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Shatarudriyam and Narasimha

THE IMPORTANCE OF NARASIMHA AND HIS DESCRIPTION IN THE SATARUDRIYAM

(Kind contribution from our Sri Vaishnava bandhu, Shri Narayanan)

Swami Desikan mentions the pervasiveness of Narasimha BhagavAn in the vedA in the first slokA his kAmAshikAshtakam as SrutInAm utharam bhagam. This simham can be found the cave of the Upanishads.  This statement by the acharyan is not for the sake of anubhavam, but is a fact because:

1) Narasimha bhagavAn is the only bhagavAn to have his own Upanishad known famously as the Narasimha tApanIya Upanishad (note: other Upanishads like Gopala Tapani, RamOpanishad, etc are not recognised as entirely authentic unlike narasimha tApanIya, which has even been quoted by Shankaracharya and Madhvacharya).

2) The Satarudriyam and MahAmrityunjaya Mantra portion of the Yajur Veda glorifies Bhagavan Narasimha only.

3)  He is the being in the Sun described by the Chandogya Upanishad. Since this Being is described as possessing a moustache and lotus eyes, srI ranga rAmAnuja muni interprets the moustache as the whiskers of a lion, therefore confirming the parama purushan to be Yoga Narasimha!

4) The mahAnArAyaNopanishad describes Narasimha by the names of sadyOjAta, vAmadeva, sarva and ishana.

5)  The mantra rAja pada stOtram is dedicated to narasimha only by Ahirbudhnya.



Thus, it is established that Narasimha is the primary form of BhagavAn glorified by the vedas. His names in the veda include (and not limited to) – Narasimha, Manyu, Rudra, Soma, Nilalohita, PinAkI, Sarva, Umapati/Ambikapati, HiranyabAhu, Shankara, Shiva, Shambhu , Ishana, Tryambaka, Kapardin, Pashupati, Ugra and Bhima. 

One might wonder that most of these are the names of pArvati pati. Such a doubt need not be entertained. Because pArvati pati has a birth (eko ha vai nArAyaNa asIt, na brahma, nEshana). And he is mentioned to be constantly meditating in the third stage of bhakti yoga, presided by Sankarshana. Since Narasimha avatara is an amsam of Sankarshana and Narasimha perumAl has the balam and jnAna gunams seen in this vyUha mUrthy, it follows that Shiva is always meditating on Narasimha, as evidenced in the case of Ahirbudhnya. And hence, Shiva, being a parama bhakta, bears some of the names of Narasimha only and not vice versa. In the vedas, these names belong to bhagavAn only.
 
Another doubt may arise that the Satarudriyam and some portions mentioned here can be interpreted as describing srI rAman instead of srI narasimhan. While that is true, these two avatAras are related. In the vAlmiki rAmAyaNam, SrI rAghavan mentions that he can kill his enemies with his nails. Even Kambar saw fit to include Hiranya vadham in his rAmAyaNa divya kAvyam. That being the case, it is quite proper for the veda to invoke kalyAna gunams of srI rAman in relation to srI narasimha, as it does in Shri Rudram!

Some more notes on Rudram + Narasimha AvatAra in the Satarudriyam
There are some unique names in the various anuvakas of the satarudriyam that warrant our attention. I will simply list the names I remember here. Readers can look it up in the rudram.

1) UccairghoshAH - One whose roar causes fear to the enemies. We remember the Kauravas being frightened by the sound of his pAnchajanya, the asuras frightened by his roar during tripura samharam (when he appeared as a bull to aid Shiva), his HUM kAram which defeated Shiva as narrated by parashurAma, etc.

2) Sabapathi - The Lord of the Sabha Parva as it contains the incident of Bhishma declaring the greatness of Krishna, the SisupAla vadham, etc. Sabha can also refer to samsara, so he is the Lord of samsara.

2) nIlagrIva -  The black-throated narasimha. The narasimha tApanIya Upanishad calls narasimha as nIlalohita, ie, he has a red body with a cavernous throat, black on the inside. He is known as “kAntirava”. So, nIlagriva is also a name of nArAyaNa. That means, an alternative interpretation for the mantra, namO astu nIlagrivyAya sahasrAkshAya midhushE… in the first anuvAkam can mean “I salute the black throated narasimha, who is omniscient and a showerer of boons like a dark rain bearing cloud, as well as his devotees like prahlAda”.

But to interpret it as referring to vibhUtis is also correct. The veda can have more than one meaning.

3) SitikaNta - The white-necked, ie, one who speaks only sattvik speech. White color stands for sattva guna and it refers to bhagavAn who is known as sarvavAgIsvarEsvara in the sahasranAmA, ie, white neck refers to sAttvic words and vedic speech emanating from him. srI vedAnta desika states that the “hala-hala” neighing sound of hayagriva is the very veda itself.

4) sUtAya ca, dUtAyaca - One who was a charioteer (for Arjuna) and one who was a messenger (for Pandavas). Both acts describe his quality of sousIlyam, ie, descending to lower levels for his devotees.
 
There are many such names which warrant closer attention and very unique ones. Besides that, here is a description of srI narasimha avatAra from the 8th anuvAkam.

While the entirety of Satarudriyam is glorifying srI narasimha as per the tApanIya Upanishad, it is pertinent to note that AnuvAkam 8 contains some mantras that directly allude to this avatAra, as opposed to other anuvAkas, that describe srI rAghavan’s kalyAna gunams, or the vishwarUpa. It would be good to look at these mantras in the context of Manyu Sukta.

These mantras are as follows:

Namas somAya ca rudrAya ca
Meaning: Salutations to the One who is sweet like nectar for bhaktas’ enjoyment (Soma) and to the One who makes others shed tears of joy on experiencing his kalyAna gunas (Rudra). 

He is thus, Soma and Rudra to bhaktas like PrahlAda as per Bhattar’s sahasranAma bhAshya for these nAmas.

Namas tAmrAya ca ArunAya ca
Meaning: One who exhibits the qualities of paravAsudevan (tAmra) and the vyUha sankarshana (aruna).

Please refer my previous write-up of Shri Rudram for the explanation of the interpretation of tAmra and aruna.

Namas sangAya ca paShupatayE ca
Meaning: Salutation to the One who gives happiness (to PrahlAda) and to the Lord of Animals (Pashupati).

