SrIvishNu sahasranAmam – 1 (Names 1 to 10)

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We begin to construe the thousand names of the Lord denoting His various forms namely para (as seen in the Supreme abode SrIvaikuNtam), vyUha  (the milky ocean) and vibhava (as seen in the various incarnations) in light of the authoritative texts such as pAncharAthra Agama, with a clear justification of such denotations according to the context, without any repetitions or any other such blemishes, and by detailing the grammar and etymology of such names, and also based on the previous interpretations by various seers in the past.

First of all, the completeness of the all pervading bhagavAn is said with the name ‘viSvam’.

विश्वं विष्णुर्वषट्कारॊ भूतभव्यभवत्प्रभुः ।
भूतकृद्भूतभृद्भावॊ भूतात्मा भूतभावनः॥ १ ॥

1) viSvam (विश्वम्)

The word viSvam is derived from the root ‘viS’ (to enter). This name means that He enters every part of this universe, and pervades it. As per the aphorism ‘अशूप्रुशि-लटि- कणि-खटि-विशिभ्यः-क्वन्’, the suffix ‘kvan’ adjoins the root ‘viS’ and thus results in the name ‘viSvam’. As is it said in the mOksha dharma in mahAbhAratha by sage panchaSikha, “He is called viSvam due to His pervasiveness in every part of all the worlds (the origin being viS – praviSanE), Oh king of kASi! Since He is only visible in every part of this universe, all the worlds are verily called ‘viSvam’ in His name”. The purport of this name is to show the “completeness of bhagavAn with natural, boundless, and extraordinary auspiciousness and grandeur of nature, forms and qualities”, since the word denotes completeness, and also due to bhagavAn’s natural eligibility to be glorified with all His boundless wealth.

Although originally a neuter gender word, the name ‘visvam’ – in this context – should be considered as masculine only, since this represents vishNu. This is as per the pANinIya ashtAdhyAyi aphorism ‘तदाशिष्यं संज्ञाप्रमाणत्वात्’. If the word ‘viSva’ representing the effect is otherwise thought to represent the cause, it wouldn’t be apt; since all the names representing bhagavAn are always conforming to Him and this single word ‘viSvam’ effectively represents all such names in short, the crooked way of decoding the meaning would not hold good.

Some people have been propounding the non-dualism between the Supreme brahman and this creation with this name. This is nothing more than deception, because the word ‘viSvam’ does not have non-dualism in it whatsoever. This word does even not connote non-dualism like the vEdhic statements such as ‘thath-thvam-asi’ (thou art that) by congruence.

Thus, the words ‘viSvam’ and ‘vishNu’ are indistinct and show the same characteristic. The other school of thought propounding non-dualism of this world and the brahman stands refuted at the very beginning, and also in many places further down the chapter. The completeness shown with this name is only explained further with all other names such as ‘vishNu’ etc.

Etymology: viSvam means the all-round completeness in nature, forms, qualities and grandeur.

विश्वम् – सर्वत्र पूर्णत्वात् स्वरूपगुणवैभवै: |

2) vishNu: (विष्णुः)

Since bhagavAn enters this creation as the indwelling self of all, He is called ‘viShNu’. This means that He enters all of the sentient and insentient entities, which are His properties, as the indwelling self. This is as per the scriptural statements:

  • “He entered all the created objects – movable and immovable”,
  • “He only entered as the indwelling self”,
  • “Having pervaded all of these worlds, the Supreme Lord kESava resides everywhere. Thus He is called ‘vishNu’, since the root ‘viS’ means pervasiveness” etc.

The name vishNu is derived out of the root ‘viS’, which means to pervade everything. This root is suffixed with the adjunct ‘knu’, which results in this name. The varAha purAaNa says thus: “The natural supremacy of bhagavAn is put forth with this name vishNu, which has the ‘knu’ adjunct representing all of His characteristic qualities”.

Although the earlier name ‘viSvam’ and this name ‘vishNu’ are both derived out of the same root ‘viS’, there is no fault of repetition since the former represented ‘completeness’ and the latter represents ‘pervasiveness’.

Etymology: He is called vishNu since He pervades all of the sentient and insentient entities.

