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Thursday, November 3, 2011

VISHNU SAHASRANAMA 426 - 434


426. Vistāraḥ विस्तारः
Vistāra means expansion. Universe is nothing but the expansion of the Brahman. This confirms His omnipresence.
427. Sthāvara-sthāṇuḥ स्थावर-स्थाणुः
Both sthāvara and sthāṇu mean immovable.  Brahman need not move as He is omnipresent and hence He is adored as Sthāvara. Universe rests in Him firmly and this is indicated by sthāṇu. Universe is not different from the Brahman and hence both are referred as immovable.
Kṛṣṇa says in Bhagavad Gītā (II.24), “The Soul is eternal, omnipresent, immovable, constant and everlasting.
428. Pramāṇam प्रमाणम्
Repetitive nāma 959.
Lord Viṣṇu is the authentic proof for the existence of the universe. The proof is in the form of knowledge. He virtually presides over everything. For example, the purest form of consciousness is the Brahman, who is realized through pure knowledge.
This nāma says that He is the Supreme authority of the universe. He alone has the Absolute and independent Authority.
429. Bījamavyayam बीजमव्ययम्
Bīja means the primary cause of anything and avyaya means imperishable. He is not only the cause, but also imperishable.
This nāma conveys that He is the Creator of the universe.  It also says that He is eternal, the unique quality of the Brahman. All the beings originate from Him and ultimately merge into Him. The intervening period is the period of transmigration.
430. Arthaḥ अर्थः
He is the most sought after by men as He alone is capable of offering liberation, because He is Bījamavyaya (previous nāma).  He alone is capable of offering liberation, the relief from the pains of transmigration.
431. Anarthaḥ अनर्थः
He needs nothing, as everything originates from Him. It can also be explained that He is not this (neti) not this (neti). That is why Upaniṣad-s explain Him as not this, not this (neti neti). In other words, He is indescribable. He, who is most sought after (previous nāma) is beyond explanation, an exclusive quality of the Brahman.
432. Mahākośaḥ महाकोशः
He is covered by five kośa-s or coverings.  The Self within (often referred as the individual soul) is sheathed by five coverings and deep within these coverings, He is seated, constantly witnessing all the activities of the man.
Further reading on kośa-s:
Tattvabodha asks “pañca kośāḥ ke?” meaning what are the five sheaths?  The five sheaths are annamaya, prāṇamaya, manomaya, vijñānamaya and ānandamaya kośa-s.  These five sheaths are translated as sheaths of food, vital air, mind, intellect and bliss. These five sheaths are related to the three types of bodies – gross, subtle and causal.
Gross body à annamaya kośa
Subtle body à prāṇamaya kośa, manomaya kośa, vijñānamaya kośa
Causal body à ānandamaya kośa
The Self within can be realized only if all these sheaths are transcended, as the Self remains encased by these sheaths. These sheaths cause illusion by making a person to identify with these sheaths.  The exterior annamaya kośa is grossest of the five and the interior ānandamaya kośa is subtlest in nature. The following diagram will explain the five kośa-s with relation to the three types of bodies. 



Gross body consists of annamaya kośa. This kośa (sheath) is gross in nature, hence associated with gross body.  These are called sheaths because they form veils around the soul or ātman.  This soul or ātman is nothing but the Brahman Himself, who is beyond these bodies and five sheaths. Knowledge of these sheaths becomes essential so that one can negate them as Brahman.  As already discussed, Brahman can be realised only by affirmation and negations.
