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Prelude to Ishvara Gita - Part III: Kurma Purana Purva Bhaga - RISHI ŚVETĀŚVATARA and the PĀŚUPATA VRATA

So far, we have seen Jnāna Yoga, the means to attain the experience of the self as well as the Upasana of Rudra-Shariraka-Paramatma in the Atharvasiras that has the paśupata vrata as an accessory . There is an interesting section on the Upasana of Śvetāśvatara maharishi which is linked to the Atharvasiras and the Ishvara Gita, the latter being a pending publication for the blog. So, this section is described here.
Who was Śvetāśvatara maharishi? The identity can be ascertained from the name itself. According to Sri Mahacharya, it is “śvetena aśvena tarati iti śvetāśvatara” – One who has Hayagriva as his means. The name of this rishi itself indicates he was a hayagrīva-upāsaka. So, the vaishnavatva of this rishi is self-evident.
A short narrative regarding this rishi exists in the Kurma Purana, which we shall translate here.
Interestingly, the author of the Mahapashupatastra blog has taken this section as a pramāṇa for his beliefs that the rishi Śvetāśvatara was a Shaiva. Look at what he says here:
//Source: www.mahapashupatastra.com/2013/04/the-unborn-rudra-of-svetaswatara.html
tapasā karṣitātmānaṃ śuklayajñopavītinam ||” (Kurma Purana 1:13:31-32)
“In the meantime, he spotted the great sage 'Svetasvatara' who was the best of the 'Pasupatas (devotees of Shiva). The said ascetic had applied ashes etc....
Then look at the below verse carefully – Here Svetasvatara rishi teaches him concepts of 'pasu (bonded jiva), 'pasa (maya), and 'pati (lord Shiva)', which are typically used in Shiva's path. “aśeṣavedasāraṃ tat paśupāśavimocanam | antyāśramamiti khyātaṃ brahmādibhiranuṣṭhitam ||” //
According to our Shaiva friend, the mere application of ashes and the mention of the Paśu-Paśa-Pati concept is indicative of the rishi being a Śiva devotee. Well, what to say to that? He is surely ignorant of pramāṇas like these:
bandhako bhava paṣena bhava-paṣac ca mocakah
kaivalyadah param brahma viṣnur eva sanatanah (~skanda purANa)
“He binds the souls with the ropes (Pasha) of birth and death. He unties the ropes of birth and death that bind the souls. The supreme Brahman, eternal Lord Vishnu alone (vishnur eva) is the bestower of Mukti (kaivalya).”
In the Gita Bhashya, under "mama māya duratyaya..." it is stated that the Jivas are Paśus as they are bound and associated with anger that is likened to an animal in the Upanishads. Prakrti or Maya is the Paśa. Bhagavan Sri Krishna is Pashupati, who binds the Paśus with the Paśa of Prakrti.
That section of the Kurma Purana is Sattvika. It is a wonderful anecdote which contains the only available description of the great Maharishi Śvetāśvatara.
Our friend then adds:
//From the Kurma Purana we clearly see that sage ‘Svetaswatara’ was a devotee of Shiva and his conception of the Supreme Being was Bhagavan Shiva only. Therefore, the ‘Rudra’ of Svetasvatara Upanishad is verily umapati beyond doubt. When we have Purana itself attesting this truth, it means Vedavyasa himself is supporting this point – then why do we need to even pay attention towards the poison-hearted cunning Vaishnavas?//
Anyway, let us look at a cunning Vaishnava interpretation of the Purana below to see if it supports our friend’s absurd theories.
sa tu vainyaḥ pṛthurdhomān satyasaṃdho jitendriyaḥ /
sārvabhaumo mahātejāḥ svadharmaparipālakaḥ // KūrmP_1,13.16 //
Meaning: Prithu, the son of Vena, was truthful, intelligent and had conquered his senses. He had sovereignty all over the Earth, being of great splendor and one who protected his svadharma (varṇāśrama dharma).
