In this part we will explore the meaning of the 73rd Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.
Stavyaḥ Stavapriyaḥ Stotram Stutih Stota Raṇapriyaḥ |
Purnah Purayita Puṇyaḥ Puṇyakirtir Anaamayaḥ || 73 ||
He is praise-worthy as the Creator and one who sustains the Universe. In order to fulfil the desire of His devotees who love to praise Him, He is pleased by the praised offered in any manner. He is the Hymn itself, He is the praise and He is the Hymnist and praises those who extol Him. He delights in battles to establish righteousness and He is complete in all respects. He fulfils the desire of His devotees. If one merely thinks of Him, He rids them of all their sins and defects, hence He is Punyah, The Purifier. Listening to His praise and kathas destroys all sins and He is free from all maladies or afflictions of Karma.
The above Shloka has the following Namas:
- Stutah or Stutih
Now let’s examine the meaning of the above Namas in detail:
- Stavyah – He Who is worthy of praise
Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Sarvaih Stuyate na Stota kasyachit sa iti Stavyah – He is praised or eulogised by all but there is no one worthy of being praised by Him hence He is called Stavyah’. Being ParamAtma or the Supreme Being, He is praised by all but He has no one to praise as He is the highest of by all standards.
The root from which the word ‘Stavyah’ is derived is ‘Stu’ which means ‘to praise’. Sri Parasara Bhattar explains this Nama as ‘stavam arhati iti stavyah’ meaning only Lord Vishnu is endowed with the innumerable auspicious qualities that are eternal, boundless and flawless, and thus He is worthy of praise over any other God. Praising Him will lead to the release of bondage from Samsara. He refers us to the following in support:
Adarena yatha stauti dhanavantam dhanecchayaa |
Evam cet Vishva-kartaram ko na mucyeta bandhanaat ||(Brihaspati Samhita)
Meaning: If one praises the Creator of the Universe in the same way one praises a rich man just to get some wealth, is there any doubt that he will be relieved from the bondage of Samsara by praising the Creator? Such is the power of just praising Him.
In the Phala-Shruti of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam, Bhishma tells Yudhistra:
Itidam keertaniyasya Keshavasya Mahatmanah |
Namnam sahasram Divyanam Asheshena prakeertitam ||
Meaning: Thus the thousand divine Namas of Bhagavan Keshava, the Supreme Being, Who is worthy of being praised, have been sung in their entirety.
Bhishma’s choice of the Nama Keshava is significant and denotes that Keshava is the Creator of Shiva and Brahma; Mahatma refers to Him being the Supreme Person; Divya signifies the divinity and reciting these thousand Namas are worthy of being chanted both in this world and in Parama-padam; and Keertaniyasya emphasises that He is the most worthy of being praised.
Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers to Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi (3.9.1) to emphasise that He is Stavyah as the one who is worthy of praise:
சொன்னால் விரோதமிது ஆகிலும் சொல்லுவேன் கேண்மினோ,
என்னாவில் இன்கவி யானொருவ ர்க்கும் கொடுக்கிலேன்,
தென்னா தெனாவென்று வண்டு முரல்திரு வேங்கடத்து,
என்னானை என்னப்பன் எம்பெருமானுள னாகவே
Meaning: This is hard and even unpleasant for me to say this to those of you who spend your time worshipping other deities, but please listen (for your own good); I refuse to dedicate my sweet poems in the praise of anyone else other than My Lord who stands like an elephant in ThiruVenkata Malai (Tirumala Tirupati).”
Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj interprets this as ‘stotum yogyah sarvottamatvaat iti Stavyah – Because He is Supreme in all respects, He is fit to be worshiped’.
Sri Radhakrishna Shastri notes that Bhagavan’s Divya Gunas are infinite, and no matter for how many thousands and thousands of years we sing His praise, we will still be not be done, and can keep praising Him; such are His attributes. He gives the following reference from the Svetasvatara Upanishad:
- Tam Ishanam varadam devam Idyam (4.11) – “He Who is the Lord of all, benevolent, divine, and adorable who is worthy of praise”;
- Tam Vishva rupam bhava-bhutam Idyam” (6.5) – He Who has the Universe as His form, He who is the cause of all origin and existence, and who is adorable and praiseworthy”.
Sri Baladeva VidyaBhushan comments that He is Stavyah or worthy of praise because it is easy to praise His infinite Kalyana Gunas through mere use of words – Vag-vyaparenaiva samaradhyatvaat nitya Kalyana Gunakataya stotum arhah Stavyah.
Swami ChinmayAnanda says He is praised by All and He praises none; The Jiva invokes Him, the Self, the Atman, never invokes the Jiva.
