Thursday, 7 July 2011

Sri Hari Hara

The devas had looked upon the earth, and were horrified by the terrible state it was in- everywhere there was greed, war and unhappiness. Vice and sin ran rampant among people. Confused as to how things could have become like this, they approached Vishnu to seek answers. Vishnu said to them as they assembled, "Let us go to Shankar, for He is wise!"
Vishnu led the demigods up the icy slopes of Mount Kailash, but saw no one there. Amidst the rocks and snow, there was no sign of Shiva or Parvati, or even Nandi. The baffled gods searched for a sign of Shiva until Vishnu came to them and said, "My beloved, your selfishness has made you blind, for Hara is here! You must purify yourselves- bathe in milk, sing the Satarudriya hymn, and take only hot milk for 3 days, and your eyes will be opened." They followed his instructions, but after 3 days they still could see no sign of Shiva. They cried out, "O Jagannath, Lord of the World, where can we find Shankar?"

At that, Vishnu pointed to his chest. "He is in me, as I am in him. Can't you see that?" As he spoke, he revealed his lotus heart, and as the petals opened, the sacred Lingam could be seen in the middle. The gods fervently worshipped the lingam, bathing it in milk, covering it with vermillion and sandalpaste, offering flowers and chanting the 1008 names of Shiva. But through this, they were still disturbed- How could Hari and Hara be one and the same? Vishnu had light, Sattvic qualities, while Shiva had dark, tamasic qualities. They were so different! But knowing their thoughts, Vishnu took on the form of Shiva. The gods could no longer tell the difference between the trident-bearing, three eyed god, or the conch bearing lord. And so, realizing finally that Vishnu and Shiva were one and the same, they bowed in devotion and worshipped Sri Hari Hara.

Harihara is the name of a combined deity form of both Vishnu (Hari) and Shiva (Hara) from the Hindu tradition. Also known as Shankaranarayana ("Shankara" is Shiva, and "Narayana" is Vishnu), Harihara is thus worshipped by both Vaishnavites and Shaivities as a form of the Supreme God, as well as being a figure of worship for other Hindu traditions in general. Harihara is also sometimes used as a philosophical term to denote the unity of Vishnu and Shiva as different aspects of the same Supreme God. The exact nature of both Vishnu and Shiva (from their associated stories in Vedic and Puranic scriptures), and their position of difference or unity (or both), is a subject of some debate amongst the different philosophical schools.



Different Concepts


Vishnu (left half, holding disc) and Shiva (lighter coloured half, holding trident) combined in a single murthi form, along with Lakshmi and Parvati
Due to the fluid and diverse nature of Hinduism there are a wide variety of beliefs and traditions associated to both Vishnu and Shiva. Some schools hold that only Vishnu (including his associated avatars) is the Supreme God, and others that Shiva (including his different incarnations) is actually the Supreme being. Some argue that both Shiva and Vishnu are the Supreme God - both being different aspects of the one person; and there are others still who regard the Supreme God as being ultimately formless (advaita) and thus see both Vishnu and Shiva as different facets of the one formless Brahman.
Depending on which scriptures (and translations) are quoted, evidence is available to support each of the different arguments. In most cases, even if one personality is taken as being superior over the other, much respect is still offered to both Vishnu and Shiva by the other's worshippers (i.e Shiva is still regarded as being above the level of an ordinary jiva and 'the greatest of the Vaishnavas' by Vaishnavas who worship only Vishnu).[1] Some see Vishnu as the male incarnation of Shiva's feminine half, Shakti.
One and the same
Sivananda states: "Shiva and Vishnu are one and the same entity. They are essentially one and the same. They are the names given to the different aspects of the all-pervading Supreme Soul or the Absolute. ‘Sivasya hridayam vishnur-vishnoscha hridayam sivah—Vishnu is the heart of Siva and likewise Siva is the heart of Vishnu’."
Swaminarayan holds that Vishnu and Shiva are different aspects of the same God;[2][3][4] Notably, the Swaminarayan view is a minority view among Vaishnavites, but the dominant view in contemporary Hinduism which follows the Smarta view in general.[5]
Milk and Yoghurt Analogy
A Vishnu devotee A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada states: "Similarly, by expanding Himself as Lord Shiva, the Supreme Lord is engaged when there is a need to annihilate the universe. Lord Shiva, in association with maya, has many forms, which are generally numbered at eleven. Lord Shiva is not one of the living entities; he is, more or less, Krishna Himself. The example of milk and yogurt is often given in this regard – yogurt is a preparation of milk, but still yogurt cannot be used as milk. Similarly, Lord Shiva is an expansion of Krishna, but he cannot act as Krishna... The essential difference is that Lord Siva has a connection with material nature, but Vishnu or Lord Krishna has nothing to do with material nature."[6]

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