In this Part, we will explore the meaning of the Eleventh Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.
Ajah Sarvesvarah Siddhah Siddih Sarvadir Achyutah |
Vrishakapir Ameyatma Sarvayogavinisrutah ||11||
The Lord is eternal and existed even prior to Creation. He is Supreme and well accomplished, who bestows the ultimate fruits of action (Moksha) on His devotees. He is the Ultimate Cause of all beings and the source of all things. He never slips or lets his devotees down. He is ever ready to swing into action to restore Dharma by taking many Avatars. He is immeasurable and his Leelas are incomprehensible. He can be attained through Yoga and unswerving devotion (Bhakti) is one of the easiest ways to attain Him.
This Shloka contains the following 9 Namas:
Now let’s look at the meaning of the above Namas in detail:
96. Ajah – One who has no birth
This Nama appears 3 times in Vishnu Sahasranamam. The word Ajah has several meanings. The more common meanings can be summarised as below:
- One who is Unborn or never born;
- One who is The Remover of all obstacles;
- One who moves in the hearts of His devotees;
- One who removes the ignorance from the hearts of His devotees; and
- One who is the root of all sound (akshara “a”)
The first meaning is explained by Sri Adi Sankara by saying ‘Na Jaayate iti Ajah – Since he is not born (He is without a beginning) He is Ajah. Rig Veda says ‘Na Jaato Na Janishyate – Was never born, will never be born’.
In the Mahabharata Santi Parva, the following verse says:
“na hi jaato na jaayeyam na janishye kadaachana |
kshetrajnah sarvabhootaanaam tasmaat aham ajah smrtah ||
Sri Parasara Bhattar points out that even though Bhagavan might have taken several Avatars, they are not to be equated with normal births.
The root ‘aj’ signifies movement or throwing away. Sri Bhattar uses this meaning and interprets the Nama as “The Remover of all obstacles”; He ensures that His devotees accomplish their objective of reaching Him.
Sri Adi Sankara uses the same meaning for aja (movement, motion) and comes up with a different explanation – ajati gacchati kshipati iti vaa ajah – He who moves into the heart of His devotees.
Sri Radhakrishna Shastri uses the meaning “movement” and interprets the Nama as remover of ignorance in us, or One who goes to the bhaktas to enable them to reach Him, or One who unleashes His weapons on anyone who disturbs or causes hardship to His devotees.
The Story of Prahlada
Prahlada was a great devotee of Lord Narayana. According to mythology, Sage Narada taught Narayana Mantras to Prahlada when he was in his mother’s womb. From then on he was a great devotee of the Lord.
Prahlada was born to Hiranyakashipu, an evil Asura king who performed severe penance on Lord Brahma who was pleased and granted him a boon. Hiranyakashipu wanted immortality which the Lord declined and asked him to seek anything else other than that. So, Hiranyakashipu asked:
O my lord, O best of the givers of benediction, if you will kindly grant me the benediction I desire, please let me not meet death from any of the living entities created by you.
Grant me that I not die within any indoors or outdoors, during the day or at night, neither on the ground nor in the sky. Grant me that, my death not be brought about by any weapon, nor by any human being or animal.
Since no one can kill you in the battlefield, you have no competitor. Therefore, grant me the benediction that I too may have no rival. Give me sole lordship over all the living entities and presiding deities, and give me all the glories obtained by that position. Furthermore, give me all the mystic powers attained by long austerities and the practice of yoga, for these cannot be lost at any time.
Brahma said, Tathāstu (So be it) and vanished. Hiraṇyakaśipu was happy thinking that he had won over death. He soon grew arrogant and wanted everyone to worship him.
