annam-annAda eva ca’ ; ‘kshetrajno.akshara  eva ca’


One of the most enlightening Bhashyas of Acharya Shankara is his commentary on Vishnu Sahasranamam.  The text contains the words ‘eva ca’ twice as quoted above. ‘eva’ is an enclitic particle in Sanskrit meaning  ‘only’, with a focus on the context. ‘ca’ is the connective article ‘and’ or ‘also’.  It is not as if the words ‘eva ca’ are there for completion of metre.  Shankara  remarkably delves deep into the context and gives special meanings to them.


annam is food; annAdaH 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 Taittiriyopanishad (II-2). 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, [See Essay on Prakriti]becomes the food and therefore food itself is the consumer. The 'only' denotes non-difference between the entities annam and annAdaH and the fact that He is the enjoyer (bhoktA) as well as the enjoyed (bhogyaM). The word 'and' denotes the transactional difference between the two entities and the fact that all the names denote only the Supreme.

The two names involved in kshetrajno'kshara eva ca  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 Gita (13 – 2). Actually there are different levels of knowing. What the ordinary man thinks of himself as the knower and the enjoyer is called the 'perishable (‘kshara’) purusha'. 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 -- cit-jaDa-granthi -- by Ramana Maharishi) that brings about the individuality to the JIva. He it is that is subject to pleasure and pain and  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 (‘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. He is at the same time the perishable superposition as well as the imperishable substratum. The identification between these two is nothing but the classic upanishadic identification of the JIvAtmA (the Self in the individual) and the ParamAtmA (the Supreme Self). Again, eva stands for non-difference (in the absolute sense) between kshetrajna and akshara-purusha and ca indicates the undeniable phenomenal  difference between the two. 

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© 2017 by V. Krishnamurthy