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Sarvajnatman's Sankshepa Shariraka – A lucid example of an ancient Advaitic Vaishnava work

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Introduction
This write-up is based on an important advaitic philosophical work of the 9th/10th Century, by an author called "Sarvajnatman". The name of the work is "saN^kShepa shAriiraka". The purpose of these write-ups is to show that in addition to Shankara, ancient advaitins who were his close followers held Vishnu alone as supreme.
Dedication to Vishnu and "viShNoH paramaM padam"
In the very first verse of this work, Sarvajnatma Muni has written the following mangaLa shloka :
"anṛta jaḍa virodhi rūpaṃ antatraya mala bandhana duḥkhatā viruddham ॥
atinikaṭam avikriyaṃ murāreḥ paramapadaṃ praṇayād abhiṣṭavīmi ॥" (1.1)

Translation: “Out of reverence, I praise the Supreme State/Nature of the Slayer of the demon Mura (Lord Vishnu), opposed in nature to falsehood and the non-self-illuminating, opposed to in nature to (i) the threefold limitations (desha - place, kAla - time, and vastu - physicality), (ii) impurity, (iii) bondage, and (iv) suffering, which is very near by virtue of being the individual self’s own true nature, and which is not subject to change.”

And again, Sarvajnatma Muni praises Lord Vishnu in the very last verse:

"bhujaṅgamāṅga śāyine vihaṅgamāṅga gāmine । turaṅgamāṅga bhedine namo rathāṅga pāṇine ॥"

Translation: Salutation to the one who rests on the Serpent (Adisesha), has the bird (Garuda) as His vehicle, who killed the (demon Kesi who came in the form of a) horse, to the one who bears the (Sudarshana) Chakra.

Today’s advaitins try to discredit Lord Vishnu’s supremacy in the Vedas by saying that “viShNu” in “viShNoH paramaM padaM” has to be interpreted etymologically as “all-pervading Brahman” and not as the “Puranic deity”. Here are some examples from a public email discussion group on advaita:

“It is very common to refer to the state of moksha as "viShNoH paramam padam". The word viShNu here need not be taken as a reference to viShNu with form. Rather, it refers to the upaniShadic statements that having created the universe, brahman enters it. The verb root "viS" means to enter, and therefore Brahman is called viShNu.”

“For 'tad viShNoH paramam padam' of the Kathopanishad 1.3.9 Shankara has commented that it is the 'the superior-most abode of VishNu, the vyApanashIla, all-pervading Brahman, the paramAtman, called vAsudeva, in
its TRUE sense, satattvam.'  This qualifying word is crucial: the saguNa aspect is denied and the purified nirguNa Brahman alone is realized to be one's true nature.  So, Shankara has desisted from giving any saguNa-meaning for the term VishNu here.”

However, one can easily see that sarvaj~nAtman is against this view. While he could have written “viShNoH paramaM padaM”, instead he writes “murAreH paramaM padaM” (supreme nature/state of the Slayer of the demon Mura) . Thus, according to ancient advaitins, “viShNuH” in “viShNoH paramaM padaM” only indicates the shankha-chakra-gadA-dhAri, the slayer of mura.

Shri sarvaj~nAtman always relates liberation in advaita to the state/nature of the saguNa-brahman who is endowed with shuddha-sattva upAdhis. See elsewhere:

1.239 – "paramake viṣṇoḥ pade śāśvate"
1.248 – "paramaṃ viṣṇoḥ padam"
1.265 – "bhagavato viṣṇoḥ paramaṃ padam"
1.266 – "paramaṃ padaṃ murāreḥ"
3.55 – "hareḥ paramaṃ padam"
3.144 – "viṣṇoḥ paraṃ padam"
3.291 – "anādy anantaṃ mahataḥ paraṃ dhruvaṃ nicāyanīyaṃ padam īdṛśaṃ hareḥ"

One has to note the usage of the terms “Vishnu”, “Hari”, “bhagavAn”, “murAri” all of which refers to the Supreme Deity of the Vaishnavas only.

