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I want to know if Adi Shankaracharya said that the five Panchatayana deities (Shiva, Surya, Vishnu, Durga, Ganesh) are Saguna Brahman from his works.

Did he differentiate between them or said all are equal?

I don't want any references from stotras (my college teacher who is an advaitin told many could be later works attributed to Shankara).

This answer analyses various aspects and at first look it looks like Adi Shankaracharya would not have established both the systems of pancayatana and sanmathas.

Is it ok for an Advaitin who is follower of Shankara to declare his own Ishta devata as superior to others?

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    Not sure if he explicitly mentioned it anywhere but the Smarta tradition (that worships these five gods) generally talks about Adi Shankara as a founder. Jan 10, 2019 at 10:45
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    @Dr.VineetAggarwal Smartha means follower of Smriti. Sri Shankara is not the founder of that tradition. Even the non-advaitins like srivaishnavas are also smarthas in that sense. It is only in relatively recent times that Smartha became interchangeable with advaitin.
    – Ambi
    Jan 10, 2019 at 10:58
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    @prasannaragothaman Umm... Srivaishnavas are certainly not advaitins. Beyond some similiarity in their name, they are very different. If you are disagreeing with that, then that should be another question by itself.
    – Ambi
    Jan 10, 2019 at 11:38
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    @prasannaragothaman no they don't. There are several answers that describe the differences right here on this site.
    – Ambi
    Jan 10, 2019 at 11:52
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    @krr Shankaracharya said Vishnu is the Saguna Brahman, not other Devatas.
    – Ikshvaku
    Jan 10, 2019 at 16:32

6 Answers 6

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Since you believe the Stotrams attributed to Adi Shankara are later works, I guess then it will be difficult to prove that he believed all the Panchatayana deities as Saguna Brahman. This is because his major works only refer to Sriman Narayana as supreme alone.

For example, his Bhagavad Gita commentary states that nobody is equal to Sriman Narayana:

Asi, You are; pita, the Father, the Progenitor; lokasya, off all beings; cara-acarasya, moving and nonmoving. Not only are Yur are Father of this world, You are also pujyah, worthy of worship; since You are the guruh, Teacher; [He is the Teacher since He introduce the line of teachers of what is virtue and vice, and of the knowledge of the Self. And He is greater than a teacher because He is the teacher even of Hiranyagarbha and others.] gariyan, greater (than a teacher). How are You greater? In answer he says: Asti, there is; na, none other; tvat-samah, equal to You; for there is no possibility of two Gods. Because all dealings will come to naught if there be many Gods! When there is no possibility of another being equal toYou, kutah eva, how at all; can there be anyah, anyone; abhyadhikah, greater; api, even; loka- traye, in all the three worlds; apratima-prabhavah, O you of unrivalled power? That by which something is measured is pratima. You who have no measure for Your power (prabhava) are a pratima-prabhavah. Apratima-prabhava means 'O You of limitless power!' Since this is so, (Adi Shankara's commentary on Bhagavad Gita 11.43)

In Bhagavad Gita 9.25, he explicity states that worshipping other deities is not the same as worshipping Vishnu:

Deva-vratah, votaries of the gods, those whose religious observances [Making offerings and presents, circumambulation, bowing down, etc.] and devotion are directed to the gods; yanti, reach, go to; devan, the gods. Pitr-vratah, the votaries of the manes, those who are occupied with such rites as obsequies etc., who are devoted to the manes; go pitrn, to the manes such as Agnisvatta and others. Bhutejyah, the Beings such as Vinayaka, the group of Sixteen (divine) Mothers, the Four Sisters, and others. And madyajinah, those who worship Me, those who are given to worshipping Me, the devotees of Visnu; reach mam, Me alone. Although the effort (involved) is the same, still owing to ingorance they do not worship Me exclusively. Thereby they attain lesser results. This is the meaning. 'Not only do My devotees get the everlasting result in the form of non-return (to this world), but My worship also is easy.' How? (Adi Shankara's commentary on Bhagavad Gita 9.25)

Again, in Bhagavad Gita 6.47, he clearly differentiates meditation on Rudra (Shiva) and Aditya (Surya) from meditation on Vasudeva (Vishnu) and even terms the latter superior:

Api, even; sarvesam yoginam, among all the yogis, among those who are immersed in meditation on Rudra, Aditya, and others; yah, he who; bhajate, adores; mam, Me; antaratmana,with his mind; madgatena, fixed on Me, concentrated on Me who am Vasudeva; and sraddhavan, with faith, becoming filled with faith; sah, he; is matah, considered; me, by Me; to be yukta-tamah, the best of the yogis, engaged in Yoga most intensely. [It has been shown thus far that Karma-yoga has monasticism as its ultimate culmination. And in the course of expounding Dhyana-yoga together with its ausxiliaries, and instructing about the means to control the mind, the Lord rules out the possibility of absolute ruin for a person fallen from Yoga. He has also stated that steadfastness in Knowledge is for a man who knows the meaning of the word tvam (thou) (in 'Thou are That'). All these instructions amount to declaring that Liberation comes from the knowledge of the great Upanisadic saying, 'Thou art That.']

