Ishvara, aka: Īśvara; 14 Definition(s)

Introduction

Ishvara means something in Buddhism, Pali, Hinduism, Sanskrit, Marathi. If you want to know the exact meaning, history, etymology or English translation of this term then check out the descriptions on this page. Add your comment or reference to a book if you want to contribute to this summary article.

The Sanskrit term Īśvara can be transliterated into English as Isvara or Ishvara, using the IAST transliteration scheme (?).

In Hinduism

Vaisheshika (school of philosophy)

[Ishvara in Vaisheshika glossaries]

According to the Nyāya-Vaiśeṣika view Īśvara wishing to give some respite or rest to all living beings desires to bring about dissolution (saṃhāreccho bhavati). Simultaneously with it the adṛṣṭa force residing in all the souls and forming bodies, senses, and the gross elements, ceases to act (śakti-pratibandha).

At the time of creation, Īśvara wishes to create and this desire of Īśvara works in all the souls as adṛṣṭa. This one eternal desire of Īśvara under certain conditions of time (e.g. of pralaya) as accessory causes (sahakāri) helps the disintegration of atoms and at other times (e.g. that of creation) the constructive process of integration and unification of atoms for the world-creation.

Nyāya believes that Īśvara has fashioned this universe by his will out of the ever-existing atoms. For every effect (e.g. a jug) must have its cause. This world therefore being an effect must be preceded by a cause, and this cause is Īśvara. This cause we cannot see, because Īśvara has no visible body, not because he does not exist. This cause is Īśvara. He has infinite knowledge and is all merciful. At the beginning of creation He created the Vedas. He is like our father who is always engaged in doing us good.

(Source): Wisdom Library: The Nyāya-Vaiśeṣika Philosophy
Vaisheshika book cover
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Vaisheshika (वैशेषिक, vaiśeṣika) refers to a school of orthodox Hindu philosophy (astika), drawing its subject-matter from the Upanishads. Vaisheshika deals with subjects such as logic, epistemology, philosophy and expounds concepts similar to Buddhism in nature

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Purana

[Ishvara in Purana glossaries]

Īśvara (ईश्वर).—Once Devī told Himavān who, according to the Hindu religion, God is, and how creation takes place from Īśvara (God). The famous discussion about Godhood, called Devīgītā is quoted hereunder.

"(1) ahamevāsa pūrvaṃ tu nānyad kiṃcit nagādhipa / tadātmarūpaṃ cit saṃvit parabrahmaikanāmakam. //" (Before the creation of the universe commenced, I alone was; there was nothing else. Then I was called Parabrahman, Citsvarūpī, Saṃvitsvarūpī and Ātmarūpī). (See full article at Story of Īśvara from the Puranic encyclopaedia by Vettam Mani)

(Source): archive.org: Puranic Encyclopaedia

Īśvara (ईश्वर).—Also maheśvara and śaṅkara; a Rudra: place of residence is Śivapura in front of Brahmaloka; Lord of Trinity;1 the adhidevatā for the planet Sūrya;2 the 26th tatva on one view;3 being a small atom is god of love for people; in him are ten characteristics—knowledge, vairāgya, aiśvarya, tapas, satya, patience, courage, quality of being seen, kinship to self and dominion; is māyā or illusory;4 the Lord of all world.5

  • 1) Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa III. 3. 71; IV. 39. 120; Matsya-purāṇa 171. 39.
  • 2) Matsya-purāṇa 93. 13.
  • 3) Matsya-purāṇa 3. 28.
  • 4) Vāyu-purāṇa 101. 215, 219; Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa IV. 2. 217.
  • 5) Vāyu-purāṇa 4. 36 and 42.
(Source): Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: The Purana Index
Purana book cover
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The Purana (पुराण, purāṇas) refers to Sanskrit literature preserving ancient India’s vast cultural history, including historical legends, religious ceremonies, various arts and sciences. The eighteen mahapuranas total over 400,000 shlokas (metrical couplets) and date to at least several centuries BCE.

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Shaivism (Shaiva philosophy)

[Ishvara in Shaivism glossaries]

Īśvara (ईश्वर) is the Sanskrit name of a deity presiding over Mahāliṅgasthala, one of the sixty-eight places hosting a svāyambhuvaliṅga, which is one of the most sacred of liṅgas according to the Śaivāgamas. The list of sixty-eight svāyambhuvaliṅgas and presiding deities (eg., Īśvara) is found in the commentary on the Jirṇoddhāra-daśaka by Nigamajñānadeva. The word liṅga refers to a symbol used in the worship of Śiva and is used thoughout Śaiva literature, such as the sacred Āgamas.

