In this part we will explore the meaning of the 74th Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.
Manojavas Theerthakaro Vasuretah Vasupradah |
Vasuprado Vaasudevo Vasur Vasumanaa Havih ||74||
He is swift like the speed of thought, propagator of all branches of knowledge, the golden germinator, bestower of wealth, bestower of Salvation, son of Vasudeva, Omnipresent, always having the welfare of His devotees in His thoughts and He is both the means and the end, the Sacrificial offering and the object of worship.
The above Shloka has the following Namas:
Now let’s examine the meaning of the above Namas in detail:
- Mano-javah – He is swift as thought
The word ‘javah’ is derived from the root ‘jung – gatau’ means ‘to go’. Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Manaso vega iva vegah asya sarvagatatvaat Manojavah – He moves everywhere swiftly at the speed of thought, hence He is called Manojavah’. There is no limit to the speed at which mind can travel nor is there any place to where it can’t tread. Similarly there is no limit to the speed for Bhagavan or the place where He can travel, hence He is Manojavah as He travels like the mind.
There is a well-known Dhyana Shloka on Hanuman which says ‘Manojavam Maruta tulya vegam Jitendriyam Buddhimataam varishtham – He is swift as mind and fast as wind, He is the master of senses and honoured for His Intelligence, Learning and Wisdom’.
Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj explains as – ‘Manaso java iva javo yasya iti Mano-javah – He Who has the speed of mind’.
Sri Parasara Bhattar comments that He is called Mano-javah because He is faster than thought itself in coming to the rescue of a devotee. Sri Bhattar gives supports from the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 9 Verse 31):
Kshipram bhavati dharmAtma Shashvat Shantim nigacchati |
Kaunteya pratijaanihi na me bhaktah pranashyati ||
Meaning: The devotee who is solely dedicated to Me quickly becomes righteous and obtains everlasting peace. Affirm, on my behalf, Arjuna, that My devotee never perishes.
He also quotes this verse from the Vishnu Dharma (83.20):
Sapta-janma-kritam paapam svalpam va yadi va bahu |
Vishnor-Alaya vinyaasa praarambhaadeva nashyati ||
Meaning: The sins committed in seven births, be they many or a few, are all destroyed the moment a man begins to place his foot in the temple of Vishnu.
In the Krishnashtakam Stotram, the last Shloka says:
Krishnashtakam mitham punyam, Prathar uthaya yah pateth,
Kodi janma krutham papam, Smaranena vinasyathi
Meaning: If this blessed octet on Krishna, Is sung as soon as one wakes up in the morning, the sins done in millions of births, will perish as one meditates on Him.
Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers us to Gajendra Moksham, where Bhagavan was not willing to depend solely on the speed of Garuda, and hurried out without even worrying about His appearance. Sri NammAzhwar also describes His extreme speed in removing the sins of His devotees in his Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (1.6.10):
கடிவார் தீய வினைகள் நொடியா ருமள வைக்கண்
கொடியா அடுபுள் ளுயர்த்த வடிவார் மாதவ னாரே ||
Meaning: The beautiful groom Madhava will purge us of our karmas with a bat of an eyelid; His banner bears the fierce Garuda!
Especially because of Maha Lakshmi’s proximity, it takes Him less than the time it takes us to snap our fingers to remove all our sins from the beginning of time.
Sri AnnangaAcharya Swami notes that this Nama signifies that He fulfils His devotees’ wishes with the speed of mind. Sri Baladeva VidyaBhushan comments that He has this Nama because He removes the obstacles of Samsara extremely fast for those who surrender to Him.
The Isavasya Upanishad Mantra 4 describes His speed:
Aneja-dekam manaso javiyo nainad-deva Apnuvan purvam arshat |
tad-dhavato’nyaan atyeti tishthat-tasmin-napo maatarishva dadhati ||
Meaning: The Self is unmoving, one, and faster than the mind. The senses could not overtake It, since it ran ahead. Remaining stationary, it outruns all other runners. It being there, Matarisva (Air) supports all activities.
Sri Radhakrishna Shastri comments as follows: Time, place, or things (Kala, Desha, Vastu) can obstruct one’s speed. But in Bhagavan’s case, none of these come as impediments; He is everywhere already (Desha); He is not limited by past, present, or future (Kala); He is the Controller of everything, and so nothing can obstruct Him (Vastu). In the Svetasvatara Upanishad (3-19) declares:
a-pani pado javano grahita pashyati a-cakshuh sa shrinoti a-karnah |
sa vetti vedyam na ca tasya asti vetta tam Ahuh agryam purhsham mahantam ||
Meaning: Without use of His hands and feet, He moves and grasps; He sees without use of His eyes, hears without the need for His ears. He knows whatever is to be known, and of Him there is no knower. They speak of Him as the first, the Purusha, the Great Infinite Being.
The Dharma Chakram writer points out that the more we think of Him, the more our mind get these attributes of being unconstrained by Desha, Kala, and Vastu, and the more we become closer to Him.
