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A Dialogue on Hinduism - Chapter 6 - Post #7

From: Parthasarati Dileepan (MFPD_at_UTCVM.UTC.EDU)
Date: Thu May 23 1996 - 15:10:12 PDT

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Post 7 of 14
Chapter 6 of 13 of  "A Dialogue on Hinduism,"
Published by Sri Visishtadvaita Research Centre, C/O Sri
Ahobila Mutt, 66, Dr. Rangachari Road, Madras 600 018, 1990

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-- P. Dileepan

====Start of Chapter 6 of 13 from Sri Gopala Desikan's book=======
                      Chapter - 6
             Iswara - The Lord and Master

Q.   What is the essential nature of Iswara?

A.   The essential nature of Iswara is truth, knowledge,
     infiniteness, happiness and purity.  He is present
     everywhere.  He knows everything.

Q.   Why is He called Bhagavan?

A.   He possesses six qualities and that is why He is called
     Bhagavan.  Bhaga in Sanskrit means good quality.

Q.   What are these six qualities?

A.   These are: 1) Knowledge 2) Lordship 3) Strength 4)
     Valour 5) Energy and 6) Splendour.

Q.   I have heard people saying that Iswara is the cause of this
     world.  Please explain.

A.   You have a potter and the mud pot.  The pot is made
     from the material mud.  So mud is the cause and pot is
     the effect.  Mud is called as the material cause of pot
     (Upadana Karana).

     Now, mud by itself cannot change into a pot.  The potter
     has to change the mud into a pot.  So, in the making of
     the pot, the potter is also the cause, like the mud.  The
     potter is called the instrumental cause (Nimitta Karana).

     Thus, for a mud pot, the mud is the material cause and
     the potter is the instrumental cause.  I will give you
     another example.

     Take the case of a weaver.  The weaver weaves a cloth
     out of the raw material yarn.  In this case, the cloth is the
     produced effect.  For the cloth, the yarn is the material
     cause and the weaver is the instrumental cause.

Q.   Are there any other causes for such things?

A.   Again, take the example of the mud pot and the potter.
     Now, just with mud alone, the potter cannot make the
     pot.  He requires the wooden wheel and some other
     similar wooden implements to make the pot out of the
     mud.  Such implements like the wooden wheel are called
     the supporting cause (sahakari karana).

     So, summarising, we have three causes for producing
     anything.  One is the material cause (upadana karana); the
     second is the instrumental cause (nimitta karana); and the
     third is the supporting cause (sahakari karana).

Q.   So far as creation of the world is concerned, what is the
     relationship of Iswara or Brahman?

A.   Brahman is the material cause in the creation of the
     world.  He is also the instrumental cause in the creation.
     There is no supporting cause required for Him in the
     creation of the world.  Or, we can also say that He is also
     the supporting cause in the creation of the world.

     If we consider the world as a pot, He is both the mud and
     the potter, for the creation of the pot (i.e. the world).

Q.   What is the difference between creation and evolution of
     the world?

A.   Brahman is the material cause; so, we say that Brahman
     evolves into the world.  Brahman is the instrumental
     cause; so, we say that Brahman creates the world.

     Thus, the evolution of the world means that Brahman is
     the material cause.  Creation of the world means that
     Brahman is the instrumental cause. (Just as mud evolves
     into mudpot; the potter creates the pot.)

Q.   I can understand your saying that He is the instrumental
     cause in the creation, but it is rather hard for me to
     understand that He is also the material cause.

     How can Brahman or Iswara Himself change into the
     world just as the mud changes into pot or just as the yarn
     changes into cloth?

A.   I shall describe this to you in some detail.  We should
     fully accept the authority of the Vedas.  Let me quote to
     you the following passages from the Vedas, which make
     it clear that Brahman is also the material cause.

     "He thought may I become many."

     "The Brahman is the wood.  Then Brahman became the

     "He desired may I become many."

     "He became defined and undefined, real and unreal.  Yet
     He remained as real.  The wise perceive Him as the
     source of beings."

     There are many other passages also, which clearly show
     that Brahman is the material cause of the world, besides
     being the instrumental cause.

     A story in Chandogya Upanishad says that there was a
     young boy Svetaketu who was sent by his father to a
     teacher for learning.  He studied under the teacher for 12
     years and after study, returned home.

     His father asked Svetaketu: "I find that you are arrogant
     and you are thinking that you have learnt everything.  Do
     you know about that, by knowing which everything else
     becomes known.

     Svetaketu did not know, how by knowing one thing, all
     other things will become known.  So, his father proceeds
     to give examples and teaches him.  The father says:

     1.   From mud, we make pots and dolls.  So knowing
          mud, all that is made of mud, is so known;
          because they are all products from the same basic
          raw material mud.
     2.   Similarly, we make jewels out of gold.  So, by
          knowing gold, all that is made of gold, like
          jewels, are also known; because they are only
          modifications or products of gold.
     3.   Again, from iron, we make so many materials like
          knife and scissors.  So, by knowing iron, all the
          products that are made of iron, also become
          known; because basically there is only iron and all
          others are only modifications of iron.

     Similarly, by knowing Brahman, the whole world and
     everything in it becomes known.

Q.   So, what do we understand from these examples?

A.   From this, it is clear that Brahman is compared to mud or
     gold or iron, out of which, pot or jewel or knife
     (respectively) are made.

