SRI VISHNU SAHASRANAMAM (SHLOKA 93) – PART 102

In this part we will explore the meaning of the 93rd Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.


Sattvavaan Saatvikas Satyah Satyadharmaparaayanah     |
Abhiprayah Priyarhorhah Priyakrit Preetivardhanah     ||93||

Purport
The Lord is complete with the six qualities (Jnana, Shakti, Bala, Aishvarya, Veerya and Tejas) and confers the fruits of Sattva Guna. He embodies Truth and firmly observes Truth and Dharma. He is the object of the devotees and He deserves to be offered the best. He is the right Deity to be sought after by devotees who desire Moksha. He fulfills the desires of His devotees and He increases the joy of His devotees manifold.

The above Shloka has the following Namas:

  1.    Sattvavaan
  2.    Saattvikah
  3.    Satyah
  4.    Satyadharmaparaayanah
  5.    Abhiprayah
  6.    Priyaarhah
  7.    Arhah
  8.    Priyakrit
  9.    Preetivardhanah

Now let’s examine the meaning of the above Namas in detail:

  1.    Sattvavaan – He Who controls the Sattva Guna that paves the way for liberation

Sattva is a generic term referring to many good qualities and attributes such as strength, power and courage. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘ShauryaVeeryaadikam Sattvam Asya iti Sattvavaan – Positive attributes such as bravery and strength are called Sattva and since He has an abundance of such qualities, He is called Sattvavaan’. The Lord is complete with all the six Gunas of Jnana, Shakti, Bala, Aishvarya, Veerya and Tejas.

The term ‘Sattva’ has other meanings:
Dravye praane bale jantau vyavasaya svabhavayoh |
Gune vitte sato bhavo sattvam gunini tu trishu ||
Meaning: Among the meanings given are:  quality of goodness (Sattva Guna), wealth (Dravyam), inherent power (Balam, Shakti), determination (Vyavasayah – Nishcayah), etc.

Sri Parasara Bhattar notes that of the three Gunas – Sattva, Rajas and Tamas, the Sattva Guna ultimately leads to Moksha. Bhagavan is called Sattvavaan because He directly presides over the Sattva Guna which has the qualities of lustre, lightness and bliss, which are the pre-requisites for Salvation – ‘Parama-prakaasha laghava, sukhasampada moksha mulam sattvam saakshaat adhishtheyam asya iti Sattvavaan’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar gives reference from the Svetashvatara Upanishad (3.12):
mahan prabhur-vai purushah sattvasya esha pravartakah |
su-nirmalaam imam Santim Ishaano jyotir-avyayah ||
Meaning: This Purusha alone is the Great Giver of Moksha. This Purusha is the propagator of Sattva. Therefore this Immutable light is the ruler (Ordainer) of this pure peace of the form of Moksha.

Sri Parasara Bhattar also gives support from the Varaha Purana:
Sattvena mucyate jantuh Sattvam Narayanatmakam | (VP 3.7.13)
Meaning:  A being is released from bondage and gains liberation with the attainment of Narayana Himself because of Sattva Guna.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri elaborates that Sattva Guna is associated with the ability to remain fearless in war and to be unperturbed in situations which might otherwise cause one to be disturbed and lose balance.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives detailed derivation of the Nama from the basics of grammar – tasya bhaavas-tva- talau – tva is added to ‘Sat’ in the sense of ‘the nature thereof’, leading to ‘Sat-tva’. Further use of Panini Sutra with ‘tat-asya- asmin-asti iti matup’ – the ‘matup’ pratyaya is used in the sense of ‘whose it is’ or ‘in whom it is’.  This is added to sat-tva leading to ‘sat-tva-mat’; and then ‘va’ is substituted for ‘ma’ leading to ‘Sat-tva-vat’, which is the basis for ‘Sattva-vaan’.  The use of pratyaya is to emphasise the abundance of the ‘Sattva’ Guna in Bhagavan.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj uses the meaning ‘Vyavasayah – nishcayah’ for the term ‘Sattva’ and gives the interpretation – ‘Sattvam vyavasayah – nishcayah bhaktanugraha sucako vartate yasmin sah Sattva- vaan – Since Bhagavan is determined to bestow His Blessings on His devotees, He is called Sattva-vaan’.

  1.    Saattvikah – He Who confers the fruits of Sattva Guna

Sri Adi Sankara explains this as ‘Sattve Gune Praadhaanyena Sthitah iti Saatvikah – He is primarily established in Sattva Guna and hence He is called Saatvikah’.

Bhagavan, at times, assumes other Gunas particularly during His incarnations when He displays anger, sorrow etc. but He is naturally established in Sattva Guna with His Sarva Kalyana Guna, thus giving Him the Nama Saatvikah.

Sri Parasara Bhattar gives the interpretation – Dharma Jnana Vairaagya Aishvarya rupa phala niyamanena ca sattvam arhati iti Saattivikah – He dispenses the fruits of righteousness (Dharma), Jnana (knowledge), non-attachment (Vairaagya) and riches (Aishwarya), and hence He is called Saattvikah.

Sri Vasishtha gives the explanation – tathaa ca sarva manushyaadi vanaspatyaadi vargashca sattva-yuktah, sattva-arhah, sattvasambandhi vaa – He bestows Sattva Guna on people, on plants etc., as they deserve.

Sri Raghunatha Thirtha’s interpretation in his tattva tika is – Sattva-Guna janyatvaat Sattvam – jnanam, tad-vaan Sattvi, sva-bhaktam Sattvinam karoti iti Saattvikah – He bestows His devotees with the divine sacred knowledge.

  1.    Satyah – He Who is established in Truth

This Nama occurs several times in Sri Vishnu Sahasranama (Shlokas 12, 23, 31, 54, 56 and 80) and has several meanings, some of which are given below:

  1. He Who is well-disposed towards pious souls
  2. He Who is supremely good
  3. He Who is established in truth
  4. He Who is Real, and who alone exists
  5. He Who is in the form of Prana, Anna, and Surya

Sri Adi Sankara in this instance gives the interpretation for Satyah as ‘Satsu Saadhutvaat Satyah – He is very good to noble people and hence He is called Satyah’. Bhagavan bestows his goodness to anyone who displays good conduct and follows Dharma. Good conduct is more important than mere devotion to God that is unaccompanied with nobility.

Sri Sankara gives several alternate interpretations, some of which are:

  • He is called Satyah because He is the Real, Not False – ‘Avitatha rupatvaat’.
  • OM! brahmavidapnoti param| tadesa’bhyukta| Satyam Jnanam Anantam Brahma| yo veda nihitam guhayam parame vyoman| so’snute sarvan kaman saha| brahmana vipasciteti|| (Taittriya Upanishad 2.1.1)
    Meaning:  OM! The knower of Brahman attains the highest. Brahman is Truth, Knowledge, and Infinite . One who knows that Brahman as existing in the intellect which is lodged in the supreme space in the heart enjoys, in identification with the all-knowing Brahman, all desirable things simultaneously.
  • He, Who alone exists as manifest and unmanifest – Sat ca tyat ca abahavat.
  • He Who is in the form of Prana, Anna, and Surya; or He Who is the Origin of Prana, Anna and Surya – Saditi Pranastityannam yamityasavadityah (Aitreya Upanishad 2.1.5).

Sri Parasara Bhattar explained ‘Sat’ in earlier occurrences as referring to the ‘pious souls’, and gives the explanation that the Nama means teshu satsu Sadhuh – ‘One Who is well-disposed towards the pious souls’.  Sri Bhattar uses the meaning ‘good’ for the term sat, and interprets the Nama as ‘One Who is good in a Supreme way’, or ‘One Who is exceptionally good’, and gives the example of His being good to those who seek His help, such as Manu who sought refuge in Him – ‘manvadishu tat-kala samashriteshu satsu Sadhuh’.

For the current instance, Sri Parasara Bhattar explains the Nama as ‘He Who is Truth Himself’ – ‘Sattvika Shastra-pratipadyataya yathArthavaibhavah Satyah – The Lord is delineated by the Sattvika Shastras, and all the greatness attributed to Him is true, and He stands fully established in Truth’. He gives reference to MahaBharata (Udyoga Parva 69.12) in support:
Satye pratisthitah Krishnah satyam asmin pratihthitam |
Sattasatte ca govindah tasmat Satyah satam matah ||
Meaning: Lord Krishna is rooted in Satya, and the Truth (Satya) is rooted in Lord Krishna. Existence and non-existence are both established in Lord Govinda. Hence He is called ‘Satya’ or ‘Truth’. These are the words of Sanjaya to Dhridarashtra on why Krishna is called Satya.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan gives references from Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi Pasurams (9.10.6 and 9.10.7):
அன்பனாகும் தனதாளடைந்தார்க்கெல்லாம்
செம்போனாகத்து அவணனுடல்கீண்டவன்
நன்போனேய்ந்தமதிள்சூழ் திருக்கண்ணபுரத்
தன்பன் நாளும் தனமெய்யர்க்கு மெய்யனே.
Meaning: He is a friend to all who seek His feet.  He resides in the gold walled city of Tirukkannapuram. He tore the radiant chest of Hiranyasura.  He is the true friend of those who seek Him with true faith.

மெய்யனாகும் விரும்பித்தொழுவார்க்கெல்லாம்
பொய்யனாகும் புறமேதொழுவார்க்கெல்லாம்
செய்யில்வாளையுகளும் திருக்கண்ணபுரத்
தையன் ஆகத்தணைப்பார்கட்கணியனே
Meaning: He is true to those who seek Him with love and false to those who worship him outwardly.  In Tirukannapuram surrounded by fields with fish, He is close to those who keep Him in their hearts.

He is always true to those who are sincerely devoted to Him without looking for any benefits. In other words, those who desire only kainkaryam (service) to Him, and do not worship Him just for some material benefits, He always comes true. He Who is good towards the good – Satsu Sadhutvaat. 

For those others who may worship Him with desire for small benefits, He may give them the benefit, but then will leave them, and there won’t be any bond established between Him and them.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers to Sri Thirumangai Azhwar’s Periya Thirumozhi (5.6.9), where the Azhwar declares that Bhagavan truly reveals Himself to those who seek Him with sincerity.

மெய்யனாகும் விரும்பித்தொழுவார்க்கெல்லாம்
பொய்யனாகும் புறமேதொழுவார்க்கெல்லாம்
செய்யில்வாளையுகளும் திருக்கண்ணபுரத்
தையன் ஆகத்தணைப்பார்கட்கணியனே.
Meaning: He Who reveals His True Nature to those who sincerely seek Him by forsaking the pursuit of the impermanent object of this world, and by desisting from acts of the five senses.

Sri Satyevo Vasishtha refers us to the Shloka in Srimad Bhagavad Gita (17.26 and 17.27) for a definition of ‘Sat’ in Lord Krishna’s words:
Sad bhaave Sadhu bhaave ca sadityetat prayujyate |
Prashaste karmani tatha sac-chabdah Partha ucyate ||17.26

Yajne tapasi daane ca sthitih saditi cocyate |
Karma caiva tadarthiyam sadityevAbhidiyate ||17.27
Meaning: O’ Arjuna, the word Sat representing the eternal is designated to signify the All Pervading existence of the Ultimate Truth in this way the sound Sat, representing the eternals utilised for all auspicious activities. Being established in the performance of sacrifice, austerities and charity is described also by the word Sat, also actions solely meant for the satisfaction of the Supreme is indicative by the word Sat.

Sri Vasishtha gives additional reference to Atharvana Veda (14.1.1) for this interpretation:
Satyenottabhita bhumih SuryeNottabhita ca dyauh |
Rtena Adityas-tishthanti divi somo adhishritah ||
Meaning: Truth (Satya) is the Base that bears the Earth; by Surya are the heavens upheld; By Law the Adityas stand secure, and Soma holds His place in heaven.

Sri Ananta Krishna Shastri translates this as: ‘He Who is in the form of virtue in holy men. He Who is embodied as the virtue of the truth speaking, or, He Who is the Embodiment of Truth since He speaks the Truth, or, He Whose words always come true – Satya vacana Dharma rupatvaat Satyah.

He gives reference to the Shruti:

  • Tasmat satyam paramam vadanti (Maha Narayana Upanishad 79.2) – The path of truthfulness is Supreme form of liberation
  • Satyasya satyam iti Prana vai Satyam, tesham esha Satyam (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 2.1.20) – It is the Truth of truth. The vital force is truth, and it is the truth of that.

Sri Satya Sandha Thirtha’s interpretations is: Sadbhavam yapayati iti Satyah – He Who directs His devotees towards good qualities is Satyah.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives the explanation as – ‘Satsu – Sadhusvabhaveshu paramahita karitvena MahaPurusha pujyah nitya – paramahitakari ca ityarthah’ – He Who is best among those endowed with Sattvic quality because of His disposition to help others, and Who is worshipped by the great souls.

Sarvamityakashe (Taittiriya Upanishad 3.6) – All things that exist in Akasha should be contemplated as Brahman.

He represents all auspicious qualities as stated in the following Shloka from Aditya Purana:
satyesham satyasankalpam satyam satyavratam harim |
satyacaryam satyayonim satyashirsham aham bahaje ||(Aditya. 3.5)

Sri Mahdavacharya in his Bhagavata Tatparya describes Bhagavan as:
Satyam nir-duhkha nitya niratishaya Ananda anubhava svarupam (1.1.1)
Meaning: He Whose Nature is Truth, One without any trace of sorrow, Eternal, of Extreme Splendor, Eternally Blissful.

Sri MadhavAcharya says – Satyo hi Bhagavan Vishnuh SadGunatvaat prakirtitah – Bhagavan Vishnu is called Satya because of His infinite auspicious attributes.

The Munkdaka Upanishad (3.1.6) mantra declares Bhagavan as ‘Satyah’:
Satyameva Jayate Nanritam satyena pantha vitata devyan।
Yenakarmantrishaya hyaptakama yatra tat satyasya paramam nidhanam।।
Meaning: It is truth that conquers, not falsehood. It is the path of rectitude alone that men of learning and piety have trodden, and it is by following this path that the great sages of righteous desires have reached the highest citadel of truth.

In Chandogya Upanishad Mantra 3.7.16 it says:
esha tu ativadati | yah saytena tivadati | so’ham bhagavah satyenaavadaaniti |
satyam tveva vijijnasitavyam iti | Satyam bhagavo vijijjnasa iti ||
Meaning: Transcendent speech is an expression of transcendent knowledge. And transcendent knowledge is that knowledge which is identical with transcendent truth. This is the peak of experience, the peak of wisdom. Our speech should be based on the reality of Being. Only then it manifests itself as reality. Truth and knowledge are identical. Our speech becomes true, because our speech is based on the knowledge of the true.

This is an interesting interaction between Sanatkumara and Sage Narada:

This is what Sanatkumara means when he says, ‘esha tu va ativadati yah satyenativadati’. 

‘Well, my master, then I wish I would be like that—so’ham bhagavah satyenati vadan-iti,’ says Narada. ‘Please initiate me into this mystery of acquiring that knowledge which is tuned up to Reality, which is one with Being. Is it possible for me to have this knowledge?’

‘Satyam tv-eva vijijnasitavyam,—my dear Narada,’ says Sanatkumara. ‘You want a knowledge which is tuned up with reality, but you must know what reality or truth is. Unless you know what truth is, how can you try to identify your knowledge with truth, or truth with knowledge? You must have a clear conception of what I mean by ‘truth’. Only then can you have an aspiration for identifying your knowledge with truth, knowing truth and speaking truth.’

‘Then Master, I would like to know what truth is—Satyam, bhagavah vijijnasa iti. Please tell me what is truth’, Says Narada.

Ti – tanu vistare – Vishnu is complete and full by Desha, Kala, and Gunas. He is perfect and complete, so He is called as ‘ti’.  He is Sarvajna – ‘Yam – yeti jnanam samuddishtam’.  All these denote One Person: ‘sat, ti, yam – Satyam’.

  1.    Satya-Dharma-Paraayanah – He firmly observes Truth and Dharma
  1. He is pleased with the true dharma practiced by His devotees
  2. He is ever devoted to, and established in, Truth and Dharma
  3. He provides support and shows the path to those who follow the superior path of Dharma
  4. He is the Refuge of devotees who take interest in discharging virtuous duties

Satya, in this context, means truthfulness, Dharma is rightful conduct as laid down in the scriptures and Paraayanah is one who is devoted to or established in something. Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Satye Yathaabhutartha kathane Dharme cha Chodanaalakshane Niyate iti Satya-Dharma-Paraayanah – He is ever firmly rooted in speaking the truth and following the practice of Dharma and hence He is called Satya-Dharma-Paraayanah – the steadfast follower of truth and Dharma’.

The core teaching of Veda is ‘Satyam Vada and Dharmam Chara’. Bhagavan sets an example to others by following these doctrines Himself.

Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets the term ‘Satya-Dharma’ as referring to ‘the true dharma as laid down in the Shastras, namely the nivritti Dharma that is practiced by pious men without any expectation of benefit etc., and paraayanam as ‘Parama prinanam’ – that which gives the most happiness to Bhagavan. Bhagavan is ‘Satya-Dharma-Paraayanah’ as He is most pleased with the practice of Dharma by pious men with no expectation of any benefit, as laid down in the Sattvika Shastras. All actions by us should be undertaken in the spirit of ‘Sri Bhagavad Ajnaya Sriman Narayana prityartham’ – all actions we undertake should be in the spirit that these are His commands (we only should do what is prescribed in the Shastras, which are His commands), and for His pleasure only.

Swami ChinmyAnanda points to the definition for Dharma as – kartavya akartavya vidhreva Dharmah – The rules of do’s and don’ts (as per the Shastras) is Dharma.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj explains the Nama as:
Satyah samicino dharma Acharo yesham te satya dharmanah |
Tesham param paramam ayanam gatih Adharo va yah sa Satya-Dharma-Paraayanah ||
Meaning: He Who provides the support to, and Who shows the path for, those who follow the superior path of Dharma, is Satya-Dharma-Paraayanah.

Sri Raghunatha Thirtha gives the derivation –
Satsu bhavah satyah, sa ca asau dharmashca Satya-Dharmah |
Satya-dharmeshu Sattvika- dharmeshu param tatparyam
yesham te satya-dharma-parah, yadu, turvasha Adi bhkta-janah |
tesham ayanam Asrayah iti Satya-Dharma-Paraayanah |
Meaning: Refuge of devotees such as Yadu, Turvasha, etc., who are always engaged in discharging virtuous duties.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha explains the meaning as ‘One Who conducts Himself according to Satya Dharma, or Who is the Abode of Satya Dharma – Satyashca asau dharmah Satya-Dharmah Saccidananda lakshanah, sa eva parah ayanam, Asrayah svarupam va sa Satya-Dharma- Paraayanah.

  1.    Abhipraayah – He is eagerly sought by His devotees

Sri Adi Sankara gives two interpretations for this Nama. The first is ‘Abhipreyate PurushaarthaKaankshibhih – He is eagerly sought after by those who seek the four Purusharthas (life objectives) namely Dharma (Right conduct), Artha (Wealth), Desire (Kama) and Liberation (Moksha) hence He is called Abhipraayah, One who is sought after’.

The second interpretation is ‘Aabhimukhyena Pralaye asmin Praiti Jagat iti vaa Abhipraayah – At the time of Deluge all beings rush to Him headlong, hence He is called Abhipraayah, the final rallying point at the time of deluge’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar explains the Nama as ‘One Who is the aim or object of the devotees’. His interpretation is: Satyadharma nishthena svacchena nirupadhika uddeshyataya abhipretah iti Abhipraayah – He is the Highest Goal sought after by His devotees who are pure by nature, practice the Sattvika Dharma, and are not seeking lower pleasures.

‘Abhipraaya’ means ‘aim, purpose, intention, wish, desire’ etc. Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj explains the Nama as: abhiprIyate – kamayate svajana hito yena iti Abhipraayah – He Who desires the welfare of His devotees is ‘Abhipraayah’. He derives the meaning from ‘abhi + pri -tarpane kantau ca’ meaning ‘to please or to take delight in’.

The nirukti author explains – sacchena dharma nishthena yo abhitah preyate punah – He Who is decidedly the highest goal sought after by His devotees who are pure at heart.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers to Azhwars’ Pasurams:

  • vizhumiya munivar vizhungum kodalin kani (Periya Thirumozhi 2.3.2) -The delightful fruit with no residual fiber whatsoever, that is relished by the Sages.
  • vizhumiya amarar munivar vizhungum kannar-kani (Thiruvai Mozhi 3.6.7) – He is the sweet fruit enjoyed by the discerning Devas and Sages.

Sri Raghunatha Thirtha interprets the Nama in his Tattva Sara as – ‘abhi abhitah prakarshena prayah preranadikriya yasya iti Abhipraayah’ – He Who exclusively directs the activities of all others.

  1.    Priyaarhah – He Who is rightly the object of love

‘Priya’ means something that is dear to us and Arhah means deserving or worthy of. Taking these together, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Priyaani Ishtaani Arhati iti Priyaarhah – He deserves to be offered the most coveted objects as part of worship by the devotees, hence He is called Priyaarhah’. In other words the devotee should offer the best things within one’s means with the fullest devotion to Bhagavan as offering.

Sri Adi Sankara quotes the following passage from Mahabharatam and Vishnu Dharmam in support ‘Yadyat ishtatamam loke Yat cha asya Dayitam Grihe Tattat Gunavate Deyam Tadeva Akshayam Icchataa – By those that desire the imperishable (Brahman), the most beloved things in the world and the choicest things in the house should be offered to the most exalted person, namely Bhagavan’.

While Bhagavan is satisfied with the simplest offerings (Patram Pushpam Phalam Toyam yo me bhaktya prayacchati)  but the giver should give his best because Bhagavan deserves the best.

Sri Parasara Bhattar comments that Bhagavan is rightly the object of love of the devotees, since He intensely affectionate towards them. By being devoted to Him, Bhagvan feels that His devotees have benevolently given Him all their belongings (Srimad Bhagavad Gita Chapter 7 Verse 18):
Udaaraah sarva evaite jnanI tv atmaiva me matam |
Asthitah sa hi yuktatma mam evanuttamam gatim ||
Meaning: All these devotees are undoubtedly magnanimous souls (Udaaraah), but he who is situated in knowledge of Me, I consider verily to dwell in Me. Being engaged in My transcendental service, he attains Me for he is integrated and devoted to Me alone as the highest end.

Bhagavan considers that by worshipping Him and seeking His help, they have already offered everything they had, and so He considers them benevolent and generous. Such is His Vatsalyam (affection) to His devotees, and hence He is deserving of intense love from these devotees.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives two alternate derivations:

  • priyam arhati iti Priyaarhah – He Who deserves love
  • priyeshu arhah = yogyah, Priyaarhah – He Who is most fitting among objects of love

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers to Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (7.5.11):
தெளிவுற்று வீவன்றி நின்றவர்க் கின்பக் கதிசெய்யும்,
தெளிவுற்ற கண்ணனை,
Meaning: Bhagavan Kannan bestows joy with the constant thought of His Divine Feet to those devotees who surrender unto Him with unswerving devotion.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri refers to a mantra from Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (2.4.5) – ‘Atmanastu kamaya sarvam priyam bhavati’, and notes that of all the things that are dear to one, the self is the dearest.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj – Priyani srak-candanadini arhati iti Priyaarhah – He Who deserves to be worshipped with a wreath or garland of flowers, with sandalwood paste, etc.

  1.    Arhah – The fitting Lord to be worshipped

Arhah, as we saw in the last Nama, means someone who is worthy or deserving. Sri Adi Sankara offers the interpretation ‘Svaagata Aasana Prashamsa Arghya Paadya Stuti Namaskaradibhih Puja sadhanaih Pujaniya iti Arhah – He is worthy of worship by such things as words of welcome, offering of a seat, praise, Arghya or offering of water, milk, etc., Paadya or washing His Feet, prayers of praise, prostrations, etc. hence He is called Arhah’. Generally great persons are to be honoured by sixteen different methods of hospitality called Shodasha Upacharam, of which Sri Adi Sankara has listed a few. Bhagavan is worthy of all these and more. That is why he is called Arhah, the worthy one.

Sri Parasara Bhattar’s interpretation is – ‘ananyasprhanam teshamapi ayameva yogya iti Arhah’ – He is the right Deity to be sought after by devotees who have no other desire in life (other than Moksha).

Sri Parasara Bhattar quotes Lord Krishna’s words from the Bhagavad Gita (7.18): Asthitah sa hi yuktAtma mameva anuttamam gatim – Being engaged in My devotional service, he attains Me.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha captures the spirit of the Nama in the following words:
Sarvantargatan sarvan bhogan vihaya, Sreyorthinam vidusham sarva prakaraih sadhanaih, sopakaranaih puja vidhanaih, sarva karmarpanena nishkama karmabhishca sa eva praptum yogya iti arthah ||
Meaning: Giving up interest in all external pleasures, and desiring only the ultimate bliss, the learned direct all their efforts, spiritual practices, different ways of worship, and all the resultant benefits from these actions, to that One Bhagavan – Vishnu, and therefore He is Arhah – Fit to be worshipped. The point to note is that He is fit to be sought by those who have no interest in anything else.

Arhyate – praptum yujyata iti Arhah – He Who is fit to be attained.

Sri Vasishtha notes that we are all arhas (fit) in some sense or the other only because He reflects His Arhattvam in all of us in some tiny measure.

Sri Raghunatha Thirtha uses a different patham from the others by treating the Nama as ‘arhapriya-krit’ – He Who bestows affection and blessings on the devotees who are deserving – arhebhyah -yogyebhyah bhaktebhyah, priyam karoti – rakshanadi karoti iti arhapriya-krit.

The Story of Narahari

Once, there lived in Pandarpur, a devotee of Lord Shiva by the name Narahari. He was a goldsmith, a craftsman par excellence. He was known for his skill and craftsmanship in the art of jewel-making and renowned for his wonderful ornaments. Though he lived in Pandarpur, he never had the darshan of Lord Panduranga.

He was such a staunch and ardent devotee of Lord Shiva that the glorious form of Lord Vittal did not fancy him at all. He would never listen to Vittala Nama Kirtan and would shut his ears if a group of Saints engaged in Namakirtan ever passed by his shop. He would never allow anybody to sing the praises of Vittala in his presence and would try to surpass them by his lectures on Lord Shiva.

He used to visit a small shrine of Lord Shiva situated on the banks of Chandrabaga and offered his worship. He always envied the popularity of Lord Vittal who had a huge crowd of devotees not only from Pandarpur but also from other parts of the country.

The Lord had his own plan of drawing him closer to His lotus feet and making him His ardent devotee!

Once, a wealthy devotee desired to make an expensive girdle of gold studded with precious stones and gems for Lord Panduranga. He approached Narahari and expressed his desire assuring that he would adequately reward him for his befitting skill and craftsmanship. No sooner did he hear that the girdle was for Lord Vittal than Narahari turned down his request. He said that he would never in his life make an ornament for anyone other than Lord Shiva. The rich man argued that this was just a business deal and a business man should never allow his prejudices to intrude on his business. He further asserted that Narahari would be paid sufficiently just as any of his business deals and this would no way shatter his ideals. Narahari reluctantly accepted the deal but was very firm that he will execute based on the specifications given.

As Narahari was very firm in not entering the temple premises of Vittal, he wanted the rich man to bring the measurement of the waist of Lord Panduranga. The rich man went to the temple with great joy and had the priests of the temple measure the waist size of the Lord and came back to Narahari with exact measurement.

Narahari made an excellent ornament studded with precious stones and gems of the same size and gave it to his wealthy customer on the promised day. The wealthy man had arranged for a grand pooja on that day and took the girdle to the temple in a big procession.

Sadly, the girdle measured bigger and it slipped out of the waist of the Lord when offered!

Crestfallen, the gentleman immediately rushed to Narahari’s shop. Explaining that it measured bigger, he requested Narahari to alter it to the exact size of the idol of Panduranga. Though Narahari protested that this was exactly to the measurements provided, he immediately made the necessary adjustments. But when this was offered to Vittala, the girdle seemed small and it would not fit! The devotee rushed to Narahari. All attempts of Narahari to make the girdle fit Lord Panduranga proved futile.

The devotee felt frustrated and was at his wits end. Narahari, who took great pride in his workmanship, was left flabberfgasted by the whole incident.  The rich man forced Narahari to visit the Temple and take the measurement himself.  Narahari was forced to accept this idea; but he placed a condition that he would not look at Lord Panduranga and that he should be carried inside as he would go blindfolded.

Narahari was carried into the Temple Sanctum Sanctorum. Narahari had never, even in his worst dream, thought of entering the Temple. Though he entered the Temple with an air of indifference, the Lord of the Universe within was highly pleased to see Narahari enter His Sanctum Sanctorum.

Blindfolded, Narahari entered the sanctum and was all set to measure the Lord’s waist. When he touched the deity and started to feel it, he felt matted hair, the moon and also the third eye on the Lord’s forehead, snake in His neck and the trident in His hand! Narahari was startled. ‘How could it be Lord Shiva? he thought and touched again.

Overwhelmed with joy he cried out, ‘Oh! this is My dear Lord – Lord Shiva!” and immediately removed the cloth that blinded his eyes. But he was dumbfounded to see the lotus Panduranga standing along with His Consort Rukmini! Narahari was dumbfounded by the divine sport of the Lord.

He realized the truth that there was no difference between Lord Vittala and Lord Shiva. He at once earned steadfast devotion to Panduranga. He took the measurement of the icon of the Lord and this time the ornament fit the Lord well.

Adi Sankara, in one of his verses, says that Lord Panduranga is none other than the Nirguna Parabrahman (the formless Brahman) which has assumed a beautiful form by its sheer mercy upon mankind and hence worshipping Him would tantamount to the worship of all other deities.

  1.    Priya-krit – He does what is wanted by His devotees

The word ‘Priyam’ means an object of desire and ‘Krit’ means one who creates or fulfills it. Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Na kevalam Priyaarha Eva Kintu Stutyaadibhir bhajataam Priyam Karoti iti Priyakrit – He is not only worthy of being pleased, as explained in the previous Nama, but He in turn pleases His devotees by fulfilling all their desires, hence He is called Priyakrit’. Just as the devotees strive to please him, He pleases His devotees by giving them whatever pleases them.

Sri Parasara Bhattar’s interpretation for the Nama is that Bhagavan does fulfill the wishes of those who desire other lesser pleasures from Him as well (that is, in addition to bestowing Moksha), as long as they are His true devotees. He does not look at their deficiencies, but only considers the fact that they are His devotees.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers us to Sri NammAzhwar’s Periya Thiruvandhadi Pasuram – ‘un adiyarkku en Seyvan enre irutti ni – Bhagavan is always thinking about what He can do next for His devotees’. This way, He pleases them and guides them over time to be solely interested in attaining Him – anya paranapi bhajatah tacchandanuvartanena priyan karoti iti priya-krit.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha observes that when Vedic mantras are invoked in offerings, Bhagavan is pleased and bestows the desired benefits on the devotee, and so He is called Priya-krit.

Some example Vedic verses that are used for invoking His grace:
vashat te vishnavasa akrinomi tan me jushasva Sipivishta havyam |
vardhantu tva sushtutayo giro me yuyam pata vastibhih sada nah || (Rg. 7.99.7)
Meaning: O’ Vishnu, under your command my lips move, let this small offering of mine please You. May these songs of eulogy exalt You, may You continue to protect and bless us as ever.

tat savitur varenyam bhargo devasya dimahi |
dhiyo yo nah pracodayat || (Rig 3.62.10)
Meaning: We meditate on the adorable effulgence of the Lord who creates everything, so that it may energize our consciousness.

Sri Raghunatha Thirtha uses the Nama as ‘arha-priya-krit’, and gives the interpretation as ‘One Who bestows protection and affection to the deserving devotees’.

  1.    Preeti-Vardhanah – He Who increases the joy of His devotees

The word ‘Preeti’ means joy or happiness and ‘Vardhanah’ means someone who multiplies or increases. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Tesham eva Preetim vardhayati iti Preetivardhanah – He multiplies the joy of his devotees manifold and hence He is called PreetiVardhanah, the magnifier of joy’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar comments that by manifesting His qualities more and more, He increases the joy of His devotees, and so He called Preeti-Vardhanah. He quotes from the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 10 Verse 10):
Tesham satata yuktanam bhajatam Preeti purvakam |
Dadami buddhi yogam tam yena mam upayanti te ||
Meaning: To those who are constantly united with Me and who worship Me with immense love, I lovingly grant that mental disposition (buddhi yoga) by which they attain Me.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan also refers us to Bhagavd Ramanuja’s introductory section for his Gita Bhashyam, where he says of Bhagavan Krishna:
niratishaya saundarya sausheelyadi Guna gana Avishkarena Akrura
Malakaradin parama Bhagavataan kritva.
Meaning: He Who made Akrura, Malakara, and others His most ardent devotees by the manifestation of His unsurpassed qualities such as beauty and loving compassion.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan also refers to Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (1.10.10), where the Azhwar recounts that Bhagavan has lodged Himself into Sri NammAzhwar’s heart with the beauty of His lotus eyes, lest Azhwar may forget Him accidentally: marakkum endru Sen-tamaraik kannodu marappara ennulle manninaan tannai.

Swami ChinmayAnanda’s explanation is:

  • The sense of drunken joy that arises in one’s bosom when one loves deeply and truly is called Preeti
  • One Who increases the Preeti in the devotees’ heart is Sriman Narayana. The more He is contemplated upon, the more His glories are appreciated, the more our Preeti in Him increases

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha notes that the word ‘Vardhanah’ can be derived from either of the two roots – vrid – vriddhau – to grow, or vardh – puraNa – to fill.

The two different meanings could then be:

  1. He Who grows the love of the devotees towards Him, or
  2. He Who fulfills the love of the devotees

Using the root vardh – chedana puranayoH – to cut, to fill, Sri Vasishtha gives an alternate interpretation also – Preetim vardhayati = purayati it PreetiVardhanah – He Who fulfills the love of the devotees.

Sri Satya Sandha Thirtha’s explanation for the Nama is: ‘Preetim bhakteshu vardhayati prItya bhaktan vardhayati iti va Preeti-Vardhanah’ – He Who grows the love in the devotees, or He Who grows the devotees through love, is Preeti-Vardhanah.

In Summary

Satvavaan Saatvikas Satyah SatyaDharmaParaayanah     |
Abhiprayah Priyarhorhah Priyakrit Preetivardhanah ||93||

The Lord is complete with the six qualities of Jnana, Shakti, Bala, Aishvarya, Veerya and Tejas, hence He is known as Sattvavaan. He dispenses the fruits of righteousness (Dharma), Jnana (knowledge), non-attachment (Vairaagya) and riches (Aishwarya), and so He is called Saattvikah. As Existence and non-existence are both established in Lord Govinda, He is ‘Satyah‘ or ‘Truth’. He is ever firmly rooted in speaking the truth and following the practice of Dharma and hence He is called Satya-Dharma-Paraayanah – the steadfast follower of truth and Dharma’.

