[Advaita-l] Selections from the Shiva-mahimna-stotram - 1

Anand Hudli ahudli at gmail.com
Wed Jun 9 11:22:22 CDT 2010

Thanks to Subrahmanian-ji for posting this series. Indeed, the Shiva mahimna
stotra is considered one of the foremost hymns extolling Shiva. Devotees of
Shiva recite or listen to this great hymn everyday or at least on days that
are especially marked for Shiva worship, such as the pradoSha,
shivarAtri, and the day during which the ArdrA nakShatra prevails.

Madhusudana Sarasvati has written a masterly commentary on the Shiva Mahimna
stotra. A special feature of this commentary is that Madhusudana has
interpreted the verses of the hymn as being addressed to both Shiva and
Vishnu. He interprets a verse as a praise of Shiva and then goes on to show
who it can be interpreted as a praise of Vishnu also. He says:
"hari-shankarayoH stutistayorabhedajnAnAya-abhipretA", the prayer is
addressed to both Hari (Vishnu) and Shankara (Shiva) to convey the
realization that both (Hari and Shankara) are nondifferent from each other.

For example, in the first verse, last line, the words "stotre hara" can be
split as "stotre hara" in which case Hara (Shiva) is being addressed.
Madhusudana explains the word "hara" as "sarvANi duHkhAni haratIti haraH",
meaning hara (Shiva) is One who removes all sorrows.  Alternatively, "stotre
hara" can be taken as a sandhi of "stotre" and "ahara", in which case,
"ahara" is being addressed. Who is "ahara"? Madhusudana explains: haratIti
haraH saMhartA, tadviruddho aharaH pAlayitetyarthaH", hara means Destroyer,
Shiva and ahara means the opposite - the Protector, Vishnu. Alternatively,
as Madhusudana says:
अथवाऽहः अहो परम्, परा मा लक्ष्मीर्यस्येति तथा हे लक्ष्मीपते।
लक्ष्मीपतित्वान्ममालक्ष्मीं स्वत एव नाशयिष्यसीति योग्यं संबोधनम् ।
Or, ahara means One who has parA or lakShmI. Since He is lakShmIpati
(Vishnu, the lord of lakShmI), it is appropriate that He is being addressed
as One who destroys the devotee's alakShmI, misfortune or poverty.

 There is also a Shakti-mahimna stotra, said to have been composed by the
sage Durvasa, which begins by saying that the greatness (mahimA) of the
Mother cannot be described even by Shiva Himself!

मातस्ते महिमां वक्तुं शिवेनापि न शक्यते ।
भक्त्याहं स्तोतुमिच्छामि प्रसीद मम सर्वदा ॥

mAtaste mahimAM vaktuM shivenApi na shakyate|
bhaktyAhaM stotumichchhAmi prasIda mama sarvadA ||

O Mother! Your greatness cannot be described even by Shiva! Be pleased with
me always, as I wish to praise You with devotion.

Since advaitins do not consider any hierarchy among Gods, they should not be
bewildered by what seem to be contradictory statements in the purANas and
other works. In one purANa, Vishnu reigns supreme while in another it is
Shiva who commands the respect of all other Gods. Still another purANa may
hold shakti or devI to be the greatest while yet another may accord Ganesha
this supreme status. Each God is treated as the greatest in the text held in
high esteem by His/Her devotees with a view of increasing the devotees'
bhakti, but not to show that there is a hierarchy (tAratamya) among Gods.
 Or, it is trick played by mAyA, as the mAyApanchaka says:
विधिहरिहरविभेदमप्यखण्डे बत विरचय्य बुधानपि प्रकामम्।
भ्रमयति हरिहरभेदभावानघटितघटनापटीयसी माया ॥
Alas! Even in the Undivided Brahman, mAyA creates distinctions called
BrahmA, Vishnu, and Shiva, and very much bewilders even the wise and makes
them differentiate among BrahmA, Vishnu, and Shiva. mAyA is an expert in
accomplishing the impossible.


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