The Dharma Chakram writer gives some examples of the way the Azhwars have praised Him:
- Uyarvara uyar nalam udaiyavan, mayrvara madi nalam arulbavan, ayarvarum amarargaL adipati yevanavan (Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi 1.1.1) – Arise, O heart, worship the feet of the one, who is higher than the highest good, who is the Lord of the ever-wakeful celestials, who dispels all doubt and grants pure knowledge.
- Nalam tarum Sollai nan kandu konden Narayana ennum Namam (Sri Thirumangai Azhwar’s Periya Thirumozhi 1.1.9) – It gives the pure good, I know the Mantra, Narayana is the Nama.
- Acyuta Amarar Ere, Ayar tam kozhundu (Sri Thondaradipodi Azhwar’s Amalanadhipiraan 2) – Achyuta! Lord of Eternals, O Cowherd-Lord”, denying the joy of praising you thus, if I were given to rule Indra’s Kingdom, even if you gave it, I shall not want it.
But He is not fully described by any of these; these are just some of the limited ways through which His true devotees have enjoyed Him. Knowing the inner meaning of songs in praise of Him, chanting His Nama japam, meditating on Him, dedicating all that we do to Him, etc., are among the different ways in which He can be praised.
- Stava-priyah – He Who is pleased by the praise in whatever form it is offered
Sri Adi Sankara gives a succinct take on this ‘Ata eva Stavapriyah – He loves to be praised hence He is called Stavapriyah or one who loves being eulogised’. The previous Nama highlights that He is praised by all and this says that He loves to be praised, otherwise he would not allow this to go on. On the other hand His Grace is such that even if we don’t mean to praise Him, as long as we say something about Him even with mistakes and even casually (like Ajamila called for his son Narayana at the time of death and the Lord bestowed His grace), He will still accept it as praise and be pleased about it, hence He is called Stavapriyah.
In the Phalashruti Bhagavan says ‘Yo maam Namasahasrena stotum icchati Pandava, So aham ekena shlokena stuta eve na samshayah – If a person intends to sing my praise through my 1000 namas but is only able to render one shloka I still consider myself fully praised’.
In his interpretation, Sri Parasara Bhattar points out that when anyone praises Him in any manner (even in a negative manner!), in any language (even if it contains errors in diction or meaning), even if it is adverse to His splendour, Bhagavan accepts it as praise.
Sri Bhattar’s exact words are: yatha katha’ncit (in whatever manner), yaya kayacit bhashaya (in whatever language – even negatively), yena kenapi (by anyone – even including those who denigrate Him), tejaskarah tiraskaropi va (either in praise of His qualities or in negative terms), stavah priyatamah asya iti Stava-priyah (He accepts them as praise of Him – because these actions are done while thinking of Him).
The Story of Ghantakarna
Ghantakarna, a ferocious devil, (Ghanta means bell and karna means ear) used to wear bells on his ears so that he does not have to hear the name of Vishnu. So he suspended two bells from his ears, and at the very utterance of the name of Vishnu, he will shake his head violently, so that these words won’t fall in his ears. But in order to ensure that he shake his head at the mere mention of the name of Vishnu, he had to always be thinking of Vishnu, and watching for even a casual mention of the name of Vishnu. Although he hated Vishnu, he was a devout follower of Shiva and worshipped and meditated on him.
Lord Shiva was pleased with Ghantakarna’s devotion and granted him a boon. Ghantakarna asked to be liberated from life and asked for Moksha, the ultimate goal of relief from the cycle of birth so that one doesn’t have to go through the pleasures and miseries of life over and over again.
Ghantakarna loved Shiva but hated Lord Narayan and people who have hatred in their heart cannot be liberated. Lord Shiva tried to offer him a compromise solution and said, ‘Son, you can ask for material wealth or anything else and I will grant it to you, but I can’t grant you liberation’ and said further that, ‘if you really want to be liberated, only Lord Narayana can liberate you, seek His Refuge’.
This is not the response Ghantakarna wanted, but instead of getting mad he felt remorseful. He was sad, because he saw no option but failure, how could Lord Narayana, the object of his hatred ever forgive him, let alone liberate him. Thinking about this he started crying loudly, like a child. Shiva said to him, ‘Son, don’t lose hope and don’t be afraid, Lord Narayana loves his devotees. He will forgive all your sins if you go to him with a pure heart’.
Ghantakarna, with tears in his eyes and chant of the lord on his lips set off for Badrikashram. Upon reaching Badrikashram, he found many saints offering their prayer to Lord Narayana. Ghantakarna, joined them and started chanting Narayana’s name loudly.
When Lord Krishna heard Ghantakarna loudly chanting His name, He opened his eyes and was very pleased to see such devotion and appeared to him in his divine form and told him, ‘Ghantakarna, from today you will stop all your violent activities and enjoy My Grace”.
