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Undersetanding the Mahabharata - Part 2

In the second part of the Mahabharata series, we will take up 3 sections which elaborate the nature of the Supreme Being (Vishnu), the nature of the realized, subservient self (Shiva) and the nature of the means (PancarAtra). 
The section describing the nature of the supreme being is the praise of Krishna by Shiva in the Harivamsha. When Shiva arrives at the spot where Krishna is performing penances for progeny, he immediately extols Krishna as the Supreme Being. We have provided a translation of this section, as the first part of the article.
The section describing the nature of the subservient self is provided in Ashwattama’s praise of Shiva enshrined in the Sauptika Parva. Ashwattama invokes Shiva to accomplish his end (the destruction of the Pandavas) and for this purpose, he embarks on a magnificent stuti of Shiva that clearly illustrates his true nature. Out of all the Shiva stutis present in the texts, this one composed by Ashwattama can be considered to be the most precise one in describing the nature of Shiva in a clear manner.
The final section is taken from the Santi Parva and describes the greatness of the pAncarAtra Agama which is the means to attain the Lord. In the course of this description, the section also compares and contrasts the Shaiva Agamas and elaborates the true nature of the tattvas associated with such veda-bAhya darshanas.
We will begin with the first section described previously above and proceed in that order.
tato vR^iShadhvajo devaH shUlI sAkShAdumApatiH |
karaM kareNa saMspR^ishya viShNoshchakradharasya ha ||3-88-1
Meaning: Thence, the bearer of the flag with the emblem of a bull, the resplendent wielder of trident, none other than the consort of Uma himself, touched the hand of Vishnu the bearer of sudarshana chakra with his own hand.
The bull signifies Dharma. The shUla signifies he is the destroyer of triguNAs that are like asurAs. He is the Lord of Uma, who is renowned for her knowledge. 
Krishna possesses the Sudarshana Chakra which flies faster than wind and unfailingly arrives very swiftly to rescue his devotees. The point is that, Krishna fulfills the desires of his devotees very quickly, thus he quickly fulfilled Shiva’s desire that he worship the latter and give him the status of boon-giver. Like the unfailing Chakra, the Lord’s fulfilment of his promise to Shiva is also unfailing.
provAcha bhagavAnrudraH keshavaM garuDadhvajam |
shR^iNvatAM sarvadevAnAM munInAM bhAvitAtmanAm ||3-88-2
Meaning: Rudra who possesses knowledge related to the universe, beings, and wisdom (bhagavAn) told Keshava, who bears the Garuda insignia on his flag, having discerned the question in the minds of the all devas, sages, and the devotees who were listening there.
The gods, rishis and others who had gathered there had harbored doubts about the supremacy of Vishnu on seeing him propitiate Shiva. Thus, the omniscient Mahadeva, whose role is to guide the lesser beings towards Brahman, knew of their doubts and sought to resolve them quickly.
Shiva’s request to Krishna that he be worshipped by the latter need not to be construed as an act of ego. Shiva knew that the lesser devas and even the Asuras like Banasura needed his guidance for protection and gaining knowledge of Hari. To be in a position to impart such guidance, he needed recognition as a competent boon-giver. Thus, he sought Hari to worship him, thereby giving him this status.
kimidaM devadevesha chakrapANe janArdana |
tapashcharyA kimarthaM te prArthanA tava kA vibho ||3-88-3
svayaM viShNurbhavAnnityastapastvaM tapasAM hare |
putrArthaM yadi te deva tapashcharyA janArdana ||3-88-4
putro datto mayA deva pUrvameva jagatpate |
shR^iNu tatrApi bhagavankAraNaM kAraNAtmaka ||3-88-5
Meaning: “What is this, Oh Lord of Brahma who is the lord of all devas, Oh bearer of Sudarshana chakra, Oh protector of people from the asurAs/karmas (janArdana)? Why do you perform these austerities? What is it that you seek from me? Indeed, you are Vishnu the Eternal, the austerity of all austerities, Oh Hari! If your prayer is for begetting a son O Janardana, I have already given a son to you long back. Oh One who has the nature of being the means (kAraNAtmaka) , Oh possessor of six auspicious attributes (bhagavAn), listen to what caused that particular incident.
“ChakrapAne” signifies he destroys the wicked. “janArdana” means he protects his devotees from the wicked karmas by showing his presence. This is “sAdhu paritrANAm” and “vinAsAya ca duskrtAm”.
“kAraNam” signifies “instrument” as in “means”. His nature is to be the means to all ends, hence he is “kAraNAtmaka”. Thence Shiva is saying in awe, “You who are the means to everything, are considering me as a means to attain something? Your sousIlya (lowering his status to mingle with lesser people) has no limits!”.
tapashchartuM pravR^itto.ahaM kutashchitkAraNAddhare |
varShAyutaM mahAghoraM purA kR^itayuge tadA ||3-88-6
bhavAnI tatra me deva parichartuM tadAbhavat |
pitrA niyuktA devesha umaiShA varavarNinI ||3-88-7
Meaning: “During the krtayuga, for some particular reason, I was engaged in a difficult penance for a ten thousand years. At that time, bhavAnI came to offer services to me. This umA of beautiful splendor was sent there by her father.
bhIta indrastadA deva mAraM mAM praiShayattadA |
madhunA saha saMyukte mAro mAmAgatastadA ||3-88-8
lakShyaM mAmakarottatra bANasya preShitasya ha |
eShA mAM sevate tatra dAnAtpuShpAdinAM hare ||3-88-9
Meaning: “Indra, who was frightened due to my penance at that time, sent the god of love (mAra = manmatha) to me (in order to disturb my penances). He then shot an arrow aimed at me. She (umA) was propitiating me with offerings of flowers, Oh Lord Hari!
tataH kruddho.ahamabhavaM dR^iShTvA mAraM tathAvidham |
kruddhyato mama devesha netrAdagniH papAta ha ||3-88-10
so.ayamagnistadA mAraM bhasmasAtkR^itavAnhare |
achintayaM tadA viShNo shakrasyaitachchikIrShitam ||3-88-11
Meaning: “At that time, I became angry, seeing the god of love in that manner. Because of that, fire emanated from my (third) eye and fell. Oh Hari! That fire burned manmatha and turned him into ashes. Then, I thought about this act of Indra, Oh Vishnu!
tataH prabhR^iti devesha dayA taM prati vartate |
brahmaNA cha niyukto.asmi prItastatra janArdana ||3-88-12
niyuktaH putrarUpeNa sa te deva jagatpate |
jyeShThastava suto deva pradyumnetyabhivishrutaH ||3-88-13
smaraM taM viddhi devesha nAtra kAryA vichAraNA |
Meaning: “From then on, I started having compassion towards him (the god of love). I am also directed by brahmA, having become pleased. Oh Janardana! He is now appointed to be your son, Oh resplendent one! Oh Lord of the Universe! He is your elder son, widely celebrated as Pradyumna. Know that he is indeed the god of love, Oh Lord of the Devas, there is no doubt in it.”
Note that “isam kamalAsanasthaM” in the gIta is explained clearly here by “brahmaNA cha niyukto.asmi” - Shiva, who abides (sthaM) by the directions of Brahma (kamalAsana). 
ityuktvA punarAhedaM yAthAtmyaM darshayanniva ||3-88-14
munInAM shrotukAmAnAM yathAtmyaM tatra sattamaH |
a~njaliM saMpuTaM kR^itvA viShNumuddishya sha~NkaraH ||3-88-15
umayA sArdhamIshAno yathAtmyaM vaktumaihata |
hare kurvati tatraivama~njaliM kurusattama ||3-88-16
munayo devagandharvAH siddhAshcha sahakinnarAH |
a~njaliM chakrire viShNordevadeveshvare harau ||3-88-17
Meaning: Having spoken thus so far, venerable (sattamaH) Rudra spoke again as follows, showing the essential truth to the sages who were desirous of listening. Rudra held his palms together to propitiate Vishnu in anjali mudra, with Parvati occupying one half of his body, desirous of explaining the real essence. When Hara acted thus, the sages, devas, gandharvas, siddhas, and kinnaras joined him with palms together propitiating Lord Vishnu - Hari - the Lord of the best of the devas.
In the gIta, Sri Krishna explains that one follows what jnAnIs and mahAtmas do. Thus, the rishis, devas etc followed Rudra’s lead in propitiating Vishnu.
maheshvara uvAcha --
yattatkAraNamAhustatsA~NkhyAH prakR^itisaMj~nakam |
tato mahAnsamutpannaH prakR^itiryasya kAraNam ||3-88-18
tridhA bhUtaM jagadyoniM pradhAnaM kAraNAtmakam |
sattvaM rajastamo viShNo jagadaNDaM janArdanaH ||3-88-19
tasya kAraNamAhustvaM sA~NkhyaprakR^itisa~j~nakam |
tadrUpeNa bhavAnviShNo pariNamyAdhitiShThati ||3-88-20
Meaning: Maheshvara spoke as follows: “That which the sAMkhyas speak of as the Cause is known as Prakriti. From it, the principle called Mahan, whose cause is the Prakriti, is born. The Pradhana that is the (material) cause is of threefold nature, and is the source of the universe. Oh Vishnu! Its three qualities are sattva, rajas, and tamas. It forms the cosmic egg, from which the universe is born. It is verily you, Janardana! 
sharIrAtma bhAva is used here to equate the Universe with Vishnu. This is so for succeeding verses as well.
tasmAttu mahato ghorAdaha~NkAro mahAnabhUt |
sa tvamAdau jagannAtha pariNAmastathA hi saH ||3-88-21
aha~NkArAtprabho deva kAraNAni mahAnti cha |
tanmAtrANi tathA pa~ncha bhUtAni prabhavantyuta ||3-88-22
Meaning: Indeed, from that (the pradhAna or mUlaprakR^iti) which is great and frightful (ghora), the principle called “mahAn” was born. That mahAn which was formed at the beginning of creation is indeed You, Jagannatha!  From its modification, the great causes known as the “tanmAtras” (five in number) and the panchabhUtas were born.
tAni tvAmAhurIshAnaM bhUtAnIha jagatpate |
pR^ithivI vAyurAkAshamApo jyotishcha pa~nchamam ||3-88-23
chakShurghrANaM tathA sparsho rasanaM shrotrameva cha |
manaH ShaShThaM tathA deva prerakaM tatra tatra ha ||3-88-24
Meaning: You indeed, the Lord, are those gross elements (and the tanmAtras), Lord of the Universe! The bhUtas are enumerated as: Earth, Wind, Sky, Water, and Fire. The tanmAtras are: sight, smell, touch, taste, and sound. The sixth, which is the mind, is you as well Oh Radiant Lord! It is the stimulator leading to various experiences.
karmendriyANi chAnyAni vAgAdIni janArdana |
tvameva tAni sarvAni karoShi niyatAtmavAn ||3-88-25
sveShu sveShu jagannAtha viShayeShu tathA hare |
niveshayasi devesha yogyAmindriyapaddhatiM ||3-88-26
Meaning: You, the self-controlled one alone, Oh Janardana, create the other karmendriyas such as speech. Likewise Oh Lord of the Universe, you have given fitness (to be the objects of enjoyment), which are the path leading the indriyas into, in the respective objects of enjoyment.
yadA tvaM rajasA yuktastadA bhUtAni sR^iShTavAn |
yadA cha sattvayukto.asi tadA pAtA jagattrayam ||3-88-27
yadA tvaM tamasA.a.akR^iShTastadA saMharase jagat |
tribhireva guNairyuktaH sR^iShTirakShAvinAshane ||3-88-28
Meaning: When you are endowed with the quality of rajas, you are creating beings. When you are endowed with the quality of sattva, you become the protector of the three worlds. When you are endowed with the quality of tamas, you annihilate the universe. You are endowed with the three gunas for the purpose of creation, preservation, and annihilation.
vartase trividhAM bhUtimAdAya nitatAtmavAn |
indriyANIndriyArtheShu niyojayasi mAdhava ||3-88-29
prANinAmupabhogArthamantaH sthitvA jagadguro |
tasmAtsarvatra bhUteShu vartate sarvabhogavAn ||3-88-30
Meaning: Bringing along the three types of wealth, you are present (inside the bodies of living beings) engaging the sense-organs in their respective objects. In order that living beings can enjoy (ie, experience), you exist inside them, Oh Preceptor of all as you are the source of all knowledge  (Jagadguru). Hence, you exist inside all beings and are the enjoyer of all objects.
brahmA tvaM sR^iShTikAle tu sthitau viShNurasi prabho |
saMhAre rudranAmAsi tridhAmA tvamasi prabho ||3-88-31
Meaning: You are Brahma during the time of creation. You are Vishnu during the time of protection. You possess the name of Rudra during annihilation. You are shining in the three regions, Oh Lord.
bhUmirApo.analo vAyuH khaM mano buddhireva cha |
etAH prakR^itayo deva bhinnAH sarvatra te hare ||3-88-32
Meaning: The five elements (earth, water, fire, air, sky) as well as the mind and intellect are your various natures present everywhere.
In the next few shlokas, Rudra himself shows that the Purusha Sukta sings the glory of Sriman Narayana, who is standing before his eyes.
sahasrashIrShA puruShaH sahasrAkShaH sahasrapAt |
sahasradhAraH sAhasrI sahasrAtmA divaspatiH ||3-88-33
bHUmiM sarvAmimAM prApya saptadvIpAM sasAgarAm |
aNuH sarvatrago bhUtvA atyatiShThaddashA~Ngulam ||3-88-34
tvamevedaM jagatsarvaM yadbhUtaM yadbhaviShyati |
tvatto virATprAdurabhUtsamrATchaiva janArdana ||3-88-35
Meaning: The Purusha is of thousand heads, eyes, and feet. He is of thousand streams (of knowledge), possesses a thousand (rays in the form of sun, moon etc), has a thousand bodies, and is the Lord of the effulgent Paramapada. (This Purusha is none but you, hence I say the following). You  indeed are this universe in its entirety, whatever existed, and whatever will exist. From you alone, Virat (Aniruddha) was born and thus was Samrat (four-faced Brahma, who was born from Anirudddha), Oh Janardana!
“Thousand” refers to infinite or too numerous to count here. Knowledge is like a stream that proceeds forward from him. He reveals the Veda and other shAstrAs by his knowledge. He has a thousand bodies, meaning, everything is his body, including the unique forms assumed by him which are endless.
tava vaktrAjjagannAtha brAhmaNo lokarakShakaH |
prAdurAsItpurANAtmanShaTkarmanirataH sadA ||3-88-36
rAjanyastu tathA bAhvorAsItsaMrakShaNe rataH |
UrvorvaishyastathA vishNoH pAdAchChUdra udAhR^itaH ||3-88-37
evaM varNA jagannAtha tava dehAjjanArdana |
Meaning: From your face, Oh Ancient One, the Brahmana who is the protector of the worlds and ever satisfied with six duties (learning the Vedas, teaching them, performing Yajnas, assisting in the performance of Yajnas, giving dAna and receiving it), was born. From the two shoulders, the Kshatriya fond of protecting and defending was born. From the chest, the Vaishya was born. From the feet of you, who is Vishnu, was the Sudra born. Hence, Oh Janardana, the four Varnas were born from your body.
manasastava devesha chandramAH samapadyata ||3-88-38
sukhakR^itsarvabhUtAnAM shItAMshuramitaprabhaH |
akShNoH sUryaH samutpannaH sarvaprANivilochanaH ||3-88-39
yasya bhAsA jagatsarvaM bhAsate bhAnumAnasau |
mukhAdindrashcha agnishcha prANAdvAyurajAyata ||3-88-40
nAbherabhUdantarikShaM tava deva janArdana |
dyaurAsIttu mahAghorA shirasastava gopate ||3-88-41
Meaning: Oh Lord of the Devas, the moon was born from your mind. The moon gives comfort to all living beings, possessing cool rays and abundant illumination. From your eyes, the sun was born. This sun oversees all living beings, the whole world is illuminated by him, and is luminous. Indra and Agni were born from your mouth. From your breath, Vayu was born. Space was born from your abdomen, oh Janardana! Oh Lord of Speech (i.e., Vedas) the celestial realm that is terrible (by its’ effulgence and unapproachability to the asuras) was born from your head.
padbhyAM bhUmiH samutpannA dishaH shrotrAjjagatpate |
evaM sR^iShTvA jagatsarvaM vyApya sarvam vyavAsthitaH ||3-88-42
vyApya sarvAnimA.NllokAnsthitaH sarvatra keshava |
tatashcha viShNunAmAsi dhAtorvyApteshcha darshanAt ||3-88-43
Meaning: From your feet, the earth was born. The directions were born of your ears, Oh Lord of the Universe! Having created the entire universe thus, you entered everything, entered all the worlds, and exist everywhere, Oh Keshava! Hence, you are known by the name “Vishnu” as well as due to the visibility of your pervasiveness in all substances.
