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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:

  • The para - transcendence par excellence

  • VyUha - the glory of the abode of Lord Vishnu

  • Vibhava - the majesty and the miraculous nature of the avatAras

  • antaryAmi - the immanent aspect of God

  • arcA - the manifestation in terms of temple deities

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.

he is vAsu-devaHvAsu-deva is one of the more important names of the Lord. It has very special significance. 'After several lives, the wise man reaches Me', says the Lord. 'Very rare indeed is the great soul who understands that vAsu-deva is all there is'. (gItA: 7 - 19)

bahUnAm janmanAm ante jnAnavAn mAm prapadyate /

vAsudevas-sarvam iti sa mahAtmA sudurlabhaH.//

The root vas means to dwell, to cover, to be the source of. The root div from which the word 'deva' is derived means to play, to conquer, to create, to shine, to be worshipped, to be the lord of. Thus there are several meanings for vAsudeva. He who dwells in or covers everything. cf. The first line of Isopanishad: ISAvAsyamidam sarvam : This entire universe is clothed, covered or inhabited by the Lord, the Ruler, the Creator. His very dwelling in the hearts of men is His sport. He covers everything by His mAyA.He is the source of eerything. He is the source of all divinities. He is sought after by all seekers of moksha. Just as birds protect their little ones in the nests by covering them with their wings, the Lord resides in our hearts and protects us by His Grace. More than that the entire universe is in the stomach of His cosmic Form. In Him reside the universe with all the divines, human beings, birds, animals, reptiles, divine musicians, asuras: (cf. Prayer sloka in the preliminaries to the vishnu sahasra-nAma):

antah-stham yasya viSvam sura-nara-khaga-go-bhogi-gandharva-daityaih …

The fact that the entire universe so resides is dramatically brought forward in the mythological story of the great compassion of Lord Siva who placed the dreadful poison, that emanated from the churning of the Milk-ocean, in His mouth, still did not swallow it but only kept it stifled in the throat, so as not to injure the universe of all beings residing in His cosmic stomach: (SivAnanda-lahari, 31)

nAlam vA paramopakArakam-idam tvekam paSUnAm pate

paSyan kukshigatAnS-carAcara-gaNAn bAhyasthitAn rakshitum /

sarvAmartya palAyan-aushadham-atijvAlAkaram bhIkaram

nikshiptam garaLam gale na gilitam nodgIrNam-eva tvayA //

He is cchinna-samSayaH; He has no doubts of any kind, but more, He removes all our doubts by His very Graceful look. That is why it is said: What a wonderfulful scene under the banyan tree! The disciples are old, the guru is young; the guru is silent; but the silence itself is eloquent; and the disciples are rid of all their doubts!'

citram vaTa taror-mUle vRddhAs-sishyA gurur-yuvA /

gurostu maunam vyAkhyAnam sishyAstu cchinnasamSayAh //

The Mundaka-upanishad says in 2 - 2 - 8:When that Self, which is both the high and the low, is realized, the knot of the heart gets untied, all doubts become solved and all one's actions become dissipated:

bhidyate hRdaya-granthiH chidyante sarva-samSayAh /

kshIyante cAsya karmANi tasmin dRshTe parAvare //

He is the karaNam, instrument or the means of action; as well as the kAraNam, the cause of action; that is, He is the most extraordinary cause for the origination of the universe; He is also the kartA, the agent of every action, the free master. The Lord is all three. When we say that He is the Cause, we mean that He is both the material (= upAdAna-kAraNa) and the efficient cause (nimitta-kAraNa) - this is also referred to as the instrumental cause. When a potter makes a pot out of clay, the clay is the material cause and the potter is the efficient cause. As far as creation of the universe is concerned, that God is the efficient cause, that He is the Agent of Action, all religions agree. But Hindu philosophy, at least the advaita and viSishTAdvaita schools of philosophy, maintain that He is also the material cause. In other words He made the world out of Himself. That is why, the universe, viSvam -- the first name in VishNu sahasra-nAma - is also one of His names. In fact there are two more names in vishNu-sahasra-nAma itself which clinch the issue. Atma-yoniH svayam-jAtaH: The first one means that everything was born out of Himself, so He is the material cause of the universe. The second one means that He brought forth the universe at His own prodding, not due to any other agency and so He is also the efficient cause of creation.

 He is ekAtmA, the atmA which is one and one only. Recall the Upanishadic passage: In the beginning this was but the Absolute Self alone, There was nothing else whatsoever than winked.-( aitareya-upanishad I - 1 - 1):

AtmA vA idam eka eva agra AsIt / nAnyat kimcana mishat /

Also SvetASvataropanishad: 6 -11: It is the single Divinity that resides hidden in all beings.










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