|| Frequently Asked Questions ||

Iswara – The Lord and Master

What is the essential nature of Iswara?

The essential nature of Iswara is truth, knowledge, infiniteness, happiness and purity. He is present everywhere. He knows everything.

Why is He called Bhagavan?

He possesses six qualities and that is why He is called Bhagavan. Bhaga in Sanskrit means good quality.

What are these six qualities?

These are: 1) Knowledge 2) Lordship 3) Strength 4) Valour 5) Energy and 6) Splendour.

We have heard people saying that Iswara is the cause of this world. Please explain.

You have a potter and the mud pot. The pot is made from the material mud. So mud is the cause and pot is the effect. Mud is called as the material cause of pot (UpadanaKarana). Now, mud by itself cannot change into a pot. The potter has to change the mud into a pot. So, in the making of the pot, the potter is also the cause, like the mud. The potter is called the instrumental cause (Nimitta Karana). Thus, for a mud pot, the mud is the material cause and the potter is the instrumental cause. I will give you another example. Take the case of a weaver. The weaver weaves a cloth out of the raw material yarn. In this case, the cloth is the produced effect. For the cloth, the yarn is the material cause and the weaver is the instrumental cause.

Are there any other causes for such things?

Again, take the example of the mud pot and the potter. Now, just with mud alone, the potter cannot make the pot. He requires the wooden wheel and some other similar wooden implements to make the pot out of the mud. Such implements like the wooden wheel are called the supporting cause (sahakari karana). So, summarising, we have three causes for producing anything. One is the material cause (upadana karana); the second is the instrumental cause (nimitta karana); and the third is the supporting cause (sahakari karana).

So far as creation of the world is concerned, what is the relationship of Iswara or Brahman?

Brahman is the material cause in the creation of the world. He is also the instrumental cause in the creation. There is no supporting cause required for Him in the creation of the world. Or, we can also say that He is also the supporting cause in the creation of the world. If we consider the world as a pot. He is both the mud and the potter, for the creation of the pot (i.e. the world).

What is the difference between creation and evolution of the world?

Brahman is the material cause; so, we say that Brahman evolves into the world. Brahman is the instrumental cause; so, we say that Brahman creates the world. Thus, the evolution of the world means that Brahman is the material. in case. Creation of the world means that Brahr the instrumental cause. (Just as mud evolves’into mudpot; the potter creates the pot.)

He is the instrumental cause in the creation, but it is rather hard for one to understand that He is also the material cause. How can Brahman or Iswara Himself change into the world,just as the mud changes into pot or just as the yarn changes into cloth?

I shall describe this to you in some detail. We should fully accept the authority of the Vedas. Let me quote to you the following passages from the Vedas, which make it clear that Brahman is also the material cause. “He thought may I become many.” “The Brahman is the wood. Then Brahman became the tree.” “He desired may I become many.” “He became defined and undefined, real and unreal. Yet He remained as real. The wise perceive Him as the source of beings.” There are many other passages also, which clearly show that Brahman is the material cause of the world, besides being the instrumental cause. A story in Chandogya Upanishad says that there was a young boy Svetaketu who was sent by his father to a teacher for learning. He studied under the teacher for 12 years and after study, returned home. His father asked Svetaketu: “I find that you are arrogant and you are thinking that you have learnt everything. Do you know about that, by knowing which everything else becomes known?” Svetaketu did not know, how by knowing one thing, all other things will become known. So, his father proceeds to give examples and teaches him. The father says: 1. From mud, we make pots and dolls. So by knowing mud, all that is made of mud, is also known; because they are all products from the same basic raw material mud. 2. Similarly, we make jewels out of gold. So, by knowing gold, all that is made of gold, like jewels, are also known; because they are only modifications or products of gold. 3. Again, from iron, we make so many materials like knife and scissors. So, by knowing iron, all the products that are made of iron, also become known; because basically there is only iron and all others are only modifications of iron. Similarly, by knowing Brahman, the whole world and everything in it becomes known.

So, what do we understand from these examples?

From this, it is clear that Brahman is compared to mud or gold or iron, out of which, pot or jewel or knife (respectively) are made. From mud comes the pot. So, by knowing mud,everything made of mud becomes known. Similarly. Brahman evolves in to the world and all other things. Hence by knowing Brahman, everything else becomes known. This is the meaning of these examples. In other words, Brahman is the material cause (upadana karana) of whatever we see in the world; just as mud is the material cause of mud pot; just as gold is the material cause of gold jewels; and just as iron is the material cause of knife and scissors.

Please explain further about Brahman being the material cause of the world.