He is the Highest Goal sought after by His devotees who are pure by nature, practice the Sattvika Dharma, and are not seeking lower pleasures, hence He is Abhipraayah, one who is eagerly sought. He deserves to be offered the best as part of worship by the devotees, hence He is called Priyaarhah. He is the fitting Lord to be worshipped and sought after by devotees who are seeking Moksha, hence He is Arhah. He pleases His devotees by fulfilling their desires, hence He is called Priyakrit. He multiplies the joy of His devotees manifold, hence He is called PreetiVardhanah, the magnifier of joy.

OM NAMO NARAYANAAYA

HARI OM TAT SAT

This Vishnu Sahasranamam series is authored with the help of my friend Shri Balaji.

SRI VISHNU SAHASRANAMAM (SHLOKA 92) – PART 101

In this part we will explore the meaning of the 92nd Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.

shloka-92
Dhanurdharo Dhanurvedo Dando Damayitadamah    |
Aparajitas Sarvasaho Niyanta Niyamo Yamah       ||92||

Purport

He is the wielder of the Bow and is an expert in the science of archery. He is the source of punishment (Danda) of those who administer punishment. He metes out punishment and He is act of punishment to restore Dharma. He is Invincible, supports all beings and steadies the faith of devotees of other Devas. He assigns respective duties and organizes the work pattern for all. He ordains the fruits of worship to each individual according to the nature of their worship.  He is the One Who controls the likes of Yama and He is eternal.

The above Shloka has the following Namas:

  1. Dhanurdarah
  2. Dhanurvedah
  3. Dandah
  4. Damayita
  5. Damah (A-Damah)
  6. Aparajitah
  7. Sarvasahah
  8. Niyantaa
  9. Niyamah (A-Niyamah)
  10. Yamah (A-Yamah)

Now let’s examine the meaning of the above Namas in detail:

  1.    Dhanurdarah – One Who wields the bow

RamaThe word ‘Dhanuh’ means a bow and ‘Dharah’ means ‘one who wields it’. Based on this Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Sriman Rama Nama Mahat Dhanur-Dharayama sa iti Dhanurdharah – He carried a great bow in His Rama Avataar (to protect the Rishis), hence He is called Dhanurdharah’, emphasising the words ‘the great bow’.

In the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 10 Verse 31), the Lord says ‘Ramas Shastrabhritaam Aham – I am Rama among the carriers of weapons’. This shows the pre-eminence of Rama among all wielders of bow.

Sri Parasara Bhattar says that Bhagavan has this Nama because He carries His Bow named ‘Sarnga’ to remove obstacles from the path of His devotees who are striving to reach Him. The reason for Lord Rama carrying the bow with Him during His exile was precisely for this purpose as He removed obstacles to the penance performed by the Rishis in the forest. This is Kshatriya Dharma – ‘Etad-artham hi loke’smin kshatriyair-dharyate Dhanuh – It is for this reason that the bow is wielded by the Kshatriyas in this world.

‘Dharyate Kshatriyaih capo na Artha Sabdo bhaved-iti – The bow is always carried by the Kshatriyas so that there may not be the cry of distress anywhere’.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan nicely translates the Nama as ‘Sarngapani’ – One Who wields the ‘Sarnga’ Bow.

Sri NammAzhwar personifies all His weapons themselves as being filled with anger at the very sight of the enemy, and ready to remove the sorrow of the devotees – ‘Kaai Sina Azhi Sangu Vaal Thandu Endi em idar kadivaane (Thiruvai Mozhi 9.2.6). The Azhwar also refers to Emperumaan as ‘kuni Sarngan’ (Thiruvai Mozhi 8.8.1) – One Who holds the Sarnga bow that is bent as if with respect. There are others who have carried the bow, but none is equal to Rama in wielding the bow.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri refers to Rama’s skill in wielding the bow and arrow and says that Rama could even convert a blade of grass as an arrow pointing to the incident of Kakasura being chased all over the three worlds and making Him surrender at His Feet ultimately.

Swami ChinmayAnanda gives an interesting reference for the Mundaka Upanishad (2.2.3), where the “bow” refers to the Pranava:
Dhanur-grhitva Upanishadam Maha Astram Saram hyupAsanishitam samdhayita |
Ayamya tad-bhava gatena cetasa lakshyam tadevAksharam somya  viddhi || 
Meaning: Having taken the bow (called Pranava) well known in the Upanishads, one should fix an arrow (the Atman) that has been sharpened by constant meditation to it. Drawing it with the mind fixed on the Brahman, O good looking one, know that the Immutable itself is the target.

The next mantra (M.U. 2.2.4) explicitly declares that ‘Pranavo Dhanuh, Saro hyAtma, Brahma tal-lakshyamucyate’ – The Pranava is the Bow, the Atman is the Arrow and the Brahman is its mark or target.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives reference to the Rig Vedic Mantra:
Aham Rudraya Dhanur-Atanomi Brahmadvishe hanta va u |
Aham janaya samadam krinomy-aham dvayavaA Prithivi Avivesha ||(Rg. 10.125.6)
Meaning: I bend the Bow for Rudra, so that his arrow may strike and slay the hater of devotion. I rouse and order battle for the people, and I have penetrated the Earth and Heaven.

The Story of Tataka


Sage Vishwamitra narrated the story of Tataka to Rama. There was once a yaksha, named Suketu, who had no children. Longing for children, he performed a yagna.

Tataka was a Yaksha princess-turned-demoness due to a curse by Sage Agastya. Suketu had desired a son, but Lord Brahma blessed him with a beautiful daughter endowed with the strength of 1,000 elephants. She was a beautiful princess and married Sunda, an Asura King. She had two sons Maricha and Subahu.

Sunda was killed by Agastya’a curse. Enraged, Tataka went with her son Mareecha to kill Agastya. The sage cursed Mareecha and said he would become a demon. He said Tataka would become ugly, and a cannibal. She would repulse people with her looks. From then on, Tataka became a ferocious demon and began to destroy the beautiful land that had once been prosperous.

rama-killing-tatakaAfter narrating the story of Tataka, Sage Vishwamitra asks Rama to kill her. The Shastras forbid the killing of women by a warrior. Rama was puzzled as to how could the Sage, who was well conversant with the Shastras, ask him to kill Tataka?

Sage Vishwamitra, understanding Rama’s predicament, reminded Rama of the duties of a King. A King’s duty is to uphold Dharma and eliminate those who pose a threat to Dharma. There was no room for mercy, just because the perpetrator of atrocities on innocent people happened to be a woman. Sage Viswamitra gave Rama examples of women who had thus been killed. He mentioned that Indra had killed Manthara, the daughter of Virochana, and Lord Narayana had killed Kavyamata (Usana), the wife of the Sage Bhrigu. When the need of the hour was to save the innocent, it was the duty of the king to kill those who were evil.

Raghava, the best of men bowed his head in obedience. He raised his bow and twanged it, making the distant areas echo with its fearful sound. Aroused and provoked Tataka rushed headlong at Rama in blind rage. She came growling and roaring and began to rain stones and boulders with her supernatural powers. Rama instantly checked the shower of stones and cut off her arms with a volley of sharp arrows. He then struck her with a deadly arrow like a thunderbolt and she fell down dead.

Jai Sri Ram!

  1.    Dhanurvedah – The Propounder of the Science of Archery

rama-dhanurvedaVeda is knowledge and Dhanurveda is the Science of Archery and the Knower of the Science of archery in its completeness is Lord Rama.  Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Sa Eva Daasharathih Dhanurvedam Vetti iti Dhanurvedah – The son of Dasharatha, who alone is the Knower of the Science of Archery (Dhanur Veda) and hence He is known as DhanurVedah’. There were other eminent archers like Arjuna and Karna but Rama was way above the rest of them and so He alone is identified as the personification of the Science of Archery.

Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets the Nama as an example of His being the Propounder of all that is to be known and learnt. In this instance, He is the Propounder of the Science of Archery – Dhanur-Veda, hence He is known as Dhanurvedah.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri gives examples of Lord Rama’s knowledge of the Science of Archery. He could direct the arrows as He wished, retrieve them as He wished, and even change the Nature through discharge of His arrows (e.g. His use of the arrow to warn Samudra Rajan for His initial lack of response to His request).

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives the following interpretations:

  • dhanur vindati – labhata iti – He Who has the Dhanus;
  • dhanur-vedayati sva-rakshanartham sarvebhya iti Dhanur-Vedah – He Who bestows the Dhanus to all His creation as a form of self-defence is Dhanur- Vedah. Here Sri Vasishtha gives a generic meaning for the term Dhanus as a means for self- protection from the natural enemies etc. Thus, he refers to the horn of the cows, paws of the cat, claws of the tigers, lions etc. as their ‘Dhanus’ and the intellect as the Dhanus for human beings (Dhanushca martyasya su-buddhih).

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives support from the Yajur-Veda (16.13) (also found in Sri Rudram 1.11):
avatatya dhanustva sahasraksha Sateshudhe |
nishirya Salyanam mukha Sivo nah sumana bhava ||
Meaning: The Lord of a thousand eyes and hundreds of quivers, remove the arrows from their string, remove their sharpness and grace us with your benevolence.

Swami ChinmayAnanda relates the term ‘Dhanush’ to the Pranava mantra ‘Aum’ and gives the interpretation for the Nama as ‘One Who propounded the unfailing technique of meditation on the Pranavam for realisation of the Self’.

Sri Raghunatha Thirtha explains the Nama as:
dhanumshi vidanti iti  Dhanur-vedah astrajnah bhrityaah |
te asya bhaktanam dasah santi iti  dhanur-vedah ||
Meaning: He Who has His devotees served by those who have the knowledge of the Science of weaponry.

  1.    Dandah – He is the source of punishment for the wicked

rama slaying ravanaThe root from which this Nama is derived is ‘dam – upashame’ meaning ‘to be tamed’. The means of punishment for the wicked is Dandah – ‘Dushtaan dandayati iti Dandah’.

‘Dandam’ is a term used for ‘wand or stick’. It refers to the staff that is carried by Acharyas, and is also a symbol of the position or power (like the Dandam or staff of a King). Thus, Dandah here refers to the means to administer punishment or taming the wicked.

Often the fear of punishment acts as a deterrent and prevents the crime. Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Damanam Damayataam Dandah – Among those who administer justice He is the source of power of punishment’.  Sri Sankara quotes from the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 10 Verse 38) where Bhagavan says – ‘Dando Damayataam Asmi – I am the power of punishment to those who administer justice when the law is transgressed’.

Sri Bhattar comments that Bhagavan is Dandah because He administers the rules of Dharma through the rulers who have the responsibility to punish the wicked and bring protection and happiness to the people by following Dharma as laid down in the Vedas.

Sri NammAzhwar describes the intensity with which Bhagavan punishes the wicked, in his Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (6.10.4):
ஆவா வென்னா துலகத்தை அலைக்கும் அசுரர் வாணாள்மேல்,
தீவாய் வாளி மழைபொழிந்த சிலையா திருமா மகள்கேள்வா,
தேவா! சுரர்கள் முனிக் கணங்கள் விரும்பும் திருவேங் கடத்தானே!
பூவார் கழல்கள் அருவினையேன் பொருந்து மாறு புணராயே.
Meaning: He showers His deadly piercing fiery rain shower of arrows from the Sarnga Bow on the life source of the wicked Asuras, who by their very nature torture people mercilessly. O’ Lord of Venkatam adored by the Devas, the Angels and the Rishis! Pray show this lowly self the way to Your Lotus feet.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri interprets the Nama as a reference to the weapon of Yama in His role of Sankarshana. Bhagavan is verily that power of Yama in the form of His weapon, the Danda – the ultimate of weapons in punishments.

Sri Satya Sandha Thirtha gives the explanation – Daityaan dandayati iti Dandah – He Who punishes the Asuras. He gives an alternate interpretation using the ‘A-Dandah – anya kartrika Sikshana rahitah A-Dandah’ – He Whom no one else controls.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives the explanation that Bhagavan is called Dandah because He is the source of restraint (danda = damana = niyamana = restraint) for all beings so that they act according to His rules.

  1.    Damayita – The One Who Subdues the enemies of His devotees

narasimhaThe word ‘Damanam’ means control and Damayita is who controls or subdues. Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Vaivasvata Narendraadiroopena Prajaa Damayati iti Damayita – He disciplines or subdues His subjects in the form of Yama, the god of death or in the form of the rulers of Kingdoms, hence He is called Damayita, the controller’.

In the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 10 Verse 29) Bhagavan says – ‘Yamas Samyamatam aham – I am Yama among controllers’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar gives the interpretation as – Svayam ca Ravanadin tacchilyena Damayita – He Who destroys the likes of Ravana as a force of habit. The nirukti author gives the description as ‘tacchilyat Ravanadinam harta – Damayita svayam’ – It is because of this habit of His to mete out punishment to the wicked that He takes incarnations such as Rama and Krishna.

Sri Bhattar stresses the Guna Bhagavan as one who subdues the suffering of His devotees.  Emperumaan is always acting in the interests of His devotees – either as One who subdues their sufferings or one who subdues their enemies.

  • He dispels the sufferings of His devotees in this Samsara through the Ganges-like streams of His lustre – Kanti – mandakinibhih bhava taapam damayati iti damanah – or Kanti; or
  • as One who subdues the enemies of His devotees.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers to Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (7.5.2):
நாட்டில் பிறந்தவர் நாரணற் காளன்றி யாவரோ,
நாட்டில் பிறந்து படாதன பட்டு மனிசர்க்கா,
நாட்டை நலியும் அரக்கரை நாடித் தடிந்திட்டு,
நாட்டை யளித்துய்யச் செய்து நடந்தமை கேட்டுமே?
Meaning: Bhagavan takes birth among us, goes through innumerable sufferings in His incarnations for our sake (as evidenced by the incarnation of Rama with Sita Piratti), and then goes after and seeks the wicked, and destroys them.  He gave the Kingdom to Vibheeshana, and liberation to His devotees. Knowing all this, would mortals be devotees of anyone else? 

Sri Satya Sandha ThIrtha explains the Nama along similar lines – Daityaan damayati iti Damayita – He Who subdues the wicked Asuras.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha also echoes a similar thought – Bhagavan has this Nama signifying that He subdues those who violate the rules of Dharma as established by Him – Jagati Jagadisha kritaya jagad-vyavasthaya bhanjakam upashamya sva-vashe sthapayati.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj gives the interpretation that He dispels the sorrowful or miserable state of His devotees (by retrieving them from the bondage of Samsara) – damayati upashamayati dainyam sva-jananam iti Damayita.

Swami ChinmayAnanda explains the Nama as – ‘One Who punishes the wicked, destroys the sinners and thus regulates and cultivates life in the Universe, making it a garden for the spiritual beauties to blossom.

  1.    Damah (A-damah) – He is the act of punishment or One who cannot be tamed

Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Damah Damyeshu Dandakaryam Phalam Tat cha sa Eva iti Damah – Damah is the good effect created by the act of punishment to restore Dharma and this is also an aspect of Bhagavan, hence He is called Damah’. This shows even the punishment meted out by Bhagavan is an act of kindness and carries a permanent after-effect in the recipient’s makeup.

The root from which the Nama is derived is ‘dam – upasame’ means ‘to be tamed’. Sri Parasara Bhattar looks at the Nama as A-Damah and explains the Nama as ‘He Who cannot be tamed or subdued’. 

DamodaraThe Lord can only be tamed with devotion. Many instances of the Lord submitting to the wishes of his devotees are narrated in the Puranas. For e.g. The Lord submitting Himself to be to be tied to a mortar by Yashodha,  Sri Thirumazhisai Azhwar asking Bhujanaga sayana Perumal of Thiruvekka temple to leave Kanchipuram when the King banished Kanikannan (Azhwar’s disciple from his Kingdom) etc.

Sri Bhattar quotes the MahaBharata (Udyoga Parva 67.8) in support:
bhasma kuryat jagatsarvam manasaiva Janardanah         |
na tu kritsnam jagac-chaktam ki’ncit kartum Janardane ||
Meaning: By His mere Will, Janardanah can turn the entire Universe into ashes. But all the Universe combined together can do no harm to Him.

The Nirukti author summarises Sri Bhattar’s interpretation thus: kashcit damayita na asti yasya asau A-Damah Smritah – He is meditated upon as A-Damah because there is no one who can subdue Him in any way.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj explains the Nama as ‘Damayati iti damo damanah parabhavita; na damo yasya kashcit sah Adamah’ – He dispels sufferings by punishing those who deviate from Dharma. And He cannot be subdued by anyone.

Swami ChinmayAnanda captures this sense in his explanation: ‘That which is ultimately gained by the worldly punishments – the final experience of Beatitude in the Self’. One should be able to realize through this interpretation that what happens to us – good or bad -is all for our benefit, bestowed by Bhagavan.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri notes that the term ‘Dama’ also refers to the means that are used to control the unruly; the net result of this control is the control of the senses etc., which is also referred as to Dama.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha derives the meaning for the Nama as ‘Damayati iti Damah – He Who controls’. He gives the interpretation in terms of Bhagavan being the Controller of everything such that they follow the prescribed path as their natural behavior. In other words, He is the Controller of all the planets such that they follow their set courses; He is the Controller of our indriyas such that the eye only sees and does not hear, the ear only hears but not smell, etc. Bhagavan is present everywhere and pervades everything, and has full control of everything – He is Damah, the Controller. This composition of Sri Vasishtha captures his interpretation:
damo hi sarvatra virajamanah, kriyaasu sarvam sa niyamya yu’ngte             |
grahaas-tameva damamatra Vishnum Namanti sarve paridhau bhramantah||

Sri Satyasandha Thirtha takes the Nama as ‘Ada-mah’, and gives the interpretation that He is the Bestower of wealth on all – samyak dadati iti Adah, tesham ma – sampat yasmat iti Ada- mah.

Sri Raghunatha Thirtha gives a similar interpretation for the Nama as ‘Da+Mah’ – kalpa taru sakha iva bhaktanam sarvabhIshytam dadati iti Da-mah – He Who confers all the things desired, to the devotees, like the branches of the heavenly wish-giving tree, Kalpa vriksha.

  1.    Apraijtah – He is Invincible

krishna's armyAparajitah means ‘One who cannot be defeated’.  Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Shatrubhih na Parajitah iti Aparajitah – He is undefeated by any of the enemies and hence He is called Aparajitah’. This Nama had appeared earlier in Shloka 59 for which Sri Sankara had given the interpretation that Bhagavan is not defeated by internal enemies such as anger, greed, desire etc.

Among the different aspects of Bhagavan’s invincibility, there are two that are noteworthy:

  • He cannot be defeated by anyone or anything at anytime, anywhere, under any circumstance; and
  • Anyone who has His support is also equally invincible, for e.g. Pandavas against the stronger army of Kauravas.

Sri Parasara Bhattar explains the first interpretation as follows: Kvacit, kadhacit, kutashcit a-pratihatah A-parajitah – He cannot be obstructed by anyone, anywhere, anytime or by any means.

Sri Bhattar gives reference from Srimad Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 18 Verse 78):
Yatra yogeshvarah Krishno yatra paartho dhanur-dharah |
tatra Srir-vijayo bhutir-dhruva nitir-matir-mama ||
Meaning: Sanjaya saysWherever there is Krishna, the master of Yogas, and wherever there is Arjuna, the supreme archer, there will certainly be opulence, victory, extraordinary power, and morality. That is my conclusion’.

Sri Bhattar quotes several examples from the MahaBharata in support of his second interpretation where the Devas themselves have described over and over again that those who are supported by Bhagavan cannot be vanquished by anyone.
ekam hanishyasi ripum garjantam tam mahaamridhe |
na tu tam praarthayasyekam rakshyate sa mahatmana ||

yam Ahur-veda-vidusho varaham a-jitam harim |
Narayanam a-cintyam ca tena kRshNena rakshyate || (bhA. udyo.129.40)
Meaning: Indra tells Karna: ‘In the great fight, I give you the power to kill one thundering warrior, but this cannot be the one you wish to kill (i.e. Arjuna), as he is protected by the Great Lord Krishna. Krishna is none other than the Invincible Hari, Who had assumed the form of the Varaha, and Who is the Incomprehensible Narayana, as declared by the Vedic scholars’.

The same message is given to Jayadratha by Rudra:
A-jayyanshcapi a-vadhyanshca varayishyasi taan yudhi |
Rte arjunam maha-bahum devairapi durasadam |
yam Ahuh amitam devam Sa’nkha-cakra-gada-dharam |
pradhanah so’stra-vidusham tena Krishnena rakshyate ||
Meaning: In the fight you can ward off the attacks of all invincible and indestructible warriors except the long-armed Arjuna who is unassailable even by Devas, since he is protected by Krishna who is the Unknowable Deity Who bears the conch, discus and mace as His arms.

Bhishma, Drona, etc., declare that they could have annihilated the Pandavas without a trace if only Lord Krishna had not been their Protector, and that just as certainly as truth rests with a Brahmin, humility is certain in the pious, and wealth is sure in the skilful, so also is victory certain for Narayana:
dhruvam vai brahmane satyam dhruva sadhushu sannatih |
Srir-dhruva capi daksheshu dhruvo Narayane jayah ||

yasya mantri ca gopta ca suhrc-caiva Janardanah  |
Harih trailokya nathah san kim nu tasya na nirjitam ||
Meaning: What is there in this world that cannot be conquered by that person who has Bhagavan Hari as His mentor, protector, and friend?

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj describes the Nama as ‘na parajitah kadapi kenapi iti A-parajitah – He Who cannot be conquered by anyone and through any means is A-parajitah.

In the Ayurveda caraka samhita, the invincibility of Bhagavan is declared as:
yatha’ham nahi janami Vasudeve parajayam |
matushca paanigrahanam samudrasya ca Shoshanam |
etena satya-vakyena sicyatam agado hyayam ||
Meaning: On the veracity of the following statements, may this medicine be pounded and be effective – ‘There is no defeat for Vasudeva; I have not witnessed the marriage of my mother; the ocean will never become completely dry. These are all absolute true statements’.

In Vaitarana, the following Shloka is invoked for the efficacy of the poison- removing mantra:
Ratnakara iva akshobhyo himavaniva ca acalah |
jataveda iva adhrishyo Narayana iva Ajayah ||
Meaning: Let this poison-removing mantra be effective just as the ocean is imperturbable, Himavan is unshakable, the fire is unapproachable, and Narayana is unconquerable.

In Srimad Ramayana, there are several instances, for e.g.:

  • A-jayyah Shashvato Dhruvah (Yuddha Kandam 111.15) – He is Inivincible, eternal and constant;
  • A-jitah khadga-dhrik Vishnuh Krishnashchaiva Mahabalah (Yuddha Kandam 117.14) – The Invincible who is the wielder of the Sword named ‘Nandaki’, the all pervader, the bestower of happiness and endowed with great might;
  • Tvam apratima karmanaam aprati dvandvam aahave (Bala Kandam 76.18) – Parashurama comments during his encounter with Lord Rama ‘You are unequalled in your achievements and there is no one to counter you in conflicts.

Sri V.V.Ramanujan gives reference from the Divya Prabandham and quotes Sri NammAzhvar’s Thiruvai Mozhi (2.7.11):
பற்பநாபனுயர்வறவுயரும் பெருந்திறலோன்,
எற்பரனென்னையாக்கிக் ¦ காண்டெனக்கே தன்னைத்தந்த
கற்பகம், என்னமுதம் கார்முகில்போலும்வேங்கடநல்
வெற்பன், விசும்போர்பிரா னெந்தை தாமோதரனே.
Meaning: Padmanabha is the mighty one, higher than the highest.  He has the skill to subdue and overcome His enemies. He is my Kalpa tree, he made me His and Himself mine.  He is my ambrosia, dark as the rain cloud, and He is in Thiru Venkatam.  My Lord Damodara is the Lord of high celestials too.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan gives another reference from the Divya Prabandham – ‘Andru aivarai velvitta mayap por terp paganar (Thiruvai Mozhi 4.6.1) – He, who, in the form of the Charioteer, ensured victory of the Pandavas.

Sri Satya Sandha Thirtha explains the Nama as ‘a-parah + a-jitah’ – He Who has none superior to Him, and He Who can never been conquered – na vidyate para = uttamo yasmat iti A-parah;  A-parashca asau A-jitashca  iti Aparajitah.

One of the interpretations of Sri Satya Sandha Thirtha is based on looking at the Nama as a-pah + rajitah: na vidyaye pah = palako yasya sa a-pah; sa casau rajitashca iti A-pa-rajitah – He Who has no protector above Him, and He Who is resplendent. He is also Unconquerable in another context i.e., One who is not single-mindedly devoted to Him will not be able to attain Him.

Swami ChinmayAnanda gives another dimension to the invincibility of Bhagavan, by referring to the Ishavasya Upanishad – ‘nainad-deva Apnuvan’ – The Devas could not overcome It – the overwhelming powers of desires and passions can never vanquish the Self – the Divine Narayana. He gives yet another dimension and explains that the Supreme Self is Aparajitah since the Self alone remains when everything else is destroyed.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha also derives the interpretation for the Nama starting with the word ‘Para’ meaning ‘Supreme’. He interprets that for one to be defeated, there needs to be someone or something other than that entity. But since there is nothing else that exists other than the Supreme Self, there is no possibility of defeat for this One Truth – ‘para eva kashcin-nasti; na dvitiyo na tritiyah iti atharva vacant, tasmat parajitvasya asambhavaat bhagavatah Aparajita iti namna samkirtanam upapadyate. This is based on the Advaita philosophy (Non-existence of anything except of Brahman in Sat (Truth).

Sri Vasishtha gives another explanation as – ‘parair-na para-jiyate, parabhibhuyate va sa A-parajito Vishnuh – Lord Vishnu cannot be conquered or humiliated in any way by anyone.

Sri Raghunatha Thirtha looks at the power of invincibility of Bhagavan over time as compared to all other entities, whose powers are perishable over time –
parajiyate kalatah iti parajitah – nashvarah vibhutayah;
na vidyante nashvaraha vibhutayah yasya sah A-parajitah

  1.    Sarvasahah – He Who supports all Forms

Maha Vishnu 1Sri Adi Sankara offers three different interpretations for this Nama. The first is ‘Sarva Karmasu Samarthah iti Sarvasahah– He is skilled (expert) in all activities, hence He is called Sarvasahah’. Here Sahah is used in the context of ‘being capable of’.

The second meaning is ‘Sarvaan Shatroon Sahate iti vaa Sarvasahah – He overcomes or conquers all His enemies and hence He is called Sarvasahah’. Here Sahah is used in the sense of ‘defeats or overcomes’.

The third meaning is ‘Prithivyadi rupena va Sarvasahah – He Who supports all such as the earth. Here Sahah is used as ‘to bear or support or put up with’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets the Nama specifically in the context of Bhagavan’s support to the other gods. Because of His support to the other Devas, they continue to be worshipped by people who have not achieved the full realization that Narayana is the Supreme Deity to be worshipped. As the Provider of this support, He is called Sarvasahah – ‘svasasanena sarvam devatantaramapi mandadhikaarinaam Aradhyataya sahate – bibharti iti Sarvasahah.

The same concept is shared by Sri NammAzhwar in Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (5.2.8):
இறுக்கு மிறையிறுத்துண்ண எவ்வுல குக்கும்தன் மூர்த்தி,
நிறுத்தினான் தெய்வங்க ளாக அத்தெய்வ நாயகன் றானே
மறுத்திரு மார்வன் அவன்றன் பூதங்கள் கீதங்கள் பாடி,
வெறுப்பின்றி ஞாலத்து மிக்கார் மேவித் தொழுதுய்ம்மி னீரே.
Meaning: He is the Lord of Devas who has assigned different roles for them.  It is He who accepts the offering you make to your Gods (Sarva Deva Namaskaram Keshavam prati gacchati).  The spirits of the mole-chested Lord have filled the Earth singing songs. So shed hatred, cultivate love; offer worship and liberate yourselves.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha uses the meaning “support”, and interprets the Nama as – Bhagavan supports and protects everything including the sky, the earth, the movables and the immovables. He gives an alternate interpretation and says that as the sea does not lose its nature even though all kinds of water blend with it over time, so also is Bhagavan untouched by all the things that He has to endure. It is the reflection of this Guna of Bhagavan of Sarvasahatvam that is reflected in the ability of the Jiva to endure all that is happening when it is occupying one body, and then moves to another body at the end of this life.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj gives the interpretation – sarvesham sva-jana aparadhanam sahah iti Sarvasahah – He is Sarvasahah because He puts up with all the aparadhas of His devotees.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan gives the example of Lord Krishna putting up with all the insults from the likes of Rukmi (brother of Rukmini), Duryodhana, Shishupala etc. – sarvani rukmyavajna vadamsi sahata iti Sarvasahah.

  1.    Niyanta – He Who directs

mahavishnuSri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Sarvaan sveshu sveshu Krityeshu Vyavasthaapayati iti Niyanta – He sets up various entities in their respective duties and organises the work pattern for all these entities, hence He is called Niyanta or the Organiser’.

In the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 4 Verse 13) Bhagavan says:
catur-varnyam maya srstam guna-karma-vibhagasah |
tasya kartaram api mam viddhy akartaram avyayam ||
Meaning: According to the three modes of material nature and the work ascribed to them, the four divisions of human society were created by Me. And, although I am the creator of this system, you should know that I am yet the non-doer, being unchangeable.

Sri Bhattar extends the idea from the previous Nama (Sarvasahah) relating to the worship of the anya Devatas. Those who worship other devatas or gods will be bestowed with their desires as Bhagavan supports all the other Devatas. No matter which God the devotees repose their faith and devotions, Bhagavan supports them in the pursuit of their choice. It is this Guna of Bhagavan that Sri Bhattar brings out through the Nama Niyanta – tatra tat tat rucIn prarocayan niyacchati iti Niyanta – He directs and guides these individuals after letting them make the choice according to their tastes and quotes from the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 7 Verse 21), where the Bhagavan says:
yo yo yam yam tanum bhaktah sraddhayarcitum icchati |
tasya tasyacalam sraddham tam eva vidadhamy aham ||
Meaning: Whichever particular God a devotee desires to worship with faith and devotion, I sustain that faith firmly in him.

This same idea is given by Sri V.V. Ramanujan who gives reference from Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi (1.1.5):
அவரவர் தமதம தறிவறி வகைவகை
அவரவ ரிறையவ ரெனவடி யடைவர்கள்
அவரவ ரிறையவர் குறைவில ரிறையவர்
அவரவ விதிவழி யடையநின் றனரே.
Meaning: Each and every individual chooses, in accordance with his nature and attainments, limited by his intellect, to worship a particular deity of his/her choice in the hope of securing desired results. These deities are, without doubt, capable of granting the lesser boons (i.e. other than moksha) to their devotees according to their merits, because the Lord is the inner soul, controller, and source of their power.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha derives the meaning from the root word ‘yama – uparame’ meaning ‘to lift up, to show, to offer’ and ‘Ni’ is an upasarga (prefix) that denotes, among other things, command, order, etc.  Niyanta is One Who controls, directs, governs, restrains, etc.  He points out that everything functions according to the course laid out by Him as He is the Niyanta of all – including the Sun, all the planets and even the heart inside all of us – niyacchati = nibhadhnati sarvam vyavasthita vartmana gamanaya iti Niyanta Vishnuh.

Swami ChinmayAnanda uses the A-niyanta for this Nama, and gives the interpretation a – One Who has none above Him to control Him’. He is the One Who has appointed all controllers of the phenomenal forces such as the Sun, the Moon, the Air, the Water etc.

  1.    Niyamah – He Who controls

Maha Vishnu 4 - Copy (2)Niyamah means a set path or a set role and based on this Sri Adi Sankara says ‘sveshu sveshu adhikareshu  praja  niyamati  iti  Niyamah – He is the Director of all beings in their respective functions (covered in Shloka 17). 

Sri Adi Sankara’s gives another explanation using ‘A-niyamah’ as ‘Na Niyamah Niyatih tasya vidyate iti Aniyamah – He has no predefined or set path of action, hence He is called Aniyamah’.  He goes on further to say ‘Sarva Niyantuh Niyantratarabhavaat – He sets everybody’s role but there is none to set His pattern of action hence He is Aniyamah, the One who has no one to direct and control Him.

Sri Parasar Bhattar explains this Nama as – He ordains (prescribes, specifies) the fruits of worship to each individual according to the nature of their worship of the anya devatas of their choice – tat-phalam ca – jati, Ayuh, bhogadikam niyamyate asmin iti Niyamah.

Following on the reference to the Bhagavad Gita (7.21) in the previous Nama, Sri Bhattar takes the next Verse from the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 7 Verse 22) where Bhagavan says:
sa taya Shraddhaya yuktah tasya Aradhanam ihate |
labhate ca tatah kaman mayaiva vihitan hi tan    ||
Meaning: Endowed with that faith, he worships that form (of other Devatas) and thence gets the objects of his desire, granted in reality by Me alone.

It is to be noted that:

  • Bhagavan lets the individual choose the deity to be worshiped by him based on his limitations and knowledge;
  • Bhagavan then supports the individual in this endeavour;
  • Bhagavan bestows the benefits of this worship by empowering the Devata that the individual worships to bestow the desired powers, depending on the merits of the individual.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan gives reference from Divya Prabhandam by quoting Sri NammAzhwar’s Pasuram from Thiruvasiriyam (4), where Azhwar notes that Bhagavan is the One Who created the likes of Brahma, Siva etc., along with their limited powers:
ஊழிதோறூழி ஓவாது வாழியே, என்று யான்தொழ இசையுங் கொல்?,
யாவகை யுலகமும் யாவரு மில்லா, மேல்வரும் பெரும்பாழ்க் காலத்து,
இரும்பொருட் கெல்லா மரும்பெறல் தனிவித்து,
ஒருதான் ஆகித் தெய்வ நான்முகக் கொழுமுளை ஈன்று,
முக்கண் ஈசனொடு தேவுபல நுதலிமூ வுலகம் விளைத்த உந்தி,
மாயக் கடவுள் மாமுத லடியே.
Meaning: In the great deluge when all the worlds and all the gods disappeared, the Lord became the precious seed for all that existed, then sprouted a stalk and created the four-faced Brahma, then the three-eyed Siva and the various gods.  Will we experience the joy of relentlessly praising the marvel Lord, the Lord with Lotus on his navel that made all the worlds, through Yuga after Yuga?