Some modern advaitin/smArthas might still claim that "murAri", "hari" etc., just like "viShNu" can still be interpreted using "inner meaning" rather than directly to indicate nirguNa brahman. This is incorrect since:

(i) The commentators on this work, Ramatirtha, Madhusudana, and Nrsimhashrama unanimously agree that "murAri" refers to bhagavAn viShNu only. See for example Ramatirtha's commentary: "Shri Krishna, the one who slayed the asura named 'mura' is called 'murAri', a famous name specified by all purANas. That this is Lord Vishnu Himself, who descended for the protection of the earth, is shown there itself.(muranāmno asurasya hantā śrīkṛṣṇo murāririti sarvapurāṇeṣu prasiddham । sa ca jagatpālanāya kṛtāvatare bhagavān viṣṇureveti ca tatraiva nirṇītam ।)

(ii) Nowhere has the granthakAra (author) used similar phrases related to devatAntaras, like "kailAsa padaM", "nandivAhanasya padaM", "shUlinaH padaM", "pashupateH padaM" etc, which one would expect if the author believed in hari-hara abheda vAda and in "inner meanings" to negate the saguNa mUrti aspect.

As we shall see soon in this series, the author and the commentator Nrsimhashrama specifically negate jagatkAraNatvaM (status of being the universal cause), aparicchinna-jnAna-aishvaryatvaM (status of being the possessor of unbounded knowledge and rulership) for Shiva (in the section on the refutation of kaNAda and pAshupata matas), and in the very next verse says that "according to our siddhAnta, it is the son of vasudeva, who is beyond speech, who is devoid of origin and end, is the cause of the universe which He created effortlessly like the act of breathing". Again, while the author could have used the word "vAsudeva" to describe parabrahman (in which case etymological meanings can be employed to avoid Lord Vishnu), the phrase chosen is "the son of vasudeva". In the verse after that, the author condemns the mAheshvara/shaiva doctrine that shUlabhRt (bearer of the trident) is the author of the Vedas. We shall see the shlokas and the detailed commentaries as we cover the material in proper order.

Enough to say this much to those hari-hara-abheda-vAdins who say "Vishnu, Murari, Hari etc. are not to be interpreted as popular deities in advaita".

Ganga the river is Lord Vishnu's Sri Pada Tirtha

That the river Ganga emanates from Lord Vishnu's feet and that Shiva wishes to bear it, is an affirmation of the Supremacy of Vishnu. This is a fact that Shaivas deny. Appayya Dikshita spells the Shaiva position out very clearly in "Brahma Tarka Stava", saying that there are two Gangas and the one that emanated from Vishnu's foot flow straight to the ocean, becoming useless to the world while the other Ganga originates from Shiva's head and benefits the earth by flowing through the north-eastern plains of the bhArata country.

As we will see now, ancient Advaitins rejected such Shaiva misreadings. Sarvajnatman himself has the following shloka in the same work where he has dedicates the text to the Lotus Feet of Lord Padmanabha. In this verse, the authors prays that his work should bear the dust of Lord Vishnu's feet, just like the river Ganga bears the dust of His Lotus Feet. A confirmation of the Vaishnava faith of ancient advaitins:

"avirala pada paṅktiḥ padmanābhasya puṇyā
caraṇa kamala dhūli grāhiṇī bhāratīyam ॥
ghanataram upaghātaṃ śreyasaḥ śrotṛ saṅghāt
surasaridiva sadyo mārṣṭu māṅgalya hetuḥ ॥"

Translation: May this literary composition, which causes auspiciousness, dense with its arrangement of words, purified due to its association with the dust from Lord Padmanabha’s Lotus Feet, immediately wash away the affliction of saMsAra from those who hear it, just like Ganga -- the river of the devas, which bears the dust of Lord Padmanabha’s feet (gathered during His trivikramAvatAra).

Sarvajnatman's predecessor, Sureshvara brings out the supremacy of Vishnu very clearly in a similar verse in Naishkarmyasiddhi. Note that in addition to stating that Ganga emanates from the foot of Lord Vishnu, Suresvara states that these waters are indeed the one borne by Shiva:

viṣṇoḥ padānugāṃ yāṃ nikhila bhava nudaṃ śaṅkaro'vāpa yogāt
sarvajñaṃ brahma saṃsthaṃ munigaṇaiḥ sahitaṃ samyag abhyarcya bhaktyā ।
vidyāṃ gaṅgām ivāhaṃ pravara guṇa nidheḥ prāpya vedānta dīptāṃ
kāruṇyāt tām avocaṃ jani mṛti nivaha dhvastaye duḥkhitebhyaḥ ॥

(Naishkarmyasiddhi, 4.76) 

Translation: The River Ganga, which flows from the (toe nail on the left) foot of Vishnu was obtained by Shankara (Lord Rudra) through yogic effort. Later Bhagiratha worshiped the all-knowing Rudra, who is surrounded by groups of sages, who is ever fixated on Brahman, with devotion to obtain the river for the salvation of the people of the earth. Similarly, I worshiped the one endowed with great qualities who is called Shankara, who is also all-knowing, surrounded by sannyasis, who is ever meditating on Brahman, who obtained the brahmavidyA that flows from Vishnu's feet, so that out of compassion I can disseminate that brahma-vidyA so that those who are in sorrow due to cycles of births and deaths, may rid themselves of the same.

