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SrI vishNu sahasra nAmam - nAma's 1 and 2.

From: Narasimhan Krishnamachari (
Date: Mon Jan 15 2001 - 14:38:03 PST

Dear Devotees:

You might wonder why I am revisiting nAma-s 1 and 2, when we are just
done with Slokam 64.  I just had a need to go to the first Slokam when
some friends in the Chicago area asked me to discuss the significance
of the nAma-s starting from the first one.  I did not feel particularly
satisfied with what I had put together earlier, and so decided to
revisit the first two nAma-s for a start.  I wanted to share with you
all the additional information I gathered on the first two nAma-s.  I
will try to get back to the regular sequence, but may re-visit the
previous write-ups periodically.  I hope this will meet with the
approval of those who follow the sahasranAma write-ups.

-dAsan kRshNamAcAryan

       SrI vishNu sahasranAmam - nAma-s 1 and 2.

1. viSvam - a) Universe or Cause of Universe
b)One who is full in all respects.

Om viSvAya namah.

The nAma is derived from the root viS - to enter.   ViSvam means
"Universe".  SrI BhaTTar gives the reference to the following verse
from moksha dharma:

          veSanAt viSvamityAhu: lokAnAm kASisattama   |
          lokAnSca viSvameva iti pravadanti narAdhipa ||

                      (They say BhagavAn is viSvam because He enters
all the worlds.  The worlds
                   themselves are called viSvam because of this).

SrI BhaTTar interprets the term "Worlds" or "Universe" here to denote
entirety.  He points out that it is quite fitting that the first name
of vishNu in SrI vishNu sahasranAmam suggests His immense glory, the
fullness to the brim of His essential nature, form, qualities, etc.,
which are all natural, unexcelled, auspicious and superior.   SrI v.v.
rAmAnujan adds that this completeness is in respect of His rUpam,
svarUpam, guNam, and everything else.  He quotes nammAzhvAr - uvaryaRa
uyar nalam uDaiyavan (tiruvAimozhi 1.1.1).   It is to explain this
aspect of the fullness of bhagavAn in every aspect that the remaining
999 nAma-s follow the nAma viSvam, thus emphasizing the deep meaning
embedded into this first nAma as denoting bhagavAn's fullness in all

SrI Samkara views that bhgavAn who is brahman or the Supreme Person
created viSvam, and is therefore called viSvam. Brahman is the kartA or
the Creator here (the Cause), and viSvam is the creation or the effect.
 Because the Cause who is brahman is being called by the nAma viSvam
which is the effect, this is used by advaitins as an argument to say
that effects are nothing different from the Cause, and everything is
Brahman.  In other words, the argument is advanced that Brahma who is
the creation of vishNu, can be praised as an appropriate form of
vishNu.   SrI BhaTTar points out that the two terms, brahman and
viSvam, should not be taken as referring to their being identical. 
viSvam or Universe is just a mode or extension of bhagavAn, as are the
other 999 nAma-s.   SrI v.n. vedAnta deSikan in his commentary on
tiruvAimozhi, observes:  "To regard Brahman and World identical is
samAnAdhikaraNya to which AzhvAr does not subscribe.  The world is the
prakAra or vibhUti of the Lord.  He is the cause, sustainer,
controller, and the soul of all things and beings".  

SrI cinmayAnanda explains the nAma "viSvam" by referring to the viSva
rUpam or virAT purusha.  He refers us to SrI vishNu purANam - sa eva
sarva bhUtAtmA viSva rUpo yato avayayah - (vishNu purA. 1.2.69).   He
is the soul of all that exists, and everything is His body.

SrI satyadevo vAsishTha interprets the nAma viSvam or "Universe" as
indicating that everything in this Universe came from Him, and also
everything in this Universe goes back into Him.  So in both senses, He
is "viSvam".  

It should be noted that the words viSvam is in the neuter gender.  SrI
BhaTTar points out that it still is a nAma of vishNu, representing His
guNa of absolute fullness and power.  Consistent with this, the nAma to
worship is "viSvAya namah" as adopted by the viSishTAdvaita school. 
The Samkara school uses the form as "viSvasmai namah". 

The different anubhava-s of the nAma viSvam can be summarized as:

- The nAma indicates His Fullness in all respects - the succeeding 999
nAma-s all elaborate on this first nAma - the Fullness of Him in all
- Nothing in the Universe exists without Him, and everything in this
Universe ultimately finds refuge in Him, and in this sense also He is
viSvam or "Universe". 

2. VishNu:  - a) One who permeates everything, is inside every sentient
and non-sentient being.
 		b) One who surrounds everything.

Om vishNave namah.

