Posted by: adbhutam | January 30, 2015


Śiva-Viśṇu abheda in the Kaivalya Upaniṣad

In the Kaivalya Upaniṣad there is this mantra:

स ब्रह्मा स शिवः सेन्द्रः सोऽक्षरः परमः स्वराट् .

स एव विष्णुः स प्राणः स कालोऽग्निः स चन्द्रमाः .. ८..

[He is Brahmā, He is Śiva, he is Indra, the Immutable, Supreme, Self-luminous, he alone is Viśṇu, he is prāṇa, He is Time, Fire, Moon. ]

This is akin to the Nārāyaṇa sūkta mantra: स ब्रह्मा स शिवः स हरिः सेन्द्रः सोऽक्षरः परमः स्वराट्

where, too, the identity of all the deities is taught.

While commenting on the name ‘Śiva’ occurring as the 27th name in the Viṣṇu sahasra nāma (VS), Sri Shankaracharya says: निस्त्रैगुण्यतया शुद्धत्वात् शिवः ‘स ब्रह्मा स शिवः..’ (कै.उ.८) इत्यभेदोपदेशात् शिवादिनामभिः हरिरेव स्तूयते । [being free of the three guṇas (sattva, etc.), He is Śiva. Since the Kaivalyopaniṣat instructs that He is non-different from Brahmā, Śiva…’ by the names Śiva, etc. Hari Himself is praised.

In the introduction to the VS bhāṣyam Shankara has cited a Viṣṇupurāṇa verse:

अहं हरिः सर्वमिदं जनार्दनो नान्यत् ततः कारणकार्यजातम् ।

ईदृङ्मनो यस्य न तस्य भूयो भवोद्भवा द्वन्द्वगदा भवन्ति ॥1.22.86॥

(‘I am Hari, all this (universe) is Janārdana, there is none other than Him as cause-effect combine.  He who has thus realized will never be caught in samsāra.)

This Advaitic identification with the Supreme can be accomplished only with the Nirguṇa Brahman. Hence, the name ‘Hari’ and ‘Janārdana’ are not any deity but the Pure Consciousness. Therefore, according to Shankara, the names ‘Śiva’, etc. are a praise of this Pure Consciousness alone. He bases this argument on the instruction of non-difference, abheda, by the Kaivalya upaniṣad. In the above-cited mantra 8 of this Upaniṣad we find all the deities such as Brahmā, Śiva, Indra, etc. including Viśṇu being taught as manifestations of the One Pure Consciousness.

What is noteworthy is that Shankara holds the Kaivalyopaniṣad the authority for the abheda, non-difference, between Śiva and Viśṇu. He calls this instruction of Hari-Hara abheda an ‘upadeśa’ of the Śruti.

Shankara, in the introduction to the VS cites a Harivamśa verse spoken by Maheśvara (Śiva):

अहं त्वं सर्वग देव त्वमेवाहं जनार्दन ।

आवयोरन्तरं नास्ति शब्दैरर्थैर्जगत्त्रये ॥ (3.88.60)

[O, the all-pervading one, I am Thee, and Thou are me alone. There is no difference between the two of us by any means in all the three worlds.]

It is interesting to note that for the immediately preceding name ‘śarva’ (26th), Shanakra says: शृणाति संहारसमये संहरति संहारयति सकलाः प्रजाः इति शर्वः । [ since He crushes, destroys, everything in creation during the dissolution, pralaya, He is called ‘śarva’.]

It is noteworthy that this name ‘śarva’ is popular for Śiva. In the VS itself, for the name ‘bhūtakṛt’ (5th name), Shankara says: तमोगुणमास्थाय स रुद्रात्मना भूतानि कृन्तति कृणोति हिनस्तीति भूतकृत् [(that very Pure Consciousness called Viśṇu) as Rudra, assuming Tamoguṇa, destroys all beings. Hence He is called ‘bhūtakṛt’.]

