In this part we will explore the meaning of the 63rd Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.

Shloka 63
Shubhaangas Shaantidas Srashtaa Kumudah Kuvaleshayah |
Gohito Gopatir Goptaa Vrishabhaaksho Vrishapriyah    ||63||

The Lord is charming and enchanting possessing lovely limbs.  He is the bestower of Peace and He is the Creator. He has a joyous disposition who is also the Lord of Bhuma Devi.  He is reclined on a Snake and is is surrounded by water. He protects all beings and is Lord of the Universe. He is shrouded in Maya and is mysteriously enveloped in His own illusion. His merciful eyes shower desired benefits on all in accordance with Dharma. He has prescribed the code of conduct i.e. Dharma and holds that dear to Him.  He is the beloved of the virtuous and He has proclaimed that He will reincarnate millennium after millennium to uphold Dharma.

The above Shloka has the following Namas:

  1. Shubhaangah
  2. Shaantidah
  3. Srashtaa
  4. Kumudah
  5. Kuvaleshayah
  6. Gohitah
  7. Gopatih
  8. Goptaa
  9. Vrishabhaakshah
  10. Vrishapriyah

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

  1. Shubhaangah – One who is Enchanting

RamaSri Adi Sankara defines this as ‘Sundaraam tanum Dhaarayan Shubhaangah – One who is handsome’. In the Dhyaana Shloka, we have ‘Shaantaakaaram Bhujagashayanam Padmanaabham Suresham Vishvaakaaram Gaganasadrisham Meghavarnam Shubhaangam’ where there is a reference to Shubhaangam.

Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets the term anga here to refer to the eight accessories of Yoga i.e. Ashtanga Yoga – Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi. All of these are auspicious (Shubha) on account of the devotion to Him and are obtained by His Grace.  It is He who helps the devotee to successfully complete the process of meditation.

The Dharma Chakram writer explains how the practice of Ashtanga Yoga results in the realisation of Oneness with Bhagavan.  One gets control of the mind by practicing Yama and Niyama, the first two of the 8 Angas of the Ashtanga Yoga, with their respective aspects:

  • Ahimsa, Satya, Brahmacharya, Asteya, and Aparigraha as part of Yama; and
  • Sauca, Santosha, Svadhyaya, Tapas, and Atma Samarpanam as aspects of Niyama.

Asana and Pranayama help in developing the body so that it is fit for the meditation on Him.  The next four Angas of the Ashtanga Yoga – Pratyahara, Dharana,  Dhyana, and Samadhi  – develop and nurture the thought and concentration on divinity continuously with each step,  with the ultimate goal of realising Him through the Samadhi state.

The Lord’s beauty is wonderfully described with excitement by Pey Azhwar when he first had his first darshan of the Lord in Thirukovilur. The Azhwar, in his first Pasuram from the Mundram (3rd) Thiruvandhadhi ThiruMozhi excitedly describes the Lord and his consort Lakshmi as below:
திருக்கண்டேன் பொன்மேனி கண்டேன் * திகழு
மருக்கனணிநிறமுங் கண்டேன்* செருக்கிளரும்
பொன்னாழி கண்டேன் புரிசங்கங் கைக்கண்டேன்*
என்னாழி வண்ணன்பா லின்று   [2282]
Meaning: I had the darshan of periya piratti (the divine consort); Then, I saw His beautiful body which was like a glowing Sun; I had the darshan of His scintillating radiance, His divine hand showing the valour with His beautiful divine discus (Sudharsana Chakram) and the other hand holding the divine conch.

This Pasuram has a special significance as it has an interesting episode associated with it.

The Story of Thirukovilur

thiruvikrama-perumalThe story goes that the first three of the Azhwars – Poigai Azhwar, Bhoothath azhwar and Pey Azhwar (referred to as the Mudhal Azhwars) – came to Thirukovilur on a rainy night. Poigai Azhwar of Kanchipuram, who reached first, sought refuge at the ashram of Mrugandu Rishi who agreed to allow him in on the condition that there was place for just one person to sleep and that he was welcome to sleep there for the night.

