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Introduction: Refutation of Hari-Hara Aikya Vada

The Illogical Premise of Hari-Hara Aikya (Shiva=Vishnu) Vada
It is well known that ancient advaitins, including Shri Shankara Bhagavatpada and his immediate disciples, were  Vaishnavas. This will be proven in the following passages. Before that, let us examine the claims of the modern day smArtas. They claim that both vishNu and siva are equal (though most are either shaiva or outright vishNu dvEshIs in their outlook) and they try to discredit vaishNavas by saying the following things:
  1. Adi Shankara established Shanmata and Advaita is “above” distinctions of devatA.
  2. The “Hari and Shiva are One” is more secular and tolerant.
  3. There is nothing to be gained by limiting Brahman to one form.
  4. That it is quite possible to be a vishNu bhakta and a shiva bhakta equally.
Point 1) has been disproved by this blog. Although advaita does not recognise bhEda at the paramArtika sath, there is a strong recognition of devata tAratamya (not very unlike that of the dvaitins, their bitter opponents!) at the vyAvahArika sath. Further proof will follow.
Point 2) is highly illogical. Secularism, etc are political, social and cultural concepts. They are not tools for determining the supreme truth of the veda.
Point 3) is also quite ridiculous. By saying Shiva is not Brahman, we are not limiting Brahman. For that matter, neither you or I are Brahman and that certainly does not limit vishNu. Of course, everything is Brahman in a philosophical sense of sharIrAtma bhAva and aprthak siddhi, but that is another matter.
Point 4) is a contentious issue now. Our opponents, the modern day smArtas say, “Hey look! My so-and-so relative wears Bhasma and he worships Rama. I go to a vishNu temple and a shiva temple, upon which I feel the same ecstasy on worshipping both. Why are you then insisting on a rigid path?”
Firstly, the shAstra is very clear that Parabrahman is only One. That One is nArAyaNa-vishNu. That nArAyaNa-vishNu takes avatArAs. And from the shAstra, we know that shiva is neither listed as an avatAra of bhagavAn and nor is he declared as Parabrahman anywhere. There are vAkyas differentiating shiva from nArAyaNa and hence, shiva is not parabrahman, but a jivAtma only. He controls his lingas and mUrthys in temples via his jnAna, whereas nArAyaNa pervades his suddha sattva divya mangala vigraha by both svarUpa and svabhAva in temples.
Secondly, let us address the issue of worshipping both deities. The Vaishnava, ie, Vaidika claim is simple. By eka bhakti alone can one understand vishNu-nArAyaNa properly. So, while it is possible to worship n number of deities along with vishNu, the anubhava and knowledge of Brahman gained from such worship is extremely poor. This we shall illustrate with the example of none other than Appayya Dikshita, who is arguably the sole prop for all these hari-hara aikya vAda claims.
Appayya Dikshita initially claimed to be above sectarian differences, ie, he did not care whether vishNu or shiva was Brahman, but as time progressed, he tried his best to establish shiva over vishNu, shiva with vishNu and umA as his “saktis”, a “sadAshiva” or “turIya brahman” above the trimUrthy and so on. His changing stance itself shows his utter inability to prove any of these.
However, modern day smArtas hail him as a great scholar and go to the extent of fabricating tales about him (such as him “transforming” tirupati srinivAsa into shiva). They also claim that Appayya’s compositions on vishNu such as varadarAja sthava prove two things – 1) It is possible to be a shaiva and still worship vishNu, 2) He was unbiased thus in his worship.
Point 2) here is dismissed. No doubt he composed stOtras on vishNu, but that was only due to his own admittance in the Ananda-lahiri that were he to transgress the divine utterances of the rishis that nArAyaNa was sAkshAt parabrahman, his head would burst into a thousand pieces. In that sense, his stutis of vishNu are simply like a reluctant performance of nitya karmas – he did it because he had to; he was only a very staunch shaiva in the guise of a vedAntin.
Regarding his scholarship, no doubt he was learned, but what is the use of knowledge in grammar and logic without the correct comprehension of tattvas? Despite all his scholarship, Appayya Dikshita, severely lacked an understanding of bhagavad kalyAna guNas. And this demolishes the claim that one can wear bhasma and worship rAma, krishNa, etc. Yes, maybe such people can worship vishNu, but the comprehension of his kalyAna guNams will always be alien to them.
