Greetings and Namaste. As Sri Mahashivratri falls on 24-Feb-2017 (Fri), I am delighted to share a very beautiful hymn titled Sri Vyasashtakam taken from Skanda Puranam, Kashi Khandam, and Chapter 95. Although it is titled Vyasashtakam (implying a prayer on Sage Vyasa), it is actually prayer by Sage Vyasa on Lord Rudra.
The potency of this prayer can be gleaned from the brief Phalashruti which mentions that Lord Shankara gets immensely pleased with one who recites this hymn with devotion and gets redemption from even the goriest of the sins such as patricide, matricide, infanticide, killing of cow, drinking of alcohol, etc. and Lord Shiva resides with him eternally.
Sage Vyasa establishes the greatness of Lord Shiva unequivocally in this prayer and even makes some categorical statements that shall definitely raise the eyebrows of jaundice-eyed religious charlatans. For example, he claims that Lord Vishwanatha is unfathomable even to even Lord Vishnu, Lord Brahma, and Goddess Saraswati (Stanza 5).
In stanza 8, he claims that he (Sage Vyasa) neither is aware of nor prays to any Deva other than Lord Trinetra (Lord Shiva) and he corroborates this as eternal truth with the word Satyam thrice. This kind of statements comes from different Devas/Sages on different deity forms (e.g. Adi Shankara says the same to Lord Subrahmanya in Subrahmanya Bhujangam). If we look at the innumerable compositions of Sri Muthuswamy Dikshitar, he repeats the same message to almost every deity on whom he composed krithis!
So, obviously we become confused and it makes us wonder how these sages can be so shameless and hypocritical to utter so many blatant lies like this and yet preach us to adhere to dharma and be truthful?
Or is it? If we take off our partisan-tinted glasses, it will dawn on us that these sages don’t fail us – we fail them. They don’t consider deity forms as different gods as we mortals do. We have seen this in innumerable quotes from scriptures – belonging to all colors/sects – in the last several years. We have also seen that Varaha Purana declares one who considers Shiva and Vishnu as different is a lowly outcaste (adhama). Do we need any more?
There is a rare Shiva Sahasranama titled Vedasara Shiva Sahasranama in Padma Puranam and it is mentioned that Lord Vishnu constantly prays to Lord Shiva with this Sahasranama. In this Sahasranama, Lord Krishna says thus:
sa shivaH sa mahAdevaH sha~Nkarashca nira~njanaH | tasmAn nAnyaH paro devas triShu lokeShu vidyate ||
(Meaning: He is Lord Shiva, Mahadeva, Shankara, and Niranjana. There is no greater Deva than him in all of the three worlds)
Further, he says that He (Lord Krishna/Vishnu) arises from the left side of Lord Shiva’s body (and Lord Brahma from the right side):
vAmA~NgAd abhavaM tasya so.ahaM viShnur iti smRRitaH | janayAmAsa dhAtAraM daxiNA~NgAt sadAshivaH ||
If there indeed is any disparity among them, they should be fighting with each other, not us because our worldly quarrel can be of no help in their abodes. Is there any evidence of one ill-treating the other because of his perceived superiority? Nope. If it is indeed so, will they utter such respectful words to each other? If they worship each other with intense devotion and claim there is no difference among them, who are we to indulge in such daffy difference seeking attitude?
So, the question – who is a greater god – Shiva or Vishnu or Brahma? – is not only invalid and illegitimate – but also is a sign that one who engages in such pursuit doesn’t really value his/her invaluable time. There is a slightly derogatory proverb in Tamil which precisely explains this predicament (வேலையில்லாத நாவிதன் பூனையைப் போட்டு சிரைத்தானாம்) which literally means "A barber without work to do started shaving a cat". I am sure this proverb exists in every language – at least there is an equivalent in Telugu and Kannada.
The one and only pursuit of an asthika is spiritual advancement for the self – not to look for differences in vital statistics in deity forms – which we can’t even comprehend – which sages have corroborated as deadly sin.
If you look at the book "Vrat Parichaya" from Gita Press, it is claimed that one who perceives differences between Shiva and Narayana will get afflicted with severe stomach ailments in the next birth (in addition to the other sufferings) and there is a lifelong Vrat to seek forgiveness and relief.
May We Pray To Lord Shiva who is also Lord Narayana and Lord Brahma with this beautiful prayer of Sage Vyasa on Sri Mahashivratri day! May He Bless Us With Real/Eternal Knowledge!