In this part we will explore the meaning of the 59th Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.
Vedhaah Svaango Ajitah Krishno Dridhah Sankarshano Achyutah |
Varuno Vaaruno Vrikshah Pushkaraaksho MahaManah ||59||
Bhagavan is the Creator and Provider who has distinct marks of His sovereignty. He is Invincible and possesses irresistible charm that enchants His devotees while stupefying the Asuras. Bhagavan is steady and firm in His resolve and draws everyone into Him. He never slips from His word or position and envelops everything. He is with those who seek Him and provides them shelter like a tree provides shade. He has beautiful Lotus like eyes and a broad mind with a big heart to overlook the sins of those who surrender unto Him.
The above Shloka has the following Namas:
Now let’s examine the meaning of the above Namas in detail:
- Vedhaah – The Provider
Vedhaah has three meanings:
- The Provider
- The Doer of auspicious deeds
- The Creator
Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Vidhaata Srijati iti Vidhaata Vedhaah – He is the Creator of everything hence He is called Vedhaah’. Bhagavan, being the creator of Brahma, is the ultimate Creator and hence He is Vedhaah.
Sri Parasara Bhattar derives the meaning from “Vidadhaati iti Vedhaah” – He is the Giver or Provider of unlimited and varied objects of splendour. In the Katha Upanishad it says – “Eko bahunaam Vidadhaati Kaamaan” (2.2.13) meaning He is the only one that fulfills all the needs of everyone and everything in the creation.
Sri P. B. AnnangarAcharya Swami gives the second interpretation – “Anbargalukku mangalamaana vibhavangalai cheibavar – The Doer of auspicious deeds”.
- Svaangah – He who has the marks of sovereignty which are His own
The Nama Svaangah has several meanings:
- He is Sovereign and Supreme
- He is both the Instrumental Cause and the Material Cause of the Universe
- He has beautiful, well-proportioned limbs.
- He moves the Universe by Himself
Sri Adi Sankara explains this as ‘Svayameva Kaaryakarane angam Sahakaari iti Svaangah – He is Himself the instrument in accomplishing His works’.
In other words, He is both the material (Upaadaana) cause and instrumental (Nimitta) cause for everything. This Nama is a continuum of the previous Nama ‘Vedhaah – the Creator’. The Creator created everything using himself as the instrument hence He is ‘Svaangah’.
The term ‘Anga’ here refers to the celestial marks of sovereignty which are His own and unique, hence He is Svaangah. He is the Supreme King of all the worlds, and has the unique marks associated with that.
Sri Krishnadatta Bharadvaj gives the following explanation: “Svanyante Sabdyante Suktibhiriti Svaani; taadrshAAni angaani yasya iti Svaangah”.
Swami ChinmayAnanda says that the idea communicated is that Bhagavan is the Material Cause as well as the Instrumental Cause of this Universe. He also indicates that the Nama can be interpreted to mean that Bhagavan has beautiful, well-proportioned limbs.
Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha uses the meaning ‘ang – to go’ (agi – gatyarthaka dhaatu), and gives the interpretation that Bhagavan has moves by Himself, unlike all the other life forms which move only because He is present in them as the antaryami. When the self leaves the body, the body loses the ability to move. Unlike these, e.g., in the form of the Sun, Bhagavan moves by Himself without the need for any other external source.
The Dharma Chakram writer gives the meaning that He is One who helps Himself. He observes that meditation on this Nama of MahaVishnu should reveal to us that when we worship Him, there is no need for any external help for us from anyone or anything in this world, since all the things we need, will be met from within ourselves. It is only when we go after material pursuits that we need the support of others. Bhagavan is in the ultimate state where He needs nothing from anyone or anything.
- Ajitah – He is Invincible
This Nama has the following meanings:
- He is Invincible
- He is the Chief of the Unconquerable place called Ajita or Srivaikuntha.
- He appeared as Ajitah to help in churning the Ocean for nectar [SB 8.7.16]
- He who is unconquered in His vow to protect those who have surrendered to Him.
Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Na kenaapi Avataareshu jita iti Ajitah – in all His Avataars, He has remained undefeated by any of His enemies hence He is Ajitah’. Since Bhagavan is the embodiment of Truth it is not surprising that He is always the winner as a proof of the saying ‘Satyameva Jayate’.
