657. Viṣṇuḥ विष्णुः

Repetitive nāma-s 2 and 258.

He is worshipped as the Supreme Self or the Brahman. Many Scriptures talk about three Gods – Brahmā, the creator; Viṣṇu, the sustainer and Śiva, the destroyer. They are known as the supreme triads and from this triad, all other triads arise.

There are many references about Viṣṇu in Vedas. He is all pervasive, the exclusive quality of the Brahman. Everything in this universe needs fire, which is one of the primary elements and Viṣṇu presides over fire of the yajña-s. Yajña not only refers to the sacrificial fire of the recent times but also the true devotion of the ancient times. “yajño vai viṣṇuḥ यज्ञो वै विष्णुः” which means yajña is Viṣṇu. Yajña here refers to the inner yajña, which is known as realizing Him within.

658. Vīraḥ वीरः

Vīr means powerful, valiant, heroic, etc. Unless Brahman has Supreme qualities, He cannot create, sustain and dissolve the universe. In this process He also kills a number of demons to establish the supremacy of dharma. Those who come in the way are killed by Him. Demons are nothing but bad thought processes. Unless bad and negative thoughts are annihilated, He cannot be realized through one’s mind. Bad thoughts leave lasting impressions in one’s subconscious mind. Any impressions in the subconscious mind can manifest at any anytime causing irreparable damage to a person’s mind and character.

659. Anantaḥ अनन्तः

Repetitive nāma 886.

Ananta means eternal. Taittirīya Upaniṣad (II.1) says, “satyaṁ jñānaṁ anataṁ brahma सत्यं ज्ञानं अनतं ब्रह्म” which means, Brahman is truth, knowledge and infinity. Brahman cannot be physically described as He is the subtlest and beyond description. He is the Supreme Power. But, He can be realized through spiritual knowledge. Upaniṣad-s while attempting to describe Him say “not this, not this”. They use infinite to describe Him as He is incomprehensible.

Bhīṣma is now lying at his death bed and Kṛṣṇa majestically stands before him. Bhīṣma after having described Him in all possible words now uses the word ‘eternity’. He becomes too emotional and could not find the right words to describe the glory of Kṛṣṇa. Hence this nāma.

660. Dhanañjayaḥ धनञ्जयः

Dhanañjaya means the one who acquired wealth. It is also one of the names of Arjuna. Kṛṣṇa holds Arjuna in high esteem not because Arjuna is one of his pupils, but also because he is exemplary in all fields. Arjuna has many names and one of them is Dhanañjaya. That is why He says in Bhagavad Gītā (X.37), “pāṇḍavānāṁ dhanañjayaḥ पाण्डवानां धनञ्जयः” which means “I am Dhanañjaya among pāṇḍava-s”.  He holds Arjuna on par with Him. This can be interpreted in two ways. First, there is no difference between a Guru and his disciple. Alternatively, there is no difference between a true devotee and the Lord.

661. Brahmaṇyaḥ ब्रह्मण्यः

The next ten nāma-s, until 670 begin with Brahma.

Brahmaṇya means the one, who is favourably disposed to Vedas and the knowledge related to Vedas. Since all Vedas originated from Him, He upholds Vedas and the knowledge imparted by them. He helps all those who take active part in spreading the knowledge taught by Vedas.

Teachings of Vedas can be interpreted in two ways – gross and subtle. Gross teachings are about performing Vedic rituals. Subtle teachings are about spiritual knowledge, meditation and ultimate realization.

662. Brahmakṛt ब्रह्मकृत्

He is the creator of those who upholds Vedas and their teachings. Kṛt means making or doing. This means He is the maker of Brahma or Brahman. Brahmā is different from Brahma. Brahmā is the creator which is referred to in the next nāma. Brahma is Brahman, the Supreme Self. This nāma conveys that He is the Brahman. No body has created Him and hence this nāma says that He is His own creator.

663. Brahmā ब्रह्मा

As per Advaita philosophy, Brahman has three main activities – creation, sustenance and dissolution. He carries out these activities through different gods and goddesses. The entire creation is under the control of Brahmā. He can only create and cannot do other activities.

This nāma talks about the aspect of His creation.

664. Brahma ब्रह्म

This nāma refers to the Brahman, the Supreme Self. Brahma and Brahman are the same. Brahman is incomprehensible.

A number of Upaniṣad-s elucidate the difference between Brahma and Brahmā. Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad (VI.18) says, “यो ब्रह्माणं विदधाति पूर्वं yo brahmāṇaṁ vidadhāti pūrvaṁ” which means Brahman created Brahmā before creation. The Upaniṣad further says, “and then presented the Vedas to him....”

Mahānārāyaṇa Upaniṣad  (XIII.4 - Nārāyaṇasūktam) says,

nārāyaṇaṁ paraṁ brahma tatvaṁ nārāyaṇḥ paraḥ।
nārāyaṇa parajyotirātmā nārāyaṇa paraḥ॥

नारायणं परं ब्रह्म तत्वं नारायण्ः परः।
नारायण परज्योतिरात्मा नारायण परः॥

nārāyaṇaṁ paraṁ brahma tatvaṁ - Nārāyaṇa is the Supreme Brahman; nārāyaṇa paraḥ - Nārāyaṇa is Supreme. nārāyaṇa parajyotirātmā - Nārāyaṇa is that Supreme Light; nārāyaṇa paraḥ - Nārāyaṇa is Supreme.

