viShNu and caturbhuja viShNu

Updated: 21st Mar 2015


After reading explanation given in Musings - Other Side of Coin, it can be concluded is that the param pada, dhAma is light, which is knowledge, which is state of consciousness.

We can understand from the commentaries by Sri Adi SankarAcArya ji that he used to refer to kruShNa, nArAyaNa, viShNu, hari as brahman. Lets try to understand whether our AcArya really meant caturbhuja viShNu or is it something different.

Before starting a detailed study, we will give our conclusions in brief

  1. Whenever any form of ISvara is described as 'that which is worshipped as AtmasvarUpa in heart', it is always nirguNa brahman.
  2. brahman is GYanasvarUpa and is nirguNa only, but is seen by 5 senses as having guNa-s due to faulty vision.
  3. viShNu is not always carutbhUja viShNu. viShNu or nArAyana when described as substratum of entire universe as the sole creator, preserver and destroyer, and as the source of all avatAra-s then the verse does not point to catur-bhUja viShNu, the deity of preservation, but brahman.
  4. viShNu is sometimes taken as pradhAna prakruti meaning it is feminine form, SAkti of nirguNa brahman.
  5. caturbhuja viShNu is 1/4th part of the supreme brahman, also called as viShNu.
  6. viShNu or any form of ISvara is saguNa brahman and is the closest manifested form of brahman, and hence this all-powerful form 'viShNu' is worthy of worship
  7. When is it said, 'I am you and you are me', then it confirms non-duality. e.g. if viShNu bhagavAn says that I am Siva', but Siva never says that 'I am viShNu', then one can understand that Siva is a part of viShNu, but when viShNu says, 'I am you and you are me', then it confirms non-duality. In the same way, at one instance, viShNu says 'I am Siva, brahmA, etc' and at a separate instance, Siva says, 'I am viShNu, brahmA, etc', then this too confirms non-duality.
  8. 'I' or 'Me' in gItA can be taken as 'brahman'

Now, lets analyze how the word 'bhagavAn' is used in purANa-s.

Meaning of the word 'bhagavAn' as given in bhAgavat purANa 3.32.31-33

bhAgavat purANa BP 3.32.31-33 talks about two ways of obtaining knowledge - the path of knowledge and the path of bhakti (devotion)

BP 3.32.31: Revered Mother! I gave you the knowledge (GYAna), a tool, that gives you the direct experience of Brahman (brahmasAxAtkara), and because of which one can know (bodha) the true nature (yathArtha svarUpa) of prakriti (mAyA) and puruSa (controller of mAyA, an omnipresent entity.

Note: Here it is said that one can know the true nature of both mAyA and puruSa. puruSa is sometimes taken as 'jiva' also, but in general, it is 'virATa' svarUpa. No matter whichever meaning we take, it indicates that one 'knows' both mAyA and puruSa. The knower, as witness, is always different from object of observation, hence we are not mAyA or purSa. Only in case of brahman, it is said that it cannot be reached by mind and senses, and is indescribable. Hence brahman is not to be experienced separately, but as our very own Self, there is not second, as said in mANDukya up. 7 - SAntam Sivam advaitam (brahman is peaceful, auspiciousness and non-dual)

BP 3.32.32: O Divine mother! The fruit of both of these paths - the knowledge related to nirguNa Brahman and the knowledge of bhaktiyOga given by me is one [and same] only; Fruit of both paths i.e. final destination obtained by practising both approaches (bhakti and GYAna) are also referred by the name of ‘bhagavAn’

BP 3.32.33: Just like the substratum of rUpa (form), rasa (taste), gandha (smell, aroma, fragnance), et al, many guNa-s (qualities), is one and only tatva which is experienced by different senses as different forms, in the same way, by practicing different paths as said in SAstra-s, one experiences the one and only same bhagavAn.

Earlier, sUtajI says,

BP 1.2.11: tatvavetta-s (the knowers of truth), calls advaita-GYAna as tatva. Some call this tatva as brahma, some paramAtmA or some 'bhagavAna'.

Brahman is both saguNa and nirguNa explains kapila munI in bhAgavat purANa 3.32.34-36

BP 3.32.34-36 without english translation of core words.

BP 3.32.34-36: Different types of karma-s [as sanctioned by SAstra-s], yaGYa, dAna, tapa, veda-adhyayan, veda-vicAra / veda-chintan [mimAmsA], Atma-indriya-nigrah {Atma is taken as mind, sanyAsa, yoga consisting of various limbs, bhaktiyoga, both types of dharmic actions like renunciation and action done with sakAma or niSkAma , knowledge of atma-tatva (Self / Brahman) and strong vairAGYa – by using all these sAdhana (tools), we can know svayamprakASa (self-effulgent) [that which lights all and which is not lighted by anyone i.e. consciousness is called as svayamprakAS] bhagavAn who is saguNa and nirguNa.

BP 3.32.34-36 with english translation of core words. (can be skipped)

BP 3.32.34-36: Different types of karma-s (actions) [as sanctioned by SAstra-s],

yaGYa (vedic rites and rituals),

dAna (donation)

tapa (austerity)

veda-adhyayan (to study the veda-s),

veda-vicAra / veda-chintan (thinking / comtemplating on veda-s) [mimAmsA],

Atma-indriya-nigrah (control over mind and [five] senses) - {Atma is taken as mind}

sanyAsa [karma-tyAga] (renunciation of actions),

yoga consisting of various limbs,


Both types of dharmic actions like renunciation and action done with sakAma (action done with keeping fruits on mind) or niSkAma (action done without any attachment of fruits or outcome),

knowledge of atma-tatva (Self / Brahman) and

strong vairAGYa (dispassion, absence of worldly desires in mind)

– by using all these sAdhana (tools), we can know svayamprakASa (self-effulgent) [that which lights all and which is not lighted by anyone i.e. consciousness is called as svayamprakA] bhagavAn who is of the form saguNa and nirguNa.

GYAna is param Brahma, it is one without a second and it is nirguNa says bhAgavat purANa

bhAgavat purANa says,

BP 3.32.26: GYAnamAtra para.m brahma
BP 3.32.28: GYAnameka.m parAcInairindriyairbrahma nirguNa.m 

Translation of full verses:

BP 3.32.26: It is GYAna that is pra-brahma, parameSvara / paramAtma, Isvara, puruSa; the same bhagavAn is himself jIva, SarIra, viShaya-s, senses, etc that is manifested is different forms.

BP 3.32.28: Gyana i.e. Brahman is one [without a second], it is nirguNa, but still, due to extrovert senses, this brahman, due to illusion, it is experienced (Abhasa) in the form of different forms / objects (vibhinna padArtha-s) of the nature of word (Sabda), etc 

i.e. the one, without the second the Brahman, which is knowledge, due to extrovert senses and due to illusion, is experienced in different forms or objects which can be known by the 5 senses via qualities like words (Sabda), etc. Here Sabda means speech. Sabda represents all 5 senses and their GYAnedriya-s like 

Sabda (words) → ears
rUpa (form) → eyes
rasa (taste) → tongue
sparSa (touch) → skin and
gandha (smell) → nose

In other words, Brahman, the one without a second, though nirguNa, i.e. without guNa-s (attributes, beyond sattva, rajas and tamas), and so inconceivable is wrongly conceived with the help of mind and 5 senses and GYAnendriya-s, due to extrovert senses (extrovert mind).

viShNu purANa in anSa 5, adhyAya 18 says,

VP 5.18.57: Whose vAcaka (expression) is 'sata' pada ['OM tat, sat'], that axara (akshara) (indestructible) 'OM' is your parama svarUpa (ultimate, highest, absolute form). I bow down to your GYAnasvarUpa (that which is pure knowledge, pure consciousness).

(This and related verses from viShNu purANa are studied later in article 'viShNu is not always caturbhUja viShNu'

viShNu bhagavAn is the most nearest svarUpa of brahman

viShNu purANa says,

VP 1.22.61: all powerful viShNu is the para-svarUpa (higher form) of brahman and is manifested who is contemplated by yOgI-s before entering into yOga.
VP 1.22.62: O muni-s ! Whose mind is properly concentrated with continuous practice, attains 'Avalamban-yukta sabIja mahAyOga'. [1] O the fortunate one! the sarvabrahmamaya [2] [viShNu bhagavAn] is the foremost among all the parASakti and is the most nearest mUrta-brahmasvarUpa (manifested form of brahman)

[1] yOga attained by taking help of name and form i.e. manifested form of brahman.

Avalamban means support. Here it means that those who meditate properly with one-pointedness on the form of viShNu attains union. Since these yOgI-s take support of a 'form', hence their achievement is called as Avalamban-yukta. sabija could mean 'that with form' as beej is a form of manifestation. beeja also means garbha i.e. source or mAyA or lower brahman (lower brahman is explained in Gita BG 8.20).

[2] sarvabrahma-maya means 'completely identified with brahman'

Source: Gita Press, Hindi translation, page 109

viShNu is not always caturbhUja viShNu

It is a common notion to take viShNu as caturbhUja viShNu, i.e., viShNu bhagavAn having a particular form with mace, discus, lotus, Sankha, etc. 

'I', 'me', param pada of viShNu, and the real nature of viShNu is nirguNa.

viShNu purANa is considered as most authentic and is most quoted purANa by Adi Sankara. When our AcArya used to write purANa, it is to be taken as 'viShNu purANa'  and 'itihAsa' has to be taken as 'mahAbhArata'. (AcArya bhagavadpAda also considered vAlmiki rAmAyaNa as authentic.)

Lets study some sloka-s from viShNu purANa (VP) which cover these words. 


VP: viShNu purANa
To separate viShNu, paramAtmA from chaturbhuja viShNu, [the deity of preservation] will be added in square brackets
[] square brackets are used when extra words are added to complete statement. It is not always possible to insert square brackets, we sentence construction in English is different from hindi / sanskrit.
() curved brackets are used in to define or translate sanskrit words in English, specially when the translation is not the accurace.
{} curly brackets are used to give additional explanation or alternate meaning of same word.

viShNu the supreme brahman is different from 'viShNu' of trinity. viShNu is the cause of all three. Similarly nArAyaNa is supreme brahman is different from chaturbhuja viShNu.

VP 1.2.1-2: srI parASarajI said – the one who is the cause of brahmA, viShNu (hari) {deity of preservation} and Sankara and assumes the forms of brahmA, viShNu {deity of preservation} and Sankara for the creation, preservation and destruction of the world (or universe). And who helps his devotees to swim the ocean of samsAra i.e. transcend his devotees beyond samsAra (this transcient world), that changeless, pure, indestructible, paramAtmA, always one and uniform (ekarasa), completely victorious (sarvavijayI), my salutations to bhagavAn vAsudeva viShNu.

Simple translation of VP1.2.3: 

VP 1.2.3: Inspite of being one, appears as in many forms, is of the nature of gross-subtle, is unmanifested and is also manifest, and is the cause of liberation of his devotees, I bow to that bhagavAn viShNu.

VP 1.2.3 directly translated from hindi version of Gita Press:

VP 1.2.3: Inspite of being one, still is [seen] in different forms {appears in different forms}, is of the nature of gross-subtle, is unmanifested {the cause - kAraNa}, and is manifest {effect – kArya} (vyaktarUpa), and is the cause of liberation (mukti) [of his devotees who worship him with continuous devotion / or with feeling 'I am not different from brahman'] [I bow to that bhagavAn viShNu]

VP 1.2.4: The one who is the root cause of the creation, preservation and destruction of this world, I bow to that viShNu paramAtmA.

From the above verses, it is clear that there are two viShNu-s. 

  • One who is the root cause of the trinity and takes their form
  • One who is the deity of preservation.

The verses also point the 

  • viShNu is both manifest as effect and unmanifest as the cause. 
  • viShNu is paramAtmA

Verses also point that thou viShNu appears in different forms, viShNu is still the changeless and pure. Here pure is to be taken as free from guNa-s. In gItA it is said that one must 'know' bhagavAn' and this can be done by using 'asanga SAstra'. a-sanga means not to associate with any guNa.

Later verses 5-8 describe bhagavAn viShNu is nirmal GYAnasvarUpa i.e. of the nature of pure consciousness, but due to ignorance is seen as various forms.

VP 1.2.5-8: That which is the substratum of the whole universe, is subtle than the subtlest, is the puruSottama established in all beings and is indestructible, that paramArtha (highest truth) [in reality] is nirmala [1] GYAnasvarUpa [2], but due to ignorance, is recognized as vaious forms, and that [in the form of kAla (time)} is the creator, preserver and destroyer of the world, to that jagadiSvara (lord of the world), ajanmA (unborn), axaya (akshaya) (indestructible) and avayaya (unchanging), [who is ] bhagavAn viShNu, I bow and will tell you the whole event gradually (in order), that truth which was told by bhagavAn brahmA jI when he was requested by daxa (daksha), etc munI-s.

