From an article written for the members of the Indian community called Deity Worship At Home, by Jaya Tirtha Charan dasa
Sometimes there appears to be a dichotomy in the
way that devotees see and revere the Devas (demigods). As aspiring Vaishnavas
I humbly suggest that we follow in the lotus footsteps of Sri Caitanya
Mahaprabhu, Who, as He traveled the sub-continent of Bharat Bhumi (India)
visited many shrines and temples of His administrative ministers of universal
affairs, the devas.
In His mood as the role model humble Vaishnava He offered respects to everyone.
In Bhagavad Gita (B.G. 7:16.) we see that there are generally four kinds of persons who come to Krishna consciousness, chatur-vidhaa bhajante maam janah sukrtino 'rjuna arto jijnasur arthaarthi jnani cha bharatarshabha (the distressed, the desirer of wealth, the inquisitive and he who is searching for knowledge of the Absolute).
All are recognising the fact that they are Aswatantra,
dependent upon the Lord. According to their individual motive need and
knowledge they may approach also in different ways. However, all are to
be considered devotees.
Great spiritual preceptors in history like Sripad Ananda Tirtha, Madhwacarya defined taratamya or a gradation of hierarchical structure of such devotees. He placed one supreme person as the top-most Swatantra or Independent Lord. All others are Aswatantra, dependent. Some of those dependent take on great responsibility for the Lord in running the various functions of this mayic world. Even some of them are considered cent per cent devoted, while others are known to sometimes become affected by the strong material energy that they handle in their functionary service to the Lord.
In this regard, I would like to mention the observations of the child psychologist Piaget "According to Piaget, children's conception of morality develops in two major stages which coincide approximately with the pre-operational and operational stages. People go through these moral stages at varying times, but the sequence is always the same.
The first stage, morality of constraint (also called hetronomous morality), is characterised by rigid, simplistic judgments. Young children (and other immature persons) see everything in black and white, not gray. Because they are egocentric, they cannot conceive of more than one way of looking at a moral question. They believe that rules are unalterable, that behaviour is either right or wrong, and that any offense - no matter how minor - deserves severe punishment. (Of course, children often disobey rules they insist upon for others).
The second stage, morality of cooperation (or autonomous morality), is characterised by moral flexibility. As children (and even adults) mature and interact more with other children and with adults, they think less egocentrically. They have ever-increasing contact with a wide range of viewpoints, many of which contradict what they have learned at home. Children conclude that there is not one unchangeable, absolute moral standard, but that rules are made by people and can be changed by people, including themselves. They look for the intent behind the act, and they believe that punishment should fit the 'crime'. They are on the way to formulating their own moral codes.
To illustrate one aspect of this change, Piaget (1932) told this story;
'Once upon a time there were two little boys, Augustus and Julian. Augustus noticed one day that his father's inkpot was empty, and he decided to help his father by filling it. But in opening the bottle, he spilled the ink and made a large stain on the tablecloth. Julian played with his father's inkpot and made a small stain on the tablecloth. Piaget then asked, 'Which boy is naughtier and why?'
A child in the stage of constraint is likely to consider Augustus the greater offender, because he made the larger stain. But an older child probably recognise that Augustus meant well, whereas the smaller stain Julian made was the result of doing something he should not have been doing. Immature moral judgments, being egocentric, center on one dimension: the magnitude of the offense. Mature judgments take intention into account"(Papilia & Olds. 1978. Human Development. page 250.)
Here we are not following ordinary people with
mundane opinions, but are following the guidelines of shastra. Amazingly,
shastra is as broad as it is deep. Again, it is not merely black or white.
Rather shastra needs to be understood from a great Shastrakara, who can
explain how to apply shastric injunctions according to time place and circumstances
according to Pramanam.
There are three kinds of pramanam; pratyaksha pramanam, which means sensual perception – which in itself doesn’t give Absolute conclusions. Anuman pramanam, logic, and argument, reason or case history – again these are all set with frailties. They say the man in the “dock” is as free as his lawyer is good – for even we may know he’s a criminal, with a lawyer who is expert in argumentation, reasoning, and logic, can prove beyond the realm of feasibility that this man could be guilty – yet we all know he’s guilty. So both of these two can be rejected on their own validation, yet if they fall in line with the conclusions of shastra – Sruti pramanam, them they too may be accepted as fact.
Then having resolved what is a bona-fide source of evidential truth, let us look at how to apply it. For in the Sruti, the words spoken by God, which are Absolute statements sometimes to those of us who are not so experienced, or realised we may not understand how to apply each rule. Therefore we have a subsidiary or supportive shastra comprising of the teachings of great devotees who are empowered beings who made commentaries on various Sruti to elaborate upon and bring the examples to life in everyday events – these are called the Smritis. These Smritis show us how to apply the essence of the Sruti according to time, place and circumstances, and often include exceptions. Ordinarily, an Absolute statement or injunction has no provision for an exception to that rule. But when an empowered being, a Shaktyavesh avatar, or pure devotee explains to us the why’s and wherefore’s then given the correct understanding with shastric reference we can do what ordinarily we may have hesitated to do.
