258. Viṣṇuḥ विष्णुः

Repetitive nāma-s 2 and 657.

Viṣṇu is the Sustainer of the universe. Brahman’s different attributes are addressed through different names. For example, creation is looked after by Brahmā, sustenance is looked after by Viṣṇu and death is looked after by Śiva. Yajur Veda (VI.ii.9.2) says, “yajño vai viṣṇuḥ यज्ञो वै विष्णुः” which means yajña is Viṣṇu. Yajña consists of fire oblations to appease gods and goddesses. There are many gods and goddesses, each representing different aspect of the Brahman. Air is worshipped as god Vāyu, fire is worshipped as god Agni, etc. Again, Yajur Veda says (VI.v.1.3), “Viṣṇu supported him” and He supports those who perform yajña-s. Yajur Veda again (VI.ii.4.2) says, “The sacrifice went away from the gods in the form Viṣṇu and entered the earth.” Viṣṇu receives the sacrifices made during yajña-s and sustain the universe.

Further reading on Pañca yajña-s: Pañca means five and yajña means act of worship and devotion that prevailed during Vedic period and offerings, oblations and sacrifice prevailing in post-Vedic literature. Yajña actually means sacrifice personified.

There are two types of yajna-s, the one referred in Veda-s that has been heard or communicated from the beginning. It is the sacred knowledge orally transmitted from generation to generation. Rig Veda contains numerous references to rituals. Yajur Veda samhita on the other hand contains mantra-s that are to be recited at the rituals and prose passages explaining them, known as brāhmaṇā-s. Brāhmaṇā passages guide to execute and preserve the intricacies of Vedic rituals. The other type of yajña is referred in smṛti, the whole body of sacred tradition or what is remembered by human teachers in contradistinction to śruti. Smṛti includes the six Vedāṅga-s, the sūtra-s (both śrauta and gṛhya), the law-books of Manu, etc.

The five yajña-s referred in Veda-s are agntihotra, darśapūrṇamāsa, cāturmāsya, paśubandha and soma. Soma ritual includes all the other four rituals and considered as the supreme among the five.

The five yajña-s referred in smṛti-s are known as pañca mahā yajña-s. They are Deva yajña (appeasing gods and goddesses), brahma yajña (the knower of Vedas), pitṛ yajña (for ancestors), bhūta yajna (animals, etc) and nara or atithi yajña (nara means man and atithi means guest). Atithi is explained as a person who is entitled for hospitality). Deva yajña is the worship to one’s kula devatā (the deity worshipped through lineage). The study of Veda-s is the next. Remembering our ancestors is the third. This is performed on the anuual death days of ancestors. The idea behind this yajña is not only to remember them, but also to remember and follow the family’s culture and values. Bhūta yajña means sharing with other living beings. Feeding the hungry animals develops universal love. The last one also known as manuṣya yajña (manuṣya means friendly to man), traditional hospitality extended to fellow beings.

Pāñcarātra āgama-s prescribe five rituals for worshipping Viṣṇu. Abhigamana (approaching Viṣṇu), upādāna (collecting pūja materials), ijya (the pūja worship), and svadhaya (repetition of Veda-s, verses-s, etc). Viṣṇu is often praised with gadya (prose, composition not metrical yet framed in accordance with harmony, elaborate prose composition).

Chāndogya Upaniṣad (V.4 to 9) talks about five types of oblations that cause the birth of man. They are offered by gods as oblations. First gods offered water as oblation from which appeared Soma (moon). They offered Soma as the second oblation from which appeared rain. They offered water as third oblation and there appeared food. They offered food as the fourth oblation and there appeared fluids of procreation. They offered fluids of procreation as the fifth oblation and there appeared foetus.

259. Vṛṣaparvā वृषपर्वा

The word vṛṣa is continuously used from nāma 256 to 260. Vṛṣa generally means the best among the bests. However, the meaning differs depending on the context. Here parvan means steps and vṛṣa means justice personified. One has to put his steps forward towards dharma. Brahman is an embodiment of dharma and if one gradually follows the principles of dharma, he transforms himself as an embodiment of dharma and becomes fit for liberation.

To explain this further, union can take place between the two or more of the same categories. For example, river unites with the ocean. The water in the river remains the same even after merging into the sea. In order to merge with the Brahman, one has to attain the same qualities as that of the Brahman. Then only the liberation and the subsequent merger can take place. Merger with the Brahman does not mean the bodily merger, but has to happen in the arena of the mind. Unless the mind is totally purified, liberation cannot take place. Only liberation leads to the merger with the Brahman.

260. Vṛṣodaraḥ वृषोदरः

Vṛṣodara literally means bull bellied. But this nāma says that He holds the entire universe in his abdomen at the time of annihilation. It is believed that the entire universe enters through the mouth of the Brahman at the time of annihilation. As the Brahman, He not only creates, sustains and dissolves but also annihilates and recreates. These are the five acts of Brahman. Contextually this explanation holds good as the subsequent nāma-s talk about re-creation.

There is difference between religious believes and spirituality. Spirituality does not endorse any types of rituals. Spirituality advocates that the Brahman is to be realised only within. This is based on the fact that the soul within is the Brahman and hence the individual soul is called the Self. Spiritually speaking, annihilation means the destruction of attachment and bondage. When attachment to material world is annihilated, one realizes the Self within. Religious believes form the foundation for spirituality. Transformation from being religious to being spiritual happens when the devotion to the Brahman transforms into love for Him.

261. Vardhanaḥ वर्धनः

Vardhana means increasing, growing, etc. He nourishes all the beings of the universe. As far as the Brahman is concerned, He does not differentiate amongst the beings. But, the liberation is possible only in the human birth, as the liberation has to happen only through the mind. But, many fail to utilise the opportunity of having born as humans, by getting addicted to materialistic life. Getting engrossed in materialistic life does not purify the mind and on the contrary, it corrupts the mind by causing lasting impressions. As long as the impressions remain in the mind, mind does not get purified.

262. Vardhamānaḥ वर्धमानः

This nāma says that He multiplies and grows. This nāma affirms the fact that Brahman remains as the soul in all the beings. When the living beings grow, Brahman also grows. This is only a hypothetical interpretation, because Brahman never grows or modifies. He always remains the same. When the universe expands, there is bound to be increase in the number of beings. Without the presence of the Self (soul), no organism can live.

263. Viviktaḥ विविक्तः

In spite of His multifarious activities, He remains alone. No one can reach anywhere near the sun and the Brahman being several times more powerful than the sun and obviously no body can go anywhere near him.
Because of the fact that He remains unique, we are searching Him. If He is one among the many, there is no necessity for us to find Him. Scriptures say that He is omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient. He cannot be seen and can only be realized.

264. Śrutisāgaraḥ श्रुतिसागरः

Śruti means Vedas. Literal meaning of Śruti is hearing and listening. In ancient times, the verses of the Vedas have been heard by sages and saints as cosmic sound, during their trances. Cosmic sound cannot be heard without entering into trance. The commune with the Brahman is established only during a perfect trance. Vedas originated through such trances of sages and saints and taught to their disciples only orally. Sages resorted to verbal teaching because, in Vedas, pronunciation is very important.

Such Vedas lead to the Brahman, who is referred in this nāma as sāgara, meaning ocean. Like rivers, all the beings ultimately dissolve into the Brahman. Hence Viṣṇu is worshipped as Śrutisāgara in this nāma. Vedas lead to the Brahman.