In this Part, we will explore the meaning of the Eighteenth Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.
Bhagavan is the One who is to be realised and He is easily attained through Bhakti. He is the all Knower and possesses complete knowledge of all branches as He created the Universe. He is forever in meditation and forever available to his devotees. He is the slayer of the wicked and a propounder of knowledge of the Supreme Being. He is like nectar to his devotees and one who cannot be sensed by the sense organs as he is beyond the realms of Indriyas. He has wonderful powers of enchantment with his Maya which can be overcome only by total surrender unto Him. He acts with great enthusiasm and He is mightier than the mightiest as He supports and sustains the Universe.
This Shloka contains the following Namas:
Now let’s examine the meaning of the above Namas in detail:
165. Vedyah – One who has to be known for attaining Moksha
The nama Vedyah can be construed in 3 different ways as follows:
- Veditum Sakyah Vedyah meaning HE can be realised
- Vedanaarhatvaat Vedyah meaning That which should be known or realised
- Veditum yogya iti Vedyah- He who should be realised
Sri Adi Sankara says ‘Nishreyas Saarthibhih Vedanaar hatvaat Vedyah – He needs to be realised by those seeking total welfare’.
In the Bhagavad Gita (15.15) Bhagavan says –
“Vedaischa sarvair aham eva vedyo – I am the One who is to be known through all the Vedas” and the same from Kaivalya Upanishad (22) which says ‘Vedair Anekair-Ahameva Vedyah’.
166. Vaidyah – The knower of all Vidyas or branches of knowledge.
The word Vaidya is related to the word Vidya. HE is the One who right from the beginning of the world knew all the Vidyas that went into the creation of this Universe and hence He is Vaidya. It is not only that He is the Knower, but no one else is the Knower of creating all the wondrous and manifold objects in His creation.
In the Yajur Veda 40.16 (and Isavasya Upanishad 18) it says “Vishvaani deva vayunaani vidvaan meaning The All Knowing God with the knowledge of all the ways. He is the sarva-vidya-maya Vaidya.
In the Taittiriya Aranyaka 10.21 it says “Isvarah sarva-vidyanam”, the knowledge that we see displayed even in the insects, birds, etc., should be a constant reminder of the Vaidya or All-Knower that is Bhagavan, and should lead us to the constant awareness that it is His feet that we should worship.
‘Eeshaanas Sarva Vidyaanaam Eeshvaras Sarvabhootaanaam – Verily He is the target of all learning and the Lord of all creatures’.
Sri Adi Sankara explains this as ‘Sarva Vidyaanaam Veditritvaat Vaidyah – He is the target of knowledge for all branches of learning’. In other words no branch of knowledge is worth anything unless it shows a pointer to Him.
The traditional meaning of the word ‘Vaidyah’ is a doctor or a man who cures diseases. Swami ChinmayAnanda points out that He is Vaidyah since He alone can be the doctor to the world that is suffering from ego and ego-centric misconceptions.
Sri Parasara Bhattar says –
“Meru mandara maatropi paapasya karmanaah |
Keshavam vaidyam Asaadya durvyaadhi riva nashyati || (Vishnu dharmam 69.110)
Meaning: One might have accumulated sins the size of the Meru mountain; however if one worships Keshava the sins disappear just as even the worst diseases disappear when treated by a good doctor”.
He knows the Vidya of releasing His devotees from the cycle of rebirth, and so He is Vaidyah.
167. SadaaYogi – One who can be easily attained
- One who is always awake with respect to His devotees.
- One who unites with this Universe as the SarvaVyaapee.
- One who always follows the Dharmic way.
- One who is in constant yogic meditation
- One who treats everyone equally.
Bhagavan is easily attainable through, and so He is SadaaYogI.
Sri Adi Sankara takes the first meaning by saying ‘Sadaa aavirbhoota swaroopatvaat SadaaYogi meaning that HE is always present and available to his devotees’.
Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets this Nama to mean that HE is awake at all times for His devotees, and He is awake as the antaryami or the inner soul in all of us.
Shri Satyadevo Vaasishtha gives three different interpretations for this Nama –Satah AyogI, Sadaa yogI and Sadaa AayogI. Satas means equally, and Ayuj means to unite or to join.
The root forms from which this Nama can be derived are many – yugi varjane – to give up; yuj samaadhau – to concentrate the mind; yuj yoge – to unite; yuj samyamane – to join.
He is SadaaYogi because He has given up everything and always acts in accordance with Dharma. He is also a Sadaa-yogI because He unites this world into one through His pervasive omnipresence. His sarva-vyApti, His pervasiveness extends into everything that exists – Sadaiva yojayati samya mayati vishvaan lokaan sa Saaa-yogi.