Sri Parasara Bhattar says Ajita, AparAjita are also names for Parama padam (Vaikuntha), and as He is the Chief of SriVaikuntham, He is called Ajitah. He and His abode (Sri Vaikuntham) together with everything therein are composed of celestial matter called Shuddha Sattva, which is not subject to decay, birth and death. He is thus unconquered by the sway of birth, aging, decay, and death which are the characteristics of those that pertain to the world of Prakriti.
Sri V.V. Ramanujan gives reference to Srimad Ramayanam where Bhagavan’s Nama Ajita is mentioned in Yuddha Kandam (117.15) –Ajitah khadgadhrig Vishnuh KrishnaScaiva Mahabalah – The Invincible, the wielder of a sword named Nandaka, the all-pervader, the bestower of happiness to the earth and endowed with great might.”
Sri P. S. Krishnaswami Iyengar interprets Ajitah as referring to Bhagavan unfailingly protecting those who surrendered to Him. Sri Krishnadatta Bharadvaj gives the interpretation – na jitah kenapi tribhuvane iti ajaitah – One who has never been conquered by anyone ever in all the three worlds in any of His incarnations, so He is Ajitah.
The Dharma Chakram author says Lord is Satya Svarupi and Dharma Svarupi and hence Invincible as Satyameva Jayate. He gives innumerable examples to illustrate that Satya and Dharma are unconquerable, including those involving Prahlada, Harishchandra, the Pandavas, etc. The lesson to take from meditating on this Nama is the immensity of Dharma and Satya, and the greatness of life led conforming to these values.
Sri Radhakrishna Sastri gives yet another interpretation based on Srimad Bhagavtam (8.5.9).
tatraapi Devah sambhutyaam vairaajasya abhavat sutah |
Ajito Nama Bhagavan Amshena Jagatah Patih || (SB 8.5.9)
Meaning: Lord Viṣhṇu, the Master of the Universe, appeared in His partial expansion in the sixth manvantara as the son of DevaSambhuti and Vairaja to help with the churning of the Milky Ocean and in this Avataar, His name was Ajita.
In Srimad Bhagavatam, the following verse explains Ajitah:
mathyamānāt tathā sindhor devāsura-varūtha-paiḥ
yadā sudhā na jāyeta nirmamanthājitaḥ svayam || (SB 8.7.16)
Meaning: When the nectar did not come from churning the Ocean of Milk, despite so many endeavours by the best of the Devas and demons, the Supreme God, as Ajitah, personally began to churn the Ocean.
Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha points out that there is a question of one being conquered by another only when they can be compared to each other. In the case of MahaVishnu, there is no one else to compare to Him, and so there is no question of His being conquered by any other, and so He is Ajitah or unconquerable and unconquered.
- Krishnah – One with an Irresistible charm
This Nama occurred earlier as Nama 58 and has several meanings:
- One who is always in a state of bliss;
- The Dark-hued;
- He has an irresistible charm that attracts His devotees to Him through His infinite Kalyana Gunas;
- He who cultivates the Earth like a plough and makes it suitable for life forms to form and nourish;
- He who appeared as Veda Vyasa or Krishna Dvaipaayana;
- He who cultivates the minds of devotees by providing the Vedas in His incarnation as Krishna Dvaipaayana;
- The Dark, Mysterious, and Unknowable except by deep devotion
Sri Adi Sankara explains this as ‘Krishna Dvaipaayanah Krishnah – He is in the form of Vyaasa also known as Krishna Dvaipaayana, hence He is Krishnah’.
He quotes the following Shloka from Vishnu Purana (3.4.5):
Krishna Dvaipaayanam Vyaasam Viddhi Narayanam Prabhum |
Ko hi Anyah Pundareekaakshaan Mahabharatakrit Bhavet ||
Meaning: Consider Vyaasa as the incarnation of Vishnu because there is no one else who could have possibly created an epic like MahaBharata.
In the Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam opening shlokas, we have ‘Vyasaya Vishnu Rupaya Vyasarupaya Vishnave’ as an affirmation that Vyasa was a form of Vishnu.
Sri V.V. Ramanujan observes that unlike in Rama Avataar where Bhagavan went through enormous difficulties, in the Krishna Avataar Bhagavan was always in a state of enjoyment and indulging in His Leelas. He quotes from NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi:
- ‘Nattil Pirandu padaadhana pattu’ (7.5.2) – For the sake of humanity, Narayana took birth and walked on Earth, suffering countless miseries;
- ‘Inburum iv-vilaiyaattu udaiyaanaip petru (3.10.7) – His Cosmic Leelas causing pleasure and pain are endearing and I am so blessed to experience them.
