Beach 1: The First Prostration

Wave 2: Names ad infinitum for the nameless

Drop 7: Each name a capsule of Divinity : DROPLET 1 DROPLET 2 DROPLET 3 DROPLET 4

1201: subrahmaNya 1202: Idol worship 1203: One truth - Many Expressions 1204: Glory of the Lord's name1205: sahasranAmas 1206: Power of words 1207: Capsules of Divinity 1208: Scriptural epitomes1209: AUM or OM 1210: rAma 1211: kRSNa 1212: nArAyaNa

The beauty of these sahasra-nAmas also lies in the fact that nowhere else do the scriptures convince us so dramatically that God possesses both the opposites of the same quality or attribute. Contrary attributes being assigned to God is certainly in tune with the Upanishadic descriptions of the Absolute in terms of opposite superlative extremes like smaller than the smallest, greater than the greatest, etc.:

aNor-aNIyAn-mahato mahIyAn

Tricky names and trickier meanings are what makes the sahasra-nAmas what they are. They are at the same time texts for recitation as prayers and also storehouses for information to be leisurely digested during meditation.

He is both Existence - sat - and Non-Existence - asat -. Existence, because He is the One that exists in all things and beings; Non-existence, because He is the conditioned and limited plurality of the universe which is manifest to us but has no ultimate reality. Recall the words of the Lord in the gItA (9 - 19):

sad-asac-cAham arjuna

He is the changeless core amidst all changes, but He appears as changing just as the ocean appears as the changing and dying waves. He is therefore at the same time the perishing superposition as well as the imperishable substratum -- ksharaH as well as aksharaH

The names below are from the VISHNU SAHASRANAMA.

He is ekaH, one, because there is no second. He is also naikaH, that is, not one, because He is the One immanent in all the plurality of the visible universe. Recall Rg-veda (1-164-46): The one Truth, Wise men speak of in varied ways.

ekam sad-viprA bahudhA vadanti

Also recall kathopanishad (2 - 2 -9): Just as fire, though one, having entered the world, assumes separate forms in respect of different shapes, similarly, the Self inside all beings, though one assumes a form in respect of each shape; and yet, it is outside:

agnir-yathaiko bhuvanam pratishTo rUpam rUpam pratirUpo babhUva / ekastathA sarva-bhUtAntarAtmA rUpam rUpam pratirUpo bahiSca //

Again, chAndogya-upanishad: (6 - 2 - 1): brahman is one, one oonly, without a second.

ekam-evAdvitIyam brahma

He is aNuh, atomic; bRhat, macrocosmic; kRSaH, lean; sthUlaH, fat; guNabrt, full of attributes; nirguNaH, attributeless; mahAn, great; adhRtaH, supportless. These names occur in continuous succession that parASara, one of the great commentators on the vishNu sahasra-nAma, excels here by interpreting these eight names as describing the eight powers of yoga: namely, aNimA, mahimA, laghumA, garimA, Isitva, vaSitva, prAkAmya and prApti -- meaning, the powers to become atomic, transcendent, light, heavy, the power to will anything beyond any natural phenomenon, effortless attainment of anything and omniscience coupled with omnipotence! This is a gem from parASara.

annam annAda eva ca: Here there are two words annam and annAdaH. annam is food; annAda is eater of food. How can He be both? Clearly He is the eater of food, because it is He that resides in this body and gives the doership and enjoyership to the individual soul. But food is inert; it is part of the universe. It is a creation of God. But it is identified with God here. The definition of food and the derivation of the name annam to food is lucidly explained in taittirIya-upanishad:

annAd-bhUtAni jAyante; jAtAny-annena vardhante; adyate'tti ca bhUtAni; tasmAd-annam tad-ucyata iti //

meaning, From food all living beings are born; those that are born are reared and nurtured by food; food is consumed (= adyate) by living beings and food itself consumes (= atti); therefore what is eaten is called annam. The active and the passive senses in both of which the verb 'ad', to eat, is used is to emphasize that the Ultimate Supreme, brahman, is the inherent being in individual bodies and therefore is the consumer of food, and the same brahman, as the material cause, through prakRti, beomes the food and therefore food itself is the consumer.

Interpretation of eva ca: eva means 'only' and ca is the connective article 'and'. One may be tempted to say that these two words are there for completion of metre in the verse. It is not so. The 'only' denotes non-difference between the entities denoted by the names annam and annAda; and the word 'and' denotes the (undeniable) phenomenal difference between the two entities. It is interesting to note that the only other place where the word combination 'eva ca' is used in the vishNu sahasra-nAma is also in the same context and connotation. Go to kshetrajno'kshara eva ca

Now we shall take a few names from the lalitA sahasra-nAma. LalitA, the Mother Goddess, is dear to devotees because of their devotion, so She is bhakti-priyA. She is also bhakti-gamyA, because she is attainable through bhakti alone. She is bayApahA since She removes all fears. She is bhakti-vaSyA, since She is bound by bhakti. She is niranjanA, faultless; nirlepA, attachmentless; nirmalA, blemishless; nityA, permanent; nirAkArA, formless; nirAkulA, delusionless and therefore not reachable by those who are deluded. She is nirbhavA, one without birth and death, and for this very reason, She is bhava-nASinI, one who destroys the disease of birth and death.

To understand the profound significance of many of these epithets of the Almighty, one has to get acquainted with the deeper parts of Hinduism, namely the wisdom taught by the Upanishads. She is antar-mukha-samArAdhyA, one who is to be worshipped by turning inward. She is bahir-mukha-sudurlabhA, unattainable, if you search for Her outside. She is devoid of name and form, so nAma-rUpa-vivarjitA. She is pleased by the recitation of Her names, so nAma-pArAyaNa-prItA. She is the One Person to be known by all the vedas, therefore veda-vedyA. She is the original source of the vedas, therefore veda-jananI. She is the one who is pointed out by the word 'that' in all the scriptures, so She is tat-pada-lakshyArthA. She is the original Energy that first sprouted from the formless brahman, therefore, Adi-Sakti. She is immeasurable, either by the senses or the mind, therefore, ameyA.

More names in DROPLET 4

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May 1, '99 Copyright V. Krishnamurthy