by Tridandisvami Sri Srimad Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja
[Holland: July 3, 1997 (evening)]
Sri Narada desired to proclaim the glories of Lord Siva. As previously described, he praised Siva as the greatest devotee of Lord Krsna and most dear to Him, and Lord Siva became upset by hearing those praises. Siva then related a number of incidents which, according to him, were evidence that he was not dear to Krsna at all.
Now Lord Siva compares himself to Sri Prahlada Maharaja,*[end note1] the famed devotee of Lord Nrsinhadeva described in Srimad-Bhagavatam. He told Narada, “Sri Prahlada Maharaja is superior to me, and it is he who is the dear devotee of the Lord.” Even though Lord Siva is superior to Prahlada Maharaja, he told Narada that Prahlada Maharaja is superior. Why? He said this to encourage people to follow Prahlada Maharaja’s ideal character and teachings.
However, Prahlada Maharaja cannot enter Sri Krsna’s transcendental abode, Vrndavana, whereas Lord Siva resides there eternally as Gopisvara. Siva serves Sri Krsna personally in numerous ways. He and his wife Parvati-devi meditate on asta-kaliya-lila, Lord Sri Krsna’s confidential eight-fold daily pastimes. These secret pastimes are very confidential, yet both Siva and Parvati are able to meditate upon them. Siva is hundreds of thousands of times superior to and more worshipable than Sri Prahlada Maharaja, and yet the artful Siva declared Prahlada Maharaja to be superior. Why did he do so? In one sense Prahlada Maharaja is superior, and in another sense he is not.
We can reconcile this by considering the two perspectives from which to understand the identity of Lord Siva: We can see Siva from the point of view of his post, and also from the point of view of his personality. As a personality, separate from his post, he appears as an associate of the Supreme Lord, such as Gopisvara, Hanuman and Bhima. As Gopisvara he resides eternally in Vrndavana. As Hanuman he always associates with and serves Lord Rama. As Bhima he always serves Lord Krsna. And, when Hanuman and Bhima combine together in this present age of Kali-yuga, they become Madhvacarya, our Sampradaya-guru.*[end note 2]
From the point of view of Lord Siva’s function as the god of annihilation, and also that of Brahma as the secondary creator of the universe, Siva and Brahma are actually posts. Lord Brahma and Lord Siva are not ordinary human beings, but their posts are like that of the president or prime minister of a nation, wherein the man representing the post has to perform a certain defined job.
Both as the post and the person, Siva is superior to Brahma. Lord Siva is an expansion of Lord Visnu, but sometimes a jiva may become Siva’s expansion known as Rudra. If a man purely performs the duties of varnasrama for one hundred births, he may become Brahma.*[end note 3] In other words, he may attain the position or post of Brahma. In turn, when a person in the post of Brahma carries out his function expertly for one hundred births, he becomes qualified to perform the function of Siva in his manifestation as Rudra. Siva’s post is therefore superior to that of Brahma, and this is also evidence that Siva is more powerful than Brahma.
The Duty of Destruction
What is the function of Lord Siva’s post, and why is it superior to that of Lord Brahma? One reason is that Brahma cannot execute pralaya, the complete destruction of the universe – a very dangerous thing, whereas Siva can do so.
Siva’s function as destroyer is similar to that of a farmer who plants and cultivates a large area of wheat. The farmer carefully waters and nourishes the crop, guarding it from animals, and after five or six months the wheat matures and ripens. Then, either by hand or a machine, the farmer harvests the plants and carefully removes the grains from their shafts. The rest of the plant-matter becomes refuse, subject to rotting and attracting disease, vermin, and snakes. Therefore, the farmer sets fire to it and burns it.
Just as the farmer extracts the grains from the plants, Lord Siva extracts the eternal spirit souls from their material bodies and from the world. At the time of annihilation he creates an inferno, setting the entire universe on fire, but the spirit souls are not destroyed.
There are two kinds of universal devastations: one at the end of Lord Brahma’s day and one at the end of his life. At the end of his day (4,320,000,000 solar years) he rests in a mystic sleep within the body of Garbhodakasayi Visnu, and all the conditioned living entities enter as well.*[end note 4]
While the entire universe is submerged in water, the living entities rest in their subtle bodies within the transcendental body of Garbhodakasayi Visnu. They await the start of the next day of Brahma, the next material creation or manifestation. Some of them become liberated, and others do not.
When Lord Brahma completes the one hundred celestial years of his life, Lord Siva again performs this duty of destruction. At that time all the spirit souls enter into the body of Karanodakasayi Visnu or Maha Visnu. At the end of each day of Lord Brahma, all souls enter Garbhodakasayi Visnu, and at the end of Brahma’s life, even the millions of manifestations of Garbhodakasayi Visnu enter Karanodakasayi Visnu*[end note 5] along with the spirit souls. At the time of creation, Karanodakasayi Visnu generates innumerable manifestations of Garbhodakasayi Visnu, and at the time of complete annihilation, they enter back into his body.*[end note 6]
Lord Siva is not a living entity, but he is also not in the category of Lord Visnu. He is much more powerful than any living entity, even up to Lord Brahma. However, he is not equal to Lord Visnu. Because he is almost as good as the Supreme Personalty of Godhead, he can see the three phases of time: past, present, and future. One of his eyes is like the sun and another is like the moon. He also has a third eye, located between his eyebrows. It is from this third eye that he generates fire and employs it at the time of the universal destruction.