If we are to take two statements side by side there
may appear a dichotomy: (i) Vaishnavas don’t worship demigods (devas) (ii)
Vaishnavas offer respects to ALL living beings.
You mean we offer respects to all living being but not to the devas, who are empowered devotees of the Lord. This is immediately strange to the ear. The fact is we offer respects and honour to ALL living beings, including the powerful devas, and even the ant. However, the Vaishnava keeps his perspective on why anyone, and everyone should be respected – it is because they are all devotees, parts and parcels of the Lord. Obviously the more one is purified, and realised, and is acting as a servant of the Lord he also gets more recognition and respect – whether he wants it or not. But there is only one Supreme Lord (Krishna, and He has many expansions, Vishnu, Narayana, Rama, Vamana, Nrisimha, etc.
kåñëas tu bhagavän svayam
måòayanti yuge yuge
“All of the above-mentioned incarnations are either plenary portions or portions of the plenary portions of the Lord, but Lord Çré Kåñëa is the original Personality of Godhead. All of them appear on planets whenever there is a disturbance created by the atheists. The Lord incarnates to protect the theists.” (Srimad Bhagavatam 1:3:28. Text.)
In this particular stanza Lord Çré Kåñëa, the Personality of Godhead, is distinguished from other incarnations. He is counted amongst the avatäras (incarnations) because out of His causeless mercy the Lord descends from His transcendental abode. Avatära means “one who descends.” All the incarnations of the Lord, including the Lord Himself, descend on the different planets of the material world as also in different species of life to fulfill particular missions. Sometimes He comes Himself, and sometimes His different plenary portions or parts of the plenary portions, or His differentiated portions directly or indirectly empowered by Him, descend on this material world to execute certain specific functions. Originally the Lord is full of all opulences, all prowess, all fame, all beauty, all knowledge and all renunciation. When they are partly manifested through the plenary portions or parts of the plenary portions, it should be noted that certain manifestations of His different powers are required for those particular functions. When in the room small electric bulbs are displayed, it does not mean that the electric powerhouse is limited by the small bulbs. The same powerhouse can supply power to operate large-scale industrial dynamos with greater volts. Similarly, the incarnations of the Lord display limited powers because only so much power is needed at that particular time. (S.B. 1:3:28. Purport extract.)
Like most of us in this material world, although
spiritual by nature fall into the category of Duhkha Sprstha (liable to
fall under the sway of maya). Srila Vyasa Tirtha again divides those into
two; Vimukta (liberated) and Duhkha Samstha (unliberated), of the unliberated
he again divided into two categories under the heading Duhkha Sam Stha;
the Mukti Yogyas (those suitable for liberation), and Mukti Ayogya (not
qualified for liberation). Among the Mukti Yogyas are the Devas (demigods,
sages), Rishis, Pitris (forefathers), Pa (Palakas - door-keepers, of the
directions), and Nara Uttamas (best among the humans). Those categorised
as Mukti Ayogya are the Srti Samsthita (those with a few demoniac qualities,
and the Tamoyogyas which are again divided up into Bad Demons (Srtisamsthita),
Daitya (demons), Rakshasas (man-eating demons), and Pisachas (witches).
The devas (devotees, rishis, nara-uttamams, etc.) among the Mukti Yogyas may attain release from this world after becoming fully attributed with Divine qualities. However, the same Mukti Yogya devotees sometimes make mistakes, become egocentric, fall prey to the whims of their senses and become illusioned - then what to speak of us?
Recognising the fact that they are servant of the Lord in charge of various aspects of His reformatory prison house (durg) His subjects may approach the devas to be recommended or to assist with their eventual release.
Indian 2: "If we follow the Krsna conscious path......
Now, take for example our wedding ceremonies. Now, the first thing that
we take, the Ganapati, there is Ganasyainava (?), and there is various
other deities that we have to respect. Now, what happens in his case?
Srila Prabhupad: "If you are actually Krsna conscious, then to worship Ganapati, there is no harm. But if you take Ganapati as independent God, then your Krsna consciousness is hampered.
Indian 2: But in certain ceremonies these things are........
Srila Prabhupada: Any ceremony. If you know the constable is constable and the president is president, then it is all right. But if you think constable is president, then you are misguided."(Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. 12/10/1975. Durban South Africa, Morning Walk Conversation.)