tasya bālyāt prabhṛtyeva bhaktirnārāyaṇe 'bhavat /
govardhanagiriṃ prāpya tapastepe jitendriyaḥ // KūrmP_1,13.17 //
Meaning: He had devotion to Narayana since his childhood. Going to Govardhana, he subdued his senses and undertook a penance.
tapasā bhagavān prītaḥ śaṅkhacakragadādharaḥ /
āgatya devo rājānaṃ prāha dāmodaraḥ svayam // KūrmP_1,13.18 //
Meaning: Bhagavan, who bears the conch, discus and mace which are ever displayed by him as ornaments for his devotees and weapons for the enemies of his devotees, was pleased by the penance. Coming in front of the King, the Lord who is called Damodara, as he was tied up by Yashoda (thus being accessible to his devotees), spoke thus.
dhramikau rūpasaṃpannau sarvaśastrabhṛtāṃ varau /
matprasādādasaṃdigdhaṃ putrau tava bhaviṣyataḥ /
ekamuktvā hṛṣīkeśaḥ svakīyāṃ prakṛtiṃ gataḥ // KūrmP_1,13.19 //
Meaning: By my grace, two sons shall be born to you in the future, who are virtuous, of a pleasing appearance and the best among the wielders of all weapons. Saying this, the Lord Hrishikesha who is the controller of the senses of even gods like Brahma, Rudra, etc attained his own natural condition (of not being manifest to the senses).
vainyo 'pi vedavidhinā niścalāṃ bhaktimudvahan /
apālayat svakaṃ rājyaṃ nyāyena madhusūdane // KūrmP_1,13.20 //
Meaning: Prthu indeed had unwavering devotion in the Lord and governed his Kingdom according to the injunctions of the Vedas, constantly in contemplation of Madhusudhana (the destroyer of “Madhu”, means desire for material things as well as the Asura).
acirādeva tanvaṅgo bhāryā tasya sucismitā /
khikhaṇḍanaṃ havirdhānamantardhānā vyajāyata // KūrmP_1,13.21 //
Meaning: His wife who had slender limbs and a smiling face gave birth to Sikhandin and Havirdhana by holding in (breath?)
śikhaṇḍano 'bhavat putraḥ suśīla iti viśrutaḥ /
dhārmiko rūpasaṃpanno vedavedāṅgapāragaḥ // KūrmP_1,13.22 //
Meaning: The son born to Sikhandin was known as Suśīla. He was virtuous, of a pleasing appearance and had mastery of the Veda and Vedangas.
so 'dhītya vidhivad vedān dharmeṇa tapasi sthitaḥ /
matiṃ cakre bhāgyayogāt saṃnyāṃ prati dharmavit // KūrmP_1,13.23 //
Meaning: He studied the Vedas properly and according to established rules (dharma), being situated in penance. That knower of Dharma, by the power of fortune which is the Lord’s unconditional grace or will, became inclined to renunciation (of sense-objects).
Note: This means that Suśīla had acquired knowledge of the self as distinct from the body and wanted to attain the self. He had no dehātma bhrama or desire for sense objects.
sa kṛtvā tīrthasaṃsevāṃ svādhyāye tapasi sthitaḥ /
jagāma himavatpṛṣṭhaṃ kadācit siddhasevitam // KūrmP_1,13.24 //
Meaning: As he was eager in the discussion of the meanings of the Vedic texts (svādhyāya) and being situated in austerities (aimed at realizing the bliss of the individual self), he resorted to holy places. Once he reached the summit of the Himalaya which is visited by Siddhas.
tatra dharmapadaṃ nāma dharmasiddhipradaṃ vanam /
apaśyad yogināṃ gamyamagamyaṃ brahmavidviṣām // KūrmP_1,13.25 //
Meaning: There, he saw a forest named Dharmapada, which conferred success in the means undertaken to achieve something (dharmasiddhipradam). This was a place that those united in meditation on the self (yogināṃ) can attain, but not to those who are hostile to the self, ie, those indulging in sense-objects (brahmavidviṣām).