In PeriAzhwar Thiru Mozhi (2.4.8), the Azhwar has composed this beautiful verse on Krishna:
கன்றினை வாலோலை கட்டிக் கனிக ளுதிர எறிந்து
பின்தொடர்ந் தோடிஓர் பாம்பைப் பிடித்துக் கொண்டாட்டினாய் போலும்
நன்திறத் தேனல்லன் நம்பீ நீபிறந் ததிரு நல்நாள்
நின்றுநீ நீராட வேண்டும் நாரணா ஓடாதே வாராய் 
Meaning: You tied a palm leaf to a calf‘s tail, then threw a calf (an Asura in disguise) against a tree felling its fruits. You ran after a snake (Kaliyan), grabbed and shook its tail, and danced on its hood (Kalinga Nardhanam). O’ Lord, I am no match for you, as today is your auspicious birthday, O Narayana, do not run away. Come, you must have your bath.
Another interpretation of Sri V.V. Ramanujan is that Bhagavan is laughing at us mockingly, seeing that we are not putting to good use the hands and legs and all the Indriyas that He has given us to help us to attain Him. Instead we are misusing these faculties and getting into an unending cycle of birth, death and rebirth.
Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets that this Nama indicates the Shuddha Sattva material which His body is made of and He has a fascinating complexion dark hue of a blue cloud. It is interesting to note that one of the names for grapes is Krishna because of this connotation of colour. So also, iron is called Krishna because of its black colour. This latter meaning is used to explain the significance of Bhagavan’s Nama as Krishna in MahaBharata Shanti Parva:
Krishaami medinim Paartha bhutva Krishnayaso mahaan |
Krishno varnashca me yasmaat tena Krishnoham arjuna ||
Meaning: When the earth becomes shelled by its hard crust, I turn myself into a great black iron. O Arjuna! Because of my dark complexion, I am called Krishna. The inner meaning of this is that He is not easily Knowable as he is mysterious and dark.
Sri V.V. Ramanujan gives references to the following:
- ‘Kannan enum karum daivam kaatchi pazhagi kidappenai’ (Sri Andal’s Nachiyar Thiiru Mozhi 13.1) – I lay enchanted and possessed by a dark God called Krishna.
- Thirumangai Azhwar’s Periya Thiru Mozhi 3.7.1:
கள்வன்கொல் யானறியேன் கரியானொரு காளைவந்து,
வள்ளிமருங் குலென்றன் மடமானினைப் போதவென்று,
வெள்ளிவளைக் கைப்பற்றப் பெற்றதாயரை விட்டகன்று,
அள்ளலம் பூங்கழனி யணியாலி புகுவர்க்கொலோ
Meaning: Was he a thief? I do not know. A dark young man came to see my slender-waist, fawn-eyed daughter saying, “Come!”, and held her hand adorned with bangles in his. Leaving me, her mother, she left. Would they have entered the beautiful Tiruvali surrounded by Lotus-filled lakes and fields?
Swami ChinmayAnanda uses the meaning “dark” for the word Krishna, and suggests that this Nama of Bhagavan signifies the “unknown factor” that is expressed through us – whose manifestations are all our physical, mental, and intellectual capabilities. Except by deep and sincere devotion, He cannot be comprehended, and so He is Krishnah – Dark and Mysterious.
The Dharma Chakram writer uses the concept of Bhagavan being like a plough and combines this with Sri Sankara’s interpretation to offer a new interpretation as He cultivates the mind of His devotees. His interpretation is Bhagavan, in the form of Vyasa, cultivates the minds of people by providing us with the Vedas, and so Vyasa is none other than Narayana and is referred to by the Nama Krishna Dvaipaayana.
The Story of Krishna, the ‘Chitta Chor’
A Brahmin Priest, whose profession was singing the glories of the Lord, was once reciting Srimad Bhagavatam in the house of a patron. A thief broke into the house while the recital was going on and hid in a deep corner.
He had to listen to Srimad Bhagavatam as he lay waiting for everyone to go. The singer was now describing the various ornaments that mother Yashodha adorned on the little Krishna before sending Him out with the cows. The thief was excited and thought that he should meet that lad and rob him of all the ornaments at one stroke instead of struggling daily with petty stealing.
