“Lord Brahma said: My dear Lord Shiva, I know that you are the controller of the entire material manifestation, the combination father and mother of the cosmic manifestation, and the Supreme Brahman beyond the cosmic manifestation as well. I know you in that way.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 4.6.42)
jāne tvām īśaṁ viśvasya
śakteḥ śivasya ca paraṁ
yat tad brahma nirantaram
Friend1: I got an interesting question today.
Friend2: You have one for me or someone asked you?
Friend1: Sorry. I meant to say that I heard something interesting asked today and I wanted to bring it up.
Friend1: It relates to Lord Shiva.
Friend2: Let me guess. Someone is arguing that he is the Supreme Lord. He is equal to or greater than Vishnu.
Friend1: How did you know?
Friend2: It’s a pretty common issue Vaishnavas face. Especially when you bring up the verse from the Bhagavad-gita where it mentions that worshipers of the demigods are less intelligent.
antavat tu phalaṁ teṣāṁ
tad bhavaty alpa-medhasām
devān deva-yajo yānti
mad-bhaktā yānti mām api
“Men of small intelligence worship the demigods, and their fruits are limited and temporary. Those who worship the demigods go to the planets of the demigods, but My devotees ultimately reach My supreme planet.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.23)
Friend2: Less brain substance.
Friend1: I always liked that.
Friend2: Was this verse the catalyst to that question?
Friend1: No. It wasn’t so much about demigods and going to God to ask for stuff. This was more along the lines of my team is great, your team stinks.
Friend2: Ah. Sentimentalism. Those arguments are always amusing.
Friend1: Yeah. It’s not like there’s a big deal, either way. If you prefer Lord Shiva, you will go to him. Another verse in the Gita says the same thing, right?
Friend2: Yeah, the worshipers of various entities go to them. Krishna says that His worshipers go to Him after death.
yānti deva-vratā devān
pitṝn yānti pitṛ-vratāḥ
bhūtāni yānti bhūtejyā
yānti mad-yājino ‘pi mām
“Those who worship the demigods will take birth among the demigods; those who worship ghosts and spirits will take birth among such beings; those who worship ancestors go to the ancestors; and those who worship Me will live with Me.”
Friend1: This question was more about what to do. The person was arguing with their friends. The person is a devotee of Krishna and I guess their friends were teasing that Shiva is supreme and not Krishna. This person didn’t know what to do, and they were even feeling a little doubtful of their own position.
Friend2: They wanted to know what arguments to use as a comeback? They want retort advice?
Friend1: Yes, you could say that.
Friend2: For starters, I’d ask what they are doing with such friends. If they can’t respect your style of worship, which is completely authorized, then what good are they to have around? There is no need to even associate with such people.
Friend1: That’s true.
Friend2: Secondly, there is no reason for disagreement. God is a person, for sure. He is singular, also. There can’t be competing versions of the same God, though the original can expand into as many forms as He chooses. It is said that Shiva and Vishnu are the same in the way that milk and yogurt are. You can’t have yogurt without milk, but at the same time yogurt is not milk.
Friend1: I see.
Friend2: Even in the Shrimad Bhagavatam, the work in Vedic literature most readily acknowledged to champion devotion to Vishnu or Krishna, Lord Shiva is addressed as supreme in several places.
Friend1: Yeah, so I forgot to mention that part. The person’s friends were arguing that many Puranas, ancient Vedic histories, describe Shiva as the origin of everything.
Friend2: Right. That is true. Those statements are there to increase the faith. Krishna mentions this in the Gita, too. When He sees someone has faith in a particular demigod, He helps to strengthen that faith.
yo yo yāṁ yāṁ tanuṁ bhaktaḥ
tasya tasyācalāṁ śraddhāṁ
tām eva vidadhāmy aham
“I am in everyone’s heart as the Supersoul. As soon as one desires to worship the demigods, I make his faith steady so that he can devote himself to some particular deity.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.21)
Friend1: Well, that seems contradictory. He says those worshipers are less intelligent, and so He’s helping them in their less intelligent activity.
Friend2: You have to understand it from the big picture perspective. Shiva is the great purifier. He is the spiritual master of the entire world since both the devas and the asuras worship him. The devas understand that he is the greatest Vaishnava, or worshiper of Vishnu. The asuras know that they can get material benedictions from him.
Friend2: Whenever you run into doubts on something like this, just make an assessment on what is asked for.
Friend1: What do you mean?
Friend2: If people are claiming that Shiva is superior to Vishnu, ask them what they beg from Shiva. If they don’t know, then they’re following blindly. If they’re asking for material benedictions, then they’re viewing him as a demigod. If they want increased devotion to God the person, to always be with Shiva in practicing that devotion, then they actually understand who he is.
Friend1: Oh, that’s good.
Friend2: There’s no reason for the rivalry. The less intelligent will always fall to the level of blind sentiment, choosing a favorite god as if they are supporting a sports team. Vishnu worship is for the most intelligent, because even if a person enters with outside motives, the association itself is purifying.
Friend1: And it’s not so with Mahadeva?
Friend2: It is, but it takes longer. Mahadeva doesn’t say “no.” That’s the big difference. He is known as Ashutosha since he gives the worshipers whatever they want. He doesn’t make a judgment on their character or the objects they request. Vishnu is different. He looks out for the welfare of His devotees. He will happily deny requests if it is not in their best interests. It is for this reason that the asuras go to Shiva instead of Vishnu.
With less intelligence to go,
Shiva’s true character not to know.
After simple prayers to him making,
Gifts from Mahadeva happily taking.
With devotees of Vishnu to argue,
Why to Him to go, silly are you?
For rivalry between the two no need,
Since Mahadeva greatest Vaishnava indeed.