In this part we will explore the meaning of the 67th Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.
Udeernah SarvatashChakshuh Anishah ShaashvataSthirah |
Bhushayo Bhushano Bhutir Ashokah Shokanaashanah ||67||
He is superior to all beings in all respects; the All Seeing and Omnipresent. He has no Master over Him and He is eternal and stable. He sleeps on the Earth and He defers to the request of His devotees to appear in this world, and makes His appearance in different forms. He is an adornment to the world through His many incarnations. He is a treasure trove for His devotees and is in Infinite Bliss. He is the destroyer of sorrows and delivers His devotees from the Ocean of Samsara by granting Moksha.
The above Shloka has the following Namas:
- Ashokah or Vishokah
Now let’s examine the meaning of the above Namas in detail:
- Udeernah – He is superior to all beings
Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Sarvabhutebhyah samudriktatvaat Udeernah – He is Superior to all beings in all respects and hence He is called Udeernah’. He is Sarva-vyapi and Sarva-antaryami and towers over everyone in knowledge and power, so He is Udeernah.
Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets this Nama in the context of Bhagavan becoming one amongst us by taking the incarnations as Rama and Krishna to guide us through the right path. He leads His devotees by example to elevate them and hence He is Udeernah.
Sri Satyadevo Vasishta derives the words starting from “ut” and the root Ru – gatau – to go, and gives the meaning for Udeernah as One who is above all beings. His alternative interpretation is that He lifts everyone up.
Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj essentially gives a similar explanation and says ‘Ut abhyudayam Rccahati – praapayati sma eva sadaiva svashritaanaam iti Udeernah’ – Thus, he also derives the Nama from ut, and the root Ru – to go, and gives the meaning that Bhagavan is called Udeernah because He lifts His devotees to reach Him.
The Dharma Chakram writer illustrates Bhagavan’s is superiority in all respects. In sheer size of His form, He permeates everything, and everything is within His body, so there is no one who has a bigger form than Him. In superiority of Power, we know through His many incarnations that there is no one superior to Him. In terms of controlling Indriyas and mind, Bhagavan is the Yogishvara, and there is none superior to Him in this aspect also. Bhagavan demonstrated that there is none equal to Him in sharing love through His Leelas in Gokulam. When it comes to knowledge, He is the ultimate Knower. Thus, no matter which aspect one looks at, there is nothing superior to Him.
- Sarvatash-Chakshuh – He who has eyes everywhere, and sees everything
Sarvatah means everywhere and Chakshu means eye, so this Nama means that Bhagavan has His eyes everywhere. Sri Adi Sankara elaborates this further saying ‘Sarvatah Sarvam svachaitanyena Pashyati iti SarvatashChakshuh – He is able to see everything using his own Consciousness hence He is called SarvatashChakshuh’.
Sri Adi Sankara makes it clear that Bhagavan sees everything not by his physical eyes but through His internal eyes of consciousness. We perceive the world as sense objects through our sense organs but Bhagavan has a direct perception of everything into His consciousness.
In Svetashvatara Upanishad (3.3) it says ‘Vishvatas Chakshuh – His eyes span the whole Universe’. In Purusha Sooktam it says ‘Sahasraakshas Sahasrapaat – He has countless eyes and countless feet’.
Sri Parasara Bhattar says that Bhagavan is SarvatashChakshuh because He is visible to even ordinary people like us. He has been visible to the people of His time when He took incarnations as Rama and Krishna and He delights His devotees with His complete Darshan from time to time.
In the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 13 Verse 14, Bhagavan says:
sarvatah pani-padam tat sarvato ‘ksi-siro-mukham
sarvatah srutimal loke sarvam avrtya tisthati ||
Meaning: With hands and feet everywhere; eyes, heads and faces everywhere, hearing everything; in this way the Supersoul exists, pervading everything in this world.
- Anishah – The Master of everyone
Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Na vidyate asya Eeshah iti Anishah – There is no Master over Him, hence He is called Anishah’. Bhagavan is the Lord of all as we have seen in names like ‘Lokaadhyakshah’, ‘Suraadhyakshah’ and ‘Dharmaadhyakshah’.