[1] nirmala - stainless, that which is not impure by mixing of guNa-s
[2] GYAna-svarUpa - that which is of the form of pure knowledge / consciousness. Here the word 'form' is not to be taken literally. sva-rUpa means 'one's own [real] form. GYAna-sva-rUpa means that whose form is GYAna [itself] i.e. that which is Self-effulgent and can be known by itself only.

Verses 10-13 describes viShNu, the paramAtmA as free from all guNa-s and six types of changes or modifications like birth, etc, is beyond names and forms, and for the one we can only say that 'it is' [or it exists] (in hindi - 'hai'). Due to being eternal (nitya), without any birth, undecaying, imperishable, the one and due to the absence of guNa-s[viShNu bhagavAn] is called as pure parabrahma.

VP 1.2.10-13: 'That which is para (higher) than the para [prakriti], parashreSTha (best of the best), paramAtmA abiding in AtmA {heart}, that in which form, colour, name and attributes are negated (absent) (vivarjIta); in which birth (conception), existence, growth, transformation (change, modification), decay (xaya, kshaya) and destruction - all these six changes are absent; which can only be said to 'exist' (i.e. is existence), and for which it is popularly said 'it is present everywhere' and in him the whole universe resides - hence wise call it [this tatva as] vAsudeva' that [same tatva] is eternal, unborn, undecaying (imperishable), unchanging, unchangeable (ekarasa) and is devoid of guNa-s like 'can be renounced' (heya) etc, due to these reason is called as 'nirmala parabrahma' [1]

[1] nirmala = pure, mala = impurity, nir-mala = in which there is no impurity, i.e. devoid of any impurity

paramAtmA is beyond guNa-s and attributes, it cannot be negated and is called as nirmala parabrahman (pure consciousness)

Verse 15 describes puruSa as the first from of parabrahma.

VP 1.2.15: O dvija ! (twice born), puruSa is the first form of paramAtmAn, unmanifested [prakruti] and manifested [mahada, etc] are his other forms. And since [this form] is adorned by all, kAla (time) is the topmost / best form (paramarUpa).

Four forms of paramAtmAn are

  1. puruSa
  2. avyakta (prakriti)
  3. vyakta (mahada, etc)
  4. kAla

Verse 1.2.15 shows that puruSa itself is not the supreme para-brahman, but the first form or manifestation of viShNu. Here puruSa can be an omnipresent entity and not caturbhUja viShNu, a person.

Some more verses from viShNu purANa will make thing clear

We will take verses 1.22.26-27 into consideration. Earlier verse 2.22.23 says that janArdana, during creation, preservation and destruction divides itself into four parts. Later verses describe four parts assumed during creation, preservation and destruction of the world.

VP 1.22.23: [That] janArdana divides itself into four parts while creating and preserving the universe and by dividing itself in four forms destroys the world.

Now, the four parts are described w.r.t. guNa-s. First it starts with creation (rajas), then sattva (preservation) and lastly tamas guNa (destruction)

VP 1.22.24-25: With one part becomes unmanifested brahmA ji, with second part marici, etc prajApati, [lord's] third part is kAla and fourth is all beings.

VP 1.22.26-27 Then that puruShottama with support (getting in tune with) sattva guNa preserves the world. During that time, from first part [1], viShNu [deity of preservation] form preserves the world, with second part, assumes the form of manu, etc and from third assumes the form of kAla (time) and from forth is present in all bhUta-s (all bodies, i.e. is present everywhere).

Here the classification is different than earlier verses. This is because this classification is based on guNa-s

[1] The literal meaning is - from first part becomes viShNu and preserves the universe.

the word unmanifested brahmA ji indicates that brahmA ji was present even during first creation of universe and later on stayed in unmanifested form. This is also confirmed in kurma purANa.

VP 1.22.28-29: and in the end [when time for destruction of universe has come], that unborn bhagavAn taking AdhAra (support) of tamo guNa (tamas guna), with one part takes rudrarUpa, with second [part] agni (fire) and form of death, with third kAla and with fourth stays in all bodies and worlds (omnipresence)

Studying verse VP 1.22.26-27, we can come to following conclusion:

  • puruShottama is different from viShNu, the deity of preservation. 
  • viShNu as deity of preservation, is only a part of puruShottama
  • viShNu, as deity of preservation, does not have quality of assuming forms of manu, etc, kAla and omnipresence (ability to be present in all beings)
  • Assuming the form of kAla, means that puruShottama can stay nirAkAra (formless).
  • viShNu takes form with the help of three guNa-s. Hence what we see is actually viShNu (tatva) covered with guNA-s.

An interesting thing is that, the names viShNu, nArAyanA, hari, puruShottama, janArdana, etc are interchangeably used with chaturbhUja viShNu, a person. This creates a lot of confusion. But from our study, we can conclude that whenever any form is glorified as the supreme, creator, preserver and deity of destruction and also present in all living beings, is mahA-kAla and assumes the form of manu, etc then it is not chaturbhuja viShNu, it is the supreme brahman, nirguNa brahman.

Some more verses supporting the claim that viShNu is different from chaturbhuja viShNu.

VP 1.2.61 Established [in Self], the vishveshvara bhagavAn viShNu, by endowing itself [as brahman is nirguNa adn nirAkAra] with rajoguNa, assumed the form of brahmA jI began the work of creation

VP 1.2.62 And after finishing the creation, by endowing itself with  the most magnificient sattvaguNA, the great bhagavAn viShNu [as viShNu, the preserver] sustains the creation for many yuga-s yuga-yugAntara) until the end of kalpa

VP 1.2.63 O Maitrei (maitrai)! then, in the end of kalpa, by endowing itself with the painful tamoguNa, assumed the form of rudra that janArdana viShNu [different from preserver viShNu], destroys or engulfs everything.

VP 1.2.66 The same (one and only one) bhagavAn janArdana, assumes the form (upAdhi-s, sanGYA) of brahmA for creation, viShNu for perservation and Siva for destruction.

VP 1.2.67 [That] bhagavAn viShNu, by becoming [or acting or assuming the form of] creator [brahmA jI] creation itself, by assuming the form of viShNu sustains itself and by assuming the form of Siva destroys itself and itself [which is creation and jIva-s] merges into itself.

There are more verses which confirm that viShNu is not always caturbhUja viShNu

VP 1.22.30: O brahman ! for [the purpose of] destruction [of these worlds], four types of everlasting (sarvakAlika)[1] divisions are imagined of that mahAtmA (vibhAga-kalpanA)

sarvakAlika also means, occurrence at all times, present at all times.

Hence here we can take sarvakAlika as the divisions that occur each time there is destruction of the world.

VP 1.22.31: brahmA, daxa (daksha) etc prajApatigaNa, kAla and all living beings - all these are parts (vibhuti-s) of Sri hari are the cause of the creation of the world.

VP 1.22.32: he dvija ! (twice born), viShNu, manu, etc, kAla and all beings - all these are the cause of sustenance of the worlds and are the parts (vibhuti-s) of bhagavAn viShNu

VP 1.22.33: and rudra, kAla, death, etc and all jIva-s (beings) - all these four parts (vibhuti-s) are of SrI janArdana and are the cause of destruction (pralaya) [of the worlds].

These verses indicate that

  • brahmA, viShNu [deity of preservation] and rudra are parts (vibhuti-s) of the supreme lord, viShNu.
  • brahmA, viShNu [deity of preservation] and rudra are not jIva-s as kAla i.e. time is not a person and the word 'all jIva-s' is separated by the word 'and' (ca - in sanskrit). If you take 'and' as just the addition of last word, then all three brahmA, viShNu and rudra become jiva-s, which is unwise to accept.
  • VP 1.22.33 indicates that rudra is not a jiva, but a form or partial manifestation of the supreme brahman, commonly referred by the name 'viShNu'

We shall understand some more verses:

For understanding that the substratum of universe and all activities is nirguNa brahman, lets have a look at verse 1.22.41 and 1.22.42

VP 1.22.41: For the creation, preservation and in the end time [i.e. at the time of destruction] of this world, he, associates with three guNa-s, and hence his parampada is [the] great nirguNa.

Note: The word nirguNa is not used in sanskrit. It is logically derived meaning. It will be more clear when we take next few verses into consideration.

VP 1.22.42: This form (svarUpa) of paramAtmA is GYAnamaya (of the form of knowledge), vyApaka (all pervading, spread everywhere), svasamvedya (self-known, self effulgent, samvedya means to be known) and anupama (incomparable, to be taken as beyond comparison) and that form too is of four types. 

(later verses describe this four types)

VP 1.22.43: (Sri maitreya jI said) - O muni ! Please explain me how the param pada, as desrcibed by you is of four types? Please explin this step-by-step (vidhi-pUrvaka)

VP 1.22.44: (Sri parASara jI said) - O Maitreya ! That which is the cause (kAraNa) of all is also the tool / effect (sAdhana) and the achievement (siddhi) of the wished / imagined (abhimata) object is subject (sAdhya)

Lets study these four types of knowledge

VP 1.22.45: For those yogi-s who wish for liberation (mukti), prANayam etc is sAdhana (tool / subject) and parabrahman is sAdhya (object), from where one does not have to return [back to this world]

VP 1.22.46: he muni! the one which is the reason (cause) of liberation of a yogI, that 'sAdhanAlamban-GYana' [1] (knowledge obtained through prANayama) is the first difference of brahma-bhUta parampada (the supreme Brahman)

[1] prAnAyama etc are called as sAdhana-Avalamban GYAna (as given in Gita Press, Gorakhpur, Sanskrit-Hindi edition)

VP 1.22.47: To free oneself from kleSa-bandhan (bondage of sorrow), the practitioner of yoga, the yogi's 'sAdhya-rUpa' (object of worship), which is brahma, O great saint, this knowledge is called as 'Alambana-viGYAna' [1] and is the second difference.

[1] Alamban-viGYAna is taking help of knowledge. with word viGYAna can also mean direct experience.

Note: The first different is sAdhana and second is sAdhya. sAdhana is subject or tool and sAdhya is object or destination or final goal. This is similar to 'tvam pada' and 'tat pada' in the mahAvAkya 'tat tvam asi'

VP 1.22.48: The third difference is 'advaitamaya-GYAna' (non-dual knowledge), which is the realization of non-difference between the two - 'sAdya-sAdhana' 

In simple words, a yogi, established in non-dual knowledge, realizes the non-difference between the the subject and object of worship.

VP 1.22.49-51 and O great yogi!, by realizing the quality of these three types of knowledge [mentioned earlier], a yogi, after negating [1] these three types of knowledge, experiences the GYAnasvarUpa viShNu's (viShNu as knowledge, pure consciousness), which is similar to the similar to (i.e. same as) the Self, as nirvyApAra (inactive or action-less), anirvicanIya (indescribable), vyAptimAtra (omnipresence), anupama (incomparable), Atmabodha-svarUpa (of the nature of knowledge of Self), sattAmAtra (as mere entity or existence), alaXaNa (without any characteristics, without any expression, or form), Santa (peaceful), abhaya (in which there is no fear), Suddha (pure) [2], bhAvAtIta (beyond expression, sentiment, emotion, manifestation), and is Ashrayahina-rUpa (is of the nature of 'without any support, i.e. is Self Supporting, not dependent upon anything else), this supreme state known by the name 'brahma' (brahman), is the fourth difference.

[1] word used is nirAkaraNa
[2] pure means without any mixing, means asanga, without association (with anything)

All the laxaNa-s point to nirguNa brahman. Hence in VP 1.22.41, we have added the word 'nirguNa' for the sanskrit word 'mahAn'.

Lets brief the four types of GYAna (knowledges) as described in VP 1.22.46-51

1. 'sAdhana-Alamban-GYana' (knowledge obtained through prANayam) --> sAdhana (subject)
2. 'Alambana-viGYAna' (knowledge / information of object of worship i.e. brahma) --> sAdya (object of worship)
3. 'advaitamaya-GYAna' (non-dual knowledge), which is the realization of non-difference between the two - 'sAdya-sAdhana'
4. brahma-saxAtkAra - negation of above three different types of knowledge and realizing the Self as nirguNa brahman, where there is no second.

It is difficult to explain these differences. Lets try to understand them.