Having described Sriman Narayana as the pratipAdya devatA of Purusha Sukta, Maheshvara next explains the meanings of some of his names:
nArA ApaH samAkhyAtAstAsAmayanamAditaH |
yatastvaM bhUtabhavyesha tannArAyaNashabditaH ||3-88-44
Meaning: The waters are called “nAras”. Since from the beginning you are their refuge, you are known as “Narayana” Oh Lord of the past and the future!
harasi prANino deva tato haririti smR^itaH |
sha~Nkaro.asi sadA deva tataH sha~NkaratAM gataH ||3-88-45
Meaning: You annihilate all beings, and hence you are remembered as “Hari”. You are ever “Shankara” (one who generates ‘shaM’ or auspiciousness) and hence you possess that nature.
bR^ihattvAdbR^iMhaNatvAchcha tasmAdbrahmeti shabditaH |
madhurindriyanAmeti tato madhuniShUdanaH ||3-88-46
hR^iShIkANIndriyANyAhusteShAmIsho yato bhavAn |
hR^iShIkeshastato viShNo khyAto deveShu keshava ||3-88-47
Meaning: Because you are great, and you make anything connected to you great, you are known as “Brahma”. The sense organs are known as “madhu” and hence you are known as “madhunishudana” (one who subdues the senses). The sense organs are also known as “Hrishikas”. Since you are their Lord, Oh Keshava, Oh Vishnu, you are known as “Hrishikesha” among the devas.
ka iti brahmaNo nAma Isho.ahaM sarvadehinAm |
AvAm tavA~NgasaMbhUtau tasmAtkeshavanAmavAn ||3-88-48
Meaning: “Ka” is the name of Brahma. I am the “Isha” or the controller of all those who are embodied. The two of us (Brahma and I, Maheshvara) are born from your limbs and hence you are known as “Keshava”.
mA vidyA cha hare proktA tasyA Isho yato bhavAn |
tasmAnmAdhavanAmAsi dhavaH svAmIti shabditaH ||3-88-49
gaureShA tu yato vANI tAM cha veda yato bhavAn |
govindastu tato deva munibhiH kathyate bhavAn ||3-88-50
Meaning: The word “mA” means knowledge, Oh Hari! Since you are the lord of knowledge, you are known as “mAdhava”. There, the meaning of the term “dhava” is “svAmI” or Lord. The name “go” refers to speech. Since you are the knower of speech, you are known as “Govinda” by the seers.
trirityeva trayo devAH kIrtitA munisattamaiH  |
kramate tAMstathA sarvAstrivikrama iti shrutaH ||3-88-51
Meaning: The three devas are known as “tri” by the most excellent of Munis. Since you surpass all of them, you are known as “trivikrama”.
This is a name unique to Krishna-avatAra. In this avatAra, the Lord subdued Indra in his acquisition of the pArijata, Brahma when the latter stole his calves and Shiva during the fight against bAnasura. He thus asserted his supremacy over all three devas who acknowledged it.
aNurvAmananAmAsi yatastvaM vAmanAkhyayA |
mananAnmunirevAsi yamanAdyatiruchyase ||3-88-52
Meaning: You are known as “vAmana” since you are subtle (pervading even the subtle self). You are known as “muni” since you are engaged in contemplation (ever focused on how to deliver all living beings).
tapashcharasi yasmAttvaM tapasvIti cha shabditaH |
vasanti tvayi bhUtani bhUtAvAsastato hare ||3-88-53
IshastvaM sarvabhUtAnAmIshvaro.asi tato hare |
Meaning: You perform austerities (i.e., display the qualities of saulabhyam and saushilyam for the welfare of your devotees) hence you are known as “tapasvI”. The beings dwell in you, hence you are known as “bhUtAvAsas”.
Next, Shiva reiterates the contents of the Vibhuti Yoga chapter of the Gita, describing Krishna as the possessor of all the vibhUtis:
praNavaH sarvavedAnAM gAyatrI ChandasAM prabho ||3-88-54
akSharANAmakArastvaM sphoTastvaM varNasaMshrayaH |
rudrANAmahamevAsi vasUnAM pAvako bhavAn ||3-88-55
ashvattho vR^ikShajAtInAM brahmA lokagururbhavAn |
merustvaM parvatendrANAM devarShINAM cha nAradaH ||3-88-56
dAnavAnAM bhavAndaityaH prahrAdo bhaktavatsalaH |
sarpANAmeva sarveShAM bhavAnvAsukisaMj~nitaH ||3-88-57
guhyakAnAM cha sarveShAM bhavAndhanada eva cha |
varuNo yAdasAM rAjA ga~NgA tripathabhAgbhavAn ||3-88-58
AdistvaM sarvabhUtAnAM madhyamAntastathA bhavAn |
tvattaH samabhavadvishvaM tvayi sarvaM pralIyate ||3-88-59
Meaning: (1) Among the Vedas, you are the praNavAkAra. (2) Among the metres, you are the Gayatri metre. (3) Among the letters, you are the “akAra”. (4) Among the Rudras, you are my very own self. (5) Among the Vasus, you are Agni. (6) Among the trees, you are “ashvattha”. (7) You are the Brahma the Guru to the universe. (8) Among the mountains, you are Meru. (9) Among the devarshis, you are Narada. (10) Among the Danavas, you are the daitya prahlAda. You show mercy to your devotees. (11) Among the snakes, you are the one known as “vAsuki”. (12) Among the guhyakas (hidden beings such as Yakshas), you are the giver of wealth i.e. Kubera. (13) Among the marine beings, I am Varuna. (14) You are the river Ganga, one that partakes in the three paths.
You are the origin of all beings, their middle and their end. From you, the universe originates and everything dissolves into you.
ahaM tvaM sarvago deva tvamevAham janArdana |
AvayorantaraM nAsti shabdairarthairjagatpate ||3-88-60
nAmAni tava govinda yAni loke mahAnti cha |
tAnyeva mama nAmAni nAtra kAryA vichAraNA ||3-88-61
tvadupAsA jagannAtha saivAstu mama gopate |
yashcha tvAM dveShTi devesha sa mAM dveShTi na saMshayaH ||3-88-62
Meaning: I am yourself, who exist everywhere, oh effulgent one. I am indeed you, oh Janardana. Between the two of us, there is no difference by word or meaning (which extend to my antaryAmin by virtue of body-soul relationship), oh Lord who possesses the universe as his body (jagatpate). Oh Govinda, your great names that are well-known in this world alone are my names. There is no doubt in this. May worship that is directed to you be mine, Oh Lord of speech! There is no doubt that one who hates you hates me as well.
Having mentioned that everything including himself is a vibhUti of krishna, Shiva proceeds to elaborate the reason why he and everything else is a vibhUti (property) of the Lord. It is because everything is his body. 
Thus, this shloka, a logical conclusion of the previous, is not a declaration of identity. Note that Shiva says “I am you who exist everywhere” -- thus the precondition of the lord existing everywhere (pervading everything just as the Atma pervades the body) is added prior to a declaration of oneness “I am You”. Similarly, Arjuna says in the gIta, “As you pervade everything, you ARE everything!”. The self pervades a body, by virtue of that, whatever name denotes the body, denotes the self. Similarly, the Lord pervades everything, thus the entity “Shiva” who is pervaded by the Lord, refers to the Lord.
Indeed, even Shiva says here that there is no difference *by word or meaning* -- implying that everything in its’ ultimate connotation denotes the Lord who has everything as his body and inheres as the Self. Shiva does not say there is no difference at all between the 2 entities.
On account of this body-self relationship, Shiva beseeches the Lord, “Let your worship be mine”. “Mine” here denotes the indwelling Lord. Thus, Shiva wants Krishna to ensure everyone prays to Krishna through Shiva, ie, worships the indweller of Shiva. This way, Shiva becomes the devata for granting boons, which was the initial purpose of Krishna worshipping him.
Note that Shiva says, “whoever hates you, hates me”. This is because “me” here denotes the innerself of Shiva. The idea is that, those who worship Shiva and hate Hari, it makes their worship of Shiva futile as well, since that worship only reaches the indweller of Shiva who is Hari himself. By this, Shiva is clarifying that his indweller is the same as Krishna and it is not possible to worship him independently, while hating Krishna.
Finally, note that Shiva does not say “Those who hate me, hate you”. This is because it is quite possible to hate Shiva, and yet be inclined to worship Vishnu. Of course, hating Shiva is a dosha which will eventually be corrected by the Lord, but it does not harm the worship of the Supreme Lord Vishnu which is unaffected by anything and independent of Shiva. In contrast, it is not possible to hate Vishnu and progress in worship of Shiva, since Shiva is dependent on his indweller to whom all worship goes. This alone shows that identity is not the intent of Shiva’s words here!
tvadvistAro yato deva ahaM bhUtapatistataH |
na tadasti vinA deva yatte virahitaM hare ||3-88-63
yadAsIdvartate yachcha yachcha bhAvi jagatpate |
sarvaM tvameva devesha vinA kiMchittvayA na hi ||3-88-64
Meaning: Your (attribute of) spreading out in all objects (pervading them), is the reason why I am the Lord of the embodied beings (bhUtAs). Nothing that is separated from you can exist. That which was, which is, and which will be, Oh Lord of the universe, are all indeed you. Without you, there is nothing.
Shiva acknowledges that the Lord pervades everything, and that is the reason for Shiva’s exalted status (ie, he is an Avesha avatAra empowered by his indweller).
Here, Shiva clarifies very clearly that nothing can exist *separate* from the Lord. Meaning, everything is dependent on him as the body is dependent on the self. Thus, any lingering notion of identity is dispelled.
The past, present and future are all him as he is “sarvabhUtAntarAtma”. Again, only the antaryAmi principle is alluded to by this, since it is not otherwise possible for the Lord to be things which will arise in the future.
stuvanti devAH satataM bhavantaM svairguNaiH prabho |
R^ikcha tvaM yajurevAsi sAmAsi satataM prabho ||3-88-65
Meaning: The nitya-sUris constantly praise you with your kalyANa guNas, Oh Lord. You are the Rik, Yajus, and Saman always, Oh Lord.
kimuchyate mayA deva sarvaM tvaM bhUtabhAvana |
namaH sarvAtmanA deva viShNo mAdhava keshava ||3-88-66
namaskaromi sarvAtmannamaste.astu sadA hare |
namaH puShkaranAbhAya vande tvAmahamIshvara ||3-88-67
Meaning: What is there to be said by me, Oh effulgent one! Everything is you, creator of beings! I salute you entirely, Oh Vishnu, Oh Madhava, Oh Keshava. I salute you, the universal soul, and may all salutations be unto you, Oh Hari! Salutations, one with a lotus in the navel. I worship you, Oh Lord!
ityuktvA devadeveshaM munInAha punaH shivaH |
evaM jAnIta he viprA ye bhaktA draShTumAgatAH ||3-89-1
Meaning: Having spoken as above to the Lord of the deva of the devas, Shiva said thus to the sages: “Oh learned ones, who are devoted, and have come here to spectate, know thus--”
etadeva paraM vastu naitasmAtparamasti vaH |
etadeva vijAnIdhvametadvaH paramaM tapaH ||3-89-2
etadeva sadA viprA dhyeyaM satatamAnasaiH |
etadvaH paramaM shreya etadvaH paramaM dhanam ||3-89-3
Meaning: This Lord Krishna is the highest object of attainment. There is no higher (object to be attained) than that. Understand it (the highest entity) as your highest austerity (or knowledge). Oh learned ones, this entity is the one to be meditated by meditators. This entity is your highest welfare, and is your highest wealth.
etadvo janmanaH kR^ityametadvastapasaH phalam |
eSha vaH puNyanilaya eSha dharmaH sanAtanaH ||3-89-4
eSha vo mokShadAtA cha eSha mArga udAhR^itaH |
eSha puNyapradaH sAkShAdetadvaH karmaNAM phalam ||3-89-5
Meaning: This entity is also the duty of your birth, ie, your birth attains fruition only after gaining knowledge of him. It is the fruit of any austerity, ie, he grants the fruits of all austerities, or he himself is the highest fruit. This Lord is the abode of auspicious attributes called “puNyaH” as they purify (punAti iti puNyaH). He is the supreme means to liberation, eternally associated with a divine form (which is the means as it is meditated on). This nArAyaNa is the giver of moksha, and he is indeed said to be the one sought after by the wise (mArgyatE iti mArgaH). This nArAyaNa is the one who bestows “puNya” or purity as he purifies even the asurAs and makes them worthy of worship. He is verily the fruit of all karmas.
etadeva prashaMsanti vidvAMso brahmavAdinaH |
eSha tryayIgatirviprAH prArthyo brahmavidAM sadA ||3-89-6
etadeva prashaMsanti sA~NkhyayogasamAshritAH |
eSha brahmavidAM mArgaH kathito vedavAdibhiH ||3-89-7
Meaning: This highest entity is the one who is proclaimed by all learned men who are proficient in the knowledge of Brahman. This Lord is the path of all Vedas, Oh learned ones! He is the one who is to be wished for by the knowers of Brahman.
evameSha vijAnIta nAtra kAryA vichAraNA |
harirekaH sadA dhyeyo bhavadbhiH sattvamAsthitaiH ||3-89-8
nAnyo jagati devo.asti viShNornArAyaNAtparaH |
omityevaM sadA viprA paThata dhyAta keshavam ||3-89-9
Meaning: Understand this lord thus. There is no room for any further enquiry. Hari alone is to be meditated upon by you all, who are established in sattva. There is no other deva in the universe higher than Vishnu - Narayana. By the praNava mantra (“Om”) you must always recite and meditate Keshava.
 By using the phrase “ no other deva”, Shiva makes it very clear that he himself is not higher than the Supreme Lord Narayana.
tato niHshreyasaprAptirbhavishyati na saMshayaH |
evam dhyAto hariH sAkShAtprasanno vo bhavishyati ||3-89-10
bhavanAshamayaM devaH karishyati dR^iDhaM hariH |
sadA dhyAta hariM viprA yadIchChA prAptumachyutam ||3-89-11
Meaning: From this upAsana of Hari, arises welfare. There is no doubt in it. Upon being worshipped by you, Lord Hari will be pleased with you. This Lord Hari will firmly destroy the cycle of births. Oh learned ones, if you wish to attain your desires, always meditate on Hari who is Achyuta.
eSha saMsAravibhavaM vinAshayati vo guruH |
smaradhvaM satataM viShNuM paThadhvaM trisharIriNam ||3-89-12
manaHsaMyamanaM viprAH kurudhvaM yatnataH sadA |
shuddhe.antaHkaraNe viShNuH prasIdati tapodhanAH ||3-89-13
Meaning: This lord destroys the vastness of the Samsara. Always remember Vishnu, and recite the possessor of three bodies. Oh learned ones, with great effort you must always control your mind. When the mind is purified, Vishnu the wealth of all austerities, becomes benevolent.
dhyAtvA mAM sarvayatnena tato jAnIta keshavam |
upAsyo.ahaM sadA viprA upAsyo.asminharau smR^itaH ||3-89-14
upAyo.ayaM mayA prokto nAtra saMdeha ityapi |
ayaM mAyI sadA viprA yatadhvamaghanAshane ||3-89-15
Meaning: Having meditated upon me using all efforts, you must then know Keshava. I am forever to be worshipped, wise ones. I am proclaimed to be worshipped in (as in, one of the vibhUtis of) Lord Hari. I have also declared that there is no doubt that this is the means. He (Lord Vishnu) is the possessor of prakrti known as mAyA, oh wise ones. May you strive for the destruction of sins (in the aforementioned way).
Note: In the second line above, the version favoured by our AchArya [shrutaprakAshika bhaTTar in the Tatparya Dipika commentary to Sri Ramanuja’s Vedartha Samgraha] is different, and goes as: “upAsyo.ahaM sadA viprA upAyo.asmi hareH smR^itau” meaning, “Oh wise ones, I am always to be worshipped, (since) I am the means for Hari in the utterances of sages”. Pramanas like “Jnanam icchet maheshvarAt” are discussed in the same context (see here). 
These lines do not attribute supremacy to Shiva, but either ordains his worship for Bhakti Yogis as a means to know about Hari, or as a limb of Hari’s upAsana in seeing Shiva as a vibhUti of Vishnu.
yathA vo buddhirakhilA shuddhA bhavati yatnataH |
tathA kuruta viprendrA yathA devaH prasIdati ||3-89-16
Meaning: Just as your intellect becomes complete and pure by effort, oh foremost of the wise, may you endeavour in the same manner. By this, the effulgent one (Hari) becomes merciful (to you all).

