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Bhagavad Gita: Shiva in the Vibhuti Yoga and Vishvarupa Chapters

As is well known , ancient shaivas, despite being averse to Vishnu's supremacy in the Vedas, atleast abided by standard norms of debate. They did not consider vedAnta as their domain, and were content with glorifying their deity according to Shaiva Agamas and portions of certain purANas, independent of the vedAntic tradition.
Based on available evidences, we can confidently state that this scenario changed dramatically since the 16th century.  Today's Shaivas, all the way from the scholarly ones like Appayya Dikshita down to the digital-age gurus and "experts" of miniscule knowledge seen on internet blogs. Having distorted the meaning of Vedic verses such as the Rudram, they have butchered the meaning of mahAbhArata by resorting to interpolated verses denying the supremacy of Vishnu. At the same time, they ignore the innumerable verses that talk about the supremacy of Vishnu, whose authenticity is established by the observation that even Adi Shankara has quoted them. Having done this, they then obscured the narrative of rAmAyaNa, a foremost Srivaishnava shAstra, by claiming rAma worshipped shiva. Finally, they have proceeded to claim that Shiva is praised "in all the 18 Puranas", while resorting to nothing but the alleged episodes in tAmasa purAnas that claim shiva to be “matsyEswara”, “kUrmEswara”, “varAhEswara”, “sharabhEswara”, etc.
And not content with what was done so far, they now try to torture the text of the Bhagavad Gita with their distortions. Their main issues with the Gita are as follows:
  1. In the vibhUti yOga, when krishNa says “rudrAnAm sankarAs casmi” (Bhagavad Gita, 10.23), they claim that he is not talking about pArvati pati, but only about one of the 11 rudras. According to them, the 11 rudras are manifestations of pArvati pati and hence he himself cannot be counted as one among them. In other words, krishNa is only referring to a particular rudra named “shankara” here and not to the well-known pArvati pati as his vibhUti, they say.

  1. The second instance occurs in the viSvarUpa adhyAya. The sloka “brahmanam isam kamalasana-stham” (11.15) is the bone of contention. They claim that “isam” here does not refer to rudra but is an adjective of Brahma. They contend that the above interpretation alone, supported by Adi Shankara, is impartial and that the bhAShyas of  rAmAnuja and mAdhva are biased against Shaivism.

Let us examine their claims.

“rudrAnAm sankarAscasmi” – All acharyas interpret the “shankara” here as pArvati pati. So, the claim that it doesn’t refer to pArvati pati stands refuted. In fact, Adi Shankara does not add any statement here, unlike the modern-day Shaivas, that the "shankara" here refers to some being other than pArvati pati.
It is true that the names of the 11 rudras change during each kalpa. But pArvati pati is the leader of the 11 rudras, the presiding deity of the mind and hence is the 11th Rudra. It is precisely because of the names changing in various kalpas that bhagavAn uses the name “shankara”. The name means “sam karOti iti sankaraH”. In other words, pArvati pati is called "shankara" because he provides bliss (of the knowledge of vishNu) and is a lokaguru. Or, he is the presiding deity of the mind and enables control of the mind.
Also, here, by saying Shankara, bhagavAn indicates that the ability of pArvati pati to cause bliss by imparting knowledge of vishNu, comes from vishNu himself and thus is a vibhUti of vishNu.
Therefore, he is the 11th rudra and bhagavAn specifically uses the name “shankara” to avoid any form of confusion with the other rudras whose names change every kalpa. Among the 11 rudras, it is only pArvati pati who is called Shankara, owing to sAstra vAkyas like “jnAnam icchet IshvarAt”, “tatpuruShAya vidmahe mahAdevAya dhImahi tanno rudraH prachodayAt” and him being the controller of the mind.
So, the argument that Shankara, or pArvati pati is not among the 11 rudras is quashed.
However, let us parody our opponent’s argument. Even if we assume that pArvati pati is not among the 11 rudras, that still does not change the meaning that “Shankara” here refers to pArvati pati only. Consider the following gita slOka,
“nakshatrAnAm ahaM sasi”.
BhagavAn says he is the moon among the stars. Bhagavad rAmAnuja points out that the moon is not a star. Yet, bhagavAn names it among the stars. So, Acharya interprets it as follows, “I am the moon, the leader of the stars”. In the shAstra, Chandra devatA is the leader of the Nakshatras. And hence, when bhagavAn says “among stars, I am the moon”, it does not mean moon is a star, but that moon, which leads the stars, is a vibhUti of bhagavAn.
Similarly, even if we take the shaiva argument that pArvati pati is not among the 11 rudras, he still leads them. So, “rudrANAm shankarAshcAsmi” only would mean, “I am shankara (pArvati pati) who leads the 11 rudras”.
Thus, the Vaishnava interpretation remains validated. It is an irrefutable conclusion that, 1) bhagavAn specially uses the "shankara" nAma to denote pArvati pati, 2) That pArvati pati is different from bhagavAn and is a vibhUti of bhagavAn.

