In this part we will explore the meaning of the 75th Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.
Sadgatih Satkritih Sattaa Sadbhutih Satparaayanah |
Shuraseno Yadushreshtah Sannivaasah Suyaamunah ||75||
He provides the right path for the seekers, all His actions are noble, such as protecting the world and He is known for His benevolent deeds. He is the essence of Existence unmindful of external differences and treats everyone equally. He is the son, friend, messenger, charioteer, the wealth and everything for His devotees. He is the Supreme final resting place for those saints who have gained knowledge of the Supreme Reality. He has an army comprising of such valiant fighters as Hanuman and He is the pre-eminent member of the Yadu family in His incarnation as Krishna. He is the resort or the abode of tSaintly people and He is the One Who lifts up the souls in an auspicious way during the time of Pralaya.
The above Shloka has the following Namas:
Now let’s examine the meaning of the above Namas in detail:
- Sadgatih – He Who provides the right path for the good
This Nama has several meanings:
- He Who provides the right path for the good
- He Who is Himself the right path for the good
- He Who has superior intellect
- He Who is attainable by the good
Sat refers to that which is good, or those who are good. Gatih means path. Sri Adi Sankara gives two different interpretations for this Nama. The first is based on the following quote from Taittriya Upanishad (2.6) which says ‘Asti bramheti ced veda santamenam tato viduh – One who is aware of the existence of the Bramhan is called Sat or good by a wise person’. On this basis Sri Sankara gives his first interpretation ‘Bramha asti iti Ye viduh, Te santah, Taih Praapyate iti Sadgatih – Those who know that Bramhan exists are good and Bhagavan is ultimately reached by such people hence Bhagavan is called Sadgatih or the destination of the good’.
Gati also refers to intellect and Sri Sankara’s second interpretation is based on this. He says ‘Satee gatih Buddhih Samutkrishtaa asya iti va Sadgatih – He is of Superior intellect that is of the highest order hence He is called Sadgatih’.
Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj gives the explanation as – Sataam Sattvika-sajjananam gatih iti Sad-gatih. He shows the right path for those who seek the Truth.
The inner significance of the Nama Sad-gatih is that He removes the shackles of Samsara and liberates His devotees and shows them the right path. Sri Parasara Bhattar gives the interpretation for the current Nama as “One Who provides the right path for the good or virtuous”. The “right path” is that which leads to eternal peace and tranquillity. Sri Bhattar gives the example of how even at time of birth of Lord Krishna, the virtuous people saw all signs of tranquillity all around them. He gives support from the Vishnu Puranam, which elaborately describes the tranquillity and auspicious signs at the time of birth of child Krishna to Devaki. One of the Shlokas from the reference is:
Santah santosham adhikam prashamam canda marutah
Prasadam nimagna yaata jayamane Janardane || (Vishnu Purana 5.3.4)
Meaning: The virtuous experienced new delight, the strong winds subsided, and the river glided tranquilly, as Janardana was about to be born.
Sri V.V. Ramanujan gives additional examples – As soon as Lord Krishna was born to Devaki, He unfettered Vasudeva from the shackles that held Him in prison; Even as a child, and He killed the Asuras in Nandagopa’s place. Sri Ramanujan observes that in addition to His being Sad-gatih (the path for the good), He is also Asad-gatih – The Redeemer of the bad also, like Shishupala. So He is the Gati for Asat’s also. Sri NammAzhwar in his Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram 7.2.7 as ‘Patrillaar patraa nindraan – He Who is the Refuge for even those such as Kakasuran’.
Sri Baladeva VidyaBhushan uses the meaning ‘accessible or attainable’ to the term ‘Gatih’, and gives the interpretation that He is accessible to the good, such as Bhishma – Sataam Bhishmadinaam praapyatvaat Sad-gatih.
The Power and Potency of The Gayatri Mantra –> Sad- Gatih
Sage Pulastya described the qualities of an ideal Brahmin and said, Once, Narada had asked Lord Brahma as to who was worthy of receiving Vishnu’s blessings. Lord Brahma had told Narada that Lord Vishnu showered his blessings on those who engaged themselves who lead a virtuous life, well versed in the scriptures, treats people kindly chants the sacred Gayatri mantra every day.
A devotee should perform the ritual of chanting the Gayatri Mantra:
OM – Para Brahman;
BHUR – Bhu loka (Physical plane). It also refers to the body made up of the 5 Pancha Bhutas (5 elements). These 5 elements constitute Prakriti (Nature).
