Question: I would like to know more about Lord Śiva’s position in the Gauḍīya sampradāya. Is he more powerful than Brahmā or is he just superior to Brahmā in devotion to the Lord? Recently, someone from the Rāmānuja sampradāya told me that Brahmā is the most powerful living entity in the universe, even stronger than Śiva. He quoted a Mahābhārata verse to prove his claim. This Rāmānujite also said that the position of the Gauḍīyas, that Śiva is a tattva between jīva and īśvara, is incorrect because there are no in-between categories. There is either jīva or īśvara or jaḍa-prakṛti; there is nothing in between. How do we answer their objection? Also, is Śiva a jīva in some kalpas?
Answer: We accept Śiva as superior to Brahmā on the authority of Bhāgavata Purana: vaiṣṇavānāṁ yathā śambhuḥ (SB 12.13.16). This is also understood from the story of the churning of the ocean, described in the 8th Canto.
The following verse from SB 4.24.29, spoken by Lord Śiva, also confirms this:
sva-dharma-niṣṭhaḥ śata-janmabhiḥ pumān viriñcatām eti tataḥ paraṁ hi mām
avyākṛtaṁ bhāgavato ‘tha vaiṣṇavaṁ
“A person who executes his dharma properly for one hundred births becomes qualified to occupy the post of Brahmā. My [Śiva’s] abode is beyond that. The abode of Viṣṇu is beyond even my abode. It is imperishable.”
As far as Śiva’s position, if jīva or īśvara tattva are the only two categories acceptable, then let him be accepted as īśvara tattva. Just as there are devotees of Kṛṣṇa, the gopīs and sakhās, who are not jīva tattva but are expansions of Kṛṣṇa, similarly Śiva is an expansion of Kṛṣṇa as a devotee. Śiva is Kṛṣṇa in the garb of a devotee.
Thus, although īśvara tattva, Śiva is not iṣṭa-devatā. He can be worshiped as a devotee but not as īśvara himself.
Question: The pramāṇas which the Rāmānujites quote to validate their position describe the following incidents:
Their argument is that because Śiva obeys Brahmā, the latter is superior.
Answer: That is a very weak argument. Kṛṣṇa obeys Arjuna on the battlefield. He actually drives his chariot and takes a lower position. He obeyed many others, like his parents, teachers, etc. Is Kṛṣṇa inferior to them? Rāma obeyed Daśaratha. Śiva is supposed to be the son of Brahmā; therefore, it is natural that he obeys him. But that does not make him inferior in power.
The quotes from the Bhāgavata are not about obeying; they describe a hierarchy.
Moreover, the quotes given by Rāmānujites, as I glanced through them, say that Kṛṣṇa is the ātmā of Śiva. This should be highlighted and probably is the real intent of the whole story. This is not said about Brahmā.
Question: Thank you for your answer. What is meant by ‘Kṛṣṇa is the ātmā of Rudra?’
Answer: It means that Kṛṣṇa is the object of his love and devotion. The word ātmā is used in this sense also.
Question: The aforementioned Rāmānujites interpret it to mean that Śrī Sankarṣaṇa, who is nondifferent from Kṛṣṇa, is the antaryāmin of Śiva just as Śrī Pradyumna is the antaryāmin of Brahmā.
Answer: This interpretation is also acceptable.
Question: I understand that antaryāmin is the form of the Lord who resides within both sentient and insentient beings. How can Śiva himself, who is an avatāra of Hari, have Hari as his antaryāmin?
Answer: The word antaryāmi means the inner regulator. Hari is the ultimate regulator of all.
Question: Whenever we talk about Śiva’s antaryāmin, it could mean that in one such mahākalpa, the position of Śiva is occupied by a pious jīvātma, which could be a rare occurrence. Is this correct?
Answer: This is also possible.
Question: Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī and Śrī Viśvanātha Cakravarti, in their Laghu Bhāgavatāmrita and Bhagavatamṛta-kana, seem to say that Śiva is sometimes an aṁśāvatāra and at other times a jīva. Are Brahmā and Śiva subject to and influenced by rajo and tamo guṇas as they are guṇāvatāras?
