In this part we will explore the meaning of the 48th Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.

Shloka 48
Yajna Ijyo Mahejyas ca Kratus Satram Sataangatih     |
Sarvadarshi NivrittAtma Sarvajno Jnanamuttamam ||48||

He is the embodiment of all forms of sacrifice and as Yagna-Svarupi who carries the benefits of Yagna to all the Devas. He is the object of worship and reverence who grants the highest benediction i.e. Moksha or Liberation from this Samsara. He is the force behind all actions and He protects the righteous from evil. He is the Ultimate goal of the pious.

He is All Seer and All Knower with ears and eyes everywhere. He is naturally Liberated and as the Creator who is the Cause of all Causes is Omniscient. He has Supreme Knowledge as He is the Ultimate Cause.

The above Shloka has the following Namas:

  1. Yajnah
  2. Ijyah
  3. Mahejyah
  4. Kratuh
  5. Satram
  6. Sataangatih
  7. Sarvadarshih
  8. NivrittAtma (or VimuktAtma)
  9. Sarvajnah
  10. Jnanam-uttamam

Now let’s examine the meaning of the above Namas in detail:

  1. Yajnah – The Sacrifice.

Sri Adi Sankara gives two explanations for this Nama. The first is ‘Sarvayajna svaroopaad Yajnah – He is the embodiment of all forms of Yajnas whether it is Dravya yajna (Sacrifice of wealth), Tapo yajna (Penance), Yoga yajna (Yoga practice) or Jnaana yajna (propogation of knowledge), He is the Yajnah’. The second explanation is ‘Sarveshaam Devaanaam Tushtikaarakah yajnaakaarena Pravartate iti vaa – He pleases and nurtures all the Devaas with his sacrificial offerings which is His very nature, thus causing their satisfaction and happiness, so He is called as ‘Yajnah’.

Taittriya Samhita (1.7.4) says ‘Yajno vai Vishnuh – Vishnu and Yajna are one and the same; they are identical’. We will cover all aspects of Yajna in Shloka 104 and 105 where Bhagavan is involved in all of them (‘Yajno Yajnapatir Yajvaa Yajnaango Yajnavaahanah| Yajnabhrit Yajnakrit Yajnee Yajnabhuk Yajnasaadhanah Yajnaantakrit Yajnaguhyam’).

The Dharma Chakram author explains Yagna as Karma done with a spirit of selflessness. Karma binds us to the phalas or fruits resulting from our actions while Yajna releases us from the bondage of Karma as Yagnas are performed with a spirit of sacrifice or offering.  In other words, actions that are performed with a spirit of sacrifice or for the benefit of the community without the sense of “Doership or I” associated with it, qualify as Yajna.  There is divinity associated with acts which are performed with this spirit.

Swami ChinmayAnanda quotes from the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 4, Verses 25 to 30 and mentions that there are twelve types of Yagnas, which are:

  1. Deva Yagna – When seekers and Yogis feel completely detached from the sense experiences. irrespective of the quality of experience, are able to maintain a constant sense of inward equanimity.
  2. Brahma Yagna – The Yogis understand that the sense-organs are the only instruments of perception and they can work only when in contact with the Supreme, thus allowing the sense-organs to sacrifice themselves in the knowledge of Brahman.
  3. Indriya Yagna – By self-control alone can the sense-organs be fully controlled and mastered. This is yet another method shown to the seekers by which they can experience a more intense life of deeper meditation.
  4. Mano Yagna – The mind can never function in a field which cannot be interpreted in terms of the five types of sense-objects. An individual who has controlled the mind completely and withdrawn it totally from the sense-centres is indicated here as Mano Yagna.
  5. Atma-Samyama Yagna – Control of the ego by understanding the Divine Reality is called here as the “Yoga-of-Self-restraint” (Atma-Samyama-Yoga). 
  6. Dravya Yagna – Charity and distribution of honestly acquired wealth, in a sincere spirit of devotion and in the service of the community is called Dravya-Yajna.
  7. Tapo Yajna – Austerities (Vratas) done in a spirit of dedication, so that the seeker might achieve some self-control, are undertaken in the name of the Lord.
  8. Yoga Yajna – A devoted worship of the Lord-of-the-heart, called Upasana, when performed without any desire or motive, is called Yoga Yagna.
  9. Swadhyaya Yajna – Swadhyaya means “self-study including the art of introspection pursued for understanding our own inner weaknesses.”
  10. Jnana Yajna – The “Sacrifice-of-Knowledge” is the term given to that activity by which one renounces all ignorance into the fire-of-knowledge. This is constituted of two aspects; negation of the false, and assertion of the Real Nature of the Self.
  11. Prana Yajna – As a sacrifice some offer the technique of Pranayama. The two processes Puraka (inhaling) and Rechaka (exhaling) are alternated with an interval, wherein the ‘breath is held for some time, which is called the Kumbhaka. This process of Puraka-Kumbhaka-Rechaka-Kumbhaka, when practised in prescribed intervals, becomes the technique of breath-control (Pranayama). This technique is again explained here as a Yajna by which the practitioner, in the long run, learns to offer allthe subsidiary Pranas into the main Prana.
  12. Deha Yagna – The systematic regulation of diet to gain a complete mastery over themselves, their appetites and passions. Through regulated dieting, a person’s character, behaviour, and ultimately the very thought, can be purified and raised.