  • First type of knowledge is the mastery over breath (prANa) i.e. mastery over breathing techniques. This may also include activation of kundalini
  • Second type of knowledge is the understanding of brahman via study or by words of guru.
  • Third type of knowledge is understanding that there is non-difference meditator (subject, sAdhana) and object (sAdhya) i.e. jIva is not different from brahman. In other words, 'I' of jIva is not different from real 'I' - brahman. Earlier we had also seen that the cause and effect are non-different (VP 1.22.44). Even if we take this state as experience, still there is a thin line of separation and a trace of Ego left which says, 'I am brahman. There is no difference between us'. There is someone experiencing 'unity' or 'oneness'.
  • The fourth type of knowledge is the knowledge of the supreme Brahman, in which there is no separate experience.
We can further simplify the four types of knowledge as

  • Preparation (i.e. getting qualified for knowledge of brahman)
  • Spiritual instruction (updeSa) about knowledge of brahman
  • Knowledge that object of meditation and subject i.e. jIva (tvam pada) and brahman (tat) pada are not different.(here there is someone who says that 'I am one'. To negate any trace of duality in unity, the fourth type of knowledge is defined.
  • Realization of non-dual brahman as Self.

The fourth type of knowledge is different. It is direct experience of brahman as 'Self' or 'I'. Lets understand this fourth type of knowledge.

During meditation, there is a duality of observer and object of observer. When the object drops, then observer, which is relative term, also cease to exist, as there is nothing left to observe. What remains is just 'you' or 'I'. This 'I' is completely different from 'I' of Ego. Hence earlier it is said that in relation to ISvara, it is said that ISvara 'exists', nothing more can be said.

The fourth type of GYAna is the best. One rises beyond dvaita-advaita. One may have a doubt that even when one realizes non-difference, one is experiencing something.To break this jynx, the fourth type of GYana in which there is no [separate] experience is mentioned. Hence it is also said in VP 1.2.10-13 that we can only say that ISvara 'exists' (VP 1.2.10-13). Here too in VP 1.22.49-51, the word used is 'sattA-mAtra' which means, 'existence' or 'consciousness'

After knowing the non-difference between subject (meditator) and object (brahman), the separateness melts. What remains is only 'I' also called as 'consciousness'.

Lets continue our study in which we try to understand that viShNu is not always caturbhuja viShNu, a person.

viShNu purANa in anSa 5, adhyAya 18 relates viShNu with yaGYa (vedic rites and rituals)

VP: 5.18.49: O inconveivable ISvara ! I bow to parameSvara who is everything (sarvarUpa) [1] and of the form of oblations offered in havan (havis) You are inconveivable via intellect (beyond intellect, that which cannot be meditated by using 5 senses, mind and intellect) and are beyond prakruti, I repeatedly bow down to you.

[1] Adi Shankara while giving explaining the word सर्व (sarva - 25) in viShNu sahasaranAma says that the says of the cause or substratum of creation, preservation and destruction of both सत्‌ sat (truth) and असत्‌ asat (unreal) is called as sarva.

sarvarUpa also means who has taken all forms.

VP 5.18.51: O xara-axaramaya ISvara (kshara-akshara ISvara) (that which is of the form of both perishable and non-perishable i.e. of form and formless), [please] be pleased. It is you only who is imagined (kalpite) and is described (glorified) by [the names and forms] - brahmA, viShNu and Siva.

VP 5.18.52: he nAtha! (O lord!), where there is always abhAva (non-existence, negation) of names and forms, which are nothing but imagination, that is you - nitya (eternal), avikArI (unchangeable, immutable), and ajanmA (unborn) para-brahma.

VP 5.18.52: Since without imagination, no element (padArtha) can be known, hence you are glorified [and worshipped] by the names kruShNa, acyuta, ananta and viShNu etc names. [In reality you cannot be referred by any name.]

VP 5.18.57: Whose vAcaka (expression) is 'sata' pada ['OM tat, sat'], that axara (akshara) (indestructible) 'OM' is your parama svarUpa (ultimate, highest, absolute form). I bow down to your GYAnasvarUpa (that which is pure knowledge, pure consciousness).

VP 5.18.58: He prabho! (O Lord), I repeatedly bow down to your forms (svarUpa) - vAsudeva, sankarShaNa, pradyumna and aniruddha.

From above verses, we can understand that everything that we see both perishable and imperishable is nothing but ISvara. Any form of ISvara is nothing but imagination. Since one cannot meditate on (know) that which cannot be imagined and is beyond intellect, hence names and forms of formless brahman are imagined. OM preprestns para-brahma and expresses 'sat' pada, the absolute truth, which is GYAnasvarUpa.

We can also conclude, that brahman is conventionally referred as viShNu or vAsudeva or by any other names and forms of ISvara, as it is easy to contemplate on names and forms.

viShNu and caturbhuja viShNu in mahAbhArata

It is said that what is found in mahAbhArata may not be found anywhere else, but what is not found in mahAbhArata is not found anywhere else. English Translation of Kisari Mohan Ganguli, which praised by all is available. However, the sanskrit verses in are not accurate. Also not all verses are typed in Sanskrit. Hence we have adapted Gita Press's version with Sanskrit-Hindi Translation uploaded by The English translation of sanskrit verses is compared with Hindi Translation of Gita Press and an edited translation is presented. 

In Adi Parva, section 1, chapter 1, verses 22-25 sings the glory of unborn supreme reality, viShNu [not the deity of preservation].

Adi parva, section 1, chapter 1,  verses 29-37 give the account of creation. These verses describe birth of brahmA, rudra [not turiya Siva], viShNu [deity of preservation], who took avatars to protect the universe and reestablish dharma.

M.Bh. 1.1.22-25 (Adi parva, section 1, chapter 1, verses 22 to 25)

महाभारत, आदि पर्व । 

नारायणं नमस्कृत्य नरं चैव नरॊत्तमम ।
देवीं सरस्वतीं चैव ततॊ जयम उदीरयेत ।।

Om! Having bowed down to Narayana and Nara, the most exalted male being, and also to the goddess Saraswati, must the word 'Jaya' be uttered.

आद्यं पुरुषमीशानं पुरुहतं परुष्टुतम् ।
ऋतमेकाक्षरं ब्रह्म व्यक्ताव्यक्तं सनातनम् ।। २२ ।।

असच्च सदसच्चैव यद् विश्वं सदसप्तरम् ।
परावराणां स्त्रष्टारं पुराणं परमव्ययम् ।। २३ ।।

मङ्गल्यं मङ्गलं विष्णुं वरेण्यमनघं शुचिम् ।
नमस्कृत्य हृषीकेशं चराचरगुरुं हरिम् ।। २४ ।।

महर्षेः पूजितस्तेय सर्वलोकैर्महात्मनः ।
प्रवक्ष्यामि मतं पुण्यं व्यासस्याद्भुतकर्मण ।। २५ ।। 

Sauti then said, 'Having bowed down to the primordial being ISAna [1], to whom multitudes make offerings, and who is adored by the multitude; who is the true incorruptible one, Brahman [1], perceptible, imperceptible, eternal; who is both a non-existing and an existing-non-existing being; who is the universe and also distinct from the existing and non-existing universe; who is the creator of high and low; the ancient, exalted, inexhaustible one; who is viShNu, auspiscious and the auspiciousness itself [2], worthy of all preference, pure and immaculate; who is hari [3], the ruler of the faculties, the guide of all things movable and immovable; ...

निष्प्रभे ऽस्मिन् निरालोके सर्वतस्तमसावृते
बृहदण्डमभूदेकं प्रजानां बीजमव्ययम् ।। २९ ।।

युगस्यादौ निमित्तं तन्महद्दिव्यं प्रचक्षते ।
यस्मिन् संश्रूयते सत्यंज्योतिर्ब्रह्म सनातनम् ।। ३० ।।

अद्भुतं चाप्यचिन्त्यं च सर्वत्र समतां गतम् ।
अव्यक्तं कारणं सूक्ष्मं यत्तत् सदसदात्मकम् ।। ३१ ।।

यस्मात् पितामहो जज्ञे प्रभुरेकः प्रजापतिः ।
ब्रह्मा सुरुगुरुः स्थाणुर्मनुः कः परमेष्ठ्यथ ।। ३२ ।।

प्राचेतसस्तथा दक्षो दक्षपुत्राश्र्च सप्त वै ।
ततः प्रजानां परतः प्राभन्नेकविंशतिः ।। ३३ ।।

पुरुषश्र्चाप्रमेयात्मा (पुरुषश च अप्रमेय-आत्मा) यं सर्व ऋषयो विदुः ।
विश्वेदेवास्तथादित्या वसवोऽ ऽथाश्विनावपि ।। ३४ ।।

In this world, when it was destitute of brightness and light, and enveloped all around in total darkness (tamas) [when there was no name and form] [4], there came into being [or then manifested], as the primal cause of creation, a mighty egg, the one inexhaustible seed of all created beings. It is called Mahadivya, and was formed at the beginning of the Yuga, in which we are told, was the true light Brahman (satya-svarUpa brahmajyoti) , the eternal one [5], the wonderful and inconceivable being present alike in all places; the invisible and subtile cause, whose nature partaketh of entity and non-entity (sat-asata) everything is this brahman only. From this egg came out the lord Pitamaha brahmA, the one only prajApatI; with Suraguru and Sthanu. Then appeared the twenty-one Prajapatis, viz., Manu, Vasishtha and Parameshthi; ten Prachetas, Daksha, and the seven sons of Daksha. Then appeared the man of inconceivable nature / Atman (aprameya-AtmA) [puruSa, viShNu] whom all the Rishis know [6] and so the Viswe-devas, the Adityas, the Vasus, and the twin Aswins; the Yakshas, the Sadhyas, the Pisachas, the Guhyakas, and the Pitris.

[1] primordial being Isana, Brahman

Indicates that First there was ISAna, the primordial Being. ISAna (ईशान) is the name of rudra / Siva. Even in the mahAbhArata, Lord Siva is not born during the creation, but it is the primordial being, neither male (he), not female (she), but tatvam (it), which is nothing but pure consciousness. ISAna is Brahman of the upanishads.

[2] who is viShNu, auspiscious and the auspisciousness itself

viShNu here means all -pervading as the word viShNu is rooted in the word 'viSh' 'विष्'. Siva means 'in which all things lie'. Siva also means 'auspiciousness' i.e. mangalmaya or mangalaM 'मङ्गलं'. 

[3] who is hari 

'hari, which is a popular name of bhagavAn viShNu has many meanings. hari is the name of 'brahmA'. It also means 'of Siva', 'sun', 'captivating', name of 'Indra'. In viShNu saharanAma stotra bhASya, Adi SankarAcArya jI has explained the meaning of hari (name #650) as 'because of removing or withdrawing, samsAra, this world along with it's cause [which is avidyA, ignorance] is called as 'hari'. 'hara', the name of Siva also means 'to remove or withdraw', withdraw what? the cause of suffering, which is ignorance. Siva, in rudra form also destroys samsAra, and pulls it back into himself. In this way, hari-hara-aikya (non-difference between hari and hara i.e. viShNu and Siva) is established. This hari and hara are not person, but supreme brahman itself. They are just praised in the form of person for our convenience and also because they  are both the nearest form of manifested brahman (mUrta-brahma-svarUpa). This is already discussed in earlier article, 'viShNu is the nearest form of manifested Brahman'

From [1], [2], and [3], it is can understood that both viShNu and Siva are same as brahman.

[4] enveloped all around in total darkness (tamas) [when there was no name and form]

This refers to nAsadiya sukta of rig veda which says that from darkness [tamas], everything is born. nAsadiya sukta is explained in another article. Here it means that there was no form or shape and the first shape that appeared was an 'egg'. 

[5] was the true light Brahman (satya-svarUpa brahmajyoti) , the eternal one

This was the manifestation of Brahman and so is spread in all that is created, be it moving or non-moving.

[6] Then appeared the man of inconceivable nature / Atman (aprameya-AtmA) [puruSa, viShNu] whom all the Rishis know

aprameya AtmA (name #248) is another adjective, or name used for viShNu bhagavAn. It means 'immeasurable Atman'. He is the first puruSa whom is worthy of worship and whom the rishi-s knew. 

From the above analysis, we can conclude that 

1. rudra / Siva was not born from brahmA jI during the creation of the world.
2. hari and ISAna / Siva are same as brahman and are not a person, but supreme brahman
3. hari is different from puruSa viShNu who took avatAra-s to protect the world and re-establish dharma.
4. hari / viShNu is different from caturbhuja viShNu, the deity of preservation.

Atma bodha upanishad describes caturbhuja viShNu

Atma Bodh Upanishad is quoted by Adi Sankara in viShNu sahanranAma bhASya. Hence it is interesting to study this upanishad. First verse of Atma bodha (Atma Bodh) upanishad describes that by meditating on OM one gets liberation and by meditating on nArAyANa holding Sankha, cakra (chakra) and gadA and chanting the mantra 'Om namo nArAyaNAya' ascends to vaikunTha.