Maheshvara, the possessor and controller of Maya is none but Vishnu

A famous verse in the shvetAshvatara upaniShad (4.10) states that “one should know mAyA as the prakR^iti and maheshvara as the possessor of the mAyA”. When it comes to the identity of this "maheshvara", ancient advaitins are pretty clear. Take Sureshvaracharya as an example, who first gives the above mantra and the explanatory verse from the Gita consecutively to make its meaning clear, in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad Bhashya Varttika:

“māyāṃ tu prakṛtiṃ vidyānmāyinaṃ tu maheśvaram ।
iti vedaśiraḥsūktistathā codghṛṣyate sphuṭā ॥” (1.4.382)

“daivī hyeṣā guṇamayī mama māyeti ca smṛtiḥ ।
vaiṣṇavī khalviyaṃ māyetyapi loke'pi gīyate ॥” (1.4.383)

Translation: The statement from the Vedas “mAyAM tu prakR^itiM vidyAn mAyinaM tu maheshvaraM” is extremely clear. Also from the Smriti statement “daivI hyeShA guNamayI mama mAyA…” (Gita 7.14), and from the popularity of mAyA being sung as “vaiShNavI” in the world.

Sarvajnatman similarly states in the following verses from the controller:

2.166 – "jaḍaśaktimātra vapuṣā gagana śvasanādi kārya jananī bhavati । puruṣottamasya vaśavartitayā prakṛtiḥ parasya jagadeka guroḥ" [Prakrti generates the effects AkAsha, vAyu etc. with its form as Jada-shakti , by being subject to the control of Purushottama, who is the Supreme and is the only Guru for the entire universe.]

2.190 – "jīveśāna-jagad vibhāga jananī śaktir jaḍā vaiṣṇavī" [The Jada-shakti of Vishnu, which generates the difference between the individual soul, the ruler, and the universe.]

3.108  – "māyā sarveśvareṇa hariṇā dṛḍhamabhyadhāyi" [Mayashakti, strengthened by Hari, the Lord of all.]

4.46 – Consider this verse:

"kṣaraṃ pradhānamamṛtākṣaraṃ haraḥ
kṣarātmānāvīśate deva ekaḥ ॥
tasyābhidhyānād yojanāt tattvabhāvād
bhūyaś cānte viśva māya nivṛttiḥ ॥"

Even though the statement of the shvetAshvatara upaniShad bearing the word hara is illustrated, the commentator Shri Ramatirtha explains it in his work (anvitArthaprakAshikA) as follows: “the pradhAna called mAyA, which is subject to modification is called kShara, and hara is the one who governs it” [pradhānaṃ māyākhyaṃ kṣaraṃ vināśi haraḥ tad adhiṣṭhātā īśvaraḥ ।]**, thereby using the etymological meaning for hara instead of interpreting the word as a name of Rudra/Siva. Moreover, the commentator proceeds further thus: “The one Lord, who is Pure, the Supreme Atman, rules the kShara and Atman, i.e., the object of enjoyment and the enjoyer [eko devaḥ śuddhaḥ paramātmā kṣarātmanau bhogya bhoktārāv īśate niyamayati], thus explaining the words “devaH ekaH” from the mantra. Further in addition to that, Ramatirtha quotes Bhagavad Gita 15.18, saying that the being known as "puruShottama" in this verse is the controller of mAyA spoken of in the aforementioned shvetAshvatara text:

"yasmātkṣaramatīto'hamakṣarādapi cottamaḥ । ato asmi loke vede ca prathitaḥ puruṣottamaḥ" (BG 15.18) iti smṛtyuktaḥ puruṣottama eko devo yaḥ kṣarātmānāvīśate...

From this explanation, it can be seen that there were at least a few advaitins who agreed that “bhagavAn shrIman nArAyaNa who is called ‘Purushottama’ in the Vedas and Itihasa/Puranas, is the one who is declared as the Supreme One in shvetAshvatara and other Upanishads, and not Parvatipati Rudra”.