In Bhagavad Gita 7.20, he says people who worship deities other than Vasudeva lack wisdom:

People, hrta-jnanah, deprived of their wisdom, deprived of their discriminating knowledge; taih taih kamaih, by desires for various objects, such as progeny, cattle, heaven, etc.; and niyatah, guided, compelled; svaya prakrtya, by their own nature, by particular tendencies gathered in the past lives; prapadyante, resort; anya-devatah, to other deities, who are different from Vasudeva, the Self; asthaya, following taking the help of; tam tam niyamam,the relevant methods-those processes that are well known for the adoration of the concerned deities.

In his commentary on Brahma Sutras 1.2.17, he once again explicitly states that Surya cannot be regarded as supreme:

Selfhood cannot be ascribed to the sun, on account of his externality (parâgrûpatva). Immortality,&c. also cannot be predicated of him, as Scripture speaks of his origin and his dissolution. For the (so-called) deathlessness of the gods 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.

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    @NaveenKick Have you read this answer to the same question? hinduism.stackexchange.com/a/22226 Jan 10, 2019 at 18:15
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    Vinayaka of 9.25 may be referring to ghostly creatures instead of Lord Ganesha.. see this vedabase.io/en/library/sb/10/6/27-29
    – user16618
    Jan 10, 2019 at 18:27
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    Not that stotrams are not Shankara's, but many could be later works.. So for definitive evidence, it is better to focus on his core works..
    – user16895
    Jan 11, 2019 at 7:20
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    Your answer seems more neutral than other two.
    – user16895
    Jan 16, 2019 at 16:25
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    @Partha I added another piece (this time from Brahma Sutras) where Shankara is clearly refuting the idea of Surya being Ishvara.
    – user9969
    Feb 19, 2019 at 19:20
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It would seem there is a misunderstanding on your part. When Saguna Brahman (Iswara) is seen by an individual - through maya - in different 'aspects', Iswara is perceived as Siva, Vishnu, Annapurna, etc,etc. The use of the English word 'diety' or 'dieties' or 'gods' usually lead to confusion as many interpret it as the devas. It is through the 'eye' of the individual, in maya, that Saguna Brahman - Iswara - is perceived in different aspects. It is not that they are 'equal', they are the same. Shankaracharya writes in his Srih Jivamuktananda-lahari verse 14, The Wave of Bliss of the Liberated While Alive (published in Advaita-Prakarana-Manjari: A Bouquet of Non-Dual Texts translators Dr. H. Ramamoorthy and Nome:

Sometimes in the company of Saiva-s, and, sometimes, also living along with Sakta-s,

At times with devotees of Vishnu and sometimes, also, along with the followers of the Sun-god,

Living, at times, with the followers of Ganapati, all differences gone in the manner of the Nondual,

The sage experiences no bewilderment, all ignorance (darkness, illusion) destroyed by the initiation of the Guru.

The line 'all differences gone in the manner of the non-dual' is the purport of the Advaita. At the end of his translation of his translation of Shankara's Atmabodha (Self-Knowledge), Swami Nikhilananda includes an Appendix of poems by Sankara. In different poems Sankara praises Siva, Vishnu, and the Divine Mother as the Supreme. Sankara was an Advaitan (NOT TWO). To try and find in him a favoritism to one aspect in his teaching is to forget this.

One's own Ishta-devata is the one that is superior for you, it is not 'the' one for all, it is the one that best fits your personality and birth.

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No, Shankaracharya did not accept the equality of all gods. According to him, Vishnu is the Saguna Brahman, or the supreme being that has a Shuddha Sattva Upadhi.

He quotes a verse from the Mahabharata in his Vishnu Sahasranama Bhashya:

"In the Vedas, Ramayana, and Mahabharata, Vishnu is alone proclaimed as the highest everywhere"

Also, in his Bhagavad Gita Bhashya (9.23-9.25), Shankaracharya says worshipers of other deities, such as Vinayaka etc. obtain finite results, whereas the Vaishnavas, who worship Lord Vasudeva (Vishnu) obtain the eternal fruit of Moksha.

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I seriously doubt that.

Adi Shankaracharya was propounder of Advaita Vedanta which indeed says there's "NO TWO" but still he has his own philosophical style of explaining all ideas related to superiority and inferiority.

By 'atma chethana' there's only one 'Shudda nirguna chetana' but by Aishwaryatva (Powers) 'Saguna Brahman' alone is superior in the entire universe who creates and destroys the universe and he's called or termed as Bhagavan, Ishvara, Purusha, Paramaatma, Vaishvanara, Parameshvara and the like, whereas heavenly deities like Indra, Chandra, Varuna etc are also jivatmas who are dependent on Saguna Brahman for powers, this is the idea in Advaita system.

In 1.2.17 of Brahma sutras Adi Shankaracharya comments that heavenly deities or normal gods (demigods) are completely dependent on 'Parameshvara (Saguna Brahman)' for powers and are not independent of him in case of Rulership.

