The Role of Lord Śiva in the Bh.Gītā 11th Chapter
The Eleventh Chapter of the Śrīmadbhagavadgītā is called the ‘Viśvarūpa adhyāya’. It is in this chapter the depiction of the Cosmic form of Brahman was shown to Arjuna. There is a stage in the show where the cosmic event of destruction of the created universe occurs. Upon witnessing the graphic details of the destruction Arjuna, terribly frightened, pleads with the Lord to stop the show and resume the benign, usual, form.
In the course of the show, the Lord reveals to Arjuna who indeed he is, upon Arjuna asking:
आख्याहि मे को भवानुग्ररूपो
नमोऽस्तु ते देववर प्रसीद ।
न हि प्रजानामि तव प्रवृत्तिम् ॥ 11.31 ॥
11.31 Tell me who You are, fierce in form. Salutation be to you, O supreme God; be gracious. I desire to fully know You who are the Primal One. For I do not understand Your actions!
The Lord replies:
ऋतेऽपि त्वां न भविष्यन्ति सर्वे
येऽवस्थिताः प्रत्यनीकेषु योधाः।।11.32।।
11.32 The blessed Lord said I am the world-destroying Time, [Time: The supreme God with His limiting adjunct of the power of action.] grown in stature and now engaged in annihilating the creatures. Even without you, all the warriors who are arrayed in the confronting armies will cease to exist!
तस्मात्त्वमुत्तिष्ठ यशो लभस्व
जित्वा शत्रून् भुङ्क्ष्व राज्यं समृद्धम्।
मयैवैते निहताः पूर्वमेव
निमित्तमात्रं भव सव्यसाचिन्।।11.33।।
11.33 Therefore you rise up, (and) gain fame; and defeating the enemies, enjoy a prosperous kingdom. These have been killed verily by Me even earlier; be you merely an instrument, O Savyasācin (Arjuna).
It is interesting to note that in the 12th Canto which is the Śāntiparva of the Mahābhārata there are these verses (12.352.72-76) addressed by Lord Krishna to Arjuna, post-war:
|मया त्वं रक्षितो युद्धे महान्तं प्राप्तवाञ्जयम्।।|
|यस्तु ते सोग्रतो याति युद्धे संप्रत्युपस्थिते।
तं विद्धि रुद्रं कौन्तेय देवदेवं कपर्दिनम्।।
|कालः स एव विहितः क्रोधजेति मया तव।
निहतांस्तेन वै पूर्वं हतवानसि यान्रिपून्।।
|अप्रमेयप्रभावं तं देवदेवमुमापतिम्।
नमस्व देवं प्रयतो विश्वेशं हरमक्षयम्।।
|यश्च ते कथितः पूर्वं क्रोधजेति पुनः पुनः।
तस्य प्रभाव एवाग्रे यच्छ्रुतं ते धनंजय।।
The translation of these verses as available here:
Protected by me in the great battle, thou hast won a great victory. That Being whom, at the time of all thy battles, thou beheldest stalking in thy van, know, O son of Kunti, is no other than Rudra, that god of gods, otherwise called by the name of Kaparddin. He is otherwise known by the name of Kāla, and should be known as one that has sprung from my wrath. Those foes whom thou hast slain were all, in the first instance, slain by him. Do thou bend thy head unto that god of gods, that lord of Umā, endued with immeasurable puissance. With concentrated soul, do thou bend thy head unto that illustrious Lord of the universe, that indestructible deity, otherwise called by the name of Hara. He is none else than that deity who, as I have repeatedly told thee, has sprung from my wrath. Thou hast, before this, heard, O Dhananjaya, of the puissance and energy that reside in him!'”
What is striking in the above translation is those two lines, highlighted, and shown here:
A. // He is otherwise known by the name of Kāla//
B. //Those foes whom thou hast slain were all, in the first instance, slain by him.//
These two lines correspond to the two lines of the two verses of the Bh.Gītā 11th chapter shown above, again shown here:
कालोऽस्मि लोकक्षयकृत्प्रवृद्धो लोकान्समाहर्तुमिह प्रवृत्तः। (11.33A)
I am the world-destroying Time, [Time: The supreme God with His limiting adjunct of the power of action.] grown in stature and now engaged in annihilating the creatures.]
