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Every name that occurs in these sahasra-nAmas reverberate the concept of Divinity, or a glory of His, or an Action of His in the mythological yore, or a facet of His greatness. All the names below are from the V.S.

He is anAdiH beginningless, because he is the Cause of everything. And He owes Himself to no Cause. Compare His own statement in the Gita (10-13): Whoever knows me as unborn and beginningless and as the Lord of the Universe, he is the one among men without delusion and he is absolved of all sins

yo mAm ajam anAdim ca vetti loka-maheSvaram / asammUDhas-sa martyeshu sarva-pApaiH pramucyate


Compare also 'brahmaNyo brahmakRt BrahmA brahma brahma-vivardhanaH' in the V.S. itself. The two names BrahmA and brahma denote that He is the creator-cause of everything but He himself has no cause, because He is Brahman itself. anAdiH also means: He who is not accepted as Master (by some people). He is hariH, because the word har means to destroy. He destroys samsAra as well as sins of man. He carries away the sins of even evil-minded people. He is mArgaH, the path, because there is no other path towards Him. He is Himself the Path. Compare, purusha sUkta: na anyaH panthA ayanAya vidyate;


sadgatiH, the one obtained by those who understand the truth that Brahman exists as the only reality: ( T.U., II-6-1):


asti brahmeti ced veda; santam enam tato viduh


‘If one knows that Brahman is, then they regard him as being’; kathithaH, that is, the One who is spoken of. 'He is the One who has been declared as the One by all the vedas'


sarve vedA yat padam Amananti /( Ka.U. I-2-15);


'He is the One to be known by all the Vedas


vedaiSca sarvair-ahm-eva vedyaH / (B.G., 15–15);


sambhavaH, the One who, according to his promise in the Gita, manifests Himself by His own free will and for the good of the world and in the manner He chooses (B.G.: 4–8)


 dharma-samsthApanArthAya sambhavAmi yuge yuge


svayambhUH the One who appears, manifests, 'is born', totally independent of anything else -- all by Himself. Even when He was 'born' as an infant in the Avataras of Rama and Krishna, he was 'born' independent of any genetics or biology!. He just appeared, period.

He is kRtajnaH. He knows what was done. Whatever man does, He knows. But even a little devotion, a little good deed, is remembered by Him and man is rewarded accordingly. In the M.B., in Udyoga parva, he laments with regret the delay He made in going to the help of Draupadi when she was most in distress. It is to be noted here that He did not go to her help until she cried 'O Govinda, help me'. 'Even the vilest sinner, if He remembers me with sincerity, I will consider Him to be noble because He has taken the forward step'


api cet sudurAcAro bhajate mAM ananya-bhAk /  

sAdhureva sa mantavyaH samyag- vyavasito hi saH //


says He in Gita 9 – 30. Even the offering of leaves, fruits or flowers or even water is acceptable to Him provided it is done with an intensity of feeling of devotion

patram pushpam phalam toyam yo me bhaktyA prayacchati /   

tad-aham bhakty-upahRtam aSnAmi prayatAtmanaH //


Gita 9– 26. There is a classical example of this in the description of Rama's characterisitics: (V.R. 2-1-11)


kadA cid-upakareNa kRtenaikena tushyati/      

na smaraty-apakArANAm Shatam-apy-AtmavattayA //

He (Rama) felt gratified (even) with a single good turn casually rendered and did not take to heart (even) a hundred wrongs because of his mastery over his self.

He is kRtAkRtaH. kRtam means that which is artificially made to happen. akRtam means that which happens without any action, that is, that which is natural. He is both the (kArya) Effect (which has an antecedent cause) and the (kAraNa) Cause (which has no antecedent cause). Again, He is both the effect in the form of works done and the cause in the form of works which are only latent. He has a kRta form, which comes and goes and He has an akRta form which is subtle, which has no perceptible qualities. In other words He is both the concrete and the subtle. Also He has two facets of dharma both inherent in Him, namely, that which gives a temporal spatial benefit (this is kRta) and that which has a permanent immutable benefit (this is akRta).

Each name of God is interpreted as indicative of a certain quality of His, perhaps the name itself has arisen because of that quality or attribute in Him. He is eternal, ShASvataH. He is auspicious, ShivaH; never-changing, acyutaH. All beings are drawn to Him as the originator, hence He is Adi-devaH. He revels in the great knowledge of the Atman, ignoring all trifles - hence He is mahA-devaH. Great are His activities of creation, etc.; therefore He is mahA-karmA. By His brilliance, the Sun derives its brilliance, so He is mahA-tejaH. He deserves praise by all, but none has to be praised by Him; so He is stavyaH. He is one who delights in praise, so He is stava-priyaH. Praise is uttering the divine qualities, that is God Himself, so He is also that by which He is praised - stotram. And He who praises is also Himself, so He is stotA.