Ghantakarna was very pleased to get Lord’s Darshan and from that day he stayed at Badrikashram as the Lord’s door keeper, and after his death attained liberation.
Sri Parasara Bhattar gives the example of Ghantakarna for Bhagavan’s Karunya Guna. The Lord took even Ghantakarna’s shaking of his head upon hearing His name as a constant meditation on Him, and gave salvation. This is an example of how He takes even the negative thought about him as a praise of Him.
Sri V.V. Ramanujan adds to this the example of Shishupalan, who got Moksha even though he was using abusive language to talk about Lord Krishna at every possible opportunity. He refers to Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi (7.5.3):
கேட்பார்கள் கேசவன் கீர்த்தியல் லால்மற்றூம் கேட்பரோ,
கேட்பார் செவிசுடு கீழ்மை வசவுக ளேவையும்,
சேட்பால் பழம்பகைவன் சிசு பாலன், திருவடி
தாட்பால் அடைந்த தன்மை யறிவாரை யறிந்துமே?
Meaning: Shishupala, the arch-enemy of Krishna, would utter lowly words of abuse that would blister the ears, yet he attained the Lord’s feet. Knowing this well, would anyone listen to anyone but Keshava’s praise?
Sri NammAzhwar concludes in one of his Pasurams in Thiruvai Mozhi by pointing out that no matter how we say His Name – knowing the meaning or not knowing the meaning, etc., – the final outcome is that it will always lead to good for us – ‘e’ngane Sollinum inbam payakkume’ (7-9-11).
Sri Ramanujan further refers us to Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (5.1.1), and says that because His Grace is such that even if we don’t mean to praise Him, as long as we say something about Him, even without sincerity, He will accept it as praise, in order to help us reach Him – such is the destiny of the Jivas:
கையார் சக்கரத்தெங்கருமாணிக்கமே என்றென்று,
பொய்யே கைம்மைசொல்லிப்புறமேபுற மேயாடி,
மெய்யே பெற்றொழிந்தேன், விதிவாய்க்கின்று காப்பாரார்,
ஐயோ கண்ணபிரான் அறையோ இனிப்போனாலே.
Meaning: Uttering words like “Holder of bright discus!”, “My gem-hued Lord!”, and many such shallow praises, I roamed and danced, and attained the truth; who can prevent what fortune favours? My Lord, Krishna, if you leave me now, will I let you go?
Sri Radhakrishna Shastri observes that Bhagavan’s is pleased not because people are praising His qualities, but He is pleased because the jIvas are using the indriyas appropriately for the purpose that He has given them. When thoughts, words, and deeds are all aligned and directed appropriately towards His praise, He is all the more happy. By praising Him, we are getting closer to Him, and this is exactly what He wants of the JivAtmas.
The Dharma Chakram writer gives the analogy of the parents who feel happy when the child does well in the school. The body and the indriyas that He has given us are for serving Him, and, just like the parents who feel happy when the child does well in the school, He is happy when we do well with the faculties He has given us.
- Stotram – The Eulogy Incarnate
Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Yena stuyate tat Stotram, Gunasankeertanaatmakam Tat Harireva iti – The hymn or verse of praise is called Stotram and anything that praises Bhagavan’s eminent qualities is symbolic of Bhagavan Himself, hence He is called Stotram or the Hymn Himself’. It is a case where the words of praise and the object of praise blend into each other. We worship the Bhagavad Gita and the Vedas as a representation of God and treat them as a divine symbol. The Nama means that Bhagavan is Stotram incarnate.
Sri Parasara Bhattar’s interpretation is that Bhagavan is the cause or the instrument of the Stotram or praise, because it is only by His Grace that the devotee is able to praise Him. Sri Bhattar gives the example of the child Dhruva who was spell-bound when Bhagavan appeared before Him, and could not utter even a word. Bhagavan gently touched Dhruva’s cheek with His conch, and immediately words of praise for Bhagavan (Stotram) started pouring out of Dhruva’s mouth. Thus, Bhagavan was the true instrument for His praise for Dhruva.
Sri Radhakrishna Shastri refers to the following words of Dhruva:
Yo antah pravishya mam vaacam imam prasuptaam sa’njIvayatyakhila Shakti dharah sva dhamna |
Anyaamshca hasta carana Sravana tvagadin praanan namo bhagavate purushaya tubhyam ||
Meaning: I worship that Lord who entered into me, gave life to my words which were more or less dead, and with His unique Shakti, rejuvenated my hands, legs, ears, skins, etc., and gave movement to them.
Sri Shastri observes that words that praise Him are by their very nature good words, and so they are His manifestation. Lord Krishna declares in the Bhagavad Gita that all that are best in this world are but His manifestations.