Let us consider the following verse,
“brahmanam isam kamalasana-stham”
Here are the interpretations of the 3 acharyas:
Shankaracharya – “I see Brahma, the Lord of all Creatures (Isham), seated on the lotus”.
Ramanujacharya - “I see Brahma and Siva who abides by the directions of the lotus seated Brahma”.
Madhvacharya – “I see Brahma and Siva who is seated in the lap of the lotus seated Brahma”.
Let us show how shaivas cannot resort to any of these interpretations, nor can reject any of them.
Shankaracharya’s interpretation
Shaivas of course, jump onto Shankaracharya’s interpretation because they think the Acharya shows some inclination towards their sect. Well, if they accept Adi Shankara’s interpretation, then they will also have to accept the fact that Shankaracharya has himself declared in several places that 1) Worship of vishNu is superior to Rudra (Gita Bhashya, 6.47), 2) Narayana is Parabrahman and the ruler of Brahma and Rudra (many instances in the vishNu sahasranAma bhAshya), 3) Pasupati was created among the Kshatriya varga by Brahma (brihadAranyaka bhAshya, 1.4.11).
So, going by these comments of Shankaracharya, even his statement in the gita bhAshya does not accord any special status to pArvati pati. When Shankaracharya says “Brahma, Lord of all creatures”, from his other statements on the birth of Rudra, we can easily understand that Brahma is the Lord of all creatures including his son Rudra who was created by him. This is the opinion of Adi Shankara.
To argue against this would mean a biased attempt to selectively quote Shankaracharya and reject the rest of his works. Hence, Shaivas cannot take shelter of Adi Shankara here since the latter was a Vaishnava guru as is evident by his works.
Madhvacharya’s Interpretation
srI mAdhva takes the pramAnam that Shiva was born of Brahma to say that he (Shiva) was seen seated on the lap of his father (Brahma). While it is true that Shiva is Brahma’s son, this blogger humbly feels that Shiva is no longer a kumara, so I leave it to the mAdhvas to justify their acharya’s interpretation.
Ramanujacharya’s Interpretation
Now, we come to the part where it will be proven how bhagavad rAmAnuja has given the right meaning for this sloka. Both Adi Shankara and Madhva have given grammatically correct meanings which are also perfectly in tune with the shAstra. But Acharya Ramanuja goes one step further as his meaning resonates with the intention of BhagavAn.
Acharya gives the following meaning,
"tatha ishaM kamalasana-sthaM kamalasane brahmani sthitam IshaM tanmate avasthitam"
Meaning: Lord! I behold in Your body all gods and all classes of living beings as also Brahma, the four-faced ruler of the cosmic egg. So too Shiva (Isa) who is seated in the lotus-seated Brahma, meaning that Siva abides by the directions of Brahma.
In other words, when it is said, “Shiva is seated on Brahma”, it means that Shiva is always dependent on Brahma’s guidance and obeys the dictates of Brahma. So, the words “kamalAsanE brahmani sthitham” mean that pArvati pati is always situated in a state of mind where he abides by the directions of Brahma.
Now, in what way does Shiva obey Brahma as stated by srI rAmAnuja? Fact is, it is everywhere in the shAstra.
It is well known that Shiva is a yogi par excellence and always meditates on vishNu. But the nature of yOga is that it is fickle. The purpose of upAsaNa is to remain in a preponderance of sattva. But due to the strenuous nature of the path, sometimes the tAmasa and rAjasa guNas, which are kept in control by yOga, overcome the yOgi.
This can be seen in various instances of rishis like vishwAmitra succumbing to kAma and krOdha. Shiva is no exception as well.
When Shiva is overcome by rajO and tamO guNams, he has always fought against vishNu without knowing the supremacy of the latter. There are several instances when this happened:
  1. Shiva fighting Krishna in the bAnAsura yuddham.
  2. Shiva fighting the nara-nArAyaNa rishis in badrikAshramam.
  3. Shiva fighting Vishnu in the rAmAyaNa as narrated by paraShurAma.
  4. Shiva in the form of Sharabha being destroyed by Narasimha. 