Bhoothathazhwar, from Thiru Kadal Malai (Mahabalipuram), followed shortly. He was welcomed with the message that there was place for one to sleep and two to sit and brought him inside. Pey Azhwar, from Thiru Mylai (Mylapore), who was the last to reach the ashram, was told that there was place for one to sleep, two to sit and three to stand. The three of them stood there through the night sharing their experiences.

A little later, the Mudhal Azhwars felt the presence of a fourth person and with space only for three to stand, they felt uncomfortable. The three azhwars realised from the light of the lightning that the fourth one had a charming face that was sublime and divine. The trio could immediately realize that it was  was Ulagalantha Perumal of Thirukovilur who was huddling among them.

Poigai Azhwar wished to see Vishnu’s face continuously but could view only from the simmering light of the lightening. With a view to maintain the continuity of light, he instantly composed hundred songs beginning with wishing the earth to be a big pot full of ghee like an ocean where the Sun could be the burning wick (Vaiyam Thagazhiyay Vaarkadaley).

Bhoothathazhwar followed it with 100 verses beginning with ‘Anbey Thagaliye’ in his Irandam (2nd) Thiruvandhadi.

Peyazhwar described his moment of happiness by singing ‘Thiru Kanden Ponmeni Kanden’ excitedly after the darshan of Ulagalandha Perumal in the lightning on that dark stormy night at Mrugandu Rishi’s Ashram in Thirukovilur. He then showered 100 verses in his Mundram (3rd) Thiruvandhadhi praising the Lord.

sri-thiruvikrama-perumal-temple_1420964345Thus, it was at Tirukovilur that the first verses of Divya Prabhandham were composed and hence this place is credited as being the temple of origin of the 4000 Divya Prabhandams. The ashram where the three Azhwars stayed that rainy night is where one finds the sanctum today.

For this special contribution, all the three Azhwars find a place inside the sanctum next to the gigantic Lord Trivikrama who is 24 ft in height and is seen in a grand standing posture with his right leg raised 90 degrees to his right.

Vamana Avatara displayed again

Pleased with the prayers of Mrugandu Rishi but wanting to test him more, Lord Vishnu visited his ashram disguised as an old hungry Brahmin. With no food at the ashram, the rishi’s wife sought help from the Lord. Happy with their commitment of not letting the Brahmin go without feeding him, the Lord filled the vessels with food, much to the surprise of the Rishi.

When the happy couple came out to offer food to the Brahmin, they saw Lord Vishnu with the conch and chakra. Delighted, the Rishi requested the Lord to appear in his Vamana Avataar this place and to stay forever at Thirukovilur.

Thirukovilur is one of the sacred Pancha Krishnaranya Kshetrams. The others being Thiru Kannangudi, Thiru Kannamangai, Thiru Kannapuram and Kapisthalam.  Thirukovilur is located near Villupuram.

The Lord’s beauty is described in numerous scriptures. Lord Rama’s beauty is described in Srimad Ramayana where Lord Hanuman elaborates Lord Rama’s beauty in many verses in Sundara Kandam when he first meets Sita Piratti in Ashoka Vanam.

Swami ChinmayAnanda interprets Shubhaanga as One who has the most beautiful form. That one who is enchanting, most handsome.

In Chandogya Upanishad (1.6.7), we have the description –
Ya esho’ntarAditye hiranmayah purusho ucyate |
tasya yathaa kapyaasam pundarika evam akshini||
Meaning: He shines like gold in the middle of the Sun, and His eyes shine like the blossoming Lotus.

This is the famous verse which led to the argument between Ramanuja Acharya and his Guru Yadava Prakasa. One day Ramanuja was massaging his guru’s back as Yadava Prakasa explained the above verse from the Chandogya Upanishad.  Following the interpretation of Sankara Acharya, Yadava Prakasa explained the words ‘kapyaasam pundarika evam akshini’ as Lord’s eyes are red like a monkey’s ass (kapy means “monkey” and asanam means “ass”).

