VSN #14 – Names in Numeric Values

by Sahadev Komaragiri

One of the many ways to describe Sri Maha Vishnu is to quantify His attributes by a certain number. We have nearly 46 names in viShNu sahasra naamaM(VSN) that intend to measure the qualities of God by a number. The numbers, interestingly and appropriately enough, range from a zero, Soonya(739), to infinite, anaMta.

This post is part of the series on viShNu sahasra naamaM

In some names there is a reference to a number in clear terms like number one in Ekaatma(725) and number four in chaturbhuja(140). In some, as is common with number system, the reference to numbers is in abstract terms. Take for example the name anEkamurthaya(721), this name describes Lord Vishnu having not one but several(anEka) forms. Similarly, the name asaMkhyeya(247) refers to countless attributes of Lord Vishnu. In the entire VSN, we find references to numbers one(Eka), three(tri), four(chatur), seven(sapta), hundred(Sata) and thousand(sahasra).

The numeric names, the subject of this post, acquire a whole new dimension when the names are arranged as a garland of a number of numeric names in one full verse. Verse 82 illumines this. There are eight names in this verse. Barring the last name, Ekapaat, the only number that is repeatedly employed in this verse is number four(chatur):

chaturmoortiH chaturbaahuH chaturvyoohaH chaturgatiH |
chaturaatma chaturbaavaH chaturvEdavidEkapaat ||

In the VSN, number four is more popular than any other number. There are a number of reasons for it. Let us take a look at some and correlate the names in the VSN with these facts from Hindu philosophy:

  1. There are four faculties that control the human activities. Mind(manas), intellect(buddhi), ego(ahaMkaar) and reason(chitta). In the famous nirvaaNa shaTakam of Adi Shankara, the very first verse eludes to the fact that the true Self is none of these four.
  2. An individual experiences four distinct states of awareness: the wakeful state(jagrut), the dreaming state(swapna), the deep sleep state(sushupti) and finally a very blissful state(turya) that is above the rest of the states of awareness. It is in this turya state that the devotee feels Oneness with God.
  3. There are four vedas – rig, yajus, sama and adharvaNa. The purpose for which the four vedas are composed is to know Him and therefore he is called chaturvEdavid. vid, which means to know, is the etymological root in the word veda. The same root is found in the word vidya(education).
  4. In the puraaNas there is a surprising mention about the various colors of Lord Vishnu’s incarnations in the four yugas.  It is color white in Krita Yuga, red in Tretaa Yuga, yellow in Dvaapara Yuga and dark (black) in the Kali Yuga. The one who takes these four different colored forms is called chaturmoortiH.
  5. One of the most recognized forms of Sri Maha Vishnu is the one in which He has four hands. He holds a conch, a mace, a discus and a lotus flower in each of His four hands. That is why He is called chaturbaahuH(761) or chaturbhujah(140).
  6. There are four varnas or classes of men: Thinkers or intellectuals(braahmaNas), rulers (kshatriyas), businessmen(vaisyas) and workers (soodras). In addition there are four human aspirations (purushaartha) – righteousness (dharma), wealth (artha), desire(kaama) and liberation (moksha). It follows that through righteousness one attains wealth and through wealth one fulfills ones own desires(to serve others) and through such service one attains liberation. The varna system and its aspirations are formulated by and emanated from Lord Vishnu. Therefore he is called chaturbhaavaH.
  7. Everyone goes through four stages(aaSramas) of life in the following order –  student(brahmacharya), householder(grihastha), retiree(vaanaprastha) and renunciate(sanyaasa). Hindu philosophy prescribes that the aim of all the four aspirations of the four classes of people in all the four stages of their life is to know God and seek refuge in Him. Therefore He is called chaturgatiH, where the word gatiH implies refuge.
  8. There are four mighty forms(moorthy) of Lord Vishnu that find a place in the Yadava dynasty within three generations – Balarama, Sri Krishna, Pradhyumna and Aniruddha. Balarama, also known as Sankarshana, and Sri Krishna or Vaasudeva are brothers. Pradhyumna was born to Sri Krishna and Rukmini and Aniruddha is their grandson.  It is said that SrImannaarayaNa takes the forms of saMkarShaNa, vaasudEva, pradhyumna and aniruddha to ably run the affairs of the world in the form of four vyoohas. It is for this reason He is called chaturmoortiH and charturvyooH. These four names are also the names of Lord Vishnu in the VSN.

There are other numbers that carry special significance in the VSN. An interesting name is chaturaSra. This word literally means a square(a geometrical figure with four equal sides). So, accordingly the One who deals squarely with all is called chaturaSra! Indeed, He does not differentiate between beings. All are treated equally.

One of my favorite numeric names is Soonya(zero). How can you describe God with such a sorry figure as zero? Here it is. The number of defects in Lord Vishnu – zero! In one of the Annamacharya Kritis – muddugaare yashoda – he says that the attributes and miracles of Lord Vishnu need no corrections(diddharaani mahimalu), apparently because there are zero defects in them!

Here is a list of other names that contain the attributes described by a certain number – Soonya(739),  Eka(725),  Ekapada(772), Ekaatma(965),  lOkatrayaaSraya(614),  trikakubdhaama(61), trivikrama(530),  tripada(534), tridashaadhyakSha(533), trisaama(570), trilOkaatma(643),  trilOkEsha(644), trilOkadrut(751),  chaturashra(936), saptajihva(827), saptaidaaH(828), saptaidhase(824), saptavaahana(829), Satavarta(342), SataanaMda(614), SatamurtiH(723), SataananaH(724), sahastraanShve(483), sahastramoordha(224), sahastrakSha(226), sahasrapaada(227), sahasrajita(306), sahastraarchisha(826), anEkamoortaya(721), naikaH(726), naikaja(886), naikaroopa(271), naikamaaya(302), naika karmakRut(469), naika SruMgaH(763), bahuSirasa(115), and asaMkhyeya(247)

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