**ATTENTION: It is important to note that this meaning is not accepted in Srivaishnavism. Rangaramanuja and Vedanta Desika interpret “hara” as the jeevAtmA, the enjoyer of prakR^iti. The paramAtma is only described by the words “Ishate ekaH devaH”.

Bhagavad-avataras are not subject to karma:

Modern-day advaitins do not understand this point properly. They quote randomly to arrive at non-Vedic conclusions. There is a variety of statements that they make, and I make no attempt to list them here or refute them point-by-point. Let us just take a look at what our ancient advaitic author had to say here:

"svecchā vinirmita vapur bhajato'pi tasya
nājñānitā'vagatirasti vaśitvahetoḥ ।
vaśyatva hetukam idaṃ sphuraṇaṃ narāṇāṃ
nāhaṃ vijāna iti nāsti tad īśvarasya ॥ (2.181)"

Translation: Even when He takes up a form out of His own will/at the request of His devotees, the condition of omniscience is not compromised. For He is the controller of all. He does not possess the quality of ignorance/avidyA as seen in men who are in bondage.

"saṅkalpapūrvakaṃ abhūdraghunandanasya
nāhaṃ vijāna iti kaṃ cana kālametat ॥
brahmopadeśam upalabhya nimittamātraṃ
taccotsasarja sa kṛte sati devakārye॥" (2.182)

Translation: Once, Raghunandana (descendant of the raghu dynasty i.e., Rama), did display the condition of “ignorance”, out of His own volition, resolve, and free will (unlike a jIva). Brahma’s advice to Him (that He was indeed Parabrahman Vishnu/Narayana) was just a mere instrument. Taking up and giving up that resolution were executed by none but Him, for the benefit of the devas (i.e., to take a human form to kill Ravana).

Lord Krishna, and not Shiva, is the one declared as the Supreme in the Vedas:

Towards the end of the 3rd adhyAya of this work, there is a refutation of the doctrine of kaNAda and the mAheshvaras. Shri Nrsimhashrama Saraswati’s commentary deserves great notice here.

First, the context: According to the philosophy of kaNAda and other vaisheShikas, who do not believe in the apauruSheyatva of the veda, the connection between words and the sense conveyed by them have been constructed by Lord Siva, whom they claim can be inferred from perception and inference. This is disregarded by Sarvajnatman as un-Vedic. The author says that according to the Vedas, it is instead Lord Krishna, who is declared in the Vedas as the Supreme, is the one who created the universe effortlessly.

Note that if ancient advaitins such as Sarvajnatman were hari-hara-abheda vAdins, they would be quite less inclined to switch to Lord Krishna in the siddhAnta portion when the pUrvapakSha talks about Lord Shiva.

3.263-264

"pada padārtha paraspara saṅgatiṃ
niramimīta tato na jagadguruḥ॥
matimatāṃ pravaro vṛṣabhadhvajaḥ
kaṇabhugādi munipravaraḥ prabhuḥ॥
na tu (*) dharādijagadracanābalā-
danumito'navakhaṇḍitaśaktikaḥ ॥263॥"

"api tu vaidika vāṅmanasātigā
(a)nudita lupta cidekarasāt prabhoḥ ॥
abhavad ānakadundubhi nandanā(t)
amatipūrvam idaṃ sakalaṃ jagat ॥264॥"

(*)‘nanu’ as per the recension of Ramatirtha and Madhusudana, implying an objection from the pUrvapakSha. In Nrsimhashrama’s recension,  it is ‘na tu’, implying an emphatic statement from the uttarapakSha.

Nrsimhashrama expands the first of the above two verses as follows in his commentary ‘tattvabodhini’ :

“The Lord of sages such as kaNAda and akShapAda, who is inferred as the Lord by virtue of creatorship of earth and the rest of the universe according to their philosophy, who bears the bull as his flag, who is called Shankara (i.e., Shiva/Rudra), is excellent in his knowledge compared to us and in our opinion. However, he does not possess unbounded prowess, rulership, or knowledge. Hence, he cannot have established the connection between the words of the Veda and the sense/object conveyed by the words. The Purvapakshin replies as follows: ‘Then, as per your siddhAnta, by what reasoon is the omniscient Lord proven, and how does the connection between names and forms come from Him?’ The answer is that we only conclude all these things from the statements of the shruti, such as ‘yaH sarvaj~naH sarvavit’ and ‘satyaM j~nAnaM anantaM’”

