Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Unassailable Glory of Lord Narayana -- Part 2: Unequalled and Unsurpassed Supremacy

Long before the advent of great Acharyas, ancient India had a glorious time during which Vedic knowledge had spread far and wide, owing to the unparalleled efforts of great sages such as Valmiki, Vasishta, Shakti, Parashara, Vyasa, and Shuka who propounded that knowledge among the masses through the Smritis, Itihasas, and Puranas. Their reach extended from East to West, and from North to South, all over the great nation of India. No wonder then that the Vedic conception of Lord Sri Hari as the "Supreme revealed in the Vedas" (வேத முதல்வன்) found its way into secular Tamil literature of the ancient times. The following invocatory verse of the literary work "naRRiNai" (நற்றிணை) bears testimony to this:

மாநிலஞ் சேவடி யாகத் தூநீர்
வளைநரல் பெளவம் உடுக்கை யாக 
விசும்புமெய் யாகத் திசைகை யாகப்  
பசுங்கதிர் மதியமொடு சுடர்கண் ணாக 
இயன்ற எல்லாம் பயின்றகத் தடக்கிய 
வேத முதல்வன் என்ப  
தீதற விளங்கிய திகிரி யோனே

Translation: "Having the earth for His tender reddish feet, wearing as cloth the oceans that contain pure water and resonating conch-shells, having the space for His body, having the directions as His hands, having the sun and the moon for His eyes, enveloping everything as His very body, He -- the One who bears the discus (Lord Vishnu) is praised as the foremost of all divinities in the Vedas."

Clearly, the author of the invocatory verse in naRRiNai is familiar with Vedic concepts, as he praises Lord Vishnu, following the manner of Mundaka-Upanishad, Purusha-Suktam, Narayana-Suktam, etc. (See this post). More such references to the Lord Vishnu as the "essence of the Vedas" are available in the work called "paripADal".

In the last post, we saw that Acharyas such as Sri Sankara clearly expounded this ancient Vedic wisdom alone, and did not deliberately invent anything on their own.

We now continue our discussion of the supreme glory of Lord Narayana as explained by our Acharyas. We explain the verses where our Acharyas have shown that the glory of Lord Narayana cannot be compared with those of the other devas, and that He is the one who rules all of them.

 The devas, headed by Lord Brahma revere Lord Narayana
Thanks:  Copyrighted image and caption reproduced with permission of the artist Smt. Madhavapriya Devi

'None is equal or greater to Lord Narayana': 

When Lord Krishna expounded to Arjuna the Vedic philosophy by revealing the Bhagavad Gita, He showed His Supreme Universal Form to Arjuna. Awed at that stunning magnified form, Arjuna praised Krishna thus, in the following Bhagavad Gita verse. Let us read the a part of one such verse (11.43) and then Sri Sankara's and Sri Anandagiri's explanations to the same.
na tvat samo(a)sti, abhi adhika kuto-anyo loka-trayo-api, apratima-prabhAva?
(Bhagavad Gita, 11.43)
[There is none who is equal to you, and when that is the case, how even can there be any who is superior to You in any of three worlds, Oh Lord, who is of unrivaled power?]

 Sri Sankara's explanation reflects the Acharya's opinion that the above mode of praise is not at all exaggerated. The Bhagavatpada-Acharya explains thus: "na hi IshvaradvayaM saMbhavati, anekeshvaratve vyavahAra-anupatteH" [Translation: For there cannot be two Supreme Gods, if so, the world as it exists now will not be able to function properly]. 

Sri Anandagiri confirms this further at the same place:  "IshvarAntaraM tulyaM bhavishyati-ityAsha^nkyAha -- 'na hi' iti | Ishvarabhede pratyekaM svAtantryAt-tadaikamatye hetvabhAvAt-nAnAmatitve ca ekasya sisRkSAyAM anyasya saMjihIRSAMsa-bhavAt vyavahAralopada-yuktaM-IshvaranAnAtvaM-ityarthaH" [Translation: The following presents itself as a doubt: can there ever be two Supreme Gods? The Acharya answers: Surely no. If there be several independent Supreme Gods, then their decisions will be independent, as there is no guarantee that they will be of one mind. The effort of one Supreme God in one direction will be neutralized by the effort of the other in the opposite direction. Then the world could not exist as it does now.]

