In this Part we will explore the meaning of the 31st Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.
Amritaamshoodbhavo Bhaanuh Shashabinduh Sureshvarah |
Aushadham Jagatah-Setuh Satya-dharma-paraakramah ||31||
This Shloka contains the following 7 Namas:
Now let’s examine the meaning of these Namas in detail:
284. Amritaamshoodbhavah – The source of nectar-rayed moon.
This Nama consists of 3 parts viz. Amrita + Amshu + udbhavah. Amrita means immortal or life giving and Amshu means rays. Amritaamshu refers to the Moon since its rays are cool and invigorating. Udbhavah refers to somebody who creates, so Amritaamshoodbhavah means the creator of the Moon.
Sri Adi Sankara says ‘Mathyamaane Payonidhau Amritaamshoh chandrasya udbhavah yasmaat sah Amritaamshoodbhavah – He was the creator of the Moon when the Milky Ocean was churned’. Sri Parasara Bhattar also interprets this as referring to creation of Moon.
Swami ChinmayAnanda gives reference from the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 15 Verse 13) to point out how the moon’s rays are life-giving to the plants – ‘Pushnaami chaushadheeh sarvaah somo bhootvaa rasaatmakah – I become the life-giving rays of the Moon and make all the plants grow and flourish’.
Sri Satyadevo Vashishtha has given a different interpretation. He uses the meaning liquid or “jalam” for the word amrita, and the meaning “distribute” derived from amshu – vibhaajane, and gives the interpretation that the name means that He created the life-forms by distributing the waters or amrita. He gives the example of how the life-form is created in the mother’s womb floating in the waters, and how the physical body is kept healthy and well-nourished by drinking the water and eating the food.
285. Bhaanuh – One who is Radiant
Bhaatiiti bhaanuh – That which shines or One who shines. Bhagavan is the source of radiance to the Sun itself. The passage from Mundaka Upanishad (2.2.10) – tameva bhaantamanubhaati sarvam, tasya bhaasaa sarvamidam vibhaati meaning He illuminates Himself, and everything else in this world, including the Sun, whose lustre is only a tiny part of His lustre.
Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha also points out that He is the lustre in all of us by being the Agni or fire in all bodies. As long as this Agni is lit in our body, we are healthy; when the fire subsides, the body is non-functional (death of the body occurs). So He is the Bhaanu in all of us.
The Dharma Chakram author reminds us that the light of the Sun can only give external light, but cannot help in revealing the ParamAtma or the Supreme Soul. This can be done only by the Paramatma himself or the supreme and real Bhaanuh.
286. Shashabinduh – One who disowns evil minded
Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets this name as one who disowns the evil minded. He derives the interpretation from Shasha – pluta gatau – to swerve or jump from the right path, and bindu derived from bidi – to disown.
The primary meaning of Shashabinduh is Moon. As Sri Adi Sankara puts it ‘Shasha eva binduh laanchanam asya asti iti shashabinduh chandrah tadvat prajaah pushnaati iti shashabinduh – The moon is called Shashabinduh because it carries the mark of a rabbit and Bhagavan is the Moon because he sustains life like the Moon’. As we saw before in the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 15 Verse 13) Moon’s rays are life-giving to the plants.
Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha has used the name as Shasha-vinduh instead of Shasha-binduh. He uses the meaning for Shasha as that which leaps or moves around, from the root Shasha – plutagatau. For vindu he derives the meaning from the root vid – Jnaane – to know. Vinduh is thus interpreted as Vedana Sheelah – intelligent. Thus for the name Shashabinduh, the meaning given is One who knows (controls) the paths of all the planets and stars (the Sun, the moon, etc.).
- Sureshvarah – The Lord of the gods
Just as He disowns those who tread the wrong path (previous Nama), this Nama says that he is the Leader of those who tread the good path. The word Sura itself is composed of Su for Sobhana and raa for daanah i.e., one who brings or bestows auspicious or good things. One who is the Lord of those who bestow auspiciousness or do good in plenty is Sureshvarah.
The Dharma Chakram writer reminds us that the significance of this Nama is that by worshipping MahaVishnu who is the Sureshvarah, we move towards the path of the Suras.
- Aushadham – He is the medicine
Basically Aushadham means a herb or medicine. Sri Adi Sankara says ‘Sansaara roga bheshajatvaat Aushadham – He is Aushadham because he is the ultimate medicine for the disease called Samsara or the worldly existence’.
In the Mahabharata we have “devaa devarshayashchaiva yam viduh duhkha bheshajam”-The gods and the celestial sages know Him to be the medicine, curing the distress encountered in life- Shanti parva 79-22.