[kaṇabhugādi munipravaraprabhuḥ – kaṇāda akṣapāda muni-śreṣṭānāṃ svāmī dharādi-jagad-racanā balād-anumitaḥ pṛthivyādi-jagannirmāṇa-lakṣaṇa-kārya-balād-anumitaḥ (kaṇādamate iti upadhātavyaḥ) vṛṣabhadhvajaḥ śaṅkaraḥ yato matimatāṃ pravaraḥ buddhimatām-asmadādīnāṃ śreṣṭaḥ asmadādy-apekṣayā'dhikajñānavān na tu anavakhaṇḍita-śaktikaḥ na tv-aparicchinna-jñāna-aiśvarya-śaktikaḥ tataḥ pada-padārtha-paraspara-saṅgatiḥ padāni ghaṭādi-śabdāḥ padārthāḥ ghaṭādayaḥ paraspara-saṅgatiḥ pada-padārthayor-anyonyaṃ vācya-vācaka-bhāva-sambandhaḥ pada-padārtha-saṅketān-na niramimīta buddhipūrvān-nirmitavān ityarthaḥ । tarhi bhavanmate vā sarvajña īśvaraḥ kena siddhaḥ kathaṃ vā tasmān-nāma-rūpa-tatsambandhāḥ saṃbhūtā ityāśaṅkya yaḥ sarvajñaḥ sarvavit satyaṃ jñānam-anantam-ityādi-śrutyaiva siddhaḥ ॥]

The commentary for the next verse runs thus:

“‘That which is unreachable by words or the mind, by virtue of the statement ‘yato vAco nivartante’, that which is devoid of origin and end, which is Pure Consciousness in essence, the Lord, who was doted upon as his own son by Anakadundubhi (vasudeva), Lord  Krishna Himself. From this Lord Krishna, this universe proceeds effortlessly, as if it were his breath. In your religion, the conclusion that the connection between words and their sense is established by the Lord is conditional upon the premise that the Lord can be inferred. However, we hold that the word-sense connection is apauruSheya.’ - This is the meaning. In this verse, the author (Sarvajnatman) also displays the greatness of his Vishnu-bhakti.”

[satyajñānam anantam ityādinā vedena lakṣaṇa-vṛttyā gamyo vaidikaḥ tatra hetuḥ – vāṅmanasātiga iti । vāṅmanase atikrāntaḥ yato vāca iti śruteḥ anudita lupta cideka rasaḥ utpatti vināśa rahita caitanyaika svarūpaḥ satyādi vākya lakṣya vāṅmanasāgocarānuditānastamita bodha svarūpād ityarthaḥ । ānakadundubhinandanād vasudevena putratetvena abhimanyamānāt śrī kṛṣṇād ityarthaḥ । anena svasya viṣṇubhakty ādhikyaṃ dyotitam ।  amatipūrvam abuddhipūrvaṃ niśvāsavad anāyāsenety arthaḥ । idaṃ paridṛśyamānaṃ sakalaṃ nāma-rūpa-karmātmakam ityarthaḥ । tathā ca bhavadabhimateśvarasya anumānād asiddheḥ tatsiddhiṃ vinā ca saṅketasya tat kṛtatvāsiddher na śabdārtha sambandhaḥ pauruṣeya iti bhāvaḥ ॥]

Note especially the following words of Nrsimhasrama: "Shankara (i.e., Shiva/Rudra), is excellent in his knowledge compared to us and in our opinion. However, he does not possess unbounded prowess, rulership, or knowledge." There can not be a more direct statement from an Advaitin supporting the position of Vaishnavas regarding Rudra.

Note also  that even though the author Sarvajnatman calls Shiva as “jagadguruḥ”in 3.263. However, this does not imply any supremacy, but only says that Shiva imparts knowledge as agreed by all Vaishnavas. In fact, looking at the whole text from another angle, this description may even show that Vishnu is superior to Shiva: While the author says that Lord Vishnu too is a Guru elsewhere, he always employs the superlative degree unlike in the case of Shiva. For example -- “jagadekaguruḥ”(2.166), “jagadekahitaḥ” (3.353), “aśeṣaguruḥ”(3.351) etc.
The following verse in the same section asserts the same message again:

3.272 – "viśvaṃ viṣṇor utthitaṃ nāma-rūpaṃ niḥśvāsādi-prakhyam-ity-āha vedaḥ॥"  [The Veda says that the universe emanates like breath from Vishnu.]

