Meaning of names in Vishnu Sahasranama Sankara bhashya

Updated on: 12-April-2016

15. Detailed description of meaning of names of Popular Gods

Note: This article focuses on names as explained in Viṣṇu Sahasranāma Śankara Bhāshya. Hence it is technical. Please read it slowly and patiently.

For the sake of simplicity earlier, names were discussed in brief. Śiva and Viṣṇu are two primary Gods. Viṣṇu’s avatāra-s Rāma and Kṛṣṇa are very popular. We will now share more details about them for interested readers. We will also discuss meaning of names of these Gods as explained in Śankara bhāshya on Viṣṇu Sahasranāma stotra of Mahābhārata. Better understanding gives us clarity and helps one contemplate on their beloved deity.

There are three reasons for giving detailed description.

  1. Since most of authors get inspiration from original sources like Viṣṇu Sahasranāma and commentaries written on them by great āchārya-s who are authority in their own way, we must directly visit source material and try to understand it ourselves. It will also help us cross check if there is any bias in deducing meanings. If found contradictory, they can be rejected and explanation given by vaidika āchārya-s are adopted as they considered as supreme authority. Here we have taken meanings as explained by Śrī Ādi Śankara bhagavadpāda.

  2. It will encourage readers to take an extra step and understand deeper meaning which are not generally found to be promoted by regular kathākāra-s (storytellers) and paurāṇika-s (those spreading teachings of purāṇa-s). It also helps us to imbibe their meaning in our heart and then meditate on our beloved deity. Knowing what you are doing is also important.

  3.  Readers will also get to know the writing style and deep thinking ability of our āchārya Ādi Śankara Bhagavadpāda.

In each sahasranāma there are names which are repeated like Śiva is repeated twice as 27th and 600th name. In general, there are names which

  1. Glorify characteristics or nature or qualities

  2. Describe Appearance

  3. Describes Lordship

  4. Describes his grace

  5. Glorifies his deeds / Leelas (līlā-s)

  6. Describes as cause of all i.e. Brahman - the sole creator, preserver and destroyer of universe

  7. Most Gods are invariably connected with OM or prāṇava.

Let’s discuss popular names of our Gods.

15.1. Kṛṣṇa

Wise say, ‘ākarśaṇam iti Kṛṣṇa’. ‘’The one who attracts is known as Kṛṣṇa’. In other words Kṛṣṇa means ‘attraction’. Jīva-s are attracted towards their source and take refuge in Kṛṣṇa. Since Kṛṣṇa is the refuge (resting place) of devotees i.e. jīva-s (nāra) he is called as Nārāyaṇa. Since jīva-s reside (vāsa) in Kṛṣṇa he is also known as Vāsudeva’.

(Vasudeva is the name of Kṛṣṇa’s father. Notice difference between two words - sudeva (वासुदेव) is Kṛṣṇa and Vasudeva (सुदेव) is Kṛṣṇa’s earthy father. A famous stuti of Kṛṣṇa is Śrī Kṛṣṇāśtakam.

सुदॆव सुतं दॆवं कंस चाणूर मर्दनम् ।

दॆवकी परमानन्दं कृष्णं वन्दॆ जगद्गुरुम् ॥१॥

vasudeva sutaṁ devaṁ kaṁsa cāṇūramardanam |

devakī paramānandaṁ kṛṣṇaṁ vande jagadgurum || 1 ||

Vasudeva sutaṁ’ means ‘son of Vasudeva’)

Kṛṣṇa is also represented as a ‘lahiri’ i.e. a wave. Kṛṣṇa represents three types of waves.

  • ānada lahiri (wave of Bliss),

  • prem lahiri (wave of unconditional spiritual love) and

  • saundarya lahiri (wave of Beauty)

While Śiva represents three types of shakti-s (energies)

  • Icchā shakti (will power)

  • Kriyā shakti (power of action)

  • Jnāna shakti or Vidyā shakti (power of knowledge)

Name Kṛṣṇa appears as #57th and #550th name of Viṣṇu in Viṣṇu Sahasranāma stotra found in anushāshanika parva of  Mahābhārata. Ādi Śankara in his bhāshya on Viṣṇu Sahasranāma stotra (called as Śankara Bhāshya) on #57 Kr̥ṣṇa explains it as -

57 कृष्ण Kṛṣṇa (kRShNa. Krishna)

Kṛṣ ( कृष्‌ ) means (sattā) ‘power’ or ‘existence’. ‘Ṇa’ ( ण ) means ‘ānanda’ (Bliss). Since Bhagavān Vīṣṇu has both bhāva-s (spiritual emotions), [Vīṣṇu] is always known as ‘Kṛṣṇa’ - This is said by Bhagavān Vyāsa jī [in Mahābhārata udyoga parva 70.2]. By this statement [of Vyāsa jī], Kr̥ṣṇa is sachchidānanda bhagavān.  

550 कृष्ण Kṛṣṇa (kRShNa. Krishna)

In 550th name, Kṛṣṇa is taken as addressing to Kṛṣṇa Dvaipāyana Vyāsa, often called as Veda Vyāsa as he split one veda-s into 4 and further divided them or organized them into various shākhā-s. This Veda Vyāsa is then connected with Bhagavān Viṣṇu by saying that ‘Who else other than Viṣṇu can split veda-s. Kṛṣṇa Dvaipāyana is Viṣṇu’.   