He waited till the recitation of Srimad Bhagavatam was over and followed the Brahmin to know the whereabouts of the little Krishna. He waylaid the Brahmin and the Brahmin thought that he would lose even the small amount of dakshina that he received and told the thief, ‘I do not have anything with me’.
The thief replied that he was not keen to have any of his possessions but wanted some information about that lad he claimed to have the best ornaments who used to go out for grazing the cows. He beseeched him to take him to that place where the lad was grazing those cows.
The Brahmin immediately thought of a plan to escape and said, “In the town of Brindavan, on the banks of Yamuna river, in a green meadow, two boys come every morning. One is dark like the clouds with a flute, and the other fair, clad in white silk. The dark one will have all the ornaments as described by me earlier”.
The thief believed the Brahmin and set out for Brindavan immediately. He located the beautiful place, climbed up a tree and waited for the boys to arrive. As the Sun rose, faint melody of the flute wafted along the morning breeze. The enchanting music could then be heard closer and the thief spotted two boys coming. He got down from the tree and went near them. The moment he saw the most beautiful appearance of the little Krishna, he forgot himself, folded his hands and shed tears of joy. The tears were from his heart and it was chilling. He wondered which wretched mother had sent these radiant boys, chiselled to perfection, loaded with ornaments to the riverbank. He could not take his eyes off from the divinity .The transformation started.
He approached the boys shouting, “Stop,” and held Krishna’s hand. The moment he touched Lord Krishna, all his previous karmas were wiped out like a ball of cotton getting burnt in fire …. and with all humility he inquired lovingly, “Who are you?”
Krishna looked at him, innocently and said, “I am frightened by your looks. Please leave my hands”. The thief, now full of remorse, said to Krishna, “It is my evil mind which is reflected in my face. If you are frightened, I shall go away. Please don’t say I must leave you”.
The Natkhat (Divinely naughty) Krishna reminded the thief the purpose of his coming there and mocked him, “Here, take these ornaments”. Confused, the thief replied, “Will not your mother scold you if you gift away all your ornaments to me?” Krishna with a smile said, “Do not worry about that. I have plenty of them. I am a bigger thief than you. But there is a difference between you and me – however much I steal, the owners do not complain. I am lovingly called “Chitta Chora” (stealer of hearts). Though you are not aware of it, you have a previous ornament in your possession, the “Chitta (Heart) ”. I shall steal it now and take the same with Me.” So saying both the boys vanished.
To his surprise, the thief found a bag full of ornaments on his shoulder. He brought it to the Brahmin’s house and told him what had all happened. The Brahmin was now frightened and took the thief inside and opened the bag.
To his utter amazement he saw all the ornaments described by him as being worn by Krishna in the Srimad Bhagavatam, in the thief’s bag. Shedding tears of joy, the Brahmin asked the thief to take him to the place where he saw the dark boy. The thief obliged and both of them waited in the same place where the thief accosted the boy the previous day. Suddenly the thief exclaimed, “Look, here they come!” However, the Brahmin could not see any one. Stricken with disappointment, he said, “Lord, when You decided to give darshan to a thief, why not me?
Lord Krishna, out of abundant compassion, replied, “You are reading Srimad Bhagavatam as just as another story, whereas the thief actually believed what you told him about Me. I manifest only for those who have full faith in Me and surrender unto Me.”
- Dridhah – He is Firm and Determined
The Nama Dridhah has following meanings:
- He Who is firm and determined in His thoughts, words and deeds
- He Who is firmly established and cannot be negated as the Supreme Deity by counter-arguments
- He Who is huge and strong
Dridhah means firm or unshakeable in one’s posture or powers. Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Svaroopa Saamarthyaadeh Prachyutyabhaavaat Dridhah – He is firmly rooted in His form, powers and other attributes’.
Bhagavan is Dridha sankalpah i.e. firm in His resolve. He is Dridha roopah, He is unmovable in His form. He is Dridha balah, He is firm in His strength. He is firm in His love for His devotees. He is firmness and strength personified and hence He is called Dridhah.
Dridha literally means solid, firm, strong, massive, etc. The root word from which the Nama Dridhah is formed is ‘Drh – vrddhau’ meaning ‘to be fixed, firm or to grow’. Bhagavan’s various Avataars demonstrate the various aspects of Dridhah for e.g. as Kurma, Trivikrama or Narasimha.