(Source): Wisdom Library: Śaivism
Shaivism book cover
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Shaiva (शैव, śaiva) or Shaivism (śaivism) represents a tradition of Hinduism worshiping Shiva as the supreme being. Closely related to Shaktism, Shaiva literature includes a range of scriptures, including Tantras, while the root of this tradition may be traced back to the ancient Vedas.

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Shilpashastra (iconography)

[Ishvara in Shilpashastra glossaries]

Īśvara (ईश्वर).—The Vātulaśuddhākhyāgama gives a description of Īśvara who is in the centre of the Liṅga (found as a sculpture at the temple of Lokeśvara). He has four heads and eight hands. The right hands are adorned with attributes such as triśūla, paraśu, khaḍga and abhaya;in his left hands are pāśa, sarpa, ghaṇṭā and varada (paṭala 1, verses 64-66).

(Source): Archaeological Survey of India: Śaiva monuments at Paṭṭadakal (śilpa)
Shilpashastra book cover
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Shilpashastra (शिल्पशास्त्र, śilpaśāstra) represents the ancient Indian science (shastra) of creative arts (shilpa) such as sculpture, iconography and painting. Closely related to Vastushastra (architecture), they often share the same literature.

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Jyotisha (astronomy and astrology)

[Ishvara in Jyotisha glossaries]

Īśvara (ईश्वर) refers to the eleventh saṃvatsara (“jovian year)” in Vedic astrology.—The native whose birth occurs in the ‘samvatsara’ of ‘ishvara’ gets angry very soon (that is, he is short tempered), is full of joy, has good qualities in him, is valorous, skilful and sagacious, skilled in arts and is courteous.

According with Jataka Parijata, the person born in the year ishvara (1997-1998 AD) will be prosperous, steady-minded, and a good judge of merit.

(Source): The effect of Samvatsaras: Satvargas
Jyotisha book cover
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Jyotiṣa (ज्योतिष, jyotisha or jyotish) basically refers to ‘astronomy’ or “Vedic astrology” and represents one of the six additional sciences to be studied along with the Vedas. Jyotiṣa concerns itself with the study and prediction of the movements of celestial bodies, in order to calculate the auspicious time for rituals and ceremonies.

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Itihasa (narrative history)

[Ishvara in Itihasa glossaries]

Īśvara (ईश्वर) is a name mentioned in the Mahābhārata (cf. I.61.60) and represents one of the many proper names used for people and places. Note: The Mahābhārata (mentioning Īśvara) is a Sanskrit epic poem consisting of 100,000 ślokas (metrical verses) and is over 2000 years old.

Īśvara is also mentioned in the Mahābhārata (cf. I.60.3) and represents one of the many proper names used for people and places.

(Source): JatLand: List of Mahabharata people and places
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Itihasa (इतिहास, itihāsa) refers to ‘epic history’ and represents a branch of Sanskrit literature which popularly includes 1) the eighteen major Puranas, 2) the Mahabharata and 3) the Ramayana. It is a branch of Vedic Hinduism categorised as smriti literature (‘that which is remembered’) as opposed to shruti literature (‘that which is transmitted verbally’).

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Pancaratra (worship of Nārāyaṇa)

[Ishvara in Pancaratra glossaries]

Īśvara (ईश्वर) or Īśvarasaṃhitā is the name of a Vaiṣṇava Āgama scripture, classified as a sāttvika type of the Muniprokta group of Pāñcarātra Āgamas. The vaiṣṇavāgamas represent one of the three classes of āgamas (traditionally communicated wisdom).—Texts of the Pāñcara Āgamas are divided in to two sects. It is believed that Lord Vāsudeva revealed the first group of texts which are called Divya and the next group is called Muniprokta which are further divided in to three viz. a. Sāttvika (eg., Īśvara-saṃhitā). b. Rājasa. c. Tāmasa.

