In this Part we will explore the meaning of the 28th Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.
Vrishaahee Vrishabho Vishnuh Vrishaparvaa Vrishodarah |
Vardhano Vardhamaanashcha Viviktah Shrutisaagarah ||28||
This shloka contains the following 9 namas:
Now let’s examine the meaning of these Namas in greater detail:
- Vrishaahee – He is Dharma
This name consists of 2 parts Vrisha meaning Dharma or righteous conduct and Aha meaning day.
Sri Adi Sankara gives a twofold interpretation of this name. The first is ‘Vrisho dharmah punyam tadeva ahah prakaasha saadharmyaat – He is Vrishaahee because he brings the concepts of Dharma into broad daylight and reveals them to all. The second is ‘Dvaadashaaha prabhritih Vrishaahah sah asya asti iti Vrishaahee – He enjoys or presides over the 12 day sacrificial performance called Vrishaa’.
Sri Radhakrishna Shastri says that He shines brightly like the day because of His dharma. Or He makes those who adhere to dharma shine like the day.
Sri Parasara Bhattar’s interpretation is that He is Vrishaahee because the day on which a devotee approaches the Lord, is a day of auspiciousness or a day of dharma.
Sri Satyadevo Vashishtha gives the meaning “fire” or “agni” to the term Vrisha based on Vrisha agnih samidhyate (Rig Veda 3.27.14), and uses ahah to mean brightness or Prakasha and so gives the meaning that Bhagavan has the brightness of agni and so is called Vrishaahee. He then generalizes this and says that Vrishaahee really refers to One who has the brightness of anything that is bright, such as the Sun etc., or in other words, their brightness is because of Him. So is the brightness resulting from knowledge, brightness of life because of the Jeevatma etc., which get their brightness from Him. He is the only one who has self-luminosity or Svayam Prakasham.
258. Vrishabhah – He showers his Grace on his devotees and bestows them with what they desire
Here Vrisha refers to rain or shower. Sri Adi Sankara interprets this name as ‘Varshati eva bhaktebhyah kaamaan iti Vrishabhah – He showers on His devotees whatever they desire’.
Sri Radhakrishna Shastri gives the explanation ‘Varshaatmanaa bhaati – One who dazzles in the form of Dharma or rightful conduct’.
The writer in Dharma Chakram says that Bhagavan gives whatever is desired by the beings, according to their efforts. Of these, the real wish should be to realise Him. All other wishes, though fulfilled by Him for those who seek them, will only result in sorrow after the temporary pleasure is over. The desire should be to enjoy the process of Bhakti or devotion and not in the fleeting worldly pleasures.
Thondaradipodi Azhwar expresses his deep devotion through this famous Pasuram in his Thirumaalai (882):
பச்சைமா மலைபோல்மேனி பவளவாய் கமலச் செங்கண்
அச்சுதா அமர ரேறே ஆயர்தம் கொழுந்தே என்னும்
இச்சுவை தவிர யான்போய் இந்திர லோக மாளும்
அச்சுவை பெறினும் வேண்டேன் அரங்கமா நகரு ளானே.
pachai mAmalai pOl mEni, pavaLa vAi, kamala chengaNN,
achyuthA amarar ErE, Ayartham kozhundhE ennum,
ichuvai thavira yAn pOi indhira lokam ALum
achuvaiperinum vEndEn arangamA nagaruLAnE!
Meaning: O’ Lord of Arangama-nagar, with a hue of a huge green mountain with coral lips and lotus-red eyes, Achyuta! The eternal Lord, O Cowherd-Lord”, even the joy of ruling Lord Indra’s Kingdom pales in comparison to the bliss experienced in praising you. I shall not want such a kingdom even if you gave it.
- Vishnuh – He who pervades everything
This Nama was the second Nama and will again occur as Nama 663.
Bhagavan’s omnipresence is at different levels. He is ‘Sarva Vyaapi’ as well as ‘Sarva Antaryaami’. The former refers to his penetration at the macroscopic or the cosmic level and the latter at the microscopic or the atomic level. He is also all pervading at the mental plane whether it is the wakeful, sleep or dream state that we are going through.
Sri Parasara Bhattar gives the meaning that this pervasiveness is in the sense of association such as between fire and smoke. So also, Bhagavan is there in association with His Bhaktas always, and renders all kinds of help to His devotees whenever and wherever needed.