Sri Radhakrishna Sastri interprets the Nama as referring to Bhagavan being firm in His actions – one meaning for Achyutah which we will cover later in this commentary. Swami ChinmayAnanda observes that even though Bhagavan is firm in His Infinite justice, this justice becomes ‘a-dridhah’ when a great sinner surrenders to Him, and Bhagavan immediately reaches out to help the sinner.
Bhagavan is Dridhah as He is firmly established as the Supreme Deity by Vedic pramanas and no amount of counter arguments can negate that.
Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha explains that everything that Bhagavan creates reflects His Guna of firmness. The Oceans have always been firm in keeping the massive amount of water in their bounds without exception, and the skeleton that holds the body together is firm from birth to death and never collapses from its shape, and the earth holds all its subjects and contents firmly. Bhagavan who is giving all of these their firmness, is thus also called Dridhah.
- Sankarshanah – He Who draws others near Him
Sri Adi Sankara takes Sankarshanah and Achyutah as a single Nama as Sankarshanocyutah, thereby combining the two aspects Sankarshana and Achyuta with a built in adjective. Sri Sankara says ‘Samhaarasamaye yugapat prajaah sankarshati iti Sankarshanah, Na chyotati svaroopaadi iti Achyutah, SankarshanoAchyutah iti naamaikam savishenam – He pulls everyone together towards Him at the time of the final dissolution hence He is called Sankarshanah. He never slips from His form or His power, hence He is Achyutah’. So He is SankarshanoAchyutah, as He firmly draws other unto Him.
Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets this as “Samsaare cit-acitoh Atmani samam karshanaat samam karsham nayati” – In this world, He draws towards Himself, both the cit? and acit in the same way and unites them. His power of attraction is uniform, and so He is called Samkarshana.
Sri Krishnadatta Bharadvaj gives the interpretation that ‘Bhagavan svajanaan AtmAnam prati svakIyaih vatsalya maadhuryaadi Gunaih karshati – He who draws His devotees towards Him through His infinite Gunas such as Vaatsalyam, His exquisite beauty, etc.
- Achyutah – One who never slips from His Glory
We covered this Nama twice earlier as Nama 101 and 320. There are several meanings:
- One who never slips from His Glory
- One who never lets His devotees slip
- One who undergoes no modifications such as birth, growth, decay, disease, death etc.
Achyuta means “One who has never fallen from His true nature”. Sri Parasara Bhattar points out that He does not ever fall from His position of over— lordship, unlike Brahma, Indra, etc. who are subject to loss of position, and therefore He is called Achyuta. In support of the interpretation that Bhagavan does not undergo transformations like others, Sri Parasara Bhattar quotes the following:
Cyavanotpattiukteshu brahmendra varunadishu |
Yasman na cyavase sthanat tasmat samkirtyase Achyutah ||
Meaning: Whereas Brahma, Varuna, and others are subject to birth and death and fall down from their position, You do not fall down like that, hence You are called Achyutah.
Sri Bhattar also gives an alternate interpretation as Bhagavan saying: “I have never abandoned (my Bhaktas). Because of this act of mine, I am known as Achyuta”. His words are “tebyah prapannebhyah na apagatah Achyutah – He is never away from those who have sought refuge in Him”.
Sri Tirukkallam Narasimha RaghavAcharyar has given the explanation that ‘na cyaavayati iti Achyutah’ meaning One who does not let His devotees slip. Arjuna called Lord Krishna as Achyuta since He has taken it upon Himself to be his charioteer and will ensure that Arjuna will never slip.
Sri Radhakrishna Sastri points out that He also does not slip from His position by being influenced by Kama etc. unlike Brahma, Indra etc. nor does not slip from stage to stage in the sequence of events such as birth, living, growth, change in appearance, decay, and finally disappearance from the body.
Sri V.V. Ramanujan adds the following reference from Srimad Ramayan in support of the interpretation ‘mitra-bhavena sampraptam na tyajeyam kathancana dosho yadyapi tasya syat – No matter what flaws a person may have, if he comes to Me seeking My friendship, there is no way that I will abandon him under any circumstance’.
In the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 12 Verse 1), Lord Krishna says ‘na me bhaktah pranashyati – My devotees never perish’.
