In this part we will explore the meaning of the 43rd Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.
Bhagavan delights His devotees and Yogis revel blissfully in the Rama Nama which is also known as the Taraka Mantra (one that will free one from bondage of Samsara). He is the Ultimate destination and one who shows a flawless path to Liberation. He submits to the command of His devotees and also leads the devotees to Moksha. He is the Supreme Leader whose Valour is beyond compare. He is the highest among the powerful. He is an embodiment of Dharma and the foremost among knowers of Dharma.
The above Shloka has the following Namas:
- Shaktimataam Shreshthah
Now let’s examine the meaning of the above Namas in detail:
- Ramah – He who delights His devotees
Rama Nama is an important mantra in itself and not just a Nama. Sri Adi Sankara gives the basic meaning as ‘Nityaanandalakshane asmin Yoginah Ramante iti Ramah – Yogis revel in His personality of everlasting eternal Joy, hence He is called Ramah’.
Padmapuranam says ‘Ramante Yoginaam yasmin Nityaanande Chidaatmani; Iti Ramapadanaitat Param Bramhaabhidheeyate – This Supreme Being is hailed as Ramah because Yogis revel in his eternal sphere of Bliss all the time’.
Sri Adi Sankara gives an alternative interpretation with ‘Svecchayaa Ramaneeyam vapuh vahan vaa Daasharathee Ramah – Of his own accord he took on the beautiful body as the son of Dasharatha, so He is called Ramah, the beautiful personality’.
Another interpretation is that He who has a compelling charm about Himself and He who is most Handsome – Ramayati itit Ramah. Sri Parasara Bhattar gives several references to explain this Nama:
- Ramo Ramayataam Sreshthah – Ramah is the foremost among those who delight the minds of all people (Ramayana Ayodhya Kandam 53-1);
- ‘Gunaabhiraamam Ramam cha – Rama who is filled with auspicious qualities- (Mahabharata Sabha Parva 58-42);
- ‘Tathaa sarva-prajaa kaantaih preeti sanjananaih pituh |
Gunaih Viruruce Ramah Deeptah Soorya iva Amshubhih ||
Rama is full of adorable qualities, Who is loved by His people and brings happiness to His father, shone like the Sun with its intense and bright rays – Ayodhya Kandam 1.33’.
Andal in her Thiruppavai, calls Him manatukku iniyaan meaning Sweetheart. His form is such that even His enemies get attracted to Him. Both Mandodari (Ravana’s wife) and Tara (Vaali’s wife) realised Rama’s divinity when they saw Him even while their respective husbands were dying.
Sri V.V.Ramanujan refers to Soorpanaka’s description of Rama and Lakshmana – Tarunau roopa sampannau sukumaarau – Pundarika Vishaalakshau – Soothing form and handsome looks with Lotus like eyes.
Sri Satyadevo Vashishtha and Sri V.V.Ramanujan both refer to the root word ‘Ramu–kreedaayaam’ (referring to sports) – He who derives pleasure out of His Leelas’, or He who makes everyone happy because they are part of His kreeda, is Ramah.
The Dharma Chakram writer adds that there are two kinds of delight:
- one which ends with sadness as a consequence; and
- another pertaining to the enjoyment of ParaBrahmam, which has pure everlasting happiness associated with it.
Rama is the source of the latter kind. The writer refers to Sabari’s holding on to her life only to have Sri Rama’s Darshan and to the sages who delighted themselves at the sight of Rama.
As pointed out by Sri Radhakrishna Shastri, Sage Vasishtha – the Kula Guru of Dasharatha’s family, who gave the very apt name Rama to Dasharatha’s first son.
Rama Nama is called the ‘Taraka Mantra’ or the one that helps devotees to cross the Ocean of Samsara and attain Liberation or Moksha. Rama Nama is considered to be the combination of two powerful Mantras namely the Ashtaakshari and the Panchaakshari.
The syllable ‘RA’ is chosen from Ashtakshari (8 SYLLABLED) mantra “OM NA MO NA RA YA NA YA” & the syllable ‘MA’ is chosen from Panchakshari (5 SYLLABLED) mantra “NA MA SI VA YA”. If the syllable ‘RA’ is ignored from the Ashtakshari, the mantra becomes ‘OM NA MO NA YA NA YA’ (absence of Vishnu form). Similarly, if the syllable ‘MA’ is ignored from Panchakshari, mantra becomes “NA SI VA YA” (absence of Shiva form). Thus ‘RAMA’ Nama is the combination of two life giving syllables (Jeevaksharam’s) and hence considered as the ‘TARAKA MANTRA’.