    vaishampAyana uvAcha
    evamuktAstataH sarve munayaH puNyashIlinaH |
    yathAvadupagR^ihNAnA nirasansamshayaM nR^ipa ||3-89-17
    evameveti taM viprAH prAhuH prA~njalayo haram|
    Chinno naH saMshayaH sarve gR^ihIto.arthaH sa tAdR^ishaH ||3-89-18
Meaning: (Vaishampayana continues to narrate the incident). Have been spoken thus, the sages who are endowed with good deeds understood the real nature (of Brahman Sriman Narayana) and got cleared of their doubts. With palms held together, they agreed with Hara. They said: “All our doubts are dispelled, and we have grasped the meanings as they are.”
It is not that the sages, being great jnAnIs themselves, ever had a doubt in the first place. This is enacted for our sake. Also, it can also be said that despite knowing everything themselves, the rishis realize that such knowledge is useless unless they formally hear it from a guru, and thus they wanted Mahadeva as their guru to explain everything.
etadarthaM samAyAtA vayamadya tavAlayam |
sa~NgamAdyuvayoH sarvo naShTo moho mahAniha ||3-89-19
yathA vadasi devesha tathA naH shreyase param |
yathA.a.aha bhagavAnrudro yatAmaH satataM harau |
iti te munayaH prItAH praNemuH keshavaM harim ||3-89-20
Meaning: (The sages continued speaking to Shiva): “For this purpose, we had assembled here on your premises. By the meeting of the two of you (Shiva and Vishnu), our great delusion stands destroyed. Whatever you say, oh Lord of the devas, that is indeed the highest for our welfare. Just as Bhagavan Rudra said, we will constantly strive for devotion to Hari.” Thus the sages, who were pleased, saluted Hari, who is Keshava.
vaishampAyana uvAcha
tataH sa bhagavAnrudraH sarvAnvismApayanniva |
stutyA prachakrame stotuM viShNuM vishveshvaraM harim |
arthyAbhistu tadA vAgbhirmunInAM shR^iNvatAM tathA ||3-90-1
Meaning: On account of that (the words of the rishis), Bhagavan Rudra to everyone’s admiration, started eulogising Vishnu, the Lord of the universe, Hari. During that time, (the Lord was praised) in the same manner by the words of the sages who were listening.
“sarvAnvismApayanniva” implies that the listeners admired the lucidity of speech, knowledge and devotion of Rudra which are the hallmarks of one well-versed in the Vedas and quite rare.