The ultimate Yajna is when we have offered ourselves as the Ahuti in this Yajna, i.e., we do everything for His benefit and not for our benefit.  

Sri Parasara Bhattar refers us to the Shruti – Yajno vai Vishnuh. Since every one of Bhagavan’s acts is for the benefit of His devotees and nothing is for His own benefit, He is the incarnation of Yajna.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan gives several references to Divya Prabandham –

  • Seiginra kidi ellaam yaane ennum – All that is being done is me (NammAzhwar’s – Thiruvai Mozhi 5.6.4)
  • பண்டைநால் மறையும் வேள்வியும் கேள்விப் பதங்களும் பதங்களின் பொருளும்,

பிண்டமாய் விரித்த பிறங்கொளி யனலும் பெருகிய புனலொடு நிலனும்,
கொண்டல்மா ருதமும் குரைகட லேழும் ஏழுமா மலைகளும் விசும்பும்,
அண்டமும் தானாய் நின்றவெம் பெருமான் அரங்கமா நகரமர்ந் தானே.
Meaning: The timeless Vedas, the Sacrifices, the Prasnas, the Vyakaranas, their meanings, the cause of all these, the sacred fire-altar, the holy waters of rivers, the Earth, the clouds, the wind, the seven oceans, the seven mountain ranges, the sky, the Universe. The Lord stands as all these, and as the resident of Arangama Nagar (Thirumangai Azhwar’s – Periya Thiru Mozhi 5.7.1).

  • Vilangum Sudarc-codiyai Velviyai – He is the vast expanse of space with great effulgence (Thirumangai Azhwar’s – Periya Thiru Mozhi 7.10.9)

The Story of Sibi Chakravarthy

Sibi Chakravarthy was a famous King known for his truthfulness, justice, and keeping his word. He had two brothers called Mehadambara and Jeemutavahana.

One day Mehadambara sought Sibi’s permission to go on a pilgrimage. Mehadambara was so moved by the Yogis in sacred temples that he renounced the world and took to Tapas. Sometime later he died and his body was buried on the summit of the hill. Due to his tapas his body did not perish, and assumed the form of a Linga. Jeemutavahana too followed the path of Mehadmbara and met with similar fate.

When the King Sibi learnt about both his brothers’ fate he was grief stricken and left the Kingdom to his minister to govern. He went to see the place where his brothers were in Linga form.

Upon seeing his brothers in ‘Linga’ form, he was so moved that he instantly decided to perform 100 Yajnas at that very spot which he considered holy now. He believed that the merit of 100 Yajnas would accrue the realm of Vaikuntham.

On the day of the 100th Yajna, Agnideva took the form of a Kapotam (Dove) and Devendra took the form of Grudhra (Vulture). As Sibi had Mumukshutvam (desire for Moksha), the Gods decided to test Sibi’s other qualities. They decided to assess his Viveka (discriminative intellect), Vairagya (dispassion), and Shat-Sampad – the six virtues namely Sama (tranquility of the mind), Dama (control of the senses) Uparati (cessation from worldly activities); Titiksha – (forbearance or power of endurance), Sraddha (faith in God, Scripture and Self); Samadhana – (concentration or one-pointedness of mind).

The Vulture began chasing the Dove, and to escape from the clutches of the Vulture, the Dove flew towards the King and settled on his lap. The Vulture demanded the King for its rightful prey reminding him that Kapotam was aahaaram for a Grudhra.

