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PREDICTION OF SHIVA APPEARING IN KALI-YUGA AS SHANKARACHARYA
Another interesting prediction is that Lord Shiva, one of the great demigods, would appear in Kali-yuga as Shankaracharya. In the Padma Purana (6.236.5-12) Shiva explains to his wife, Parvati, that he will appear in the age of Kali to proclaim that the Buddhist doctrine is a false religion and illusory. He also said that he would propound the mayavada or impersonalist philosophy, emphasizing the indefinable nature of the Brahman, the great, impersonal spiritual force. He explained, "The philosophy of Maya (mayavada) is a wicked doctrine and is pseudo-Buddhist. In the form of a brahmana, I proclaim this doctrine in Kali-yuga. It makes the words of the holy Vedic texts meaningless and is condemned in the world. In this doctrine it recommends giving up one's duties of life [in order to be free of karma], which is said to be religiousness for those who have fallen from their duties. I will propound the identity of the Supreme Soul and the individual soul to be the [one and the same] Brahman in nature, without qualities. O goddess, I have conceived this mayavada (impersonalist) doctrine, which resembles a purport of the Ve das, for deluding people in this age of Kali [to mislead them toward atheism by denying the personal form of God]."
The Kurma Purana (1.30.33-34) states: "In Kali-yuga, Shankara, Nilalohita, will incarnate for the purpose of establishing rites of the Shrauta [Vedic] and Smarta [based on Smriti scriptures], with the desire for the welfare of his devotees. He will teach his disciples the knowledge of Brahman."
The Shiva Purana also quotes the Supreme Lord ordering Lord Shiva: "In Kali-yuga mislead the people in general by propounding imaginary meanings from the Vedas to bewilder them." How the Supreme Lord ordered Lord Shiva to appear in Kali-yuga to delude atheists and produce a philosophy and texts to hide the Supreme Being, and to make Shiva seem superior, is explained in the Padma Purana (6.71.89-116). Thus, we find in these verses confirmation that it was Lord Shiva who appeared in the Age of Kali as Shankaracharya at the request of the Supreme.
Shankaracharya (A.D. 788-820), also known as Shankara, was a follower of Shiva, born of a South Indian brahmana family in the town of Kaladi on the banks of the Periyar river. When Shankara appeared, Buddhism had spread throughout India. It had been patronized by Emperor Ashoka in the third century B.C., and the followers of Buddhism had given up the Vedas. The Buddhist philosophy, basically, is that the material creation is the only manifestation of the Absolute Truth, which itself is temporary and brought on by egoistic desires. It asserts that these desires must be eliminated for one to enter back into the void. It propounds that the void itself is all that is real and eternal, and the source from which everything manifests. The Buddhists believe in neither a soul nor a God and, ultimately, that the essence of everything is the nothingness or void wherein lies nirvana, freedom from all suffering.
Shankara's purpose, therefore, was to reform and purify religious life by reestablishing the authority of the Vedic scriptures. His interpretation of the Vedas is known as advaita or nondualistic because he taught that the individual jiva or soul is identical with God; that, ultimately, there is no variety, individuality, or personality in spiritual existence. According to him, the individuality of the Supreme Being and the jiva is false. This Mayavadi philosophy also teaches that the material world is false. The impersonal Brahman, or great white light, is truth. One merges back into the Brahman, where there are no activities or spiritual characteristics, after giving up the ego or bodily consciousness. Therefore, we find that impersonalists generally do not study the Vedas beyond the Vedanta-sutras. The reason is that as we progress through the Vedic literature up to the Puranas, it becomes more specific about the personal characteristics of the Absolute Truth, contradicting the impersonal viewpoint and establishing that the Supreme Being is a person.
In order for Shankara to teach the way he did, he had to ignore the many statements in the Vedas which assert that the Absolute Truth is the Supreme Person and the jivas are His subordinate parts. Therefore, by word jugglery, he developed a twofold theory that Brahman consists of the pure impersonal Brahman, and that any incarnation of God within this universe is simply a manifestation of that Brahman. This was a complete rejection of most of the Vedic literature, such as Bhagavad-grta, and in this way he differed with all orthodox Vedic schools. Like Buddha, he refused to answer questions about the origin of the cosmos and said that maya, the illusory energy, was inexplicable. However, since the Buddhists had followed a philosophy of complete atheism for hundreds of years and would never have accepted a viewpoint advocating a supreme personal God, Shankara's was the only philosophy they would consider. It was like a compromise between atheism and theism, but Shankara used the Vedas as the basis of his arguments. As Shankara traveled throughout India his arguments prevailed and Buddhism bowed. Thus, his purpose was accomplished, so much so that his Sariraka-bhasya is considered the definitive rendition of Vedanta even to the present day.
It is accepted in the Puranas, however, that Lord Shiva is the greatest devotee of Lord Vishnu, Krishna. Pictures of Shiva always show him in meditation, concentrating on the Absolute Truth, Sri Krishna. And several times in Shankaras life he revealed his true beliefs, that he was actually a devotee of Lord Krishna. In his birthplace of Kaladi, for example, there is a temple near the samadhi tomb of his mother that has a Deity of Lord Krishna installed by Shankara himself. Furthermore, in his Gita-bhasya, the first verse explains that Narayana (another incarnation of Lord Krishna), or Bhagavan, is transcendental to the material creation. In The Bhagavad-gita with the Commentary of Sri Sankaracarya, Dinkar Vishnu Gokhale establishes that Lord Shiva writes in his Meditations on the Bhagavad-gita: "Salutations to thee, O Vyasa [Vyasadeva, the incarnation of Krishna who compiled the Vedas]. Thou art of mighty intellect, and thine eyes are as large as a full-blown lotus. It was thou who brightened this lamp of wisdom, filling it with the oil of the Mahabharata." Shankara also points out that it is Bhagavan Krishna, "whose glories are sung by the verses of the Vedas, of whom the singers of the Sama sing, and of whose glories the Upanishads proclaim in full choir." This indicates that Shankara was encouraging everyone to read Bhagavad-gita and Mahabharata as written by Srila Vyasadeva to understand the conclusion of spiritual knowledge. This also gives evidence that Shankara's personal beliefs were different from the philosophy he taught. There is no evidence that makes this clearer than texts eight and nine of his Meditations on the Bhagavad-gita as follows:
I offer my respectful obeisances unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna, the transcendental, blissful husband of the Goddess of Fortune, whose mercy turns the dumb into eloquent speakers and enables the lame to cross mountains. Let all obeisances be unto the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna, whom Brahma, Varuna, Indra, Rudra, the Maruts, and all divine beings praise with the divine hymns of the Vedas and their supplementary parts, such as the Upanishads, whom the followers of the Sama-veda glorify with song, whom great mystics see with their minds absorbed in perfect meditation and of whom all the hosts of demigods and demons know not the limitations. To Him, the Supreme Lord, let there be all obeisances.
Near the end of his life Shankara wrote a verse which is often neglected by his followers, yet was for those who might miss the actual purport of the Vedas. In the proper mood of Lord Shiva he wrote, "Worship Govinda [another name of Krishna], worship Govinda, worship Govinda, you intellectual fools. At the end of your life all your grammatical arguments will not help you."