Not only is the Lord living in each one of us as our innermost resident, but, He is, at once, the all-pervading essence in which the entire universe exists and, as such, He alone is the abode in which we live, breathe and act. He is the abode, therefore, vatsaraH. He is also vatsalaH, the supremely affectionate, who loves His devotees deeply. His love for all of us is greater by far than all the maternal and paternal love we have ever enjoyed -- He is Supreme Love. All living things are His children and He is the father of them all, therefore He is vatsI. He is kAlaH, one who measures the merits and demerits of each individual and apportions the appropriate results. I am the time of recokoning - says the Lord in the Gita: kAlo'smi. He is kAlaH also because He is the death or annihilator of all His enemies, the misdirected sense organs. He is ugraH, the terrible, that is, the one who instils fear in those who are diabolically evil. The T.U. (II-8) declares: For fear of Him the Wind blows, the Sun shines, the fire burns and Indra rules.


bhIshAsmAd-vAtah pavate / bhIsho'deti sUryaH / bhIshAsmAd-agniScendraSca //

He is also manoharaH, the one who plunders the mind; the charming one; He is beauty incarnate; He compels the attention of the devotee, drawing it away from all other sense objects to dwell upon His enchanting form. Recall the story of Dhanurdasa being charmed away from his lady love, on seeing the infinitely winning personality of the reclining Vishnu of Shrirangam.

He is udbhavaH, because He is the (material) cause for the origin of the universe.

ahaM sarvasya prabhavo mattas-sarvaM pravartate


'I am the origin of everything; It is from me everything appears' says the Lord in the B.G.10-8. But though He has brought about the whole universe, this action does not in any way bind Him. For He says in the B.G. 9-9:


 na ca mAm tAni karmANi nibadhnanti dhananjaya /  

udAsInavad-AsInam asaktam teshu karmasu //


These actions do not bind me; I am untouched by the actions, I sit, as it were, totally indifferent to them. And therefore, say the commentators, He removes our bondage even as we meditate on Him. In fact we may even meditate on Him as the little Krishna who was 'bound' by ropes by His mother!

He is pramodanaH: He revels in joy and bliss. Moda is carnal pleasure. Pramoda is spiritual bliss. He is full of pramoda. Therefore he is ever blissful. He gives that bliss to those who meditate on Him. The very meditation itself gives bliss. That is why, in the mantra of the GAyatrI, the second line which says 'let us meditate on the Glory of the Absolute' stands for the Ananda (see 2.3) of the three representations sat, cit, Ananda of the Ultimate Reality. He is guhyaH: He is himself a secret. He can be known only by the mantras and messages of the upanishads. Also he dwells subtly in the innermost cave of the heart: the T.U II-1:


yo veda nihitam guhAyAm parame vyoman; so'Snute sarvAn kAmAn saha


He who knows it as resident of the subtle space in the secret cave (of the heart) experiences all his desires.

dahram vipApam vara-veSma-bhUtam yat-puNDarIkam pura-madhya-saMstham /  

tatrApi dahram gaganam viSokas-tasmin yad-antas-tad-upAsitavyam //


Compare also the Rik in the M.N.U. almost with the same meaning. He is priyakRt - He does for us what is pleasing to us. We may worship Him just for our own petty wishes. He fulfills them so that we may finally want what He is always ready to give us, namely moksha. He is gahanaH- so profound that He is unfathomable. You cannot scale the depth of the Truth that is He. He is avyayaH, imperishable. Recall B.G. 7-25:

mUDho'yam nAbhijAnati loko mAm ajam avyayam /


'this foolish world does not know Me as unborn and imperishable'. Also B.G. 9 - 18: 'nidhAnam bIjam avyayam'. The epithet 'avyayam bIjam' here is of significance. He is the seed from which everything sprouts but the seed itself never vanishes. A most unique seed indeed! Note that the seed can never vanish because when everything perishes the seed itself is necessary for the re-creation of the Universe. Vyaya also means change. There are six changes for any object: (asti) appears; (jAyate) is born; (vardhate) grows; (pariNamate) undergoes modification; (apakshIyate) decays; (naSyati) dies, vanishes, disappears. None of these changes apply to the Lord. And more, it is only of Him that such a statement can be said. Everything else will have at least one of these changes. What is not may appear; what was not there is born; what is born may have default and it will grow; what grows may decay; what grows or decays certainly undergoes modification; what is born finally dies and what appears also disappears. All these are the effects of the play of the guNas. The only subject that transcends the guNas is the Lord. That is why the Gita says, in 7–13