Ramanuja and Yadava PrakasaRamanuja was enraged at this blasphemy, and the hot tears flowed which from his eyes in anguish fell upon his guru’s back. Yadava Prakasa could understand that his disciple was disturbed, and inquired as to what the problem was. When Ramanuja took issue with his guru’s interpretation, Yadava Prakasa was astonished. Ramanauja explained that kapyasam means “that which sits upon the water and flourishes by drinking,”—in other words, a lotus.  So the meaning of the verse is that the eyes of Lord Vishnu are as beautiful as the red Lotus which blossoms in the water.” From that day, Yadava Prakasa began to plot Ramanuja’s elimination.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj interpets the Nama as “One Who has the form that bestows Subham or mangalam on those who meditate on His Charanam (Feet), Vadanam (Thirumeni), Nayanam (Lotus eyes), etc.  – Subhaani – darahakaanaam manga lot padakaani; angaani – Charana vadana nayanaadIni; yasya iti Shubhaangah.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishta interprets the word anga based on the root ang – to go, and his interpretation of this Nama is that Bhagavan is Shubhaangah since He makes everything auspicious by His very movement in every form, of His very presence in everything that is moving, for example the Sun.

  1. Shaantidah – The bestower of eternal peace.

sri-padmanabha-swamy-thiruvananthapuramSri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Raaga-dveshaadi-nirmoksha-lakshanaam Shaantim Dadaati iti Shaantidah – Bhagavan bestows peace of mind characterised by complete absence of likes and dislikes, and so He is called Shaantidah’.

In the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 2 Verse 71, Krishna says:
Vihaaya kaamaan yassarvaan pumaamscharati Nissprihah;
Nirmamo Nirahankaarah Sa Shaantim adhigacchati ||
Meaning: A person who has given up all desires for sense gratification, who lives free from desires, who has given up all sense of proprietorship and is devoid of false ego—he alone can attain real peace.  Submission to Bhagavan brings about this kind of absolute peace and mental tranquillity.

Sri Parasara Bhattar continues the interpretation of this Nama in the context of the previous one – to those who have thus perfected their devotion to Him through observances such as the yoga referred to above, He bestows ever-lasting peace in the form of His own realisation.  For them there is no longer any fear of rebirth in this world.  In other words, Shanti here refers to Moksha, and He is the Moksha-pradhaan.  Sri Parasara Bhattar gives the support from Svetasvatara Upanishad 3.7:
Tatah param brahma param bruhantam yathaanikaayam sarvabhooteshu gooDham |
Vishvasyaikam pariveshtitaaram eesham tam gyaatva amrutaa bhavanti || 3.7 ||
Meaning: Higher than this personal Brahmanis the infinite Supreme Brahman, who is concealed in all beings according to their bodies, and who, though remaining single, envelops the whole Universe. Knowing Him to be the Lord, one becomes immortal.

In Svetasvatara Upanishad Chapter 4 Verse 11, it says ‘tameeshaanam varadam devameedyam nichaayyemaam shaantim atyantam iti’ meaning when a person realises that effulgent Lord who is the Ruler, the grantor of boons, worthy of praise and is the Inner Soul, he obtains the highest peace.

In the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 18 Verse 62, the Lord says:
tam eva saranam gaccha sarva-bhavena bharata
tat-prasadat param santim sthanam prapsyasi sasvatam ||
Meaning: O Arjuna, just surrender unto Him completely in every way; By His grace you will receive transcendental peace and the supreme and eternal abode.

Swami ChinmayAnanda explains that Lord Narayana dispenses that Peace which puts an end to likes and dislikes (Raga and Dvesha). He is the One who cleanses the mind of His devotees and gives to each the Inner Peace and Joy.

The Dharma Chakram writer refers us to Thiruvalluvar who defines God as one who is “Vendudal vendamai ilaadaan”.  By our dedicating our thoughts to Him, we can get to the stage where we will be able to get away from likes and dislikes, and thus attain true inner peace.