Sri V.V. Ramanujan gives reference from Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi (10.7.5), where the Azhwar echoes the same sentiment: Pannar paadal in kavigal yaanai tannai tan paadi…, where Sri NammAzhwar says that Bhagavan sang His own praise by using Sri NammAzhwar as the vehicle or means.
Swami ChinmayAnanda explains this by pointing out that when a glorious hymn, praising His Divine Nature, is sung with full devotion and ardent aspiration to realise Him, this praise lifts the devotee into the experience of the Nature of Truth. Thus, the Nama (praise here) and the Namee are one and the same in experience.
Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha interprets ‘Stotram’ as referring to refer to Vedas – stuyate anena iti Stotram Vedah – that by which Bhagavan is praised, is Veda. Since Bhagavan is the object of praise of the Vedas, He is Stotram Himself (vedasya pradhana vishayatva brahmapi Stotram).
The Dharma Chakram writer explains that the great Rishis to whom Bhagavan has revealed Himself, have a mind which is pure and where He resides. When these Sages reveal their experience of Him through words to others, this becomes the mantra or the word of praise or Stotram.
This is what Sri Thirumangai Azhwar means when he declares ‘nalam tarum Sollai naan kandu konden Narayana ennum Namam’.
It is also said in Hindi that ‘Ram se bada Ram ka Naam’ – Rama Nama is greater than Rama Himself!
- Stutih or Stutah – He Who is praised
Sri Adi Sankara’s version is Stutih and he interprets this as ‘Stutih Stavanakriya – He is the act of praise and hence He is called Stutih’. He is not only the hymn of praise but He is also the act of praise. When a devotee or a group of devotees sing his prayers Bhagavan manifests himself on the spot and so the act of praise is symbolic of Bhagavan Himself, hence He is called Stutih. Ultimately the words of praise, the act of praise, the object of praise and the worshipper all coalesce into a single entity of divinity.
Sri Parasara Bhattar’s interprets that Bhagavan is called ‘Stutah’ because He is praised by everyone including the nitya suris for the attainment of their respective desires. This includes the thousand-hooded AdiSesha, Garuda who is the embodiment of the three-fold Vedas, Brahma and other Gods, and also by humans being like ourselves–‘Sahasra-phana trayee-mayadibhih anantaih Brahmadibhih, AsmadAdibhishca tat-tad-abhilAsha siddhaye stuta iti’.
Sri Bhattar gives reference to the Shruti ‘Dhata purastaat yamudajahara Sakrah pravidvan pradishash-catasrah” (Purusha Suktam 17) – At first, Brahma, the Creator, praised Him, then Indra of great knowledge extolled Him, and then the four directions’. The reference to the four directions indicates that He is the Object of praise by all beings like ourselves.
Sri V.V. Ramanujan gives reference to Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi (3.3.5), which conveys this idea – ‘Sodiyagi ella ulagum tozhum Adi murti enral alavagumo?’ – The glorious Venkatam Lord is the nectar of the Vedas, first-cause of all. Can he be praised by me?
The Dharma Chakram writer notes that it is only when we have a mind that is clean, and is occupied by Him, that meaningful and proper Stuti comes out through our words. It is then that the greatness of Bhagavan takes shape in the form of words and comes out as Stuti. Thus, it is He who causes the Stuti to occur, and hence He is called Stutih.
- Stotaa – He praises those who extol Him
In the extreme case the worshipper, the worshipped and the medium of worship coalesce into a single seamless flux. The worshipper gets elevated to the level of the worshipped.
Sri Adi Sankara gives the brief explanation ‘Stotaa api sa eva Sarvatmaktvat – He himself is the worshipper hence He is called Stota’. Since every person is part of Bhagavan the worshipper is part and parcel of Bhagavan Himself and hence it is appropriate to call Bhagavan as Stota or the worshipper since the name of a part can be used to denote the whole.
Sri Parasara Bhattar’s interpretation is “sva-stotaram stotum Seelam asya iti Stotaa” – He Whose nature is to praise those who praise Him is Stotaa. He quotes from Vishnu Dharma in support: ‘yam stuvan stavyatameti vandamanashca vandyatam (75.55) – He Who praises Bhagavan is praised by Bhagavan Himself, and he who adores Bhagavan becomes an object of adoration for Him’. Sri Bhattar gives the example of Bhagavan’s Kailasa Yatra in His Krishna Avataar. Lord Krishna praises of Lord Shiva in the form of a hymn during the Kailasha Yatra. Lord Shiva constantly meditates on Bhagavan through the Taraka mantra, and so He becomes an object of Stuti by Bhagavan, as He says in Hari Vamsa – ‘One who praises Me becomes praiseworthy’.
Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj gives the same interpretation as Sri Bhattar – stauti sva-janaan iti Stotaa. Sri Baladeva VidyaBhushan gives the reason for Bhagavan praising His devotee – He wants to bring out the greatness of such a devotee. He quotes from the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 7, Verse 17 & 18):
Tesam jnani nitya-yukta eka-bhaktir visisyate
Priyo hi jnanino ‘tyartham aham sa ca mama priyah || (BG 7.17)
Meaning: Of these, the wise one who is always engaged exclusively with Me through pure devotional service is the best. For I am very dear to him, and he is dear to Me.
Udarah sarva evaite jnani tv atmaiva me matam
Asthitah sa hi yuktatma mam evanuttamam gatim || (BG 7.18)
Meaning: All these devotees are undoubtedly magnanimous souls, but he who is situated in knowledge of Me I consider verily to dwell in Me. Being engaged in My transcendental service, he attains Me.
Swami ChinmayAnanda refers us to the Bhagavad Gita Slokam 12.14 – ‘mayyarpita mano-buddhir yo mad-bhaktah sa me priyah – He who is always satisfied and engaged in devotional service with determination and whose mind and intelligence are in agreement with Me -he is very dear to Me.
The Dharma Chakram writer elaborates on the attributes or qualities of the devotee whom Bhagavan praises. This devotee shows kindness to all, has overcome anger, considers pleasure and pain as equal, is pure in thought, word and deed, dedicates all his actions to Bhagavan, is neither happy when he obtains objects of pleasure nor unhappy when he is faced with objects of displeasure, is neither positively influenced by praise nor negatively influenced by unkind words, etc. Lord Krishna describes such a devotee as dear to Him.
- Ranapriyah – He Who delights in battles
The word Rana has two meanings – Rana gatau or Rana Shabda arthah- it can mean motion or sound. The different interpretations draw on these two different meanings. The derived meaning is battle or uproar. Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Priyo ranah yasya yatah pancha mahayudhaani dhatte satatam lokarakshanaartham atah Ranapriyah – He delights in battle with the evil for which He carries his five great weapons (Panchajanya the Conch, Sudharshana Chakra, Kaumedhaki the Mace, Nandaki the Sword and Saarngam the Bow) to protect the world hence He is called Ranapriyah, one who likes battles’. He delights in waging battles with the evil to protect the virtuous using His wonderful weapons.
Sri Bhattar interprets Ranapriyah to means one who delights in moving around, accompanied by sound. Thus, the term Rana is used to refer to battle, where a brave warrior moves around with joy in confronting his enemies. He is Ranapriyah when it comes to dealing with the enemies of those who have sought His Refuge and protection and for establishing Dharma.
The fight against Ravana in His Rama Avatar, the destruction of Duryodhana, Kamsa and other demons in His Krishna Avataar are among some of the widely known examples of His Guna of Ranapriyah. In the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 4 Verse 8), Bhagavan 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 Dharma (righteousness), I appear millennium after millennium.
Sri Parasara Bhattar quotes Sage Valmiki in Yuddha Kandam:
Tatah sakaamam Sugreevam Angadam ca maha-balam |
Cakara Raghavah preeto hatva Ravanamahave || (Yuddha Kandam 108.31)
Meaning: Sri Rama killed Ravana in the fight and felt happy that He fulfilled the desires of the powerful Sugreeva and Angada.
Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj gives an interpretation which is different from the other commentaries:
Rano ravah mandireshu mangala dhvanih; sa priyo yasya iti Ranapriyah – The auspicious sound in the temples is called Ranah or Ravah; since these are pleasant to Him, He is referred to as Ranapriyah.
Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha uses the meaning of movement for Rana, and gives the interpretation that He is called Rana-priyah because He delights in moving around in the hearts of everyone and removing the darkness in them and enlightening them, or He delights in moving around in the form of the Sun and removing the darkness in the world.
The Dharma Chakram writer points out that life intrinsically is a struggle for one thing vs. another. For one life to live, some other life or some aspect of another life is destroyed. For us to be relieved from evil influences, we have to overcome the evil. Bhagavan has the big task of fighting all evils of the world, and this is what He signifies by carrying the PanchAyudhas.
This Nama of Bhagavan should remind us that our life is a big struggle and we need to be vigilant and ready to fight to keep the bad away from us (thoughts, words, deeds), and constantly meditate on the Lord to assert the good in us.
- Purnah – He is Complete
The word Purna means full or complete or perfect. Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Sakalaih kaamaih Sakalaabhih shaktibhih cha sampannah iti Purnah – He has fully acquired all possible objects of desire and is fully endowed with all possible powers hence he is called Purnah’.
He has everything and has nothing more to possess or acquire. He is therefore the perfect or the complete one.
