It is not uncommon in Sanskrit that a word carries different meanings based on the context. But this simple word “eva एव”, an avyaya (non-mutating word) has some amusing meanings. Let us have a look:
The word “eva” has an equivalence in “alone” in English, as used in “He alone is capable”. However, it has a variety in Sanskrit.
Ava-dhaarane – The word “eva” is used to indicate assertion. As in the case of “sah aagacchati eva – He would come for sure”, where the word “eva” means “for sure”.
Ayoga-vyava-cchede – The word eva is used in the sense of an essentiality – some thing like “sine quo non” in English. An example of it is “mana eva manushyaanam kaaranam bandha mokshayoh – Essentially, it is the mind that causes a bondage with the cycle of births and also for a liberation from it”. The usage here does not prohibit or negate any other cause but emphasizes the fact of mind’s role as an essential cause.
Anya-yoga-vyava-cchede – In this case it eliminates the role of others, as in “karmani eva adhikaarah te maa phaleshu kadaachana – You have a role only in doing karma not in getting its results”. The word “eva” here means “only” – exclusive in nature. This usage is also found in depicting some one or something in its par-excellance. An example of it is “paartha eva dhanurdharah – Arjuna alone is the archer”. This type of an usage eliminates others as an equal or superior to the person of reference.
A discussion of this appears in the saadhana adhyaaya of brahma sootras where the word “eva” in “aatmetyeva upaaseeta” poses challenges in its interpretation. If we consider “eva” as Anya-yoga-vyava-cchedaka, then it would mean that one should meditate with only “aatma” as the attribute of Vishnu. Sri Rayaru in Tantradeepika explains it as “gunaantara-vyaavritti-poorvam aatmatvo-paasti-vidhaayaka-shabdaat – It is a direction to do upaasana of only the aatmatva quality of Vishnu with the exclusion of other qualities”.
However, it is clarified in one of the sootras that it is essential that the qualities of “sat, chit, aananda and aatma” should be meditated by one and all. In order to eliminate the conflict, the word “eva” gets interpreted as “Ayoga-vyava-cchedaka”. It would then mean, that the quality “aatma” should essentially be one of the qualities meditated upon.
There are further discussions in the interpretation of eva in the quoted text “aatmetyeva upaaseeta” – let us know them when we get to read the brahma sootras.