The Story of Yaksha Prashna in MahaBharata – The Righteous Crane
At the end of their 12 years of exile in the forests, time had come for the pandavas to live in Ajnata Vasa (living Incognito). As they were discussing their course of action the Pandava Princes came across a Brahmin who complained that a deer has taken on its antlers his wooden blocks required to generate fire by friction – and therefore he was not able to light the fire for the performance of Vedic rituals. The valorous Pandava Princes set out to retrieve the Brahmin’s wooden sticks and followed the hoof-marks of the deer.
In the quest of the mysterious deer, Yudhishtra, became exhausted and thirsty. His brother Nakula thus ventured out to fetch water and found a beautiful lake. The lake was devoid of any living creature except a crane (Baka). When he attempted to take water from the lake, the Crane spoke, “O Nakula! The water of this lake will turn into poison if you take it without satisfactorily answering my questions.” Nakula, in arrogance, did not pay heed and hurriedly took water from the lake. Upon drinking the crystal clear water, Nakula instantly died of poisoning. Nakula’s twin Sahadeva, coming in search of his brother, also found the same lake, saw Nakula dead, and was warned by the crane. But Sahadeva too ignored the Crane and died after drinking the water. In the same manner, both valiant Arjuna, and powerful Bhima met the same fate.
Since none of the brothers returned with water, Yudhishtra engaged in search of them. Upon following the same path, Yudhishtra came across the lake and found his brothers lying dead. Before searching for the killer of his brothers, Yudhishtra decided to drink some water from the lake. But when the crane warned him, Yudhishtra realized that the crane held the answer to the turn of events. The virtuous Yudhishtra proceeded to answer the questions put forth by the Crane.
Yudhishtra asked, “Who are you? Are you a Rudra, Vasu, or Marut? You must be strong to be able to put to death these powerful brothers of mine. Your feat is remarkable because neither Devas, Asuras, Gandharvas or Rakshasas could stand up to my brothers. But why? What do you want? Noble one! Why are you here? Who are you?”
Before putting the questions to Yudhishtra, the Crane revealed itself as a Yaksha. The Crane replied: ‘I am a Yaksha, Yudhishtra. May you prosper.’ As he heard these words, Yudhishtra saw before his eyes a form developing. A massive tall body with grotesque eyes, burning like the fire of the Sun, and a voice like thunder: ‘I warned your brothers. But they would not listen to me. So now they are dead. This pool belongs to me and unless you answer my questions you shall not even touch this water.’ Yudhishtra replied, I have no desire to take what is yours, Ask me and I will answer as best as I can.
The Yaksha asked 33 questions with philosophical and metaphysical ramifications. This dialogue between the Yaksha and Yudhishtra is embodied in the Aranya Parva of the Mahabharata (311.12), and is also known as the Dharma-Baka Upakhyan (Legend of the Virtuous Crane) and makes a very interesting read.
One of the questions posed by the Yaksha was: What is fleeter than the wind? Yudhishtra answered, “The mind is fleeter than the wind”.
Pleased with all the answers, the Yaksha said,—“O King, you have truly answered all the questions and therefore, let one only amongst your brothers, whom you may wish, get up with life!” Yudhishtra answered,—“Let Nakula, O Yaksha, get up with life!
The Yaksha rejoined,—“This Bhimasena is dear unto you, and Arjuna also is one upon whom all of you depend! Why, then, O king do you, wish a step-brother to get up with his life! How you forsake Bhima whose strength is equal to that of ten thousand elephants and wish Nakula to live? People said that this Bhima was dear to you”.
Yudhishtra said,—“If Dharma is sacrificed, he that sacrificed Dharma, is himself lost. So Dharma also protects Dharma. My father had two wives, Kunti and Madri, and both of them have children. As Kunti is to dear me, so also is Madri. There is no difference between them in my eye. I desire to act equally towards my mothers. Therefore, let Nakula live. This is what I wish.”
The Yaksha said,—‘Since abstention from injury is regarded by you as higher than both profit and pleasure, therefore, let all your brothers’ live, O bull of Bharata race!’
Thus, all the brothers came back alive and Yudhistra thanked the Yaksha for its grace.
- Theertha-karah – He is the source of the holy water
This Nama has the following meanings:
- He is the source of holy water
- He helps us cross the Ocean of Samsara
- The mere touch of His hand is purifying
- He has provided simple steps to access Him through His various Avataars
Theertha has many meanings, one of which is knowledge. Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama from this aspect and says ‘Chaturdasha Vidyaanaam Baahya Vidyaa samayaanaam cha Praneta Pravaktaa cheti Theerthakarah – He is the Creator and propagator of the fourteen principal branches of learning contained in the Vedas as well as other branches of Learning outside the Vedas, hence He is called Theerthakarah, the Creator of Learning’.