tatra mandākinī nāma supuṇyā vimalā nadī /
padmotpalavanopetā siddhāśramavibhūṣitā // KūrmP_1,13.26 //
Meaning: An auspicious, pure river named Mandakini was there. It was filled with blue and red lotuses and adorned with the Ashramas of Siddhas or those perfected in Yoga.
sa tasyā dakṣiṇe tīre munīndrairyogibhirvṛtam /
supuṇyamāśramaṃ ramyamapaśyat prītisaṃyutaḥ // KūrmP_1,13.27 //
Meaning: On the Southern Bank, he saw an auspicious, beautiful Ashrama occupied by the foremost of those who meditate on the self (munīndrair), and those who meditate on the auspicious attributes of Brahman (yogibhirvṛtam).
Note: The idea is that the place was the habitat for both Jnāna-Yogis who meditate on the self as well as Bhakti-Yogis who meditate on Brahman.
Alternatively, “muni” means those who meditate on the meanings of the Veda (apara-vidyā) and “yogi” means those who perform upāsaṇa (para-vidyā)
mandākinījale strātvā saṃtarpya pitṛdevatāḥ /
arcayitvā mahādevaṃ puṣpaiḥ padmotpalādibhiḥ // KūrmP_1,13.28 //
Meaning: He took a holy dip in the waters of the Mandakini and satiated the Pitr-devatas. He worshipped Mahadeva (Śiva) with red and white lotuses and other flowers.
Note: He did not worship Mahadeva as Supreme. The idea is that, just as he propitiated the Pitr-Devatas, so did he worship Śiva as part of his regular worship. He worshipped these gods by considering them as the bodies of the Lord who is the innerself, in accordance with Gita 3.11.
Rudra is also worshipped to gain knowledge of Brahman, and thus the next shloka describes Suśīla’s worship of Brahman, succeeding his worship of Rudra.
dhyātvārkaṃsaṃsthamīśānaṃ śirasyādhāya cāñjalim /
saṃprekṣamāṇo bhāsvantaṃ tuṣṭāva parameśvaram // KūrmP_1,13.29 //
Meaning: He meditated on īśāna, the Controller (Narayana) abiding in the orb of the Sun, joining his hands in Anjali Mudra over his head. Beholding the resplendent (inner controller of the sun), he praised the Supreme Ruler.
Note: By virtue of meditation, he could conceive the Lord within the sun.  “saṃprekṣamāṇo” refers to meditation.
rudrādhyāyena giriśaṃ rudrasya caritena ca /
anyaiśca vividhaiḥ stotraiḥ śāṃbhavairvedasaṃbhavaiḥ // KūrmP_1,13.30 //
Meaning: He worshipped the Lord who abides in the Vedas (giriśa) by the Satarudriyam (to control his senses), by the texts such as Puranas narrating the sportive deeds of the Lord (rudra) who brings tears of joy to his devotees (for fixing the mind in Brahman) and by various kinds of praise in the form of Vedic Suktas of the Lord whose appearance causes happiness (śaṃbhu; this is done to secure the Lord as a means to attain the self).
Note: These names do not refer to Rudradeva. Note that each name is descriptive of the mode of worship detailed along with it and thus are to be treated as contextual as opposed to indicating a particular god. They thus refer to Narayana only. Furthermore, the initial section had already established that Prithu, Suśīla etc were all devotees of Bhagavan with correct knowledge.
This describes the Upasana of Suśīla to attain the individual self. The three steps in Jnāna Yoga are controlling the senses, fixing the mind on Brahman and meditating on the Lord who is the means to attain the state of the self.