Answer: When they are jīvas, they can be influenced but the influence is not in the form of conditioning like ordinary living beings. Mostly it is to participate in some līlā of the Lord.
Question: A book from another institution states that that Śiva is not jīva-tattva and that Śiva-tattva is different from jīva-tattva and Īśvara-tattva. Vedānta, however, talks about three tattvas: cit, acit, and Brahman. If Śiva is not jīva-tattva, then he must be Paramātmā. Other references mention that Śiva has Paramātmā (antaryāmī) within and thus he must be a jīva since only jīvas have antaryāmī. It is difficult to understand Śiva-tattva.
Answer: You write: “Vedānta talks about three tattvas: cit, acit, and Brahman.” According to this classification, there are only three categories: cit or conscious beings, acit or inert beings, and Brahman. Śiva is certainly not acit nor Brahman. So by the law of remainder, he is cit. But cit does not include only jīvas. Cit contains many things, including Vaikuṇṭha. Just because Śiva has antaryāmī does not mean he has to be a jīva. In Vaikuṇṭha, Bhagavān has His associates. They are all cit but they are neither jīva nor Brahman. For example, Kṛṣṇa has His cowherd friends. These friends are not jīvas, nor are they Brahman. They are all expansions of Kṛṣṇa’s antaranga śakti. Their Paramātmā, or antaryāmi , is Kṛṣṇa. Similarly, Śiva is an expansion of Kṛṣṇa. He is neither a jīva nor is he Brahman or Bhagavān.
Question: Lord Śiva is described in the Brahma-saṃhitā to be like curd or yogurt. Curd is not different from milk. Since milk is transformed into curd, in one sense, curd is also milk. Similarly, Śiva is in one sense Bhagavān, but in another sense, he is not, just as curd is milk, yet we have to distinguish between the two. In this śloka, Kṛṣṇa is considered to be like milk and Śiva is considered to be like yogurt. But Kṛṣṇa is an unchangeable tattva as Brahman is nirvikāra. Krsna does not transform like milk. How am I to understand this analogy?
Answer: An analogy is not to be taken literally but to help you understand the principle. The analogy illustrates that Śiva is not exactly like Kṛṣṇa but also not much different. The analogy does not say that Kṛṣṇa undergoes transformation. Kṛṣṇa can expand Himself without undergoing transformation.
Question: Is Lord Śiva whom we worship, a jīva?
Answer: Well, I do not worship Śiva. So, do not say “whom we worship”. Anyway, Śiva is not a jīva.
Question: What is the difference between Sadāśiva and the Rudra who emerged out of Brahma’s forehead?
Answer: Rudra is an expansion of Sadāśiva.
Question: Can you please throw some light on Śiva tattva.
Answer: Śiva is a devotee of Kṛṣṇa. He is an expansion of Kṛṣṇa. He is neither jīva-tattva nor viṣṇu-tattva. Rather he is in his own category.
Question: Is some part of Lord Śiva’s abode located in the spiritual world? Is his abode also free from birth, death, disease and old age?
Answer: Yes, the abode of Sadāśiva is in the spiritual world. Therefore, it is free from birth, etc. The abode of Śiva that you read about in the material world is non-different from that in the spiritual abode.
Question: Also, if one reaches Maheśa Dhāma, is he also liberated from the material world?
Answer: It depends upon where your Maheśa Dhāma is. You are using a different term without explaining if you mean Śivaloka or something else.
Question: In the Bhagavad Gīta, Bhagavān Kṛṣṇa says,
“Anyone who comes to my abode is not born again in the material world, which is full of threefold miseries.”
He did not mention Lord Śiva’s abode. So, is there a possibility that the one who reaches Lord Śiva’s abode will take birth on this earth again?
Answer: No. He does not take birth again. Kṛṣṇa is speaking about his own abode. He did not say anything positive or negative about Śiva-loka.
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