Adi Sankara quotes verse 4 and half verse 5 from adhyAya 1. To understand those verses, lets study the upanishad from beginning.

AB. Up. 1.1: The one who is of the nature of Ananda, the inner most, of the nature of brahman, having three mAtrA-s 'a'-kAra, 'u'-kAra and 'm'-kAra is praNava OM. By chanting this mantra, yogI-s attain liberation. By meditating on nArAyANa holding Sankha, cakra (chakra) and gadA and chanting the mantra 'Om namo nArAyaNAya' ascends to vaikunTha.

The verse is split into two

(1) The one who is of the nature of Ananda, the inner most, of the nature of brahman, having three mAtrA-s 'a'-kAra, 'u'-kAra and 'm'-kAra is praNava OM. By chanting this mantra, yogI-s attain liberation.

By meditating on nArAyANa holding Sankha, cakra (chakra) and gadA and chanting the mantra 'Om namo nArAyaNAya' ascends to vaikunTha.

nArAyaNa mentioned here is specified as having a particular form. Hence this nArAyaNa is different from brahman. Hence the verse says that the one who chants OM is liberated, while the one who chants 'Om namo nArAyanAya', the mantra of nArAyaNa as personal deity, goes to vaikunTha. It is not mentioned that the devotee is liberated.

AB. Up. 1.2: The hridayarUpI kamal (heart-lotus) is brahmapUra. {pura means city}. this [tatva] alone shines like a deepak (lamp) without any external light. i.e. it shines by itself.

AB. Up. 1.3: Son of devaki [bhagavAn kruShNa] is the well-wisher of brAhmaNa-s (brahmins), [that] madhusUdana is always the well-wisher of brAhmaNa-s, lotus-eyed bhagavAn viShNu is always well wisher of brAhmaNa-s and this indestructible [bhagavAn viShNu], is beloved of brAhmANa-s who are always steadfast in his devotion.

brAhmANa-s could here mean religious, pious, knowers of brahman, meditating on brahman.

AB. Up. 1.4 nArAyaNa is the one, existing in all creatures, the causal and comsic (virATa) person (puruSa), the one without a cause, nArAyaNa is causeless, is parabrahma and is praNava-rUpa omkAra (OM).

Here, nArAyaNa is not a person, but the cause of all. In verse 1.1 we have seen that chanting OM leads one to liberation. OM is nirAkAra, hence when any form of ISvara is compared or equated with OM, then it is nirAkAra, nirguNa brahman and not a person. Practically it is observed that no one meditates on any form of ISvara like nArAyaNa or Siva with chanting OM. Each form is it's own mantra.

AB. Up. 1.5: [In this way the] by meditating on viShNu [as parabrahman, by chanting OM], one gets free from sorrow / misery (Soka) and attachment (moha) and never suffers any sorrow (dukha). dvaita becomes advaita, becomes free from the fear of death.. Anyone who sees difference in brahman, repeatedly attains death.

dvaita here means the one having dvaita-buddhi i.e. one believing in difference. Similarly advaita means the one who believes in non-difference. By saying that dvaita becomes advaita, it means that the 'I' ness that divides consciousness and experiences duality, now experiences non-duality.

Later verses describe that the one chanting OM gets fruits of all actions (as GYAna is the best fruit. All actions finally lead to same para-brahman. Hence by knowing this brahman, one's all wishes are fulfilled). He becomes jivan mukti and after the prArabhdha is completed, one attains videh-mutki.

The trend observed in most upanishads is creation, of the universe form one and only one brahman. Then non-dual nirguNa brahman is described, mostly by theory of negation. Later verses extol brahman by a name say viShNu or Siva. The reason for extolling a form of viShNu is because of it is difficult to contemplate on formless, attributeless brahman. Hence the form closest to or nearest to brahman which is either viShNu or Siva is praised. This form is also connected with brahman and is glorified as brahman itself, as that form is direct manifestion of brahman. One needs a name and form to visualize nad meditate upon, else beginners cannot meditate on that which is invisible. Mind needs something to hold on to, hence initially support of a personal deity is taken. Later, after maturity, (and depending upon prakriti), one is shifted to nirguNa upAsanA i.e. nidhidhyAsan or meditation on OM or neti-neti or practice Self Enquiry.

yoga vAsisTha in arjunopAkhyAna explains who should meditate on viShNu as AtmasvarUpa and caturbhuja viShNu

yoga vAsiSTha is one of the best advaitic text and widely quoted one by SrI vidyAraNya svAmI in his pancadaSI. In the sixth part, there are 267 verses which are called as arjunopAkhyAna. These are sarga-s 55 to 58 of nirvANa prakaraNa - I (There are two nirvANa prakaraNa-s in yoga vAsiSTha which is said to have 32000 verses. Only 28000 are available today). This version of bhagavad gItA is the anticipated version to be spoken by kruShNa in dvApAra yuga.

SrI rAma asks questions as to what will viShNu give upadeSa in future (dvApAra yuga). guru vAsiSTha, being a trikALadarSI (knower of past, present and future all at a time) describes in brief the updeSa given by nArAyaNa (kruShNa) to nara (arjuna) both are the parts of bhagavAn viShNu.  This version is also called as vAsiSTha's version of bhagavad gItA. This is an essence of vedAnta and a treat to read. It gives us a lot of clarity.

Scholars say that rAmAyaNa consists of two parts - kathA-upAya (the story part) and moksha-upAya (method for spiritual Liberation). According to yoga vAsiSTha, Both these two constitutes the entire rAmAyaNa.  kathA-upAya is traditional rAmAyaNa and moksha-upAya is yoga vAsiSTha.

Many commentaries are written on yoga vAsiSTha, but the famous one is by Sri Ananda bodhendra sarasvatI (ABS), which closely follows advaita. ABS Comment is given after verse inside sq. brackets.

In chapter 2,  sarga 53, titled 'The homily (religious discourse) to Arjuna' verses 35-40 discuss about two forms of bhagavAn kruShNa (Krishna)

Arjuna said:

35. O Lord of Gods, you have two forms; (the transcendental) beyond and the immanent lower (in this world). What (is) the form, of what nature, and when should I resort to and abide in it for fulfilment (siddhi)?

[Comment: Following the instruction concerning the two natures (of God) in verses 34, Arjuna now asks how to know the qualification (adhikAra) and the appropriate time for (worshipping either of the two natures).]

The Lord said:

36. O sinless One, know My two forms; the common one and the transcendental. The common form is endowed with hands and so forth, holding conch, discus and mace.

[Comment: 'Common' means easily understandable for ordinary people]

37. That which is my transcendental form has no beginning and end; it is one, without corruption, and it is expressed by words such as Brahman, 'Self', 'Supreme Self'

[Comment: The Supreme Form, difficult to attain by those of impure mind.]

38. Until you are fully awakened and remain without the knowledge of Self, be intent upon the worship of the god with the fhour-armed form.

39. When in due order you become enlightened, you will know that nature beyond; the form of Me that has no beginning and no end, and by (knowing which) one is not born again.

[Comment: 'In due order' means with the gradual purification of mind']

40. If, however, your being has known (the aspect of mine) that is worthy of knowledge, O destroyer of enemies, then resort immediately to my Self, the Self of (your) self.

[Comment: I have told you of devotion to the qualitative (saguna) nature, considering the possibility of a lack of purity of (your) mind. If, however, your being (bhAva), that is, mind, is so pure (as to be one with) Brahman, whose nature is totality of cognition (vijnAna-eka-svabhAva), and who is worthy of being known, you should resort to the indivisible and completely perfect Self. (This you may do) by coalescing My Self, (who am) God and your Self Self; (My Self) in it's transcendental nature determining its objects, and your self in its objective nature determining its essence. This coalescence is between investigating the meaning of the word tat (that), which is Myself, and investigating the meaning of the word tvam (thou), which is yourself. Then resort to the indivisible completely Full Self. Awakening to this, then, be firmly established in it. 'Resort to', that is, becoming enlightened: be resolute upon it.]


viShNu is sometimes feminine aspect of brahman

viShNu purANa explains paramapada as,

1.9.55: That deva of which brahmA, viShNu [deity of preservation] and SivarUpa are indescribable powers (abhUtapUrva Sakti), that same deva is [bhagavAna] viShNu's parampada

From this verse, we can conclude that

1. viShNu, when explained as paramapada, paramdhAma, parama-gati, brahman, creator, preserver and destroyer of three worlds, etc, this viShNu is different from the viShNu, who is a person, and has responsibility of preservation of the worlds.

2. brahmA, viShNu and Siva are forms of viShNu, who is brahman

3. brahmA, viShNu and Siva are called as Sakti (powers), hence they can be taken as feminine aspects under some circumstances. When they are mentioned as masculine, their feminine aspects are usually their consorts, who are their powers as described in viShNu purANa in the anSa 1, adhyAya 8

4. Here the word 'deva' is used.

Adi Sankara explains the word deva in bhASya on viShNu sahasranAma (in padaceda 13, just before sahasranAma begins explains), deva is mahAtmA, and is AtmA.

viShNu saharanAma Sankara bhASya explaining the word 'deva' in simple words, (you can skip this section to avoid complication)

The most famous mantra of all the names that are created by the guNa-s, and is known by mantra-draShTA rishi-s, and that which is sung in all divine stories of bhagavAn. For the benefit of those who wish to work on four purushastha-s and gain siddhi on all four puruSartha-s, I am going to tell you the name of that great deva (mahAtmA) who cannot be contemplated by mind, (iti linga purANe 1.70.16)

Translation given by Gita press (hindi version)

Those names of lower-related i.e. of guNa-s meaning that which arises due to guNa-s, out of that which is most famous, and is known by mantra and by mantra-draShTA muni-s (mantra seeing rishi-s [1]), meaning that which is sung in all bhagavat-kathA-s (glorious stories explaining the divine life and liilA of bhagavAna),  that mahAtmA - all the names of acintyaprabhAva deva (that deva which cannot be contemplated), those who are willing to walk on 4 puruSArtha-s - for the siddhi of four puruSArtha-s I am describing you

That which is mahAn AtmA is called as mahAtmA. Since this puruSa (jIva) attains [brahmabhAva in suShupti], [in dream sleep], experiences objects [without indriya-s [3] ], and [in waking state] enjoys this objects [of senses] and hence is always [4] in present state (tense), hence is known as 'AtmA' By this statement, this 'deva' is 'mahAtmA'

[1] seeing symbolically represents all 5 senses. It can also mean to intuitively realize as flash in heart.
[2] beyond realms of mind and hence contemplation
[3] puruSa in dream sleep cognizes via mind and not 5 senses
[4] nirantara - without break, or nira-antar - no distance, hence no separation --> indicates non-duality or un-divided. nira-antar means no distance, very close.

Source: Page 50, viShNu sahasranAmaSankara bhASya, Gita Press

Similarly, if we read somewhere that rudra derives strength from viShNu, then we can conclude that here, viShNu is a feminine aspect, the Sakti or power of Siva or rudra. rudra here is brahman, the para-Siva or para-bhairav of Saiva-s. brahman cannot do anything without it's power, hence it is said that rudra derives his strength from viShNu, the all pervading power of rudra, which indeed is rudra's very own Sakti. In this case, viShNu is not brahman, is not caturbhuja i.e. a personal deity, but is Sakti of rudra.

In rudra-hridaya Upanishad, viShNu is said to be umA

The upanishad says: Now, at this moment, I take refuge in that Pure State of the Supreme Absolute which can be known by the Vidya, called the Rudra Hridaya Upanishad.

After prostrating before the celebrated form of Sri Mahadeva-Rudra in his heart, adoring the sacred Bhasma and Rudraksha and mentally reciting the great Mahavakya-Mantra, Tarasara, Sri Suka asked his father Sri Vyasa Maharshi, thus:

Who is the real God of gods? In whom are all these existences established? By worshipping whom, can I please the Devas in whole?