He is “giriśa” – One who abides in speech which is the Vedas. Thus, he is propitiated by the Satarudriyam of the Vedas for curbing the mind and senses from sense objects. Even in the Satarudriyam, “giriśa” is used as a general term since it occurs in the context of speech “ṣivena vacasā tvā girisācca vadāmasi” which shows it is a name used on basis of context. There is no context in contrast, for interpreting this as “Lord of Kailaśa”, for Kailaśa has no relation to speech or praise. So, it refers to the Lord Narayana. This is step 1 or controlling the indrīyās from engaging in sense objects by focusing them on Brahman.
He is “Rudra” – the discussion of his exploits (carita) brings tears of joy to his devotees. This pleasing nature of the Lord’s exploits destroys sins and enables one’s mind to be fixed on Brahman. This is step 2 or fixation of mind on Brahman.
He is “śaṃbhu” – The Lord has a beautiful auspicious form that causes happiness, which is described by Vedic Suktas. This is for being absorbed in meditation on Brahman’s auspicious body and surrendering to the Lord to attain the self.
A seeker of the individual self like Suśīla needs to curb his senses, fix his mind on Brahman and meditate on his auspicious form to attain the experience of the self which is similar to Brahman. Thus, the names and the descriptions of the activities correspond to this aim. The Ishvara Gita explicitly recommends the Satarudriyam for one seeking to experience the self due to its’ fruit of restraining the senses.
athāsminnantare 'paśyat tamāyāntaṃ mahāmunim /
śvetāśvataranāmānaṃ mahāpāśupatottamam // KūrmP_1,13.31 //
Meaning: In the meantime, he saw the great muni named Śvetāśvatara coming. He was the most excellent among the practitioners of the pāśupata vrata.
Note: “mahāpāśupatottamam” – One who is the best among those practicing the pāśupata vrata described in the Atharvasiras. The term “paśupati” refers to the jIvātma as it is the master of “paśu” or anger, ie, it transcends anger in its’ pure state. This Vrata is related to that attainment of that state of the Jiva, so it is called “pāśupata” – it involves transcending anger.
bhasmasaṃdigdhasavāṅgaṃ kaupīnācchādanānvitam /
tapasā karṣitātmānaṃ śuklayajñopavītinam // KūrmP_1,13.32 //
Meaning: Śvetāśvatara Rishi had applied ashes all over his limbs and only had a loin-cloth covering his body. He had grown thin by his austerities and was wearing a white yajnopavitam.
Note: The application of ashes all over the body is a special component of the Pashupata vrata and is permitted only in this particular mode of upāsaṇa according to the atharvasiras “yadbhasma nāṅgāni saṃspṛśettasmādbrahma…”
The very fact that the practice of wearing ashes is unusual is the reason why Śvetāśvatara Rishi is specifically mentioned to be wearing them. If this was a Shaiva shāstra, then wearing ashes is not an unusual thing and even Suśīla would have been wearing them, so there is no need to mention it. The specific mention of wearing ashes for Śvetāśvatara rishi shows that Suśīla was not wearing ashes, and nor were any others. We never come across a statement such as “Veda Vyasa was wearing Urdhvapundra” in the Shastra because that mark is commonplace and so not mentioned. The ashes are thus related to a specific type of brahmavidya.
samāpya saṃstavaṃ śaṃbhorānandāstrāvilekṣaṇaḥ /
vavande śirasā pādau prāñjalirvākyamabravīt // KūrmP_1,13.33 //
Meaning: After concluding his praise of the Lord Narayana whose auspicious form causes happiness (śaṃbhu), his eyes were blurred with tears of joy. He bowed down with his head towards his feet, holding his palms in Anjali Mudra.
Note: The fact that he was crying tears of joy after praising the Lord clearly shows that the names of rudra, girisha etc mentioned earlier are to be interpreted based on etymology for Narayana and are not indicative of parvati pati.