The King was in a dilemma. He had to be just to both. He told the Vulture “I can even sacrifice my life but I have to protect the Dove.”  Finally the Vulture relented and said, provided the King gave flesh from his own body, equal in weight to that of the Dove and he should not show any pain or shed tears in the process. Sibi Chakravarthy was quite pleased with the arrangement. He thought that a pound of flesh from his body would not harm him much, he was happy that he was saved from a great sin of ‘inability to protect the weak’.

Sibi Maharaj

The King called for the knives and the scales. In one pan of the scale the Dove was placed and on the other side a large chunk of flesh from the right thigh of Sibi. But strangely, the scale pan with the Dove, seem to weigh more even as additional flesh was added. Thus almost whole of the right half of the King’s body was cut. Still the weighing scale did not tilt.

When the sacrifice was being made a small drop of tear fell from the left eye of the King. The Vulture immediately stated that it did not wish to accept an unwilling sacrifice. But the King’s face shone radiant with joy and he said that the left side was weeping as it was unable to participate in the sacrifice which only the right side was undergoing. Now the King prepared himself to sit on the scale.

Agni and Indra who had come to test him were impressed with the greatness of King Sibi that even at the cost of his own life, he was ready to protect the weak and render justice. The Devas showered praise on Sibi, restoring his Yagna and his body.

Vinnagaram 3Legend has it that Lord Jagannatha Perumal Temple in Nandhipura- Vinnagaram, one of the 108 Divya Desams, originally faced East but Sibi’s story is attributed to be the reason for Bhagavan turning towards West to witness the episode of his sacrifice.

Another legend relating to Sibi is about the Pundarikasha Perumal Temple in Thiruvellarai. Sibi Chakravarthi was camping with his troops in Vellarai.

Thiruvellarai-Sri-Pundarikaksha-Perumal-MoolavarOne day he chased a white boar which passed by but it finally escaped into a hole. Saint Markandeya was in penance there and King Sibi narrated the incident to him. The Saint asked the King to perform a Milk Abhishekam to the hole. While doing so Lord Vishnu blessed them by giving Darshan.

Sage Markandeya asked Sibi to build a temple for Lord Vishnu at the site and suggested Sibi to bring 3700 Vaishnava’s from the North. As suggested Sibi brought the 3700 Vaishnavas and built the temple. Unfortunately one of the Vaishnava’s died and King Sibi was perturbed about having one person less. Lord Vishnu Himself appeared as a Vaishnava and told King Sibi to count Him in to add up to 3700.

Lord is Yagna Svarupi and also an enjoyer of Yagna.

  1. Ijyah – He is the Object of Reverence

Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Yashtavyah api ayameva iti Ijyah – He is fit to be the target of all worship and sacrificial offerings and so he is Ijyah’.

Sri Sankara also quotes the Harivamsa to support the same interpretation –
Ye yajanti makhaih punyair_devataadIn pitrunapi   |
Atmaanam AtmanA nityam Vishnumeva yajanti te || (3.40.27)
Meaning: Holy sacrifices to divinities and forefathers are verily the adoration of Vishnu Himself, who is the Self of all”.

Ijyaam arhati iti ijyah.  Those who worship anya-Devatas seeking temporary benefits, in reality worship only Vishnu who is the Antaryami or Inner Soul of all beings.  This is revealed in the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 9 Verse 23 –
Ye tu anya-devata bhakta yajante Sraddhaya anvitaah    |
te’pi maameva kaunteya yajanti a-vidhi-purvakam          ||
Meaning: Whatever a man may sacrifice to other gods, O son of Kunti, is really meant for Me alone, but it is offered without proper understanding.

Sri Parasara Bhattar also refers us to MahaBharata –
Ye yajanti pitrun Devaan Brahamnan Sahutaashann    |
Sarva bhutantarAtmanam Vishnumeva yajanti te        || (Santi Parva 355.24)
Meaning: Those who worship the spirits of their forefathers, the gods, the Brahmins as well as Agni – they in reality worship Vishnu who is the Inner Soul of all beings.

  1. Mahejyah – He is the best among the objects of worship

visnu2This is just the previous Nama with the prefix Maha added to it. The use of ‘ca’ further enhances the effect of the prefix Maha. This is as if Bheeshma Bhishma (this is the spelling we have been following) is saying that Bhagavan is not just some minor insignificant Ijyah but a Maha Ijyah!

Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Sarvaasu devataasu Yashtavyaasu Prakarshena Yashtavyah Mokshaphaladaatrutvaat iti Mahejyah – There may be other gods fit to be worshipped but Bhagavan is the greatest of all since he is the only one able to give the most important gift of Moksha or salvation as the outcome of the Yajna’.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan emphasises the significance of this Nama – MahaVishnu is the Parama Purusha and we should worship the Mahejyah directly instead of offering worship to Him through the other deities for whom He is the AntarAtma. 

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri observes in this context that Agni is the nearest of the Devatas to us, and Vishnu is the farthest (Agniravamo devatanam Vishnuh paramah (TaittirIya Samhita 5.5.1).

  1. Kratuh – He is the object of worship and He is the force behind all actions

This Nama has the two meanings:

  • Objects of worship through the sacrifices are called Kratus
  • He who is behind the actions of everybody or He by whom everything is done.

Sri Adi Sankara’s interpretation is ‘Yoopasahitah yajnah Kratuh – The Yajna with the pillar for tying the sacrificial offer’ is Kratuh. In the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 9 Verse 16) Bhagavan says:
Aham kratuh aham Yajnah svadhA aham aham aushdham    |
Mantrah aham ahameva Ajyam aham agnih aham hutam    || 9.16
Meaning: I am the ritual, I am the sacrifice, I am the offering to the ancestors, the healing herb, the transcendental chant. I am the butter, the fire and the offering.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri points out that among the different types of Yaagas. Kratuh is where one uses one’s resources to perform a Yaaga with a definite objective to be completed within a prescribed duration.

Sri Ramanuja in his GIta Bhashyam interprets Kratuh as referring to the Vedic sacrifices such as the Jyotishtoma, and the term Yajna as referring to the Maha Yajna, which is interpreted by Sri Parasara Bhattar as referring to the Panca maha Yajnas, the seven Paka Yajnas, etc. 

Prof. A. Srinivasa Raghavan explains the Panca Maha Yajnas further: 
Brahma Yajna involving teaching and reciting Vedas, Pitru Yajna – offering of libations of water to the deceased ancestors daily (Tharpanam), Deva Yajna – a sacrifice made to the gods through oblations to the fire, Bhuta Yajna involving in offering a portion of the daily meal to all creatures, and Manushya Yajna – sacrifice offered to other people (hospitable reception of guests).

The seven Paaka Yajnas are:
Aupaasana homa, Vaishva-deva, Paarvaa-sthaalI-paaka, Ashtakaa-Shraddha, Masa-Shraddha, Sarpa-bali – oblation to the serpents, and Eshaana-bali (oblation to the gods).

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives a different interpretation to this Nama and says that ‘He by whom everything is done is Kratuh – Kriyata iti Kratuh’.  Or, that intellect through which everything is done, is Kratuh, i.e., jnana. 

  1. Satram – He protects the pious and righteous

Govardhan_Lila1This Nama has the following three meanings:

  • He who is worshipped by the sacrifice is called Satram
  • He who protects the good people
  • He who makes everything go.

Sri Adi Sankara gives two explanations for this. The first is ‘Aasatyupaiti Chodanaalakshanam Satram – He accumulates Dharma in the appropriate way, hence He is Satram’. The second meaning he gives is ‘Satah Traayate iti Satrah – He protects the virtuous people, hence He is Satram’.

In the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 4 Verse 8) Bhagavan says
Paritraanaaya sadhoonaam vinaashaaya cha dushkritaam,
Dharmasamsthaapanaarthaaya Sambhavaami yuge yuge |
Meaning: For the protection of the virtuous and the destruction of the wicked as well as to re-establish Dharma, I incarnate myself millennium after millennium.

Sri Parasara Bhattar’s interpretation is “Deergha-kaala bahu-yajamaanaka Maasacodanaa-Lakshanam Satram” meaning Satram is another type of sacrifice, this one done on an unlimited time scale, devoted to world-welfare, with participation from multitude of people. 