We must offer proper respects to all the demigods. If one can offer respects even to an ant, why not to the demigods? One must always know however, that no demigod is equal to or above the Supreme Lord. Ekala iswara krsna ara saba bhrtya "Only Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and all others, including the demigods such as lord Shiva lord Brahma, goddess Durga and Ganesh, are His servants" Everyone serves the purpose of the Supreme Godhead, and what to speak of such small and insignificant living entities as ourselves? We are surely eternal servants of the Lord. The mayavada philosophy maintains that the demigods, living entities and the Supreme Personality of Godhead are all equal. It is therefore a most foolish misrepresentation of Vedic knowledge" (Sri Chaitanya Charitamrta Adi Lila 7:157. Purport.)
If one mistakenly temps a minister / guard and causes or invokes him to deviantly arrange for more provisions, facility, or even escape without sanction of the governor, then sometimes both are reprimanded into further bondage. Even in the case of a deva, to set an example. Although what you or I could tempt someone in the higher regions of the universe with is beyond my comprehension. Thus Bhagavad Gita describes such persons as less intelligent (B.G. 7:23.), for they cannot discriminate as to who is God and who is servant - or the often used example; who is king and who is minister, and who is chauffeur, etc.
kämais tais tair håta-jïänäù
taà taà niyamam ästhäya
prakåtyä niyatäù svayä
“Those whose intelligence has been stolen by material desires surrender unto demigods and follow the particular rules and regulations of worship according to their own natures.” (Bhagavad Gita 7:20.)
Most people approach the devas because they are desirous of some material boon. Now the approved method of gaining what we want comes in the form of the next verse:
akamah sarva kamo va
mosha kaama udara dhih
tivrena bhakti yogena
yajeta purusham param
"A person who has broader intelligence, who may be full of all material desire or may be without any material desire, and who also desires liberation, by all means must worship the Supreme whole personality of Godhead, Sri Krsna."(Srimad Bhagavatam 2:3:10.)
etavan eva yajatam
bhagavaty achalo bhavo
"All the different kinds of worshippers of the multi-demigods (all 33,000,000+) can attain the highest perfectional benediction, which is spontaneous attraction unflinchingly fixed upon the supreme personality of Godhead, only by association of the pure devotee of the Lord."(Srimad Bhagavatam 2:3:11.)
yo yo yäà yäà tanuà
tasya tasyäcaläà çraddhäà
täm eva vidadhämy aham
“I am in everyone’s heart as the Supersoul. As soon as one desires to worship some demigod, I make his faith steady so that he can devote himself to that particular deity.” (Bhagavad Gita 7:21.)
“Both the living entity and the demigods are subordinate to the will of the Supreme Personality of Godhead; therefore the living entity cannot worship the demigod by his own desire, nor can the demigod bestow any benediction without the supreme will. As it is said, not a blade of grass moves without the will of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Generally, persons who are distressed in the material world go to the demigods, as they are advised in the Vedic literature. A person wanting some particular thing may worship such and such a demigod. For example, a diseased person is recommended to worship the sun-god; a person wanting education may worship the goddess of learning, Sarasvaté; and a person wanting a beautiful wife may worship the goddess Umä, the wife of Lord Çiva. In this way there are recommendations in the çästras (Vedic scriptures) for different modes of worship of different demigods. And because a particular living entity wants to enjoy a particular material facility, the Lord inspires him with a strong desire to achieve that benediction from that particular demigod, and so he successfully receives the benediction. The particular mode of the devotional attitude of the living entity toward a particular type of demigod is also arranged by the Supreme Lord. The demigods cannot infuse the living entities with such an affinity, but because He is the Supreme Lord, or the Supersoul who is present in the hearts of all living entities, Kåñëa gives impetus to man to worship certain demigods. The demigods are actually different parts of the universal body of the Supreme Lord; therefore they have no independence. In the Vedic literature it is stated: “The Supreme Personality of Godhead as Supersoul is also present within the heart of the demigod; therefore He arranges through the demigod to fulfill the desire of the living entity. But both the demigod and the living entity are dependent on the supreme will. They are not independent.” (Bhagavad Gita 7:21. Purport extract.)
sa tayä çraddhayä yuktas
labhate ca tataù kämän
mayaiva vihitän hi tän
“Endowed with such a faith, he endeavors to worship a particular demigod and obtains his desires. But in actuality these benefits are bestowed by Me alone.” (Bhagavad Gita 7:22.)
“The demigods cannot award benedictions to their
devotees without the permission of the Supreme Lord. The living entity
may forget that everything is the property of the Supreme Lord, but the
demigods do not forget. So the worship of demigods and achievement of desired
results are due not to the demigods but to the Supreme Personality of Godhead,
by arrangement. The less intelligent living entity does not know this,
and therefore he foolishly goes to the demigods for some benefit. But the
pure devotee, when in need of something, prays only to the Supreme Lord.
Asking for material benefit, however, is not a sign of a pure devotee.
A living entity goes to the demigods usually because he is mad to fulfill
his lust. This happens when something undue is desired by the living entity
and the Lord Himself does not fulfill the desire. In the Caitanya-caritämåta
it is said that one who worships the Supreme Lord and at the same time
desires material enjoyment is contradictory in his desires. Devotional
service to the Supreme Lord and the worship of a demigod cannot be on the
same platform, because worship of a demigod is material and devotional
service to the Supreme Lord is completely spiritual.
