13. Avyayaḥ अव्ययः

Brahman is beyond modification. He is eternal. Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad (IV.iv.25) says, “Birth-less Brahman is non-decaying and immortal.” This also proves the point that the Brahman is not born. When there is birth, there has to be death. In the initial stages of spiritual pursuit, this is the significant factor that differentiates the Brahman from other beings. Any object can be recognised by ordinary means i.e. senses. Brahman can be realised only through negations and affirmations. When one stops identifying other things, identity with the Brahman begins to dawn.

Bhagavad Gita (VII.25) says, “Veiled by My yogamāyā I am not manifest to all. Hence these ignorant men fail to recognise Me, the unborn and imperishable Supreme.” Yogamāyā is the divine potency by which the Brahman conceals Himself.

14. Puruṣaḥ पुरुषः

The one who resides in a body. Pura means a fort. Body is compared to a fort. Nine openings in the body are the nine gates. Bhagavad Gita (V.13) says, ‘navadvāre pure’. The nine openings in the body are – pair of eyes, pair of ears, pair of nostrils, mouth, organs of procreation and excretion. Puruṣa refers to the individual soul. Soul by remaining within the fort, rules the fort.

Puruṣa is often used in Sāṃkhya philosophy and Bhagavad Gita is based on this. As per Sāṃkhya philosophy, the existence is based on twenty five principles or tattva-s, out of which puruṣa is the foremost. Puruṣa is the conscious spirit which only acts a witness. They are passive and non-productive. There are number of such puruṣa-s, also known as souls. What is called as puruṣa in Sāṃkhya philosophy is known as ātman in Vedanta. The fact is whether we call it as ātman or puruṣa, it is the indispensable factor in creation of a life.

15. Sākṣī साक्षी

What does the puruṣa do by remaining within? He not only rules, He also acts as a witness without partaking in any of the activities done by the embodied mind and body. Puruṣa seated within is the purest form of Consciousness and is not affected by any of the acts of the mind and body nor it induces the mind and body to act in a particular way. Kṛṣṇa also confirms this by saying, “ahaṁ sākṣī” meaning I am the witness.

One’s actions unfold mainly due to one’s karma-s, vāsanā-s (unfulfilled desires in previous births) and saṁskāra-s (impressions of previous births in the subconscious mind). Brahman or puruṣa does not make a person to act. Hence Puruṣa is said to be a witness. But without He being present within, no action is possible. He is like subtle electricity burning a gross electrical lamp.

16. Kṣetrajñaḥ क्षेत्रज्ञः

Kṣetra is the gross body and Kṣetrajña is the soul. Chapter XIII of Bhagavad Gita is totally devoted to the discussion of Kṣetrajña and kṣetra. All these nāma-s distinguish the Brahman from other existences. This nāma endorses the essence conveyed through the previous nāma-s. This does not mean that Viṣṇu Sahasranāma is propagating dvaita philosophy (dualism). The recitation of this Sahasranāma makes a person to advance in spirituality by enabling him to understand all the essential factors of spirituality in the beginning. By the time, a devotee recites the final nāma, he is ready for liberation. Hence, it is important to understand the meaning of each nāma.

Kṛṣṇa explains the difference between Kṣetrajña and kṣetra. “The body is termed as the field or kṣetra and the one who is knower of the field is Kṣetrajña. (In other words, matter is kṣetra and the soul functioning through it is Kṣetrajña.) Know Myself to be Kṣetrajña in all the Kṣetra-s.” Kṛṣṇa completes this chapter by saying, “Those who perceive with wisdom the difference between Kṣetrajña and kṣetra attain liberation.”

17. Akṣaraḥ अक्षरः

The imperishable. The Brahman is imperishable and He alone is imperishable. The whole universe is made up of kṣaraḥ क्षरः Akṣaraḥ अक्षरः or perishables and the imperishable. This nāma is not merely an endorsement of the previous nāma, but also affirms that there is no difference between Kṣetrajña, the individual soul and Akṣara, the Brahman.

Kṣetrajña means the individual soul and Akṣara means the Supreme Self, the Brahman. In reality, there is no difference between the two.

18. Yogaḥ योगः

The One, who can be attained through Yoga. Yoga means union, the union of individual soul with the Supreme Soul. The one who consciously affirms that his soul is no way different from the Supreme Soul is a yogi. Such union can be accomplished by controlling one’s mind, as realisation of the Brahman takes place only in the mind.

When the mundane level of one’s consciousness transforms into the highest level of consciousness, also known as the Supreme Consciousness or the Purest form of Consciousness, the self realizes the Self. Till such time, a person continues to be deluded by illusion. The veil of delusion is removed instantaneously when the union between self and the Self takes place in the arena of one’s mind.

Kṛṣṇa explains this Bhagavad Gita (II.50), “Strive for the practice of yoga of equanimity (steadiness of mind)” to attain Me.

19. Yogavidāṁ netā योगविदां नेता

The knowers of yoga always stay connected with the Brahman. Their individual consciousness no longer exists and stands merged with His Cosmic Consciousness. They are known as yogavid-s. As such yogavid-s stand eternally connected with Him, He takes care of them. Kṛṣṇa beautifully explains this in Bhagavad Gita (IV.22).

अनन्याश्चिन्तयन्तो मां ये जनाः परुपसते।
तेषां नित्याभियुक्तानां योगक्षेमं वहाम्यं॥

ananyāścintayanto māṁ ye janāḥ parupasate |
teṣāṁ nityābhiyuktānāṁ yogakṣemaṁ vahāmyaṁ ||

“The devotees who constantly think of Me, and worship Me, thinking of nothing else, I take care of them and personally attend to all their needs”. The Brahman not only wants men to surrender unto Him to absolve themselves from the pains of birth and death, but also assures them that He will take care of all their needs and protect them personally. This is a stage where devotion for the Lord dissolves and sprouts as love for Him. Liberation cannot be attained through devotion, but only through love. When the time is ripe, this transformation automatically happens within.

20. Pradhānapuruṣeśvaraḥ प्रधानपुरुषेश्वरः

This nāma should be read as pradhāna + puruṣa + īśvara. Pradhāna refers to the essential part of creation, the prakṛti, the primordial nature. For every creation, an individual soul (puruṣa) has to interact with Prakṛti. The Brahman unleashes His power of māyā through prakṛti. Both puruṣa and prakṛti are ruled by the Brahman. In other words, both are His own creations or His very Self. This nāma says that Viṣṇu is the Chief of both puruṣa and prakṛti. The power of the Brahman manifests as puruṣa and prakṛti.