Beach 1: The First Prostration

Wave 2: Names ad infinitum for the nameless

Drop 8: Each name a scriptural epitome : DROPLET 1 DROPLET 2 DROPLET 3 DROPLET 4

1201: subrahmaNya 1202: Idol worship 1203: One truth - Many Expressions 1204: Glory of the Lord's name 1205: sahasranAmas 1206: Power of words 1207: Capsules of Divinity 1208: Scriptural epitomes1209: AUM or OM 1210: rAma 1211: kRSNa 1212: nArAyaNa

The very first name with which the vishNu sahasra-nAma begins is viSvam, meaning Universe. This visible universe is indicated by the word viSvam. It is a noun in the neuter gender. But this is itself cited as one of the names of the lord. This itself reflects the grand panorama of the Upanishads which declare that the Ultimate transcends all gender specification and so denote it by 'IT'. But if we still use the masculine gender it is only because of our habits and vAsanAs! The universe was created by Him and so He is the Cause of it. In Vedanta the Cause pervades the Effect. Without a Cause there is no Effect. Wherever there is an Effect, there must be a Cause. Therefore, the Effect, the Universe here, is given the status of representing the Cause itself and is given as an alternative name for the Cause. The conclusion of the advaita school of Vedanta is that there is no difference between the Cause and its Effect. The Effect is taken to be the manifestation of the Cause. The very fact that the Universe is there shows that there is a Cause. In other words that God exists is proved by the very existence of the universe. Not only does the universe spring from Him, the ultimate Cause, but when the time comes for dissolution everything dissolves in Him. He has created the Unvierse and He has entered it, says the taittirIyopanishad:

tat sRSTvA, tadevAnuprAviSat /

Therefore viSvam, the Universe, has God immanent in it. The root verb is viS, to enter. God has 'entered' into his creation, as it were. The concept of 'entering' seems to imply that there are two objects, one entering into the other. This connotation of the word is not valid for the present situation, because it would result in the Universe being a different category from the Almighty - a difference not accepted at least by the major schools advaita and viSishTAdvaita. (For more explanations on this , go to DIFFERENCE AND NON-DIFFERENCE) . In the gItA also the Lord declares: 'I will tell you what is that knowledge, learning which, one attains immortality. Brahman is ever present and everywhere present. He has hands and feet everywhere. He has eyes and heads everywhere. He stands as a colossus, as it were, spanning everything.':

jneyam yat tat pravkshyAmi yaj-jnAtvA amRtam-aSnute /

sarvataH pANi-pAdam tat sarvatokshi Siro-mukham / sarvatas-sRutimalloke sarvamAvrtya tishTati //

This reflects, again, the refrain from the upanishads. For instance, we have, in Mundaka-upanishad 2 - 2 - 11, Brahman, verily, is this Immortal. In front is brahman, behind is brahman, to the right and to the left. It spreads forth beloe and above. Brahman, indeed, is this universe. It is the greatest.:

brahmaivedam-amRtam purastAt brahma paScAt, brahma dakshiNaS-cottareNa / adaS-cordhvam ca prasRtam brahmai-vedam viSvam-idam varishTam //

The second name is vishNuH. Though the name VishNu is commonly taken to denote the second God of the Trinity, responsible for the function of protecting and sustaining the Universe and its beings, it has a more profound meaning which transcends the legends associated with it in mythology. The word comes from the root verb vyApnoti - meaning, pervades. He pervades the fibre of every being. He pervades everything that you know of or can think of. Not only He pervades everything but He transcends them. The purusha sUkta of the vedas says:

sa bhUmim viSvato vRtvA; atyatishTat dasAngulam /

meaning: He pervaded all the Earth and the Universe and then exceeded it by ten inches. Symbolically it means that He transcends everything. Thus the first two names viSvam and vishNuh of the vishNu-sahsranaMa take care of the 'I" and 'T' (that is, immanence and transcendence) of the TIP of the Iceberg, that is God.

The derivation of words from their root syllables, in the Sanskrit language is a very fascinating and instructive exercise and the fact that Hindu literature is replete with such derivations for almost every word that it uses is fully illustrated in these sahsra-nAmas. These poems are thus veritable storehouses of religious information, capsule versions of the whole spectrum of Hindu philosophy, metaphysics and mythology. Take two simple words, purushaH (meaning, 'person') - in the VishNu sahasra-nAma - and umA (a name of Goddess pArvati ) - in the LalitA sahasra-nAma.

purushaH is such an innocent-looking word, meaning a 'person' in the masculine gender. To take this as one of the 'names' of God looks childish. But there is much to it, if you get into the Sanskrit root words from which the word purushaH has evolved etymologically. The words pUh and pura both mean city, abode, dwelling. This body is called a city of nine gates: cf bhagavad-gItA 5 - 13: navadvAre pure dehI (= in the city of nine openings, this resident of the body).

puri Sete iti purushah:

purusha is one who resides, dwells, relaxes, in the city (of nine gates) . A vedic passage says:

devAnAm pUr-ayodhyA

meaning thereby that this body is the dwelling place of several divinities. The body is called ayodhyA here. The resident of ayodhyA that is, Rama, is the indwelling purusha here. So purusha connotes the indweller in this body, that is, the Supreme Almighty. Again another vedic passage gives the derivation: He who was here all the time, before anybody else, is the purusha -- (taittirIya AraNyakam 1-13):

pUrvam eva aham iha Asam iti; tat purushasya purushatvam

There is a corresponding passage in Tamil devotional literature meaning, the thing that is older than the oldest: munnaip-pazham porutkum munnaip-pazham poruL.

There are other connotations like: He lives in those things which are exalted, noble: (puru means something great, majestic, noble): purushu sIdati iti purushah. Also he who gives in abundance: purUNi sanoti iti purushah. Also, again, puru sanoti iti purushah - meaning, The distributed reward is Himself, the great, as the fruit of our actions. Again, he fills up everything (pUrayati) and occupies everything (sIdati), therefore purushah. Again, purati, that is, agre gacchati -- He enters the body before other things like prANa, vital air, enters. These are only a few of the several connotations that the one word purusha has.

The simple name umA has as its constituents, three syllables: u, ma and a. The same three syllables in a different order, though, constitute the most important mantra of Hindu philosophy, AUM. So everything that is connoted by AUM, that is, what all the scriptures say in essence, ( = sarve edA yat-padam Amananti), is also indicated by the word umA. Further u means Siva, the nature of Siva is the unmanifested brahman, and it is the prakRti, the inherent characteristic of brahman that works the delimitation of that unlimited brahman for us to bring it into our mind and worship. Thus umA delimits brahman and brings Him to us.:

ukAra-rUpam brahmANam mAti iti umA //

mAti means delimits, circumscribes, concretises. Another meaning for umA is, the One, who was prevented. This refers to the situation where pArvati wanted to do penance of the severest kind, and her mother beckoned to her, with the monosyllable u, and said, mA. (mA in Sanskrit stands for No). It is in the form and name of umA that the Mother of the Unvierse appears to Indra, the Lord of the divines, in Kenopanishad, as the comprehensible manifestation of the incomprehensible Supreme. There are other esoteric meanings which resonate the embedding of mythology, cultural history and philosophy into the words, even as simple as umA.

More names in Droplet 2

Previous page Homepage of SCIENCE AND SPIRITUALITY For notes on mythological names referred, go to MYTHOLOGY

CONTENTS page of GEMS FROM THE OCEAN OF HINDU THOUGHT VISION AND PRACTICE

May 1, '99 Copyright V. Krishnamurthy