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Lord Shiva's Highest Benediction

Once, the great sage Närada Muni traveled to the abode of Lord Çiva and began to glorify him, saying, You are very near and dear to the Supreme Lord Kåñëa. Not only that, you are Kåñëas manifestation; you are non-different from Him. You can give liberation and also Krishna Prema, the rare jewel of transcendental love for Kåñëa.” Hearing Närada glorify him in numerous ways, Lord Çiva became angry and said, Your glorification of me is false. I am not at all dear to Çré Kåñëa.”

Lord Çiva is actually most dear to Çré Kåñëa, and therefore Kåñëa
can give him services which He cannot give anyone else. When the
demigods and demons were churning the Milk Ocean in order to obtain
the nectar of immortality, the first substance produced was a powerful
and dangerous poison, burning the entire world. The demigods appealed
to Çré Kåñëa, and He advised them to request Lord Çiva to drink the
poison. Thus, they worshiped Lord Çiva and prayed, “Please save us!
Only you can protect us!” Lord Çiva collected the poison and took it in
his mouth, but he hesitated to swallow it, considering, “Lord Kåñëa is in
my heart. The poison will affect Him.” He therefore kept the poison in
his throat, which was burned, and his neck turned the color blue.
Now, out of genuine humility, Lord Çiva told Närada: “I want to be
His beloved devotee, but actually I am not. You know that I always wear
ashes from the burial grounds, and a garland of skulls. All my associates
are ghosts and witches, so I am not qualified to be Kåñëa’s dear devotee.
If I am so dear to Him, why would He have ordered me to engage with
the mode of ignorance in the terrible function of destroying the universe?
If I am such a great recipient of His mercy, why would he have ordered
me to become Çaìkaräcärya and preach a philosophy that is adverse to
Him?”
Actually, although he expressed otherwise, it was because Çiva
is so dear to Kåñëa that Kåñëa was able to give him the difficult task
of appearing as Çaìkaräcärya.1 Many people had been worshiping the
Supreme Lord only to fulfill their selfish purposes, thinking, “Simply by
our worship of God, He will be pleased with us and satisfy all our worldly
desires.” They worshiped Him only so that He would rapidly arrange for
all of their needs, not to please Him. Lord Kåñëa thought, “This is very
dangerous.” He called Lord Çiva and instructed him, “Such false devotees
will create great disturbances, so keep them far away from Me. Create a
philosophy which teaches, ‘brahma satyaà jagan mithyä – the Absolute is
true, this world is false.’ You should preach, ‘All souls are Çiva; all souls are
Brahmä; all are one. You are brahma, the impersonal Absolute. There is no
need to worship any other God; you are the Supreme God.’ ” Reluctant,
Lord Çiva asked Kåñëa, “Can you please tell someone else to do this? I am
not qualified for this service.” Kåñëa replied, “No, you will have to do this.
In the entire world, I see no one else who is as capable.”
Feeling ashamed, Lord Çiva now told Närada, “At last, I had to agree to
follow His order. Appearing as Çaìkaräcärya I preached everywhere, ‘You
are brahma, you are brahma, you are the impersonal brahma. The entire
world is false.’ I am so much regretting this. I know I have committed a
great offence by causing so many people to be averse to Lord Kåñëa. Still,
to carry out His order I spread this doctrine. It is clear by the fact that He
sometimes gives me such orders that I am not His dearest one.”


Cheating the Cheaters

Lord Çiva also expressed to Närada his regret in having given
benedictions to Lord Kåñëa’s enemies. To fulfill his Lord’s desires, he had
given benedictions to demons like Rävaëa, Våkäsura, Çälva and Jayadratha,
and thus he had performed many activities that were seemingly opposed
to Kåñëa and kåñëa-bhakti.
Närada Muni said, “Master, please don’t try to mislead me. I know
that whatever you do is to please Lord Kåñëa and to assist Him in His
pastimes, for the benefit of all beings. You told me that you have many
times given benedictions to His enemies. I know that His enemies, as well
as the enemies of His devoted cousins, the Päëòavas, worship you for
ill-motivated benedictions. I also know that you grant them benedictions.
But those benedictions are not foolproof; they always have some loophole.
Actually, you cheat these beneficiaries in order to please Lord Kåñëa. You
are undoubtedly His dearest friend.”
Çiva and Närada continued to discuss some historical incidents which,
according to Çiva, proved that he was not dear to Kåñëa – but according to
Närada, proved the opposite.