Except in the Sharabha incident, where Shiva was decimated by Narasimha and resurrected upon the prayers of pArvati, it is Brahma who has always interrupted the battle. Brahma speaks words of advice to Shiva, reminding him that he is fighting against nArAyaNa. Then, Shiva immediately obeys Brahma and stops fighting. (See the commentary to Shloka 12 of Kuresar's atimAnuSha stavam here for the Sharabha-Narasimha incident as per the sAttvika purANas.) 
The pramAnas are as follows
Incident One: Shiva abides by the directions of Brahma during bAnAsura yuddham, the fight with krishNa (quoted from harivamSha)
During the battle with bANAsura, Brahma interrupts the fight saying the following:
Note: Translation is not accurate and is pasted from the net. I do not intend to a translation myself since this rough internet translation is enough to get the points across.
dR^iShTvA tu bhagavAnbrahmA rudraM vachanamabravIt |
sR^iShTo mahAsuravadhaH kiM bhUyaH parirakShyase ||2-125-16
Translation: The lord brahmA looked at rudra (shiva) and spoke the following words: "The destruction of great demons has started now (with your consent). Then why are you protecting them?"
na cha yuddhaM mahAbAho tava kR^iShNena rochate | 
na cha budhyasi kR^iShNaM tvamAtmAnaM tu dvidhA kR^itam ||2-125-17
Translation: "O the one with great arms! I do not like your fighting with kR^iShNa. Also you are not understanding kR^iShNa with your intellect. You are divided in mind (ie, confused between sAmAnya dharmam and viShesha dharmam, due to rajo/tamO gunam)."
tataH sharIrayogAddhi bhagavAnavyayaH prabhuH |
pravishya pashyate kR^itsnAMstrI.NllokAnsacharAcharAn ||2-125-18
Translation: (vaishampAyana continued: O janamejaya!) When he was advised thus by brahmA, the lord (shiva), the lord who is changeless in yoga, entered his (own) body by yoga and visualized the entire three worlds along with all the moving and fixed beings.
pravishya yogaM yogAtmA varAMstAnanuchintayan |
dvAravatyAM yaduktaM cha tadanusmR^itya sarvashaH |
jagAda nottaraM kiMchinnivR^itto.asau bhavattadA ||2-125-19
Translation: shiva, the soul of yoga, entered the state of yoga and thought about the boons he had given earlier (to bANa) and remembered all that he spoke in the city of doors (dvAravati).
(Considering all this) he (shiva) did not say anything in answer. Then he (shiva) retreated from the battle.
AtmAnaM kR^iShNayonisthaM pashyata hyekayonijam |
tato niHsR^itya rudrastu nyastavAdo.abhavanmR^idhe ||2-125-20
Translation: Through the discriminating power of buddhIyOgA (bhakti), Rudra realised his source to be the same as Krishna (ie, Krishna is the AtmA of Rudra). Then, without any arguments, he retreated from the battle.