The Dharma Chakram writer gives a simple analogy to illustrate the above. To drag someone who has fallen into a forceful river to safety, the saviour should be strong enough not to be drawn by the river himself, but also should have the strength to drag the other individual against the force of the river. Bhagavan is the Achyutah who has the firmness, resolve, and the power to save the Samsaris from the Ocean current of Samsaara.
- Varunah – He Who envelops
Sri Adi Sankara gives the explanation ‘Svarashmeenaam samvaranaat saayam gatah Sooryo Varunah – As the Sun sets He withdraws His rays unto Himself, hence He is called Varunah. As a support to this Sri Adi Sankara quotes the Vedic mantra ‘Imam me Varuna shrudhee havam – O’ Varuna, listen to this prayer of mine!’ Interestingly this is a standard prayer as a part of our evening Sandhya Vandanam.
The root word is derived from the ‘vrnj varane’ meaning ‘to envelop’.
Sri Parasara Bhattar gives the example of ‘Yena Avritam kham ca divam mahim ca – He encases the Ether, the Svarga, and the Earth’ (TaittirIya upanishad 1.1). In other words, He surrounds all the three worlds.
Swami ChinmayAnanda explains that Varuna is a term used for the evening sun. Like the sun who withdrawing His scorching rays unto himself in the evening, the Lord withdraws all the pluralistic world unto Himself. The Eternal Reality, functioning through the sun as the Sun’s energy and light, is described in the Upanishads as the “Golden One”, and hence the appropriateness of using this term Varuna for Narayana e.g., the designation Surya Narayana.
The Dharma Chakram writer lists the following interpretations: Varuna is the Lord of the waters; He is also the setting Sun in the evening; He is also the Lord of the western direction. Just as darkness envelops us when the Sun sets, those who do not have the thought of Bhagavan fall into darkness. As long as they have the thought of Bhagavan in their mind, there is the brightness of jnana guiding them.
- Vaarunah – He is with those who seek Him
This Nama has the following meanings:
- He is with those who seek Him as their Lord
- The Son of Varuna
- He removes the adversities of His devotees
Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Varunasya apatyam Vasishthah Agastyah Vaa Vaarunah – The son of Varunah denoting either Vasishtha or Agastya’. RigVeda 7:33 mentions Vasishtha Rishi as son of MitraVaruna and Urvasi. Similarly Agastya was said to be the son of the cosmic god, Varuna and the most beautiful nymph, Urvasi. Both Vasishtha and Agastya had aspects of MahaVishnu in them and hence the name Vaarunah to denote Bhagavan.
Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets the Nama as ‘tam Svamitvena Vrinute iti Varunah; tatra bhavo Vaarunah – Varuna refers to one who seeks Him as His master. Bhagavan is called Varuna since He is always with His seeker – Svamitvena Vrinaneshu sthito Vaaruna Iritah.
Sri V.V. Ramanujan gives the following references from the Divya Prabandham:
- Vandaai en manam pugundaai manni ninraai – (Thirumangai Azhwar Thiru Mozhi 1.10.9) – You came and entered my heart and have conquered it;
- Unnaik kondu ennul vaitten – (PeriAzhwar Thiru Mozhi 5.4.5) – I have kept you within Myself.
Bhagavan removes the adversities of His devotees and hence He is Vaarunah.
- Vrikshah – He provides shade like a tree
Sri Adi Sankara explains this as ‘Vriksha iva achalatayaa Sthitah iti Vrikshah – He stands firm and unmoving like a tree hence He is called Vrikshah’. He quotes the following passage from Svetasvatara Upanishad ‘Vriksha iva stabdhah divi tishthati ekah – He stands firmly like the tree in heaven’. The tree of Heaven is the Kalpavriksha which gives everything we wish for. Vriksha plays a huge part in preserving the planet’s ecology hence Bhagavan is rightly called by this name.
According to Sri Parasara Bhattar, Vriksha is derived from the root ‘Vrij Varane’ meaning ‘to seek or resort to’. Sri Bhattar points out that like a tree providing shade, Bhagavan is possessed of all things required by those who resort to Him, and He gives shade to even those who insult Him, just as a tree gives shade to even those who cut its branches. Sri P. B. AnnangarAcharya Swami points out that Bhagavan is waiting with open arms for the devotees to come to Him with His protection always available for them. So He is called Vriksha.