    maheshvara uvAcha 
    namo bhagavate tubhyaM vAsudevAya dhImate |
    yasya bhAsA jagatsarvaM bhAsate nityamachyuta ||3-90-2
    namo bhagavate deva nityaM sUryAtmane namaH |
    yaH shItayati shItAMshurlokAnsarvAnimAnvibhuH ||3-90-3
    namaste viShNave deva nityaM somAtmane namaH |
Meaning: Maheshvara said: “Salutations to you, oh Bhagavan! Unto you who are Vasudeva the wise. Salutations always unto you, oh Achyuta, who are the in-dweller of the Sun that illuminates the entire world with its light. Salutations to you, who are Bhagavan, who is effulgent. Salutations always unto Vishnu the effulgent who is the in-dweller of the moon that cools the world with its cooling rays.”
These set of verses praise the Lord as the indweller of all. Note that this is strikingly similar to the set of mantras in the Atharvasiras beginning with “yo vai rudraH sa bhagavAnyashcha brahmA tasmai vai namonamaH…” which praise the indweller of each deva and identify it with the indweller of Rudra. This again shows that Vishnu alone is the referrant of the Atharvasiras.
yaH prajAH prINayatyeko vishvAtmA bhUtabhAvanaH ||3-90-4
namaH sarvAtmane deva namo vAgAtmane hare |
Meaning: Salutations to your form of Speech, oh radiant one! Unto you, who as the in-dweller of the universe and as the creator of beings, is the one who pleases and comforts the subjects (i.e., beings).
yo dadhAra kareNAsau kushachIrAdi yatsadA ||3-90-5
dadhAra vedAnsarvAMshcha tubhyaM brahmAtmane namaH |
sarvAnsaMharate yastu saMhAre vishvadR^iksadA ||3-90-6
krodhAtmAsi virUpo.asi tubhyaM rudrAtmane namaH |
Meaning: Salutations to your form as the four-faced Brahma, who wielded the kusha grass, and bore all the Vedas. Salutations to your form as Rudra, who annihilates everybody at the time of dissolution, who has eyes everywhere, is of the form of anger, and is of a terrible form.
sR^iShTau sraShTA samastAnAM prANinAM prANadAyine ||3-90-7
ajAya viShNave tubhyaM sraShTre vishvasR^ije namaH |
Meaning: During creation, you are the creator of all beings and the giver of their life. Salutations to the unborn Vishnu, unto you who are the creator of the universe.
Adau prakR^itimUlAya bhUtAnAM prabhavAya cha ||3-90-8
namaste devadevesha pradhAnAya namo namaH |
Meaning: In the beginning, you are the origin of mUla prakrti. You are the progenitor of the five elements. Salutations to you, the Lord of the foremost of all devas, to your form of pradhAna the primordial matter.
pR^ithivyAM gandharUpeNa saMsthitaH prANinAM hare ||3-90-9
dR^iDhAya dR^iDharUpAya tubhyaM gandhAtmane namaH |
apAM rasAya sarvatra prANinAM sukhahetave ||3-90-10
namaste vishvarUpAya rasAya cha namo namaH |
tejasA bhAskaro yastu ghR^iNo jantuhitaH sadA ||3-90-11
tasmai deva jagannAtha namo bhAskararUpiNe |
vAyoH sparshaguNo yatra shItoShNasukhaduHkhadaH ||3-90-12
namaste vAyurUpAya namaH sparshAtmana hare |
AkAsho.avasthitaH shabdaH sarvashrotraniveshanaH ||3-90-13
namaste bhagavanviShNo tubhyaM sarvAtmane namaH |
Meaning: You exist as the quality of smell in the earth, firmly giving support to the beings. Salutations to your firm form as the earth, and salutations to your form as the tanmAtra of gandha.
You give comfort to the living beings, as the quality of taste present in water. Salutations to your universal form, and to your form as the tanmAtra of rasa.
By means of fire/heat, the sun is always benevolent to beings. Salutations to you, oh Jagannatha, to your form of the sun.
The experience of heat and cold, comfort and discomfort, are due to the quality of touch present in the wind. Salutations to your form as the wind, and to your form as the tanmAtra of sparsha present in it.
The quality of sound exists in the AkAsha, which enters into and resides in all beings' ears. Salutations to you, Bhagavan Vishnu, the in-dweller of all.
yo dadhAra jagatsarvaM mAyAmAnuShadehavAn ||3-90-14
namastubhyaM jagannAtha mAyine.amAyadAyine |
Meaning: You are the one who bore the entire universe. You possess a stupendous/enchanting/bewildering form that appears human (but made of suddha-sattva). Salutations unto you, the Lord of the universe, who is the possessor of mAya and is the giver of deceit-free wealth.
nama AdyAya bIjAya nirguNAya guNAtmane ||3-90-15
achintyAya suchintyAya tasmai chintyAtmane namaH |
Meaning: Salutations to the origin of the Universe, the seed of dharma (as he propagates the shAstra), one who is bereft of bad qualities and endowed with kalyANa guNas. Unto the one who is hard to be understood by the mind, but easily understood by the minds of devotees. Unto him, who possesses the form that is dear to his devotees in meditation.
harAya harirUpAya brahmaNe brahmadAyine ||3-90-16   
namo brahmavide tubhyaM brahmabrahmAtmane namaH |
Meaning: Salutations to he who captivates others by his form (Hara), to the possessor of a green complexioned form that captivates (harirUpa), to the one who has the praNava as his form, and to the giver of the Vedas to Brahma. Salutations to you, the knower of the Vedas, the one who is the innerself of the great prakrti (brahma-brahmAtmanE).
namaH sahasrashirase sahasrakiraNAya cha ||3-90-17
namaH sahasravaktrAya sahasranayanAya cha |
Meaning: Salutations to the thousand-headed, possessing thousand rays, with a thousand faces and thousand eyes.
vishvAya vishvarUpAya vishvakartre namo namaH ||3-90-18
vishvavaktre namo nityaM bhUtAvAsa namo namaH |
indriyAyendrarUpAya viShayAya sadA hare ||3-90-19
Meaning: Salutations to you who are full of auspicious attributes, to you possessing a beautiful form that is full of all excellences, to you who is the creator of all (unlimited objects of splendour for his devotees).  Salutations to the One who can be attained by all (vishvavaktre). Salutations every day to you in whom all beings beginning with Brahma reside. Salutations to your form as the sense-organs, to your form as the lord (i.e., mind), and to your form as the objects of enjoyment of the mind through the sense-organs.
namo.ashvashirase tubhyaM vedAbharaNarUpiNe |
agnaye.agnipate tubhyaM jyotiShAM pataye namaH ||3-90-20
sUryAya sUryaputrAya tejasAM pataye namaH |
namaH somAya saumyAya namaH shItAtmane hare ||3-90-21
[namo vaShaTkR^ite tubhyaM svAhAsvadhAsvarUpiNe]
namo yaj~nAya ijyAya haviShe havyasaMskR^ite |
namaH sruvAya pAtrAya yaj~nA~NgAya parAya cha ||3-90-22
namaH praNavadehAya kSharAyApyakSharAya cha |
vedAya vedarUpAya shastriNe shastrarUpiNe ||3-9-23
Meaning: Salutations to you who is horse-headed, whose ornaments are the Vedas. Salutations to you who are Agni, the lord of Agni, who is also the lord of all luminous bodies. Salutations to you, who is the sun, the son of the sun, and the lord of all fires. Salutations to you, who is the moon, to you who possesses a beautiful form, to Hari whose nature is cool. Salutations to you, who is the syllable “vaShaT”, whose very nature is that of “svAhA” and “svadhA”. Salutations to your form as the yajna, the sacrificial fee, the offering of havis, the cook who prepares that offering, to the ladle and the vessel used to keep the havis. Salutations to you who is a part of the yajna, who is the supreme. Salutations to you, whose has the praNava syllable as his body. Unto the one who is (the in-dweller of) gross matter as well as the individual self. Unto the one who is the embodiment of the Vedas (as Sankarshana), whose body is the Vedas, who is armed with weapons symbolizing various tattvas (shastriNe)  and who has a form that is like a weapon that destroys sins (shastrarUpiNe)
gadine khaDgine tubhyaM sha~Nkhine chakriNe namaH |
shUline charmiNe nityaM varadAya namo namaH ||3-90-24
buddhipriyAya buddhAya prabuddhAya sukhAya cha |
haraye viShNave tubhyaM namaH sarvAtmane guro ||3-90-25
namaste sarvalokesha sarvakartre namo namaH |
namaH svabhAvashuddhAya namaste yaj~nasUkara ||3-90-26
Meaning: Salutations to you who possesses the Gada (mace), Khadga (sword), Shankha (conch) and Sudarshana Chakra (discus). Unto the one who possesses death or the Universe as his body (shUline), and the possessor of the embodied self as his body (charmiNe), unto the bestower of boons every day. Salutations to the one who is fond of the self that is of the nature of knowledge, who knows the sufferings of the self and clear-sighted in terms of resolving to aid the self, and who is blissful when experienced. Salutations to you who is the destroyer of sins (Hari), who is all-pervasive (Vishnu), who is the preceptor and the in-dweller of all. Salutations to you who is the lord of all worlds, the creator of all. Salutations to the one whose inherent nature is pure, salutations to the one who is the boar connected to yajnas as as Lord Yajna Varaha.
namo viShNo namo viShNo namo viShNo namo hare |
namaste vAsudevAya vAsudevAya dhImate ||3-90-27
namaH kR^iShNAya kR^iShNAya sarvAvAsa namo namaH |
namo bhUyo namaste.astu pAhi lokA~njanArdana ||3-90-28
Meaning: Salutations to you, Oh Vishnu , Oh Hari! Salutations to you who is Vasudeva, who is Vasudeva the intelligent. Salutations to you, who is Krishna, who is the abode of all. Salutations in abundance to you. Please protect all the worlds, Lord Janardana!
iti stutvA jagannathamuvAcha munisattamAn |
idaM stotramadhIyAnA nityaM vrajata keshavam ||3-90-29
sharaNyaM sarvabhUtAnAM tatra shreyo vidhAsyati |
ye chemaM dhArayishyanti stavaM pApavimochanam ||3-90-30
teShAM prItaH prasannAtmA paThatAM shR^iNvatAM hariH |
shreyo dAsyati dharmAtmA nAtra kAryA vichAraNA ||3-90-31
avashyaM manasA dhyAtvA keshavaM bhaktavatsalam |
shreyaH prAptuM yadIchChanti bhavantaH shaMsitavratAH ||3-90-32
Meaning: Having worshipped with praises Lord Jagannatha thus, he (Rudra) spoke thus to the best of the sages: “Recite this stotra every day and attain Lord Hari. Attain him, who is the one to be surrendered to by all beings. In his abode, wellness will be found. This stotra delivers one from sins. Lord Hari who is the embodiment of dharma, who is pleased by those who remember this shloka, recite it, and hear it, will bestow welfare to them. There is no doubt in this. Meditating on him without fail, worship Lord Hari who is Keshava the one who is merciful to his devotees, if you wish to attain welfare, oh sages with rigid austerities!
ityuktvA bhagavAnrudrastatraivAntaradhIyata |
sagaNaH sha~NkaraH sAkShAdumayA bhUtabhAvanaH ||3-90-33
nemustaM munayaH sarve parAM nirvR^itimAyayuH |
tameva paramaM tattvaM matvA nArAyaNaM harim |
vismayaM paramaM gatvA menire svakR^itArthatAm ||3-90-34
lokapAlAstadA viShNuM namaskR^itya hariM mudA |
jagmuH svAnyatha veshmAni gaNaiH sarvairnR^ipottama ||3-90-35
Meaning: Having spoken thus, bhagavAn Rudra who is Shankara, who teaches and promotes beings (towards Brahman), disappeared from right there, along with devI Uma and his Rudra-gaNas. All the sages assembled there worshipped Lord Narayana, Hari, considering him as the Supreme (as per Rudra’s instructions) and attained the greatest satisfaction. They felt the greatest awe and were satisfied that they had succeeded. The devatas who had assembled there, saluted Vishnu/Hari joyfully and then attained their respective abodes along with their attendants.
Aruhya bhagavAnviShNurgaruDaM pakShipu~Ngavam |
Sha~NkhI chakrI gadI khaDgI shAr~NgI tUNI tanutravAn ||3-90-36
yathAgataM jagannAtho yayau badarikAmanu |
sAyAhne puNDarIkAkSho nityaM muninishevitAm ||3-90-37
tatra gatvA yathAyogaM vinamya harirIshvaraH |
archito munibhiH sarvairniShasAda sukhAsane ||3-90-38
Meaning: Lord Vishnu then mounted his vehicle Garuda the foremost of birds, wielding his conch, discus, mace, sword, quiver, and lotus. Just as he came there, Jagannatha attained Badarikashrama again in the evening. Lord Vishnu, the possessor of lotus-like eyes attained that place frequented by sages daily. After reaching there, Hari the lord who is worshipped by all sages, bowed down his head in respect and seated himself comfortably.
In the Sauptika Parva of the Mahābhārata, it is described that Ashvattama prayed to Rudra for the destruction of the Pandavas. His eulogy of Rudra is probably the most comprehensive of all Shiva-Stutis in clarifying the nature of Rudra, hence we decided to comment on it here. 
Though Ashvattama was consumed by tamo-guṇa, he was born a brāhmaṇa and hence retained some knowledge. He was well aware of the supremacy of Krishna, and the status of Rudra, but compelled by his karma, he proceeded to act against the wishes of Krishna. For this, he sought the assistance of Rudra as below.
so 'ham adya mahādevaṃ prapadye śaraṇaṃ prabhum
Meaning: I shall therefore, now, seek the protection of Mahādeva, who is most powerful as he can bestow desirable boons (prabhum)
daivadaṇḍam imaṃ ghoraṃ sa hi me nāśayiṣyati
Meaning: He will destroy this terrible rod of punishment belonging to the Supreme God, Krishna which is intended for me
“daivadaṇḍam” – “deva” here refers to the Supreme Being who is Krishna. It is the Lord’s protection of the Pandavas which is like a rod of chastisement for Ashvattama, as it prevents him from taking revenge. 
Ashvattama believes that Mahadeva can ward off even the Supreme Being’s punishment. How is this so? He explains below.
kapardinaṃ prapadyātha devadevam umāpatim
Meaning: I surrender to Kapardin, who has matted locks as he is an upāsaka meditating on Brahman, who is the God of Gods having performed the “Sarvamedha Yaga” (or) who is the chief of Sāttvikas signified by “deva” (devadevam), who is the consort of Umā who herself is a brahma-jnāni (or) who is the possessor of “umā” meaning tranquility as he has no friend or foe, seeing Vāsudeva in all.
Ashvattama believes Rudra can even overcome the punishment administered by Krishna, the Supreme Lord, because Rudra is a bhakta and the Lord is known to favor his bhaktas. His matted locks signify that he is meditating on Brahman always. His devadevatvam is by virtue of his jnāna – or alternatively, “deva” means “sāttvika/jnāni” and he is the best of jnānis. 
Umā Haimavati is a great knower of Brahman herself, and he is her consort indicating she gets knowledge from him. Alternatively, he possesses “Umā” which means “tranquility” – lack of rāga, dvesha, etc and seeing all beings as pervaded by Vāsudeva.
The Lord, by his own will, is duty bound to grant the desires of those who follow the Vedas. Rudra has performed sufficient austerities in accordance with the Vedas and has worshipped Krishna to be elevated to his position. Thus, Krishna will have no choice but to grant Rudra the fulfillment of his boons. This is the thinking of Ashvattama. 
kapālamālinaṃ rudraṃ bhaga netraharaṃ haram
Meaning: One who is garlanded by skulls (or) whose ornament is the Self that is the keeper of bliss (kapālamālinaṃ), who cried on being born as he was a jnāni (rudraṃ), who destroyed the eyes of Bhaga signifying pain and pleasure of attachments (bhaga netraharaṃ), who is the destroyer of desire or lust (haram).
Not only is Shiva a bhakti-yogi, but he has knowledge of the self (jnāna-yoga) which makes him dear to Krishna.
“kapāla” refers to the individual self that is the keeper (pālaka) of bliss (kah iti sukham). Rudra’s ornament is the self, meaning he is involved in the experience of the self via meditation. He had this self-knowledge even during his birth, which is why he cried, realizing the undesirable nature of being born in samsara on account of his karmas. And thus, he tore the eyes of Bhaga, meaning the pain and pleasure of attachments (bhaga). In this way, he destroyed desire or lust for material objects and hence is “Hara”.
Such qualities mean that he is a great devotee and if he intercedes on behalf of Ashvattama, his wishes will be granted by Krishna.
sa hi devo 'tyagād devāṃs tapasā vikrameṇa ca
Meaning: That God indeed surpasses all other gods in austerities or knowledge of Brahman.
“tapasā” can signify his austerities, or it can mean knowledge of Brahman. Mundakopanishad says, “yasya jnānamayam tapah”. Rudra is superior to all devas in this aspect. Here, it can be taken to mean he is superior to all devas till Indra, as Brahma is superior to him. That Rudra is inferior to Brahma is mentioned by Rudra himself as follows during the preparation for war with the Tripuras:
tān abravīt punar devo mattaḥ śreṣṭhataro hi yaḥ
taṃ sārathiṃ kurudhvaṃ me svayaṃ saṃcintya māciram (~ Mahabharata, Karna Parva)
Meaning: Mahadeva then said again to the devas, “Deliberating amongst yourselves, make the one (Brahma) as my chariot driver who is superior to me in terms of being the Lord and creator of all the devas, in terms of learning, prowess etc”.
Alternatively, Rudra exceeding other gods can also mean he has exceeded even his father Brahma in knowledge, much like Suka exceeded his father Vyasa. It does not of course mean that Rudra is superior to Brahma, just as Suka is not superior to Vyasa in status.
tasmāc charaṇam abhyeṣye giriśaṃ śūlapāṇinam
Meaning: On account of that, I shall seek the protection of the Lord of Kailasa or the Ruler of the Veda (giriśaṃ), who is the holder of the Trident or Death to Samsāra (śūlapāṇinam)
“giri” refers to speech which is the Veda. He is their “iśa” as he has realized their conclusions. Thus, on account of such knowledge, he possesses the “śūla” which signifies upāsaṇa that is death to Samsāra. It is well-known that Rudra’s triśūla has 3 prongs – they pierce the triguṇās of prakrti.
And now, Ashvattama, having given sufficient reason to propitiate Rudra, embarks on a stuti to appease the god and gain his boon. 
The names in the stuti are not random. Each group of names are connected and describe attributes of Rudra in relevance to a particular topic. The topics are summarized in the subheadings.
Here begins the Stuti.
Rudra as the well-wisher for the Universe
ugraṃ sthāṇuṃ śivaṃ rudraṃ śarvam īśānam īśvaram 