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri points out that the activity that is commonly undertaken to feed the pilgrims in large numbers in Shelters (called Sattiram in Tamil) is an example of this kind of selfless activity where many good people participate for the welfare of a larger community of people.  Again Bhagavan is the object of worship of these activities, and so He is Satra-Svarupi.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha derives the meaning from the root sad – Seedati signifying movement.  Seedati gacchati sarvatra – One who goes everywhere – Satram.  Alternatively, Satrayate Vistaarayati Vishvam iti Satram – He who makes the world go.  Everything in His Creation also has His Guna of movement, including the human heart which goes constantly and yet which stays in one place.

  1. Sataangatih – The Goal of the pious

Maha Vishnu 4 - Copy (2)Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Sataam Mumukshoonaam na anyaa gatiriti Sataangatih – He is the only resort to seekers of salvation, hence He is called Sataangatih’.

The only way to Moksha is the absolute and unconditional surrender to Bhagavan. In the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 7 Verse 19, Bhagavan says
Bahoonaam janmanaam ante jnaanavaan maam prapadyate
Vasudevas sarvamiti sa Mahaatmaa Sudurlabhah
Meaning– After many births and deaths, he who has perfected in wisdom and knowledge surrenders unto Me, knowing Me to be the cause of all causes and all that is. Such a great soul is very rare’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar comments that whereas in previous Namas, Bhagavan is described as the goal of those who follow the Pravritti-Dharma, i.e., dealing with the pleasures and business of the world, this Nama signifies that He is also the goal of those who follow the Nivritti-Dharma, i.e., discontinuance of worldly acts or emotions.

Sri Parasara Bhattar gives reference to Vishnu Puranam:
Nirdhuta dosha-pankaanaam Yateenam SamyatAtmanaam    |
Sthaanam tat paramam vipra! Punya-Paapa parikshaye        ||  2.8.94
Meaning: “O Brahmin! That is the sublime place for Yatis (i.e., Yogis) who have washed off the mire of sins and who controls their mind when all their merits and sins have been annihilated”.

Swami ChinmayAnanda comments that the term ‘Gatih’ in Sanskrit means both the path and the goal.  Sriman Narayana is both the means and the end for the Sadhus, and it is only by surrendering to Him that they reach Him.

  1. Sarvadarshi – The All-Seer

visvam4This comes from the basic root ‘Drik Drish’ meaning ‘to see’. Sarvadarshee is one who sees everything. Sri Adi Sankara explains this as ‘Sarveshaam Praaninaam Kritaakritam sarvam pashyati Svaabhaavikena bodhena iti Sarvadarshee – He is able to see through the actions (omissions and Commissions) of all beings with his natural power hence He is called Sarvadarshi’.

Even when somebody is alone Bhagavan is there watching. He is a Saakshee or Sarvadarshee. He is omnipresent and omniscient.

One who, by His innate insight, is able to see all the good and evil actions of living beings. Since He is the Antaryami in everything, He sees all even without the awareness of the beings. 

Swami ChinmayAnanda observes that as the Sun is known as the “eye of the Universe”, Bhagavan is the Illuminator of everything. 

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri points out that He observes everything irrespective of whether we perform what we are supposed to perform, we perform what we are not supposed to perform, or we don’t perform what we are supposed to perform.

The Dharma Chakram writer summarises the purport of this Nama by pointing out that when we act with the full realization that He is our Inner Consciousness, and when we act consistent with that, we have understood the meaning of this Nama.  This is behind the concept that we should do every act of ours by dedicating it to Him, and not perform any act that is not towards His Will.  (Anukulya Sankalpam, Pratikulya Varjanam).

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha summarises the Nama as “Jnana cakshur Bhagavan Vishnuh” – Bhagavan has divine vision.  He gives references to the well-known shruti: 

  • Sahasra-Sirshaa Purushah Sahasraakshah Sahasrapaat – He has thousands of heads, eyes and feet (Purusha Suktam)
  • Vishvatash-cakshuruta Vishvato mukho Vishvato baahuruta Vishvataspaat – He became the possessor of the eyes, faces, hands and feet of all creatures in every part of the Universe (Maha Narayana Upanishad 13)
  • Hiranyayena Savita Rathenaa devo yaati bhuvanaani pashyan – Borne in this Borne in his golden chariot he cometh, Savitar, God who looks on every creature I could not follow this(Rig Veda 1.35.4)

In the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 13 Verse14, Bhagavan says:
Sarvatah paani paadam tat sarvato’kshi Siro mukham     |
Sarvatah SrutimAn loke sarvam Avritya tishthati        ||
Meaning: Everywhere are His hands and legs, His eyes and faces, and He hears everything; that reality exists pervading everything in this world.