Bhagavan is a simham. And a simham is known as MrgEndra, the King of Animals. In this form, he gave ananda to prahlAda. Hence, it is appropriate to call him paShupati. Nrusimha tApanIya also states paShupati to be a name of narasimha. The mahAnArAyaNopanishad refers to BhagavAn as the Lord of Bipeds and Quadrupeds as well.

Some commentators interpret paShu as jIva and bhagavan as Lord of jivAs. While this is correct, this is not right for the context. The term paShupati occurs elsewhere in the Rudram where this interpretation can fit in. Here, “Lord of Animals” seems to fit the context.

Namah ugrAya ca bhImAya ca
Meaning: Salutations to the One whose lofty actions destroy enemies and make me grow (Ugra) and to the One who is terrible to the adharmIs (like hiranyakasipu).

This meaning of Ugra is from Mantra rAja pada stotram “ugram veeryam…”. The meaning of BhIma is from Bhattar’s vyAkhyAnam on Vishnu sahasranAma.

NamO agrEvadhAya ca dUrEvadhAya ca
Meaning: One who kills his enemies in front (Agrevadha) and One who removes their strength while staying at a distance (dUrEvadhA).

He destroyed Hiranyakasipu in direct combat. Prior to that, he, without even appearing, ensured that all of Hiranyakasipu’s attempts to murder prahlAda was in vain.

NamO hantrE ca hanIyasE ca
Meaning: One who dispenses punishments to those with ahamkAram (hantrE) and One who punishes the bhagavad/bhagavata aparAdhIs (hanIyasE).

Hiranyakasipu was guilty of both of these. 

NamO vrkshEbyo harikEshEbhyO
Meaning: Salutations to the One in the form of trees with green leaves.

The leaves refer to karma. The tree is samsArA. So, he is the One who keeps the jivAs in samsArA. Or, the tree is the vedas and the leaves are the karmas prescribed by the vedas. He is thus, the Lord of the Vedas. The nrusimha tApanIya describes him as “IshAnas sarvavidyAnAm”.

namO tArAyacha
Meaning: Salutations to He who helped jivAs like prahlAda cross the ocean of samsArA and bestowed the boon of moksha.

Namas shambhavE ca mayOpavE ca
Meaning: One who causes happiness by the beauty of his appearance as half-man, half- lion (shambhu) and One who causes happiness by the beauty of his appearance in sri vaikuntam (mayOpavE).

“nArasimha vapuh srImAn” – he is very beautiful. The meaning for Shambhu is as per Bhattar bhAshyam on sahasranAma.

Namas shankarAyaca mayaskarAya ca
Meaning: Salutations to He who destroys our difficulties (Shankara) and he who provides pleasure of moksha (mayaskarA).

One of the meanings of Shankara is the destroyer of troubles. Having done so, he provides moksha.

Namas sivAya ca sivatarAya ca
Meaning: Salutations to the One who confers auspiciousness (Shiva) and to the One who is the greatest among those that confer auspiciousness (ShivatarA)

Thus, we have seen how the Satarudriyam eulogises Narasimha. The manyu sUktam describes the means to attain him and the benefits he confers. “Shiva” is interpreted as per bhagavad guna darpanam.

Note that this portion can even be interpreted in favour of srI rAma. As I mentioned, the two avatArAs are connected.

40 comments :

  1. May Narasimha swami bless you for your wonderful post.I wanted to know if"karpadin(matted locks)" by any chance,mentioned in Sri Rudram,refers to Lord Narasimha or any other avatara of parambrahma?

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  2. Dear Munshi Padma, thank you as usual. The name "kapardin (matted locks)" can be explained to be Rama's name, since Lord Rama went to the forest with matted locks.

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    1. Kapardi of Sri Rudram is Lord Shiva, not Lord Rama, because at the first place itself, Sri Rudram is a hymn dedicated to Lord Shiva, who lies under the feet of Kali Ma.

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  3. Hare Krishna!

    Pls forgive my impertinence, but most of your interpretations seemed biased and far fetched. I am a devotee of Krishna but I couldn't help but notice that most of your interpretations were perfectly suited for Lord Shiva & less for Lord Vishnu. Pls clear my doubt in more detail.

    Kindly let me have your views on Lord Narasimha fight with Lord Shiva's Sarabha form.

    As for matted hair thats for lord Shiva quite clearly. Lord Rama has never been described with matted hair. Pls clear my doubts & enlighten me.

    Regards

    Rishi

    Hari Bol!

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    1. Dear Rishi,

      Kindly read the "Rudra in the Upanishads" article, especially the prelude that I wrote.

      Rama has been declared as "jaTAdhara" in many places in Valmiki Ramayana. One example in Ayodhya Kanda:

      Verse Locator

      niriikShya sa muhuurtam tu dadarsha bharato gurum |
      uTaje raamam aasiinaam jaTaa maNDala dhaariNam || 2-99-25

      25.niriikSya= looking around; muhuurtam= for a moment; saH bharataH= that Bharata; dadarsha= beheld; gurm= his elder brother; raamam= Rama; aasiinam= seated; uTaje= in the hut; jaTaamaN^Dala dhaariNam= wearing matted locks.

      Looking around for a moment, Bharata beheld his elder brother, Rama himself seated in the hut, wearing matted locks.

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    2. You may also want to read the section Truth#2 in the main page of this blog here, and it will be clear why our interpretations are unbiased:

      http://narayanastra.blogspot.com.au/#h.65zjr22zskcg

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    3. "Sarabha defeating Lord Narasimha" incident is a direct contradiction of Shruti, Smrti, Itihasa, and Sattvika Purana. Hence, the story has absolutely no merit, it is but a concoction of a few small-minded persons who inserted such stories into tAmasa purANas.

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    4. Dear sir, I (Ms. Nilalohita) have caught you red handed. BTW, do you have any reply to the reply I sent you?

      Delete
  4. "Pls forgive my impertinence, but most of your interpretations seemed biased and far fetched."