Nārāyaṇasūktam ends by saying, “Paramātman is the material and efficient cause of the universe and He is the Supreme Self-illuminating Pure Consciousness (paramasvarāṭ परमस्वराट्).”

This nāma not only explains the difference between Brahma and Brahmā, but also proves that Nārāyaṇa is the Brahman.

{Further reading on Brahman: Brahman alone is the Reality. He is known by several names such as Lord, Supreme Soul, Self, Supreme Spirit, God, etc.  He has no shape and form.  For the sake of convenience He is addressed as He.  It would not be appropriate to call Him as It.  Since Mother Nature is conceived as the feminine gender, the Brahman is addressed as the masculine gender. It is very important to understand that He is beyond shapes and forms and He is the only one, who is beyond modifications.  He is the self-illuminating light and without this light, the whole universe will plunge into total darkness.  He can be understood only by negations and affirmations, as He is beyond normal human comprehension.

To make it understandable, the Brahman can be explained as the supreme level of consciousness that is non-relational.  He is beyond the study of subject and object. He is the ultimate, beyond which nothing exists.  He is immanent in nature and a casual reality with all the apparent effects.  He does not have a parentage.  Therefore, He is considered as the root cause of everything that exists in this universe with the understanding that the present, past and future tense of the word existence is implied.  The difference in the meaning of manifestation and visualization is to be clearly understood.  Manifestation is the indication of existence or presence or nature of some person or thing, whereas visualization is a mental image that is similar to a visual perception or becoming aware of something through the mind.  In manifestation, senses are involved and in visualization, mind is involved.  The objects are perceived only through senses.  For perceiving something, you need to have a prior experience of an object.  In reality, the Brahman can only be visualised and cannot be manifested.  This is based on the theory that the Brahman is formless.

For easier understanding, the Brahman is divided into two categories viz. the Brahman with attributes and without attributes.  Brahman without attributes is also known as nirguṇa Brahman and the Brahman with attributes is known as saguṇa Brahman. The Brahman without attributes is logically concluded as the Supreme one.  This form of the Brahman is not partaking in any of the actions of the universe.   Assuming for a moment that He has the form of a human, then it can be said that He stands as a witness to all the happenings in the universe, mainly due to unfolding of karmas of various souls.  A person getting aware of another person or an object, is a process called knowing.  The process of knowing evolves out of unfolding of karmic accounts of souls. Karma manifests on the basis of Newton’s third law ‘for every action there is an equivalent and opposite reaction’.   Over a period of time, the actions that constantly take place in this universe undergo gradual changes and this process is known as evolution.  Therefore, spirituality does not override the scientific principle of evolution and in fact analyses the process of evolution more intensively and thoroughly, without any ambiguity.  That is why spirituality always emphasizes that the knowledge of the highest order is an essential component of Self-realisation. 

In the concept of knowing, the process needs a knower who acts through his mind to know an object.  The object is called known.  Both the knower and the known, undergo degenerative changes as they are subject to the factors of time and space.  The act of knowing is an experience and when the knower and the known undergo changes, the experience of knowing also undergoes changes.  The experience of knowing sometimes gives pleasure and sometimes gives pains. 

Brahman is not only omnipresent but also omnipotent because He is the cause of every action without actually associating in the action itself.  The effect of His action is being manifested in our physical body.  Our minds fail to recognize the cause, the Brahman, due to the influence of māyā or illusion.  Consciousness in operational stage is the cause of all energies, be it static or kinetic, the basic requirements of creation.  The consciousness transmutes into the five basic elements of space or ether, air, fire water and earth.  These in turn form various forms and shapes in combination with other factors.

The Consciousness is invisible in nature.  It appears in the visible form due to the effects of māyā or illusion.  This is the reason for considering māyā or illusion as part of the Brahman.  Without the effects of māyā, the existence of objects cannot be recognized.  The Brahman has two aspects.  One is the cause (kāraṇa) and another is its effect (kārya).  Cause is the origin and effect is the end.  Any activity that takes place is juxtaposed between these two.   In reality, the cause cannot be perceived as it is beyond perception.  But the effect is always visible as if it is the reality.  Though cause and effect originate from the same Brahman, effect alone is visible and therefore, there should be something else, possibly a different aspect of the Brahman.  This aspect is called māyā or illusion.  Māyā plays a vital role in our very existence.  Transcending māyā is an arduous task.  The realisation of the Self is possible only if the veil of māyā is abstracted. 