     From mud comes the pot.  So, by knowing mud,
     everything made of mud becomes known.  Similarly,
     Brahman evolves in to the world and all other things.
     Hence by knowing Brahman, everything else becomes
     known.  This is the meaning of these examples.

     In other words, Brahman is the material cause (upadana
     karana) of whatever we see in the world; just as mud is
     the material cause of mud pot; just as gold is the material
     cause of gold jewels; and just as iron is the material
     cause of knife and scissors.

Q.   Please explain further about Brahman being the material
     cause of the world.

A.   The Chandogya Upanishad states as follows:-

     "Then the Brahman desired "may I become many, may I
     grow".  Then it created fire, etc." From this, it is clearly
     seen that the Brahman evolved into the world; because
     the Brahman says "may I become many."  So it is proved
     that Brahman is the material cause.

     After this, the Chandogya Upanishad describes the three-
     fold division of elements.  I have already described this
     to you earlier.

     Further, it is said that Brahman desired and said "I will
     create names and forms."

     So, this also shows that Brahman is both the material
     cause and the instrumental cause.

Q.   What is the position of Jivatma, before and after, pralaya?

A.   At the beginning of creation, namely, after the pralaya,
     the matter and Jivatmas are all merged, in an extremely
     subtle state, in Brahman.

     Then the Brahman desired "may I become many".  He
     then created the elements and the worlds, out of Himself.
     Then He gave them names and forms.  So, the Brahman
     becomes both the material and the instrumental cause
     (upadana karana and nimitta karana).

Q.   Are there any other passages in the Upanishads which
     explain that the Brahman is the material cause?

A.   There are very interesting examples in Mundaka
     Upanishad.  Saunaka asks Angiras:- "What is that, by
     knowing which, everything else in the world becomes

     Angiras proceeds to explain.  He gives the example of a
     spider.  A spider creates thin threads, out of its own body
     and mouth and spits them out.  It weaves a web around
     its body, out of these threads.  The spider, then, eats back
     the threads forming the web.  In other words, the threads
     come out of the spider and are eaten back by the spider.

     Similarly, Brahman creates the world, out of Himself and
     again withdraws the whole thing, the world, into Himself,
     at the time of deluge.  This example clearly shows that
     Brahman is the material cause of the world.

     There is another example in the same Upanishad.  The
     plants and herbs grow from the earth, i.e., come out of
     the earth.  In the same way, the world also comes out of

     Thus, the teacher Angiras explains that, since the world
     and everything else comes out of Brahman; by knowing
     Brahman, everything else becomes known.

     There is another example given in Brihadaranyaka
     Upanishad.  Yagnavalkya tells his wife that, by knowing
     Brahman, the whole world and everything else becomes
     known; and proceeds to give an example.

     From a moist and wet firewood, we try to light up fire.
     But only smoke comes out, because of wetness of the

     Just as smoke comes out of the wet firewood, all the
     world and everything else, come out of Brahman.

     These examples show that Brahman is the material cause
     of the world.

Q.   You say that the Lord - Iswara - is present everywhere.
     Have our Alwars and Acharyas specifically stated so?

A.   Yes.  Nammalwar says that the Lord is present
     everywhere, as the soul in the body.  He also gives a
     beautiful simile.  He says that the Lord is present
     everywhere and in everything, like ghee in the milk.

     We cannot straightaway see ghee in the milk.  Milk has
     to be turned into curd.  From curd, you churn and get
     butter.  You heat the butter to get ghee.

     Thus, although ghee is in milk we cannot see the ghee
     directly.  Similarly, God is in everything, although we
     cannot see Him directly with our eyes.

Q.   Is this Lord's presence in everything mentioned in the

A.   Yes, in several places.  Let me give you some beautiful
     examples from Svetasvatara Upanishad.

     The Paramatma is in the Jivatma, like oil in til seeds
     butter in curds:
     water in the earth (under ground):
     fire in wood.

     Although. the Upanishad mentions Paramatma's presence
     in Jivatma, the extension of this principle shows
     Paramatma's presence in everything.

Q.   What about our Acharyas?

A.   We have the great Alavandar, who has also used the
     simile of ghee in milk (like Nammalwar), to show the
     presence of the Lord in everything.

Q.   We have been speaking all along, as Brahman or Iswara.
     Who exactly is Brahman or Iswara?  Is there one single
     deity, who is supreme?

A.   Here are some passages from the Vedas which will
     answer your query.

     1)   "There was only one Narayana, no Brahma, no

     2)   "From His forehead, the three-eyed person, having
          Sula is born; the four-faced Brahma is born."

     3)   "Brahma is born from Narayana, Rudra is born
          from Narayana"

     4)   "Brahma is Narayana,
          Siva is Narayana,
          Indra is Narayana,
          The directions are Narayana.  All things are

     5)   "There is only one Divine Being - Narayana"

     6)   "Narayana is the inner soul of all beings."

     7)   "He crosses the human bondage of samsara and
          reaches the Paramapada of Vishnu."

     8)   "Among the Devas, fire (Agni) is the lowest and
          Vishnu is the highest.

     9)   "He created Brahma as before and taught him the

     10)  "From the Brahma's forehead, Rudra was born."

     11)  "The Universe is Narayana."