Sri Parasara Bhattar quotes “Ekaagrataa moolya balena labhyam bhavaushadham tvam Bhagavan! kilaikah”- Oh Bhagavan! Thou alone art verily the recipe for the Samsara, and the relief from this can be obtained by concentrating the mind on Thee”.
The Dharma Chakram writer points out that Bhagavan, who is Nature Incarnate, is Aushadham in our day-to-day life as well, as inhaling the fresh air of nature, eating food which is not synthetic, lead to a healthier life.
Dr. V. V. Ramanujan has given the following reference from Divya Prabandham in support of the interpretation of this Nama – “tEngOda vaNNan varu naragam tIrkkum marundu” – 3rd TiruvandAdi 3.
The Story of Sakkubai
Sakkubai was born into a poor Brahmin family in Pandharpur who were humble and philanthropic. They were staunch devotees of Panduranga Vittala and led a contented life. She imbibed in herself a deep sense of devotion towards Lord Vittala.
On the banks of the Krishna River in a town known as Karaveerapuram, there lived a Pandit by the name Krupanaraya who was rich but very miserly. His wife Gayyalibai was a haughty woman who never missed a chance to insult others. She was neither a devotee of God nor helpful to anyone. They had a son named Oaduraya and Krupanaraya was looking for a bride for him. But the family was so ill thought of that nobody in their town dared to offer their daughter to the young man.
In his search of an alliance for his son, Krupanaraya went to Pandharpur and happened to visit Sakkubai’s house. He was impressed by the family’s hospitality, especially the good nature of Sakkubai and he instantly proposed the alliance of his son to her father. Sakkubai got married to Oaduraya and moved to her in-law’s house. She continued to pray to Lord Vittala but the cruel mother-in-law instead of being pleased with it felt that she was shirking her responsibility.
Even though Sakkubai did all the household work, she could never please her mother-in-law who continuously nagged her and treated her badly, sometimes even starving her causing her distress and mental agony. Sakkubai resorted to seek the blessing of Lord Vittala to relieve her of her agony. She prayed to the Lord to bless her in-laws and husband with good thoughts.
Sakkubai’s parents came to see her and were shocked at her pitiable condition. She looked pale and weak but when the parents tried to take her back home they had to face denial and ridicule. Bent with shame, they left Sakkubai mutely to her fate. All they could do was to give her a statuette of Lord Vittala.
Sakkubai hid the statuette in her saree folds and continued to do her household chores, chanting or talking to God all the while! She could not continue this for long as her vicious mother-in-law saw the statuette and flung it away paying a deaf ear to her pleadings.
Sakkubai’s devotion to God continued to grow even as the atrocities of the family grew. One evening, Sakkubai, accompanied by a neighbour called Shantabai, went to fetch water from the river. There she came across a group of pilgrims on their way to Pandharpur. She expressed her desire to join them on their pilgrimage. The neighbour who accompanied Sakkubai went back home and told her in-laws about it. The enraged mother-in-law and her husband came there and dragged her home by her plait and tied her to a pole. However, nothing could deter her Bhakti to Lord Vittala. She was not worried about food or sleep and was always chanting, ‘Vittala! Vittala! Please fulfill my desire.’
Around midnight, Lord Vittala disguised as a woman appeared before her and said, ‘Dear Sakku! You are keen on having a Darshan of Lord Vittala, aren’t you? Go ahead and I will look after your work till you come back.’ But Sakkubai said, ‘You are kind enough but if I go, you will be mistreated by my in-laws. I don’t want you to suffer. So you please go ahead and convey pranams to the Lord on my behalf.’ The lady insisted, ‘Instead, you go and you convey my pranams. I will stay in your place and serve your people on your behalf.’ So saying, she untied the ropes of Sakkubai and got herself tied up in Sakkubai’s place. Sakkubai went full of vigour and joined the Sadhus.
The Sadhus were surprised at the glow in her face. They prayed to her, ‘Oh! You are definitely Goddess Lakshmi Devi. You reside at the heart of Lord Vishnu. You have donned a human form to safeguard us on our pilgrimage. Normally, the Lord is always beside you, but now we see you all alone. Why? Does it mean, we have not purified ourselves totally? You, being a mother, are considerate enough to your children. Please, request God, on our behalf to manifest himself before us.’
They all chanted the Lord’s name and Panduranga Vittala was impressed by their sincere prayers and manifested Himself, with Rukmini before the devotees. The devotees’ joy knew no bounds. Sakkubai fell to their feet and did not get up. God lifted her up caressingly, and said, ‘I am pleased with your Jnana and Vairagya. Your difficult times are coming to an end very soon. Please have patience.’ So saying, they disappeared.
