SRI VISHNU SAHASRANAMAM (SHLOKA 87) – PART 96

In this part we will explore the meaning of the 87th Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.

shloka-87
Kumudah Kundarah Kundah Parjanyah Paavano Anilah    |
Amritaasho Amritavapuh Sarvajnas Sarvatomukhah     ||87|| 

Purport:
He pleases the Earth by lightening its load. He gives fruits, as pure as the Jasmine flower and His body is beautiful like the Kunda (jasmine) flower and blemishless. He showers gifts on His devotees like a cloud delivering rain on the crops. He purifies people when they engage even in the mere process of thinking about Him and He has no over-riding authority above Him. He has an undiminishing desire to bestow blessings on His devotees. He has an Immortal Body, He is Omniscient and Omnifaced.

The above Shloka has the following Namas:

  1.    Kumudah
  2.    Kundarah
  3.    Kundah
  4.    Parjanyah
  5.    Paavanah
  6.    Anilah
  7.    Amritaashah
  8.    Amritavapuh
  9.    Sarvajnah
  10.    Sarvatomukhah

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

  1.    Kumudah – He rejoices in this world in the association of His devotees

gopakumar_krishna.l-1This Nama has the following meanings:

  1. He rejoices in this world in the association of His devotees;
  2. One Who unburdens the earth by ridding it of the evil-doers;
  3. One Who bestows Moksha;
  4. One Who delights in the Sky, in the form of Sun;
  5. One Who wears a garland made of Blue Lilies and Lotus.

The word ‘Ku’ means ‘the world or the Earth’ and ‘mudah’ means ‘to rejoice or to be glad’.  Modata iti mudah – One who rejoices, or modayati iti mudah – One Who makes others rejoice.  Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Kum Dharanim Bharavataranam Kurvan Modayati iti Kumudah – He pleases the Earth by reducing its burden or lightening its load and hence He is called Kumudah, the pleaser of the Earth’.

Sri Ananta Krishna Shastry observes that He lightens the burden of the Earth through the elimination of the evil and wicked people. 

Another way to look at this Nama is ‘Ku + mu + dah’ where ‘Ku’ means the Earth, ‘Mu’ means Mukti or Moksha and ‘Dah’ means the Giver or Bestower. Sri M. V. RamanujAcharya gives the interpretation for this Nama as One Who bestows the world of Mukti or Moksha or Parama Padam.

Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets the Nama as ‘ku + mudah’ and explains as ‘Kau – prakriti mandale mudah (taih saha) modate’ meaning He rejoices in the company of His devotees, so He is known as Kumudah. 

While Sri Sankara explains the Nama as His giving joy to the earth by freeing it of its burdens, Sri Bhattar explains the Nama as His rejoicing and deriving pleasure by the company of His devotees.  The difference in approach is that Sri Sankara emphasises Lord’s Power and Valour while Sri Bhattar emphasises His affability and affection towards His devotees (Saulabhyam and Saushilyam). 

Swami ChinmayAnanda gives the meaning as ‘One Who gladdens the Earth’ or ‘One Who is gladdened by the Earth’.  He explains that the Bhagavan’s delight is a sheer expression of His Omnipotence – the very fact that He has created this dynamic and complex Cosmos that is so scientifically precise that it is a matter of delight as the fulfillment of His Omnipotence.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri gives the example of His taking many incarnations for the same purpose – to destroy the wicked people and protect His devotees.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives the interpretation for ‘Kumudah’ as ‘One Who delights in the Sky, in the form of Sun – Sabdavat Akaashe modayati iti kumudah; Sabdashraye khe modata iti kumudah Suryah’ by using the meaning ‘Sky’ for ‘Ku’. 

The word ‘Kumuda’ is also used to refer to the Lotus and Blue Lilies. Based on this, Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan explains that ‘He Who wears a garland made of these flowers is Kumudah – Utpala dharo Kumudah’.

  1.    Kundarah – The Bestower of Knowledge of the Supreme Reality

hayagriva2This Nama has several meanings:

  1. The Bestower of knowledge about the Supreme Reality;
  2. He Who dissolves or eliminates the sins accumulated over countless births;
  3. He Who bestows benefits as what is sought or desired;
  4. He Who accepts offering that are pure like the Kunda (Jasmine) flowers;
  5. He Who pierced the Earth in His Varaha Avataar while searching for HiranyAksha (Kum-darah);
  6. He Who created the Oceans by piercing the Earth (Kum-darah);
  7. He Who is very pleased with the offerings of the Kunda (Jasmine) flowers by His devotees.

Sri Adi Sankara gives three different interpretations for this Nama. The first ‘Kunda-pushpa-tulyaani shuddhaani phalaani Raati Dadati iti Kundarah – He gives fruits as pure as the Jasmine flower to His devotees, hence He is called Kundarah’.  In this context, Kunda also means pure white Jasmine flower.  