Other popular names including Kṛṣṇa are,  

23 केशव Keśava (keshava)

24 पुरुषोत्तम Puruṣottama (puruShottama)

57  कृष्ण Kṛṣṇa (kRShNa, Krishna)

72 माधव Mādhava (mAdhava)

73 मधुसूदन Madhusūdana (madhusUdan)

187 गोवीन्द: Govīndaḥ (govIndah)

188 गोवीन्दा पतिः Govīndā patiḥ (govIndA patiH)

550  कृष्ण Kṛṣṇa (kRShNa, Krishna)

We have already discussed #57 and #550. Let's discuss other names in detail.

23 केशव keSava (Keshava)

Adi Shankara in his bhASya explains the meaning of the word KeSava in three different ways.

  • The one whose keSa (hair) is called as keSava

  • Under whose sway, brahmA, viShNu and mahesha work. (Ref. Pāṇiṇi sūtra 5.2.109)

  • The killer or slayer of demon keSIkA is called as keSava. Further acharya cites Ref of viShNu purANa 5.16.23

We will further understand second definition as explained by our AchArya Sankara BhagavadpAda on the basis of pANiNi sUtra 5.2.109:

keSava is made up of 4 words

'ka', 'a', 'isa', 'va'

ka = Brahma

a = Vishnu

isa = Mahadev / Shiva / Shankara / Mahesha / Rudra

va = That which one has in one's possession, what is under one's sway. i.e. One who contains in himself - Lord of Creation, Preservation and Dissolution is keSava.

Kanchi Paramacharya upon explaining this statement says: He must be ParamAtmAn

Kanchi Paramacharya also says that in Veda-s and PurANa-s Brahma and Vishnu are referred to as such (ka & a) at many places.


1. Page: 192, Part 6, The Guru Tradition, Kanchi Paramacharya

2. Vishnu Sahasranama Shankara BhASya, Hindi Translation, Gita Press, Page 75-76

We can  connect the word KeSava with a famous SubhAshita-s which forms the essence of veda-s

(not in iTrans or IAST)

"Ruchinam vaichitryad rijukutil nana path jusham;

nrinam ekogamyastvamasi pyasamarnavmiti"

"Due to the differences in individual dispositions, people follow different paths, but you are the only destination of all of them, just as the sea is the destination of all the waters"

Akashat patitam toyam sagaram prati gacchati,

sarva deva namaskaram Keshavam prati gacchati"

"All the water fallen from the sky goes to the sea,

salutations to all the gods reaches to the KeSava"

There are few more names like #24 puruShottama,  #72 Mādhava and #73 Madhusudan often associated with Kṛṣṇa

24 पुरुषोत्तम puruShottama

Being best among purusha is called as 'puruShottama'. Here by pANiNi sUtra 2.2.10 - ‘na nirdhAraNe’ - ‘न निर्धारणे’  (a grammatical rule meaning ‘cannot be ascertained’), this word [puruShottama] does not talk about jAtI (caste), guNA (qualities) and kriyA (action). Hence it cannot be applied in relation to any community or in comparison with anyone or anything. When any quality or action of person stands out from the average mass or group or a particular community, it is called as ‘the best amongst community’.

For example, among men, kshatriya (warrior varNa) is most heroic (valiant or brave); amongst [different breeds of] cows, 'KrShNa cow' gives most sweet tasting milk; amongst travellers, the ones running are [considered as] best; similarly, bhagavAn [in gItA 15.18] says, 'I am beyond (transcendental) 'xara' {kshara} mutable and better than 'axara' {akshara} immutable, hence I am well known amongst various loka-s (words) and veda-s as 'purushottama'

Note: In simple words, the word 'purushottama' does not imply any comparison with anyone. It is beyond comparison and the only one that is needed to be known. Here purushottama is not the person i.e. not murlidhara krShNa, but formless Brahman, who is the Self of all.

Since this concept is important to understand, we have adopted commentaries on verses 18-20 of chapter 15 i.e. BG 15.18-20

BG 15.18 Since I am transcendental to the mutable and above even the immutable, hence I am well known in the world and in the Vedas as the supreme Person.

Adi Sankara's commentary on BG 15.18 which is purushottama yoga is

15.18 Since I am transcendental to the mutable (xara) -I am beyond the Tree of Maya, called the Peepul Tree, which this worldly existence is and above most excellent or the highest; as compared with even immutable (akshara), which is the seed of the Tree of worldly existence, hence, by virtue of being the most excellent as compared with the mutable and the immutable, I am well known in the world and in the Vedas as purusottamah, the supreme Person. Devoted persons know Me thus, and poets also use this name 'Purusottama' in their poetry etc.; they extol Me with this name. Thereafter, now is stated this result attained by one who knows the Self as described:

BG 15.19 O scion of the Bharata dynasty, he who, being free from delusion, knows Me the supreme Person thus, he is all-knowing and adores Me with his whole being.

Adi Sankara's commentary on BG 15.19

BG 15.19 Bharata, O scion of the Bharata dynasty, he who being free from delusion knows Me, God, having the aforesaid alifications; purusottamam, the supreme Person thus, in the way described, as 'I am this One'; he is all-knowing - he knows everything through self-identification with all -, i.e. (he becomes) omniscient and adores (worships) Me, existing in all things, with his whole being, i.e. with his mind fixed on Me as the Self of all. Now then, having stated in this chapter the knowledge of the real nature of the Lord, which has Liberation as its fruit, it is being eulogized:

BG 15.20 O sinless one, this most secret scripture has thus been uttered by Me. Understanding this, one becomes wise and has his duties fulfilled, O scion of the Bharata dynasty.

