Iśvara is Bhagavān

Iśvara is Bhagavān

Iśvara comes from the root Isha- ‘to rule’ ‘ईश्-शासने’। The one who governs. Bhagavān is a word which is a गुण वाचक । Guṇa vāchaka means, those words which indicate the inherent qualities of the one it is used for. It is derived as भग + वान ।  All Sanskrit words have a root base from which derivations are formed as per the intention of the usage. In the word ‘Bhagavān‘ the root is ‘bhaga‘ and it has the meanings of six qualities. Bhaga भग – ऐश्वर्य  aiśvarya, वीर्य vīrya, यश yaśa, श्री śrī, वैराग्य vairāgya एवं and मोक्ष mokṣa freedom. ऐश्वर्य aiśvarya means majesty, Lordliness. वीर्य vīrya means strength,  यश yaśa means fame, श्री śrī means wealth, prosperity, वैराग्य vairāgya means detachment and मोक्ष mokṣa means absolute freedom. These are mentioned in various Purāṇas, with a slight change in the list of the six. This specific list mentioned above comes in the Viṣṇu Purāṇa and has been quoted by Śri Ādi Śaṅkarācharya, in the Bhagavad Gītā, Ch4, Vs 37 as –

“ऐश्वर्यस्य समग्रस्य वीर्यस्य यशसः श्रीयः । वैराग्यस्याथ मोक्षस्य षण्णां भग इतीरणा ।।(विष्णुपु. ६।५।७४)

Aiśvaryasya samagrasya vīryasya yaśsaḥ śrīyaḥ . Vairagyasyātha mokṣasya ṣaṇṇām bhaga itīraṇā . (Viṣṇu Purāṇa 6.5.74) 

The -वान्, vān suffix is used to denote the ‘possessor of’; so Bhagavān means the one who possesses the above mentioned qualities inherently, in wholeness. Like in the example of धनवान dhanavān means the one who possesses wealth in abundance. Buddhimān means one full of Buddhi – discerning thinking.

Idea being, all the qualities which we perceive as wonderful, extraordinary, or even  ultimate ends, the one who has them in full measure, developed fully, and the qualities are there constantly, steadily and not sporadically, such a one is called a Bhagavān.

Iśvara means Bhagavān – with such a definition. Iśvara who is Bhagavān.

If there are two words, Iśvara and Bhagavān can they not mean the two are different?

The difference is this only. Iśvara is used as a noun. And Bhagavān is used as an adjective. Thus when Iśvara has been given a name like Brahmā -the originator; Viṣṇu – the sustainer, or Śiva the destroyer, he is qualified as Bhagavān Viṣṇu etc. which in understanding becomes the Iśvara with all the complete qualties himself is now The Viṣṇu etc.

Difference of usage between Bhagavān and Devatā? None. Since Bhagavān is an adjective, even Devatās are called Bhagavān. In fact, due to the meaning of Bhagavān, it gets used even for someone whom we look upon as great. We do address them in Hindi as ‘Hey Bhagavan!’ हे भगवन्!

Thus, we do see that in the translations of the Vedic thought in English, Bhagavān is also God, Iśvara is also God, Devatā is also God. But in the Vedic thought they are all distinct. This has been one of the major sources of confusion among the seekers of mokṣa born and brought up in the era – “independent India.”

Vedās talk about kārmā – the realms of Vedic actions, upāsanā -the realms of worship and meditations, and jñana – the realm of knowledge of oneself, ātmajñana. This is for the sake of man alone. And not for Iśvara or God. But Iśvara and Devatās are important for those ends to be achieved respectively for which Karma, Upāsana and Jñana are the means, sādhanās.

Deepti Vishwanath

God is an incomplete translation of Iśvara.

God is an incomplete translation of Iśvara.

God is not a translation of Iśvara. It is time to separate the two from their false presumptive associations. God is a matter of mere belief. Cannot be defined either. Is subjective entirely. Belief in God is to be religious. Atheism is not having that belief.

Iśvara on the other hand is not a matter of belief. It is an understanding. A recognition which is available for an universal enquiry. Iśvara is a deliberation done by the Vedās to conclude the equation and understand the relation between man and creation. As in Math. For an equation to be resolved it begins with an assumption, suppose x=y. And then finally after all the logical, verifiable steps it is arrived at, therefore, x=y.

Iśvara has a definition. The srishti- sthithi-laya kāraṇa is Iśvara. He is also the karma-phala dātā.

You begin to solve the riddle of man and creation by assuming first, suppose an ‘x factor’ call it Iśvara, is the origin of both, man and creation. Iśvara also is the maintainer of both. Since we never see the absolute non-existence of creation ever, there is also regeneration which maintains the creation and life species. And when both disappear, the disappearance also happens in Iśvara, governed by Iśvara.

But what is the plurality and the differences of experiences in different lives? The Vedic view is, each one is a generator of his own destiny which Iśvara only enables to fructify impartially. Iśvara remains the uninvolved witness, enabling the results of karmās.

In the model of Iśvara, God is not recognised as an absolute entity on whose mercy we all live. Man has all the empowerment!

There are three different words and thus ideas, Brahman, Iśvara, Devatās, that the Vedās convey. But, the translation as God, gets substituted for all the three!  Vedās does not treat them the same and moreover they are not interchangeable either!

From the formless, eternal existence of the nature of consciousness and ānanda emerges the first shades of creation, the very first manifestation, a distinction which is in full knowledge of itself as Brahman. This first outline which can be distinguished but remains inseparable from Brahman, is Iśvara. The commander who now begins the creation, the differentiation. And the world with its plurality and the inherent laws to maintain order is created. Space, Air, fire, water, earth the basic elements and the various proportions of each become the compound and complex life forms. Indwelling all remains the same Brahman, untouched by the apparent creation. Remaining the formless, of the nature of cònsciousness and ānanda, it is now available only for recognition of its distinct nature separate from the nature of the created world.

Iśvara on the other hand has been seen in every aspect of life. What enables the eyes to see? Light. That source which one sees in creation, the highest expression of light in the macrocosm, which becomes the source of all the lights is the Sun. Thus, Sun is looked as the Devatā, since there is no other expression of light, equal to or superior to it. Another example. What is the most essential factor for the tongue to taste different flavours? Without which it looses it capacity to taste? Water. Thus the water in the macrocosm is represented as the Devatā, Varuna. But these Devatās are powerless without Iśvara. They are only following the order and conducting their portfolios! Put it in another way, Iśvara himself is in all these expresssions now, recognised as the Devatās.

With the help of such an deliberate imposition, the equation gets established. That the source of the power, the illumination of the world and living being is the same, Brahman. For Iśvara cannot exist without Brahman, Devatās cannot exist without Iśvara, Man cannot exist without the elements! They are all rooted in the ONE. And that ONE is not an externally placed GOD in heaven, but the one which shines as the consciousness, unconditioned awareness.

Iśvara is also the karma phala dātā. How? Who is an atheist according to the Vedic system? And finally, this creation is an appearance, creation is, as an appearance.

Deepti Vishwanath