Not for nothing Dr. Radhakrishnan, former President of India and a Philosopher said that ,
‘Indian Philosophy is not a view of Life, but a Way of Life’.
Shankaracharya on Shiva
Shankaracharya in Bhaja Govindam
It is one thing to read,study the Vedas and other Hindu Texts but it is another proposition to understand its soul and ethos.
Mere Intellectual or Bhakthi approach would not help one to understand the spirit of Hinduism.
Hinduism should be lived and practiced for years to understand it in its multifarious aspects.
Mere abstraction would remain just that, an intellectual Narcissism..
Mere Bhakthi, or total surrender to God , though highly recommended, is likely to lead one into disappointment as this path is, though seems easy to say, is the toughest to practice.
One must understand that Hinduism is a personal Religion in the sense that one can practice it the way it suits him, so long it is in conformity with the Vedas.
As individuals are numerous, so are their mental attitudes.
Shankaracharya on Nirguna Brahman
Hence Hinduism provides four paths to follow so that people of different mindsets can follow Spirituality.
Karma Yoga, Path of Action,
Gnana Yoga, Path of Knowledge,
Raja Yoga, Path of Mental and Physical Discipline and
Bhakthi Yoga, the Path of total surrender.
The fact that one is emphasized in the Vedas and other Hindu texts, when they speak of a particular path, does not mean that the other Paths are inferior.
They are spoken this way so as to instill in the mind the conviction to follow the path that appeals to them and such sayings reinforces the attitude.
The same logic applies to Nirguna Brahman,Reality without Attributes and Saguna Brahman,Reality with Attributes.
(for details please read my article God with names and forms Yes and No)
This one can understand from the Vedas, Puranas, Ithihasas and the Slokas /Mantras.
One would, in the same breath, the Vedas talk about Nirguna Brahman and Saguna Brahman.
One would find the Reality being described as a principle, Nirguna, in the Mahavakyas thus,
- prajñānam brahma – “Prajña is Brahman” or “Brahman is Prajña”(Aitareya Upanishad 3.3 of the Rig Veda)
- ayam ātmā brahma – “This Self (Atman) is Brahman” (Mandukya Upanishad 1.2 of the Atharva Veda)
- tat tvam asi – “Thou art That” (Chandogya Upanishad 6.8.7 of the Sama Veda)
- aham brahmāsmi – “I am Brahman”, or “I am Divine” (Brhadaranyaka Upanishad 1.4.10 of the Yajur Veda)
Then you find in the Narayana Suktha.
Narayanam mahagyem Viswaathmaanam Parayanam,
Vishnornukam veeryani pravosam..
or the Sri Rudram,
nama sivaya cha, Sivadharaaya Cha,
where the Individual deities are praised.
or look a the Lalitha Sahasranama, where a portion is allotted for worshiping the Devi as Nirguna, the chapter being Nirguna Upasna and another Saguna Upasna where personal deity is worshiped.
So both options are provided.
Reading one and discarding the other is not compatible with the Vedas.
Quoting Vedas in isolation lands one into situations and interpretations that run counter to Vedas themselves, as it has happened in the case of the Mimamsa.
The Karma Kanda, the portion of the Vedas that deal with duties and performance of Yagas and Yagnyas, was carried to such an extreme that only the Karmas in the form of Yagnyas were followed and the Gnana and Bhakthi were totally omitted..
And the performance of only Yagnas and sacrifices caused a revulsion among people and this one of the reasons for the raise of Buddhism.
And many Gods were worshiped in the Yagnyas.
It took all the Life of Shankaracharya to set matters right and establish the authority of the Vedas, by systematizing worship into Shanmaha, Six systems of worship.
And he reestablished the concept of Nirguna Upasna and also provided room for Saguna Upasna.
Iswara concept found in Patanjali’s yoga Sutra was reinforced by him.
Such being the case I was shocked to find an observation by Stephen Knapp who has done yeoman service to Hinduism by propagating Sanatana Dharma concept that Shankaracharya misinterpreted the Vedas!
he quotes Padma Purana and Siva Purana.