Adi Sankara's commentary on BG 15.20

BG 15.20 This guhyatamam, most secret, i.e. most mystical - what is that scripture?. Although the Gita as a whole is spoken of as the scripture, still this chapter itself is here referred to as such, and this for eulogy as is evident from the context. For, not only has the entire meaning of the scripture Gita been stated here in brief, but the whole purport of the Vedas also has been comprehended here. And it has been said, 'He who realizes it is a knower of the Vedas' (1), 'I alone am the object to be known through all the Vedas' (15). (Thus, this most secret scripture) has thus been uttered by Me O sinless one. O scion of the Bharata dynasty, buddhva, understanding this, the scripture which has the purport as has been revealed one becomes wise and has his duties fulfilled, but not otherwise. The meaning is that what-ever a Brahmana has to do as a consequence of his special birth (as a Brahmana), all that becomes accomplished when the reality of the Lord is known. The idea is that nobody's duties become fulfilled in any other way. And it has been said, 'O son of Prtha, all actions in their totality culminate in Knowledge' (4.33). There is also a saying from Manu: 'This, verily, is the fulfilment of a Brahmana in particular. For, by getting this, a twice-born has his duties fulfilled; not otherwise' (Ma. Sm. 12.93). Since you have heard from Me this truth about the supreme Reality, therefore, O scion of the Bharata dynasty, you have achieved your Goal!

72 माधव Mādhava

Name Mādhava has three meanings:

  1. ‘Mā’ means ‘Laxmi’ (Lakshmi) and ‘dhana’ means ‘husband’. Being Husband of Lakshmi, Bhagavān is known as ‘Mādhava’ or

  2. [as said in Br. Up.], he who is cognised through ‘Madhuvidyā’ is known as ‘Mādhava’. or

  3. ‘Vyāsa in Mahā. udyoga. 70.4 says ‘O Bhārata! Know Mādhava by ‘Silence’ (maun), Meditation (Dhyāna) and by ‘Yōga’

73 मधुसूदन Madhusūdana

By act of slaying demon Madhu, Bhagavān is called as ‘Madhusūdan’. Mahābhārata (Bhiṣma parva 67.14-16),  says, ‘ Śrī Purusottam [Bhagavān Viṣṇu] by honoring the request of Brahmā jī slayed Demon Madhu who had originated from the ear-dirt. Due to an act of slaying {demon} Madhu, demi-gods, demons, humans and rishi-s honour Śrī Janārdana by calling him ‘madhusūdan’.        

Another name found in Viṣṇu Sahasranāma is #187 Govīnda

187 गोवीन्द: Govīndaḥ

There are three meanings given for the name Govīnda

  1. The Mahābhārata, Mokshadharma (Mahā. Shānti  342.70) says: "I first knew (vinda) the Earth (go) which was carried away and hidden in a cave by an Asura, hence I am praised by the appellation 'Govīnda' by Gods and Scriptures."

  2. The Harivamsha (2.19.45) says: "I am Indra (Lord) over the Devas, thou art lord over the cows, hence the world will ever praise Thee as , ‘Govīnda’ “

  3. Speech is known as 'Go,' and since thou conferest speech {knowledge}*, O Lord, the Sages call you 'Govīnda'.

*Words in curved brackets {} are added by the author. They are not found in original translation.

Notes:  Sri Anantkrishna Shastry in his English Translation of Śankara Bhāshya, with Vyākhyā (commentary) by a Sanyāsī and Kārīkā by unknown Author explains that Words ‘Go’ + ‘Vid’ has many meanings. ‘Go’ has ten meanings:

Gloss (Kārīkā): ‘Vid’ means 'to know'.

‘Go’ ‘गो’  means:

1. Svarga (Heaven). Govīnda means ‘He transcends the Heaven’.

2. Arrows. Govīnda means, ‘He knows all the weapons’.

3. Cattle. He is the leader of the ignorant ones.

4. Speech. He is to be known by the Vedas.

5. Thunderbolt; He has the Vajra marks on his feet.

6. Quarters; He is known in all quarters.

7. Eyes; He is in the person residing in the eyes.

8. The sun ; He is in the form of the Sun.

9. Earth; He recovered the Earth from the Titans.

10. Waters; His seat is in the waters.

Sri Anantakrishna Shastry also explains the next word #188 Govīndā patiḥ as:

188 गोवीन्दा पतिः Govīndā patiḥ

Śankara Bhāshya: ‘Go’ means ‘speech’. Those who know this [speech] is called as ‘Govīnda’. Due to specifically being the Lord (Svāmī) of them (the knowers of speech i.e. knowledge), Bhagavān is known as Govindā patiḥ

Simple meaning of word Govīndā patiḥ: He is the Lord of those that know speech.

Govīndā patiḥ is Lord of the wise.

Commentary (Vyākhyāna): He is the Lord of the knowers of the Vedas in the form of " Hamsa" (the swan).

