In this Part we will explore the meaning of the 2nd Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.
The Lord is pure and is untainted by the actions of the body (Jivatma) in which he resides; He is the Ultimate Consciousness Who is the Knower, Seer, Sustainer, Enjoyer and those immersed in his thoughts attain Paramagati or Moksha, and enjoy the eternal bliss that is limitless.
This Shloka contains the following 8 Namas:
11. Paramatma (Cha)
17. Aksharah(Eva cha)
Now let’s examine the meaning of the above 8 Namas in detail:
10. Pootaatma – One who is Pure
Pootatma is the pure or untainted Atman or Soul. ‘Poota Atma yasya sah Pootatma – The One who’s Atman is absolutely Pure’. The JivAtmas have the Vaasanas (desire or impressions from the past) or the associations coming from the fruits of actions from the past that the Jivas are involved in because of the doer-ship associated with their bodies.
Even though Bhagavan is also associated with the same bodies since we are all extensions of His body, He is Pure Atman because He is not affected by the fruits of action associated with the bodies. He is, therefore, in essence free of Gunas and Vaasanas.
In the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 4, Verse 14 Krishna says:
na māṁ karmāṇi limpantina me karma–phale spṛhā
iti māṁ yo ‘bhijānāti karmabhir na sa badhyate
Meaning: There is no work that affects Me; nor do I aspire for the fruits of action. One who understands this truth about Me also does not become entangled in the fruitive reactions of work.
In Chapter 9, Verse 9 Krishna says:
na ca māṃ tāni karmāṇi nibadhnanti dhananjaya
udāsīnavadāsīnam asaktaṃ teṣu karmasu
Meaning: O’Dhananjaya (Arjuna), these Universal activities never bind Me. I am situated neutrally and unattached to all these activities.
Svetashvatara Upanishad (6.11) says He is ‘Kevalo Nirgunashcha – He is Pure and Unsullied by Gunas’.
11. Paramatma – He who is Supreme
Paramatma means the Supreme or the Ultimate Soul for which there is none superior. This word can be interpreted as ‘Paramah chaasau Atma cha Paramatma’ or ‘Paro Ma Asya sa Aatmaa Paramatma’.
In Bhagavad Gita Chapter 13, Verse 23, we have the perfect description of Paramatma:
Upadrashtaanumantaa cha Bhartaa Bhoktaa Maheshvarah
Paramaatmeti Chaapyuktah Dehesmin Purushah Parah
Meaning: Within the body, Supreme to the individual consciousness, an in-dwelling observer, sanctioner, preserver, enjoyer and indeed the ultimate controller as well is described as the Ultimate Consciousness. He being a witness, is ‘Updrashta’ and of uniform wisdom is ‘Unmantha’ and being responsible for maintaining all is ‘Bhoktha’, and being the creator is ‘Maheshvarah’.
The Pure Soul even while dwelling in this body is really transcendental, the Witness, the Guide, the Sustainer, the Experiencer, the Supreme Self and the Super soul.’
The ‘Cha’ after Paramatma is the conjunction that seamlessly joins the concepts of Pootatma and Paramatma.
12. MuktanamParamaGatihi – He is the Ultimate goal of all Liberated Souls
This Nama means that One who is the ultimate goal for all Muktas or Released or Liberated Souls.
In the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 7 Verse 19, Bhagavan says:
Bahoonaam Janmanaamante Gnanavan Maam Prapadyate
Vasudevah sarvam iti sa mahatma sudurlabah
Meaning: At the end of many births, the one who has gained the knowledge that ‘Vasudeva is everything’, reaches me. Such a wise person is very rare.
In Chapter 8, verse 16 of the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says:
Maam Upetya tu Kaunteya Punarjanma na Vidyate meaning Anyone who resorts to me will be released from the cycle of repeated births and deaths.
Meaning: Param means Ultimate and Gati means destination or goal; hence Paramagati is the goal after attaining which you will not desire anything else. Normally, the nature of any goal is such that once you attain that goal, then you will want to set the next higher goal. This is not the case with ParamaGati as this is the ultimate goal and the final target.
13. Avyayah – One who is Immortal
The basic meaning is one who has no ‘Vyaya’, that is one who does not experience any kind of change or decay or deterioration. Brihadaaranyaka Upanishad (4.4.25) says of Bhagavan ‘Ajaro Amaro Avyayayah – For Him there is no old age or decay or any change’.