Narayana Upanishad (3.2) says ‘Na Tasyeshe Kashchana – He has no Master at all, as He is everyone’s Master’.
Sri Parasara Bhattar says Bhagavan is the Lord for all beings but when it comes to His devotees, He does not assert or display His Lordship but is instead completely subservient to them. We already saw in the previous Shloka several examples of this in our explanation of the Nama 627 – VidheyAtma. In Rama Avataar, He was the obedient son while in Krishna Avataar He learnt humbly from Sandheepani Rishi. In Uppaliappan Temple He is offered Neivedhyam (food offering) without Salt. Thus, the Lord is humble and subservient to His devotees.
Sri V.V. Ramanujan presents this idea more vividly by pointing out that Bhagavan becomes dependent on the likes of us to bathe Him and feed Him in His Archa form. NammAzhwar describes this act of His becoming dependent on His devotees thus:
‘AycciiyAgiya annaiyaal andru vennei vaarttaiyul sItramundu azhu kutta appan (Thiruvai Mozhi 6.2.11) – He just puts up a show of weeping and crying to show how subservient He is to Yashodha at the very thought that she may get angry at Him as a result of the reported incident of stolen butter.
Sri RadhaKrishna Shastri refers to Svetasvatara Upanishad 6.9:
na tasya kaschit patirasti loke na cheshita neiva ca tasya lingam
sa kaaranam karanadhipadhipo na chasya kashritjanita na ca ‘dhipah
Meaning: No one in the world is His master, nor has anybody any control over Him. There is no sign by which He can be inferred. He is the cause of all, and the ruler of individual souls. He has no parent, nor is there anyone who is His Lord.
The Dharma Chakram points out that one who is filled with Bhakti has Bhagavan Himself under his control. Hence, Bhakti will lead one to a state where there is no one who will be a master of the Bhakta. That is the greatness of Bhakti.
- Shaashvata-Sthirah – He Who is eternally existent and steady
Shaashvata means permanent or eternal and Sthira means stable and unchanging. Combining these, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Shashvat Bhavannapi Na Vikriyaam Kadaachit upaiti iti ShaashvataSthirah – Even though He is eternal and permanent, He is also stable and totally free of any changes’. We have already seen Namas like ‘Sthaanuh’ and ‘Shaashvatah’ earlier with similar import.
Sri Parasara Bhattar explains that He assumes the various forms of the images – Standing, reclining, sitting etc (various Archa forms) which continue to exist for ever and which are directly perceptible to the eyes, at all times. Sri Bhattar quotes from the ‘Sattvata samhita bimba Akrtya Atmana bimbe samagamya avatisthate – He assumes a form similar to that of the image (sculpted by us), enters into it and remains there’. The reference is to the Archa Murtis.
Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj also interprets the Nama in terms of Bhagavan’s affection towards His devotees – His interpretation is ‘Shashvat bhava iti Shaashvato nityah, sa ca asau sthira iti Shaashvata-sthirah – nityam svaashrita Vatsalya pratishthitah’ – He is eternally stable in His fondness for His devotees.
The Dharma Chakram writer points out that our mind is involved with things that change and our likes and dislikes are also regularly changing. But if we involve our mind with ParamAtma, who is always stable, there is no question of us changing constantly between likes and dislikes. One who involves his mind in the Supreme Self also attains stability and eternal peace, knowledge, and love. The likes of us who have an impermanent body and live in this impermanent world can attain permanent peace and permanent joy by meditating on the eternal and stable Self – the Shaashvata-Sthirah.
- Bhushayah – One who sleeps on the bare Earth
‘Bhu’ means earth or ground and ‘Shayah’ is One who sleeps. Combining these Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Lankaam prati Maargam anveshayan Saagaram prati Bhoomau shete iti Bhooshayah – When He was going towards Lanka searching for Sita He slept on the Earth at the bank of the Ocean hence He is called Bhushayah, One who sleeps on the bare Earth’.