brahmANaM chAbravIdrudro na yotsye bhagavanniti | 
kR^iShNena saha sa~NgrAme laghvI bhavatu medinI ||2-125-21
Translation: Then rudra (shiva) told brahmA: O lord! I will not fight the battle with kR^iShNa. Let the earth become light.
Incident Two: Shiva abides by the directions of Brahma during the fight with nara-nArAyaNa (quoted from mahAbhArata)
When nArAyaNa strangled Shiva and turned the latter’s neck black-blue, Brahma appeared and again put an end to the fight (quoted from mahAbhArata):
When such dire omens appeared everywhere, O son of Pandu, Brahma surrounded by all the deities and the high-souled Rishis, soon arrived at that spot where the battle was raging. The four-faced Brahma, capable of being understood with the aid of only the Niruktas, joined his hands and addressing Rudra, said,--
Let good happen to the three worlds. Throw down thy weapons, O mahEswara, from desire of benefiting the universe. That which is unmanifest, indestructible, immutable, supreme, the origin of the universe, uniform, and the supreme actor, that which transcends all pairs of opposites, and is inactive, has, choosing to be manifested, been pleased to assume this one blessed form, (for though double, the two but represent the same form). This Nara and Narayana (the displayed forms of Supreme Brahman) have taken birth in the race of Dharma. The foremost of all deities, these two are observers of the highest vows and endued with the severest penances. Through some reason best known to Him, I myself have sprung from the attribute of His Grace. You (Rudra) too are born of his (nArAyaNa, as the indweller of brahma) wrath, being ancient (sanAtana) as you are prior to the creation of Brahma such as the prajApatIs etc. (pUrvasargE) With myself then, these deities, and all the great Rishis, do thou adore this displayed form of Brahman, and let peace be unto all the worlds without any delay.

The above slOka by brahma is a direct upabrahmaNa of the following shruti vAkya describing Rudra:

"virUpAkShAya brahmaNa putrAya jyEshtAya shrEshtAya"

Meaning: Rudra, the one with dissimilar eyes, is the eldest and most celebrated son of Brahma.
So, going back to the above slOka, we can correlate it with the shruti vAkya:

- "brahmaNa putrAya" in the shruti vAkya is indicated by "krodhaja" - Rudra is born of Brahma's wrath.

- "jyEshta" in the shruti vAkya is correlated with "sanAtana" in the above slOka. "sanAtana" means belonging to an ancient time. It does not indicate eternality in all contexts, but is used to indicate someone who has just been around for a very long time. As Rudra was one of Brahma's earliest sons, he is called "jyEshta" and hence, the term "sanAtana" refers to Rudra being very ancient in that sense.

- "shrEshta" in the shruti vAkya is correlated with "pUrvasargE" - As Rudra is prior to the creation of brahma such as the prajApatis, it also implies he is the most celebrated of Brahma's sons. "pUrva" can also mean he is the first of brahma's sons in terms of jnAna, ie, he is the most distinguished of them all and hence is "shrEshta".