He is also a Sada-Yogi because He is constantly in yogic meditation, which is His nature. Yoga here can be interpreted as Samatva-bhaava. Sadaa yogah asya asti iti tam sadaa-yoginam, sadaa yoga shilam svabhaava-dharmaanaam vaa.
The Vyakhyana in Dharma Chakram points out that people live in one of three ways of life – as a rogi, bhogi, or a yogi. Of these, the life of a yogi (who spends his life by diverting his senses away from sense-enjoyment and towards the parama-purusha) is the one that leads to peace of mind and health. The yogic state of mind is naturally attained by one who devotes his mind to the worship of the Lord, the SadaaYogi.
168. Veerahaa – The slayer of strong men of wicked nature.
In the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 4 Verse 8 Bhagavan says
‘Paritraanaaya Sadhoonaam Vinaashaaya cha Dushkritaam|
Dharma Samsthaapanaarthaaya Sambhavaami yuge yuge ||
Meaning: In order to protect the righteous and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to re-establish Dhama, I incarnate myself millenium after millenium’.
Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets this to mean that he slays the Veeras who are “Kutarka-Sura-s” or those who put up false arguments to prevent people from meditating on Him.
He refers us to the Shlokas in the Bhagavad Gita in Chapter 16 starting from 8th shloka and ending with the 19th shloka. Bhagavan gives a description of the kinds of behaviors that these pseudo-intellectuals demonstrate – claiming that God does not exist, or claiming that they are the God, etc. and hence such beings get caught in the cycle of rebirth and attain lower forms of life.
169. Madhavah – The propounder of the knowledge of the Supreme Being
- The consort of MA or Lakshmi;
- One who is attained through the Madhu Vidya – that is through Mauna, Dhyaana and Yoga;
- The Lord of knowledge or the propounder of the knowledge of the Supreme Being;
- One who is born in the race of Madhu, a Yaadava ;
- One for whom there is no Lord (i.e., One who is the Lord of everyone); and
- A silent observer, a Maunee.
170. Madhuh – One who is like honey to His devotees.
He is Madhuh because He creates Nectarine Bliss in the hearts of His devotees.
‘Yathaa Madhu Paraam Preetim Utpaa dayati Ayam Api tathaa iti – Just like the honey (Madhu) gives pleasure, Bhagavan also generates pleasure in the heart of his devotees.’ Honey gives physical pleasure, which is short lived and limited in time and scope. But Bhagavan gives unlimited and everlasting pleasure and that pleasure is that of the mind and not that of the body.
Brihadaranyaka Upanishad says ‘Ayamaatmaa Sarveshaam bhootaanaam Madhuh (2.5.14) – He is verily the honey for all living beings’. We also have “thEnil iniya pirAne” as He is referenced by PeriyAzhvAr in his PoocchUttal.
SrI Satyadevo Vasishtha indicates that Madhu also means knowledge, and He is Madhu because He knows everything because he is pervasive – ‘gnAna dharmeNa vyApnuvan sarvam viSvam manyate jAnAti, tasmAt sa madhuh.’
In the Yajurvedic mantra it says – ‘tadan tarsya sarvasya tadu sarvas yAsya bAh yatah – He is inside everything, and He is also outside of everything, and by virtue of this, HE is gnana mayam or Knower of everything.’
In the Dharma Chakram it says that madhu or honey is unique among all the edibles that when consumed is fully digested into the system with no waste products.
He also points out that ‘Madhu’ is unique in that there is no ill-effect that results from its consumption, unlike some of the other edibles where an excessive consumption will lead to harmful effects.
In this context, Bhagavan is the knowledge that is Madhu, from which only good can result.
171. Ateendriyah – One who is beyond the range of the sense organs.
He is beyond the reach of our senses. As Adi Sankara puts it ‘Shabdaadi rahi tatvaat indriyaanaam avishayah iti Ateendriyah – He cannot be reached by any of our senses like sound, sight, touch etc’.
The Kathopanishad says as follows:
‘Ashabdbam asparsham aroopam avyayam tathaarasam nityam agandhavat cha – He is beyond the reach of sound, touch, sight, taste and smell’.
Only those objects that have a fixed shape, color, or other characteristics will be recognizable by the indriya-s or sense organs. He is beyond these sense-organs, and cannot be realized through these or through sheer reasoning. The only way to realize Him is to experience Him through pure devotion and total surrender.
The two mantras of ISAvAsya upanishad (anejadekam.., and tadejati tannaijati..) remind us of this quality of BhagavAn in simple words.
Swami ChinmayAnanda points out that it is not just that He is beyond the reach of the sense-organs, but the sense-organs do not exist without Him, and so cannot sense anything without His power. So HE is the very subject of the sense-organs, and not the object of the sense-organs (the eye cannot see itself, but only its reflection in a mirror!).