The lesson to take from this Nama is that He is the Bestower of the Ultimate Peace – Moksha, which one gets by constantly meditating on Him.

  1. Srashtaa – The Creator

mahavishnuSri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Sargaadau Sarvabhootaani sasarja iti Srashtaa – He created all beings at the beginning of creative Cycle hence He is called Srashtaa’.

In the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 9 Verse 7, Lord Krishna says:
Sarva-bhutani kaunteya prakrtim yanti mamikam
Kalpa-ksaye punas tani kalpadau visrjamy aham ||
Meaning: O’ son of Kunti, at the end of the millennium every material manifestation enters into My nature, and at the beginning of another millennium, by My potency, I again create’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar explains that the root from which this Nama is derived is ‘srj – to create’.  Just as He bestows Moksha to those who long for it, He also bestows Samsara on those who ask for it through their Karma.  Thus He is the Creator as well.

A Bhagavata called Govindasamy asks for Moksha from Bhagavan but Bhagavan discerned the yearning for worldly pleasures in the Bhagavata and blessed him Samsara for satisfaction of his desires and said after sating his desires he can come to Vaikuntam.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan gives reference from NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi:

  • Kadal jnaalam Seidenum yaane (5.6.1) – I made this Earth and the Ocean;
  • mun-nir jnaalam padaitta em mugil vannane (3.2.1) – O cloud-hued Lord, you made the Earth and Ocean; and
  • Lord Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita (7.6) – aham kritsnasya jagatah prabhavah – I am the Source of the entire Creation.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj explains – Srijati Lokanam iti Srashta – He Created this World.

He quotes from the Rig Veda 10.81.6:
Saṃ bāhubhyāṃ dhamati saṃ patatrairdyāvābhūmī janayan deva ekaḥ ||
Meaning: He, the Sole God, producing earth and heaven, weldeth them, with his arms as wings, together.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri refers us to  Svetasvatara Upanishad 4.14 – Vishvasya srashtaram aneka rupam – He creates the world assuming various forms.  He also refers to the Aitareya Upanishad 1.2 – sa iman lokAn asrjata meaning He Created these Worlds.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishta explains that Bhagavan keeps all the beings inside Himself at the time of Pralaya (Deluge), and then puts them out at the time of Srishti (Creation), and so He is Srashtaa.

Swami ChinmayAnanda observes that He is the Creator of all beings. In the beginning, He has created all from Himself as the Great Five Elements.

The Dharma Chakram writer looks at the positive aspect of creation – by giving the body to the Jiva, Bhagavan gives the Jiva one more opportunity for it to seek and attain Him.  The beauty of this interpretation is that whatever He does, He does it for our welfare, including all the punishments that He gives us.

  1. Kumudah – He delights during his earthly incarnations

yasoda-krishna_3aSri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Kau bhoomyaam Modate iti Kumudah – He revels on the earth hence He is called Kumudah’. He showed all His Leelas or the sports during His various incarnations on the earth and enjoyed himself on the earth.

Another version of Sri Adi Sankara’s commentary is ‘Kum Dharaneem Bhaaraavataaranam Kurvan modayati iti – He pleased the earth by reducing its load’. For example He took the Krishna incarnation specifically to reduce the population and lighten the load for the earth.

Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets the Nama as ku-mudah.  Ku refers to the Prakriti mandalam – the world that consists of objects that are a source of pleasure for all created objects from brahma to a tiny blade of grass. He gives these objects Rupam, Rasam, Sabdam etc., and gives the beings the ability to experience the worldly objects.  Bhagavan makes all beings enjoy as He Himself feels delighted by that, hence He is Ku-mudah.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers to NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi (3.10.7) –
துன்பமும் இன்பமு மாகிய செய்வினை யாயுல கங்களுமாய்,
இன்பமில் வெந்நர காகி இனியநல் வான் சுவர்க் கங்களுமாய்,
மன்பல் லுயிர்களு மாகிப் பலபல மாய மயக்குகளால்,
இன்புரும் இவ்விளை யாட்டுடை யானைப்பெற் றேதுமல் லலிலனே.
Meaning: Through His many tricks of Maya He made the Karmas, – of pleasure and pain, -the protector of the world and the countless souls, the creator of the lowly Hell and the sweet Heaven.  All this in His Cosmic Leela-play, so I end my despair and praise Him.