  1. NivrittAtma – He is naturally Liberated

mahavishnuThis Nama has two meanings:

  • He whose mind is turned away from worldly desires
  • He who is the Atma of those who follow the Nivritti Dharma

Sri Adi Sankara treats this Nama as ‘VimuktAtma’ and interprets this as ‘Svabhaavena Vimuktah Atma yasya iti, Vimuktashchaasau Aatmaa cheti vaa Vimuktaatmaa – By His very nature He is a liberated entity hence He is Vimuktaatmaa or alternatively He is both liberated and He is the Supreme Soul and hence VimuktAtma’.

Katha Upanishad (2.5.1) says ‘Vimuktashcha Vimuchyate – He is liberated and also liberates us’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar’s interprets this Nama to illustrate that Bhagavan appeared as Nara and Narayana to teach the Nivritti Dharma to the world, and to demonstrate the practice of Vairagya i.e. extreme detachment (in the form of Nara). To indicate His profound detachment (Param Vairagya) to material objects of pleasure, He has His mind withdrawn from them. In this Avataar Bhagavan emphasised Nivritti-Dharma and propagated the sacred AshtAkshara. The essence of Nivritti Dharma is the realisation that nothing should be done for selfish gain and with a feeling of Doer-ship. The disposition that everything is for the benefit of Narayana and happens because of Him is quintessential – ‘Ellame Avan Seyal! Avan Indri Oru Anuvum Asaiyadhu!’ We are not for us or for someone else, but only for Sriman Narayana.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan observes that another name for practitioners of Nivritti dharmA is Jnani, whom Bhagavan considers as His own soul.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha observes that Bhagavan is inside everything in the Universe as Antaryami, and yet is not bound by them, and thus He is NivrittAtma. 

  1. Sarvajnah – The Omniscient

Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Sarvashcha asau jnashcha iti Sarvajnah – He is everything and He is the knower of everything hence He is called Sarvajnah ‘. The Brihadaaranyaka Upanishad (2.4.6) says ‘Idam Sarvam Yadayam Atma – Everything here is Paramatma’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar explains that He knows that He is the AntaryAmi in everything, and thus He is Sarvajnah.  He knows He is the best dharma, the best means, and the best goal. 

Sri V.V. Ramanujan quotes Peria Thirumozhi (4.9.6) in support – ‘Ulagattu ellam Ariveer – He knows everything that happens in the World’.              

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri has given several references to the Sruti –

  • Yah Sarvajnah Sarvavit – The All-Knower, aware of all (Mundaka Upanishad1.9);
  • Sa Sarvajnah Sarvo Bhavati – He is Omniscient and He becomes All as Antaryami (Prashna Upanishad 10);
  • Esha Sarveshvara Esha Sarvajnah Esho Antaryameshya Yonih Sarvasya Prabhavyapyayauhi Bhutaanaam – This is the Lord of all. This is the Knower of all. This is the inner controller. This is the source of all. This is the beginning and the end of beings. (Maandukya Upanishad 6);
  1. Jnanam-uttamam – He has the Greatest Knowledge

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASri Adi Sankara explains this as ‘Jnaanamuttamam iti etat Savisheshanam ekam Naama; Jnaanam Prakrishtam Ajanyam Anavacchinnam Sarvasya Saadhakatamam iti Jnaanamuttamam – His wisdom is of highest class being without a beginning, unlimited and capable of achieving everything hence He is called Jnanam-uttamam’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar points out that Bhagavan is the One who revealed the most superior of all the Dharmas, the Vaishnava Dharma – Sarvah paro Vaishnavo Dharmah jnayate asmin iti Jnanam-uttamam.  He also refers to the revelation of the Pancaratra by Bhagavan as another instance that He is the Uttama jnanam – patthantam anisham Sastram PancaRatra Puras-saram. 

Sri V.V. Ramanujan gives reference to NammAzhvAr’s Thiruvai Mozhi (4.7.10) – Mikka jnanamurtiyaagiya Veda Vilakku  – The great icon of pure knowledge, the light of the Vedas.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives reference from a passage in the Atharva Veda – “Sutram sutrasya yo Veda, sa Veda Brahmanam Mahat” – He who has knowledge of the Supreme Knowledge, knows the greatest that is there is to know. 