15.2. Rāma

Rāma has many qualities like obedience, righteousness, an ideal son, brother, husband, disciple and king. But one quality of Rāma is Unique. It is quality of alertness. Kṛṣṇa can be imagined without his weapons playing flute, but not Rāma. Rāma is always shown with bow and arrows. It shows his alertness. Rāma is always alert and ready to fight. He Rāma represents constant alertness of a disciple. We must also be alert of negative thoughts which will hinder our spiritual progress. It also represents ‘remaining awake’ to all three guṇa-s.  Anyone who contemplates on him keeping this quality in mind will gradually develop unbroken awareness and a sense of separateness from sense objects and from one’s own thoughts and emotions.

Name Rāma appears as #394th name of Viṣṇu in Viṣṇu Sahasranāma stotra found in anushāshanika parva of  Mahābhārata.   In Viṣṇu Sahasranāma Śankara Bhāshya, Ādi Śankara has gives two meanings. One of them is ‘One who has assumed a beautiful form is called as Dasharatha-nandan Rāma’. Another meaning is ‘Highest state of consciousness where Yogī-s abide is called as parabrahma Rāma’.  

Please find Śankara Bhāshya -  

394 राम Rāma

  1. Where Yogī-s abide [1] in Bhagavān’s nityānanda [2] svarūpa [3], hence he [Vīṣṇu] is called as ‘Rāma’. In padmapurāṇa it is said - ‘In the state of consciousness (pada) where Yogī-s abide in nityānanda [2] svarūpa [3] chidātmā [4], is said to be ‘parabrahma Rāma’.

  2. Or Assuming the beautiful form [5] by his own wish is [known as] Dasharatha-nandan Rāma (is the son of Dasharatha, Rāma)


[1] abide: Word used is ramāṇa or ramāṇīyam

[2] nityānanda: Nitya means eternal. Ānanda means happiness or Bliss. Nityānanda means ‘eternal internal happiness’. Happiness as a result of viveka-yukta-vairāgya. Viveka means discrimination. Discrimination between truth and untruth (ātmā-anātmā-viveka). Vairāgya means dispassion. In other words, Vairāgya means ‘absence of desires in mind’ Yukta means ‘associated with’. We can translate the statement ‘Viveka-yukta-vairāgya’ as absence of desires in mind via correct and clear understanding.

When mind is free of desires, it experiences deep peace and Bliss. Mind is calm, peaceful and focused on Brahman. This state is called as nijānanda. ‘Nija’ means ‘internal’. Since this happiness is not a result of achieving sense objects but by dissociation with sense objects and getting closer to sat-chit-ānanda Brahman, it is eternal Bliss.

[3] svarūpa: ‘rūpa’ means ‘form’. Form of Gods and Goddesses. Rūpa or form is different than Bhagavān. Sva-rūpa means the true form which is formless Brahman.  

[4] chidātmā: ātmā means ‘Self’ or ‘I’ {not ego}. Chidātmā means ‘pure consciousness which is ‘I’ ’  

[5] Beautiful form: Word used is ramāṇa or ramāṇīyarūpa

15.3. Viṣṇu

Viṣṇu appears as #2 and #258 in Viṣṇu Sahasranāma Stotra. There is a long Śankara Bhāshya on #2, we will try to put essential parts in points. Please note that this is not word-by-word translation.

#2 विष्णु Viṣṇu

From 'Who is the one deva?' to 'By chanting whose name does not get liberated?' Reply to these questions is, 'From whom everything has originated' etc - in such question-answers that Brahman which is described, is known by the name 'vishva' – in such a way it has be defined.

Now, if out of curiosity one questions, 'Who is this vishva?', the reply is 'Viṣṇu'. In ṛg veda (2.2.26) too the essence of verse is- it is Viṣṇu who should be worshipped. 

The essence is - get true knowledge of Brahman by worshipping (chanting his name, nāma saṃkirtan) Viṣṇu. By knowing Viṣṇu, who is eldest or first of deva-s, one can end this mortal life i.e. get freed from bondage and merge in him.

The one who is spread everywhere (veveṣṭi, वेवेष्टि) is called as 'Viṣṇu'.

'Viṣṇu' formed from the root word 'viṣ, विष् '

The essence is that time-space-distance are absent in it (Viṣṇu) i.e. Viṣṇu is beyond desha-kāla-vastu

In Mahābhārata is is said – 'O pārtha, I pervade both earth and space and I expand beyond them too','O pārtha, Because of this [i.e pervading everything and spreading beyond it], is am called as 'Viṣṇu'  

In Bṛhannārāyaṇopaniṣad it is said, 'shrī Nārāyaṇa pervades inside and outside of whatever saṃsāra we see (perceive)'

In Ātmabodhopaniṣad it is said – 'Who is present in everything (bhūta-s), who is one (non-dual), the cause of all, is Nārāyaṇa, the cause of purusha, parabrahman, free from likes and dislikes (joy and sorrow); one must meditate on him who is Viṣṇu

Or Viṣṇu is formed from root word 'viṣ, विष्', as said in Viṣṇu purāṇa (3.1.45) – 'Entire world is pervaded by this mahāpurusha's energy (shakti), hence is called as Viṣṇu, because the meaning of the root word, viṣ, विष् , is 'to pervade'

#258 विष्णु Viṣṇu

'Is known as Viṣṇu because it spreads everywhere' – according to this statement made by Vyāsa jī (Mahā. Udyoga. 70.13).

15.4. Śiva

We already know some characteristics of Bhagavān Śiva. We will understand the meaning of the word Śiva from Viṣṇu Sahasranāma Śankara bhāshya, from Bhāgavat Purāṇa and other sources like unādī sūtra. We also have Śiva Sahasranāma found in Mahābhārata. Here we will take the common names that are shared by both Viṣṇu and Śiva in Vīṣṇu Sahasranāma.

