Posted by: adbhutam | April 25, 2017

‘VISHNU’ IS ALSO ‘ANYA DEVATĀ’ ACCORDING TO SHANKARA

‘Vishnu’ is also ‘anya devatā’ according to Shankara

There is a widespread misconception among many, especially non-advaitins, that the term ‘anya devatā’ in the Bhagavadgita 9th chapter refers to all deities other than Vishnu. By cursorily reading the Shānkara bhashya they think that he also approves that idea. But on looking into the Gita bhashya itself carefully and the Kenopanishad bhashya one can see how misconceived is the above-stated idea.

ये पुनः निष्कामाः सम्यग्दर्शिनः —

अनन्याश्चिन्तयन्तो मां
ये जनाः पर्युपासते ।
तेषां नित्याभियुक्तानां
योगक्षेमं वहाम्यहम् ॥ २२ ॥

 भाष्यम्

अनन्याः अपृथग्भूताः परं देवं नारायणम् आत्मत्वेन गताः सन्तः चिन्तयन्तः मां ये जनाः संन्यासिनः पर्युपासते, तेषां परमार्थदर्शिनां नित्याभियुक्तानांसतताभियोगिनां योगक्षेमं योगः अप्राप्तस्य प्रापणं क्षेमः तद्रक्षणं तदुभयं वहामि प्रापयामि अहम् ; ‘ज्ञानी त्वात्मैव मे मतम्’ (भ. गी. ७ । १८) ‘स चमम प्रियः’ (भ. गी. ७ । १७) यस्मात् , तस्मात् ते मम आत्मभूताः प्रियाश्च इति ॥

ननु अन्येषामपि भक्तानां योगक्षेमं वहत्येव भगवान् । सत्यं वहत्येव ; किन्तु अयं विशेषः — अन्ये ये भक्ताः ते आत्मार्थं स्वयमपि योगक्षेमम् ईहन्ते ; अनन्यदर्शिनस्तु न आत्मार्थं योगक्षेमम् ईहन्ते ; न हि ते जीविते मरणे वा आत्मनः गृद्धिं कुर्वन्ति ; केवलमेव भगवच्छरणाः ते ; अतः भगवानेव तेषांयोगक्षेमं वहतीति ॥ २२ ॥

Shankara says: Whoever considers ‘Narayana’ as their very self, are paramārthadarshi, samyagdarshi. For the next verse Shankara gives an introduction:

ननु अन्या अपि देवताः त्वमेव चेत् , तद्भक्ताश्च त्वामेव यजन्ते । सत्यमेवम् —

Is it not that even the ‘other’ devata-s are also You (Nirguna Brahman) alone and therefore those who worship those ‘others’ are also actually worshiping you alone? Yes, it is true. [In this remark Shankara holds that there is no real difference across devata-s (including Vishnu); they are all vivarta-s of Nirguna Brahman.]

येऽप्यन्यदेवताभक्ता
यजन्ते श्रद्धयान्विताः ।
तेऽपि मामेव कौन्तेय
यजन्त्यविधिपूर्वकम् ॥ २३ ॥

 भाष्यम्

येऽपि अन्यदेवताभक्ताः अन्यासु देवतासु भक्ताः अन्यदेवताभक्ताः सन्तः यजन्ते पूजयन्ति श्रद्धया आस्तिक्यबुद्ध्या अन्विताः अनुगताः, तेऽपि मामेव कौन्तेय यजन्ति अविधिपूर्वकम् अविधिः अज्ञानं तत्पूर्वकं यजन्ते इत्यर्थः ॥ २३ ॥

Those devotees are also worshiping Me alone, without knowing that they are worshiping Me, Nirguna Brahman.

Shankara: कस्मात् ते अविधिपूर्वकं यजन्ते इत्युच्यते ; यस्मात् — Why do they do the worship with ignorance?