Even though modern Advaitins say Adi Shankaracharya accepted equality of all 5 gods of different mathas, it's extremely doubtful to agree with that because we cannot find even a single instance where Adi Shankaracharya has written like that in his authentic works, and in 1.2.20 of Brahma sutra bhashya Adi Shankaracharya himself says Surya cannot be termed as supreme God because he's totally dependent on Saguna Brahman for powers and it's Parameshvara who controls him from within, but according to today's Advaitic belief Surya is also termed as Saguna Brahman.

So by observing the works of Adi Shankaracharya carefully, we can come to a conclusion that he considered only 'Shiva' and 'Vishnu' as Saguna Brahman or Ishvara who is the creator of universe and accepts absolute oneness of Hari-Hara being one eternal supreme godhead.

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Well According to Jagat Guru Adi Shankaracharya and all most of his works, all 6 sects viz Brahma/Sourya, Vishnu, Mahesha (the Kailash deity), Devi, Kaumara and Ganapati are that of Saguna Brahmana, he says only Lord Shiva is the Nirguna Parambrahma and us supreme than Sagunas.

Lets see some of his Bhasyas.:

According to BSB of Adi Shankara.:

Sankara bhasyam.: भाष्यम् शाङ्करभाष्यम् ॥ कार्यब्रह्मलोकप्रलयप्रत्युपस्थाने सति तत्रैव उत्पन्नसम्यग्दर्शनाः सन्तः तदध्यक्षेण हिरण्यगर्भेण सह अतः पर परिशुद्धं विष्णोः परमं पदं प्रतिपद्यन्ते इतीत्थं क्रममुक्तिः अनावृत्त्यादिश्रुत्यभिधानेभ्योऽभ्युपगन्तव्या । न ह्यञ्जसैव गतिपूर्विका परप्राप्तिः संभवतीत्युपपादितम् ।। स्मृतेश् च । ( ब्रसू -४,३.१० । )

The idea is to convey that inferior saguna brahman , Lord Brahma of Brahmalokha , the entire hiranyagarbha along with pure and independent supreme state of Vishnu finally dissolves into the eternity and attain Krama mukthi ( liberation by stages ) during pralaya ( Dissolution ) this has to be admitted on the strength of the Upanishadic texts speaking of non - return etc. For we established earlier that it is incomprehensible that the supreme Brahman should be reached by any process of moving forward . +

भाष्यम् शाङ्करभाष्यम् ॥ स्मृतिरप्येतमर्थमनुजानाति ब्रह्मणा सह ते सर्वे संप्राप्ते प्रतिसंचरे । परस्यान्ते कृतात्मानः प्रविशन्ति परं पदम् इति । तस्मात्कार्यब्रह्मविषया एव गतिश्रुतयः इति सिद्धान्तः ।। कं पुनः पूर्वपक्षमाशङ्क्य अयं सिद्धान्तः प्रतिष्ठापितः कार्य बादरिः इत्यादिनेति स इदानीं सूत्रैरेवोपदय॑ते परं जैमिनिर् मुख्यत्वात् । ( ब्रसू -४,३.११ । )

As the smrithis also state , at the end of life of Lord Brahma ( Hiranyagarbha ) ie during the time of dissolution of the visvà ( universe ) , including the supreme state of conditioned saguna Brahman ( Paramam padam/Vishnu ) attains ultimate gathi as declared by the siddantham this is what the upanishads say . What was the objection in the background , in answer to which the conclusion is presented in the aphorisms starting with , " Badari thinks that they are led to the conditioned Brahman " etc. ( IV . iii . 7 ) ? That objection is now being shown by the aphorisms them - selves . Jaimini ( thinks that they are led ) to the supreme Brahman ( that being the primary meaning ) .

भाष्य ५.२ इति पृष्टवते तस्मै स होवाच पिप्पलादः एतस्मै सत्यकाम । एतद्ब्रह्म वै परं चापरं च ब्रह्म परं सत्यमक्षरं पुरुषाख्यमपरं च प्राणाख्यं प्रथमजं यत्तदोङ्कार एवोङ्कारात्मकमोङ्कारप्रतीकत्वात् । परं हि ब्रह्म शब्दाधुपलक्षणानह सर्वधर्मविशेषवर्जितमतो न शक्यमतीन्द्रियगोचरत्वात्केवलेन मनसावगाहितुम् । ओङ्कारे तु विष्ण्वादिप्रतिमास्थानीये भक्त्यावेशितब्रह्मभावे ध्यायिनां तत्प्रसीदति इत्येतदवगम्यते शास्त्रप्रामाण्यात्तथापरं च ब्रह्म । तस्मात्परं चापरं च ब्रह्म यदोङ्कार इत्युपचर्यते । तस्मादेवं विद्वानेतेनैवात्मप्राप्तिसाधनेनेवोङ्काराभिध्यानेन एकतरं परमपरं वान्वेति ब्रह्मानुगच्छति नेदिष्टं ह्यालम्बनमोङ्कारो ब्रह्मणः ॥ २

That Brahman who is the supreme purusha alone is the ever existed supreme primordial entity which is the Jiva ( athman ) of universe from him the sound ' Om ' was born and indeed he the supreme purusha alone is to be known by Om the supreme syllable . He who is beyond all attributes the nirguna purusha is not accessible with senses and on the meditation of omkara meditating upon him is not possible hence we use substitutes like the images of Vishnu to meditate upon . Therefore , he who knows thus , attains either the higher or the lower Brahman

Description of Nirguna Parambrahma.: .