Sri Parasara Bhattar continues with his interpretation of the current set of Namas in terms of His Archa forms and says He is called Bhushayah since He defers to the request of His devotees to appear in this world, and makes His appearance in different forms such as Svayam-vyakta, Siddha, Manusha etc., and even stays put in these places by lying down there permanently in order to bless the devotees. Svayam-vyakta forms are those where the Lord has chosen to manifest Himself without the effort of anyone; Siddha are those forms where the image of the Lord has been consecrated by Siddhas or perfected beings (such as Brahma etc.)., and Manusha are places where the Lord is installed by ordinary human beings.
Sri P. B. AnnangarAcharya describes Bhushayah as “AnbargaL uganda idangalil padu kaadu kidappavar – He Who just stubbornly lies down and stays wherever His devotees ask Him to be”.
Swami ChinmayAnanda gives an additional alternate interpretation as ‘Bhuh Sete asmin iti Bhushayah – He in whom the whole world rests at the time of dissolution’.
Sri Satyadevo Vasishta gives the interpretation that since He rests in all things that exist in the form of Antaryami, He is called Bhushayah – bhushu Sete.
- Bhushanah – He Who is Adorned
Whenever Bhagavan appeared on the Earth as an Avataar He was a role model or an adornment to the world, hence He is called Bhushanah.
Sri Parasara Bhattar looks at His Saulabhyam (ease of attaining Him) as His most important Bhushanam – His easy accessibility to His devotee. The act of climbing down from His Paratvam to the level of His devotees and mixing with them, is only Bhushanam for Him.
Sri V.V. Ramanujan gives the additional explanation in terms of His Divya Bhushanas as described by Emperumanar in Sri Saranagati Gadhyam:
Kirita makuta cudaavatamsa makara kundala graiveyaka haara keyura kataka
Srivatsa Kaustubha muktadaama udara bandhana pItambara ka’nciguna nupuraadi aparimita Divya Bhushana
Meaning: He is decorated with all sorts and kinds of ornaments, most wonderful to behold, ever-lasting, faultless, sweet-smelling, soft to touch, wonderful with splendour, such as the crown bearing the central diadem of lustrous stone, other head ornaments, ear ornaments, necklaces and neck ornaments, garlands, shoulder-bracelets, bracelets in the hands, Srivatsa and Kaustubha, pearl garlands, waistlets, lace cloths, gold waist band and leg ornaments and others precious and innumerable.
Sri Maha Vishnu is also known as ‘Alangarapriyar’ – One who loves to be adorned and bedecked with jewels and ornaments (while Lord Shiva is known as Abhishekapriyar – One who loves the religious rituals like Holy bath).
Sri Radhakrishna Shastri gives the example of Bhagavan decorating Gokulam by His very presence.
Sri Satyadevo Vasishta gives the example of the soul or Atma being in the body as itself a decoration or adornment of the body. When the soul leaves the body, the body becomes unattractive in a second. Bhagavan is Bhushana for the Universe in the form of Antaryami of the Sun. Similarly, Bhagavan is the adornment for the whole world as He is the life in everything and hence He is the Bhushana for all beings.
Swami ChinmayAnanda gives the interpretation that He makes this world beautiful (adorns) with the varieties of His creation. He gives love and other finer instincts, and He is the One behind all great, noble, and beautiful thoughts that have enriched human life.
The Dharma Chakram writer points out that all the different kinds of beauties that we experience in nature (through sound, sight, touch, thought, intellect, etc.), are present in Him. As Krishna, He was exquisitely beautiful to see, the sound of His flute stole the hearts of all the Gopis, He gave us knowledge through the Bhagavad Gita etc. The same is true of His incarnation as Lord Rama. Lord Rama’s divine beauty was well-known, the Rishis were immensely moved by the beauty of His character. Sage Valmiki lost himself in the Rama Nama, and Hanuman lost himself in His service. Bhagavan is thus the Bhushana for all His devotees.
