Re: [INDOLOGY] BhP 10.333.31 and the Bhāgavata Purāṇa's date

Sudalaimuthu Palaniappan palaniappa at
Wed Mar 29 00:32:28 UTC 2017

Dear Suresh,

I apologize for the length of this reply. Thank you for the interesting information from the Telugu Bhāgavatam.  As we can agree, the objective of BhP here is to answer the question of how Kṛṣṇa can engage in apparently immoral actions. In Prabhupāda’s translation, BhP 10.33.29 says: "Śukadeva Gosvāmī said: The status of powerful controllers is not harmed by any apparently audacious transgression of morality we may see in them, for they are just like fire, which devours everything fed into it and remains unpolluted."
If this is all BhP says, the traditional interpretation of īśvaras as gods might have been all right.

But as I discussed earlier, BhP does not say straightaway whatever Kṛṣṇa does is morally right. It builds the case by first identifying some lesser beings with some qualifications and then arguing comparatively if the fruits of the actions of those lesser beings do not affect those beings, then how what their Lord, who has created everything, can be affected by what he does. 

As for the the action of Rudra consuming poison, the comparison should be taken as limited to being an example of a dangerous action by a powerful person. After all, the action of Śiva consuming poison is not immoral. If anything, it is a very altruistic action. This example does not address the basic issue of immorality of action at all. As a result, BhP cannot say that if Śiva is not affected by his actions, Kṛṣṇa will not be affected by his actions, as it says in verses 10.33.33 and 10.33.34.  So this example should not be taken as suggesting that the īśvaras referred to are gods.

One could cite many different miraculous/dangerous actions by many gods from the puṛāṇas. BhP's choice of this action of Śiva as an example makes sense if one considers the use of ‘āḷvār' in the Tamil country of the 10th century and earlier. Given the predominance of Śaiva temples, the name āḷvār, was used often to refer to Śiva. So, in my opinion, the use of this example simply illustrated the great power of the Vaiṣṇava saints who were referred to by the same name as Śiva. Indeed, Tamil Lexicon glosses the word āḷvār as given below.

ஆள்வார் āḷvār, n. < ஆள்-. The Deity, as supreme ruler; ஸ்வாமி. திருத்தீக்காலி ஆள்வார் கூத்தப் பெருமா னடிகளுக்கு (S.I.I. iii, 103).

Interestingly, the example cited by Tamil Lexicon is from an inscription (South Indian Inscriptions, vol. 3, no. 50, p. 103) of ca. 991 CE during the reign of Rājarāja I in the Śiva temple at Tiruvallam in northern Tamil Nadu. Interestingly, another inscription in the same place (SII, vol. 3, no. 49, p. 102) in year 991 has the form Āḻvār instead of Āḷvār. By the 12th century, even among the Tamil Vaiṣṇavas, the memory of the original form (Āḷvar) was lost. So, if there had been a Tamil Bhāgavatam in the 12th century, I would not be surprised to see in it an interpretation of īśvara as gods like that in the Telugu Bhāgavatam too. 

But such an interpretation gives rise to violations of the fundamental requirement of being unaffected by any act of impropriety. Indra is a prime example of such a violation. After all, Indra was badly affected by what he did to Ahalyā. Candra has been said to be affected by his transgressions too, which resulted in waning and waxing and blemishes on the face. 

Also, any interpretation of īśvaras has to satisfy the three requirements of (1) multiple īśvaras, (2) sayings considered to be true by the Vaiṣṇava tradition, and (3) being without ego. Certainly Indra and Candra cannot be said to be without ego. 

Even in the case of salvific power, one can argue that in the Tamil Vaiṣṇava bhakti tradition, the Vaiṣṇava Āḷvars were superior to Śiva. The solitary verse of Nātamuni I had mentioned earlier in praise of Maturakavi Āḷvār (>Āḻvār) brings this out. In his poems, Maturakavi did not praise Vīṣṇu at all. He only praised Māṟaṉ Caṭakōpaṉ (Nammāḷvār>Nammāḻvār). Nātamuṉi praised Maturakavi as follows:
"Maturakavi who said in praise, 'I do not know anything else. Māṟaṉ Caṭakōpaṉ who created Vedas in Tamil and is the chief of fertile Kurukūr is our life,' is our lord. He is our refuge indeed.” 