     12)  "Narayana is the supreme Brahman.  Narayana is
          the supreme truth or reality.  Narayana is the
          supreme light.  Narayana is the supreme atma or

          Whatever is in this world, seen or heard, all that is
          pervaded by Narayana, both within and without,
          He is Brahma.  He is Siva.  He is Indra."

     From these, it will be clear to you who is the supreme
     deity, who is the Brahman and who is Iswara.  There are
     innumerable such passages in the Vedas.

Q.   Where does this last passage, "He is Brahma, He is Siva,
     He is Indra" occur?

A.   This passage occurs in Taittiriya Upanishad.  This is
     called Narayana Anuvaka.

Q.   But I have heard that this occurs in Maha Narayana

A.   'Actually it forms part of Taittiriya Upanishad.  But some
     modern people call it by a separate name as Maha
     Narayana Upanishad.

Q.   You read the passage as "He is Brahma, He is Siva, He is
     Indra." But some people read it as "He is Brahma, He is
     Siva, He is Hari, He is Indra." Which is correct?

A.   The Vedic passage should read without the words "He is
     Hari".  The words "He is Hari" are later interpolation;
     and it is not correct.

Q.   How do you say that the words "He is Hari" are later
     interpolation and not correct?

A.   The reason is very simple.  If you add the words.  "He is
     Hari" in this verse in the Vedas, the metre becomes

     According to Sanskrit grammar, the metre of the verse is
     correct, only if the words "He is Hari" are not there.
     Thus it is very clear that the words "He is Hari" are only
     interpolation, at a much later period.

Q.   What was the need for this interpolation, at a later stage?

A.   With the interpolation it reads as "He is Brahma, He is
     Siva, He is Hari, He is Indra." This will give an
     impression that all the three viz., Brahma, Vishnu and
     Siva. are equal, as also Indra.

     So, perhaps this was the intention of the people who
     interpolated, that all the Gods should be treated as equals.

Q.   Are these passages in the Vedas also supported by
     Smritis, Itihasas and Puranas?

A.   Yes.  Here they are.

     1)   Varaha Purana: Narayana is the supreme deity.
          From Him was born the 4-faced Brahma and from
          Brahma arose Rudra.

     2)   Mahabharata: when the Jivatma and matter have
          gone into dissolution, i.e., 'during the deluge
          (pralaya), there is only one remaining and He is
          Lord Narayana.

     3)   Mahabharata: There is no being in the world that
          is eternal or permanent, except Vasudeva.

     4)   Harivamsa: Siva's words to Narayana; "Brahma is
          called Ka and I am called Isa.  We two were born
          from your limbs.  Therefore, you are called

     5)   Mahabharata: Brahma's words to Siva: "I was
          born by His grace and you from His anger, in one
          of the earlier creations."

     6)   Mahabharata: Brahma, Rudra and Indra together
          with all other devas and rishis, worshipped the
          divine Narayana, the greatest of Gods.

     7)   Ramayana: Rudra sacrificed all things in a great
          yaga called Sarvamedha and then sacrificed
          himself also mentally.

     8)   Ramayana: They knew Vishnu is greater (than

     9)   Mahabharata: These two, Brahma and Rudra, who
          are the greatest among the devas, are born out of
          the Lord's grace and anger.  They perform the
          duties of creation and destruction, as ordered by

     10)  Mahabharata: The devas are under the protection
          of Rudra.  Rudra is under the protection of
          Brahma.  Brahma is under my protection.  I do
          not need the protection of anyone.  I am the
          refuge of all.

     11)  Vishnupurana: Brahma, Daksha, Rudra, all these
          are among the attributes of Bhagavan.

     12)  Mahabharata: The words of Brahma to Rudra:
          "He (Narayana) is the inner soul of you, of me
          and all beings.  He sees everything, but cannot be
          seen by anyone or anywhere."

     13)  Rudra says in Mantra Raja Pada stotra: All beings
          are the servants of Paramatma.  Therefore, I am
          also your servant and with this knowledge, I bow
          to you.

     14)  Mahabharata: There is no one superior to
          Narayana, the God of the lotus eyes.  There is no
          God superior to Vishnu.

     15)  Naradapurana: There is no divine being, higher
          than Kesava.

     16)  Mahabharata: He (Vishnu) is the king of all kings.
          He is the Iswara, He is the father, He is the

     17)  Mahabharata: Those intelligent people do not
          worship Brahma or Rudra or any other devas,
          because the fruit of their worship is limited.

     18)  Mahabharata: Lord Narayana told the devas: "This
          Brahma is your father and mother and grandfather.
          He will give you boons under instructions from
          me.  Rudra, his younger brother, had his origin
          from my forehead.  Rudra will grant boons to
          beings under instructions from Brahma."

     19)  Bhagavad Gita: Krishna says: "Those who do
          sacrifices to other deities, they also do sacrifice
          only to Me; but not in the proper manner and
          according to rules."

     20)  Ramayana: Brahma, the three-eyed Rudra cannot
          save a person from being killed in war, by Rama.

     21)  Mahabharata: Meditating always of the Lord -

          Brahma, Rudra and others have not yet realised
          the Lord's nature.

     22)  Mahabharata: Mahadeva (Rudra) sacrificed himself
          in Sarvamedha yaga and became Devadeva.

     23)  Mahabharata: He, whom Madhusudana sees at the
          time of birth, becomes Sattvika.  If Brahma or
          Rudra sees him at the time of birth, he is filled
          with Rajoguna and Tamoguna (respectively).

