You are here: Sri Vaishnava Home Page : Bhakti List : Archives : December 1997

SrI Sankara's views on vyuha.

From: Krishnamachari, N. (krish_at_ihmail1.ih.lucent.com)
Date: Wed Dec 03 1997 - 14:21:24 PST

Dear BhAgavatottama-s:

	In the explanation for the nAma catur-vyuha, a nAma which occurs
in SrI vishNu sahasranAmam, I had pointed out that SrI Sankara had given
a reference to mahA-bhArata supporting the vyuha concept.   SrI M.
SrInivAsan told me in our private conversation  that it was his
understanding that SrI Sankara did not support  the pAncarAtra system.
Since the vyuha concept is an integral part of the pAncarAtra system,
the question of SrI Sankara's position on the pAncarAtra doctrine arose.
Since I was not knowledgeable in this area, I spent some time going
through some scant literature in my possession to learn more on this
item.  

	Based on the bhAshya for brahma sutra by SrI Sankara, SrI M.
Srinivasan's statement is correct that SrI Sankara does not accept the
pAncarAtra doctrine.  However, there are certain aspects of the
pAncarAtra doctrine with which he agrees.  The vyuha concept, or the
division of the supreme Brahman into many forms,  is one aspect that he
accepts.  This view is based on my understanding of the preface to a
book on pAdma samhitA by sudarSanam SrI Kr*shNasvAmi aiyangAr, where he
has included a section of the original samskr*t commentary by SrI
Sankara for the brahma sutra II.2.42.  The relevant portion of Sri
Sankara's original commentary is reproduced below:

	"tatra yat-tAvaducyate yo'sau nArAyaNah paro'vyaktAt prasiddhah
paramAtmA sa AtmanAtmAnam anekadhA vyuha avasthita iti, tat na
nirAkriyate. (Note the words vyuha and 'na nirAkriyate).  'sa ekadhA
bhavati, tridhA bhavati' (chAndogya 7.26.2) ityAdi Srutibhyah
paramAtmanah anekadhA bhAvasya adhigatatvAt.   yadapi tasya bhagavatah
abhigamanAdi lakshNam ArAdhanam ajsram ananya cittatayA abhipreyate
tadapi na pratishidhyate (again, note the words na pratishidhyate).
Sruti-smr*tyoh esvara-praNidhAnasya prasiddhatvAt.

 The translation of the above words of SrI Sankara is "We do not refute
the view stated therein that nArAyaNa, who is superior to Nature and who
is well-known to be the supreme Self and the Self of all, has divided
Himself by Himself into many forms;  for from vedic texts such as - He
assumes one form, He assumes three forms etc., it is known that the
Supreme Self does become multifarious.  As for the predilection for His
propitiation, consisting in visiting His temple etc., and so on, with
exclusive devotion and for long, that also is not denied.   For the
contemplation of God is well in evidence in the veda-s and smr*ti-s." -
translation is taken from svAmi gambhIrAnanda, advaita ASrama
publication.

	 The major objection SrI Sankara has for the pAncarAtra system
is on how the beings called sankarshaNa, pradyumna, and aniruddha
resulted from the supreme Self, vAsudeva.    It is very interesting to
read the vyAkhyYna-s of SrI Sankara and SrI rAmAnuja for the sutra-s
"utpatti asambhavAt, na ca kartuh karaNam, vij~nAnAdi bhAve vA tat
apratishedhah, and vipratishedAcca, wherein the objections are raised
and answered.   Briefly, SrI Sankara's objections are - a) The soul
called sankarshaNa could not have originated from the Self vAsudeva,
since a soul cannot be born or created according to veda-s; b) If
vAsudeva, sankarshaNa, pradyumna, and aniruddha are all of equal
knowledge, powers, etc., as the bhAgavata (another name used for the
pAncarAtra) doctrine maintains, there is no need for four forms, since
one form could have carried out all the functions of the God; c) If they
are of all of equal knowledge and powers etc., then one could not have
originated from another, since the cause and effect should have some
difference in order to differentiate them, and yet the bhAgavata-s
insist that they are not different.  

	SrI rAmAnuja points out that the origin of sankarshaNa from
vAsudeva etc. in this context should be viewed as the voluntary
assumption of bodily forms by the supreme Brahman vAsudeva out of
compassion for its devotees, so that the devotees can have easy access
to the supreme Brahman.  This is because vAsudeva the supreme Brahman
has for its body the pure aggregate of the six supreme qualities, and
thus is difficult for all to attain easily.  The devotee attains to the
vyuha forms by worshipping the vibhava forms such as worship of  rAma,
kr*shna, etc., and from the vyuha forms he attains to the Subtle form of
vAsudeva.  If birth or origination of sankarshaNa from vAsudeva etc. is
viewed thus, there is no contradiction between the pAncarAtra doctrine
and the veda-s.  In fact, the pAncarAtra doctrine is considered to
include in it all the other veda-s, the sAnkhya-yoga, and AraNyaka-s.

	Thus, in summary, while it is true that SrI Sankara did not
accept the pAncarAtra doctrine in its enitrety because he had issues
with certain aspects of it, by his own words, there are certain aspects
of the pAncarAtra doctrine that he also agreed with, e.g.,  vAsudeva as
the supreme Brahman, its ability to divide itself and manifest itself in
many forms, dedicated worship to vAsudeva in temples, etc.

	While I started looking at the above, I am also writing some
notes along the lines of  a high-level summary of the pAncarAtra
doctrine, and if it is of interest I will post it in the list.

-dAsan kr*shNamAcAryan