We find a fine demonstration of this role of Paramātmā in the Bh.Gitā 11th chapter where as ‘kāla’ He destroys the entire world. Arjuna is frightened by the terrible form of the Lord and begs Him to withdraw it. This is the part played by the Lord as Rudra since it is one Pure Consciousness that appears in different roles as Brahmā, Śiva and Viśṇu.

Shankara cites two seminal verses from the Bhaviṣyottara purāṇa in the introduction to the VS:

Maheśvara (Śiva) says:

विष्णोरन्यं तु पश्यन्ति ये मां ब्रह्माणमेव वा ।

कुतर्कमतयो मूढाः पच्यन्ते नरकेष्वधः ॥

[Those fools who, devoid of proper thinking, consider Me and Brahmā as different from Viṣṇu will be baked in the lowly hells.]

ये च मूढा दुरात्मानो भिन्नं पश्यन्ति मां हरेः ।

ब्रह्माणं च ततस्तस्माद् ब्रह्महत्यासमं त्वघम् ॥

[Those fools, wicked ones, by seeing Me and Brahmā as different from Hari are committing the heinous sin of brahmahatyā.]

One can recall a similar verse in the Śrīmadbhāgavatam (Dakṣayajña section) as said by Viṣṇu.

All these go to establish that the concept of Hari-Hara abheda is well enshrined in the Shruti, Smṛti, itihāsa and purāṇa. We have seen Shankara citing many of these in the foregoing study. The study incidentally confirms that the ideas of Trimūrti aikya and Hari-Hara abheda are not anyone’s imagination but is contained inalienably in the very veins of the Shāstram. The foremost Vedāntin Shankara has cited these verses endorsing these ideas. Thus, the early Advaitin Shankara, a true Vaiṣṇava, sees no difference between Hari and Hara. That Shankara has cited from the Shivapurāṇam too, that too to show Shiva as the Supreme Creator, is also found in the VS bhāṣya for the name ‘Rudra’ (114th):

रुर्दुःखं दुःखहेतुं वा तद् द्रावयति यः प्रभुः ।

रुद्र इत्युच्यते तस्माच्छिवः परमकारणम् ॥ (samhitā 6, ch.9, verse 14)

(‘Ruḥ’ means misery or the cause thereof. Since the Supreme Lord, Shiva, who is the Ultimate Cause (of creation, etc.) is called ‘Rudra’). This verse too, according to Shankara, goes to highlight Hari-Hara abheda. It is interesting to note that in the prasthānatraya bhashya Shankara has not cited the Shiva puranam. He has cited from the Lingapuranam in the Kathopanishat bhashya 2.1.1 to give a definition for the term ‘Ātman’:

’यच्चाप्नोति यदादत्ते यच्चात्ति विषयानिह् । यच्चास्य सन्ततो भाव: तस्मादात्मेति कीर्त्यते ॥’ (लिङ्गपुराणम् १.७०.९६) इत्यात्मशब्दव्युत्पत्तिस्मरणात् । But his citing the Shivapuranam in the VS, that too, to show Shiva as the Paramakāraṇam is very typical of Shankara as Shiva-Viṇu abhedavādin. For him all purāṇas, irrespective of the so-called distinction on the basis of sattva, etc. are the same.

Om Tat Sat


  1. Interesting to know about the Shiva purana and Linga purana verse. I did read that Chapter of Shiva purana 6.9 (The mode of interpreting the Pranava). It describes about 8 names of Lord Shiva, Rudra being one of the names. It’s also really great to know that he has commented on the Linga Purana verse for ATMAN indicating Lord Shiva to be the ATMAN.

  2. I heard somewhere Adi Shankara has referred “purusho vai rudrah”. Could you give me the reference?

  3. Could you reply on the below?

    I heard somewhere Adi Shankara has referred “purusho vai rudrah”. Could you give me the reference?

  4. I have not seen such a reference in the prasthana traya bhashya.

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