     24)  Mahabharata: Narayana is Parabrahma.  Narayana
          is Paratattva.  He is greater than the greatest.
          There is none greater than Him.

     25)  Mahabharata: Siva said: I was born from His
          (Narayana's) head.  He is the one, fit to be
          worshipped always.  By seeing Him, all other
          deva, can also be deemed to be seen.

          I (Siva) also worship Him (Narayana) always -- -

          All of us, devas, reside in His body.

     26)  Vyasa: This is the Truth, Truth and Truth.  There
          'is no greater deity than Kesava.

     27)  Harivamsa: Siva said:- Only Hari is to be
          meditated upon, always.  He is to be worshipped
          always.  I (Siva) help in the worship of Hari.

     28)  Vishnu Purana: The world is born out of Vishnu
          and rests in Him.  He is the world -- He resides in
          all; and all beings reside in Him.  Hence He is
          called Vasudeva.  He is the Parabrahma.

     29)  Varaha Purana: Lord Narayana was at the
          beginning.  From Him was born Brahma.

     30)  Bhagavata: Brahma said:- I, Brahma, create the
          world, commanded by Narayana.  Siva, controlled
          by Narayana, destroys the world.

     31)  Bhagavata: The water from (washing) the feet of
          Vamana, which was borne on the head, with
          supreme devotion, by Kailasa vasa, Chandramouli
          (Siva) ....

     32)  Bhagavata: Brahma to Vishnu: We - Rudra and
          others - drink with our 11 senses, the honey in
          your lotus-like feet.

     33)  Bhagavata: Rudra to Krishna: You are the highest
          jyotis.  The sky is your navel, agni is your mouth
          -- You are the first purusha.  You have no equal
          or superior.  Myself (Rudra), the devas and rishis
          - all seek refuge in you.  You are everything to
          us.  You are our atma and ruler.  You have no
          equal or superior; there is nobody else to be
          approached for protection.  I come to you so that
          my samsara may be ended.

     34)  Bhagavata: Rudra to, Parvati:- You asked me,
          when I rose from my yoga --, on whom I
          meditated.  That person is Bhagavan (Narayana),
          whose maya, you have just witnessed.  He is

     35)  Bhagavata: Rudra:- One, ... who loves Bhagavan
          Vasudeva, goes after a hundred births to the world
          of Brahma; then he comes to my world.  He will
          then reach the eternal world of Vishnu, as myself,
          Indra and other devas will do, at the expiration of
          our authority.

     36)  Bhagavata: Markandeya to Rudra: I will ask for
          this boon:- "May my love for Bhagavan
          (Narayana), for those that regard Him as the
          highest goal, and  for you, remain unshaken."

          Rudra: "You will be a lover of Bhagavan

     37)  Parvati asks Siva: "I want to hear from you this:

          How do the learned people recite the 1000 names
          of Vishnu easily?  Siva replies: "It is enough, if
          you say Rama.  This is equivalent to all 1000
          names of Vishnu.  I also enjoy saying the name of

     I have quoted above, only very few. passages.  There are
     innumerable such passages in smritis, puranas and itihasas
     stating that Narayana is the supreme deity.

Q.   But I hear that in some places in the Vedas, Siva is also
     called as the supreme deity.  How do you explain this

A.   I have to tell you one thing.  Narayana is a proper noun.
     According to Sanskrit grammar, Narayana can mean only
     one person.  It cannot mean any other person.

     But, Siva, Rudra and Sambhu are common nouns.  Siva
     means an auspicious person.  Rudra means, one who
     weeps or one who is dreadful.  Sambhu means one who
     grants happiness and prosperity.  So, these are common
     nouns.  So, as common nouns, they can refer to any
     person, including Narayana; although normally they apply
     to Siva.  This is on the authority of Sanskrit grammar.

Q.   Can you give some examples?

A.   We have a word in Sanskrit, called Sarasija.  This is a
     common noun.  This means that which comes out from a
     lake.  There are so many flowers, which come out from a
     lake, i.e., which are there in a lake.  But still, by common
     understanding, Sarasija means only a lotus flower.

     Similarly, there is a word Pankaja in Sanskrit.  This
     means that which comes out of mud or slush.  Again, so
     many flowers can sprout out of mud or slush.  But it is
     commonly accepted in Sanskrit, that Pankaja refers only
     to Lotus.

     So, two of the common nouns, Sarasija and Pankaja,
     although they can apply to all flowers, are still taken to
     refer only to Lotus.

     Similarly, Sambhu, Siva and Rudra are common nouns.
     So, they can refer to any deity or person, although
     normally we identify these names with Siva.

Q.   So how do you explain the apparent contradiction?

A.   We have to apply some logic here.  We accept that the
     Vedas as a whole, are the ultimate authority.  There is
     nothing in the Vedas, which is not authority.  So, in a
     majority of passages, the word Narayana occurs as
     Paramatma.  In some places, the word Siva or Rudra also
     occurs as Paramatma.

     Now, we have to be clear on one thing.  Narayana,
     according to Sanskrit grammar, is a proper noun.  It
     cannot refer to any other person. But Siva and Rudra are
     common nouns.  So they can refer to any other person.
     Since we do not accept any contradiction among the
     different passages in the Vedas, we say that the words
     Siva and Rudra also, when they refer to Paramatma,
     actually mean Narayana, because these are common

Q.   Why can't we take it that the word 'Narayana' (as
     Paramatma) refers to Siva; instead of saying that the
     word "Siva" refers to Narayana?