The Isavasya Upanishad starts with the famous and insightful verse:
Om Purnamadah Purnamidam
Om Shanti, Shanti, Shantih
Meaning: Om. That is the whole (Complete or Absolute or Full), this is the whole; from the whole, the whole becomes manifest; taking away the whole from the whole, the whole remains. Om. Peace! Peace! Peace!
In the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 3 Verse 22) Bhagavan says:
Na me Parthasti kartavyam trishu lokeshu kincana;
Nanavaptam Avaptavyam Varta eva ca karmani ||
Meaning: There is no duty prescribed for me to do within all the three worlds, O Parth, nor do I have anything to gain or attain and yet I am engaged in work.
Bhagavan therefore is complete in all respects and He is Purnah.
The root from which the Nama is derived is Puri – Apyaayane – to fill, to satisfy. Sri Parasara Bhattar gives the interpretation that since He is Avapta-samasta-kaman (One Who has all His desires fulfilled, and has nothing else to wish for), He is Purnah. Sri Parasara Bhattar explains that this is why it is easy to please Him with just words of praise, with no expenditure of any kind involved, no physical strain, and no need for elaborate worship.
Sri NammAzhwar sings His Purnattvam in Thiruvai Mozhi:
- Ella ulagum uDaiyAn tannai (4.5.7)– He bears all the worlds;
- Thanade ulagena nindran tannai (4.5.10) – He stands and sits over it as it is His Creation.
Swami ChinmayAnanda points out that He is LakshmI-pati, and there is nothing that He does not have.
Sri Radhakrishna Shastri says that He is also Purnah in the sense that He is everywhere, and permeates and pervades everything. Since everything is part of Him, and there is nothing that is not part of Him, there is nothing for Him to desire.
Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj adds that He is filled with infinite Kalyana Gunas, and so He is Purnah – Puryate Apyayate sma Kalyana Gunaih iti Purnah; He is easily fulfilled and satisfied with the simple offerings from His devotees, such as flowers, fruits, etc. – Bhaktarpitaih phala kusum Adibhih tarpita iti Purnah.
Sri Baladeva Vidyabhushan builds on his commentary for the previous Nama, and interprets the current Nama to mean that He is perfect in the sense of finishing off His enemies once for all without a trace.
The Dharma Chakram writer discusses the implications of this Nama for our daily life. Purna is the fulfilled or completely satisfied state. Generally, as we succeed more in our material life, we become more and more dissatisfied, because our needs and wants keep growing. The modern day education only helps grow this material need. The term ‘kalvi’ signifies ‘kalludal’, digging into. The true purpose of kalvi should be to bring out the good in us and to develop the desire to seek Him. But the modern day education only digs out more desire, more wants, and helps us lose whatever little good we might have had to start with. We become even more of pleasure seekers and wealth seekers as we get educated. The more devices we discover to defend ourselves, the more the fear in us increases of possible attacks. The significance of this Nama for us should be to realise that the joy we are seeking is really within us, and to realise our true potential and become fulfilled is through this realisation of the true nature of our ‘Self’.
- Purayita – The Fulfiller of the desires of His devotees
Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Na kevalam purnah eva Purayita cha sarvesham sampadbhih – He is not just the fulfilled one Himself but also makes others fulfilled by bestowing on them all their desires. He is the Perfect one and makes his devotees Perfect too and therefore he is Purayita, the fulfiller. By sharing his perfection with others He does not become less perfect. This is brought out in the Upanishad ‘Om Purnamadah Purnamidam Purnaat Purnam udachyate; Purnasya Punamadaya Purnameva Vashishyate’. After creating the perfect Universe out of Himself He still remains perfect. Therefore He is Purnah and Purayita at the same time.
Bhagavan has the Nama Purayita because He bestows anything that anyone desires depending on their merit – Dharma, Artha, Kama or Moksha. Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets that He has this Nama because He fulfills the desire of His devotees who wish to sing His praise. In other words, Bhagavan is Purayita by becoming a Stava-priyah (Nama 685) for the sake of His devotees, and fulfilling their desire to praise Him, even though He is a Purnah (previous Nama), and thus does not need the praise of the devotees. His true devotees only seek the chance to do kaimkaryam to Him by pleasing Him through praise etc., and this is what He fulfills, as signified by the Nama Purayita.
The Dharma Chakram writer gives some instances of the unique ways in which Bhagavan fulfils the desires of those who seek His help, all the time upholding Dharma. The Story of Arjuna and Duryodhana seeking help from Lord Krishna for the MahaBharata war is interesting. Lord Krishna bestowed both Arjuna’s and Duryodhana’s wishes, though ultimately He made sure that Dharma won. Bhagavan fulfilled the promise He had given to Bhishma and prepared to fight Bhishma, thus breaking his vow of not lifting a weapon in the War. By fulfilling His devotees’ wishes, all He is doing is fulfilling His own wishes, since He wants to ensure that His devotees’ words are true.
