[Advaita-l] The name 'sarvajña' in the Vishnusahasra nāma

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Tue Aug 2 04:22:04 CDT 2016

The name 'sarvajña' in the Vishnusahasra nāma

In the Vishnusahasra nāma (VSN) the name 'sarvajña' occurs twice. In the
first occurrence (453) Shankara gives the meaning:

सर्वश्च असौ ज्ञश्च इति सर्वज्ञः, ’इदं सर्वं यदयमात्मा’ (बृ.उ.२.४.६) इति
श्रुतेः ।

[He is Alḷ and Consciousness. Says the śruti' - All this is verily this
Ātmā' (Bṛ.up.2.4.6)]

This explanation to the name is unique in the sense that it does not
consider the name as that of a person but Pure Consciousness, Nirguna
Brahman.  There is one other place that Shankara has given this
explanation, in the Māṇḍūkya kārikā:

अजमनिद्रमस्वप्नमनामकमरूपकम् ।
सकृद्विभातं सर्वज्ञं  नोपचारः कथञ्चन ॥ ३६ ॥
अत एव सर्वं च तत् ज्ञप्तिस्वरूपं चेति सर्वज्ञम् । mandukya karika 4.36
Here the term is in the neuter.
The other occurrence of that name in the VSN  is in 815 where Shankara
takes the general, common, meaning: the Omniscient Iśvara, who knows
everything.  The Munḍaka (यः सर्वज्ञः सर्ववित्..) and the 'māṇḍūkya 6th
mantra 'एष सर्वज्ञः..’ are very popular ones. In the prasthānatraya
bhashyam Shankara uses this word in innumerable places in this sense of
Iśvara: सर्वज्ञेन ईश्वरेण. With regard to Lord Śiva too Shankara uses this
term in the Kenopaniṣat pada bhāṣya while referring to Umā.  That shows
that Shankara is not interested in showing any particular deity alone as
the Omniscient Iṣvara of Advaita Vedanta.
We also see that the VSN bhāṣya is a mix of both attributed and nirguṇa
interpretations.  For example, the name 'mādhavaḥ' (72) is alternatively
interpreted as the One that is realized through the madhu vidyā.  See a
detailed article on this:
The VSN bhāṣya is a fine source of information on Hari-Hara abheda and
Trimūrti aikya.  Shankara's quotes cover a wide range of scriptural
literature in substantiation of this.
Om Tat Sat

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