Sri V.V. Ramanujan emphasizes the role of Bhagavan as the Ashrita-rakshaka – One Who protects those Who seek refuge in Him, as the Guna that is portrayed in this Nama.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri refers us to the Paatanjali’s Yoga Sutra for the definition of the term Niyama – ‘Soca santosha tapah svadhyaya Isvara pranidhanani Niyamah (Sutra 2.32) – Purity of the body, mental contentedness, austerity, reciting the Vedas, and persevering devotion to the Lord are called religious observances – Niyama’.

Niyama means restraint or check, and Niyamah means ‘One Who restrains’. Using alternate root words, Sri Vasishtha gives the following meanings:

  • ‘yam – uparame’ meaning ‘to check’ – all things and beings are restrained or bound by Him by residing in Him, and move only because of Him;
  • ‘yama – pariveshtane’ meaning ‘to surround’ – ‘niyaman Saktya sakalam vishvam vyapnoti tasmat sa Niyamah’ – One Who pervades and surrounds everything.

The Nirukti author captures the significance of the interpretation as – niymayate jagat yena niyamah sa udiritah – He is called Niyamah because the whole Universe is controlled by Him.

Sri Raghunatha Thirtha in his tattva saara gives the explanation – Sva- vishaya jnanani bhaktebhyo niyamayati – prayacchati iti Niyamah – He is called Niyamah because He bestows sacred knowledge about Himself to devotees in full measure.

  1.    Yamah – The Controller of all the Devas

vishnu1Sri Adi Sankara interprets two versions of this Nama namely Yamah and Ayamah. Using Yamah, Sri Sankara interprets as ‘Athavaa Yamaniyamau Yogaange Tadgamyatvaat Sa eva Niyamah Yamah – Bhagavan is attainable through two yogic paths – Yama and Niyama – and hence He is identified with the two Namas ‘Niyamah and Yamah’.

Using ‘Ayamah he interprets as ‘Naasya vidyate Yamah Mrityuh iti Ayamah – He has no Yamah or Agent of death as He is immortal hence He is called Ayamah, the Deathless one’.

The sequence ‘Niyamo Yamah’ occurs in Shloka 17 as well. Sri Bhattar interprets the whole set of Namas as a reflection of Bhagavan’s Gunas which are Infinite, and hence he is able to provide different interpretations for the different instances of the same or related Namas and provide ever greater delight of His Gunas in the process. Sri Bhattar chooses to describe for the four Namas as below:

  • One Who controls even the likes of Mahabali,
  • One Who corrects all as the antaryami
  • One Who ordains and bestows the fruits of worship of different gods, and
  • One Who controls and directs all the devas.

For this Nama, Sri Bhattar’s interpretation is: tat-tat phala niyamakan yamadin api yacchati iti yamah – He is called Yamah because He is the One Who controls the likes of Yama who are the bestowers of the respective fruits. He quotes Yama’s words from Vishnu Purana in support: prabhavati samyamane mamapi Vishnuh (Vishnu 3.7.13) – Vishnu controls me also.

Sri Satydevo Vasishtha has composed a Shloka in which He conveys that the Namas Niyanta, Niyamah, Yamah, A-niyamah, and A-yamah, all refer to Lord Vishnu:
Vishnur Niyanta Niyamo Yamo’sau Vishnur Niyanta A-niyamo A-yamo sah|
Prakashate vishvam idam samastam yamair Niyamaishca krita vyavastham||

Sri T.S. Raghavendran refers us to Ishavasya Upanishad mantra 16, where there is reference to Bhagavan as Yamah – the Controller and antaryami of all:
Pushannekarshe Yama Surya Prajapatya vyuha rashmin samuha |
tejo yatte rupaṃ kalysṇatamaṃ tatte pashyaami yo’saavasau Puruṣaḥ so’hamasmi ||
Meaning: O, Nourisher, O lonely Courser of the heavens, O Regulator, O Sun, thou offspring of Prajapati, Remove Thy rays, gather up thy effulgence, So that I may see that which is Thy most auspicious effulgence. The Person that is in Thee, I am That.

He also gives reference to the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 11 Verse 39), where Arjuna after being blessed to see the Lord’s divine form (Vishwarupam) says He is the antaryami of all including Vayu, Yama, Agni, Varuna, Moon, Brahma etc.
Vayur Yamo ‘gnir Varunah Sasankah prajapatis tvam prapitamahas ca |
namo namas te ‘stu sahasra-krtvah punas ca bhuyo ‘pi namo namas te ||
Meaning: You are the Controller and antaryami of Vayu, Yama, Agni, Varuna, the Moon, and Brahma; You are the Grandfather and Great Grandfather of all.

yamaIn the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 10 Verse 29) Lord Krishna declares that He is Yama among subduers:
‘Yamah samyatamy aham’ – Among dispensers of Law, I am Yama, the Lord of Death.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers us to Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (4.10.8), where the Azhwar gives an example to show that Bhagavan controls all the others, including Siva:
புக்கு அடி மையினால் தன்னைக் கண்ட மார்க்கண்டேயன் அவனை
நக்கபிரானுமன் றுய்யக்கொண்டது நாராயணனருளே
கொக்கலர் தடந்தாழை வேலித் திருக்குருகூரதனுள்
மிக்க ஆதிப்பிரான் நிற்க மற்றைத் தெய்வம் விளம்புதிரே
Meaning: It is true that Siva granted eternal life to Markandeya when the latter surrendered to Him.  But note that Siva could bestow this because of the Grace of Lord Narayana.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri refers to the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali for the definition of ‘Yama’ – ‘Ahimsa Satya asteya brahmacarya parigraha Yamah’ (Sutra 2.30) – Not hurting others, veracity, not stealing, continence, and not coveting, are part of “Forbearance” – Yama. Sri Shastri gives the additional interpretation that Bhagavan is called Yamah because He controls the life of all beings, and He is  Yama in this role – Controller of the lifetime of all beings.

Sri Satya Sandha Thirtha uses the Nama A-yamah with the root ‘yam – uparame’ meaning ‘to check’, and interprets as ‘One Who has no one to command Him at any time under any circumstance, or One Who has no one similar to Him in any respect – na vidyate yamah = niyamakah, sadrsho va yasya sah Yamah. He gives alternate interpretation as: ayam = Subhavaha vidhim, mati = janati iti A-yamah – He is Aya-mah because He knows and prescribes the mandates that bestow virtues (ma- mane – to measure).

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha refers to Bhagavan being the ‘Yama’ or One Who terminates all life at the time of pralaya by keeping them within Himself – yacchati =  upasamharati sarvam sargante iti Yamah.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj uses the meaning ‘to eat’ for the root Yama and gives the interpretation – yamayati bhojayati svadubhih annaih bhaktan iti Yamah – He feeds His devotees with delectable food (e.g., with delightful thoughts about Himself).

In Summary

Dhanurdharo Dhanurvedo Dando Damayitadamah    |
Aparajitas Sarvasaho Niyantaa Niyamo Yamah       ||92||

lord-rama-poster-with-glitter-ql13_lHe carried a great bow in His Rama Avataar (to protect the Rishis), hence He is called Dhanurdharah. He is the Propounder of the Science of Archery – Dhanur-Veda and so He is known as Dhanurvedah. He sets the rules of Dharma and is the source of punishment for those who administer Dharma, hence He is Dandah.  He disciplines or subdues His subjects in the form of Yama, the god of death or in the form of rulers of Kingdoms, hence He is called Damayita, the controller.  He is Damah as his acts of punishment are to bring them to the path of Dharma. He is A-damah as He cannot be tamed or subdued. 

He is undefeated by any of the enemies and hence He is called Aparajitah. He steadies the faith of devotees who worship other Gods and supports all the other Gods to bestow grace, hence He is called Sarvasahah.  He assigns respective duties and organises the work pattern for all, hence He is called Niyanta or the Organiser. He ordains the fruits of worship to each individual according to the nature of their worship, so He is Niyamah. He sets everybody’s role but there is none to set His pattern of action, hence He is A-niyamah, the One who has no one to direct and control Him. He is the One Who controls the likes of Yama who bestow respective fruits, hence He is Yamah. He is eternal and deathless, so He is A-Yamah.

OM NAMO NARAYANAAYA

HARI OM TAT SAT

This Vishnu Sahasranamam series is authored with the help of my friend Shri Balaji.

SRI VISHNU SAHASRANAMAM (SHLOKA 91) – PART 100

In this part we will explore the meaning of the 91st Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.

shloka-91
Bhaarabhrit Kathito Yogi Yogeeshas Sarvakamadah                 |
Ashramah Shramanah Kshaamah Suparno Vaayuvaahanah ||91||

Purport
He supports the burden of the Universe and He is the central theme of the Vedas. He is contemplative ascetic and is the chief amongst ascetics. He is the fulfiller of all desires who provides refuge to all who are stuck in this Samsara. He causes grief to the ignorant who have deviated from their path. He is the Cause of all beings to decay. He is golden winged who represents the Vedas.  He carries the wind and sustains all Life forces.

The above Shloka has the following Namas:

  1.    Bhaarabhrit
  2.    Kathitah
  3.    Yogi
  4.    Yogishah
  5.    Sarvakamadah
  6.    Ashramah
  7.    Shramanah
  8.    Kshaamah
  9.    Suparnah
  10.    Vaayuvahanah

Now let’s examine the meaning of the above Namas in detail:

  1.    Bhaara-bhrit – He Who shoulders the burden

AdiSeshanBhaara means a load or burden and Bhrit is one who bears or carries. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Anantaadi Rupena Bhuvo bhaaram Bibhrati iti Bhaarabhrit – He carries the weight of the Earth in the form of the Serpent called Ananta or AdiSesha, hence He is called Bhaarabhrit’.  Bhagavan is not just simply carrying the physical weight of the Earth but is carrying the entire burden of running the affairs of the Universe efficiently, in an orderly manner, by establishing and maintaining suitable laws of nature.

Sri Parasara Bhattar continues with his interpretation in the context of Bhagavan’s relation to the Jivas. In the VisishtAdvaita philosophy, the Jivas are of three types – the Baddhas (the bound souls), the Muktas (the liberated souls), and the Nityas (the eternal souls). When baddha Jivas attain liberation and become Muktas, they begin to reside in Sri Vaikuntham, performing eternal service to Him. Bhagavan bears the burden of bringing about this liberation of the Baddhas to become Muktas through the realisation of their true Self and their eventual attainment of His abode, so He is described as Bhaara-bhrit.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers to the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 9 Verse 22), where Bhagavan declares that He shoulders this burden of maintaining the welfare and prosperity of His devotees:
Ananyas cintayanto mam ye janah paryupasate
tesham nityabhiyuktanam yoga-kshemam vahamy aham ||
Meaning: Those who always think of Me and worship Me, excluding all else, aspiring for their eternal union with Me, I carry what they lack and preserve what they have. Their prosperity and welfare (Yoga and Kshema) are looked after by Me.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj also interprets the Nama as referring to Bhagavan’s role of protecting His devotees – Bharam bhakta rakshaya bibharti iti Bhaara-bhrit.

If we merely utter ‘Namah’ to Him, He treats it as a ‘burden’ of His to make sure that He protects us. Sri V.V. Ramanujan quotes from Sri NammAzhwar Thiruvai Mozhi (3.3.6) Pasuram:
வேங்க டங்கள்மெய்ம் மேல்வினை முற்றவும்,
தாங்கள் தங்கட்கு நல்லன வேசெய்வார்,
வேங்க டத்துறை வார்க்கு நமவென்ன
லாங்க டமை,அதுசுமந் தார்க்கட்கே.
Meaning: You just have to utter ‘Namah’ to the Lord of Tirumala – Thiru Venkatathaan and He takes care of the burden upon His shoulder to rid us of our past Karmas and relieve us from future ones too.

Sri Satyasandha Thirtha explains the Nama as a reference to Bhagavan bearing the Universe in the form of a Tortoise in His Kurma Avataar – Bharam Bhara Bhutam BrahmAndam Kurma rupena bibharti iti Bhaara-bhrit.

Swami ChinmayAnanda comments that the ‘carrying’ that is referred in this Nama is not as a man who would carry a load in the traditional sense. As He is the Cause of the Universe, He is the Bhaara-bhrit.

  1.    Kathitah – One Who is spoken about in the Vedas

SurdasThis Nama is based on the root word ‘Kath- vaakya prabandhe’ meaning ‘to tell or to narrate’, so Kathitah means one who is being described or talked about by all. Sri Adi Sankara gives two interpretations for this Nama, the first of which is ‘Vedaadibhih ayameva paratvena Kathitah iti Kathitah – He alone is declared by all scriptures such as the Vedas as the Ultimate Supreme Being, so He is called Kathitah, the One who is pronounced Supreme.

The second explanation is ‘Sarvavedaih Kathitah iti vaa Kathitah – He is described and talked about at length by all the Vedas, hence He is called Kathitah, the One who is talked about’.

Sri Sankara quotes a number of passages from scriptures to support his interpretations.  He quotes from the Katha Upanishad (1.2.15) which says ‘Sarve Vedah yat Padam Aamananti – All Vedas acknowledge His Supreme Status’.

Sri Sankara goes on to comment from the same Upanishad:
Iti ShrutiSmrityaadi Vachanebhyah; Kim Tad adhvanah Vishnoh Vyaapanasheelasya Paramam Padam Satattva iti Aakaankshaayaam Indriyaadibhyah Sarvabhyah Paratvena Pratipaadyate Ityantena Yah Kathitah sa Kathitah’ – He Whose greatness is extolled by all the Vedas, Puranas etc.

In the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 15 Verse 15) the Lord says:
Sarvasya caham hrdi sannivisto mattah smrtir jnanam apohanam ca
Vedais ca sarvair aham eva vedyo vedanta-krd veda-vid eva caham ||
Meaning: I am seated in everyone’s heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness. I alone am to be known by all the Vedas, am the author of the Vedanta, and the Knower of the meaning of the Vedas.

dasavatharamBhavishya Puranam (132.95) says:
Vede Ramayane Punye Bharate Bharatarshabha;
Aadau Madhye tatha chaante Vishnuh Sarvatra Geeyate ||
Meaning: Lord Vishnu is praised and sung about everywhere at the beginning, middle, and end of the Vedas, the holy Ramayana and the MahaBharata.

In the Katha Upanishad (1.3.9), it says ‘Sodhvanah Param Aapnoti Tad Vishnoh Paramam Padam – The Realised Person reaches the absolute destination Parama Padam i.e., the abode of Vishnu’.
indriyebhyaḥ para hyartha arthebhyashca paraṃ manaḥ |
manasastu para buddhir buddheratma mahanparaḥ ||1.3.10 ||
Meaning: Beyond the senses, are the rudiments of its objects; beyond these rudiments is the mind; beyond the mind is Atman known as Mahat (great).

mahataḥ param avyaktam avyaktat puruṣaḥ paraḥ |
puruṣanna paraṃ kiṃcitsa kaṣṭha sa para gatiḥ || 11 ||
Meaning: Beyond the great Atman is the Unmanifested; beyond the Unmanifested is the Purusha (the Cosmic Soul); beyond the Puruṣha there is nothing. That is the end, that is the final goal.

It asserts that Artha (objects, means of life) are above Indriyas (senses), that Manas (mind) is above Artha in this hierarchy, above the Manas is Buddhi (intellect, his ability to reason), above the Buddhi is Atman (his Soul, great Self). Beyond the Atman, is the Avyaktam (unmanifested Reality), and beyond that is Purusha (cosmic soul) and beyond the Purusha, there is nothing – for it is the final goal, for it is the highest purpose. Purusha is the final goal that is spoken of, so He is Kathitah.

Sri Parasara Bhattar’s interpretation is – ‘Kathitah ukta vakshyamana gunavattaya sarva Shastreshu” – He is called Kathitah because of the fullness of all His Gunas, that have been described so far and that will be described hereafter, in all the Shastras. Sri Bhattar gives support from the jitante stuti (1.7) – vacasham vacyam uttamam – All the words (Shrutis, Smritis etc.) declare the greatness of this Uttaman (Supreme).

Sri V.V. Ramanujan quotes from Thirumazhisai Azhwar’s Pasuram 11 of Tiruchanda Viruttam:
சொல்லினால்தொ டர்ச்சிநீசொ லப்படும்பொ ருளும்நீ
சொல்லினால்சொ லப்படாது தோன்றுகின்ற சோதிநீ
சொல்லினால்ப டைக்கநீப டைக்கவந்து தோன்றினார்
சொல்லினால்சு ருங்கநின்கு ணங்கள்சொல்ல வல்லரே
Meaning: You are the Ultimate goal of the Vedas; You are the One declared as the Supreme Brahman in the Vedas; You are the Supreme Effulgence that cannot be described through words; You created the four-headed Brahma so that he can perform the function of Creation using the Vedas as his aid, but even he cannot describe You through words even nearly.

Sri Ramanujan also refers us to NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi 3.1.10, where Azhwar refers to Emperumaan as ‘Maraiyaya Naal-Vedattul nindra malarchudare– O’ the radiant Lotus-Lord extolled by the Vedas, You are the essence Who is discussed in all the four Vedas’.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj gives the example of His fame being sung by the likes of Narada, Valmiki, etc. – Narada ValmIki prabhritibhih sa’kirtita yasho vistaratvaat Kathitah.

Sri Satyasandha TIrtha refers to His being praised by the Agamas – Kathitah sad-Agamaih pratipaditah.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha comments that even the Vedas fail in their attempt to describe Him completely. We have been provided with the ability of speech only for singing His praise. Sri Vasishtha’s composition summarises thus:
Vishnur-hi loke kathitah puranah tasyantam Apnoti na vaag vacobhih |
tasmatsanadeva ca vartamaana vaagasti vaktum prati-jantu nishtha ||

He remarks that just as Bhagavan is Kathitah or One Who should be spoken about and praised, He is also a darshatah (He Who sees everything, He Who is the Object we should see in everything we see etc.,), Sravanah, Sparshanah, Rupah, Ghrahanah, etc.

  1.    Yogi – One Who is in complete unison with all beings

BrahmanSri Adi Sankara gives two different interpretations for this Nama. In the first one Yogah is defined as  knowledge and in the second it is used in the sense of self control. The first interpretation is ‘Yogo Jnaanah Tenaiva gamyatvaat – Yogah is Knowledge and He is obtainable only through Jnana or Knowledge and hence He is called Yogi’.

The second interpretation is ‘Yogah Samadhih, Sa hi svatmani sarvada samaadhatte svam atmanam tena vaa Yogee – Yogah is self-control and He maintains it within him at all times and hence He is called Yogi, the pinnacle of self-control’.

The VisishtAdvaitam philosophy propounds that Bhagavan is attained only through the Bhakti Yoga, or Prapatti (through Absolute surrender). The Jnana yoga is seen an accessory (together with Karma Yoga) to lead to the Bhakti Marga. Even, Sri Adi Sankara (an Advaitin) acknowledges this aspect in his composition of the ‘Bhaja Govindam’ song. Sri C. Rajagopalachari wrote in his commentary on Bhaja Govindam as “When intelligence (jnana) matures and lodges securely in the heart, it becomes wisdom (vignyana). When that wisdom (vignyana) is integrated with life and issues out in action, it becomes devotion (bhakti). Knowledge (jnana) which has become mature is spoken of as devotion (bhakti). If it does not get transformed into devotion (bhakti), such knowledge (jnana) is useless tinsel.”

Sri Bhattar gives the interpretation – yujyate anena iti yogah; aghatitArtha ghatanam maha prabhavah sa asya atishayena nitya yogena; sarvam etat sambhavayati iti Yogi– He has a unique greatness in harmoniously bringing together a combination of things that usually do not go together. This unique quality is present in Him in extreme abundance, and is quite natural to Him, so He is called Yogi. He is a One who has combined in Him the apparently conflicting Aishvaryas (explained in the previous Shloka) to co-exist in full measure simultaneously, hence He is called a Yogi.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri explains the term yoga as the process by which one draws his/her mind within when it tries to wander and stray away into other things. Bhagavan is called a Yogi since He is attained by the process of Yoga (namely, by control of the mind and the senses).

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha interprets the Nama using the derivation of – ‘yujyate sambadhyate iti yogi – He Who unites or bonds everything together’ as signifying that Bhagavan alone has the ability to keep everything in the Universe bound together as one functioning unit, and hence He is called the Yogi.
Yogair-yuktam ca idam Sariram yogi, sakala’nca vishvam parasparam baddham yogi,
Esha ca yoga rupo guno bhagavato Vishnur eva sarvatra vyaptah.

Swami ChinmayAnanda defines Yoga by taking reference from the Yoga Shastras– Yogah citta vritti nirodhah – Yoga is stopping of all thought flow. One who has no thought agitations – who has totally conquered the mind, and lives in His own effulgent Self is the greatest Yogi, and hence Bhagavan is Yogi.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj gives the interpretation that this Nama signifies that He unites the devotees with their wishes, in other words, He bestows the desired wishes for their devotees – yojayati svajanan tad- abhIshtenaiti Yogi.

  1.      Yogishah – He is the foremost the Lord of all Yogins

ananthasayanamSri Adi Sankara explains this as ‘Anye Yoginah yogantarayaih hanyante svarupat pramaadyanti Ayam tu tadrahitatvaat teshaam Ishah Yogishah – The other Yogis are affected by many distracting influences and get deflected from their path but He is unaffected by such distractions and therefore He is the foremost and the Lord among the Yogis. Hence He is called Yogishah, the Supreme Yogi’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar interpretation is that Bhagavan is called Yogishah because He is the foremost Lord of all Yogins, and He bears the responsibility of bringing about perfection of Yoga in devotees even as they are in the embroiled in midst of this Samsara. Thus, even for the likes of Sanaka, who are naturally gifted with the powers of meditation, Bhagavan is the One who brings about the perfection of Yoga in them, so that they can attain Sri Vaikuntham. Sri Bhattar gives a reference from the Vishnu Puranam – ‘sanandanadin apa-kalmashaan munin cakara bhuyah ati-pavitram padam – He conferred the highest goal, namely Sri Vaikuntham, upon Sanaka and other sages who were flawless’.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers us to Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram which conveys the sense of His being the Yogishah, One who is worshipped by the Yogis:
கலக்க மில்லா நல்தவ முனிவர் கரைகண்டோர்,
துளக்க  மில்லா வானவ ரெல்லாம் தொழுவார்கள்,
மலக்க மெய்த மாகடல் தன்னைக் கடைந்தானை,
உலக்க நாம்புகழ் கிற்பதென் செய்வ துரையீரே.
Meaning: The Seers such as Janaka, Sanaka, etc., who have clear perception as a result of their true penance and devotion, the Nityas who have crossed the Samsara, and enjoying His unlimited auspicious qualities – all serve Him with pure delight. O’ Who churned the Ocean for nectar! Words cannot describe your great qualities.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj gives the interpretation that He is worshipped and meditated upon by the Karma Yogins, Jnana Yogins and Bhakti Yogins, and hence He is Yogishah. He quotes the following verse from the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 6 Verse 47):
Yoginam api sarvesam mad-gatenantar-atmana
sraddhavan bhajate yo mam sa me yuktatamo matah ||
Meaning: He who worships Me with faith, whose innermost self is fixed in Me, I consider him as the greatest of the Yogins.

Swami ChinmyAnanda describes a Yogin as one who is free – completely and fully – from any involvement while being in the midst of Samsara and its bustling activities. Bhagavan alone qualifies as the King of Yogis to fit this description.

Sri Satyasandha Thirtha gives a different intepretation – Yoginam Sam (=sukham) yasmat iti Yogishah – He is the One through Whom (by meditating on Whom), the Yogis attain great delight and so He is Yogishah.

Sri Vasishtha uses the meaning ‘union’ for the word Yoga, and gives the interpretation that Bhagavan has this Nama signifying that He keeps everything bound together – for instance, all the bones in the body are kept united together so that the body is in one functional piece. While this example may sound trivial, the whole Universe is held together only because of His power of Yoga or union.

  1. Sarvakamadah – He Who bestows all desires

Rama 5The word ‘Sarva’ means ‘all’ and ‘Kama’ means ‘desire’. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Sarvaan Kaman Sadaa dadati iti Sarvakamadah – He fulfils all the wishes of His devotees at all times, hence He is called Sarvakamadah’.

Sri Adi Sankara quotes from Bramha Sutra (3.2.38) which says ‘Phalam ata Upapatteh – the Lord alone is capable of bestowing fruits for all actions and observances’. Thus the Nama Sarvakamadah, the bestower of all wishes, is appropriate.

Sri Bhattar points out that Bhagavan grants all desires sought by the devoted Yogins, including the powers such as Anima (one of the Ashtasiddhis), even though these can be impediments to the path for Salvation. Sri Bhattar notes that even those who have not perfected their Yoga and slip from this path because of distractions arising from desire etc., will still get the benefit of their Yogic effort, and will be bestowed with good birth in their next janma. He quotes from the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 6 Verse 41) in support:

prapya punya-krtam lokanusitva sasvatih samah
sucinam srimatam gehe yoga-bhrasto ‘bhijayate ||
Meaning: The unsuccessful Yogi, after many, many years of enjoyment on the planets of the pious living entities, is born into a family of righteous people, or into a family of rich aristocracy.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj gives support from Srimad Bhagavatam (2.3.10):
a-kamah sarva-kamo va moksha-kama udara-dhih |
tivrena bhakti-yogena yajeta purusham param ||
Meaning: He who has no desire in anything, or one who is desirous of all benefits, or one who is realized enough to be interested in Moksha, should worship the Parama Purusha with intense devotion.

In other words, He is the One Whom we should worship, no matter what our desires are – Dharma, Artha, Kama or Moksha, because He alone is the Ultimate Bestower of all benefits- Sarva-kama-dah. This concluding message is given by Sri Suka Muni to Parikshit after discussing several alternate routes such as worshiping other Devatas for attaining lesser benefits.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri gives reference to the Chandogya Upanishad (4.15.3):
esha u eva vamaniresha sarvani vamani nayati |
sarvani vamani nayati ya evam veda ||
Meaning: And He alone is Vamani (bringer of wealth), since He grants all good things to those who seek refuge in Him”.

Sri N.S. Ananta Rangacharya explains that VamanI here refers to Vamanitvam-Sva Ashriteshu Sobhana prapakattvam – He Who bestows all auspiciousness on those Who have taken refuge in Him.

  1.    Ashramah – He is the abode of peace for all wanderers in this Samsara

Maha Vishnu 6‘Ashram’ basically means a cottage or a place of rest in the middle of a jungle where travellers’ can rest. Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Aashramavat  Sarveshaam Samsararanye Bhramataam Vishramasthaanatvaat Ashramah – Like a hermitage in the middle of a forest, He is an abode of peace and comfort for the troubled travellers’ wandering in the forest of Samsara, hence He is called Ashramah, the grantor of peaceful hermitage’.

Sri Bhattar continues his interpretation from the previous Nama, where he pointed out that Bhagavan bestows lesser benefits for those who have swerved from the path of Yoga after starting on that path. When they have completed the enjoyment of the meritorious benefits for their lesser effort, then He gives them ‘a place of rest’ – birth in the houses of pious Sri Vaishnavas where true knowledge of the Lord can be imbibed – ‘tato vivritya subhiksha para vidyeshu Vaishnava grheshutesham vishranti-hetuh Ashramah. In other words, this birth in a good family is to enable those who have been interrupted in their Yoga in their previous birth, to rest and then continue and succeed in the current birth by being provided the right conditions and environment for the successful completion of their pursuit of Yoga. In the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 6 Verse 41) it says – Sucinaam Srimataam gehe yoga-bhrashtah abhijayate – They are born in the house of the pure and prosperous (prosperous here means that they are delighting themselves in pure and exclusive devotion to the Lord).

The root from which the Nama is derived is ‘Shramu – tapasi khede ca’ meaning ‘to take pain, to be fatigued’. The prefix ‘A’ sometimes gives the meaning opposite to that of the verb it follows (e.g., gam – to go, A- gam – to come; da – to give, A- da- to take). Similarly, the word A-Shrama gives the meaning – to rest, opposite of Shrama.  Ashrama refers to a place of rest or a hermitage. This ‘Place of Rest’ is a reference to the act of meditating on His Holy Feet, and the association with Bhagavatas who have nothing but Him on their mind. This is beautifully brought out by Sri NammAzhwar’s in his Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (10.1.2):
இலங்கதி மற்றொன் றெம்மைக்கும் ஈன்தண் துழாயின்
அலங்கலங் கண்ணி ஆயிரம் பேருடை அம்மான்
நலங்கொள் நான்மறை வாணர்கள் வாழ்திரு மோகூர்
நலங்க ழலவன் அடிநிழல் தடமன்றி யாமே.
Meaning: In Tirumogur, where a good number of Vedic seers live, the Lord who has a thousand names wears a Tulasi garland.  I have no refuge other than Him through every birth and in the shadow of His Lotus feet is the lake of all goodness.

In this commentary, Sri Ramanujan points out that the association with the Bhagavatas is extremely beneficial because they are ‘nalam kol vanargal’ – those who are interested in lifting us up to their levels, and those who are interested in our welfare without any benefit for them.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri generalises the concept of Ashramah as the different means by which Bhagavan gives rest to those who have been struggled through the forest of Samsara – including the Ashramas of Vana prastha, Sanyasa, Samadhi and finally Moksha.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives the explanation as – Ashramyante karmAnurupam yonim prapaya yena iti Ashramah – He by Whom the Jivas are made to endure the birth in this world according to their Karmas is Ashramah; or, He is the One on whom the Yogins set their mind while practicing their rigours of meditation and penance and hence He is A-Shramah.

Sri Vasishtha does not using the ‘A’ as a negative prefix of Shrama as Sri Bhattar and Sri Sankara did, but has instead used it as a reinforcement of the word Shrama – One Who ensures that the Jivas go through the toils according to their Karmas.

  1.    Shramanah – He torments the ignorant

Krishna-kills-Kamsa1This Nama is based on the root word ‘Shramu’ meaning ‘to be fatigued or troubled’. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Avivekinah sarvaan Santaapayati iti Shramanah – He torments all those who do not exercise their discriminatory wisdom, hence He is called Shramanah’. Bhagavan is Shramanah as He makes them endure the consequences of their poor choices and or in this sense He torments such unwise people.

Sri Parasara Bhattar has interpreted this Nama in the same spirit in terms of Bhagavan’s relation with the practitioners of yoga, and His benevolence for them, even if they do not complete their yoga in one birth. Sri Bhattar interprets the current Nama as Bhagavan making it possible for those who were not able to complete their Yoga in a given birth, to resume where they left off with minimal effort in their next birth – ‘Anayesena Sramyate iti Shramanah. He quotes support from the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 6 Verse 43):
tatra tam buddhi samyogam labhate paurva daihikam |
yatate ca tato bhuyahsamsiddhau kurunandana || BG 6.43
Meaning: There he regains the disposition of mind which he had in his former body, O Arjuna, and from there he strives much more for success in Yoga.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri explains this as the situation where, even though Bhagavan is indicating the right path for attaining Him, there are many among us who do not want to follow that path, and then He is left with no choice except to make us undergo the effects of our Karma, and as most of us know, it is a tormenting experience to be born and living in Samsara.

Swami ChinamyAnanda puts the idea more graphically: ‘One Who persecutes the worldly people – who are driven by their hungers and passions and seek sense- gratifications. By the very nature of the ephemeral sense-objects and the ever-changing instruments of experience in us, the life of gratifications can only yield exhausting fatigue and weary disappointments. This is the `Law’ and Sriman Narayana is the ‘Law- Giver’.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj attributes the Shramam to Bhagavan Himself, in His incarnation as Nara Narayana, for the protection of the world – Shramayatitapas carati Nara Narayana rupena loka sa’ngrahaya iti Shramanah.

Sri Satyasandha Thirtha interprets the Nama as: Shramanah sanyasinah asya dasattvena santi iti Shramanah –The Sanyasins exist through a sense of dependence on Him and through penance experience tranquility, hence He is called Shramanah.

  1.    Kshaamah – He brings about the decline of all beings

vishvarupamSri Adi Sankara gives the interpretation ‘Kshaamaah Ksheenaah Sarvaah Prajaah karoti iti Kshaamah – He reduces all beings to the state in which they were prior to their current form, hence He is called Kshaamah, the Reducer’.

The Nama can be derived from the following roots: kshi – kshaye – to decay, kshi – himsayam – to destroy, kshi – nivasa gatyoh – to dwell, and ksham – sahane – to allow, to be capable of.  In addition, interpretations have been given by looking at the word as ksham +Ama, ksha + ma, etc.

Sri Bhattar uses the root kshi – kshaye – to decay, in the earlier interpretation of this Nama (444) and explained earlier Bhagavan’s form as the Pole Star, where Bhagavan stands in the form of Dhruva in a diminished form at the time of the dissolution of the Earth inclusive of the five elements.

All the luminaries disappear, and Dhruva alone remains shining in his place, as stated in Vishnu Puranam (2.8.92):
yavan-matre pradeSe tu maitreyavasthito dhruvah |
kshayamayati tavat-tubhumerAbhutasamplave ||

For the interpretation of the current Nama, Sri Bhattar uses the root (ksham – sahane – to allow, to be capable of) and explains that He is the One Who uplifts and supports those that have not successfully completed the Yogic path. He allows those who have slipped from the path of yoga to fulfill their effort by giving them the necessary strength to achieve this, if only they show an inclination for this – Sva Yogabhimukhyamatrena te yoga-bhrashta api durgam taritum kshamante asmat iti kshamagah.  He quotes the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 6 Verse 40) in support:
Partha naiveha namutra vinashas-tasya vidyate |
na hi kalyana-krit kashcitdurgatim tata gacchati ||BG 6.40
Meaning: Neither here (in this world), nor there (in the next), Arjuna, is there destruction for him. For, no one who does good ever comes to an evil end.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan gives the meaning ‘One Who makes the Yogins skilled in continuing and fulfilling the Yoga – tiramai udaiyavanagac ceybavan’.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri gives the example of how Bhagavan gradually removes the functions of the indiryas, mind etc., gradually before the final moment in our own life – the function of Kshaama or decay.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj give another interpretation of Kshaama or destruction- He eliminates the wicked – kshaamaan = kshinaan karoti dur- janan iti Kshaamah.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives an interpretation using the meaning  ‘hidden’ for ‘kshaya’, and explains the Nama as Bhagavan remains hidden amongst us while being present in all of us, or in whom we are all hidden ya etasmin vishve antarleenah tishthati sarvam vyapya, yasmin va idam vishvam praleeyate. Sri Vasishtha gives the alternate interpretation using the root kshi – nivasagatyoh – to dwell, and explains that this Nama of Bhagavan signifies that He is the ultimate abode for all at the time of pralaya -kshaayati = nivaasayati, gamayati iti Kshaamah.