We will first explain the meaning of word ‘Śiva’ in brief

Śiva means ‘auspiciousness’, ‘one who is beyond three guṇa-s’, ‘One who transcends three guṇa-s is called as Śiva’. Śiva is not a person but tatvam, a cosmic principle or Brahman, which is formless. According to uṇādi sūtra, word Śiva is rōted in the word ‘Śi’ meaning ‘in which everything lies’ i.e. ‘In which the whole universe lies’.

Śiva has many names like Pashupati, Īshāna, rudra, shāntam, kamesa, Mahādeva, etc. There are names which glorify his deeds like tripurāntaka and rudra, while some describe his appearance like Nilakanṭha, which in turn reminds us of the episode of samudra manthan. Some other names describe qualities like shāntam, sarva, some describe his lordship like Kameshvara and Pashupati. Śiva is ‘skambha’ i.e. pillar, meaning ‘pillar of consciousness’.  In each sahasranāma there are names which are repeated. Viṣṇu Sahasranāma has many names of Śiva. ‘Śiva’ is repeated twice as #27 and #600th name in Viṣṇu Sahasranāma.

In general, there are names which glorify characteristics or nature or qualities (sāntam, etc)

  • Describe Appearance (Mahā Jaṭādhārī (having matted locks, hair), Trayakshāya (having thrē eyes), etc)

  • Describes Lordship (Pashupati, Kameshvara, Hara, Mahādeva, Kapālī (Lord of universe called Kapāla)

  • Describes his grace (Shambhu, Śiva)

  • Glorifies his deeds (Tripurāntaka, rudra)

  • Describes as cause of all i.e. Brahman - the sole creator, preserver and destroyer of universe (Rudra, Pitāmaḥ)

  • Śiva is connected with OM (ॐ) or prāṇava.


Adi Śankara Bhagavadpāda in his VS Bhāshya explains the name #27 Śiva as - ‘One who is pure (untouched, untainted) because of transcending three guṇa-s is called as Śiva’ OR ‘One who is pure (untouched, untainted) because of absence three guṇa-s is called as Śiva’.

Full Translation for interested readers:

‘The one who is pure because of absence of three guNa-s (in him) is called as Shiva. 'He is Brahma, He is Shiva', in this way, by showing non-difference (अभेद) between them (all three), by praising the name of Shiva, etc, it is the praise of Hari (Vishnu)


The one who is pure because of transcending three guNa-s is called as Shiva....  

In name #600 Śiva, Ādi Śankara explains, ‘Śiva’ as the one who purifies.

Full verse:

‘Due to purifying (devotees) by mere repetition of his name (viShNu), [he] (viShNu) is Śiva.

Śiva also means ‘auspiciousness’.

A well known name of Bhagavān Śiva is paśupati (Pashupati). Paśu generally means ‘prāṇī’ or ‘animal’. Here it means ‘jīva’ or ‘soul’. Words like ‘pati’, ‘svāmī’ and ‘nātha’ mean ‘Lordship’. Hence Paśupati means ‘Lord of souls’.

Another name is #491 Mahādeva. Mahā means ‘great’. Hence Śiva is the ‘Great God’ or ‘God of Gods’.    

#491 mahādevaḥ is explained by Ādi Śankara as - ‘By renouncing all bhāva-s (all kinds of manifestations, 3 guṇa-s) and being established in his own Jnānayōga, and is glorified by his aishvarya (prosperity, supreme power), he is called as mahādeva’

#64 Īshāna means ‘the Lord’ or ‘the ruler’. Īśāna also means ‘Śiva in the form of Sun’

Śiva is also popularly known as #38 shambhu (Śambhu’. It means, the one who brings auspiciousness’

Full verse as explained by Ādi Śankara is #38 Śambhu -

Since the Lord creates spiritual emotion भावना (bhAvanA) of happiness सुख (sukha) in (the heart of devotees) [2] devotees [the Lord] is called as Sambhuh

#114 Rudra means ‘the one who cries’.  Or as Ādi Śankara explains is - ‘cause of sorrows’ or ‘remover of sorrows’ and ‘cause of everything’

VS Śankara Bhāśya (Bhāshya) #114 rudra -

One who makes all people weep, At the time of death or during the total dissolution, the One who makes all weep is Rudrah. From a devotee’s standpoint the same term is interpreted as the One who liquidated all sorrows is Rudrah. Or it may mean that The cause of sorrow (cry) and driving it away is called as Rudra. Siva Purāṇa says that, 'The name Rudra is the cause of Dukha (sorrow) i.e. dukhaha, because, the Lord removes [1] the sorrow or the cause (hetu)[2] of sorrow, that is why, the cause of everything (परमकारण (Paramkāraṇa) Lord Shiva is called as Rudra.


[1]Here 'the Lord removes' can be taken as 'the Lord uproots'

[2] हेतु (hetu) means intention, motive, reason, purpose or even an object. Here it has to be taken as cause

#651 name is kāmadeva. Ādi Śankara explains -

By being prayed to fulfil dharma etc purushārtha-s [i.e. dharma, artha, kāma, moksha] is called as kāmadeva. Is kāma and deva also hence is called as kāmadeva.

