Worship of Lord Shiva as a seniormost Vaishnava.
Q. 1. Lord Krishna told Arjuna: “Those who claim to be directly My devotees are actually not my devotees. But those who are devotees of my servants are factually My devotees.” In Srimad Bhagavatam purports of first canto, Srila Prabhupada mentions that Lord Shiva is a pure devotee of Lord Krishna. According to the above sloka, does it not directly imply that all of us must serve Lord Shiva? How far is this justifiable?
Yes, Lord Shiva is certainly worshipable, as a great devotee, but not independently. Lord Shiva is one of the four primary spiritual masters (the others being Brahma, Lakshmiji and the Kumaras) and teaches pure devotional service to the Supreme Lord. Therefore, factual service to Lord Shiva is to follow his instructions to worship and chant the Holy names of Lord Vishnu.
Q. 2. Whenever a vaishnava comes, we are eager to take association. Lord Shiva is a senior most vaishnava: “vaishnavanam yatha shambu” and yet we don’t go to his temple. Besides, on the appearance or disappearance days of Vaishnava acaryas we observe a fast till noon but we don’t do so on Shiva-ratri festival day, which marks Lord Shiva’s drinking of the poison. Why is this so?
HH Romapada Swami: This question was asked once before, and here is the answer I gave. = Vaishnavas are not prohibited or discouraged from visiting Lord Shiva’s temples. In fact, Lord Caitanya visited many Shiva temples during His tour of South India, where He chanted Hare Krishna mahamantra and danced in great ecstasy before the Deity of Lord Shiva. But unfortunately, there are hardly any bona fide temples of Lord Shiva today where worship is performed with the right understanding that he is the topmost devotee of Lord Krishna. Therefore, devotees generally do not make it a point to visit such temples, although they don’t specifically avoid them either.
The best way to worship Lord Shiva, in any case, is to chant Hare Krishna and to dedicate our lives to worship Krishna. This would be most pleasing to Lord Shiva, and automatically we receive his blessings. Even in our ISKCON temples, therefore, devotees celebrate Shivaratri by chanting in sankirtan and discussing the glories and the great devotion of Lord Shiva as described in Srimad Bhagavatam and offering a feast in his honor.