- Punyah – The Purifier
Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Smritimatrena kalmashaani kshapayati iti Punyah – He rids you of all your sins and defects if you merely think about Him hence He is called Punyah, the Purifier’.
This is also mentioned in the Dhyana Shloka ‘Yasya Smarana maatrena janmasamsara bandhanaat Vimuchyte Namastasmai Vishnave prabhavishnave – His mere remembrance is enough to get us out of the bondage of birth and earthly mundane life, Salutations unto Him’.
In the Shloka ‘Maanasam Vaachikam Paapam Karmanaa Samupaarjitam Shree Rama Smaranenaiva vyopahati na samshayah’, it says that any sin committed in mind, in speech or in action gets eradicated just by remembering the Rama Nama. This is beyond doubt’.
There are two derivations of the word ‘Punyah’ – first, the root ‘Pu – pavane’ meaning ‘to purify’, and the second as ‘Pun – Subha karmani’ meaning ‘to be pious’. Sri Parasara Bhattar gives the definition – Punaati iti Punyah – He who purifies is Punyah, which is derived from the root Pu – pavane. Sri Bhattar points out that Bhagavan has this Nama because He purifies even the worst of the sinners and makes them fit for extolling Him.
Sri V.V. Ramanujan observes that the Nama ‘Punyam’ is a favourite of the Azhwars. Among the references he gives are from Sri Thirumazhisai Azhwar’s – ‘Anantan mel kidanda em Punniya!” (Tiruccanda viruttam 45), and from Sri Thirumangai Azhwar’s – ‘un adiyen manam pugunda ap pulava! Punniyane!’ (Periya Thirumozhi 3.5.7).
The Dharma Chakram writer explains that just as the thoughts of indriya-sukham are thoughts that are not conducive to His realisation, the thoughts about Him produce the purity that leads to His realisation.
Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha says ‘pavata iti, puyate va anena iti Punyah – pavitrah papanaviddhah Subho va – He who purifies, or One by whom things are purified is Punyah; or, One who is pure, devoid of any sin, auspicious, etc. He gives the example of Bhagavan in the form of the Sun purifying all objects in the Universe, in addition to being pure Himself.
Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj gives the derivation as “punati Subham karma Acarati iti Punyah – One Who observes pious activities is Punyah. By the grammatical rule “tatra sadhuh”, with the addition the yat pratyaya to Puna, the term Punyah means “One who is excellent in observing the pious activities”, and not just in the sense of being good. Bhagavan sets the example to His devotees on performing pious acts by performing them Himself.
- Punyakeertih – He Whose Keerti or praise is also purifying (in addition to Him being the Purifier)
Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Punyaa Keertih asya yatah Punyam aavahati asya keertih nrinaam iti Punyakeertih – His fame or reputation brings purity to all people who hear about it hence He is Punyakeertih’.
The devotees who sing his praises (Keerti) attain purity. Bhagavan himself is present where his devotees chant His name and fame. Lord Hari says to Narada, ‘Naham vasami vaikunthe yoginam hridaye na cha, Mad-bhakta yatra gayanti tatra tishthami Narada’, i.e., ‘I dwell not in Vaikuntha nor in the hearts of the Yogis, but I dwell where my devotees sing My Nama, O Narada.’ When the Lord is present all the impurities are blown away and the devotees are enveloped in absolute purity.
Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets that His Keerti is purifying when it is sung by His devotees; in other words, Nama Sameertana by His devotees, which involves singing His Keerti, purifies the devotee, and so He is called Punya-keertih. Sri Bhattar gives several references that indicate the purifying nature of His praise.
Nama samkeertanam pumsam vilayanam anuttamam |
maitreya! ashesha papanam dhatunamiva pavakah || (Vishnu Purana 6.8.20)
Meaning: Maitreya! Just as fire purifies the metals, the unequalled recitation of the names of Bhagavan, which have unsurpassed greatness, destroys all sins of man”.
Avashena’pi yan-naamni kIrtite sarva-paatakaih |
Pumaan vimucyate sadyah simha-trataih mrigairiva || (Vishnu Purana 6.8.19)
Meaning: Those who, even without being aware of it, utter Bhagavan Nama are freed from their sins in the same way as a deer is freed from the attack of beasts when they run away on hearing the roar of a lion.
Dhyayan krite yajan yajnais-tretaayaam dvaapare’rcayan |
Yadaapnoti tadaapnoti kalau samkeertya Keshavam || (Vishnu Purana 6.2.17)
Meaning: By the mere mention of Bhagavan Nama, a man in Kali Yuga attains the same fruits that one obtained in the Krita Yuga by abstract meditation, in the Treta Yuga by sacrifice, and in the Dvapara Yuga by adoration.