Note: Bhagavān Śiva is called as kāmeshvara meaning the Lord of desire. Here ‘kāma’ means ‘desire’ or ‘wish’ and not 'sexual desire' as many interpret it to be. This interpretation is supported in the interpretation of the name #kāmī

#653 kāmī - By naturally being fully satisfied, [the lord] is called as kāmī

Note: Here, 'being fully satisfied' means the one who is beyond desires. This interpretation can be explained. Ours is a demanding mind, the more it's desires are fulfilled, the more it demands. The satisfaction is only temporary. By fulfilling the desires, the desires are not uprooted. Only the one who has renounced the desire, that mind can become satisfied with what it has. No further demand arises in mind. Such pure mind turns inwards towards it's source and allows consciousness to merge in this source.

Another meaning of being satisfied would indicate Lordship.

15.5. Hari and Hara

In Viṣṇu Sahasranāma Sankara bhAshya or āchārya has quoted Viṣṇu Purāṇa, Hari vamsha purāṇa and other purāṇa establishing non-diffrēnces between Hari and Hara.

VP 5.33.47-49: [Sri krShNacandra says to mahAdeva ji-] The abhayadAna (boon of being fearless or invincible) given by you implies that it is given by me too. He Sankara! [please] do not see yourself as different from me. That which I am [i.e. that which is my true nature] is also you [your true nature] and so are other devatA-s [true nature of other devatA-s], asura-s (demons) and this whole universe including humans. Only those humans whose citta (mind, heart) is influenced by ignorance, they see duality (see everything with bhedabhAva)

Similarly in bhaviSyottara purANa mahadeva ji says - those who sees me, or brahmA ji different than viShNu, those kutarka-buddhi muDhajana (those ignorant fools having bad logical reasoning) fall below in naraka (hell) and suffer sorrow. And those with duShTa-buddhi (corrupted-intellect / defective intellect), those ignorant fools see I and brahmA ji different from viShNu, they incur sin equivalent to brahma-hatyA (killing of a brAhmaNa, a priest)

Similarly, in harivanSa [purANa] 3.88.51, maheSavara ji says - you [viShNu] are in the beginning, middle and end of all bhAva (beings). This whole universe has originated from you only and also ends in you only.

(AcArya ji continues to quote harivamSa purANa 3.88.60-64)

he janArdana! O omnipresent deva! I am you and you are me. In all three worlds, there is no different (bheda) between us either by Sabda (word) or by artha (meaning).

he govinda! in this world whatever great names are yours are mine too - there is no need to think on this (i.e. there is no doubt about this).

he gopate! (kruShNa), he jagannAtha!, let the worship of yours be mine

he deva! [it goes without saying that] those who dislike / hate you also dislike / hate me. There is no doubt about it.

Source: viShNu sahasranAma, Sankara bhASya, pages 31-35, Gita press, Gorakhpur, Hindi translation.

The names ‘Hari’ and ‘Hara’ both have their origin from the root word ‘hru’, which means ‘to withdraw or deliver’. Therefore both the names Hari and Hara mean withdrawal/deliverance. What do they withdraw? Hara withdraws all your sins, your ignorance of true nature of Brahman and also the entire creation at the end of the time. That’s why Rudra is called as Hara. Vishnu delivers you of all your sins therefore he is Hari. Both remove ignorance and grant moksha. A popular saying in Yoga tārāvalī (a gloss by Ādi Śankara on Patanjalī Yoga Sūtra-s) is that Siva gives knowledge and Viṣṇu grants moksha. Knowledge about true self and process or method of realizing true nature (which is Brahman) is given by Ādi guru Śiva. Śiva in Dakshiṇāmurtī form is called as ‘Jñāna mūrtī’. Dakshiṇā means ‘intellect’. Here it represents ‘awakened intellect’. Hence Dakshināmurtī means ‘manifestation of awakened intellect’ or ‘manifestation of Knowledge. Kṛṣṇa in Gītā B.G. 18.66 declares he bestows  moksha on his devotees those who renounce everything and comes at his refuge.    

Credits: Śrī Santosh of Mahāpāshupātastra Blog.

15.6. Nārāyaṇa  (nArAyaNa)

Word ‘nArAyaNa’ is made up of two words, nAra+ayana.  

नारायण = नार + अयन

nAryANa = nAra + ayana

Notice here that in the word 'ayana', 'na' is small 'na' (न) and not 'Na' (ण)

(This is because of maharShi pANiNi's grammar rule. This is explained later at the end of article)

Word 'nArAyaNa has four meanings.

1) nArAyaNa = [nAra + Ayana], where, nAra = waters and Ayana = resting place. ‘nArAyaNa’ means 'That being whose resting place is waters'. We know that viShNu bhagavAn sleeps on ocean of milk. Hence nArAyaNa is bhagavAn viShNu

2) nArAyaNa = [nAra + Ayana], where, nAra = living entities (iIva-s) and Ayana = resting place. Here, ‘nArAyaNa’ means 'Resting place is jIva-s', or 'where jIva-s reside'. All jIva-s reside inside of nArAyaNa.  Here nArAyaNa can be formless Brahman.

3) nArAyaNa = [nara + Ayana], where, nara = purusha (man) and Ayana = Son. In this system of splitting a word, the name of son is derived from that of Father.

For example Son of yaGYavalkya (Yajñavalkya, यज्ञवल्क्य) is yAGYavalkya (Yājñavalkya, याज्ञवल्क्य).

Notice the difference: Son's name has extra mAtra 'a' ya + aa = yaa (yA, yā), य + आ = या. It is 'yA, yā, या) and in case of father it is 'ya, य'.    

