[Advaita-l] Names and forms of Iswara

kuntimaddi sadananda kuntimaddisada at yahoo.com
Sun Jun 18 10:47:54 EDT 2017

There have been a lot of discussion on the Vishnu and Shiva and on Shree Ramanuja, in the past. This year is supposed to be a celebration of 1000 years of the birth of Shree Ramanuja, or Ramanuja Tirunakshatram. Today I am going to talk about 'Sharanaagati'; both from Vaishnava's point as well as from Advaita point.  I found a beautiful article by Vidyaji responding to some comments almost 20 years ago, on Bhakti list -I am taking the liberty to post here, with my salutations to Vidya.
Hari Om!Sadananda---------------From: Vidyasankar Sundaresan (vidya_at_cco.caltech.edu)
Date: Thu Sep 11 1997 - 10:15:03 PDT

To the best of my knowledge, advaita AcAryas have not entered into a

discussion along the lines raised by you at all. From a grammatical

viewpoint, just as Siva, gaNeSa etc. have etymological meanings, as

auspiciousness, lord of the gaNas, etc. the name nArAyaNa also has such a

meaning, i.e. support/refuge of all men. In other words, in the Sanskrit

language, these names can all serve as common nouns. So it is not as if

some are exclusively common nouns and some exclusively proper nouns. 

In the vedArthasangraha, SrI rAmAnujAcArya draws attention to the

taittirIya AraNyaka, and says that nArAyaNa represents the cause, while

Siva, indra and others represent the level of effects. If I remember the

text right, he also includes the name vishNu in the level of effects. As

far as the advaitin is concerned, there can be no objection to this

statement, but it should be pointed out that in advaita, the ultimate

cause is the nirguNa brahman. We say that name and form do not

characterize the parabrahman, so that anything with form is in the level

of effects. Therefore, while advaitins will also say that nArAyaNa is the

cause, they de-emphasize the form, i.e. the four-armed,

sleeping-on-AdiSesha, holding-conch-and-discus form is still a form, and

therefore on the level of effects. According to us, the essential nature

of nArAyaNa is not all this, but pure consciousness. Now, the essential

nature of any jIva is also pure consciousness, and realization of this

constitutes moksha. Moreover, this pure consciousness is beyond name or

form, so it does not matter much to advaitins whether It is called

nArAyaNa or sadASiva. Both names refer to the same reality, but different

sages call it by different names. That is why, philosophical debates

aside, almost any advaita teacher will say that the essentially formless

One takes on form, in order to bless the devotee. The only thing to

remember is that this taking on of form is not an ultimately "real" event,

so that it does not limit the Lord at all. 



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