Reciting the Rama Nama just 3 times is equivalent to reciting all the 1000 Namas of Sri Vishnu. This secret is revealed by Lord Shiva to Parvati with the Shloka ‘Sri Rama Rama Rameti Rame Raame Manorame, Sahasranaama Tattulyam Rama Naama Varaanane – Sweet faced one! If you utter the Rama Nama 3 times, it is equivalent to reciting all the 1000 Namas of Lord Vishnu’.
Hanuman derived his power by meditating on Sri Rama at all times. Valmiki transformed himself into a saint from being a robber by reciting Rama Nama constantly (In fact, the story goes that Valmiki couldn’t pronounce ‘Rama’ and was advised by Sage Narada to repeat ‘Mara Mara’ continuously, a term Valmiki was used to as a robber!).
The Story of Bhakt Hanuman
In the Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 11 Verse 55, Krishna says:
mat-karma-krn mat-paramo mad-bhaktah sanga-varjitah
nirvairah sarva-bhutesu yah sa mam eti pandava |
Meaning: My dear Arjuna, he who engages in My pure devotional service, free from the contaminations of fruitive activities and mental speculation, he who works for Me, who makes Me the Supreme goal of his life, and who is friendly to every living being—he certainly comes to Me.
Bhakt Hanuman truly embodies the above qualities as he is totally devoted to Rama. It is praise worthy that he is so much involved in his services to Lord Rama that there was hardly any scope for anyone else to serve him. Bhakt Hanuman had no other thought except the welfare of Rama. He was even pressing the legs of Rama which was a privilege of Sita Devi in their privacy. He was thus overpowering everyone but Sita forgave him since he was not aware of human life. She explained the same to her brothers-in-law. Bharat took it as a favourable sign from Sita but pleaded once again to do something.
Sita wondered what she could do when the brothers came out with a suggestion to nominate the person who is entitled to do each task. Lakshman added ‘If it was signed by Rama, it becomes the King’s order and nobody can dare to oppose it.
Sita conveyed the brothers’ grievances and their course of action to Lord Rama. Rama read through the list and observed that Hanuman had no place in it. He learnt that Sita did not object to it. Without batting an eyelid and a word of protest Rama signed the order with a smile.
As Hanuman came to the palace, Shatrugan objected to his entry waving the order at him. Hanuman wanted to know what his duties were but was surprised to note that nothing was allotted to him. Hanuman pleaded to Rama in the court to give him permission to serve him for a requirement not mentioned in their Service list. Since the brothers gloated over their all-pervading list, there was not much left for Hanuman.
Hanuman wished for a strange and surprising service as his duty. Whenever Rama yawned, Hanuman would snap his fingers. This desire of Hanuman gave him right of entry to the innermost parts of Rama’s palace! He placed himself at Rama’s feet. Nobody could object to it. Wherever Rama moved, Hanuman followed since he could never predict when Rama would yawn.
The whole day, Hanuman sat very close to Rama, staring at his face all the time. This duty of Hanuman continued at whatever course of action Rama was in, while at dinner, at rest, at court etc.
Finally, Sita objected to his right of entry into their private room. How could anybody get in the way of husband and wife? So he innocently asked. ‘What if my master yawns in your palace?’
Sita laughed it away and said, ‘But you have no right of entry’ and Hanuman timidly left the place. As she entered the room she was shocked to see Rama lying on the bed with his mouth agape.
Rama gave no answer to her question. He pointed his finger upwards but there was nothing special except the usual decoration. She poured water into his mouth but he did not gulp it. He neither closed his mouth nor spoke a word.
Sita hurriedly sent word to the three mothers and three brothers of Rama. The news spread quickly and everybody rushed to see Rama in this unusual situation. Rama greeted his mothers with folded hands but his mouth was still wide open. The Royal physician was sent for, but he could not decipher anything. Rama made gestures that he was alright. Then his Guru Vasishta Maharishi came to the spot but still there was no change in his posture.
Sage Vasishta’s first question was ‘Where is Hanuman? Go get him here at once.’ Then it struck somebody that Rama was time and again pointing to the roof. Taking the cue they deduced thatbHanuman was sitting on top of the roof. Hanuman was chanting the names of Rama and Sita in ecstasy snapping his fingers all the while. He was lost in this action with tears rolling down his cheeks.