Prahalad was sent to a Gurukul. His teachers were Chanda and Amarka who were the sons of Shukracharya the preceptor of the Asuras. They taught them to worship Hiranyakasipu as God and imparted all teachings on demonic qualities which were opposed to Lord Narayana. Prahalad did not imbibe any of these qualities. His heart and mind were filled with Lord Narayana. Hiranyakasipu was eager to know what his son had learnt. Prahalad began to sing the glories of Lord Narayana. Hiranyakasipu was astonished and could not imagine how his son could worship his arch enemy Vishnu. He sent the boy back with warnings to the teachers to find out who was influencing him at school. The helpless teachers questioned him closely as they feared the King’s wrath. They tried several methods to change his mind and took him back to the King. But yet again Prahalad could only speak about Lord Vishnu. Despite several warnings from his father Hiranyakashipu, Prahlada continued to worship Narayana instead of him. Hiranyakashipu was enrage with Prahlada’s contempt for him that he decided to throw him off the mountain but he survived. Later he tried to poison him, but Prahlada survived yet again.
Finally, Hiranyakashipu decided to seek the help of his sister Holika who was blessed that she would be unaffected by fire.
Prahlada prays to Lord Narayana to keep him safe. The unthinkable thing happened. While Holika burned to death, Prahlada remains unscathed. (This event is celebrated as the festival of Holi in North India).
Exasperated, Hiranyakashipu challenges Prahlada to show him his Lord.
Lord Narayana emerges out of a pillar as the half-man, half-lion Narasimha Avatar, who kills the King at the entrance to his palace at dusk, using his claws by placing him on his lap. Thus, Lord Narayana met all the conditions of Brahma’s boon to Hiranyakashipu:
1. He came as half-man, half- animal and hence neither a man or animal;
2. It was during dusk time so neither day nor night;
3. He kills him at the entrance to his Palace, so it was neither inside nor outside;
4. He uses his claws, so no weapons were used;
5. He was not a creation of Brahma; and
6. Finally, he kept him on his lap , so he was neither on land nor in the sky!
The story of Prahlada demonstrates that God will come to save his devotees who have reposed unflinching faith in Him.
The final meaning comes from the explanation ‘Akaara vachyatayaa jaatah Ajah – One who is realizable through the sound of Akaara or the letter ‘Aa’.
Everything originates in Pranava or the syllable AUM which begins with Akaaraa. So it is appropriate to say that awareness of Him starts with the akshara ‘A’ and hence he is Ajah.
In the Bhagavad Gita 10.33 Lord Krishna says ‘Aksharanaam Akaarosmi – I am Akaara among all letters’.
97. Sarveshvarah – He is the Supreme Lord
Sarveshvarah has two meanings:
a) One who reaches all who seek Him;
b) One who is the Isvara for all Isvaras
Sri Adi Sankara gives a simple definition ‘Sarveshaam Eeshvaranaam Eeshvarah – He is the Supreme Lord of all Lords’.
He rules over all other Lords who have control over their own specific areas. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4.4.22 says ‘Esha Sarveshvarah – He alone is the Supreme Lord’.
Sri Parasara Bhattar takes the view that ‘ash + varat = Eeshvarah’ with the meaning “having the power of granting success soon.” In this interpretation He is Sarveshvarah because He quickly reaches all those who have taken refuge in Him in order to give them comfort instantly.
98. Siddhah – The Accomplished
Siddhah is a person of perfect accomplishment. ‘Siddhyati iti Siddhah – One who accomplishes is a Siddhah’.
Sri Adi Sankara gives the interpretation ‘Nithya Nishpanna roopatvaat Siddhah – Ever the perfectly accomplished one’. It is also possible to give the meaning ‘He is present everywhere at all times’.
Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets this as ‘Svaroopenaiva bhaktaanaam siddhatvat siddhah uchyate – He is available to His devotees in His true form.’
99. Siddhih – One who bestows Ultimate Bliss
If Siddhah refers to the accomplisher Siddhih refers to the accomplishment. Thus Bhagavan stands for both, the actor and the action, the doer as well as the deed. According to Sri Adi Sankara, Bhagavan is called Siddhih because of –
- His expert knowledge of everything or
- His supremacy in everything or
- His being the ultimate fruit of every pursuit i.e. Moksha.