Meaning: I bow to the one who is formidable to the asuras (ugraṃ), because he is the one fixated in Yoga which constitutes his activities to do good for the devas (sthāṇuṃ), because he is the auspicious one who can confer good (śivaṃ), because he is the Jnāni who cried upon his birth (rudraṃ), because he is the destroyer of his vices like kāma etc (śarvam), because he is the controller of his senses (īśānam), because he is the Lord of his mind on account of that (īśvaram).
For instance the connectivity in the names is as follows – he is formidable to asuras because he desires to do good for the devas. This is due to his agreeable nature (śivaṃ) which is on account of him being situated in knowledge right from birth. He was a Jnāni from birth, as he had destroyed lust, desire etc previously (in prior births even) by virtue of mastery over mind and senses.
Thus, there is a continuity about the names given here in this manner. Let us look at the rest of the stuti understanding this concept.
Rudra as the Possessor of Brahma-Vidya
giriśaṃ varadaṃ devaṃ bhavaṃ bhāvanam avyayam
 Meaning: He is the Lord of Kailasa, or the Ruler of the Vedas called “Speech” as he has realized their conclusions (giriśaṃ), the god who is the bestower of boons to his devotees due to his ascetic merit on knowing the Vedas (varadaṃ devaṃ), the One who exists in Brahman (bhavaṃ), thus the One who produces knowledge of Brahman (bhāvanam) and thus the One who is not covered by ignorance (avyayam – na vīyate).
bhavaṃmeans to exist. Rudra exists…in what? He exists in Brahman, ie, he is always meditating on Brahman.
śitikaṇṭham ajaṃ śakraṃ krathaṃ kratuharaṃ haraṃ 
Meaning: Whose speech (kaṇṭha) is white or sattvic/pure (śiti) as he imparts  knowledge (śitikaṇṭham), because he moves towards Brahman in devotion (ajaṃ), and this is because he is mighty, ie, extremely intelligent (śakraṃ), as he  destroys ignorance (krathaṃ), who removed the (actions of the) mind associated with desire symbolized by destruction of daksha’s sacrifice (kratuharaṃ), thus the remover of desire as he burnt Kāma (haraṃ).
The destruction of Daksha’s sacrifice has an elaborate inner meaning enumerated in this article. In short, the inner meaning is that Shiva is the bhakti yogi, Veerabhadra is the meditation on Brahman, Daksha is the mind and the sacrifice represents the actions of the senses. Meditation (Veerabhadra) corrects the mind (Daksha) and destroys the wayward actions of the senses (sacrifice). 
Rudra as the Jnāni par excellence
viśvarūpaṃ virūpākṣaṃ bahurūpam umāpatim
Meaning: Thus he is the one who is a pratīka or symbol for meditation on Vishnu (viśvarūpaṃ), thus one who has dissimilar eyes (or) has different or altered sight than others as he is indifferent to material enjoyments and perceives the self (virūpākṣaṃ), thus he has many forms, ie, he sees all beings as himself on account of seeing the similarity of the individual selves (bahurūpam) and who is the consort of Umā, or the possessor of Umā or tranquility, having no friends or foes (umāpatim).
“viśvarūpaṃ” – “viśva” refers to Vishnu. “rūpaṃ” means pratīka of Vishnu -  a pure form that can be meditated upon as Brahman by superimposing the attributes of Brahman. Since Shiva has purified himself by austerities, he becomes a pratīka in this manner.  
“virūpākṣaṃ” – This has a double meaning. Shiva has dissimilar eyes (3 eyes in total). But he also has a different sight than others in that he sees the Atma in all and does not dwell on differences in body such as man, deva etc. He also does not see material objects as pleasurable, but views them as painful.
“bahurūpam” – One who has many forms. In conjunction with the previous name, this speaks of Shiva as one who has attained the vision of the individual self, and sees himself in all and all in himself. Ie, he sees that all individual selves are identical in nature, thus he sees his own nature everywhere in all forms and considers the bodies as his.
“umāpatim” – “umā” means “tranquility”. On account of sama-darshana, he is not perturbed by enmity and other such characteristics. Alternatively, he who has all these noble qualities is the worthy consort of Umā, a great brahma-jnāni herself.
śmaśānavāsinaṃ dṛptaṃ mahāgaṇapatiṃ prabhum
Meaning: Who is a Jīva who resides in Samsārā, which is a graveyard as it is a place of death (śmaśānavāsinaṃ), who appears mad to other (ignorant) samsārīs by his peculiar manner of smearing ashes, laughing etc which are part of his upāsaṇa on Brahman (dṛptaṃ), Who is the possessor of the great multitudes of the innumerable auspicious attributes of Brahman (mahāgaṇapatiṃ), who is most powerful as he can bestow such knowledge to others (prabhum).
He resides in graveyards. Samsārā is itself a graveyard as it is a place of deaths. Hence this proves he is a Jīva. But despite such residence, he is not like others here in that he is always immersed in Brahman.
When it is said he is the possessor of Brahman’s auspicious attributes, it means he has knowledge of them all and is constantly experiencing the nectar of those attributes.
khaṭvāṅgadhāriṇaṃ muṇḍaṃ jaṭilaṃ brahmacāriṇam
Meaning: Who bears the “khaṭvāṅga” or the rod of authority to bewilder the asuras by giving them false knowledge such as pāshupata (khaṭvāṅgadhāriṇaṃ),  who is shaven-headed, ie, who himself is without ego despite being worshipped by such people as Supreme (muṇḍaṃ), who has the matted locks signifying his upāsaṇa on Sriman Narayana which is the reason why he doesn’t have ego or considers himself as Supreme (jaṭilaṃ), who always moves (carati) about in the Vedas (brahma), ie, always immersed in the true meaning of the Vedas, or following the dictates of the Vedas that reveal Narayana as Brahman (brahmacāriṇam).
This shloka summarizes Rudra’s role in propagating tāmasa shāstrās and yet clarifying that Rudra himself remains in perfect knowledge. A shaven head is indicative of ego being removed. So Shiva, despite being worshipped as Supreme by some groups of people, himself has no such illusions or ego.
Ashwattama’s Rationale for Worshipping Rudra
manasāpy asucintyena duṣkareṇālpa cetasā so 'ham ātmopahāreṇa yakṣye tripuraghātinam
Meaning: Purifying my mind which is so difficult to purify (as I possess great ego), being one who is of little intelligence, I offer myself (as the sacrifice) to the one who has purified his own mind by destroying the influence of the triguṇās signified by the three cities (tripuraghātinam). 
Ashwattama here declares the reason why he is invoking Rudra to remove Krishna’s protection of the Pandavas.
Bhagavan can only be conquered by bhakti and lack of ego. Rudra is a bhakta with no ego, who has destroyed the triguṇās (Tripura). Thus, he can make Bhagavan do anything he wants by his bhakti.
Ashwattama says that his mind is difficult to purify meaning, he has so much ego, that it is even difficult for him to bow to another person like Rudra. But he is doing that with great difficulty to achieve his objective. Ashwattama has no bhakti, but Rudra has bhakti towards Krishna which can gain him the desired object.
Reason for Rudra’s exalted position
The previous shlokas in the stuti served to highlight the true position of Rudra. In the succeeding shlokas, Ashwattama proceeds to praise the great attributes of Rudra as they are, for attainment of his desire.
stutaṃ stutyaṃ stūyamānam amoghaṃ carma vāsasam
Meaning: One who is praised (by Krishna) on account of always meditating on Brahman (stutaṃ), who, on account of that (status granted by Krishna), is to be praised by everyone for attaining  their desires (stutyaṃ), who is thus being praised by me, Ashvattama, for the attainment of my desire (stūyamānam), one who thus always gives fruits to those desirous people who worship him (amoghaṃ), who wears animal-skins (attire of a renunciate) signifying that he himself is detached from such desires despite fulfilling the desires of others (carma vāsasam)
Krishna worshipped Rudra on the pretext of obtaining a son to elevate Rudra to be competent in giving boons. Thus, Ashvattama declares that if he seeks a boon from Rudra against the Pandavas, Krishna would be duty-bound to oblige and not obstruct Rudra’s boon. Hence, Ashvattama worships Rudra for accomplishing his aims. 
How can Rudra fulfill boons and yet be detached from desire himself? Answered below.
Rudra as both Boon-Giver and Renunciate
vilohitaṃ nīlakaṇṭham apṛkthaṃ durnivāraṇam
Meaning: Who is reddish in complexion signifying him presiding over the mind which is full of desire (vilohitaṃ), who is blue-throated signifying him presiding over the mind full of anger (nīlakaṇṭham), who is nonetheless himself unmingled with material objects of prakrti, ie, indifferent (apṛkthaṃ), who cannot be disturbed by desire or anger on account of this (durnivāraṇam).
Regarding “Vilohita”, the name means “reddish”. It refers to Shiva being associated with the mind that is red or full of rajo-guna (desire), as the presiding deity. 
On account of that, he is “nīlakaṇṭham” – the blue/black-throated. “nīla” means black and “kaṇṭham” can signify any passage or means. The mind is the passage or instrument for the intellect. Thus, the inner meaning of the name is “black mind” – mind full of tamas born of rajas.  
The poison, hāla-hāla refers to the attachments to sense objects. This is because "viśam" also means "water" which can connote the subtle elements that constitute objects of enjoyment causing attachments.  This attachment is due to the mind being red (desire/rajo guna) and after such enjoyment, the mind becomes black on account of anger when such enjoyment is stopped (tamas).
Shiva is the presiding deity for the mind associated with such desire and anger. Hence, he can bestow boons for material objects. But the next two names “apṛkthaṃ” and “durnivāraṇam” clarify that he himself is not associated with those qualities and hence is detached.
Why is he detached? Answered below.
śukraṃ viśvasṛjaṃ brahma brahmacāriṇam eva ca 
Meaning: Who is pure on account of his austerities to cleanse his karmas (śukraṃ), who bestows purity in the form of bhagavad-jnāna to others (viśvasṛjaṃ), who is vast in knowledge, ie, his dharma-bhūta-jnāna (brahma) and who pervades (carati) by his dharma-bhūta-jnāna (brahmacāriṇam) alone.
A jnāni’s dharma-bhūta-jnāna expands greatly since his karmas are cleansed, so that his knowledge pervades and he knows everything by his knowledge, and can move about anywhere, experience everything simultaneously. Even Saubhari Muni could assume multiple bodies on account of this, so what to speak of a great personality like Rudra. Note that “eva” signifies that the movement and experience is only by his knowledge; unlike the Supreme Brahman who moves or pervades by both svarūpa and svabhāva (knowledge), Rudra’s svarūpa is still anu.
How did his dharma-bhūta-jnāna expand? Answered below.
Rudra as the Performer of Karma, Jnāna and Bhakti Yogas
vratavantaṃ taponityam anantaṃ tapatāṃ gatim
Meaning: Who is also a performer of duties pertaining to karma yoga (vratavantaṃ), who is ever engaged in knowledge (tapas) of the form of meditation on Brahman that is bhakti yoga (taponityam), who is opposed to the perishable body as he has knowledge of the self which is jnāna yoga (anantaṃ), who is the refuge of the wise for knowledge of Brahman (tapatāṃ).
 “vratavantaṃ” – This signifies he is a karma-yogi, “taponityam” signifies he is a bhakti yogi. 
“anantaṃ” - The body is called “anta” as it is associated with an end or destruction. Shiva is “ananta” as he is opposed to this body, as he has knowledge of the self as distinct from the body. Thus, this name “ananta” signifies he is a jnāna-yogi.
These three yogas are described in detail below. Karma and jnāna yogas can be clubbed since knowledge of the self as distinct from the body is a component of the karmas being performed. Hence, below, we have a description of Rudra’s status as a knower of the self which arises from karma-jnāna yogas.
bahurūpaṃ gaṇādhyakṣaṃ tryakṣaṃ pāriṣada priyam 
Meaning: Who assumes numerous forms by his dharma-bhūta-jnāna (bahurūpaṃ), who is the master of the multitudes of knowledge and renounciation (gaṇādhyakṣaṃ), who has 3 eyes or perceives the import of the three Vedas on account of this (tryakṣaṃ), who is fond of the self which is associated with the assembly that is the body (pāriṣada priyam).
The things to renounce are many and the knowledge to acquire is also many due to innumerable auspicious attributes. Thus, renunciation and knowledge are seen in multitudes.
“pariṣad” means assembly or the body which is an assembly of elements. “pāriṣada” refers to the self associated with this body. Rudra is fond of meditating on the self.
How does Rudra meditate on the self? Answered below.
gaṇādhyakṣekṣita mukhaṃ gaurī hṛdayavallabham
Meaning: Whose mind (mukha) sees that self which is the master of the body that is a cluster of elements (gaṇādhyakṣekṣita mukhaṃ), who is dear to Gauri’s heart (gaurī hṛdayavallabham).
The things to develop renunciation (vairagya) about are many. The things to develop knowledge (jnāna) about are also many. So, both are referred to as “gaṇās” – groups of knowledge and renunciation in “gaṇādhyakṣaṃ”
He is dear to Gaurī which indicates he is a great jnāni, as Gaurī herself is one. The name “Gaurī” also means possessor of “whiteness” or purity (gaura) which indicates sāttvic knowledge. Hence, “gaurī hṛdayavallabham” means he is dear to pArvati who herself possesses purity of knowledge. When someone is dear to a brahma-jnāni (pārvati), it is a reflection of his greatness.
kumāra pitaraṃ piṅgaṃ govṛṣottama vāhanam 
Meaning: Father of Kumara (or) cause of actions that destroys sins (kumāra pitaraṃ), the reddish brown in color (or) as he is associated with the mind that has rajas and tamas, by virtue of presiding over it (piṅgaṃ), who has the bull as his vehicle (or) who bears veda-dharma signified by the bull (govṛṣottama vāhanam).
These names have dual meanings – the superficial form and the inner meaning. The (or) indicates both have been provided.
This shloka describes Karma Yoga. “pitaraṃ” means cause and hence refers to him being the cause of karmas or action. It is the performance of desireless action while being associated with a mind of rajas and tamas (to curb it). The reference to the Bull implies that he adheres to the dharma of the Vedas which is part of karma yoga.
tanu vāsasam atyugram umā bhūṣaṇa tatparam
Meaning: Who abides in (meditates on) the self which is minute or subtle (tanu vāsasam), thus who is extremely formidable or fierce to triguṇās (atyugram), who is thus adorned by Umādevi or tranquility (Umā) from samsārā (umā bhūṣaṇa), who has the Nārāyaṇa, the Supreme Brahman designated as “Tat”, as his Highest (tatparam).
One meditates on Nārāyaṇa as the means to gain freedom from the distress of the triguṇās and be situated in tranquility, and eventually to gain a vision of the self by meditation. This is jnāna yoga described here.
“tatparam” – Having that Supreme Brahman (tat) as his highest (param), meaning, he takes joy in being completely subservient to the Lord Nārāyaṇa, by virtue of recognition of the sharīrātma-bhāva. It also means, he meditates on Nārāyaṇa as the means to attain a vision of the self.
paraṃ parebhyaḥ paramaṃ paraṃ yasmān na vidyate
Meaning: Who is higher than the body which is distinct from the self, ie, indifferent to it (paraṃ parebhyaḥ), who is immersed in the blissful contemplation of the self (paramaṃ), on account of which there exists nothing different or other to him (paraṃ yasmān na vidyate) 
 “parebhyaḥ” in “paraṃ parebhyaḥ” refers to the body which is other(para) than the self. Rudra is higher (paraṃ) than the body, meaning he has risen above looking at differences in all. He is a knower of the self which is the same in all.
“paramaṃ” refers to the bliss of the self which is the highest object of enjoyment under the dominion of the Supreme Brahman. As Shiva is constantly immersed in the bliss of the self, he is closely associated with it and by aprthak siddhi, he is called “paramaṃ”.
On account of meditating on the self, he does not see himself as different from others, understanding everyone is identical in their essential natures, hence there is nothing different to him.
iṣvastrottamabhartāraṃ dig antaṃ caiva dakṣiṇam
Meaning: You are the bearer of weapons (or) you possess the strength and skills for upāsaṇa which is meditation on Brahman (iṣvastrottamabhartāraṃ), you are the very abode of directions, ie, you protect the worlds with your weapons (or) you are “death” (antam) to samsara signified by “dik” by virtue of your upāsaṇa (dig antaṃ) and you are well-disposed to the sāttvikās (or) you are submissive to paramātma, having recognized your seshatvam by virtue of your upāsaṇa (dakṣiṇam).
From here onwards, Shiva’s prowess in bhakti yoga is described.
“dig antaṃ” – Superficial meaning is that he is the abode of the Universe which is signified by “dik” in that he is a protector. Inner meaning is that he brings about an end (antam) to samsārā (dik) by his bhakti yoga.
“dakṣiṇam” means “paratantronuvartanam” – submissiveness or compliance which is the essential nature of the Jivātmā realized through yoga.
hiraṇyakavacaṃ devaṃ candra maulivibhūṣitam
Meaning: The god with a golden armor (or) the sāttvikā (devaṃ) who is protected by the armor of Brahmānubhava that is “gold” (hiraṇyakavacaṃ devaṃ), who is adorned by the moon on his head (or) who meditates on the auspicious attributes of bhagavān that are cool like the moon, as opposed to the heat of samsara (candra maulivibhūṣitam).    
“Gold”is a metaphor for anything enjoyable in the shāstra. The auspicious attributes of Brahman are enjoyable and also constitute a kavacha against the distress of samsārā.