Taitriya Upanishad (2.1) says ‘Satyam Jnaanam Anantham Bramha – Bramhan is Truth, Bramhan is Wisdom, Bramhan is Eternal ‘.

Bhagavan is Jnanam-uttamam as He is Omniscient and the Cause of all Causes.


Yajna ijyo Mahejyashca Kratuh Satram Sataam-gatih     |
Sarvadarshi NivrittAtma Sarvajno Jnanam-uttamam ||48||

Vinnagaram 3He is the embodiment of all forms of sacrifice and hence He is Yajnah. He is Ijyah as He is Yagna-Svarupi who carries the benefits of Yagna to all the Devas. He is the object of worship and reverence who grants the highest benediction i.e. Moksha or Liberation from this Samsara and hence He is Mahejyah. He is the force behind all actions and so He is Kratuh. He protects the righteous from evil and bestows his grace on devotees performing Yagna and hence He is Satram. He is Sataangatih as He is the Ultimate goal of the pious. 

He is All Seer and All Knower with ears and eyes everywhere and he is Sarvadarshi. He is Naturally Liberated, so He is NivrittAtma. As the Creator who is the Cause of all Causes, He is Omniscient and hence Sarvajnah. He has Supreme Knowledge as He is the Ultimate Cause and hence Jnanam-uttamam.



This Vishnu Sahasranamam series is authored with the help of my friend Shri Balaji.



  1. Hari OM Uncle! The story of Sibi is very painful uncle. He must have had a lot of pain, he would have cried because of pain but he did not say that. So sad Uncle. Why do these Devas do such tests? Even god does not do that because he knows it would be painful for his devotee. They are very bad Uncle.
    This shlokam is for the nama of Satram, he is the protector of the pious like your story of Gajendra you put up here.

    yah svatmanidam nija-mayayarpitam
    kvachid vibhatam kva cha tat tirohitam
    aviddha-drik sakshy ubhayam tad ikshate
    sa atma-mula ‘vatu mam parat-paraha
    Hari OM UNCLE!

    • Hari Om Sambhavi,

      What an excellent quotation from Bhagavatam (8.3.4). I can not resist giving the full version from Swamiji Bhaktivedantananda Prabhuda’s book:

      yah svatmanidam nija-mayayarpitam

      kvacid vibhatam kva ca tat tirohitam

      aviddha-drik sakshy ubhayam tad ikshate

      sa atma-mulo ‘vatu mam parat-parah

      yah — the Supreme Personality of Godhead who; sva-atmani — in Him; idam — this cosmic manifestation; nija-mayaya — by His own potency; arpitam — invested; kvacit — sometimes, at the beginning of a kalpa; vibhatam — it is manifested; kva ca — sometimes, during dissolution; tat — that (manifestation); tirohitam — not visible; aviddha-drik — He sees everything (in all these circumstances); sakshi — the witness; ubhayam — both (manifestation and annihilation); tat ikshate — sees everything, without loss of sight; sah — that Supreme Personality of Godhead; atma-mulah — self-sufficient, having no other cause; avatu — please give protection; mam — unto me; parat-parah — He is transcendental to transcendental, or above all transcendence.

      The Supreme Personality of Godhead has multipotencies (parasya saktir vividhaiva sruyate). Therefore, as soon as He likes, He uses one of His potencies, and by that expansion He creates this cosmic manifestation. Again, when the cosmic manifestation is annihilated, it rests in Him. Nonetheless, He is infallibly the supreme observer. Under any circumstances, the Supreme Lord is changeless. He is simply a witness and is aloof from all creation and annihilation.

      God bless you.


    • Dear Shambavi

      Hari Om! Very good question! As usual your questions are innocent and thought provoking 🙂

      God always tests good people to assess the strength of their devotion! Just like Gold has to endure a lot of heat to become pure and attain its brilliance and value!

      But you can take comfort in the fact that when He gives pain, He also gives strength to endure the pain! And when He bestows his grace it’s blissful and all the pain vanishes like a dream or illusion 🙂

      God bless you!!!

  2. Hari Om Sir!
    Apt image of the season. Story is very beautiful and your interpretation on Yajnas is very interesting. The whole package is very enriching.
    dravya-yajnas tapo-yajna
    yoga-yajnas tathapare
    svadhyaya-jnana-yajnas ca
    yatayah samsita-vratah

    Om Namo Narayanaya!

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