Additionally, the Mahabharata clearly refers to Narayana only as Sambhu, as follows:
iti nārāyaṇaḥ śambhuḥ bhagavān jagatām prabhuḥ
ādiśya vibudhān sarvān ajāyata yodoh kule ( ~ anuśasana parva 149।10)
dhanyo 'smyanugṛhīto 'smi yanme sākṣānmunīśvaraḥ /
yogīśvaro 'dya bhagavān dṛṣṭo yogavidāṃ varaḥ // KūrmP_1,13.34 //
Meaning: I am grateful and blessed as the Master of those Jnāna-Yogis who meditate on the self (munīśvaraḥ), the Master of those Bhakti-Yogis who meditate on Brahman (yogīśvara), the greatest of those who know the means to attain liberation (yogavidāṃ varaḥ), the respected one who is omniscient (bhagavān) has been directly seen by me.
As mentioned before, “muni” can also mean those who meditate on the meanings of the Veda (apara-vidyā) and “yogi” can mean those who perform upāsaṇa (para-vidyā). The rishi is the superior most of both categories.

aho me sumahadbhāgyaṃ tapāṃsi saphalāni me /
kiṃ kariṣyāmi śiṣyo 'haṃ tava māṃ pālayānagha // KūrmP_1,13.35 //
Meaning: Oh! Fortune, which is Bhagavad Nirhetuka Krupa, is indeed great. My penances have attained fruition (by delivering me to you). What can I do (to serve you)? I am your disciple. Protect me, O sinless one (by imparting knowledge).
so 'nugṛhyātha rājānaṃ suśīlaṃ śīlasaṃyutam /
śiṣyatve parijagrāha tapasā kṣīṇakalpaṣam // KūrmP_1,13.36 //
Meaning: Śvetāśvatara Rishi blessed the King Suśīla of good morals and gentle behavior. He accepted him as his disciple as his sins (obstructing Jnāna-Yoga) had been destroyed by his penance.
Note: The idea is that Suśīla has become an adhikārin for meditation on the self, since his prior meditation on the Lord had destroyed the sins obstructing his undertaking such meditation.
sāṃnyāsikaṃ vidhiṃ kṛtsnaṃ kārayitvā vicakṣaṇaḥ /
dadau tadaiśvaraṃ jñānaṃ svaśākhāvihitaṃ vratam // KūrmP_1,13.37 //
Meaning:  The learned sage made him perform all the injunctions pertaining to sannyasa and then bestowed on him the knowledge pertaining to the individual self that is the supreme ruler of the body (aiśvaraṃ jñānaṃ) for which the Vrata (of pāśupata) had been laid down in his own branch of the Veda.
“tad aiśvaraṃ jñānaṃ” – “aiśvaraṃ” refers to the individual self that is the Supreme Ruler of the body, senses and mind. This is the knowledge relating to that self. We will come across this in the Iśvara Gita as well.
“svaśākhāvihitaṃ vratam” – The pāśupata vrata of the Atharvasiras consisting of applying ashes and understanding the knowledge related to paśu and paśa, to attain the individual self. This again shows that the application of ash etc was only vrata-specific and not indicative of Shaiva practices.
The Atharvasiras recommends bhakti-yoga which is meditation on the antaryāmin of Rudra, using the pāṣupata vrata as an accessory. This was practiced by Rishi Śvetāśvatara. Narayana is called paśupati, as he is the Master of the embodied Jivas who are “paśus” as they are associated with anger. Prakrti or Maya is the “paśa” used to bind them. The knowledge of the paśu and paśa is conferred by the pāśupata vrata, following which one meditates on Pati as the indweller of Rudra according to this upāsana.
However, Suśīla, unlike the rishi, only sought the knowledge of the individual self (Jnāna-Yoga) and not Bhakti-Yoga. So, the rishi taught him the difference between the self and the body (paśu and paśa) and instructed him on the pāṣupata vrata which inculcates this knowledge. It is to be understood that once Suśīla is doing the meditation as prescribed in the Atharvasiras to attain the self as he was not a Bhakti-Yogi. So, he meditates on the Lord as a means to attain the self, and not as an end in itself.