The Chandogya Upanishad states as follows:- “Then the Brahman desired “may I become many, may I grow”. Then it created fire, etc.” From this, it is clearly seen that the Brahman evolved into the world; because the Brahman says “may I become many.” So it is proved that Brahman is the material cause. After this, the Chandogya Upanishad describes (he three-fold division of elements. I have already described this to you earlier. Further, it is said that Brahman desired and said “I will create names and forms.” So, this also shows that Brahman is both the material cause and the instrumental cause.

What is the position of Jivatma, before and after pralaya?

At the beginning of creation, namely, after the pralaya, the matter and Jivatmas are all merged, in an extremely subtle state, in Brahman. Then the Brahman desired “may I become many”.He then created the elements and the worlds, out of Himself. Then He gave them names and forms. So, the Brahman becomes both the material and the instrumental cause (upadana karana and nimitta karana).

Are there any other passages in the Upanishads which explain that the Brahman is the material cause?

There are very interesting examples in Mundaka Upanishad. Saunaka asks Angiras:- “What is that, by knowing which, everything else in the world becomes known”? Angiras proceeds to explain. He gives the example of a spider. A spider creates thin threads, out of its own body and mouth and spits them out. It weaves a web around its body, out of these threads. The spider, then, eats back the threads forming the web. In other words, the threads come out. of the spider and are eaten back by the spider, Similarly, Brahman creates the world, out of Himself and again withdraws the whole thing, the world, into Himself, at the time of deluge. This example clearly shows that Brahman is the material cause of the world. There is another example in the same Upanishad. The plants and herbs grow from the earth, i.e.,come out of the earth. In the same way, the world also comes out of Brahman. Thus, the teacher Angiras explains that, since the world and everything else comes out of Brahman; by knowing Brahman, everything else becomes known. There is another example given in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. Yagnavalkya tells his wife that, by knowing Brahman, the whole world and everything else becomes known; and proceeds to give an example. From a moist and wet firewood, we try to light up fire. But only smoke comes out, because of wetness of the firewood. Just as smoke comes out of the wet firewood, all the world and everything else, come out of Brahman. These examples show that Brahman is the material cause of the world.

You say that the Lord – Iswara – is present everywhere. Have our Alwars and Acharyas specifically stated so?

Yes. Nammalwar says that the Lord is present everywhere, as the soul in the body. He also gives a beautiful simile. He says that the Lord is present everywhere and in everything, like ghee in the milk. We cannot straightaway see ghee in the milk. Milk has to be turned into curd. From curd, you churn and get butter. You heat the butter to get ghee.Thus, although ghee is in milk, we cannot see the ghee directly. Similarly, God is in everything, although we cannot see Him directly with our eyes.

Is this Lord’s presence in everything mentioned in theVedas?

Yes, in several places. Let me give you some beautiful examples from Svetasvatara Upanishad. The Paramatma is in the Jivatma, like oil in til seeds (sesame): butter in curds: water in the earth (under ground): fire in wood. Although the Upanishad mentions Paramatma’s presence in Jivatma, the extension of this principle shows Paramatma’s presence in everything.

What about our Acharyas?

We have the great Alavandar, who has also used the simile of ghee in milk (like Nammalwar), to show the presence of the Lord in everything.

Who exactly is Brahman or Iswara? Is there one single deity, who is supreme?

Here are some passages from the Vedas which will answer your query:

  1. “There was only one Narayana, no Brahma, no Rudra”
  2. “From His forehead, the three-eyed person, having Sula is born; the four-faced Brahma is bom.”
  3. “Brahma is born from Narayana, Rudra is bom from Narayana”
  4. “Brahma is Narayana, Siva is Narayana, Indra is Narayana, the directions are Narayana. All things are Narayana”
  5. “There is only one Divine Being – Narayana”
  6. “Narayana is the inner soul of all beings,”
  7. “He crosses the human bondage of samsara and reaches the Paramapada of Vishnu.”
  8. “Among the Devas, fire (Agni) is the lowest and Vishnu is the highest:
  9. “He created Brahma as before and taught him the Vedas.”
  10. “From the Brahma’s forehead, Rudra was born.”
  11. “The Universe is Narayana.”
  12. “Narayana is the supreme Brahman. Narayana is the supreme truth or reality. Narayana is the supreme light. Narayana is the supreme atma or Paramatma. Whatever is in this world, seen or heard, all that is pervaded by Narayana, both within and without. He is Brahma. He is Siva. He is Indra.”

From these, it will be clear to you who is the supreme deity, who is the Brahman and who is Iswara. There are innumerable such passages in the Vedas.

Where does this last passage, “He is Brahma, He is Siva, He is Indra” occur?

This passage occurs in Taittiriya Upanishad. This is called Narayana Anuvaka.

Doesnt this occurs in Maha Narayana Upanishad

Actually it forms part of Taittiriya Upanishad. But some modern people call it by a separate name as Maha Narayana Upanishad.