Hearing these words, Sri Veda Vyasa replied thus:

Rudra is the embodiment of all Devas. All devas are merely different manifestations of Sri Rudra Himself. On the right side of Rudra, there is the sun, then the four-headed Brahma, and then three Agnis (fires). On the left side, there exist Sri Umadevi, and also Vishnu and Soma (moon). Uma Herself is the form of Vishnu. Vishnu Himself is the form of the moon. Therefore, those who worship Lord Vishnu, worship Siva Himself. And those who worship Siva, worship Lord Vishnu in reality. Those who envy and hate Sri Rudra, are actually hating Sri Vishnu. Those who decry Lord Siva, decry Vishnu Himself. Rudra is the generator of the seed. Vishnu is the embryo of the seed. Siva Himself is Brahma and Brahma Himself is Agni. Rudra is full of Brahma and Vishnu. The whole world is full of Agni and Soma. The masculine gender is Lord Siva. The feminine gender is Sri Bhavani Devi. All the mobile and immobile creation of this universe, is filled up with Uma and Rudra. The Vyakta is Sri Uma, and the Avyakta is Lord Siva. The combination of Uma and Sankara is Vishnu. Hence everybody should prostrate to Sri Maha Vishnu with great devotion. He is the Atman. He is the Paramatman. He is the Antaratman. Brahma is the Antaratman. Siva is the Paramatman. Vishnu is the Eternal Atman of all this universe. This whole creation of Svarga, Martya and Patala Lokas is a big tree. Vishnu is the top portion (branches) of this tree. Brahma is the stem. The root is Lord Siva. The effect is Vishnu. The action is Brahma. The cause is Siva. For the benefit of the worlds. Rudra has taken these three forms.

There are two Vidyas to be known. They are Para and Apara. Apara Vidya is the embodiment of the four Vedas and their six Angas. They do not deal with the Nature of the Atman. But the Para Vidya is called the Moksha-Sastra. It deals with that supreme philosophy of the Absolute Truth, ununderstandable, impersonal, Nirguna, Nirakara, without ears, without eyes, without hands, without feet, eternal, omnipresent, imperishable, and knowable by the intelligent daring sages.

Sri Rudram from yajurveda says:

"Namo bhavaya cha rudraya cha
namah sharvaya cha pashupataye cha
namo girishaya cha shipivishhtaya cha |" (Anuvaka 5)

"Salutations to Him who is the source of all things. And to Him who is the destroyer of all ills. Salutations to the destroyer and to the protector of all beings in bondage. Salutations to Him who dwells on the mount and who is in the form of Shipivista (Vishnu)".

From the above verses, we can conclude that

There is no difference between rudra, umA and viShNu
  • umA is viShNu
  • viShNu is combination of both umA and Sankara - this viShNu means omnipresent entity, the indweller of all beings. 

puruSa is not always a person

It is a common notion that puruSa means a person though in macro cosmic form (virATa svarUpa). 

mudgal Upanishad is cited by rAmAnuja. It describes the real form of puruSa, specifically nArAyaNa or viShNu. 


We shall explain the Purusha-sukta: In ‘a thousand-headed’ thousand means countless; the word ‘ten fingers’, means infinite distance, by the first stanza Vishnu’s pervasion in space is stated, by the second the pervasion in time; the third speaks of his giving liberation. The glory of Vishnu is given in ‘Etavan’ (so much is his greatness). The same stanza states his four-fold nature. ‘Tripad’ etc., speaks of the glory of Aniruddha. In ‘from that Virat was born’ has been shown the origin of Prakriti and Purusha from a quarter of Hari. By ‘Yat Purushena’ the sacrifice of creation is stated as well as Moksha. In ‘Tasmad’ world creations are stated. ‘Vedaham’ speaks of Hari’s glory. By ‘Yajnena’ is stated the end of creation and liberation. One who knows it becomes liberated.


In Mudgalopanishad the greatness of Purusha-sukta has been stated in detail. Vasudeva instructed the knowledge of Bhagavan to Indra; again imparted to the humble Indra the great mystery with two sections of the Purusha-sukta. These two are: The Purusha described above gave up the object which was beyond the scope of name and form, hard for worldly people to understand and took a form with a thousand parts and capable of giving Moksha on sight, for uplifting the suffering Devas and others. In that form, pervading the world he was beyond it by an infinite distance. This Narayana was the Past, Present and the Future. And was the giver of Moksha to all. He is greater than the greatest – none is greater than He.

He made himself into four parts and with three of them exists in the heaven. By the fourth, the Aniruddha (for of) Narayana, all worlds have come to be. This (part of) Narayana created Prakriti (Matter) for making the worlds (Prakriti stands for the four-faced Brahma). In full form the latter did not know the work of creation – this Aniruddha-Narayana told him.

Taking into account verses in bhagaVat purANa and viShNu purANa, we can can understand that puruSa is not the person or caturbhuja viShNu, a person, but formless-attributeless (nirAkAra-nirguNa) brahman.

The above verses also make us understand that only a part of brahman is manifested. vidyAraNya svAmI says that mAyA is eka-deSiya, as this world is created only from the part of Sri hari.
If we take viShNu as person, then it will be difficult to explain verses which say bhagavAn has infinite eyes, and the verses which says, it sees without eyes, it hears without ears. Only formless can be interpreted in this way, as it sees through the eyes of all and hears through ears of all, as this brahman is all-pervading and is also situated in our heart.

bhagavAn as 'AtmasvarUpa' and GYAnasvarUpa is non-other than nirAkAra brahma

Whenever it is said that one has to know bhagavAn as 'AtmasvarUpa'. As earlier said, bhagavAn is GYanasvarUpa.

Some statements like

BP 1.2.20: Realisation of 'AtmasvarUpa bhagavAn' in heart destroys all types of heart-knots, doubts and bondages due to karma-s

point to us that bhagavAn is established in our heart as AtmasvarUpa. Again, the word Atma means 'I'. Hence bhagavAn is the Self, the real 'I'. This tatva, though denoted by the word 'bhagavAn' is nothing but my own Self, Brahman, is non-dual and is nirguNa and nirAkAra.

tArAsAra upanishad Chapter 1 explains 'OM Namo Narayanaya' as tAraka mantra. nArAyaNa is not a personal deity but OM itslef and is chidAtmA, seated in heart as GYAnasvarUpa. This is confirmed in chapter 2

Chapter - 1

2.Then Bharadvaja asked Yajnavalkya: “What is Taraka ? What is that which causes one to cross (this mundane existence)”. To which Yajnavalkya replied: “OM namo nArAyaNAya" is the Taraka. It should be worshipped as Chidatma.

Now the mantra OM namo nArAyaNAya is explained

Om is a single syllable and of the nature of Atman. Namah is of two syllables and is of the nature of Prakriti (matter). Narayanaya is of five syllables and is of the nature of Parabrahman. He who knows this becomes immortal. 

Through ‘Om’, is Brahma produced; 
through ‘Na’ is Vishnu produced; 
through ‘Ma’ is Rudra produced; 
through ‘Na’ is Ishvara produced; 
through ‘Ra’ is the Anda-Virat (or Virat of the universe) produced;
through ‘Ya’ is Purusha produced; 
through ‘Na’ is Bhagavan (Lord) produced; and 
through ‘Ya’ is Paramatman produced. 

This Ashtakshara (eight syllables) of Narayana is the supreme and the highest Purusha. Thus is the Rig-Veda with the first foot (or half).

(Chapter 2 explains OM as tAraka mantra)


That which is Om is the indestructible, the supreme and Brahman. That alone should be worshipped. It is this that is of the eight subtle syllables. And this becomes eight, being of eight forms.

‘A’ is the first letter;
‘U’ is the second;
‘M’ is the third;
Bindu is the fourth;
Nada is the fifth;
Kala is the sixth;
Kalatita (that beyond Kala) is the seventh;
and that which is beyond these is the eighth.

It is called Taraka, because it enables one to cross this mundane existence. Know that Taraka alone is Brahman and it alone should be  worshipped”.

Adi Sankara in viShNu sahasranAma bhASya says one should worship viShNu as Atmarupa

In VS BhAshya, while explaining the words 1 and 2, there is a long commentary.

In page 64 of Gita Press, Sanskrit - Hindi Translation, Adi Sankara confirms one has to worship viShNu as chidAtmA / AtmarUpa quoting mahAbhArata karmakANDa


आत्मानं विष्णुं ध्यात्वार्चन - स्तुतिनमस्कारादि कर्तव्यम् ।
'नाविष्णुः कीर्त्तयेद् विष्णुं नाविष्णुर्विष्णुमर्चयेत् ।
नाविष्णुः संस्मरेद् विष्णुं नाविष्णुर्विष्णुमाप्नुयात् ॥

In Hindi it is translated as

' बिना विष्णुरुप हुए विष्णुका कीर्तन न करे, बिना विष्णु हुए विष्णुका पूजन न करे, बिना विष्णु हुए विष्णुका स्मरण न करे और न बिना विष्णु हुए विष्णुको प्राप्त हो । '

This pujA (worship), stuti (praise) and namaskArAdi (offering respect / reverence / salutation or worship) is to be meditated upon (chintan) viShNu [bhagavAn] as AtmarUpa. In mahAbhArata karma kANDa, it is said - without being / becoming viShNu do not do kirtan (sing holy glories) of viShNu, without beingbecoming viShNu do not perform pUjA (worship) viShNu, without becoming viShNu one does not attain viShNu'

Note: Becoming means to have a bhAva that 'I ma not different from viShNu' it is an attitude of feeling non-difference from viShNu [tatva] which is noting but Atmatatva.

Later Adi Sankara quotes that

In viShNu dharmottara it is said that -

'O faultless, all these names are of parabrahma only' 'whichever object a bhakta wishes, s/he will, no doubt, attain it. By worshipping (ArAdhanA) of jagadguru, all desires are fulfilled.

Adi Sankara now maps this parabrahma with govinda, indicating that by indicating the name govinda, it is not a personal deity, but in reality the parabrahman.

Humans can attain govinda by being absorbed or being identical (tanmaya) with him, that who becomes absorbed or becomes identified [with govinda] obtains all objects desired by him/her, there is no doubt in it.

We may think that this indicates that the person govinda / viShNu is the brahman, however, it is not the case, as it is the parabrahman who is talked about. govinda is the representative of this brahman, as we have seen in the article 'viShNu and caturbhuja viShNu'. This means that govinda also gets his powers from viShNu, who is supreme brahman. We have seen that from 1/4th part, viShNu [the supreme brahman] creates viShNu [deity of preservation]. This deity of preservation does not sound all powerful, as it is not capable of becoming other 3 parts, namely the kAla (time) as for doing any thing, time is necessary, without time, there cannot be any action. there can be no creation, preservation and destruction, if there is no time. Hence in all three actions, Brahman has kAla as one part. It is also said in viShNu purANa that kAla is the most favourite form of brahman.

Adi Sankara later maps Krishna of bhagavad gita and then guru as brahman.

This means that viShNu, krishna, guru are one and the same as brahman.

Siva as supreme brahman says bhAgavat purANa

Earlier we have seen that none of the trinity is jIva. bhAgavat purANa also glorifies Siva as supreme brahman. During samudra-manthan, a deadly poison emerged from the churning. In order to save the universe and all devatA-s and asura-s, brahmA ji along with devatA-s approached bhagavAn Siva. In following verses, Siva is glorified

BP 8.7.21: O deva of devatatA-s mahAdeva! you are the AtmA of all beings and are the life saver of all. We all have come to your refuge. Please save us from this deadly poison which otherwise destroy the whole universe.

BP 8.7.22: Only you are capable of liberating and giving bondage of the world(s). Hence wise persons worship only you, as you are the remover of sorrows of those who have taken refuge in you and are jagadguru (world teacher)

BP 8.7.24: O prabhu! (O lord) with the help of your own illusive power which consists of three guNa-s, you creation, preserve and destroy this world; though you are one, you manifest (appear) as brahmA, viShNu and Siva.

BP 8.7.25: You are self effulgent, the reason for this [being self effulgent] is that you are the deeply mysterious brahma-tatva. You are the life giver of all devatA-s, humans, animals, birds, etc whatever is real or unreal, living / moving or non-moving. There is no creation which is not you (i.e. Siva is present in all living and non-living and Siva is everything. Nothing exists that is not Siva); because, you are everybody's AtmA. By various types of energies (Sakti-s) you are manifested as this world; because you are ISvara and are all-powerful.

Verse BP 8.7.29 defines Siva as a state of consciousness

BP 8.7.29: sadyojAta etc five vedic mantras are represented by your five faces [1], from which 38 celebrated vedic mantra-s are created. When you arise beyond guNa-s and are established in your Self, then this state is called as 'Siva' (Siva-Akhyam). In reality, it is the same Self Effulgent paramArtha-tatva (supreme consciousness).

[1] Five vedic mantra-s are (1) puruSa, (2) aghora, (3) sadyojAta, (4) vAmadeva, and (5) ISAna

Lets understand something more about Lord Siva and his five forms.

The five faces or forms of Shiva represent the five functions or acts (panchakrityas) – creation, sustenance, dissolution, concealing grace and revealing grace, respectively. The five forms or faces of Shiva also correspond to the five syllables in the holy pentasyllabic mantra – na-mah-shi-vā-ya.