    Is there any rationale to assume that the descriptions must refer to Shiva only? The bias lies in your stance and not ours. You are agreed that the subject matter of the vedas is Brahman only. And you also agree that Brahman would have infinite attributes with all devas as his vibhUtIs. By a completely neutral process, we arrive at the conclusion that nArAyaNa alone is parabrahman. As Brahman, he bears the names and attributes of everyone in this universe (all that is good) and not just Shiva or the devas. And in addition, he also has several unique names and attributes that are his own.

    The position of Shiva can be easily explained with an example. Suppose a baby boy is born at JanmAshtami. His parents will say, "He is born on Sri Krishna's birthday, so we will name him Krishna". Thus, this boy is named Krishna. But he does not become Krishna, nor is he the Krishna mentioned in the Gita.

    Similarly, Shiva is a devotee of Narasimha/Sankarshana. Shiva has 3 eyes, so he named himself "Tryambaka", after Narasimha who has 3 eyes. Shiva obtained a boon to become the presiding deity of animals, so he called himself "Pashupati" after Narasimha who is called Pashupati. And so on.

    It is not just Shiva. The names of Brahma, Indra, Shiva, Vayu, Agni, etc and even rishis like Pulastya, Suka, Parashara, Vashishta, Vishwamitra, etc are all names of Brahman, sriman nArAyaNa. There is no name that is not his; but there are also many names that are ONLY his and no-one else's as well.

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  5. The padma purana says it was Narasimha who defeated Sharabha and resurrected him back to life upon the prayers of pArvati.

    Here itself, the purusha sukta "aho rAtrE" (day and night) quality of combining contradictory things can be seen. Normally, a sharabha is stronger than a lion. It was with that intent that Shiva, unable to recognise Narasimha's true nature, assumed the Sharabha form. But Narasimha, in his lion form itself, killed Sharabha. It is thus, a proof of Narasimha's supremacy.

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    1. Well done,sir! I have also heard about Lord Narasimha's Ashtamukha Gandabherunda Narasimha form which defeated Sarabheswara,which is worshipped by a few Sri Vaishnavas.I have also seen this ghora form of parameshwara in pictures and also at the gopuram of Sri Rangam temple.I asked someone and he told me that this form is mentioned in the yamalas.I have also heard that there is a temple of this form in YADARIGUTTA of Andhra Pradesh.And I have also heard that his consort is Thayar or Srimati Lakshmidevi in the form of Simhalakshmi(with a lion's head).It'd be enlightening if you shed some light on this matter and some pramanas glorifying this form of the parambrahma,Sri Hari. Thank you!

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  6. One can read the commentary of sri Rudram fully in the "addendum" section of the first page in this blog. This is for those who may have missed it and come claiming that our interpretations are "biased", which they are not, as the article explains.

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  7. Lastly, observe that even in the Rudram, one comes across names like "Sipivista" and "Vishnu" (Om namo bhagavate rudrAya vishnavE mrityur mE pAhi), and other such names like "vAmana" and "harikEsha" (One with curly hair). Is Shiva called Vishnu, Vamana, as one with curly hair or Sipivista anywhere? No. So, even one biased towards shiva will have to interpret such names as belonging to one deity only and will have to use our methodology. There is no escaping it.

    Also, consider this other fact - the shaivites interpretation lack a proper context. But the meanings given here suit the context and flow well. Let me give you an example. The Rudram says the following:

    nIlagrivAya ca sitikaNthAya ca

    Shaivites interpret this as "he who swallowed poison and has blue neck" and "he who had a white neck before swallowing poison". The latter name "SitikaNtha" however, was attained by Shiva when he was strangled by nArAyaNa and acquired a black neck (Siti also means black) as per the mahAbhArata. But Shaivites, despite the pramAna BLATANTLY do not use this meaning because it denigrates the supposed supremacy of their deity itself! And plus, it makes no sense to say he had a white neck before drinking poison - no sangathi, so to speak. The incident also proves that SitikaNtha mentioned here cannot be shiva - that name was acquired when nArAyaNa defeated Shiva in a battle and the latter acknowledged his supremacy!

    Take the vaishnava interpretation - He who has a black neck as narasimha, who frightened hiranyakasipu in that form. Yet, he has a white neck, ie, he, in that very form as narasimha, speaks words of assurance and the vedic speech to devotees like prahlAda. See the continuity and beauty of the interpretation?

    Another two names, take a look.

    namas kapardinE ca vyuptakEshAya ca

    Shaivites say this is shiva with matted locks (kapardin) and shiva with shaved head (vyUptakEsha). While shaivites can say Kapardin is a name of Shiva, they cannot find a pramAna for Shiva as a shaved headed sanyAsi and satisfy themselves by saying, "shiva is the personification of all gurus with shaved heads, so this name is mentioned". This is a very contrived interpretation.

    Note the vaishnava interpretation now - He as Rama in the forest had matted locks (Kapardin) and He in his Buddha avatara had shaved head (vyuptakEsha). Bhagavatam and other texts mention his avatara as Buddha (not Gautama Siddhartha, but a Buddha from a previous yuga was Vishnu). How do we derive this? Reasoning is as follows - Rama went to the forest to, 1)satisfy the wishes of his father, 2) fulfill the wishes of the devas who surrended to himand defeat rAvan. Thus, the purpose of going to the forest and hence, wearing matted locks was to show the path of vedic dharma (obeying parents as well as showing his ability to protect). Rama was also intolerant of nAstika vada like chAruvaka - this is mentioned in the rAmAyaNa. Now, take the Buddha avatara - the purpose of shaving his head was to mislead the asurAs by negating that very dharma he had established with his forest travel and matted locks! See how our meaning fits the context and flows beautifully with significant meaning?

    Thus, the veda celebrates opposite actions and the guNam of nArAyaNa in reconciling opposite attributes. Purusha sukta calls this as "aho rAtrE" - day and night are your sides, meaning, you reconcile contradictory things.

    So, even if we do not consider the fact that all this is irrelevant in the light of shiva being mentioned to have a birth out of karma in the vedas, the vaishnava interpretation is unbiased. Among the deities, it is only nArAyaNa who is mentioned in the sAstra to possess all the attributes such as curly hair, matted locks AND shaven head as well as black neck (narasimha tApanIya upanishad) on various occasions. Thus, the Satarudriyam refers to nArAyaNa only.