Sri Satya sandha Thirtha interprets this Nama as ksha + ma. He explains this as – Ksha-narakaah,tan mavate – badhnati iti Kshaa-mah – He Who binds (restrains, controls) the demons is Kshaa-mah.

Sri Raghunatha Thirtha’s interpretation is: kshamate sahate iti Kshaamah – He Who endures patiently.

  1.    Suparnah – One Who has beautiful wings

vishnu_on_garudaParnah means a leaf. We covered this Nama earlier as part of Shloka 21 (Nama 194).  Sri Adi Sankara identifies Bhagavan with beautiful leaves (which are the Vedas) on the tree of Samsara and explains this Nama as ‘Shobhanani Parnani Chandaamsi Samsarataru rupinah asya iti Suparnah – Bhagavan is represents the Vedas and He is like the beautiful leaves on the tree of Samsara and hence He is called Suparnah’. He supports this by the quotation from the Bhagavad Gita (15.1):

Urdhvamulam Adhash Shaakham Ashvattham Praahuravyayam;
Chandaamsi yasya Parnaani Yastam Veda sa Vedavit ||
Meaning: They speak of an immutable inverted Peepal tree with its roots above and branches below. Its leaves are the Vedas. He who knows it knows the Vedas.

Sri Bhattar interprets this Nama in two ways, first as ‘One Who has beautiful wings’ (e.g., in His Hamsa incarnation or in His Garuda form), and next as ‘One Who helps the Yogins cross the ocean of Samsara’ (with ‘beautiful wings’ that carry devotees cross the Ocean of Samsara) – Shobhana parnatvat, Samsara-para-nayanaat va Suparnah.

He enables the Yogins who have fallen from the path of yoga to get back in track and cross the ocean of Samsara – evam pratyapanna samadhIn samadhi- vipaka-dvara tamasah param nayati iti Su-parnah. He gives support from the Maula Samhita and the Bhagavad Gita:

  • sva-param Bhagavan nayati – The Lord leads them to reach the shore;
  • prayatnad-yatamAnastu yogi samshuddha kilbishah |
    sva-param Bhagavan nayat aneka janma samsiddhah tato yati param gatim ||BG 6.45
    Meaning: But when the Yogi engages himself with sincere endeavor in making further progress, being washed of all contaminations, then ultimately, after many, many births of practice, he attains the supreme goal.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives two roots from which the different interpretations can be explained: ‘paar–tir– karma samaptau’ meaning ‘to finish or to get through’; and ‘parn–harita bhave’ meaning ‘to make green’. So the word ‘Parna’ can mean a ‘wing’ as well as a ‘leaf’. The different interpretations for the Nama are:

  • One who has beautiful wings,
  • One Who enables the Jivas cross the Ocean of Samsara,
  • One who gives everything the ability to move around
  • One who makes everything live and thrive (“green”)
  • One who is decorated with the Green Thulasi leaves, etc.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan explains the Nama as referring to Garuda, who has Bhagavan as his antaryami. In the Bhagavad Gita (10.29) Bhagavan says ‘Vainateyashca pakshinaam – Among the birds, I am Garuda, the son of Vinata.

Sri  Radhakrishna  Shastri  explains  that  the  two  wings  of  this form of Bhagavan – Suparnah – can be enjoyed as:

  • one wing representing the Vedas that show the path for our conduct; and
  • the other wing representing the virtuous conduct practised by our Acharyas and elders through their conduct of life following the teachings of the Shrutis and Smritis

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha explains the Nama in terms of the Mundaka Upanishad passage 3.1:
mundaka upanishaddva Suparna sayuja sakhaya samanam vriksham parishvajate |
tayoranyah pippalam svadvanti, anashnan anyo abhicakashiti ||
Meaning: A pair of white-winged birds extremely friendly to each other sit on one and the same tree; one eats the fruits, while the other eats not and gazes on.

In the Upanishad, the reference to the two beautiful birds sitting on the same tree – signifies the JivAtma and the ParamAtma dwelling in the same body. One (JivAtma) eats the fruits of actions, and the other (ParamAtma) just gazes on as a witness (Saakshi). Lord Vishnu is this all-experiencing Principle of Consciousness. Sri Radhakrishna Shastri refers to one as the great enjoyer (Perinbam), and the other as the Great Knower (PerArivu).

Sri Shastri continues on the above, and explains that He is also Suparnah because He gives protection to the Jivas in their sojurn in this Samsara by giving them the shade in the form of the beautiful leaves of this immutable Ashvattha tree while they go through the Samsara to expend their Karmas.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj explains the Nama as ‘One Whose form is decorated with the Green Thulasi leaves – Shobhanani parnani thulasI dalani yan-murtau sa Suparnah’.  Sri Bharadvaj gives an alternate interpretation as – ‘He is Suparnah since He has the green emerald colour because of His association with Sri lakshmi Who resides in His Vaksha-sthalam – Shobhanah parno harita bhavo yasya Sri LakshmI Devi sannidhyaat iti Su-parnah’. He gives a third interpretation using the root ‘prn – prinane’ meaning ‘to please, to satisfy’, and explains as – Shobhanam parnam prinanam yasya iti Su-parnah – He Who is easily pleased and satisfied by the sincere offerings by His devotee. In the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 9 Verse 26), Bhagavan says:
patram pushpam phalam toyam yo me bhaktya prayacchati |
tad-aham bhakty-upahrtam ashnami prayatAtmanah ||BG 9.26
Meaning: Whoever offers Me with true devotion a leaf, a flower, a fruit or some water, I accept this offering made with devotion by him who is pure of heart.

Sri Vidya Bhushan’s says that Bhagavan is more pleased wearing the beautiful green thulasi leaves than when wearing the precious jewels, and so He is Suparnah – ‘Sobhanani parnani thulasi patranyeva na tu kanaka ratnani yasmin sa Suparnah’.

Sri Satyasandha Thirtha explains this as ‘One Who is resting on the beautiful green tender leaf of a fig-tree at the time of pralaya – Sobhanam parnam vata-patram Sayyatvena yasya sa Su-parnah’.

Sri Raghunatha Thirtha gives the interpretation as: ‘Su samyak bhumin purayati – vyapnoti iti Su-parnah – He Who pervades the earth completely’.

  1.    Vaayuvahanah – He makes the air flow

maha-vishnu-vahana-garudaSri Adi Sankara’s earlier interpretion of this Nama was that ‘He is the carrier of air in all its seven forms – Vahatah sapta Avahadin vahayati it Vaayuvahanah’. He interprets the current occurrence of this Nama as ‘Vaayur vahati Yadbheetyaa Bhutaani sa Vaayuvahanah – He makes the air flow and carry all beings and thus sustain life forces, hence He is called Vaayuvahanah’. In support he quotes from the Taittriya Upanishad (2.8) which says ‘Bheeshaasmaat Vaatah Pavate – Air moves out of fear for him’. In other words, He causes Vaayu to do its work of sustaining life and hence He is called Vaayuvahanah.

Sri Bhattar interprets the Nama in Shloka 36 as a reference to Bhagavan’s act of driving the air (making it move and flow) that is vital for the survival of all beings. Sri Bhattar gives the interpretation that Bhagavan lifts up those that have fallen into the ocean of Samsara, using Garuda. Vaayu here signifies Garuda, the King of birds, who is known for his swift movement.  Sri Bhattar’s words are – taanshca prabala hetubhih patitAnapi, Vaayuna – anupamagatvarena patagapatina, Vaahayati uttaarayati iti Vaayu-vahanah.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives the roots involved in the Nama as ‘va-gati gandhanayoh’ meaning ‘to go, to blow etc.’, and ‘vah–prapane’ meaning ‘to carry, to flow’. He gives the derivation as ‘Vaayuh vahyate – pravartyate anena iti Vaayu-vahanah – It is because of Him the air flows.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan gives refers us to Sri Thirumangai Azhwar’s Pasuram thiruezhu kutrirukkai – medamum aim-perum bhutamum neeye – You are the Force behind the five great elements that are constituents of the body that houses the Jivas.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri gives reference from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (3.7.7), which describes that Bhagavan is the antaryami of Vaayu, and makes Vaayu flow etc. –
yo vayau tishthan vAyorantaro yam vaayur na Veda yasya Vaayuh Sariram yo Vaayurantaro yamayati esha ta Atma antaryami Amrutah |
Meaning: He who dwells in Vaayu, who is within the Vaayu (Air), whom Air does not know, whose body is Air, and who controls Air from within, is the Inner Ruler (antaryami), the Immortal.

Sri Shastri describes in detail about these seven regions that are controlled by seven different sons of Kashyapa and diti, because of the powers given to them by Bhagavan.  They are called the Sapta-marutas, namely, A-vaha, Pra-vaha, Sam-vaha, Ud-vaha, Vi-vaha, Pari-vaha, and Para-vaha.

The prefix to the term ‘vaha’ in each case signifies the kind of force that is exerted by this type of flow, for instance ud-vaha is the force that lifts up, etc. The seven Maruts control seven regions of the Universe. Six of these regions are listed by many and these regions are:

  1. the space between earth and the clouds,
  2. that between the clouds and the Sun,
  3. that between the Sun and the Moon,
  4. the Moon and the Stars,
  5. the Stars and the Planets,
  6. and the Planets and the Sapta-Rishi Mandala.

It is said that it is because of the pressure exerted by these regions of air that the various stellar objects do not collide with each other.

Sri Shastri gives another explanation that Bhagavan redeems His devotees swiftly like air, and so He is Vaayu-vahanah. Sri Shastri also comments that Bhagavan is Vaayu-vahanah or ‘One Who has Air as His Vehicle’ (explained later in the Story).

Swami ChinmayAnanda summarises the above in the following words: ‘The inconceivable might and power of the winds and their life-sustaining abilities are all lent to the air by Bhagavan’s own munificence and, therefore, He is called Vaayu-vahanah.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha comments that at the time of creation, Bhagavan first makes the air flow, and then gives body to the Jivas so that they can move around or breathe and live, and so He is Vaayu-vahanah. Sri Vasishtha gives several references to the Vedic passages in support:

  • tad-dhavato’nyan-atyeti tishthat-tasmin-apo matarisva dadhati (Ishavasya Upanishad 4) – While not moving, It goes faster than those who run after By Its Power, the Air supports all the living beings.
  • kasmad-a’ngat dipyate agnir-asya kasmad-a’ngAt pavate matarisva (Atharvana Veda 7.2) – By Whose movement or force the Agni glows, and by whose movement the air flows.
  • kva prepsan dIpyata Urdhvo Agnih, kva prepsan pavate matarisva (Atharvana Veda 7.4) – How (by Whose Power) the agni always blazes upward, and by Whose Power the wind flows.
  • YatrAgnish-candramah Suryo vatas-tishthantyArpitah |
    skambham tam bruhi katamah svideva sah || Atharvana Veda 10.7.12
    That Support on which the earth, firmament and sky are set as their foundation, in Whom the Fire, Moon, Sun, and Wind have their foundation.
  • yasmad vata Ritudha pavante yasmad samudra adhi viksharanti (Atharvana Veda 3.2) – He from Whom winds blow pure in ordered seasons, and from Whom the seas flow forth in ordered directions.

Sri Ananta Krishna Shastri takes ‘Vaayu’ to refer to ‘The Vaayu’ – the son of Vaayu, namely Hanuman, and notes that Bhagavan is Vaayu-vahanah since He had Hanuman as His ‘Vehicle’ in His Rama incarnation during his battle with Ravana.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj gives the following interpretation:
vati – gandhayate sucayati Srimad-bhagavad Agamanam iti vaayuh |
tad- vahanam garutmadakhyam yasya iti Vaayu-vahanah |
garutmatah sa’ncalane sama-gitir-udbhavati,
sa ca Sriman Narayanasya Agamanam  sucyati |
Meaning: That which, or one who announces the arrival of Bhagavan is Vaayu, based on ‘vaati – gandhayate – sucayati’. Bhagavan has Garuda as His Vahana, who announces the arrival of the Lord, and so He is Vaayu-vahana.  The movement of Garuda produces Sama Ganam, which again announces the arrival of Bhagavan ahead of His arrival.

Sri Satyasandha Thirtha looks at the Nama as Vaayuvah + nah: vaayum – svaasa vaayum vahanti iti vaayu-vah, jIvah; taan nayati iti Vaayavaha-nah – Those that inhale and exhale the Prana Vaayu are called Vaayu-vah; One Who leads them is Vaayuvaha-nah.

In his alternative interpretation, Sri Satyasandha Thirtha looks at the Nama as Vaayuvah + vritu – vartana – to exist, to happen, to live on; aha – vyaaptau – to pervade. He Who makes Vaayu exist, and to pervade is Vaayuvah + ahanah – Vaayuvashca asau ahanashca iti Vaayuvahanah.

The Story of Lord carrying Garuda (Gajendra Moksham)

Gajendra-Moksana_2Vinata suta, son of Vinata, the mighty Garuda is the Vahana (mount) of Sriman Narayana and he is Veda himself. While Garuda is the Vahana of the Lord, here is an instance where the Lord used Vaayu as His Vahana and the Lord carried Garuda.

King Indradyumnan, who was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu, was cursed by Sage Agastya as the King remained seated when Agastya walked in. The Sage felt insulted by his ego and cursed Indradyumnan to be born as an elephant who would be absolved from the curse only when he surrendered to the almighty totally. Thus was born Gajendra, an elephant who lived in the forests near Mount Trikuta.

In the nearby lake lived a crocodile. This Crocodile was a Gandharva in his previous birth. He playfully pulled the legs of the Sage Devala while he was bathing. Since the Gandharva had shown disrespect, he was cursed to be born as a crocodile till his liberation from the curse by the Lord himself.

One day Gajendra, went to pluck Lotus from the lake and the crocodile caught the elephant’s leg by its powerful jaws causing much pain. Despite his strength and stamina, the elephant could not free himself from the crocodile. The latter was more powerful in water and dragged the elephant deep into the water. This tussle continued for 1000 years with the elephant relying on his strength to free himself. When he realised at the end that he had no more strength and by purva vasanas recognised that God alone can save him from his plight, he surrendered totally to the Lord Vishnu and prayed for His help crying ‘Adhimoolame, Adhimoolame.’

Hearing this Vishnu jumped on to Garuda His Vahana and commanded him to go speedily to the lake where Gajendra was struggling. Garuda flew with all his strength but he could not keep up to the speed that Lord Vishnu wanted. Lord is full of compassion and wanted to reach His distressed devotee in an instant. So the Lord decided that He would use Vaayu as His Vahana and carry Garuda.  He could not leave Garuda behind as it’s an integral part of His insignia.  Gajendra would recognise Him as ‘Adi moolam’ only when He sees the Lord on His Garuda with His Conch and Chakra. Hence Vishnu appeared with Garuda and killed the Crocodile with the Sudarshana Chakra. Both Indradyumna and Gandharva were liberated.

In Summary

Bhaarabhrit Kathito Yogi Yogeeshas Sarvakamadah                 |
Aashramah Shramanah Kshaamah Suparno Vaayuvaahanah ||91||

Nara NarayanaHe carries the weight of the Earth in the form of the Serpent called Ananta or AdiSesha, hence He is called Bhaarabhrit. He is described and talked about at length in all the Vedas, so He is called Kathitah, the One who is talked about. He has a unique greatness in harmoniously bringing together a combination of things that usually do not go together, hence He is a Yogi. He is the foremost and the chief among the Yogis, hence He is called Yogishah, the Supreme Yogi. He fulfils all the wishes of His devotees at all times, hence He is called Sarvakamadah.

Like a hermitage in the middle of a forest, He is an abode of peace and comfort for the troubled travellers’ wandering in the forest of Samsara, so He is called Ashramah, the grantor of peaceful hermitage. He torments all those who do not exercise their discriminatory wisdom, hence He is called Shramanah.  He reduces all beings to the state in which they were prior to their current form, hence He is called Kshaamah, the Reducer. He is Suparnah, One Who has beautiful wings, and Who helps the Yogins cross the ocean of Samsara. He makes the air flow and carry all beings, and thus sustains all life forces, hence He is called Vaayuvahanah.

HARI OM TAT SAT

OM NAMO NARAYANAAYA

This Vishnu Sahasranamam series is authored with the help of my friend Shri Balaji.

SRI VISHNU SAHASRANAMAM (SHLOKA 90) – PART 99

In this part we will explore the meaning of the 90th Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.

 shloka-90
Anur Brihat Krishas Sthulo Gunabhrin Nirguno Mahaan                       |
Adhritah Svadhritas Svaasyah Praagvamsho Vamshavardhanah ||90||

Purport
He is Atomic, Gigantic, Thin, lightweight, Oversized and heavy, having all contrasting attributes making Him Incomprehesible with human faculties. He possesses three qualities of Sattva (for Creation), Rajas (for Protection) and Tamas (for Dissolution), yet He is free from all qualities and above them. He is Supreme who is supported by none other than by Himself and is naturally superior to all.  He is peerless and foremost who expands or contracts the Universe (Vamshah) at His Will.

The above Shloka has the following Namas:

  1.    Anuh
  2.    Brihat
  3.    Krishah
  4.    Sthulah
  5.    Gunabhrit
  6.    Nirgunah
  7.    Mahaan
  8.    Adhritah
  9.    Svadhritah
  10.    Svaasyah
  11.    Praagvamshah
  12.    Vamshavardhanah

Now let’s examine the meaning of the above Namas in detail:

This Shloka has some of the Namas paired together with contrasting attributes bringing forth the art of effectively employing terms of contradiction to explain the incomprehensible nature of the Lord with the cognitive faculties of human contemplation.

Nama Meaning   Nama Meaning
Anuh Smaller than an Atom Brihat Great, All pervasive and Gigantic
Krishah Subtle, Light and Invisible Sthulah Immense, Heavy and Massive
Gunabhrit Bearer of all attributes and qualities (Gunas) Nirgunah Devoid of any attributes, qualities  or form

He is Aprameya and AmeyAtma (Immeasurable), Agrahyah (Incomprehensible), Atindriyah (cannot be known by senses) and Krishah (Invisible) yet He is Sarva-vyapi, Sarvagjnah and Sarvadarshanah (All pervasive, Omniscient and Omnipresent).

Sri Bhattar has interpreted the Namas in this Shloka in terms of the grandeur of Bhagavan, describing His Super powers such as becoming smaller than an atom or larger than anything that can be imagined etc.  Sri AnnangarAcharya notes that the powers being described are the Ashta Aishvaryas, namely – Animan, Mahima, Laghima, Garima, Praapti, Ishitam, Vashitvam and Praakaamyam.

  1.    Anuh – He has the power of becoming smaller than an Atom

fire_the_grid_earth_meditationThe word ‘Anuh’ means an atom, the smallest particle or constituent of matter and describes one His eight Aishvaryas i.e., Animan. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara defines this Nama as ‘Soukshmya Atishayatvaat Anuh – He is Anuh, because of His extreme subtleness’.

In support of this, Sri Adi Sankara gives the following passage from Mundaka Upanishad (3.1.9):
Eṣo AṇurAtma cetasa veditavyo yasminpraṇaḥ pancadha saṃvivesha |
praṇaishcittaṃ sarvamotaṃ prajaanaṃ yasminvishuddhe vibhavatyeṣa Atma || 9 ||
Meaning: This subtle Atman should be known by the mind as being in the body, whose prana entered in five different forms; the mind in all creatures is pervaded by these pranas. When it is purified, then the Atman shines out of itself.

This Atman, who is thus seen, is subtle can only be imagined and known by the mind, i.e., by the mere intellect that is purified. Where is this Atman? In the body which, as prana in five different forms, has well entered. He should be known by the mind as existing in the body, i.e., in the heart. When the mind is purified, i.e., freed from the taint of grief, desire, greed etc., then this Atman shines out, shows itself out, by itself.

Sri Parasara Bhattar comments that the Nama signifies His ability to enter into the infinitesimally small void space known as ‘Dahara Akasham’ in the hearts of beings, into Prakriti, and also into the subtle Jivas as He is extremely subtle. Sri Bhattar refers to the Katha Upanishad (1.2.20) to support this interpretation:
Aṇor Aṇiyaan mahato mahiyan Atmasya jantornihito guhayaṃ |
tamakratuḥ pashyati vitashoko dhatuḥ prasadanma himanam Atmanaḥ || 20 ||
Meaning: Subtler than the subtle, greater than the great, in the heart of each living being, the Atman reposes. One free from desire, with his mind and the senses composed, sees the glory of the Atman and becomes absolved from grief.

These Ashta Aishvaryas (powers) are natural to Him.  Sri V.V. Ramanujan points out that some of these powers are also given to those who are bestowed with His grace or blessing. He gives the example of Hanuman, who had the ability to alternate between a very large form and a very small form at will in an instant, which he demonstrate while crossing the Ocean and in his encounter with Surasa (Sundara Kandam). 

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri notes that the ability of the eye to see something is limited by a lower limit and an upper limit with respect to size.  Bhagavan is not constrained by any such limit on either end of the spectrum.  He is beyond all the sensory perceptions.  Sri Shastri gives several references to the Shruti in support:

  • Anor-Aniyaan (Katha Upanishad 1.2.20) – Subtler than the subtle
  • na hi sujneyam Anur-esha Dharmah (Katha Upanishad 1.1.21) – The truth is very subtle and not easily comprehensible.
  • yad-anubhyo’nu ca (Mundaka Upanishad 2.2.2) – That which is smaller than the small.
  • aniyaan hyatarkyam anu paramaanaat (Katha Upanishad 1.2.8) – It is subtler than the subtle and beyond realization through reasoning alone.
  • Esha sa Atmantar-hridaye aniyaan vriher-va yavad-va sarshapad-va Syamakad-va Syamaka-tandulad-va… (Chandogya Upanishad 3.14.3) – This great Being, the Supreme Brahman is in one’s own heart who is as fine and subtle as one can conceive of. It is the subtlest. It is most subtle even among those that we regard as very subtle in this world. The Supreme Being is subtler than a grain of rice or paddy, subtler than a grain of millet, subtler than the kernel of this grain, so small, subtler than a mustard seed etc. who is seated in one’s heart.
  • Sa ya esho Anima (Chandogya Upanishad 6.8.7) – This (Sat) is subtle.

Swami ChinmayAnanda gives the support from the Bhagavad Gita – ‘Sarvasya caaham hridi sannivishtah – I am seated in everyone’s heart’.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishta notes that it is by His Anutvam that He is present everywhere, and permeates everything, including the subtle Jiva.  He also gives an interpretation based on the root word ‘Ana – Sabde’ meaning ‘to sound’, and indicates that the Nama suggests that He, in the form of the sound, pervades the ether, and is also the cause of the sound that emanates from the different life-forms etc. 

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadwaj gives his interpretation based on the meaning ‘Anati – Sabdayati’ meaning ‘makes known or reveals’ – Anati Sabdayati vedaadi Shastram iti Anuh – He Who reveals the Shastras such as the Vedas etc.

  1.    Brihat – He is Gigantic

TrivikramaThis Nama describes His Aishvarya or power called ‘Mahima’ – of becoming greater than anything that we know of as great.   The emphasis here is His power of vastness, in contrast to the Anutva in the previous Nama.

The root word for this Nama is ‘Brh’ which means ‘to grow or increase’. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Brihatvaat Brimhanatvaat cha Bramha Brihat’ – He is immensely huge and also has the ability to grow beyond any limits, hence He is called Brihat. Sri Sankara gives the following passage from Katha Upanishad (1.2.20) to support this – ‘Mahato Maheeyaan – He is greater than great’. It may be noted that Brihat is exactly opposite to Anuh, showing Bhagavan’s qualities are beyond human logic and comprehension. He can project Himself into extreme and contrasting attributes.

Sri Parasara Bhattar describes His greatness in terms of His pervasiveness. Even the vast transcendental world (Parama Padam) can be contained in a corner of His palm.  Sri Thirumangai Azhwar refers to Bhagavan as ‘Alattarku ariyaay’ (Periya Thirumozhi 3.8.1) – He who cannot be measured.  

Sri Bhattar gives reference from the Purusha Suktam (1):
Sahasra sirsa purusah sahasraksah sahasrapat
sa bhumim visvato vrtva atyatisthad dasangulam ||
Meaning: The Supreme Lord in the form of the Universe, has a thousand heads, a thousand eyes and a thousand feet, for He contains all the living entities (in this context thousand means Infinite). Having pervaded the Universe completely to give it existence, being independent, He extended Himself beyond it endlessly (Dasangulam here means in different directions or is endless and transcendental).

Bhagavan’s vastness is further explained in Verse 4 of Purusha Suktam:
tripad urdhva udait purusah pado ‘syeha ‘bhavat-punah
tato visvan vyakramat sasana nasane abhi ||
Meaning: Three quarters of the Lord transcends the material portion. His one quarter of material energy becomes this creation again (and again). Then He pervades this Universe comprising a variety of sentient beings and insentient objects.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri gives references from the Shrutis to explain this Nama:
hamsah sucisad vasur antariksasad dheta
vedisad atithir duronasat|
nrsad varasad rtasad vyomasad
abja goja rtaja adrija rtam brhat || Rig Veda 4.40.5 & Katha Upanishad 2.2.2
Meaning: The brilliant Sun, the wind in the atmosphere, the fire on the altar, the guest in the house, the dweller in man, and dweller in those above them, resident in the world of truth, dweller in the celestial sky, water-born, earth-born, born of yagna, mountain-born – All these are ‘Rtam Brhat’, that is, are of the nature of the Brahman which is unlimited Truth.

In the Svetasvatara Upanishad (3.7), it says:
tataḥ paraṃ brahma paraṃ bṛihantaṃ yathaanikaayaṃ sarvabhuteṣu guḍhaṃ
vishvasyaikaṃ pariveṣṭitaaram ishaṃ taṃ jnatvamṛta bhavanti ||
Meaning: The Supreme Lord is higher than Virat, beyond Hiranyagarbha. He is vast and is hidden in the bodies of all living beings. By knowing Him, who alone pervades the Universe, men become immortal.

Swami ChinmayAnanda explains the two Namas ‘Anuh and Brihat’ as follows: These two Namas may seem paradoxical, but the apparent contradiction dissolves into an illuminating experience for the contemplative mind.  In fact, the Upanishad talks of these two qualities in the same breath – Anor-Aniyaan mahato mahIyaan Atma’sya jantor-nihitam guhaayaam (Katha Upanishad 1.2.20) – Subtler than the subtle and great than the great is lodged in the cave of the heart.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadwaj interprets this as ‘barhati vardhate pratipadam Shobhayaam iti Brihat – He Who enhances or increases the beauty everywhere. Whatever beauty exists in anything, is because of Him.

Sri Satya Sandha Yatiraja interprets the Nama as ‘Gunaih vriddha – He Who is enhanced in His Gunas or auspicious qualities.

  1.    Krishah – He Who has the ability to be lighter than light and Invisible

tula3This Nama represents another of the Ashta Aishvaryas, called Laghima, or the ability to be lighter than anything that we know is light.  The root from which the Nama is derived is ‘Krish – tanukarane’ meaning ‘to become lean or thin or light-weighted’.  The Nama is interpreted as referring to the ability to be lean or thin, or to be light, depending on the interpreter. 

Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Asthulam ityadina dravyapratishedhat Krishah – He is capable of becoming so thin that He is beyond anything material in nature’.  Another version of Sri Adi Sankara’s commentary is ‘Asthulam ityadina drishyatvapratishedhat Krishah – He is capable of becoming so thin that He becomes invisible’.

When Satyabama became exasperated and sought Rukmini’s help in Thulabaram He made Himself so light when Rukmini prayed and placed a mere Tulsi leaf and that was enough to bring the scale back into balance!

He quotes the following supporting passage beginning with Asthulam from Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (3.8.8):
sa hovaca, etadvai tadaksharaḥ, Gargi brahmaṇa abhivadanti,
asthulamanaṇvahrasva ma dirgha ma lohita ma sneha ma cchaya matamo’-vaayvana akaasha masaṅga ma cakshuṣka ma shrotra ma vāgamano’-tejaska ma praṇa ma mucha ma matra ma anantara ma bahyam, na tadashnati kiṃcana, na tadashnati kashcana || 8 ||
Meaning:  Yagnavalkya said: O Gargi, the knowers of Brahman say, this Immutable (Brahman) is that. It is neither gross nor minute, neither short nor long, neither red colour nor oiliness, neither shadow nor darkness, neither air nor ether, unattached, neither savour nor odour, without eyes or ears, without the vocal organ or mind, non-luminous, without the vital force or mouth, not a measure, and without interior or exterior. It does not eat anything, nor is It eaten by anybody.

Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets the Nama in terms of His ability to be lighter than anything light.  Sri Bhattar explains that He is lighter than cotton, wind, etc., and so His movement is unimpeded on all sides and in all respects – ‘sarvatra avyahata gatih’. He quotes from the MahaBharata in support – ‘yatra-kaama-gato vashi’ – He can go wherever He chooses. 

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan interpretation is that Bhagavan is so thin that He can be even inside a rock unobstructed, because of His Krishatvam i.e. leanness or thinness – Silaasvapi apratihat praveshatvaat Krishah. 

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri summarises this Nama and the next one, by observing that the question of whether Bhagavan is lean or hefty, can be answered only if He can be seen. If He is either so huge that we do not even see Him, or so lean that we cannot see Him, then the question of whether He is lean or huge cannot be answered. That is the Nature of Bhagavan, whom we cannot see.  In fact, the passage that Sri Sankara quotes from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, referring to Bhagavan as ‘Asthulam’, and in the very next word says that Bhagavan is ‘an-anu’.  The point to be understood is that He can be whatever He chooses to be, whenever He chooses to be, and He can become anything He wants from being smaller than an atom to a gigantic form in the minutest fraction of time. In other words, He is devoid of all attributes, for He is One without a second; so what is there that can be specified, and through what? He is Immeasurable and Incomprehensible.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadwaj’s interpretation is:  ‘Krishyati tanukaroti svajana vipadam iti Krishah – He Who reduces or eliminates the difficulties of His devotees. 

Sri Satyadevo Vasishta takes the generic meaning for the root – ‘Krish’ meaning ‘to make lean’, and refers to Bhagavan creating the creatures of various forms with features as needed for their survival and comfort. 

Sri Satya Sandha Yatiraja’s interpretation is: ‘daityaan karshayati iti Krishah – He Who makes `light work’ of the Asuras or He Who destroys the evil Asuras with ease. 

  1.    Sthulah – He Who is Immense

Trinavarta 1This Nama describes the ‘Garima’ Aishvarya of His ability to become as big and heavy as He wishes.  The Nama is based on the root word ‘Sthul – paribrhamane’ meaning ‘become big or stout, grow bulky or fat’.  Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Sthulah iti Upacharyate Sarvatmatvaat – He is described figuratively as the ‘mammoth One’ because He is the collective embodiment of all living creatures, so He is called Sthulah’.

When Trinavarta took the child Krishna high into the sky, Krishna made Himself so heavy that it choked the Asura who finally fell to the ground unable to bear the weight.

Sri Bhattar comments that since Bhagavan has the ability to touch any object in any world even while standing in one place, He is called Sthulah.  This Nama is demonstrated in Bhagavan’s Trivikrama Avataar. 

Sri V.V. Ramanujan gives references from the Divya Prabhandam. He quotes Sri NammAzhwar’s Pasuram – taal parappi mann thaaviya Ishan (Thiruvai Mozhi 3.3.11), and Sri Andal’s Thiruppavai – O’ngi ulagalandha Utthaman  (both Pasurams refer to the Bhagavan’s Trivikrama Avataar) to describe this Nama. 

Sri Vasishtha quotes the Mantra 4 from Ishavasya Upanishad in support:
anejadekam manaso javIyo naiand-deva Apnuvan purvamarshat    |
tad-dhavato’nyanatyeti tishthat tasminnapo maatarishva dadhati   || 
Meaning: Brahman is One without a second or an equal. It never moves, yet it goes faster than the mind. The Devas could not overtake it as It is always ahead; the sense organs can never catch up with it. It is still, yet it defeats all in a race. By its power, Matarisva (Prana or Vital Air), it allots (or supports) all activities.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan gives the explanation – Koti Brahmanda vigrahatvaat Sthulah – Since Bhagavan is in the form of Infinite BrahmAndas, He is Sthulah.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri comments that as a consequence of His Aishvarya or power of being Anuh, Brihat, Krishah, Sthulah etc., at will, no one can comprehend Him from one moment to the next.  Sri Shastri draws attention to the similarity of this Nama with `Sthavishtha’ (Nama 437 in Shloka 47) as the latter Nama is made up of a combination of `Sthula’ and `Ishtha’, giving the meaning ‘He Who has willed to be huge’.  

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadwaj gives the interpretation as ‘Sthulayati brimhayati svajana sampadam iti Sthulah – He Who grows or enhances enormously the wealth of His devotees, is Sthulah.  The `wealth’ for the devotees can be in the form of their eternal bliss enjoyed in the act of performing kainkaryams to Him and to His devotees, and need not necessarily refer only to material wealth.

  1. Guna-bhrit – He bears all the Attributes (Gunas)

sri-padmanabha-swamy-thiruvananthapuramThis Nama is an expression of His Aishvarya or power of Ishitvam – Lordship. Guna is a quality or an attribute such as Daya (Mercy), Karunya (Compassion) etc., and also refers to the three attributes, namely Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas. In this Nama, Bhagavan is described as possessing these qualities or attributes.

Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Sattva Rajas Tamasaam Srishti Sthiti Laya Karmasu Adhishthaatritvaat Gunabhrit – Since He supports the qualities of Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas to varying degrees in the different beings as part of His functions of Creation, Sustenance and Dissolution, He is Gunabhrit’. He is a storehouse of the various attributes as Creation requires Sattva Guna, Sustenance requires Rajo Guna and Dissolution requires Tamo Guna and therefore called Gunabhrit or One Who bears all these three qualities.

Sri Bhattar expands the meaning of Guna-bhrit to cover everything that is subject to the three Gunas. He interprets the Nama as a reference to Bhagavan’s Supreme power of Lordship, ruling over all things in all their states, and supporting them. By His mere Will (Sva-Sankalpa), He supports all of them in their different states, so He is called Guna-bhrit.  He gives the support from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (4.4.22) – ‘Sarvasya Vashi Sarvasya Ishanah Sarvasya Adhipathi -The Supreme Lord governs material nature and everything within it. He is God of all and is the Supreme Authority for everyone’.