अहं हि सर्वयज्ञानां
भोक्ता च प्रभुरेव च ।
न तु मामभिजानन्ति
तत्त्वेनातश्च्यवन्ति ते ॥ २४ ॥

 भाष्यम्

अहं हि सर्वयज्ञानां श्रौतानां स्मार्तानां च सर्वेषां यज्ञानां देवतात्मत्वेन भोक्ता च प्रभुः एव च । मत्स्वामिको हि यज्ञः, ‘अधियज्ञोऽहमेवात्र’ (भ. गी. ८ । ४) इति हि उक्तम् । तथा न तु माम् अभिजानन्ति तत्त्वेन यथावत् । अतश्च अविधिपूर्वकम् इष्ट्वा यागफलात् च्यवन्ति प्रच्यवन्ते ते ॥ २४ ॥

While I am the ultimate Bhokta of all yajnas, through those devata-s, those who do not know this fact, are doing it through ignorance and therefore are denied the highest fruit of liberation. [This is the idea behind ‘brahmārpaṇamastu’ where such Brahman is not any particular deity but the Ultimate Nirguna Chaitanyam.]

येऽपि अन्यदेवताभक्तिमत्त्वेन अविधिपूर्वकं यजन्ते, तेषामपि यागफलं अवश्यंभावि । कथम् ? —

यान्ति देवव्रता देवान्पितॄन्यान्ति पितृव्रताः ।
भूतानि यान्ति भूतेज्या यान्ति मद्याजिनोऽपि माम् ॥ २५ ॥

 भाष्यम्

यान्ति गच्छन्ति देवव्रताः देवेषु व्रतं नियमो भक्तिश्च येषां ते देवव्रताः देवान् यान्ति । पितॄन् अग्निष्वात्तादीन् यान्ति पितृव्रताः श्राद्धादिक्रियापराःपितृभक्ताः । भूतानि विनायकमातृगणचतुर्भगिन्यादीनि यान्ति भूतेज्याः भूतानां पूजकाः । यान्ति मद्याजिनः मद्यजनशीलाः वैष्णवाः मामेव यान्ति । समाने अपि आयासे मामेव न भजन्ते अज्ञानात् , तेन ते अल्पफलभाजः भवन्ति इत्यर्थः ॥ २५ ॥

Here the Lord says….those who worship Me attain to Me. (liberation).

So, what transpires from the above is: All ‘other devata-s’ are also non-different from Brahman; only the ignorant ones do not know this. If only they know that all forms including that of Vishnu, Shiva, etc. are actually Brahman alone in those forms, and with this knowledge worship any of the forms, they will attain liberation. So, anya devat-a means ‘other than one’s Atman’: eko devaḥ sarvabhūteṣu…. devaḥ in advaita ultimately means the Supreme Consciousness.

Now, a look at the Kenopanishad bhashya will put the above into proper perspective:

यद्वाचानभ्युदितं येन वागभ्युद्यते ।
तदेव ब्रह्म त्वं विद्धि नेदं यदिदमुपासते ॥ ५ ॥

[5     That which cannot be expressed by speech, but by which speech is expressed—That alone know as Brahman and not that which people here worship as ‘this’.]

Shankara introduces the mantra with a prelude:

‘अन्यदेव तद्विदितादथो अविदितादधि’ (के. उ. १-४) इत्यनेन वाक्येन आत्मा ब्रह्मेति प्रतिपादिते श्रोतुराशङ्का जाता — कथं न्वात्मा ब्रह्म । आत्मा हि नामाधिकृतः कर्मण्युपासने च संसारी कर्मोपासनं वा साधनमनुष्ठाय ब्रह्मादिदेवान्स्वर्गं वा प्राप्तुमिच्छति । तत्तस्मादन्य उपास्यो विष्णुरीश्वर इन्द्रः प्राणो वा ब्रह्म भवितुमर्हति, न त्वात्मा ; लोकप्रत्ययविरोधात् । यथान्ये तार्किका ईश्वरादन्य आत्मेत्याचक्षते, तथा कर्मिणोऽमुं यजामुं यजेत्यन्या एव देवता उपासते । तस्माद्युक्तं यद्विदितमुपास्यं तद्ब्रह्म भवेत्, ततोऽन्य उपासक इति । तामेतामाशङ्कां शिष्यलिङ्गेनोपलक्ष्य तद्वाक्याद्वा आह — मैवं शङ्किष्ठाः ।