Sri Ramanujan further elaborates that this world made Rama suffer when He lost His Kingdom, His consort SIta, was forced to live in a forest, etc. Yet He found His pleasure to be in the company of Lakshmana, Hanuman, Sugreeva and other Rishis. NammAzhwar describes how Bhagavan mingles and revels with His devotees – oru idam ondru indri ennul kalandhaan (Thiruvai Mozhi 2.5.2) – meaning He took over completely by touching every aspect of me.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri interprets this Nama with the same meanings for the words ku and muda i.e. He delights in His Company with Bhumi Piratti, and so He is called Ku-mudah. An alternate interpretation is that He takes incarnations on this earth to get rid of the evil and to protect the good, and thus He delights Himself on this earth.

Swami ChinmayAnanda interprets the Nama as indicating that Bhagavan revels in the Earth.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishta derives the meaning based on the root ‘kai – Sabde’ – to sound, and thus interprets the Nama as indicating Bhagavan’s Guna of deriving pleasure through Sabda, in the form of giving this experience to His creations in the form of their power of
speech, hearing, music etc. One could also interpret this as Him deriving pleasure from hearing the chanting of the Vedas and the Sama Gana.

The Dharma Chakram writer illustrates the dimension of the pleasure that is derived by Bhagavan in this world through an example.  He refers us to the pleasure that a small ant derives out of a huge mound of sugar.  Even though this is a huge source of pleasure for the ant, all the ant sees of this is the few particles of sugar that it needs to fill itself, and then a few more particles to save for the future in its nest.  The pleasure that we see in this world through our five indiryas etc. is similar to what the ant enjoys, and most of us miss out on the great store of pleasure called Bhagavad anubhavam.  What Bhagavan offers and derives out of this world is the huge mound that we don’t take advantage of.  This Nama illustrates to us that the true pleasure to be derived out of this world and the greater pleasure, which is accessible to us is obtained by meditating on His Nama and by dedicating ourselves in His Kainkaryam (service).

  1. Kuvaleshayah He who is reclining waters surrounding the Earth

Vishnu with Pearl MalaSri Adi Sankara interprets this in three ways depending on the meaning assigned to the word Kuvala. The first is ‘Koh Kshitervalanaat samsaranaat Kuvalam Jalam Tasmin shete iti Kuvaleshayah – He is reclining in the waters circling the earth hence He is called Kuvaleshayah’.

The second is ‘Kuvalasya badareephalasya madhye shete Takshakah Soapi tasya vibhootih iti vaa Hari Kuvaleshayah – Kuvala is Badaree fruit and Takshakah the snake which sleeps in the centre of a Badaree fruit is Kuvaleshayah and this is also a symbol of the glory of Bhagavan and hence Bhagavan is called Kuvaleshayah’.

The third interpretation is ‘Kau Bhoomyaam valate samshrayate iti Sarpaanaam udaram Kuvalam tasmin Seshodare shete iti Kuvaleshayah – The bellies of snakes are called Kuvalam because they are resting on the earth and therefore Hari is called Kuvaleshayah as he reclines on the belly of the snake called Adishesha’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar derives the meaning of this Nama as ‘ku-vala-Isha-ya’.  ‘Ku’ refers to the world as pointed out in the previous Nama. ‘Vala’ means valanti or wandering, Isha means Ruler and thus, ‘Ku-vala-Isha’ refers to the Jivas who wander around this world with the thought that they are the masters of their bodies and that they control everything about themselves.  Yah is the part that refers to Bhagavan who goes after (Yati – goes) these Jivas, i.e., keeps them under control.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishta looks at the Nama as ‘ku + vala  + Ishah  + yah’ just like Sri Bhattar.  However, he interprets the Nama as referring to Bhagavan who has control (Ishah) over all those that make sound (kai – Sabde – to sound, see previous Nama), all those that walk or move (vala), etc.   In other words, He is the antaryami (in-dweller) in everything.