The second interpretation is ‘Kunda-pushpa-tulyaani shuddhaani phalaani Laati Aadatte iti Kundarah – He accepts offerings which are as pure as the Jasmine flower’.

The third interpretation is ‘Kum Dharaam Daarayamasa HiranyAksha Jighaamsayaa Varaham rupam Aasthaaya – While searching for HiranyAksha, He took the form of a wild boar (Varaha) and pierced the Earth, hence He is called Kundarah, the piercer of Earth’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar uses the word ‘Kundam’ as referring to ‘Knowledge of the Supreme Reality’ or ‘Para-tattva jnanam’.  This is based on the meaning of ‘Ku’ as ‘mukti-bhumi’, rather than just ‘bhumi’. Kundam is that which gives the mukti-bhumi i.e. the knowledge of Para-tattva.  Since He is the Giver of this knowledge, He is Kunda-rah (rati = dadati = gives). 

This interpretation of Sri Bhattar can is also in the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 10 Verse 10) where Lord Krishna says:
Tesham satata-yuktanam bhajatam priti-purvakam
Dadami buddhi-yogam tam yena mam upayanti te ||
Meaning: To those who are ceaselessly united with Me and who worship Me with immense love, I lovingly grant that mental disposition (buddhi-yoga) by which they come to Me.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers to Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (2.3.2):
ஒத்தார்மிக்காரை இலையாயமாமாய,
ஒத்தாயெப்பொருட்கு முயிராய், என்னைப்பெற்ற
அத்தாயாய்த்தந்தையா யறியாதனவறிவித்த,
அத்தா, நீ செய்தன அடியேனறியேனே.
Meaning: O Great Lord without a peer or superior!  Close to all things and all beings, you are my life, you are my mother, my father, my friend, imparting me with true knowledge and teaching me all that I do not know.  O’ what you have done for me is immeasurable!

Using the meaning ‘Sin’ for the word ‘ku’ the Nirukti writer explains the Nama as ‘Kum avyayam paapa-vaaci, tasya daaranaat Kun-darah – He Who dissolves or eliminates the sins accumulated over countless births. 

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives the following interpretations for this Nama:

  1. ‘Ku’ means ‘sinful’ – tyajet ku-jana-sangam – Leave the association of sinful people;
  2. Paapam drinati sva-sevanam iti kum-darah – He who tears apart or removes the sins of His devotees;
  3. Sa eva buddhim jaritur-vishodhya su-medhasam tam kurute sa Vishnuh – He makes them see knowledge by removing the sins from their mind;
  4. Taking the root for the word ‘Kunda’ as ‘kamu – kantau’ meaning ‘to desire’- ‘Kamayata iti Kundah kamaniyah, kamaniyam va’ncitam dadati iti kunda-rah’ –One Who gives what is sought or what is desired is Kundarah.
  5. kum – prithivI darayati iti kun-darah – (based on the root drr – vidaarane – to tear, to divide).  He is referring to Bhagavan creating the great oceans by tearing apart the bhumi – sa kun-daro Nama vidarya bhumim sa Atma-Saktya kurute samudram |

Sri Satyasandha Yatiraja gives the interpretation – Bhakta-samarpita kunda pushpena ramati iti Kunda-rah – He Who is very pleased with the offerings of ‘Kunda’ flowers by His devotees. 

  1.    Kundah – He Who grants higher knowledge successively

perumal-in-jasmineThis Nama also has some interpretations similar to the previous Nama:

  1. He Who grants higher knowledge
  2. He Who cleanses the sins of His devotees
  3. He Who is pure and beautiful like the Kunda (Jasmine) flower
  4. He Who bestows purity like the Kunda flower to His devotees
  5. He Who has the spear by the name Kunta (Kuntah)
  6. One who is sharp like the kunta spear in removing the sins of His devotees (Kuntah)
  7. He Who gave an offering of the earth to Kashyapa Rishi
  8. He Who cleanses the earth through Sun, Rain, etc.

As explained in the previous Nama, the word ‘Ku’ refers to Earth (Bhumi) as well as Sin; the word ‘Kunda’ refers to the Jasmine flower.  The word ‘dah’ can be interpreted in three ways as ‘Dadati – gives’, as ‘Dayati – cleanses’, and as ‘Dyati – eliminates’, thus leading to the different commentaries. 

img_4656Sri Adi Sankara gives several interpretations for this Nama. The first is ‘Kundopama Sundaraagatvaat Svacchatayaa Sphatikanirmalah Kundah – His body is beautiful like the Kunda flower and blemishless like crystal, hence He is called Kundah or the Jasmine flower’.