- Vrishaparvaa – He who provides the steps of dharma to reach Him
Vrisha means Dharma as we saw before. Also parva means a step or stair case.
Sri Adi Sankara puts these together and explains the meaning of the Nama as ‘Vrisharoopaani sopaana parvaani aahuh param dhaama aarurukshoh iti atah Vrishaparvaa – He is Vrishaparvaa because he provides the steps of Dharma to ascend the route to salvation’.
Sri Parasara Bhattar’s interpretation is that He is Vrishaparvaa because He has revealed the steps of Varnashrama dharma as the means to attain Him. Other commentators have included various steps such as Jnana, Bhakti, etc. as the steps that He has established.
In the Bhagavad Gita chapter 18 Verse 55, Bhagavan says:
“bhaktya maam abhijaanaati yaavaan yas chasmi
tattvataha tato maam tattvato jnaatva vishate tad-anantaram
By devotion he knows Me in truth, what and who I am; and knowing Me in truth, he forthwith enters into the Supreme.”
The nine forms of devotion which show the ways to reach him are:
- Shravanam – Listening to the names and glories of the Lord
- Keertanam – Singing His glories
- Smaranam – Remembering the Lord
- Paada sevanam – Serving HIS Lotus feet
- Archanam – Chanting and worshipping the Lord
- Vandanam – Offering obeisance unto the Lord
- Daasyam – Serving the Lord as His servant
- Sakhyam – Developing friendship with the Lord
- Aatma Nivedanam – Total surrender of oneself to the Lord
The Lord highlights the profoundness of true bhakti which pleases Him the most in Chapter 9 Verse 26 and says:
“patram pushpam phalam toyam yo me bhaktya prayacchati
tad aham bhakty-upahrtam asnami prayataatmanaha
Whoever offers Me with devotion and a pure mind (heart), a leaf, a flower, a fruit or a little water—I accept this as devotion.”
- Vrishodarah – He who has dharma as His mid-region or belly
Sri Adi Sankara gives the explanation ‘Prajaa varshati iva udaram asya iti – His belly appears to be raining people (pouring out people) after the deluge’. He keeps all the beings in his belly at the time of the deluge and pours them back at the time of re-creation.
There are other interpretations given for this name. One is that He is the receiver of all the offerings through sacrifices (Yagnas) etc., and so He is the one with the udara or the belly that receives all offerings of dharma.
The other explanation is that creations of those who observe Dharma such as Brahma originate from His belly.
SrI Satyadevo Vasishtha continues to interpret all the previous Namas and the current one using the meaning “agni” or fire for the word “vrisha”. Thus, He is the One who has agni in His stomach. This is known even for humans that we have the “agni” (the acid) that digests our food; there is agni in the centre of the Earth, in the centre of the Sun, the Oceans etc.
- Vardhanah – He who nourishes
This Nama comes from the root word ‘Vridh’ which means to make somebody grow or nourish.
As Adi Sankara puts it ‘Vardhayati iti Vardhanah – He nourishes, increases or augments’. He makes his devotees to grow in all aspects.
Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets this Nama as One who keeps the beings in His womb like a mother and nourishes them.
Sri Annagaracharya Swami gives the meaning that he is Vardhanah because he ‘grows’ those who have resorted to Him more and more (towards the spiritual path).
Sri Radhakrishna Shastri gives the example of the offer of one handful of ‘aval or rice flakes’ – by His friend Kuchela (Sudhama), which was augmented so much in return that Kuchela became richer than Kubera.
The Story of Sudhama (aka Kuchela)
Sudhama, also known as Kuchela in Southern India, was a childhood friend of Lord Sri Krishna. Legend has it that Sudhama was Narada, who took birth on Earth in order to enjoy and participate in the many leelas (spiritual pleasures) of Lord Krishna.
Sudhama was born into a poor Brahmin family, to Matuka and Rochana Devi. Krishna, on the other hand, hailed from the royal family and hence, enjoyed the highest possible social status. However, this difference did not in any way hinder their friendship. The two were inseparable all the way through the tenure of their schooling while in Vrindavan. They studied together at Acharya Sandipani’s ashram.