You read the passage as “He is Brahma, He is Siva, He is Indra.” But some people read it as “He is Brahma, He is Siva, He is Hari, He is Indra.”Which is correct?

The Vedic passage should read without the words “He is Hari”. The words “He is Hari” are later interpolation; and it is not correct.

How do you say that the words “He is Hari” are later interpolation and not correct?

The reason is very simple. If you add the words. “He is Hari” in this verse in the Vedas, the metre becomes incorrect. According to Sanskrit grammar, the metre of the verse is correct, only if the words “He is Hari” are not there. Thus it is very clear that the words “He is Hari” are only interpolation, at a much later period.

What was the need for this interpolation, at a later stage?

With the interpolation, it reads as “He is Brahma, He is Siva, He is Hari, He is Indra.” This will give an impression that all the three viz., Brahma, Vishnu and Siva are equal, as also Indra. So, perhaps this was the intention of the people who interpolated, that all the Gods should be treated as equals.

Are these passages in the Vedas also supported by Smritis, Itihasas and Puranas?

Yes. Here they are.

  1. Varaha Purana: Narayana is the supreme deity. From Him was born the 4-faced Brahma and from Brahma arose Rudra.
  2. Mahabharata: when the Jivatma and matter have gone into dissolution, i.e., during the deluge (pralaya), there is only one remaining and He is Lord Narayana.
  3. Mahabharata: There is no being in the world that is eternal or permanent, except Vasudeva.
  4. Harivamsa: Siva’s words to Narayana; “Brahma is called Ka and I am called Isa. We two were born from your limbs. Therefore, you are called Kesava.”
  5. Mahabharata: Brahma’s words to Siva: “I was born by His grace and you from His anger, in one of the earlier creations.”
  6. Mahabharata: Brahma, Rudra and Indra together with all other devas and rishis, worshipped the divine Narayana, the greatest of Gods.
  7. Ramayana: Rudra sacrificed all things in a great yaga called Sarvamedha and then sacrificed himself also mentally.
  8. Ramayana: They knew Vishnu is greater .(than Siva).
  9. Mahabharata: These two, Brahma and Rudra, who are the greatest among the devas, are born out of the Lord’s grace and anger. They perform the duties of creation and destruction, as ordered by Him.
  10. Mahabharata: The devas are under the protection of Rudra. Rudra is under the protection of Brahma. Brahma is under my protection. I do not need the protection of anyone, I am the refuge of all.
  11. Vishnupurana: Brahma, Daksha, Rudra, all these are among the attributes of Bhagavan.
  12. Mahabharata: The words of Brahma to Rudra: “He (Narayana) is the inner soul of you, of me and all beings. He sees everything, but cannot be seen by anyone or anywhere.”
  13. Rudra says in Mantra Raja Pada stotra: All beings are the servants of Paramatma. Therefore, I am also your servant and with this knowledge, I bow to you.
  14. Mahabharata: There is no one superior to Narayana, the God of the lotus eyes. There is no God superior to Vishnu.
  15. Naradapurana: There is no divine being, higher than Kesava.
  16. Mahabharata: He (Vishnu) is the king of all kings. He is the Iswara, He is the father. He is the creator,
  17. Mahabharata: Those intelligent people do not worship Brahma or Rudra or any other devas, because the fruit of their worship is limited.
  18. Mahabharata: Lord Narayana told the devas: “This Brahma is your father and mother and grandfather. He will give you boons under instructions from me. Rudra, his younger brother, had his origin from my forehead. Rudra will grant boons to beings under instructions from Brahma.”
  19. Bhagavad Gita: Krishna says: “Those who do sacrifices to other deities, they also do sacrifice only to Me; but not in the proper manner and according to rules.”
  20. Ramayana: Brahma, the three-eyed Rudra – cannot save a person from being killed in war, by Rama.
  21. Mahabharata: Meditating always of the Lord, Brahma, Rudra and others have not yet realised the Lord’s nature.
  22. Mahabharata: Mahadeva (Rudra) sacrificed -himself in Sarvamedha yaga and became Devadeva.
  23. Mahabharata: He, whom Madhusudana sees at the time of birth, becomes Sattvika – If Brahma or Rudra sees him at the time of birth, he is rilled with Rajoguna and Tamoguna (respectively).
  24. Mahabharata: Narayana is Parabrahma. Narayana is Paratattva. He is greater than the greatest. There is none greater than Him.
  25. Mahabharata: Siva said: I was bora from His (Narayana’s) head – He is the one, fit to be worshipped always – By seeing Him, all other devas can also be deemed to be seen. I (Siva) also worship Him (Narayana) always – All of us, devas, reside in His body.
  26. Vyasa: This is the Truth, Truth and Truth. There is no greater deity than Kesava.
  27. Harivamsa: Siva said:- Only Hari is to be meditated upon, always. He is to be worshipped always. I (Siva) help in the worship of Hari.
  28. Vishnu Purana: The world is born out of Vishnu and rests in Him. He is the world – He resides in all; and all beings reside in Him. Hence He is called Vasudeva. He is the Parabrahma.
  29. Varaha Purana: Lord Narayana was at the beginning. From Him was born Brahma.
  30. Bhagavata: Brahma said:- I, Brahma, create the world, commanded by Narayana. Siva, controlled by Narayana, destroys the world.
  31. Bhagavata: The water from (washing) the feet of Vamana, which was borne on the head, with supreme devotion, by Kailasa vasa, Chandra mouli (Siva)….
  32. Bhagavata: Brahma to Vishnu: We – Rudra and others – drink with our 11 senses, the honey in your lotus-like feet.
  33. Bhagavata: Rudra to Krishna: You are the highest jyotis. The sky is your navel, agni is your mouth – You are the first purusha. You have no equal or superior. Myself (Rudra), the devas and rishis – all seek refuge in you. You are everything to us. You are our atma and ruler. You have no equal or superior; there is nobody else to be approached for protection. I come to you so that my samsara may be ended.
  34. Bhagavata: Rudra to Parvati:- You asked me, when I rose from my yoga on whom I meditated. That person is Bhagavan (Narayana), whose maya, you have just witnessed. He is eternal.
  35. Bhagavata: Rudra:- One, … who loves Bhagavan Vasudeva, goes after a hundred births to the world of Brahma; then he comes to my world. He will then reach the eternal world of Vishnu, as myself, Indra and other devas will do, at the expiration of our authority.
  36. Bhagavata: Markandeya to Rudra: I will ask for this boon:- “May my love for Bhagavan (Narayana), for those that regard Him as the highest goal, and for you, remain unshaken.” Rudra: “You will be a lover of Bhagavan (Narayana).”
  37. Parvati asks Siva: “I want to hear from you this: How do the learned people recite the 1000 names of Vishnu easily? Siva replies: “It is enough, if you say Rama. This is equivalent to all 1000 names of Vishnu. I also enjoy saying the name of Rama.”