BHUVA – Bhuva loka – The middle world. Bhuva is also Prana Sakthi. However, it is the presence of Prajnana that enables the Prana Sakthi to animate the body. It is on this account that the Vedas have declared “Prajnanam Brahma” (Constant Integrated Awareness is Brahmam).
SVAHA – Swarga loka (Heaven – the land of the Gods)
TAT – Paramatma, God or Brahman
SAVITUR – That from which all this is born
VARENYAM – Fit to be worshipped
BHARGO – The Radiance, the Spiritual Effulgence, the Light that bestows Wisdom
DEVASYA – Divine Reality
DHEEMAHI – We meditate
DHIYO – Buddhi, Intellect
YO – Which
NAH – Our
PRACHODAYAT – Enlighten.
The Gayatri Mantra is enshrined in the Vedas, the most ancient Scriptures of Man. (Rg Veda III 62. 10), The Gayatri mantra is a 6,000-year-old verse recited by millions of Hindus every day all over the world. This mantra – Rigveda Samhita 3.62.10 – was composed by sage Vishwamitra. He composed most of the poems in the third section of the Rigveda.
This verse is called the Gayatri mantra possibly because it is composed in the poetic meter called Gayatri. A verse written in this poetic meter should have three lines and each line must have eight syllables or four lines with six syllables. It is interesting to note that the etymology of the word Gayatri is gāyantaṃ trāyate iti gāyatrī, “Gayatri is that which protects the person who recites it.”
Therefore, although there are thousands of verses composed in the Gayatri metre, when we say Gayatri mantra, it specifically denotes this verse:
|ॐ भूर्भुवः स्वः
भर्गो देवस्य धीमहि
धियो यो नः प्रचोदयात् ॥
|Om Bhuur-Bhuvah Svah
Bhargo Devasya Dhiimahi
Dhiyo Yo Nah Pracodayaat ||
Gayatri Mantra is the personified Unity of the Brahman and has five parts to it:
Part 1 – Om – Pranava mantra also means Welcome to the Gods
Part 2 – Bhur Bhuva Swaha – refers to three regions of Earth, Ether and the Causal
Part 3 – Tat Savitur Varenyam – refers to Divine Ultimate Reality equated with the vivifying power of the Sun
Part 4 – Bhargo Devasya Dhimahi – indicates the radiance, lustre and the illuminating power of divinity which enables our transition from the world of darkness into light
Part 5 – Dhiyo yo nah prachodayat – Invocation or prayer seeking guidance and direction.
It has 3 distinct aspects to it:
Varnan – Description
Dhyanam – Meditation
Praarthana – Invocation or Prayer
Lord Krishna in Bhagavad Gita says among the Mantras He is Gayatri. [BG 10.35]
O’ Creator of the Universe, may we receive Thy’s Supreme sin destroying Light may thou guide our intellect in the right direction. Om.
Benefits of chanting the Gayatri Mantra:
- The chanting of the Gayatri Mantrahas the effects of liberating one from the fruits of Karma (the natural law of cause and effect) which controls the cycle of birth and death.
- The chanter of the Gayatri Mantrais also blessed with attributes such as longevity, courage, physical strength, awareness, psychic healing of ailments, sweetness of speech and spiritual growth.
- Sat-kritih – He Who is of lovable acts, and full of good actions
Kriti means action or deed and Sat refers to good or noble, so Satkritih is essentially a person of noble deeds. Based on this Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Satee Kritih Jagad rakshanalakshanaa asya iti vaa Satkritih – His actions are noble such as protection of the world and He is known for His benevolent deeds, hence He is called Satkritih.
Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj gives the explanation – Sati Satya Sobhana ca kriti racana yasya iti Sat-kritih – One who is full of lovable, good and noble acts. Sri Parasara Bhattar gives the examples of His stealing butter, getting tied to the mortar, giving jewels in exchange of Jamun etc.
Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers to Bhagavan’s own words about His acts – janma karma ca me divyam (Bhagavad Gita 4.9), where He Himself describes His karmas or acts as transcendental. The mere contemplation of even His acts will release the person from the bondage of Samsara.
