Geetanjalis First Question

One reader has written to me:

Dear Sitaram,

Who according to you is greater of our gods- Vishnu or Shiva and why? One personal question – who is your favorite ?

I read some time ago that one single
Ram Nama is equivalent to any 999 names of Vishnu. So
your parents, wife & children are blessed in that sense
that willingly or unwillingly they will chant Ram


Sitaram replies:

Thank you for writing and asking this excellent question.

You will notice that I entitle this post “Who Is Greatest?”

Your question pertains to Hinduism and is in regard to Lord Shiva vs. Lord Vishnu, but I am reminded of something which Jesus says in the Gospels: “The Father is greater than I.”

I shall attempt to answer you, in part, by a consideration of certain aspects of Christian theology and, in part, by making reference to Tulsidas’ Ramacharitamanassa (“Holy Lake of the Acts of Ram”), and Ramanand Sagar’s wonderful movie version of the Ramayan.

In the Ramayan, Lord Vishnu incarnates in human form as the avatar, Ram. But Ram, in human form, must have a religion. So, whom does Ram worship? Lord Shiva!

Each child has two parents; a mother and a father. Which is greater, the mother or the father? Who loves the child more, the mother or the father? And which does the child love more. Yet, both a mother and a father are necessary. Without both a mother and a father, there is no child.

Back to the words of Jesus, “The Father is greater than I.” I turned to my “Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance” to find this verse. But what do I notice on the cover jacket of this large book? The jacket states that the words of Jesus are in red letters. Is it not most curious that it is not the words of the Father which are in red letters, but the words of Jesus, and yet Jesus says “The Father is greater than I.”

Jesus says “The Father is greater than I” in the Gospel of John, Chapter 14, verse 28. The ancient Greek theologians called this the “hypopantesis” or, roughly translated, the “placing beneath all.” There is one icon depicting Christ dead in the tomb. This depiction of God’s death is termed the “Extreme Humility” and symbolizes the “Kenosis”, or emptying of Christ, renouncing all things, even life itself.

And yet various Ecumenical Councils and creeds of faith all stress that God is three Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, yet one, and that all three Persons are totally equal, and no one is greater than the others.

It is said that Tulsidas had one brother who became a great devotee of Lord Krishna. One day Tulsidas went to visit his brother, who brought him to the mandir where there was a great statue of Lord Krishna. Tulsidas explained that he could worship no one except Lord Ram.

I am going to quote several footnotes from “The Ashta Chhap Poets”, translated by Shyam Das.

One day, Tulsidas decided to journey to Gokul to see his younger brother. Arriving in Mathura after many days of travel, he asked some local people if a Brahmin by the name of Nandadas had come to their city. Someone advised him that Nandadas was a disciple of Shri Gusainji and that he could be found either in Gokul or near the Govardhana Hill. Tulsidas went to Gokul, but did not find Nandadas. Tulsidas, so enchanted with the beauty of the town, wondered how his brother could have ever left such a place. Hearing that Nandadas was at the Govardhana Hill with Shri Gusainji, Tulsidas headed in this direction. He found his brother in the town of Parasoli and insisted, “Come with me. If there is a beautiful town in this world, it is Ayodhya; Banares is the supreme city; of all mountains, most glorious is Chitrakuta, and among forests, the Dandkarnaya is the best. These areas Lord Ram has purified.

Nandadas replied to his brother in the following poem

If you like mountains,
live by the Govardhana Hill.
If you like towns,
then reside in Nandagam.
If you prefer cities,
live in Mathura,
an ocean of splendor,
extremely pleasing.
If you enjoy rivers,
stay by the banks of the Yamuna,
the fulfiller of all wishes.

Nandadas relishes the forest
and dwells in the land of Vrindavan.

After meeting with Suradas in Parasoli, Nandadas proceeded to Shri Nathji’s temple, while Tulsidas followed behind. When Tulsidas had Shri Nathji’s sight, he did not bow to Him. Nandadas then knew that Tulsidas would not bow before anyone other than his beloved Ram. Nandadas then considered, “I will show him that his Lord Ram is here as well as in Gokul. Only then will he come to know of Shri Krishna’s greatness.

Nandadas then prayed to Shri Nathji.

Lord, so finely adorned,
what can I say of your splendor today?
Tulsi lowers his head only
when in your hand the bow and arrow stay.

Hearing Nandada’s prayer, Shri Nathji thought, “Shri Gusainji’s disciple is making a request. I should listen to him.”

Shri Nathji then took on Lord Ram’s form and held the bow and arrow. Tulsidas, seeing Shri Nathji as Lord Ram, prostrated himself flat on the ground. After having Shri Nathji’s “darshan”, Tulsidas and Nandadas went to Shri Gokul where Nandadas said to Shri Gusainji, “My brother, Tulsidas, will bow only to Lord Ram.”


In the Krishna Upanishad it is mentioned that once, while Rama and Sita were walking in the forest, the sages there, who were absorbed in the meditational state of Samadhi, saw Ram’s divine beauty and suddenly desired to be his lover. They approached Ram, saying, “Give us the pleasure that you afford your wife, Sita.”

Ram replied that in his current incarnation he was Maryada Purushottam, that is, The Supereme Personality under the bondage of scriptural restriction. Therefore, he could have only one wife. He consoled them that in his next life as Krishna, he would be Pushti Purushottam, the Supreme Personality who is dominated by grace. Then, he would fulfill all their wishes. These sages were born in Braja as Gopis during Krishna’s life on earth and had all of their divine desires satisfied.

The fact that Tulsidas would not bow to Krishna reveals his single-minded devotion to his Lord, Ram, a quality so necessary in fostering bhava, devotional mood. His refusal to bow to Krishna was not disrespectful, but rather a statement of his immense and faithful love for Ram. Devotion to a single form of God is considered a sign of great grace.


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