In Gita Chapter 7 Verse 25 Lord Krishna says ‘Moodhoyam Naabhijaanaati Loko Maam ajam avyayam meaning – The ignorant person does not realise Me as unborn and unchanging’.
Narayana Suktam says of Bhagavaan ‘Anantam avyayam Kavim – the immortal and indestructible Seer’.
Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets this Nama differently as ‘He does not send anyone back to Samsaara those who resort to Him (the repetitive cycle of birth and death).’
14. Purushah – One who resides in all beings
This Nama can be interpreted in many different ways.
- Puru sanoti iti purushah – Gives plentifully to His devotees. Puru means in ample measure and sanoti means bestows.
- Puram shareeram, tasmin shete iti purushah – Our body is considered an abode and He resides there. This concept is described in the Mahabharatam as ‘Navadvaaram puram punyam etairbhaavais samanvitam Vyaapya shete mahaatmaa yas tasmaat purusha uchyate – This body is a fort (Puram) with nine entrances and He rests there so He is called Purusha’
- Pura Aaseet iti Purushah – He was there before anything existed. Taitriya Samhita (1.23) says ‘Poorvameva aham iha aasam iti tat purushasya purushatvam – I have been here since time immemorial hence I am called Purushah’.
- Purayati iti Purushah – One who completes and gives fulfilment to existence everywhere.
Swami ChinmayAnanda suggests that these different ways of interpreting the meanings of this Nama is a way to understand more and more about the true nature of the Lord.
15. Saakshee – One who witnesses everything
He perceives everything directly without the need for any medium or intermediaries. Sri Adi Sankara says ‘Saakshaat avyavadhaanena svaroopabodhena eekshate pashyati sarvam iti Saakshee – The All-Knower, the Omniscient Bhagavan sees everything directly by His own awareness without any instrument for seeing (such as the sense organs)’.
Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets this Nama as indicating that the Lord witnesses the muktas or the liberated souls enjoying the Bliss that He confers on them, and is thus happy Himself.
16. Kshetragnah – The knower of the field
Kshetra means a field or territory but in the context of Vedanta it refers to the human body. In the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 13, Verse 2 Lord Krishna says:
Idam shareeram Kounteya kshetram ityabhidheeyate
Etadyo vetti tam prahuh ksetrajna iti
Meaning: O’Kounteya (Arjuna), the material body is known as the field of activity. Those who know this describe this as knowers’ of the field of activity.
So Kshetragnah is one who understands the Kshetra namely ‘Kshetram jaanaati iti Kshetragnah’. In other words Kshetragnah is the Purusha who resides in the Kshetra and knows everything about it. Krishna specifically says ‘Kshetram chaapi maam viddhi – Know myself as the Knower of the Field’.
Sri Parasara Bhattar’s interpretation of this Nama is ‘One who knows, and can lead the muktas to the exact place where the muktas will get their sought-after Supreme Bliss.’ So kshetra in his viewpoint is the exact location of Supreme Bliss.
17. Aksharah (Eva cha) – He who is without destruction
Sri Adi Sankara’s interpretation is: “sa eva na ksharati iti aksharah – He alone exists without dying”. The purport of this is that it signifies the Paramatman as against Kshetragnah which denotes the JivAtman. Also according to him ‘Eva Cha’ are significant conjunctions connecting Kshetragnah and Aksharah. The ‘Eva’ denotes that the two are identical in principle. The ‘Cha’ denotes that there are however some apparent differences between Kshetragnah (the Jeevaatmaa) and Aksharah (the Paramatma).
Aksarah also means to enjoy. He gives unlimited bliss to those who are immersed in his thoughts and such a joy is limitless.
Pootatma Paramatma cha MuktanamParamaGatihi |
Avyayah Purushas Saakshee Kshetragno Akshara Eva Cha ||2||
He is the Ultimate Consciousness who is the Knower, Seer, Sustainer, Enjoyer and the Paramatma. Those immersed in his thoughts attain Paramagati or Moksha, so He is MuktanamParamagatihi. He is immortal, indestructible and has no decay, hence He is Avyayah.
Our body is considered an abode and He resides there and hence He is Purushah. Bhagavan is Omniscient and sees everything as a Sakshee. He is Kshetragnah as He leads his devotees to Supreme bliss. He is without destruction and eternal, so He is Aksharah.
HARI OM TAT SAT
OM NAMO NARAYANAAYA
The Vishnu Sahasranamam series is authored with the help of my friend Shri Balaji.