'Lord Vishnu, the ruler of all other deva-s':

Commenting on Gita verse 10.2, Sri Sankara explains:
na me viduH na jAnanti suragaNAH brahmAdayaH | kiM te na viduH? mama prabhavaM prabhAvaM prabhushakti-atishayam, athavA prabhavaM prabhavanaM utpattiM | na-api mahaRSayaH bhRgvAdayaH viduH | kasmAt te na viduriti-ucyate -- aham AdiH kAraNaM hi yasmAt devAnAm mahaRSINAM ca sarvashaH sarvaprakAraiH
["(Lord Krishna says) 'neither the devas -- Brahma and others-- know; -what do they not know? My majesty, abundance of lordly power-or, derived in the sense of 'coming into being', it means origin. Nor even the great sages, Bhrgu, Marici, Atri, Pulastya, Pulaha, Kratu and Vasistha. This is because I am the Supreme Primordial Cause of all, including the devas and the sages.'"]
This is re-emphasized by the Acharya in his commentary to Gita verse 10.12 (Arjuna's words):
paraM brahma paramAtmA paraM dhAma paraM tejaH pavitraM pAvanaM paramaM prakRSTaM bhavAn ! puruSaM shAshvatam nityaM divyaM divi bhavaM AdidevaM sarvadevAnAm Adau bhavam ajam vibhum vibhavanashIlam | ishvaram
[ (Arjuna says) 'Oh Lord! You are the Supreme Brahman -- the Supreme Soul, the Supreme Light, and the Supreme Sanctifier. You are the eternal divine Person, the Primal deva since you preceded all the devas by time. You are birthless, omnipresent, and capable of assuming many forms.]
Sri Madhusudana Sarasvati, in Gudhartha Dipika, offers a very interesting explanation for a verse not very far (10.14) from the above verse.  Here, Sri Madhusudana Sarasvati says that Arjuna's addressing Krishna by one of His special Divine Names, "Kesava (keshava)" has a deep purpose: He says that the name "Kesava" is apt here since Arjuna is referring to Sri Krishna's supremacy --
tacca-sarvaj~natvAt tvaM jAnasIti -- keshau brahmarudrau sarveshAvapi-anukampyatayA vAti-avagacchatIti vyutpattim-Ashritya niratishaya-aishvarya-pratipAdakena keshava-padena sUcitam | ato yaduktam 'na me viduH suragaNAH prabhavaM na mahaRSayaH' ityAdi tattatheva -- hi yasmAt he bhagavan samagra-aishvaryAdi sampanna! te tava vyaktiM prabhAvaM j~nAnAtishayashAlino(a)pi devA na viduH na-api dAnavA, na mahaRSaya ityapi draSTavyam |
['And You know that since you are omniscient.' - this is indicated by the word keshava, by which is suggestive of 'unsurpassed sovereignty', according to the following derivative sense of the word: 'He who looks upon Ka and Isha, i.e., Brahma and Rudra,  as fit for compassion, even though they are great lords (compared to other devas and human beings).' Hence, what was said in 'Neither the deva-s nor the great sages know My Lordliness.' (10.2) is truly so. For, Oh Lord who art endowed with Sovereignty etc. in their entirety, neither the deva-s nor the demons, or even the great Rishis, comprehend your glory.]
- Madhusudana Sarasvati, Gudhartha Dipika, 10.14

One may wonder whether all the above statements by Arjuna, and by Acharyas like Sri Sankara, Anandagiri, Madhusudana Sarasvati are merely exaggerations for the sake of praising Lord Krishna. This doubt can be safely answered in the negative, as Sri Sankara himself says thus in his Brahma Sutra Bhashya (I.ii.17) where the Acharya is involved in serious polemical discussion, where he establishes the identity of 'the person in the eye' described in the Vedanta:
tathApi AtmatvaM tAvanna sambhavati, parAgrUpatvAt | amRtatvAdayo(a)pi na saMbhavanti utpatti-pralaya-shravaNAt | amaratvamapi devAnAM cirakAlAvasthAna-apekSam | aishvaryamapi parameshvara-Ayattam, na svabhAvikam; 'bhIshAsmAd-vAtaH pavate, bhISodeti sUryaH | bhISAsmAd-agniH-candraH-ca mRtyuH-dhAvati pa~ncamaH' iti mantravarNAt | tasmAt parameshvara eva-ayam-akSisthAnaH pratyetavyaH |
[Inner-self-hood cannot be ascribed to the sun (Aditya), on account of his externality. Immortality, also cannot be predicated of him, as Scripture speaks of his origin and his dissolution. For the so-called deathlessness of the deva-s only means their comparatively long existence. And their lordly power also is based on the highest Lord and does not naturally belong to them; as the mantra declares, 'From terror of it (Brahman) the wind blows, from terror the sun rises; from terror of it Agni and Indra, yea, Death runs as the fifth.'—Hence the person in the eye must be viewed as the highest Lord only.]

