‘Vāsudeva’, ‘Achyuta’ in Advaita
In the Bhagavadgitā Bhāṣya 4.6, we find a sentence thus: प्रकृतिं स्वां मम वैष्णवीं मायां त्रिगुणात्मिकाम्, यस्या वशे सर्वं जगत् वर्तते, यया मोहितं सत् स्वमात्मानं वासुदेवं न जानाति, तां प्रकृतिं स्वाम् //Prakṛti, the Māyā of Viṣṇu consisting of the three gunas, under whose; spell the whole world exists, and deluded by which one does not know one’s own Self, ‘Vāsudeva’; -by subjugating that Prakṛti of Mine..//
Is this ‘Vāsudeva’ identifiable with the person ‘Vāsudeva’ or the Saguṇa Brahman or the Tattvam that is named ‘Vāsudeva?’ In order to decide on this we can apply this test: The bhāṣyam says that under the spell of Māyā, one is not able to know one’s true nature/self that is Vāsudeva. Supposing one has overcome the spell of māyā, then the knowledge should be ‘I am/my true nature is Vāsudeva’. If that Vāsudeva is a person, then the knowledge of the one who has the right realization will have to be: I am Vāsudeva, the son of Devaki-Vasudeva, born in Mathura, grew up in Gokula, played with the gopis, slayed Kamsa, etc. etc. But from the Vedanta, especially from Shankara’s bhāṣyas we do not find this to be the proper realization of the Self. Also, such a realization of a person-vāsudeva is of no use since the Lord Himself says in the BG 4th ch. beginning: श्री भगवानुवाच बहूनि मे व्यतीतानि जन्मानि तव चार्जुन।तान्यहं वेद सर्वाणि न त्वं वेत्थ परन्तप।।4.5।। 4.5 The Blessed Lord said O Arjuna, many lives of Mine have passed, and so have yours. I know them all, (but) you know not, O scorcher of enemies! Identifying with a person(ality) who has taken birth and also gone will be of no real value to be cherished as liberation.
Nor does the name / entity Vāsudeva mean the saguṇa brahman. This is because the saguṇa brahman is one endowed with māyā as upādhi and is admitted purely for the purpose of accounting for the world-creation, duality, samsāra management, etc. This has no ontological status in Vedanta. Realizing this as one’s true self is not taught anywhere nor is it possible and useful in liberating a jiva. By the method of elimination, finally the term ‘VAsudeva’ of the bhAshyam has to be the Tattvam known by that name. That Tattvam has been variously defined in the puranas such as the one that pervades everything/one that is the substratum of everything in creation, etc. as for example, stated in the Viṣṇuprāṇa: सर्व्वाणि तत्र भूतानि वसन्ति परमात्मनि । भूतेषु च स सर्व्वात्मा वासुदेवस्ततः स्मृतः ।। ६-५-८० ।। [All the beings (creation) rests in That Supreme Self. Also That Supreme Self rests / resides in all beings. Such a one is called ‘vāsudeva’.] The ‘resting’ of all beings/creation ‘in’ That and That ‘residing’ in all creation has to be of the manner of a superimposition-substratum for otherwise a physical resting will require the vāsudeva to be made of parts. Only things made of parts can have a physical support-supported relationship. If ‘vāsudeva’ is made of parts, it is perishable, being a created entity. Also, it will have to be insentient. Thus the realization ‘I am vāsudeva’, as the Vedantic Tattvam alone is meant by the bhāṣyam cited above.
Another reference: In the BGB 18.66: माम् एकं सर्वात्मानं समं सर्वभूतस्थितम् ईश्वरम् अच्युतं गर्भजन्मजरामरणवर्जितम् ‘अहमेव’ इत्येवं शरणं व्रज, न मत्तः अन्यत् अस्ति इति अवधारय इत्यर्थः । //śaraṇam vraja, take refuge; mām ekam, in Me alone, the Self of all, the same in all, existing in all beings, the Lord, the Imperishable, free from being in the womb, birth, old age and death-by knowing that ‘I am verily That’. That is, know it for certain that there is nothing besides Me.// Here again, the name ‘Achyuta’ of the bhāṣya does not refer to the deity/divine person. Why? It is the teaching here that the aspirant has to identify himself as ‘I am that’. Such an identification is not taught with the deity. Thus such names in the bhāṣya do not refer to the deity/person but to the Nirguṇa Brahman, the Tattvam. The word ‘achyuta’ is explained by the bhāṣyam itself as: the One that is responsible for all creation/actions (read Kenopanishad first few mantras), that is free of birth, old age, etc. This explanation exactly defines the word ‘achyuta’, that which has no ‘chyuti’, fall, transformation and destruction.
Om Tat Sat