Sri Bhattar gives the following references in support of his interpretation – Nivaasa Vrikshah Sadhunam ApannAnaam para gatih – He is said to be the habitable tree for the polite and the Supreme refuge for those in distress (Ramayana 4.15.19). He also quotes from the Maha Narayana Upanishad (10.4) – Vriksha iva stabdho divi tishThatyekah – Like an unmoving and firm tree He stands in the Heavens.
Sri V.V. Ramanujan observes that there are several who get saved by this ‘Vasudeva taruc chaaya’ – the shade from the tree by name Vasudeva.
Swami ChinmayAnanda explains the Nama in terms of the world itself emerging out of Bhagavan being described as a “tree” in the Katha Upanishad (2.6.11) – Urdhva mula avaak Sakha esha Asvatthah sanatanah.
In the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 15 Verse 1, Bhagavan says:
Urdhva-mulam adhah-sakham asvattham prahur avyayam |
Chandamsi yasya parnani yas tam veda sa veda-vit ||
Meaning: There is a banyan tree which has its roots upward and its branches down and whose leaves are the Vedic hymns. One who knows this tree is the knower of the Vedas.
Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives different examples from the Srutis where the term Vriksha is used to refer to a tree:
- Vriksho na pakvah – (Rig. 4.20.5),
- Dva suparna sayuja sakhaya samanam Vriksham parishasvajaate (Rig. 1.164.20) – Two birds with fair wings, knit with bonds of friendship, in the same sheltering tree have found a refuge.
- yasmin vrikshe madhvadah suparnah nivishante stuvate caadhi vishve (Rg. 1.164.22) – The tree where the fine birds eat the sweetness, they rest and procreate, upon the top of the tree is Paramatma who can only be realised through Knowing.
Since Bhagavan appears in all these forms of Vriksha, He is known as Vrikshah.
Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives another interpretation for this Nama. Vriksha could also mean tearing apart, separating – based on ‘vrashc – chedane’ –meaning ‘to cut, to tear’. Bhagavan separates the different Jivas in His creation, He keeps the stars and the planets separated, the Sun tears apart the darkness, the tree separates out the fruits from the leaves and the branches, etc. So these are all Vrikshas viz. those that sort out different things. Bhagavan has thus manifested Himself in His Vriksha aspect and expanded this world in its variety. Sri Vasishtha proceeds to comment that one who understands this secret behind Bhagavan who is a Vriksha, will succeed in tearing apart from the tree of desire and reach Bhagavan the Vriksha from all aspects and dimensions.
The Dharma Chakram writer points out that the lesson to take from this Nama is not to just seek the shade alone from this Tree as Duryodhana did, but to really benefit from the fruits of this Tree as Arjuna did. If one only wants the temporary shade, then the shade of the tree keeps shifting with time relative to the Sun’s position, and so seeking the shade in the form of temporary benefits is not what will lead to permanent God realization. Instead of asking for the Krishna’s army and rejecting Krishna, as Duryodhana did, one should seek Him as Arjuna did, which will then take care of all the other needs.
- Pushkarakshah – He has nourishing eyes
This Nama has the following meanings:
- He has nourishing eyes
- He has beautiful lotus-like eyes
- He pervades all space
- He has the Sun and the Moon as His eyes
- He shines as the light of consciousness when meditated upon in the lotus of the heart
Sri Adi Sankara gives the interpretation that ‘Vyaapti Arthaat Akshater dhaatoh Pushkaropa padaat Anhpratyaye Pushkaraakshah – Pushkara means Universal Space, and akshu means pervading, and hence this means He pervades all space so He is called Pushkarakshah’.
Sri Sankara gives a second meaning as ‘Hridaya Pundareeke chintitah svaroopena Prakaashate iti vaa Pushkaraakshah – Pushkara is the heart lotus and Pushkaraaksha is one Who illuminates the heart lotus of the devotee who meditates on Him’.
Sri Parasara Bhattar derives the interpretation based on the root word ‘push – pushtau’ meaning ‘to nourish’. Swami Desikan describes His eyes in Sri Bhagavad Dhyana Sopanam as ‘Svagata udara netram’ – Lord Ranganatha’s Merciful eyes always look at the devotee who is approaching Him welcomingly. The beauty of His eyes are again described in Sri Dashavataara Stotram as resembling a forest of beautiful lotus flowers – aravinda gahanani tanvan iva datta kshanair vikshanaih (Shloka 2).
