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Re: Vedic deities

From: Anand Karalapakkam (
Date: Fri May 28 1999 - 16:57:56 PDT

SrI Lakshminrusimha ParabrahmaNE namaha
SrI Lakshminrusimha divya pAdukA sEvaka SrIvaNN-
SatakOpa SrI nArAyaNa yateendra mahAdESikAya namaha

 Dear Sri Sudarsan (of Singapore),
 namO nArAyaNA.
 The question by Sri Sudarsan is certainly a very
 important one and Sri Mani has very well clarified 
 many a things based on granthams like vEdArtha 
 Sangraha, Srimad Rahasya Traya sAram (SRTS). In this
 context, adiyEn would like to just share few things
 which were learnt from Sri U.Ve. KarunAkaran swAmi.

 In SRTS, SwAmi dESikan cites this fundamental 
 knowledge arising from the study (ie. proper
 understanding) of sAstrAs "Those who have a 
 discriminating intelligence, never worship either 
 Brahma, or rudra, or any of other (demi)gods, for
 the fruit of their worship is very limited "
 ( MahabhArata: Santiparva 350.36). We SriVaishnavAs 
 know this fact very well. But, in certain nitya and
 naimittika karmAs which we have to certainly perform,
 (eg: SandhyAvandanam) it seems as if one is instructed 
 to worship anya dEvatAs. In this context, Sri Mani wrote:
> In truth, all names, though they conventionally
> denote different individuals or objects, in reality
> only refer to the Supreme Self (paramAtmA). 

  This is a very important teaching of vEdAnta (*), which 
  one has to bear in mind especially while performing 
  nitya and naimittika karmAs. 

 (*) :In the Brahma sUtrAs, BAdarAyanar makes this point 
 in the VaiSvAnara adhikaraNa.
 Infact, swAmi dESikan specifically raises this 
 pUrvapaksham ( :-), all possible doubts are
 mercifully forethought by our thoopul piLLai) in the 24th 
 adhikaraNam of SRTS, which discusses about the nature of 
 sAdhyOpAya : 
 pUrvapaksham (in essence) : Rites prescribed according to 
 VarNA and Ashrama dharmAs, and bhakti yOga are inconsistent 
 with exclusive devotion to SrIman nArAyaNA. This is because
 varNAshrama dharmAs involve the mediatorship of other
 dEvatAs (like Indra, agni, SUrya etc). Thus, 
 paramaikAntins should shun them. Also, since bhakti 
 yOga(upAsana) has varNAshrama dharmAs as its angA, bhakti
 yOga also has to be shunned (ie. only prapatti has to
 be adopted).
 SiddhAntam (in essence) : This objection can arise only 
 because of the lack of clear understanding of the conclusion
 arrived at in such treatises as SrI BAshya. In Brahma vidyAs
 (upAsanas) such as Pratardana vidya and Madhu vidya, it is
 _clearly_ stated that a mumukshu should meditate upon the
 Supreme Self having Indra and other deities as His body (**).
 BAshyakArar has declared/established that, during the 
 performance of VarNAshrama dharmAs, the object of worship 
 is only the Supreme Self (SrIman nArAyaNA), who has the
 respective deities as His body. Thus, ParamaikAntitvam is 
 not lost when one performs nitya and naimittika karmAs 
 with sAthvIka tyAgam and the knowledge that the anyA dEvatAs
 are attributed of PerumAL and words such as agni, indra,
 rudra etc directly denote SrIman nArAyaNA, the Supreme Self.
 ParamaikAntitvam gets lost in the following cases : 

(i) the worship of anya-dEvatAs (during nitya and naimittika 
    karmAs), as though they are independent of SrIman 
(ii) Worshipping/having some connection with anya-dEvatAs(for 
     certain specific fruits), when they are not at all 
     concerned with nitya and naimittika karmAs. 

 Thus, bhakti yOga, which has varNAshrama dharma as its
 anga is not inconsistent with paramaikAntitvam.
(**): In pratardana vidya, the body of Lord Indra has to be 
 meditated upon, with nArAyaNA as the antaryAmi. It is important 
 to note that, the yOgi who adopts this brahma vidyA is not 
 actually worshipping Lord Indra, though that dEvata is related 
 in a way to this brahma vidyA. Since the sAstrAs prescibe the
 nature of brahma vidya to be like that, one has to follow it 
 as it is, if he wishes to adopt it as a sAdhyOpAya. It also 
 doesn't come under anya dEvatA worship since it is the antaryAmi
 nArAyaNA who is concentrated upon. Here, the antaryAmi refers to
 nArAyaNA who is pervading inside the body of Lord Indra. nArAyaNA
 is infact the supporter and controller of Lord Indra. Thus, in 
 this upAsana, SrIman nArAyaNA, qualified by the body of Lord 
 Indra is meditated upon. Similarly, there is another Brahma vidya 
 in which the body of Lord Shiva has to be meditated upon, with 
 SrIman nArAyaNA as the antaryAmi.

