannatha!

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    Namaste Atanuji,

    When I started writing, I wanted to point out the differences (and of some fundamental thoughts) between Advaita and Vishishtadvaita. For example, S.M.S Chari's book says in several places how in Advaita, there are thought to be 2 Brahmans - one a highest reality (or Nirguna Brahman) and another a less higher reality (of Saguna Brahman). But here the individual souls or jivas are considered to be part of the Nirguna Brahman itself, but just in a modified state due to the 'mana'. Whereas in Vishishtadvaita, there is only one Brahman but individual souls are considered to be forever altered states of Brahman (and thus a reality not just illusory) which is why there is no 'oneness' with Brahman even at Mukti.

    These concepts of either 2 Brahman or Brahman different from Jivan made me think about Shiva and Vishnu deeply and I started thinking that if it is possible to consider attributes for Brahman (as Brahman is a substrate who can have attributes), then why not it be that 'preserving' be an attribute of Brahman and thus a part of Brahman is dedicated to the preserving attribute (called Narayana) and another part of Brahman dedicated to destructional attribute (called Shiva).

    So even though my probing started with the philosophies, it ended up with the deities... And so now my question is whether it is possible that both Narayana and Shiva are parts of the same Brahman and that they are still distinct owing to the different nature of their attributes alone and what you all might think of this new proposition?

    I hope I don't sound blasphemous with my 'new' proposition claim but I am only using already established thought of some that Narayana and Shiva are one and the same... just adding a layer of distinctness here as stated above..

    Hope I don't sound confusing or absurd. :)
     
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  10. Thorbjorn

    Thorbjorn Þórsmaðr Staff Member Premium Member

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    I'm going to post a quote, and paraphrase it so as not to actually plagiarize or break any rules. Let no one think I'm trying to discourage this pursuit, but I think the post makes sense, providing a valid p.o.v., at least for me, considering how I've been wrestling with the ontology and soteriology of Vedanta. Consider my Vendanta DIR post about Kashmir Saivism. I've put my 2 cents comments and editing in [ ].

    Here goes...

    To be perfectly honest I don't think anyone needs or even should learn about these philosophies. Personallly they have confused the heck out of me and my simple brain. I think for a regular 'joe' learning about these philosophies is not necessary and in fact should be discouraged as they create confusion. [boy can I relate to that!]

    I think in the past they were taught to a 'qualified' student [by a qualified guru]. Note the word 'qualified' i.e. before you even start you must have some qualification. I strongly believe that this was the right way to do things.

    On the other hand I can see why these philosophies are now widely available and to a certain point perhaps that's also good [the internet and library can be a good place, or dangerous] but since we left the 'qualification' piece and forgot about it and thus any [joe schmoe] can pick up a book and try to comprehend and interpret it depending on his own mental capacity they cause confusion instead of enhancing ones spiritual pursuits. Thus the problem [we face]. [and boy can I relate to that too!]

    That being said, I took on this as a personal a challenge kind of like if a person had no legs and wanted to run just for the challenge of it. In a similar way, I have simple mind but I do try to study different philosophies ... just for the challenge of it. {something I think I need to put aside, and focus more on getting to know God on a personal level; He will sort out the fine details for me after this life].

    So to answer [the] question, [we] should only learn about these philosophies if [we] want a personal challenge. I don't think learning about them will enhance [our] spiritual pursuits in fact quite the opposite [can happen]. [and tjis has indeed distracted me from daily bhakti].

    So again, no discouragement or offense is intended in these studies. It's just something to consider. ;)
     
  11. atanu

    atanu Member

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    Namste Viraja

    Not at all. This topic remains confusing till realisation. :) I will come back with more, if required. At this stage, I will note the following:

    1. Advaita darsana must not be studied from a book meant to discuss visistadvaita.
    2. There are not two Brahman-s according to advaita, which holds that the nirguna is the reality that appears as saguna. Guna-s are three: sattwik, rajasic, and tamasic. These guna-s are of prakriti-mind. Brahman is transcendental to the mind and its guna-s. When, the nirguna Brahman is seen with the spectacle of mind, the nirguna appears as saguna. This aspect is also mentioned in nasadiya sukta.

    Gita says:
    Chapter 13
    Sarvendriyagunaabhaasam sarvendriyavivarjitam;
    Asaktam sarvabhricchaiva nirgunam gunabhoktru cha.
    15. Shining by the functions of all the senses, yet without the senses; unattached, yet supporting all; devoid of qualities, yet their experiencer,

    Anaaditwaan nirgunatwaat paramaatmaayam avyayah;
    Shareerastho’pi kaunteya na karoti na lipyate.
    32. Being without beginning and devoid of (any) qualities, the Supreme Self, imperishable, though dwelling in the body, O Arjuna, neither acts nor is tainted!
    ------------------------

    I will not go into many details now but note few main points.

    Visistaadvaita and also dvaita proponents hold the above niguna brahman as the inferior Brahman, being mere emanation from a big colorful person situated somewhere else.


    OTOH, Advaita considers the Brahman to be transcendental to gunas, as guna-s are the ground of tainting, which cannot be admitted for Brahman. Further Sruti declares "One who sees any difference here goes from death to death." On this point, advaita and dvaita go together.
    • Dvaita considers jiva-s and Brahman as distinct and separate. And never a jiva attains one-ness with brahman (which in my knowledge contradicts sruti). Moksha is the acceptance that jiva is eternal servant of Sri Hari.
    • Visistaadvaita considers the essential quality of jiva and brahman (Sri Hari) to be the same, namely, knowledge. Moksha is a state where the jiva achieves one-ness with Brahman in terms of all knowership and possessing qualities free from all worldly evils and defects, yet remains separate. Brahman has infinite knowledge Jiva has limited knowledge. As per VA, jiva-s comprise the body of brahman. This is not acceptable to dvaita or to advaita.
    • Advaita sees no difference between brahman and jiva. Brahman alone appears in multi-role of Ishwara (saguna brahman), universe, and jivas.
    But all these intellectual aspects are actually irrelevant since all darsanas require surrender and devotion.