I have quoted above, only very few passages. There are innumerable such passages in smrtis, puranas and itihasas stating that Narayana is the supreme deity.

In some places in the Vedas, Siva is also called as the supreme deity. How do you explain this contradiction?

I have to tell you one thing. Narayana is a proper noun. According to Sanskrit grammar, Narayana can mean only one person. It cannot mean any Other person. But, Siva, Rudra and Sambhu are common nouns. Siva means an auspicious person. Rudra means, one who weeps or one who is dreadful. Sambhu means one who grants happiness and prosperity. So, these are common nouns. So, as common nouns, they can refer to any person, including Narayana; although normally they apply to Siva. This is on the authority of Sanskrit grammar.

Can you give some examples?

We have a word in Sanskrit, called Sarasija. This is a common noun. This means that which comes out from a lake. There are so many flowers, which come out from a lake, i.e., which are there in a lake. But still, by common understanding, Sarasija means only a lotus flower. Similarly, there is a word Pankaja in Sanskrit. This means that which comes out of mud or slush. Again, so many flowers can sprout out of mud or slush. But it is commonly accepted in Sanskrit, that Pankaja refers only to Lotus. So, two of the common nouns, Sarasija and Pankaja, although they can apply to all flowers, are still taken to refer only to Lotus. Similarly, Sambhu, Siva and Rudra are common nouns. So, they can refer to any deity or person, although normally we identify these names with Siva.

So howdo youexplain theapparent contradiction?

We have to apply some logic here. We accept that the Vedas as a whole, are the ultimate authority. There is nothing in the Vedas, which is not authority. So, in a majority of passages, the word Narayana occurs as Paramatma. In some places, the word Siva or Rudra also occurs as Paramatma. Now, we have to be clear on one thing. Narayana, according to Sanskrit grammar, is a proper noun. It cannot refer to any other person. But Siva and Rudra are common nouns. So they can refer to any other person. Since we do not accept any contradiction among the different passages in the Vedas, we say that the words Siva and Rudra also, when they refer to Paramatma, actually mean Narayana, because these are common nouns.

Why can’t we take it that the word ‘Narayana’ (as Paramatma) refers to Siva; instead of saying that the word “Siva” refers to Narayana?

The answer is very simple. Siva is a common noun. It can mean any person and hence it means Narayana in the particular context. But the word Narayana cannot refer to Siva, because Narayana is a proper noun. This is on the authority of Sanskrit grammar; and we have to accept the grammatical position.

Quote some passages in the Vedas, praising the greatness of Siva.