His divine acts do not just stop with the lovable acts in His childhood, but extend to all aspects of Creation, Protection and Destruction. Sri NammAzhwar starts the description of His Leelas in Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram 6.4.1, and goes on listing more and more of His acts in the next 11 Pasurams, frequently interspersing with ‘matrum pala’, indicating that they are countless, even though he is listing some examples. Some excerpts from his Pasurams:
குரவை யாய்ச்சிய ரோடு கோத்ததும் குன்றமொன் றேந்தியதும்
உரவுநீர்ப் பொய்கை நாகம் காய்ந்ததும் உட்பட மற்றும்பல (6.4.1)
Meaning: Night and day I have sung the wonderful exploits of my Lord Krishna, -his blending with the Gopis in Rasa, his lifting the mount, his dancing on the hooded snake, and many, many more.
கேயத் தீங்குழ லூதிற்றும் நிரைமேய்த்த தும்,கெண்டை யொண்கண்
வாசப் பூங்குழல் பின்னை தோள்கள் மணந்ததும் மற்றும்பல (6.4.2)
Meaning: My Krishna went grazing his cows, playing sweet melodies on his flute; he locked himself in the embrace of the well-coiffured Nappinnai. My heart melts when I recall these and many of His other wonders.
இகல்கொள் புள்ளை பிளந்த தும்இ மில் ஏறுகள் செற்றதுவும்,
உயர்கொள் சோலைக் குருந்தொ சித்ததும் உட்பட மற்றும்பல, (6.4.6)
Meaning: Ripping the beak of the Baka-bird, killing the seven bulls, destroying the tall kurundu trees, and His many other wonders – night and day I am blessed to sing these tales…
நீணிலத் தொடுவான் வியப்ப நிறைபெரும் போர்கள் செய்து,
வாண னாயிரம் தோள்து ணித்ததும் உட்பட மற்றும்பல, (6.4.8)
Meaning: The Earth and the sky were wonder-struck to witness the great wars. He cut asunder the thousand arms of the mighty Bana Asura and destroyed other Asuras in many other battles.
கலக்க வேழ்கட லேழ்மலை யுலகே ழும்கழி யக்கடாய்,
உலக்கத் தேர் கொடு சென்ற மாயமும் உட்பட மற்றும்பல, (6.4.9)
Meaning: The wonder of his crossing the seven turbid oceans and the seven tall mountains, driving over the end of the seven worlds, these and many other acts of the Lord….
The above Pasurams of Sri NammAzhwar elaborates the limitless glories of the Lord.
Swami ChinmayAnanda reminds us that even those acts of His that may seem destructive (such as His role in the MahaBharata war or in the Ramayana, the killing of Ravana and other Asuras), are really for the protection of the pious and re-establishing Dharma or righteousness in the world. All His actions are in harmony and are meant for the establishment of peace.
Sri Baladeva VidyaBhushan gives the interpretation that He is Sat-kritih because at the time of giving up the body by a devotee, if this devotee is not capable of thinking of Bhagavan as a result of his/her physical condition, Bhagavan takes the responsibility to give this soul Moksham.
Yadi vatadi doshena mad-bhakto mam na ca smaret |
Aham smarami mad-bhaktam nayami paramam gatim ||
- Sattaa – He Who has Pure Existence
Sattaa means pure existence and beyond all perceptible differences. Based on this Sri Adi Sankara defines this as ‘Sajaateeya Vijaateeya Svagata Bhedarahitaa Anubhootih Sattaa – He does not differentiate between the variation caused between species, within species and within one instance of the species hence He is called Sattaa being the essence of Existence unmindful of external differences’.
Sri Adi Sankara refers to three types of differences which can be perceived between objects. The first is Sajaateeya bhedam which is the difference that we see between the different members of a given species – such as the difference between one human being and another. The second is Vijaateeya bhedam, which is the difference observed between different species such as between man and animal or different types of animals. The third is Svagata bhedam, which is an inbuilt difference between different parts of the same object.
Within the same body the hands are different from legs, the nose is different from ear etc. For Bhagavan all these 3 differences are purely superficial and He is not distracted from the pure concept of existence. We humans feel one part of the body is attractive, and another part is not attractive. Seeing these kinds of distinctions only leads us away from realising the truth. Bhagavan is beyond all these Bhedas (the Sajatiya, Vijatiya, Svagata, etc.). Seeing these distinctions is the root cause of our not realising Him. The nature of Sat is to see unity in everything at all levels. When this state is reached, it is the pure personification of Sat or good. Such is Bhagavan, and so He is called Sattaa.