- Bhutih – He Who is wealth to His devotees
Sri Adi Sankara gives two interpretations for this Nama. The first is ‘Bhutih bhavanam sattaa vibhutirvaa – He is the embodiment of Glory or Vibhutih’. In other words, He is all the Cosmic Glory personified into a single form. His second interpretation is ‘SarvaVibhutinaam Kaaranatvaat vaa Bhutih – He is basic Cause of all the Glories exhibited all over the Universe, hence He is Bhutih’.
This concept is fully explained in Chapter 10 of the Bhagavad Gita. In particular in Chapter 10, Verse 41 Bhagavan says:
yad yad vibhutimat sattvam srimad urjitam eva va
tat tad evavagaccha tvam mama tejo-‘msa-sambhavam ||
Meaning: Know that all beautiful, glorious, and mighty creations spring from but a spark of My splendour.
The root from which this Nama is derived is Bhu – sattaayaam – to be, to live, to be born. The Nama can also mean Vibhuti – Wealth. Sri Parasara Bhattar explains that He is the wealth in every way to those who have totally surrendered to Him, and so He is called Bhutih.
Sri V.V. Ramanujan gives reference from Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi (5.1.8) Pasuram:
மேலாத் தேவர்களும் நிலத்தேவரும் மேவித்தொழும்,
மாலார் வந்தினநாள் அடியேன்மனத்தே மன்னினார்,
சேலேய் கண்ணியரும் பெருஞ்செல்வமும் நன்மக்களும்,
மேலாத் தாய்தந்தையும் அவரேயினி யாவாரே.
Meaning: The Lord worshipped by the celestials and monarchs has come this day and occupied my lowly heart. Henceforth, He is my Mother, my father, my Children, my wealth, my fish-eyed women and all else.
Swami ChinmayAnanda quotes from Amara kosha – Vibhuti Bhutir Aishvarye – He is the One who is the treasure house of all Glories. Another interpretation given is that He is Pure Existence. The Amara kosha definitions are bhavati iti Bhutih and bhavati anaya Sriman iti Bhutih, which support both the meanings indicated here.
Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj echoes the same idea in his interpretation – Parama sampath Bhaktanam iti Bhutih – He is the treasure trove for His devotees.
Sri Satyadevo Vasishta gives the interpretation that Bhagavan is called Bhutih because He exists everywhere in the forms of all His creations, in the forms of Sun, Moon, the stars, etc. and He also is the cause of all the Glory that His creations in display.
The Dharma Chakram writer gives the interpretation that Bhagavan is personification of greatness. He observes that the significance of the Nama lies in our realising that we should not go after the transient and false greatness that comes with impermanent and materialistic benefits. Instead, we should learn to meditate on Him in thought, words, and deeds so that we aim towards the realisation of that One True Greatness.
The Tale of Two Pennies
One day Krishna and Arjuna were taking their usual walk, when they came across an old Brahmin seeking alms. Taking pity on his condition, Arjuna gave him a bag of gold coins. The Brahmin was overjoyed. Unfortunately, on his way home, he was robbed in the forest. He cursed his fate and the next day set off to beg again.
Krishna and Arjuna saw him again and got to know his plight. Once again, Arjua took pity on him and gave him a large diamond. The man took it home and kept it in an old pot which had been unused for many years in order to keep it safe and went to sleep.
The next morning before he could wake up, his wife went to fetch water from the river and on her way back, she slipped and her pot broke. She immediately went back home and picked up the pot that lay unused and brought it to fill it with water. Just as she dipped the pot in to the river the diamond escaped the pot and fell in to the river.
When she returned home the Brahmin was desperately searching the house for the pot and when he saw it in his wife’s hands, he got to know what had happened. Dejected with what had happened, he once again left to go begging.
Once again Arjuna and Krishna saw him and when Arjuna heard of the unfortunate incident that had befallen on the poor Brahmin and he told Krishna, ” I don’t think this man is destined to be blessed at all, I don’t think I can help him anymore”.
Krishna then gave the man two pennies and the man took them and walked away. Arjuna then asked Krishna,”My Lord, if gold coins and diamond could not change his condition, what good can two pennies do to him?”. Krishna smiled and replied, “Let us wait and see”.