Verse 2.1.4 parent : Mundaka II , Khanda अग्नीर्मूर्धा चक्षुषी चन्द्रसूर्यौ दिशः श्रोत्रे वाग्विवृताश्च वेदाः वायुः प्रणो हृदयं विश्वमस्य पद्भ्यां पृथिवी ह्येष सर्वभूतान्तरात्मा ॥ ४ ॥

agnīrmūrdhā cakṣuși candrasūryau diśaḥ śrotre vāgvivſtāśca vedāḥ | vāyuh praạo hệdayam viśvamasya padbhyam prthivi hyeșa sarvabhūtāntarātmā || 4

|| 4. This is he , the internal atman of all created things whose head is agni , whose eyes are the sun , and the moon , whose ears are the four directions , whose speeches are the emanated Vedas , whose breath is vayu , whose heart is all the universe and from whose feet the earth proceeded .

भाष्यम् शाङ्करभाष्यम् ॥ आत्मनन्ति चैनं परमेश्वरमस्मिन्मूर्धचुबुकान्तराले जाबालाः य एषोऽनन्तोऽव्यक्त आत्मा सोऽविमुक्ते प्रतिष्ठित इति । सोऽविमुक्तः कस्मिन्प्रतिष्ठित इति । वरणायां नास्यां च मध्ये प्रतिष्ठित इति । का वै वरणा का च नासीति । तत्र चेमामेव नासिकाम् सर्वाणीन्द्रियकृतानि पापानि वारयतीति सा वरणा सर्वाणीन्द्रियकृतानि पापानि नाशयतीति सा नासी इति वरणानासीति निरुच्य पुनरप्यामनन्ति कतमच्चास्य स्थानं भवतीति । भ्रुवोणिस्य च यः संधिः स एष धुलोकस्य परस्य च संधिर्भवति इति । तस्मादुपपन्ना परमेश्वरे प्रादेशमात्रश्रुतिः । अभिविमानश्रुतिः प्रत्यगात्मत्वाभिप्राया । प्रत्यगात्मतया सर्वैः प्राणिभिरभिविमीयत इत्यभिविमानः अभिगतो वायं प्रत्यगात्मत्वात् विमानश्च मानवियोगात् इत्यभिविमानः । अभिविमिमीते वा सर्वं जगत् कारणत्वादित्यभिविमानः तस्मात्परमेश्वरो वैश्वानर इति सिद्धम् ।।

Moreover Jabalas speak about the supreme brahman Parameshvara as the supreme Lord who resides between interstice of the head and chin of the universal conscious . But who is parameshvara , he's the Avimuka of Varanasi ! Thus I'm he the Avimuka ( Sovimuktha ) of Varanasi (Kashi), What is Varana ? and what is nasi ? Varana refers to the illusory attributes that one possesses and nasi refers to the destruction of it . He's the supreme atman , the eternal reality , the only one who is infinite , hence Parameshvara ( Shiva ) alone is Vaishvanara .

Shankara bhashyam on mandukya upanishad 1:12 सर्वद्वैतोपशमत्वादेव शिवः । ओङ्कारो यथा व्याख्यातो विदितो येन स परमार्थतत्वस्य मननान्मुनिः ॥

The Lord of all appearing due to the substratum of duality is Shiva . The one who realizes him as omkara and contemplates on him is the great seer , great saint .

Bhasya of adi Shankara on dharmittara a vedic scripture.

Siva - dharmottara it is shown that the yogis remain con centrated in their hearts : The yogīs realise Siva in their hearts , and not in images . One who , leaving aside Siva existing within the heart , worships Him as existing externally like one who , rejecting a morsel of food on his palm licks his own elbow ! As a blind man does not see the sun that is risen , similarly they do not see here Sankara ( Śiva ) who exists everywhere and is of non appearance (nirakar) because they are devoid of tha eye of Knowledge . He who realises the all - pervasive Siva has Him seated in the heart . Those who do not see Siva within the heart seck

ततः परं ब्रह्म परं बृहन्तं यथानिकायं सर्वभूतेषु गूढम् । विश्वस्यैकं परिवेष्टितारमीशं तं ज्ञात्वाऽमृता भवन्ति ॥ ७ ॥ aa : than that ( the Personal Brahman ) higher बृहन्तम् infinite परम् supreme ब्रह्म Brahman यथानिकायम् ac cording to the bodies paxay in all beings TCH hidden . विश्वस्य of the universe एकम् single परिवेष्टितारम् enveloper ईशम् Gods तम् Him ज्ञात्वा realising अमृताः immortal भवन्ति become .