The next shloka describes what this “aiśvaraṃ jñānaṃ” is in more detail.
aśeṣavedasāraṃ tat paśupāśavimocanam /
antyāśramamiti khyātaṃ brahmādibhiranuṣṭhitam // KūrmP_1,13.38 //
Meaning: The rishi gave Suśīla the essence of the Veda in entirety (pertaining to the knowledge of the individual self) that causes release of the bound self (paśu) from prakrti or māya which is the rope that binds it (paśa). This knowledge is called “antyāśrama” or the state of the Paramahamsa Sannyasins and has been practiced by the gods beginning with Brahma or the rishis like Pulastya, Pulaha etc.
Note: For those who are tired of material objects and the perishability of their enjoyment, experiencing the imperishable bliss of the individual self is a higher goal that offers relief from the distress of samsāra.
“brahmādi” – This can refer to devas beginning with Brahma. Or, “brahmādi” can refer to the rishis beginning with Pulastya, Pulaha, etc. This is mentioned by Shri Viraraghavacharya in his Bhagavata commentary.
Here it is seen that Suśīla only received Jivatma Jnāna and not Paramatma Jnāna, showing he was a Jnāna-Yogi. Rishi Śvetāśvatara, however, was a Bhakti-Yogi.
uvāca śiṣyān saṃprekṣya ye tadāśramavāsinaḥ /
brāhmaṇān kṣatriyān vaiśyān brahmacaryaparāyaṇān // KūrmP_1,13.39 //
Meaning: Perceiving all his sishyas residing in the Ashramas, who were brahmanas, kshatriyas, vaishyas and brahmacharyas, the rishi Śvetāśvatara said the following.
mayā pravartitāṃ śākhāmadhītyaiveha yoginaḥ /
samāsate mahādevaṃ dhyāyanto niṣkalaṃ śivam // KūrmP_1,13.40 //
Meaning: It is only after studying the branch of the Veda propagated by me, that the Yogis attain the great self-luminous entity that is the individual self (mahādevaṃ) after meditating on the self which is partless (niṣkalaṃ) and agreeable as it is blissful and divested of prakrti (śivam).
Note: These are not epithets of Parvati Pati. The individual self is the great one that shines out by itself as “I” (deva) and thus, is Mahadeva. It is great as it is superior to prakrti or because it is boundless in attributive knowledge (dharma-bhūta-jnāna). The self is partless or niṣkalaṃ as it is the same everywhere, whether it is in the body of a man, deva, etc. Alternatively, as it is knowledge and bliss everywhere, it can be said to be partless due to lack of organs, etc. It is “śivam” or agreeable on account of being blissful and divested of prakrtic guṇās.
The idea is that, the individual self is meditated as niṣkalaṃ and śivam to attain the experience of its’ intrinsic bliss. This is done using the pāśupata vrata, to attain vairagya as well as discrimination between the self and prakrti.
Another reading of the text replaces “dhyāyanto niṣkalaṃ śivam with dhyāyanto visvam aiśvaraṃ”. The meaning does not change. It means “They meditate on the omnipresent self which is the Lordly ruler of the body”.
iha devo mahādevo ramamāṇaḥ sahomayā /
adhyāste bhagavānīśo bhaktānāmanukampayā // KūrmP_1,13.41 //
Meaning: Here, the God Mahadeva sports with Uma. The omniscient ruler (bhagavānīśa) occupies the place to bless the bhakti-yogis (with knowledge).
Note: Readers should note that here “devo mahādevo” is mentioned to specifically highlight the fact that the God Rudra is being referred to, as opposed to the previous shloka which simply used “mahādevaṃ” to denote the individual self. This should make things clear that “mahādevaṃ” in the previous shloka denoted the self and not Rudra.
This shloka establishes that the grace of Mahadeva is required to gain knowledge of Brahman to attain the individual self. Alternatively, if we interpret “bhakta” as those steadfastly engaged in practicing meditation on the individual self, then it can be said Rudra grants knowledge of the individual self directly.