Sri Sankara further explains ‘Hayagreeva roopene Madhukaitabhau hatvaa Virinchaaya sargaadau sarvaah shrutih anyaashcha Vidyah upadishan Vedabahyah Vidyah suravairinaam vanchanaaya cha upadidesha iti Pauranikaah kathayanti – These include the Vedas and other Vidyas which He taught to Brahma and the Devas in the form of Hayagreeva (after destroying the Asuras Madhu and Kaitabha), as well the other sciences that are contradictory to the Vedic teachings that He gave to the Asuras to deceive them’.
The word ‘theertham’ is derived from the root thrr – plavana taranayoh – to swim, to cross over. That through which one crosses over or swims is theertham. The term theertham is used to refer to sources of water that purify a person. The term is also used to refer to the sacred scriptures which purify a person through their learning – taratyanena paapam ajnaanam iti theertham, or making it easier for us to reach Him through His various Avataars (Para, Vyuha, Vibhava, Arca, Antaryami). The “crossing over” can also refer to crossing the Ocean of Samsara, the crossing over of all sins, etc.
Sri NammAzhwar captures the full significance of ‘Theertham’ in his Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (7.10.11):
தீர்த்தனுக் கற்றபின் மற்றோர் சரணில்லை யென்றெண்ணி,
தீர்த்தனுக்கே தீர்த்த மனத்தன னாகிச் செழுங்குரு கூர்ச்சட கோபன்சொன்ன,
தீர்த்தங்க ளாயிரத் துள்ளிவை பத்தும்வல் லார்களை, தேவர்வைகல்
தீர்த்தங்க ளேயென்று பூசித்து நல்கி யுரைப்பார்தம் தேவியர்க்கே.
Meaning: The reference to “theerthan” in the first line is to Perumal and once you know Him you surrender to none other; the ‘theertham’ in the 3rd line refers to Sri NammAzhwar’s Pasurams which purify those who chant them, and are even more purifying than Him; the reference to ‘Theertham’ in the 4th line is to those who have learned the purifying Pasurams, who are even more pure than the Pasurams themselves. Thus, hTheertham here refers to the three levels – Perumal, the sacred Pasurams of Azhwar, and the devotees who chant them.
Sri V.V. Rmanujan quotes Sri BhootatAzhwar’s Pasuram from Indaam Thiruvantadi (14) who also refers to those who sing Lord’s praise as Theertha-karas – ‘En tisaiyum pertta karam naangu udaiyaan per odip pediagaal – Theertha karar amin tirindu – Please recite the Lord’s Namas whose four arms stretched into the eight directions and become pure holy men of the Lord by visiting Divya Desams.
The word ‘karah’ is used in two ways: The Doer, from the verb ‘Kr – Karane’ meaning ‘to do’; or it can refer as a noun referring to ‘karah’ as ‘hand’.
Sri Parasara Bhattar gives three interpretations:
- He is Theertha-karah because He is the source of the holy rivers such as the Ganges, and the holy lakes such as the Pushkara, which purify those that mediate on them or recite their names, just as His Nama purifies them;
- He is the Originator of Yoga, Jnana, Samkhya (Science, craft and other arts, Vedas, Shastras, and Music) – Yogo Jnanam tatha Samkhyam (MahaBharata, Anushasana Parva 150.141).
- He, Who is deep like an unreachable ocean, but makes it possible for the devotees to reach Him through a series of incarnations that are like steps to reach Him.
In the Phala Shruti (19), we have:
Yogo jnanam tatha Samkhyam Vidyaah Silpadikarma ca |
Vedashastrani vijnaanametatsarvam Janardhanat ||
Meaning: The art of Yoga and the science of Samkhya, the treasure of knowledge, the divine art of sculpture, and all Vedas and sciences, all these came from Janardhana.
Sri Radharkrishna Shastri refers to the 14 or 18 Vidyas or the ‘ghats of knowledge – kalvit turaigal’ – the four Vedas, the six Vedangas (Siksha, Vyakarana, Chandas, Niruktam, Jyotisham, Kalpam), the two Darshanas (Mimamsa, Nyaya), Dharma Shastra, Puranas, and the four additional ones – Ayurveda, Dhanurveda, Gandharva and Artha Shastra.
Swami ChinmayAnanda comments that He is Theertha-karah because He is the most ancient teacher of Vidyas or Theerthas.
Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj uses the meaning ‘hand’ for the word karah, and gives the interpretation that He is called Theertha-karah because He has hands whose mere touch alone can purify anyone or anything – Theerthah tarakah karo yasya iti Theertha-karah. He gives support from Srimad Bhagavatam (8.4.6) where we find that the mere touch of Bhagavan was able to lift Gajendra from his ajnanam, to which he had been subjected through a previous curse (Shapam) from Sage Agastya:
Gajendro bhagavad-sparshaat vimuktah ajnana bandhanaat |
Praapto bhagavato rupam pItavasash-caturbhujah ||
Meaning: Because Gajendra, King of the elephants, had been touched directly by the hands of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, he was immediately freed of all material ignorance and bondage. Thus he received the salvation of Saarupya-mukti, in which he achieved the same bodily features as the Lord, being dressed in yellow garments and possessing four hands.
