In this part we will explore the meaning of the Dhyana Shlokas 1 and 2 that we recite before chanting the Sahasranamam.
Dhyana Shloka 1
Ksheero danvat pradeshe shuchimani vilasat saikate rmouktikaanaam
Maalaa Kluptaasanasthah sphatikamaninibhair mouktikair manditaangah
ShubhraiRabhraiRadabhrai RupariVirachitair Mukta Peeyoosha Varshaihi
Aanandee Nah Puneeyaat Dari Nalina Gadaa ShankhaPaanir Mukundah
At first sight, this appears to be a complex tongue twister. But once we analyse and understand this simple and beautiful verse, we will begin to appreciate the splendour of the Lord from this Shloka. This describes the majestic view of Sri MahaVishnu in a manner that creates a vivid image that can be etched in our inner vision with ease and serves as a prelude to the Parayanam.
In any Sanskrit poem, the clue to understand the meaning lies in identifying the basic subject, predicate and the object. Rest of it is generally embellishment and descriptive clauses that adds colour to the subject, object and the predicate.
Let’s look at the meaning of the key words:
Ksheero danvat pradeshe – Sitting on the bank of the Milky Ocean
Shuchimani vilasat saikate – Shining sandy surface like diamonds
sphatikamaninibhair mouktikair manditaangah – luminous white crystals
ShubhraiRabhraiRadabhrai – from the multitudinous white clouds
RupariVirachitair – hovering above in an arch
Mukta Peeyoosha Varshaihi – pouring torrents of nectar
Aanandee Nah Puneeyaat – Blissfully purifying
Dari Nalina Gadaa – with his hands holding Discus, Lotus and Mace
ShankhaPaanir Mukundah – Conch holding Lord Mukunda, the giver of Mukti
In this Shloka the basic nucleus is ‘Mukundah nah Puneeyaat’ meaning ‘Let Lord Mukunda purify us’. Mukunda is the name for MahaVishnu meaning ‘the giver of Mukti or Liberation’. Having identified Mukunda as the subject, we can see that all other phrases are merely adjectives describing different aspects of Mukunda.
The first description is he is ‘Aasanasthah’ or sitting on a pedestal.
Where is he seated? On which pedestal?
‘Ksheero danvat pradeshe’ – on the bank of the Milky Ocean;
‘Mouktikaanaam Maalaa Klupta’ – it is adorned with garlands of pearls;
‘Shuchimani vilasat saikate’ – on a shining sandy surface studded with pure diamonds; in other oceans the sand only contains silica crystals but on the banks of the Milky Ocean the sand is interspersed with dazzling diamonds.
Sri MahaVishnu, is seated on the diamond studded sandy banks of the milky Ocean on a seat adorning a garland of pearls.
What more can you say of Him?
He is ‘Mouktikair Mandita Angah’. His body is decorated by pearls.
‘Sphatika Mani nibhaihi’ which are luminous like white crystals.
He is Aanandee, blissful and joyous.
With what else?
Mukta Peeyoosha varshaihi – pouring torrents of nectar.
ShubhraiRabhraiRadabhaihi – From the multitudinous pure white clouds.
Upari Virachitaihi – Hovering above the shores like a decorated arch, He is enjoying the showers of nectar pouring out from the pure white clouds hovering over the shore like a specially designed canopy.
What is he holding?
Dari Nalina Gadaa Shankha Panihi – He is holding in his hand his Chakra or the Discus, Nalina or the Lotus, Gadaa or the Mace and Shankha or the Conch. These are his distinctive features!
Now combining all of the above attributes, we can form an image of HIM in our mind that is vivid and graphic.
“Mukunda, who is majestically seated on the banks of Milky Ocean, with the surface sand sparkling like diamonds, adorning the garland of lustrous pearls; He, who is in a joyous and ecstatic bliss with pure white clouds hovering above, raining showers of nectar. May Mukunda, who is holding the Discus (Sudharsana Chakra), Mace (Gowmodhaki Gadha), Conch (Panchajanya Sankha) and Lotus in His hands, purify and liberate us”.
This is the complete image we need to build in our mind as we recite this Dhyana Shloka.
The immediate image that flashes in our mind when we hear the term ‘Milky Ocean’ is that of the nectar churning image or that of the Lord MahaVishnu in his reclining pose as portrayed in the famous Thyagaraja composition “Ksheera Sagara Shayanaa” in Devagandhaari Ragam and Adi Taalam.
But in this Dhyana Shloka we have the image of Vishnu seated majestically on the banks of the Milky Ocean.
What is the significance of this?