We will try to correlate five faces or forms of Siva with different analogies. These five faces can be associated with 5 great elements (pancamahAbhuta-s) or five bodies (koSa-s)

sadyojAta is associated with the western direction and represents Icchā Shaktī--will power.  Sadyojāta is associated with Manomaya Kosha—the sheath covering the soul that consists of mind.  Additionally, this face is associated with the fire element representing the fire of the mind and the fire of the body.  This face is Shiva’s function as the creative force and is associated with Manipura chakra. 

VAmadeva is associated with the northern direction.  This face of Shiva is associated with the shakti of strength and beauty as well as the goddess Maya.    Vāmadeva is associated with the Vijῆānamaya Kosha.  This face is the Citta rūpa, the form of the universal consciousness limited to the individual mind.  Several traditions believe that mantra to Vāmadeva has considerable healing benefit.  This is the preserving energy of Shiva, and is connected with the air element as well as the Ānahata Chakra.

aghora is associated with the southern direction and jῆāna Shaktī--the power of knowledge; as well as the Buddhi rūpa meaning the form of the intellect.  This face is associated with the Pranamaya Kosha, and represents the rejuvenating and dissolving qualities of Shiva as well as being connected with the water element and Svadishthana chakra.  

tatpuruSa is the eastern face.  This face represents the parātman or supreme soul behind the physical being.  This form is Ānānda Shaktī, the power of bliss.  Connected with the Annamaya kosha, tatpurusha in its higher manifestation is bliss; in the lower manifestation it is the concealing power of Shiva.  This face is associated with the earth element, muladhara chakra and is considered beneficial for increasing focus.   

ISAna is the upper or skyward face. It is the Citta Shaktī or power of the individual consciousness to realize the universal consciousness.  This form is associated with Akasha or ether, and the Vishuddha chakra.  This is the total energy of Shiva encompassing all attributes of Shiva.  This is the face of Shiva that is the revealing power and is associated with the Anandamaya kosha.


Following is the summary form of panca-brahma upanishad, which represents five forms of sadASiva collectively called as 'panca-brahma', as they are forms of eternal brahman. panca-brahman (Panch Brhama) upanishad explains the meaning of the word tatpuruSa, which is found in many variants of gAyatrI mantra

Sathyojatha is the aspect of earth and is the Sun, Goddess Lakshmi, Brahma, the letter Om, Rig Veda, Garhapathyagni (Household fire), mantras, Saptha Swaras (seven notes) and yellow colour. It gives all that is wished for.

Aghora is the aspect of water and is moon, Goddess ParvatI, Yajur Veda, blue colour of the cloud, Dakshinagni (the fire of the south) and fifty letters (basic sanskrit alphabets). It drives away all sins, destroys all that is evil and grants riches.

Vamadeva gives great knowledge and destroys all sins. It is the aspect of fire, is lights of crores of suns, Sama Veda, eight type of songs, courageous tone, Ahwaneeyagni, power of knowledge, power to destroy and slightly blackish white colour. It gives full consciousness, rules over all the three worlds, spread over all the three worlds and grants all sort of luck and results for the action performed.

Tatpurusha is with eight letters (Aa, Ka, Cha, Ta, Tha, Pa, Ya, Sa) and is in the eight petal lotus and is normally surrounded by air. It has five fires, protects effects of mantras, personification of the fifty consonants, has the form of Atharva Veda, is the chief of several crores of Ganas, has the shape which is extremely big, red coloured, gives whatever is asked for, medicine for worry and diseases and the root of Srishti (creation), Sthithi (upkeep) and Laya(merging). It is the basis of all strengths. It is the turiyA which is beyond the three common states and is the thing called Brahman. It is worshipped by brahmA and viShNu etc. It is the philosophy from which all others originate.

You should understand that Ishana is the witness for intelligence and is the activator of the brain. It is the aspect of sky and cannot be seen. It is decorated by the sound of “Om”. It has the shape of all devas. It is peaceful. It is beyond peace. It is beyond sound. It is Aa and occupies the headship of vowels. It is the form of Pancha Brahma which is everywhere and activates the five actions of creation, upkeep, destruction, disappearance and blessing. It hides the Pancha Brahmas within itself and exists as itself and shines beyond the Pancha Brahmas by its light. It shines in the beginning, middle and end without any causative reason. All those devas who are all under stupor by the illusion of Sambhu would not understand properly that Mahadeva who is the teacher of the universe, is the cause of all causes. His shape does not appear before the eye. This world is shining because of that Parathpara Purusha in whom the world exists. It merges in him. That Ishana aspect is the Para Brahman which is the upper boundary of peace. The knowledge that the Para Brhaman is oneself and the rise of Sathyo Jatam (birth of truth) is Para Brahman. Whichever is seen or heard is the soul of Para Brahman.

The upanishad later on says that

The existence in five shapes is called Brahma Karya (activity). After understanding Brahma Karya, Ishana is appreciated. After putting the fact all that is originating from Para Brahman in ones soul, the wise man experiences and understands that “It is me” and becomes Brahman as well as deathless. There is no doubt that the one who understands this Brahman becomes freed (emancipated).

Upanishad also explains there is no second one, i.e. nothing exists that is not Siva. It says, if any thing or activity is seen as not different from the cause (Siva), then it is always truth, but if seen as different, then it is wrong or illusion (mruShA).

The verse ends with

The cause of universe consisting of moving and non-moving or living and non-living is pure consciousness and is advaita only.  (P.B. Up. 38-39)

Last two verses of panca-brahma-upanishad says:

P.B. Up. 40-41): In the body, which depends upon indestructible brahman, there is a dahara (heart), which is the resting place of brahman, also known as punDarika i.e. kamala (lotus), [brahman] is established in this heart-space. Whose who wish to get liberated (moxa, moksha) should search sat-cit-Anand Siva in this heart-space. Siva is always seated in heart and is a witness of all [activities]. In this way heart is called as Siva-svarUpa, this heart is called as the emancipator i.e. that which liberates from samsAra.

From above verses we conclude that:

  1. Siva is brahman.
  2. Five forms of sadASiva are his own manifestations and are not literally born
  3. Siva, as brahman is worshipped by brahmA ji and viShNu ji [deity of preservation] - we have to take viShNu as deity of perservation as brahman can only be one.
  4. Siva is always established in heart

A description of Panchabrahma is given in the ajita Agama (20, 158-164a) in the form of instructions to temple priests:

"After thus constructing mentally the throne of Siva, holding a handful of flowers, with steady mind and controlled senses, one should meditate on Siva's body sitting in the lotus posture, shining with the color of pure crystal, endowed with five heads, serene, with smiling faces, having the brilliance of ten million suns, of new full-blown youth, with ten arms, brightened by a crest of tawny tresses rolled upwards, each face having three radiant eyes, or shaktis, with the crescent moon of wisdom in His hair, the cause of all causes, His right hands holding the no-fear posture, a trident, an axe, a sword and a thunderbolt, His left hands holding a noose, a serpent, an elephant goad, fire and a bell, all fit for a supreme sovereign, endowed with every auspicious mark, adorned with ample ornaments, in radiant raiments, attractive, having beautiful garlands and an ointment of sandalwood paste."

In his commentary on Mrigendra Agama, Aghorasivacharya (12th century) is careful to point out that while we speak of Siva with five faces and many limbs, He does not actually possess these features. This visualization in only for the sake of meditation and adoration.

Apart from this, there is also an interesting interpretaion of natarAja form of Siva in connection with five faces or five actions

Siva naTarAja form and five actions

Siva Nataraja, Lord of Dance, a well-known murti (worshipful icon), clearly depicts these five actions.

  1. Creation, or emanation (srishti), is represented by His upper right hand holding the drum upon which He beats Paranada, the Primal Sound, from which issue forth the rhythms and cycles of creation.
  2. Preservation (sthiti) is represented by His lower right hand, held in the gesture of blessing, abhaya mudra, indicating "fear not."
  3. Destruction (samhara), dissolution or absorption, is symbolized by the fire in His upper left hand, held in ardha-chandra mudra, "half-moon gesture."
  4. Obscuring grace (tirodhana), the power which hides the truth from souls, thereby permitting experience, growth and eventual fulfillment of destiny, is represented by His right foot upon the prostrate person, apasmarapurusha, who symbolizes the principle of ignorance, or anava.
  5. Revealing grace (anugraha), which grants knowledge and severs the soul's bonds, is symbolized by Siva's raised left foot, and by His lower left hand, held in gajahasta or "elephant trunk" mudra, inviting approach.

Source (The website gives good information about Siva linga and Saiva-siddhanta paddhati)


From bhAgavat purANa, viShNu purANa and from the analysis of commentaries on bhagavat gItA by various revered AcArya-s, we can conclude that viShNu is not always caturbhUja viShNu, we also come to know that the real nature of bhagavAn, paramAtmA, para-brahman, etc all is GYAnasvarUpa. GYana has ability or nature to give knowledge. knowing bhagavAn [and other similar words] one can transcend three guNa-s. It is due to GYAna or consciousness that one can become aware of anything and can gain knowledge. Hence brahman is GYAna-svarUpa.

Whenever brahman is described as to be meditated as 'AtmasvarUpa' or 'GYAnasaRupa' residing in our heart, it points to nirguNa brahman i.e. laxyArtha is always nirguNa brahman.

Since jIva is formless and genderless, and there is no difference jIva and brahman, hence brahman also cannot have any form. Even if we take that jIva is qualitatively same but quantititatively different, still, the same principle applies.

We have also known that viShNu is the nearest form of manifested brahman or saguNa brahman, hence yOgI-s meditate on him. viShNu is also at times taken as power of brahman and hence viShNu in this context is a feminine form (Sakti). viShNu is not always caturbhUja viShNu and puruSa is not always a person.

In this context, lets understand that whenever bhagavAn kruShNa used the words 'I' or 'Me' it does not necessarily mean the our beloved mAdhava, murlidhara kruShNa. When taken in proper context, it could mean 'ISvara' or 'Brahman'.

'I' or 'Me' in Gita can be taken as 'Brahman'


Taking above analysis further, we can study some verses from bhagavad gItA which point to kruShNa talking from Atma-bhAva. This does not mean kruShNa is inferior to brahman. It simply means that kruShNa is not always to be taken as person. 

In this context, lets study Sankara bhASya on BG 9.34

मन्मना भव मद्भक्तो मद्याजी मां नमस्कुरु।
मामेवैष्यसि युक्त्वैवमात्मानं मत्परायणः।।9.34।।

manmanā bhava madbhaktō madyājī māṅ namaskuru.
māmēvaiṣyasi yuktvaivamātmānaṅ matparāyaṇaḥ..9.34

Word-to-word Translation:

9.34 मन्मनाः with mind filled with Me, भव be thou, मद्भक्तः My devotee, मद्याजी sacrificing unto Me, माम् unto Me, नमस्कुरु bow down, माम् to Me, एव alone, एष्यसि thou shalt come, युक्त्वा having united, एवम् thus, आत्मानम् the self, मत्परायणः taking Me as the Supreme Goal.

9.34 Having your mind fixed on Me, be devoted to Me, sacrifice to Me, and bow down to Me. By concentrating your mind and accepting Me as the supreme Goal, you shall surely attain Me who am thus the Self.


9.34 Fix thy mind on Me; by devoted to Me; sacrifice unto Me; bow down to Me; having thus united thy whole self to Me, taking Me as the supreme goal, thou shalt come unto Me.

Note: Here Adi SankarAcArya explains the meaning of certain important words. Hence lets put the verse again with important verses explained by Sankara bhagavapAda in bold green . Here the word युक्त्वैवमात्मानं yuktvaivamātmānaṅ is split into yuktvA-evam-AtmanAm. Here Adi Sankara connects two words mA.m and AtmAna.m

मन्मना भव मद्भक्तो मद्याजी मां नमस्कुरु।
मामेवैष्यसि युक्त्वैवमात्मानं मत्परायणः।।9.34।।

manmanā bhava madbhaktō madyājī māṅ namaskuru.
māmēvaiṣyasi yuktvaivamātmānaṅ matparāyaṇaḥ..9.34

Shankara Bhasya in brief

9.34 Manmana -, have your mind fixed on Me; madbhakah - devoted to Me. Madyaji - One who worships me and bows down to Me; In this way, by fixing your mind in Me (yuktvA), by surrendering me and accepting me as the final goal, you will gain me, the parameSvara. Opinion is that I am the AtmA of all bhUta-s (all bodies) and paramgati, param sthAna (final destination), who am thus the Self (AtmasvarUpa) that you shall attain. In this way, the former word 'mAma' i.e. Me is connected to the later word 'AtmAna.m' 'Self'.

