I have mainly seen Adi Shankaracharya calling Narayana to be the only supreme/Saguna Brahman/Ishwara whereas his followers i.e. Smarthas believe that Adi Shankaracharya saw Vishnu, Shiva, Devi, Surya, Kartikeya and Ganesha as Saguna Brahman. Are there any instances in the works of Adi Shankaracharya where he clearly refers Lord Shiva, Mother Durga, Surya, Kartikeya and Ganesha as supreme/Saguna Brahman/Ishwara?

  • 1
    There's no point of considering a form of Saguna Brahman (Ishwara) to be Supreme. When Maya is removed, only Nirguna Brahman exists, as per Adi Shankara Advaita
    – The Destroyer
    Commented Feb 28, 2018 at 6:39
  • @TheDestroyer Yes, I know.
    – user9969
    Commented Feb 28, 2018 at 6:49

2 Answers 2


Adi Shankara didn't differentiate various forms of Saguna Brahman. He explicitly says that in Prasnottara Ratna Malika.

Adi Shankara at many places says Shiva, Vishnu, Amba(Supreme Goddess), Surya as Iswara and also uses words like Brahman, Paramesha, Mahesha in this work

65.कश्च भगवान् ?
Who is the Lord ?

महेशः शंकरनारायणात्मकः ।।
The Supreme Lord who is both Narayana and Shankara.

Adi Shankara says Divine Mother is Supreme Goddess.

54.का च परदेवता उक्ता?
Who is said to be Supreme Goddess?

चिच्छक्तिः ।
The consciousness - power (Amba).

को जगद्धर्ता ?
Who is the protector of the world?

सूर्यः ।
The Sun.

Adi Shankara says Knowledge can be attained from Shiva only.

को हि जगद्गुरुरुक्तः ?
Indeed, who is said to be the World-preceptor?

शंभुः ।

ज्ञानं कुतः ?
Whence knowledge ?

Only from Shiva.

He says liberation can be attained from devotion to Mukunda and when asked who is Mukunda, he says Mukunda is the one who takes us across ignorance (Advidya).

56.मुक्तिं लभेत कस्मात् ?
How can one get release ?

मुकुन्दभक्तेः ।
By devotion to Mukunda .

मुकुन्दः कः ?
Who is Mukunda ?

यस्तारयेत् अविद्याम् ।
One who takes us across ignorance.

का च अविद्या ?
And what is ignorance ?

यत् आत्मनो अस्फूतिः ।
The non-manifestation of the Self.

He says reality exists in Shiva, Gayatri and fire.

61.को ब्राह्मणैः उपास्यः?
Who is to be contemplated by the Brahmanas?

गायत्रि - अर्क:- अग्नि - गोचरः शंभुः ||
Siva who is seen in the Gayatri, Sun and fire.

गायत्र्यां आदित्ये च अग्नौ शंभौ च किं नु ?
What is there in the Gayatri, Sun, fire and Siva?

तत् तत्वम् ।
That is the reality.

He also uses words like Brahman, Paramesha to describe Supreme Lord.

58.को मायी ?
Who wields Maya?

The Supreme Lord (Paramesha).

सत्यमपि च किम् ?
And What is real?


  • And what about Ganesha and Kartikeya?
    – user9969
    Commented Feb 28, 2018 at 7:52
  • 1
    @SuryaKantaBoseChowdhury Adi Shankara didn't say anything about Skanda and Ganesha in this work. I will search his other works.
    – The Destroyer
    Commented Feb 28, 2018 at 9:06
  • @TheDestroyer he did he wrote subrahmanyam ashtakam and mudakarata modakam for ganesha. Commented Feb 28, 2018 at 9:40
  • @AnubhavJha Actually many works and stotras are attributed to Adi Shankara. I will check those stotras.
    – The Destroyer
    Commented Feb 28, 2018 at 9:43

In the Kenopaniṣad there occurs a sequence where Umā, the consort of Lord Śiva, appears in front of Indra and teaches the brahmavidyā, the liberating knowledge. The mantra is:-

स तस्मिन्नेवाकाशे स्त्रियमाजगाम बहु शोभमानामुमां हैमवतीं तां होवाच किमेतद्यक्षमिति ॥ १२ ॥

Shankara comments, as an alternative-

अथवा उमैव हिमवतो दुहिता हैमवती नित्यमेव सर्वज्ञेनेश्वरेण सह वर्तत इति ज्ञातुं समर्थेति कृत्वा तामुपजगाम । इन्द्रः तां ह उमां किल उवाच पप्रच्छ ब्रूहि किमेतद्दर्शयित्वा तिरोभूतं यक्षमिति ॥

Or, Umā alone, the daughter of Himavān, is Haimavatī, who abides constantly with the Omniscient Iśvara(sarvajña) and thus is capable of knowing the identity (of the Effulgence).

In the vākyabhāṣya Shankara says:-

तस्मिन्नेव स्त्रियमतिरूपिणीं विद्यामाजगाम । अभिप्रायोद्बोधहेतुत्वाद्रुद्रपत्नी उमा हैमवतीव बहु शोभमाना विद्यैव । विरूपोऽपि विद्यावान्बहु शोभते ॥

There, in that firmament, a very beautiful woman, vidyā, appeared. As she knew Indra’s intent, the consort of Rudra, Umā, is verily Vidyā, resplendent as though an embodiment of gold.

Thus, the Brahman, whose Knowledge Umā, the consort of Śiva, the Omniscient, Sarvajñna, imparted to Indra, in the Kenopaniṣat, is none other than Lord Śiva as per Sankaracharya.

One can consult this write-up for citations from Shankara's prapanchasara tantra where he accepts multiple deities as Brahman

  • @estimator Context matters. here parvati, the daughter of Himavan is stated to be the one who always resides with isvara, so in this particular context of course Isvara would be Siva .
    – user33936
    Commented Mar 6 at 4:36
  • Not A mere 'conjecture' as it is well backed up the Works and Sub-commentaries of other Acharyas of the sampradaya as well such as Sri Anandagiri and vidyaranya who explicitly agree that It refers to Shiva. brahmA is said to be 'close' to Ishwara , not eternally residing with him.
    – user33936
    Commented Mar 6 at 5:27

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