A.   The answer is very simple.  Siva is a common noun.  It
     can mean any person and hence it means Narayana in the
     particular context.

     But the word Narayana cannot refer to Siva, because
     Narayana is a proper noun.  This is on the authority of
     Sanskrit grammar; and we have to accept the grammatical

Q.   I find there are several passages in the Vedas, praising the
     greatness of Siva.

A.   There are several passages in the Vedas, which praise the
     greatness of Brahma; which praise the greatness of Indra;
     which praise the greatness of Agni or fire.  Similarly,
     many passages in the Vedas also praise the greatness of

     But the important thing to see is who is declared as the
     supreme deity or Paramatma.  As I have explained to you
     so far, it is clear from the Vedas and Puranas and
     Itihasas, that Narayana is the supreme deity, the

Q.   Why not we say that Brahma, Vishnu and Siva are all

A.   What you are saying is not supported by the fundamental
     authority, the Vedas. From the Vedic passages I have
     given above, you can see that the Vedas speak of only
     one supreme deity and the supreme deity is Narayana.

     There is nothing in the Vedas to show that two or three
     Gods are equal; and that two or three Gods can be
     considered as supreme deities.  Further, as you will see
     from the quotations given earlier, both Brahma and Rudra
     themselves accept that they have come out of Narayana,
     that they are born out of Narayana.

     Nowhere in the Vedas, is it stated that two or three Gods
     are equal; that Brahma, Vishnu and Siva are equal.  The
     Vedas all along say that there is only one supreme deity
     and that is Narayana.

Q.   We have got the ancient Tamil works (Sangam literature),
     which are several thousand years old.  What do these
     mention about the supreme deity?

A.   All these ancient Tamil works also mention that Narayana
     is the supreme deity.  I am not giving quotations, because
     they are in Tamil.

Q.   If Narayana is the supreme deity, why should Rama (His
     Avatara) worship another deity in Rameswaram, as
     people say?

A.   This version is not authentic.  We accept Valmiki
     Ramayana as the authority.  There is no mention at all in
     Valmiki Ramayana about Rama worshipping any deity in
     Rameswaram.  There is no such mention in the
     authoritative version of Kamba Ramayana also.

Q.   Similarly, there are stories that Narayana took the form of
     a boar (Varaha) and searched the feet of another deity;
     that Narayana took out his eye and surrendered it to
     Rudra and got chakra, etc.  What do you say about these?

A.   I can only say that these are not found in any ancient,
     authoritative works.  These have not been quoted by Adi
     Sankara or any of the Acharyas, belonging to the other
     schools of Vedanta.  These have not been mentioned in
     Sastras, which are accepted as authority.

Q.   Please tell me something more about Rudra.

A.   1)   I will give you a quotation from Bhagavata:

          "The river Ganga is the greatest among all rivers.
          Narayana is the greatest of all deities.  Siva is the
          greatest of all Vaishnavas.  Bhagavata is the
          greatest of all Puranas."

     2)   We accept Ahirbudhnya Samhita as one of the
          respected authorities.  Here, Rudra has praised
          Narasimha in Mantra Raja Pada Stotra.  Here,
          Rudra says as follow:

          "All the Jivatmas are the servants of you, the
          Paramatma.  So, I am also your servant and
          worship you."

     3)   Parvati asks Siva "How can the thousand names of
          Vishnu be recited easily every day?" Siva replies:

          "It is enough to say Rama.  This is equal to
          thousand names of Vishnu.  I also enjoy uttering
          the name Rama."

Q.   But Harivamsa says Krishna requested for a child, from
     Siva.  How do you reconcile this?

A.   Varahapurana says, that Rudra requested Narayana as

      "Please grant me a favour.  In one of your avataras, you
     should also pray to me and ask for some favour."

     Narayana agreed and said that in one of His avataras He
     will ask for a favour, from Rudra.

     That is why, in Krishna avatara, He requested Rudra for a
     child, as per the promise given earlier.  This has been
     mentioned in Varahapurana.

     It will also be clear from the fact that, immediately after
     granting the favour for a child Rudra says as follows:-

     "Krishna, out of His simplicity only, came to me for a
     child.  But He is the source of all beings.  He is the
     protector of all.  He is the supreme Tattva.  He alone
     gives Moksha."

     Summing up, it is only because of these things that
     Vedavyasa says as follows:-

     "This is the truth.  This is the truth.  This the truth.  I
     raise my hands and say there is no greater authority than
     the Vedas greater deity than Kesava."

     It is in keeping with this only, that Krishna says in Gita
     "It is I alone, who is understood from all the Vedas."

Q.   Does it mean that we cannot give or we should not give
     respect to Brahma and Rudra?

A.   No. It does not mean that.  They are respectable.  We
     give them proper respect, like we will give to other

     Only thing is, on the authority of the Vedas, Narayana is
     the supreme deity.

Q.   We see that God Narayana also take avatharas like Rama
     and Krishna.  Does it mean also born in this world, like

A.   No. We human beings or animals or trees are born in this
     world because of our past karmas punya and papa.  There
     is no such thing as Karma or punya or papa for Lord

     So, when He comes into this world, as Rama or Krishna,
     it is not like other Jivatmas.  He comes into this world of
     His own free will and desire.  So, it is not birth for the
     Lord, like we understand the birth of any of us.

