Thursday, April 28, 2011

Brahman’s diverse nomenclature

Some may quote several passages of the scriptures to identify the Supreme Brahman as someone else than Lord Visnu, or to prove that the creation can have a cause different than Him. Here are some examples:

ksaram pradhanam amrtaksarah harah
(Svetasvatara Upanisad, 1.10; Govinda-bhasya, 1.4.Adhikarana 8, Intro.)

"The material nature is in constant flux, but Lord Hara is eternal and unchanging."

eko rudro na dvitiyaya tasthuh
(Ib., 3.2)

"Lord Rudra is the Supreme. He has no rival."

yo devanam prabhavas codbhavas ca visvadhiko rudrah sivo maharsih
(Svetasvatara Upanisad, 3.4)

"Lord Siva, who is known as Rudra, is the omniscient ruler of the universe. He is the father of all the demigods. He gives the demigods all their powers and opulences."

yada tamas tan na diva na ratrir na san na casac chiva eva kevalah

"When the final darkness comes and there is no longer day or night, when there is no longer being and non-being, then only Lord Siva exists."
The scriptures also state:

pradhanad idam utpannam pradhanam adhigacchati
pradhane layam abhyeti na hy anyat karanam matam
(Quoted in the Govinda-bhasya, 1.4.27)

"From pradhana this material world was born. This world knows only pradhana. This world merges into pradhana at the time of annihilation. Nothing else is the cause of this world."

jivad bhavanti bhutani jive tisthanty acancalah
jive ca layam icchanti na jivat karanam param

"From the jiva all the elements of this world have come. In the jiva they rest without moving, and they finally merge into the jiva. Nothing else is the cause of this world."

From the immediate literal meaning of these verses, it seems that the vaisnava conclusions are contradicted. Vidyabhusana replies to this by quoting the Bhalvaveya-sruti :

namani visvani na santi loke yad avirasit purusasya sarvam
namani sarvani yam avisanti tam vai visnum paramam udaharanti

"The names of this world are not different from Him. All names in this world are names of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. All names refer to Him, Lord Visnu, Whom the wise declare is the Supreme Personality of Godhead."

The mentioned names should be understood to be names of the Supreme Brahman because all names are originally names of the Supreme Brahman.
Vaisampayana Muni explains that all these names are names of Lord Krsna. The Skanda Purana also explains:

sri-narayanadini namani vinanyani rudradibhyo harir dattavan
(Quoted in the Govinda-bhasya, 4.1.28)

"Except for Narayana and some other names, Lord Hari gave away His names to Lord Siva and the other demigods."

This is the rule that should be followed: When the ordinary sense of these names does not contradict the essential teaching of the Vedas, the ordinary meaning should be accepted. When the ordinary sense of these names does contradict the teaching of the Vedas, these names should be understood to be names of Lord Visnu.

It may also be argued that the Supreme Brahman, being the cause of all moving and non-moving entities and the soul of all souls, can be called by any name denoting any of those entities, but in fact we see that this usage is not current. For example, when we speak of the ocean, we literally mean the sea and not God. It could only figuratively or poetically refer to Him. The fact, however, is that God as the source of everything is also the source of the power of the words and their capacity to convey meaning. Therefore, all words are primarily denotations of God, for nor they, nor the objects they denote can possibly exist independently of Him. Indeed, the purpose of all the words of the scriptures is exactly to lead one to understand that Lord Krsna is behind everything. As He declares:

raso 'ham apsu kaunteya prabhasmi sasi-suryayoh
pranavah sarva-vedesu sabdah khe paurusam nrsu
(Bhagavad-gita, 7.8)

“O son of Kunti, I am the taste of water, the light of the sun and the moon, the syllable om in the Vedic mantras; I am the sound in ether and ability in man.”

In the tenth chapter of Bhagavad-gita, called ‘vibhuti-yoga’, the Lord extensively describes how He is to be seen as the all in all. On this light, we should understand the statements such as:

ta apa aiksanta bahvayah syama prajayemahiti ta annam asrjanta
(Chandogya Upanisad, 6.2.3-4; Govinda-bhasya, 2.3.Adhikarana 6, Intro.)

"Water thought: `I shall become many. I shall father many children.' Then water created anna."

Here the meaning of the word ‘apa’ is God, not water as one could literally expect. The sruti confirms the non-difference from the Lord:

tato visuddham vimalam visokam asesa-lobhadi-nirasta-sangam
yat tat padam panca-padam tad eva sa vasudevo na yato’nyad asti
(Gopala-tapani upanisad, 1.37)
“That spiritual world, completely pure, uncontaminated, free from suffering, free from greed and all other vices, and identical with this five-word mantra, is manifested from Lord Vasudeva. There is nothing separate from Him.”

In the smrti it is said:

kataka-mukuta-karnikadi-bhedaih kanakam abhedam apisyate yathaikam
sura-pasu-manujadi-kalpanabhir harir akhilabhir udiryate tathaikah
(Visnu Purana, 3.7.16; Govinda-bhasya, 2.3.15)

"As golden bracelets, crowns, earrings, and other golden ornaments are all one because they are all made of gold, so all demigods, men, and animals are one with the Lord because they are all made of Lord Hari's potencies."

The meaning is that whatever exists is manifested through the potencies of Krsna, therefore any word denoting energy or attributes naturally refer to Him, Who is the supreme possessor of all of them.

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