The next 3 shlokas declare the reason why Rudra is a medium of knowledge for Brahman.
ihāśeṣajagaddhātā purā nārāyaṇaḥ svayam /
ārādhayanmahādevaṃ lokānāṃ hitakāmyayā // KūrmP_1,13.42 //
Meaning: Previously, Narayana himself, who is the creator of the entire Universe including brahma and others, worshipped Rudra for the benefit of the worlds.
Note: This is the place where the Lord worshipped Rudra for obtaining a son. Here, it is clearly mentioned that the Lord worshipped Rudra for the “sake of the benefit of the worlds”. Meaning, he did not worship Rudra because he was inferior to the latter, but only to make Rudra worshippable in the worlds as clarified by him in the shanti parva of the Mahabharata. Also, note that Bhagavan is hailed as the creator of the Universe.
“āśeṣa” implies he is the creator of all including Brahma and Rudra as well, which brings out his supremacy. Otherwise, there is no need for this word. It is intended to convey every being, including Rudra was created by him.
The consequences of Narayana worshipping Rudra in this manner are described in the next shloka.
ihaiva devamīśānaṃ devānāmapi daivatam /
ārādhya mahatīṃ siddhiṃ lebhire devadānavāḥ // KūrmP_1,13.43 //
Meaning: It is after worshipping the God īśāna (Rudra), the God of Gods beginning with Indra etc that Devas and Danavas attained great siddhis (anima, garima, etc).
Note: This is a consequence of the Lord worshipping Rudra. As Shri Krishna tells Arjuna in the Shanti Parva, whatever pramāṇa he gives, the world follows. If he did not worship Rudra, others would not worship him, meaning, Rudra, who is his body. As he worshipped Rudra and made him a bestower of boons, the devas and danavas worshipped him to gain powers.
Unlike Narayana who worshipped Rudra for the benefit of the worlds, they worshipped him for petty boons as is evident.
The next shloka clarifies that Rudra can also grant knowledge and not just petty boons.
ihaiva munayaḥ pūrvaṃ marīcyādyā maheśvaram /
dṛṣṭvā tapobalājjñānaṃ lebhire sārvakālikam // KūrmP_1,13.44 //
Meaning: It was here that formerly, the sages beginning with Marici perceived Maheśvara by their ascetic power and gained knowledge of the everlasting or eternal (self).
Note: “sārvakālikam” refers to the individual self which is eternal. Rudra granted them that knowledge and aided them in their Upasana.
tasmāt tvamapi rājendra tapoyogasamanvitaḥ /
tiṣṭha nityaṃ mayā sārdhaṃ tataḥ siddhimavāpsyasi // KūrmP_1,13.45 //
Meaning: Therefore, chief among Kings, you too abide here practicing “tapas” which is contemplation of the self as distinct from the body and performing desireless action that is karma yoga. Stay with me permanently and you will attain success in Yoga.
Note: “tapaḥ” means knowledge – tapobrahma. Knowledge in the form of meditation on the self as distinct from the body is tapas. The term “yoga” means skill in action and thus refers to performing activities without desire for their fruits. The rishi is thus instructing Suśīla to perform Karma-Yoga, which is carrying out prescribed duties while meditating on the self as distinct from the body.
Why is the rishi instructing Suśīla to do Karma-Yoga when he was qualified for Jnāna-Yoga? Sri Krishna explains in the Gita that while Karma-Yoga can lead to Jnāna-Yoga, it is possible to skip Jnāna-Yoga and attain the self by Karma-Yoga itself. This is because even Karma-Yoga has the knowledge component as it requires meditation on the self as distinct from the body. It is easier to perform actions as opposed to sitting still in a secluded place and meditating on the self. On account of these, the rishi has advised Suśīla to undertake Karma-Yoga to secure the experience of the self.