The Dharma Chakram writer explains that the Pancha Bhutas evolved in the sequence Ether, Air, Fire, Water and Earth.  Since the Earth arose from water, it is surrounded by Water.  The Pancha Bhutas arose from Him, and so Bhagavan is represented in the Nature that originated from Him.

  1. Gohitah – He protected the Cows by lifting and holding the Govardhana Giri

Govardhan_Lila1Sri Adi Sankara interprets this in two ways. The first is ‘Gavaam vriddhyartham goardhanam dhritavaan iti Gobhyo hito Gohitah – For the protection of the cows He held up the Govardhana hill on His finger hence He is Gohitah or the one who protected the cows’. The second interpretation is ‘Goh Bhoomeh Bhaaravataranecchayaa  Shareeragrahanam kurvan vaa Gohitah – Goh is the Earth and He looked after the welfare of the Earth by taking various Avataars to reduce the burden of the Earth by protecting the good people and destroying the evil ones’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar’s interpretation is that “Go” here refers to Prakriti (the Primordial Matter) which is the field where the seeds for Samsara are sown.  Hitah refers to Him who gives ‘hita’ or welfare to this world, who controls and looks after this world.

Sri V.V. Ramanujam gives the support from NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi (4.7.2) – Kolla maalaa inba vellam kodila tandidum en vallal (4.7.2) – The immeasurable joy that I experience calling out for your night and day.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishta uses the root ‘gatau’ – to go, and gives the interpretation that Bhagavan is Go-hitah because He facilitates the movement of all beings in this world.

Swami ChinmayAnanda interprets this as Sri Krishna protecting the cows by holding up the Govardhana Giri.

  1. Gopatih – The Lord of the Earth

Nithyakalyana-Perumal-in-ThiruvidanthaiSri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Goh Bhoomyaah Patih Gopatih – He is the Lord and protector of the Earth and also the Lord of Bhuma Devi,  hence He is called Gopatih’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets the word “Go” in current occurrence of the Nama as referring to the Bhoga Bhumi Svarga, and thus gives the meaning as “He Who is the Lord of those in Svarga”.

Bhagavan is the Lord of this world and the Celestial world; time and time again He comes to the rescue of the Devas when the Asuras gain an upper hand.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan quotes from NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi (1.8.3):
கண்ணா வானென்றும், மண்ணோர்விண்ணோர்க்கு,
தண்ணார் வேங்கட, விண்ணோர் வெற்பனே.
Meaning: Always dear-as-eyes to celestials and mortals, He rules over Venkatam, where Devas vie to serve Him.

Swami ChinmayAnanda interprets the Nama as Lord as the husband of Bhuma Devi. His other interpretations include Lord of all Sense organs and Lord of the Cows.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishta gives the meaning that He is the Protector of all, starting with the meaning ‘gau – to Go’.  In other words, He shows the path for all the beings, and protects them.  He even acts as the Sarathy of a chariot directs the chariot and protects.

  1. Goptaa – The Protector

varahaSri Adi Sankara gives two interpretations for this Nama. The first is ‘’Rakshako Jagata iti Goptaa – He is the Protector of the world hence He is called Goptaa’. The second interpretation comes from the root Gup meaning to cover or conceal and that is ‘Svamaayayaa Svamaatmaanam Samvrinoti iti Goptaa – He conceals Himself using His own power of Maya hence He is called Goptaa’.

In the Bhagavad  Gita (7.25), the Lord says:
Naham prakasah sarvasya yoga-maya-samavrtah
Mudho ‘yam nabhijanati loko mam ajam avyayam ||
Meaning: I am not revealed to everyone being veiled by my illusory potency (Maya) in the external energy. The ignorant in this world cannot understand Me, the unborn and Imperishable.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishta explains that He keeps Himself hidden (Svayam Atma Guptah), and at the same time He protects everyone because this is His Dharma (Goptaa sa Vishnuh sa hi Goptrdharma).  Thus, He uses both the meanings of ‘gup’ – to conceal and to protect’ in his interpretation.