चराचरॆषु भूतॆषु वॆशनात् विष्णुरुच्यतॆ

3) vashatkAra: (वषट्कारः)

bhagavAn is called ‘vashatkAra’ in order to identify His expansiveness distinctly from the other expansive entities such as the sky or space (AkASa). The meaning of the name is “the One who controls all out of His own free will”. The verb ‘does’ (karOthi), when used in the karmaNi form, is suffixed with the adjunct ‘aN’. Thus the root ‘vaS’ meaning ‘charm’ gets the suffix ‘at’ by the grammatical rule of bAhulaka anuvruththi. The letter ‘sha’ (ष) supplements the smaller ‘Sa’ (श) in the root ‘vas’. All these transformations to the root result in the name ‘vashatkAra’. This is in conformance with the scriptures which declare “He is the controller and ruler of all”, “This world acts at His behest”, etc.

Etymology: The One who controls all out of His own free will is called vashatkAra.

स्वॆच्छया यॊ वशॆ सर्वं वषट्कार्ः करॊति सः |

4) bhUtha-bhavya-bhavath-prabhu: (भूतभव्यभवत्प्रभुः)

The name bhUtha-bhavya-bhavath-prabhu means the sole master (prabhu:) of all the things that appear in the different points of time namely past (bhUtha), present (bhavya) and the future (bhavath). He is the ruler of all such things. He is the controller of all those things. This name is derived as per the pANini ashtAdhyAyi aphorism, which says “विप्रसम्भ्यॊड्वसंज्ञायाम्” (the root ‘bhU’ is suffixed with adjunct ‘dhu’ as per this aphorism). Since this word name collectively and inclusively references all the objects, there is no contradiction in using the said adjunct, per the grammatical rules. The scriptures declare thus, in connection with bhagavAn:

  • “Of the master of all worlds…”
  • “Of the master of even the masters…”
  • “He is the one and only master of all that is created”
  • “This world belongs to that Supreme Soul”
  • “All of these regions are his…”
  • “All the worlds and creatures in it are created by krishNa and for krishNa only”
  • “krishNa, The slayer of the demon named kESi Himself is the master of all creatures appearing in past, present and future times”, et al.

Etymology: The master of all objects appearing in past, present and future is called as bhUtha-bhavya-bhavathprabhu:.

त्रिकालवर्तिनां शॆषी भूतभव्यभवत्प्रभुः |

5) bhUthakruth (भूतकृत्)

The next five names starting with this explain bhagavAn’s ownership (SEshathvam) over all other entities created. Since He creates all these entities independently, He is called ‘bhUtakruth’ (originator of creatures). This is as per the scriptures that say, “All these worlds and the creatures in it are created verily by that Supreme brahman”, “From whom all these creatures are born, by whom all these creatures are sustained, and into whom all these creatures enter at the end of creation, know that Supreme Self to be the brahman” etc.

Etymology: The one who creates all these creatures independently is called bhUthakruth.

भूतानि यॊsसौ सृजति स्वातन्त्र्यॆण स भूतकृत् |

6) bhUthabhruth (भूतभृत्)

Since He bears the creatures, He is called bhUthabhruth (the bearer of creatures). The scriptures declare thus:

  • “He supports all the creation, and is the centre of all the worlds”
  • “Just like how the rim of a chariot wheel is supported by the spokes, and the spokes in turn are supported by the axle, so also all the creatures are supported by consciousness (the knowledge of ‘I’, which is the characteristic of an individual soul), and all such consciousness are supported by the sole Supreme Self, who is verily the life force of all of them”
  • “He is bearing the earth”
  • “The ceaseless master of all bears all of this creation” etc.

Etymology: He is called bhUthabhruth due to his bearing of all the creatures.

भूतभृत् भूतभरणात् |

7) bhAva: (भावः) 

All the creatures born in all the worlds as said earlier are connected with bhagavAn just like the feathers are connected with a peacock in its tail. Thus, He is called ‘bhAva:’, meaning the one who is connected with all creatures. The aphorism “भवतॆश्च इति वक्तव्यम्” directs the usage of ‘Na’ adjunct with the root ‘bhU’. The sole ownership of bhagavAn over all the entities is understood because of all the creatures manifesting themselves as modes to bhagavAn (prakArathvam), and thus having Him as their indweller.

Etymology: He is called ‘bhAva:’ due to His connection with all the creatures.

श्लिष्टत्वात् भाव ईरितः

8) bhUthAthmA (भूतात्मा)

The property and owner relation between the creatures and the Supreme Self as explained before is now described using the body and soul relationship, with the name ‘bhUthAthmA’. He is the soul of all the creatures. Even the individual souls have the soul-body relation with each of their physical bodies in this creation, pervading which they conduct themselves differently. Similarly, the Supreme Entity bhagavAn pervades all of this creation. All these creatures – being the body of bhagavAn – are different than the perceptions of other ownerships such as spouse, residence, and land of an individual soul. Unlike the other ownerships, all the creatures are totally dependent on bhagavAn for their very existence. Also, all the creatures are very close to bhagavAn due to the body-soul relationship. This is as per the following scriptural statements:

  • “He who is in this earth, for whom this earth is the body, but the earth realizes not; He who is in every individual soul, for whom the soul is itself the body, but the soul realizes not…”
  • “He is the indwelling soul of all the creatures – both sentient and insentient”
  • “All these worlds are verily your body…”
  • “All those are His body”
  • “All of them are verily the body of Sri hari” etc.