(Source): Shodhganga: Iconographical representations of Śiva (pancaratra)
Pancaratra book cover
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Pancaratra (पाञ्चरात्र, pāñcarātra) represents a tradition of Hinduism where Narayana is revered and worshipped. Closeley related to Vaishnavism, the Pancaratra literature includes various Agamas and tantras incorporating many Vaishnava philosophies.

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General definition (in Hinduism)

[Ishvara in Hinduism glossaries]

1: Ishvara (ईश्व‍र): A Hindu philosophical concept of God referring to the Supreme Being which is the lord and the ruler of everything. Hinduism uses the term Ishvara exclusively to refer to the Supreme God in a monotheistic sense.

2: Ishvara (Īśvara in IAST) is a philosophical concept in Hinduism, meaning controller or god in a theistic school of thought, or as an Ishta-deva in monistic thought.

(Source): WikiPedia: Hinduism

According to the Vāyu-Purāṇa (2.39.215–216) Īśvara can (only) be conceived by the learned, because he is an infinitesimal atom. Ten qualities –

  1. Jñāna,
  2. Vairāgya,
  3. Aiśvarya,
  4. Tapas,
  5. Satya,
  6. Kṣamā,
  7. Dhṛti,
  8. Draṣṭṛtva,
  9. Ātmasambandha and
  10. Adhiṣṭhātṛtva

– are said to reside continuously in him. The Skanda-Purāṇa (183.6cd–8) identifies this Īśvara who is an infinitesimal atom with Vigraheśvara. This seems to reflect a significant theological development. The same figure is mentioned again in Skanda-Purāṇa 183.19a (sthānaṃ vigraheśasya), but hedoes not play a role in the Vāyupurāṇa; in fact he is known mainly from Śaiva Tantric literature, where he is located in various spots of the Śaiva universe, butnever in Śivaloka. The name Vigraheśvara indicates that he is intended to be identical with thesakalaform of Śiva, mentioned at the start of this passage (Skanda-Purāṇa 183.2b).

In both sources the Lord is identified with the (inner) fire of Yoga and issaid to assume physical form (Vāyu-Purāṇa 2.39.217 ≈ Skanda-Purāṇa 183.9). His magical abode (māyāmaya sthāna / māyādhāman) is the eighth world (beyond the seven worlds of Mahat etc.) and is beyond misfortune (aupasargika).

(Source): Academia.edu: The description of Śivapura in the early Vāyu- and Skandapurāṇa

The Five manifestations of God (Īśvara) according to the Pāñcharātra Śāstras are:

  1. Para — the transcendental Super Absolute form from which all the others emanate.
  2. Vyūha — the four hypostatic emanations Vāsudeva, Sankarṣaṇa, Pradyumna and Aniruddha; which have cosmic function of projection, preservation and transformation.
  3. Vibhava — Incarnations which appear from time to time to rectify and restore harmony and balance to the universe, such as Rāma, Krishna etc.
  4. Antaryāmin — the form abiding within all living beings.
  5. Arcā-avatāra — the appearance out of condescension and love, in icons that are made and consecrated according to the Pāñcharātra rituals.
(Source): Red Zambala: On the Salvific Activities of God

In Buddhism

Mahayana (major branch of Buddhism)

[Ishvara in Mahayana glossaries]

Īśvara (ईश्वर) from Sumukha is the name of a youth included in the list of spiritual friends of Sudhana: the son of a merchant from Sukhākara who received a prophecy from Mañjuśrī, according to the Avataṃsaka-sūtra. Accordingly, Sudhana devoted himself to 110 spiritual friends in a great building adorned with the ornaments of Vairocana. These spiritual friends included monks, bodhisattvas, ṛṣis, brāhmaṇas, girls, kings, youths (eg., Īśvara), goddesses, householders, etc. From these beings, Sudhana took the vows without the need for any formal basis.

(Source): Wisdom Library: Mahayana Buddhism
Mahayana book cover
context information

Mahayana (महायान, mahāyāna) is a major branch of Buddhism focusing on the path of a Bodhisattva (spiritual aspirants/ enlightened beings). Extant literature is vast and primarely composed in the Sanskrit language. There are many sūtras of which some of the earliest are the various Prajñāpāramitā sūtras.