Q.   Can you quote the authority of the Vedas?

A.   The Vedas say that He is not born; but still, He is born in
     many ways.

Q.   Well, that sounds puzzling.

A.   What the Vedas say is that He is not born, because of
     past karma, like us.  But He is born in many ways.  He
     takes many avataras, like Rama and Krishna, out of His
     own free will, not bound by any karma.

Q.   Then are these avataras real?

A.   They are real.  We have been reading the Ramayana and
     Mahabharata and Bhagavata.  The avataras are real.  In
     fact, the Bhagavad Gita has been preached by Krishna in
     this avatara only.

Q.   Why should He take avataras in this world?

A.   This is to uphold dharma or righteousness.  In the Gita,
     Krishna says that whenever there is a decline in
     righteousness or dharma, whenever adharma raises its
     head, then the Lord takes avataras in this world.

Q.   What is the purpose of these avataras?

A.   The purpose is to protect the good people and punish the
     wicked; and to re-establish dharma.

Q.   Between the two, namely, protection of the good people
     and punishing the wicked, which is the more important
     purpose of the avatara?

A.   Certainly, protection of the good people is the more
     important purpose.  Good people like Prahlada, Vidura,
     Akrura and others desired to see the Lord, to worship
     Him in person.  It is to bless such good people that the
     avataras are made.

     If it is only for punishing the wicked, this can be done
     even from Paramapada or Sri Vaikunta, by His simply
     desiring to that effect.  The Sudarsana chakra is there to
     carry out His orders and for punishing the wicked.

Q.   When the Lord took avatars in this world, like Rama or
     Krishna, did He also have bodies like us, ordinary human
     beings, of flesh and blood?

A.   No. Here Gita says that the bodies the Lord takes during
     these avataras are of Suddha Sattva.  I have explained to
     you already, what is Suddha Sattva.  So there is no
     question of the Lord having bodies like us, ordinary
     human beings.

Q.   What are the forms of Bhagavan Narayana?

A.   We can say that, for the purposes of meditation, He has
     two forms.  One is the divine and auspicious form.  The
     second is, with the body consisting of Jivatmas and
     matter (chetana and achetana).  This is what we saw
     earlier that Iswara or Narayana is the soul and Jivatma
     and matter are His body.

Q.   Please describe in a little more detail the divine and
     auspicious form, which you mentioned.

A.   His form has four arms.  His body shines like gold.  He
     has eyes like lotus; feet like lotus; hands like lotus.  This
     form is in Paramapada or Sri Vaikunta.  Besides divine
     ornaments, He also has weapons, like the sankha and
     chakra, gada, sword and bow.

Q.   I have also heard that Lord Narayana has five kinds of
     forms.  What are these?

     A.      The five forms are called:
     1. Para. 2. Vyuha. 3. Vibhava. 4. Antaryami. 5. Archa.

Q.   Please describe the essential features of each of these
     forms.  What is Para form?

A.   The Para form is that of Sri Narayana in Paramapada or
     Sri Vaikunta.  There, He is also called Para Vasudeva.
     The description of Sri Vaikunta is given in Kaushitaki
     Upanishad and also in the Sri Vaikunta Gadya of

     The throne (simhasana) has eight legs, like dharma.  The
     adisesha (serpent) is the seat.  There Narayana shines
     along with Lakshmi, Bhudevi and Niladevi.  He has four
     arms and has sankha, chakra and gada.  He has a number
     of ornaments.

Q.   What is the second form, i.e., Vyuha form?

A.   This is a bit difficult and you have to listen carefully.
     The Lord Narayana assumes four forms by name,
     Vasudeva, Sankarshana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha.

     The first vyuha is Vasudeva.  From the first vyuha
     Vasudeva, arises the second vyuha Sankarshana.  From
     the second vyuha Sankarshana, arises the third vyuha
     Pradyumna.  From the third vyuha Pradyumna, arises the
     fourth vyuha Aniruddha.

     As I told you earlier, the Lord is called Bhagavan,
     because He has six qualities.  The six qualities are: l)
     knowledge, 2) strength, 3) lordship, 4) valour, 5 energy
     and 6) splendour.

Q.   You are saying that because He has the six qualities, He
     is called Bhagavan and these qualities are not found in
     others.  But we hear many people being called as
     Bhagavan, like Vyasa Bhagavan and Narada Bhagavan.
     How do you explain this?

A.   We apply the word Bhagavan to others, only out of
     respect.  When we say that Rama is a lion, it only shows
     that Rama is as majestic and strong as a lion.  Similarly,
     when we say Vyasa Bhagavan, it is only a term of respect
     for Vyasa.

Q.   How do you differentiate between the four Vyuhas,
     Vasudeva, Sankarshana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha?

A.   Although these are all forms of the Lord, in Vasudeva,
     we have all the six qualities, which I have just mentioned,
     in full.

     Of course, in the other three vyuhas also, all the six
     qualities are present; but some qualities are found
     predominantly in some of the vyuhas.

     The qualities 1) Knowledge and 2) strength, are in plenty
     in Sankarshana.  Similarly, the qualities, 3) lordship and
     4) valour are in plenty in Pradyumna.  The qualities, 5)
     energy and 6) splendour, are in plenty in Aniruddha.

