Shri Datta Swami

Posted on: 22 Feb 2021


Did Shankara mean that He alone was Shiva or that He was Shiva alone?

Prof. Dr. J. S. R. Prasad asked: When Śaṅkara said “Śivaḥ kevalo’ham”, why can we not interpret it as “I am that Śiva, who alone exists”. Why do we only take the other interpretation, which is, “I alone am that Śiva”. The word alone (kevala) could also be an adjective of Śiva and not an adjective of I (aham).

Swami replied: If the first version proposed by you is correct, i.e. ‘alone’ is an adjective of Śiva, then every soul denoted by the word ‘aham’ should be able to drink molten lead like Śaṅkara. But the actual incident is that Śaṅkara alone drank the molten lead, whereas, others could not drink it. As per the context of the incident, the adjective ‘alone’ can only belong to Śaṅkara (denoted by the word ‘I’ or aham). It means that Śaṅkara alone can drink molten lead since He alone is God Śiva. No one else can do the same since they are not God Śiva. If the adjective ‘alone’ is not attached to the word aham (I) denoting Śaṅkara, you cannot say that Śaṅkara alone is Śiva and hence, He alone was able to drink the molten lead. Therefore, the incident that happened, clearly supports that the adjective, ‘alone’, applies only to aham (I) denoting Śaṅkara. It means that Śaṅkara alone is God and not other souls.

But, in Śaṅkara’s philosophy, He said that every soul is God. He did this because, there was no other way to convert atheists into theists. If you say that God who is different from the soul exists, the atheist will not agree to this. In the very first step, he will reject the philosophy. Śaṅkara did say that every soul is God, but that statement made by Him was part of a special trick, using which, He converted atheists into theists. The trick consisted of three steps. The first step was to convince the atheist that “You are God”. The second step was to convince him that “You exist”. The third step is to convince him that “Hence, God exists”. Śaṅkara made the atheist say with his own mouth that God exists. This trick framed for the sake of atheists is not meant to be misused by theists, whereby they start claiming to be God. A lie told to uplift atheists is not wrong.

The mother says to her child that if it eats the food, the moon will come down. This is a lie. But the mother told it for the welfare of the child and not to harm the child. A scholar is only worried about preaching the truth. But a Sadguru (divine preacher) is worried about uplifting the disciples who are on the wrong path. He is not worried about whether he has to tell them the truth or a lie in order to uplift them. The scholar thinks only about himself, whereas the Sadguru thinks about uplifting the disciple.