As the man walked home he was cursing his fate when he saw a fish that had just been caught by a fisherman and was struggling for its life, he took pity on it and thought to himself, ” these two pennies cannot fetch me food anyway, let me at least save the life of this creature” and he purchased the fish and was about to throw it back into the river when he noticed that the breathlessness of the fish was caused due to a large obstruction in its mouth and when he removed it, it was the very diamond he had lost in the river. He was overjoyed and started shouting “Look what I found! Look what I found”.
At that very moment the robber was passing by and heard his shouts, he recognised the man and thought that man too recognised him and was thus shouting. Fearing that the Brahmin may take him to for punishment, he rushed to him and begged for his forgiveness and returned all the gold coins he had robbed of him. The Brahmin was happy and walked away joyfully with all his wealth. He went straight to Arjuna to narrate the turn of events and thanked him for all his help and went away.
Arjuna then asked Krishna, “My Lord, how is it that my gold and diamond could not help him but your meagre two pennies did?
Krishna replied, ”When he had the gold and diamonds he was only thinking of himself and his needs, but when he had the two pennies he put the needs of another creature before his and so I took care of his needs.
The truth is, ‘O Arjuna! When you think of the suffering of others and work to help them, you are sharing God’s work and hence God Himself takes care of you. Real service is to give to the needy in one form or the other.
When one does any kind act without any expectation and keeps others interests before their own; God loves them and takes care of them in every respect. He becomes the biggest Bhutih or treasure for such noble souls.
- Ashokah or Vi-shokah – He Who is without Sorrow
Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Vigatah Shokah asya Paramaanandaika roopatvaat iti Vishokah – Because of His permanent state of Supreme Bliss He knows no grief, hence He is called Vishokah’. As His nature itself is Ananda or joy, the feeling of sorow or unhappiness is unknown to Him.
Sri Parasara Bhattar continues to stress Bhagavan’s concern for the devotee in every one of his interpretations. For the current Nama, his interpretation is that Bhagavan has no need to be sorrowful because He never abandons anyone who seeks His help through absolute surrender unto Him.
One might raise the obvious question that Lord Rama was struck with extreme sorrow and grief when He was separated from Sita. How can one say He is without Shokam? Sri Radhakrishna Shastri gives the explanation straight from Srimad Bhagavatam 9.10.11 – Lord Rama went through this act in His role as an ordinary mortals to demonstrate how mortals who are attached to a woman and hold them dear to them behave – priyaya viyuktah strI sa’nginaam gatimiti prathayansh-cacaara.
Sri Krishna Data Bharadvaj: na Shoko yasya iti Ashokah nitya Ananda mayah – He has no sorrow and is in eternal bliss. He also quotes from Chandogya Upanishad (4.1.1) in support of his interpretation – ‘ya AtmapahatapApma vijaro vimrtyur-vishoko avijighatso apipasah satyakamah satya samkalpah sonveshtavyah sa vijijnaashitavya – The more we go deeper and inward into our own Self, the greater is strength of our will and the greater the possibility of achieving success in obtaining anything that we want and be without sorrow or be Vishokah.
Swami ChinmayAnanda observes that it is because of disturbances at the body-mind-intellect level that one experiences sorrow. Since Bhagavan is beyond these agitations, He is ever Blissful, desireless, ever contented, and thus never experiences sorrow.
- Shoka-Naashanah – The Destroyer of sorrows
Shoka means grief and Nasha is destruction, effectively this means that He is the destroyer of our sorrows. Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Smriti maatrena bhaktanam Shokam naashayati iti Shokanaashanah – He destroys the grief or sorrows of His devotees by their very remembrance of Him, hence He is called Shokanaashanah’.
The Phalashruti says ‘Sankeertya Naraayana shabda maatram Vimukta Duhkhaas Sukhino bhavanti – By the merest chanting of the Namas of Bhagavan we get relieved of our miseries and attain happiness’.
Sri Parasara Bhattar gives the interpretation that He removes the sorrow of the devotees who suffers from separation from Him, by helping the devotees cross the Ocean of Samsara.