Higher than this Personal Brahman (Saguna,) is the (Nirguna) infinite Supreme Brahman , who is concealed in all beings according to their bodies , and who , though remaining single , envelops the whole universe . Knowing Him to be the Lord , one becomes immortal .

So adi Sankara in his bhasyas clearly stated that vishnu is the saguna parambramha and he dies and gets salvation during pralaya where as shiva (vaishvanara) is the only parmatma nirguna and is beyond turiya state. We pray on vishnu (Saguna) as a substitute of omkara viz shiva (Nirguna). He also said that nirguna Brahman is higher than saguna Brahman.

𝗦𝗵𝗮𝗻𝗸𝗮𝗿𝗮𝗰𝗵𝗮𝗿𝘆𝗮 𝗲𝘅𝗽𝗹𝗮𝗶𝗻𝘀 𝘂𝗽𝗮𝘀𝗮𝗻𝗮 𝗼𝗳 𝘀𝘂𝗽𝗿𝗲𝗺𝗲 𝗯𝗿𝗮𝗵𝗺𝗮𝗻 𝗮𝘀 “𝗦𝗮𝗺𝗽𝗮𝘁𝗵 𝘂𝗽𝗮𝘀𝗮𝗻𝗮”.

Sampat Upasana is a kind of meditation in which something is imagined as identical with something else on account of some kind of similarity or likeness. As, for example, when the cosmic being (Purusha) is worshipped through the identification of His different limbs with the different parts of the worshipper’s body from the top of the head to the chin. The head of the worshipper is heaven, the eyes the sun and the moon, and so on. In this meditation of the cosmic Person He is limited to the size of a span, the distance from the top of the head to the chin. Therefore, says Jaimini, in the text under discussion, Parameshvara is regarded as of the size of a span.

𝗕𝗿𝗮𝗵𝗺𝗮 𝘀𝘂𝘁𝗿𝗮 𝗯𝗵𝗮𝘀𝗵𝘆𝗮 𝟭:𝟮:𝟯𝟭 𝗦𝗵𝗮𝗻𝗸𝗮𝗿𝗮𝗰𝗵𝗮𝗿𝘆𝗮.

And finally at the end of bhashya on the second padha of the 1st chapter of Brahma sutras (1:2:32);

𝙎𝙝𝙖𝙣𝙠𝙖𝙧𝙖𝙘𝙝𝙖𝙧𝙮𝙖 𝙘𝙡𝙖𝙧𝙞𝙛𝙞𝙚𝙨 𝙎𝙝𝙞𝙫𝙖 𝙞𝙨 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙨𝙪𝙥𝙧𝙚𝙢𝙚 𝙣𝙞𝙧𝙜𝙪𝙣𝙖 𝙫𝙖𝙞𝙨𝙝𝙫𝙖𝙣𝙖𝙧𝙖, 𝙬𝙝𝙤 𝙞𝙨 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙖𝙩𝙢𝙖𝙣 (𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙨𝙤𝙪𝙡) 𝙖𝙨 𝙑𝙚𝙙𝙖𝙣𝙩𝙖 𝙨𝙩𝙖𝙩𝙚𝙨.

There were a sect of very ancient people called “Jabalas” who were vedic shaivites classified to into two types “Bhasmajabalas” and “Rudrakshajabalas”, they consider Shiva to be the Lord, Adi Shankaracharya comments upon this as.

Shankara bhashyam 1.2.32 states:-

Moreover the Jabalas speak about Parameshvara as eternal Lord as being in the interstice between the top of the head and the chin. Where does he reside? He reside in Varanasi, what is varana and what is nasi? varana means the the illusory form that a being possess and nasi refers to permanent destruction of it. He is Avimukta of Varanasi the supreme Parameshvara the Vaishvanara. (As stated above).

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𝗠𝗮𝗻𝗱𝘂𝗸𝘆𝗮 𝘂𝗽𝗮𝗻𝗶𝘀𝗵𝗮𝗱 𝗦𝗵𝗮𝗻𝗸𝗮𝗿𝗮 𝗯𝗵𝗮𝘀𝗵𝘆𝗮𝗺 𝟭:𝟳 𝘀𝘁𝗮𝘁𝗲𝘀:-

अन्तःप्रज्ञत्वादिस्थानिधर्मप्रतिषे्धः कृतः । प्रपच्चोपशममिति जाग्रदादिस्थानधर्माभाव उच्यते । अत एव शान्तमविक्रियम्, शिवं उअतोऽद्वैतं भेदविकल्परहितम् । अतुर्थ तुरियं मन्यते प्रतीयमानपादत्रयरुपवैलक्षण्यात् । स आत्मा अ विज्ञेय इति प्रतीयमा II

The ones who have ego of dharma or attributes of three states of consciousness (waking, etc), their dharma-s are negated (prohibited), now, the absence of dharma of waking state, etc are being told. This is the reason why he is शान्त (Santa, peaceful) meaning he is अविकारी (avikAri, without any change); and since it is अद्वैत (advaita, non-dual) meaning free from duality of difference, hence he is शिव (Siva) He is believed to be the forth state तुर्य (turya); because this extraordinary forth state is different from the three syllables (in earlier verses).This is आत्मा (Atman), and only he is fit to be known (worthy of knowing).