Swami ChinmayAnanda gives a similar interpretation and explains that He protects the Universe while at the same time He veils Himself in Maya His glorious Divine Self.

The Dharma Chakram writer explains that Only He can protect us, and no one else can.  It is not just that He is the Protector, but there is no one else who can protect us.

Swami Desikan’s beautifully expresses in his verses in Sri Ashtabhujashtakam and Kamasikashtakam, seeking Prapatti from the Lord:
bhayam kutah syaat tvayi saanukampe   |
rakshah kutah syaat tvayi jaataroshe    ||     Sri Ashtabhuj Ashtakam 5
Meaning: Where is the need to fear anything when I am Your protégé, My God? And if I am not Your protégé, then there is no one else who can protect me.

tava pravritte mama kim prayaasaih    |
tvayyapravritte mama kim prayaasaih   ||   Sri Ashtabhuj Ashtakam 6
Meaning: If He decides to protect us, with Periya Piratti (Mahalakshmi) standing in support of us by His side constantly, it does not matter what other efforts we undertake. Thus He is the only Upaya (means), and there is no other Upaya for Moksha.

tvayi rakshati rakshakaih kim ananyaih   |
tvayi Chaarakshati rakshakaih kim ananyaih    ||  Sri Kamasika Ashtakam 8
Meaning: Bhagavan is the only one who can protect us.  If He does not protect us no one else can protect us, and if He decides to protect us, we don’t need anyone else’s protection.

  1. Vrishabhaakshah – He showers fruits of action as per Dharma

uddhava_gita_krishnaThe two parts of this Nama are Vrishabha and aksha.  Vrishabha is derived from the root ‘Vrshu – secane’ meaning ‘to shower or to rain’.  Vrishabha also denotes dharma.  The word Aksha means axle or eye.  The union of the two words then leads to the different interpretations.

Sri Adi Sankara in his first interpretation says ‘Sakalaan kaamaan Varshuke Akshinee asya iti – His merciful eyes shower desired benefits on all in accordance with Dharma, hence He is called Vrishabhaakshah’. Whether He looks at His devotees or the devotees look at Him the effect is the same.

Sri Sankara gives his second explanation which is ‘Vrishabho dharmah Sa eva vaa drishtih asya iti Vrishabhaakshah – His vision is guided by Dharma with Dharma being His firm objective, so He is Vrishabhaakshah’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar gives the interpretation that Bhagavan is the Dharma axle that supports the wheel of Samsara. Vrishabha means Dharma and He showers the fruits of actions keeping in line with Dharma – Phala VarshI Vrishabho dharmah.

Bhagavan is the axle of support for Samsara Chakra in the form of Dharma – ‘Sah akshah  Samsara Chakra Adharah’.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan gives reference from NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi (2.8.5) and refers to the Lord as:
ஒவாத்துயர்ப்பிறவி யுட்படமற்றெவ்வெவையும்,
மூவாத்தனிமுதலாய் மூவுலகும்காவலோன்,
மாவாகியாமையாய் மீனாகிமானிடமாம்,
தேவாதிதேவபெருமா னென்தீர்த்தனே.
Meaning: The Supreme Lord, the causeless cause of the flowing Universe, its creation, sustenance and destruction, Chief of the Celestials, Who sanctified me, who incarnated as Horse, Turtle, Fish and Man and protected the three worlds.

The Dharma Chakram writer points out the example of Duryodhana and Arjuna, and shows how Dharma is what protects one ultimately.   Bhishma told Duryodhana when the latter asked Bhishma to fight on his side, that no matter who fights on Duryodhana’s side, he will lose because he is following the path of Adharma, and Arjuna’s side will win because he is following the path of Dharma.  This Nama teaches us that Bhagavan will always be on the side of Dharma, and if we follow the path of Dharma, He will bestow His blessings on us.