After finishing with their studies, they lost touch for several years. Krishna moved away from Vrindavan and went on to Dwaraka, where he got married and became the King. Sudhama, though, remained as impoverished as always and stayed on in the same village; continuing to dedicate his life to religious austerities, mantra, japa and developing a spiritual attitude toward life. He also continued thinking of Krishna and loved him as always.
In due course of time, Sudhama got married to Susheela and became a householder. However, he never had any interest in accumulating wealth. He was happy to lead a frugal life, desiring no material gains. He accepted his financial status and preferred to spend time in the contemplation of the Supreme. There were many times when the family did not even get two square meals.
Sudhama’s wife repeatedly requested her husband to visit his old friend Krishna and beseech him for some financial assistance. She would remind him that he being a true Brahmin, a devotee and long-lost close friend of Krishna, the latter would be only too willing to help him during his times of trouble.
Susheela was concerned about the health of her children. Susheela would often plead with her husband to go and meet Krishna in Dwaraka and seek his assistance to alleviate their impoverished condition.
Sudhama reluctantly agrees to visit but says “I will go and see him, but I will not ask him for anything.” The very prospect of meeting Krishna, his old friend, made Sudhama happy. Susheela could hardly conceal her joy.
Sudhama remembered Krishna’s great liking for rice flakes (Poha). Sudhama’s wife ran to her neighbour’s house to get some rice flakes and tied in a small bundle. Sudhama set out to Dwarka with the gift in his hands.
When he reached Dwarka, he was amazed to see the grandeur and splendour of the city. While entering Krishna’s palace, Sudhama felt supreme bliss as if he was merging his individual soul into the Supreme Soul.
As he entered Lord Krishna, who was seated on the bed of His wife Rukmini, saw him and came running towards His friend. He hugged Sudhama warmly and said: “Friend! I’m meeting you after ages! Where were you all these days?”
Lord Krishna, who is the reservoir of all the pleasure in the world, Himself experienced great pleasure on embracing His friend! Sudhama was completely overwhelmed by the rousing welcome that Krishna gave him.
He then offered Sudhama food and drink to refresh him after his long journey.
Krishna’s mood turned jovial and, with a mischievous glint in his eye, he asked his friend what the latter had brought him as a gift and if his wife had packed some nice eatables. Reluctantly and feeling very embarrassed, Sudhama offered him the bundle. Krishna, knowing what his friend was thinking, enthusiastically opened the bundle and was very happy when he saw the contents inside it. He decided he would part take the puffed rice with relish.
The Lord grabbed a handful of the rice flakes and happily ate it. When he tried to put in a second mouthful though, his wife Rukmini, the Goddess of Fortune, held his hand and shook her head ever so slightly. She meant to tell him that with one handful of the rice, Sudhama would become extremely wealthy in his present life. But with a second handful, he would continue to reap riches even in his next life. Krishna understood what Rukmini was trying to tell him and, with a gentle smile on his lips, kept aside the packet of rice.
He then fed his friend a sumptuous meal, asked him to rest for a while and then spent some more time talking with him. Sudhama was in a state of transcendental bliss and forgot the reason why he had come to meet Krishna in the first place.
Krishna lovingly bade him farewell the next day, though he did not offer him anything in material terms. On the way back, Sudhama was completely absorbed thinking of the blissful time he had spent with the Lord and felt very content.
When Sudhama finally returns to his home, he finds a palatial mansion instead of the hut he had left. He also finds his family dressed in extremely nice garb and waiting for him. He immediately understood that it was Krishna’s grace. He thanked Krishna in his mind and continued with his spiritual work.
Lessons from this Story
This story illustrates that the Lord does not differentiate between people based on their wealth and that he will reward true devotion always. God will provide for your good deeds and one should not to trade bhakti for anything in return. Sudhama did not ask Krishna for anything, despite being poor and gave Krishna everything he had i.e. rice flakes (poha); in return the Lord gave Sudhama everything he needed.
Another important lesson here is about how Krishna rewards true persons. Krishna did not reward Sudhama just because he was a friend. Sudhama spent all of his time and efforts befitting a true Brahmin which teaching religion, moral duties, and spreading spirituality through society. It is for this effort that Krishna rewards Sudhama’s family with wealth so that Sudhama may continue to do his good work.
Bhagavan is Vardhanah because if one humbly offers even a grain of a mustard seed with devotion He gives them a mountain of returns. He offers protection to His devotees like a mother.