The second interpretation is ‘Kum Prithveem Kashyapaaya adaat iti Kundah’ – He gave away the Earth to Sage Kashyapa hence He is called Kundah. This is explained in the Harivamsha (1.41.16/17):
‘Sarvapaapa Vishuddhyartham Vaajimedhena Cheshtavaan
Tasmin yajne Mahaadaane Daksinaam Bhrigunandanah
Maareechaaya Dadau Preetah Kashyapaaya Vasundharaam
Meaning: In his incarnation as Parashurama, the Son of Sage Bhrigu, Bhagavan performed the Asvamedha Yajna and as an offering for the Yajna, He gave away the Earth to Sage Kashyapa. Because of this He is called Kundah.

The third interpretation is ‘Kum Prithveem dyati Khandayati iti vaa Kundah – He purged the earth (of Kshatriyas) hence He is called Kundah’.  In support of this Sri Sankara quotes from Vishnudharma (43.37):
Nih Kshatriyaam yashcha chakaara medineem Anekasho Baahuvanam Tataacchinat;
Yah Kaartaveeryasya Sa Bhaargavottamo Mamaastu Maangalyavivriddhaye Harih ||
Meaning: Let Hari, the best of the Bhrigu family, who made the earth free from wicked Kshatriyas many a time, and who cut off the thousand arms of Kaartaveerya, be with me for our prosperity.

Sri Parasara Bhattar distinguishes the current Nama from the previous one by referring to the aspect of giving of the para-tattva knowledge by Bhagavan to those that have started climbing the steps of knowledge through self-control etc., through delivering incremental steps of para-bhakti, para-jnanam, and ultimately parama-bhakti.  Sri Bhattar gives an alternate interpretation and says that Bhagavan first removes the sins from His devotee (Kundarah), and then makes them pure so that they do not commit/attract any further sins (Kundah) – Paapam darayati iti kundarah, api ca vidaritam paapam Sodhayati iti Kundah.  

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives a similar meaning – kum iti paaparthakam avyayam, tad khandayati iti Kundah; yad-va kum = papam dayati + Sodhayati iti Kundah.  Sri Vasishtha gives an additional interpretation using the meaning ‘Earth’ for ‘Ku’, and Dayati = Sodhayati for Dah. He who cleanses the earth of its impurities through Rain, Sun etc. – PrithivIm varshanena Sodhayati iti Kundah. 

Sri NammAzhwar uses the ‘Kunda’ in his Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (2.6.1):
வைகுந்தாமணிவண்ணனே, என்போல்லாத்திருக்குறளா,
என்னுள்மன்னி, வைகும்வைகல்தோறும் அமுதாயவானேறே,
செய்குந்தாவருந்தீமையுன்னடியார்க்குத்தீர்த்தசுரர்க்குத்தீமைகள்
செய்குந்தா, உன்னைநான் பிடித்தேன் கொள்சிக்கெனவே.
Meaning: Gem-hued Lord Vaikunta, my impishly beautiful eternal Lord residing in me sweetly, at all times and forever! O Kunda blossom giving relief to devotees and woe to the Asuras! Know that I have You firmly held in me!

He removes the sins of His devotees, and gives them to the evil-doers as just desert for their karmas.  The word Kunda is ‘One Who is pure like the Kunda pushpam – the pure white fragrant Jasmine flower’.  So the Nama can be understood as ‘One Who is pure like the Kunda flower’, or ‘One Who bestows purity like that of the Kunda flower on His devotees’. 

 Sri V.V. Ramanujan comments that the term can also be taken to mean ‘One who has the spear called Kunta’ (nin kaiyil vel potri – Thiruppavai).  Another meaning given is ‘One who is sharp like the Kunta spear in removing the sins of His devotees’. 

  1.    Parjanyah – He Who bestows His blessings on devotees like the rain-cloud

rain-cloud-krishnaThe word Parjanya means a cloud and using this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Parjanyavat Aadhyaatmikaadi Taapatrayam Shamayati iti’ – Like a cloud gives relief from the heat of the Sun, He brings relief from the three types of affliction that people are subject to, hence He is called Parjanyah’. The three forms of affliction are:

  1. a) Those arising from within the body (Aadhyatmik)
  2. b) Those caused by other beings (Adhibhautik), and
  3. c) Those caused by acts of god (Adhidaivik).

Bhagavan gives us relief from all these three burning affliction like a cloud gives from the heat of the Sun.

Sri Sankara also gives another interpretation ‘Sarvaan Kaamaan Abhivarshati iti vaa Parjanyah’ – He showers gifts on the devotees like a cloud delivering rain on the crops hence He is called Parjanyah, the Cloud.

Sri Parasara Bhattar derives the Nama from the root ‘aja – ardane’ meaning ‘to dispel’.  He explains the Nama in terms of His removing (dispelling), the three kinds of the taapa-trayas – AdhyAtmika, the Adhi-daivika, and the Adhi-bhautika types.  These three are:  the pain cause by one’s own mind etc., the pain caused by fate or gods, and the pain caused by animals, other people, etc.  