Sri Satyadevo Vasishta explains as ‘Theertham karoti iti Theertha-karah’ – He Who Creates the Theerthas, Shastras etc. that purifies the person who resorts to them is Theertha-karah. He has the divine hands whose touch purify the devotee – Theerthah taarakah karo yasya iti Theertha-karah. Sri Vasishta further comments that this Nama also signifies that He is the One who makes the Sun and all the other planets move around (Theertham is used in the sense of crossing over, and karah in the sense of making this possible for the planets).
The word ‘theerthal’ is to give up, and in causal form ‘to make give up’, ‘to remove’, ‘to liberate’ etc. ‘Punmai theerthu Aatkondaal polladho?’ – Will it be bad if you get rid of (or remove) my base nature and take charge of me.
Moreover, ‘theerthal’ implies a termination of a problem or to finish it off like ‘katti-theerkaradhu’ in Tamil.
The word ‘thuraththal’ means to renounce and also implies giving up. Theerthal and Thuraththal go together and gives rise to a subtle conflict in life. Bhagavan Sri Krishna illustrates this in Chapter 18 of the Bhagavad Gita.
In the very first Shloka of Chapter 18 of the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna asks the decisive question seeking clarity on this issue:
Sannyasasya maha-baho tattvam icchami veditum
Tyagasya ca hrsikesa prthak kesi-nisudana || (18.1)
Meaning: Arjuna said, O mighty-armed one, O master of the senses, O slayer of the demon Kesi, Hrishikesha, I wish to understand the distinction between renunciation (Thuraththal or Tyaga) and renouncing of the fruits of action (theerthal).
In the next Shloka (Chapter 18 Verse 2) Bhagavan responds:
Kamyanam karmanam nyasam sannyasam kavayo viduh |
Sarva-karma-phala-tyagam prahus tyagam vicaksanah ||
Meaning: The Lord said, to give up the results of all activities is called renunciation (tyaga) by the wise. And that state is called the renounced order of life (sannyasa) by great learned men.
There is an eternal struggle between tyaga (giving up) and nyasa (to lead a life or to make a living). The Gita answers this in a subtle and nuanced way by emphasising the need for knowledge. Tyaga and nyasa are the same, when nyasa becomes san (good) as defined in the Gita. It does not mean giving up your duties or to stop making a living (nyasa) but make it good (san) by doing what you have to do in a righteous manner and not worrying about results. Do your actions and give up (theerthal) the fruits of your action. Then you are a Thuravi (or a Sannyasi).
The Jains have a lineage of ‘Theerthankaras’ and it refers to the one who has gone beyond the giving up of the Karmas and a model for others to emulate.
- Vasu-retah – The Source of Lustre
The word Vasu has many meanings. One of them is gold. Using this Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Vasu suvarnam retah asya iti Vasuretaah – His seed or energy is in the form of gold, hence He is called Vasuretaah’. He quotes the following verse by Vyasa in support of this:
Devah poorvam apah Srishtvaa taasu veeryam upaaSrijat
Tadandam abhavat haimam Brmhanah kaaranam param ||
Meaning: The Lord first created water and then released His energy in the form of a golden egg out of which emerged Bramha, the Creator’. Thus Vasuretaah is nothing but Hiranyagarbhah, the golden egg which was the source for Creating the Creator himself.
The following is from Amara Kosham:
Deva-bhede’nale rashmau vasu ratne dhane vasu |
Vishnau ca vedhah stri tvasheer-hitaashamsAhidamshTrayoh || (3-4- 288)
Meaning: Vasu as a noun can mean a class of Deities, Fire, a Ray of Light, a Rein or Halter, Gem, Wealth, Vishnu, Wise, Veda etc.
The word ‘retah’ is derived from the root ‘ri – sravane’ meaning ‘to flow’. The term ‘retas’ is used to refer to the seed, cause, semen etc.
Sri Parasara Bhattar uses the meaning ‘lustre’, related to ‘rashmi’ for the word Vasu – vasu iti jyotih paryaayah, and the meaning “cause or source” for the word retas, in his interpretation for the Nama, and thus gives the meaning ‘He Who is the Source of the Divine Lustre’. He is also the One from Whom the other objects including the Sun get their light. The Nirukti summary for the Nama is:
Vasu Sabdo jyotir-artho retas-tat-karanam matam |
Divya-jyotih karanatvat Vasu-retah prakirtitah ||
Sri AnnangarAcharya gives the interpretation for the Nama as ‘He Who has His Divya Tejas as the Cause for His incarnations’. Sri V.V. Ramanujan gives the example of His Krishna incarnation, where He entered the Garbham of Devaki in the form of His Jyoti.