In simple words, the word, 'Me' (mAm) is to be taken as AtmasrvarUpa or Brahman or AtmA and not our beloved prankster, murlidhar, bansidhar kruShNa, the person. From the analysis of the words 'bhagavAn', 'paramAtmA', etc, we can now know that Adi SAnkara said what purANa-s say. Real nature is GYAnasvarUpa and not a person.

Full sanskrit commentary and translation are provided for those who wish to study the full verse. This can be skipped. Please skip upto 'Summary'.

Sanskrit commentary by Sri Sankaracharya

-- मयि वासुदेवे मनः यस्य स त्वं मन्मनाः भव तथा मद्भक्तः भव मद्याजी मद्यजनशीलः भव। माम् एव च नमस्कुरु। माम् एव ईश्वरम् एष्यसि आगमिष्यसि युक्त्वा समाधाय चित्तम्। एवम् आत्मानम्, अहं हि सर्वेषां भूतानाम् आत्मा, परा च गतिः, परम् अयनम्, तं माम् एवंभूतम्, एष्यसि इति अतीतेन संबन्धः, मत्परायणः सन् इत्यर्थः।।इति श्रीमत्परमहंसपरिव्राजकाचार्यस्य श्रीगोवन्दभगवत्पूज्यपादशिष्यस्य श्रीमच्छंकरभगवतः कृतौ श्रीमद्भगवद्गीताभाष्येनवमोऽध्यायः।। ।।9.34।।

Hindi translation by Sri Harikrishandas Goenka (on Sri Sankaracharya's Sanskrit Commentary) 

किस प्रकार ( भजन-सेवा करें सो कहा जाता है -- ) तू मन्मना -- मुझमें ही मनवाला हो। मद्भक्त -- मेरा ही भक्त हो। मद्याजी -- मेरा ही पूजन करनेवाला हो और मुझे ही नमस्कार किया कर। इस प्रकार चित्तको मुझमें लगाकर मेरे परायण -- शरण हुआ तू मुझ परमेश्वरको ही प्राप्त हो जायगा। अभिप्राय यह कि मैं ही सब भूतोंका आत्मा और परमगति -- परम स्थान हूँ, ऐसा जो मैं आत्मरूप हूँ उसीको तू प्राप्त हो जायगा। इस प्रकार पहलेके 'माम्' शब्दसे 'आत्मानम्' शब्दका सम्बन्ध है ।।9.34।।

Simplified English Translation

9.34 have your mind fixed on Me ( 'vasudeva') and also be devoted to Me. sacrifice to Me, be engaged in sacrificing to Me. And bow down only to Me. by concentrating your mind and by accepting Me as the supreme Goal you shall surely attain Me who am God. You shall attain Me who am thus the Self. I indeed am the Self of all the beings, and am also the supreme Goal. You shall attain Me who am such. In this way, the word 'aatmaanaam' (Self) is to be connected with the preceding word 'maam' (Me). This is the purport.

English translation by Swami Gambhirananda (on Sri Sankaracharya's Sanskrit Commentary) - Can be Skipped

9.34 Manmana bhava, have your mind fixed on Me; Here Ast. adds the word vasudeva.-Tr and also be madbhakah, devoted to Me. Madyaji, sacrifice to Me, be engaged in sacrificing to Me. And namaskuru, bow down; only mam, to Me. Yuktva, by concentrating your mind; and mat-parayanah, by accepting Me as the supreme Goal; esyasi eva, you shall surely attain; mam, Me who am God. You shall attain Me evam atmanam, who am thus the Self: I indeed am the Self of all the beings, and am also the supreme Goal. You shall attain Me who am such. In this way, the word atmanam (Self) is to be connected with the preceding word mam (Me). This is the purport. 


Bhagavan, who is the Self of all beings, has to be meditated upon with steadfast devotion. Bhakta will attain 'me'.

There are more examples in Gita in which we understand that kruShNa is talking as Brahman and not as a person..

Bhagavan in Gita 18.66 says,

सर्वधर्मान्परित्यज्य मामेकं शरणं व्रज।
अहं त्वा सर्वपापेभ्यो मोक्षयिष्यामि मा शुचः।।18.66।।

18.66 Abandoning all duties, take refuge in Me alone: I will liberate thee from all sins; grieve not. 

Here, the word 'व्रज'। can be translated as 'go', but most people translate it as 'come'

So the translation will be:

18:66, Leaving all dharma (varNa, Ashrama and ordinary dharma), go to my refuge only and I will make you free from all sins and grant you moksha.

Slokas (verses) in which Krishna talks about himself and vasudeva

वृष्णीनां वासुदेवोऽस्मि पाण्डवानां धनंजयः।
मुनीनामप्यहं व्यासः कवीनामुशना कविः।।10.37।।

vṛṣṇīnāṅ vāsudēvō.smi pāṇḍavānāṅ dhanaṅjayaḥ.
munīnāmapyahaṅ vyāsaḥ kavīnāmuśanā kaviḥ..10.37..

10.37 Of the vrsnis (The clan to which Sri krishna belonged, known otherwise as the Yadavas). I am Vasudeva; of the Pandavas, Dhananjaya (Arjuna). And of the wise, I am Vyasa; of the omniscient, the omniscient Usanas, the poet, the seer of past present and future (Sukracharya, Guru of asuras). 

Note: Usanas is translated by both Swami Sivananda (of divine life society) and Adi Shankaracharya in their commentaries as Sukracharya. Meaning of 'Vrsnis' is taken from translation by Swami Ghambhirananda (of Advaita Ashram). KavinAma and the words 'seer of past, present and future' are taken from Adi Shankaracharya's commentary

Here, kruShNa has used both words 'I' and 'vAsudeva'. Hence it is clear that Krishna, supreme brahman is different from vAsudeva. Though both are one, yet they are different.

Hence taking 'I' or 'Me' said by bhagavan as 'Atma-bhava' will not be wrong.

बहूनां जन्मनामन्ते ज्ञानवान्मां प्रपद्यते।
वासुदेवः सर्वमिति स महात्मा सुदुर्लभः।।7.19।।

bahūnāṅ janmanāmantē jñānavānmāṅ prapadyatē.
vāsudēvaḥ sarvamiti sa mahātmā sudurlabhaḥ..7.19..

7.19 At the end of many births the wise man comes to Me, realising that all this is Vasudeva (the innermost Self); such a great soul (Mahatma) is very hard to find.

Adi Shankaracharya's commentary will make it more clear

Sanskrit commentary:

-- बहूनां जन्मनां ज्ञानार्थसंस्काराश्रयाणाम् अन्ते समाप्तौ ज्ञानवान् प्राप्तपरिपाकज्ञानः मां वासुदेवं प्रत्यगात्मानं प्रत्यक्षतः प्रपद्यते। कथम्? वासुदेवः सर्वम् इति। यः एवं सर्वात्मानं मां नारायणं प्रतिपद्यते, सः महात्मा; न तत्समः अन्यः अस्ति, अधिको वा। अतः सुदुर्लभः, 'मनुष्याणां सहस्रेषु' इति हि उक्तम्।।आत्मैव सर्वो वासुदेव इत्येवमप्रतिपत्तौ कारणमुच्यते -- ।।7.19।।

Simplified English Translation:

7.19 At the end, after the completion of many births, which become the repository for accumulating the tendencies leading to Knowledge, the man of Knowledge, who has got this Knowledge matured directly attains Me, Vasudeva, who am the inmost Self; (realizing)-in what way? that; Vasudeva is sarvam, all. such a one, who realizes Me Here adds the word Narayana, thus as the Self of all is mahatma, a high-souled one. There is none else who can equal or excel him. Therefore he is very rare among thousands of men, as it has been said (in verse 3, chapter 7). The reason why one does not realize that all this is verily Vasudeva, the Self...

English Translation of Swami Gambhirananda (Can be skipped)

7.19 Ante, at the end, after the completion; bahunam, of many; janmanam, births, which becme the repository for accumulating Ast. omits this word.-Tr. the tendencies leading to Knowledge; jnanavan, the man of Knowledge, who has got hiis Knowledge matured; directly prapadyate, attains; mam, Me, Vasudeva, who am the inmost Self; (realizing)-in what way?-iti, that; Vasudeva is sarvam, all. Sah, such a one, who realizes Me Here Ast. adds the word Narayana.-Tr. thus as the Self of all; is mahatma, a high-souled one. There is none else who can equal or excel him.Therefore he is su-durlabhah, very rare among thousands of men, as it has been said (in verse 3).The reason why one does not realize that all this is verily Vasudeva, the Self, is being stated: 

vAsudeva, here is taken as Self, Atman, GYAna is the true nature and hence it is said here 'to know' and not 'to see'.

Bhagavan in Gita says

मनुष्याणां सहस्रेषु कश्चिद्यतति सिध्दये। 
यततामपि सिध्दानां कश्चिन्मां वेत्ति तत्त्वतः।।7.3।।

manuṣyāṇāṅ sahasrēṣu kaścidyatati sidhdayē. 
yatatāmapi sidhdānāṅ kaścinmāṅ vētti tattvataḥ..7.3..

7.3 Among thousands of men, one perchance strives for perfection; even among those successful strivers, only one perchance knows Me in essence (tatva).

Note: Here, bhagavan says 'knows' and not 'sees'. Also note that knows 'Me' in essence (tatva).

In BG 14.26, Bhagavan says,

मां च योऽव्यभिचारेण भक्तियोगेन सेवते। 
स गुणान्समतीत्यैतान् ब्रह्मभूयाय कल्पते।।14.26।।

māṅ ca yō.vyabhicārēṇa bhaktiyōgēna sēvatē. 
sa guṇānsamatītyaitān brahmabhūyāya kalpatē..14.26..

English translation by Swami Gambhirananda

14.26 And he who serves Me through the unswerving Yoga of Devotion, he, having gone beyond these qualities, qualifies for becoming Brahman. 

In the next sloka, Bhagavan says,

ब्रह्मणो हि प्रतिष्ठाऽहममृतस्याव्ययस्य च।
शाश्वतस्य च धर्मस्य सुखस्यैकान्तिकस्य च।।14.27।।

brahmaṇō hi pratiṣṭhā.hamamṛtasyāvyayasya ca.
śāśvatasya ca dharmasya sukhasyaikāntikasya ca..14.27..

English translation by Swami Gambhirananda

14.27 For I am the Abode of Brahman-the indestructible and immutable, the eternal, the Dharma and absolute Bliss. 

Adi Shankaracharya ji comments on this verse is:

Sanskrit commentary by Sri Sankaracharya

-- ब्रह्मणः परमात्मनः हि यस्मात् प्रतिष्ठा अहं प्रतितिष्ठति अस्मिन् इति प्रतिष्ठा अहं प्रत्यगात्मा। कीदृशस्य ब्रह्मणः? अमृतस्य अविनाशिनः अव्ययस्य अविकारिणः शाश्वतस्य च नित्यस्य धर्मस्य धर्मज्ञानस्य ज्ञानयोगधर्मप्राप्यस्य सुखस्य आनन्दरूपस्य ऐकान्तिकस्य अव्यभिचारिणः अमृतादिस्वभावस्य परमानन्दरूपस्य परमात्मनः प्रत्यगात्मा प्रतिष्ठा, सम्यग्ज्ञानेन परमात्मतया निश्चीयते। तदेतत् 'ब्रह्मभूयाय कल्पते (गीता 14।26)' इति उक्तम्। यया च ईश्वरशक्त्या भक्तानुग्रहादिप्रयोजनाय ब्रह्म प्रतिष्ठते प्रवर्तते, सा शक्तिः ब्रह्मैव अहम्, शक्तिशक्तिमतोः अनन्यत्वात् इत्यभिप्रायः। अथवा, ब्रह्मशब्दवाच्यत्वात् सविकल्पकं ब्रह्म। तस्य ब्रह्मणो निर्विकल्पकः अहमेव नान्यः प्रतिष्ठा आश्रयः। किंविशिष्टस्य? अमृतस्य अमरणधर्मकस्य अव्ययस्य व्ययरहितस्य। किं च, शाश्वतस्य च नित्यस्य धर्मस्य ज्ञाननिष्ठालक्षणस्य सुखस्य तज्जनितस्य ऐकान्तिकस्य एकान्तनियतस्य च, 'प्रतिष्ठा अहम्' इति वर्तते।।इति श्रीमत्परमहंसपरिव्राजकाचार्यस्य श्रीगोविन्दभगवत्पूज्यपादशिष्यस्य श्रीमच्छंकरभगवतः कृतौ श्रीमद्भगवद्गीताभाष्येचतुर्दशोऽध्यायः। ।।14.27।।