Sri V.V. Ramanujan adds that it is by bestowing the knowledge about Him that He relieves us from the taapa-trayas.  Bhagavan is frequently referred as the rain-cloud by Sri Thirumangai Azhwar for showering His blessings on His devotees:

  • Thirunedum Tandakam (30) – minnu ma mazhai tavazhum mega-vanna – The rain-cloud like dark hue Lord;
  • Periya tirumozhi 7.9.9 – karu ma mugil uruva! Kanal uruva! Punal uruva! – You are like the rain cloud for some, fire for some, and comforting water for many!

Swami Desikan refers to Bhagavan’s Guna of removing the tapa-trayas of the devotees who are immersed in devotion to Him in his Saranagati Dipika (23):
taapa-trayena vihatim na bhajanti santah
samsara gharma janitena samadhimantah   || 
Meaning: Those jnanis who are immersed in Bhakti Yoga towards You do not suffer from the taapa-trayas that are caused by the heat of samsara.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj looks at the Nama as Pari-janyah, which is treated same as Parjanyah. His interpretation is ‘parita Asina janah parijanah; tebhyo hita-tamah iti pari-janyah; ikara-lope parjanyah – pari-janas are those that are around Him, those that worship Him;  He Who bestows welfare on them is Pari-janyah, which is same as Parjanyah.

Sri Satyasandha Yatiraja gives the interpretation – param janyam yasmat Parjanyah – He from whom a superior birth is attained. 

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha derives the Nama starting from the root ‘prsh – secane’ meaning ‘to sprinkle’ and says that which wets or drenches is Parjanya – parshati – sincati iti parjanyah.  Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan gives a similar interpretation:  tasyam cinta-bhumau varshati nija-rupa amritam iti Parjanyah – He Who showers His actual Self in the thoughts of His devotees is Parjanyah. Sri Vasishtha also gives different ways of deriving the Nama, starting with different root words.  One of these is pr – palana puranayoh – to protect, to fill, to bring out; with the addition of the anya suffix, this becomes parjanyah, which means ‘One Who protects’. 

  1.    Paavanah – One Who purifies

rama-lakshmana-and-janakiThis Nama was covered earlier in Shloka 32 (Nama 292). There are two meanings for this Nama. The root word is ‘Pavi’ which can mean both ‘purify’ and ‘move about’. Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Smriti maatrena Punaati iti Paavanah’ – He purifies people even when they engage in the mere process of thinking about Him, hence He is called Paavanah, the Purifier. We can also see this aspect in the Shloka ‘Apavitrah Pavitro vaa Sarvaavasthaan gatopi vaa, Yas Smaret Pundarikaaksham Sa Baahyaabhyaantarash Shuchih’ – Even the worst sinner becomes purified all over once he contemplates on Bhagavan’s Nama. Such are His purifying powers.

Sri Parasara Bhattar uses the latter meaning and says – that which goes, that which blows, that which purifies, etc.  and says that Bhagavan goes Himself to His devotees to remove their distress  –  pavate iti Paavanah. 

This aspect is also expressed by Sri Thirumangai Azhwar in Periya Thirumozhi Pasuram (1.10.9):  vandaai, en manam pugundaai, manni nindraai – You came of Your own free will, entered my mind, and have decided to stay there. 

Sri NammAzhwar conveys the same thought in his Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (5.7.7) – ‘Vandaruli en nenjidam konda vaanavar kozhunde!  … Adiyenai agatrile’ – Oh Lord! You have been kind enough to come and take a place in my heart.  O’ now please don’t ever leave me.

In the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 10 Verse 31, Lord Krishna says:
Pavanah pavataam asmi Ramah Shastra-bhritaamyaham   |
Meaning: Of moving things, I am the wind.  Of those who bear weapons, I am Rama.

In the context of Bhagavan being the Great Purifier, Sri Radhakrishna Shastri comments with the Shloka ‘Pavitraanaam pavitram yah..’, that acts such as taking a dip in the holy waters, visiting Divya kshetras, etc., are ways of ridding ourselves of sins.  When we undertake these acts with the faith and belief and contemplating our mind on Him, He removes our sins through His purifying power. 

Swami ChinmayAnanda conveys that – ‘He Who manifests as the life-giving atmosphere around the world and sustains the existence everywhere’.  He gives another meaning as ‘One Who ever purifies’.  He comments that the impurities of a personality are gathered when the mind and intellect, in a natural impulse of animal instinct, rush towards the sense-objects with ego-centric passion.  The purification by His power occurs when we peacefully let our minds settle in contemplation of the divine nature and eternal glory of Sriman Narayana. 