Bhagavan is also “Existence Incarnate”, “One without a second”, and “Pure Existence” in the sense that He is unchanging, never subject to aging, disease, death, etc., to which everything else is subjected. Sri Adi Sankara quotes the Chandogya Upanishad (2.2.1) in support: ‘Ekam eva adviteeyam – He is One without a second’. He is pure Existence incarnate and there is no other existence except him. Verily, He is Sattaa, the word Sat refers to existence.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 17 Verse 26 Bhagavan says:
Sad-bhave sadhu-bhave ca sad ity etat prayujyate |
Prasaste karmani tatha sac-chabdah partha yujyate ||
Meaning: The Absolute Truth is the objective of devotional sacrifice, and it is indicated by the word Sat. The term Sat is used in the sense of existence and goodness. And so also, O Arjuna, the word is applied to an auspicious action.
Sri Parasara Bhattar’s interpretation is that He has this Nama signifying that He is the very existence of the good and the pious and all other things. There is indeed nothing that can exist without Him –
Sattaadi Sataam svayameva iti Sattaa |
na hi tad-vyatirekena ki’ncit syat ||
Sri Bhattar gives reference from the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 10 Verse 39) in support:
yac-capi sarva-bhutanam bijam tad-aham-Arjuna |
na tad-asti vina yat-syat maya bhutam caracaram ||
Meaning: O’ Arjuna, I am the generating seed of all existences. There is no being-moving or unmoving-that can exist without Me.
It is not only true that without Him nothing can exist, but it is also true that without His true devotees, He will not exist, such being His attachment to His devotees. It is the beautiful inter-dependence of each on the other that is to be understood and enjoyed, because of their intense love for each other.
Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers us to Thirumazhisai Azhwar, who declares this beautiful concept of the inter-dependence of Bhagavan and His devotees on each other, in his Naanmugan Tiruvantadi (7) –
இன்றாக நாளையே யாக, இனிச்சிறிதும்
நின்றாக நின்னருளென் பாலதே, – நன்றாக
நானுன்னை யன்றி யிலேன்கண்டாய், நாரணனே
நீயென்னை யன்றி யிலை.
Meaning: O’ Lord Narayana! You may grace me today, or tomorrow, or sometime later, but your grace is definitely coming. I cannot be without you, and as for You, if we are not the ones for You to protect, what else is there for You to protect?
Sri Vasishta gives the interpretation that that the act of protection or preservation is Sattaa – Sattaa hi Atma-dharanam. In this sense, only He is Sattaa, since He alone protects everyone and everything, and no one else is capable of protecting or preserving Himself. The addition of the affix ‘tva or tal’ (ta or ta) to a word in the sixth case leads to the sense of ‘the nature thereof’ according to Panini Sutra 5.1.119 (tasya bhavah tva-talau). Thus, Sattaa means ‘He Who is of the nature of Pure Existence’.
The Dharma Chakram writer notes that Sajatiya Bhedam is the difference that we see between the different members of a given species – such as the difference between one human being and another. Seeing this difference externally takes us away from realizing the truth that we are all His property, and He is our Antaryami and we are His Seshas. True knowledge consists in seeing the unity and serving everyone as God’s Creation. Bhagavan does not have this Sajatiya Bhedam, hence He is Sattaa.
- Sad-bhutih – He is the wealth, in all forms, for the good
This Nama has the following meanings:
- The wealth, in all forms, for the good
- He Who is endowed with rich glories (Aishvaryam)
- He Who alone truly exists
- He Who manifests Himself in infinite forms
Sat refers to existence and Bhuti refers to effulgence or shine. Using these Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Sanneva ParamAtma Chidaatmakah abaadhaat Bhaasamaanaat cha Sadbhutih| Naanyah Prateeteh Baadhyamaanatvaat cha na Sat na api asat| Shrautau Yauktiko vaa Baadhah Prapanchasya vivakshitah – He is pure Existence and pure Effulgence hence He is Sadbhutih. He is unlimited and unaffected unlike the material world which undergoes changes and is reactive and hence cannot be called either existing or non-existing. The limitation of the world of objects has been demonstrated by the Shrutis and by reasoning’. So He is the only Sadbhutih and not the material Universe.
Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj gives the derivation – Sataam MahAtmanam Bhutih sampattih iti Sad-bhutih – The wealth for the good.
Sri Parasara Bhattar points out that for the true devotee, He is the son, friend, messenger, charioteer, and everything else also. Sri AnnangarAcharya Swami points out that this means that He is their help in all forms.
