VSN #8 – The First of the Names

by Sahadev Komaragiri

A curious mind is always interested in knowing with what first name viShNu sahasranamam (VSN) starts and what is the name that comes last. It searches for a pattern. It is interesting enough to realize that the very first name is vishwaM and not viShNu. The name viShNu comes only after the name vishwaM. The very first of the names implies that Lord Vishnu is everything in the entire Universe (viSvaM). The last of the names, sarva praharaNa ayudha, describes him as the One who carries all kinds of weapons on Him. If we were to connect both the first and last of the names, it simply means this: He who has all the instruments under His control and disposal is ever ready to take care of everyone and everything in the entire Universe.

This post is part of the series on viShNu sahasra naamaM

Let us now extend this thought and take a look at the first verse and the last verse. Here is the first verse:

viSvaM viShNurvaShaTkaarO bhootabhavya bhavat prabhuH |
bhootakRut bhootaBRudbhaavO bhootaatma bhoota bhaavanaH

There are nine names in the first verse. The first line in the first verse has four names. One who is ‘the cause of the universe’ is known as viSvaM(1).  The One who is ‘present everywhere’ is called viShNu(2). The One who is ‘in control of everything’ is vaShaTkaara(3).  The One who is the Lord of the past, present and the future is bhootabhavya bhavat prabhu(4).  It is fairly easy to connect all the four names. The One who is the cause of the universe is present everywhere and controls everything in it. Therefore he is also the Lord of the past, present and the future. Not only do we now know the meanings of the names but the pattern that connects the names. Thus we developed a context around the first four names. The first four names in essence represent the basis on which the rest of the names are derived. When we read commentaries on VSN, we arrive at deeper meanings of each of these names. For example when we read about viSvaM in a well written commentary we also read about what constitutes a universe.

The second line in the first verse has five names. bhootakRud(5) is the One who ‘created all the living beings’. bhootaBRud(6) is the One ‘who bears all the beings’. The One ‘who has a very special physical form’ is known as bhaavaH(7). bhootaatma(8) is One who is the conscience or soul in every being’. The One who ‘helps in the progress of each being’ is called bhoota bhaavanaH(9). The connectivity between these  names, as in all the names in all the verses of VSN, brings out the beauty and a very special significance of the Lord of the Universe. He who created all the living beings also bears them all. The one who bears the entire creation must have a very special physical form as he also helps in the progress of each of the beings He bears.

Now, how does this help understand ourselves? How does this give a special meaning to our existence? Please meditate with me as I try to understand and experience the meanings of the names. As we chant each of these names, deliberately and slowly, we must reflect on the purpose and place of all the beings in the entire universe. We can continuously chant many times just the first verse and reflect on the significance of the existence of the universe.

Imagine the entire universe in its full glory, the sun, the moon, the planets, vast empty space in the entire solar system, our own galaxy and many more of the same kind and size and the ever expanding universe with stars that are a several times in size and brightness as our own sun. It is breath taking isn’t it? Now imagine the existence of an intelligence that is spread throughout this universe you are imaging now. We just imagined the meaning and depth of the very first name visvaM(1). Now imagine that this intelligence is actually present not in one part of the universe but the entire universe, not just in all atoms and molecules, but also in places where matter does not exist. That is vishNu(2). Isn’t there a wonderful pattern to all the objects present in the universe. The planets take a fairly precise path around the sun and complete a rotation within and revolution around the sun in fairly predictable patterns as if something is controlling this well defined process. Call it gravitational attraction or anything else. That controlling power is vashaTkaara(3). This entire universe was born at some point in the past, everything in the universe has a well defined present and a set future. Is it possible that the intelligence present everywhere is actually aware of itself as well as the past, present and future of everything that It bears? It does and the name of that Intelligence is bhootabhavya bhavat prabhuH(4). Who and what am I in the entire universe? A being that is aware of itself, at least it is allowed to think that way! Indulge yourself into imagining that there is a higher force that created you and that your parents are some randomly assembled instruments in the process. That higher force is the Lord whose name is bhootakRut(5). It is an illusion that we think we bear our own selves and reared by our parents, our teachers and our societies. Now imagine someone else in whose lap you are resting with the understanding that He created the universe you are living in and that He knows your actual past, present and the future. That He who bears you is called bhootaBRud(6). Now know that He bears not just you but everyone you know and heard of and every being around the world and across similar worlds around the universe. Such a higher force must have a very unique form. It is impossible to imagine how He looks like, but indulge yourself. The form that you see now is bhaava(7). We all have our thought processes that help us imagine and a conscience that lets us experience amazing things and record them for later retrieval. The intelligence that envelopes the entire universe(visvaM/viShNu) must also own and operate this conscience of yours. You just transferred ownership that is verily yourself to a higher force and He is bhootatma(8). We deluge ourselves into thinking that we plan and achieve our own progress while in fact our progress depends on a myriad set of events over which we have no control. We think we survived because we are the fittest. If we were to take ourselves out of this equation called planned progress, we realize that our progress actually depends on that Someone who actually controls everything(vashaTkaara). He who manages your progress and yet lets you think you control your own progress is called bhoota bhaavanaH(9).

While the first line consisting of four names allows you to imagine the magnificence of the universe you live in, the second line shows you your actual place in the universe. This exercise of knowing the beauty of the creation and your humble role in it is the purpose and the essence of the viShNu sahasranaama.

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