When a man is actively engaged in the worldly affairs he does not devote sufficient time to think of Bhagavan and at that time Bhagavan is effectively sleeping. But when a man disengages himself from the world and embarks on worship, Bhagavan wakes up and the world (distraction) in him is put to sleep.
When we are about to focus our mind on the Absolute and away from the worldly affairs, God is activated and the world (distraction) is deactivated. That is why we find him “Aasanastha” seated and awake and ready to grant our wish for purification.
In essence with the Dhyana Shlokas we are preparing ourselves to focus our mind on the Lord and ready to awaken our ‘Chit’ or Consciousness through worship and in the process put the world (or the distraction) in us to sleep. The recitation helps to awaken ourselves and be ready to accept his grace by purifying our mind as we engage our thoughts on HIM, who will finally liberate us (moksa isyami ma sucah – BG 18.66).
Dhyana Shloka 2
Bhooh paadau yasya naabhir-viyada-suranilas-chandra-sooryau cha netre
Karnaa-vaashaas shiro-dyaur mukhamapi dahano yasya vaasteyam abdhih
Antas-stham yasya vishvam sura-nara-khaga-go-bhogi-gandharva-daityaihi
Chitram ramramyate tam tribhuvana-vapusham Vishnum Isham namaami.
In this Shloka we picturise Him in His cosmic form or Vishwaroopam. The entire Universe is contained in Him. The basic nucleus of this Shloka is ‘Vishnum Isham Namaami’ meaning ‘I worship Lord Vishnu’. The rest of the words describe how the various parts of the Universe relate to the various parts of Vishnu.
‘Bhooh Padau Yasya’ – His feet are the planet Earth
‘Naabhir Viyat’ – His navel is the Sky
‘Asuh Anilah’ – His breathing apparatus is Vayu (the Wind)
‘Chandra Suryau cha Netre’ – His eyes are the Sun and the Moon
‘Karnau Aavaashah’ – His ears are the directions
‘Shiro Dyauh’ – His head is Devalokam
‘Mukham Dahanah’ – His mouth is Fire (Agni)
‘Vaasteyam Abdhih’ – His abdomen is the Ocean
‘Antastham yasya Vishvam’ – The whole Universe resides in him.
Sura-nara-khaga-gandharva-daityaihi Chitram ramramyate – The Universe, which is the delightful playing ground of myriads of diverse life forms such as Devas, Humans, Birds, Animals, Snakes, Gandharvas and Demons.
‘Chitram ramramyate’ is a particularly beautiful construction with the threefold repetition of ‘Ram’.
And finally ‘Tribhuvana Vapusham’ meaning ‘He is the embodiment of the three worlds’.
Bringing all of these together we have the complete frame:
‘I bow to Lord Vishnu who has the three worlds as His body. The Earth is His feet, the sky His navel. Wind is His breath, the Sun and the Moon are His eyes. Directions are His ears and the Heaven is His head. Fire is His face and the Ocean His abdomen. In Him is situated the Universe with diverse kinds of Devas, men, birds, cattle, serpents, gandharvas and daityas (demons)- all enjoying a pleasurable life’
Vishwaroopam or the Cosmic form is very difficult for ordinary mortals to visualise and contemplate upon. Arjuna was granted a divine vision (divya caksu) to be able to experience the cosmic form of Krishna. And Arjuna saw:
‘Tatraikastham jagatkrtsnam Pravibhaktam Anekadhaa
Apashyat devadevasya Shareere Pandavas tadaa’
Arjuna witnessed, in the Supreme Deity, the whole Universe with its manifold divisions, condensed into one place.
Contemplation of the Dhyana Shloka 2 with full understanding gives us the same experience as Arjuna had that day.
Some of the cosmic representations in this Shloka are also described in the same way in Purusha Suktam, expounding the connection of Purusha or the Viraat Purusha with the Universe.
- ‘Praanaad Vaayur Ajaayata’ meaning Vayu or Wind came out of His breathing;
- ‘Naabhyaa raaseed Antariksham’ meaning the sky was born out of His navel;
- ‘Sheershnor Dyaus Samavartata’ meaning the Devalokam was born out of His head;
- ‘Padbhyaam Bhoomih’ meaning the Earth was born out of His feet; and
- ‘Dishas Shrotraat’ meaning the directions were born out of His ears.
Having evoked His Regal Splendour in Shloka 1 and His Cosmic Splendour in Shloka 2 in this Part, we will move on to the other Dhyana Shlokas in our subsequent Parts.
HARI OM TAT SAT
OM NAMO NARAYANAAYA
The Vishnu Sahasranamam series is authored with the help of my friend Shri Balaji.