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𝗦𝗵𝗮𝗻𝗸𝗮𝗿𝗮 𝗯𝗵𝗮𝘀𝗵𝘆𝗮𝗺 𝗼𝗻 𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗱𝘂𝗸𝘆𝗮 𝘂𝗽𝗮𝗻𝗶𝘀𝗵𝗮𝗱 𝟭:𝟭𝟮

सर्वद्वैतोपशमत्वादेव शिवः । ओङ्कारो यथा व्याख्यातो विदितो येन स परमार्थतत्वस्य मननान्मुनिः II

The Lord of all appearing due to the substratum of duality is Shiva. The one who realizes him as omkara and contemplates on him is the great seer, great saint.

Nirguna manasa puja of Shankaracharya gives us more clarity.

Shri bruhad Shankara Digvijay' by mAdhava vidyAraNya svAmI, in 6th Sarga sloka 41 says,

दास्स्तेऽहं देहदृष्ट्याऽस्मि शम्भो जातस्तेंऽशो जीवदृष्ट्या त्रिदृष्टे । सर्वस्याऽऽत्मन्नात्मदृष्ट्या त्वमेवेत्येवं में धीर्निश्चिता सर्वशास्त्रेः ॥ ६ - ४१ ॥

From Sarira Bhava, I am servant of Lord Shiva, From Jiva-Bhava, I am part (ansh) and you are whole (anshi), From Atma Bhava, I am you and you are me.

𝗔𝗱𝗶 𝗦𝗵𝗮𝗻𝗸𝗮𝗿𝗮𝗰𝗵𝗮𝗿𝘆𝗮 𝗶𝗻 𝗵𝗶𝘀 𝗦𝗼𝘂𝗻𝗱𝗮𝗿𝘆𝗮 𝗹𝗮𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗶 𝘀𝘁𝗮𝘁𝗲𝘀:-

Virincih panchatvam vrajati harir apnoti virathim Vinasam kinaso bhajati dhanado yati nighanam; Vitandri mahendri vithathir api sammeelita-drsa Maha-samhare smin viharati sati tvat-patirasau.

The creator reaches the dissolution, The Vishnu attains dissolution. The god of death even dies, Kubera the lord of wealth expires, The Indras close their eyes one after one, And attain the wake less sleep, During the final deluge, But you my chaste mother, Play with your consort the Sadashiva

Shakthi is atma vidya jnana and atman is not devi so it cannot be said.

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𝗞𝗮𝘁𝗵𝗮 𝗮𝗿𝗮𝗻𝘆𝗮𝗸𝗮 𝗼𝗳 𝗥𝗶𝗴 𝗩𝗲𝗱𝗮 𝟮:𝟭𝟬𝟬 𝘀𝘁𝗮𝘁𝗲𝘀:-

Indeed the deva-s did not recognize Rudra who had entered the heavenly world wandering in with a solar luster. They said: “Who are you?”. [He replied]: “I am Rudra, I am Indra, I am the Āditya, I am the arrival of all the divine luster. They said: We shall not offer a share to this one [i.e. Rudra]. Roaring he [Rudra] yelled at them. He rushed at them. They [the other deva-s] said: “Sir, you are all of this”. Because roaring he yelled at them that is Rudra’s fierceness (rudratvam). Because they called him sir (bhavān) that is Bhava’s lordship over existence. Because they said you are all this that revealed Śarva’s [prowess] as an archer. 𝗕𝗲𝗰𝗮𝘂𝘀𝗲 𝗵𝗲'𝘀 𝗲𝘃𝗲𝗿 𝗯𝗹𝗶𝘀𝘀𝗳𝘂𝗹 𝗮𝘀 𝗲𝘁𝗲𝗿𝗻𝗮𝗹𝗹𝘆 𝗵𝗲'𝘀 𝗯𝗲𝗻𝗼𝘃𝗲𝗹𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝗳𝗼𝗿𝗺 𝗼𝗳 𝗦𝗵𝗶𝘃𝗮.

He's the Omkara meditated upon by the Nondual self he's the supreme incorporeal absolute taught by Jabalas, he is the absolute brahman of Upanishads the Nondual meditation on him is ultimate as Rishis teach, he's neither existent nor inexistent, even though he's incorporeal he takes different forms in Hearts and Shrines, in the meditation by the conscious as per Upanishadic injunctions, his eyes are sun, moon and agni, his body is full of golden effulgence with golden beard, golden form and golden nails, his Rudra form is just his Valour and a manifestation but eternally he's Parameshvara. Who is he? He's the Avimukteshwara of Varanâsi the supreme absolute Paramaatma who controls Brahma and Vishnu. He's the Vaishvanara the ONE (Non dual).