In other words all other accomplishments can only give lesser benefits such as the worldly joys and the pleasures of heaven, but moksha, the ultimate bliss can only be obtained by earnestly seeking Him.
100. Sarvaadih – He is the Ultimate Cause of All Causes
Sarva means everything and Aadi means the beginning. He is the root cause of everything. He is the Ultimate Cause of all Causes. He is the beginning of all beginnings.
“SarveshAm purushArtAnAm Adih sarvAdih or sarva bhUtAnAm AdikAraNatvAt sarvAdih.” One who is the very beginning of all; One, who was in existence earlier than anything else.
In the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 10 Verse 8, Lord Krishna says “Aham Sarvasya Prabhavah Mattas Sarvam Pravartate – I am the source of all things; all things proceed from me.”
101. Achyutah – One who never Slips
Achyutah can be interpreted in 3 ways:
- He does not slip from his established post. Sri Adi Sankara says ‘Svaroopa saamarthyaat na chyuto na chyavate na chyavishyate iti Achyutah – He has never slipped, He does not slip and He will not slip from his true post.’
- He does not allow his devotees to slip i.e., He never lets them down in their hour of need. He is ever present in the heart of His devotees.
- One who undergoes no modifications such as birth, growth, decay, disease, etc.
Sri Parasara Bhattar explains that He does not slip at all from His position of Lordship ever, unlike Brahma or Indra who are subject to loss of position from time to time, hence He is called Achyuta.
“yasmaat na cyuta purvo’ham acyutastena karmanaa” – MahaBharata Santi Parva 12.330.16.
Sri Bhattar’s interpretation of the above Shruti leads to the second meaning which is: “I have never abandoned (my Bhaktas), because of this act of mine, I am known as Achyuta.” His words are “tebyah prapannebhyah na apagatah Achyutah – He is never away from those who have sought refuge in Him.”
Sri Radhakrishna Sastri points out that Bhagavan is Achyuta because he does not slip from stage to stage in the sequence of events such as birth, living, growth, change in appearance, decay, and finally disappearance from the body.
Narayana Upanishad says “Patim Vishvasyaatmesvaram Shaasvatam Shivam Achyutam – He is the Lord of the Universe, Lord of the Beings, Eternal, Auspicious and free from slippage or change.”
It may be noted that this Nama occurs three times in the Vishnu Sahasranamam.
102. Vrishakapih – The protector of Dharma
The word Vrisha means Dharma, and the word kapi refers to boar (paa means to protect and ka means water, and so kapi refers to Varaha Avatar where He protected the Earth from the depths of the Ocean).
Mahabharatam says ‘Kapir Varahas shreshttascha Dharmascha Vrisha Uchyate; Tasmaat Vrishaakapim Praaha Kaashyapo Mam Prajapatih – Kapih denotes the Varaha Avatar and Dharma is called Vrisha; therefore Kashyapa Prajaapati called me Vrishaakapih’.
Putting these together Sri Adi Sankara says ‘Vrisharoopatvaat Kapiroopatvaaccha Vrishaakapih – He is called Vrishaakapih because He is both Dharma and Varaha Avatar’.
The Story of Varaha Avatar
He soon becomes arrogant and takes the Earth, who is Goddess Bhudevi personified and hides her in the primordial waters. Brahma seeks the help of Lord Vishnu who then assumes the form of a Varaha, a giant wild boar.
In the Ocean, Varaha encounters Hiranyaksha, who obstructs his path and challenges him for a duel.
Ignoring the demon’s threats, Varaha lifts the earth on his tusks.
The two fiercely fight with maces.
Swami ChinmayAnanda points out that the name derives from the fact that He protected the Earth from the Ocean of Adharma in His Varaha Avatar.