Ashwattama’s Self-Surrender to Rudra
Having concluded his stuti, Ashwattama surrenders to Rudra for obtaining his boon.
prapadye śaraṇaṃ devaṃ parameṇa samādhinā
Meaning: With a mind concentrated (on my objective), I surrender to you, O Deva! 
imāṃ cāpy āpadaṃ ghorāṃ tarāmy adya sudustarām
sarvabhūtopahāreṇa yakṣye 'haṃ śucinā śucim
Meaning:  For crossing over this terrible calamity of being unable to get revenge on the Pandavas, which is difficult to cross over as the Pandavas are invincible with Krishna by their side, I sacrifice my body made of the five elements to you, who are the purest of the pure on account of you possessing the favor of Krishna, (and thus can fulfill my wish).
“sarvabhūtopahāreṇa”  - My mind, body, senses all are meant for you. I am yours to command so long as you give me the boon I seek. This is the meaning.
imam ātmānam adyāhaṃ jātam āṅgirase kule
agnau juhomi bhagavan pratigṛhṇīṣva māṃ balim
Meaning: O Bhagavān! I who am born of the lineage of Angirasa, will sacrifice my mind (ātmānam), as libation on this fire! 
 bhavadbhaktyā mahādeva parameṇa samādhinā
 asyām āpadi viśvātman upākurmi tavāgrataḥ
Meaning: With devotion to you, Mahādeva, and with a mind concentrated (in achieving my objective), I offer myself to you as the sacrificial victim in this time of calamity, O one whose intellect pervades everywhere (viśvātman)!
“Atma” in “Viśvātman” refers to the intellect or dharma-bhūta-jnāna of Mahādeva that pervades everywhere. 
mahādeva” – The great god who performed austerities like sarvamedha, etc. This signifies he is a karma yogi par excellence due to which his dharma-bhūta-jnāna has been expanded. 
tvayi sarvāṇi bhūtāni sarvabhūteṣu cāsi vai
Meaning: All beings are in you and you are in all beings, ie, you who have realized the similarity of all individual selves with yourself as you are a jnāna-yogi par excellence! 
This clarifies that Rudra is also a great jnāna-yogi.
guṇānāṃ hi pradhcnānām ekatvaṃ tvayi tiṣṭhati
Meaning: The attributes of Brahman (guṇānāṃ) that are the principal objects of contemplation in various brahma-vidyās abide in you, ie, you are ever immersed in their contemplation and are a bhakti-yogi par excellence!
This further clarifies that Rudra is also a great bhakti-yogi.
sarvabhūtāśayavibho havir bhūtam upasthitam
pratigṛhāṇa māṃ devayady aśakyāḥ pare mayā
Meaning: You are the asylum of all beings, O one who becomes full with Atma-guṇās by virtue of his upāsaṇa! I, being unable to vanquish my foes, wait as an offering for you. Accept me, O Deva!
This concludes the stuti. 
Following this, Rudra grants Ashvattama’s boon. We have also explained the meanings of the incidents that happen after this stuti in the Sauptika Parva in this article here –
It has been seen that some Veerashaivas, in their desperation to hide the truths and promote half-baked views, hide behind Shankara’s superficial denouncement of Pāncharātra in his Brahma-Sutra Bhāshya to avoid any acceptance of the Pāncharātra as a valid text. What they ignore (deliberately of course), is that Shankara never rejected the Pāncharātra in it’s entirety. He merely rejected one or two concepts that he felt were against the Veda (and this has been successfully rebutted by Acharya Ramanuja). But quoting his famous statement:
"tatra yattāvaducyatE yo 'sau nārāyaṇaḥ paro 'vyaktāt prasiddhaḥ paramātmā sarvātmā॥। yadyapi tasya bhagavato 'bhigamanādilakṣaṇam ārādhanam ajasram-ananya-cittayā'bhiprey- ate, tadāpi na pratisidhyate, śrutismtyorīśvarapraṇidhāna- sya prasiddhatvāt"
[We do not intend to oppose the doctrine that nArAyaNa, who is superior the material universe, who is the supreme soul (paramAtmA), and the soul for all (sarvAtmA)... Nor do we mean to object to the inculcation of unceasing single-minded devotion on the Supreme Lord which appears in the Pancharatra doctrine under the forms of abhigamana (visiting Vishnu temples with utmost devotion in mind, with senses subdued) etc., for that we are to meditate on the Lord we know full well from shruti and smRti. - Brahma Sutra Bhashya, 2.2.42] 
And advaitins who followed him went a step further in accepting the Pāncharātra in it’s entirety, even disagreeing with Shankara’s minor objections. As Amalananda writes:
jīvābhinnabrahmaṇo jagatsargaṃ vadataḥ samanvayasya jīvotpattipratipādakapāñcarātrasmṛtivirodhasaṃdehe, adhiṣṭhātaiveśvara iti mate niraste, prakṛtirapi sa iti matasya vedasaṃmatatvājjīvotpattāvapi pramāṇatvam — evaṃbhūtāvāntarasaṃgatilobhena smṛtpādasaṃgatamapyadhikaraṇamiha likhitam । tatra —
īśoktaṃ na purāṇeṣu vyāmohārthamitīritam ।
pañcarātramato jīvo vikāra iti mīyate ॥
pañcarātrakarturvāsudevasya vedādeva sarvajñatvāvagamāt kapilapatañjalyādīnāṃ ca jīvatvāt, pañcarātrasya ca purāṇeṣu buddhādidarśanavat vyāmohārthamīśvarapraṇītatvāśravaṇāt brahmanimittatvaprakṛtitvasaṃpratipatteśca jīvotpattāvapyadvaitāvyāghātāttatsiddhajīvotpattirabādhyā । ata evāgatārthā ca । evaṃ prāpte, abhidhīyate —
“buddhipūrvakṛtistantraṃ brahmaniḥśvasitaṃ śrutiḥ ।
tena jīvajanistatra siddhā gauṇī niyamyate ॥”
yāvaddhyekadeśe vedāvirodhādīśvarabuddhervedamūlatvaṃ vedādvā sarvaviṣayatvaṃ pratīyate, tāvadeva svataḥpramāṇavedājjīvānutpattipramitau tādṛśabuddhipūrvakeśvaravacanānna jīvotpattiravagantuṃ śakyate । ataḥ pramāṇāpahṛtaviṣaye gauṇaṃ tadvacanam, na tu bhrāntaṃ pūrvoktayuktibhiriti ।
Meaning: The adhikaraNa is begun as follows — there is a doubt as to whether the the origination of the individual soul (jIvotpatti) must be accepted literally from statements in the pAncarAtra Agama. This tantra was composed by the Omniscient Lord, and are in agreement with the Veda in terms of the oneness of material and efficient causes. It cannot be said that these statements are made in error, since they were uttered by the Lord Himself, compared to other darshanas like sAMkhya, yoga, etc. that were composed by jIvas like Kapila, Patanjali, etc. Moreover, we do not see anywhere in the Puranas that the pAncarAtra tantra was propagated by the Lord Himself for the sake of delusion not unlike the doctrine of the Bauddhas propagated again by Himself to delude the wicked. Such a doubt is raised here.
The correct position, on the other hand , is as follows: “Since the Lord’s voluntary composition is the pAncarAtra tantra, and His involuntary breath is the shruti, statements of origination of the soul are secondary and figurative, not primary and literal”. The omnscience, benevolent nature, and infalliability of the Lord are all understood to be true only from the self-evident shruti. Hence, the pAncarAtra Agamas are dependent on the Veda for their authority. Hence, it cannot be said that they propagate the theory of origin of the individual soul literally, since it would contradict the shruti that says the individual soul is eternal. Therefore, such statements in the pAncarAtra are to be understood as secondary and conveying something else, and are not erroneous due to the reasons given in the prima facie position.
Note also that Amalānanda agrees with the pūrvapakṣa’s reasons to believe in the infalliability of Pāncharātras, which we have highlighted above. This guru notes that no purāṇa condemns Pāncharātra as un-vedic.
And we also have Sridhara who evinces an admiration for the adherents of the Pāncharātra Agama as follows in his Vishnu Purāṇa and bhagavata vyākhyāna:
Sridhara under VP 1.2.12:
paramātmaiva ca sāttvatatantravidbhirvāsudeva ityucyate ityāha”: The Supreme Atman alone indeed is called Vasudeva by the knowers of the (pāñcarātra) tantras such as sāttvata.
Sridhara under VP 1.2.15:
“tathaiva nāradīyatantre ‘viṣṇostu trīṇi rūpāṇi puruṣākhyānyatho viduḥ । prathamaṃ mahataḥ sraṣṭṛ dvitīyantvaṇḍasaṃsthitam । tṛtīyaṃ sarvabhūtasthaṃ tāni jñātvā vimucyate”: Thus says the nāradīya tantra: ‘...therefore, the wise know the three forms of Vishnu called Purushas. The first is the creator of mahān, the second is the one situated in the cosmic egg. The third is the one inside all beings. Knowing these three, one is liberated’
Sridhara under Bhagavatam 11.10.1: 
“mayoditeṣv avahitaḥ sva-dharmeṣu mad-āśrayaḥ varṇāśrama-kulācāram akāmātmā samācaret ” mayā - pañcarātrādyuktavaiṣṇavadharmeṣu, avahito apramattaḥ।: Taking full shelter in me, with the mind carefully fixed in the devotional service of the Lord as spoken by me, one should live without personal desire and practice the social and occupational system called varṇāśrama.” Here, ‘devotional service spoken by me’ refers to the Vaishnava dharma explained in the pāncarātra texts. ‘Fixed in such devotional service’ means to be attentive/careful.
Sridhara under Bhagavatam 3.29.15: 
“kriyā-yogena śastena nātihiṁsreṇa nityaśaḥ ” kriyāyogena - pāñcarātrādyuktaprakāreṇa”: Without excessive violence, one should regularly perform one’s devotional activities.” Here, kriyā yoga means “by the method of worship enjoined in the pāncarātra etc.
Sridhara Swamin also says that the Vishvaksena the commander of Lord’s army in Shri Vaikuntha, is the personification of the pāncarātra tantra, just as Shri Garuda the Lord’s mount is the personification of the Vedas, in Srimad Bhagavatam 12.11.19-20.
A reading of the pāncharātra samhitās will show that it is a beautiful shāstra, full of crystal clear descriptions about the para-attva. Some portions are even more beautiful than the rāmāyaṇa, while others like Lakshmi Tantra contain unique concepts about the nature of Devi (Lakshmi) in relation to her Lord. 
When advaitins have clearly accepted these texts, why do two-bit Vishnu Dveshis like Veerashaiva continue to shy away from it and seek to speak of it derisively? The question contains an oxymoron actually. Because they know that their acceptance of the Agama will totally break their already flimsy stand on shiva-paratva.
  1. Praise of Bhagavat-Shastra in the Mahābhārata
Now, let us explore some quotations from the Mahābhārata on the pāncharātra. First, we will show some general statements on the Agama to highlight it’s authenticity:
idaṃ mahopaniṣadaṃ caturvedasamanvitam। sāṃkhyayogakṛtaṃ tena pañcarātrānuśabditam॥ nārāyaṃṇamukhodītaṃ nārado'śrāvayatpunaḥ। (~12-348-62 Mahābhārata, Sānti Parva)
Meaning: This great doctrine, that takes one close to Brahman (Upanishad), explains the purport of the four Vedas harmoniously. It is based on the knowledge of the individual self or jnāna yoga called “sāṃkhya” and the performance of desireless action that is called “yoga” and called “pancarātra”. It has been expounded by Narayana, and Narada explained it once more.
As Acharya Ramanuja explains, “sāṃkhya” refers to concentrated meditation on the self which is of the nature of knowledge. This is jnāna yoga. The term “yoga” refers to “skilled action” which is karma yoga here. This shāstra advocating bhakti yoga and sharanāgati to the Lord is the culmination or fruit of jnāna and karma yogas.
 “brāhmaṇaiḥ kṣatriyairvaiśyaiḥ śūdraiśca kṛtalakṣaṇaiḥ ।sevyate'bhyarcyate caiva nityayuktaiḥ svakarmabhiḥ ॥ dvāparasya yugasyānte ādau kaliyugasya ca। sātvataṃ vidhimāsthāya gītaḥ saṃkarṣaṇena vai” ॥ (~6-66-39-40 Mahābhārata, Bhishma Parva)
Meaning: Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and Shudras, worship Him (Vāsudeva) in their daily rituals and activities. They are to worship Him in the dvāpara and in the beginning of kali yuga, using the sātvata rules expounded by Sankarshana (in the Pāncharātra texts).
tairekamatibhirbhūtvā yatproktaṃ śāstramuttamam॥ vedaiścaturbhiḥ samitaṃ kṛtaṃ merau mahāgirau।” (~12-343-28 Mahābhārata, Sānti Parva)
Meaning: This lofty Pāncharātra shāstra that has been expounded unanimously (in agreement with all the Vedas and ancillary texts), has been declared equal to the four Vedas on the great mountain Meru.
evam ekaṃ sāṃkya yogaṃ vedāraṇyakam eva ca
parasparāṅgāny etāni pañcarātraṃ ca kathyate
eṣa ekāntināṃ dharmo nārāyaṇa parātmakaḥ (~Mahābhārata, Sānti Parva)
Meaning: Thus the Sānkhya-Yoga and the Veda which is like a forest (difficult to understand), being divisions of one another, are also called Pāncharātra. This is the means for those with one-pointed devotion to Nārāyaṇa, who comprises entities distinct to him (as their innerself).
The idea is that Sānkhya describes the 25 principles, Yoga describes methods of meditation, the Vedas show that everything other than Brahman is dependent on Brahman and has Brahman as their innerself, as well as the fact that meditation is directed towards Brahman. Thus, they are mentioned as divisions of one whole as they are one in terms of aiming towards one Reality.  And all these divisions are explained in the Pāncharātra by Nārāyaṇa himself.
A tight slap on the faces of Vishnu-Dveshis. Even Shankara did not ignore this and that is why he conceded partial validity for Pāncharātra.
  1. Bhagavat-Shāstra vs Other Systems in Mahābhārata (Sānti Parva)
The only possible challenge to this is, there is a section in the Sānti Parva of Mahābhārata that appears to give superficial validity to Sankhya, Yoga and Pāsupata systems as well. Let us examine that section. It will be shown that in that particular section, not only is the greatness of Pāncharātra established, but Pasupati, the propagator of the Pāsupata shāstra, is declared to be a non-eternal jīva as well.
sāṃkhyaṃ yogaṃ pañcarātraṃ vedāraṇyakam eva ca jñānāny etāni brahmarṣe lokeṣu pracaranti ha kim etāny ekaniṣṭhāni pṛthaṅ niṣṭhāni vā mune prabrūhi vai mayā pṛṣṭaḥ pravṛttiṃ ca yathākramam
Meaning: Janamejaya: O Brahmarishi! Sankhya, Yoga, Pāncharātra and Veda which is a forest (difficult to understand), are known to exist currently in the world. Do they have their ground or basis as one, or are they different? In response to my question, explain the manifestation (of these systems) in due order.
The crux of Janamejaya’s question is to understand this, as explained by Shri Ramanuja – Do all these systems of thought expound the same Reality, or different ones? If they are all the same, what is the nature of that Reality? If different, then only one of them can be accepted as authoritative, and that being the case, which one is authorititative?
After some description of the birth of Vyāsa, the answer is provided by Vaishampayana as follows:
sāṃkhyaṃ yogaṃ pañcarātraṃ vedāḥ pāśupataṃ tathā
jñānāny etāni rājarṣe viddhi nānā matāni vai
Meaning: Sankhya, Yoga, Pancharatra, Veda and Pasupata – understand all these different systems (on the basis of their propagators).
The idea is, the validity of these systems is to be understood by the nature of their propagators which is mentioned below.
sāṃkhyasya vaktā kapilaḥ paramarṣiḥ sa ucyate
hiraṇyagarbho yogasya vettā nānyaḥ purātanaḥ
Meaning: The propounder of Sankhya is that great rishi, Kapila. The propounder of Yoga is none other than Brahma. 
This shloka establishes that the founders of these two darshanas are baddha-jīvās, namely, Kapila and Brahma, and thus cannot be considered as perfectly error-free. 
To this, the pūrvapakśin may question, the rishi Kapila is highly celebrated in the Svetasvatara. The status of Brahma is also well-known. Can we then, reject these systems as non-vedic? The answer is provided in the first pada of the second adhyāya of brahma- sutras. The views of Kapila conflict with smritis authored by others like Manu who is considered an authority on all knowledge. Hence, there is no ground to consider Kapila’s views as valid despite his relative competency. Similarly, Brahma is susceptible to influences of rajas and tamas, and as in the case of the tāmasa-purāṇās which were narrated by him, is prone to error as well.
Thus, the ignorant view-point that “One should accept tāmasa-purāṇās as truth because of the nature of the author” is itself refuted by the Brahma Sutras and Mahābhārata.
Now, the authoritativeness of the Veda is revealed by the nature of it’s teacher:
apāntaratamāś caiva vedācāryaḥ sa ucyate 
prācīna garbhaṃ tam ṛṣiṃ pravadantīha ke cana
Meaning: The Rishi Apāntaratamās is the preceptor of the Vedas, who is called by some rishis as “prācīna garbhaṃ”  (abode of the Vedas which are called “prācīna”)
The Vedas do not have an author, as Apāntaratamās is indicated as the teacher of the Vedas and not as its’ author. Hence, they are flawless as opposed to the other systems mentioned so far on account of their unauthoredness.
Pāsupata system is now dismissed by Vaishampayana:
umāpatir bhūtapatiḥ śrīkantho brahmaṇaḥ sutaḥ
uktavān idam avyagro jñānaṃ pāśupataṃ śiva
Meaning: The Pāsupata system was propagated by Shiva who is the Lord of Uma, the ruler of embodied beings, the one who holds poison in his throat, who is the son of Brahma and whose knowledge of Reality is unperturbed (despite the teachings). 
As in the case of Brahma and Kapila, the Pāsupata system is dismissed on the grounds that it is authored by Shiva, a baddha-jīva. Here, the reason for calling Shiva by all these names is to be understood. 
Unlike the Sankhya and Yoga systems where Kapila and Brahma are the propagators but not the ones worshipped by the adherents, the Pāsupata system is propagated by Shiva who is himself worshipped as Supreme by the adherents of such a system. Thus, a doubt may arise as to whether Shiva himself is to be rejected as a competent authority on account of his acceptance of such improper worship, unlike Kapila and Brahma who are celebrated for their knowledge despite the propagation of erroneous systems.
To clarify that Shiva is not influenced by the opinions of the Pāsupata system, these adjectives are provided for him. The following provides the meaning for these names:
  1. Umāpati” – Lord of Umā who is a Brahma-Jnāni herself. This means Shiva is also a jnāni and not an outcaste despite being worshipped in the pāsupata system.