Sri Vasishtha gives this explanation for this Nama as –‘Guna Daya Daakshinya-dayah Sattva Rajas Tamas Adayashca, teshaam bhrit dhaaraka ityarthah – Because of His attributes of Mercy and Compassion, He supports the three Gunas of Sattva, Rajas and Tamas, that distinguishes the different beings.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan gives a similar interpretation – Gunan Sattvadeen bibharti iti Guna-bhrit.  Swami ChinmayAnanda also comments that since Bhagavan supports the three Gunas by assuming the Sattva Guna in His process of Creation, the Rajo Guna in the process of Protection, and the Tamo Guna in the process of Annihilation – He is Guna-bhrit, the bearer of the three Gunas.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadwaj gives the explanation – Gunan jnana Anandamadhurya vaatsalyaadeen bibharti iti Guna-bhrit – He Who possesses the qualities such as perfection in knowledge about the past, present and future of everything at all times, absolute bliss, the ability to be kind and sweet even to the enemies, attachment to His devotees like that of a cow to its calf, etc.

  1.    Nirgunah – He Who is Formless and bereft of attributes

milky-wayThis Nama is an expression of His Aishvarya of Vashitvam that represents the Supreme power of holding others in a magical spell at His will.  However, this Nama conveys that Bhagavan, in essence, is devoid of form or qualities. He is Nirguna and Niraakaar in His pure form.

Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Vastuto Gunaabhaavaat NirGunah – Intrinsically He is devoid of all qualities (though he assumes specific qualities when He is performing specific functions) hence he is NirGunah’. Sri Sankara quotes from Svetasvatara Upanishad (6.11) which says ‘sarvabhutadhivaasaḥ saakṣi ceta kevalo nirguṇash ca – He is One God, hidden in all beings, all-pervading, the self within all beings, watching over all works, dwelling in all beings, the witness, the perceiver, the only one, free from qualities’. So in essence He is untouched and untainted by qualities, hence He is Nirgunah.

The Namas Guna-bhrit and NirGunah are contradictory, but in the case of Bhagavan, they are consistent Gunas as we see in the various interpretations.

Sri Parasara Bhattar interpretats this Nama as ‘atatvashyataya tat-samsparshe’pi asprishta-tad-Gunah Nir-Gunah’ – Even though He is in contact with all the Jivas at all the time, He is not tainted by their defects, since He is not subject to any one, and is above all of them.  He has the Supreme power of holding others under His magical spell. He gives the following references to support his interpretation:

  • Vishvasya mishato vashi (Taittriya Upanishad 3.6.1) – He bewitches the entire world with His wide-open eyes.
  • Sattvadayo na santeeshe yatra ca prakrita Gunah (Vishnu Puranam 9.44) Sattva and other Gunas that are in the Prakriti have no place in Bhagavan, the Ruler.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj gives the explanation – Prakrita Guna-traya virahitatvaat Nir-Gunah. Sri Satya Sandha Yatiraja gives a similar interpretation – Sattvadi Guna rahitatvaat Nir-Gunah.

  1.    Mahaan – He is Supreme

Maha VishnuThis Nama signifies the Aishvarya called Praakaamyam (Irresistible will), the power of achieving whatever He desires. Mahaan is somebody who is great or Supreme. Sri Adi Sankara gives a detailed interpretation of Bhagavan’s greatness and says ‘Shabdaadi Guna rahitatvaat, Niratishaya Sukshmatvaat, Nityashuddha Sarvagatatvaadinaa cha Pratibandhakam Dharmajaatam Tarkatopi yato vaktum na shakyam ata eva Mahaan – He is removed from the defining properties such as sound, touch, form, taste and smell; He is immeasurably subtle; He is ever pure and all pervading; He knows no obstacles; He cannot be described fully even for the sake of argument; All these make Him Mahaan, the Supreme personality’.

Sri Adi Sankara quotes from Aapastamba Sutram which says ‘Anango Ashabdo Ashareero Asparshashcha Mahaan Chuchih – He has no limbs, no sound, no body, no touch and He is truly a pure Mahaan, Supreme person’. Sri Sankara explains the Nama in terms of the impossibility of constraining Him to a description even for the sake of discussion – tarkato’pi yato vaktum na Sakyam, because He is One to whom sound and other attributes have no reference, One who is immeasurably subtle, One who is ever pure and all- pervading, One about whom anything in the nature of an obstacle cannot be advanced’.

The root from which the Nama is derived is Maha-pujayam – to honor, to delight, to increase. Mahaan means ‘One who is worthy of worship.  Sri Parasara Bhattar explains the Nama Mahaan in terms of His Supreme excellence in everything – Parama prakarshaat Mahaan. He can plunge into the earth as He wishes, and emerge out of it as He wants, just as we can enter water and get out of it at will.  Sri Bhattar gives the following from MahaBharata support:
samprayojya viyojyaayam kaamakaarakarah prabhuh |
yad-yad-icchet ayam Saurih tat-tat kuryaat ayatnatah  ||
Meaning: The powerful Lord, Sauri, acts as He chooses.  He unites and separates things as He likes. Whatever He chooses to do, He can accomplish it without any effort.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri describes Praakaamyam as the ability to enter others’ mind at will, make them remember or forget things at will, etc.  Sri Shastri further explains the Nama as signifying that He is beyond comprehension and description by words, thoughts or other means. For instance, the previous six Namas described Him in contrasting extremes (small, big, thin, huge, full of Gunas, devoid of Gunas). He is unconstrained by form, space, time, etc., so He is referred to as Mahaan.

Swami ChinmayAnanda echoes the same thought – ‘He is not conditioned by the five elements, nor by time and space’.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadwaj explains this Nama as ‘Mahyate pujyate BrahmAdibhih iti Mahaan – He who is worshiped by the likes of Brahma is Mahaan. Sri Vasishtha explains as ‘Mahyate pujyate iti Mahaan – He Who is worthy of worship’.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan gives the interpretation – ‘Sarvaih abhyarcayatvaat Mahaan – He is called Mahaan because He is worshipped by everyone.

The Story of SakatAsura

sakatasuraThe little Krishna was just three months old. He was just beginning to turn over on his belly. There was great joy in the heart of Yashoda when she saw her son lying on his stomach and smiling at her. She wanted to celebrate the occasion and invited all the ladies of Gokula. Gathered in a large group, they all went to the banks of the Yamuna. In the midst of the sound of drums, music and chanting of Mantras the child was given a ceremonial bath.

Yashoda found Krishna too tired and sleepy after the bath. As it was sunny she placed the cradle under a big unyoked cart standing nearby and gently laid him.  She busied herself in serving the large number of guests who had come for the event. The child got up after a while and started crying. But in the din of the crowd, Yashoda did not hear the child’s cries. Krishna became very agitated and began to kick with his tiny legs. As Krishna began to kick with his tiny legs, the cart shook and collapsed with a great sound. The wheels separated from the axle. Some of the other children who were watching it got scared and ran to Yashoda and informed her of the baby’s incredible feat.

Yashoda and the others got scared and came running to the cart. Everyone was surprised and frightened. All the boys who witnessed the feat said with absolute certainty that the cart was upset by the kick of the baby. But the elders could not believe their words. Yashoda thought that probably the child might have been possessed and immediately called the priests to chant Mantras to exorcise the ghost. But the baby was least affected by those things. He was once again playing merrily looking with his bewitching smile at everyone. The fact was that SakatAsura had taken the form of a cart on the advice of Kamsa. He had come to Gokula with the intention of running away with the child. But the Lord, in the form of a baby, knew everything and with a kick of his foot destroyed the cart and the Asura.

The Lord is Mahaan as He has the power of achieving whatever He desires. Jai Shri Krishna!

  1.    Adhritah – One Who is Unconstrained not requiring any support

Maha Vishnu 6This Nama represents the Aishvarya called ‘Praapti’ that denotes His ability to achieve anything. It is based on the root word ‘Dhri’ meaning ‘to hold or support’, so Adhritah refers to someone who does not any support from anyone or anything. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this name as ‘Prithivyaadeenaam Dhaarakanamapi Dhaarakatvaat Na kenachit Dhriyate iti Adhritah – He supports even objects like the Earth which support everything else but He is not supported by any other entity, hence He is called Adhritah, the unsupported one’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar explains this Nama in the context of His being totally unobstructed or unconstrained in His ability to achieve anything He wants. He has the power to achieve anything He wants, without any constraint or limitation.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishta rhetorically asks the question – yo hi sarvasya dhata sa kena dhritah syat? –  How can He be supported by anything when He is the Supporter and Sustainer of everything?

Swami ChinmayAnanda gives the example that just as cotton is the support behind the cloth, gold is the support behind the golden ornaments, and mud is the support behind the mud pot, so also Bhagavan is the support behind everything in the Universe, and we should meditate on Sriman Narayana as the support behind us.

  1.    Sva-dhritah – One Who is Self-Sustained

mahavishnuSva means self and hence Svadhritah refers to someone who is self-supporting. In Shloka 5, the Lord is called ‘Svayambhuh’ meaning One who exists by Himself.  Sri Adi Sankara explains this as ‘Yadi evam ayam kena Dhaaryate iti Aashankyaaha Svenaiva Aatmanaa Dhaaryate iti Svadhritah – From the previous name a doubt might arise ‘who then supports Bhagavan?, and the answer is that Bhagavan is supported by Himself and so He is called Svadhritah, one who supports Himself’. To support this interpretation, Sri Sankara quotes from Chandogya Upanishad (7.24.1) ‘Sa bhagavahkasmin pratishthita iti, sve mahimni – Where does that Immensity abide, Sir? It abides in its own glory.’

Sri Bhattar explains this Nama by extending the meaning from the previous Nama and declares that His Sovereignty does not depend on anything else, and is innate and natural to Him. This distinguishes the sublime nature of ParamAtman from the greatness that the bound souls (Baddha Jivas) can acquire through meditations, austerities etc. Bhagavan’s sublimity is not dependent on meditation or austerities, but is natural to Him.

All the other gods, who are all enjoying the effects of their Karmas like the rest of us, are established and supported by Him so that they can be considered Gods.  Sri NammAzhwar in this Thiruvai Mozhi (5.2.8) Pasuram says  – ‘Niruttinaan daiva’ngalaaga ad-daiva naayagan thaane– The other gods have been established by Him and He is the Lord of gods in the Universe’.  It is He who accepts all the offering that devotees make to their Ishtadevatas. 

In the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 7 Verse 21), Lord Krishna says:
yo yo yam yam tanum bhaktah sraddhayarcitum icchati |
tasya tasyacalam sraddham tam eva vidadhamy aham ||
Meaning: Whichever God a particular devotee desires to worship with faith, I surely sustain that faith firmly in Him.

He is One and Only Supreme Deity who is peerless – Eko ha vai Narayana Asit (Maha Upanishad 1.1).

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri points out that by logic, anything that supports something is supported by something else. If the question is continually asked, there comes a point at which we realize that everything else is supported by One, the Supreme Self.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadwaj gives the meaning sva-janah to the term sva, and gives the interpretation – svaih sva-janaih dhritah citte iti sva-dhritah – He Who is held in mind by the devotees.

Sri Satya Sandha Yatiraja gives a different perspective and interprets the term ‘svam’ as referring to dhanam or wealth, and gives the explanation that ‘svamdhanam dhritam yena iti Sva-dhritah – He Who supports and sustains prosperity and well-being in everything else.

  1.    Svaasyah – He is Peerless

HayagreevaThis is the combination of ‘Su’ and ‘Aasyah’ meaning good or beautiful face. Sri Adi Sankara gives two interpretations, the first of which is ‘Shobhanam Padmodara talavat taamram Abhirupatamam Asya Aasyam iti Svaasyah – His face is rosy and bewitching like the inside of a Lotus flower’.

His second interpretation is ‘Vedaatmako Mahaan Shabdaraashih tasya Mukhaat nirgatah Purushaarthopadeshaartham iti vaa Svaasyah – All the Vedic texts emanated from His mouth for the benefit of people to attain their life goals, hence He is called Svaasyah, one with auspicious mouth or the originator of Vedas’. He quotes from Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (2.4.10) to support his interpretation:
Asya mahato bhūtasya niḥśvasitam etad yad ṛgvedo yajurvedaḥ sāmavedo tharvāṅgirasa itihāsaḥ purāṇaṃ vidyā upaniṣadaḥ ślokāḥ sūtrāṇy anuvyākhyānāni vyākhyānani asyaivaitāni niśvasitāni
Meaning: The Vedas, Puranas and all texts emanated from His breath, hence He is called Svaasyah.

The word ‘Asya’ refers to ‘status’, and is derived from the root ‘As – upaveshane’ meaning ‘to sit or seat’ (e.g., Asanam). Sri Bhattar uses this meaning for the word Asyam and explains the meaning for this Nama as ‘One Who has a glorious status’. Sri Bhattar notes that even though in Sri Vaikuntham, the mukta jivas have saamyam with Bhagavan in their status, His status is superior in the sense that it was never subject to nescience at any time unlike in the case of the mukta jivas.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha explains this as ‘Sobhana, Sobhana Asya yasya Svaasyah – One Who has a magnificent or superior status; or, Asanam AsyA, svayam svasmin Asya yasya sa Svaasyah  – One Who has His own innate natural superior status.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri summarises this explanation as ‘One Whose status is such that it never was, is, or will be, tainted by ignorance etc.’ Thus, His status is uniquely superior to that of the mukta Jivas.

Sri Krishnadatta Bharadvaj also gives the same interpretation – Sobhanam Asyanm vadanamyasya aiti Svaasyah.

  1.    Praagvamshah – He Who is eternal and foremost

AnanthasayanamThe word ‘Praak’ means first or foremost and Vamsha refers to a race or dynasty. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Anyasya Vamshino Vamshaa Paashchaattyaah ; Asya Vamshah Prapanchah Praageva, Na Paashchaattya iti Praagvamshah – His dynasty, namely the Universe, is the most ancient one; All other dynasties came much later and hence He is called Praagvamshah, the one with the most ancient dynasty. There are many famous dynasties such as the Surya Vamsha, Chandra Vamsha, Yadu Vamsha etc. but they all came later compared to the Cosmos, hence He is Praagvamshah.

Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets ‘Praak’ to refer to the nitya suris or the eternally liberated souls who have been in Sri Vaikuntham from the earliest of times. He interprets the term ‘Vamsha’ to mean ‘support’ or ‘Adhaara’. Sri Bhattar gives the explanation for the Nama as ‘He Who is the eternal support for the foremost souls – the nitya suris in Sri Vaikuntham’. He uses the Purusha Sukta Shloka 16 in support: Yatra purve saadhyaah Santidevah – Paramapadam is the place of Lord Narayana where from time immemorial the Saadhya devatas (the ever free Angels) live.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri notes that it is customary to name the different races after someone who is very important and prominent in that race – for instance, the Chandra Vamsha, the Surya Vamsha, the Raghu Vamsha, the Yadu Vamsha etc. In this sense, Bhagavan is the foremost in the Vamsha of the nitya-suris, hence He is Praagvamshah.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadwaj interprets the term vamsham as referring to progeny, and he takes the term praag to refer to Catur-mukha- Brahma, and gives the explanation that the Nama means ‘One Who has Brahma as His progeny – praa’ncati it praag Brahma; sa vamshah santaano yasya iti praag-vamshah.

Sri Vasishtha derives the meaning from the root ‘anc – gati pujanayoh’ meaning ‘to go, to worship’, and takes the meaning ‘to go’ in the current context  and gives the explanation for the Nama as: prakarshena ancati Sabdaayate sambahajate ca – Praag-vamSah – He Who moves around majestically, and Whose greatness is expressed clearly or loudly.

850.   Vamshavardhanah – He expands and dissolves the Universe as He pleases 

krisha-birth-testAs in the previous Nama, Sri Adi Sankara has placed the interpretation of Vamsha as the Universe since it is the dynasty of Bhagavan. Sri Sankara’s explanation is ‘Vamsham Prapancham Vardhayan Chedayan Vaa Vamshavardhanah – He expands the Universe in His role as the Protector and also destroys it when the time comes in His role as the Destroyer, hence He is called Vamshavardhanah.

Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets the term Vamsha (progeny) to refer to the three types of Jivas that he has referred to in the previous Namas.  He described Sva-dhritah as Bhagavan is superior over the baddhas who may have some of the same Ashta Aishvaryas obtained through meditation, prayer, etc.  He described Svaasyah as Bhagavan is superior over the muktas, who have a status equivalent to Him in many respects, but who were once clouded by nescience. And Praag-vamshah as One who is superior over the Nitya suris, the eternal souls in Sri Vaikuntham, since He is their origin, source and eternal support. Sri Bhattar concludes the gist of the three Namas with Vamsha-vardhanah, as referring to Bhagavan being the One who fosters and grows all the three categories of Jivas.

He interprets the current Nama as Bhagavan is the cause for ever increasing the kainkarya rasam (the desire to do eternal service to Him) in the three types of Jivas.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers us to NammAzhwar’s Pasuram from Thiruvai Mozhi (9.3.4):
மருந்தே நங்கள்போகமகிழ்ச்சிக் கென்று
பெருந்தேவர்குழாங்கள் பிதற்றும்பிரான்
கருந்தேவனெம்மான் கண்ணன் விண்ணுலகம்
தருந்தேவனைச் சோரேல்கண்டாய்மனமே.
Meaning: The devas, nitya suris etc., offer their obeisance to the Lord in incoherent words – because they are overwhelmed with their feelings on the thought of the Lord, and declare that He is the medicine that offers them Paramapadam, their ultimate bhogam or enjoyment, the tonic that enhances their happiness, pleasure of life and their sustaining force which they want to hold tight to their heart.

The ever-increasing pleasure in worshipping Him and doing kainkaryam to Him and His devotees seek that in life is the real Vamshavardhanam.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadwaj also gives his interpretation similar to that of Sri Bhattar: Vamsham bhaktanam vardhayate iti Vamsha-vardhanah – He Who grows His devotees.

Sri Satyasandha Yatiraja gives the example of His growing the Vamsha of Pandavas by protecting Parikshit – ‘Parikshit-samrakshanena Pandu- kulam vardhayati iti Vamshavardhanah.

In Summary

Anur Brihat Krishas Sthulo Gunabhrin Nirguno Mahaan                      |
Adhritah Svadhritas Svaasyah Praagvamsho Vamshavardhanah ||90||

krishnaHe is Anuh because of His ability to become smaller than an atom and for His extreme subtleness. He is gigantic and has the ability to grow beyond any limits in an instant, hence He is called Brihat. He is capable of becoming so thin to become invisible that He is beyond anything material in nature, so He is called Krishah.  He is described figuratively as the ‘mammoth One’ because He is the collective embodiment of all living creatures and He is All pervasive, so He is called Sthulah. He supports the qualities of Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas to varying degrees in the different beings as part of His functions of Creation, Sustenance and Dissolution, hence He is Gunabhrit. Even though He is in contact with all the Jivas at all the time, He is untainted by their defects as He is not subject to any one, and is above all of them, hence He is Nirgunah. He wields the power of achieving whatever He desires at His will and hence He is called Mahaan, Supreme or Great.

He supports even objects like the Earth which support everything else but He is not supported by any other entity, hence He is called Adhritah, the unsupported one. His Sovereignty does not depend on anything else, and is innate and natural to Him, so He is Svadhritah. He has His own innate natural superior status and hence He is Svaasyah. He is the eternal and the foremost who supports all souls including the nitya suris and hence He is Praagvamshah. He expands the Universe in His role as the Protector and also destroys it when the time comes in His role as the Destroyer, hence He is called Vamshavardhanah.

HARI OM TAT SAT

OM NAMO NARAYANAAYA

This Vishnu Sahasranamam series is authored with the help of my friend Shri Balaji.

SRI VISHNU SAHASRANAMAM (SHLOKA 89) – PART 98

In this part we will explore the meaning of the 89th Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.

shloka-89
Sahasraarchih Sapta-jihvah Saptaidhaah Sapta-Vaahanah |
Amurtir Anagho’chintyo Bhaya-krit Bhaya-Naashanah     ||89||

Purport:
He has innumerable rays of brightness emanating from Him. He, in His form as Agni, has seven tongues and seven flames that are kindled by seven different kinds of offerings. He, in the form of Sun, uses a chariot drawn by seven horses as His vehicle. He is formless, sinless, incomparable, incomprehensible and immeasurable. He causes fear to those who violate Dharma and removes fear from those who follow Dharma.

The above Shloka has the following Namas:

  1.    Sahasraarchih
  2.    Saptajihvah
  3.    Saptaidhaah
  4.    Sapta-Vaahanah
  5.    Amurtih
  6.    Anaghah
  7.    Achintyah
  8.    Bhayakrit-Bhaya-Naashanah

Now let’s examine the meaning of the above Namas in detail:

  1.    Sahasraarchih – The Thousand-rayed, Who illumines everything in this Universe

surya-archihThe word ‘Sahasra’ means a ‘thousand’ but in this context it implies ‘innumerable’, and ‘Archih’ means a ‘Ray’. Hence taking them together, Sri Adi Sankara gives the interpretation as ‘Sahasraani Anantaani Archeemshi yasya sah Sahasraarchih – He has innumerable rays of brightness emanating from Him and hence He is called Sahasraarchih, One with countless rays’.

Sri Sankara supports this interpretation by quoting from the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 11 Verse 12) in which Sanjaya describes what Arjuna saw:

Divi SuryaSahasrasya Bhavet Yugapad Utthitaa |
Yadi Bhaas Sadrishee Saa Syaad Bhaasas tasaya MahAtmanah ||
Meaning: If a thousand Suns were to rise at once in the sky, then perhaps the resulting brilliance may be like the brilliance of that Supreme One.

Sri Bhattar’s interpretation is that He has countless rays emanating from Him, in the form of the Sun, the Moon, etc. He has endowed the Sun with countless rays so that the Sun is able to perform the four functions of Paacana (cooking and ripening), Soshana (drying), pratapana (giving heat), and prakashana (illuminating).  Sri Bhattar quotes from the Paushkara Samhita and the Bhagavad Gita in support:
AgnishomAtma samjnasya devasya ParamAtmanah    |
Surya-Chandramasau viddhi sa Akaarau locaneshvarau   || Sri Paushkara
Meaning: Know that the Sun and the Moon are the two eye-gods in an embodied form of the Supreme Deity ParamAtma whose name is AgnishomAtman.

Yad Aditya-gatam tejo jagat bhasayate’khilam    |
Yac-candramasi yac-caaganau tad-tejo viddhi maamakam  || B.G. 15.12
Meaning: That light which is in the Sun illuminating the entire Universe, and that in the Moon, and that in the Fire – understand all that light emanates from Me.

In the Katha Upanishad, Bhagavan’s attribute as the Source of all light is brought out in the Verse 2.2.15:
na tatra Suryo bhaati na candrataarakaṃ nema vidyuto bhaanti kuto’yamagniḥ |
tameva bhaantamanubhaati sarvaṃ tasya bhaasa sarvamidaṃ vibhaati || 2.2.15 ||
Meaning: The Sun does not shine there; nor do the moon and the stars, nor do these lightnings shine. How could this fire? Him shining, all shine after. All this shines by His light.

Swami ChinmayAnanda notes that it is not only the Sun and the Moon that get their light from Him, but He is the One who illumines all experiences. 

Sri V.V. Ramanujan gives reference from Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (3.4.7), where the Azhwar refers to Emperuman as ‘Oli mani Vannan’ – The One with the dazzling radiance of a gem – Sahasraarchih.

Sri PeyAzhwar sang in ecstasy upon his sighting of the Lord in this famous first Pasuram from Moondram Thiruvandhaadi (1.1.1):
திருக்கண்டேன் பொன்மேனி கண்டேன் * திகழு
மருக்கனணிநிறமுங் கண்டேன்* செருக்கிளரும்
பொன்னாழி கண்டேன் புரிசங்கங் கைக்கண்டேன்*
என்னாழி வண்ணன்பா லின்று
Meaning: By His grace, I saw MahaLakshmi (Thirukanden). I got the privilege of seeing the Lord’s Divine Form shining like a Gold (Ponmeni kanden). His effulgence was like that of a brilliant Sun. I saw the enemy-destroying, fiery, but beautiful chakram (in one hand); I saw also the Conch (Paanchajanyam) in His other hand. All of these I saw in my dear Ocean-hued Lord, Sriman Narayanan.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadwaj gives the interpretation as ‘Sahasrani archishi Sri Vigrahodgata kanti-kirana yasya iti Sahasraarchih – He Whose divine Thirumeni shines with countless rays of radiance’.

Sri Satyadevo Vashistha comments that the significance of this Nama lies in pointing to the immeasurable glory of Bhagavan – it is like counting the number of grains of sand in a seashore.  Just as the number of rays of light emanating from the Sun cannot be quantified, so also the glories of Bhagavan be quantified.  The only thing is to remember that the radiance of the Sun is but a tiny fraction of His brilliance.  Sri Vasishtha has given innumerable references from the Shruti to describe Bhagavan’s Gunas of ‘Sahasra’ to imply that these are beyond quantification:  Sahasra yajasah, Sahasra parnah, Sahasra paat, Sahasra Shirsha, SahasrAkshah, Sahasra posham, Sahasra poshinam, Sahasra Bhahvah, Sahasra mrishtih, Sahasra bharah, Sahasra yama, Sahasra veeram, Sahasra Shringah, Sahasra sthunam, Sahasra ketum, Sahasra Cakshasam, etc.

  1.    Sapta-Jihvah – The seven-tongued

fireThe word ‘Sapta’ means seven and ‘Jihva’ means tongue. Saptajihvah is the name given to Agni or Fire because Agni has seven different tongues or forks. Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Sapta Jihvaa asya santi iti Saptajihvah – He, in His form of Agni, has got seven tongues or forks and hence He is called Saptajihvah’.

Sri Sankara quotes from the Mundaka Upanishad (1.2.4) in support –
Kaalee Karaalee cha Manojavaa cha Sulohitaa yaa cha Sudhroomavarnaa
Sphulinginee Vishvaruchee cha Devee Lelaayamaanaa iti Saptajihvaah ||
Meaning: Agni is called Saptajihva because it has 7 different tongues called Kaali (the black one), Karaali (the terrific one), Manojava (swift as mind), Sulohita (the deep red one), Sudhrumavarna (purple one), Sphulingini (emitting sparks) and Vishvaruchi (consuming all)”.

In the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 10 Verse 23), Bhagavan says ‘vasunam pavakas casmi – Among the Vasus, I am Agni (Fire)’.

Sri Bhattar quotes from the Paushkara Samhita in support:
tad-vaktra-devatanam ca huta-bhuk parameshvarah    |
mantra-putam yad-Adaaya hutam Ajya purassaram   |
brahmanda bhuvanam sarvam santarpayati sarvada   ||
Meaning: The Supreme Lord in the form of huta-bhuk (fire) carries to the various Devas the offerings that are sanctified by the mantras and yagnas with clarified butter, and thereby always pleases the entire Universe.

Sri Bhattar also notes that Fire is considered to have seven tongues named Kali, Karaali, Manojava, Sulohita, SudhumraVarna, Sphulingini, and Vishvaruchi, and they have been allotted the duties of nourishing the gods, receiving the oblations, and carrying them to the respective gods.  

Other references to the seven tongues of Agni found in the Shruti are:

  • divas-cd-agne mahina prithivyA vacyantaam te vahanayah Sapta-jihvah |  (Rig. 3.6.2)
  • sapta te agne saamidhah Sapta-jihvah |  (Taittriya Samhita 1.5.3)

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri notes that the tongues of fire that accept the offerings are known differently depending on whether the Karma is a Sattvic, Rajasic, or Tamasic:  The seven flames are known as:

  • Hiranya, Kanaka, Rakta, Krishna, Suprabha, Atirkata, and Bahu-rupa in a Sattvic Karma,
  • Padma-raga, Suvarna, Bhadra-lohita, Sveta, DhuminI, and Kaalika in a Rajasic Karma, and
  • Kali, Karaali, Manojava, Sulohita, SudhumraVarna, Sphulingini, and Vishvaruchi in a Tamasic Karma.

He also notes that the Devatas associated with the seven tongues are the Devas, Pitrus, Gandharvas, Yakshas, Nagas, Pishaacas, and Rakshasas. 

In addition to the interpretation in terms of the seven tongues of Agni, Sri Vasishtha gives an alternate interpretation, in which he takes the reference to ‘seven’ as a reference to ‘many’ – sapta iti aneka upalakshanam aneka-prakara jihvam vidhata iti.  In this interpretation, he says that just as He has several tongues, He has also equipped His creation with several types of tongues for the different species.  He observes that as the offerings in the homam feed the Agni with its seven tongues, the food consumed by the different species through the tongue, along with the prana vayu, is transmitted to feed the JaatharAgni; thus, what the Veda talks of (feeding the fire through the different tongues), is nothing different from what happens in real life, and so the Veda reflects real life happenings – bhavati lokena samo vedo vedena ca samo lokah.

Swami ChinmayAnanda says that the ‘seven tongues of flame’ conveys the idea that the Light of Consciousness in us beams out through seven points in the face – two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, and the mouth.  As intelligent beings, powers of perception (metaphorically) flame out through each one of them, illumining the world for us.  The one in our heart, Sriman Narayana, Who totally manifests as the seven distinct tongues-of-flame is classified as Sapta-Jihvah.

  1.    Saptaidhaah – One Who is kindled in the form of fire by the seven kinds of offerings

yagnaSri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Sapta Edhaamsi Deeptayah asya iti Saptaidhaah Agni – He (in his form as Agni) has seven flames, hence He is called Saptaidhaah’. He quotes the famous Mantra from Taitriya Samhita (1.5.3) ‘Sapta te Agne Samidhah Sapta Jihvah – Oh Agni you have seven flames, seven tongues’.

We can see several concentric flames of different colours existing in the Fire. There are seven of them and so Agni is called Saptaidhaah or the seven flamed one. So Bhagavan in the form of Agni is also called Saptaidhaah.

The previous Nama, Sapta-jihvah, was interpreted in terms of the different types of flames, with their individual traits such as differing colors and other attributes. The current Nama refers to the different types of fuels that are used to raise Fire for different types of Yajnas.

Sri Parasara Bhattar uses the meaning fuel for edhas and interprets this Nama as ‘One Who shines like a fire through the seven kinds of fuels’.  Sri Bhattar proceeds to describe the kinds of fuels that kindle this Fire – it is the offerings of different kinds – Paaka-yajna, havir-yajna, somasamstha, etc., each of which is of seven kinds.  These are:

  • Paaka-yajna (based on cooked food): Aupasana, Vaishva-deva, Sthali-paaka, AshtakA Shraddha, monthly ceremonies, Ishaana bali, and sarpa bali.
  • Havir-yajna (oblations in fire): Agni-hotra, Darsha-purna-maasa, Pinda-pitru-yajna, Pashu-bandha, Agrayana, Catur-masya, and Sautra-mani.
  • Somasamstha (Yagas): Agnishtoma, Atyagnishtoma, Uktya, Shodasha, Vaajapeya, AtirAtra, and Aptor-yama.
  • The sticks of seven forest trees that bear fruit without any blossoms used in sacrifices. These are:  the Palasha tree, the Banyan tree, the fig tree, the jack tree, the Sami, Ashani-hata, and Pushkara-parna. 

Thus, in Sri Bhattar’s interpretation, the Nama refers to ‘One Who is in the form of Fire is kindled by the seven kinds of offerings”.

Sri Satyadevo Vashistha gives the root for the current Nama as ‘edh – vriddhau’ meaning ‘to grow, to prosper’.  The term ‘edhas’ is used to refer to fuel that kindles the fire.  The Nirukti author gives the description – Sapta edhah yasya santi sah Saptaidhaah.  

Sri Satya Sandha Yatiraja gives the interpretation in terms of the Sapta-Rishis – Marici, Atri, Angiras, Pulastya, Pulaha, Kratu, and Vasishtha.  According to him, the Nama signifies that Bhagavan is the supporter of the seven Rishis in the form of stars – Sapta-Rishin edhayati vardhayati iti Saptaidhaah.   Thus, the term edhas is used here to mean prosperity and happiness.

  1.    Sapta-Vaahanah – He Who has seven vehicles

sapta-vaahanahSri Adi Sankara gives two different interpretations for this Nama. The first is ‘Sapta Ashvaah Vaahanaani asya iti SaptaVaahanah – He uses a chariot drawn by seven horses as His vehicle (in His form as the Sun), hence He is called SaptaVaahanah’.

Sri Sankara’s second interpretation is ‘Sapta Nama ekah Ashvah Vaahanam asya iti – A horse called Sapta is His vehicle and hence He is called SaptaVaahanah’. In support he quotes the passage from the Rig Veda (1.164.2) which says ‘Eko Ashvo vahati Saptanama – He rides on a horse called Sapta’.

The word Vaahana is derived from the root word ‘vah – praapane’ meaning ‘to bear along, to carry, to flow’.  Vaahanam also can refer to an animal used in riding, such as a horse. He who propagates or is carried along through things that are in units of seven, or who is supported by things that are in units of seven, is Sapta-Vaahanah. 

Sri Bhattar interprets the Nama as ‘One Who has the Sun as His vehicle and whose chariot has seven horses (of the Sun)’.   The seven horses yoked to the Sun-god’s chariot are named Gayatri, Brhati, Usnik, Jagati, Tristup, Anustup and Pankti. These are names of various Vedic meters that designate the seven horses. These are considered the presiding deities of the seven Veda mantras in the context of this Nama: bhu, bhuvah, suvah, mahah, janah, tapah, and satyam.  The Devas associated with these mantras are:  Agni, Vayu, Arka (Sun), Vaagisha (Brihaspati), Varuna, Indra and Vishvadeva.  These seven Devas lead the Sun on his course.  Since Bhagavan supports the Sun through these seven Devas and the seven mantras associated with these seven meters, He is called Sapta-Vaahanah.  These seven mantras are the vehicles that reveal Him, and they are couched in the seven meters referred to above.  We worship Him who is in the center of the Surya Mandalam through these Vedic mantras.   

Sri Bhattar gives an alternate interpretation for this Nama as the Lord protecting the Universe through the seven regions of Prana Shakti – vital airs – in the form of the seven Vayu Mandalas or regions of air. Prof. A. Srinivasa Raghavan describes these seven regions of air as Avaha, Pravaha, Samvaha, Udvaha, Vivaha, Parivaha, and Paravaha.  Since Vayu or air gets its strength from the life-breath of the Lord of the World, He is the Supporter of all the worlds in the form of the seven mandalas or regions of air.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri gives reference to Sri Vishnu Puranam 2.8.5, where the Sun and its characteristics are described:
hayashca saptac-chandamsi tesham nanani me shrunu    |
Gayatri sa Brhat-ushnig jagatI trishtubeva ca    |
anushtup pa’nctir-ityuktas-chandamsi harayo raveh   ||   (VP 2.8.5)
Meaning: The seven horses of the Sun’s car are the meters of the Vedas: Gayatri, Brhati, Usnik, Jagati, Tristup, Anustup and Pankti.