There are several passages in the Vedas, which praise the greatness of Brahma; which praise the greatness of Indra; which praise the greatness of Agni or fire. Similarly, many passages in the Vedas also praise the greatness of Siva. But the important thing to see is who is declared as the supreme deity or Paramatma. As I have explained to you so far, it is clear from the Vedas and Puranas and Itihasas, that Narayana is the Supreme deity, the Paramatma.

Why not we say that Brahma, Vishnu and Siva are all equal?

What you are saying is not supported by the fundamental authority, the Vedas. From the Vedic passages I have given above, you can see that the Vedas speak of only one supreme deity and that supreme deity is Narayana. There is nothing in the Vedas to show that two or three Gods are equal; and that two or three Gods can be considered as supreme deities. Further, as you will see from the quotations given earlier, both Brahma and Rudra themselves accept that they have come out of Narayana, that they are bom out of Narayana. Nowhere in the Vedas, is it stated that two or three Gods are equal; that Brahma, Vishnu and Siva are equal. The Vedas all along say that there is only one supreme deity and that is Narayana.

We have got the ancient Tamil works (Sangam literature), which are several thousand years old. What do these mention about the supreme deity?

All these ancient Tamil works also mention that Narayana is the supreme deity.

If Narayana is the supreme deity, why should Rama (His Avatara) worship another deity in Rameswaram, as people say?

This version is not authentic. We accept Valmiki Ramayana as the authority. There is no mention at all in Valmiki Ramayana about Rama worshipping any deity in Rameswaram. There is no such mention in the authoritative version of Kamba Ramayana also.

Similarly, there are stories that Narayana took the form of a boar (Varaha) and searched the feet of another deity; that Narayana took out his eye and surrendered it to Rudra and got chakra, etc. What do you say about these?

We can only say that these are not found in any ancient, authoritative works. These have not been quoted by Adi Sankara or any of the Acharyas, belonging to the other schools of Vedanta. These have not been mentioned in Sastras, which are accepted as authority.

Please tell me something more about Rudra

1) I will give you a quotation from Bhagavata: “The river Ganga is the greatest among all rivers. Narayana is the greatest of all deities. Siva is the greatest of all Vaishnavas. Bhagavata is the greatest of all Puranas.” 2) We accept Ahirbudhnya Samhita as one of the respected authorities. Here, Rudra has praised Narasimha in Mantra Raja Pada Stotra. Here, Rudra says as follows: “All the Jivatmas are the servants of you, the Paramatma. So, I am also your servant and worship you.” 3) Parvati asks Siva “How can the thousand names of Vishnu be recited easily every day?” Siva replies: “It is enough to say Rama. This is equal to thousand names of Vishnu. I also enjoy Uttering the name Rama.”

But Harivamsa says Krishna requested for a child, from Siva. How do you reconcile this?

Varahapurana says, that Rudra requested Narayana as follows: “Please grant me a favour. In one of your avataras, you should also pray to me and ask for somefavour.” Narayana agreed and said that in one of His avataras He will ask for a favour, from Rudra. That is why, in Krishna avatara. He requested Rudra for a child, as per the promise given earlier. This has been mentioned in Varahapurana. It will also be clear from the fact that, immediately after granting the favour for a child to Krishna, Rudra says as follows:- “Krishna, out of His simplicity only, came to me for a child. But He is the source of all beings. He is the protector of all. He is the supreme Tattva. He alone gives Moksha.” Summing up, it is only because of these things, that Vedavyasa says as follows:- “This is the truth. This is the truth. Again, this is the truth. I raise my hands and say there is no greater authority than the Vedas. There is no greater deity than Kesava.” It is in keeping with this only, that Krishna says in Gita “It is I alone, who is understood from all the Vedas.”

Does it mean that we cannot give or we should not

No. It does not mean that. They are also highly respectable. We give them proper and utmost respect, like we will give to other respectable persons. Only thing is, on the authority of the Vedas. Narayana is the supreme deity.

We see that God Narayana also takes avataras like Rama and Krishna. Does it mean that He is also born in this world, like us?

No. We human beings or animals or trees are bom in this world because of our past karmas – punya and papa. There is no such thing as Karma or punya or papa for Lord Narayana. So, when He comes into this world, as Rama or Krishna, it is not like other Jivatmas. He comes into this world of His own free will and desire. So, it is not birth for the Lord, like we understand the birth of any of us.

Can you quote the authority of the Vedas?

The Vedas say that He is not born; but still, He is born in many ways.

Well, that sounds puzzling.

What the Vedas say is that He is not bom, because of past karma, like us. But He is born in many ways. He takes many avataras, like Rama and Krishna, out of His own free will, not bound by any karma.

Then are these avataras real

They are real. We have been reading the Ramayana and Mahabharata and Bhagavata. The avataras are real. In fact, the Bhagavad Gita has been preached by Krishna in this avatara only.