Let us prove this. It is well known that Appayya Dikshita wrote a commentary on yAdavabhyudaya, the mahA-kAvyam of srI vedAnta desikan. Those knowledgeable of the shAstra will say that this kAvyam rivals and excels the rAmAyaNa of vAlmiki maharishi himself in its deep and profound knowledge of bhagavad kalyAna guNams.
smArtas also trumpet that Appayya’s commentary was an asset to even sri vaishnavas and mock the latter by saying that it required Appayya’s intellect to understand Desikan. The answer to this is – Appayya Dikshita’s commentary does not measure to even a tithe of the grandeur of yAdavabhyudaya. SrI vedAnta desikan was an AchArya of the highest order, one deeply immersed in vishNu bhakti, who had delved into the ocean of bhagavad guNas and extracted the choicest nectar from the veda. On the other hand, Appayya Dikshita was a mere scholar and a shaiva who could not understand a single one of bhagavad guNas. Let us illustrate with some examples from his commentary on yAdhavabhyudaya:
(Note: This write-up is derived from the great kAnchi mahAvidwAn, srI prativAdi bhayankaram annangarAchAriar swami’s refutation of Appayya Dikshita’s inadequate commentary on yAdavabhyudaya).
In Chapter 1 of yAdavabhyudaya, srI nigamAnta mahAguru declares that KrishNa is “Valavee jana vallabham”, the beloved of the gopis. The reason given for this is the guNam of bhagavAn known as “sousIlyam”. SousIlyam is defined as “mahathah mandhaihi saha neerandhra samslesha svabhaavah” – he who is great and unapproachable, makes himself a friend of the lowly ones. Thirumangai Azhwar has stated this in his pEriya thirumozhi as “Ezhai Edhalan Kizhmagan Ennadh irangi” – The lofty one (srI rAma) who descended to make friends with Guha. After all, is it not a wonder that the all-pervading Brahman, the source of infinite universes, assumes a form and enters this universe, insignificant among so many other universes and makes friends with gopIs, who are lower than even the great devas, who have no knowledge of the shAstra? Is it not an unimaginably blissful and wonderful phenomenon? You are actually seeing that great paramAtma who is declared as beyond speech and mind by the veda becoming your friend and allowing himself to be chastised and toyed with by yaShoda, the gOpIs, etc. This is “sousIlyam”.
Appayya Dikshita in his commentary, defines sousIlyam as follows, “He who enjoys  the uninterrupted union with Mahalakshmi was also able to enjoy the company of the simple cowherd girls is the proof of His sousIlya”.
The great scholar wrongly defines sousIlyam as a guNam that means bhagavAn can enjoy bhOgam of both the gopIs and srI mahAlakshmi! This commentary not only defines “sousIlyam” incorrectly, but is also so devoid of any anubhava (as compared to the previous explanation) that it saps the life out of the krishNa leela itself! One can easily see that this commentary is not that of a person matured in krishNa bhakti. And even this commentary does not make sense – What exactly is so significant about him being able to enjoy the company of both mahAlakshmi and the gopIs? And where did he get this distorted definition for “sousIlyam”?
Let us take another instance in the yAdavabhyudaya. The fourth chapter has krishNa’s act of subduing kAliya by dancing on his 5 hoods. Here, vedAnta desikan implies that the incident has an inner meaning. This meaning is given by the AchArya himself in his stOtra on srI rAmAnuja, yatirAja saptati, as follows:
vigaahe yaamunaM tiirthaM saadhu bR^indaavane sthitam.h.
nirasta jihmaga sparshe yatra kR^iShNaH kR^itaadaraH (yatirAja saptati – 8)
We shall bathe in the holy waters of Yamuna (Alavandhaar), who has severed all connections with mean passions and attachment, who stood steadfast in safeguarding the Saadhus, and in whom the things emphasised by Krishna were present perfectly. (A second meaning: We shall bathe in the holy waters of Yamuna river, form which poisonous snake had been removed, which is close to Brindhavanam, and in which Krishna was interested).
naanaabhuutair.h jagati samayair.h narma liilaaM vidhitsoH
antyaM varNaM prathayati vibhor.h aadima vyuuha bhede.
vishvaM traatuM viShaya niyataM vya~njitaanugrahaH san.h
viShvakseno yatipatira bhuud.h vetra saaras.h tridaNDaH (yatirAja saptati -32)
Who is Ramanuja? The Lord has created many religious system - which are fighting against one another- almost as a mischievous sport, so to say. His first- beginningless- vyUha form, VAsudeva. Took a latter-day avtaar as a dark-hued Krishna. During Kali yuga, in which people get drunk with hedonistic pleasures, the Lord sent Vishvaksena, who, by His Grace, took birth (as Ramanuja), the wand (the whip) in his hand, becoming the thridaNdam of Ramanuja.