It took sometime for the guards to bring him back to reality and back from the roof. He came down still snapping his fingers. Sage Vasishta ordered him to stop it at once. The next minute Rama’s mouth closed.
Vasishta enquired Hanuman as to why was he was sitting there? Hanuman innocently explained that, ‘My duty is to snap my fingers whenever my Lord yawns. But I had no right of entry into his private room. How will I know when my Lord yawned, so as a precautionary measure, I have been doing it all the while.’
Vasishta explained ‘Did you understand now the reason behind Rama’s problem? In fact it was not any ailment and He was only trying to submit to his staunch devotee’s wishes.’
This is an example of strong bhakti of a devotee to his Lord and the blessing showered upon him by his Lord! Rama’s brothers and Sita realised Hanuman’s devotion towards Lord Rama. Sita tore off the order and blessed Hanuman. She gave him permission to continue his services to the Lord.
Rama blessed Hanuman and added ‘Dear Hanuman, I henceforth give you full freedom to allocate whatsoever duties to whomsoever you like. For that matter even I have no freedom to appoint any one to serve me without your permission.’
Hanuman prostrated before Rama as a sign of gratefulness. Hanuman is an example of total surrender to God.
- Viraamah – He is the final resting place
Viraam means rest or cessation of activities. Based on this Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Viraamah avasaanam Praaninaam asmin iti Viraamah – He is the final resting place for all Beings hence He is called Viraamah’.
Sri Bhattar explains thus – ‘Viramyate asmin varapradaih Brahmaadibhih, varaishcha avadhyaadibhih, labdha-varaishcha Ravanaadibhih iti Viraamah – One before whom all become powerless, including the likes of Brahma who grants the boons, the boons themselves of indestructibility even by death, and people like Ravana who acquired the boons by their austerities’.
He quotes Ramayana in this context – Brahma svayambhuh caturAnano va …(Sundara Kandam 51.45), where Hanuman advises Ravana to understand Rama’s prowess.
Sri Radhakrishna Shastri refers us to Ramayana wherein he says that those who have seen Rama or have focussed their thoughts on Him cannot get out of this union even if they try.
‘Na hi tasmaat manah kashcit Chakshushee vaa narottamaan |
Narah Shaknotyapaakrashtum atikraante api Raghave || (Ramayana 2.18.13)
Swami ChinmayAnanda explains that He is the final resting place because having reached Him there is no return into the realm of experiences. He also points out that it is He in whom the world of plurality merges during the deluge or pralaya.
The Dharma Chakram writer comments that until the soul reaches Him i.e., attains moksha, there is always re-birth, until they reach him as He is the final resting place. So this Nama should remind us that the final goal is Bhagavan, and we should meditate on Him.
Sri Satyadevo Vaashishtha nicely relates the two Namas, Rama and Virama in ‘Ramante asmin iti Ramah, viramanti asmin iti Viramah – One in whom people delight is Rama, and One in whom people find final Shanti is Viraama’. The source of delight is also the end of delight – Yatra Ramanam tatra Ramanaavasaanam. He is the Creator and He is also the one who ends the creation.
This is the same principle involved in the body being formed from the Pancha Bhutas (Earth, Water, Air, Fire and Ether) and dissolving back into the Pancha Bhutas. He gives numerous references from the Shrutis to support this interpretation:
- tasmin idam sam ca vicaiti sarvam sa otah protaSca vibhuh prajAsu (Yajur 32.8)
- yo mArayati prANayati yasmAt prANanti bhuvanAni viSvA (Atharva 13.3.3)
- kAlenodeti sUryah kAle niviSate punah (Atharva 19.54.1)
- yatrAmritam ca mrityushca purushe’dhi samAhite (Atharva 10.5.17)
- Virajo-Margah – One who shows a flawless path
Some versions of this Shloka have this as ‘Virato Margah’ and some commentators have treated this as two separate Namas. Hence this Nama has been interpreted in three ways, Viz.
- Viratah (the Unattached) and Margah (One who is sought) as separate Namas;
- Virato-Maargah (One who is sought even though He Himself is Detached) and
- Virajo-Maargah (One who shows flawless path)
Sri SrInivasa Raghavan discusses Viratah and Margah separately but lists them under the same number, and also points out that the combined Nama Virato-Margah means that He is the path that is sought after by all even though He Himself is detached.