Why should He take avataras in this world?

This is to uphold dharma or righteousness. In the Gita, Krishna says that whenever there is a decline in righteousness or dharma, whenever adharma raises its head, then the Lord takes avataras in this world.

What is the purpose of these avataras?

The purpose is to protect the good people and punish the wicked; and to re-establish dharma.

Between the two, namely, protection of the good people and punishing the wicked, which is the more important purpose of the avatara?

Certainly, protection of the good people is the more important purpose. Good people like rahlada, Vidura, Akrura and others desired to see the Lord, to worship Him in person. It is to bless such good people that the avataras are made. If it is only for punishing the wicked, this can be done even from Paramapada or Sri Vaikunta, by His simply desiring to that effect. The Sudarsana chakra is there to carry out His orders and for punishing the wicked.

When the Lord took avatara in this world, like Rama or Krishna, did He also have bodies like us, ordinary human beings, of flesh and blood?

Here Gita says that the bodies the Lord takes during these avataras are of Suddha Sattva. I have explained to you already, what is Suddha Sattva. So there is no question of the Lord having bodies like us, ordinary human beings.

What are the forms of Bhagavan Narayana?

We can say that, for the purposes of meditation, He has two forms. One is the divine and auspicious form. The second is, with the body consisting of Jivatmas and matter (chetana and achetana). This is what we saw earlier that Iswara or Narayana is the soul and Jivatma and matter are His body.

Please describe in a little more detail the divine and auspicious form, which you mentioned.

His form has four arms. His body shines like gold, He has eyes like lotus; feet like lotus; hands like lotus. This form is in Paramapada or Sri Vaikunta. Besides divine ornaments, He also has weapons, like the sankha and chakra, gada, sword and bow.

Lord Narayana has five kinds of forms. What are these?

The five forms are called: 1. Para. 2. Vyuha. 3. Vibhava. 4. Antaryami. 5. Archa.

Please describe the essential features of each of these forms. What is Para form?

The Para form is that of Sri Narayana in Paramapada or Sri Vaikunta. There, He is also called Para Vasudeva. The description of Sri Vaikunta is given in Kaushitaki Upanishad and also in the Sri Vaikunta Gadya of Ramanuja.The throne (simhasana) has eight legs, like dharma. The adisesha (serpent) is the seat. There Narayana shines along with Lakshmi, Bhudevi and Niladevi. He has four arms and has sankha,Chakra and gada. He has a number of ornaments.

What is the second form, i.e., Vyuha form?

This is a bit difficult and you have to listen carefully. The Lord Narayana assumes four forms by name, Vasudeva, Sankarshana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha.The first vyuha is Vasudeva. From the first vyuha Vasudeva, arises the second vyuha Sankarshana.From the second vyuha Sankarshana, arises the third vyuha Pradyumna. From the third vyuha Pradyumna, arises the fourth vyuha Aniruddha. As I told you earlier, the Lord is called Bhagavan, because He has six qualities. The six qualities are: 1) knowledge, 2) strength, 3) lordship, 4) valour, 5) energy and 6) splendour.

You are saying that because He has the six qualities, He is called Bhagavan and these qualities are not found in others. But we hear many people being called as Bhagavan, like Vyasa Bhagavan and Narada Bhagavan, How do you explain this?

We apply the word Bhagavan to others, only out of respect. When we say that Rama is a lion, it only shows that Rama is as majestic and strong as a lion. Similarly, when we say Vyasa Bhagavan, it is only a term of respect for Vyasa.

How do you differentiate between the four Vyuhas, Vasudeva, Sankarshana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha?

Although these are all forms of the Lord, in Vasudeva, we have all the six qualities, which I have Just mentioned, in full.Of course, in the other three vyuhas also, all the six qualities are present; but some qualities arefound predominantly in some of the vyuhas. The qualities 1) Knowledge and 2) strength, are in plenty in Sankarshana. Similarly, the qualities, 3) lordship and 4) valour are in plenty in Pradyumna. The qualities, 5) energy and 6) splendour, are in plenty in Aniruddha.

What is the function of Vasudeva?

Vasudeva is the object of worship and enjoyment by the Jivatmas, who have attained salvation or moksha.

What is the function of Sankarshana?

We saw that Sankarshana has knowledge and strength in plenty. Because of the knowledge, as Sankarshana, the Lord promulgates the sastras. Because of the strength, as Sankarshana, He destroys the universe.

What about Pradyumna?

As Pradyumna, having in plenty lordship and valour, the Lord creates the universe, and makes dharma prevail.

What is the function of Aniruddha?

Aniruddha has in plenty energy and splendour. So, as Aniruddha, the Lord protects the world, and also teaches the truth

Is there any further sub-division of these vyuhas?

