VSN #11 – vishnuH (2,258,657)

by Sahadev Komaragiri

Consider the five elements earth, water, fire, air and space. Each of these elements is in decreasing order of their density. Earth is obviously heavier than water and water is heavier than fire and so on. Each of these elements contains all the elements ahead of it. Earth has water, fire(heat), air and space within it. Similarly water has fire(heat), air and space within it and so on. In addition to this, there is just another pattern to these elements. Each of these elements is increasingly more expansive and widely dispersed. Water is more accommodating to expansion as well as ease of flow as compared to earth.  The most widespread element that is present almost everywhere is space. The entire cosmos is covered by vast empty space. At the atomic level too, it is surprising to note that there is more empty space within an atom than all the combined space occupied by all the sub-atomic particles within. If we were to name one element that is present everywhere then it would be space. Everything that is perceptible occupies distinct co-ordinates within the space. Is there anything that is more widely dispersed and expansive than space? The one that is truly omnipresent, that which is truly present everywhere?

This post is part of the series on viShNu sahasra naamaM

To answer this question we have to ask a few more questions! What is the medium through which our imagination travels? Think of a place that you visited several years ago and that which is thousands of miles away. Your thought completed the travel to that place much faster than anything you can ever imagine! Now hold on to that thought and ask yourself – where did the five elements come from? If the elements came from something else, is that something more expansive and more widespread than space? Can that something accommodate and explain the cause of our emotions, imagination, intelligence and curiosity which cannot be defined in the confines of space co-ordinates?

Hinduism provides an answer to this in the taittiriya upanishad. It says that from the very Self, call it Super Conscious if you would like, came space. From space came the air(or wind) and from air came the fire and from fire came the water and from water the earth. This Super Self called by various names such as Super Consciousness, Atman and Brahman is the source of all our existence including our thoughts, our imagination and our fears. Therefore it is truly present everywhere. This omnipresence is one of the qualities of Sri Maha Vishnu and is aptly the second most important name in the viShNu sahasra naamaM.

viShNu is the One who is Omnipresent. This name appears again as the 258th and 657th names in the sequence of the names in the VSN.

The name viShNu is perhaps the most recognized name. The very title of the sahasranaama is after this name. Any prayer or ritual is started with this invocation prayer:

shuklaaM bharadaraM viShNuM Sashi varnaM chaturbhujaM
prasanna vadanaM dhyaayet sarva viGnOpa shaantaye

This is one of the first of the prayers that we learn and teach. While the first part describes attire and form, the second part tells us that by meditating upon the most graceful countenance, all the obstacles will be removed.  The word viShnuM in that context is used to mean Omnipresence.

There are several references to this name across the entire length and breadth of Hindu literature including the Vedas, Upanishads, Itihasas and Puranas.  brahma vaivarta puraaN gives this etymological derivation where the word viShNu is split into two parts: viSh meaning presence and Nu meaning everywhere, thus the word viShNu means omnipresence.

There are several shlokas that refer to this name, but one that we learn at an early age and carries a profound message is this one:

shaantAkAraM bhujagaSayanaM padmanAbhaM surESaM
viSwaadhAraM gaganasadRuSyaM mEghavarNaM shubhAMgaM
lakshmIkaantaM kamalanayanaM yogi hRudhyaana gamyam
vandE viShNuM bhavabhaya haraM sarvalOkaika naadham

This shlOka, in sum but not in detail, tells us that Lord viShNu is the basis for the entire creation and its chief protector. He lives in the hearts of the yogis. Although He is omnipresent, only the seekers realize that He can be felt from within their hearts. This single thought and this single feeling that He lives within the hearts of the seeker is enough to realize this – the one and only one thing that we seek is not somewhere outside of us but strictly within us.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

veerabhadra rao nemani November 4, 2010 at 9:29 am

Very nicely put together and explained!!


Sahadev Komaragiri November 4, 2010 at 8:21 pm

Thanks much!


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