Sri Satyadevo Vasishta uses the root ‘vas – nivase’ meaning ‘to dwell’, and derives the meaning that One in Whom the whole Universe resides is Vasu. He uses the meaning ‘root’ or ‘cause’ for the term retah, and thus gives the interpretation that Vasu-reta refers to the One Who is the cause of all things in this Universe.
The Dharma Chakram writer gives the analogy that just as gold serves as the base material for all gold ornaments, so also He serves as the base from which all other beings arise. He shines like gold in the context of creation and just as gold needs to be admixed with a small amount of copper in order for it to be used in making jewels, so also the joining together of His Veeryam with the Moola-prakriti results in the Creation of the Universe, with its Panca bhutas etc.
- Vasupradah – The Giver of Treasure
This Nama appears in succession and has several meanings:
- The Giver of Treasure
- The Giver of Glory or Dignity
- The Bestower of Moksham
- He Who provides the place for dwelling for all beings
We will cover the giver of wealth and treasure in this Nama and the bestower of Moksha in the next Nama.
Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Vasum dhanam prakarshena dadaati saakshaat Dhanaadhyakshoyam itarastu tatprasaadaat Dhanaadhyakshah iti Vasupradah – He gives away wealth liberally making him the real controller of wealth; the other apparent controllers such as Kubera are only functioning as controllers out of his grace hence He is called Vasupradah, the dispenser of wealth’.
Vasu dhanam prakarshena dadati iti Vasu-pradah – One Who bestows wealth in an eminent or superior way is Vasu-pradah.
Sri Parasara Bhattar says that He gives the best of wealth to the true seeker, in the form of Himself – thus He gives the parama nidhi – the Treasure, to the true devotee.
Sri Satyadevo Vasishta gives the meaning for this Nama as ‘The Giver of wealth’.
- Vasupradah – The Conferror of Moksha
Vasu is interpreted in the sense of the ultimate wealth i.e. the fruit of liberation or Moksham. Sri Adi Sankara explains this as ‘Vasu prakrishtam mokshaakhyam phalam bhaktebhyah pradadaati iti dviteeyo Vasupradah – He gives the ultimate reward of Moksham or liberation to His devotees, hence He is called Vasupradah’.
In the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (3.9.28), it says – Vigyanamandam Brahma ratirdatu payanam thishtamansya tadvidah iti shruteh! Surarinaam vasuni prakarshna khandayan va Vasupradah – It is Brahman, who is wisdom and bliss, the final goal of the giver of wealth; as He is the One who abides in Him and knows Him. Or He who deprives the asuras of their wealth.
Sri Parasara Bhattar explains the meaning of Vasu as Glory for this occurrence. Sri Bhattar gives the example of Bhagavan giving Himself as a son to Devaki and Vasu-deva. He also gave keerti to Dasharatha when He was born as Rama – ellai il SIr Dasharathan tan maganait tondri.
Sri Satyadevo Vasishta uses the meaning ‘dwelling’ for Vasu, and gives the interpretation that He has the Nama Vasu-pradah because He provides Himself as the place for the existence of all beings -vastatyasmin iti vasuh vasastam pradadati iti Vasu-pradah.
- Vaasu-devah – The Son of Vasudeva
There are several meanings for this Nama and this has appeared even earlier in Shloka 36.
- He who pervades and sports
- The Son of Vasudeva
- The presiding Deity of the well-known 12-lettered Vasu-deva mantra
- The Deity Who is adored by His devotees
- He Who lives in everything and Who keeps them moving around
Sri Adi Sankara gives the straightforward meaning ‘Vasudevasya apatyam pumaan Vaasudevah – He is called Vaasudevah because He is the son of Vasudeva’. Just like the son of Dasharatha is called Daasharathi and the son of Varuna is called Vaarunah, Similarly, the son of Vasudeva is called Vaasudevah by the rules of Sanskrit grammar.
Sri Bhattar explains that this Nama, like the Narayana Nama, is a guhya mantram, and its meaning should be properly learnt from a qualified Acharya. Sri Bhattar’s earlier interpretation was that Bhagavan is called Vaasu-deva because He is Vaasu (One in whom everything lives like in a mother, and One who envelopes and protects everything like a bird with its wings), and He is a deva (One Who sports, or has this process of pervasion, permeation, creation, protection, destruction, etc., as a part of His leela). So He is both a Vaasu and a deva, and so He is called Vaasu-devah.
Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj gives the support from Srimad Bhagavatam (10.51.40), where Bhagavan declares that He is called Vaasu-deva because He was born as the son of Vasu-deva in the yadu kulam:
avateerno yadukule griha Anakadundubheh |
vadanti Vaasu-deveti Vasu-deva-sutam hi maam ||
Meaning: Thus I descended in the Yadu dynasty, in the home of Anakadundubhi. Indeed, because I am the son of Vasudeva, people call Me Vaasudeva.