  1. “bhūtapatiḥ” As he declares in the Harivamsha, “Isoham sarvadehinām” – he is the Ruler of embodied beings associated with rajo and tamo guṇās and thus propagates shāstrās contrary to the Veda but which have relative value in providing direction to people of those inclinations.

  1. “Śrīkantha” – There are many meanings for this. The first is “poison-throated” – Just as Shiva holds the poison in his throat without being affected by it, he propagates the “poison” which is veda-bāhya Pāsupata without himself being affected by their adherents worshipping him as Supreme. The second is “poison-speech” (“kantha” also refers to speech) – and this again means his teachings (speech) of the Pāsupata system are like spewing poison. Also, the hala-hala visha indicates attachments and Shiva signifies the mind – thus the Pāsupata system is for those whose minds are possessed by rajas and tamas. This name indicates clearly the avaidika nature of the Pāsupata system.

  1. “brahmaṇaḥ sutaḥ” – The son of Brahma, who abides by the directions of Brahma (brahmānam kamalāsanastham) – since Brahma in turn abides by the directions of Narayana, the implication is Shiva abides by the dictates of the Lord. Thus, he spread the Pāsupata system glorifying his own worship with improper tattvas on Nārāyaṇa’s orders and not because he himself is veda-virodha.

  1. “avyagro jñānaṃ” – Despite the adherents of the Saiva religion worshipping him as supreme, he himself is crystal clear in his knowledge of his own position and Nārāyaṇa as the Supreme Reality. 

  1. “Śiva” – He is cleansed of karmas due to his austerities and bhakti for Narayana, and hence, is unaffected by the doshas associated with the Pāsupata system.
The need for all these adjectives is simply because Shiva is worshipped as supreme in the system he propagated, whereas Brahma and Kapila  do not have that status in their respective systems. Hence, these names are clarificatory in nature.
The above interpretation is also validated by the Brahma Sutras’ rejection of Pāsupata as well as Shiva’s own words in Rudra Gita of Varaha Purana:
ye rudramupajīvanti kalau vaiḍālikā narāḥ ।laulyārthinaḥ svaśāstrāṇi kariṣyanti kalau narāḥ ।ucchuṣmarudrāste jñeyā nāhaṃ teṣu vyavasthitaḥ ॥ (~ Varaha Purana, Rudra Gita 71.55)॥
Meaning: (Rudra said): Those people who sustain themselves on desire which causes weeping or attachment (Rudram) in kali are enemies of the path of the Veda. These people create their own shāstras (derived from the nihshvāsa) for the purpose of rajas or passion in Kali. They of manifest passion (rajas), abide in Rudra (myself), but it should be known that I am not situated with them (in that path).
This includes even those Saivas like the Nayanmars whose bhakti to Shiva was for the purpose of moksha as opposed to artha, kama etc, because any attachment other than to the Supreme Reality (Nārāyaṇa), is of the nature of Samsāra and falls under the umbrella of desire --- here, it is desire to attain a particular deva (Rudra) who isn’t liberated himself or the Supreme.
Thus, the Pāsupata system is rejected. It is to be noted that these proofs establish that the rejection of this system in the Brahma Sutras is not only for it’s denial of material causality, but also for the elevation of a jīva (Shiva) as supreme and denigration of the Supreme (Nārāyaṇa) to a lesser reality.
Now, we come to the Pāncharātra.
Paṅcarātrasya kṛtsnasya vaktā nārāyaṇaḥ svayam । jñāneṣveteṣu rājendra sarveṣvetadviśiṣyate
Meaning: The propagator of the Pāncharātra in its’ entirety is Nārāyaṇa himself. Out of all these (systems), the (best) knowledge is to be obtained from these.
The subject of the Veda, which was previously established as the supreme authority on account of its’ unauthoredness, is Nārāyaṇa. This is indicated by “svayam” – as opposed to the likes of Kapila, Brahma, Pasupati, etc who are jIvās endowed with Aveshās of the Lord, the Lord Nārāyaṇa is verily the Supreme Brahman himself. Other recensions have “svayam bhagavān” instead of “Narayana” which conveys the same meaning (that Kapila, Brahma, Pasupati are not Bhagavān), as it denotes Vishnu only. Thus, it follows that the bhagavat-shāstra authored by Narayana himself, is flawless and offers the best knowledge.
Here, a question may be asked – if the succeeding verse says that out of all the previously mentioned systems, the Pāncharātra offers the best knowledge, does it undermine the Vedas which were previously hailed as flawless and also included here among other systems? 
The answer is, the Pāncharātra is better than the systems of Kapila, Brahma and Pasupati as it faithfully adheres to the Vedas. It is also considered better than the Vedas, because it explains the meaning of the Vedas with clarity – whereas the Vedas are confusing like a forest (Aranyakam), accessible only to select castes and highly knowledgeable people. The infinite compassion of the Lord in disseminating an easily understandable shāstra is implied by this. 
This also refutes Shankara’s objections in his brahma-sūtra-bhāśya that the Pāncharātra undermines the superiority of the Vedas by claiming to be better than the latter. Even the Mahabhārata has such a laudatory statement about the Agama being superior to the Veda due to its’ clarity. 
yathāgamaṃ yathā jñānaṃ niṣṭhā nārāyaṇaḥ prabhuḥ na cainam evaṃ jānanti tamo bhūtā viśāṃ pate
Meaning: (In all the above-mentioned systems) in accordance to the tradition and aids to knowledge like logic, the ground or basis (for these systems) is the Supreme Lord, Nārāyaṇa. Those who are deluded by the darkness of ignorance brought on by beginningless karmas do not understand him.
The meaning of this shloka, as given by Acharya Ramanuja is this – the Veda says Nārāyaṇa is sarvabhūtāntarātma. Thus, the tattvas described in the Sankhya, Yoga and Pāsupata systems have Nārāyaṇa as their self. 
The idea is that, the Sankhya system is rejected, but it’s teaching of the 25 tattvas is accepted and the rejection is simply because they do not accept that these tattvas have Nārāyaṇa as their innerself.  The Yoga system is rejected, but the methods of meditation are accepted and the rejection is only because that system does not accept Yoga as a method of meditation on Nārāyaṇa. The Pāsupata system is rejected for it’s lack of acceptance of material causality, for the elevation of a jīva (Pasupati) as Brahman and certain erroneous practices like wearing ashes etc, but the descriptions of Pasu and Pasha as well as the existence of Pasupati is also accepted and these also have Nārāyaṇa as their self. 
Thus, Nārāyaṇa alone is the basis of all these systems. And since this Nārāyaṇa, who is revealed by the Veda, is himself the propagator of the Pāncharātra, the system describes his nature and the methods to attain him, and acknowledges he is the self of all including the tattvas delineated by the other systems. For this reason, this Pāncharātra is held as valid and containing all other systems within itself.
tam eva śāstrakartāraṃ pravadanti manīṣiṇaḥ
niṣṭhāṃ nārāyaṇam ṛṣiṃ nānyo 'stīti ca vādinaḥ
Meaning:  That indeed is proclaimed by those qualified to meditate on Brahman, who are authors of smritis (like Manu, Vyāsa), that Nārāyaṇa, who is Omniscient (ṛṣiṃ) alone is the basis or ground (of all these systems) and none other.
Vaishampayana is saying, “The idea of Nārāyaṇa being the ground of all these systems is not something I am saying out of my own imagination; it is the considered opinion of authorities like Manu, Vyāsa, etc. Also, the Lord being omniscient implies that the knowledge he himself disseminates is flawless.
Note that by this, Nārāyaṇa being the ground or innerself of Pasupati (Shiva) is well-established, considering the Pāsupata system advocates Pasupati as the object of worship.
 niḥsaṃśayeṣu sarveṣu nityaṃ vasati vai hariḥ
 sasaṃśayān hetubalān nādhyāvasati mādhavaḥ
Meaning: Hari, who destroys karmas (harati pāpāni), resides ever in (the hearts of) those who have dispelled all doubts. Madhava, the Master of Knowledge about himself (mā = knowledge of Hari, dhava = swami), never resides in those who are plagued by doubt due to the force of false argumentation.
The condemnation of the likes of Veerashaiva who indulge in jalpa is in the shāstra itself, or so it would seem! 
paṅcarātravidō yē tu yathākramaparā nṛpa । 
ēkāntabhāvōpagatāstē hariṃ praviśanti vai ॥ (Mahabharata, 12.337.67)
Meaning: O King! He who understands the Pāṅcarātra, who adheres to its’ injunctions attaining single-minded devotion, reaches Hari.
The validation of the Pāṅcarātra is thus complete.
sāṃkhyaṃ ca yogaṃ ca sanātane dve; vedāś ca sarve nikhilena rājan
sarvaiḥ samastair ṛṣibhir nirukto; nārāyaṇo viśvam idaṃ purāṇam
Meaning: The two, Sānkhya and Yoga, are eternal as are the Vedas in their entirety, O King! All the rishis in unison proclaim that Nārāyaṇa is this ancient Universe.
By “Sānkhya” and “Yoga”, it is meant that the entities described in these systems – namely the pradhāna and the individual self – are eternal. Similarly, the Vedas are also eternal. And these eternal entities have Nārāyaṇa as their self, which is declared  by saying “nārāyaṇo viśvam idaṃ” – By virtue of sāmānādhikaraṇya, it means that Nārāyaṇa is the innerself of the Universe.
Note that the Pāsupata system is not mentioned to be eternal here. The reason is this – Sānkhya describes the 25 tattvas and Yoga describes modes of meditation and the individual self which are all real and eternal. However, the Pāsupata system describes Pasupati who is not an eternal entity. He is a jīva occupying a specific perishable body which is subject to death and hence he cannot be considered eternal even if he has Nārāyaṇa as his self. Of course, tattvas of prakrti and the individual self are eternal in the sense that they never cease to exist, but the particular person of “Pasupati” is just a jīva in a specific birth and hence is non-eternal as he disappears during pralaya. 
In this manner, this section establishes the jīvatva and abrahmatva of Shiva, glorifying the Pāṅcarātra Sāstra.


  1. We have published a new article on certain important sections of the Mahabharata. Hope this is interesting and clarificatory for our readers.