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    1. What is your take on Sabhabhyas-Sabhapathibhyascha-
      It is generally noted as 'Lord Shiva, you are the one is the Sabha and you are also the Sabhapathi, the speaker or chief of the council'

      According to the original post, Sabhapathi is given two meanings. If we take Sabhapathi as 'Lord of Sabha parva', then how would you explain Sabha?
      Also how is that, there are two meanings for this? which one should we choose?

      Also, sometimes the names are attributed to Rama, Krishna, Narasimha etc.....So how does the name shatarudriyam, Rudram or rudradhyaya apply?

      I still don't understand how 'Lord of Sabha parva' makes any sense whatsoever.

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    2. You are right. I hadn't noted the context and given a wrong meaning. Apologies.

      I have written a commentary on all 11 anuvAkas of the satarudrIyam. It will clarify everyone's doubts. I hope the author of this blog will post in soon.

      FYI, in that commentary, I have translated "sabha" as the body, which is an assembly of organs and "sabhApati" as the jivAtma which is the ruler of its body. ParamAtma is equated to the body and the jivA by virtue of sarIrAtma sambandham and sAmAnAdhikaraNyam.

      Like I said, if the author is willing, all 11 anuvAkas of the SatarudrIyam, interpreted in the light of sri vaishnava-vishishtadvaita vedAnta, will appear on this blog soon.

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    3. "Also, sometimes the names are attributed to Rama, Krishna, Narasimha etc.....So how does the name shatarudriyam, Rudram or rudradhyaya apply?"

      "Rudra" is a name of sriman nArAyaNa as the destroyer of samsAra dukham. Hence, satarudrIyam is a praise of nArAyaNa known as Rudra. The same nArAyaNa is rAmA, krishNa, narasimha only and hence, the Rudram praises his guNams in all those avatArAs. rAmA, krishNa and narasimha are not different persons, so attributing the name "satarudrIyam" or "Rudram" is not even an issue. Its a strange thing for you to even have this doubt.

      More in the commentary coming soon.

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  8. Is there any reason for using the specific name 'rudriyam' (out of many thousand names) ? Normally the title describes the main subject of discussion. If shatarudriyam is a conglomeration of different attributes of narayana, then it is same as vishnu sahasranama. Also, I am wondering if every single word in vedas extol Narayana, is shiva or any other dieties mentioned anywhere at all, except during the numerous defeats and insults from Sriman Narayana.

    Another point to be noted is, quite a few sri vaishnava scholars whom I am acquainted with, acknowledge shatarudriyam to be a chant to Lord Mahadeva and hence do not partake in chanting the same. This verily gives us a hint of how Vaishnavism in general might have developed from a non-vedantic sect (which is not a bad thing) to the more popular vedantic tradition.

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  9. 1) Just because a few sri vaishnava scholars think Rudram refers to a devata named pArvati pati, it does not mean it reflects the opinion of srI rAmAnuja. Plenty of scholars nowadays often deviate from tradition. Sri Ranga Ramanuja Muni, one of our acharyas, has clearly established the Rudram glorifies nArAyaNa. Sri Mudaliandan Swami Sri Velukkudi Swami, etc acknowledge this.

    If you are going to make insinuations, I suggest you name the scholars who think the way you do and I shall give you information on them.

    2) Once we understand the full meanings of the Rudram, you will know that it nowhere glorifies Shiva.

    3) Vaishnavism is the religion of the Vedanta. It is Shaivam that has always been non-vedantic; even the Brahma sutras reject it. Very funny you even think so, considering every vaidika from Adi Shankara to the last guru of the Madhva tradition have been vaishnavas, with the exception of appayya dikshitar.

    4) As I said "Rudra" means destroyer of samsara dukham. And hence, it is a name of narayana.

    The title comes about as follows. Prajapati wept and his tears in his anger became Rudra, who demanded to be appeased. This satarudrIyam was offered to Rudra. The inner meaning - Prajapati is the jiva. His tears signify attachments to prakrti. "rudra" means "one who makes us weep" and refers to the indrIyas. Appeasing the indrIyas means engaging them in a stuti of bhagavan, to ensure they do not stray into viShayAntarams.

    5) All names in the veda pertain to narayana only. Even if we say "Indra, slayer of Vrtra, Vajrapani", it means "The foremost one (narayana), slayer of the coverer known as prakrti (vRtra), the One who has vajra mark on his foot (vajrapAni). He bears the names of all the devas.

    6) I suggest that you first read the proofs we have given on the website before jumping to conclusions. And wait for us to post the entirety of SatarudrIyam, along with the nIlarudra sukta and krishna kailAsa yatra stuti which seals our interpretation.

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  10. "Normally the title describes the main subject of discussion. If shatarudriyam is a conglomeration of different attributes of narayana, then it is same as vishnu sahasranama"

    The vishNu sahasranama provides the etymology for interpreting virtually every sukta and prashna in the veda as narayaNa only. Indra Suktam, Rudra Sukta, Agni Suktam, etc just use different names to praise the same parabrahman.

    "Also, I am wondering if every single word in vedas extol Narayana, is shiva or any other dieties mentioned anywhere at all, except during the numerous defeats and insults from Sriman Narayana."

    Before trying to be sarcastic, be more knowledgeable of vedAntic traditions. You are actually close to the mark. The various other deities are mentioned very infrequently. For instance, Shiva is mentioned as a creation of nArAyaNa (eko ha vai nArAyaNa asIt na brahma nEshana). He is called "girisha" in the name of nArAyaNa "girishanta" (creator of girisha). In the santi mantras the devatas are invoked as the body of nArAyaNa. The brahmaNas contain some stories of the devas.

    When we see a name like shiva, indra, etc, we interpret it as parabrahman or as a devata ONLY after seeing the context. For instance, kenOpanishad contains info. on how Indra, vAyu, etc were defeated by Brahman. So, the context here is that "indra, vAyu" etc denotes the devas and not parabrahman.

    This is justified very well since krishNa himself says "vedAs ca sarvair aham eva vedyAH". The brahma sutras also say "sakshAtapyavirOdham jaiminiH", ie, the mantras are to be directly interpreted as referring to parabrahman based on grammar. Read up on this.

    And now, if you can stop raising amateurish objections and wait for the postings to come, we will be very happy. Learn the etymology and the nyAyas first.