~ Adi Shankarabhagavatpadha (Kaliyuga Jagadguru)

Bhagavathpadha Shankara in his Brahma sutra bhashya 4.1.3 states:-

The supreme 𝗟𝗼𝗿𝗱 𝗣𝗮𝗿𝗮𝗺𝗲𝘀𝗵𝘃𝗮𝗿𝗮 is to be realized as the supreme absolute reality just like the way how 𝗝𝗮𝗯𝗮𝗹𝗮𝘀, 𝘄𝗵𝗶𝗹𝗲 𝘀𝗽𝗲𝗮𝗸𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗮𝗯𝗼𝘂𝘁 𝘀𝘂𝗽𝗿𝗲𝗺𝗲 𝗣𝗮𝗿𝗮𝗺𝗲𝘀𝗵𝘃𝗮𝗿𝗮 address him as the eternal absolute Brahman the self, that oh 𝗘𝘁𝗲𝗿𝗻𝗮𝗹 𝗕𝗵𝗮𝗴𝘄𝗮𝗮𝗻 though you appear deity (Devata) thou indeed art me (𝗧𝗮𝘁 𝘁𝘄𝗮𝗺 𝗮𝘀𝗶), I indeed am thee (𝗮𝗵𝗮𝗺 𝗯𝗿𝗮𝗵𝗺𝗮𝘀𝗺𝗶), As a matter of fact, the Vedic texts make us understand Brahman as absolute The self is the supreme absolute, that absolute supreme self is the only reality. "That is Truth, that is the Self, and That thou art". As for the argument that on the 𝗮𝗻𝗮𝗹𝗼𝗴𝘆 𝗼𝗳 𝗮𝗻 𝗶𝗺𝗮𝗴𝗲 𝗯𝗲𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗩𝗶𝘀𝗵𝗻𝘂 𝘁𝗵𝗶𝘀 𝗶𝘀 𝗼𝗻𝗹𝘆 𝗮 𝗺𝗲𝗱𝗶𝘁𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝘄𝗶𝘁𝗵 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗵𝗲𝗹𝗽 𝗼𝗳 𝗮𝗻 𝗶𝗺𝗮𝗴𝗲 𝘄𝗵𝗶𝗰𝗵 𝗶𝘀 𝗮𝗰𝘁𝘂𝗮𝗹𝗹𝘆 𝗶𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗰𝗮𝘀𝗲 𝗼𝗳 '𝗜' 𝗶.𝗲 𝗶𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗺𝗼𝗱𝗲 𝗼𝗳 𝗲𝘅𝗶𝘀𝘁𝗲𝗻𝗰𝗲 𝗼𝗳 𝘀𝗲𝗰𝗼𝗻𝗱 𝗲𝗻𝘁𝗶𝘁𝘆 𝗵𝗲𝗻𝗰𝗲 𝗶𝘁𝘀 𝗶𝗺𝗽𝗿𝗼𝗽𝗲𝗿 𝘁𝗼 𝘃𝗶𝗲𝘄 𝗶𝘁 𝗶𝗻 𝘁𝗲𝗿𝗺𝘀 𝗼𝗳 𝗮𝗯𝘀𝗼𝗹𝘂𝘁𝗲 𝘂𝗻𝗶𝘁𝘆.

So, according to Adi Shankara the real meditation is the one and only unifying oneself with Nirguna Brahman and rest are only gauna meditation.

Furthermore, In his commentary on brahmasutras, Sri Adi Shankaracharya cites Bhagawad Gita verse in BSB (2:3:45), but terms it as ‘ishvara Gita’.

“īśvaragītāsvapi ca īśvarāṃśatvaṃ jīvasya smaryate mamaivāṃśo jīvaloke jīvabhūtaḥ sanātanaḥ iti ||” (Shankara’s Brahmasutra Bhashya 2:3:45)

“In the Isvaragita (Bhagavad-gîtâ) also it is said that the soul is a part of the Lord, ‘an eternal part of me becomes the individual soul in the world of life. [This verse is from Bhagavad Gita (BG 15:07)]”.

Clearly, he knows that Bhagavad Gita is not any different Gita, rather, it is the very same Shiva whose Ishvara Gita was spoken in more elaborate way by himself via the mouth of Krishna, while maintaining the core message of Vedanta identical.

Therefore Bhagavad Gita was the same discourse of Shiva passed on to us by the teacher (Acharya) Krishna, in his yogic trance where through Krishna Shiva spoke the Gita. Hence Krishna is our gitacharya.

According to Shivananda Lahari by Adi Shankara.:

4 Sahasram varthanthe jagathi vibhutha kshudra phalada Na manye swapne vaa thadanusaranam that krutha phalam Hari brahmadeenamapi nikata bhaja masulabham Chiram yache shambho shiva thava padombhoja bhajanam

Thousands of Gods abound, Offering trifling gifts to them who pray, And never even in my dreams would I pray. Or request gifts from them. To Shiva who is close to Vishnu, Brahma and other Gods, But who is difficult for them to near, I would beseech and beg always, For his lotus like feet.