Seen from this perspective – the destroyer – Lord Siva cannot serve Sri Krsna directly, because he is engaged at his post. Those souls who are liberated after hundreds of thousands of lifetimes of devotional practice, having renounced all responsibilities and concerns of the world – including occupations like that of Brahma and Siva – and who constantly hear about, glorify, and remember Lord Krsna, take birth in this world as pure devotees like Prahlada Maharaja. This was told by Lord Siva to Sri Narada.
Prahlada Maharaja has nothing to do with this world; nothing to create or demolish. He rejected all such affairs as insignificant. Although he had inherited a large kingdom, it was controlled and governed by his ministers. His senses were totally absorbed in the transcendental loving service to the Supreme Lord. He was always engaged in hearing the name and glories of the Lord, singing and speaking about his glories, remembering and meditating on him, offering prayers, carrying out the his orders and fully surrendering to him.
Devotees in Prahlada’s category have no need to approach Lord Krsna’s manifestations like Lord Nrsinhadeva and Lord Rama, for the Lord personally comes to them in these forms. Lord Siva told Sri Narada that because he is always engaged in the post of controlling the universe, he can neither see nor offer services to the Lord daily, as Prahlada Maharaja sees Lord Vamanadeva or Lord Nrsinhadeva. Vamanadeva and Nrsinhadeva are both manifestations of the same Lord, who regularly gives Prahlada his divine association and the opportunity to serve and offer obeisance at his lotus feet.
Although both Brahma and Siva are actually superior in bhakti to Prahlada Maharaja, their posts involve contact with the three gunas, or modes of material nature, namely goodness, passion, and ignorance. The role of Lord Brahma is creation and procreation in raja-guna, the mode of passion. Lord Siva’s role of demolition and dissolution is in tama-guna, the mode of ignorance. It is for this reason that they are called guna-avataras, incarnations of the material qualities.
Prahlada Maharaja is nirguna, transcendental to the three modes of nature. He has nothing to do with activities in material goodness, passion, and ignorance, by which this world is shackled. Lord Siva is also beyond the three modes of nature, but he adopts the mode of ignorance (tama-guna) to efficiently perform his function.
The Personal Associate
Regarding Lord Siva’s glorification of Prahlada Maharaja, now consider Lord Siva’s identity as a transcendental personality – separate from his post. Sometimes senior Vaisnavas express sincere recognition of the novice, inspiring him or her on the path of devotion. The Vaisnava may say, “Oh, you work so hard and earn money, and with that money you support and nourish me. I have no means at all. I do nothing but visit for a short while, eating, and sleeping at your expense. I would not be able to speak the glories of Lord Krsna at this festival if you had not arranged for the management of all the activities here, so you are superior to me.”
Out of sincere humility, gratitude and affection, liberated souls speak in this endearing manner, and at the same time they are fixed in the realization that they are always being personally maintained by the Supreme Lord. The senior Vaisnava has the disciple’s personal benefit in mind.
However, Lord Siva was not speaking for Prahlada Maharaja’s benefit, but to acquaint aspiring devotees with the stages of devotion. His desire was to facilitate the service of Sri Narada Muni and Srila Sanatana Gosvami, whose mission was to establish in the world the sequence of the grades of devotion and ultimately establish the glories of the gopis. Try to understand all these truths, and seek to gradually become firmly situated in bhakti.
Imagine that you are in a market in which there are thousands of varieties of shops. In some of those shops there are products made of iron, in some shops there are products made of gold, in some there are jewels, and in others cintamani (wish-fulfilling stones). An expert is guiding you through all the shops, pointing out different products and revealing which are superior.
If there are a thousand pounds of iron and only one ounce of gold, the gold has more value. On the other hand, many pounds of gold will not amount to the value of one Kaustubha-mani or a similarly precious stone. Millions of such precious jewels cannot compare with a tiny quantity of cintamani, and even millions of cintamani stones cannot compare with one holy name of Lord Krsna.
Now suppose someone is chanting the name of Lord Krsna alone, and another is absorbed in the name of Radha-Ramana. The name Radha-Ramana, meaning Sri Krsna, the enjoyer of pastimes with Srimati Radharani, has more transcendental taste (rasa) than the name Krsna alone. The person absorbed in that holy name will therefore experience a greater spiritual pleasure.
Regarding the analogy of the shops in a market, that expert tells you, “This shop is good, that shop is better, and this one is the best. Similarly, in his Sri Brhad-bhagavatamrta, Srila Sanatana Gosvami establishes the gradations of excellence of various devotees and their devotion, in order to help his readers determine their spiritual path.