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  11. The scholars whom I mentioned are not any recognized scholars but just my neighbours.
    Shaivism is not vedantic and I agree. Brhma sutra has rejected pancharatra too, which is the evidence that Vaishnavism is not vedantic. Even by logic, what shiva is for shaivas, Vishnu is for Vaishnavas. If you think about it, we can class all monotheistic views like Christianity, Islam etc under the same category. Each and every tradition have their own arguments and 'contexts'. The major flaw of these views is that, they do not have depth and filled with apparent contradictions and this is why scholars deviate from the tradition.
    I think almost everyone would agree with this: one of the most important aspects of Vaishnavism is that, they vehemently argue against Shankara and his philosophy.

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    1. // The scholars whom I mentioned are not any recognized scholars but just my neighbours. //

      That proves absolutely nothing. I can also claim for free that my nameless faceless Shaivite neighbors whom I deem are 'Shaivite scholars' agree that Rudram, Shvetashvatara Upanishad, Atharvashika, and Atharvashiras do not extol Shiva but Vishnu.

      // Brhma sutra has rejected pancharatra too, which is the evidence that Vaishnavism is not vedantic. //

      Utterly wrong. Even Adi Shankara who objected to certain positions in Pancharatra has openly admitted that the majority of the Pancharatra system is acceptable and is according to the Vedas. He has specifically pointed out that the Pancharatra position regarding the worship of Narayana alone as supreme is as per the Shrutis and Smrtis. This is also the position of Bhaskaracharya.

      yAmuna (in Agama Pramanya) and following in the same manner Ramanuja (in Brahma Sutra Bhashya) have very convincingly shown that the Brahma Sutras do not refute the Pancharatra system, but refutes a pUrvapakSha view against Pancharatra outlined in the first half of the adhikaraNa, in the latter half. Here is the summary of their proof:

      (1) The Pancharatra clearly states that jIvAs are anAdi and not created.
      (2) The third sutra sets aside the pUrvapakSha view in the first two by saying 'Or, if they are of the nature of that which is knowledge and so on, there is no contradiction to that'
      (3) The Pancharatras do not condemn the Vedas, or vice-versa. This is clear from many statements in various samhitas of the Pancharatra.
      (4) Veda Vyasa has stated in the Mahabharata that the Pancharatra in its entirety is the cream of Vedanta. When he says so clearly in the Mahabharata, it is not possible that he says something contradictory in the Brahma Sutras.

      No advaitin or anyone else has ever challenged this interpretation. In fact, Amalananda, an advaitin of the 13th century, deviates from Shankara in this particular adhikaraNa and says that the Pancharatra is entirely Vedic.

      Even before Amalananda, Sarvajnatman (another advaitin who was a staunch devotee of Vishnu) who has abridged the Brahma Sutra Bhashya in "Sankshepa Sariraka" has entirely omitted any criticism of the Pancharatra, while he includes the criticism of every other doctrine including the Pashupata.

      This shows the success achieved by yAmunAchArya and rAmAnujAchArya in defending the Pancharatra as entirely vedic.

      // Even by logic, what shiva is for shaivas, Vishnu is for Vaishnavas. //

      I do not understand what you mean here. But the Vedas clearly state that Vishnu is supreme and is superior to Rudra/Shiva and Brahma.

      // If you think about it, we can class all monotheistic views like Christianity, Islam etc under the same category. //

      Ridiculous claim. The Vedas are entirely monotheistic, and the Vedas say so as well:

      "eko ha vai nArAyaNa AsIt, na brahmA neshAnaH"

      "eko devaH sarva bhUteShu gUDhaH"

      "ajasya nAbhau adhyekaM arpitaM yasmin vishvAni bhuvanAni tasthuH"

      // The major flaw of these views is that, they do not have depth and filled with apparent contradictions and this is why scholars deviate from the tradition.//

      Shows that you are utterly unfamiliar with the proofs given by Vaishnavas, and have never examined their points. You have not even examined the various arguments given in this blog, but then you proceed to refute us. First do your homework, get to know your opponent well. Then you can attempt to refute.

      // I think almost everyone would agree with this: one of the most important aspects of Vaishnavism is that, they vehemently argue against Shankara and his philosophy. //

      Not clear what you are trying to achieve by saying this. In any case... arguing against Shankara's philosophy is not a 'feature' of Vaishnavism. It is a defense offered by Vaishnavites for their philosophy - which is often different from the advaitic view of jIva-Ishvara aikyaM. But certainly Vaishnavites do not recite shatadUShaNI as part of their daily prayers.

      Delete
  12. " That proves absolutely nothing. I can also claim for free that my nameless faceless Shaivite neighbors whom I deem are 'Shaivite scholars' agree that Rudram, Shvetashvatara Upanishad, Atharvashika, and Atharvashiras do not extol Shiva but Vishnu "

    Well in that case, this commentary also holds no value as the author is not any recognized scholar or yati or muni. If I write a book or have a blog, I don't become a scholar either. I will be nameless faceless guy next door. So that should not matter, by your own argument.

    Adi Shankara wholeheartedly accepts certain aspects of Pancharatra like going to the temple with devotion, worship, study of scripture etc. However, Shankara refutes the theory that, Jiva is born from Vasudeva. This is in major conflict with the Vedantic teaching. Perhaps during the time of Shankara, Pancharatra held this view of creation? Or later acharyas changed their views by deviating from the tradition? Pancharatra does not exist today in it's original form and hence we will never know. Of course, you have provided your interpretation, but this is according to Shankara's commentary of Br. Sutra.

    "Veda Vyasa has stated in the Mahabharata that the Pancharatra in its entirety is the cream of Vedanta. When he says so clearly in the Mahabharata, it is not possible that he says something contradictory in the Brahma Sutras"

    Request you to kindly give the reference.

    "But the Vedas clearly state that Vishnu is supreme and is superior to Rudra/Shiva and Brahma."

    This is exactly what I meant. The shaivas claim that, Shiva is supreme in the same manner. The christians claim that hindu gods are satanic and only christ is the saviour. I do not need to say anything special about the Islamists.

    I have no intention to refute your claims. When I saw that rudram was interpreted this way, I was just curious and wanted to clarify a few things. You cannot expect everyone to accept whatever you say. Some doubts and questions will always be there. Anyhow, thanks for all the info.