Yes. As we have been doing sandhyavandana, you know the 12 names of the Lord Narayana. The 12 names are: Kesava, Narayana, Madhava, Govinda, Vishnu, Madhusudana,, Trivikrama, Vamana, Sridhara, Hrishikesa, Padmanabha and Damodara. So, from each of the four Vyuhas mentioned above, the forms of three sub-Vyuhas appear. For example, from the first Vyuha of Vasudeva, we have the three sub-Vyuhas, Kesava, Narayana and Madhava. Similarly, from the second Vyuha Sankarshana, we have Govinda, Vishnu and Madhusudana. From the third Vyuha Pradyumna, we have, Trivikrama, Vamana and Sridhara. Finally, from the fourth Vyuha Aniruddha, we have Hrishikesa, Padmanabha and Damodara

What is the significance of these 12 sub-Vyuhas?

We state that symbolically they are called the Lords of the 12 months, beginning from the Tamil month of Margazhi. Kesava is the lord for the month of Margazhi. Narayana is the Lord for the month of Thai. Madhava is the Lord for the month of Masi and so on. For the 12 months, these 12 sub-Vyuhas are the Lords. We also wear the 12 urdhvapundras (Thirumann) in our body. These 12 Lords are respectively masters of each one of these.

Earlier you mentioned about para Vasudeva in the first form of para. Again you mentioned as the first Vyuha Vasudeva. What is the difference between the Para Vasudeva and Vyuha Vasudeva?

There is no difference at all. Both are differentiated only for the purposes of meditation. There is no other difference.

What is the third form of the Lord?

The third form of the Lord is called Vibhava. That is, when He takes avataras and comes down to this world. He takes the form of men like Rama or Krishna;or animals like fish, tortoise and boar. These avataras are called as the third form, or Vibhava, of the Lord

How many avataras are there?

There are ten avataras which are considered as the main and important ones.

What are they?

The avatars in brief:

  1. The first is called the avatara of fish. This was taken, because a demon took away the Vedas from Brahma and hid himself in the sea. So Lord Narayana took the form of a fish, to get back the Vedas from the demon and give them back to Brahma.
  2. The second avatara is that of the tortoise. The Devas wanted to have the nectar or amrita, for immortality. So the Lord advised them to churn the milky ocean. Naturally, for churning the ocean, they required a support. The mountain of Mandara was used as the support. But, when they started churning the ocean the mountain itself started sinking into the ocean. So the form of tortoise was taken to support the mountain itself, from the bottom and thus prevent it from sinking into the ocean.
  3. The third avatara was that of the boar. The demon Hiranyaksha took away the mother earth. He rolled the earth and went down into the sea, with it. So the Lord took the form of a boar, ent into the sea, slayed the demon Hiranyaksha and brought back the mother earth. This was the urpose of the avatara as a boar.
  4. The fourth avatara was that of Narasimha. You must be well aware of the story of Hiranya and his on Prahlada. Prahlada told Hiranya that the Lord is present everywhere. He is there even in a small rass, even in a pillar. So Hiranya wanted to break a pillar and see whether the Lord was there. When Hiranya kicked he pillar, Lord appeared as Narasimha, came out of the pillar and killed him.
  5. The fifth avatara was that of Vamana. He went to the demon Mahabali, as a small boy;- and requested only for that much land which he would measure in three steps. When Mahabali granted his boon, He grew into Trivikrama and measured the whole earth and above. So this avatara is called as Vamana avatara. Vamana in Sanskrit means a dwarf.
  6. The next one, i.e., the sixth avatara was that of Parasurama. In this avatara. He slayed the wicked kings, all over the world, to protect dharma.
  7. The seventh avatara was that of Rama The Ramayana is too well known, and I need not repeat here the purpose of this avatara.
  8. The eighth avatara was that of Balarama, who was the elder brother of Krishna.
  9. The ninth avatara was that of Krishna – too well known
  10. The tenth avatara is yet to materialise. This is called the avatara of Kalki, when the Lord will come on a horse, at the end of the Kali” yuga.
You have briefly told me about the ten avataras.Where can one get more details?

One can read about them in Vishnu Purana, Bhagavata, Ramayana and Mahabharata.

What are the four yugas
  1. The first yuga is called Krita yuga. In that yuga, people would be highly religious, follow the principles of dharma, vedas and sastras.
  2. The second yuga is Treta yuga. In this yuga,practice of dharma gets diminished.
  3. The third yuga is Dvapara yuga. The practice of dharma in this yuga gets further -diminished.
  4. The fourth and the last yuga is Kaliyuga. Here the practice of dharma is at its worst; adharma flourishes unabated.

So, these are the four yugas. After every cycle of four yugas, there will be a great deluge (pralaya). After the deluge, again the cycle of the four yuga starts. The cycle of four yugas is unending

What are the characteristics of the four yugas?