And the third slOka,
kutarka vyaalaughaM kumati mata paataaLa kuharam.h (yatirAja saptati -56)
The darkness of conceit and the baseless arguments, indulged in by vile speakers of contesting systems, who can be likened, for their effect, to snakes.
From all these slOkas, we get the following inner meaning given by srI vedAnta desikan for kaliya mardhana – The river yAmuna is the vedas. The 5 hoods of kAliya represent the 5 different incorrect systems of philosophy – 1) Those who claim there is no Brahman, 2) Those who claim that several deities are Brahman, 3) Those who claim that the trimUrthy is Brahman, 4) Those who claim that Shiva and VishNu are equally Brahman, 5) Those who claim that the “sadAshiva” is turIya Brahman over the trimUrthy.
These 5 darshaNas are like venomous hoods of kaliya spewing poison on the Vedas likened to yamuNa. KrishNa (whose other name is rAmAnuja, ie, the younger brother of balarAma) dances on the snake and crushes it; just like srI rAmanuja destroys these wrong darshaNas with his crystal clear logic.
This is indeed a lofty and wonderful anubhava of the Acharya. Even those who do not belong to srI rAmAnuja’s system can take the general meaning that the incident refers to the destruction of wrong systems of philosophy by BhagavAn.
However, our scholar, Appayya Dikshita, gives a bland and uninteresting meaning for this slOka, against the opinion of the kavi, as follows – “When Krishna started dancing on the hoods of Kaliya it reminded of his subduing the five indhriyas of His devotees extricating the poison of the sensual desires.”
Indriya nigraham is a commonly known tattva and has been declared in shAstra. Such a basic meaning hardly does justice to the magnitude of the incident. This shows that Dikshita, for all his scholarship, lacked the basic knowledge to understand the inner meaning of incidents.
Noting this, srI PBA Swami jocularly remarks in his khandaNa of appayya dikshita’s commentary – “After all, Appayya Dikshita himself is one of the hoods of that snake on which KrishNa is dancing, so we cannot expect him to understand or elaborate this meaning!”
The third error occurs right after this incident. When NandagOpa hears of bhagavAn subduing Kaliya, he (NandagOpa) performs a ritual to ward off all evil eyes. SrI nigamAntha mahA desikan praises NandagOpa here as “paramArtha vEdi:”, ie, One who has crystal clear knowledge of the parama purushArtha.
What is the Acharya implying here? The answer is this – NandagOpa did not see that his son was parabrahman, had defeated the mighty snake. His overpowering love for KrishNa blinded him to the paratva (supremacy) of krishNa. He only saw krishNa as his son, who had been in danger and rushed to ward off evil eye even though krishNa had adequately proven himself to be Brahman. This ignorance, as swami pillai lOkAchArya puts it in “srI vachaNa bhUshaNam”, is not ordinary ignorance, but is the outcome of the ripened knowledge that is bhakti and understanding of the sousIlyam of bhagavAn as well as his soukumAryam (tender and soft nature). And thus, srI vedAnta desikan hails the act of warding the evil eye from krishNa as the “parama purushArtham” of the veda, ie, kaimkaryam or service, performed by NandagOpa.
And what does Appayya Dikshita say here? His commentary, trite as ever, reads – “NandagOpa performed the ritual to seek the protection of krishNa who had subdued kaliya”.
In other words, Appayya Dikshita has shown himself to be the very opposite of NandagOpa and as someone who has no clue of the sousIlya guNa of krishNa, always looking at his paratva (supremacy)!
This is just a sample. There are many such errors in Appayya Dikshita’s commentary on yAdavAbhyudaya. This shows that Appayya Dikshita was not qualified to write a commentary on this work and there is nothing for the modern day smArta to boast about here; rather those who profess to follow him must be ashamed of his poor understanding bhagavad guNams.
This write-up is to dispel the claim of the smArtas that it is possible to worship several deities and still be a vishNu bhakta. This is refuted because the very definition of “vishNu bhakta” is someone who understands and experiences the kalyAna guNams of bhagavAn vishNu. And as seen here, someone like Appayya Dikshita, who constantly gave distorted meanings to shAstra and tried to deny the absolute supremacy of vishNu, could never understand bhagavad leelas. This sets apart the exclusive worshippers of vishNu, ie, the true vaidikas beginning with Adi Shankara, and the modern day “hari-hara aikya vAdIs” who claim they worship rAma, krishNa, etc with bhasma on their foreheads.
And now, a further refutation of this “hari-hara aikya vAda” shall follow from the words of ancient advaitins themselves. You can read them under the “hari-hara aikya vAda” and "Advaita and Vaishnavism" sections in the menu above.