Following is an extract from a morning walk conversation with His Divine Grace
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada that took place in Mauritius, on October 5, 1975.
Devotee : Srila Prabhupada, I was asked a question by a man. He asked about Lord Shiva, that how was Lord Ramachandra praying to Lord Shiva in the Ramayana, and so He’s taking Lord Shiva as being God. And we didn’t have a clear answer for him.
Devotee : Could you just instruct us on this matter, why…
Prabhupada: Lord Ramachandra worshiped His devotees. Just as sometimes Krishna worships Radharani and touched Her feet and, just like Krishna was tolerating ear pulling by mother Yashoda. That does not mean that mother Yashoda is the Supreme. Hm? Krishna was carrying the wooden shoes of Nanda Maharaja. So that does not mean Nanda Maharaja is greater than Krishna. It is Krishna’s pleasure. Just as sometimes a father carries his son on his shoulders. Does it mean the father is inferior to the son? This is third-class man’s conclusion. They do not know what is Krishna, what is Rama. Krishna says that aham adir hi devanam [Bg. 10.2]. So He is the origin of Lord Shiva. So how can Shiva be the Supreme? We have to consult shastra. Krishna does not say that Shiva is Supreme. So if a third-class man says Shiva is Supreme, should we accept it? We are preaching Krishna consciousness. Whatever Krishna says, that is supreme, not a third-class man’s version. Is it clear? Yes. We should not take a third-class, fourth-class man’s version. We should take from the shastra.
Indian man : Swamiji, is Shiva not another name of God?
Prabhupada: Yes. Shiva is next to God. Just like yogurt, dahi. You know dahi? What is this dahi? Milk. But it is not milk. Dahi is nothing but milk, but it is not milk. Similarly, Lord Shiva is nothing but Vishnu, but it is not Vishnu. Is it clear now? You can say, “Well, dahi is nothing but milk.” Yes. But it is not milk. If instead of milk you take dahi, the result will be different. And if you take milk instead of dahi, that is…, that will be different, even though the milk and dahi is the same thing, same ingredients. So you have to understand in that way. Lord Shiva is nondifferent from the Supreme Lord. Everyone is nondifferent from Supreme Lord, but he’s still different. This is the perfect philosophy, acintya-bhedabheda, simultaneously one and different.
Indian man : Swamiji, in all the temples in Mauritius, the supreme deity…
Prabhupada: Supreme Deity is Vishnu.
Indian man: But we consider Lord Shiva to be the supreme deity because we…
Prabhupada: But that is your lack of knowledge. I have already explained that, that yogurt is not different from milk. It is milk but still, it is not milk. You have to understand like that. Lord Shiva is not different from Vishnu, but he’s still not Vishnu.
Indian man: No, but do we offer the prayer first to Shiva…?
Prabhupada: That you do. There is no harm. Lord Shiva is also called Mahadeva. Amongst the demigods, he is the chief. So if you worship Lord Shiva… We also worship Shiva. It is not that we disrespect Shiva. We offer our utmost respect to Lord Shiva. But that does not mean that he is the Supreme Lord.
Indian man: The difference that is there, Swamiji…
Prabhupada: Difference I have already explained. You cannot understand?
Indian man: No, no, we pray to Shiva first and then we pray to Krishna.
Prabhupada: So that you do. There is no harm. There is no harm. But you should understand who is Shiva and who is Vishnu. If you offer first prayer to Lord Shiva, there is no harm. It is good. He is… vaisnavanam yatha sambhuh. He is our spiritual master. He is Vaisnava. Why not offer first respect to him? But if you take Lord Shiva as the Supreme, that is insult. You are giving me respect as spiritual master, but if you give me overestimation, that “You are the king of the whole world,” that is insult. That is not prayer. If you offer me prayer as I am befitting, then it is all right. But if you give me prayer for which I am not befitting, that is insult. So you must know what is the position of… Lord Shiva is a Vaisnava. He is the greatest devotee. He is the number-one demigod, and everything is all right. But if you say that he is the Supreme, then he will feel insulted, that “what is this nonsense saying?” So don’t insult him in that way. That will go against your credit. He doesn’t like that.