Swami ChinmayAnanda gives the interpretation that this Nama means ‘One Who has Rich Glories’. He interprets Bhuti as referring to His Aishvaryam – wealth, power, happiness, etc. Alternatively, he gives the interpretation that the Nama refers to “One Who has taken different incarnations”, exhibiting in all of them the glories of the Supreme.
Sri Satyadevo Vasishta uses the root ‘bhu – Sattaayaam’ means ‘to be, to live’, for the term bhuti, and thus gives the interpretation suggestive of ‘His truly existing in different forms’ (Sati = Saashvati, bhutih = bhavanam = vividha bhavena parinamah, Sad-bhutih). He gives as an illustration the fact that the tree exists in the seed, and the seed exists in the tree, and both are real and true. Time does not destroy this relationship, and this relationship is eternal. This same relationship extends to everything in the Universe. Thus, Bhagavan is both the Nimitta Karanam and the Upadana Karanam (tathaiva idam brahma jada cetana rupasya asya vishvasya nimittam Karanam na tu Upadana Karanam, bijanam vapte ca).
- Sat-Parayanah – The Support for the good
This Nama has the following meanings:
- The Support for the good
- The Supreme Goal for the good
- He Who has the good people as His support
Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Sataam Tattvavidaam Param Prakrishtam Ayanam iti Satparaayanam – He is the Supreme final resting place for those saints who have the knowledge of the Supreme Reality or the Absolute Brahman hence He is called Satparayanah’.
Sri Parasara Bhattar gives two alternate versions for this Nama – Sat-Parayanam or Sat-Parayanah. The first version is in neutral gender, and the second one is in masculine gender. Sri Bhattar’s interpretation corresponds to the meaning ‘Bhagavan is the Supreme support for the good’ for the first version, and for the second, He gives the interpretation that ‘The good are His Supreme support’. For this interpretation, Sri Bhattar quotes the following in support: mama prana hi pandavah (MahaBharata Uttara. 90.33) – ‘The Pandavas are verily my life-breath’; jnani tvatmaiva me matam (Bhagavad Gita 7.8) – ‘It is My view that the wise men are my Inner soul’.
Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj explains that ‘Sat-Parayanam: Sataam Parama ayanam iti Sat-Parayanam – ‘He Who is the Supreme Support for the good’. In support of the interpretation of the Nama as ‘Sat-Parayanam’, Sri Bhattar quotes the MahaBharata Shlokam 173.24 from Drona parva:
KrishnaSrayAh Krishna Balah Krishna-Nathashca Pandavah |
Krishnah Parayanam tesham ….. ||
Meaning: The Pandavas have Krishna as their resort, Krishna as their strength, Krishna as their Saviour. In short, Krishna is their great support, so He is their Sat-Parayanam.
Sri V.V. Ramanujan quotes Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi (6.10.10):
அகல கில்லேன் இறையும் என் றலர்மேல் மங் கை யுறைமார்பா,
நிகரில் புகழாய். உலகமூன் றுடையாய். என்னை ஆள்வானே,
நிகரில் அமரர் முனிக்கணங்கள் விரும்பும் திருவேங் கடத்தானே,
புகலொன் றில்லா அடியேனுன் அடிக்கீ ழமர்ந்து புகுந்தேனே.
Meaning: O’ Lord, you bear the Inseparable Lakshmi who is seated on a Lotus- on your chest! O My Master of matchless fame, bearing the three worlds, O Lord of Venkatam desired by celestials and great Sages! Falling at your feet, this orphan self has found his refuge.
- Shura-senah – He with a valiant army
Shura means valiant and Sena means army so Shurasenah is one who has a valiant army. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘HanumatPramukhaah Sainikaah Shauryasaalino yasyaam senaayaam saa Shurasena yasya sah Shurasenah – He has an army with such valiant fighters as Hanuman, hence Bhagavan is called Shurasenah’.
Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj says Shurasena yasya iti Shura-senah. The word Shura is derived from the root ‘Shura – vikrantau’ means ‘to act as the hero’. The Amara Kosham explanation for the noun Sena is ‘inena prabhuna saha vartata iti Sena’ – That which has a powerful, mighty, leader is Sena. The term is thus used to refer to an army. The term Shura-senah thus refers to One who has a mighty army.
Sri Parasara Bhattar observes that Bhagavan had a great army of Yadavas and Pandavas when He relieved the Earth of her burden by eliminating the wicked Kauravas and Asuras.
