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

kshetrajno'kshara eva ca The two names involved here are: kshetrajnaH and aksharaH, kshetra is the field, body or inert nature. Kshetrajna is the one who cognises the kshetra; it is the knower. I am the knower in all the bodies, says the Lord in the beginning of the 13th chapter:

kshetrajnam cApi mAm viddhi sarva-kshetreshu bhArata /

Actually there are different levels of knowing. What the ordinary man thinks of himself as the knower and the enjoyer is called the 'perishable purusha' (kshara purusha) in the gItA. This is the reflection of the supreme Self in the individual mind. This is referred to as 'kshetrajna' . It is also called the jIva or the individual soul. It is the mysterious identification of the 'I' with the body and the senses (called the knot between spirit and matter -- chit-jada-granthi -- by Ramana maharishi) that brings about the individuality and the status as the knower and the experiencer. He it is that enjoys and suffers, he it is that is subject to pleasure and pain and he it is that thinks he is the doer and experiencer. He is the soul manifest in Nature and bound up with its action. He is under the constant spell of mAyA. But deep within there is another who is unaffected by the turmoils of the outer personality and he is called the 'imperishable purusha' (akshara purusha). He is the changeless non-participating 'witness' (= sAkshI) to everything. He is the silent, immutable all-pervading motionless self-existent Self. It is the Lord that appears as the two purushas. The identification between these two that is implied by this statement of the vishnu sahasra-nAma is nothing but the classic upanishadic identification of the jIvAtmA (= the Self in the individual) and the paramAtmA (the Supreme Self) . Here also the two words eva and ca have the same connotation as that explained in connection with annam-annAda eva ca, namely, eva stands for non-difference between jIvAtmA and paramAtmA and ca indicates the phenomenal difference between the two.

The two major commentaries on VishNu sahasranAma, one by Sankara following the advaita school of thought and the other by ParASara, following the viSishTAdvaita school are unique in their own way in creating meanings for the different names. Except in the case of a few names, we have been mostly following Sankara's commentary. ParASara however has the unique honour of considering the whole work of Vishnu sahasra-nAma as a continuous logical development of the five major esoteric principles of the concept of God in the viSishTAdvaita philosophy. These are:

So the names are interpreted according to the division in which they fall in the dissection of the sahasra-nAma into the above five principles and further division of them into other sub-categories. For instance, the first 122 names, according to ParASara, describe the transcendent form of God. And the last eight names (contained in the very last verse of vishNu sahasra-nAma, namely,

SankhabRn-nandakI cakrI Sarnga-dhanvA gadAdharaH / rathAngapAnir-akshobhyaH sarva-praharaNAyudhaH //

describe the beautiful Form of Vishnu with his conch, disc, mace, etc. In this process of division ParASara brings the ten avatAras of Vishnu naturally in his third major division of the sahasra-nAma. It is here that he shows the names are related to, for instance, the Rama and Krishna avatAras. Even the apparently endless amount of electronic space available on the web, does not help us to bring all this profound matter matter on the web, purely for want of time and necessary effort of ours.

On the other hand, we present in the page on Rama and the page on Krishna the following two verses from the vishnu sahasra-nAma. I have heard it said by experts of the bygone age, that these two verses bring out the secret of the avatAras of Rama and Krishna respectively. I wonder whether this fact is stated anywhere in print or in manuscript. The verses are:

sarva-darSI vimuktAtmA sarvajno jnAnam-uttamam / suvratas-sumukhas-sUkshmah sughoshas-sukhadas-suhRt//

atIndriyo mahAmAyo mahotsAho mahAbalah mahAbuddhir-mahAviryo mahASaktir-mahAdyutih //

To sum up, each name of God points to several concepts and ideas, not only those enshrined in the scriptures but scores of other philosophical and esoteric connotations that they suggest without actually spelling them out. The twelve names of God that are frequently used in the rituals and ceremonies and which are very common as names given for Hindu children have themselves profound meanings. For instance,

He is keSavaH -- which simply means one who has beautiful locks of hair. In the incarnation as Krishna, even as he was born, the description of the child makes special mention of the dense locks of hair through which the gems of the ornaments in the ears and the crown sparkle: (Srimad bhAgavatam: 10 -3):

mahArha-vaiDUrya-kirITa-kuNDala-tvishA-parishvakta- sahasra-kuNDalam /

Another meaning: He killed the demon keSi, so He is called keSava, according to a statement of Narada in the vishNu purANa. A third etymological meaning is more interesting. KeSava is broken into kaH, aH, IsaH - that is, (according to the dictionary meanings of these monosyllabic words) brahmA, vishNu and Siva - the three Lords of the Trinity. The word keSava then means He in whose control are the three Lords. In other words keSava is the transcendental God Supreme, of whom the three Lords are specific manifestations.

More names in DROPLET 4

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


May 1, 99 Copyright V. Krishnamurthy