For the living entity who desires to return to Godhead, material desires are impediments. A pure devotee of the Lord is therefore not awarded the material benefits desired by less intelligent living entities, who therefore prefer to worship demigods of the material world rather than engage in the devotional service of the Supreme Lord.” (A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Bhagavad Gita As It Is 7:22. Purport.)
antavat tu phalaà teñäà
tad bhavaty alpa-medhasäm
devän deva-yajo yänti
mad-bhaktä yänti mäm api
“Men of small intelligence worship the demigods, and their fruits are limited and temporary. Those who worship the demigods go to the planets of the demigods, but My devotees ultimately reach My supreme planet.” (Bhagavad Gita 7:23.)
“Some commentators on the Bhagavad-gétä
say that one who worships a demigod can reach the Supreme Lord, but here
it is clearly stated that the worshipers of demigods go to the different
planetary systems where various demigods are situated, just as a worshiper
of the sun achieves the sun or a worshiper of the demigod of the moon achieves
the moon. Similarly, if anyone wants to worship a demigod like Indra, he
can attain that particular god’s planet. It is not that everyone, regardless
of whatever demigod is worshipped, will reach the Supreme Personality of
Godhead. That is denied here, for it is clearly stated that the worshipers
of demigods go to different planets in the material world but the devotee
of the Supreme Lord goes directly to the supreme planet of the Personality
Here the point may be raised that if the demigods are different parts of the body of the Supreme Lord, then the same end should be achieved by worshipping them. However, worshipers of the demigods are less intelligent because they don’t know to what part of the body food must be supplied. Some of them are so foolish that they claim that there are many parts and many ways to supply food. This isn’t very sanguine. Can anyone supply food to the body through the ears or eyes? They do not know that these demigods are different parts of the universal body of the Supreme Lord, and in their ignorance they believe that each and every demigod is a separate God and a competitor of the Supreme Lord.
Not only are demigods parts of the Supreme Lord, but ordinary living entities are also. In the Çrémad-Bhägavatam it is stated that the brähmaëas are the head of the Supreme Lord, the kñatriyas are His arms, the vaiçyas are His waist, the çüdras are His legs, and all serve different functions. Regardless of the situation, if one knows that both the demigods and himself are part and parcel of the Supreme Lord, his knowledge is perfect. But if he does not understand this, he achieves different planets where the demigods reside. This is not the same destination the devotee reaches.
The results achieved by the demigods’ benedictions are perishable because within this material world the planets, the demigods and their worshipers are all perishable. Therefore it is clearly stated in this verse that all results achieved by worshipping demigods are perishable, and therefore such worship is performed by the less intelligent living entity. Because the pure devotee engaged in Kåñëa consciousness in devotional service of the Supreme Lord achieves eternal blissful existence that is full of knowledge, his achievements and those of the common worshiper of the demigods are different. The Supreme Lord is unlimited; His favor is unlimited; His mercy is unlimited. Therefore the mercy of the Supreme Lord upon His pure devotees is unlimited. (A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Bhagavad Gita As It Is 7:23. purport extract.)
So we can see that if we are thinking that the
deva / demigod has some separate power, or potency and we direct our energies
to trying to get something from them, then we are less intelligent, and
end up with only achieving half the goal, by attaining to some deva-loka
instead of Vaikuntha-loka. The very similar activity performed with a slightly
different consciousness doesn’t lead to the deva-lokas, but instead leads
to the Supreme Abode – Vaikuntha – Goloka.
"As for the various fruitive results, such as the attainment of rain, a son, or residing in a celestial material planet, that are offered to the followers of the karma-kanda rituals in the Vedas. These benefits are offered to attract the minds of ordinary men. When ordinary men see that these material benefits are actually attained by performing Vedic rituals, they become attracted to study the Vedas. By studying the Vedas they become able to discriminate between what is temporary and what is eternal. In this way they gradually become averse to the temporary things of this world and they come to hanker after Brahman. In this way it may be understood that all the parts of the Vedas describe the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Vedic rituals bring material benefits as a result only when the performer of the ritual is filled with material desire. If the performer is materially desireless, then he does not gain a material result, but rather the result he obtains is purification of the heart and the manifestation of spiritual knowledge. Therefore the meaning of the verse 'tam etam vedanuvacanena brahman vividisanti', 'brahmanas study the Veda to understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead'(Brhad Aranyaka Upanishad 4:4:22.) is that in the Vedic rituals when one is required to worship a particular deva, one does so as a limb or representative of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and thus by worshipping them one is actually worshiping the Supreme Lord, the result being that one gradually becomes pure in heart and awake with spiritual knowledge."(Baladev Vidyabhushana. Govinda Bhasya commentary on Vedanta Sutra 1:4:4. Adhkarana sutra 4.)