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Languages of India and abroad

Marathi-English dictionary

[Ishvara in Marathi glossaries]

īśvara (ईश्वर).—m (S) The Supreme Being, God. 2 A name, particularly of śiva, but used also of viṣṇu and others. 3 A lord, ruler, master, sovereign. 4 This word is used in comp. with all latitude and quite inelegantly to express Hugeness or vastness; as ḍōṅgarēśvara, dhōṇḍēśvara, khāmbēśvara, vāḍēśvara, pāṭēśvara, nadīśvara, phulēśvara. This lax use is to be carefully distinguished from that apparently similar use of īśvarī there designated as pure and classical.

(Source): DDSA: The Molesworth Marathi and English Dictionary
context information

Marathi is an Indo-European language having over 70 million native speakers people in (predominantly) Maharashtra India. Marathi, like many other Indo-Aryan languages, evolved from early forms of Prakrit, which itself is a subset of Sanskrit, one of the most ancient languages of the world.

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Sanskrit-English dictionary

[Ishvara in Sanskrit glossaries]

Īśvara (ईश्वर).—a. (-rā, -rī f.) [ईश्-वरच् (īś-varac) P.III.2.175]

1) Powerful, able, capable of (with inf.); वसतिं प्रिय कामिनां प्रिया- स्त्वदृते प्रापयितुं क ईश्वरः (vasatiṃ priya kāmināṃ priyā- stvadṛte prāpayituṃ ka īśvaraḥ) Ku.4.11; R.15.7.

2) Rich, wealthy Pt.2.67.

-raḥ 1 A lord, master; ईश्वरं लोकोऽर्थतः सेवते (īśvaraṃ loko'rthataḥ sevate) Mu.1.14; so कपीश्वरः, कोशलेश्वरः, हृदयेश्वरः (kapīśvaraḥ, kośaleśvaraḥ, hṛdayeśvaraḥ) &c.

2) A king, prince, ruler; राज्यमस्तमितेश्वरम् (rājyamastamiteśvaram) R.12.11; Ms.4.153, 9.278.

3) A rich or great man; तृणेन कार्यं भवतीश्वराणाम् (tṛṇena kāryaṃ bhavatīśvarāṇām) Pt.1.71; R.3.46; Bh.3.59; मा प्रयच्छेश्वरे धनम् (mā prayaccheśvare dhanam) H.1.14; cf. "To carry coals to Newcastle."

4) A husband; नेश्वरे परुषता सखि साध्वी (neśvare paruṣatā sakhi sādhvī) Ki.9.39.

5) The Supreme God (parameśvara); ईश एवाहमत्यर्थं न च मामीशते परे । ददामि च सदैश्वर्य- मीश्वरस्तेन कीर्तितः (īśa evāhamatyarthaṃ na ca māmīśate pare | dadāmi ca sadaiśvarya- mīśvarastena kīrtitaḥ) || Skanda P.; cf. also ईश्वरस्तु पर्जन्यवद् द्रष्टव्यः (īśvarastu parjanyavad draṣṭavyaḥ) Brahmasūtra-Śāṅkarabhāṣya.

6) Name of Śiva; यस्मिन्नीश्वर इत्यनन्यविषयः शब्दो यथार्थाक्षरः (yasminnīśvara ityananyaviṣayaḥ śabdo yathārthākṣaraḥ) V.1.1.

7) The god of love, cupid.

8) The Supreme Soul; the soul.

9) The eleventh year (saṃvatsara) of the Śālivāhana era.

-rā, -rī Name of Durgā; of Lakṣmī; or of one of the śaktis; ईश्वरीं सर्वभूतानां त्वामिहोपह्वये श्रियम् (īśvarīṃ sarvabhūtānāṃ tvāmihopahvaye śriyam) (śrīsūktam);

-rī 1 Name of several plants and trees; लिङ्गिनीलता, वन्ध्या- कर्कटी, क्षुद्रजटा (liṅginīlatā, vandhyā- karkaṭī, kṣudrajaṭā) and नाकुलीवृक्ष (nākulīvṛkṣa).

2) A rich woman.

(Source): DDSA: The practical Sanskrit-English dictionary
context information

Sanskrit, also spelled संस्कृतम् (saṃskṛtam), is an ancient language of India commonly seen as the grandmother of the Indo-European language family. Closely allied with Prakrit and Pali, Sanskrit is more exhaustive in both grammar and terms and has the most extensive collection of literature in the world, greatly surpassing its sister-languages Greek and Latin.

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Relevant definitions

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