Sri V.V. Ramanujan gives reference from Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (6.4.10) to explain Shura-Sena:
மண்மிசைப் பெரும்பாரம் நீங்கவோர்பாரத மாபெ ரும்போர்,
பண்ணி, மாயங்கள் செய்து, சேனையைப் பாழ்பட நூற்றிட்டுப்போய்,
விண்மி சைத்தன தாம மேபுக மேவிய சோதிதன்தாள்,
நண்ணி நான்வணங் கப்பெற் றென்எனக் கார்பிறர் நாயகரே?
Meaning: To rid the burden of the world, he waged a mighty war, and showed his wonder-form, routing and killing armies of enemies. He then left and entered his own dear resort in the sky. Through worshipping His feet alone, I have found a master without a peer.
Sri Satyadevo Vasishta derives the word Shura from the root ‘Su – to go’, based on the Unadi Sutra – Su si ci mInam dirghaashca (sutra 185) – the root is elongated and the rak pratyaya is added, leading to Shura. He derives the word Sena from the root ‘si – bandhane – to bind’. Thus, he gives the interpretation that this Nama indicates that Bhagavan binds the creatures that have the ability to move around such that they function as a unit with all their parts intact. We are given the ability to walk and to run fast, but we do not ever worry about our legs falling apart as we run. We watch a dancer dance, and in the process our eyes move all around, but there is never a thought in us that the eyes will fall out as they move around constantly.
This general rule, trivial as it may seem, is an important part of the whole world functioning – when the planets keep moving around, we do not worry about their falling apart, colliding with each other, etc. All this is because of Bhagavan- the Shura-Sena, who keeps everything bound in a way that everything functions as a unit and all things co-exist with each other. Sri Vasishta’s summary of this interpretation is – evameva sakalam caracara drishyam adrishyam ca cintayam acintayam ca jagat tasya Vishnoh Shura-senatva lakshanam Gunam prakaashayan Shura-Sena abhidhaanam labhate.
The learned people know and understand that Bhagavan has given us the freedom to move around, and at the same time He is the One who keeps us all together as one unit, and has established the rules for all of us to follow. The Maha-Purushas understand this simple and Universal secret that permeates in everything all around, and praise this Shura-Sena and thereby all their sins are removed.
The Dharma Chakram writer illustrates the significance of this Nama in terms of the MahaBharata war. In that war, Bhagavan used good people such as Arjuna, and defeated the wicked Kauravas. When Kauravas enlisted good people such as Bhishma and Drona on their side, and when Arjuna hesitated to engage in the battle with his kins, Bhagavan imparted him true knowledge and raised his spirits to engage in the battle. Thus, it was with Bhagavan’s help that Arjuna could win the war. We have to constantly fight the demonic tendencies or seek clarity when a confused mind bewilder us in order to elevate ourselves, for which we need His help. It is only by controlling our pursuit of materialistic desires, and by strengthening our connection with Bhagavan by constantly meditating on Him that we can succeed in overcoming the negative tendencies within us. This is the lesson that we should take from this Nama.
- Yadu-Shreshtah – The pre-eminent among the Yadavas
Yadu refers to a descendant of the Yadu family. Sri Adi Sankara defines this as ‘Yadunaam Pradhaanatvaat Yadushreshtah – He is the most prominent member of the Yadu family in His incarnation as Krishna, hence He is called Yadushreshtah’. Being a member of the Yadu clan he is also called Yaadavah.
In His Rama avatar, He was called Raghushreshthah and in Krishna avatar, He is called Yadushreshtah. Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj explains as ‘Yadushu Sreshthah iti Yadu-Shreshtah – He Who is the most praise-worthy among the Yadus’.
Sri Parasara Bhattar gives support from Vishnu Purana (5.20.37):
Ayam sa kathyate praagjnaih puranarthAvalokibhih |
Gopalo Yadavam vamsam magnam-abhyuddharishyati ||
Meaning: As foretold by the wise skilled in the sense of the Puranas, the Lord as Gopala, shall exalt the depressed Yadava race. The depressed state of Yadava kulam was because of Kamsa. Sri AnnangarAcharya refers to Yayati’s curse on the Yadu kulam as the reason for the depressed state of the Yadu clan.