This is in the same respect as one serves or offers respect to the ambassador of a country as the representative of the King or Queen, such a representative carries the offering to its rightful recipient, Sri Krishna.
In similar regard, "Srila Baladeva Vidyabhushana, a great commentator on the Bhagavad Gita writes as follows: ye indrady-angatayavasthitam yajnam sarveshwaram vishnum abhyarcya tac-chesham ashnanti tena tad deha-yatram sampadayanti, te santah sarveshwarasya yajna-purushasya bhaktah sarva-kilbishair anadi-kala-vivrddhair atmanubhava-prati-bandhakair nikhilaih papair vimucyante. The Supreme Lord, who is known as the yajna purusha, or the personal beneficiary of all sacrifices, is the master of all the demigods, who serve Him as the different limbs of the body serve the whole. Demigods like Indra, Chandra and Varuna are appointed officers who manage material affairs, and the Vedas direct sacrifices to satisfy these demigods so that they may be pleased to supply air, light and water sufficiently to produce food grains. When Lord Krishna is worshipped, the demigods, who are different limbs of the Lord, are also automatically worshipped; therefore there is no separate need to worship the demigods."(Srila A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupad. 1989. Bhagavad Gita As It Is. 3:14. purport page 179.) Bhoktaram yajna tapasam...........(Bhagavad Gita, As It Is, 5:29.) "The sages, knowing Me as the ultimate purpose of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all planets and demigods and the benefactor and well wisher of all living entities, attain peace from the pangs of material miseries."
"No one is greater than He. He is greater than the greatest of the demigods, lord Shiva and lord Brahma. In the Vedas (Shwetashvatara Upanishad 6:7.) the Supreme Lord is described as tam ishwaranam paramam maheshwaram..........!"(Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. 1989. Bhagavad Gita, As It Is, purport 5:29. page 305.)
The example is often given that just as milk can be transformed into Yogurt by coming in contact with a culture/curdling agent, but that yogurt can never again become milk (Brahma Samhita 5: ). So in the same way the Supreme Original Personality of Godhead Lord Sri Krishna found a necessity to expand Himself to become the various forms of Lord Shiva (Sadaishiva, Rudra, Shambu, etc) who all have specific functionary purposes for appearing. And as tested by Brighumuni is not the Supreme Personality of Godhead (in that story where he approached Prajapathi Brahma who didn't see him being absorbed in other things and so didn't offer respects, and so Brisghu mentally cursed Brahma to not be worshipped anywhere. Brighu then approached lord Shiva who was sitting there with mother Parvati absorbed in amorous affairs, as so again didn't offer due respects to Brighu, who out of anger cursed him that he would be worshipped from this time on in the form of what he was thinking of when Brighu approached - consequently he is worshipped in the united form of the linga and yoni. From all this he could understand that neither Brahma, nor Shiva were the Supreme, so he ventured on to Lord Vishnu who was absorbed in Himself in transcendental Yoganidra. Brighu had mentally offended Brahma, verbally offended Shiva for their neglecting him, but when he approached the sleeping Vishnu, infuriated he kicked Vishnu on the chest to wake Him up. Lord Vishnu upon waking saw the Muni standing there and asked him to forgive Him (Vishnu) for not seeing him come and to please give Him his foot for Vishnu's chest is so hard, and the brahmin's feet are so soft that Vishnu wanted to appease Brighu. Actually up until that time Brighu had some mystic potency to have an extra eye beneath his foot to allowed some powers, so Vishnu removed this at this time. Laxmidevi seeing her lord being offended immediately left, and cursed the brahmanas (who Brighu represented) that she would never stay with them from that time on. .......the story goes on how she was again reincarnated as Padmavati and re-united with the Lord as Balaji (Vyenkateshwar) in the Tirumala hills..……..
There are many incidences that prove lord Shiva
to be subordinate; his name of Shankar is derived from his being the servant
of Shankarshan the expanded form of Lord Balaram, Lord of the Jivas; he
is seen sometimes deep in mantra meditation holding japa beads in his right
hand whilst leaning on an arm rest with his left, there he is chanting
the Holy name of Rama.
In Udupi (the place of Madhwacarya) when the Deity of Udupi Krishna came by boat from Dwaraka hidden in the Tilak, when Madhwa reclaimed that tilak from the hold of the merchant ship for saving their ship and lives when he proceeded along the beach en-route back to Udupi from the sea-shore of Malpe, part of that tilak broke off revealing a form of Lord Balaram. Madhwa looked for a place to put that Deity that was philosophically correct and found the temple of Skanda maharaj there. As you know Skandha is the son of Shiva (as Murugan, Kartikeya, Subramanyam, etc) so as a descendant coming from the followers of Lord Balaram, through Shankarshan, through lord Shiva, Madhwa placed the Deity as the main Deity and Skanda was moved over to be at His feet. That temple and Deity are still there as you come off the beach at Malpe, turn right and head in-land toward Udupi.