**8 Yadha bhuddhi ssakthou rajatha mithi kachasamani mani Rjale paishte ksheeram bhavathi mrigthrishnasu sallam Thadha deva branthya bhajathi bhavadanyam jada jano Maha devesam twam manasi cha na mathwa pasupathe.""

Similar to the intellect calling, The shell as silver, The stones of glass as precious gems, Water mixed with flour as milk, The mirage as water, Oh God of all beings, The foolish ones worship, Other gods than you, Without thinking of you, Who is the greatest God of all.

23 Karomi twapoojam sapadhi sukhadho me bhava vibho, Vidhitwam Vishnutwam dhisasi khalu tasya phalamithi, Punascha twam dhivi bhuvi vahan pakshi mrugatha Madrushtwa tat khedam kada miha sahe Sankara Vibho.

Perform of I your worship, And you appear before me soon, And you become granter all pleasures to me , Oh Lord who is everywhere. But if you grant the position of creator, Or the position of Lord Vishnu instead, As a reward for my worship, Then I would have to become a bird and fly in the sky, Or Become an animal and dig deep in the earth, (The story of Lingabhava where Brahma became a swan and flew upward to find Shiva's head and Vishnu became a boar and dug downward to find Shiva's feets) To see you again my Lord. How can I bear this sorrow of not seeing you, Oh Lord Sankara who is everywhere.

According to Shiva Manasa Puja by Adi Shankara.:

Aathma thwam Girija Mathi sahacharaa, prana sarreram gruham, Pooja theey vishayopa bhoga rachana, nidhra samadhi sthithi, Sanchara padayo pradakshina vidhi, , sthothrani sarva giraa, Yadyath karma karomi thathad akhilam, shambho thavaradhanam. ||4||

My soul is your temple my lord, My activities are thine attendants, My body is thine home, My acts to please my senses are thine worship, My act of sleep is the deep meditation on thee, All my walks with my feet are thine perambulations, What ever falls from my mouth are thine prayers, Oh Lord, everything I say and do are thine forms of worship. ||4||

Matha cha Parvathy Devi, Pitha devo Maheswara, Bandhava Shiva Bakthamscha, Swadeso Bhuvana thrayam ||6||

My mother is the goddess Parvathy, My father is the Lord Shiva, My friends are the devotees of Shiva And my native place is all the three worlds. ||6||

I hope this clarifies your queries...

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Shankara did believe in the equality of the five gods this is also clearly mentioned in the Yajurveda sandhyavandam and the Atharva Veda as well as Yajur and Rigveda.

From Yajurveda sandhyavndam. namaH savitre jagadeka chakShuShe jagat prasUti sthitinAsha hetave| viri~nchi nArAyaNa shaMkarAtmane

In this verse the quality of Shankara and Narayan is established. Then in the following verse Sri Krishna is described and worshipped as the absolute. However because Sri Krishna is an avatar of Narayan and Narayan is equated to being the same as shiva in the Yajurveda sandhyavandam then one valid interpretation of the verse is that Shankara is also Krishna and therefore the qualities of Krishna who is Narayana are indirectly attributable to shiva.

The atharvaveda also teaches the same be it Narayana suktam of atharvaveda or Ganapati atharvashirsha or suryoupanashad or the Sri suktam in rgveda all establish the equality among Devi’s and devatas by saying tvam Brahma tvam vishnus tvam Rudras etc. and then hone in on the worship of a specific form of the purusha

Therefore Shankara being a proponent of the panchayatana puja would of course hold the above view that the purusha alone is true the gods are one and the same, but depending on what one temperaments and tendencies are they can worship the supreme in one of five accepted forms. Aditya Vishnu Devi Ganapati or Surya.

The best analogy as given by Shri Saraswati the current jagadguru of Puri math. The palm is the purusha the five fingers are the five aspects of the purusha. Ganesha is mercy, devi is punishment/control, Aditya is creation, shiva represents the destruction of ego, Vishnu represents the upholder of dharma. Paraphrasing of course. So yes in a nutshell Shankara believed the gods were equal and were just different aspects of the supreme purusha.

Here is an. Good video by puri Shankaracharya https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=XdG-dM142Vo

Ultimately though worship of Saguna leads to worship of nirguna due to guidance of Saguna form of Brahman and ultimately unity with the all pervading consciousness.

This is the views held by the shankar acharyas of at least shringeri and Puri Nathan’s and they being the direct disciples in the succession from Bhagavatapada to Shankara to present day as part of the Guru shishya paramours are the authority on advaita and thus their interpretation of Shankara works is the correct interpretation and to them they believe in panchayatan puja nirguna and Saguna Brahmin which is what Shankara believed. To say he was a vishnu Bhakti only wholly misses the point. He may have written some works on Sriman Narayan but he was a firm believer in nirguna Brahman. To think otherwise is wrong interpretation of Shankara works. To say otherwise means to disagree with the shankar acharyas of the mathams which is silly because they are the direct disciples of Shankara philosophy not new age nonsense or personal interpretation of scriptures. Feel free to disagree.

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