HE is also not seen by the Indriyas because He is not anywhere outside where the senses can sense Him, but HE is inside each of us in the size of a thumb or angusTha mAtrena!
172. MahaMayah – One who is possessed of wonderful power of enchantment
Sri Parasara Bhattar points out that this Nama signifies that He conceals Himself from those who are not devoted to Him through His power of enchantment. This is natural for one who is not within the reach of the senses-organs as we saw in the previous Nama.
Lord Krishna says in the Bhagavad GIta (7.14) –
Deivi hy esa gunamayi mama maya Duratyaya
mam eva ye prapadyante mayam etam taranti te
Meaning: The divine illusion of mine (Maya) consisting of the three modes of material nature, is powerful, irresistible and certainly difficult to overcome. But those who surrender unto ME, they only are able to surmount this illusory energy.’
The Maya referred to here is that Bhagavan conceals Himself from those who do not seek Him. Other references to the sruti-s are – ‘ati-mohakarI mAyA mama’ (Sarabha 24), Vidyaat Mayinam tu Maheshvaram (SvetASvatAra 4.10). Maya is the mental veil, which prevents us from realising Bhagavan and makes us to carry on living as if the world and life are permanent for us.
Adi Sankara says ‘Mayavi naamapi Maya kaaritvaat MahaMayah – Even the greatest people cannot see through His Maya.’ Even wise men are no exception and only through surrender can they navigate the tempestuous oceans of Maya or illusory impressions superimposed upon the mind!
173. Mahotsaahah – One of great enthusiasm.
Utsaaha means enthusiasm and Mahotsaahah refers to someone who applies himself with great enthusiasm into whatever action he is engaged in. Sri Adi Sankara spells it out more explicitly saying
‘Jagat utpatti sthiti layaartham Udyak tatvaat Mahotsaahah – He is called Mahotsaahah because of the great enthusiasm with which he is performing his acts of creation, protection and dissolution of the world.’
SrI Parasara Bhattar says that this Nama particularly indicates that, unlike the Eeshvara of the Sankhya system, who is possessed of knowledge but is a non-doer of acts and is indifferent, Shri Maha Vishnu is enthusiastic in performing all his acts which signify His lordship, such as the varieties of His creation, their sustenance etc.
Bhagavan has Mahotasaaha GuNa as an Aishvarya with no dependence on anything else for support. Because of this, HE is unceasingly creating, maintaining and withdrawing His creations, and managing the affairs of the Universe.
Swami ChinmayAnanda points out that this world will not exist without the endless enthusiasm of His Mighty Power. Just as the ocean, with its endless waves is the “sleepless agitator”, so also BhagavAn is the Enthusiastic Accomplisher.
Shri Satyadevo Vaasishtha gives a different interpretation to this Nama. He looks at this word as mahaan + ut+ saahah – mahaantam uccais tamam saahah, sahate, saahyati, sahati vaa sa mahotsaahah – One who has immense ability to endure. Here saahah has the same meaning as sahah – sahati. He has the quality of great endurance as noted in the Yajurveda mantra ‘saho’si saho mayi dehi (yajur 19/9)’ – Let the great Endurer give me the power of Endurance’.
Another reference is from the Rig Veda – Naakshas tapyate bhuri bhaarah – (1.164.13) to support this interpretation.
He supports the Sun, the Moon, Stars etc., tirelessly, and He is also the self in every being that has been created, and it is His MahotsAha that is manifested in His act.
Of the three qualities of the rajas, tamas, and satva bhavas, actions done with enthusiasm for the benefit of mankind are those that are equated with the Satvic disposition.
174. MahaBalah – One with immeasurable strength – The Omnipotent
Sri Adi Sankara’s VyAkhyAna is “balinAmapi balavatvAt mahAbalah – He is called Mahaabalah because he is mightier than the mightiest’. In fact He is the source of strength for everyone. As Gita (7.11) says ‘Balam balavataam chaaham – I am the Strength of the Strong’.
Sri Radhakrishna Sastri gives several examples of this Guna of Bhagavan. Ravana went to the Patala Loka to win over Mahabali. Bhagavan who had established Himself as the gatekeeper of Mahabali, temporarily made Himself invisible. Ravana tried to move the kundalam of Hiranyakashipu which was lying at the doorstep as it has fallen from Hiranyakashipu’s ears at the time of his being slain by Lord Narasimha.
Ravana’s hands got caught under the kundalam. Bhagavan appeared on the scene, and kicked Ravana without effort and Ravana went flying far away.
The Story of Krishna as an emissary of Pandavas (Pandava Dhoothar)
Krishna, as a final effort to avert the war, goes as an emissary of the Pandavas to meet Duryodhana and Dhiritarashtra.