Sri V.V. Ramanujan observes that it is the same vyUha vAsu-deva that descended from Sri Vaikuntham, that also took birth as the child of Vasu-deva, delighted the hearts of the gopis, was the para-tattvam for the yogis, and at the same time was the death for Kamsa and a terror for his other evil-minded associates.
Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj gives a different interpretation that He is called Vaasu-deva because He is adorned by His devotees – Vaasyate sevyate bhaktaih iti Vaasuh; sa caasau deva iti Vaasu-devah. The root from which he derives this interpretation is vaas – upasevaayaam – to scent, to make fragrant.
Sri Satyadevo Vasishta uses this last meaning (gacchati, gamayati) for the word Deva, and gives the interpretation for the Nama as ‘One Who dwells in everything, and makes it possible for everything to move around’. He gives reference from the Isaavasya Upanishad mantra ‘Isavasyam idam sarvam yad-ki’nca jagatyaam jagat – All this, whatsoever moves in this Universe, including the Universe itself moving, is indwelt or pervaded or enveloped by the Lord’.
Swami ChinmayAnanda gives the interpretation that He has this Nama since He lives in every living entity as the Jiva, the in-dweller. He supports his interpretation with a reference from the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 18 Verse 61):
Isvarah sarva-bhutanam hrd-dese ‘rjuna tisthati
Bhramayan sarva-bhutani yantrarudhani mayaya ||
Meaning: The Supreme Lord is situated in everyone’s heart, O Arjuna, and is directing the wanderings of all living entities, who are seated as on a machine, spinning them round and round, mounted on a wheel as it were, by His power’.
- Vasuh – The In-dweller
We have covered this Nama earlier in Shloka 12 and Shloka 29. The Nama ‘Vasuh’ has several meanings:
- The In-dweller
- He is the best wealth that is sought after
- He Who resides in the Milk-Ocean
- He Who is in the form of the Vasus
- He Who lives in everything and in whom everything lives
- He Who conceals Himself (from those who are not devoted to Him)
- He is the final dwelling place for all
Sri Adi Sankara gives the interpretation for this occurrence as the in-dweller. He says ‘Vasanti bhutaani tatra, teshu ayam api vasati iti Vasuh – All beings reside in Him and He also resides in them hence He is called Vasuh, the resider’. In the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 7 Verse 12) Bhagavan says ‘Matta eveti taan viddhi na tvaham teshu te mayi – Not only do I dwell in them they also dwell in me’. In the Narayana Suktam it says ‘Antar bahishcha tat sarvam vyaapya Narayana Sthitah – Lord Narayana resides everywhere both inside and outside of all beings’.
Sri Sankara’s earlier interpretation of this Nama were:
- Of the eight Vasus, He is ‘Fire’ – ‘Vasunam Pavakashca Asmi’ – Srimad Bhagavad Gita 10.23);
- He is the Wealth that He gives Himself to His devotees;
- He is Vasuh because He conceals Himself with His Maya (‘vas’ means to cover);
- He is dwelling in the atmosphere as Vasu (Vasur-antarikshasat – Katha Upanishad 2.2.3).
Sri Bhattar’s earlier comments for this Nama was that Bhagavan is Vasuh because He dwells in the hearts of His devotees as He is pleased even with the slightest of devotion. He had further interpreted that Bhagavan is Vasuh because He is the wealth or treasure sought after by great people to the exclusion of all other wealth – ‘Vaasu-devah sarvam iti prakarena garIyasaam svayameva dhanam iti Vasuh’.
For the current occurrence of the Nama, Sri Bhattar’s interpretation is in the context of Lord’s Krishna Avataar, and he explains that ‘Vasuh’ refers to His dwelling in the Milky-Ocean, from where He takes His Avataars’ for our benefit. He quotes the following in support:
Sa lokanam hitarthaya ksheerode vasati prabhuh | (MahaBharata) – ‘The great Lord resides in the Milky-Ocean for doing good to the people of the world’.
Esha Narayanah Sriman ksheerarnava niketanah |
Naaga paryankam utsrjya hyagato mathuram purim ||(Harivamsam 113.62)
Meaning: This Narayana, Who is always with Lakhsmi, resides in the Milky-Ocean; He has come to the city of Mathura leaving His serpent-couch (AdiSesha).
Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers us to Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi 8.8.1, where he says:
கண்கள் சிவந்து பெரியவாய் வாயும் சிவந்து கனிந்து,உள்ளே
வெண்பல் இலகு சுடரிலகு விலகு மகர குண்டலத்தன்,
கொண்டல் வண்ணன் சுடர்முடியன் நான்கு தோளன் குனி சார்ங்கன்,
ஒண்சங் கதைவா ளாழியான் ஒருவன் அடியே னுள்ளானே.
Meaning: The One with large red eyes and ripe coral lips, pearly white teeth and radiant dangling earnings shaped like Makara-fish, dark as the rain-cloud, he wears a radiant crown, has four arms, and holding a beautiful Bow, Discus, Conch, Mace and Sword dwells within me.
Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan quotes Bhagavan’s own words – ‘mad-bhakta yatra gaayanti tatra tishthami Narada – Wherever my devotees invoke My name, I am present there’.
Swami ChinmayAnanda gives the explanation that He is the final refuge of all, and this is what is signified by this Nama.
The Dharma Chakram writer points out that just like a child which gets distracted with some toys and forgets its mother, we get distracted with the trivial materialistic wealth often and forget Him; but just as the mother embraces the child when it cries for her, Bhagavan embraces us when we cry for Him. Instead of pursuing materialistic pleasures, we should realize that He is the most treasured Wealth. The writer also identifies the Nama with Fire, which according to him is the most important of the Ashta Vasus in Nature.
- Vasu-manaah – He Who has a Mind which thinks of His devotees as a treasure
This Nama has also occurred earlier in Shloka 12 and has several meanings:
- He Whose mind is always with Vasu-deva.
- He Who has a golden mind – pure, without any afflictions
- He Who has a pure mind (He dwells in everything without distinction)
- He Who has a mind which is filled with Vatsalyam (affection) towards His devotees
- He Who has a mind that leads to the removal of obstacles of His devotees
- He Who has complete knowledge of the needs of all beings
- He Whose mind was with Bhishma as He lay in his death-bed of arrows
Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Avisheshena sarveshu vishayeshu vasati iti Vasuh, taadrisham manah asya asti iti Vasumanaah – His mind is so pure and unbiased that he resides everywhere without discrimination so He is called Vasumanaah or one with a pure mind’. For Bhagavan all are equal irrespective of their wealth, education or social status. He dwells everywhere without any differentiation. Because He has a manas which is Vasu (pure, excellent, superior); His mind is not polluted with desire, aversion, pride, etc. (raga-dveshadibhih kleshaih madadibhih up-kleshaishca yato na kalushitam cittam tatah tan-manah prashastam; prashastam mano yasya sah vasu-manAh), He is called Vasu-manaah.
Sri Bhattar interprets that Vasu-manaah indicates Bhagavan considering His devotees as a treasure. Vasu interpreted as Wealth, and manas interpreted as mind, Vasu-manaah means He Who treasures His devotees in His mind. Sri Bhattar gave the reference from the Bhagavad Gita (7.19), indicating how pure devotees are a hard to find treasure for Him, where the Lord says to Arjuna:
Bahunam janmanam ante jnanavan mam prapadyate
Vaasudevah sarvam iti sa mahatma su-durlabhah ||
Meaning: After many births and deaths, one perfected in wisdom surrenders unto Me, knowing Me to be the cause of all causes and all that is. Such a great soul is very rare.
Sri Bhattar follows up on his interpretation of the previous Nama Vasuh, which he interpreted as ‘One Who dwells in the Milky-Ocean ready to take the different Avataars for the benefit of mankind’. He interprets the current Nama as indicating that though He was resting in the Milky-Ocean, His manas was with Vasu-deva – Vasu-manaah (the term ‘Vasu’ in this instance referring to Vasu-deva), to whom He decided to be born as the son for His Krishna Avataar. Sri Bhattar further points out that just as the term ‘Datta’ without any other qualification always refers to Deva-datta, and the term ‘Bhama’ refers to Satyabhama, so also scholars have interpreted the name ‘Vasu’ to refer to Vasu-deva. Even though He resides in the Milky-ocean, the birth place of Lakshmi, His mind is with Vasu-deva, which is why He choose to be born as Vasu-deva’s child.
Sri Baladeva VidyaBhushaN comments that all that Bhagavan looks for is from His devotees is pure devotion to Him – aki’ncana bhakta dhaneshu mano yasya sa Vasu-manaah.
In his first Pasuram of Thiruvai Mozhi, Sri NammAzhwar refers to Perumal’s tiruvadi (Lotus feet) as ‘tuyar aru Sudar adi – The glorious Lotus Feet that removes the sufferings of His devotees.
Sri RamanujAcharya has given this alternate explanation for this phrase of Sri NammAzhwar: It is Bhagavan whose tuyar or sorrow is removed as they get in contact with His dear devotees and His Divine Feet shine brilliantly. Such is the importance of the devotees and their happiness to Bhagavan. He suffers when His devotees suffer, and He feels happy when His devotees feel happy, as described in Srimad Ramayana, Ayodhya Kandam (2.42):
Vyasaneshu manushyanam bhrisham bhavati duhkitah |
Utsaveshu ca sarveshu piteva paritushyati ||
Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj uses a different meaning for the word ‘Vasu’ (vas – snehe – to love, and vas- apaharane – to take away, based on vas – snehac-cheda apaharaNeshu – to love, to cut, to take away). His first interpretation is that this Nama signifies Bhagavan’s Vatsalyam (vasu snehah vatsalyam tan manasi yasya iti Vasu-manaah). His second interpretation is based on vas – apaharana – to take away, is that He has this Nama because He has a mind which makes Him take away or remove the sufferings of His devotees – vaasayati apaharati vipadah sva-jananam iti vasu; taadrsham mano yasya iti Vasu-manaah).