This nAma occurs again as nAma-s 259 and 663.
This nAma can be derived from the root vish - vyAptau - to pervade, or
vis - praveSane - to enter.  SrI BhaTTar's vyAkhyAnam is - sva vibhUti
bhUtam cit acit Atmakam sarvam viSati iti vishNuh.  The idea is that
keSava exists everywhere and permeates everything that is His Wealth;
He is unlimited by space, time, and substance (SrI Samkara); He
pervades the whole universe internally and externally.   SrI BhaTTar
gives the following references in support. 

    viveSa bhUtAni carAcarANi - He entered all beings, movable and

    tat srshtvA |  tadevAnuprAvisat - Having created it, He entered
into the same.

       "vyApya sarvAn imAn lokAn sthitah sarvatra kesava:  |
        tatasca vishNu nAmAsi viserdhAto:  pravesanAt     ||     

"KeSava exists everywhere having pervaded all these worlds.  Therefore
His name is VishNu since the root viS denotes entry i.e., pervasion".

Under nAma 259, SrI BhaTTar explains vyApti (pervasion) further, and
explains the relation between bhagavAn and the jIva-s as of the nature
of the relation between fire and smoke.  When there is smoke, there is
fire, but the reverse is not always true (as in the case of a red hot
iron rod).  Thus, bhagavan and the jIva-s are related in the sense that
without bhagavAn the jIva-s do not exist.  The supreme Person and the
jIva-s are never identical, but there is inseparable connection between
bhagavAn and the rest.  He is greater by virtue of the diverse kinds of
help He renders to all who are of a lower order.   SrI BhaTTar refers
us to the gItA - na tadasti vinA yat syAt mayA bhUtam carAcaram (10.39)
- "There is no object, moving or non-moving, which can exist without

Another anubhavam of this guNa of vyApti is that it is not just the
fact that He is in everything and in inseparably bound to everything,
but it is one of His showering everything with His infinite Mercy (SrI
v.v. rAmAnujan).  His sauSIlyam is to be enjoyed here.  SrI kRshNa
datta bhAradvAj derives the meaning from the root vishu - secane - to
sprinkle, to pour out;  veshati (si'ncati) bhakta tarUn ASIrvArIbhih
iti vishNuh.

nammAzhvAr declares:  "tiDaviSumberivaLi nIr nilamivaimiSai paDar poruL
muzhuvadumAi avai avai torum uDan miSai uyir enak karandu e'ngum
paranduLan" (tiruvAimozhi 1.1.7) - The Lord created the five elements,
and from them He created all others.  Indeed He became all others.  He
pervades everything in and out.  He is the Soul for the body of
everything and every being.  The term "He enters all the worlds" should
be understood as "He enters everything in all the worlds".  

SrI rAdhAkRshNa SAstri gives another view of the reason why bhagavAn
has pervaded everything.   It is for the purpose of ensuring that
everything is in its designated and assigned place, and things don't
come into collision with each other, for example, the different planets
and constellations etc.  He quotes from the taittirIya AraNyaka,
wherein first the question is asked - keneme vidhRte ubhe - "Who is
keeping the two things from colliding with each other?", and responds:
vishNunA vidhRte bhumI; iti vatsasya vetanA - "vishNu is the One who is
supporting them with His Sakit; this is the finding of sage vatsa".   

SrI Samkara gives the following supports for this nAma:

antar bahiSca tat sarvam vyApya nArAyaNah sthitah -   mahA nArAyaNa
upa. 1.13) - nArAyaNa pervades the whole universe externally and

	"yasmAd vishTam idam sarvam tasya SaktyA mahAtmanah    |
	  tasmAd vishNuriti khyAto veSer dhAtoh praveSanAt    ||      (vishNu
purANam 3.1.45)

"Because the whole world has been pervaded by the energy of the great
Self, He is named vishNu, from the root viS - to enter or pervade." 

        "vyApte me rodasI pArtha kAntiscApadhikA sthitA |
         kramaNaccApyaham pArtha! VishNuriti abhisamgj~nita: || 
(mahAbhA. 350.43)

"As I have pervaded the horizons, my glory stands foremost, and as I
have measured by my steps the three worlds, O Arjuna!  I am named
vishNu".  SrI anatakRshNa SAstri interprets the term kAnti here as
referring to His Effulgence - His radiance pervades the firmament and
transcends it.  

SrI BhaTTar has given the explanation of the nAma vishNu in terms of
His power of pervasion (Sakti) under the nAma 663.  He refers to the
mantra about bhagavAn - sarva SaktyAtmane - He, Who is the embodiment
of all powers.   He also gives reference to the Slokam "yasmAd
vishTamidam sarvam tasya SaktyA mahAtmanah…" given earlier.  As an
instance of this Sakti, the trivikrama incarnation is also cited - the
smRti declares "vishNuh vikramaNAt devah" - mahA bhA. udyoga. 5.68.13),
a reference to His name being vishNu because He measured the three
worlds with His steps.   