We must point out that some spiritual authorities say that Shankaracharya was an incarnation of Lord Shiva who had been ordered by the Supreme Lord to cheat the atheists. The Shiva Purana quotes the Supreme Lord as ordering Shiva: “In Kali-yuga mislead the people in general by propounding imaginary meanings from the Vedas [Vedic literature] to bewilder them”:
dvaparadau yuge bhutva
svagamaih kalpitais tvam ca
janan mad-vimukhan kuru 1
The Padma Purana also says that Lord Shiva would descend as a brahmana sannyasi and teach Mayavada philosophy in the verse:
mayavada ashat shastram prachchanna
boudhyam uchyate moya ebe godidam
devi kalou brahmana murtina
To do this, Shankara gave up the direct method of Vedic knowledge and presented an indirect meaning which actually covered the real goal of Vedanta. This is confirmed in the Padma Purana where Lord Shiva addresses his wife, Parvati:
shrinu devi pravaksyami
patityam jnaninam api
atra ca pratipadyate
naiskarmyam tatra cocyate
“My dear wife, hear my explanations of how I have spread ignorance through Mayavada philosophy. Simply by hearing it even an advanced scholar will fall down. In this philosophy which is certainly very inauspicious for people in general, I have misrepresented the real meaning of the Vedas and recommended that one give up all activities in order to achieve freedom from karma. In this Mayavada philosophy I have described the jivatma and Paramatma to be one and the same.” 2
The Padma Purana, in the quote that follows, describes how Lord Shiva tells his wife, Parvati, that he would appear in Kali-yuga to teach the impersonalistic philosophy, which is impious and merely a covered form of Buddhism. Yet, as explained next, there was a purpose for it.
pracchannam bauddham ucyate
mayaiva kalpitam devi
kalau brahmana rupini
brahmanas caparam rupam
nirgunam vaksyate maya
sarvasvam jagato’py asya
mohanartham kalau yuge
vedante tu maha-shastre
mayaiva vaksyate devi
“The Mayavada philosophy is impious. It is covered Buddhism. My dear Parvati, in the form of a brahmana in Kali-yuga I teach this imagined Mayavada philosophy. In order to cheat the atheists I mislead them by describing the Supreme Lord to be without any personal form or qualities.”
Herein, Lord Shiva himself points out that to believe God has no form is not accurate and is equal to atheism. Even though this Mayavada philosophy was not good for pious people to hear because it would sway them toward an impersonalistic viewpoint, we should note that Shankara’s philosophy was just right for the time and circumstance. The Buddhists, who had spread throughout India and neglected the Vedas, believed in neither a soul nor a God and that, ultimately, the essence of everything is the nothingness or void wherein lies nirvana, freedom from all suffering. So considering how the Buddhists had followed a philosophy of what would generally be considered atheism for hundreds of years and would never have accepted a viewpoint which advocated a supreme personal God, Shankara’s was the only philosophy they would have considered. It was like a compromise between atheism and theism, but Shankara used portions of Vedic knowledge as the basis of his arguments. In this way, as Shankara traveled throughout India his arguments prevailed. Thus, Buddhism bowed and Vedic culture was brought back to prominence. Therefore, his purpose was accomplished, so much so that his Sariraka-bhasya is considered the definitive rendition of Vedanta even to the present day.’
Totally wrong interpretation.
If Bhaja Govindam is quoted to buttress the view that Shankaracharya was really only after
Bhakthi to Vishnu, what about his nirvana Shatgam ,Manisha Panchakam, Soundarya Lahari,Kanakadhara Sthavam,Subrahmanya Bhujanga,Ganesha Pancharatnam?
Shankaracharya should be studie in full an no in bits.
And if proof is needed that there are interpolations in the Puranas, Padma Purana and Shiva Purana, this is it.
This accusation against Shankaracharya is not new.
He was also called a Pseudo-Buddhist for His Advaita!
If Shankaracharya was misquoting the Vedas, then how come the Mahavakyas I have quoted above speak of Nirguna Brahmana and not Saguna Brahman, Reality without Attributes?
That supreme Brahman is infinite, and this conditioned Brahman is infinite.
The infinite proceeds from infinite.
Then through knowledge, realizing the infinitude of the infinite, it remains as infinite alone-
Great indeed are the devas who have sprung out of Brahman.-Atarva Veda.
‘satyam jnanam anantam brahman
“Brahman is of the nature of truth, knowledge and infinity” -Taittriya Upanishad.
Reference and citation.