The Dharma Chakram writer points out that while everyone takes the effort to grow their body and wealth, the real effort should be in growing the Gnanam (Knowledge) and Bhakti (Devotion), and He helps those who are devoted to Him in attaining gnana, hence He is Vardhanah.
- Vardhamaanascha – HE who grows
This is a further development from the previous Nama. While making others grow He himself is growing in his manifestation as the Universe at all times.
As Sri Sankara puts it ‘Prapancharoopena vardhate iti Vardhamaanah – He is Vardhamaanah because he is growing in the shape of the Universe’. Thus Sri Sankara gives credence to the scientific theory of ‘the expanding Universe’.
Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets Vardhamaah as one who swells in happiness as He sees His devotees grow. And He keeps growing in spite of His bestowing all that anyone asks for.
Swami ChinmayAnanda points out that this Nama is indicative of the Vaamana incarnation in which He continued to grow to cover the three worlds.
SrI Radhakrishna Shastri indicates that the ‘cha’ at the end of Vardhamanah has been placed there because He grows at the same rapid rate at which the Universe is growing. ‘Cha’ basically denotes synchronisation.
- Viviktah – He who is unique
Basically this means somebody who is unique and stands apart from everybody else.
Sri Adi Sankara explains this as ‘Ittham vardhamanopi prothak eva tishthati – Even though he grows with his manifestation as the Universe as explained in the previous Nama he still stands apart from it as a unique entity’. He pervades the Universe and yet he stands apart. Bhagavan creates all the beings and keeps them in shape and in action, but is unique and separate from them.
Sri Parasara Bhattar points out that Bhagavan is unique in many ways. He is untouched by the effects of action unlike His creations (nirlipta). He is unique because His activities are extraordinary and superior to those of others in the world.
Sri Radhakrishna Shastri says that Bhagavan is unique because recognising him is beyond our ability or intellect. Our intellect and logical analysis are inadequate for this purpose.
Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives the root word vij – prithakbhAve to separate or to distinguish as the etymological basis for this Nama. He gives a simple example of a machinist who makes machines but is separate from it. So also Bhagavan creates all the beings and keeps them in shape and in action, but is unique and separate from them. He gives the example of two birds in a tree, one enjoying the fruits and the other watching and observing, which we have referred to before (dvA suparNA sayujA sakhAyA etc. – rig veda 1.164.20, also refer to Suparnah in Shloka 21). Sri Vasishtha has composed one Shloka of his own as the explanation for each Slokam of Sahasranamam, and I am just sharing one example here: “sriTvA jagat sarva-vidham vidhAtA svayam vivikto hyajaro’marah sah |sahasra-SIrshA sa sahasra-drishTih sa sarva-bandhuh sa prithak ca driSyAt ||
The Dharam Chakram writer points out that this quality of being outside of, and unaffected by, our surroundings, is the true basis of accomplishing our mission in life viz. realising the Paramatma.
- Shrutisaagarah – He is the Ocean of knowledge where all Vedas take us
Shruti refers to Vedas and Saagara refers to the ocean. According to Sri Adi Sankara ‘Shrutayah saagara iva atra nidheeyante iti Shrutisaagarah – Just like all the waters ultimately run after and reside in the ocean all the Vedas ultimately run towards Him and reside in Him’.
Sri Parasara Bhattar refers to Srimad Bhagavatam (2.5.15) which says ‘Narayana paraa vedaah – All the Vedas only speak about the supremacy of Lord Narayana’. He also refers to Bhagavad Gita (15.15) which says ‘Vedaischa sarvai raham eva vedyah – I am the one to be analysed and interpreted by all the Vedas’.
Vrishaahee Vrishabho Vishnuh Vrishaparvaa Vrishodarah |
Vardhano Vardhamaanashcha Viviktah Shrutisaagarah ||28||
HE has given the gnana and bhakti marga besides explain the 9 forms of devotion in order to attain salvation and merge with HIM.
His belly showers offspring and he is Vrishodharah. He enhances the joy of his devotees and hence He is Vardhanaha . He is Vardhamanascha as He is growing in tandem as we grow. He is unique and unimpacted by any action or inaction.
Sarva Deva Namaskaram Keshavam prati gacchati! All prayers ultimately reach HIM.
OM NAMO NARAYANAAYA
HARI OM TAT SAT
The audio visual commentary of this Shloka will be uploaded shortly on YouTube.