From another angle, of which there are always more
than one; Gopal Bhatta Goswami says in his Sat Kriya Sara Dipika for Vaishnava
samskaras that where the name of a deva is mentioned in ritual one should
replace it by finding the suitable, equivalent functional Vishnu form's
name and worship Him instead as Vaishnavas don’t worship devas. Coming
from the Sri Sampradaya this is something that Gopal Bhatta was very strict
about, no Sri Vaishnava ever worships anyone other than Vishnu Tattwa,
and Their devotees (ie. The Alwars, Adiyen, etc.).
Sripad Ananda Tirtha - Madhwacarya says in actuality ALL the names mentioned in shastra are those Vishnu forms, and that those we understand to be Agni, Shiva, etc., are in reality Agni dasa, Shiva dasa - as ALL these names are originally these names of Vishnu (i.e. Shiva & Agni are there in Vishnu Sahasra Nama).
Having said that, we do not discourage anyone from showing respects or gratitude to anyone for helping in their spiritual life. Even, after all, there are such examples as the Gopis of Vrindavan who approached mother Katyayani (a form of Durga) to get Krishna as their husband (Krishna Book 1:22.), a similar incident happened with mother Rukmini, Krishna's consort from Dwaraka (Krishna Book 1:52.), etc.
I don't think any of us would be so bold as to
address such exalted personalities with the following verse:
kaamais tais tair hrta-jnanah
tam tam niyamam aasthaya
prakrtyaa niyatah svayaa
"Those whose minds are distorted by material desires surrender unto the demigods and follow the particular rules and regulations of worship according to their own natures."(Bhagavad Gita 7:20.)
Rather understanding the heart and intent of the
relationship that a person may have developed over years, or even life
times living in a culture that respects, and honours even our lowly selves,
what to speak of the devas, in some cases I would be reluctant to include
the Gopis or mother Rukmini under the criterion for the next verse also:
antavat tu phalam tesham
tad bhavaty alpa-medhasam
devam deva-yajo yanti
mad-bhaktaa yanti maam api
"Men of small intelligence worship the demigods, and their fruits are limited and temporary. Those who worship the demigods go to the planets of the demigods, but my devotees ultimately reach My supreme planet."(Bhagavad Gita 7:23.)
Intelligence is given by the Lord through the Acarya,
and there are numerous examples of this: It is true that to worship
the demigods separate from the Lord would be a sure sign of being less
intelligent, but as Madhwacarya once pointed out to the greatly learned
Trivikram Pandit through his disciple Hrishikesh Tirtha, who he got to
bring a coconut.
"What is this?" Madhwa asked.
"A coconut" replied Trivikram Pandit.
......And this? (Showing him the husk), "Why that's coconut husk!"
......And this? (Showing him the shell like kernel), "Why that's the coconut shell!"
......And this? (Showing him he white fleshy meat inside), "Why that's coconut meat!"
......And this? (Showing him some milk), "That's coconut milk!"
Madhwa then asked, "Without the coconut, what existence do they have?"
Trivikram realising now that everything is part and parcel of the Lord, and meant for His exclusive service replied, "Everything has to be seen in relation to the Lord alone! Without Him in the center nothing of this world has a positive meaning."
Narottama das Thakura has sung:"Jnana kandha, karma kandha kevala visera bhanda” Karma kandha is the process of demigod worship it is poison if you want to drink the nectar of Krsna prema. SO FOR ALL ONES DESIRES ONE SHOULD ONLY APPROACH KRSNA – BE THEY – MATERIAL OR SPIRITUAL.
"One should not neglect to offer respects to the demigods. One may not be a devotee of demigods, but that does not mean that he should be disrespectful to them. For example, a Vaishnava is not a devotee of lord Shiva or lord Brahma, but he is duty-bound to offer all respects to such highly positioned demigods. According to Vaishnava philosophy, one should offer respect even to an ant, so then what is there to speak of such exalted persons as lord Shiva and lord Brahma?
In the Padma Puran it is said, 'Krishna, or Hari, is the master of all demigods, and therefore He is always worshippable. But this does not mean that one should not offer respect to the demigods."(Srila A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. 1970. Nectar of Devotion - Evidence Regarding Devotional Principles, page 67.)
So to reiterate; to have the devas on one's altar on the same level as the Supreme Lord, Sri Krishna is inappropriate. Yet to have the devas on one's altar as able servants, limbs of the Lord, where is the harm. However, some, so as not to confuse with Who is the worshippable Purusha may mentally honour the devas without formally offering seva on the altar – pith. I personally consider both as being correct.