SrI v.v. rAmAnujan gives reference to nammAzhvAr's praise of His Sakti
- "ennaik koNDu en pAvam tannaiyum pARak kaittu emar Ezh ezhu piRappum
mEvum tan maiyamAkkinAn vallan empirAn en viTTuvE" - tiruvAi. 2.7.4 -
"He changed me from a nitya samsAri to a nitya sUri; He exterminated
all my sins, those of my predecessors and my successors for several
generations, so that all of us have reformed to become His.  Who did
this?  VishNu!  He will do this because His name implies
all-pervasiveness".  SrI BhaTTar interprets the nAma-s kRtAgamah,
anirdeSya vapuh, vishNuh, and vIrah (nAma-s 661 to 664) as indicative
of His being the Lord of Sakti. 

SrI cinmayAnanda refers us to ISAvAsya upanishad - ISAvAsyam idam
sarvam yat ki'nca jagatyAm jagat - Everything that exists in the
universe is nothing but of the nature of the Lord, and without Him
nothing exists.  He pervades everything, unlimited by space, time, or

SrI kRshNa datta bhAradvAj gives an additional interpretation not found
in other vyAkhyAna-s:  
vi + shNuh = vishNuh - viSesheNa snAvayati prasrAvayati bhakta
abhilAshAn iti vishNuh - He who bestows the wishes of the devotees like
a fountain.
Note that the root from which the second nAma is derived is the same as
the root from which the first nAma - viSvam - was derived.  However, 
the interpretation is different. The interpretation  here is that
BhagavAn has entered  all beings - sentient and non-sentient, that He
has created.  The meaning for the first nAma was that bhagavAn is
everything, the Absolute, full in all respects.  SrI v.v. rAmAnujan
nicely paraphrases the two nAma-s:  "a'ngu pUrtiyil nOkku, I'ngu
vyAptiyil nOkku". - the first nAma emphasizes His Fullness and
Perfection, and the second nAma indicates that He permeates everything.
  SrI rAdhAkRshNa Sastri observes that meditation on the significance
of the first two nAma-s - namely that Lord vishNu is in everything
around us and in every one of us, and that without Him nothing exists, 
will lead us closer to a life of peace, tranquillity, ahimsA, and
selfless service to Him.

Sri Surin, in his commentary on amara KoSa, has given the following
derivation for the word VishNu - veveshti iti vishNu: - One who
surrounds and envelops.  This is derived from the root word vesht - to
surround (recall the word veshti in Tamil for dhoti, which surrounds!).

One interesting question that can be raised is:  Given that the stotram
is  called visNu sahasranAmam, why did Sri VyAsa not start the stotram
as vishNur viSvam vashatkAro, and instead chose to start it as viSvam
vishNur vashatkAro...?   Based on the SrI BhaTTar's anubhavam, viSvam
is the name that symbolizes the primary attribute of the para form as
one of shAdguNya paripUrNatva, and vishnu and the following names then
elaborate on the name or the guNa represented by the name viSvam.

SrI satyadevo vAsishTha rhetorically asks the question:  If Lord vishNu
is everywhere, in everything, why is it that most of us don't see Him? 
The key is the SraddhA. 

SraddhayA vindate vasuh - Rg veda. 10.151.4

SraddhayAgnih samidhyate SraddhayA hUyate havih | SraddhAm bhagasya
mUrdhani vacasA vedayAmasi  (Rg. 10.151.1)

SraddhAm prAtar havAmahe SraddhAm madhyam dinam pari  | SraddhAm
sUryasya nimruci Sraddhe SraddhApayeha nah   | (Rg. 10.151.5)

He who is endowed with the sAttavic disposition, or has developed it,
keeps seeing vishNu in everything around him all the time. 

To summarize, 

- the nAma vishNu refers to the guNa of bhagavAn in pervading
everything He has created, including all sentient and non-sentient
objects from a blade of grass to brahma;  
- His pervasion is because of His Sakti; in other words, He is the
power behind everything that exists;  an instance of His Sakti is
illustrated by His measuring the three worlds with His Foot;  
- His vyApati is indicative of the inseparable relation between Him and
everything else outside Him, in the sense that nothing exists without
-   His pervasion of everything is of the form of His enveloping and
showering everything around Him with His Mercy.   It is not just His
sausIlya that is indicated by this nAma; all His powers including that
of creation, sustenance, His Lordship, etc., are to be understood by
this nAma.  
- It is because of His pervasion of everything in this universe that
things (for example the constellations, the planets, etc.)., are in
their respective positions without colliding with each other.  
- He is also called vishNu because He bestows the wishes of His
devotees profusely like a fountain.

-dAsan kRshNamAcAryan

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