[under construction]

Little info about the great riShi yAGYavalkya who gave us Sukla yajurveda:

Father yaGYavalkya's real name was devarAta (देवरात). He was married to devI sunandA (देवी सुनंदा).

[/under construction]

Another example is

maitrAyaNa is “the son of mitra”

Here, ‘nArAyaNa’ means “Son of nara / purusha”, which is “Hiranyagarbha (prajapati)” because the first born entity from the supreme Purusha was Hiranyagarbha. Therefore, in this context, ‘nArAyaNa’, is the name of “brahmA” because he is the first born.

4) nArAyaNa = [nAra + Ayana], where,

“nAra” is derived from the root “nru”, which means man (like nru-simha, the man-lion god; nrupa which means king) and

“Ayana” is derived from the root “Ay” which means “to go / goal / direction of movement”.

So, this gives the meaning of ‘nArAyaNa’ as “That being / entity whose direction is towards nara (purusha)” or “That being / entity whose goal is to move towards nara (and reach him as final destination)”. Here one has to take yogic process of rise or ascent of kuNDalini from mulAdhAra (where Adi shakti UmA pArvatI resides) to sahasrAra (where Siva resides). Here Siva is to be considered as purusha. So Adi shakti rises upto Siva to merge in it. This yogic process is also called as nArAyaNa.

Detailed Explanation of the word 'nArAyaNa' (Nārāyaṇa) - can be skipped

nArAyaNa is made up of two words, nAra+ayana.  

नारायण = नार + अयन

nArAyaNa = nAra + ayana

Notice here that in the word 'ayana', 'na' is small 'na' (न) and not 'Na' (ण). nArAyaNa becomes proper noun because of the 'Na' in the end.

According to maharShi pAnini, when there are two words that combine to form a bigger word, then if the last syllable of the first half word with "ra" and the first syllable of the second word does not start with "ga", then the weak sounding "na" in the second word will transform into a stronger sounding "Na" . If this happens, this would mean only one person (that is a proper noun and not a common noun).

In our case, the last syllable of first word nAra  (नार) is 'ra' (र)

first syllable of second word ayana (अयन) is 'a' (अ) and not 'ga' (ग)

When two words are joined, according to pANiNi's grammar, it becomes nArAyaNa (नारायण) and not nArAyana (नारायन)

Each sanskrit word has many meanings and nArAyaNa is no exception. nArAyaNa means the one who gives shelter to nAra (jIva-s). This meaning is called as 'yougika' (यौगिक) meaning. It is a raw meaning of the word and does not point it to any particular identity.  yougika meaning the meaning derived by joining two words (yOga).

There is another meaning called as rUDhi (रूढि) meaning. It means the obvious meaning.  The obvious meaning of nArAyaNa is 'The one who resides on water' who is bhagavAn viShNu.

We take example of the sister of rAvaNa's sister minAkshi. Mina means fish. Aksha means eyes. Hence minAkshi means one who has fish like eyes. minAkshi is popularly known as 'shUrpaNakhA'. 'shUrpa' here means 'big or long'. 'nakha' means 'nail'. shUrpaNakhA means the one which big nails (long nails). This is the yougika (यौगिक) meaning. But by saying shUrpaNakhA, we only and only mean rAvaNa's sister and not any other identity. In other words, whenever shUrpaNakhA is used, it 'obviously' means rAvaNa's sister shUrpaNakhA. this obvious meaning is called as rUDhi (रूढि) meaning.

In the shUrpaNakhA analogy, shUrpaNakhA can mean 'anyone with long nails' but the 'Na' indicates that Surpanakha is Ravana's sister. But this is not valid if shUrpaNakhA is interpreted to mean something other than 'a person who has long nails'. We can take shUrpa to mean 'measurement' and nakha as 'portion' or 'part'. Hence shUrpanakhA would mean 'measured portion' or 'measured part'. [1]

However, we need not take just the obvious meaning. We can adopt alternate meanings and hence nArAyaNa does not only mean viShNu bhagavAn. By adopting other meanings, rudhi meaning can be neglected and yogic meaning can be accepted.

To be called as a proper noun a word does not need by a male or feminine gender. It can be neuter gender. Brahman is not a person, but a tatvam, a principle, formless in nature and is pure consciousness. Hence it is neither masculine (he), nor feminine (she), but neuter gender (it).

[1] Though this interpretation does not sound correct, in sanskrit, at times alternate meanings are taken with the help of various texts on grammar and lexicon like maharShi pANiNi’s aShTAdhyAyI, a commentary on aShTAdhyAyI (mahAbhAshya of maharShi patanjalI), unAdi sUtra-s, yaskAchArya’s nirukta, etc. An example is Adi Sankara’s bhAshya on viShNu sahasranAma on name #23 keshava which we will explain little later.

Before we try to understand Adi Sankara’s interpretation of the word #23 keshava, a question arises, - When the ruDhi artha, the obvious meaning can be adapted, then what is the need to deduce alternate meanings and make things complicated?

This was the opinion of Adi Sankara as well. We should go for alternate or implied meaning only when needed.