Q.   What is the function of Vasudeva?

A.   Vasudeva is the object of worship and enjoyment by the
     Jivatmas, who have attained salvation or moksha.

Q.   What is the function of Sankarshana?

A.   We saw that Sankarshana has knowledge and strength in
     plenty.  Because of the knowledge, as Sankarshana, the
     Lord promulgates the sastras.  Because of the strength, as
     Sankarshana, He destroys the Universe.

Q.   What about Pradyumna?

A.   As Pradyumna, having in plenty lordship and valour, the
     Lord creates the universe, and makes dharma prevail.

Q.   What is the function of Aniruddha?

A.   Aniruddha has in plenty energy and splendour.  So, as
     Aniruddha, the Lord protects the world, and also teaches
     the truth.

Q.   Is there any further sub division of these vyuhas?

A.   Yes.  As we have been doing sandhyavandana, you know
     the 12 names of the Lord Narayana.  The 12 names are:
     Kesava, Narayana, Madhava, Govinda, Vishnu,
     Madhusudana,, Trivikrama, Vamana, Sridhara, Hrishikesa,
     Padmanabha and Damodara.

     So, from each of the four Vyuhas mentioned above, the
     forms of three sub-Vyuhas appear.  For example, from
     the first Vyuha of Vasudeva, we have the three sub-
     Vyuhas, Kesava, Narayana and Madhava.

     Similarly, from the second Vyuha Sankarshana, we have
     Govinda, Vishnu and Madhusudana.

     From the third Vyuha Pradyumna, we have, Trivikrama,
     Vamana and Sridhara.

     Finally, from the fourth Vyuha Aniruddha, we have
     Hrishikesa, Padmanabha and Damodara.

Q.   What is the significance of these 12 sub-Vyuhas?

A.   We state that symbolically they are called the Lords of
     the 12 months, beginning from the Tamil month of

     Kesava is the lord for the month of Margazhi.

     Narayana is the Lord for the month of Thai.  Madhava is
     the Lord for the month of Masi and so on. For the 12
     months, these 12 sub-Vyuhas are the Lords.

     We also wear the 12 urdhvapundras (Tirumann) in our
     body.  These 12 Lords are respectively masters of each
     one of these.

Q.   Earlier you mentioned about para Vasudeva in the first
     form of para.  Again you mentioned as the first Vyuha
     Vasudeva.  What is the difference between the Para
     Vasudeva and Vyuha Vasudeva?

A.   There is no difference at all.  Both are differentiated only
     for the purposes of meditation.  There is no other

Q.   What is the third form of the Lord?

A.   The third form of the Lord is called Vibhava.  That is,
     when He takes avataras and comes down to this world.

     He takes the form of men like Rama or Krishna; or
     animals like fish, tortoise and boar.  These avataras are
     called as the third form, or Vibhava, of the Lord.

Q.   How many avataras are there?

A.   There are ten avataras which are considered as the main
     and important ones.

Q.   What are they?

A.   1) The first is called the avatara of. fish.  This was taken,
     because a demon took away the Vedas from Brahma and
     hid himself in the sea.  So Lord Narayana took the form
     of a fish, to get back the Vedas from the demon and. give
     them back to Brahma.

     2) The second avatara is that of the tortoise.  The Devas
     wanted to have the nectar or amrita, for immortality.  So
     the Lord advised them to churn the milky ocean.

     Naturally, for churning the ocean, they required a
     support.  The mountain of Mandara was used as the

     But, when they started churning the ocean, the mountain
     itself started sinking into the ocean.  So the form of
     tortoise was taken to support the mountain itself, from the
     bottom and thus prevent it from sinking into the ocean.

     3) The third avatara was that of the boar.  The demon
     Hiranyaksha took away the mother earth.  He rolled the
     earth and went down into the sea, with it.  So the Lord
     took the form of a boar, went into the sea, slayed the
     demon Hiranyaksha and brought back the mother earth.
     This was the purpose of the avatara as a boar.

     4) The fourth avatara was that of Narasimha.  You must
     be well aware of the story of Hiranya and his son
     Prahlada.  Prahlada told Hiranya that the Lord is present
     everywhere.  He is there even in a small grass, even in a

     So Hiranya wanted to break a pillar and see whether the
     Lord was there.  When Hiranya kicked the pillar, Lord
     appeared as Narasimha, came out of the pillar and Killed

     The fifth avatara was that of Vamana.  He went to the
     demon Mahabali, as a small boy; and requested only for
     that much land which he would measure in three steps.
     When Mahabali granted his boon, He grew into
     Trivikrama and measured the whole earth and above.  So
     this avatara is called as Vamana avatara.  Vamana in
     Sanskrit means a dwarf.

     6) The next one, i.e., the sixth avatara was that of
     Parasurama.  In this avatara, He slayed the wicked kings,
     all over the world, to protect dharma.

     7) The seventh avatara was that of Rama.  The Ramayana
     is too well known, and I need not repeat here the purpose
     of this avatara.

     8) The eighth avatara was that of Balarama, who was the
     elder brother of Krishna.

     9) The ninth avatara was that of Krishna - too well

     10) The tenth avatara is yet to materialise.  This is called
     the avatara of Kalki, when the Lord will come on a
     horse, at the end of the Kaliyuga.