The meaning of the above:

In the foregoing portion of the Upaniṣad the Supreme Reality, Brahman, was taught as the entity that is ‘different from the known and greater/beyond the unknown’.  Through this teaching the identity of the self, Atman, with Brahman was also indicated.  Upon hearing this, an aspirant may get a doubt as to how indeed the Self, ātman, can be the same as Brahman, the Supreme.  For, the self, the individual Atman, is the one who is an agent of action, whether scripturally enjoined or worldly, and contemplations enjoined by the scripture.  This agent is also a transmigrating one who engages in the scripturally enjoined actions/contemplations and intends to attain to other worlds like heaven inhabited by various gods, up to Brahmā.  Therefore Brahman the Supreme  has to be someone different from the agent, who contemplates on viShNu, Ishwara (shiva), indra, prANa, etc.   This is reasonable since the meditating agent being the same as the god contemplated upon is quite opposed to common sense.  Just as the logicians, tArkika-s, hold the jIva to be different from the Supreme Brahman, so too those steeped in actions hold the god propitiated/contemplated upon as different from the one engaged in those actions/contemplations.  Therefore, it is quite reasonable that that which is contemplated upon is Brahman which is different from the meditator/aspirant.  The next mantra, taking into consideration the above doubt/question through the expressions, whether facial or verbal, of the disciple, gives the clarification.]

A latter part of the above bhashya:

तदेव आत्मस्वरूपं ब्रह्म निरतिशयं भूमाख्यं बृहत्त्वाद्ब्रह्मेति विद्धि विजानीहि त्वम् । यैर्वागाद्युपाधिभिः ‘वाचो ह वाक्’ ‘चक्षुषश्चक्षुः’‘श्रोत्रस्य श्रोत्रं मनसो मनः’ (के. उ. १-२) ‘कर्ता भोक्ता विज्ञाता नियन्ता प्रशासिता’ ‘विज्ञानमानन्दं ब्रह्म’ (बृ. उ. ३-९-७)इत्येवमादयः संव्यवहारा असंव्यवहार्ये निर्विशेषे परे साम्ये ब्रह्मणि प्रवर्तन्ते, तान्व्युदस्य आत्मानमेव निर्विशेषं ब्रह्म विद्धीति एवशब्दार्थः । नेदं ब्रह्म यदिदम् इत्युपाधिभेदविशिष्टमनात्मेश्वरादि उपासते ध्यायन्ति । तदेव ब्रह्म त्वं विद्धि इत्युक्तेऽपि नेदं ब्रह्म इत्यनात्मनोऽब्रह्मत्वं पुनरुच्यते नियमार्थम् अन्यब्रह्मबुद्धिपरिसंख्यानार्थं वा ॥

[This Brahman is not the one meditated as ‘this’, that is, as something other than the meditator by limiting it through adjuncts, as the not-self, God, etc.  Even after having stressed ‘know That alone to be Brahman’, the upaniṣad explicitly states ‘that which is not denoted as this’ with respect to Brahman with a view to show that all that is not-self, anātmā, such as Īśvara is not-Brahman, so that there is no choice left to the aspirant other than knowing Brahman as one’s own Self.  Or it is to exclude the identification of Brahman from that which is non-Brahman. ]

The crucial sentence that is to be noticed carefully in the bhashya is:

तत्तस्मादन्य उपास्यो विष्णुरीश्वर इन्द्रः प्राणो वा ब्रह्म भवितुमर्हति, न त्वात्मा ; लोकप्रत्ययविरोधात् ।

Those not exposed to the Vedanta think that the ‘upāsya’ is ‘anya’, different, from the ‘upāsaka’. And therefore upāsya-s such as Vishnu, Ishwara, Indra, Prāṇa, etc. can be Brahman but the upāsaka, the ātmā, is different from Brahman.