A Loophole

The great epic Mahäbhärata tells of King Jayadratha, one of the
many demons who received such a clever benediction from Lord Çiva.
Duryodhana, the paternal cousin of the five Päëòava brothers, had given
his sister Dushala in marriage to King Jayadratha, and therefore the king
had also become like a brother-in-law of the Päëòavas. Once, Jayadratha
tried to kidnap the Päëòavas’ wife, Draupadé, desiring strongly to make
her his own wife. As he forced her onto his chariot, she admonished him,
crying, “I am the wife of the Päëòavas. When they catch you, they will
punish you and kill you!”
Jayadratha’s arrogance prevented him from hearing her, and he
continued his abduction. Meanwhile, the sage Närada approached the
Päëòavas and informed them, “Oh, I saw Jayadratha taking away Draupadé,
and she was weeping!”
Two of the Päëòavas, Bhéma and Arjuna, immediately chased after
Jayadratha. Bhéma dismounted his chariot and ran faster than Jayadratha’s
horses. With his bow and arrows, Arjuna created a fire that surrounded
the chariot of Jayadratha, who was then captured and could not move.
Severely beaten by Bhéma and arrested by Arjuna, Jayadratha was bound
to the chariot and taken to where Yudhiñöhira Mahäräja had been staying
with Draupadé.
Bhéma and Arjuna spoke to Yudhiñöhira, their respected senior
brother. Bhéma urged him, “I want to kill Jayadratha. Please order me to
kill him.”
In support of Bhéma, Arjuna said, “Jayadratha has performed a heinous
act and should be killed.”
King Yudhiñöhira replied, “The offense was committed against Draupadé.
We should take the case to her, and we will do whatever she orders.”
When Jayadratha was brought at the feet of Draupadé, she mercifully
told her husbands, “Don’t kill him; forgive him. He is our brother-in-law.
If you kill him, your cousin-sister will be widowed and she will weep for
the rest of her life.”
Bhéma and Arjuna then approached Lord Kåñëa and appealed to Him:
“What should we do? We have vowed to kill Jayadratha, and now Draupadé
tells us to forgive him.”
Kåñëa replied, “For one who has been honored, dishonor is worse
than death.”
Arjuna then shaved King Jayadratha’s head, leaving five patches of
hair, and he shaved one side of his face, leaving the other side unshaven.
Jayadratha felt humiliated, and after being released by Bhéma and Arjuna
he considered it better to have died. He thought, “I will somehow take
revenge.” Thus absorbed, he went to Gangotré in the Himälayas and
undertook a severe type of penance to please Lord Çiva.
After some months he gave up all food, water, and bodily activities,
and was about to die. At this point Lord Çiva came before him and asked
what boon he wanted as a result of his austerity. Jayadratha replied, “I
want revenge against the Päëòavas. I want to defeat and kill all of them.”
Lord Çiva told him, “You can defeat the Päëòavas, but only Yudhiñöhira,
Bhéma, Nakula and Sahadeva; not Arjuna.” Jayadratha said, “If you cannot
benedict me to my full satisfaction, then please grant that neither Arjuna
nor anyone else will be able to kill me.” Lord Çiva replied, “I can grant
you this: if your head is severed and falls on the ground, the person who
caused this will die immediately. Your life will be saved and your head
will rejoin your body. You may be ‘killed’ hundreds of thousands of times,
but you will not die. On the other hand, if your severed head falls into
your father’s hands and he throws it on the ground, then you will die.”
Jayadratha was satisfied, thinking, “My father would never do this.”
When the battle of Kurukñetra began, Jayadratha took the side of
the Päëòavas’ enemy, Duryodhana. One evening during the battle, as the
sun was setting, Jayadratha’s father was absorbed in prayer and making
an offering of water to the Sun-god. Arjuna saw this opportune moment.
With the skillful release of an arrow, he severed Jayadratha’s head from his
body and caused it to fall into the hands of his meditating father. Startled
and without thought, Jayadratha’s father tossed the head on the ground.
Then, opening his eyes he exclaimed, “What was that wet thing?” Seeing
that he had just thrown his son’s head, he began to cry, “Oh my son! Oh
my son! You are dead now!”