3.290 – Consider this verse:

"sarva-dvaita-vivarjitaṃ vigalita-dhvāntaṃ śivaṃ śāśvatam ॥
pratyag-rūpam-arūpa-gandha-rasakaṃ tac-chabda-vācye sthitaṃ
vākyārthānvayi lakṣitaṃ bhagavato viṣṇoḥ padaṃ gṛhyatām ॥"

In the above verse, though the adjective “shivaM shAshvataM” is employed in the beginning, the object of this description is later declared as: “the State/Nature of bhagavAn viShNu”. Hence, it is very clear that the author considers descriptions such as “shivaM advaitaM caturthaM” found in the Upanishads as having to do with Bhagavan Vishnu only. The commentators on this verse also explain “shiva” as auspicious.

Gurubhakti, Vighnopashanti, Sankalpa, Upasana, and Sattvika Tyaga

1.9-1.10 – In these two verses, Sarvajnatman says that because of his gurubhakti and his/his guru’s nArAyaNa-bhakti, all obstacles to the start composition of this work have been removed:

guru-caraṇa-saroja-sannidhānād-api vayam-asya guṇaika-leśa-bhājaḥ ।
api mahati jalārṇave nimagnāḥ salilam-upādadate mitaṃ hi mīnāḥ ॥

Translation: We possess a tiny bit of our guru’s good qualities, because of our proximity to his feet. Why, even fish that swim in the ocean receive a little bit of water on their body.

śakto guroś-caraṇayor-nikaṭe nivāsāt nārāyaṇa-smaraṇataś-ca nirantarāyaḥ ।
śārīrakārtha-viṣayāvagati-pradhānaṃ saṃkṣepataḥ prakaraṇaṃ karavāṇi hṛṣyan ॥

Translation: The absence of obstacles (to my composition) were possible because of living very close to my Guru’s feet, and because of his/my meditation on Lord Narayana. Hence, with excitement, let me compose this short minor work on the meaning of shArIraka mImAmsa shAstra (i.e., Brahma Sutras).

Here, the commentator Ramatirtha shows two shlokas from Smriti:

tathā nārāyaṇa-smaraṇato nirantarāyo nirvighnaś-cāsmīti yojanā । tathā ca smṛtiḥ –

“sarvadā sarvakāryeṣu nāsti teṣām amaṅgalam ।
yeṣāṃ hṛdistho bhagavān maṅgalāyatano hariḥ ॥

lābhas teṣāṃ jayas teṣāṃ kutas teṣāṃ parājitaḥ ।
yeṣām indīvara-śyāmo hṛdayastho janārdanaḥ ॥”

[Meaning: Always, in every undertaking, there is no bad luck to those in whose heart Lord Hari, the bringer of luck, is ever present. To such persons profit and victory is always ensured. To them, in whose hearts are residences of dark-blue-hued Lord Janardana,  how can there ever be defeat at anyone's hands?]
 
[Aside: These two shlokas are found in the appendix to shAntiparva (supplementary passages) in the BORI critical edition of Mahabharata.]

Note here that Sarvajnatman says vighnopashAnti was achieved by meditation on Lord Vishnu, showing the sarva-phala-pradatvaM of Vishnu including vighnopashAnti.

In fact, there is no specification in any shAstra that only Ganesha is to be primarily worshiped for vighnopashAnti. In fact as per the lakShaNas mentioned in alankAra-shAstra and other ancient treatises, it is only recommended that any literary undertaking be commenced with a praise on one’s iShTa-devatA. Take the mangaLa-shloka verse of another advaitin, Anandabodha (CE 13th C) in his work nyAyamakaranda. The shloka runs as (long one, only parts shown):

“…
yasyā''huḥ bhuvanodbhava-sthiti-layān līlā-mayān sūrayaḥ
tasmai śuddha-sukhādvitīya-vapuṣe śaśvan namo viṣṇave ॥

Citsukha explains here as follows:

(The author Anandabodha) is instructing the readers on the shiShTAcAra i.e., practice of wise men that one should salute their chosen deity for obstacle-free completion, aggregation, and propagation of the work that they commence to write.