Sri V.V. Ramanujan observes that while all the wealth in this world causes sorrow, He is the only Wealth who removes the sorrow. How does He do that? Sri Ramanujan refers us to Thirumazhisai Azhwar’s Pasuram from Tirucchanda Viruttam 115:
அத்தனாகி யன்னையாகி யாளுமெம்பி ரானுமாய்
ஒத்தொவ்வாத பல்பிறப்பொ ழித்துநம்மை யாட்கொள்வான்
முத்தனார்மு குந்தனார்பு குந்துநம்முள் மேவினார்
எத்தினாலி டர்க்கடல்கி டத்தியேழை நெஞ்சமே.
Meaning: He, Who is beyond Samsaara, Who bestows Moksha, destroying our many births- alike in its conscious nature but different in its forms- in order to take us under His divine service, becoming as our father, mother as well as our endearing Lord, has entered inside us and has become one with us. O’ Ignorant mind! Why are you immersed in the Ocean of sorrow?
Sri Radhakrishna Shastri gives reference to the Upanishads:
- Srutam hyeva me bhagavad-drsebhyah tarati sokam atma- vit (Chandogya Upanishad 1.3) – I have heard from people like you that if one knows the Self of a thing, he would be free from sorrow.
- tatra ko mohah kah Shokah ekatvam anupasyatah (Isavasya Upanishad 7) – When you have this feeling of oneness, there is no room for feelings of attachment and hatred and sorrow.
Sri ChinmayAnanda gives reference from the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 12 Verse 7:
tesham aham samuddharta mrityu-samasara sagarat |
bhavani na ciraat Partha mayyaaveshita cetasaam ||
Meaning: Of those whose minds are thus focused on Me, O son of Paṛtha, for them I am the swift deliverer from the Ocean of birth and death.
The Dharma Chakram writer points out that when there is Moham (attachment), the result is Shokam (sorrow). Thus, to be rid of Shokam, one has to overcome attachment. This is accomplished by meditating on Bhagavan. Bhagavad Gita begins with the expression of Shokam in Arjuna’s mind because of his Moham or attachment to all his relatives and Acharyas, whom he faces in the battlefield. Because of this Shokam, Arjuna loses his heart completely, his bow is slipping from his hand, his mind is tired, he is unable to stand up, his body perspires and he is shivering with nervousness. Bhagavan imparts the GIta to Arjuna just so he can overcome his moham and thus his Shokam.
At the end of his discourse to Arjuna, He asks if Arjuna has overcome his Shokam because of the realisation of the truth, and Arjuna confirms that by listening to His instructions, he has been able to overcome the Shokam. In the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 18 Verse 73, Arjuna says:
nasto mohah smrtir labdha tvat-prasadan mayacyuta
sthito ‘smi gata-sandehah karisye vacanam tava ||
Meaning: My dear Kṛiṣhṇa, O infallible one, my illusion has been dispelled. I have gained realisation by Your mercy, and I am now firm and free from doubt and am prepared to act according to Your instructions.
Udeernah SarvatashChakshuh Anishah ShaashvataSthirah |
Bhushayo Bhushano Bhutir Ashokah Shokanaashanah ||67||
He is superior to all beings in all respects, so He is Udeernah. He is All Seeing and Omnipresent, so He is SarvatashChakshuh. He has no Master over Him and hence He is Anishah. He is eternal and stable, so He is ShaashvataStirah.
He was going towards Lanka searching for Sita He slept on the Earth at the bank of the Ocean hence He is called Bhushayah – One who sleeps on the bare Earth. He is an adornment to the world through His many incarnations and hence He is Bhushanah.
He is a treasure trove and wealth for His devotees, so He is Bhutih. He is Ashokah (or Vi-shokah) as He is in eternal and Infinite Bliss. He is the destroyer of sorrows and delivers His devotees from the Ocean of Samsara by granting Moksha and hence He is called ShokaNaashanah.
HARI OM TAT SAT
OM NAMO NARAYANAAYA
This Vishnu Sahasranamam series is authored with the help of my friend Shri Balaji.