Annamaya kośa or the physical sheath is produced by the combination of gross elements viz. ākāś, air, fire, water and earth. This sheath is called annamaya kośa, as it is sustained only through the intake of food.  The consumed food nourishes not only the external organs and also flesh, blood, nerves, bones, etc. Pañcadaśī (III.3) explains the formation of the gross body.  It says that gross body is formed out of procreative fluids of parents, which are formed out of the food consumed by them.  The quality of procreative fluids again depends upon the quality of the food consumed by them. The physical sheath becomes important not only to sustain the other sheaths, but also a necessity to undergo one’s accrued karmas, that enters the fetus at the time of conjugation.  Karmas are unfolded mostly through gross body and very rarely through the mind. The physical sheath, which is grossest in nature, is formed by the subtlest sheath ānandamaya kośa.  The subtlest becomes subtler, gross, grosser and grossest. In other words, the ānandamaya kośa forms vijñānamaya kośa, vijñānamaya kośa forms manomaya kośa, manomaya kośa forms prāṇamaya kośa and prāṇamaya kośa forms annamaya kośa.  It is like the gross body that cannot be formed without the causal body. It is always the subtlest that leads to the grossest.  It is only because of the subtlest soul, the gross body is formed.  Even in the case of gross elements, the subtlest among them, the ākāś is the cause for the rest of the elements.  Taittirīya Upaniṣad (II.1) beautifully explains this phenomenon. “From this Self comes space; from space air, from air, fire; from fire, water; from water, earth; from earth, plants and herbs; from plants and herbs, food; from food comes human beings.”
Tattvabodha says that annamaya kośa is formed out of essence of the food (essence is created due to the digestive system), sustained by the essence of the food and is ultimately consumed to the earth, in which plants grow producing food grains. The quality of the physical body depends upon the type of food one consumes.  Certain food items create quality organs, whereas certain types of food cause malfunctioning of organs.  Particularly smoking not only injures organs like heart and lungs, but also depletes the positive energy of the body as a whole. Presence of smokers in spiritual meets erodes the huge amount of positive vibes generated.  A drop of poison is enough to turn the entire glass of water poisonous. 
The importance of the gross body cannot be ignored.  It is only the gross body that makes us to realize the Brahman.  By effectively controlling the nine apertures in the gross body, the inherent nature of the gross body can be modified.  For example, the sensory organs can be effectively controlled from associating with the materialistic world.  This can happen only by practice, for which annamaya kośa is essential. 
Beneath the annamaya kośa is the prāṇamaya kośa. Tattvabodha explains prāṇamaya kośa as “prāṇādi pañca vāyavaḥ vāgādīndriya pañcakaṁ prāṇamayaḥ प्राणादि पञ्च वायवः वागादीन्द्रिय पञ्चकं प्राणमयः” This means ‘vital force and five types of prāṇa-s, five action faculties speech, movement, holding, evacuation and reproduction  form the prāṇamaya kośa’.  Prāṇa is the vital force and its modifications into five type prāṇa-s viz. prāṇa, apāna, vyāna, udāna and samāna are known as five types of prāṇa-s.  The inhaled air is converted into five types of prāṇa-s.  Deep and slow breathing keeps the mind calm and composed whereas, fast and shallow breathing makes the mind agitative. One should practice abdominal breathing, where diaphragm expands and contracts making the lungs to function to its fullest capacity. 
Prāṇa, one of the derivatives of prāṇa primarily is the cause for the functioning of the heart, senses, nerves and blood vessels.  Prāṇa is generally active in the chest area.  Apāna is the cause for evacuation of undigested food and impure water from the body and active in the lower abdominal area. It is also the cause for procreation. Vyāna is the cause for blood circulation and nourishes every cell of the body.  It is primarily responsible for the functioning of hands and legs.  Cramps happen in legs if vyāna is not active in pumping blood to the legs.  Udāna is connected to the mind and intellect and is the cause for thoughts. It carries the inputs from external sensory organs to the mind. It is also responsible to push the subtle and causal bodies out of the gross body during death.  It is the cause for vomiting, burping, tears and sneezing.  When subtle and causal bodies have left the gross body dhanañjaya (not sure of this spelling), a type of prāṇa continues to remain in the body and causes the bulging of the corpse and decomposes it and finally escapes through the top of the head.  Samāna is the cause for assimilation of the food. 
Prāṇa and its modifications, function in the body during all the three states of consciousness, awake, dream and deep sleep. If the course of any one of these prāṇa-s is modified or ceases to function, it triggers udāna to push the causal and subtle bodies out of the gross body causing death. When prāṇa is controlled and regulated, it helps to keep the entire system in good health. By practicing prāṇāyāma one can keep his body in natural condition.  To pursue spirituality, a healthy body is essential.  Annamaya kośa is related to the gross body and prāṇamaya kośa is related to the subtle body.