The history of Narada Muni’s coming to the abode of Lord Siva and glorifying him was first narrated in this Sri Brhad-bhagavatamrta. Like Srila Sanatana Gosvami, Narada is also that expert described above. He desired to establish pure bhakti in the world, and therefore he played the role of searching for the greatest devotee and recipient of Lord Krsna’s mercy. His search had taken him first to the “shop” of a brahmana in Prayaga, and after that to South India, to the shop of a king. Then he traveled to heaven, where he entered the shop of King Indra, and Indra sent him to the shop of Lord Brahma. Brahma sent him to Lord Siva, and Lord Siva is now sending him to Prahlada Maharaja. Gradually, Sri Narada will bring us to the greatest recipients of Lord Krsna’s mercy, the gopis. In the form of Gopisvara, Lord Siva is the beloved servant and associate of those gopis.
*[end note 1] In the hermitage of Sri Narada Muni, Prahlada Maharaja heard the message of Srimad-Bhagavatam while within the womb of his mother. From his birth, Prahlad was fixed in transcendental realization of the all-pervading presence of the Supreme Lord, and he preached love of God to his schoolmates at the tender age of five. Despite efforts by his atheistic father to change his nature – efforts that culminated in repeated attempts to kill him by means of administering poison, putting him in boiling oil, tossing him from the top of a cliff and so on – Prahlada continued to experience great joy by remembering Lord Visnu and chanting his holy names. Prahlada was protected by the Supreme Lord in every situation. Finally, Lord Visnu appeared in the form of a half-man, half-lion and killed his demonic father. When offered a benediction by the Lord, Prahlada simply asked for the liberation of his father, as well as that of all conditioned souls. He is honored in this world by all pure devotees.
*[end note 2] “Srila Madhvacarya is the original acarya for those who belong to the Madhva-Gaudiya-sampradaya.”(SB 6.1.40.purport) “This Madhva-Gaudiya-sampradaya is also known as the Brahma-sampradaya because the disciplic succession originally began from Brahma. Brahma instructed the sage Narada, Narada instructed Vyasadeva, and Vyasadeva instructed Madhva Muni, or Madhvacarya.” (Krsna Introduction).
3] “The Vedas say, ‘svadharma-nisthah sata janmabhih puman virincatam eti - One
who strictly follows the principles of varnasrama-dharma for at least one
hundred births will be rewarded with the post of Lord Brahma.’ ” (SB 5.20.33
Varnasrama-dharma - the institutions dividing society into four divisions of social life and four occupational divisions of castes.
*[end note 4] “At the beginning of Brahma’s day, all living entities become manifest from the unmanifest state, and thereafter, when the night falls, they are merged into the unmanifest again. Again and again, when Brahma’s day arrives, all living entities come into being, and with the arrival of Brahma’s night they are helplessly annihilated.” (Bhagavad-gita 8.18-19)
“At the end of the day, under the insignificant portion of the mode of darkness, the powerful manifestation of the universe merges in the darkness of night. By the influence of eternal time, the innumerable living entities remain merged in that dissolution, and everything is silent.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.11.28)
“The dissolution of the three worlds is effected by the incarnation of darkness, Rudra, represented by the fire of eternal time which blazes over the three worlds. These three worlds are known as Bhuh, Bhuvah and Svah (Patala, Martya and Svarga). The innumerable living entities merge into that dissolution, which appears to be the dropping of the curtain of the scene of the Supreme Lord’s energy, and so everything becomes silent.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.11.28 purport)
“It is said that the blazing fire from the mouth of Sankarsana rages for one hundred years of the demigods, or 36,000 human years. Then for another 36,000 years there are torrents of rain, accompanied by violent winds and waves, and the seas and oceans overflow. People forget all these devastations of the worlds and think themselves happy in the material progress of civilization. This is called maya, or ‘that which is not.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.11.31 purport)
“Thereafter, at the end of the millennium, the Lord Himself, in the form of Rudra, the destroyer, will annihilate the complete creation as the wind displaces the clouds. This creation is very appropriately compared to clouds.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.10.43)
*[end note 5] “There are two types of dissolution of the manifested cosmos. At the end of every 4,320,000,000 solar years, when Brahma, the lord of one particular universe, goes to sleep, there is one annihilation. And at the end of Lord Brahma’s life, which takes place at the end of Brahma’s one hundred years of age, in our calculation at the end of 8,640,000,000 x 30 x 12 x 100 solar years, there is complete annihilation of the entire universe, and in both the periods both the material energy called the mahat-tattva and the marginal energy called jiva-tattva merge in the person of the Supreme Lord.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.10.21 purport)
*[end note 6] “Karanodakasayi Visnu is the first incarnation of the Supreme Lord, and he is the master of eternal time, space, cause and effects, mind, the elements, the material ego, the modes of nature, the senses, the universal form of the Lord, Garbhodakasayi Visnu, and the sum total of all living beings, both moving and nonmoving.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.6.42)
Painting of Lord Siva by: S.M. Pandit
Editorial Advisors: Sripad Madhava Maharaja and Sripad Brajanatha dasa
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