[prāripsita granthasya avighnena parisamāpti-pracaya-gamana kāmaḥ śiṣṭācāra-pariprāptatayā kṛtam iṣṭadevatā-namaskāram ācāra-śikṣārthaṃ pratipādayan prakaraṇasyābhidheya sambandha prayojanāni nidarśayati।]

Hence, it is quite clear that the shloka

“śuklāmbaradharaṃ viṣṇuṃ śaśivarṇaṃ caturbhujam ।
prasanna-vadanaṃ dhyāyet sarva-vighnopaśāntaye ॥”

which is recited by both Smarthas and Vaishnavas should be properly interpreted as a prayer to Vishnu because of the above reason, in addition to the two below:

  1. There are no visheShaNas  (adjectives such as gajamukhatvaM, ekadantatvaM, bhUtagaNAdhipatitvaM, etc.) or shabdas with rUDhitvaM on any devatAntara mentioned.

  1. There are two names that have rUDhitvaM in Vishnu (i.e., they are proper names of Vishnu) in that shloka: Vishnu and Chaturbhuja. The first name is well-known to be Lord Narayana’s, for example, from the Vishnu gAyatri. Regarding the second name which means ‘four-armed one’, look at amarakosha 1.1.41 where Vishnu’s names are listed: “upendraḥ indrāvarajaḥ cakrapāṇiḥ caturbhujaḥ”. This is further supported by Shankara’s Vishnu Sahasranama bhAShya: “catvāro bāhavo'syeti caturbāhuḥ iti nāma vāsudeve rūḍham।” which shows that it was quite popular in those days to call only Vishnu as the ‘four-armed one’.

Let us go back to the work of Sarvajnatman.

3.58 – In the following verse, narrated as a dialogue between Guru and the disciple, the latter says:

“vairāgyaṃ viṣayeṣu pūrvam eva me jātaṃ harer arcanāt
yajñādi-kriyayā nirasta-phalayā kiṃ tv adya dārḍhyaṃ gataṃ ।”

Here, it is noted that worship of Lord Hari results in dispassion towards the material world, which is further strengthened by association with a Guru. Once again, the author chooses to mention the worship of Vishnu and not any other devata.

3.54 – In the below verse:

śravaṇādikaṃ śama-damādi paraḥ
paramātmanaḥ parama-bhāgavataḥ ।
kuru tāvatā paramam eva padaṃ
paramātmanas tvam avalokayasi ॥

the following are recommended by the Guru to the disciple, to be adopted until the disciple can experience the Supreme Bliss of paramAtmA (i.e., liberation): (i) shravaNa (hearing) of vedAnta vAkyas, (ii) developing tranquility and self-control (‘shama’ and ‘dama’), and (iii) being a parama-bhAgavata, i.e., an ekAnta viShNu bhakta who does not resort to the worship of other devatas.

Only the Purana that talks about the greatness of Vishnu is known as bhAgavata purANa (‘Devi Bhagavatam’ is a recent bogus fabrication). Those dealing with the greatness of other devatas are known by the names of the respective devatas. Only the verses spoken by Vishnu are collectively called “bhagavad-gItA”. The utterances of other devatas are known by the names of the respective devatas. Similarly, that the terms “bhAgavata” and “parama-bhAgavata” are used to describe Vishnu’s devotees alone, and not to describe others. Note also that Shankara uses the terms ‘pAncarAtra-siddhAntin’ and ‘bhAgavata’ interchangably in the pAncarAtra-adhikaraNa section of Brahma Sutra Bhashya (2.2.42-2.2.45), while he calls Shiva worshipers as ‘mAheshvaras’ in pAshupata-adhikaraNa (2.2.37-2.2.41).

3.351-3.353 – The following three verses and Ramatirtha’s commentary thereupon deserve special attention:

"bahiraṅga sādhanam aśeṣaguroḥ
parameśvarasya caraṇāmbujayoḥ ॥
niyamāt samarpitam aśeṣamagha
vinihanti buddhi-nilayaṃ sumahat ॥"

"na tathā 'ntaraṅgam upalabdhi janeḥ
upakārakaṃ śamadama prabhṛti ॥
tad anuṣṭhitaṃ paramahaṃsa-janaiḥ
paramātma tattvam upalambhayati ॥"

"bhagavān anādi-nidhanaḥ kṛpayā
harir etad āha jagadeka-hitaḥ॥
sakalaṃ samarpya mayi yukta-manaḥ
kuru karma śuddhi-karam ityasakṛt॥"

It is indeed Lord Hari alone who is the subject matter in the above three verses. This is because of the following reasons:

  1. The first reason comes from the following explanation of Ramatirtha for the first of the three verses. Additionally, Ramatirtha’s explanation also shows who exactly the “parameshvara” referred to by Sarvajnatman in that verse is, and keeping whom in mind must those smArtha-vaidikas who utter “parameshvara prItyarthaM” during sankalpa must perform it:

“While performing karmas, one should have the following sankalpa (resolve) in the beginning: ‘I give up the desire for the fruits and the notion that I am the doer. Instead, I am going to perform these actions as an act of worship of Shriman Narayana, the Yajnasvarupi, who exists as (the antaryAmin of) different devas.’ and in the end, ‘I dedicate the action, along with the credit for performing these karmas and all the karmaphalas (fruits of action) to Shriman Narayana.’ By taking resolve as per the rules, the karma is dedicated.”

[karmaṇi kartṛtvābhiniveśaṃ phalāsaktiṃ ca hitvā kevalaṃ yajñātmakasya nārāyaṇasya tat-tad devatādi rūpeṇāvasthitasya samārādhana rūpam idaṃ karmaṃ kariṣye iti prārambhe, śrīman-nārāyaṇe bhagavati sakārakaṃ saphalaṃ cedaṃ karmās tu idaṃ yathoktaṃ karmaṃ kṛtaṃ nārāyaṇārpaṇam-astv iti vā 'nte ca saṅkalpa rūpo niyamas tasmān niyamāt samarpitam ity arthaḥ]

Note that while Sarvajnatman’s verse says: “The actions performed externally, dedicated as per the rules to the Lotus-feet of ‘parameshvara’, who is The Perfect Guru” [bahiraṅga-sādhanam aśeṣaguroḥ parameśvarasya caraṇāmbujayoḥ niyamāt samarpitam], Ramatirtha says that the ‘dedication to parameshvara’ means ‘dedication to Narayana’ and performing the action as an upAsana of Narayana who is yaj~nasvarUpI.

  1. The second reason is that in the third verse, it is clarified even by Sarvajnatman’s illustration from the bhagavadgIta. He points to the following two verses by using the phrase: “sakalaṃ samarpya mayi yuktamanaḥ kuru karma śuddhikara”

“mayi sarvāṇi karmāṇi saṃnyāsyādhyātma cetasā ।
nirāśīr nirmamo bhūtvā yuddhyasva vigata jvaraḥ ॥” (3.30)

“yataḥ pravṛttir bhūtānāṃ yena sarvamidaṃ tatam ।
sva-karmaṇā tam abhyarcya siddhiṃ vindati mānavaḥ ॥” (18.46)

“mad-artham api karmāṇi kurvan siddhim avāpsyasi ॥” (12.10)

Hence, all vaidika karma is dedicated to Vishnu only. Note that by Sarvajnatman’s usage of the words “bhagavān anādi-nidhanaḥ hariḥ” it is shown that Hari has no origin and end and is therefore paramAtmA.

The above verses and remarks confirm the well-known fact that shiShTas begin all vaidika karma with a sankalpa that the karma is undertaken for “bhagavat-preeti” (‘pleasing the Lord’) or “bhagavat-kainkaryaM” (divine service to the Lord), and at the end of the karma perform sAttvika-tyAga for shrIman nArAyaNa by chanting “nArAyaNAyeti samarpayAmi” in addition to seeking redemption by remembering Lord Krishna for carrying out the action improperly:

“prāyaścittāni aśeṣāṇi tapaḥ-karmāt kāni vai ।
yāni teṣām aṣeśāṇāṃ kṛṣṇānusmaraṇaṃ param ॥”

With this note, we finish this discussion on Sankshepa Shariraka. This small exercise is the result of a 3-year process involving searching, analyzing, and shaping points coherently.

As far as I have searched, all the verses in which bhagavAn shrIman nArAyaNa is mentioned by this advaitin have been listed out and explained. There may be many more if I search more carefully. Nowhere in this ancient advaitic work is found any praise of Rudra/Parvati/Skanda/Vinayaka/Surya as parabrahman, from beginning to end.

I dedicate this work to the lotus feet of bhagavAn shrIman nArAyaNa, bhAgavatas, and above all for the pleasure of sharaNAgatas who wish to know the manner in which the Lord is praised by followers of Vedanta matams outside the parama-vaidika sat-sampradAyaM nourished by Swami rAmAnujAcArya.