103. Ameyaatma – He is Immeasurable
Ameya is linked to the root word ‘Maa’ which means ‘to measure’. Maanadanda for example is a measuring rod which is famously used by Kalidasa in Kumarasambhavam ‘Himaalayo naama Nagaadhiraajah Sthitah Prithavyaa iva Maanadandah –Mount Himalaya stands majestically as if it is a measuring rod for the whole earth’.
Based on this root Meya mean measurable and Ameya means immeasurable. Sri Adi Sankara says ‘Iyaan iti Maatum Paricchettum na Shakyate iti Ameyaatmaa – One whose self cannot be measured as to what it is and how much it is.
One is reminded of a name in the mystic Lalita Trishati ‘eedrik iti avinirdeshya – You cannot assign a physical measure to her nature’.
Ameya means unaccountable or incomprehensible. Swami ChinmayAnanda indicates that the Virat Purusha form of the Lord is suggested here. His self or nature is such that it cannot be measured by any particular standard and determined.
104. Sarvayogavinisrutah – He is attainable by many means
This can be interpreted in two ways:
- He is free from all attachment.
- He is achievable through all forms of Yoga.
The first meaning is explained by Sri Adi Sankara using the words ‘Sarvasambandha Vinirgatah Sarvayogavinisrutah – He is completely free from all forms of attachment; He is totally abstract and free from any material bondage’. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad says ‘Asangohyaham Purushah – He is a detached Entity’.
The second meaning is explained as ‘NaanaaShastroktaad Yogaad Upagatatvaat Sarvayogavinisrutah – One can realise Him through the various Yogic practices described in the Shastras.’
The word Yoga can mean Union or also can be interpreted as a ‘means to attain’ something. Depending on which one of these is chosen, we get a different interpretation. Vinisrutah means gone forth or out, or escaped.
Using the first meaning for Yoga, we get the interpretation that He is free from any and all forms of bondage, and so He is Sarva Yoga Vinisruta.
Using the second meaning, Sri Parasara Bhattar’s interpretation is that He is attainable easily by all means. His interpretation is – Yogaih – upaayaih; vi – visheshena – veda parama guhyairiva; nissritah – praaptum yogyah, sugraha iti va.
Hence the Lord can be attained in many ways.
Srimad Bhagvatam elaborates nine forms of Bhakti which, if cultivated and practiced regularly will no doubt lead us closer to the lord. The nine forms of Bhakti are:
Shravanam, Kirtanam, Vishnoh Smaranam, Paada-sevanam, Archanam, Vandanam, Daasyam, Sakhyam, Atma-nivedanam (Srimad Bhagvatam 7.5.23). One of the easiest ways of attaining the Lord is through unflinching devotion or Bhakti.
Ajah Sarvesvarah Siddhah Siddih Sarvadir Achyutah |
Vrishakapir Ameyatma Sarvayogavinisrutah ||11||
The Lord is eternal and has always existed even prior to the Creation, hence He is called Ajah. He is the Supreme Lord and hence known as Sarveshvarah. He is well accomplished, hence Siddhah. He is Siddhih as He bestows the ultimate fruit of actions on his devotees i.e. Moksha.
He is the Cause of all beings and the source of all things, so He is Sarvadhih. He never slips or lets his devotees down and is ever ready to swing into action to restore Dharma by taking many Avatars, hence He is Achyutah.
He is Vrishakapih as He upholds Dharma and rescued the Earth from the depths of Ocean as Varaha. He is Ameyatma as He is immeasurable and his Leelas are incomprehensible.
He can be attained through Yoga and unswerving devotion or Bhakti is one of the easiest ways to attain Him and so he is Sarvayogavinistrutah.
Here’s a brief audio commentary on the 11th Shloka –
And an audio visual commentary is available YouTube –
HARI OM TAT SAT
OM NAMO NARAYANAAYA
The Vishnu Sahasranamam series is authored with the help of my friend Shri Balaji.