In this part we will explore the meaning of the 91st Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.

Bhaarabhrit Kathito Yogi Yogeeshas Sarvakamadah                 |
Ashramah Shramanah Kshaamah Suparno Vaayuvaahanah ||91||

He supports the burden of the Universe and He is the central theme of the Vedas. He is contemplative ascetic and is the chief amongst ascetics. He is the fulfiller of all desires who provides refuge to all who are stuck in this Samsara. He causes grief to the ignorant who have deviated from their path. He is the Cause of all beings to decay. He is golden winged who represents the Vedas.  He carries the wind and sustains all Life forces.

The above Shloka has the following Namas:

  1.    Bhaarabhrit
  2.    Kathitah
  3.    Yogi
  4.    Yogishah
  5.    Sarvakamadah
  6.    Ashramah
  7.    Shramanah
  8.    Kshaamah
  9.    Suparnah
  10.    Vaayuvahanah

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

  1.    Bhaara-bhrit – He Who shoulders the burden

AdiSeshanBhaara means a load or burden and Bhrit is one who bears or carries. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Anantaadi Rupena Bhuvo bhaaram Bibhrati iti Bhaarabhrit – He carries the weight of the Earth in the form of the Serpent called Ananta or AdiSesha, hence He is called Bhaarabhrit’.  Bhagavan is not just simply carrying the physical weight of the Earth but is carrying the entire burden of running the affairs of the Universe efficiently, in an orderly manner, by establishing and maintaining suitable laws of nature.

Sri Parasara Bhattar continues with his interpretation in the context of Bhagavan’s relation to the Jivas. In the VisishtAdvaita philosophy, the Jivas are of three types – the Baddhas (the bound souls), the Muktas (the liberated souls), and the Nityas (the eternal souls). When baddha Jivas attain liberation and become Muktas, they begin to reside in Sri Vaikuntham, performing eternal service to Him. Bhagavan bears the burden of bringing about this liberation of the Baddhas to become Muktas through the realisation of their true Self and their eventual attainment of His abode, so He is described as Bhaara-bhrit.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers to the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 9 Verse 22), where Bhagavan declares that He shoulders this burden of maintaining the welfare and prosperity of His devotees:
Ananyas cintayanto mam ye janah paryupasate
tesham nityabhiyuktanam yoga-kshemam vahamy aham ||
Meaning: Those who always think of Me and worship Me, excluding all else, aspiring for their eternal union with Me, I carry what they lack and preserve what they have. Their prosperity and welfare (Yoga and Kshema) are looked after by Me.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj also interprets the Nama as referring to Bhagavan’s role of protecting His devotees – Bharam bhakta rakshaya bibharti iti Bhaara-bhrit.

If we merely utter ‘Namah’ to Him, He treats it as a ‘burden’ of His to make sure that He protects us. Sri V.V. Ramanujan quotes from Sri NammAzhwar Thiruvai Mozhi (3.3.6) Pasuram:
வேங்க டங்கள்மெய்ம் மேல்வினை முற்றவும்,
தாங்கள் தங்கட்கு நல்லன வேசெய்வார்,
வேங்க டத்துறை வார்க்கு நமவென்ன
லாங்க டமை,அதுசுமந் தார்க்கட்கே.
Meaning: You just have to utter ‘Namah’ to the Lord of Tirumala – Thiru Venkatathaan and He takes care of the burden upon His shoulder to rid us of our past Karmas and relieve us from future ones too.

Sri Satyasandha Thirtha explains the Nama as a reference to Bhagavan bearing the Universe in the form of a Tortoise in His Kurma Avataar – Bharam Bhara Bhutam BrahmAndam Kurma rupena bibharti iti Bhaara-bhrit.

Swami ChinmayAnanda comments that the ‘carrying’ that is referred in this Nama is not as a man who would carry a load in the traditional sense. As He is the Cause of the Universe, He is the Bhaara-bhrit.

  1.    Kathitah – One Who is spoken about in the Vedas

SurdasThis Nama is based on the root word ‘Kath- vaakya prabandhe’ meaning ‘to tell or to narrate’, so Kathitah means one who is being described or talked about by all. Sri Adi Sankara gives two interpretations for this Nama, the first of which is ‘Vedaadibhih ayameva paratvena Kathitah iti Kathitah – He alone is declared by all scriptures such as the Vedas as the Ultimate Supreme Being, so He is called Kathitah, the One who is pronounced Supreme.

The second explanation is ‘Sarvavedaih Kathitah iti vaa Kathitah – He is described and talked about at length by all the Vedas, hence He is called Kathitah, the One who is talked about’.

Sri Sankara quotes a number of passages from scriptures to support his interpretations.  He quotes from the Katha Upanishad (1.2.15) which says ‘Sarve Vedah yat Padam Aamananti – All Vedas acknowledge His Supreme Status’.

Sri Sankara goes on to comment from the same Upanishad:
Iti ShrutiSmrityaadi Vachanebhyah; Kim Tad adhvanah Vishnoh Vyaapanasheelasya Paramam Padam Satattva iti Aakaankshaayaam Indriyaadibhyah Sarvabhyah Paratvena Pratipaadyate Ityantena Yah Kathitah sa Kathitah’ – He Whose greatness is extolled by all the Vedas, Puranas etc.