Sri Parasara Bhattar remarks that taken together, it should be read as Virajo-Margah the meaning of which is that He is the One who shows flawless path.
Now looking at the two Namas separately:
Viratah – One who is Detached
Sri Adi Sankara defines this as ‘Vigatam Ratam asya Vishayasevaayaam iti Viratah – He is detached from the pursuit of sense objects hence He is called Viratah’. Bhagavan is Viratah because the spirit of detachment is natural to Him.
“Na cha asya mahateem lakshmeem raajya naasho’pakarshati |
loka-kaantasya kaantatvam Sheeta rashmeriva kshapaa ||” (ayodhyaa 19.32)
Meaning: When He lost the kingdom it did not deprive Him of His splendor just as the night cannot take away the loveliness of the cool-rayed moon.
“Dharma apadeshaat tyajatah cha raajyaam |
maam cha api aranyam nayatah padaatim |
na aaseet vyathaa yasya na bheeh na shokah |
kacchit sa dhairyam hridaye karoti” || (sundara 36.29)
Meaning: In Sita Piraatti’s words: “When Sri Rama abandoned the Kingdom under the duty of Dharma, and led me to the forest where I had to move on foot, there was no disappointment, grief or fear in Rama”.
Sri V.V.Ramanujan points out another instance of His detachment when Rama showed not even the faintest desire to annex any part of Sri Lanka after defeating Ravana.
Swami ChinmayAnanda gives the interpretation that He is without the Rajo’ Guna or agitation of the mind, and so He is Virajah (dispassionate). He is the embodiment of Pure Sattva Guna.
The Dharma Chakram writer points out the difference between Bhagavan and us, is that – He is detached (Viratah) and we are attached. He refers us to Thirukkural – ‘Patruga patratraan patrinai appatraip- patruga patru vidarkku’.
Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha refers to his Shloka for the current Nama as an example:
rajo na tasmin na tamshca tasmin, sattva-svabhAvo hi sa vishNuruktah |
so’sti svabhaavaat amita-prakaasho, deve’sti gItah tamasah parastaat ||
Maargah – One who is Sought
Sri Adi Sankara’s interpretation is ‘Yam viditvaa Amritatvaaya kalpante yoginah mumukshavah sa eva panthaah Maargah – He is the route to immortality for Yogis who after realising him are able to attain liberation hence He is called Maargah’. In support of this interpretation Sri Sankara quotes the Taittireeya Upanishad (3.13) – ‘naanyah panthaa vidyateyanaaya – There is no other way to attain liberation’.
Sri Bhattar remarks that even sages like Bharadvaja sought after Him. He is also the Maargah because He is the only means (Upaaya) to attain Him.
Sri Radhakrishna Shastri gives reference to Brihadaaranyaka Upanishad (4.4.9) – Esha pantha brahmanaa haanuvittah.
The Dharma Chakram writer gives examples of Vaali, Raavana etc., where Bhagavan was the means for their realisation of Him.
- Neyah – One who is led by his devotees
Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Margena samyag jnnaanena Jeevah ParamAtmatayaa Neeyate iti Neyah – He symbolises the Jiva who is led towards the ParamAtma through the path of Pure Knowledge of the Self, hence He is called Neyah’.
Sri Parasara Bhattar gives the derivation – niyoga arhatvaat neyah. Niyogah means order and One who is to fit to be entrusted with the responsibility to command is also Neyah. Sri Bhattar gives the following references: “Agnyaapyo’ham tapasvinaam” – I am agreeable to be commanded by those who practice austerities – (Aranya Kandam 6.22);
“ayam asmi mahaabaaho broohi yat te vivakshitam|
karishyaameeha tat sarvam yattvam vakshyasi bhaarata!” ||
Meaning: O’ Strong-armed scion of the Royal dynasty of Bharata! I am ready to do whatever you want; I shall carry out your commands (MahaBharatam Udyoga 71.5).
Sri Satyadevo Vaashishtha derives the meaning as “One who is fit to be sought”- praapyah praaptum yogyah, or “One who is not attainable through any Pramaana except by contemplation, meditation, and devotion” – sarva pramaanaavishayatvaat sa manasaa netum arhah – mantum yogyah mananeeyo bhavati.