Sri Satyadevo Vasishta derives his interpretation from the root ‘yat – prayatne – to attempt, to strive for’, and gives the meaning “One whose nature it is to strive for” (yateh yatuh prayatna-Silah); Shreshtah refers to One who is the most praiseworthy. Thus, the meaning that Sri Vasishta derives for the Nama Yadu-Shreshtah is ‘One who is most praiseworthy among those who strive, or put in effort’. He gives the examples of Bhagavan constantly nourishing and sustaining the different forms of life as the Sun, and His being the Soul of all the Souls in our heart, and constantly driving the function of the heart to sustain life. In fact, even after the body falls, the Atma continues to live and does not get destroyed.
Perhaps the best example of His being ‘The Best among those who strive – Yadu-Shreshtah’, is His constant strive to reach the Jivas and trying to provide for opportunities for them to re-unite with Him; He does this by providing the Vedas to us for our guidance, by taking the Archa form so that He is always accessible to us, by providing opportunities again and again to us by giving us a body so that we can use it to reach Him. On a different level, His efforts to bring a reconciliation between the Pandavas and the Kauravas by repeatedly trying His very best to impart sense in the Kauravas to avoid the war, is also an example of His being the best among those who strive hard to achieve the best for everyone.
The Dharma Chakram writer relates the significance of the Nama to our day-to-day life. He points out that in the case of Lord Krishna, because He was born in the Yadu kulam, the clan itself became famous, the place He lived – Gokulam – became well-known, the day He was born is widely celebrated, and both His natural parents and His adopted parents became famous. Thus, when one is praiseworthy, everything else associated with this individual also become praiseworthy. This is how Krishna’s Guna of Yadu-Shreshtah is to be meditated.
Thiruvalluvar says,‘Tondrin pugazhodu tonruga; ahdu iladar tonralin tonramai nandru – Be born of qualities of virtue or else it’s better not to be born’. We should use this gift of life in a way that our life is praiseworthy; if we don’t live such a life, we would have wasted this precious gift of life. The lesson to take from this Nama is that we should meditate on this quality of Bhagavan, and live a life that leads to the mental maturity to constantly meditate on Him and elevate ourselves to be Shreshtas in our worship of Him.
- San-Nivaasah – The Abode of the Saintly
This is a combination of the 2 words Sat meaning good people or saints and Nivaasah meaning abode. Based on this Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Sataam Vidushaam Aashrayah Sannivaasah – He is the resort or abode of Saintly people’.
The word ‘Nivaasah’ is derived from the root ‘vas – nivaase – to dwell’. Nivaasa refers to a place of dwelling or a resting place. Sri Parasara Bhattar gives the interpretation that Bhagavan has this Nama because He is the abode of rest for great saints like Sanaka, even though He assumed human form and performed the actions of ordinary human beings.
PeriAzhwar refers to this Guna of Perumal as ‘Ayar puttiran allan arum daivam’ (Thirumozhi 1.1.7). Sri Radhakrishna Shastri gives a reference from Srimad Ramayana, where Tara praises Rama as:
Nivaasa Vrikshah Sadhunam Apannanam para gatih |
Aarthanam Sam shrayah caiva yashasah ca eka Bhaajanam || (Kishkinda Kandam 4.15.19 & 20)
Meaning: He is said to be the habitable tree for the pious, the ultimate course for the distressed, a place for those in agony, and for grace also, Rama is the only abode.
Sri Parasara Bhattar gives the reference from Vishnu Puranam, where akrUra describes his anubhavam of sanandana and other seers meditating intensely on Bhagavan:
SanandanAdyair-munibhih siddha yogair-akalmashaih |
Samcintyamanam tatrasthaih nasagra nysta-locanaih || (Vishnu Purana 5.18.42)
Meaning: Sri Krishna in Gokulam is the object of meditation for Sanandana and other seers, who remain there, who are flawless, who have attained perfection in Yoga and who do the meditation with their eyes fixed at the tip of their nose between the eye brows.
Sri Satyadevo Vasishta takes ‘Sat’ to mean ‘those that are permanent and unchanging’ – (Sataam – vinaasha rahitanam, pravaahato nityanam, Apralaya sthayinam), and gives the interpretation that this Nama indicates that He is the dwelling place of all these Jivas who are eternal, and who do not go through the cycle and birth and death (the Nitya suris), and He also dwells in them (Loka lokantarani nija Sattaayam vaasayantam, teshu va vasantam iti bhavah).