This is the link to the Bh.Gita 9th chapter usage of ‘anya-devatā’.  Shankara, on the strength of the Kenopanishad mantra 5 has shown that the Upanishad intends to teach the non-difference of the ātmā with Brahman.  Hence, the usage: nedam yadidam upāsate:  that which is meditated (known) as ‘this’ (as opposed to I), is not Brahman. Thus, if anyone knows Vishnu, Ishwara, etc. as ‘this’, that is someone/something other than himself, then he is not on the right track. The Upanishad, according to Shankara, implies that such ‘idam’ is anātmā, abrahma. It is only if one knows that Vishnu, etc. is ‘aham’, then alone such Vishnu, etc. will be ātmā, brahman.

Thus, the word ‘anya’ used in the Bh.Gita and the bhashya and the Kenopanishad bhashya very clearly teach us that ‘anya devatā’ is all those entities including Vishnu, if this deity is conceived of as a resident of Vaikuntha, a formed one, etc. The Upanishadic aspirant is expected to rise above such conceptions and realize Brahman as ‘I am That’. Shankara has also clearly shown that such a deity, a resident of a particular loka, cannot be the Upanishadic Brahman:

In the Mundakopanishad 3.2.6 bhashya Shankara says:

परामृताः परम् अमृतम् अमरणधर्मकं ब्रह्म आत्मभूतं येषां ते परामृता जीवन्त एव ब्रह्मभूताः, परामृताः सन्तः परिमुच्यन्ति परि समन्तात्प्रदीपनिर्वाणवद्भिन्नघटाकाशवच्च निवृत्तिमुपयान्ति परिमुच्यन्ति परि समन्तान्मुच्यन्ते सर्वे, न देशान्तरं गन्तव्यमपेक्षन्ते । ‘शकुनीनामिवाकाशे जले वारिचरस्य वा । पदं यथा न दृश्येत तथा ज्ञानवतां गतिः’ (मो. ध. १८१-९) ‘अनध्वगा अध्वसु पारयिष्णवः’ (?) इति श्रुतिस्मृतिभ्याम् ; देशपरिच्छिन्ना हि गतिः संसारविषयैव, परिच्छिन्नसाधनसाध्यत्वात् । ब्रह्म तु समस्तत्वान्न देशपरिच्छेदेन गन्तव्यम् । यदि हि देशपरिच्छिन्नं ब्रह्म स्यात्, मूर्तद्रव्यवदाद्यन्तवदन्याश्रितं सावयवमनित्यं कृतकं च स्यात् । न त्वेवंविधं ब्रह्म भवितुमर्हति । अतस्तत्प्राप्तिश्च नैव देशपरिच्छिन्ना भवितुं युक्ता ॥

//The liberated do not travel to any other place/loka, for any such travel will imply that the jiva is still in samsara.  Since Brahman is infinite, the jnani who has realized his identity with Brahman, also being the Infinite Brahman alone, does not go anywhere upon death.  For, Brahman is not a finite place to be reached/attained.  If Brahman were located in a place then Brahman, being no different from any formed object, will have to have a beginning and end, and be dependent on something else, be made of parts, and ephemeral, and a produced one.  Brahman can never be of this nature.  Thus, the ‘attainment’ of Brahman cannot be involving any locating in some other place.//

Thus, for Shankara, ‘Vishnu’, if he is someone different from oneself, then he is anātmā, abrahma, anitya, jaḍa, paricchinna, dṛśya, etc. and therefore mithyā. For Shankara the terms Vishnu, Narayana, etc. in the bhashya, which have confused the uninformed and the uninitiated, really mean nirguna brahman.

Om Tat Sat

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