There is nothing more potent than the pure form of consciousness.   Apart from this, there are two other factors that contribute to the Brahman with attributes.  They are existence and bliss, the highest form of happiness.    Because of these contributory factors, we experience and feel our existence.   The Brahman, existence (sat) and consciousness (cit) are inseparable from each other but the ignorance makes us to realize that they are different.  Ignorance is nothing but the impure form of consciousness.  In other words, the lack of adequate knowledge about the Absolute is the reason for our failure to understand that everything that exists in this universe is only the reflection of the Brahman.  This reflection is known as manifestation.  The absence of any one of the three (Brahman, existence and consciousness) leads to a stage of catastrophe where none in this universe is realized.  However, the most essential part is the Brahman, without which the other two are not possible.  This is based on the fact that the Brahman is the first of entire creation and His origin is beyond normal human comprehension.  Therefore, the universe and the Brahman are not two separate entities, but as a result of māyā, we are conceiving them as two discriminated entities.  

The third aspect of the Brahman is bliss.  Bliss is nothing but the supreme happiness derived from the highest level of experience.  This is unique and stand alone aspect of the terrestrial experience.  This can never be rejoiced, when the consciousness continues to dwell in the lower planes.  When consciousness has to reach the higher planes, it has to necessarily associate with experience.  Without experience, one cannot express with clarity, what is realised is pleasure or pain.  The extract and essential nature of our experience, called existence, in combination with the highest level of consciousness is called bliss.  Bliss can be attained only through the essence of our experience and not on the basis of gross form of experience.  Sat-cit-ānanda (existence, consciousness and bliss) mean their combination in a highly condensed form.  The condensed forms are arrived at, by experiencing through their gross forms over a period of time.  This experiencing is called practice.  Sat-cit- ānanda in their gross forms are called māyā or illusion.  This goes to prove that the Brahman is not a myth, but a reality.  It is a principle based on the theory of evolution, existence – consciousness – bliss, the three interdependent factors constantly undergoing changes, moving from lower levels to higher levels.  It is important to note that the process of evolution unfolds only on the attributes of the Brahman, and not on the Brahman Himself.  It is like gold remaining as gold, even though the gold undergoes changes in the form of various ornaments.  The gold is the Brahman and the ornaments are sat-cit-ānanda.  The former is pure Brahman and the latter is Brahman with attributes. 

You should not be under the impression that Brahman is the embodiment of goodness only.  The world consists of both good and bad, auspiciousness and inauspiciousness.  If the Brahman is the embodiment of all positives only, then who controls the negativities? If someone else is going to control the negativities, then the authority of the Brahman is under challenge and He cannot be omnipresent.  The reality is that the Brahman is the source of everything in the universe, which also includes negativities, inauspiciousness, and evils. Then only the Brahman can be omnipresent and omnipotent. The good and bad happen to a person according to his karmic imprints.  Humanity is governed by the rule, ‘what you sow, so you reap’. Karmic imprints are embedded in an individual soul.}

665. Brahmavivardhanaḥ ब्रह्मविवर्धनः

Vivardhana means increasing, promoting, etc. Brahmavivardhana means ‘increasing or promoting Brahman’. This can be explained as the increasing or promoting the qualities of the Brahman in a person through meditation, austerities, following the path of dharma, etc. This happens only if one surrenders unto Him.

This happens through a continuous process, if one surrenders unto Him. The devotion of such an aspirant transforms him from being ritualistic to a true seeker through spiritual knowledge, internal exploration and meditation. This is the starting point of one’s spiritual life, which culminates in His realization. For entering this state also, He alone is responsible, as this state requires His Grace.

666. Brahmavit ब्रह्मवित्

Brahmavittva means the one who knows the true meaning of Brahman, for example a Vedāntin. A vedāntin is the one, who knows the Self-illuminating, omnipresent Brahman, not names and forms.

To go beyond names and forms of the Brahman alone can lead to realization and liberation. In reality, Brahman does not have names, gender, forms, etc, as He is infinite and all pervasive.

667. Brāhmaṇaḥ ब्राह्मणः

This nāma can be explained in two ways. Brāhmaṇa is the one who is an exponent of Vedas and knows both gross and subtle interpretations of Vedas and they are considered as the most superior among all men and women. Kṛṣṇa talks about this in Bhagavad Gītā.

Vedas have two parts – mantra part and brāhmaṇa part. The latter part involves practical application of Veda mantras in various rituals. Brāhmaṇa are in the text forms as against the mantra form of the first part. Brāhmaṇa passages prescribe guidelines for performing yajñā-s, right from the construction of fire alters.

As Viṣṇu presides over all yajñā-s and as He is equally invoked in the mantra part of Vedas, hence this nāma.

668. Brahmī ब्रह्मी

Brahmī can be explained as the One, who holds everything that is Brahman. Everything that is Brahman means all that exist in the universe, as Brahman in all pervasive and omnipresent. Having spoken about Brahman in nāma 664, these nāma-s talk about the most important attributes of the Brahman.

669. Brahmajñaḥ ब्रह्मज्ञः

He is the possessor of sacred knowledge of Vedas. Vedas teach both ritualistic knowledge and spiritual knowledge. The ultimate destination of both the types of knowledge is the same, but the path is different.

670. Brāhmaṇapriyaḥ ब्राह्मणप्रियः

He is fond of those who are the exponents of Vedas. Exponent of Vedas are those who are able to understand and explain both gross and subtle conveyances of the Vedas