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha’s interpretation is the same whether the Nama is taken as Pavanah or Paavanah.  He gives the meaning as ‘He Who purifies’, and points out that Bhagavan purifies in many ways:  in the form of the wind by blowing, fire by burning, water by washing, earth by consuming, etc. – Vaayuh pavitram sa ma punaatu agnih pavitram sa ma punaatu.   So His purifying power is manifest all over.  He gives the reference to Rig Vedic hymn (1.160.3):  punaati dhIro bhuvanaani Mayaya – Rig Veda (1.160.3) – He, with the power to cleanse, sanctifies the world with His unsurpassing powers.

Sri Vasishtha also summarises in the form of the following Sloka:
Sa paavano Vishnur-amartyakarma punaati vishvam vividha-prabhedaih   |
Sa eva Surya sa hi vaasti vaayau jale sthale va pavitaa sa eva   ||
Meaning: He really is the Creator of the World, grantor of Moksha, He is the Sun, Wind, Water, Earth etc.

Sri Satyasandha Yatiraja uses the version ‘Paavanah’, and looks at the Nama as pa + avanah – He Who protects the protectors. 

  1.    Anilah – He has no one above Him

AnanthasayanamThis Nama was covered earlier in Shloka 25 (Nama 236). Sri Adi Sankara offers three different interpretations for this Nama. The first is ‘Ilati Preranam karoti iti Ilah Tat rahitatvaat Anilah – He has no over-riding authority above Him, hence He is called Anilah, the highest authority’.

The second interpretation is ‘Ilati Svapiti Tad Vipareeto Nityasvarupatvaat iti vaa Anilah’ – Ilati refers to someone ‘asleep’ hence Anilah refers to the ever alert and Wakeful spirit namely Bhagavan who is therefore called Anilah, the ever Wakeful One.

Sri Sankara’s third interpretation is related to the affability of Bhagavan to His devotees. Using the noun form nilah meaning ‘difficult to understand’, Sri Sankara interprets the name Anilah as ‘One Who is not difficult to understand for the devotee’. A-gahanah A-nilah – Bhaktebhyah Sulabhah – easily accessible by His devotees.  Another interpretation given by Sri Sankara is: anaaditvaat Anilah – One Who has no beginning or end.

Sri Parasara Bhattar derives the interpretation based on the root ‘ila – prerane’ meaning ‘to urge’.  Ila refers to that person who urges another to do an act.   Since Bhagavan does not have to be urged by anyone to bless those who worship Him, He is called Anilah. He gives the following in support: tadapyaprArthitam dhyaato dadaati Madhusudanah – When Bhagavan is meditated upon, Lord Madhusudana bestows His blessings on His devotee even though the devotee may not seek them – Vishnu Dharma 74.42.

Sri NammAzhwar, in his Pasuram in Thiruvai Mozhi 5.6.2, declares: kaangindra ik-kaatrellaam yaane – All this air and wind around us is but a tiny fraction of this Anilah i.e. Bhagavan.  

The following verses from scriptures further support the above:

  • Ko hyevaanyaat kah praanyaat – Whoever can breathe and whoever can live if the Akaasha (i.e., ParamAtma) were not there? – (Taittiriya Narayana 7);
  • Praanaat Vaayurajaayata – The wind was born out of His breath (Purusha Suktam 13). Note that in this interpretation, Anilah is not equated with air or wind, but as His breath – Prana, that supports the wind and all other life.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri looks at this Nama as ‘An+ilah’ where ‘Ila’ refers to Bhumi, used in the sense of support here – AvidyamAna ila Asrayataya An-ilah.  Since He needs no support of the Earth, Air, etc., He is Anilah.  Sri Shastri’s alternative interpretation is that neither punyam nor paapam stick to Him – Na nilati Adatte punyam papam va. 

The Amara Kosha interpretation – ‘Na vidyate nilah nilayam sthaanam yasya iti Anilah’ – He Who does not have a fixed place is Anilah.  

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan seems to use ‘nilah’ instead of Anilah in his interpretation – nitaraam laati grhnaati aikaantino bhaktaan iti – Since He totally attracts the single-minded devotees, He is ‘Ni-lah’.

An alternate interpretation by Sri Vidya Bhushan is that this Nama signifies that He gifted the kingdom to Ugrasena after killing Kamsa – ‘kamsa vada nirjitaaya ilaya bhumeh Ugrasenaya danat’.

Sri Vidya Bhushan gives yet another interpretation and says that Krishna spending  sleepless nights planning the rescue Rukmini.  The term ila is used with the meaning ‘to sleep’ – ‘Rukmini-sprhaya nidraparityagat Anilah.  He quotes Lord Krishna’s words to support this interpretation:  tathahamapi tac-citto nidraam ca na labhe nisiti. 

The Dharma Chakram writer gives the meaning for this Nama that Bhagavan is in the form of air, and emphasises the importance of meditating on this Guna of Bhagavan for our life. We can go without food for many days;  we can survive without water for a few days; but without air, we can live for a few minutes. That is how important air is for our living; and so also is meditating on Lord Vishnu for our spiritual life.