 But, these brahma vidya are different from other brahma vidyAs 
 in which the divya mangaLa vigraha of PerumAL itself is 
 meditated upon (ofcourse PerumAL is the antaryAmi in 
 His divya mangaLa vigraha)- PerumAL qualified by His divine
 body is the object of meditation here. It is also to be noted 
 that, there are various other specific attributes that needs
 to be meditated upon, while adopting a particular upAsana. 
 Those things can be understood from SriBashyam. The above 
 discussion on the things to be remembered while performing 
 upAsanAs, is restricted with the "context" of this posting.
 It is established in vEdAnta that, as far as a 
 mumukshu/paramaikAntin is concerned, while he is either 
 adopting certain upAsana Or performing nitya - naimittika
 karmAs, he has to perform the meditation/worship to only 
 SrIman nArAyaNA, with the required knowledge as discussed
 above. Ofcourse, the option to perform exclusive worship
 to anya dEvatAs in these circumstances is very much there - 
 It is adopted by those who are not paramaikAntins/mumukshus;
 they will get certain fruit of that worship accoringly.
 The next question is: "Why to take such a circuitous route 
 of meditating upon the body of an anya dEvata with the 
 antaryAmi as srIman nArAyaNA, while performing either 
 upAsana Or performing nitya-naimittika karmAs ?? "

  It is because, sAstrAs says so. It is sAstrAs which 
 stipulates, whether a certain act is either "right" or
 "wrong". When sAstrAs (bhagavad Aj~nA : divine command of
 SrIman nArAyaNA) say that a particular act of worship / 
 meditation is in such and a way and has to be adopted by
 a mumukshu/paramaikAntin in that way, it is perfectly a 
 valid thing. A mumukshu can't think on his own that such 
 a stipulation by sAstrAs is contradictory to his 
 goal/nature. It is infact "questioning/revolting against" 
 the very command of his/her own master - SrIman nArAyaNA.

 The next question is: " Can one then go to a anya dEvata
 temple and worship say Lord Shiva, with the thinking that
 nArAyaNA is the antaryAmi ? It seems as if it is perfectly
 valid, since such a view is adopted even in a Brahma
 vidya. " 

 One can't perform such a worship - It is against the
 nature of a paramaikAntin/mumukshu. The answer is again 
 based on the fact that, it is sAstrAs, which dictates an 
 act to be either "right" or "wrong". sAstrAs never 
 prescribe a mumukshu to perform such a worship. There
 are many pramAnams for that (refer SRTS). Infact, a 
 mumukshu is proscribed (ie. forbidden) from performing
 such worship. The point is that, what is applicable
 while performing an upAsanA, can't be applied out of the
 way to some other thing, according to one's own whims and
 fancies. For instance, during yEkAdasi, when the BrAhmana
 bhOjanam (for srAddham ie.devasam) is performed by those 
 brAhmanAs, they don't incur any sin. This is because
 sAstrAs says so. Applying this to one's own convenience,
 one can't claim that one can eat rice during an yEkAdasi,
 and not incur any sin, if it is a marriage dinner on that 
 day. This is again because, sAstrAs doesn't say like that.
 For a mumukshu/paramaikAntin to either worship or meditate 
 on PerumAL, he has to follow the sAstrAs as to how to do
 it. He can't select his own way of worship etc. sAstrAs 
 are the only guide.

 He also can't have some pre-concieved notion that worshipping
 PerumAL through Divya prabandham, nAma sankeertanam, rahasya
 mantrams and going to His temples are the only valid way 
 to worship Him, since it is directly geared towards PerumAL.
 If one understands vEdAnta properly, it is again crystal 
 clear for him/her that worshipping PerumAL during the nitya-
 naimittika karmAs, yaj~nAs etc are also perfectly valid and
 directly geared towards PerumAL. Only the required 
 understanding of the sAstrAs is needed to perceive it 

 Some pointers regarding the avoidance of the temples 
 of anya dEvata (in addition to what has been stated above) :

 a. anya dEvata temples follow the AgamAs ( like Saiva,
    SAkta ) which are inconsistent with the teachings of vEdAs. 
    Only pAncarAtra and VaikhAnasa AgamAs are based on vEdAs. 
    BAdarAyanar establishes this in Brahma sUtrAs.
    sUtra (2.2.35), pasupatya adhikaraNa : "patyurasAman~jasyAt" 
    (ie. the doctrine of pasupati <Lord Shiva is the supreme, 
    etc> is to be disregarded, because of its absurdity). Thus,
    as a follower of vEdAs, one can't take up a worship
    which is opposed to vEdAnta - one can't entertain such 
    a worship also. Anything which is opposed to vEdAs has
    to be rejected. The Saiva, sAkta AgamAs follow the
    doctrine of pasupata religion or its variant => vEdAntins
    has to shun such temples.