The section continues as follows:
"Thus addressed by Brahma, Rudra forthwith cast off the fire of his wrath, and set himself to gratify the illustrious and puissant God Narayana. Indeed, he soon placed himself at the disposal of the adorable boon-giving and puissant God Narayana. That boon-giving God Narayana, who hath his wrath and the senses under control, soon became gratified and reconciled with Rudra."
Incident Three: Shiva abides by the directions of Brahma in the fight with vishNu (in the rAmAyaNa)
Now, here the situation shifts. For we see that, Shiva not only obeys Brahma in good matters (like stopping his fight with Narayana), but also obeys Brahma blindly when he is motivated to fight against Narayana!
Note what the rAmAyaNa says,
adaa tu devataaH sarvaaH pR^icChanti sma pitaamaham || shiti kaNThasya viShNoH ca bala abala niriikShayaa |abhipraayam tu vij~naaya devataanaam pitaamahaH || virodham janayaamaasa tayoH satyavataam varaH |
Translation: Once, all the gods were asking the Grandparent, Brahma, as to who is powerful and who is less powerful among the blue-throated Shiva and Vishnu... but the Grandparent Brahma on inferring the intent of gods started to create adversity among those two, Shiva and Vishnu, for the Grandparent is the best adherer of truthfulness, as truth cannot be demonstrated on hearsay evidence...
Parashurama says that it was Brahma who induced both Shiva and vishNu to fight to show the devas that vishNu alone was supreme. Obviously, vishNu being parabrahman, is sarvaj~na and knows the intent of all the devas very well, so he condescended to fight.
Shiva was overcome by tamO guNa and ahamkAra after the tripurAsura vadham and hence fought against nArAyaNa. It was Brahma who coaxed Shiva to fight with sweet yet poisonous words inducing ahamkAram in Shiva. But it must be understood that Brahma did it to show only the supremacy of vishNu.
And the fact that Shiva was swayed by Brahma’s words shows his inclination to obey Brahma again.
Incident Four: Shiva obeys Brahma during the TripurAsura vadham (quoted from mahAbhArata)
Brahma requests Shiva to undertake the war against the tripurAsurAs in the karna parva of mahAbhArata. Here, Brahma praises Shiva as the lord of all and one who is above himself (Brahma).

However, the key word here is "Loka hitavachah". It does not mean "for the benefit of the universe". "Loka" means shastra or the veda, so it means "agreeable to the veda". Brahma praises shiva and tells him it was by his grace that Brahma attained his position of prajapati. So, "lokahitavachah" implies Brahma said this in a manner agreeable to the veda, ie, He was referring to the antaryAmin of Shiva here.
This explanation is validated by subsequent statements such as “vishNu is the inner self of Bhava” and Shiva’s own statement that Brahma should be his charioteer as the latter is his (Shiva’s) senior (as mentioned previously, the inner tattvam is that the acharya, who is senior, guides the yogi). Obviously, this admittance is enough to show that Brahma’s words were directed at the antaryAmin of Shiva, in a manner that is agreeable to the veda.
And the fact that Shiva obeyed Brahma shows that he abides by the latter's directions.
The  Bhagavatam shows how Shiva obeyed Brahma even from the time of his birth:
maitreya uvaca ~ evam atmabhuvadishtah parikramya giram patim badham ity amum amantrya vivesa tapase vanam
Translation: Sri Maitreya said: Thus Rudra, having been ordered by Brahma, circumambulated his father, the master of the Vedas. Addressing him with words of assent, he entered the forest to perform austere penances.
This shows very clearly how Shiva holds Brahma in high regard. Be it flattery or genuine advice, he ALWAYS obeys Brahma, even though he cut off Brahma’s head once in a fit of anger.
This shows that bhagavAn krishNa, by saying “brahmanam isam kamalasana-stham” is showing how Shiva always remains in bhakti towards nArAyaNa thanks to the timely directions and guidance of Brahma. This is even illustrated in the Tripura Samhara where Shiva asks Brahma to be his charioteer as the latter is his senior. The inner meaning – Shiva is the upAsaka and Brahma is the Acharya who guides the yOgi.
And the same pArvati pati also obeys Brahma blindly even when the latter misleads him or speaks flowery words to goad him!
So, the conclusions are:
  1. Adi Shankara has stated the birth of Rudra and his subordination to nArAyaNa in many places. So, resorting to Shankara bhAshya does not provide any relief to Shaivas since they will have to accept Shiva as a creation of Brahma and hence “Brahma, lord of all creatures” would include Shiva among the creatures.

  1. Even if Shiva is not mentioned by bhagavAn, that does not mean he was not present. For that matter, even Indra is not mentioned specifically.

  1. However, the truth is that “isam” refers to Shiva. He is mentioned along with Brahma in the vein of the mahOpanishad which says “eko ha vai nArAyaNa asIt, na brahma, nEshana…”

  1. The interpretation of yatirAja, that “isam” refers to Shiva who always abides by the directions of Brahma, has been conclusively established.