Mental sheath or manomaya kośa belongs to the subtle body.  Tattvabodha says it is made up of mind and organs of perception viz. ear, skin eye, tongue and nose.  Inherently mind is addicted to the senses.  When one begins to pursue the spiritual path, one has to work against the inherent nature of the mind.  It is like swimming against the water current, though tough yet possible.  When one practices to look within, instead of looking at the materialistic world, mind gets trained to look within.  Mind is often associated with ego and makes a person to falsely associate with his gross body.  Gross body alone is perishable amongst the three types of bodies. Mind instead of identifying with the imperishable Self, falsely gets associated with the gross body.  This is called inherent ignorance. Mind undergoes quick changes causing alternative bouts of joy and sorrow.   When a mundane mind says “I”, it means only the gross body and when a yogi’s mind says “I”, it refers to the Self within. 
Next to the mental sheath is the sheath of intellect or vijñānamaya kośa, which is also associated with the subtle body. Vijñāna means intelligence and its opposite is ajñāna or ignorance. Intellect along with organs of perception or jñānendriya-s forms the sheath of intellect.  When the organs of perception join with the mind it is called manomaya kośa and when the organs of perception join with the intellect it becomes vijñānamaya kośa. Though intellect is the refined form of the mind, it does not mean that it is supreme to the mind.  Mind is the knowing principle and the intellect is the deciding factor. When one is able to transcend both the mind and the intellect, his knowledge becomes complete, as both mind and intellect are associated with the pluralistic world. Intellect largely depends upon the impressions in the subconscious mind for its decisions.  Impressions in the mind and impressions in the subconscious mind are different.  Impressions of the subconscious mind are more powerful than the impressions in the mind. Impressions in the subconscious mind, like karmic account, accompany the causal body during transmigrations.  Intellect interacts only with the mind and not with any other faculties.  When the mind is incapable of taking any decisions on its own, it always refers to the intellect.  Intellect is mind’s  guru.  One could wonder why knowledge forms the sheath for the Brahman.  It is to be recalled that the Brahman within, is sheathed by ignorance and this state of the Brahman is known as jīva.  The Soul or the Brahman within can be realized only if the sheath of ignorance is penetrated. With vijñānamaya kośa, ajñāna or the ignorance can be transcended to realise the Self-illuminating Brahman.  
The fifth and final sheath is known as ānandamaya kośa or the sheath of bliss.  The previous four sheaths are associated with gross and subtle bodies.  Ānandamaya kośa alone is associated with the inner most causal body.  The causal body is full of ignorance.  Pañcadaśī (III.9) explains the sheath of bliss as, “there is a position or function of the intellect, which at the time of enjoying the fruits of good actions, goes on a little farther inward and catches the reflection of the bliss and at the end of this enjoyment, merges in deep sleep.”  Tattvabodha explains ānandamaya kośa as the impure sattva guṇa.  It is called impure sattva guṇa because it has the traces of rajo guṇa and tamo guṇa.  If the traces of these two guṇa-s are not present, then it is not ānandamaya kośa.  Only the nirguṇa Brahman has no traces rajo and tamo guṇa-s.  When the nirguṇa Brahman is sheathed by individual ignorance is called jīva and the same nirguṇa Brahman sheathed by collective ignorance of all the beings is known as Īśvara. Ignorance and māyā are the same.   
433. Mahābhogaḥ महाभोगः
Bhoga means enjoyment and contextually it means the Bliss. Brahman is full of Bliss. When one begins to realize Him, his first experience would be only bliss.
Taittirīya Upaniṣad (III.6) explains this. It says, “Bliss is Brahman. It is from bliss that these beings are born. Having been born, they are supported by bliss and they when perish they go back to bliss and disappear into bliss.” Thus, the Upaniṣad does not differentiate between the Brahman and Bliss. Brahman is ‘sat-cit- ānanda’.
434. Mahādhanaḥ महाधनः
This nāma says that He is not only the source of Bliss, but also makes His devotees to enjoy His Bliss. Devotees are those who always stand connected to Him. What He has, He shares with His devotees. Bliss is referred here as the wealth. 

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