  2. Dear All,

    I came upon an interesting interpretation of the Indra-Ahalya incident by the Mimamsaka Kumarila Bhatta. Reluctant to accept that Indra had committed a transgression, he tries to say that the entire incident is to be viewed as metaphorical.

    In his Tantravarttika, he says that the moon is Gotama (utamA gAvo rasmayo yasya sah gotamah). The night is Ahalya (ahar lIyate yasyam sA) for the sun is dissolved in it. The night is the moon’s wife. The sun is Indra, who has supreme tejas (ya esa suryatapati esau eva indrah). When the sun rises, the night disappears – this is the meaning behind Indra ravishing Ahalya.

    While Kumarila Bhatta is right to understand there is an inner meaning to the incident, he makes two mistakes. Firstly, there is nothing in the ithihAsa to imply that this particular incident was only a metaphor and did not happen. Secondly, the meaning he gives – the sun ending the night – is rather trite and does not require to be hidden in such a manner. After all, it is common knowledge that sunrise dispels the night, so why would Rishi Valmiki seek to hide that behind a story of Indra and Ahalya? Indeed, there is not even much point in saying it openly as it is pratyaksha-siddham.


  3. Cont'd from above...

    Then, the real explanation is this – The incident happened due to Indra’s pUrva-janma karmas and there is no need to deny that. And there is also an inner meaning, which is far deeper than what Kumarila Bhatta thought. I am translating the relevant sections here:

    Firstly, “ahalya” means “one who is without deformities, ie, doshas”. It refers to the jIvAtma that is pure by nature. “gotama” – “go” refers to the Veda +tamap suffix – literally means that (para vidya) which is superior to the Veda (apara vidya), or the superior knowledge of the Veda. Either way, it refers to bhakti yoga which is rAja vidya.

    So, Ahalya is the jIva wedded to Gotama who is bhakti yoga or meditation on Brahman. The main disruptor of this meditation is lust or desire for sense objects. Indra represents this. His name “Indra” indicates possession of immense wealth (iDi- paramaishvarye) in the manner of lust which offers multiple objects of enjoyment. He is also known as “sahasrAksha” – The thousand eyed, or the experience (aksha) of thousands (multitudes) of sense objects (sahasra).

    Thus, lust (Indra) possesses the jIva (Ahalya) which causes it to astray from bhakti yoga (Gotama). Let us interpret some shlokas from the bAla kAnda understanding this concept.

    Indra seduces Ahalya by saying the following,

    R^itu kaalam pratiikShante na arthinaH susamaahite |
    saMgamam tu aham icChaami tvayaa saha sumadhyame || 1-48-18

    Meaning: Oh, finely limbed lady, indulgers do not watch out for the time to conceive, as such oh, slender-waisted one, I desire copulation with you.

    The inner meaning is as follows.

    “Oh, one who is very intent or attentive on Brahman by nature (susamAhita)! Those desirous of indulging in sense objects (arthinaH) do not look for a right or fit time, or the rule of the Veda (ie, they indulge in them regardless). I (lust/desire) wish for connection or coming together (in the sense of attaching via vAsaNAs) with you, who have a slender waist signifying vairAgya of the self in its’ true condition!”

    In this way, despite the inherent purity of the jIva, it gets associated with lust. Now, this results in a twofold fruit. Firstly, the jIva falls away from bhakti yoga which is like a razor’s edge according to the Upanishads. Secondly, despite such a fall, BhagavAn assures that previous efforts are never in vain – hence, the power of previous efforts will eventually overcome lust. Hence, Gotama curses both Ahalya and Indra as follows.


  4. Cont'd from above...

    mama ruupam samaasthaaya kR^itavaan asi dur.hmate |akartavyam idam yasmaat viphalaH tvam bhaviShyati || 1-48-27

    Meaning: Oh, wicked-minded Indra, taking hold of my form you have effectuated this unacceptable deed, whereby you shall become impotent.' Thus, Gautama cursed Indra.

    Inner meaning,

    “Oh lust, you who are (associated with) an impure mind (of the jIva)! By assuming my nature (of experiencing), you have performed this, which is an action unacceptable to the true nature of the self (akartavyam). Therefore, (by virtue of prior upAsaNa), you will become ineffectual (ie, lust shall no longer afflict the jIva).”

    gautamena evam uktasya sa roSheNa mahaatmanaa |
    petatuH vR^iShaNau bhuumau sahasraakShasya tat kShaNaat || 1-48-28

    Meaning: When that great-souled sage Gautama spoke that way with rancour, the testicles of the cursed Thousand-eyed Indra fell down onto ground at that very moment.

    This should be self-explanatory. I have already explained the meaning of “sahasrAksha” – the enjoyment of multitudes of sense objects. The part about the testes falling off implies a lack of virility – meaning, such enjoyment is blunted and lust becomes ineffective.

    Thus, prior performance of bhakti does eventually lead to a disassociation with lust. But for the crime committed and the lapse in Bhakti Yoga, the penalty is declared in the form of Gotama cursing Ahalya as follows.


  5. tathaa shaptvaa ca vai shakram bhaaryaam api ca shaptavaan | iha varSha sahasraaNi bahuuni nivaShisyasi || 1-48-29 vaayu bhakShaa niraahaaraa tapyantii bhasma shaayinii | adR^ishyaa sarva bhuutaanaam aashrame asmin vaShisyasi || 1-48-30

    Meaning: "On cursing Indra thus the sage cursed even his wife saying, 'you shall tarry here for many thousands of years to come without food and consuming air alone, and unseen by all beings you shall live on in this hermitage while contritely recumbent in dust.”

    Inner meaning of the curse as follows:

    “You jIva, shall remain here in samsAra for many years (signifying many births), consuming air in the sense of experiencing movement in samsAra ceaselessly like the wind.

    You shall be without food (nir AhAra) which is the direct perception of Brahman. You shall reside in the body which is called “bhasma” as it is perishable and ends in ashes (when the self leaves the body).

    You shall reside in this body which is “Ashrama” as it conceals knowledge of the true nature of the self (A-Samyak, Sramyate-tapyate, gUhyate iti Ashramah), imperceptible to all the senses (sarvabhUtAnam). Meaning, your true nature will be concealed until you see Rama.”

    The pitfall of bhakti yoga is that a minor transgression like succumbing to lust can lead to great distress. Yet, the previous efforts invested in Yoga will eventually result in the jIva being elevated from this state and regaining its’ ability to undertake Yoga. That is also pronounced by Gotama as follows.


  6. Cont'd from above...

    yadaa tu etat vanam ghoram raamo dasharatha aatmajaH |
    aagamiShyati durdharShaH tadaa puutaa bhaviShyasi || 1-48-31

    Meaning: When that unassailable son of Dasharatha, namely Rama, arrives at this terrible forest, for it will be henceforth rendered so along with you, then you will be purified.

    “vanam goram” refers to samsAra which is like a terrible forest where you get lost in rebirths. When one is a jnAni, even samsAra appears like mokshasthAna to him as he sees Brahman everywhere. Thus Thondaradippodi Azhwar declared that Srirangam was preferable than Moksha to him (ecchuvai thavira yAn poi indira lokam aalum acchuvai periNum venDen). But when one becomes an ajnAni, samsAra becomes dangerous. Thus, Gotama tells Ahalya that this forest shall now become terrible along with you, meaning, it becomes dangerous as you lose your stature of Yoga.

    The arrival of Rama is akin to the awakening of the knowledge of Brahman which would purify the jIva. Alternatively, it can mean “meditate on the Lord’s sousIlya as indicated by him becoming the son of Dasharatha, descending in samsAra/this forest, and you shall be purified by him”. “durdharShaH” means the Lord is incapable of being conquered and hence can conquer this samsAra for the jIva.

    tasya aatithyena dur.hvR^itte lobha moha vivarjitaa |mat sakaashe mudaa yuktaa svam vapuH dhaarayiShyasi || 1-48-32

    Meaning: On your welcoming Rama, oh, ill-behaved woman, you will be divested of your greed and delusion in which you lingered so far, and then you will assume your own body and then you can be in my proximity, rejoicingly.' Thus, Sage Gautama cursed his wife Ahalya.

    Inner Meaning: By not obstructing the grace of Rama, the Supreme Brahman, you, the jIva will lose its’ vices accumulated due to vAsaNAs-rUcI-karmas. You will assume your own form, ie, you will manifest your true nature (svam vapuH dhaarayiShyasi) rejoice in the experience of Brahman’s auspicious attributes (mudaa yuktaa) with the proximity of me (Gotama), ie, bhakti yoga (mat sakaashe).

    Note that “svam vapuH dhaarayiShyasi” is similar to “svena rUpEna upasampadya” in the Upanishad. The jIva manifests its’ true condition upon experiencing Brahman.

    In this manner, this incident is a beautiful metaphor for the pitfalls of bhakti yoga. You may have wondered why our texts contain certain incidents of this or the other deva’s dalliances with women which seem unnecessary details. The reason is that they all have inner meanings like this, which are fairly minor to be completely commented on by Acharyas.

    It is also why our acharyas did not pay much attention to the Indra-Ahalya incident, as they were concerned with sharanAgati tattvas in the rAmAyaNa. Just as Mahabharata is a bhakti yoga shAstra with just a small description of rAmAyaNa signifying anga-prapatti, the rAmAyaNa is a prappati shAstra with a minor description of bhakti yoga via this incident to acknowledge the existence of the other path and its’ pitfalls, as such knowledge is required for a prapanna. The one pointed intention of our acharyas to focus on the prapatti shAstra and the depth of their knowledge is itself indicated by how little they valued the incident of Rama saving Ahalya as opposed to the kAkAsura or vibhishana sharanAgari for instance! It is indeed a fact that our Acharyas praised every major incident of the rAmAyaNa in their stotras EXCEPT for Rama's rescue of Ahalya, and the reason is because this is the only incident that talks about bhakti yoga as opposed to prapatti. Here we can see their genius.

    How can Kumarila Bhatta, a mere mimAmsaka, understand such truths despite a dedicated attempt to divine inner meanings? Should be food for thought.


  7. Recently. while searching for something, I accidentally came across this tawdry site:

    Here, they reference the incident of Brihaspati's wife Tara being seduced by Soma to talk about idiotic modern day sexual relationships. It is quite sad to see Indians themselves reducing their heritage to such a joke. Recently, when I went to Rome, the Italian lady who was an acquaintance of mine was an atheist, but fervently in admiration of the 500 year old statues and paintings in places like the Vatican, etc. We have temples and monuments over 2000 years old, as well as innumerable works, but our people only seem to be ashamed of it or prefer to deride it.

    Anyway, the real issue is that seeing Soma and Brihaspati referenced made me want to explain the inner meaning of the incident. If you look at the older comments above this, I have already explained the metaphysical meanings of Indra and Ahalya's tryst in the Ramayana in a similar manner.


  8. Cont'd from above...

    Firstly, why do our texts contain such incidents and exploits of the devas? Why do we need to know these? Answer is threefold:

    1) The first layer of meaning shows that these devas are born of karma and not fit for worship as Brahman.
    2) The second layer of meaning shows the pitfalls of bhakti yoga -- it is a difficult path and thus the practitioners (the devas) are prone to flaws.
    3) The third and superiormost layer of meaning illustrates tattvas of the shAstra.

    I direct you to this statement of the Isavasya Upanishad:

    andham tamah pravisanti ye'vidyamupasate
    tato bhuya iva te tamo ya u vidyayam ratah (~Isavasya Upanishad 9)

    Meaning: Those who meditate on karma (avidya) alone, enter into a blinding darkness. But those who are devoted to knowledge (vidya) alone enter into a greater darkness than the former.

    The idea is that, mere performance of works without a knowledge of the self leads to darkness. But those who just meditate on the self because they have the knowledge, thinking such meditation does not require performance of any karmas, are worse off and will eventually succumb to lust etc. Then what is to be done? The Upanishad says that a combination of nishkAma karmas with meditation on the self leads to the goal.

    Keep this in mind, let us now look at the bhAgavata incident of brihaspati/soma/tAra.


  9. Cont'd from above...

    so ’yajad rājasūyena vijitya bhuvana-trayam patnīṁ bṛhaspater darpāt tārāṁ nāmāharad balāt (Bhagavatam 9.14.4)

    This shloka says Soma performed a rAjasUya yAga and becoming proud, kidnapped the wife of Brihaspati.

    The meaning is as follows - "Soma" refers to the jIva which is called "somarAja" in the Chandogya as it is the experiencer of objects. The "rAjasUya" can mean "manifestation of the sovereign (by contemplating on it's nature)" -- It means, the jIva has obtained the knowledge of the self.

    "Brihaspati" refers to the Veda which is the possessor (Pati) of that which is "Brihat or Brahma" (the Supreme Brahman, or it's knowledge). The Veda prescribes works to be done and hence signifies karma yoga. His wife is called "tArA" which means "to cross over" -- it refers to sAdhana which is the meditation on the self to cross over prakrti, that constitutes jnAna-yoga. This meditation is always dependent on performance of nishkAma karmas, hence tArA is ever allied to Brihaspati.

    The idea is that, Soma is the jIva which has knowledge of the self. Brihaspati is the Veda which signifies performance of works (karma yoga), since such works are only described in the Vedas. The meditation on the self (tArA, wife of Brihaspati) is in feminine as the sAdhana is always wedded to the performance of works prescribed by the Vedas.

    If the jIva (soma) thinks that mere meditation on the self is enough and performance of works is not required, it is akin to stealing the meditation on the self (tArA) from the Vedas (Brihaspati) which prescribe such works.

    However, when tArA (meditation on the self) was returned to Brihaspati (Vedas/performance of works), the illegitimate son of Soma, namely Budha, was born and allowed to live. Budha means "wise" and refers to knowledge of the form of samAdhi. Just as Budha was the son of Soma, but his mother tArA belonged to Brihaspati, samAdhi (Budha) arises only from the jIva which has knowledge of the self (Soma), by doing sAdhana in the form of meditation on the true nature of the self (tAra) while adhering to the Vedas which prescribe performance of works (brihaspati).

    This is the inner meaning of the incident.


  10. hi sir, so what is the view of kundalini yoga in vaishavam is it similar to bhakti yoga/samadhi, because i read somewhere the the thiruman or namam represents nadis or enegrychannels and when u raise the prane to the third eye you will sriman naryana reclining on the mily ocean, are there any sastric proofs or from our acharyas?, the onky person i could think is thirumazhai alwar would be one of the high level yogis on our sampradeya who could have practiced it.


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