Sri V.V. Ramanujan quotes Sri Andal’s Thiruppavai Pasuram 5:
மாயனை மன்னு வடமதுரை மைந்தனைத்
தூய பெருநீர் யமுனைத் துறைவனை
ஆயர் குலத்தினில் தோன்றும் அணிவிளக்கைத்
தாயைக் குடல்விளக்கம் செய்த தாமோதரனைத்
தூயோமாய் வந்துநாம் தூமலர்தூ வித்தொழுது
வாயினால் பாடி மனத்தினால் சிந்திக்கப்
போய பிழையும் புகுதருவான் நின்றனவும்
தீயினில் தூசாகும் செப்பேலோர் எம்பாவாய்.
Meaning: If we come pure and offer fresh flowers, with songs on our lips and feeling in our hearts, and offer praise with folded hands to our Lord Damodara, the prince of Northern Mathura who haunts the clean banks of the great river Yamuna, who was born as the light of the cowherd clan, and who was the jewel of his mother’s womb, then He will forgive our past misdeeds, and even what may be yet to come will disappear like cotton unto fire. So come, let us praise him!
Swami ChinmayAnanda explains that whoever glorifies Him becomes holy, and so in this sense His glory is purifying.
- An-Amayah – He removes the ailment of Samsara
The root from which this Nama is derived is ‘mi – himsaayaam’ meaning ‘to die or to perish’. The term Amayah refers to disease or sickness. He is beyond disease or sickness and hence He is An-Amayah. Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Aantaraih Baahyaih Vyaadhibhih karmajaih na peedyate iti Anaamayah – He is unaffected by any disease from inside or outside originating through Karma, hence He is called Anaamayah’.
Earlier we saw names like Bheshajam (585), Bhishak (586) and Aushadham (288) which clearly imply that He Himself is the Doctor who cures diseases and He Himself is the medicine which treats diseases. Hence, He is Anaamayah, one who is beyond any disease from inside or outside, bodily or mental.
Sri Parasara Bhattar gives the interpretation that He is called An-Amayah because He is the adversary for the worst Amayah, namely the disease of Samsara, in His devotees – Samsara Maha-vyadhi virodhi. Samsara is considered a disease because it is an obstacle to the power of enjoyment of the glory of Bhagavan. Sri Bhattar quotes from Chandogya Upanishad and indicates that those who have realised the true nature of Samsara declare that ‘it is full of disease – vyadhibhih paripurno’smi (CU 4.10.3).
Sri NammAzhwar refers to Him as ‘Vinai theer marunde’ (Thiruvai Mozhi 7.1.4) – ‘You are the medicine for my Karmas’.
Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj gives the derivation – ‘na Amayo rogo yasya iti Anamayah divya-ma’ngala vigrahah’ – His divine body is beyond any kind of disease or illness. Swami ChinmayAnanda says that His Nature is of pure unstained divine essence, and He is thus beyond the mental restlessness or physical pangs that constantly haunt us because of our Karma.
The Dharma Chakram writer says- ‘Disease is whatever causes discomfort to the body or mind. The body is sthula and the mind is sukshma. When the sthula body feels suffering, it impacts the sukhsma mind, and the converse is also true. Since JIva is associated with the body and mind, the pain felt by either is felt by the soul also. Bhagavan is beyond all these, and so He is An-Amayah”.
Stavyaḥ Stavapriyaḥ Stotram Stutih Stota Raṇapriyaḥ |
Purnah Purayita Puṇyaḥ Puṇyakirtir Anaamayaḥ ||73||
He is praise-worthy as the Creator of the Universe and one who sustains it, hence He is Stavyah. In order to fulfil the desire of His devotees who love to praise Him, He is pleased by the praised that is offered in any manner (even if He is referred negatively), hence He is Stavapriyah. He is the cause or the instrument of the Stotram or praise, because it is only by His Grace that the devotee is able to praise Him and He is the Hymn itself, hence He is known as Stotram. He is the act of praise and hence He is called Stutih. His Nature is to praise those who praise Him and hence He is Stotaa. He delights in battles to protect the righteous and to annihilate the evil and so He is called Rana-priyah.
He is complete in all respects and hence Purnah. He fulfils the desire of His devotees, so He is Purayita. If one merely thinks of Him, they are rid of all their sins and defects, hence He is called Punyah, the Purifier. Listening to His praise and kathas makes one pure and hence He is Punyakeertih. He is unaffected by any disease or afflictions arising out of Karma, hence He is called Anaamayah.
HARI OM TAT SAT
OM NAMO NARAYANAAYA
This Vishnu Sahasranamam series is authored with the help of my friend Shri Balaji.