So viñëu-ärädhana is the ultimate goal of life. In the Puräëas also, Lord Çiva was instructing Pärvaté, ärädhanänäà sarveñäà viñëor ärädhanaà param. Lord Çiva said that “Of all different types of worship, the worship of Viñëu is topmost.” So human life is specially meant for worshipping Viñëu. (A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. 27th December 1975. Bhagavad Gita class 3:14. Sanand.)
viñëor ärädhanaà param
tasmät parataraà devi
This is the instruction of Lord Çiva to Pärvaté. Pärvaté’s question was, “Which ärädhanam is the best?” So he replied, ärädhanänäà sarveñäà viñëor ärädhanaà param.
“Actually, an advanced Vaiñëava is to be respected more than Viñëu. As stated in the Padma puräëa, ärädhanänäà sarveñäà viñëor ärädhanaà param: of all kinds of worship, worship of Lord Viñëu is the best. Tasmät parataraà devi tadéyänäà samarcanam: and recommended more than worship of Viñhëu is worship of the Vaiñhëava”. (A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Srimad bhagavatam 7:14:39. Purport extract.)
Tadiya is the significant word in this verse, for it means in relation to. If there is no relation. Then there is not way we worship any other person.
Vaisnavanams yatha Shambu – lord Shiva is the greatest Vaishnava (devotee of Lord Vishnu – Krishna) So accordingly to worship lord Shiva, say on Shivaratri would not be inappropriate.
Actually in the Holy Dhams of Mayapur, Vrindavana, Jagannath Puri there are Shiva lingas that are worshipped according to his service function in relation to lord Shiva’s service as a protector of the Dham. Accordingly one should in actuality go to that place first and ask permission to enter the Dham, just as one does in going to Chandramuleshwar Shiva in Udupi, then to Ananta-asan Shiva, and then to Udupi Krishna. Similarly there are four Siva lingas in each directions for the protection of the Dhamas. They are called Dik-pala; in the west is Lord Bhutesvara, North is Lord Gokaresvar, East Pippalesvaara, South is Rangesvara.
I) In the Vaikuntha-loka there is a full fledged Visnu-tattva known as Sadasiva. Sri Advaita Acharya is this Sadasiva and is the material cause of the world (MahaVishnu being the efficient cause). This form is basically the same as Maha-Vishnu. This Sadashiva is mentioned in Adi 6:79., from the Vayu Purana. As Visnu-tattva, He has about 93% of the qualities of Krishna and is in every way "the Supreme Personality of Godhead."
II) There is another entity known as Shambhu or Sadashiva, described in Brahma-samhita, who is an expansion of the Vishnu-Sadashiva (Sri Chaitanya Charitamrta. Adi 6:79). He resides with Mayadevi in Mahesh-dhama which is slightly lower than Vaikunthaloka, but outside of the material world. This couple is the prototype of the materially embodied Shiva-Durga couples who live inside most of the material universes. This Shambu is not at all a Visnutattva but may be called Shiva-tattva, and possesses only 85% of the qualities of Krishna. Furthermore, he does not directly perform any destruction, not being a resident of any material universe.
III) Then there is the famous Lord Shiva and the 11 Rudras who live within this particular material universe and most others. They are also Shiva-tattva. Here, Shiva's expansions function for destruction. (I would guess that Hindus generally worship this Lord Shiva not realizing the variegatedness of Shambu and Vishnu etc. outside the material world.)
Thus we have three categories:
I) Maha-Vishnu/Sadashiva/Advaitacarya, Vishnu-tattva in Vaikuntha
II) Shambu/Sadashiva, a Shiva-tattva in Mahesh dhama
III) Lord Shiva and his Rudra expansions, also Shiva-tattva in the material universes.
Note-Only the form in I) is a full fledged Visnu-tattva.
To avoid confusion, of which there is sometimes some, we need to clarify; When the Puranas talk of the oneness of Shiva and Vishnu, they are referring to the *lesser forms* in II and III. Because of the great power of Shambu or Shiva-tattva and achintyabhedabheda tattva, the Shiva and Vishnu can be considered the same, yet different. The Vishnutattva-Sadashiva is very obscure and hardly mentioned anywhere except in Adi-lila and Vayupurana as far as I know.
Lord Shiva in Sri Vrindavan Dham is also known as Vrindavan Mahj, or Gopiswar Shiva, as he stood and stands guard when the Lord has his Rasa lilas. We can worship that Gopisvara Shiva in Vrindavana to help get rid of the false ego, that dictates material desires and be allowed to enter into the Lord’s transcendental pastimes – but it is an offense to approach him for material things. As Ashutosh he is very easily pleased and bestows his blessings, but he can be easily angered too.