Pushkara refers to a Lotus, and aksha means eyes. So Pushkarakashah refers to One who Has Lotus-like eyes. Sri Krishnadatta Bharadvaj gives the shloka made renowned by Sri Ramanuja “tasya yatha kapyaasam pundareekam eva akshini” from Chandogya Upanishad 1.6.7 referring to Lord’s eyes as being of Red hue as the Lotus.
Pushkara also means Universal Space, and akshu means pervading, and Swami ChinmayAnanda follows Sri Sankara’s interpretation of the Nama as ‘He Who pervades all space’. He also describes the Lord’s eyes as beautiful as the Lotus flowers.
Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha uses a variant of the above, and also gives the interpretation that Bhagavan has the two eyes in space, viz. the Sun and the Moon (Yasya Suryash cakshush candramaashca punarnavah – Atharva. 10.7.33).
The Dharma Chakram writer observes that for a beginner who wants to practise meditation, concentrating on the heart-lotus is easier than concentrating on the space between the two eye-brows.
- MahaManah – He is generously disposed towards His devotees
This Nama has the following meanings:
- He is generously minded
- He has a highly capable mind
- He Who has a mind (intellect) with unlimited capability
Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Srishti Sthiti Anta Karmaani Manasaa eva karoti iti Mahamanaah – He performs the acts of Creation, Preservation and Dissolution just by the power of His mind and hence He is Mahamanah, one with the mighty mind’. Sri Sankara also quotes from the Vishnupurana (5.22.15), ‘Manasaiva Jagat Srishtim samhaaram cha karoti yah – He creates and destroys the world by His mind alone without any use of organs of action’. This shows the exceptional quality of His mind.
Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets this as Bhagavan having a generous and a broad mind towards His devotees, so He is called Maha-ManAh.
Sri V.V. Ramanujan gives reference from the Divya Prabhandham:
- Un adiyaarkku en seyvan enre irutti ni (NammAzhwar’s Periya Thiruvandhadi – 53) – You are—-always keen to do something for your devotees;
- Adiyan ivan enru enakku Ar arul Seyyum nediyaan – The Lord keeps me as His servant and blesses me.
His Nature is that He forgives even the worst of sinners when they surrender to Him – such is His broad-mindedness.
Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha says that Bhagavan is Mahamanah because He has knowledge which supercedes anyone else’s knowledge in this Universe. Also as the antaryAmI in everything that exists, He knows everything there is to know. All great ones pray to Him for knowledge:
Yaam medhaam devaganaah pitarshca upAsate |
Taya maam adya medhaya agne medhaavinam kuru || (Yajur. 32.14).
Meaning: Agni, lord of light and knowledge, I pray, enlighten me here and now with that discriminative intelligence which the noblest people of piety and senior guardians of humanity value and pray for.
The Dharma Chakram writer observes that in the sequence body, Indriyas, and mind, the body is the Sthula or bigger one, and mind is the subtle one or Sukshma. The subtler one is the more capable in this sequence, and without the mind the Indriyas don’t function, and without the Indriyas the body does not function.
Bhagavan in MahaManah as He is very generous and is favourably disposed towards His devotees.
Vedhaah Svaango Ajitah Krishno Dridhah Sankarshano Achyutah |
Varuno Vaaruno Vrikshah Pushkaraaksho MahaManah ||59||
Bhagavan is the Creator and Provider, so He is Vehaah. He has distinct marks of His sovereignty that are His own and hence He is Svaangah. He is Ajitah or Invincible. As Krishna, He possesses irresistible charm that enchants His devotees while stupefying the Asuras. Bhagavan is steady and firm in His resolve, so He is called Dridhah.
At the time of dissolution He draws everyone into Him and hence He is Sankarshanah. He never slips from His word or position, so He is Achyutah.
As the Sun sets He withdraws the rays of Sun unto Himself. He envoleps everything and covers the three worlds, so He is Varunah.
He is with those who seek Him, hence He is Vaarunah. As Vrikshah He provides shelter o His devotees just like a tree provides shade to anyone resting beneath it. He has beautiful Lotus like eyes, so He is called Pushkaraakshah.
He is MahaManah as He has a broad mind with a big heart to overlook the sins of those who surrender unto Him.
HARI OM TAT SAT
OM NAMO NARAYANAAYA
This Vishnu Sahasranamam series is authored with the help of my friend Shri Balaji.