- Sri Sankara,  Brahma Sutra Bhashya, 1.2.7

Thus, the Acharyas have discussed at great length, the greatness and sovereignty of Lord Hari as per the Vedas.


[1] For the naRRiNai and other Sangam and post-Sangam Tamil works, see here or here. (Flash player and font download required for first link; first link contains several commentaries by ancient and modern Tamil commentators).
[2] References for Bhagavad Gita commentaries etc. are as given in this post.
[3] Brahma Sutra Bhashya: See here and English translation here.


  1. Dear Prahladadasa,
    You're doing a nice job of posting commentary.
    ", 'From terror of it (Brahman) the wind blows, from terror the sun rises; from terror of it Agni and Indra, yea, Death runs as the fifth."

    But the Bhagavad Gita and SriMadBhagavatam say that God create the world with a smile...that the Sun is His eyes, Fire is His smile, and Death is His shadow. (describing Vishwaroopa form).
    The form itself is described as 'terrible' , but it could be viewed by Arjuna as he had Krishna's kind grace upon Him.

    So, personally, i feel, we must associate with Perumal's grace more than His terror, as that is meant for those inimical to Him only.
    Ofcourse, i may not have understood the context of the word 'terror' at all, but these were just my thoughts.

    With sincere prayers and regards,
    In Love With Krishna

  2. Dear In Love With Krishna,

    Your point is correct, now you see why I said I am in LKG and you are at PhD level :-) :-)

    The verse I quoted is from the Taittiriya Upanishad. The Sanskrit word used is "Bheeti". This Veda Mantra ("From terror of it...") itself is explained in the Bhagavatam (3.29.40): "Out of fear of the Supreme Personality of Godhead the wind blows, out of fear of Him the sun shines, out of fear of Him the rain pours forth showers, and out of fear of Him the host of heavenly bodies shed their luster."

    The devas such as Brahma, Rudra, Indra, Agni, Yama, Vayu, who are Jivas and are yet to reach perfection and liberation are still subject to karma and the three gunas. This is also shown from incidents such as Brahma taking away the cows, Indra during Ahalya's episode and Govardhana episode, and Paramasivan siding with Bana and going to Perumal for Abhayam to escape from the boon that he himself granted to Bhasmasura, and many such incidents.

    Although they are much much mightier than us, deserve to be highly respected by us, and it is futile for us to focus on their shortcomings, their subservience to Supreme Lord is invoked at least in a handful of places in the Veda so that Sriman Narayana's supremacy is not compromised.

    Having said that, Bhakta's motivation should not always be based on terror, but also from the standpoint of pure love.

    I did talk about grace (Audaryam), accessibility and approachability (Soulabhya-Souseelya Gunams) in previous articles. Kindly go through if you are interested.

    Ever your servant,


  3. Dear Swami,

    Adiyen belongs to the Vishishtadvaita school. I have read all about how the great teachers of the advaita tradition have eulogised Narayana only as paradevatai.

    Our acharyas explain 'Bheeti' in a different way. The 'fear' expressed here is not a general fear of 'oh, he will punish me if I do not do my duties'. The devas are aware of their subservience to Brahman, and hence, they feel, 'If I do not perform the duties given to me by Bhagavan, He will think that I am acting against my nature (svarUpam) of complete dependence and servitude to Brahman'.

    The fear of losing their natural state of servitude to Sriman Narayana is the 'fear' expressed here.

    Of course, this is as per the Vishishtadvaita school. In any case, all Vedantins are agreed that the devas are subservient to Brahman.

    Adiyen Sri Vaishnava Dasan,


  4. Devarir Sri Narayanan Swami,

    Adiyen was very happy to read your comment. Yes, the fear of acting against the jIvAtman's real svarUpam is indeed the real fear of the bhakta/prapanna. If my understanding is right, it should be like the fear and tension that a true friend feels in striving to make himself deserving of friendship, even though his friend does not expect anything back.

    I need to revive the blog soon as it has not seen a posting in several months. As a result, I am not regular in checking the comments section these days.

    Hence please do feel free to contact adiyEn by sending email through profile, if interesting in contacting further. I would be very interested in finding out about fellow bhAgavatas on the web. We can do something together that is useful for the entire bhakta community.


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