Once upon a time, the cowherd men of Våndävana, headed by Nanda Mahäräja, desired to go to Ambikävana to observe the Çiva-rätri ceremony. The räsa-lélä was performed during the autumn, and after that the next big ceremony is Holi, or the Doläyäträ ceremony. Between the Doläyäträ ceremony and the räsa-lélä ceremony there is one important ceremony called Çiva-rätri, which is especially observed by the Çaivites, or devotees of Lord Çiva. Sometimes the Vaiñëavas also observe this ceremony because they accept Lord Çiva as the foremost Vaiñëava. But the function of Çiva-rätri is not observed very regularly by the bhaktas, or devotees of Kåñëa. Under the circumstances, it is stated in Çrémad-Bhägavatam that Nanda Mahäräja and the other cowherd men “once upon a time desired.” This means that they were not regularly observing the Çiva-rätri function but that once upon a time they wanted to go to Ambikävana out of curiosity. Ambikävana is somewhere in the Gujarat province, and it is said to be situated on the river Sarasvaté. Yet we do not find any Sarasvaté River in the Gujarat province, although there is a river named Savarmaté. In India, all the big places of pilgrimage are situated on nice rivers like the Ganges, Yamunä, Sarasvaté, Narmadä, Godävaré and Käveré. Ambikävana was situated on the bank of Sarasvaté, and Nanda Mahäräja and all the other cowherd men went there.
They very devotedly began to worship the deity of Lord Çiva and Ambikä. It is the general practice that wherever there is a temple of Lord Çiva, there must be another temple, of Ambikä (or Durgä), because Ambikä is the wife of Lord Çiva and is the most exalted of chaste women. She doesn’t live outside the association of her husband. After reaching Ambikävana, the cowherd men of Våndävana first bathed themselves in the river Sarasvaté. If one goes to any place of pilgrimage, his first duty is to take a bath and sometimes to shave his head. That is the first business. After taking a bath, they worshipped the deities and then distributed charity in the holy places.” (A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Krsna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead. KB34. )
Srila Prabhupada Allowed the Shiva Ratri celebrations
at Iskcon temples:
Prabhupäda: ...observing Çiva-rätri, Nanda Mahäräja and all the cowherds men, they increased their attachment for Kåñëa. That is wanted.
(A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Morning Walk. May 1st 1974. Bombay.)
Païcadraviòa: This last Sunday in New
York for Çiva-rätri there were so many Indians there. There
were thousands of Indians in that temple. It was very exciting just to
see so many people come in.
Prabhupäda: This is a good chance of United Nation—Indian, Americans, Englishmen, German, all mixed together.
(A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. February 24th 1977. Evening Darshan. Mayapura.)
Rämeçvara: At the Çiva-rätri
festival in Los Angeles, at the end of a lecture I was reading these figures.
We had about a thousand Indians who came to that festival in Los Angeles.
When I read these figures they were so struck, they were cheering, “Jaya,”
and clapping. They were just amazed. And afterwards, outside they were
coming up to me and folded hands: “We had no idea you were doing this work.
Is there anything we can do to help your society?” as soon as they heard
these figures. The leaders of the Indian American Association and all the
Indian associations in LA were coming there, and when they heard these
figures they were just offering their service.
Prabhupäda: And you did not send to the reporters and the...? No
(A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. February 24th 1977. Arrival of Devotees. Mayapur).
What to do: Siva Ratri:
“On the caturdasi of the waning phase of the moon in phalguna month occurs this festival of Siva. By the mercy of Siva, a devotee of the Lord, one can develop devotion to Sri Krsna. The vaishnavas do not follow the vrata of fasting and worship of Siva at night, but simply request Siva's mercy on this occasion. In Vrndavana many Gaudiya vaisnavas visit the temple of Gopesvara Mahadeva (in Vrindavana), where they offer flower garlands and pour ganges water on the Linga on this day.” (HBV)
For further information on how Vaishnavas revere
Shivaratri see my web page:
If someone has a Shiva linga they may bring it, and devotees may pour Ganga jal, or cold milk that has been offered to Lord Krishna over the phallic symbol of lord Shiva – the Shiva linga.
Otherwise if no linga is available a small picture may be placed in front of the altar on a nice pitha (altar), lower than any Vishnu tattwa deities. The devotees can offer an arati to him there.
A nice feast could be cooked and offered to Lord Krishna and the remnants be placed before lord Shiva.
Even though lord Chaitanya said that Vaishnavas do not take the remnants of the devas, when He visited Lord Jagannath in Puri, where they offer all of Jagannath mahaprasada to the devas afterwards, He relished that as maha-maha-prasadam.
In Vaishnava culture EVERYONE is given respect, thus there is no abuse; the Supreme Lord is respected, His assistants the devas are respected, the brahmins are respected, the elderly are respected, the womenfolk are respected, children are respected, the animals are respected.
We trust that this will offer positive ideas to encourage devotees in serving the Supreme Lord and not be taken negatively to go against any policy of any temple, as that is not my purpose.
The Supreme Personality of Godhead Sri Krishna
Bhagavan Ki Jaya,
All the Vaishnava devotees of the Lord ki jaya.