A Clever Benediction

Envious of Kåñëa and with a desire for the strength to destroy him,
the demon Çälva also took shelter of Lord Çiva. He performed a severe type
of austerity and ate no more than a handful of ashes daily. After one year,
Lord Çiva became pleased with him and asked him to beg for a boon.
Çälva begged from Lord Çiva the gift of an airplane, saying, “This
airplane should perform as I wish; it should be operated by my mind. On
my order it should go to heaven or anywhere I desire. In summer it should
be air-conditioned. If there are only two men, there should only be two
seats, and if I want to travel with hundreds of thousands of persons, many
seats should manifest. It should never crash due to mechanical difficulty,
and it should be equipped with all varieties of weapons. It should be
dangerous and fearful to the Yadus.”
Lord Çiva agreed, and Çälva was helped by the demon Maya Dänava
to manufacture a mystical airplane that began to destroy Dvärakä, Lord
Kåñëa’s abode. Çälva personally attacked from above, and his soldiers
attacked on the ground. Headed by Pradyumna, the Yadu dynasty warriors
fought with Çälva and his army, but they could not defeat him.
Finally, Lord Kåñëa personally appeared on the battlefield, and after
much intense fighting on both sides and many mystic displays by Çälva, the
Lord took up His disc, cut off the demon’s head, and gave him liberation.
In this way, the benedictions given by Lord Çiva to the enemies of
Lord Kåñëa always have a weak point – a loophole. Lord Çiva is extremely
clever, and he is always serving his Lord, Çré Kåñëa. Närada knew this fact,
and he wanted to publicize Lord Çiva’s glories. Çiva is very near and dear
to Kåñëa, and non-different from Him. Try to always honor him, for he is
Kåñëa’s greatest devotee.

nimna-gänäà yathä gaìgä
devänäm acyuto yathä
vaiñëavänäà yathä çambhuù
puräëänäm idam tathä
Çrémad-Bhägavatam (12.13.16)
Just as the Gaìgä is the greatest of all rivers, Lord Acyuta [Kåñëa]
the supreme among deities and Lord Çambhu [Çiva] the greatest of
Vaiñëavas, so Çrémad-Bhägavatam is the greatest of all Puräëas.
Çiva – çiva-tattva – is extremely complex. The principle
of Brahmä is not as complicated, because Lord Brahmä is always a jéva, a
finite spirit soul. Sometimes, when there is no qualified jéva, Lord Viñëu
(Kåñëa’s expansion) personally takes the post of Brahmä, but that is rare.
Lord Çiva is not like that; he is not a finite soul.
After passing through the eight material coverings, and after crossing the
Virajä (the river that divides the material world and the spiritual world) and
the planet of Lord Brahmä (the highest material planet), one comes to the
planet of Çiva. There he is known as Sadäçiva, a manifestation of Lord Viñëu.
Çiva-tattva can be understood by the analogy of yogurt and milk.
Yogurt is nothing but a transformation of milk. Milk can become yogurt, but
yogurt cannot become milk. This analogy is found in Brahma-saàhitä and
elucidated in Çréla Jéva Gosvämé’s commentary: “Just as milk is transformed
into yogurt by contact with a transforming agent, Çré Govinda, Lord Çré
Kåñëa, similarly accepts the form of Çambhu (Çiva) in order to accomplish a
specific purpose. The example of yogurt is actually given in order to convey
the idea of cause and effect, not the idea of transformation. Çré Kåñëa is reality
and cannot be transformed, so it is not possible for Him to undergo any kind
of distortion. A wish-fulfilling gem manifests many things according to one’s
desire, yet its constitutional nature remains untransformed.”2