- Nayah – One who leads his devotees to Moksha
This Nama comes from the root ‘Nay’ to lead. Sri Adi Sankara defines this ‘Nayati iti Nayah – He leads all, hence He is Nayah’. Sri Sankara also considers the 3 Namas Margah, Neyah and Nayah as 3 diverse and complementary forms of Bhagavan.
According to Sri N. KrishNamachari this Nama means one who leads everyone in their spiritual illumination. When Rama reached the forest, the sages there were drawn to Him, and they entrusted their protection solely to Him, even though they had their strength of penance.
Sri V.V.Ramanujan refers to Bhagavan’s words in His Varaha incarnation – Nayaami paramaamgatim – I will lead everyone to the Ultimate, i.e. Moksha.
The Dharma Chakram writer points out the examples of Arjuna being led in the right path by Bhagavan through the Gita Upadesham. Meditation on this Nama of Bhagavan should reveal to us the path of Moksha and lead us towards Him.
- Anayah – One for whom there is no Leader
Sri Bhattar interprets this as He cannot be spirited away easily and gives the example of the futile effort of Ravana to lift and carry away Lakshmana when he was lying on the battleground after being struck by the Shakti weapon. He also gives an alternate interpretation based on Ayah – ‘the means which brings prosperity’; Anayah, hence means that there is no lasting prosperity without Him.
Sri Satyadevo Vaashishtha gives the examples of Bhagavan being at the opposite extremes simultaneously. He can be nayah on the one end (i.e. One who moves) and Anayah at the other end, at the same time (i.e. One who does not move). He gives reference to:
‘tadejati tanaijati’,anejadekam manaso javeeyo (Isavaasya Upanishad)
aram kaamaaya harayovadhanvire sthiraaya hinvan harayo haree turaa (Rig Veda 10.96)
The Dharma Chakram writer aptly illustrates how Rama always acted in accordance with Dharma without anyone having to lead Him. When he had to go the forest, everyone including Sage Vasishtha tried to persuade Him to accept the Kingdom and rule, but Rama did not swerve from the path of Dharma and adopted that without anyone having to direct him.
- Veerah – One who is Valiant
Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘VikRama Shaalitvaat Veerah – He is Veerah because of his Valour and bravery’. He destroys those who are a source of suffering to the pious by discharging His weapons which are ever ready to carry out His command at an instance. He is a source of terror to His enemies.
Sri Parasara Bhattar gives references from the Ramayana:
Maricha tells Ravana about Rama:
“Vrikshe vrikshe cha pashyaami cheera krishnaajinaambaram |
griheeta dhanusham Ramam paasha hastamiva antakam ||” (Ramayana Aranya Kandam 39.14)
Meaning: In every tree I see Rama dressed in tree bark and black deer-skin and His bow drawn as though He is the God of death with the rope in hand.
“Brahma-danda prakaashaanaam vidyut-sadrisha varchasaam |
Smaran Raaghava-baanaanaam vivyate Raakshaseshvarah” || (yuddha kandam 60.3)
Meaning: Ravana, the King of Rakshasas, became uneasy when he even thought of the arrows of Rama, which had the lustre of the club of Brahma and the glitter of a lightning”.
“Maatanga iva Simhena Garudeneva Pannagah |
Abhibhooto’bhavad-Raja Raghavena mahaatmanaa” || (yuddha kandam60.2)
Meaning: King Ravana was overpowered by the powerful Rama like the elephant by the lion, and the serpent by Garuda.
Sri V.V.Ramanujan points out that Veera, Saurya, and ParakRama are among the great qualities of Bhagavan, and the reference to Veerya here can be taken to refer to all the three qualities. Veerya is the quality of inducing terror in the hearts of the enemies; Saurya is derived from the word Soora – the ability to cause havoc among the enemies’ ranks by single-handedly penetrating their ranks; and ParakRama is the ability to cause enormous damage to the enemies’ side while not being even slightly hurt Himself. Rama is referred to as MahaVeera in Raghu-Veera-Gadyam and it begins with Jaya Jaya MahaVeera.