Sri Shastri also points to the seven Suns – Arogah, Bhraajah, Patarah, Patangah, Svarnarah, Jyotishimaan, Vibhaasah (Aruna prashnam 20).  Of these, what we see is the Arogah and the other six Suns are not visible to us, since three of these sustain the lower part of the Meru Mountain, and the other three shine on the upper part of the Meru Mountain.  Hence, Bhagavan is called Sapta-Vaahanah as He supports all parts of the Universe through these seven Suns.  

Sri Shastri further explains that there are seven dvaras (openings or holes) in our face – two eyes, two nostrils, two ears, and the mouth.  The life energy is exchanged in our body through these openings, and since He supports the life through these seven vehicles, He is called Sapta-Vaahanah.

He also gives a reference from the Mundaka Upanishad (2.1.8):
sapta prāṇāḥ prabhavanti tasmātsaptārciṣaḥ samidhassaptahomāḥ |
sapta ime lokā yeṣu caranti prāṇā guhāśayā nihitāḥ sapta sapta || 8 ||
Meaning: From Him, the Akshara Purusha, emerge the seven sense organs (the two eyes, the two nostrils, the two ears, and the mouth), the seven fires, the sacrificial fuel, and the seven flames, and the seven worlds in which we move the sense organs that are deposited by the Creator in groups of seven and seven. From Him emerge the seven sense-organs, the seven flames, the seven kinds of fuel, the seven oblations, and these seats where move the sense-organs that sleep in the cavity, having been deposited by God in groups of seven. From Him, too, the seven senses in the head, their powers of cognition, their objects and their knowledge, as also the seven seats of sense traversed by the life forces centered in the hearts of all creatures.  The seven seats are the nerve centers of the inner principles of the senses, without which the external senses cannot by themselves function.

Sri Satya Sandha Yatiraja explains that Bhagavan’s Nama of Sapta-Vaahanah signifies that He leads the Sun with the seven horses – Sapta-Vaahanah sapta vaaha ashva yasya sah Sapta-vaahah Suryas tam nayati iti Sapta-Vaahanah.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan describes the Nama to mean that Bhagavan is conducting the seven worlds prosperously:  sapta-bhuvanaani vaahayati praapayati abhyudayam iti Sapta-Vaahanah. 

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadwaj gives support from the Srimad Bhagavatam and says that Lord Krishna had seven Vehicles consisting of four horses (Balahak – White, Megha Pushpa – Dark cloud, Shaibya – parrot green and Sugreeva – Golden), Garuda, Anjaneya and the Chariot itself.

  • tatra Asvaah – Shaibya Sugreeva, Megha Pushpa and Balahakah – Srimad Bhagavatam 10.89.49
  • syandanam pa’ncamam – the chariot itself
  • chandomayena Garudena samuhyamanah ChakrAyudho’yagamadashu yato gajendrah – SB 8.3.31
  • bikshu rupam parityajya Vanara rupam Asthitah |

prishthamAropya tau vIrau jagama kapiku’njarah  ||  ( Ramayanam 4.4.34)

Swami ChinmayAnanda interprets this Nama of Bhagavan to signify that the Sun is drawn by the seven horses, representing the seven days of the week. 

  1.    Amurtih – He does not have a Form

Hinduism.AtmanBrahmanThe word ‘Murti’ refers to a ‘form’ and Amurti literally means ‘One Who has no form’.  Sri Adi Sankara gives two different interpretations for this Nama. The first is ‘Murtih Ghanarupam Dharanasamartham Characharalakshanam Tadrahitah iti Amurtih – Murtih is an object with weight and dimensions which is characterised by a movement or lack of a movement but Bhagavan is not subject to these limitations, hence He is called Amurtih, One Who is not a material object’.  He quotes from the Aitareya Upanishad (1.3.2) in support of this definition – ‘so apo abhyatapattabhyo abhitaptabhyo murtir ajayata – He brooded over the waters. From the waters, thus brooded over, there emerged a form’.

Sri Adi Sankara’s second interpretation is ‘Athavaa DehasamsthaanaLakshanaa Murcchita Anga Avayavaah  Murtih Tadrahita iti Amurtih – Alternatively, Murtih can be considered as a body with all the organs and other parts in place but Bhagavan has no such specific corporeal body, hence He is called Amurtih, one without a  body’.

Sri Bhattar interprets this Nama to mean that Bhagavan does not have a form, and it is quite different to that of ours which is composed of the five elements – sthula-bhautika murti vyaavrittah Amurtih. 

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadwaj gives support from the Isavasya Upanishad (8):
sa paryāgacchukrakāyamavraṇasnāviraṃ śuddhamapāpaviddham |
kavirmanīṣi paribhūḥ svayambhūryathātathyato’rthān vyadadhācchāśvatībhyaḥ samābhyaḥ ||
Meaning: He, the self-existent One, is everywhere-the pure one, without a (subtle) body, without blemish, without muscles (a gross body), holy and without the taint of sin; the all-seeing, the all-knowing, the all-encompassing One is He. He has duly assigned their respective duties to the eternal Prajapatis (cosmic powers).

Brahman is like fire that has no fixed shape or form.  It can grow as large as it chooses to, and take whatever form It wants.  Sri Vasishtha gives the following Rig Vedic mantra (3.19.1), which describes Agni as formless (amuram= amurtam): Agnim hotaaram pravrne miyedhe gritsam kavim visham-idam amuram.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadwaj gives the interpretation that the Nama signifies that Bhagavan is represented by the letter ‘A’– akaaro murtih yasya iti A-murtih.

Swami Desikan quotes from his Rahasya traya saaram:
Akarartho Vishnuh jagad-udaya-raksha-pralaya-krit |
Meaning: ‘A’-kaaram refers to Lord Vishnu, in His role as the Creator, Protector, and Destroyer of the Universe.

Sri Vasistha nicely brings out the point that Bhagavan is A-murtih, by pointing out the association between the soul and the body.  Just as the soul is formless but supports the body it is associated with, Bhagavan is the formless Supreme Soul that supports all the formed entities in this Universe.  Here is his composition expressing this interpretation:
Atma hi amurtir-vahate ca murtam gatram yatha nama tathabhupaiti    |
Vishnur-hi amurtih sakalam ca vishvam vahan tatha namabhir-ucyate sah   ||

  1.    Anaghah – The Sinless

BrahmanWe have covered this Nama earlier in Shloka 16. The word Agha refers to Sin or Sorrow. Using this, Sri Adi Sankara defines this Nama as ‘Agham Duhkham Paapam Cha Asya na Vidyate iti Anaghah – He has no sin or sorrow, hence He is called Anaghah’. Not only is He without sin or sorrow, but He relieves His devotees from these afflictions as well. The Phalashruti says ‘Sankeertya Naarayana shabdamaatram Vimukta Duhkhaah Sukhino Bhavantu – Anyone chanting the name of Sriman Narayana will be relieved of all sorrows’.

Sri Sankara’s interpretation for this Nama in the earlier instance – ‘Agham na vidyate asya iti an-aghah, and he quoted from Chandogya Upanishad (8.1) in support – Apahatapaapma – He is free from Sin. 

The root word is ‘Agh – papa karane’ meaning ‘to do wrong or to Sin’.  Agho nasti yasmin so’naghah – He Who does not have any Sin is Anaghah.  Na Aghah – agha Sabda papa vacanah, tad-virodhI ca anaghah – He Who is opposed to Sin is Anaghah or He Who does not suffer sorrow is Anaghah.

Even though Bhagavan takes birth in the midst of us, in this Samsara, He is Sinless. Sri Parasara Bhattar stressed this aspect in his earlier interpretation for this Nama – Samsara madhye janitva’pi An-aghah.   For the current instance, Sri Bhattar’s interpretation deals with the reason as to why He is Sinless. It is because of the reason that all of Bhagavan’s actions are Selfless and hence He is not impacted by Karma. So, He is entirely different from the Jivas that are under His control – akarma vashatvena tan-magna jiva vilakshanah Anaghah.   

Sri V.V. Ramanujan notes that even though Lord Rama had to go through enormous hardships in this Samsara, He was still Sinless. His birth and His actions were purely because of His Leela. He is Apahatapaapma – completely devoid of faults of any kind.  He is ‘kurai ondrum illaadha Govindan’ (Sri Andal’s Thiruppavai). In addition to Himself being Sinless, He is the One who removes the Sins of others. 

Sri Ramanujan notes that He is made of Shuddha Sattva, which is not subject to aging, decay, death, disease, etc., hence He is Anaghah. 

Sri NammAzhwar refers to Emperuman as ‘teedil Seer ThiruVenakatattaan’ (Thiruvai Mozhi 3.3.5) – One with blemishless character.  Here, His Guna of Vatsalyam in blessing His devotees with the utmost Mercy, irrespective of their infinite faults, is the aspect that is enjoyed.  

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri comments that Bhagavan is devoid of bad deeds, and the associated sins or sorrow that result from such deeds.  It is the thought of committing a sin that is the start of the act of sinning.  He is devoid of such thoughts to begin with, so there is no evil deed.  Since there is no evil deed, there is no consequence or sorrow.  He gives several quotes from the Shruti in support:

  • Shuddham apapa viddham – Isavasya Upanishad 8 – Ever pure, untouched by punya and papa.
  • ApahatapApma abhayam rupam…. tad-Apta kamam Atma kamam akamam rupam Sokantaram – Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4.3.21 – That is his form, in which all objects of desire have been attained and are but the self, and which is free from desires and devoid of grief.
  • Atma apahatapaapama vijaraj – Chandogya Upanishad 8.7.1 – That Atma which is sinless, ageless etc.
  • Na jara na mrityur na Soko n sukrtam na dushkrtam sarve paapmano’to nivartante apahatapaapma .. (Chandogya Upanishad 8.4.1) – The self is a dam, a separating boundary, for keeping these worlds apart. This dam is not passed by day and night, by old age, death and grief, or by good and evil deeds. All evils turn back from It, for the World of Brahman is free from all evil.

Swami ChinmayAnanda refers to a similar message in Chandogya Upanishad 8.1.5 – Esha Atma apahatapaapma vijaro vimrtyur vishoko vijighatso’pipaasah Satyakama Satya Sankalpah …. – This is the Atma that is opposed to all that is defiling, free from old age, death, sorrow, hunger, and thirst, and has true desire and true will.  Swami comments that the peace of virtue or the sin in us cannot affect the Illuminator of all consciousness, and He is free from sin and is uncontaminated (aliptah).

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan refers us to Bhishma’s words – ‘Pavitranam pavitram yah’ in the introductory part of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam – The Purest of the Pure. 

The Story of Parikshit – Lord Krishna demonstrates His Purity

On the last night of the MahaBharata war, after Duryodhana’s defeat, a very disturbed and restless Ashwatthama was sitting sleepless under a large tree. An Owl ambushing a group of Crows caught his attention. This gave him an idea of attacking the Pandavas’ camp at night. He gathered the other surviving Kaurava warriors—Kritavarma and Kripacharya and attacked the Pandava camp. He strangled Dhrishtadyumna to death in his sleep, beating and thrashing the semi-conscious warrior. He moved on and killed Shikhandi, Uttamaujas and many other prominent warriors of the Pandava army. Those who tried to flee from Ashwatthama’s wrath were hacked down by Kripacharyya and Kritavarma at the camp’s entrance. He killed Draupadi’s five sons, the Upapandavas, while they were sleeping, believing them to be the five Pandava brothers.  Ashwatthama, realising his mistake, went to Sage Veda Vyasa’s ashram in order to seek salvation (prayaschittam) for his crime.

The Pandavas and Krishna returned to their camp the next morning and were incensed to learn about the cowardly act of Ashwatthama. The Pandavas went after him to Sage Vyasa’s ashram. Upon seeing the approaching Pandavas seething in anger, Ashwatthama (who learnt that he had killed the upapandavas and not the Pandavas) realised that he was trapped now. As a last resort, he used his sacred knowledge of the Vedas to devise a Bramha Astra from a blade of grass and invoked it against the Pandavas and Krishna, although he was strictly forbidden to do so by his father Dronacharya for any purpose whatsoever. On seeing the Brahma Astra approaching the Pandavas, Krishna asked Arjuna to invoke the same. Arjuna invokes Bramha Astra, which he received from Dronacharya towards Ashwatthama.

On seeing the two powerful Astras heading for a cataclysmic (catastrophic) collision that would result in the annihilation of the entire Earth, Sage Vyasa used his Yogic powers to stop the divine weapons from colliding with each other. He asked both these warriors to withdraw their respective weapons.  Arjuna was able to withdraw his Brahma Astra, while Ashwatthama could not do so as Dronacharya did not teach his son how to withdraw it. Ashwathama was given the option of deviating his weapon towards one single isolated object in a place that was not inhabited by any form of life, so that the Brahma Astra does not harm anyone on Earth. But Ashwatthama, out of spite, directed the weapon towards the womb of Uttara (wife of Abhimanyu) who was carrying Abhimanyu’s son (Parikshit) in an attempt to end the lineage of the Pandavas. As a result, Abhimanyu’s son was still born and Uttara pleads to Krishna to save the child. 

Krishna_give_life_to_dead_child_of_UttaraLord Krishna says to Uttara – ‘O Uttara, I never utter an untruth. My words will prove true. I shall revive this child in the presence of all creatures. Never before have I uttered an untruth even in jest. Never have I turned back from a battle. (By the merit of those acts) let this child revive! As righteousness is dear to me, (by the merit of that disposition of mine) let Abhimanyu’s son, who is born dead, revive! Never hath a misunderstanding arisen between me and my friend Vijaya (Arjuna). Let this dead child revive by that truth! As truth and righteousness are always established in me, let this dead child of Abhimanyu revive (by the merit of these)! As Kansa and Kesi have been righteously slain by me, let this child revive today by that truth!’

‘After these words were uttered by Vasudeva, that child, O’ foremost one of Bharata’s race, became animate and began gradually to move, O’ monarch.’ [Mahabharata]

Thus by reviving Parikshit, Krishna demonstrates his purity. The Lord is Anaghah.

  1.    Achintyah –He is incomparable to anything known

Sri Krishna 7Sri Adi Sankara gives two interpretations for this Nama. The first is ‘Pramaatraadi Saakshitvena Sarvapramaana Agocharatvaat Achintyah – Bhagavan is the means of perceiving everything else, and therefore He cannot be perceived by any means of perception, hence He is called Achintyah, the unperceivable’.

The second interpretation is ‘Ayam Eedrisha iti Vishvaprapancha Vilakshanatvena Chintayitum Ashakyatvaat Vaa Achintyah – There is no proper object of comparison in the whole Universe to describe the nature of Bhagavan fully, hence it is impossible to adequately comprehend His full extent, so He is called Achintyah, the incomprehensible’.

Even Vedas are unable to describe Him except as Neti…Neti, he is not this and he is not that etc. in an indirect way.

Sri Bhattar’s interpretation is that the Nama indicates that He is beyond comparison with anyone or anything.  Valluvar declares that Bhagavan is ‘Thanakku uvamai allaadhaan’.

Lord Krishna declares this in the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 10, Verse 40):
nanto’sti mama divyanaam vibhutinaam parantapa   |
esha tuddeShatah prokto vibhuter-vistaro maya   ||
Meaning: O mighty conqueror of enemies, there is no end to My divine manifestations. What I have spoken to you is but a mere indication of My infinite opulences.

yad-yad-vibhutimatsattvam Srimad-Urjitameava va   |
tat-tadevAvagaccha tvam mama tejo’msha sambhavam || BG 10.41
Meaning: Whatever being is possessed of power, or of splendor, or of energy, know that as coming from a fragment of My power.

Sri Satyadevo Vashishtha gives the root involved in the Nama as ‘Cit – samjnane’ meaning ‘to notice, to understand’.  He Who cannot be described as such and such, is Achintyah;  Or, He Who cannot be comprehended  completely in our mind is Achintyah – ‘Chintayitum – iyattaya paryavasitum Sakyah Chintyah; na cityah Achintyah; manaso’pi agocarah.   There are many other ways to enjoy this Nama – He Whose Leelas are incomprehensible, He Whose power cannot be imagined, etc.

The Shruti attempts to describe Him – in the Chandogya Upanishad it says that Bhagavan is Golden-colored, with golden colored moustache, eyes resembling the just-blossomed Lotus’ –
ya eshontarAditye hiranmayah purushah drishyate,
hiranmayah smashruh, hiranya kesa apranakhaat sarva eva suvarnah;
tasya yahta kapyasam pundarIkamevam akshini  –
Meaning: He is in the middle of the Sun, with golden hue, golden mustache, golden hair, eyes resembling the just-bloomed lotus, etc. 

But the Shruti also declares that He is beyond words and beyond mind – yato vaco nivartante, aprapaya manasa saha (Taittriya Upanishad 2.9.1). 

Sri NammAzhwar conveys the two ideas together in his Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram 3.1.2:
கட்டுரைக்கில் தாமரைநின் கண்பாதம் கையொவ்வா,
கட்டுரைத்த நன் பொன்னுள் திருமேனி ஒளி ஒவ்வாது,
ஒட்டுரைத்திவ் வுலகுன்னைப் புகழ்வெல்லாம் பெரும்பாலும்,
பட்டுரையாய்ப் புற்கென்றே காட்டுமால் பரஞ்சோதீ.
Meaning: O’ Supreme Effulgence!  You are to be merely enjoyed.  Any attempt at verbal description of You is futile, especially if one compares You with familiar objects that are not even remotely comparable to You in any respect.  With beautiful eyes, feet and arms, to all of which Lotus is but a poor simile, with a dazzling stature to which pure unalloyed gold is a poor comparison, You are often being pictured by the world with words that do You no justice.  Any comparison of You to the worldly things is just a failed attempt to describe You. It is like some commoner who has never seen a precious stone, describing that precious stone as ‘something resembling a pebble’. 

Sri NammAzhwar proceeds in the very next Pasuram to declare that even after describing His greatness by the words such as ‘Param jyoti – The Supreme Effulgence’, if one proceeds to describe His auspicious qualities – His simplicity, His Sausheelyam and His Saulabhyam, there are not enough words that can describe these aspects of the Bhagavan. Azhwar exclaims: ‘Param jyoti! Govinda! Panbu uraikka maattene’ – ‘I won’t even attempt to describe Your auspicious qualities’.  So, Bhagavan is Achintyah in every sense of the word, especially when it comes to His auspicious qualities.  He is Govinda who can mingle with even cows.  

Sri NammAzhwar laments at the unimaginable behaviour of this Emperumaan who is Sarva lokeshvaran, who subjects Himself to the insult of being called the ‘butter thief’ – nenjaal ninaippu aridaal venney un ennum Enac-colle (Thiruviruttam 98).  

Another of Sri NammAzhwar’s Pasuram explains the Nama Achintyah:
மாயனென்னெஞ்சினுள்ளன் மற்றும்யவர்க்கும் அஃதே,
காயமும்சீவனும்தானே காலுமெரியும் அவனே,
சேயன் அணியன்யவர்க்கும் சிந்தைக்கும் கோசர மல்லன்,
தூயன் துயக் கன்மயக்கன் என்னுடைத்தோளிணையானே.
Meaning:  He is our body, and He is also the soul of our body;  He is the soul of the panca maha bhutas (air, water, etc.)., He is aniyan – very easily accessible to His devotees;  He is also Seyan –  inaccessible to those who do not surrender to Him; yaavarkkum Sindaikkum gocaran allan – Achintyan – He is beyond the reach of the mental faculties of even the greatest of jnanis;  tuyan – Even so, He decided to bless me by residing in my heart;  tuyan – He Who considered that being with me is the only thing that He longed for in all His life; tuyakkan – By revealing His gunas, He draws us towards Him;  mayakkan – He draws us to Him through the sheer joy of thinking about Him;  ennudait tol inaiyaan – Such a Great One has now decided to take possession of me by sitting on my shoulders (treating me like Garuda).  He is maayan – Ascarya bhutan – personification of wonders.  

Sri RamanujAcharya explains that this Universe consisting of sentient and non-sentient entities, whether in effect or in causal condition, whether gross or subtle, is supported by Bhagavan with an infinitesimal fraction of His power, in such a manner that it does not violate His will in preserving its proper form, existence or various activities.  He quotes from Vishnu Puranam:  yasya yuta yuta amshamshe vishva Saktir-iyam stitha (V.P. 1.9.53) – On an infinitesimal fraction of His energy, this Universe rests.  In other words, His full power is beyond our comprehension – He is Achintyah.

Swami ChinmayAnanda gives the reference from the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 8, Verse 9), where Bhagavan is described as A-chintya-rupan – sarvasya dhaataaram Achintya rupam – The Creator of all, and One Who cannot be comprehended mentally.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan points out that He is called Achintyah because He cannot be understood through tarka or discussion and analysis, but is revealed only through the Shruti vaakyas – tarka agovarah Srutyeka gamyah. 

  1.    Bhaya-krit Bhaya-Nashanah – He causes fear to those who violate Dharma and removes fear from those who follow Dharma

narasimhaSri Adi Sankara explains the two Namas separately while Sri Bhattar takes them together.

Bhaya-krit
The word ‘bhaya’ is derived from the root ‘bhi – bhaye’ meaning ‘to fear, to be anxious’. Sri Adi Sankara gives two interpretations, the first of these based on causing fear to those who follow the wrong path – ‘Asan maarga vartinaam Bhayam karoti iti Bhayakrit – He strikes terror in the minds of evil doers, hence He is called Bhayakrit’. The second interpretation is based on His offering protection to His Bhaktas – ‘Bhaktaanaam Bhayam Krintati Krinoti iti vaa Bhayakrit – He removes every fear from the minds of His devotees, hence He is called Bhayakrit’.

Bhaya-Nashanah
Sri Sankara’s interpretation for ‘Bhaya-Nashanah’ stresses the importance of following the VarnAshrama Dharmas. He interprets this Nama as ‘Varna ashrama achaaravataam Bhayam Naashayati iti Bhayanaashanah – He destroys the fear from the minds of those observing their proper duties in their respective four divisions namely Brahmins (the priests), Kshatriyas (the warriors), Vaishyas (the traders) and the Shudras (the workers). As long as people are performing their respective assigned duties they have nothing to fear and Bhagavan makes sure all their fears are dispelled.

He further quotes the following passage from the Vishnu Purana in support of his interpretation – ‘Varna ashrama achaaravataa Purushena parah Pumaan Vishnur Aaraadhyate Panthaa Naanyastat Toshakaarakah – The Supreme Bhagavan is deemed adequately worshipped by the proper observances of the four classes of duties. There is no better way to please him.

This can be understood in different ways:

  • as a reference to VarnAshrama dharma – to practice the prescribed duties for the four divisions or Varnas – the Brahmanas, the Kshatriyas, the Vaishyas and the Shudras; or
  • as a reference to the practices prescribed for the four Varnas as well as for the four Ashramas -Brahmacharya, Grihasthya, Vana Prastha, and Sanyasa; or
  • as a reference to the Varnas, Ashramas as well as the Acharas or the code of conduct for all these groups.

Sri Parasara Bhattar’s interpretation is that Bhagavan creates fear in those who violate His commands, and dispels fear in those who follow them.  

Bhagavan, in His Narasimha Avataar, was simultaneously Bhaya-krit (for Hiranyakashipu) and Bhaya-Nashanah (for Prahlada).

Sri V.V. Ramanujan gives the following supports for the two interpretations:

  • bhaya abhayam karah Krishnah sarva-lokeshvarah prabhuh (MahaBharata) – Lord Krishna is One Who causes intense fear in those who violate the commands of Dharma, and removes fear in those who observe Dharma.
  • Sakrdeva prapannaya tava asmi iti yacate    |
    Abhayam sarva-bhutebhyo dadamy etat vratam mama || (Yuddha Kandam 18.33)
    Meaning: Lord Rama takes this vow during Vibhishana Saranagati – “He who seeks refuge in me just once, telling me that I am yours’, I shall give him assurance of safety against all types of beings. This is my solemn pledge”.

Sri NammAzhwar in his Thiruvai Mozhi (6.3.8) reflects both the attributes – Bhaya-Nashanah and Bhaya-krit – in the first and second lines of this Pasuram:
வன்சரண் சுரர்க்காய் அசுரர்க்குவெங் கூற்றமுமாய்,
தன்சரண் நிழற்கீ ழுலகம்வைத்தும் வையாதும்,
தென்சரண் திசைக்குத் திருவிண்ணகர்ச் சேர்ந்தபிரான்,
என்சரணென் கண்ணன் என்னையாளுடை என்னப்பனே..
Meaning: Surarkku van Saranaai – For His devotees, including the devas, He is the surest Protection – Bhaya-Nashanah; Aasurarukku vem kutramumaai – Just as surely, for those with a demonic disposition, He is the sure Death – Bhaya-krit;  tan Saran nizar-kizh ulagam vaittum – Keeping those who have surrendered to Him under His Feet for protection; vaiyaadum – Those that have not surrendered to Him are not allowed anywhere close to His Feet.  Such is the Nature of our great Kannan in Thiruvinnagar – Oppiliappan Koil. 

Bhagavan’s Guna as Bhaya-Naashanah is also reflected in Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi’s Pasuram (3.10.8) – ellai il maayanai Kannanait taal patri yaan Or duhkam ilana – By surrendering to this Mayak Kannan’s divine feet, I have no more worry or sorrow. 

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives his interpretations for both the Namas.  He gives reference from the Rig Veda (2.12.13) for Bhaya-krit:
dyava cidasmai prithivI namante, sushmacidasya parvata bhayante    |
yah somapa nicito vajra-bahur-yo vajra-hastah sa janasa Indrah   ||   (Rg. 2.12.13)
Meaning: Even the Heaven and Earth bow down before Him, before His very breath the mountains tremble.  Known as the soma drinker, armed with thunder, who wields the bolt, he, o ye men, is Indra.  We know that Indra shudders before Bhagavan, and so Bhagavan is the Bhaya-krit of them all, to ensure that all the gods function properly and perform their assigned duties. 

In the Katha Upanishad, we have these two verses which brings out the Guna of Bhaya-krit:
Mahadbhayam vajram udyatam |
Ye etatdviduh amritah te bhavanti || K.U. 2.6.2
Meaning: Brahman is a great terror like an uplifted thunderbolt! One cannot even think It without shuddering within. Have you heard thunder in the skies? Such, as if the earth would break. Your heart also will miss a beat at that time. The fear that is instilled into the hearts of people by Brahman is of another kind. It is the thunder coming from all sides. You have to love it, you also have to dread It. Those who know this become immortal.  

Bhayaad asya agnis tapati bhayaat Tapati Sooryah |
Bhayaat Indrashcha Vaayushcha Mrityur Dhaavati Panchamah || K.U. 2.6.3
Meaning: For fear of Him the fire burns, for fear of Him shines the Sun, for the fear of Him do Indra, the wind (Vaayu) and Death (Yama), the fifth proceed with their respective functions’. In other words the Nature obeys His laws unquestioningly and with total commitment as though out of fear of him.

We have a similar Mantra in the Taittiriya Upanishad (2.8.1):
Bhisha asmad vatah pavate bhishodeti Suryah
Bhisha asmad agnish cha indresh cha Mrutyurdhavati panchama iti |
Meaning: Out of fear of Him the wind blows; Out of fear of Him the Sun rises; Out of fear of Him burns the Fire, as also Indra and Death, the fifth proceeds to their respective duties.

Lord Krishna brings out His Guna of Bhaya-krit Bhaya-Naashanah in the Bhagavad Gita in the following verses:
ananyas cintayanto mam ye janah paryupasate
tesam nityabhiyuktanam yoga-ksemam vahamy aham ||B.G. 9.22
Meaning: But those who worship Me with devotion, meditating on My transcendental form – to them, I carry what they lack and preserve what they have.

Sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja
aham tvam sarva-papebhyo moksha isyami ma sucah|| BG 18.66
Meaning: Abandon all varieties of righteous actions and just surrender unto Me. I will release you from all sinful reactions. Do not despair.

In Summary

Sahasraarchih Sapta-jihvah Saptaidhaah Sapta-Vaahanah      |
Amurtir_Anagho’chintyo Bhaya-krit Bhaya-Naashanah    ||89|| 

visnu2He has innumerable rays of brightness emanating from Him, hence He is called SahasrArchih. He, in His form as Agni, has got seven tongues, so He is known as Sapta-Jihvah. He, in His form of Fire, has seven flames that are kindled by seven different kinds of offerings. He, in the form of Sun, uses a chariot drawn by seven horses as His vehicle, so He is called Sapta-Vaahanah.

He is Formless Who can assume any form without any limitations, hence He is called Amurtih. He is Sinless as all His acts are selfless, so He is Anaghah. He is incomparable, incomprehensible and immeasurable, hence He is Achintyah. He causes fear to those who violate Dharma and dispels fear from those who follow Dharma, hence He is called Bhaya-krit Bhaya-Naashanah.

HARI OM TAT SAT

OM NAMO NARAYANAAYA

This Vishnu Sahasranamam series is authored with the help of my friend Shri Balaji.

SRI VISHNU SAHASRANAMAM (SHLOKA 88) – PART 97

In this part we will explore the meaning of the 88th Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.

shloka-88
Sulabhah Su-Vratah Siddhah Shatru-jit Shatru-tapanah            |
Nyag-rodhodumbaro’Svatthah ChanurAndhra-Nishudanah ||88|| 

Purport:
He is easily pleased and can be attained, even by offering leaves, flowers, fruits, water etc., with utmost devotion.  He is of excellent vows and is ever existent with no dependence on others. He is always victorious and torments His foes. He is at the command of His devotees ever ready to bestow His grace when they stand in front of Him with folded hands. He stands tall above all other beings who are below hanging on the skyward (inverted) fig tree (Asvattha tree).  He is the destroyer of the Wrestler Chanura of Andhra Desa. 

The above Shloka has the following Namas:

  1.    Sulabah
  2.    Suvratah
  3.    Siddhah
  4.    Shatrujit Shatru-tapanah
  5.    Nyagrodhodumbarah
  6.    Asvatthah
  7.    ChanurAndhra-Nishudanah

Now let’s examine the meaning of the above Namas in detail:

823.            Sulabhah – He can be easily attained                   

tulabharamSu is a prefix meaning ‘Sukham or Saunkaryam’ in this context.  The root word is ‘labh – praptau’ means ‘to get with ease’.  Sukhena Saukaryena va labhyah Su-labhah – He Who is attained easily. Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Patra-pushpadibhih bhakti-matra-samarpitaih sukhena labhyata iti Su-labhah – He Who is easily attainable by offering even leaves, flowers, fruits, etc., with full devotion’.   

Sri Sankara quotes from the Maha-Bharata:
Patreshu pushpeshu phaleshu toyeshu akrIta-labhyeshu sadiava satsu    |
Bhaktyeka-labhye purushe purane muktyai katham na kriyate prayatnah ||
Meaning: The Ancient Purusha is easily attainable by devotion alone, with the offer of leaves, flowers, fruits, and even water, which are always attainable without cost.  When such is the case, why is it that people do not even want to try to work towards emancipation with the easy means of Bhakti?

In Sri Vishishta Advaita philosophy, His Soulabhyam (affability) is one of the two most important Gunas that is adored by the devotees, the other being His Sausheelyam (affection).  Sri Parasara Bhattar’s interpretation is that even though He is priceless, He can be easily attained at a small price – ‘Anarghopi mulya-bhasena svikartum Sakyah – Su-labhah’.  Sri Bhattar gives the example of a woman with a hunch back body (kubja) who offered sandal paste to Lord Krishna and managed to get Him to visit her house – She grabbed Govinda by His attire and said ‘Come to my house’ – ‘Vastre pragrhya Govindam mama geham vrajeti vai (Vishnu Puranam 5.20.11).

Sri V.V. Ramanujan gives instances from Sri NammAzhwar’s Pasuram in Thiruvai Mozhi (1.3.1) –‘Pattudai adiyavarkku eliyavan – He is easy to reach for those who approach Him with love and devotion. After describing Bhagavan’s parattvam in the first two decads of Thiruvai Mozhi, Sri NammAzhwar describes His Saulabhyam (affability) in the third decad,  where he starts describing the incident in which the Lord lets Himself to be bound to the mortar just to please Yashodha.   

Sri NammAzhwar was so moved by this Saulabhyam of Perumal that He passed out at this simple, unassuming, virtue of Him mingling with all, and was in a state of trance for six months.  Sri NammAzhwar explains his emotions in this Pasuram in Thiruvai Mozhi (1.10.2):
கண்ணுள்ளே நிற்கும் காதன்மையால்தொழில்,
எண்ணிலும்வரு மென்னினிவேண்டுவம்?
மண்ணும்நீரு மெரியும் நல்வாயுவும்,
விண்ணுமாய்விரியு மெம்பிரானையே.
Meaning: My Lord unfolds Himself as Earth, water, fire wind and sky. Whenever I worship Him with love, He enters into my eyes and fills my heart. What more do I want?

Among the tattvas, the twenty-fifth is the soul (Jiva), and the 26th is ParamAtma.  If someone counts numerals just for counting purposes, and accidentally utters the number 26, the Lord is willing to assume that this person is thinking of Him as the 26th tattvam, and will bestow His grace.  Such is His willingness to be easily accessible. He is very near to those who surrender themselves to Him – Aniyan Agum tana-taal adaindaargatkellam (Thiruvai Mozhi 9.10.8). 

Sri V.N. Vedanta Desikan comments that when Sugreeva surrendered to Rama for help in getting his Kingdom and his wife, Rama considered it His supreme responsibility to protect Sugreeva above any other responsibility, such is the power of surrender to Him.  Lord Rama tells Sugreeva:
tvayi ki’ncit samapanne kim karyam Sitaya mama  |
Bharatena mahabaho Lakshmanena yaviyasa  |
Satrughnena ca Satrughna sva-Sarirena va punah   ||    (Yuddha Kandam 41.5)
Meaning: If you meet with death (due to Me failing to protect you), I do not care if any of the others are left behind – such as SIta, Lakshmana, Bharata, Shatrughna, or for that matter, Myself.  

Swami ChinmayAnanda quotes from the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 8 Verse 14) where Bhagavan Himself declares that He is:
‘Sulabhah’:ananya-cetah satatam yo mam smarati nityAsah    |
tasyaham Su-labhah Partha nitya-yuktasya yoginah ||
Meaning: I am easy to access, O Arjuna, to that Yogi who is ever integrated with Me, whose mind is not in anything else but Me, and who ceaselessly recollects Me at all times.   

Sri Satya Sandha Yatiraja gives a different interpretation as – Sukham labhata iti Sulabhah – He Who bestows happiness is Su-labhah.  