Rämeçvara Mahädeva

When Çré Rämacandra was making the bridge to Laìkä, he established
a Çiva-liìga (deity form of Çiva) called Rämeçvara. All the common people
began glorifying Lord Çiva, shouting, “Rämeçvara ki jaya! You are Räma’s
éçvara: you are the lord of Räma.” The demigods were unsatisfied by this and
announced through an arial voice, “Rämas ca asau éçvaraù: Räma is God, and
Çaìkarä is also God; they are the same.” Hearing this, the Çiva-liìga broke.
Lord Çiva emerged from the liìga and told them all, “You are all foolish; you
do not know my tattva, the established truths regarding my identity. Räma is
my beloved and my God, and that is why I am called Rämeçvara.”
Granting Perfect Love

Lord Çiva eternally resides in Lord Kåñëa’s abode, Våndävana, where
he manifests many forms to render devotional services to Him. The form of
Gopéçvara Mahädeva3 was manifested by Lord Kåñëa’s desire. When Kåñëa
desired to perform His räsa dance, Çrématé Rädhikä, the embodiment of His
pleasure potency, manifested from His left side and Gopéçvara Mahädeva
manifested from His right side. The form of Çiva who lives in Käçé or Kailäsa
in the material world is a partial manifestation of the original Sadäçiva in
Våndävana. The many other commonly worshiped forms of Lord Çiva are
expansions of Sadäçiva. They are not the original. Partial expansions such
as Péppaleçvara Mahädeva, Bhüteçvara Mahädeva, Raìgeçvara Mahädeva
and so on cannot award the benediction that can be attained by the mercy of
Gopéçvara – the highest perfection of love, namely gopé-prema.
Çréla Raghunätha däsa Gosvämé has composed a prayer in his

Vraja-viläsa-stava:
mudä gopendrasyatmaja bhuja parisranga nédhaye
sphurad gopirvrndair yam iha bhägavatam pranayibhih
bhajadbhistair bhaktyäs vamabhilasitam präptam aciräd
yamitire gopéçvaram anudinam taà kila bhaje
I daily worship Gopéçvara Mahädeva, who is situated on the
bank of Yamunä. That very Gopéçvara was worshipped with deep
devotion by the gopés, and he quickly fulfilled their desire to attain
a supremely precious jewel in the form of the embrace of the son of
Nanda Mahäräja [Kåñëa].
Çréla Sanätana Gosvämé, the great Vaiñëava saint who resided in
Våndävana near the old Çré Madana-Mohana Temple, would go daily
to see Çré Gopéçvara Mahädeva at his temple. Once, in his older years,
Sanätana Gosvämé had a dream wherein Gopéçvara Mahädeva appeared
and instructed him: “Now that you are old, please do not go through so
much trouble to see me.” Sanätana Gosvämé replied, “I will continue to
come. I cannot change this habit.” Gopéçvara Mahädeva said, “Then I will
come and stay very near to your residence, manifesting in Bankhandé.” The
very next day, Çré Gopéçvara Mahädeva appeared in Bankhandé, halfway
between his orginal temple and Çréla Sanätana Gosvämé’s residence. Seeing
this, Sanätana Gosvämé became overwhelmed with transcendental ecstasy,
and from that day on he visited Bankhandé Mahädeva every day.
Wherever he was, Çréla Sanätana Gosvämé could not live without his
beloved Lord Çiva – Gopéçvara Mahädeva and Bankhandé Mahädeva in
Våndävana, and Kämeçvara Mahädeva in Kämyavana forest. In Govardhana
he would stay near his very dear friend, Cakreçvara Mahädeva, who acquired
the name when he served Govardhana Hill and the Vrajaväsés by holding up
his trident like a cakra (disc weapon), protecting them from the torrential
deluge sent by King Indra.
Prior to this, Lord Çiva had asked Çré Kåñëa for the boon to witness
His childhood pastimes. Kåñëa ordered him to situate himself in Nandagaon
in the form of a hill. Çiva followed this order and became Nandéçvara
Hill, and he thus became known as Nandéçvara. (Lord Brahmä became
Brahma-parvata, the mountain in Çrématé Rädhikä’s birthplace, Varñäëä.
Because Brahmä is so near to Rädhikä, he is also our Gurudeva.)
We honor Lord Çiva as a great Vaiñëava and as Guru. We do not worship
him separately. We observe Çiva-ratri, Lord Çiva’s appearance day, and we
glorify him in connection to his relationship with Çré Kåñëa. Çréla Sanätana
Gosvämé has written in his Hari-bhakti-viläsa that all Vaiñëavas should observe
Çiva-caturdaçé (Çiva-ratri). Lord Çiva, in whom all good qualities reside, should
certainly be honored by the observance of this day.
We offer obeisance to Lord Çiva with prayers like this:
våndävanävani-pate! jaya soma soma-maule
sanaka-sanandana-sanätana-näradeòya
gopéçvara! vraja-viläsi-yugäìghri-padme
prema prayaccha nirupädhi namo namas te
(Saìkalpa-kalpadruma 103)