“Dharma eva hato hanti | Dharmo rakshati rakshitah” – One who destroys Dharma is destroyed by Dharma and One who protects or upholds Dharma is protected by Dharma.

  1. Vrisha-priyah – The beloved of the Virtuous

1511502_716731801705171_1904257645_nVrisha also means Dharma and based on this Sri Adi Sankara offers two interpretations. The first is ‘Vrisho Dharmah Priyo yasya sah Vrishapriyah – He loves Dharma hence He is called Vrishapriyah’. He is Dharmee as a previous Nama calls Him and so He is Dharma incarnate and no doubt Dharma is close to His heart.

The second interpretation is ‘Vrishashchaasau Priyashcha iti vaa – He is both Dharma and lovable hence He is called Vrishapriyah’. Generally the path of Dharma is difficult to follow, often challenging people with tough choices. However, Bhagavan stands for Dharma and yet He is lovable as He combines the two attributes which normally stand apart, hence He is Vrishapriyah.

Sri Parasara Bhattar gives the interpretation that ‘Vrisho Dharmah priyo yasya iti Vrisha-priyah’ meaning Bhagavan is Vrisha-priyah because He is pleased with Dharma – both Pravritti Dharma and Nivritti Dharma.

Pravritti Dharma is when the acts are performed by His devotees with an aim to please Him so as to obtain His grace and favour such that He bestows the desired fruit.  Pravritti dharma helps the Jivas continue in this world and also seek Svarga Loka.  Nivritti Dharma, on the other hand, helps its practitioners attain Him as the Ultimate Goal with the realisation of Moksha.

The Dharma Chakram writer gives the example of one who practices Pravritti dharma as one who earns money through an honest profession and then spends the proceeds in a Dharmic manner – this person is one who is interested in the life of this world and seeks Svarga and is said to observe the Pravritti dharma.

The devotee who is not involved in the material world and who instead meditates on Him as the sole purpose of life is a practitioner of Nivritti Dharma.  The life led by Swami VivekAnanda’s father is given as an example of Pravritti Dharma, while the life of Swami VivekAnanda is an example of Nivritti Dharma.  The point to note is that both the paths follow Dharma, and are thus dear to Him.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri observes that Dharma is so dear to BhagavAn that He takes birth among the likes of us just to protect and preserve Dharma.

In the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 4 Verse 8, Lord Krishna says:
Paritranaya sadhunam vinasaya ca duskrtam
Dharma-samsthapanarthaya sambhavami yuge yuge ||
Meaning: In order to protect the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to re-establish the principles of righteousness (Dharma), I appear Myself millennium after millennium.

Swami ChinmayAnanda explains Vrishapriyah as One who delights in Dharma or One who is beloved of the virtuous.


Shubhaangas Shaantidas Srashtaa Kumudah Kuvaleshayah |
Gohito Gopatir Goptaa Vrishabhaaksho Vrishapriyah    ||63||

cropped-1660344_494069167383139_792966992_n1.jpgThe Lord is charming and enchanting possessing lovely limbs and hence He is called Shubhaangah.  He is Shaantidah as He is the bestower of Peace.  He is the Srashta, the Creator and He has a joyous disposition, who is the Lord of Bhuma Devi, so He is known as Kumudah.   He is reclined on a Snake and  is surrounded by water and hence He is Kuvaleshayah.

He is the protector of Cows and hence He is Gohitah. He is the Lord of the Universe and Lord of Bhuma Devi, hence He is called Gopatih. He is the protector of all beings and hence He is Goptaa. He is shrouded in Maya and is mysteriously enveloped in illusion. His merciful eyes shower all desired benefits on all in accordance with Dharma, hence He is called Vrishabhaakshah. He has prescribed the code of conduct i.e. Dharma and holds that dear to Him.  He is the beloved of the virtuous and hence He is called Vrishapriyah.  He has proclaimed that He will reincarnate millennium after millennium to uphold Dharma.



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

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