Sri V.V. Ramanujan gives several references from the Divya Prabandham:
“anru ilangai neeru Seidu Senru konru venri konda Veeranaar” (Thiruchanda Viruttam) – He crossed the Sea and went to Lanka to vanquish Ravana ;
“venkadiron kulattukkor villakkaait-tonri vinn muzhudum uyyakkonda vIran tannai” (Perumal Thiru Mozhi 10.1) – Beacon of the lineage of Kings, of the Solar Race! Hero and Savior of all the celestials;
“mazhu vaal endi vevvari narcilai vaangi venri koduu vel vendar pagai tadinda veeran tannai” (Perumal Thiru Mozhi 10.3) – He accepted the challenge from the axe-wielding Parashurama and took how bow and strung it; thereby He vanquished his ego and withdrew the powers vested in Parashurama;
“Pollaa Arakkanaik killik kalaindaanai” in Thirupavai, referring to Rama vanquishing Ravana;
“vennarakam Sera-vagaiye Silai kunittaan – Thirumangai Azhwar in Siriya Thirumadal referring to Rama’s act of tormenting Kara and Dushana during their fight to the point that they did not need a separate anubhavam of living in hell (narakam).
Sri Satyadevo Vaashishtha gives the following references from the Shruti:
‘Srinve veero vindamaano vasooni mahad-devaanaam asuratvam ekam’ (Rig Veda 3.55.10) and
‘Sa ghaa veero na rishyati yamindro brahmanaspatih somo hinoti martyam’ (Rig Veda 2.28.4)
Sri Radhakrishna Shastri gives a beautiful description of His Veerah aspect.
“yasmaat sva mahimnaa sarvaan lokaan sarvaan devaan sarvaan Atmanah
sarvaani bhootaani viRamati viraamayati ajastram srijati visrijati vaasayati,
yato veerah karmanyah sudriksho yukta-graavaa
jaayate deva-kaamah tasmaat uchyate veeram iti”.
Meaning: He cannot be opposed, cannot be conquered, and His skills are self-evident and always subdues His enemies automatically.
- Shaktimataam Shreshthah – The Greatest among powerful
Shaktimaan means a powerful person and Shreshthah is the foremost, hence Shaktimataam Shreshthah means that He is the topmost among powerful people.
As Sri Adi Sankara puts it ‘Shaktimataam Virinchyaadeenaam api Shaktimattvaat Shaktimataam Shreshthah – He is called Shaktimataam Shreshthah because he is mightier than the mightiest such as Bramha’.
Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 7 Verse11) – ‘Balam balavataam caham – I am the might of the mighty’.
Sri Parashuram pays tribute to Rama’s Shakti by saying ‘”akshayam madhuhantaaram jaanaami tvaam Sureshvaram – I know that you are indestructible; You are the slayer of madhu (the asura), and You are the Lord of all the gods” (Bala Kandam 76.17).
Sri Bhattar also gives reference to Hanuman’s words to Ravana from the Ramayana:
“Devaashcha daityaashcha nishaacharendra! Gandharva vidyaadhara-naaga-yakshaah; Ramasya lokatraya-naayakasya sthaatum na Shaktaah samareshu sarve.” (Sundara Kandam 51.44)
Meaning: O’ King of the Rakshasas! The Devas and Asuras, Gandharvas and Vidyaadharas, Nagas, and Yakshas – all these cannot stand against Rama, who is the Lord of the three worlds, in the battle”.
Rama with the axe (i.e., Parashurama) says to Sri Rama: “aakshayyam madhu-hantaaram jaanaami tvam Sureshvaram – I know that you are indestructible; You are the slayer of Madhu (the Asura), and You are the Lord of all the Devas” (Ramayana Bala Kandam 76.17).
- Dharmah – He is an embodiment of Dharma
‘Sah saakshaat Dharma eva iti Dharmah – He is Dharmah because He is an embodiment of Dharma’. Sri Adi Sankara gives two detailed explanations. The first is ‘Sarvabhootaanaam dhaaranaat Dharmah – He supports all beings and hence He is Dharmah’. The second one is ‘Dharmaih aaraadhyate iti vaa – He is respected and worshipped by all the Dharmas’.
This is emphasised by the verse ‘Aachaaraprabhavo Dharmah Dharmasya Prabhur Achyutah – Dharma is born from culture and Achyuta is the Lord of Dharma’ which we will explore in the PhalaShruti of SahasraNamam.
Sri Satyadevo Vaashishtha derives the meaning from the root Dhri – Dhaarane to support; dhaarayati iti Dharmah – that which supports Dharmah, Dhaaryate vaa yena jagat iti Dharmah – He by whom this Universe is supported is Dharmah.
Sri Bhattar points out that He is Virtue Incarnate because He sustains all beings by conferring prosperity and salvation on them. In Yuddha Kandam Brahma says of Lord Rama – Lokaanaam tvam paramo Dharmah – You are the Supreme Dharma in all the worlds.