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    1. You keep digressing in this discussion, seems deliberate to me.

      // Well in that case, this commentary also holds no value as the author is not any recognized scholar or yati or muni. If I write a book or have a blog, I don't become a scholar either. I will be nameless faceless guy next door. So that should not matter, by your own argument. //

      Exactly my point. I used this example to show that your "scholars" may not actually be scholars in the first place.

      // Perhaps during the time of Shankara, Pancharatra held this view of creation? Or later acharyas changed their views by deviating from the tradition? Pancharatra does not exist today in it's original form and hence we will never know. //

      Utterly fanciful to think so. Yamunacharya offered a defense within a few hundred years. It is impossible that Pancharatra 'changed' within such a short period of time. And it is impossible that advaitins such as Amalananda would have accepted this defense if it was so contrived and artificial.

      // Request you to kindly give the reference. //

      These are referenced in the Sri Bhashya of Ramanuja. Please check these for yourselves:

      "This great Upanishad, perfectly consist with the four Vedas, in harmony with Sankhya-yoga, and called by him by the name of the Pancharatra scriptures, and recited by Narayana himself with his own mouth, was repeated by Narada in the presence of many hearers in the abode of Brahman (his sire) in exactly the same way in which Narayana (while that great god had showed himself unto him) had recited it, and in which he had heard it from his own lips." - http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m12/m12c039.htm

      // The shaivas claim that, Shiva is supreme in the same manner. //

      Shows you have never examined both sides carefully and neutrally. If you did, you will not say this. I was of the opinion Shiva = Vishnu but things became clear when I examined everything carefully.

      Delete

    2. // Well in that case, this commentary also holds no value as the author is not any recognized scholar or yati or muni. If I write a book or have a blog, I don't become a scholar either. I will be nameless faceless guy next door. So that should not matter, by your own argument. //

      I answered this point in the manner seen above, assuming that what you meant by "this commentary" was the commentary of the Shaivites who hold that Svetasvatara, Atharvasiras, and Atharvashika extol Vishnu only.

      Delete
  13. "arguing against Shankara's philosophy is not a 'feature' of Vaishnavism. It is a defense offered by Vaishnavites for their philosophy - which is often different from the advaitic view of jIva-Ishvara aikyaM. But certainly Vaishnavites do not recite shatadUShaNI as part of their daily prayers"

    I understand. You just proved my point to anonymous who made a claim that, Shankara was a vaishnava!

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    1. Yes, Shankara was Vaishnava (advaita-Vaishnava). There are very few advaita-Vaishnavas left, that's why I used the term "Vaishnava" without qualifying them as Dvaitins and Vishishtadvaitins. I used the term "Vaishnava" in the sense that we understand today, though technically I should have qualified the term.

      See Anonymous' latest comment also.

      Delete
  14. "I think almost everyone would agree with this: one of the most important aspects of Vaishnavism is that, they vehemently argue against Shankara and his philosophy."

    An addendum to my friend's knowledgeable post - why are you separating "Shankara" and "Vaishnavas" into two different groups? Adi Shankara was a vaishnava as well.

    This stems from the mistaken thinking that Advaita somehow advocates worship of shiva or worship of all gods as opposed to Vishishtadvaita and Dvaita which advocate worship of Vishnu. This is very wrong. All advaitins, as per the proof provided in this blog, were staunch vaishnavas. Advaita allows worship of saguna brahman and even bhEda at a vyAvahArika level, although all this is ultimately dispensed with at the paramArtika level. The saguna brahman identified by Adi Shankara is Vishnu only and not Shiva. Unlike mordern day advaitins, Adi Shankara and most advaita acharayas never wore bhasma or worshipped Shiva as supreme. Neither did they advocate panchOpAsaNa.

    Adi Shankara, Ramanuja and Madhva were all Vaishnavas. The difference of opinion was in the philosophy - ie, advaita, vishishtadvaita and dvaita - and not on which god was supreme, as all 3 accepted Vishnu as supreme and rejected the worship of Shiva as the highest brahman.

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  15. I have nothing much to add to this conversation. Just like to add that, what you both are professing does not have any logical or traditional backing. Making claims about your own tradition is one thing but about Shankara and his philosophy is just bordering on fiction. When you make so many claims, you have to consult the acharyas in the Shankara lineage first. That will add some credibility to what you say.

    Goodbye

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    1. Well, it borders on religious fanaticism to say that one should not say anything about a tradition unless one is born into it. Even in that case, I was born smArtha so in a way I am talking about my own tradition only. Tiruvisanallur Ramasubba Shastrigal, who belonged to the smArtha tradition, pointed out Shankara's Vaishnavism long before Srivaishnavas did.

      Proof that Shankara was Vaishnava was given decades ago and forwarded to the Shankarite scholars/contemporary maThAdhipatis. None of them gave a systematic and convincing response, and none of them published these debates in their spiritual magazines. It shows that they are desperately trying to hide the truth from the lay followers. You can see the proof in the books "Sankararum Vainavamum"(in Tamil) and in "Srikanta Samalochanam" (in Sanskrit).

      What you are saying would be fine if the tradition was authentic. Hundred years before, traditional smArthas knew that the current Sringeri Mutt was established by Vidyaranya, not Shankara, and that Shaivism became widespread among smArthas owing to that mutt. The so-called "traditional Shankarites" of this day have changed and corrupted Shankara's religion a lot, and it can be seen from their heavy inclination to Shaivism, for which Shankara had no favorable sentiments (as seen in his Bhashyas, the AchArya's philosophy is hostile to Shaiva Agamas).