tribhir-guNa-mayair-bhAvair-ebiH sarvam-idam jagat /  

mohitam nAbhijAnAti mAm ebhyaH param avyayam //


This entire universe is deluded into action by the three attitudes of the guNas, but it is not aware of Me who is unchanging and unaffected by any of these. He is aprameyaH, immeasurable, not reachable by any rules of logic. B.G. 2-1: 'anASino'prameyasya'. The Ke.U. I-6 says:


yan-manasA na manute yenAhur-mano matam /

tadeva brahmatvam viddhi nedam yadidam upAsate //


That which man does not comprehend with the mind, that by which they say the mind is encompassed, know that to be Brahman, not what people worship as an object. He is adhAtA, not propped up or supported by anything else; He needs no support. He is his own support. Recall from tirukkuraL


 paRRuga paRRaRRAn paRRinai appaRRaip-paRRuga paRRu viDarku.[


Hold on to the One who has no attachment. By attaching yourself to the attachmentless, you will be rid of attachments.

He is anuttamaH, unexcelled. More supreme than He there is nothing supreme, nothing larger, nothing smaller:


(M.N.U.)  yasmAt param nAparmasti kimcid-yasmAn-nANIyo na jyAyo'sti kimcit.


Also the B.G.7-7:


mattaH parataraM nAnyat kimcid-asti dhanaMjaya


There is nothing more supreme than Myself, O Arjuna. He is agrAhyaH, He cannot be sensed by the senses. This is one of the classical ways in which the Absolute is described in the Upanishads by all negatives. MA.U. says, for instance: ‘adRshTam, not visible; avyavahAryam, not relatable; agrAhyam, not sensed by the senses, alakshaNam, not definable; acintyam , not imaginable; avyapadeSyam, not indicatable.’ He is bhUtakRt, He produced all beings. Not only He produced, He sustains them, and He takes them back. These three actions are all there in that one epithet kRt. The mAyA Shakti through which He acts, has three strands - the rajo- guNa causes the production, the satva- guNa causes the sustenance and the tamo-guNa causes the dissolution.


 sarva-bhUtAni kaunteya prakRtim yAnti mAmikAm /

kalpa-kshaye punastAni kalpAdau visRjAmyaham  B.G. 9–7


. Therefore He is also bhUtabRt. The one who supports all beings. But on that account He is not to be considered as one of the beings. cf. B.G. 9 - 5: bhUtabRn-na ca bhUtastho

He is AtmavAn, meaning, simply, the one who is His own Self. But this does not say all. In Ch.U.(VII-24-1) the question is raised:

sa bhagavaH kasmin pratishTita iti sve mahimni


What supports Him? The answer is given. In His own Self. The Supreme Divinity does not need anything else for its support for there is nothing else other than Itself. So it is based on its own Self. So He is the only AtmavAn, no other entity can have this epithet. That is why we are asked to enjoy by renouncing the world - tena tyaktena bhunjIta in I.U. When you have renounced everything else, only the Self, full of bliss, remains. This is the state of being the one who is His own Self. It is interesting to note that among the sixteen questions which Valmiki asks Narada before He wrote the V.R.  this is one: Who is the AtmavAn? The answer comes it is Rama. So He it is that is established in Own Self. Therefore He is also the 'established' - pratishTitaH.

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 B.G. 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 (ksharaH) as well as the imperishable substratum (aksharaH). 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):


ekam sad-viprA bahudhA vadanti’


The one Truth, Wise men speak of in varied ways. Also recall Ka.U. (2 - 2 -9):


agnir-yathaiko bhuvanam pratishTo rUpam rUpam pratirUpo babhUva / 

ekastathA sarva-bhUtAntarAtmA rUpam rUpam pratirUpo bahiSca //


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. Again, Ch.U: (6 - 2 - 1):


ekam-evAdvitIyam brahma


Brahman is one, one only, without a second. 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 V.S., 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 T.U. (II-2)


 annAd-bhUtAni jAyante; jAtAnyannena vardhante;

adyate'tti ca bhUtAni; tasmAdannam tad-ucyata iti //


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. The words eva ca have significance. 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 V.S. is also in the same context and connotation. See  kshetrajno-kshara eva ca elsewhere


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