मयैवैते निहताः पूर्वमेव निमित्तमात्रं भव सव्यसाचिन् 11.33 B
[These have been killed verily by Me even earlier; be you merely an instrument, O Savyasācin (Arjuna).]
What transpires from the comparison of the Bh.Gītā verses and the MBh. verses is:
Brahman, who is the cause of the creation, sustenance and dissolution of the world, in the form of Rudra, the aspect of Brahman engaged in the function of dissolution, is called Kāla, time. When the appropriate time comes, everything that has originated, comes to an end. That ending is effected by this power called Time, named Rudra. All creatures attain their end when their destined time comes. This is pre-determined. The actual mode of their end, by disease or being killed by any force of the nature or humans, is only instrumental. This is stated by the BG 11.33B. Arjuna, who is shown the cosmic form in its destruction aspect is being instructed thus: You are a mere instrument in the causing the death of these people who are your opponents. They have all been already put an end to by Destiny, Me.
Though one would get the feeling, quite naturally, by reading the Bh.Gītā 11th chapter that it is Lord Krishna that is the one engaged in the destruction act and he is the one that is ‘kāla’, the Time, and that he is the one that has ‘slain’ everyone ‘even before’ Arjuna would execute the actual killing, yet, from Sri Krishna’s personal instruction, post-war, to Arjuna, in the MBh. shows us in no unmistakable terms that the entity involved in the destruction (during the viśvarūpa-show of the BG during the war) and the one that has actually destined all those to die even before Arjuna would actually kill, is none other than Lord Śiva.
The first-person usages as ‘I’, ‘me’, by Krishna in the BG refers to Śiva, as per the MBh. verse. In other words, Brahman, in the form of Rudra, Kāla, effects the destruction. This shows that the cosmic function of creation, sustenance and destruction is carried out by Brahman through these three forms of Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Śiva. The One Brahman alone takes these three forms.
Interestingly, the commentary of Shankarachārya to the 11th ch. of the Bh.Gītā does not mention Śiva among those present in the cosmic form. This is precisely because it is Śiva who is the one conducting, performing, the destruction function and therefore not within the cosmic form. The juxtaposing of the BG and the MBh. verses also brings out the fact of Śiva-Viṣṇu abheda, which fact even Krishna brings out explicitly in the MBh. section that is annotated above. There, in Krishna’s words, Nārāyaṇa says to Śiva:
यस्त्वां वेत्ति स मां वेत्ति यस्त्वामनु स मामनु।
अद्यप्रभृति श्रीवत्सः शूलाङ्को मे भवत्वयम्।
Hari, then addressed the illustrious Īśāna and said these words:–He that knows thee, knows me. He that follows thee, follows me. There is no difference between thee and me. Do thou never think otherwise. The mark made by thy lance on my chest will from this day assume the form of a beautiful whirl (śrīvatsānka), and the mark of my hand on thy throat will also assume a beautiful shape in consequence of which thou shalt, from this day, be called by the name of Śrīkanṭha.
शिवाय विष्णुरूपाय शिवरूपाय विष्णवे । शिवस्य हृदयं विष्णुः विष्णोश्च हृदयं शिवः ॥८॥ यथा शिवमयो विष्णुरेवं विष्णुमयः शिवः । यथान्तरं न पश्यामि तथा मे स्वस्तिरायुषि ॥९॥ यथान्तरं न भेदाः स्युः शिवकेशवयोस्तथा । देहो देवालयः प्रोक्तः स जीवः केवलः शिवः ॥१०॥
The above verses from the ‘skandopaniṣat’ bring out the oneness of Shiva and Viṣṇu. There are such verses in the Mahabharata too, for example, in the Vanaparva:
शिवाय विष्णुरूपाय विष्णवे शिवरूपिणे । दक्षयज्ञविनाशाय हरिरुद्राय वै नमः ॥
Om Tat Sat