O Gatekeeper of Våndävana! O Soma, all glories to you! O you whose
forehead is decorated with the moon, and who is worshipable by
the sages headed by Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanätana and Närada! O
Gopéçvara! Desiring that you bestow upon me prema for the lotus
feet of Çré Çré Rädhä-Mädhava, who perform joyous pastimes in Vrajadhäma,
I offer obeisances unto you time and again.
By Çiva’s Benediction

A brähmaëa in Käçé Väräëasé once prayed to Lord Çiva, “I want to give
my daughter in marriage, but I have no money. Please give me money.” Lord
Çiva told him, “Go to Våndävana and meet with Çréla Sanätana Gosvämé.
You can ask him to give you some wealth for your daughter’s marriage.” The
brähmaëa went to Våndävana, by foot, and there he asked the villagers there
for the whereabouts of a person named Sanätana Gosvämé. As they all knew
him, they pointed out his residence.
Çréla Sanätana Gosvämé was practicing bhajana near the Yamunä River
at Käliya-hrada, the former abode of the very poisonous snake named Käliya.
Käliya-hrada was close to the Yamunä, and therefore its surrounding area was
full of sand. Çréla Sanätana Gosvämé wore only a loincloth. He used to go
begging door-to-door for a small amount of prasäda (Kåñëa’s food remnants),
and would take as his meal only one dry chapatti (flat bread), with no salt.
The brähmaëa arrived at his cottage and told him, “I went to Çaìkara
Mahädeva, Lord Çiva, and he told me to meet you. He said you will give me
some wealth for my daughter’s marriage.” Sanätana Gosvämé replied, “I have
no possessions. You can see that I have nothing but a loincloth.” Then he
thought, “Oh, Çiva cannot tell a lie. He is my bosom friend.” Thinking of
Lord Siva and contemplating further, he remembered a touchstone he had
once disgarded and then forgotten. Now he told the brähmaëa, “Go to the
Yamunä and remove some of the sand, and there you will find a touchstone. It
is somewhere in the sand, though I don’t remember where.”
The brähmaëa found the jewel, touched it to iron, and the iron turned
into gold. He was very, very happy that Lord Çiva had told him to come to
Våndävana, and thought with gratitude, “My prayer has been answered by
him.” On the way home, however, his greed for money increased and he began
thinking, “Why did Sanätana Gosvämé keep the touchstone in the sand? It
had no use there. He must have still more valuable jewels.”
He thus returned, and Sanätana Gosvämé asked him, “Why have you come
back?” He replied, “I’ve come because I know that you have more valuable
jewels than this.” Sanätana Gosvämé then said, “Go and throw the touchstone
in the Yamunä. The brähmaëa did so with all his power, and then Sanätana
Gosvämé told him, “Come here. Come here.” He gave him the mantra, “Hare
Kåñëa Hare Kåñëa Kåñëa Kåñëa Hare Hare, Hare Räma Hare Räma Räma Räma
Hare Hare” and said, “I do not have worldly jewels, but I have transcendental
jewels. The jewel of Lord Kåñëa and Çré Rädhä will come to you in a very short
time. So remain here. Your daughter’s marriage will take place automatically.
Stay here and chant Hare Kåñëa.” That brähmaëa followed his instruction and
 became a very elevated saint.