The answer is - Whatever we interpret, has to be consistent with veda-s. In other words, it should not be veda-viruddha (not opposite to vedic declarations i.e. our interpretation cannot be inconsistent with veda-s and all shAstra-s in general). In our case, if we take nArAyaNa to only mean bhagavAn viShNu, who is a personal God, then we cannot explain the parts of veda-s and other shAstra-s which glorify Siva and even brahmA to be the sole creator, preserver and destroyer of universe. Siva and viShNu are the two most favoured forms of manifestation of formless Brahman. We find reference in viShNu purANa, which is the most widely quoted purANa by great AchArya-s. VP 1.2.61-62 says, viShNu is the most nearest manifested form. It is mUrta-brahma-svarUpa. mUrta means manifested or of concrete shape. rUpa means ‘form’ or ‘shape’. sva-rUpa means svarUpa means ‘true form of Self’ which is formless. Here we can take ‘best form’.  viShNu is mUrta-brahma-svarUpa means, ‘The form of [bhagavAn] viShNu is the best manifestation of formless Brahman’. (Note that here the word used is svarUpa and not rUpa for brahman).

Nārāyaṇa is found as #245th name in Viṣṇu Sahasranāma. Since we now studied in brief the two components of name ‘Nārāyaṇa’ i.e. ‘nara’+’ayana’=’Nārāyaṇa’, we can understand Śankara Bhāshya better.  For convenience, we will split commentary in different paragraphs.

245 नारायण Nārāyaṇa

  • ‘Ātman’ is known as ‘nara’ (नर), ākāsha et al (5 elements) originating from this [‘nara’] are known as ‘nāra’ (नार). [nara], as their cause [1], pervades ‘nāra’, which is the effect [1], hence it [nara] is their resting place (house); therefore Bhagavān is known as ‘Nārāyaṇa’. It is said in mantravarṇa (Nārāyaṇa Up. 13.1-2) - Whatever creation we see or hear [or experience via 5 senses] is pervaded by Nārāyaṇa from both within and outside.  

  • In Mahābhārata (udyoga parva 1-1-3), it is said - ‘All tatva-s (5 great elements, 24 cosmic principles, etc) originate from ‘nara’, hence they are called as ‘nāra’. They were the first ‘resting place’ (ayana, अयनं), hence [Bhagavān, the creator] [2] is called as ‘Nārāyaṇa’.

  • Or, during destruction (pralaya), is resting place (ayana) of ‘nāra’ meaning ‘jīva-s. Hence is known as ‘Nāyāyaṇa’.

  • Shruti (Tai. Up. 3.1) says - ‘In which all jīva-s enter after dying’.

  • In Brahmavaivarta Purāṇa, it is  said - ‘Since [Bhagavān] is resting place of nāra (jīva-s), hence is called as ‘Nārāyaṇa’.

  • Or, ‘ap’ (अप् ) (water, जल) is called as ‘nāra’ because it is ‘son of nara’ (i.e. originated from nara), [4]

  • and As per opinion of Manu  (Manu smriti 1.10) on first place [before creation], nāra was the resting place [of nara, paramātmā], hence  [nara] is called as ‘Nārāyaṇa’.

  • In Śrī Nārasinha Purāṇa it is said - ‘O Sumati and dispassionate ones! Here, I will declare with hands wide open that ‘Nārāyaṇāya namaḥ’ (नारायणाय नमः) is the true mantra and is created for the destruction of samsāra-poison (in our mind) [3]    

Next name #246 naraḥ (नरः) is also interesting to study. All these names will automatically correlate with names of other forms of God like Śiva and Viṣṇu. They all mean the same.

#246 नरः naraḥ (naraH)

‘Eternal Paramātmā is called as ‘nara’ as it [Paramātmā] leads or guides towards (nayana, नयन) itself’ - so says [Bhagavān] Veda Vyāsa in Mahābhārata.


[1] nara and nāra share kārya-kāraṇa sambandha i.e. cause-effect relationship. Here it is said the nara (creator) pervades nāra (creation) as a cause. This is explained in article ‘Theories of creation’

[2] Since this is the commentary on Viṣṇu Sahasranāma Here Bhagavān can be taken as Viṣṇu and  Viṣṇu can be taken as having form or formless. Ādi Śankara in the entire explanation has not connected Nārāyaṇa with Viṣṇu having form. Hence we can take Nārāyaṇa as formless Brahman.

[3] Here samsāra can be practically understood as ‘world created by jīva’ i.e. ‘jīva-shṛṣṭi’. This mantra OM Namo Nārāyaṇāya destroys the inner world or mental world mind ‘mano-shṛṣṭi’ (shristi).   

[4] Here Nārāyaṇa is identified with Viṣṇu. We all know that Viṣṇu rests on ocean of water. Here it is not specifically mentioned as ‘chaturbhuja-Viṣṇu’ i.e. Four-armed-Vishnu i.e. having particular form. i.e. it does not refer to Viṣṇu as personal God. Both explanations can be taken - the ruDhi and the yogic.

15.7. Nārāyāṇa, Viṣṇu and Śiva means the same

Nārāyāṇa means 'that in which everything lie'

Nārāyāṇa means 'the one resting on waters' - this one when used can be mapped to viShNu

Vīṣṇu means 'all-pervading'

Śiva according to Uṇādi-sūtra i, 153, means 'in which all things lie'

Hari and hara both means ‘remover of sorrows’ or ‘remover of ignorance’

Rudra also means, ‘remover of sorrows’. Ignorance is the biggest sorrow.

Nārāyāṇa, Vīṣṇu and Śiva mean same as they are one as formless Brahman.

Let us now understand different theories of creation.