There is a simile about the practice of dharma in the four yugas. Dharma is compared to a holy cow. This cow has four legs, i.e., it is perfect in Krita yuga. In the second yuga, namely, Treta yuga, the cow has only three legs, i.e., dharma starts diminishing. In the third yuga, which is Dvapara yuga, the cow of dharma has only two legs. And lastly in Kali yuga the holy cow is left with only one leg. This is a simile, to illustrate how dharma goes on diminishing, yuga after yuga.

Are these ten avataras only, called Vibhava?

No. These are the more important or principal avataras.

What are the Other avataras then, apart from these?

Apart from these ten principal avataras there are innumerable avataras like Padmanabha, Hayagriva, Hamsa (Swan) and even a small mango tree

Are there any further classifications of these avataras?

Yes, in a way, we can divide them as primary or important and secondary avataras.

What are the primary avataras?

The primary avataras are those ten described earlier. Out of these, even Parasurama avatara and Balarama avatara are considered secondary.

What do you mean by secondary avatara?

The secondary avataras are of two kinds: 1) where the Lord, enters a Jivatma, with His form; 2) where the Lord, without entering a Jivatma, in His own form, gives him extraordinary divine powers

What are the examples of secondary avataras, where the Lord enters Jivatmas, in His own form?

Such avataras are like Parasurama and Balarama. These avataras were taken for specific purposes. The Parasurama avatara was for the purpose of destroying the kings who were practising adharma. Balarama avatara was to be of service and assistance to Krishna.

What are the types of secondary avataras, where the Lord, without entering Jivatmas in His own form, gives them extraordinary powers?

We have avataras like Vyasa, Brahma and Siva, where the Lord gives them extraordinary powers, without entering in His own form.

So, how many types of Vibhava avataras are there?

To sum up, among the Vibhava avataras, there are two types.

  1. The first set is called primary or important avataras.
  2. The second set is called subsidiary or secondary avataras.

These secondary avataras are further subdivided into two kinds:-

  1. Where the Lord enters into Jivatmas, in His own form.
  2. Where the Lord does not enter Jivatmas, in His own form; but gives them extraordinary powers.
What is the fourth form of the Lord?

The fourth form of the Lord is called Antaryami. The Paramatma or the Lord lives within the heart of the chetana. The Lord takes the minute form and resides in the heart of the human being or animal, along with the Jivatma himself. So, this form of the Lord is called Antaryami or “One who controls from inside”.

What is the fifth form of the Lord?

The fifth form is called Archa avatara. That is, where the Lord is worshipped in Srirangam, Thirupati, Kanchipuram and other temples

What are the Divya Desas?

As explained earlier, we have ten Alwars, besides Andal and Madhurakavi. The verses they have sung in praise of the Lord, are called Divya Prabandha. Now, the places having temples, which have been sung by the Alwars, are called Divya Desas.

How many Divya Desas are there?

We have 108 Divya Desas. Out of these, now we cannot worship in two places. These are Sri Vaikunta (Paramapada) and Milky Ocean.

Are there other temples, which are considered equally holy and sacred?

Yes, we have 1) Thirunarayanapuram (Melkote) 2) Mannargudi 3) Sriperumpudur, and other pla- ces which are considered equally holy and sacred.

What about the temples in other places, villages or towns, which have not been sung by Alwars?

There also, the Lord does exist and is of the same sanctity, divinity and importance. So far as the Lord”s presence is concerned, there is no difference absolutely, between any temples, whether they are Divya Desas or not. In any temple, in any village or town, where Lord Narayana is installed and worshipped, He is of the same form and He manifests Himself in full. So, this form of manifestation in temples is called archa avatara.

How many kinds of such temples are there?

There are four such kinds of temples.

What are these?
  1. The first category consists of temples, where the Lord has manifested Himself of His own accord. This is called Svayam Vyakta Sthala.
  2. The second category is of temples established by devas.
  3. The third category of temples are those installed by siddhas.
  4. And the fourth category is the temples constructed and consecrated by human beings.
Is there any difference between these five forms of the Lord, which you have explained. (Para, Vyuha,etc.)?

There is absolutely no difference. The Lord is fully present in all these five forms; and everyone can worship the Lord, in whichever form he likes, and in whichever temple he likes.

Who is Niladevi?

Lord Narayana has three consorts. They are: Sri Devi or Mahalakshmi, Bhu Devi and Nila Devi.

Are they also mentioned in the Vedas?

Yes. We have separate suktas (hymns) for each one of them. The suktas are called Sri Sukta, Bhu Sukta and Nila Sukta, respectively. It is this Nila Devi, whom we have as Nappinnai in Krishna Avatara. It is to win the hand of Nappinnai, that Krishna fought and subdued the 7 bulls.

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