The air is also spread around everywhere, just as MahaVishnu.  Our mind wanders around everywhere, and occupies everything, just as air occupies all available space.  Man has learned to control and contain air.  So also, he can learn to control his mind by constantly meditating on Vishnu.

  1.    Amritaashah– He Who feeds His devotees with the Nectar Himself

mohiniThe Nama consists of ‘A + mrita+ Ashah’.  A-mrita refers ‘to eternal, or to nectar’.  Ashah is derived from the root ‘ash – bhojane’ meaning ‘to eat’.  So, Amritashah means One Who consumed Amritam (nectar), or One Who gives Amritam to others, is Amritaashah  – ashnaati Ashayati va Ashah. 

Sri Adi Sankara gives three different interpretations for this name. The first is ‘Svaatmaanam amritam Ashnaati iti Amritaashah – He consumes the nectar of His internal joy or bliss which is His very nature hence He is called Amritaashah, the consumer of His own nectar’.

The second interpretation is ‘Mathitam Amritam Suraan Paayayitvaa Svayam cha Ashnaati iti Amritaashah – Having churned the Milky Ocean and obtained the nectar, Bhagavan first gave it to the Devas and then consumed it Himself hence He is called Amritaashah, the consumer of nectar’.

The third interpretation is ‘Amritaa Avinashvara Phalatvaat Aashaa Vaancchaa asya iti – He has an undiminishing desire to bestow blessings on His devotees hence He is called Amritaashah, one with a constant desire to reward His devotees’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar’s interpretation is – taan sva-guna amritam Ashayati iti Amritaashah – He Who feeds His devotees with the Nectar of His Gunas. 

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers to Sri NammAzhwar’s Thivruvai Mozhi Pasuram (8.8.4), where the Azhwar says:
யானும் தானா யொழிந்தானை யாதும் யவர்க்கும் முன்னோனை,
தானும் சிவனும் பிரமனும் ஆகிப் பணைத்த தனிமுதலை,
தேனும் பாலும் கன்னலும் அமுதும் ஆகித் தித்தித்து, என்
ஊனி லுயிரி லுணர்வினில் நின்ற வொன்றை யுணர்ந்தேனே.
Meaning: The Lord who was there before all things and beings.  The first-cause who cleaved Himself, and became Brahma and Siva. He is sweet as honey, milk and sugarcane juice, stands in my consciousness, in my life, and in my body.  I have realised Him.

Sri NammAzhwar also describes that Bhagavan voluntarily entered into him and gave him bliss as the insatiable nectar –   Ara amudamaai al Aviyul kalanda kaaraar karu mugil pol en amman akkannanukku (Thiruvai Mozhi 2.5.5).

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan gives a similar interpretation – Amritam ayaacitam moksham Ashayati bhojayati bhkataan iti Amritaashah – He Who bestows Moksham (Liberation) to His devotees, even without asking, is Amritaashah.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri explains this Nama as referring to ‘His desires or wishes being fail-safe – Amrita’.  

Sri Satyasandha Yatiraja’s interpretations is based on the meaning ‘desire or attachment’ for the word ‘Asha’, and the meaning ‘muktas’ for the word Amritas’ – One Who is very dear to the Muktas – Amritaanaam muktaanaam Asha iccha yasmin vishaya iti Amritaashah. 

Sri Vasishtha explains that Bhagavan has this Nama because He provides for an unending supply of means of survival for all His Creation – pravaahato nitya-sthaayIdam catur-vidha bheda vibhaktam yathatadarha jIvana sadhanani Ashayati = bhojayati iti Amritaasho Vishnuh.

  1.    Amrita-vapuh – He has an Immortal Form

Sri Krishna 7The word ‘Mritam’ means death and ‘Vapuh’ means body.  Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Mritam Maranam Tadrahitam Vapuh asya asti iti Amritavapuh – He has a body which is free from death and decay, hence He is called AmritaVapuh, the one with an Immortal Body’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar’s interpretation is that Bhagavan has a body that is like Nectar.  His devotees meditate on His Divya mangala vigraham – His Thirumeni, and never get satiated.  Bhagavan is called ArAvamudan (of Thirukkudandai fame). 

Sri NammAzhwar dedicates Thiruvai Mozhi Pasurams 5.8.1 to 5.8.11 to sing the praise of ArAvamudan – the Nectar that never gives fulfillment of satisfaction, no matter for how long we stand in front of Him and worship Him.   He again calls out to His ArA Amudam in his Pasurams – appozhudukku appozhudu en Ara amudame (2.5.4), Ara amudamai al Aviyul kalanda(2.5.5), enakku ArA Amudu Anaaye(10.10.5), enakku ArA amudamaai(10.10.6), etc. 