Duryodhana hatches a plan to capture Krishna. His view was that when the Pandavas hear of Krishna’s capture, they will lose both heart and energy for the fight, just like serpents whose fangs are broken. Dushasan and Shakuni agreed but Karna did not and said to Duryodhana that “I do not believe that we can capture Keshava, O friend. If you wish to try I will help you but I doubt whether we can overcome Him.”
Unlike Duryodhana, Karna did not feel hostile towards Krishna and accepted him as a great warrior. Duryodhana laughed and said, “Krishna is but with a small party. He is unprepared and we shall arrest him in the assembly itself.”
Satyaki was keeping a watch on Duryodhana hidden from view. He heard it all and hastily went back to the assembly and apprised Krishna of the plot. Krishna merely laughed and said ‘let them try’.
Satyaki got up and drew out his sword. Krishna sat calmly and touched Satyaki’s sword bearing arm asking him to lower it.
Vidura spoke out, “O Bharata, listen as I remind you once more of the many demons who have tried and failed to overpower Krishna. The hugely powerful Naraka, who was son of the Earth Goddess herself, lived for thousands of years surrounded by his vast forces. Krishna killed him easily. He also destroyed the five-headed Mura, who struck fear into the hearts of the Gods. When He was a child He killed Putana and the evil wizards Arishta and Dhenuka. When He was seven years old He held Govardhana Hill aloft with a little finger. Krishna is the doer of everything. He is the cause of all causes. From Him comes all power and opulence. He can do anything without the least effort. O Duryodhana, you do not understand Govinda. His prowess is incomparable and it will reduce you and your followers to ashes. Attempting to take Him prisoner is ludicrous.”
Krishna got up and addressing Duryodhana said, “O foolish man with no intellect, do you really think that you can overpower Me? You think that I am alone and vulnerable. I will show you the real truth about me.”
Duryodhana repeated his order to seize Krishna. But just then a great miracle happened. Krishna’s body suddenly flashed like lightning and He began to grow in size. Krishna’s mace, discus and club weapons appeared, blazing brilliantly. His pores emanated light, sparks and clouds of smoke.
The sight was too frightening. Everyone in the assembly were dazzled by the brilliance and closed their eyes. Only Bhishma, Drona, Vidura and Sanjaya were able to look upon Krishna as He manifested His Universal form. The rishis also gazed upon Him, folding their palms and offering prayers. The sky resounded with celestial drums and flowers showered from the heavens into the hall. Sanjaya described the wonderful and yet terrifying sight to Dhritarashtra.
Dhritarashtra rose and with folded hands pleaded, “O Krishna, you are the Almighty and doing the world ever good. I wish to see your universal form. Please grant me the eyesight for this little instant so that I can see you and surrender to you.”
Krishna said “So be it” and Dhritarashtra was thus able to see for the first time and he saw the huge Universal form of Krishna. He also saw numerous gods approaching Krishna and worshipping Him with Vedic mantras. He was pleased and he sat down. His blindness returned.
Krishna slowly reverted back to his usual form. He then walked out of the assembly knowing that nothing could be done now as Duryodhana was blinded by Maya.
Thus Bhagavan once again demonstrated that he is MahaBalah.
ShrI Satyadevo Vaasishtha explains this Nama from the root word bal – praanane – meaning to live or to breathe, and gives the interpretation that Bhagavan is Mahaabalah because He makes the world live and supports the world.
He points out that there are different kinds of balam, e.g., vidyaa balam (the strength of knowledge), sena balam (the strength of the army), dhana balam (the strength of wealth), anna balam (the strength of food) etc., and Bhagavan is the One who is the bestower of all the balams (means of support) to the devotees, and so He is Mahabalah’.
Vedyo Vaidyah SadaaYogi Veerahaa Maadhavo Madhuh |
Ateendriyo MahaMayo Mahotsaaho MahaaBalah ||18||
Bhagavan is the One who is to be realised and He is easily attained through Bhakti, so He is Vedyah. HE is the all Knower and possesses complete knowledge of all branches as HE created the Universe, hence He is Vaidyah.
He is forever in meditation and forever available to his devotees, so He is SadaaYogi. He is the slayer of the wicked and hence Veerahaa. He os propounder of knowledge of the Supreme Being and consort of MahaLakshmi, so He is Maadhavah.
He is like nectar to his devotees, so He is Madhuh. Bhagavan cannot be comprehended or sensed by the sense organs as he is beyond the realms of Indriyas, so He is Ateendriyah.
HE has wonderful powers of enchantment with his Maya which can be overcome only by total surrender unto Him, hence He is MahaMayah.
He is Mahotsaaho as He acts with great enthusiasm and He MahaBalah as He is mightier than the mightiest.
The audio visual commentary of the 18th Shloka can be viewed on this YouTube link:
OM NAMO NARAYANAAYA
HARI OM TAT SAT
This Vishnu Sahasranamam series is authored with the help of my friend Shri Balaji.