Hindi translation by Sri Harikrishandas Goenka (on Sri Sankaracharya's Sanskrit Commentary) 

ऐसा क्यों होता है? सो बतलाते हैं -- क्योंकि ब्रह्म -- परमात्माकी प्रतिष्ठा मैं हूँ। जिसमें प्रतिष्ठित हो वह प्रतिष्ठा है, इस व्युत्पत्तिके अनुसार मैं अन्तरात्मा ( ब्रह्मकी ) प्रतिष्ठा हूँ। कैसे ब्रह्मकी? ( सो कहते हैं -- ) जो अमृत -- अविनाशी, अव्यय -- निर्विकार, शाश्वत -- नित्य, धर्मस्वरूप -- ज्ञानयोगरूप धर्मद्वारा प्राप्तव्य और ऐकान्तिक सुखस्वरूप अर्थात् व्यभिचाररहित आनन्दमय है उस ब्रह्मकी मैं प्रतिष्ठा हूँ। अमृत आदि स्वभाववाले परमात्माकी प्रतिष्ठा अन्तरात्मा ही है; क्योंकि यथार्थ ज्ञानसे वही परमात्मारूपसे निश्चित होता है। यही बात 'ब्रह्मभूयाय कल्पते' इस पदसे कही गयी है। अभिप्राय यह है कि जिस ईश्वरीय शक्तिसे भक्तोंपर अनुग्रह आदि करनेके लिये ब्रह्म प्रवर्तित होता है, वह शक्ति, मैं ब्रह्म ही हूँ; क्योंकि शक्ति और शक्तिमान्में भेद नहीं होता। अथवा ( ऐसा समझना चाहिये कि ) ब्रह्मशब्दका वाच्य होनेके कारण यहाँ सगुण ब्रह्मका ग्रहण है, उस सगुण ब्रह्मका मैं निर्विकल्प -- निर्गुण ब्रह्म ही प्रतिष्ठा -- आश्रय हूँ, दूसरा कोई नहीं। किन विशेषणोंसे युक्त सगुण ब्रह्मका? जो अमृत अर्थात् मरण-धर्मसे रहित है और अविनाशी अर्थात् क्षय होनेसे रहित है, उसका। तथा ज्ञाननिष्ठारूप शाश्वत-नित्य धर्मका और उससे होनेवाले ऐकान्तिक एकमात्र निश्चित परम आनन्दका भी, मैं ही आश्रय हूँ। 'अहं प्रतिष्ठा' यह पद यहाँ अनुवृत्तिसे लिया गया है ।।14.27।।

Simplified English Translation of commentary:

14.27 for, I, the inmost Self am the  Abode-that in which something abides is pratistha-of Brahman which is the supreme Self. Of Brahman of what kind? of that which is indestructible, immutable, and eternal; of that which is the Dharma, realizable through the Yoga of Jnana which is called dharma (virtue); and of that which is the absolute, unfailing Bliss by nature. Since the inmost Self is the abode of the supreme Self-which by nature is immortal etc. therefore, through perfect Knowledge it (the former) is realized with certainty to be the supreme Self. This has been stated in, 'he qualifies for becoming Brahman'.The purport is this: Indeed, that power of God through which Brahman sets out, comes forth, for the purpose of favouring the devotees, etc., that power which is Brahman Itself, am I. For, a power and the possesser of that power are non-different. Or, brahman means the conditioned Brahman, since It (too,) is referred to by that word. 'Of that Brahman, I Myself, the unconditioned Brahman-and none else-am the Abode.'(The abode of Brahman) of what qualities? Of that which is immortal; of that which has the quality of deathlessness; of that which is immutable, eternal and dharma having the characteristics of steadfastness in Knowledge; of that which is the absolute, unquestionably certain Bliss born of that (steadfastness);-'I am the Abode' is understood. 

English translation by Swami Gambhirananda (on Sri Sankaracharya's Sanskrit Commentary) - Can be Skipped

14.27 Hi, for; aham, I, the inmost Self; am the pratistha brahmanah, Abode-that in which something abides is pratistha-of Brahman which is the supreme Self. Of Brahman of what kind? Amrtasya, of that which is indestructible; avyayasya, of that which is immutable; and sasvatasya, of that which is eternal; dharmasya, of that which is the Dharma, realizable through the Yoga of Jnana which is called dharma (virtue); and aikantikasya sukhasya, of that which is the absolute, unfailing Bliss by nature.Since the inmost Self is the abode of the supreme Self-which by nature is immortal etc.-, therefore, through perfect Knowledge it (the former) is realized with certainty to be the supreme Self. This has been stated in, 'he qualifies for becoming Brahman'.The purport is this: Indeed, that power of God through which Brahman sets out, comes forth, for the purpose of favouring the devotees, etc., that power which is Brahman Itself, am I. For, a power and the possesser of that power are non-different. Or, brahman means the conditioned Brahman, since It (too,) is referred to by that word. 'Of that Brahman, I Myself, the unconditioned Brahman-and none else-am the Abode.'(The abode of Brahman) of what qualities? Of that which is immortal; of that which has the quality of deathlessness; of that which is immutable; so also, of that which is the eternal; which is the dharma having the characteristics of steadfastness in Knowledge; of that which is the absolute, unquestionably certain Bliss born of that (steadfastness);-'I am the Abode' is understood. 

Summary of two verses BG 14.26 and BG14.27:

The above two verses indicate that Ishvara (SaguNa Brahman) and Brahman are not different. Krishna ParamAtmAn and Brahman are not different. Through knowledge, Brahman can be realized. 'I' in the verses describing PAramAtmAn can be taken as 'NirguNa Brahman'. sAguNa Brahman manifests through his mAyA and becomes active for showing his grace, bhakti to his beloved devotees.

A bhakta, by one-pointed devotion to Krishna ParamAtmAn (SaguNa Brahman) can become qualified for attaining Brahman. This is said in the intro of chapter 15 by Adi Sankara BhagavadpAda. Hence 'My Adobe' can be taken as Brahman. It should be noted that Krishna ParamAtmAn uses the word 'knows' and not 'sees'. Hence it is knowledge that gives Moksha. It should be further noted that bhagavAn always says that, 'I' am paramdhAma, paramgati and does not use the word 'vaikunTha'. So bhagavAn himself is param-dhAma, the supreme adobe. This supreme adobe is to be taken as nirguNa brahman. nirguNa brahman is dhAma, the final destination, and is also supreme. It is a state of consciousness (super-consciousness)

Advaita bhakti preached by Adi Sankara bhagavapAda

Our Acharya continues from Chapter 14, giving the intro of chapter 15, he says,

Because those doing karma (action), the fruits of karma and Jnani's fruit which is Jnana is under my control. Hence those bhakta-s (devotees), who worship me, by my grace, transcend three guNa-s attains moksha through the path of Knowledge (Jnana), then what to say about the knower of Atmatatva (Brahman) through Direct Experience? ...


In this Intro, our acharya says that even Bhakta-s who worship saguNa Brahman (Ishvara), transcend 3 guNa-s by the grace of Lord and then attain Moksha by path of Knowledge. This is an indirect path, while the direct path, is the path of Advaita or Jnana marg, who separates one self from 3 guNa-s and abides in his own Self, which is the Self of all. Our acharya says that though the bhakta may not initially do not have goal of Moksha and may not attentively and consciously separate 'I' from the 3 guNa-s or diassociates himself with 3 guNa-s, he still transcends them, unknowingly and naturally by the grace of Ishvara (Krishna PAramAtmAn) and qualifies for Jnana. This is because, the chitta becomes pure sattvik. Satva GuNa has tendency of Renunciation. So a person transforms his negative qualities and other guNa-s into sattva guNa or in other words, increases sattva guNa as a predominant guNa. Later on by grace of God, he transcends them. Jnani or an Advaitin uses his discriminative power while bhakta entirely depends upon God to transcend 3 guNa-s

MAyA has 3 guNa-s, nothing is made without the help of mAyA. mAyA is tri-guNAtmikA meaning consisting of 3 guNa-s (Satva, Rajas and tamas), to transcend 3 guNa-s means to abide in NirguNa brahman. Ishvara uses 3 guNa-s and mAyA, but is not affected by it. Ishvara is called as mAyApatI i.e. control of mAyA. The real nature of Ishvara is Brahman. Without mAyA Ishvara is NirguNa Brahman. Hence by transcending 3 guNas- and knowing to attaining his adobe means to Realize NirguNa Brahman.

In chapter 15, the peepal tree, which is inverted is imagined. Later in 15.3, Adi Shankara explains that the peepal tree is just an imagination and does not really exist. Only in ignorance it appears. With the weapon called detachment (a-sanga Sastra), one has to strike the tree (of Ignorance). By striking means to disassociate with 3 guNa-s and be free from dualities. Only with knowledge, one can attain Moksha. Later in BG 15.16-20, Lord explains why he is called as PuruSSottama.

In Mahabharat Moksha Dharma,, NArAyaNa, putting on the form of the entire universe, spoke to NArada and said, 'O nArada, this is a mere illusion (mAyA) projected by myself, whereby you see Me associated with the attributes of all creatures. Do not suppose that this is My true nature' (M. Bh. Mksha Dharma 339.45) explained in Br. Sutra. Bh. II.ii.17 (Source: Method of Vedanta, page 45)

In Uddhava Gita, Bhagavan uses 'Me' as 'Brahman'

We will take 2 verses from chapter 6

एवं जिज्ञासयाऽपोह्य नानात्व्भ्रममात्मनि ।
उपारमेत विरजं ्मनो मय्यर्प्य सर्वगे ॥ २१ ॥

6.21 Removing the delusion (illusion) of manifoldness in the Atman through such discrimination, one should cease from activities, holding the purified mind on Me, the Omnipresent One.

यद्यनीशो धारयितुं नमो ब्रह्मणि निश्चलम्‌ ।
मयि सर्वाणि कर्मणि निरपेक्षः समाचर ॥ २२ ॥

6.22 If thou art unable to hold the mind steady on the Brahman, then perform all actions without caring for the results, giving them up unto me.

Krishna, a person, is symbolic representation of nirguNa brahman says aNu gItA

Anu Gita, a part of Mahabharata, (Adhyaya 16-19 Ashvamedhika) also known as Brahman Gita, as it is discussion between brahman and siddha, clarifies this stand that Bhagavan Krishna established himself in Brahman and then sung Gita

Arjun requests Bhagavan Krishna to repeat the discourse of Bhagavad Gita, to which BhagavAn replied:

Vâsudeva said:

From me, O son of Prithâ! you heard a mystery, and learnt about the eternal (principle), about piety in (its true) form, and about all the everlasting worlds. It is excessively disagreeable to me, that you should not have grasped it through want of intelligence. And the recollection (of it) now again is not possible (to me). Really, O son of Pându! you are devoid of faith and of a bad intellect. And, O Dhanañjaya! it is not possible for me to repeat in full (what I said before). For that doctrine was perfectly adequate for understanding the seat, of the Brahman. It is not possible for me to state it again in full in that way. For then accompanied by my mystic power, I declared to you the Supreme Brahman. But I shall relate an ancient story upon that subject, so that adhering to this knowledge, you may attain the highest goal. O best of the supporters of piety! listen to all that I say. (Once), O restrainer of foes! there came from the heavenly world and the world of Brahman, a Brâhmana difficult to withstand, and he was (duly) honored by us. (Now) listen, without entertaining any misgivings, O chief of the descendants of Bharata! O son of Prithâ! to what he said on being interrogated by us according to heavenly rules. (9-15)

Just like national flag, though only a small piece of cloth, represents the entire country, similarly, kruShNa, as person, represents the omnipresent, nirguNa brahman. kruShNa is bhagavAn, brahman and guru.


From the above analysis, we can assert that whenever supreme brahman is described by the use of words like bhagavAn, paramAtmA, parabrahman, brahman, 'I', 'Me', param-dhAma, param-gati, param-pada, it is always the stuti (praise) of nirguNa brahman, who is the substratum of entire creation and also of the trinity.

We also conclude that viShNu, nArAyaNa, Siva or guru does not necessarily mean the person and whenever their names are used to describe the all powerful, state, the substratum of entire creation and from which trinity manifests or that viShNu takes form of brahmA, viShNu and maheSa for creation, preservation and destruction, it is the description of nirguNa brahman only.

puruSa is the first manifestation of brahman, Adi SAnkarAcArya ji has consistently linked the final destination as nirguNa brahman.

We can also conclude that against the regular convention, where Adi Sankara's philosophy is viewed that supporting purely GYAna mArga, we can safely say that Adi Sankara had a big heart and he also preached advaita bhakti, where one can worship a form of ISvara and can still cross this ocean of samsAra, by the grace of ISvara.