824.            Su-Vratah – He Who has taken a good, strong Vow                                        

Nar NarayanaThis Nama has the following meanings:
a)      He Who has taken a good, strong vow
b)      He Who accepts only the pure food that is offered with sincerity by His selfless devotees
c)       He Who observed strict penance in His Nara-Narayana incarnation
d)      He Who controls everything in this Universe and keeps them in order
e)      He Who observed all the Vratas rigorously in His Krishna incarnation, even though He was the Supreme Soul.

Sri Adi Sankara gives two interpretations for this Nama. The first is ‘Shobhanam Vratayati Bhungte – He consumes auspicious food or food offered to Him with devotion hence He called Suvratah’. He eats any food that is offered with a heart of pure devotion as He did with the humble offerings of Kuchela and Shabari. In his second interpretation, Sri Sankara gives a different meaning and says ‘Shobhanam vratayati Bhojanaat Nivartate iti va Suvratah – He refrains from food and observes penance, hence He is called Suvratah’. In many incarnations as Sages Nara and Narayana, Vyasa, Kapila etc. He observed extreme penances that required Him to totally abstain food.

Sri Ananta Krishna Shastry gives the interpretation that the Nama signifies that He accepts only the pure food that is offered with sincerity by His selfless devotees.   

Sri Bhattar points to His Su-vratam as ‘Dridha vratam’ or ‘strong vow’.  ‘Yatha katha’ncit pravishthanam sarvathA paripAlana dridha vratah Su-vratah – He Who has taken a strong vow to protect those who come to Him through by one means or another, through whatever means it takes, is Su-vratah.  He quotes Lord Rama’s vratam:
Vibhishan-Surrender-to-Lord-RamaSakrdeva prapannaya tava asmi iti yacate    |
Abhayam sarva-bhutebhyo dadamy etat vratam mama || (Yuddha Kandam 18.33)
Meaning: He who seeks refuge in me just once, telling me that I am yours’, I shall give him assurance of safety against all types of beings. This is my solemn pledge. 

And Rama does not indulge in double-talking – ‘Ramo dvir na abhibhAsate’. 

The Lord’s sincerity of His Vows is also brought out in the Saranagati Gadyam composed by Sri RamanujAcharya which describes how serious He is in His Vratam – anrtam nokta purvam me na ca vakshye kadacana – I have never uttered a lie before, nor will my words ever be false. 

In the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 18, Verse 66, Bhagavan says categorically:
Sarva-dharmaan parityajya mam ekam Saranam vraja    |
aham tvam sarva paapebhyo moksha isyami ma Sucah  ||
Meaning: Abandon all forms of righteousness and just surrender unto Me exclusively. I will release you from all sinful reactions. Do not despair. 

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers us to Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (9.10.5), which expounds Su-Vratam of Bhagavan:
சாணாமாகும் தனதாளா டைந்தார்க் கெல்லாம்
மரணமானால் வைகுந்தம்கொடுக்கும்பிரான்
அரணமைந்த மதிள்சூழ் திருக்கண்ணபுரத்
தரணியாளன் தனதண்டர்க்சன்பாகுமே.
Meaning: To all those who seek Him and surrender unto Him, the Lord gives refuge here and grants Sri Vaikuntham upon their death.  

Sri Sayadevo Vasishtha views the term Vratam as signifying control or restraint – niyamanam, and gives the interpretation that the Nama signifies that He controls the world very effectively – Suvratati niyamayati iti Su-Vratah.   He gives the following references to the instance of His function of Vrata or niyamanam from the Shruti:
yasya vrate prithivi nannamiti yasya vrate Saphavaj-jarbhuriti    |
yasya vrate oshadhir-vishva rupah sa nah parjanya mahi Sarma yaccha ||  (Rig. 5.83.5)
Meaning:   You are the One at whose bidding earth bows low, at whose command hoofed cattle fly in terror, At whose behest the plants assume all colours, You Parjanya, yield us great protection.                                                     

825.            Siddhah – He protects His devotees without any special effort on their part

Gajendra3This Nama has the following meanings:
a)                  He Whose protection is ever available without any special effort on the part of His devotees
b)                  He Who is the Siddho Upaya – the already existing means – for attaining Moksham
c)                   He Who is fully accomplished, without dependence on anyone or anything else
d)                  He Who makes His devotees accomplished – in their tapas and other efforts to attain Him
e)                  He Who gave us the Shastras, or He Who bestows auspiciousness upon us
f)                   He is the final destination – the Ultimate Truth
g)                  He Who accomplishes all His undertakings flawlessly to completion and perfection 

The root from which the Nama is derived is ‘Sidh – samraddhau’ meaning ‘to reach or to attain one’s goal, to succeed, to accomplish’ etc.  The meaning for this Nama is interpreted as ‘One Who is already materialized as a Protector of us, One Who helps us materialize our objectives, One Who is perfect, One Who makes us perfect’ etc.  

Siddhih means total fulfillment as well as enlightenment.  Based on this Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Ananyaadheena Siddhitvaat Siddhah – He has fully accomplished all his objectives without anyone else’s influence or control hence he is called Siddhah, the truly accomplished one’.

Sri Bhattar’s interpretation is that His protection is available to His devotees without any special effort on their part.  The act of protecting His devotees in natural to Him, is ever existent in Him, and is not conditioned by anything – asya goptritvam aupadhikam, sada svata eva sarva-goptritvaat, ayatna sadhyah Siddhah.    

Sri V.V Ramanujan refers us to Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi 5.7.10 in support – ‘Aru enakku nin paadhame Saran endru ozhindaai – My goal is Your Feet’.  The ‘means or upaaya’, is to cling to His Feet, and as this requires very little effort on our part, He is Siddhah.   

Sri NammAzhwar, in his Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (10.6.3), describes that Bhagavan is already inclined to protect us (Siddhah) as He rushes to our aid just by chanting His many Namas:
நண்ணினம் நாரணனை நாமங்கள் பலசொல்லி
மண்ணுலகில் வளம்மிக் க வாட்டாற்றான் வந்தின்று
விண்ணுலகம் தருவானாய் விரைகின்றான் விதிவகையே
எண்ணினவா றாகாவிக் கருமங்க ளென்னெஞ்சே
Meaning: We approached Narayana by reciting His names which are expressions of His qualities.  The Lord hastens to hand over Sri Vaikuntha lokam itself to us, to enjoy at our will, whenever we wish it.  He has come the whole way, taken residence near us in Tiruvattaru, and waits, even though He is in a great hurry to take me.  These are happening because of His Grace; otherwise, this could not have happened.   

Swami Desikan explains that among the upaayas or means for attaining Him, He is Himself the Siddha upaayam – siddhopaayastu muktau niravadhika dayah Sri-sakhah sarva-Saktih – Sriman Narayana, with infinite mercy and infinite Shakti, is the Siddha upaayam in the matter of bestowing Moksham (nyasa vimshati 17) – the means that already exists without requiring any special effort on our part to create this upaaya;  all we need to is follow one of the Saadhya upaayas – either the Bhakti or the Prapatti maargam, and He is the pre-existing means (Siddha upaaya) who will grant the Moksham or Liberation. 

Sri Ananta Krishna Shastry gives the interpretation that the Nama can also mean that He is the One who makes others perfect through their devotion to Him – The good ones attain perfection or full fruition in tapas, salvation, etc., by serving Him.   

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri also gives a similar dual interpretation – He is Siddhah because He gives Siddhi to the practitioners of the vratas etc., and He is Siddhah because He has attained Siddhi in all respects.   He gives support from Narasimhottara tapanI 9.9 – Sadevapurastat Siddham hi Brahma. 

Sri Satyasandha Yatiraja gives a new interpretation – sidham mangalam Shaastram va dhatta iti Siddhah –   He Who gave us the Shaastras, or He Who bestows auspiciousness on us.   

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadwaj gives the explanation that Bhagavan is the Ultimate End or the Final conclusion of all enquiries – siddhyati sma Siddhah – Bhagavan hi sakalaih pramanaih Siddhah;  tatra pratyaksham pramanam bhaktanam, anumanam pramanam tarkikaanaam, Sabda pramanam ca Sruti-Shastranaam, evam pramana-tryamapi Sri Bhagavantam Sadhayati –He is the eager to please His devotees, He is the final result of the analysis for analysts, and He is the Shabda pramanam as declared loudly in the Shrutis and Shaastras.  So He is the end result of all means of establishing the Ultimate Truth. 

Sri Sayadevo Vasishtha explains that the Nama refers to ‘One Who accomplishes everything there is to accomplish, with no effort – Sri Rama klamtandraabhih varjito yatnApeksha Siddhiscam Siddhah.  He who accomplishes everything to completion and perfection always is Siddhah – sarvato bhavinI ShaasvatI siddhih asya iti Siddhah.  He refers to Bhagavan’s creation of the Universe and its flawless functioning, with the right mix of air, heat, water, different species, etc., as He decides.     

826.            Shatru-jit-Shatru-taapanah – He conquers the enemies of Devas and torments them 

kalingaSri Adi Sankara (and other who follow Sankara) take this as two Namas – Shatrujit and Shatrutaapanah while Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets this as a single Nama.

Shatru refers to enemies and Jit is one who wins. Using this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘SurAsatravah eva asya Shatravah Taan Jayati iti Shatrujit – The enemies of gods are His enemies and he conquers them all hence he is called Shatrujit, the conqueror of enemies’. Bhagavan of course has no enemies of His own. But He regards any enemies of Devas or enemies of pious people as His own, fights them and defeats them, hence He is called Shatrujit.

Sri Sankara interprests Shatru-taapanah as not only He defeats His enemies but He also torments or punishes them for their crimes – ‘SurAsatroonaam taapanah Shatrutaapanah’ – One who torments the enemies of Devas.

Sri Parasara Bhattar gives the explanation that (in addition to using His powers directly in destroying the enemies of His devotees), He also uses His powers by entering into others with His Tejas, and then defeats the enemies of His devotees as well.  Thus, his interpretation for this Nama is that He is Shatru-taapanah (tormentor of His devotees’ enemies) by using Shatru-jits (those who conquer their enemies) as His vehicle.  Sri Bhattar gives examples for this interpretation from Sri Vishnu Puranam (4.2.8):
para’njayo hi Nama Sasaadasya ca rajarshes-tanayah kshatriya-varyah   |
tac-charire aham amshena svayameva avatirya tan Aseshaan asuraan nihanishyami ||
kakutsthah bhagavatah caracaraguroh acyutasya tejasa Apyayito devasura sa’ngrame samastaneva asuran nijaghana (V.P. 4.2.11).
Meaning: With a part of Me, I will descend into the body of para’njaya and annihilate the asuras Myself.  Then, kakutstha (para’njaya), infused with the power of the Eternal Ruler of all movable and immovable things, destroyed all the enemies of the gods in the battle.
“…. Aha Bhagavan Adi-purushah purushottamo yauvanaAsvasya mandhatuh purukutsa Nama putrastam aham anupravishya etan Asesha dushta Gandharvan upAsamam nayishyami (V.P. 4.3.7); rasatala gatAsca asau bhagavat tejasa Apyayita Atma-viryah sakala Gandharvan jaghana (V.P. 4.3.9)’.
Meaning: The Adi-purusha and Purushottama replied – “I will enter into Purukutsa, the son of mandhatri and Yuvanasva, and in him I will quieten these iniquitous Gandharvas; Reaching the regions below the Earth, and being filled with the might of the Supreme Deity, He (Purutkutsa) destroyed the Gandharvas”.    

Sri Sayadevo Vasishtha also gives this as his interpretation, the idea of His indirect incarnations, for the Nama Shatrujit and for Shatru-taapanah, He bestows His powers – sarva-suhrdah sadhun dvishanti ta eva Satrvah, tanshca yah sva-paradatta-Saktibhih maha-purushaih tapayati iti Shatru-taapanah – He gives His Shakti to the Maha-purushas, who in turn go after those who harm His devotees, and punish them.   He gives the following reference from Atharva Veda (19.28.2), where this Guna of scorching the enemies is referred:
dvishas-taapayan hradah Satrunaam taapayan manah    |
dur-hradah sarvaas-tvam darbha dharma ivaabhintsam taapayan   ||   (atharva. 19.28.2)
He further comments that Bhagavan displays His Guna of conquering the enemy, by giving His creation different means to defend themselves, such as the horns for the horned species, the claws for the lion etc., and other means for the other species to defend themselves.    

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj treats the Nama as ‘Shatru-jit-Shatru-taapanah, but gives the interpretation in terms of the two parts:  “He Who is Shatru-jit and also Shatru-taapanah” – ‘Satayanti utpidayanti dharmikaan iti Satravah;  taan jayati iti Shatru-jit;  Shatrun taapayati iti Shatru-taapanah; Shatru-jit ca asau Shatru-taapanan iti Shatru-jit-Shatru-taapanah”.   

Swami ChinmayAnanda says that Bhagavan is the One who can drive away the worst of all the enemies, those that are in our mind:  In the bosom of man, his enemies are none other than consciousness of his body and the consequent passions of the flesh – both objective and subjective. The seeker feels that these desires in him constitute a very powerful team of belligerent forces, and against their concerted onslaught he feels helpless.  But when an alert seeker turns to Sriman Narayana, who is in his own heart, all obstacles wither away, and thus He is the ‘Supreme Conqueror of all enemies’.  In other words, it is the identification of the body with the soul that is the worst of our enemies.  Meditation on Him is the only means to conquer this enemy, and so He is called Shatru-jit. He continues and comments that Bhagavan as Shatru-taapanah ensures that ‘when the devotee offers oneself at the altar of His Feet, He (Bhagavan) burns down all the negative tendencies polluting this devotee’s heart.   

827.            Nyagrodhodumbarah – He Who has the Supreme Abode with Lakshmi and everything that is magnificent, but Who is at the command of the devotees who approach Him with folded hands 

dhruvaThis is another Nama which is treated as two separate Namas by Sri Adi Sankara (and others) while Sri Parasara Bhattar takes it as one Nama. This Nama is an outstanding example that illustrates the uniqueness of Sri Bhattar’s commentary.  But first, let us look at the individual meanings of the two parts:

Nyagrodhah – This has the following meanings:
a)                  He Who is bound by those who stand below, bowing to Him with folded hands
b)                  He who controls those below Him
c)                   He Who is Primordial, and is above all
d)                  He Who is firmly rooted, and extends in all directions in the form of the Universe
e)                  He Who subjugates the enemies of His devotees, and punishes them
f)                   He Who is desired in their hearts by those who worship Him (rudh – kame – to desire).   

Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Nyak Arvaak Rohati Sarveshaam upari Vartate iti Nyagrodhah – One Who is Primordial, and is above all, hence He is called Nyagrodhah. Sri Sankara looks at the Nama as nyag-rohah for the purposes of interpretation, and then invokes the grammatical rule which allows for the replacement of ‘ha’ with ‘dha’, resulting in Nyag-rodhah.    

Sri Adi Sankara gives another interpretation for this Nama which is ‘Sarvaani Bhootaani Nyakkritya Nijamaayaam Vrinoti Nirunadhi iti vaa – He brings all beings under his sway and subjects them to the spell of his Maya or power of illusion hence he is called Nyagrodhah’. Gita (7.14) talks about ‘Mama Maayaa Duratyayaa – My Maya is very difficult to overcome’.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers to the instance of His being tied to the mortar by Yashoda – ‘kattunnap panniaya peru mayan’, as an example of this Supreme ParamAtman being subservient to Yashoda’s affection.   

Sri Satya Sandha Yatiraja also looks at the Nama as Nyag-rohah and comes with a different interpretation.  He uses the meaning ruh – to grow, and gives the explanation that the Nama signifies that ‘He makes all beings obey Him, and grows or develops all the beings – sarvani bhutani nyakritya rohati vardhata iti’.   

The term nyagrodhah also refers to the banyan tree, since this tree grows in the downward direction as much as it grows in the upward direction, (ruh – to grow) – nicair-gatau parohair-vardhate; nyag rohati – grows downwards.  Because of this, the tree is very strongly rooted, and is extremely stable.   Sri Radhakrishna Shastri interprets the Nama as referring to this attribute of Bhagavan, namely, that He is firmly rooted, and extends in all directions in the form of the Universe.   

Sri Vasishtha comes up with the interpretation that He is One who controls those below– nyag runaddhi iti Nyag-rodhah.  His other interpretation is – ‘nyagbhih anurudhyate prArthyate Ipsitaptaya iti Nyag-rodhah – He to Whom those below make a plea for benefits that they desire’.   

Sri ChinmayAnanda adds that the cause is subtler than the effect, and thus, the essential principle, Narayana, transcends even the concept of space.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan gives the interpretation that ‘He subjugates the enemies of His devotees, and oppresses or punishes them – nyak-kritya runaddhi niraye nikshipati sva-bhakta-drohina iti Nyag-rodhah.  

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadwaj gives the interpretation: nyagbhih pranataih rudhyate hridaya-pradeshe iti Nyag-rodhah – He Who is desired in their hearts by those who worship Him (rudh – kame – to desire).  

Udumbarah – This has the following meanings:
a)                He Who has the most auspicious Sri Vaikuthham as His own
b)                He Who is ‘above the sky’, i.e., superior to all
c)                He Who nourishes the world in the form of food etc.
d)                One Who has the best of sounds – the Vedas, as His form
e)                He Who is praised by the highest and best of sounds – Bhajans, Nama-sankirtanas etc.
f)                He Who has the superior Pitambaram as His garment (ud-ambarah) ‘Ut’ is an upasarga (prefix) and ambaram refers to the sky (derived from am – to go, to eat, to sound).  Ut + ambara = ud-ambara, which becomes ud-umbara because of a grammatical rule.      

Sri Adi Sankara gives two interpretations for this. The first one is ‘Ambaraat Udgatah Kaaranatvena iti Udumbarah – He is above even the sky or superior to all being the cause of all, hence He is called Udumbarah’.  

Sri Sankara gives another interpretation as ‘Udumbaram Annaadyam; Tena Tadaatmanaa Vishvam Poshayan Udumbarah – Udumbaram refers to foodstuff; He nourishes the world with food which is His own form hence He is called Udumbarah’. In support of this, Sri Sankara quotes the following verse from Taitriya Bramhana (1.2.7, 1.3.8) ‘Urg vaa Annaadyam Udumbaram -Urg or foodstuff is called Udumbaram’.

Sri Vasishtha uses the root ‘am – Sabde’ meaning ‘to sound’, and interprets the Nama Ud-umbarah as ‘One Who has the best of sounds – the Vedas, as His form – uccaih sarvata uttamo veda-rupah Sabdo yasya sa Ud-Umbarah sarveshvaro Vishnuh.   Sri Vasishtha gives another explanation – He Who is praised by the highest and best of sounds: bhajans, Nama-sankirtana-s etc., – ut sarvata utkrishtatvena ambyate; Sabdyate -sa’nkIrtyata iti ud-umbarah.    

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadwaj gives the interpretation: ut utkrishtam ambaram Pitambaram yasya sah Udumbarah – He Who has the superior Pitambaram as His attire is Ud-ambarah.  Here, he uses the word ambaram as ‘attire’. 

Nyag-rodha-udumbarah   

Sri Bhattar’s explanation for the part ‘Nyag-rodah’ is that ‘Bhagavan is subservient to the devotees who stand in front of Him with their folded hands’, and for ‘Udumbarah’, he says that ‘He is One Who has the Supreme Abode with Lakshmi and has all that is magnificent’.   

The reason for combining the two into one Nama now stands out at us: ‘Even though Bhagavan is One Who is endowed with everything that is Supreme, He is just at the command of His devotees when they stand in front of Him with folded hands’.   

This Nama is perhaps one of the best examples of the uniqueness of Sri Bhattar’s commentaries, appropriately titled as ‘Bhagavad Guna Darpanam’, where he repeatedly brings out the two supreme qualities of Bhagavan – His Saulabhyam (affability) and His Sausheelyam (affection).  

Sri Bhattar’s words are: atyucchrita-sevyo’pi atyanta-nicanamapi anuvartana-sadhyah – Though He is worshipped by the highest of the Devas, He is within easy reach of the lowliest of persons (because it is possible to please Him easily). He captures this Saulabhyaam of Emperuman beautifully.   

Sri Bhattar’s another interpretation is: nyag-bhutaih–adhah-krita’njalibhih, rudhyate – svapras Adaunmukhyena vyasthapyate iti nyag-rodhah – He Who is controlled by those who stand below, bowing to Him with folded hands.   Sri Bhattar stresses the influence of anjali on Bhagavan – anjalih parama mudra kshipram deva-prasadini – The sight of the Anjali (the act of joining hands in supplication), immediately pleases the Lord at once without delay.    

Sri Bhattar explains further as ‘Sarva-Gunaih udgatam ambaram – param dhAma asya iti ud-umbarah – He Who has as the Supreme Abode, Sri Vaikuntham, is Udumbarah.  This abode is Supreme because it has Lakshmi, and it rises above all other things by its magnificent qualities.   

Sri V.V. Ramanujan gives reference of Alavandar’s Stotra ratnam 28:
tvad-anghrim uddishya kada’pi kenacit yatha tatha va’pi sakrit krito’njalih   |
tadaiva mushnatya Subhanya Seshatah Subhani pushnati na jatu hiyate   ||
Meaning: If anyone worships Your Feet with folded hands even once at any time under any pretence, at that very moment all the sins of this person are driven away, and infinite auspices accumulate for this person.  

  1.       Asvatthah – He has established the impermanent gods for performing various functions

asvatthaThis Nama has the following meanings:

  1. He Who has established the impermanent gods for performing various functions
  2. He Who is described as the root of an eternal Asvattha tree of Samsara etc.
  3. He Who eternally rules over the Universe that is never the same, and keeps constantly changing
  4. He Who pervades the entire Universe in the form of the five great elements

Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Shvo api Na Sthaateti Asvatthah – He is constantly changing as a representation of the Universe and hence He is called Asvatthah, the ever changing one.  Sri Sankara’s other interpretation is ‘Asvattha iva tishthati iti Asvatthah – He stands majestically like the Asvattha tree, hence He is called Asvatthah’.

Sri Sankara quotes from Katha Upanishad (2.3.1): ‘Urdhvamulo Avaak Shaakha Esho Asvatthas Sanaatanah – The immortal Bramhan has roots at the top and branches below like the inverted Asvattha tree’.

In the Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 15 Verse 1, Bhagavan says:
Urdhva-mulam adhah-sakham asvattham prahur avyayam |
chandamsi yasya parnani yas tam veda sa veda-vit ||
Meaning: The Lord said: There is a banyan tree which has its roots upward and its branches down and whose leaves are the Vedic hymns. One who knows this tree is the knower of the Vedas.

The reference to the eternal Asvattha tree here is a reference to permanent cycle of Samsara, which is rooted in Brahman, and which grows in a continuous flow into the different life forms which themselves perish after some time, but the flow continues.  It propagates through the knowledge in the forms of its leaves.  This knowledge (Vedas) consists of both the kamya karmas in the form of religious rites and sacrifices that promote the tree of Samsara, as well as the knowledge that is needed to fell this tree that grows by desire etc. 

In another verse in the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 10 Verse 26), Bhagavan says – ‘Asvatthah sarva-vrksanam’ meaning ‘Of all trees, I am the holy banyan (fig) tree’.

Sri Bhattar’s interprets the Nama as ‘A+sva+stha’ where Svas means tomorrow and sthah refers to His being the Controller.  ‘Asvah’ means `not tomorrow’, namely `that which is impermanent’. Sri Bhattar interprets this as a reference to the impermanent positions of Brahma, Indra etc. The part of the worlds through these Devas whose positions are transitory – na Svah – anityam, indrAdityadi padam yeshaam, teshu niyamakataya tishthati iti A-Svat-sthah or Asvatthah. 

Sri Bhattar gives support from Sri Vishnu Puranam:
murtim rajo-mayim brahmim Asritya srjati prajah   |
Asritya paurushim murtim sattvikim yah sa palayan  |
kalakhyam tamasim murtim Asritya grasate jagat    ||
Meaning: Residing within the body of Brahma, composed of Rajo Guna, Bhagavan creates the world.  He takes the body of Vishnu composed of Sattva, and protects the world.  Assuming the body of Kala (Siva) composed of Tamo-Guna, He swallows the Universe.  

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers us to Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi, where Azhwar describes this aspect of Bhagavan:
இறுக்கு மிறையிறுத்துண்ண எவ்வுல குக்கும்தன் மூர்த்தி,
நிறுத்தினான் தெய்வங்க ளாக அத்தெய்வ நாயகன் றானே
மறுத்திரு மார்வன் அவன்றன் பூதங்கள் கீதங்கள் பாடி,
வெறுப்பின்றி ஞாலத்து மிக்கார் மேவித் தொழுதுய்ம்மி னீரே.
Meaning: He is the Lord of all the Gods, who have been established in their positions by my Lord Himself.  It is He who accepts all the offering you make to other Gods.  The spirits of the mole-chested Lord have filled the Earth singing songs. So shed hatred, cultivate love; offer worship and liberate yourselves.

In the Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 7 Verse 21, Bhagavan says:
yo yo yam yam tanum bhaktah sraddhayarcitum icchati
tasya tasyacalam sraddham tam eva vidadhamy aham ||
Meaning: Whichever God a devotee desires with faith and worships, I make that faith steady so that the devotee can continue to worship that chosen deity (Ishta Devata).

In one of his interpretations, Sri Sayadevo Vasishtha uses the concept of time (Svas = tomorrow), and gives the interpretation:  Svah = kaale, tishthati iti Svatthah, na Svatthah a_Svatthah, kaala bahir bhuto Bhagavan Vishnuh – He Who is not constrained by time.  This is why He is called Sanatana – Eternal, Permanent. 

Sri Sayadevo Vasishtha gives a different anubhavam.  He derives the meaning starting from the root As – vyaptau sa’nghate ca – to pervade, to accumulate.  His interpretation is:  Asnuvate – vyapnuvanti vishvam iti Asvaani – pa’nca maha bhutaani, teshu vyaapakatvena sthitah Asvatthah – He Who pervades the entire Universe in the form of the five great elements.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan uses the meaning ‘prapancam’ or ‘the Universe’ for the word Asvattha, based on the niruktam – Svastad-rupena na sthateti Asvatthah prapancah; sa asya asti nityam niyamyata iti arthah – He Who eternally rules over the Universe that is never the same, and keeps constantly changing. 

  1.         ChanurAndhra-Nishudanah – The Destroyer of Chanura

chanuraSri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Chanura Namanam Andhram Nishuditavaan iti ChanurAndhraNishudanah – He destroyed a wrestler called Chanura hailing from the Andhra region hence He is called ChanurAndhraNishudanah’.

Sri Bhattar’s interprets this Nama as Bhagavan’s slaying of an Asura called Chanura, belonging to the Andhra race, who was the enemy of Indra and other Devas – tad-virodhinam Chanura-Namanam AsurAndhra mallam nishuditavan iti Chanurandhra-Nishudanah. 

Sri Sayadevo Vasishtha derives his interpretation starting from the basic roots for the component parts of the Nama: 

  • ‘Can – daane gatau ca’ means ‘to give’; Cananti = dadati daana-Sila sattvica-vrittayah Chanurah – Those who are sattvic by nature and who perform acts of giving to others are called Chanuras. Cai – puja nishamanayoh – to worship, to observe; Cayyante = pujyante iti Chanurah, prasasta-hridayah sadhavah – Those noble people who are worthy of worship because of their noble hearts are called Chanuras.   Thus, the term Chanura in Sri Vasishtha’s interpretation refers to good people. 
  • Andhra – derived from andha – drishtyupaghAte dRshyupasamhAre – to be blind or to close their eyes. Andhayati iti andhrah – Those who cheat or deceive are Andhras. So Chanurandhras are those who cheat or deceive the good people.
  • Nishudana is derived from the root ‘Sud – ksharane’ meaning ‘to destroy’; Nishudana means ‘One who gives or causes extreme pain in multiple ways – sarva-prakarena nitaraam bhaadate.

Thus, Sri Vasishtha’s interpretation for the Nama ChanurAndhraNishudanah is:  ‘One Who causes extreme pain and misery to those who trouble the good and sattvic people.                                                             

Sri Satya Sandha Yatiraja uses the paadham Chanurandha Nishudanah, and interprets the term ‘andha’ to refer to Duryodhana and his associates (andha means blind).  This is because they were blind to truth and dharma. So his interpretation is that the Nama means ‘He Who destroyed Chanura, Duryodhana and his brothers – ChanurAsca andhAsca Duryodhanadayah, taan nishudayati iti.

The Story of Chanura

Kamsa had arranged a Yajna in which a bow was to be worshipped. Krishna and Balarama asked around as to where this bow was kept. They arrived at that site and Krishna proceeded to tie a string to the bow. But the bow snapped and the sound of the bow snapping was heard throughout the palace. The guards came and attacked Krishna and Balarama, but the two brothers killed all the guards.

Kamsa had got to know that Krishna and Balarama had come to Mathura. So he called Chanura and Mushtika and told them to wrestle with the two brothers and kill them.

All was now set for the wrestling match. The famous wrestler Chanura came to Balarama and Krishna and said, ‘We have heard about your past achievements. You are great heroes. You are both famous everywhere as experts in wrestling. Hearing this and desirous of seeing your valour, the King has invited you to his Court. I invite you to a wrestling match.’

Krishna immediately understood the wicked motive of Chanura. He was also pleased at the proposal for a wrestling match. But he spoke diplomatically: ‘We shall always do what is pleasing to the King. But we are only boys. We can engage ourselves only in playful wrestling contests with boys of our own age group. The wrestling contest should be arranged according to rules, or else sin would befall on those who even witness it.’

But Chanura replied, ‘Neither Balarama nor you, who have killed the elephant and many others can be called mere boys. You are undoubtedly qualified to wrestle with strong opponents. You show your strength against me and let Balarama compete with Mushtika, another great wrestler.’

Accepting the challenge, Krishna and Balarama approached Chanura and Mushtika respectively. Entwining hand to hand and leg to leg, Krishna and Chanura pulled at each other eager for victory, they clashed. Whirling round arm in arm, pushing away with a stroke of the hand, trying to strangle by embracing, throwing down on the ground, pushing forward and backward—by all such means each tried to overpower the other. By throwing up, by lifting, by whirling, by pressing down and such other tactics, they tried to hurt each other and win. Balarama fought with Mushtika in the same way.

Krishna now decided to kill Chanura and struck him thrice with the fist. The great wrestler furiously hit Krishna’s chest with both his fists but it made no impact on Krishna. Catching hold of Chanura by his hand, Krishna whirled him round and round until the wrestler fell dead striking the earth with his body. Earlier, Mushtika was struck by the powerful fists of Balarama and fell down to the earth.

The people gathered there clapped their hands in great ecstasy. There was no limit to their joy. All the Gopa friends of Krishna jumped into the arena. Krishna and Balarama danced to their joyous singing. Everyone was delighted to see that dance of Balarama and Krishna.

IN SUMMARY

Sulabhah Su-Vratah Siddhah Shatru-jit Shatru-tapanah     |
Nyag-rodhodumbaro’Svatthah ChanurAndhra-Nishudanah ||88|| 

viduraniHe is easily pleased and can be attained even by offering leaves, flowers, fruits, water etc. with utmost devotion, hence is He is called Sulabah.  He Who has taken a strong vow to protect those who come to Him through by one means or another, through whatever means it takes, is Su-Vratah. He protects His devotees without any special effort on their part, so He is Siddhah. He is always victorious and torments His foes, hence He is called Shatru-jit Shatru-tapanah.

He has the Supreme Abode with Lakshmi and everything that is magnificent, but He is at the command of His devotees who approach Him with folded hands, hence He is Nyag-rodha-Udumbarah. He stands tall above all other beings who are below hanging on the skyward (inverted) banyan (fig) tree, hence He is called Asvatthah.  He is the destroyer of the Wrestler Chanura of Andhra Desa, hence He is ChanurAndhraNishudanah

HARI OM TAT SAT

OM NAMO NARAYANAAYA

This Vishnu Sahasranamam series is authored with the help of my friend Shri Balaji.

SRI VISHNU SAHASRANAMAM (SHLOKA 87) – PART 96

In this part we will explore the meaning of the 87th Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.

shloka-87
Kumudah Kundarah Kundah Parjanyah Paavano Anilah    |
Amritaasho Amritavapuh Sarvajnas Sarvatomukhah     ||87|| 

Purport:
He pleases the Earth by lightening its load. He gives fruits, as pure as the Jasmine flower and His body is beautiful like the Kunda (jasmine) flower and blemishless. He showers gifts on His devotees like a cloud delivering rain on the crops. He purifies people when they engage even in the mere process of thinking about Him and He has no over-riding authority above Him. He has an undiminishing desire to bestow blessings on His devotees. He has an Immortal Body, He is Omniscient and Omnifaced.

The above Shloka has the following Namas:

  1.    Kumudah
  2.    Kundarah
  3.    Kundah
  4.    Parjanyah
  5.    Paavanah
  6.    Anilah
  7.    Amritaashah
  8.    Amritavapuh
  9.    Sarvajnah
  10.    Sarvatomukhah

Now let’s examine the meaning of the above Namas in detail:

  1.    Kumudah – He rejoices in this world in the association of His devotees

gopakumar_krishna.l-1This Nama has the following meanings:

  1. He rejoices in this world in the association of His devotees;
  2. One Who unburdens the earth by ridding it of the evil-doers;
  3. One Who bestows Moksha;
  4. One Who delights in the Sky, in the form of Sun;
  5. One Who wears a garland made of Blue Lilies and Lotus.

The word ‘Ku’ means ‘the world or the Earth’ and ‘mudah’ means ‘to rejoice or to be glad’.  Modata iti mudah – One who rejoices, or modayati iti mudah – One Who makes others rejoice.  Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Kum Dharanim Bharavataranam Kurvan Modayati iti Kumudah – He pleases the Earth by reducing its burden or lightening its load and hence He is called Kumudah, the pleaser of the Earth’.

Sri Ananta Krishna Shastry observes that He lightens the burden of the Earth through the elimination of the evil and wicked people. 

Another way to look at this Nama is ‘Ku + mu + dah’ where ‘Ku’ means the Earth, ‘Mu’ means Mukti or Moksha and ‘Dah’ means the Giver or Bestower. Sri M. V. RamanujAcharya gives the interpretation for this Nama as One Who bestows the world of Mukti or Moksha or Parama Padam.

Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets the Nama as ‘ku + mudah’ and explains as ‘Kau – prakriti mandale mudah (taih saha) modate’ meaning He rejoices in the company of His devotees, so He is known as Kumudah. 