Sri V.V. Ramanujan remind us of Emberumanar’s (Sri Ramanujam’s) Sri Vaikuntha Gadyam, where he describes the experience of Bhagavan in Sri Vaikuntham. The contact with His feet (Thiruvadi) makes one experience a joy as if one has had a dip in an ocean of nectar (amrit) i.e. ‘amrita sagarantarnimagnah and sarva avayava sukha masita’ i.e. every inch of one’s body experiences the joy and bliss. To experience and enjoy that bliss one should eternally seek His feet.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri’s anubhavam is that Bhagavan who took incarnations as Rama, Krishna etc., is giving His Darshan to us still in that form, even after the passage of time, with that same Thirumeni (this is precisely the belief behind the Archa rupam of Perumal in our temples). 

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha uses the meaning ‘one who sows’ for vapuh – ‘va – bijasantane chedane ca’ meaning ‘to sow, to cut’.  His interpretation is – ‘Bhagavan pravahanityam idam vishvam vapati santanoti tatha sarvam antakale cchinatti’ – Bhagavan has this Nama signifying that He is the One Who sows the seed of life continuously in this Universe, and when the time comes, He is the One who cuts it too.  He is the One Who propagates the vistara Dharma – of propagation of each species from other members of the same species, with no violation of this rule anywhere.

  1.    Sarvajnah – He is Omniscient

sri-padmanabha-swamy-thiruvananthapuramThis Nama occurred earlier in Shloka 48  – Nama 454.  Sarva means all and Jnah denotes the knower. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Sarvam Jaanaati iti Sarvajnah – He knows everything hence He is called Sarvajnah, the All-Knower’. Mundaka Upanishad (1.1.9) says ‘Sarvajnas Sarvavit – He knows all and He has learnt everything’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar gives the interpretation that Bhagavan is Sarvajnah because He knows that He is the antaryami in everything – tatha SarvAtmana Atmaanam janati iti Sarvajnah.  He gives another interpretation that Bhagavan knows what is particularly beneficial for the devotee – tesham Sakya ashakya saadhya asaadhyaadikam anusandatte iti Sarvajnah. He will help us achieve things that we cannot achieve by ourselves.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri refers to us Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, which conveys:  idam sarvam yad ayam Atma (B.U. 6.5.7).  He knows that He is the best means and the best end (best ‘Upaayam’ and best ‘Upeyam’).  Sri Shastri has given several additional references from the Sruti where the Supreme Brahman is referred to as Sarvajnah:

  • yah sarvaj~nah sarvavit (Mundaka Upanishad 1.1.9);
  • sa Sarvajnah sarvo bhavati (Prashna Upanishad 4.10);
  • esha sarveshvara esha Sarvajnah (Mandukya Upanishad 6);
  • sa vishvakrit sishvavid Atmayonih jnah kalakalo gunI Sarvavidyah (Svetashvara Upanishad 2.6.2,16).

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers us to Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi (4.7.7), where the Azhwar refers to Emperuman as ‘Nirainda jnana murti’ – Sarvajnan. 

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha comments that as the Maker of everything that exists, He (the Creator) knows the ins and outs of everything there is to know about everything.  He gives several references from the Shruti, where He is referred to as ‘One Who knows everything’:

  • tvam indra asi vishva-jit sarva-vit puruhutas-tvam Indra| (Atharvana Veda 17.1.111)
  • sa no bandhur-janita sa vidhata dhamani veda bhuvanani vishva| (Yajur Veda 32.10)
  • yo nah pita janita yo vidhata dhamani veda bhuvanani vishva |  (Rig Veda 10.82.3)
  • yas-thishthati carati yasca vancati yo nilayam carati yah prata’nkam | (Arjuna Vivadha)
  • dvau sannishadya yan-mantrayete raja tad veda varunas-tritiyah| (Atharvana Veda 4.26.2)

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj brings out the significance of ‘Omniscience’ aspect through the following words – Sri Bhagavan hi sarvam sarvatra sarvada sarvatha ca janati – He knows everything, always, everywhere, through all means.  He is the Only One Who knows the past, present and the future – bhuta-bhavad-bhavishyAdinam jnanam. He is inside everyone and everything.  All the bodies and all the souls are His body, and nothing is beyond His reach.  His Sarvajnatvam thus covers everything that is known, and everything there is to know. 

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers to Sri Thirumangai Azhwar’s Pasuram where the Azhwar captures this Guna of Perumal. Perumal did not reveal Himself to Azhwar right away, even after knowing fully well how much Azhwar is suffering from the separation from Him (Periya ThiruMozhi 4.9.6):
சொல்லா தொழிய கில்லேன் அறிந்த சொல்லில், நும்மடியார்,
எல்லா ரோடு மொக்க வெண்ணி யிருந்தீ ரடியேனை,
நல்ல ரறிவீர் தீயா ரறிவீர் நமக்கிவ் வுலகத்தில்,
எல்லா மறிவீ ரீதே யறியீர் இந்த ளூரீரே.
Meaning: O Lord, I cannot refrain from saying it, let me say what I feel; You only think of me as yet another devotee, You know who is good and who is bad, you know everything about this world.  You know who Your devotees cannot bear separation from You. But somehow You do not seem acknowledge the intense pain that I am undergoing right now, because You are not showering your Grace by giving Your Darshan to me right away!

