Satyam Shivam Sundaram
Some years ago, His Divine Grace Srila Bhakti Sundar Govinda Dev-Goswami Maharaja composed this and several other beautiful prayers to Lord Shiva:
devadi devam ahi busanam indukasam
panchananam pasupatim varadam prasannam
gangadharam prana tapala kamasutosam
vande sadasiva haripriya chandramaulim
“The chief of the devas, whose body is decorated with snakes, whose body shines like the moon, who has five heads, who carries his weapon called pashupat, who gives boons, who is of a satisfied nature, who holds the ganga on his head, who maintains those who give obeisance to him, who is easily pleased- I offer my obesiances to Sada-Shiva who is dear to Hari and whose crown is the moon.”
Srila Govinda Maharaja installed the Shiva Lingam with this mantra at our Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math in Nabadwipa. Just before Srila Govinda Maharaja did so, I happened to be visiting with His Divine Grace in Nabadwipa and had just returned from Vrindavana, India, where my family and I had visited many of the important temples, one of which was the Gopishwar Shiva temple, one of four Shiva Lingams established by Lord Krishna’s grandson.
Sitting there with Srila Govinda Maharaj, He said to us “I wonder if there are any Shiva temples established by vaishnavas?” With the darshan of Gopishwar Shiva still fresh in my mind, and knowing full well that His Divine Grace already knew the answer, I said: “Yes, Srila Gurudev, the Gopishwar temple!”
Then Srila Gurudev, Srila Govinda Maharaj, proceeded to tell us about the Shiva Mandir at the entrance of the main road at Mayapur just up from the boat landing. Srila Gurudev told us that one of the god-brothers of Srila Sridhar Maharaja came to him and said he would like to establish a Shiva temple in Mayapur. Srila Guru Maharaja subsequently donated that piece of land for the temple.
We were also told by Srila Govinda Maharaja that Srila Sridhar Maharaj used to visit the Buroraj Shiva temple to regularly offer a white lotus and Srila Govinda Maharaja’s father regularly prayed to Buroraj Shiva and observed a vrata, vow to get a son. When Srila Govinda Maharaj was born, he was celebrated as the “Son of Lord Shiva”.
In fact Lord Shiva’s mercy was evident throughout his manifested pastimes. As Srila Gurudev once related to us Lord Shiva had revealed the name of a medicine in the sound of running water (ganges water, from the shower) when Srila Govinda Maharaj was searching for a medicine that would remedy his Srila Guru Maharaja’s discomfort.
What are we to learn from all this? Are we demigod worshippers?
The most apparent idea is that vaishnavas always worship vaishnavas. In the Srimad
Bhagavatam it is stated by Prahlad Maharaja, quoting a verse spoken by Yudhistira Maharaja in the Mahabharata, Vana-parva (313.117);
dharmasya tattvam nihitam guhayam
mahajano yena gatah sapantaha
“The Truth is hidden in the hearts of the saints and we follow the great authorities in devotion” Paramahamsa dharma, taking guidance from the elevated devotees, that is true vaishnava dharma.
But who is a vaishnava?
Vaishnavanam yatha shambu Srimad Bhagavatam states that Shiva is the greatest vaishnava. Srila Govinda Maharaja’s own example demonstrates how we are worshipping him as a vaishnava. Every morning at Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math in Nabadwipa there is an apparent Shiva Puja taking place. Yet they sing the song of Bhakitivinode Thakur “Ohe Vaishnava Thakur….” seeking the mercy of the vaishnava. Indeed Bhaktivinode Thakur extols Gauri-Shiva several times for their bhakti in the pages of the Navadwip Dham Mahatmiya. There it is stated that when Lord Chaitanya appeared, all the demigods had darshan of His Divine pastimes, and as a result were enlivened by Gaura-lila and eagerly participated in His Divine Sankirtan Movement.
When Lord Chaitanya was on tour He visited many temples, some were the temples of demigods, some were of Mahadeva Shiva. On His way to Jaganath Puri, Lord Chaitanya visited the temple of Bhuvaneshwara and there He composed nine excellent verses in glorification of Lord Shiva “namo namas te tri-dasheshvaraya….” These prayers were recorded by Murari Gupta in the Sri Chaitanya Carita Maha Kavya.
In the Puranas, Lord Shiva tells Gauri “aradhananam sarvesham vishnor aradhanam param, the worship of Lord Vishnu is supreme.” But then Lord Shiva adds, “tasmat parataram devi tadiyanam samarcanam, but to worship the devotee of Vishnu, that is still better”.
Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaj, in a Srimad Bhagavatam lecture explains “ ‘From that’ tasmat parataram, ‘still better,’ tadiyanam samarcanam, ‘to worship the devotee of God.’ So this is a very simple method. You cannot approach God. It is not a very easy thing. But to worship God’s representative, God’s devotee, he who is canvassing on behalf of God, tadiyanam—that worship is better. Tadiyanam samarcanam.”
So we can see how Lord Shiva himself recommends the worship of vaishnavas above everything else, and as a result of that he, himself, is considered the greatest of vaishnavas, vaishnavam yatha shambu, and is listed among the great authorities (mahajans) of bhakti by great devotees like Prahlad Maharaja.