Etymology: In all the creatures which are physically born in this creation, the one who is called by the name ‘bhUthAthmA’ resides as the indwelling soul.

शरीरभूत भूतानां भूतात्मा आत्मतया स्थितः

9) bhUthabhAvana: (भूतभावनः)

He is called ‘bhUthabhAvana:’ since He nurtures all the born creatures with all the materials required for their sustenance, nourishment and enjoyment. By this, He demonstrates His complete ownership of all the creatures. The aphorisms “नन्द्यादिभ्यॊ ल्युः” and “कृत्यल्युटॊ बहुलम्” cause the adjunct ‘ana’ to be suffixed with the root ‘bhU’ (in the meaning of ‘nurturing’). Thus, the name ‘bhUthabhAvana’ is derived. Similar is the case with the other names ‘bhAvana:’ (32nd name) and ‘prathardhana:’ (60th name), which also get the ‘lut’ adjunct. The nurturing of creatures by bhagavAn is explained in the scriptures thus:

  • “He is the owner of all creatures, and nurtures them”
  • “He looks after all creatures…”, etc

Thus, by expounding the creatorship, sustenance, and nurturing of all creatures born in this creation, the sole mastership of bhagavAn over all other entities is established. He is called as ‘SEshI’ (the Supreme Master) only to expound this nature of creatorship and nurturing of all the creatures. With this, the aphorism in pUrva mImAmsA which says “this creature is His property, since this lives for His sake” (शॆषः परार्थत्वात्) stands justified.

Etymology: He who nurtures the creatures by providing them with all materials for their sustenance, nourishment and enjoyment is called bhUthabhAvana.

धारकादि प्रदानॆन यश्च वर्धयति स्वयम् ।
भूतानि नित्यं झटिति स तु स्यात् भूतभावनः ॥

पूतात्मा परमात्मा च मुक्तानां परमागतिः ।
अव्ययः पुरुषः साक्षी क्षॆत्रज्ञॊsक्षर ऎव च ॥ २ ॥

10) pUthAthmA (पूतात्मा) 

The name ‘pUthAthmA’ is hailed here, in order to negate any blemishes that may be accorded to bhagavAn due to His being the soul of all the creatures in these worlds and thus being associated with their blemishes. He is rather of a pure nature. Even in the event of association of Supreme soul with the individual soul with a soul- body relationship, only the lower individual soul enjoys the fruits of action, and undergoes agonies. The vEdhas say “The other entity – Supreme Soul – shuns the enjoyments of fruits, while the individual soul enjoys such fruits due to its own past deeds”. The giver of such fruits to the individual soul is the Supreme soul Himself. However, He does not partake of such fruits due to His own free will (which the individual self lacks due to its past deeds). The Supreme Self glows with purity. This is much akin to the teacher and student pair, both of whom are associated with a cane. Although both are associated with it, only the student who gets beaten with the cane is affected by it, and not the teacher who wields it. The same opinion is voiced by other scriptures as well, thus: “Enjoying none of such fruits, the One who glows with purity…”

  • “He is the indweller of all creatures, yet untouched by any blemishes due to such association”
  • “The actions (karma) do not stick to me”
  • “Oh nAradha! Behold that greatness of the Supreme Soul, who is never affected by the fruits of any of the deeds – good or bad – at any instant!”, et al.

All such declarations are summarized in an aphorism in the brahma sUthras thus: “If one opines that the joy or agony for a soul come due to sheer association with the physical body, that is wrong. Rather, the joy or agony come from the special qualifiers called ‘past deeds’, and not just the body” (सम्भॊगप्राप्तिरिति चॆन्नवैशॆष्यादिति).

Etymology: Although all creatures are His body, He is not affected by any of their blemishes, and does not enjoy the fruits of any of the actions. Thus, he is called ‘pUthAthmA’.

शरीरत्वात् च जगतः तत्-दॊषैः न कदाचन ।
लिप्यतॆ यः स पूतात्मा न भुङ्क्तॆ च फलानि यः ॥

adiyen srinivasa raja ramanuja dasan

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