- Su-Yamunah – One Who lifts Souls in an auspicious way
This Nama has several meanings:
- He Who delighted in Sport in the Yamuna River
- He Who is attended by the good Yamunas
- He Who has beautiful collyrium (Kajal) in His eyes
- He Who lifts up and protects the Jivas during the time of Pralaya
Sri Adi Sankara interprets this in two ways. The first is ‘Shobhanaa Yamunaah Yamunaa sambandhino Devaki Vasudeva Nanda Yashodaa Balabhadra Subhadraadayah Priveshtaarah asya iti – He is bonded to good associates of River Yamuna such as Devaki, Vasudeva, Nanda, Yashoda, BalaRama and Subhadra hence He is called Suyamunah’. All these people lived on the bank of river Yamuna and were closely associated with Krishna so He is justified in being called Suyamunah.
His other interpretation is ‘Gopaveshadharaah Yaamunaah Pariveshtaarah Padmaasanaadayah Shobhanaa asya iti vaa Suyamunah – His splendour was such that His attendant Gopas on the banks of Yamuna included Bramha Himself hence He is called Suyamunah’.
The term Yamunah has been interpreted by Sri Parasara Bhattar as ‘One who is associated with the river Yamuna’. Yamunam also means a kind of collyrium that is applied to the eye; some interpreters have used this meaning as the basis for their interpretation.
Sri Bhattar further interprets as ‘He who delights in Sports in the Yamuna river – Sobhanam Pavanam Manoharam Yamunasambandhi jala-krida pushpacaya rasa-kridadi yasya iti Su-Yamunah – He is su-Yamunah because of all of His activities that are connected with Yamuna, activities which are pure, auspicious and fascinating like water-sport, culling of flowers (on its banks), and dance with the Gopis (Raasa Leela) on its banks’.
Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers us Sri Andal’s Thiruppavai (5) – ‘Thooya peru nir Yamunait turaivan – He who inhabited the pure River Yamuna’. Because of River Yamuna’s association with Lord Krishna, it is considered sacred even now.
Swami ChinmayAnanda comments that the Yamunas were not just keepers of cows, but had indeed milked the knowledge from the Upanishads. He quotes from Narayaneeyam:
TaarunyAramya ramyam parama sukha rasa svada roma’ncita’ngaih
Avitam Naradadyaih vilasat Upanishad sundari mandalaishca || (NarayanIyam dasaka 100.1)
Meaning: I behold the form of a divine boy, attractive with the advent of adolescence, and surrounded by Narada and others with their limbs covered with hairs standing on end at the taste of the Supreme Bliss, and by that bevy of charming maidens of the form of shining Upanishads.
Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj uses the meaning ‘a type of collyrium’ (Kajal) for the term Yamunam, and gives the interpretation ‘Sundaram Yamunam nayana anjanam yasya iti Su-Yamunah” – He Who has beautiful collyrium (Kajal) decorating His eyes.
Sri Satyadevo Vasishta uses the root ‘yam – uparame – to lift up’, as the basis for his interpretation. He gives the meaning ‘yacchati, uparamayati – He who lifts up’, to the word Yamunah. His interpretation is thus – Sobhano Yamunah Su-yamuno Vishnuh – One Who lifts up (the souls) in an auspicious way (during the time of Pralaya) – Bhagavan Vishnuh MahaPralaye svakIyaya vyavasthaya kaarya kaarana rupam idam samastam vishvam yacchati, parinatam uparamayati, Samayati.
Sadgatih Satkritih Sattaaa Sadbhutih Satparaayanah |
Shuraseno Yadushreshthas Sannivaasah Suyamunah ||75||
He is Sadgatih as He is the One Who provides the right path for the seekers, the good and the virtuous. His actions are noble such as protection of the world and He is known for His benevolent deeds, hence He is called Satkritih. He does not differentiate between the variation caused between species, within species and within one instance of the species hence He is called Sattaa, being the essence of Existence unmindful of external differences. He is the son, friend, messenger, charioteer, wealth and everything for His devotees so He is called Sadbhutih. He is the Supreme final resting place for Saints who have realised the Supreme Reality or the Absolute Brahman, hence He is called Satparayanah.
He has an army with such valiant fighters as Hanuman, hence He is called Shurasenah. He is the most prominent member of the Yadu family in His incarnation as Krishna, hence He is called Yadushreshtah. He is the resort or abode of Saintly people, so He is known as Sannivaasah. He is the One Who lifts up the souls in an auspicious way during the time of Pralaya, hence He is Suyamunah.
HARI OM TAT SAT
OM NAMO NARAYANAAYA
This Vishnu Sahasranamam series is authored with the help of my friend Shri Balaji.