      Delete
    2. Dear Amith,
      Your inquisitiveness is genuine - so here is the answer. Indeed shatarudriyam is popularly associated with Shiva. All vedic verses have atleast three interpretations. A vyaavahaarika interpretation that aides karma anushTAna, oupAsana artha that aides saadhana, and mukhya artha that aides pAramArthika. This is also one of the reason why vedas are called trayi. Just as agni, indra, and other devatas are worshipped in the vedas but their mukhya artha is Vishnu, so does shatarudriya too even while worshipping Shiva primarily is a hymn to Vishnu. The origin of Shaiva worship is from Kashmir which in later years spread into several pockets of India. Even if one were to consider the opinions of Acharyas as biased, Veda Vyasa who is considered as the editor of vedas arrived and announced his conclusion that having studied all the shrutis and smritis he realized that there is none greater or equal to vishnu and that he announces this with both his arms raised. As to the vaishnavatva of adi shankaraacharya, consider the famous Woodroffe who wrote among other books 'the serpent power', even the westerner was convinced adi shankara was a vaishnava. The root of the problem is that there are several compositions attributed to adi shnkara but not necessarily composed/authored by him but by later swamis who were also referred to as shankaracharya - a practice prevalent even to this date. So if you study works attributed to adi shankara you will find many contradictions that are irreconcilable especially in the later compositions.
      Hope that helps.
      यदेव विद्यया करोति श्रद्धया उपनिषदा तदेव वीर्यवत्तरं भवति

      Delete
    3. In clarification of the following comment written by the poster above me:

      "Just as agni, indra, and other devatas are worshipped in the vedas but their mukhya artha is Vishnu, so does shatarudriya too even while worshipping Shiva primarily is a hymn to Vishnu."

      The following is the opinion of the blog authors:

      The sri vaishnava sampradaya believes that all the vedas *directly* address vishNu and there is no secondary addressal to the devas unless the context demands it. For example, srI rAmAnuja quotes the atharvasiras as one instance of nArAyaNa being the mukhya artha and rudra also worshipped as the body of nArAyaNa. However, sri vaishnavas do not accept portions like the SatarudrIyam as addressed to pArvati pati in even a secondary sense. Only nArAyaNa is referred to here.

      mAdhvas on the other hand, see three levels of meanings. They interpret the satarudrIyam as a superficial praise of Shiva, a more deeper praise of bhIma (who is vAyu in their tradition) and finally, the highest meaning as a praise of nArAyaNa.

      The difference between these two traditions is to be noted.

      Delete
    4. In clarification of the following comment written by the poster above me:

      "Just as agni, indra, and other devatas are worshipped in the vedas but their mukhya artha is Vishnu, so does shatarudriya too even while worshipping Shiva primarily is a hymn to Vishnu."

      The following is the opinion of the blog authors:

      The sri vaishnava sampradaya believes that all the vedas *directly* address vishNu and there is no secondary addressal to the devas unless the context demands it. For example, srI rAmAnuja quotes the atharvasiras as one instance of nArAyaNa being the mukhya artha and rudra also worshipped as the body of nArAyaNa. However, sri vaishnavas do not accept portions like the SatarudrIyam as addressed to pArvati pati in even a secondary sense. Only nArAyaNa is referred to here.

      mAdhvas on the other hand, see three levels of meanings. They interpret the satarudrIyam as a superficial praise of Shiva, a more deeper praise of bhIma (who is vAyu in their tradition) and finally, the highest meaning as a praise of nArAyaNa.

      This difference between the two traditions is to be noted. It is plausible that Sri Adi Shankara had a similar opinion as that of the poster above, of course. There is evidence for that in his writings.

      Delete
  16. "Well in that case, this commentary also holds no value as the author is not any recognized scholar or yati or muni. "

    Quite true that I am no scholar or yati or muni, but the reason this commentary holds is because:

    1) srI ranga rAmAnuja muni has interpreted 2 of the Rudram mantras that occur in the svetAsvatArA up. (mantras 3.5 and 3.6 in the upanishad, I believe) and my interpretation follows his only.

    2) I have verified this commentary with scholars like srI U. Ve SthalasayanAchAriar swami and srI U.ve udaliAndan swami, who have kindly assured me that it is very good and accurate indeed due to the grace of srI rAmAnuja.

    So, unlike your nameless, faceless "scholars", what I wrote is verified by true acharyas and scholars. Hence, I believe credibility is in the favor of this blog.

    Lastly, Shaivites have butchered the Rudram by interpreting all the anuvAkas aimlessly as pertaining to rivers, oceans, plants, forests, thieves, etc without understanding the inner meanings. Once our commentary is uploaded here, the shallowness of their bhAshyas will be made clear. Considering this poor understanding of Rudram, they cannot lay claim to it from this angle as well (besides the fact that shiva is not even the referrant of Rudram or supreme as per veda).

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  17. "The shaivas claim that, Shiva is supreme in the same manner."

    Not in the same manner.

    1) The Shaivas have never reconciled the entirety of sruti like Vaishnavas and do not have a clear cut system explaining vAkyas that declare the shortcomings of Shiva or the position of Vishnu in their system.

    2) Shaivas consider the Shaiva agamas as authoritative and accept sruti only so long as it doesn't contradict those agamas. This is in total opposition to the vedic position, ie, that vedas are apAurushEya and paramount authority and other works are valid only so long as they do not contradict the vedas.

    3) Among those who have a semblance of methodology, such as Appayya Dikshitar, even they often draw on non-conventional sources or even admit that they cannot interpret nArAyaNa as a name of Shiva, etc, thus accepting inadequacy.

    Thus, to say that "Shaivas can make the same claim, Shaktas can make the same claim" reeks of ignorance. The traditional Shaiva and Shakta way of "interpretation" is simply to jump blindly and headfirst into the ocean of sruti and randomly choose names like "Rudra", "Maheshwara", "Shiva", etc and ascribe it to their deity, without any regard to context, reconciliation or explanation. Whereas, achArya rAmAnuja begins very calmly with general terms like "sath", "athma" and "brahman" and elegantly shows how it all denotes nArAyaNa only, and logically shows how the other devas are different from, subordinate to nArAyaNa, being jivas themselves.

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  18. "Adi Shankara wholeheartedly accepts certain aspects of Pancharatra like going to the temple with devotion, worship, study of scripture etc. However, Shankara refutes the theory that, Jiva is born from Vasudeva. This is in major conflict with the Vedantic teaching."

    The point of relevance to the blog is that Adi Shankara accepts worship of Narayana as supreme, while rejecting some other aspects of the Pancharatra. Whereas, he rejects the Pasupata system in its entirety and does not even make a passing comment about accepting Shiva in a similar way.

    That is what, is relevant to the issue discussed in this blog.

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  19. My pranams to you. Thanks for the enlightening posting on shatarudriyam and rudram. I have attached question on the commentary of rudram. Are there any Vaishnava commentary on rudram written by Sri Vaishnava acharyas or in the madhva sampradaya?