Sri Satyadevo Vasishta uses the root ‘man – jnane’ meaning ‘to know or to think’, and gives the interpretation that this Nama signifies that Bhagavan is the Knower of the type of body, and the relative requirements of heat, air, water, etc., for the different kinds of beings, and so He is Vasu-manaah – One Who knows the various needs, constitution, etc., of all the creatures (yena prakarena nivasitum arhati, prithak prithak Sareera-krite katham vidhasya aushnyasya, kim va Sitasya, kim va jalasya, kim va vayoh Avashyakata astiiti sarvam Vishnuh jaanaati, tasmaat sa Vasu-manaah ukto bhavati).
The Dharma Chakram writer explains that while most people are selfish and think of their own welfare, a person who strives to put Vedanta into practice will have the broad mind to think of the welfare of others, and will see God in everything he encounters. He realizes that Bhagavan is the only One who is worthy of worship. He acquires unshakable devotion to Him. This is not easy to attain, and it may take several births to achieve it.
- Havih – The Sacrificial Offering
Havih means sacrificial offering. Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Bramhaarpanam Bramha Havih iti Bhagavat vachanaat Havih – Since Bhagavan has said in the Bhagavad Gita (4.24) that what is offered to God is God Himself, He is the offering or ‘Havih’. In the Bhagavad Gita (9.16), Bhagavan says:
Aham kratur aham yajnah svadhaham aham ausadham
mantro ‘ham aham evajyam aham agnir aham hutam
Meaning: But it is I who am the ritual, I the sacrifice, the offering to the ancestors, the healing herb, the transcendental chant. I am the butter and the fire and the offering’.
Sri Sankara gives his interpretation for the current Nama as “He is the Oblation in the sacrifice”, and gives the above-referenced Gita Shloka in support. His explanation is that a Brahman-knower knows that the Havis is nothing but Brahman – ‘Brahma arpanam yena karanena brahma-vit havih agnau arpayati tat brahmaiva iti pashyati’.
The word ‘havih’ is derived from the root ‘hu – danadanayoh’ means ‘to offer, to perform a sacrifice’. In the context of Krishna Avataar, Sri Bhattar’s explanation for this Nama is that it signifies that Bhagavan was given away (sacrificed), by Devaki and Vasudeva to Yashodha and Nandagopa, as soon as He was born. Even though the child Krishna had nothing to fear from Kamsa, He let Himself be given away to Nandagopa just for the peace of mind of Vasudeva and Yashodha.
A different derivation is given by Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj and Sri Baladeva VidyaBhushan. They derive their interpretations based on the root hu (hinv) – preenane – to please, and thus give the interpretation for the Nama as ‘He Who is pleased or satisfied’ – huyate preeyate iti Havih. Following on his explanation for the Nama Vasu-manaah in terms of Bhishma, Sri Vidya Bhushan observes that He was pleased with Bhishma’s meditation as He was lying on the bed of arrows, and bestowed Moksham on him, and this is what is signified by the Nama ‘Havih’.
The Dharma Chakram writer observes that when something is offered in sacrifice by one person to another, both benefit in the process. In the case of Lord Krishna, Devaki and Vasudeva who gave Him away were released from the atrocity of Kamsa, and Yashodha and Nandagopa who received Him derived immense joy by having Him with them. That is the greatness of sacrifice. However, it is important to note that sacrifice should be performed without the feeling of Doer-ship, and without the desire for benefit.
Manojavas Theerthakaro Vasuretah Vasupradah |
Vasuprado Vaasudevo Vasur Vasumanaa Havih ||74||
He is moves everywhere swiftly at the speed of thought, hence He is called Manojavah. He is the Creator and propagator of the fourteen principal branches of learning contained in the Vedas as well as other branches of Learning outside the Vedas, hence He is called Theerthakarah, the Creator of Learning. His seed or energy is in the form of gold, hence He is called Vasuretaah. He gives away wealth liberally making him the real controller of wealth; the other apparent controllers such as Kubera are only functioning as controllers out of his grace hence He is called Vasupradah, the dispenser of wealth.
He gives the ultimate reward of Moksham or liberation to His devotees, hence He is called Vasupradah.
He is called Vaasudevah because He is the son of Vasudeva. All beings reside in Him and He also resides in them hence He is called Vasuh, the resider or in-dweller. He Who has a Mind which thinks of His devotees as a treasure, hence He is Vasumanaah. He Who is Havih, the Oblation in the sacrifice.
HARI OM TAT SAT
OM NAMO NARAYANAAYA
This Vishnu Sahasranamam series is authored with the help of my friend Shri Balaji.