The Sadhus and Sakkubai proceeded on their pilgrimage chanting the name of the Lord. Sakkubai was elated when she sighted the temple. She had a Darshan of Lord Vittala and gazed at His Sankhu, Chakra, His broad eyes, His ear studs, His Kaustubhas, His holy garments etc. She was immersed fully in Lord’s thought and forgot the troublesome world around. She prayed blissfully and this continued for many days.
Meanwhile, back in her house, the in-laws held Sakkubai (God) tied for a few days as a means of punishment. After a few days, there was a sudden transformation in the husband. He felt sorry for her and untied the ropes. God turned Sakkubai did every chore that Sakkubai used to do. When she served food it was like savouring nectar! Gradually, in the divine presence of the Lord, there was a sea change in the family. They could not utter any bad word against Sakkubai anymore.
The real Sakkubai was praying to the Lord fervently in Pandharpur. One fine morning, when she felt she had prayed to her heart’s content, she said, ‘Oh God! Let me join you!’ Then her Jeevathma joined Paramathma in the form of a Jyothi. The other devotees, who witnessed this scene, took her physical body to the Chandrabhaga River banks and performed the funeral rites there. One of them went to Karaveerapuram to report the news.
Goddess Rukmini Devi was perplexed at the situation. The Lord had promised to stay back in her place till she returned. How will Sakkubai go back now? So she appeared, in the dream of those devotees and said, ‘My Lord is in Sakkubai’s house. So you please bring the ashes and remains of Sakkubai and keep it a secret.’
The devotees brought back the mortal remains of Sakkubai and kept it secretly. They collected them in a golden platter and placed them humbly before the goddess. She manifested herself before them and said, ‘You will be blessed by My Lord.’ Sakkubai came back to life when Goddess Rukmini touched her. She stood there praying. Goddess Rukmini blessed Sakkubai and said, ‘Oh Sakku! My Lord, being impressed by your love is serving your in-laws in your form. So please go back to your house and release him. You chant the name of the Lord and transform your in-laws and others around you. Finally you will be liberated.’
Sakkubai hastened to her village and met the Lord at the riverbed with a pitcher of water. She fell to His feet and said, ‘Oh God! What a great sinner I am! I made you do the menial jobs at home! Please forgive me! I am so thankful to you for allowing me to go to Pandharpur. Please see to it that I visit your holy place every year.’
The Lord told her fondly, ‘Don’t you worry. Your ananya bhakti (unswerving devotion) made me do your household jobs. Your family members will become my devotees through you.’ He gave her prashad and disappeared.
Sakkubai arrived at home with the pitcher of water. Just then one of the pilgrims stepped into her house to convey the tragic demise of Sakkubai to her in-laws. He couldn’t believe his eyes. He narrated what he saw in Pandharpur.
The mother-in-law couldn’t believe it since Sakkubai was with them, serving them as humbly as ever, all the time. Sakkubai narrated what had happened. The in-laws and her husband could guess at once it was Lord’s Leela! They realised that they were so cruel to the Almighty Himself! They pleaded to Sakkubai to forgive them.
They asked her to enlighten them. Sakkubai spoke thus – ‘You are elderly people, but since you ask me, let me tell you whatever little I know. This physical body of ours is mortal. The children, wife, husband, house, properties all are but temporary. The world around is Maya, but we devote our entire time and attention on these. Instead, if we divert even one-tenth’s of that time and attention to God, we will attain Salvation. We are blessed to be born as human beings and should utilise this opportunity.
God is Omnipresent, Omnipotent and Omniscient. If we fall prey to our desires, we will be born again and again. We may not even get this human form again. So we should seek a Sadguru’s feet and be enlightened by him. So let us go, to Pandharpur and seek guidance from the Sadguru there.’
They all left for Pandharpur, had the Darshan of the Lord and sought the guidance from a Sadguru. The Sadguru said to the family, ‘You are blessed by being related to Sakkubai. Learn one principle appreciated by God. Service to Humanity is service to God. Serve sincerely, pray whole-heartedly, feel God in everything and everybody around you.’
They came back to Karaveerapuram and were leading a pious and peaceful life thereafter. Sakkubai’s name and fame spread far and wide. Thus Sakkubai with her ananya Bhakti transformed all those people who came in contact with her.
