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CHAPTER 14 – Names of Gods: Their Transforming Power

CHAPTER 14 – Names of Gods: Their Transforming Power

We now come to another attribute of the Names of Gods— their shaping and transforming power. To emphasize its import- ance, we are taking it up separately. But since it introduces rather a new dimension which goes beyond the scope of this book, we shall do no more than give it a cursory look. As a result, this chapter which could be the longest would be the shortest.

The discussion of the Names of Gods is not a mere theoretical exercise in theology; it is intimately concerned with the higher meanings of life and is, therefore, deeply human. It has also an eminently practical side. Gods’ Names are meant for meditation; and through meditation for assumption and assimilation of something of their higher meanings and powers. If one meditates on these Names, they not only reveal their deeper meanings but they also tend to shape one in their image.

We have already seen how meditation on the Name of Krishna reveals its higher, psychic meanings and also reveals its other related Names; but if the aspiration is sufficiently pure and the meditation sufficiently sustained, a process of change sets up within us and we begin to grow into the likeness of the higher meanings of those Names. In fact, we cannot know the higher meanings without in some measure becoming those meanings. As we begin to make acquaintance with them, we also begin to appropriate them, assimilate them; and in turn we are assimilated by them. The Name is revelatory, appropriatory, assimilatory and transformatory.


This change, this transmutation, this alchemy is a necessary part of all mystic quest. Man does not merely seek an interpretation of the world; he seeks a change in his being. He is made in the image of God and he keeps seeking this image; he keeps trying to become more God-like.

This likeness to God, theotupia as the Greeks called it, is best effected by meditating on one of the Names or Forms or Powers of God. According to the Upanishads, men tend to become what they worship, invoke, aspire to, dwell with and meditate upon. By meditating on the different Names and Forms of Gods, we receive something of their vibrations and grow in their likeness.

In the Brhadaranyaka Upanisad, this point is well brought out. There, AjatSatru tells us that he who worships the Person in the yonder Sun as Pre-eminent, as the head and king of all beings, himself becomes pre-eminent and becomes the head and king of all beings; he who worships Him in Lightning as the Brilliant one becomes brilliant; he who worships Him in Wind as the Conqueror becomes a conqueror; he who worships Him in Fire as the Vanquisher himself becomes a vanquisher; he who worships Him as Life (asu) lives his full span of life; and he who worships Him as the Shining One outshines all and so on:!

Thus by meditating on Gods’s Name Pita, purity, we ourselves become pure; by meditating on His Name Vidya, knowledge, we acquire knowledge. In this way, an aspirant is made in the image of God and His different Names. Each Name of Gods is a mine, a treasure. It holds within it a whole universe. Through invocation, aspiration, meditation, devotion, works, sacrifice and purity, one can take out of it as much as one can. Each Name is also a veritable mantra; when meditated upon, it becomes a power, the creative Word, the saving Word.


If man knew how to invoke Gods’ Names properly, they could raise him up individually and would also have important social bearing. For example, some of the Names of Ganga are Amaia, Vimala, Nirmala, meanings Spotless, Stainless, Pure. If we had meditated on these Names, we could not have polluted this great river, nor, in fact, any other river, with such a clear conscience; we could not have made it into a receptacle for all kinds of waste and turned it into an open sewer.

‘Brhadaranyaka Upanisad, 2.2-13

Similarly, if we had meditated on the different elements of nature, the sky, the air, the water, the earth, they would have revealed many of their secret Names. Among these Names would have been Suci, Suddha, Svaccha, Adisita, Pavitra, Punya or the Radiant, the Bright, the Clear, the Undefiled, the Pure, the Auspicious.

If we had meditated on these Names and they had left their vibrations within us, if we had seen something of their beauty and purity, if we knew that they are part of us and we are part of them, then how could we pollute our atmosphere, shut out the sky with smog, choke the air and the earth with poisons of all kinds? If we knew that the Earth was a Mother, we could not have mined away its soil and exploited and depleted it with such unscrupulousness. If we had meditated on Compassion, Daya or Anukampa, we could not have made a roaring business out of the pain and tears of our fellow-creatures, the animals and the birds. The world suffers from exploitation, cruelty, bestiality, and pollution because the Gods and their Names have gone out of our lives, because we have forgotten the secret by which we could invoke the power and knowledge that reside in those Names; therefore, they no longer yield their deeper meanings, nor exercise their formative and transforming influence. The Gods have withdrawn; but they could be invoked again by the power of aspiration, askesis and meditation.