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    1. Thirukkudanthai Andavan and some Vidwans in early 19th century have commented on the Rudram from a Sri vaishnava perspective, but such works are not available in print anymore to my knowledge. The commentary you see here is based on the snippets of those commentaries we found, and after input from some scholars.

      There is a mAdhva commentary by Sri Bannanje Govindacharya, a respected scholar, I believe. According to madhvas, Rudram has 3 layers of meaning - it superficially talks about Bhima, then vAyu and finally the superior most meaning of vishNu. This line of thinking is unique to their sampradaya.

      As a heads up, I'd like to clarify that this article "ShatarudrIyam and Narasimha" has some errors in interpretation as it was written without proofreading. Please refer to the actual commentary in the blog (Rudram-Anuvakas 2 to 11) for the actual meanings. As mentioned earlier, we are cleaning up some of our older articles.

      Delete
  20. Correction: mAdhva vyakhyana assumes superficial meaning to be Rudra, the deeper meaning to be Bhima/vAyu and the superior meaning to be vishNu. Not Bhima,vAyu and vishNu as I previously mentioned. Bhima and vAyu are the same as per their tradition.

    Sri Vaishnava Vidwans do not see a reference or relevance to pArvati pati (or for that matter, vAyu) in the Rudram, not even as a devatA. But there is a line of thinking that the "aghora rishi" who saw these mantras is none other than Rudra/Ahirbudhnya who also composed the mantra-rAja-pada stotra.

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  21. Regarding Sri Bannanje's commentary, I will provide a sample of how the mAdhva perspective differs from the sri vaishnava perspective. As an example for this mantra:

    Asau yOavasarpati nIlagrIvo vilOhitaH |utainam GopA AdruSaNadrusAnnudahAryah |Utainam vishvA bhUtani sa drashto má¹›DayAthi nah||

    Sri Govindacharya takes "asau yO avasarpati" as the Sun setting, descending downwards in the ocean. By sun, it is meant that this is the form of sUrya nArAyaNa. This sUrya nArAyaNa is described as "nIlagrIva", because when the sun sets in the ocean, the blue color of the ocean is like the neck which complements the red color (vilOhitaH). Alternatively, nArAyaNa is called nIlagrIva as he wears the nIla maNi around his neck. He also gives the meaning of "shivAntaryAmin" for nIlagrIva in the next rk, as he is the inner self of nIlagrIva. The perception of sUrya nArAyaNa is thus available to all "gopas", ie, those who have knowledge of the vedas (designated as "go"). Whereas, the general populace (vishvAni bhUtani) only see the sun.

    In contrast, the sri vaishnava commentary goes as follows,

    "That (Rudra) descends (as Narasimha), is black throated (nIlagriva) and is reddish in bodily hue elsewhere (vilOhita). Even those who protect the earth which is samsAra mandala (gopA) and those who carry water, ie, the body made of subtle elements can see him. He is also thus seen by all beings. May he confer bliss (of the form of cessation of samsAra and moksha prApti) to us."

    That Narasimha who has gaping jaws has a mouth which is black as the inside of a mountain cave. Thus he is nIlagrIva. He is also vilOhitaH since his tongue, eyes, palms and soles are red (rohitaH is a name occuring in the sahasranAma). The Lord, who is unattainable by self-efforts, descends out of his own volition and is thus visible to the "gopas" and "udahAryas".

    "gopa" - Those who protect the earth (go). Here, "earth" means samsAra mandalam and it is said that the baddha jIvas protect samsAra since they sustain it, ie, without them, samsAra does not exist. "udahArya" - in the upanishads, "water" refers to the subtle elements and hence "udahArya" refers to bearers of the body composed of the subtle elements. Thus, both these terms refer to samsarIs and the rk says that despite being associated with a body and revolving in the cycle of births and deaths due to ajnAna, they were blessed with the vision of Bhagavan by his mercy. Narasimha was not only visible to Prahlada and the devas, but even to ajnAnIs like Hiranyakasipu.

    Readers can choose whatever meaning suits their inclination as both are backed by pramAnAs. But Sri GovindAchAryA's meaning does not fit the context of the 5th anuvAka "nIlagrIvAya ca shitikaNthAya ca" where contrasting attributes of terrifying "black-throatedness" and "sattvik speech" are given. For the sounds that emanated from Narasimha's black throat, were sweet and sattvik in nature, which is the contradiction implied by the 5th anuvAka.

    Just an interesting comparison. Please note that the above sri vaishnava meaning is one of the corrections we are intending to make in our article on Anuvaka 1 in the blog; at the moment, the commentary we had initially given in the article is not exactly correct and was hastily uploaded without proofreading or clarification with scholars when the blog went online. So it came to my mind to share this here. We will make these changes in the actual article soon enough.


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  22. Additionally, for "kapardinE ca vyuptakEshAya ca", one of the meanings Sri GovindAchArya gives "vyuptakEsha" (shaven headed form) as a reference to srI mAdhvachArya, the sanyAsi avatAra of mukhyapraNa. Interestingly, shaiva advaitins interpret "vyuptakEsha" as Adi Shankara, the sanyAsi avatAra of shiva! Well, I suppose they can argue with each other over advaita siddhi and nyAyamrta and whoever is the victor, can claim the name for themselves as a prize?

    Unfortunately, we vishishtadvaitins do not join the party and give a less flattering interpretation to that nAma. Quite ironic that the name, which is perceived as a reference to shankara/mAdhva as propagators of knowledge and dharma, actually only refers to buddha avatAra of bhagavAn, who is as far away as can be from true knowledge or dharma!

    And of course, I'm not saying this because it is a sri vaishnava interpretation, but even those advaitins and dvaitins have to admit that interpreting such nAmas as a reference to their gurus is quite far-fetched and a tad fanciful. In that respect, our AchAryAs had the foresight to refrain from interpreting any part of shruti as a fanciful reference to srI rAmAnuja regardless of their convictions, though a clear and direct reference to the azhwars does exist in the bhAgavata sloka "kalou kalou kvachit kvachit..."

    My personal opinion as a vishishtadvaitin. Not to be construed as a critique of their darshanas.

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