While Sri Sankara explains the Nama as His giving joy to the earth by freeing it of its burdens, Sri Bhattar explains the Nama as His rejoicing and deriving pleasure by the company of His devotees.  The difference in approach is that Sri Sankara emphasises Lord’s Power and Valour while Sri Bhattar emphasises His affability and affection towards His devotees (Saulabhyam and Saushilyam). 

Swami ChinmayAnanda gives the meaning as ‘One Who gladdens the Earth’ or ‘One Who is gladdened by the Earth’.  He explains that the Bhagavan’s delight is a sheer expression of His Omnipotence – the very fact that He has created this dynamic and complex Cosmos that is so scientifically precise that it is a matter of delight as the fulfillment of His Omnipotence.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri gives the example of His taking many incarnations for the same purpose – to destroy the wicked people and protect His devotees.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives the interpretation for ‘Kumudah’ as ‘One Who delights in the Sky, in the form of Sun – Sabdavat Akaashe modayati iti kumudah; Sabdashraye khe modata iti kumudah Suryah’ by using the meaning ‘Sky’ for ‘Ku’. 

The word ‘Kumuda’ is also used to refer to the Lotus and Blue Lilies. Based on this, Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan explains that ‘He Who wears a garland made of these flowers is Kumudah – Utpala dharo Kumudah’.

  1.    Kundarah – The Bestower of Knowledge of the Supreme Reality

hayagriva2This Nama has several meanings:

  1. The Bestower of knowledge about the Supreme Reality;
  2. He Who dissolves or eliminates the sins accumulated over countless births;
  3. He Who bestows benefits as what is sought or desired;
  4. He Who accepts offering that are pure like the Kunda (Jasmine) flowers;
  5. He Who pierced the Earth in His Varaha Avataar while searching for HiranyAksha (Kum-darah);
  6. He Who created the Oceans by piercing the Earth (Kum-darah);
  7. He Who is very pleased with the offerings of the Kunda (Jasmine) flowers by His devotees.

Sri Adi Sankara gives three different interpretations for this Nama. The first ‘Kunda-pushpa-tulyaani shuddhaani phalaani Raati Dadati iti Kundarah – He gives fruits as pure as the Jasmine flower to His devotees, hence He is called Kundarah’.  In this context, Kunda also means pure white Jasmine flower.  

The second interpretation is ‘Kunda-pushpa-tulyaani shuddhaani phalaani Laati Aadatte iti Kundarah – He accepts offerings which are as pure as the Jasmine flower’.

The third interpretation is ‘Kum Dharaam Daarayamasa HiranyAksha Jighaamsayaa Varaham rupam Aasthaaya – While searching for HiranyAksha, He took the form of a wild boar (Varaha) and pierced the Earth, hence He is called Kundarah, the piercer of Earth’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar uses the word ‘Kundam’ as referring to ‘Knowledge of the Supreme Reality’ or ‘Para-tattva jnanam’.  This is based on the meaning of ‘Ku’ as ‘mukti-bhumi’, rather than just ‘bhumi’. Kundam is that which gives the mukti-bhumi i.e. the knowledge of Para-tattva.  Since He is the Giver of this knowledge, He is Kunda-rah (rati = dadati = gives). 

This interpretation of Sri Bhattar can is also in the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 10 Verse 10) where Lord Krishna says:
Tesham satata-yuktanam bhajatam priti-purvakam
Dadami buddhi-yogam tam yena mam upayanti te ||
Meaning: To those who are ceaselessly united with Me and who worship Me with immense love, I lovingly grant that mental disposition (buddhi-yoga) by which they come to Me.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers to Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (2.3.2):
ஒத்தார்மிக்காரை இலையாயமாமாய,
ஒத்தாயெப்பொருட்கு முயிராய், என்னைப்பெற்ற
அத்தாயாய்த்தந்தையா யறியாதனவறிவித்த,
அத்தா, நீ செய்தன அடியேனறியேனே.
Meaning: O Great Lord without a peer or superior!  Close to all things and all beings, you are my life, you are my mother, my father, my friend, imparting me with true knowledge and teaching me all that I do not know.  O’ what you have done for me is immeasurable!

Using the meaning ‘Sin’ for the word ‘ku’ the Nirukti writer explains the Nama as ‘Kum avyayam paapa-vaaci, tasya daaranaat Kun-darah – He Who dissolves or eliminates the sins accumulated over countless births. 

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives the following interpretations for this Nama:

  1. ‘Ku’ means ‘sinful’ – tyajet ku-jana-sangam – Leave the association of sinful people;
  2. Paapam drinati sva-sevanam iti kum-darah – He who tears apart or removes the sins of His devotees;
  3. Sa eva buddhim jaritur-vishodhya su-medhasam tam kurute sa Vishnuh – He makes them see knowledge by removing the sins from their mind;
  4. Taking the root for the word ‘Kunda’ as ‘kamu – kantau’ meaning ‘to desire’- ‘Kamayata iti Kundah kamaniyah, kamaniyam va’ncitam dadati iti kunda-rah’ –One Who gives what is sought or what is desired is Kundarah.
  5. kum – prithivI darayati iti kun-darah – (based on the root drr – vidaarane – to tear, to divide).  He is referring to Bhagavan creating the great oceans by tearing apart the bhumi – sa kun-daro Nama vidarya bhumim sa Atma-Saktya kurute samudram |

Sri Satyasandha Yatiraja gives the interpretation – Bhakta-samarpita kunda pushpena ramati iti Kunda-rah – He Who is very pleased with the offerings of ‘Kunda’ flowers by His devotees. 

  1.    Kundah – He Who grants higher knowledge successively

perumal-in-jasmineThis Nama also has some interpretations similar to the previous Nama:

  1. He Who grants higher knowledge
  2. He Who cleanses the sins of His devotees
  3. He Who is pure and beautiful like the Kunda (Jasmine) flower
  4. He Who bestows purity like the Kunda flower to His devotees
  5. He Who has the spear by the name Kunta (Kuntah)
  6. One who is sharp like the kunta spear in removing the sins of His devotees (Kuntah)
  7. He Who gave an offering of the earth to Kashyapa Rishi
  8. He Who cleanses the earth through Sun, Rain, etc.

As explained in the previous Nama, the word ‘Ku’ refers to Earth (Bhumi) as well as Sin; the word ‘Kunda’ refers to the Jasmine flower.  The word ‘dah’ can be interpreted in three ways as ‘Dadati – gives’, as ‘Dayati – cleanses’, and as ‘Dyati – eliminates’, thus leading to the different commentaries. 

img_4656Sri Adi Sankara gives several interpretations for this Nama. The first is ‘Kundopama Sundaraagatvaat Svacchatayaa Sphatikanirmalah Kundah – His body is beautiful like the Kunda flower and blemishless like crystal, hence He is called Kundah or the Jasmine flower’.

The second interpretation is ‘Kum Prithveem Kashyapaaya adaat iti Kundah’ – He gave away the Earth to Sage Kashyapa hence He is called Kundah. This is explained in the Harivamsha (1.41.16/17):
‘Sarvapaapa Vishuddhyartham Vaajimedhena Cheshtavaan
Tasmin yajne Mahaadaane Daksinaam Bhrigunandanah
Maareechaaya Dadau Preetah Kashyapaaya Vasundharaam
Meaning: In his incarnation as Parashurama, the Son of Sage Bhrigu, Bhagavan performed the Asvamedha Yajna and as an offering for the Yajna, He gave away the Earth to Sage Kashyapa. Because of this He is called Kundah.

The third interpretation is ‘Kum Prithveem dyati Khandayati iti vaa Kundah – He purged the earth (of Kshatriyas) hence He is called Kundah’.  In support of this Sri Sankara quotes from Vishnudharma (43.37):
Nih Kshatriyaam yashcha chakaara medineem Anekasho Baahuvanam Tataacchinat;
Yah Kaartaveeryasya Sa Bhaargavottamo Mamaastu Maangalyavivriddhaye Harih ||
Meaning: Let Hari, the best of the Bhrigu family, who made the earth free from wicked Kshatriyas many a time, and who cut off the thousand arms of Kaartaveerya, be with me for our prosperity.

Sri Parasara Bhattar distinguishes the current Nama from the previous one by referring to the aspect of giving of the para-tattva knowledge by Bhagavan to those that have started climbing the steps of knowledge through self-control etc., through delivering incremental steps of para-bhakti, para-jnanam, and ultimately parama-bhakti.  Sri Bhattar gives an alternate interpretation and says that Bhagavan first removes the sins from His devotee (Kundarah), and then makes them pure so that they do not commit/attract any further sins (Kundah) – Paapam darayati iti kundarah, api ca vidaritam paapam Sodhayati iti Kundah.  

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives a similar meaning – kum iti paaparthakam avyayam, tad khandayati iti Kundah; yad-va kum = papam dayati + Sodhayati iti Kundah.  Sri Vasishtha gives an additional interpretation using the meaning ‘Earth’ for ‘Ku’, and Dayati = Sodhayati for Dah. He who cleanses the earth of its impurities through Rain, Sun etc. – PrithivIm varshanena Sodhayati iti Kundah. 

Sri NammAzhwar uses the ‘Kunda’ in his Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (2.6.1):
வைகுந்தாமணிவண்ணனே, என்போல்லாத்திருக்குறளா,
என்னுள்மன்னி, வைகும்வைகல்தோறும் அமுதாயவானேறே,
செய்குந்தாவருந்தீமையுன்னடியார்க்குத்தீர்த்தசுரர்க்குத்தீமைகள்
செய்குந்தா, உன்னைநான் பிடித்தேன் கொள்சிக்கெனவே.
Meaning: Gem-hued Lord Vaikunta, my impishly beautiful eternal Lord residing in me sweetly, at all times and forever! O Kunda blossom giving relief to devotees and woe to the Asuras! Know that I have You firmly held in me!

He removes the sins of His devotees, and gives them to the evil-doers as just desert for their karmas.  The word Kunda is ‘One Who is pure like the Kunda pushpam – the pure white fragrant Jasmine flower’.  So the Nama can be understood as ‘One Who is pure like the Kunda flower’, or ‘One Who bestows purity like that of the Kunda flower on His devotees’. 

 Sri V.V. Ramanujan comments that the term can also be taken to mean ‘One who has the spear called Kunta’ (nin kaiyil vel potri – Thiruppavai).  Another meaning given is ‘One who is sharp like the Kunta spear in removing the sins of His devotees’. 

  1.    Parjanyah – He Who bestows His blessings on devotees like the rain-cloud

rain-cloud-krishnaThe word Parjanya means a cloud and using this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Parjanyavat Aadhyaatmikaadi Taapatrayam Shamayati iti’ – Like a cloud gives relief from the heat of the Sun, He brings relief from the three types of affliction that people are subject to, hence He is called Parjanyah’. The three forms of affliction are:

  1. a) Those arising from within the body (Aadhyatmik)
  2. b) Those caused by other beings (Adhibhautik), and
  3. c) Those caused by acts of god (Adhidaivik).

Bhagavan gives us relief from all these three burning affliction like a cloud gives from the heat of the Sun.

Sri Sankara also gives another interpretation ‘Sarvaan Kaamaan Abhivarshati iti vaa Parjanyah’ – He showers gifts on the devotees like a cloud delivering rain on the crops hence He is called Parjanyah, the Cloud.

Sri Parasara Bhattar derives the Nama from the root ‘aja – ardane’ meaning ‘to dispel’.  He explains the Nama in terms of His removing (dispelling), the three kinds of the taapa-trayas – AdhyAtmika, the Adhi-daivika, and the Adhi-bhautika types.  These three are:  the pain cause by one’s own mind etc., the pain caused by fate or gods, and the pain caused by animals, other people, etc.  

Sri V.V. Ramanujan adds that it is by bestowing the knowledge about Him that He relieves us from the taapa-trayas.  Bhagavan is frequently referred as the rain-cloud by Sri Thirumangai Azhwar for showering His blessings on His devotees:

  • Thirunedum Tandakam (30) – minnu ma mazhai tavazhum mega-vanna – The rain-cloud like dark hue Lord;
  • Periya tirumozhi 7.9.9 – karu ma mugil uruva! Kanal uruva! Punal uruva! – You are like the rain cloud for some, fire for some, and comforting water for many!

Swami Desikan refers to Bhagavan’s Guna of removing the tapa-trayas of the devotees who are immersed in devotion to Him in his Saranagati Dipika (23):
taapa-trayena vihatim na bhajanti santah
samsara gharma janitena samadhimantah   || 
Meaning: Those jnanis who are immersed in Bhakti Yoga towards You do not suffer from the taapa-trayas that are caused by the heat of samsara.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj looks at the Nama as Pari-janyah, which is treated same as Parjanyah. His interpretation is ‘parita Asina janah parijanah; tebhyo hita-tamah iti pari-janyah; ikara-lope parjanyah – pari-janas are those that are around Him, those that worship Him;  He Who bestows welfare on them is Pari-janyah, which is same as Parjanyah.

Sri Satyasandha Yatiraja gives the interpretation – param janyam yasmat Parjanyah – He from whom a superior birth is attained. 

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha derives the Nama starting from the root ‘prsh – secane’ meaning ‘to sprinkle’ and says that which wets or drenches is Parjanya – parshati – sincati iti parjanyah.  Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan gives a similar interpretation:  tasyam cinta-bhumau varshati nija-rupa amritam iti Parjanyah – He Who showers His actual Self in the thoughts of His devotees is Parjanyah. Sri Vasishtha also gives different ways of deriving the Nama, starting with different root words.  One of these is pr – palana puranayoh – to protect, to fill, to bring out; with the addition of the anya suffix, this becomes parjanyah, which means ‘One Who protects’. 

  1.    Paavanah – One Who purifies

rama-lakshmana-and-janakiThis Nama was covered earlier in Shloka 32 (Nama 292). There are two meanings for this Nama. The root word is ‘Pavi’ which can mean both ‘purify’ and ‘move about’. Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Smriti maatrena Punaati iti Paavanah’ – He purifies people even when they engage in the mere process of thinking about Him, hence He is called Paavanah, the Purifier. We can also see this aspect in the Shloka ‘Apavitrah Pavitro vaa Sarvaavasthaan gatopi vaa, Yas Smaret Pundarikaaksham Sa Baahyaabhyaantarash Shuchih’ – Even the worst sinner becomes purified all over once he contemplates on Bhagavan’s Nama. Such are His purifying powers.

Sri Parasara Bhattar uses the latter meaning and says – that which goes, that which blows, that which purifies, etc.  and says that Bhagavan goes Himself to His devotees to remove their distress  –  pavate iti Paavanah. 

This aspect is also expressed by Sri Thirumangai Azhwar in Periya Thirumozhi Pasuram (1.10.9):  vandaai, en manam pugundaai, manni nindraai – You came of Your own free will, entered my mind, and have decided to stay there. 

Sri NammAzhwar conveys the same thought in his Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (5.7.7) – ‘Vandaruli en nenjidam konda vaanavar kozhunde!  … Adiyenai agatrile’ – Oh Lord! You have been kind enough to come and take a place in my heart.  O’ now please don’t ever leave me.

In the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 10 Verse 31, Lord Krishna says:
Pavanah pavataam asmi Ramah Shastra-bhritaamyaham   |
Meaning: Of moving things, I am the wind.  Of those who bear weapons, I am Rama.

In the context of Bhagavan being the Great Purifier, Sri Radhakrishna Shastri comments with the Shloka ‘Pavitraanaam pavitram yah..’, that acts such as taking a dip in the holy waters, visiting Divya kshetras, etc., are ways of ridding ourselves of sins.  When we undertake these acts with the faith and belief and contemplating our mind on Him, He removes our sins through His purifying power. 

Swami ChinmayAnanda conveys that – ‘He Who manifests as the life-giving atmosphere around the world and sustains the existence everywhere’.  He gives another meaning as ‘One Who ever purifies’.  He comments that the impurities of a personality are gathered when the mind and intellect, in a natural impulse of animal instinct, rush towards the sense-objects with ego-centric passion.  The purification by His power occurs when we peacefully let our minds settle in contemplation of the divine nature and eternal glory of Sriman Narayana. 

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha’s interpretation is the same whether the Nama is taken as Pavanah or Paavanah.  He gives the meaning as ‘He Who purifies’, and points out that Bhagavan purifies in many ways:  in the form of the wind by blowing, fire by burning, water by washing, earth by consuming, etc. – Vaayuh pavitram sa ma punaatu agnih pavitram sa ma punaatu.   So His purifying power is manifest all over.  He gives the reference to Rig Vedic hymn (1.160.3):  punaati dhIro bhuvanaani Mayaya – Rig Veda (1.160.3) – He, with the power to cleanse, sanctifies the world with His unsurpassing powers.

Sri Vasishtha also summarises in the form of the following Sloka:
Sa paavano Vishnur-amartyakarma punaati vishvam vividha-prabhedaih   |
Sa eva Surya sa hi vaasti vaayau jale sthale va pavitaa sa eva   ||
Meaning: He really is the Creator of the World, grantor of Moksha, He is the Sun, Wind, Water, Earth etc.

Sri Satyasandha Yatiraja uses the version ‘Paavanah’, and looks at the Nama as pa + avanah – He Who protects the protectors. 

  1.    Anilah – He has no one above Him

AnanthasayanamThis Nama was covered earlier in Shloka 25 (Nama 236). Sri Adi Sankara offers three different interpretations for this Nama. The first is ‘Ilati Preranam karoti iti Ilah Tat rahitatvaat Anilah – He has no over-riding authority above Him, hence He is called Anilah, the highest authority’.

The second interpretation is ‘Ilati Svapiti Tad Vipareeto Nityasvarupatvaat iti vaa Anilah’ – Ilati refers to someone ‘asleep’ hence Anilah refers to the ever alert and Wakeful spirit namely Bhagavan who is therefore called Anilah, the ever Wakeful One.

Sri Sankara’s third interpretation is related to the affability of Bhagavan to His devotees. Using the noun form nilah meaning ‘difficult to understand’, Sri Sankara interprets the name Anilah as ‘One Who is not difficult to understand for the devotee’. A-gahanah A-nilah – Bhaktebhyah Sulabhah – easily accessible by His devotees.  Another interpretation given by Sri Sankara is: anaaditvaat Anilah – One Who has no beginning or end.

Sri Parasara Bhattar derives the interpretation based on the root ‘ila – prerane’ meaning ‘to urge’.  Ila refers to that person who urges another to do an act.   Since Bhagavan does not have to be urged by anyone to bless those who worship Him, He is called Anilah. He gives the following in support: tadapyaprArthitam dhyaato dadaati Madhusudanah – When Bhagavan is meditated upon, Lord Madhusudana bestows His blessings on His devotee even though the devotee may not seek them – Vishnu Dharma 74.42.

Sri NammAzhwar, in his Pasuram in Thiruvai Mozhi 5.6.2, declares: kaangindra ik-kaatrellaam yaane – All this air and wind around us is but a tiny fraction of this Anilah i.e. Bhagavan.  

The following verses from scriptures further support the above:

  • Ko hyevaanyaat kah praanyaat – Whoever can breathe and whoever can live if the Akaasha (i.e., ParamAtma) were not there? – (Taittiriya Narayana 7);
  • Praanaat Vaayurajaayata – The wind was born out of His breath (Purusha Suktam 13). Note that in this interpretation, Anilah is not equated with air or wind, but as His breath – Prana, that supports the wind and all other life.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri looks at this Nama as ‘An+ilah’ where ‘Ila’ refers to Bhumi, used in the sense of support here – AvidyamAna ila Asrayataya An-ilah.  Since He needs no support of the Earth, Air, etc., He is Anilah.  Sri Shastri’s alternative interpretation is that neither punyam nor paapam stick to Him – Na nilati Adatte punyam papam va. 

The Amara Kosha interpretation – ‘Na vidyate nilah nilayam sthaanam yasya iti Anilah’ – He Who does not have a fixed place is Anilah.  

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan seems to use ‘nilah’ instead of Anilah in his interpretation – nitaraam laati grhnaati aikaantino bhaktaan iti – Since He totally attracts the single-minded devotees, He is ‘Ni-lah’.

An alternate interpretation by Sri Vidya Bhushan is that this Nama signifies that He gifted the kingdom to Ugrasena after killing Kamsa – ‘kamsa vada nirjitaaya ilaya bhumeh Ugrasenaya danat’.

Sri Vidya Bhushan gives yet another interpretation and says that Krishna spending  sleepless nights planning the rescue Rukmini.  The term ila is used with the meaning ‘to sleep’ – ‘Rukmini-sprhaya nidraparityagat Anilah.  He quotes Lord Krishna’s words to support this interpretation:  tathahamapi tac-citto nidraam ca na labhe nisiti. 

The Dharma Chakram writer gives the meaning for this Nama that Bhagavan is in the form of air, and emphasises the importance of meditating on this Guna of Bhagavan for our life. We can go without food for many days;  we can survive without water for a few days; but without air, we can live for a few minutes. That is how important air is for our living; and so also is meditating on Lord Vishnu for our spiritual life.

The air is also spread around everywhere, just as MahaVishnu.  Our mind wanders around everywhere, and occupies everything, just as air occupies all available space.  Man has learned to control and contain air.  So also, he can learn to control his mind by constantly meditating on Vishnu.

  1.    Amritaashah– He Who feeds His devotees with the Nectar Himself

mohiniThe Nama consists of ‘A + mrita+ Ashah’.  A-mrita refers ‘to eternal, or to nectar’.  Ashah is derived from the root ‘ash – bhojane’ meaning ‘to eat’.  So, Amritashah means One Who consumed Amritam (nectar), or One Who gives Amritam to others, is Amritaashah  – ashnaati Ashayati va Ashah. 

Sri Adi Sankara gives three different interpretations for this name. The first is ‘Svaatmaanam amritam Ashnaati iti Amritaashah – He consumes the nectar of His internal joy or bliss which is His very nature hence He is called Amritaashah, the consumer of His own nectar’.

The second interpretation is ‘Mathitam Amritam Suraan Paayayitvaa Svayam cha Ashnaati iti Amritaashah – Having churned the Milky Ocean and obtained the nectar, Bhagavan first gave it to the Devas and then consumed it Himself hence He is called Amritaashah, the consumer of nectar’.

The third interpretation is ‘Amritaa Avinashvara Phalatvaat Aashaa Vaancchaa asya iti – He has an undiminishing desire to bestow blessings on His devotees hence He is called Amritaashah, one with a constant desire to reward His devotees’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar’s interpretation is – taan sva-guna amritam Ashayati iti Amritaashah – He Who feeds His devotees with the Nectar of His Gunas. 

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers to Sri NammAzhwar’s Thivruvai Mozhi Pasuram (8.8.4), where the Azhwar says:
யானும் தானா யொழிந்தானை யாதும் யவர்க்கும் முன்னோனை,
தானும் சிவனும் பிரமனும் ஆகிப் பணைத்த தனிமுதலை,
தேனும் பாலும் கன்னலும் அமுதும் ஆகித் தித்தித்து, என்
ஊனி லுயிரி லுணர்வினில் நின்ற வொன்றை யுணர்ந்தேனே.
Meaning: The Lord who was there before all things and beings.  The first-cause who cleaved Himself, and became Brahma and Siva. He is sweet as honey, milk and sugarcane juice, stands in my consciousness, in my life, and in my body.  I have realised Him.

Sri NammAzhwar also describes that Bhagavan voluntarily entered into him and gave him bliss as the insatiable nectar –   Ara amudamaai al Aviyul kalanda kaaraar karu mugil pol en amman akkannanukku (Thiruvai Mozhi 2.5.5).

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan gives a similar interpretation – Amritam ayaacitam moksham Ashayati bhojayati bhkataan iti Amritaashah – He Who bestows Moksham (Liberation) to His devotees, even without asking, is Amritaashah.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri explains this Nama as referring to ‘His desires or wishes being fail-safe – Amrita’.  

Sri Satyasandha Yatiraja’s interpretations is based on the meaning ‘desire or attachment’ for the word ‘Asha’, and the meaning ‘muktas’ for the word Amritas’ – One Who is very dear to the Muktas – Amritaanaam muktaanaam Asha iccha yasmin vishaya iti Amritaashah. 

Sri Vasishtha explains that Bhagavan has this Nama because He provides for an unending supply of means of survival for all His Creation – pravaahato nitya-sthaayIdam catur-vidha bheda vibhaktam yathatadarha jIvana sadhanani Ashayati = bhojayati iti Amritaasho Vishnuh.

  1.    Amrita-vapuh – He has an Immortal Form

Sri Krishna 7The word ‘Mritam’ means death and ‘Vapuh’ means body.  Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Mritam Maranam Tadrahitam Vapuh asya asti iti Amritavapuh – He has a body which is free from death and decay, hence He is called AmritaVapuh, the one with an Immortal Body’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar’s interpretation is that Bhagavan has a body that is like Nectar.  His devotees meditate on His Divya mangala vigraham – His Thirumeni, and never get satiated.  Bhagavan is called ArAvamudan (of Thirukkudandai fame). 

Sri NammAzhwar dedicates Thiruvai Mozhi Pasurams 5.8.1 to 5.8.11 to sing the praise of ArAvamudan – the Nectar that never gives fulfillment of satisfaction, no matter for how long we stand in front of Him and worship Him.   He again calls out to His ArA Amudam in his Pasurams – appozhudukku appozhudu en Ara amudame (2.5.4), Ara amudamai al Aviyul kalanda(2.5.5), enakku ArA Amudu Anaaye(10.10.5), enakku ArA amudamaai(10.10.6), etc. 

Sri V.V. Ramanujan remind us of Emberumanar’s (Sri Ramanujam’s) Sri Vaikuntha Gadyam, where he describes the experience of Bhagavan in Sri Vaikuntham. The contact with His feet (Thiruvadi) makes one experience a joy as if one has had a dip in an ocean of nectar (amrit) i.e. ‘amrita sagarantarnimagnah and sarva avayava sukha masita’ i.e. every inch of one’s body experiences the joy and bliss. To experience and enjoy that bliss one should eternally seek His feet.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri’s anubhavam is that Bhagavan who took incarnations as Rama, Krishna etc., is giving His Darshan to us still in that form, even after the passage of time, with that same Thirumeni (this is precisely the belief behind the Archa rupam of Perumal in our temples). 

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha uses the meaning ‘one who sows’ for vapuh – ‘va – bijasantane chedane ca’ meaning ‘to sow, to cut’.  His interpretation is – ‘Bhagavan pravahanityam idam vishvam vapati santanoti tatha sarvam antakale cchinatti’ – Bhagavan has this Nama signifying that He is the One Who sows the seed of life continuously in this Universe, and when the time comes, He is the One who cuts it too.  He is the One Who propagates the vistara Dharma – of propagation of each species from other members of the same species, with no violation of this rule anywhere.

  1.    Sarvajnah – He is Omniscient

sri-padmanabha-swamy-thiruvananthapuramThis Nama occurred earlier in Shloka 48  – Nama 454.  Sarva means all and Jnah denotes the knower. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Sarvam Jaanaati iti Sarvajnah – He knows everything hence He is called Sarvajnah, the All-Knower’. Mundaka Upanishad (1.1.9) says ‘Sarvajnas Sarvavit – He knows all and He has learnt everything’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar gives the interpretation that Bhagavan is Sarvajnah because He knows that He is the antaryami in everything – tatha SarvAtmana Atmaanam janati iti Sarvajnah.  He gives another interpretation that Bhagavan knows what is particularly beneficial for the devotee – tesham Sakya ashakya saadhya asaadhyaadikam anusandatte iti Sarvajnah. He will help us achieve things that we cannot achieve by ourselves.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri refers to us Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, which conveys:  idam sarvam yad ayam Atma (B.U. 6.5.7).  He knows that He is the best means and the best end (best ‘Upaayam’ and best ‘Upeyam’).  Sri Shastri has given several additional references from the Sruti where the Supreme Brahman is referred to as Sarvajnah:

  • yah sarvaj~nah sarvavit (Mundaka Upanishad 1.1.9);
  • sa Sarvajnah sarvo bhavati (Prashna Upanishad 4.10);
  • esha sarveshvara esha Sarvajnah (Mandukya Upanishad 6);
  • sa vishvakrit sishvavid Atmayonih jnah kalakalo gunI Sarvavidyah (Svetashvara Upanishad 2.6.2,16).

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers us to Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi (4.7.7), where the Azhwar refers to Emperuman as ‘Nirainda jnana murti’ – Sarvajnan. 

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha comments that as the Maker of everything that exists, He (the Creator) knows the ins and outs of everything there is to know about everything.  He gives several references from the Shruti, where He is referred to as ‘One Who knows everything’:

  • tvam indra asi vishva-jit sarva-vit puruhutas-tvam Indra| (Atharvana Veda 17.1.111)
  • sa no bandhur-janita sa vidhata dhamani veda bhuvanani vishva| (Yajur Veda 32.10)
  • yo nah pita janita yo vidhata dhamani veda bhuvanani vishva |  (Rig Veda 10.82.3)
  • yas-thishthati carati yasca vancati yo nilayam carati yah prata’nkam | (Arjuna Vivadha)
  • dvau sannishadya yan-mantrayete raja tad veda varunas-tritiyah| (Atharvana Veda 4.26.2)

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj brings out the significance of ‘Omniscience’ aspect through the following words – Sri Bhagavan hi sarvam sarvatra sarvada sarvatha ca janati – He knows everything, always, everywhere, through all means.  He is the Only One Who knows the past, present and the future – bhuta-bhavad-bhavishyAdinam jnanam. He is inside everyone and everything.  All the bodies and all the souls are His body, and nothing is beyond His reach.  His Sarvajnatvam thus covers everything that is known, and everything there is to know. 

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers to Sri Thirumangai Azhwar’s Pasuram where the Azhwar captures this Guna of Perumal. Perumal did not reveal Himself to Azhwar right away, even after knowing fully well how much Azhwar is suffering from the separation from Him (Periya ThiruMozhi 4.9.6):
சொல்லா தொழிய கில்லேன் அறிந்த சொல்லில், நும்மடியார்,
எல்லா ரோடு மொக்க வெண்ணி யிருந்தீ ரடியேனை,
நல்ல ரறிவீர் தீயா ரறிவீர் நமக்கிவ் வுலகத்தில்,
எல்லா மறிவீ ரீதே யறியீர் இந்த ளூரீரே.
Meaning: O Lord, I cannot refrain from saying it, let me say what I feel; You only think of me as yet another devotee, You know who is good and who is bad, you know everything about this world.  You know who Your devotees cannot bear separation from You. But somehow You do not seem acknowledge the intense pain that I am undergoing right now, because You are not showering your Grace by giving Your Darshan to me right away!

Swami ChinmayAnanda gives the interpretation for Sarvajnah as ‘One Who illumines all’ – The Illuminator of all thoughts, all intentions, motives, emotions, and all sense perceptions in an individual.

  1.    Sarvato-mukhah – He has faces on all sides and everywhere

VishvarupamThe word ‘Sarvatah’ means ‘from all sides, in every direction, everywhere’ and ‘mukham’ means ‘face, mouth, and in a generic sense, to an opening’. 

Sri Adi Sankara’s interpretation is based straight on Srimad Bhagavad Gita Shloka (13.14) where the Lord says ‘Sarvato akshi Shiromukham’ – He has eyes and faces on all sides and everywhere. Since Bhagavan has faces on all sides and sees everything, He is called Sarvatomukhah, one who has faces on all sides.

Sri Parasara Bhattar gives the interpretation that this Nama signifies that there are many ways of accessing and attaining Him.  He has not laid down any rule that He can be attained only by a particular means and not by another.  He can be easily attained by means that are sometimes inexplicably simple – yena kenapi vyajena supraveshatvaat Sarvato-mukhah. 

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers us to Sri Ramanuja’s Saranagati Gadyam 17, where Emperuman tells: Yena kenapi prakarena dvaya vakta tvam kevalam madIyayaiva dayaya – As long as one surrenders with the utterance of the dvaya mantra with or without sincerity, the natural Divine Grace of Bhagavan will protect this person.   Be it with sincerity (sa-hrdaya), or with feigned sincerity (a-hrdaya), one who needs immediate help (Arta), or one who may need support sometime in the future (dripta), one who is His friend or one who is His sworn enemy (such as Ravana), as long one approaches Him in the name of Saranagati, it is His vow to protect that person.  During Vibhishana Saranagati, Lord Rama says:
Sakrideva prapannaya tavasmiti ca yacate |
abhayam sarva bhutebhyo dadamy etad vratam mama || (Yuddha Kandam 18.33)
Meaning: “He who seeks refuge in me just once, telling me that I am yours’, I shall give him assurance of safety against all types of beings. This is my solemn pledge”.

Lord Rama tells SugrIva that He considers it His sworn duty to protect anyone who surrenders to Him, even by giving up his own life if needed:
Arto va yadi va driptah paresham Saranagatah | 
arih pranaan parityajya rakshitavyah kritAtmana || (Yuddha Kandam 18.28).

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri gives the meaning that the Lord is Omniscient and quotes references from the Shruti in support:

  • Vishvatash-cakshuruta vishvato-mukhah (Taittriya Arayaka 10.1)
  • Pratya’ng-janaas-tishthati sarvato-mukhah (Svetashvara Upanishad 2.16)

Swami ChinmayAnanda gives the analogy of the Sun whose light shines in all directions, or the light from a lamp that shines in all directions simultaneously. 

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj says that Bhaktas are singing His praise from all sides simultaneously, and He has faces on all sides to listen to all of them simultaneously – ‘Sarvaasu dishasu bhajamAnaih bhaktair-hi Srimad bhagavato mukham avalokyate’.  

IN SUMMARY

Kumudah Kundarah Kundah Parjanyah Paavano Anilah    |
Amritaasho Amritavapuh Sarvajnas Sarvatomukhah     ||87|| 

perumal-in-jasmineHe pleases the Earth by reducing its burden or lightening its load and hence He is called Kumudah. He gives fruits, as pure as the Jasmine flower, to His devotees hence He is called Kundarah. His body is beautiful like the Kunda flower and blemishless like crystal hence He is called Kundah or the Jasmine flower. He showers gifts on His devotees like a cloud delivering rain on the crops, hence He is called Parjanyah, the Cloud. He purifies people when they engage even in the mere process of thinking about Him, hence He is called Paavanah, the Purifier. He has no over-riding authority above Him hence He is called Anilah, the highest authority.

He has an undiminishing desire to bestow blessings on His devotees hence He is called Amritaashah, one with a constant desire to reward His devotees. He has a body which is free from death and decay, hence He is called AmritaVapuh, the one with an Immortal Body. He knows everything hence He is called Sarvajnah, the All-Knower. He has eyes and faces on all sides and sees everything hence He is called Sarvatomukhah.

HARI OM TAT SAT

OM NAMO NARAYANAAYA 

This Vishnu Sahasranamam series is authored with the help of my friend Shri Balaji.