Swami ChinmayAnanda gives the interpretation for Sarvajnah as ‘One Who illumines all’ – The Illuminator of all thoughts, all intentions, motives, emotions, and all sense perceptions in an individual.

  1.    Sarvato-mukhah – He has faces on all sides and everywhere

VishvarupamThe word ‘Sarvatah’ means ‘from all sides, in every direction, everywhere’ and ‘mukham’ means ‘face, mouth, and in a generic sense, to an opening’. 

Sri Adi Sankara’s interpretation is based straight on Srimad Bhagavad Gita Shloka (13.14) where the Lord says ‘Sarvato akshi Shiromukham’ – He has eyes and faces on all sides and everywhere. Since Bhagavan has faces on all sides and sees everything, He is called Sarvatomukhah, one who has faces on all sides.

Sri Parasara Bhattar gives the interpretation that this Nama signifies that there are many ways of accessing and attaining Him.  He has not laid down any rule that He can be attained only by a particular means and not by another.  He can be easily attained by means that are sometimes inexplicably simple – yena kenapi vyajena supraveshatvaat Sarvato-mukhah. 

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers us to Sri Ramanuja’s Saranagati Gadyam 17, where Emperuman tells: Yena kenapi prakarena dvaya vakta tvam kevalam madIyayaiva dayaya – As long as one surrenders with the utterance of the dvaya mantra with or without sincerity, the natural Divine Grace of Bhagavan will protect this person.   Be it with sincerity (sa-hrdaya), or with feigned sincerity (a-hrdaya), one who needs immediate help (Arta), or one who may need support sometime in the future (dripta), one who is His friend or one who is His sworn enemy (such as Ravana), as long one approaches Him in the name of Saranagati, it is His vow to protect that person.  During Vibhishana Saranagati, Lord Rama says:
Sakrideva prapannaya tavasmiti ca yacate |
abhayam sarva bhutebhyo dadamy etad vratam mama || (Yuddha Kandam 18.33)
Meaning: “He who seeks refuge in me just once, telling me that I am yours’, I shall give him assurance of safety against all types of beings. This is my solemn pledge”.

Lord Rama tells SugrIva that He considers it His sworn duty to protect anyone who surrenders to Him, even by giving up his own life if needed:
Arto va yadi va driptah paresham Saranagatah | 
arih pranaan parityajya rakshitavyah kritAtmana || (Yuddha Kandam 18.28).

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri gives the meaning that the Lord is Omniscient and quotes references from the Shruti in support:

  • Vishvatash-cakshuruta vishvato-mukhah (Taittriya Arayaka 10.1)
  • Pratya’ng-janaas-tishthati sarvato-mukhah (Svetashvara Upanishad 2.16)

Swami ChinmayAnanda gives the analogy of the Sun whose light shines in all directions, or the light from a lamp that shines in all directions simultaneously. 

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj says that Bhaktas are singing His praise from all sides simultaneously, and He has faces on all sides to listen to all of them simultaneously – ‘Sarvaasu dishasu bhajamAnaih bhaktair-hi Srimad bhagavato mukham avalokyate’.  

IN SUMMARY

Kumudah Kundarah Kundah Parjanyah Paavano Anilah    |
Amritaasho Amritavapuh Sarvajnas Sarvatomukhah     ||87|| 

perumal-in-jasmineHe pleases the Earth by reducing its burden or lightening its load and hence He is called Kumudah. He gives fruits, as pure as the Jasmine flower, to His devotees hence He is called Kundarah. His body is beautiful like the Kunda flower and blemishless like crystal hence He is called Kundah or the Jasmine flower. He showers gifts on His devotees like a cloud delivering rain on the crops, hence He is called Parjanyah, the Cloud. He purifies people when they engage even in the mere process of thinking about Him, hence He is called Paavanah, the Purifier. He has no over-riding authority above Him hence He is called Anilah, the highest authority.

He has an undiminishing desire to bestow blessings on His devotees hence He is called Amritaashah, one with a constant desire to reward His devotees. He has a body which is free from death and decay, hence He is called AmritaVapuh, the one with an Immortal Body. He knows everything hence He is called Sarvajnah, the All-Knower. He has eyes and faces on all sides and sees everything hence He is called Sarvatomukhah.

HARI OM TAT SAT

OM NAMO NARAYANAAYA 

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

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