     So, these are the ten avataras.

Q.   You have briefly told me about the ten avataras.  Where I
     can get more details?

A.   Since the purpose of our talk is philosophy, I am not
     going into details, regarding the ten avataras.  You can
     read about them in Vishnu Purana, Bhagavata, Ramayana
     and Mahabharata.

Q.   What are the four yugas?

A.   1) The first yuga is called Krita yuga.  In that yuga,
     people would be highly religious, follow the principles of
     dharma, vedas and sastras.

     2) The second yuga is Treta yuga.  In this yuga, practice
     of dharma gets diminished.

     3) The third yuga is Dvapara yuga.  The practice of
     dharma in this yuga gets further diminished.

     4) The fourth and the last yuga is Kaliyuga.  Here the
     practice of dharma is at its worst; adharma flourishes

     So, these are the four yugas.  After every cycle of four
     yugas, there will be a great deluge (pralaya).  After the
     deluge, again the cycle of the four yugas starts.  The
     cycle of four yugas is unending.

Q.   What are the characteristics of the four yugas?

A.   There is a simile about the practice of dharma in the four
     yugas.  Dharma is compared to a holy cow.  This cow
     has four legs, i.e., it is perfect in Krita yuga.

     In the second yuga, namely, Treta yuga, the cow has,
     only three legs, i.e., dharma starts diminishing.

     In the third yuga, which is Dvapara yuga, the cow of
     dharma has only two legs.

     And lastly in Kali yuga the holy cow is left with only one
     leg.  This is a simile, to illustrate how dharma goes on
     diminishing, yuga after yuga.

Q.   Are these ten avataras only, called Vibhava?

A.   No. These are the more important or principal avataras.

Q.   What are the other avataras then, apart from these?

A.   Apart from these ten principal avataras there are
     innumerable avataras like Padmanabha, Hayagriva, Hamsa
     (Swan) and even a small mango tree.

Q.   Are there any further classifications of these avataras?

A.   Yes, in a way, we can divide them as primary or
     important and secondary avataras.

Q.   What are the primary avataras?

A.   The primary avataras are those ten described earlier.  Out
     of these, even Parasurama avatara and Balarama avatara
     are considered secondary.

Q.   What do you mean by secondary avatara?

A.   The secondary avataras are of two kinds:

     1) where the Lord, enters a Jivatma, with His form;

     2) where the Lord, without entering a Jivatma, in His
     own form, gives him extraordinary divine powers.

Q.   What are the examples of secondary avataras, where the
     Lord enters Jivatmas, in His own form?

A.   Such avataras are like Parasurama and Balarama.

     These avataras were taken for specific purposes.  The
     Parasurama avatara was for the purpose of destroying the
     kings who were practicing adharma.  Balarama avatara
     was to be of service and assistance to Krishna.

Q.   What are the types of secondary avataras, where the Lord,
     without entering Jivatmas in His own form gives them
     extraordinary powers?

A.   We have avataras like Vyasa, Brahma and Siva, where
     the Lord gives them extraordinary powers, without
     entering in His own form.

Q    So, how many types of Vibhava avataras are there?

A.   To sum up, among the Vibhava avataras, there are two
     types-  1) The first set is called primary or important
     avataras. 2) The second set is called subsidiary or
     secondary avataras.

     These secondary avataras are further subdivided into two

     1) Where the Lord enters into Jivatmas, in His own form.

     2) Where the Lord does not enter Jivatmas, in His own
     form; but gives them extraordinary powers.

Q.   What is the fourth form of the Lord?

A.   The fourth form of the Lord is called Antaryami.  The
     Paramatma or the Lord lives within the heart of the
     chetana.  The Lord takes the minute form and resides in
     the heart of the human being or animal, along with the
     Jivatma himself.  So, this form of the Lord is called
     Antaryami or "One who controls from inside".

Q.   What is the fifth form of the Lord?

A.   The fifth form is called Archa avatara.  That is, where the
     Lord is worshipped in Srirangam, Tirupati, Kanchipuram
     and other temples.

Q.   What are the Divya Desas?

A.   As I told you earlier, we have ten Alwars, besides Andal
     and Madhurakavi.  The verses they have sung in praise of
     the Lord, are called Divya Prabanda.  Now, the places
     having temples, which have been sung by the Alwars, are
     called Divya Desas.

Q.   How many Divya Desas are there?

A.   We have 108 Divya Desas.  Out of these, now we cannot
     worship in two places.  These are Sri Vaikunta
     (Paramapada) and Milky Ocean.

Q.   Are there other temples, which are considered equally
     holy and sacred?

A.   Yes, we have 1) Tirunarayanapuram (Melkote), 2)
     Mannargudi, 3) Sriperumpudur, and other places which
     are considered equally holy and sacred.

Q.   What about the temples in other places, villages or towns,
     which have not been sung by Alwars?

A.   There also, the Lord does exist and is of the same
     sanctity, divinity and importance.  So far as the Lord's
     presence is concerned, there is no difference absolutely,
     between any temples, whether they are Divya Desas or

     In any temple, in any village or town, where Lord
     Narayana is installed and worshipped, He is of the same
     form and He manifests Himself in full.  So, this form of
     manifestation in temples is called archa avatara.

Q.   How many kinds of such temples are there?

A.   There are four such kinds of temples.

Q.   What are these?

A.   1) The first category consi