    You will see that by the very nature of the philosophy, all schools, except the advaita school, has to uphold a personal montheistic ruler God, namely Shri Hari. Whereas, Vishnu actually means all pervasive and cannot have any localised form. A personal God no doubt helps in maintaining loving devotion.
     
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  12. atanu

    atanu Member

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    Regarding shiva and vishnu:

    The Vishnu means all pervasive, which can only be meaningful in case there are many to be pervaded. Without many, the pervasion has no meaning at all. So, essentially, Vishnu is the all pervading controller of all names-forms. Vishnu again as a transcendental whole is non-dual shiva. But one who comprehends non-duality will not even hold the idea that the non-dual has two beings.:)

    Rudra adhaaya of the Yajur Veda has the following prayer:

    Bhagavate Rudraya Vishnave mrityume pahi
    Om. Salutation to the omnipresent Bhagavan Rudra. Protect me from death.


    So, there not two non dual persons. Shiva is non-dual, in truth, yet assumes the role of all pervading vishnave, when in association with shakti. Vishnu is all pervading when associated with shakti, yet is non-dual shiva, in truth.
    :)
     
  13. Viraja

    Viraja Jaya Jagannatha!

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    That was an excellent explanation, Atanu ji! It is new to me, for the first time I am hearing about Shiva's association with Shakti being considered as Vishnu! That is quite some thought indeed. Thank you very much.

    Also thank you for considering some of the salient features and differences between Advaita/VA and so forth.. As I progress further, I will revisit and remember these points which will help me get a clarity in my understanding!

    Appreciate your helpful insights! :)
     
  14. Viraja

    Viraja Jaya Jagannatha!

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    Jai, that has been the most discouraging post ever! :rolleyes:

    Well, you can say I am challenged to the point I can try some heavy weightlifting :shrug:

    If not for anything else, it can atleast help me participate in those forum discussions with some knowledge instead of just simply being a spectator all the time...:rainbow1: And some knowledge can help me get to a still better knowledge if I can relate the same to someone of more knowledge like atanuji for instance... But if I do not participate I get to nowhere being a mere spectator!

    Right now, I am just so much attracted to Sri Ramanujacharya that I wish I atleast know the basics of what he has achieved in his lifelong ventures...But you are right, many parts of the book make me sleep.
     
  15. Thorbjorn

    Thorbjorn Þórsmaðr Staff Member Premium Member

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    As I said, it wasn't meant to be; rather it was meant to be encouraging, in that there are reasons why some of us wrestle with these subjects: they're freakin' hard! It doesn't mean to stop questioning, rather I think it means if one hits a stone wall, don't to try to crash through it, see if there's a way to go around or over it.... use a method other than brute force. These are not easy subjects. I've read time and again that one should not undertake the study of Advaita without a qualified guru; that Advaita is one of the last subjects of learning in Vedanta; learning Vedanta is like climbing a ladder, and so on.

    Warm up first, go light, perfect form. I have 3 partially removed lumbar discs to illustrate that. :p

    Point taken. :yes:

    It may be the translation, the commentary, the exegesis; I'm not familiar with the book. I cannot even read the Mahabharata or Ramayana in their original verse forms. I need to read re-tellings and narratives. I tried reading the Vishnu Purana by H.H. Wilson. After I could see again from my eyes glazing over and uncrossing :areyoucra the book went back to the store, and I found a brief re-telling of the core stories. But that's me. :shrug:
     
  16. atanu

    atanu Member

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    I agree. But if the questions arise then the answers may be sought? Following a particular Vedanta path after comprehending the basic tenets is considered good.



    I agree.

    Yes. But you learned your lesson. :p

    (All paths require surrender and bhakti. But men are not free of prarabdha karma and that may fructify in different ways for different people. Some engage in puja, some in meditation-japa, some in scriptural study and debate. etc. etc.

    Studying and ruminating on the darsana is a sadhana, if ego is kept at bay. Even if the driving force is egoistic argumentation, the eventual result will not be bad.

    But there is no question that if a man can sit still without engaging in some such work (mental or physical), then that man needs nothing.)
     
  17. Thorbjorn

    Thorbjorn Þórsmaðr Staff Member Premium Member

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    True, very good points. That is the beauty of these discussions. Subtle points carry a lot of food for thought. :)
     
  18. Viraja

    Viraja Jaya Jagannatha!

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    How true! You are absolutely right! It has been mere 5 days since I started reading about VA (a 400 page book) and on day 3 I was on page 200! :angel2: How do you think I did that! I skipped about 100 pages completely on nature of knowledge and so forth.. 'cause I couldn't understand ANYTHING! I think I will go through the rest that I am able to follow at first pass then give a second round at a leisurely pace wrestling those I missed at first pass!


    Well, I might as well some of my questions over to you :)

    Oh I cannot think of reading Ramayana/Mahabharata in their original form with translations! I think I will be lost and develop a hatred for the epics! :cover: I am too impatient for such a challenge! (If not, I won't be at page 250 of VA on day 5!) Ha, ha!
     
  19. Thorbjorn

    Thorbjorn Þórsmaðr Staff Member Premium Member

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    Oy!... slow down! I just got a bangeroo of a headache thinking about it. :D

    Any time a'tall. ;)
     
  20. Omkara

    Omkara New Member

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    Huh? Dvaita and VA don't accept the existence of Nirguna Brahman. And the idea of Brahman being an emanation of bhagavan exists only in Gaudiya Vaishnavism.
     
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