It is pertinent to note Sri Adi Sankara’s composition of the famous Bhaja Govindam song which explains the benefits of Satsang :
satsaNgatve nissangatvaM, nissaNgatve nirmohatvam
nirmohatve nishchalatattvaM, nishcalatattve jiivanmuktiH .. (9)
Meaning: From Satsang (company of good people) comes non-attachment, from non-attachment comes freedom from delusion, which leads to equanimity of mind. From equanimity of mind comes Jeevan Mukti.
Sakkubai, as long as she lived, taught the people around her, prayed to Lord Vittala and visited Pandharpur regularly. Along with her, the Lord blessed her entire family and they all attained Moksha.
Bhagavan is the Aushadam because he is the ultimate medicine for the disease called Samsara or the worldly existence’.
- Jagatah-Setuh – He is the bridge who helps to cross the Ocean of Samsara
Sri Adi Sankara gives two different interpretations for this Nama. The first interpretation is ‘Jagataam samuttaarana hetutvaat meaning He is Jagatahsetuh because he stands as a bridge to cross the Ocean of ‘Samsara’ or the worldly existence’. This fits in with the previous Nama ‘Aushadham’ where He is the medicine for the disease of called samsara.
The second interpretation is ‘Setuvat varnaashramaadeenaam asambhedakaaranatvaat meaning that He stands as a barrier between different orders and duties. Here Setu stands for a barrier. He is the barrier that ensures that there is order in different things in this world and he ensures that good and bad do not mix together in a chaotic way. He ensures that there is no effect for the Karma that is not undertaken and there is always effect for the Karma that has been undertaken. Those who do good get the benefit for their good and those who indulge in bad deeds get the punishment for their bad deeds. The passage from Brihadaaranyaka Upanishad is given in support for this interpretation – Eshahsetuh vidharana eshaam lokaanaam asambhedaaya – 6.4.22 meaning He is the bridge that supports all the worlds so that they may not get into confusion.
Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives the interpretation that Bhagavan ties together all that exists in this world. This includes the function of holding together the different bones, nerves, and muscles in the body, as well as the system of stars and planets. Jagat is derived from gati – that which moves, and setu – that which binds. He is the setu in all bodies, and in addition holds all these bodies and other things that exist in this world together in order, and thus He is Jagatah-setuh.
The Dharma Chakram writer gives the example of a river, which is bound by its banks and kept in control, or the Ocean, which is bound by the land surrounding it and kept under control.
So also, Bhagavan has kept the JivAtma under control by limiting it to the indriya sukham and the Ocean of Samsara. It is only MahaVishnu who can help this JivAtma out of these bounds, and it is by meditating on Him that the JivAtma can get liberated and cross the Ocean of Samsara.
- Satya-dharma-paraakramah – One who embodies Truth, Righteousness and Valour
As Sri Adi Sankara puts it ‘Satyaah Avitathaah Dharmaah Jnaadayaah Gunaah Paraakramashcha Yasya Sah meaning He has got true qualities of Righteousness and Knowledge, also the highest valour, hence he is called Satya-dharma-paraakramah’. Here Satya stands for pure or unadulterated or never failing.
Swami Chinmayananda interprets this Nama to mean that Bhagavan is one who embodies Satya (truth), Dharma (righteous), and Parakrama (prowess). In Valmiki Ramayanam Vishvamitra says to Dasharatha ‘Aham Vedmi Mahatmanam Ramam Satyaparakramam – I know the real valour of Shri Rama’. This was when Dasharatha was hesitating to send the boy Rama to the forest to fight the Asuras and protect Vishvamitra’s Sacrificial rites.
The writer in Dharma Chakram points out that the Nama explains the importance of living a life of truth and righteousness which will lead to valor resulting from such life. Those who live a life along these lines are bound to succeed in what they do, as evidenced by the lives of Hanuman, Bheeshma, etc.
Amritaamshoodbhavo Bhaanuh Shashabinduh Sureshvarah |
Aushadham Jagatah-Setuh Satya-dharma-paraakramah ||31||
Bhagavan is the source of radiance to the Sun itself. He illuminates Himself and everything else in this world including the Sun whose lustre is only a tiny part of His lustre.
HE disowns the evil minded and controls the Universe. He is the Lord of the Devas or for that matter the Lord of all those who bestow good things to humanity. HE is Aushadham because he is the ultimate medicine for the disease called Samsara or worldly existence. He is Jagatahsetuh because he stands as a bridge to help cross the Ocean of Samsara.
Bhagavan is one who embodies Satya (Truth), Dharma (Righteous), and Parakrama (Valour).
HARI OM TAT SAT
OM NAMO NARAYANAAYA
This Vishnu Sahasranamam series is authored with the help of my friend Shri Balaji.