Alternatively, this statement can mean the rishi is recommending Jnāna-Yoga as well. We can take “tapaḥ” as referring to Jnāna-Yoga or meditation on the self, whereas “yoga” means desireless action (karma-yoga) which is practiced as its’ ancillary.
evamābhāṣya viprendro devaṃ dhyātvā pinākinam /
ācacakṣe mahāmantraṃ yathāvat svārthasiddhaye // KūrmP_1,13.46 //
Meaning: After saying thus, the Brahmana meditated on Śiva who is Pināki. He gave the Mahamantra by which one attains his objective.
Note: It should be understood that the Rishi meditated on Rudra due to his status as a medium of the knowledge of Brahman. Alternatively, it can also be said that the meditation is on Narayana who is “Rudra-Śariraka-Paramatma” as described in the Atharvasiras which enjoins such meditation, and the Rishi is a Bhakti-Yogi following this Upasana.
“pinākin” – One who holds the Pinaka bow, or one who possesses “pināka” or the quality of drinking, ie, experiencing (pi) the bliss of the supreme abode which is the individual self.

sarvapāpopaśamanaṃ vedasāraṃ vimuktidam /
agnirityādikaṃ puṇyamṛṣibhiḥ saṃpravartitam // KūrmP_1,13.47 //
Meaning: That Mantra destroys all sins. It is the essence of the Vedas and confers liberation from the distress of samsara (in the form of experience of the self). It is “agniriti bhasma…”. The auspicious mantra has been propagated by the rishis.
Note: This is an aupachārika shloka glorifying the mantra for application of ashes. The application of ashes on one’s body signifies he has relinquished the body, understanding it to be temporary, and engaging in the pursuit of the self which is eternal.
so 'pi tadvacanād rājā suśīlaḥ śraddhayānvitaḥ /
sākṣāt pāśupato bhūtvā vedābhyāsarato 'bhavat // KūrmP_1,13.48 //
Meaning: Upon that instruction, the King Suśīla, with unwavering conviction (in attaining the self), verily became “pāśupata” or one who is associated with meditation on the individual self known as “paśupati”, engaged in study of the Veda.
Note: “paśupati” – The individual self that is the master of anger in its’ pure state. “pāśupata” – Practitioner of meditation on this self. Alternatively, it also means he is a practitioner of the pāśupata vrata.
bhasmoddhūlitasarvāṅgaḥ kandamūlaphalāśanaḥ /
śānto dānto jitakrodhaḥ saṃnyāsavidhimāśritaḥ // KūrmP_1,13.49 //
Meaning: Suśīla resorted to the practice of sannyasa which is meditation on the self by smearing ashes all over his body, subsisting on fruits and roots, being calm, ie, a mind contented in experiencing the self and not having desire for material objects (śānta), subduing the senses (dānta) and conquering anger (jitakrodhaḥ).
Note: “sannyasa” means jnāna-yoga, performed after renouncing action.
All these qualities are cultivated by the Jnāna-Yogi for meditation on the individual self. Note that there are no shaiva elements like “Suśīla attained Kailaśa in the end” or “Suśīla became a devotee of Śiva and Uma”. That itself shows that this meditation is not a Shaiva rite, but is for attaining the individual self.
With this, the section is concluded. It can be seen that the Rishi Śvetāśvatara was no Shaiva, but only a follower of the Vaidika marga, considering Hari alone as Supreme.
A MINOR CLARIFICATION
In the beginning, we mentioned that Rishi Śvetāśvatara was a Hayagrīva bhakta. In that case, how can he be said to perform the Atharvasiras upāsana of Rudra-Śariraka-Paramātma who is Narasimha? The answer is that, the only binding condition is to meditate on the indweller of Rudra in this upāsana. There is no mandate that one must only meditate on the antaryāmin as Narasimha. Though Narasimha is indeed the natural form of Śankarśana, the indweller of Rudra, the Lord assumes whatever form the Yogi desires to see him as. Furthermore, there is no difference in the greatness of one form from the other. On account of this, it is quite permissible to meditate on the antaryāmin of Rudra as Hayagrīva.

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