According to BhP, even Śiva has to seek refuge at Kṛṣṇa’s feet. But, Maturakavi says, “ tēvu maṟṟu aṟiyēṉ” (Kaṇṇi Nuṇ Ciṟuttāmpu 2) meaning "I do not know any other god.”  He does not pay homage to any god, but seeks refuge only in Caṭakōpaṉ, another Āḷvar. Here Caṭakōpaṉ is a virtual surrogate for Kṛṣṇa. 

Beyond this, there is another interesting thing. Tracy Coleman translates BhP 10.33.34 as, "If even the sages satisfied by worshipping the dust of his lotus-feet live spontaneously, not being bound, their every bond of karma cast off by the power of yoga—then how can He who becomes embodied intentionally ever be bound?”

The mention of a devotee who has the power of yoga is noteworthy. Nātamuṉi (Nāṭhamuni) was not only a devotee of Viṣṇu but also said to be an excellent yogi according to the Stotraratna  of Yamunācārya. and Nāthamuni is also mentioned as the author of the Yogarahasyam by Vedāntadeśika in his Rahasyatrayasāram.  Based on these, BhP 10.33.34 seems to be referring to Nāthamuni and possibly either his father or son called Īśvaramuni. 

So, BhP in 10.33.29-34 seems to be referring to the Āḷvār saints, Nāṭhamuni, and possibly Īśvaramuni, all of whom are devotees of Viṣṇu and not gods. 

I would appreciate very much if you could tell me if/how the Telugu Bhāgavatam handles BhP 11.5.38-40 in which Vedāntadeśika sees reference to teachers such as Nāthamuni, son of Īśvaramuni.

Thanks in advance


> On Mar 24, 2017, at 9:24 AM, Suresh Kolichala <suresh.kolichala at> wrote:
> Dear Palaniappan,
> You are right about īśvara being referred to in plural, but there is already an example of such īśvaras in the same section of verses. See 10.33.30: 
> naitat samācaret jātu
>  manasāpi hi anīśvaraḥ
> vinaśyaty ācaran mauḍhyād
>  yathārudro ’bdhi-jaṁ viṣam
> One who is not īśvara (anīśvaraḥ) should never imitate the behavior of īśvaras, even mentally. If out of foolishness an ordinary person does imitate such behavior, he will simply destroy himself, just as a person who is not Rudra would destroy himself if he tried to drink an ocean of poison.
> In the Telugu translation of Bhagavatam of Potana (late 1400s), there is a mention of candra (moon) and vāsava (indra) as examples of īśvaras, in addition to Rudra as mentioned above.
> Here are corresponding verses from the Telugu version:
> 10.1-1106 (Translation of 10.33.29)
> sarvabhakṣuⁿ ḍagni sarvambu bhakṣiñci
> dōṣigāni pagidi dōṣa mainaⁿ
> jēsi dōṣapadamuⁿ jendaru tējasvu
> laguṭaⁿ jandra vāsavāduⁿ ladhipa!
> Meaning: As all-devouring fire remains unpolluted even after consuming everything, the same the spirited-people (tējasvi+lu) such as candra (moon) and vāsava (indra) remain untainted for their transgressions.
> 10.1-1107 (translation of: SB 10.33.30)
> īśvaruⁿḍu gānivāⁿḍu na-
> rēśvara! parakāntaⁿ dalaⁿci yeṭlu braduku? gau-
> rīśvaruⁿḍu dakka nanyuⁿḍu
> viśvabhayadaviṣamu mriṅgi velayaṅgalaⁿḍē?
> Meaning: O King (narēśvara), how can anyone who is not īśvara survive touching other men's wives? Only Gauri's īśvara (husband of Gauri) can drink the dreadful poison and survive.
> Clearly, the attempt in these verses is to justify Krishna's transgressions. Whether Krishna is treated as an īśvara (Lord) or a paramēśvara (Supreme Lord), these verses are all about how their apparent sinful actions are unimpeachable. 
> Almost reminds us of Nixon's quote: "when the president does it, that means it is not illegal." Did Nixon read BhP? :-)
> I still believe your attempt to connect īśvaras in these verses with Āḷvārs is far-fetched. 
> Regards,
> Suresh.
> Nixon's quote: <>

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <>

More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list