In the Mahabharata it says “Sakshaat devah puraanasau sa hi Dharmah sanaatanah – He is the ancient God and He is also the eternal Dharma incarnate”.
About Krishna incarnation -“Ye cha vedavido vipraah ye cha adhyaatmavido janaah | Te vadanti mahaatmaanam Krishnam Dharma sanaatanam” ||
Meaning: Those brahmins who are well-versed in Vedas, and those who realized the Brahman, declare in one voice that the great Sri Krishna is the eternal Dharma incarnate.
Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers to Maareecha’s words about Rama – Ramo vitgrahavaan Dharmah – Rama is Dharma incarnate. He also points that ANDAL calls Him “dharumam ariyaak kurumban” in Nachiar ThiruMozhi, out of intense fondness for the Lord.
Swami ChinmayAnanda discusses the significance of this term “Dharma”. By example, he points out that the Dharma of Sugar is sweetness, the Dharma of fire is heat, etc., and thus the Dharma of the individual in this sense is the Soul, without which the individual does not exist. Since Bhagavan is the One who supports all the individuals, He is the Ultimate Dharma.
Sri Radhakrishna Shastri reminds us of “dharmo rakshati rakshitah, Dharma eva hato hanti” – Dharma protects those who protect it, and destroys those who destroy it.
The Dharma Chakram writer gives several examples of where Dharma has protected those who followed it and destroyed those who tried to ignore it. In the former category are Harishchandra, the Pandavas, etc. In the latter category are Ravana, Duryodhana, etc.
Bhishma tried his very best to advise Duryodhana that no one who follows Dharma can be defeated, no matter how many Bhishmas try to help Duryodhana. But he didn’t listen and ultimately paid the price for Adharma. Similarly, Ravana did not listen to the wise counsel of Vibheeshana and faced the consequences.
Meditation on this name of Mahavishnu should teach us that Dharma protects those who follow it, and Adharma will only lead to self-destruction.
- Dharmaviduttamah – He is the foremost among knowers of Dharma
Sri Adi Sankara explains this as ‘Shrutayah Smritayash cha Yasya Aajnaabhootaah sa eva SarvaDharmavidaam uttamah iti Dharmaviduttamah – All the Vedaas and other Scriptures obey his command and therefore He is the foremost among the knowers of Dharma’. The import here is that since He is the Creator of Dharma, who can be better than Him to know Dharma.
Sri Bhattar says that no further evidence is needed for this than that of Sages such as Vashishtha, Vamadeva, and Markandeya who were the Gurus for Rama resorted to Him for knowledge of Dharma.
Sri Radhakrishna Shastri gives reference to Vishnu Dharmottara – Srutis-smriti mamaivaagnye (76.31).
The Dharma Chakram writer remarks that it is not easy to recognise what is Dharma and what is not Dharma. Bhagavan has created the Shrutis to explain Dharma. To realise Dharma, one has to meditate on Bhagavan who will guide the righteous path.
Krishna’s final message to Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 18 Verse 66) is ‘Sarva Dharmaan Parityajya Maamekam Sharanam Vraja – Abandon all forms of rituals and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful actions and grant you Moksha, Do not despair.
Ramo Viraamo Virajo Maargo Neyo Nayo’nayah |
Veerah Shaktimataam Shreshtho Dharmo Dharmaviduttamah ||43||
Rama, the Supreme Being, is eternal bliss for Yogis who revel in His sphere all the time, hence He is Ramah. Rama Nama is known as the Taraka Mantra as He leads His devotees to Moksha. He is the Ultimate Destination for His devotees (Moksha), so He is Viraamah. He is Virajo-Maargah as He shows the flawless path to Moksha. He is Neyah as He willingly submits to the command of His devotees. He leads his devotees to liberation and hence He is Nayah. He is the Supreme Leader and no one leads him, so He is Anayah.
He is Valiant, so He is Veerah and He is the topmost among the powerful, hence He is called Shaktimataam Shreshtah. He is an embodiment of Dharma, so He is Dharmah. As He is the Creator of Dharma, He is the foremost among knowers of Dharma, hence He is called Dharmaviduttamah.
HARI OM TAT SAT
OM NAMO NARAYANAAYA
This Vishnu SahasraNamam series is authored with the help of my friend Shri Balaji.