Many people in India harbor the opinion that Mahadeva Sankara is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. And if they are presented with Vedic evidence which states that not only Lord Krishna or Visnu is established as the Supreme Godhead, but even Lord Shiva has no problems accepting that, then they feel even more confused. In Sanatana Gosvami’s Brhad Bhagavatamrta, he narrates how various devotees are asked whether they are the greatest devotees and uniquely none of them reply in the affirmative. Everyone who was asked, Lord Indra, Lord Brahma, Lord Shiva, Prahlada, Hanuman, the Pandava brothers etc keep on pointing to someone else. And what about the cowherd damsels (gopis) of Vrindavana their love for Krishna is unparalleled. But they too feel that they have no love for Krishna. So, this business of determining who is the greatest devotee of Krishna is not like determining who is the richest man in the country or who has scored maximum runs in cricket or maximum goals in football. In the mundane sphere, achievements can be counted, hence who has them in the largest number wins the game.
The path of bhakti is based on the foundation of humility. Therefore it should be obvious that the one with the greatest humility will be the last person to acknowledge that he is the most humble – because that will infect him with pride and consequently destroy his humility. As the best of the devotees of Lord Krishna let us have a glimpse of Lord Shiva’s sterling qualities.
Lord Shiva as Sripada Shankaracarya
There are twelve great authorities in preaching God consciousness. The name Sambhu means Lord Shiva. His disciplic succession is also known as the Vishnu Svami-sampradaya, and the current Vishnusvami-sampradaya is also known as the Vallabha-sampradaya. The current Brahma-sampradaya is known as the Madhva-Gaudiya-sampradaya. Even though Lord Shiva appeared to preach Mayavada philosophy, at the end of his pastime in the form of Shankaracarya, he preached the Vaishnava philosophy: bhaja govindam bhaja govindam bhaja govindam mudha-mate. He stressed worshiping Lord Krishna, or Govinda, three times in this verse and especially warned his followers that they could not possibly achieve deliverance, or mukti, simply by word jugglery and grammatical puzzles. If one is actually serious to attain mukti, he must worship Lord Krishna. That is Sripada Shankaracarya’s last instruction.
Why do people worship Lord Shiva together with Goddess KAlI ?
It is mentioned in the Vedas that Lord Shiva is always accompanied by his material energy (saktya ghoraya). Material energy goddess Durga, or goddess Kali is always under his control. Goddess Kali and Durga serve him by killing all the asuras, or demons. Sometimes Kali becomes so infuriated that she indiscriminately kills all kinds of asuras. There is a popular picture of goddess Kali in which she wears a garland composed of the heads of the asuras and holds in her left hand a captured head and in her right hand a great khadga, or chopper, for killing asuras. Great wars are symbolic representations of Kali ’s devastation of the asuras and are actually conducted by the goddess Kali. srsti-sthiti-pralaya-sadhana-saktir eka (Sri Brahma Samhita. 5.44) Asuras try to pacify the goddess Kali , or Durga, by worshiping her in material opulence, but when the asuras become too intolerable, goddess Kali does not discriminate in killing them wholesale. Asuras do not know the secret of the energy of Lord Shiva, and they prefer to worship goddess Kali or Durga or Lord Shiva for material benefit. Due to their demoniac character, they are reluctant to surrender to Lord Krishna, as indicated by Bhagavad-gita (7.15):
na mam duskrtino mudhah
asuram bhavam asritah
Lord Shiva’s duty is very dangerous because he has to employ the energy of goddess Kali (or Durga). In another popular picture the goddess Kali is sometimes seen standing on the prostrate body of Lord Shiva, which indicates that sometimes Lord Shiva has to fall down flat in order to stop goddess Kali from killing the asuras. Since Lord Shiva controls the great material energy (goddess Durga), worshipers of Lord Shiva attain very opulent positions within this material world. Under Lord Shiva’s direction, a worshiper of Lord Shiva gets all kinds of material facilities. In contrast, a Vaishnava, or worshiper of Lord Vishnu, gradually becomes poorer in material possessions because Lord Vishnu does not trick His devotees into becoming materially entangled by possessions. Lord Vishnu gives His devotees intelligence from within, as stated in Bhagavad-gita (10.10):
tesam satata-yuktanam bhajatam priti-purvakam
dadami buddhi-yogam tam yena mam upayanti te
“To those who are constantly devoted and worship Me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to Me.”
Thus Lord Vishnu gives intelligence to His devotee so that the devotee can make progress on the path back home, back to Godhead. Since a devotee has nothing to do with any kind of material possession, he does not come under the control of goddess Kali, or the goddess Durga.
Lord Shiva is also in charge of the tamo-guna, or the mode of ignorance in this material world. His potency, the goddess Durga, is described as keeping all living entities in the darkness of ignorance (ya devi sarva-bhutesu nidra-rupam samsthita). Both Lord Brahma and Lord Shiva are incarnations of Lord Vishnu, but Lord Brahma is in charge of the creation whereas Lord Shiva is in charge of the destruction, which he carries out with the help of his material energy, goddess Kali, or goddess Durga. Thus Lord Shiva is described as being accompanied by dangerous potencies (saktya ghoraya), and that is the actual position of Lord Shiva.
How do Vaishnavas worship Lord Shiva ?
It is stated in the list of nama-aparadhas that it is an offense to think that the chanting of the name of Hari and the chanting of Hara, or Shiva, are the same. The devotees must always know that Lord Vishnu is the Supreme Personality of Godhead and that Lord Shiva is His devotee. A devotee should be offered respect on the level of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and sometimes even more respect. Indeed, Lord Rama, the Personality of Godhead Himself, sometimes worshiped Lord Shiva. If a devotee is worshiped by the Lord, why should a devotee not be worshiped by other devotees on the same level with the Lord? This is the conclusion. It appears that Lord Shiva blesses the asurassimply for the sake of formality.
Actually Shiva loves one who is devoted to the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
– Syamananda Dasa