 b. Those who don't know about such conclusions of vEdAnta,
    say, "Those who go to all the temples, irrespective of 
    the deity/AgamAs followed are more _religiously tolerant_
    than SriVaishnavAs". First of all, we shall leave the fact
    that such a claim has no basis from sAstrAs - which 
    dictates something to be right or wrong or religiously
    tolerant etc. Even when viewed in a general sense,
    Sri VaishnavAs are the utmost religiously tolerant ones.
    SriVaishnavAs certainly have great reverence for, say, 
    Lord Shiva. But, according to Saiva AgamAs, a portrait
    of an incident (according to Saiva purAnAs) that VarAha 
    PerumAL and Brahma tried to measure the height of Shiva etc, 
    and how Shiva later did some minor "sikshai" (small
    punishment) to PerumAL etc is to be present in the backside 
    of the sannidhi (while performing the pradakshanam, this 
    will be invariably seen). In front of the MeenAkshi amman
    temple, big portraits/sculptures with Lord Shiva beating,
    kicking etc PerumAL in all His incarnations ( matsya,
    kUrma, varAha, nrusimha........) are present. But, in the
    divya dEsams, not even a single sculpture will be there,
    which will trouble the heart of even a staunch devotee
    of Lord Shiva, even when SrIman nArAyaNA is the Supreme 
    Lord. Is it not obvious as to who is more religiously 
    tolerant ? Do they expect SriVaishnavAs to visit their 
    temples, when the very PerumAL, who is most dear to 
    their hearts is insulted in various ways, with
    various sculptures signifying it ? Who can call himself/
    herself a stauch devotee of SrIman nArAyaNA and 
    simultaneously go and witness such insults imparted to 
    Him ? This obviously adds to the reasoning of 
    SriVaishnavAs shunning anya dEvata temples (politely; 
    not with enimity etc; let them have their own worship, 
    celebrations etc; we needn't disturb them).

   Lord Shiva is glorified as a great Vaishnava in many a 
   places in scriptures. SwAmi dESikan also glorifies
   Lord Shiva accordingly.  But, we also don't know, which
   Lord shivA it refers to( Shiva is a post ; the story told 
   in the purAnAs may pertain to some Shiva of the past ; we 
   can't be sure that the present Lord ShivA is the one told 
   in the sAstrAs etc). There are various other issues as

   But, if we have to pay the respects to Lord Shiva as a 
   Vaishnava, again we need to resort to sAstrAs. It boils 
   down to this : If Lord Shiva comes in front of us, with 
   all the Srivaishnava symbols like "UrdhvapuNdram" etc, 
   then only we have to prostrate etc (Lord Shiva is in the 
   bhAgavatha goshti now). If Lord Shiva, even while 
   personally appearing in front of us, is not presenting 
   himself as an "adiyAr (devotee) of SrIman nArAyaNA" (by 
   the respective SriVaishnava attires), paramaikAntins 
   should not prostrate to Lord Shiva. To just understand this 
   better : Even while one's father is fully fit to be 
   prostrated, one can't prostrate to him, if he is having 
   yaj~nopavItham around his ears; One can't prostrate his 
   own mother when she is in her menstruation cycle.
 Lets now move onto the SandhyAvandanam issue.

Sri Mani wrote :
> Basically, Gayatri Devi is pictured as sitting within
> the sun at each time of the day.  In the morning, she
> is pictured as the consort of Brahma, a girl of
> reddish color reciting the Rg Veda. At noon, she is
> called "sAvitrI" and is seen as the consort of Rudra,
> a young woman of white color reciting the Yajur Veda.
> In the evening, she is called "sarasvatI", and is
> seen as the consort of Vishnu, an old woman of dark
> color reciting the Sama Veda. By the way, these are
> all slokas from smRti texts, not Veda mantras.
> These slokas are typical of serious meditational
> practice. Clearly, Gayatri is pictured as growing
> through the day and associated with Brahma, Siva, and
> Vishnu at various times for meditational purposes.  I
> can't say more than this; more knowledgable scholars
> in India should be consulted.
> However, I am certain that even these slokas, if one
> wishes to recite them, have to be understood with the
> idea that Gayatri Devi is a manifestation of the
> Supreme Self based on the principles explained above.
 As discussed previously, we can meditate upon the form of 
 gAyatri dEvi with nArAyaNA being the antaryAmi. Here, the 
 jIvAtmA gAyatri dEvi residing inside that body is not 
 concentrated upon => no anya dEvata worship is performed. 
 This is a valid meditation since it has been prescribed so
 for SandhyAvandanam, which is a must to be performed by 
 a dvija, as per the commands of SrIman nArAyaNA. But, we 
 can also perform the whole sandhyAvandanam directly 
 meditating upon say Lakshminrusimhan Or VeerarAghavan OR 
 SrInivAsan Or NamperumAL OR Kutti KrishNan etc, with
 appropriate understanding of the mantrAs/slokas.  

AzhwAr,yemperumAnAr,dESikan,Azhagiyasingar thiruvadigaLE SaraNam

  adiyEn rAmAnuja dAsan
  ananthapadmanAbha dAsan