In the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 15 Verse 15) the Lord says:
Sarvasya caham hrdi sannivisto mattah smrtir jnanam apohanam ca
Vedais ca sarvair aham eva vedyo vedanta-krd veda-vid eva caham ||
Meaning: I am seated in everyone’s heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness. I alone am to be known by all the Vedas, am the author of the Vedanta, and the Knower of the meaning of the Vedas.

dasavatharamBhavishya Puranam (132.95) says:
Vede Ramayane Punye Bharate Bharatarshabha;
Aadau Madhye tatha chaante Vishnuh Sarvatra Geeyate ||
Meaning: Lord Vishnu is praised and sung about everywhere at the beginning, middle, and end of the Vedas, the holy Ramayana and the MahaBharata.

In the Katha Upanishad (1.3.9), it says ‘Sodhvanah Param Aapnoti Tad Vishnoh Paramam Padam – The Realised Person reaches the absolute destination Parama Padam i.e., the abode of Vishnu’.
indriyebhyaḥ para hyartha arthebhyashca paraṃ manaḥ |
manasastu para buddhir buddheratma mahanparaḥ ||1.3.10 ||
Meaning: Beyond the senses, are the rudiments of its objects; beyond these rudiments is the mind; beyond the mind is Atman known as Mahat (great).

mahataḥ param avyaktam avyaktat puruṣaḥ paraḥ |
puruṣanna paraṃ kiṃcitsa kaṣṭha sa para gatiḥ || 11 ||
Meaning: Beyond the great Atman is the Unmanifested; beyond the Unmanifested is the Purusha (the Cosmic Soul); beyond the Puruṣha there is nothing. That is the end, that is the final goal.

It asserts that Artha (objects, means of life) are above Indriyas (senses), that Manas (mind) is above Artha in this hierarchy, above the Manas is Buddhi (intellect, his ability to reason), above the Buddhi is Atman (his Soul, great Self). Beyond the Atman, is the Avyaktam (unmanifested Reality), and beyond that is Purusha (cosmic soul) and beyond the Purusha, there is nothing – for it is the final goal, for it is the highest purpose. Purusha is the final goal that is spoken of, so He is Kathitah.

Sri Parasara Bhattar’s interpretation is – ‘Kathitah ukta vakshyamana gunavattaya sarva Shastreshu” – He is called Kathitah because of the fullness of all His Gunas, that have been described so far and that will be described hereafter, in all the Shastras. Sri Bhattar gives support from the jitante stuti (1.7) – vacasham vacyam uttamam – All the words (Shrutis, Smritis etc.) declare the greatness of this Uttaman (Supreme).

Sri V.V. Ramanujan quotes from Thirumazhisai Azhwar’s Pasuram 11 of Tiruchanda Viruttam:
சொல்லினால்தொ டர்ச்சிநீசொ லப்படும்பொ ருளும்நீ
சொல்லினால்சொ லப்படாது தோன்றுகின்ற சோதிநீ
சொல்லினால்ப டைக்கநீப டைக்கவந்து தோன்றினார்
சொல்லினால்சு ருங்கநின்கு ணங்கள்சொல்ல வல்லரே
Meaning: You are the Ultimate goal of the Vedas; You are the One declared as the Supreme Brahman in the Vedas; You are the Supreme Effulgence that cannot be described through words; You created the four-headed Brahma so that he can perform the function of Creation using the Vedas as his aid, but even he cannot describe You through words even nearly.

Sri Ramanujan also refers us to NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi 3.1.10, where Azhwar refers to Emperumaan as ‘Maraiyaya Naal-Vedattul nindra malarchudare– O’ the radiant Lotus-Lord extolled by the Vedas, You are the essence Who is discussed in all the four Vedas’.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj gives the example of His fame being sung by the likes of Narada, Valmiki, etc. – Narada ValmIki prabhritibhih sa’kirtita yasho vistaratvaat Kathitah.

Sri Satyasandha TIrtha refers to His being praised by the Agamas – Kathitah sad-Agamaih pratipaditah.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha comments that even the Vedas fail in their attempt to describe Him completely. We have been provided with the ability of speech only for singing His praise. Sri Vasishtha’s composition summarises thus:
Vishnur-hi loke kathitah puranah tasyantam Apnoti na vaag vacobhih |
tasmatsanadeva ca vartamaana vaagasti vaktum prati-jantu nishtha ||

He remarks that just as Bhagavan is Kathitah or One Who should be spoken about and praised, He is also a darshatah (He Who sees everything, He Who is the Object we should see in everything we see etc.,), Sravanah, Sparshanah, Rupah, Ghrahanah, etc.

  1.    Yogi – One Who is in complete unison with all beings

BrahmanSri Adi Sankara gives two different interpretations for this Nama. In the first one Yogah is defined as  knowledge and in the second it is used in the sense of self control. The first interpretation is ‘Yogo Jnaanah Tenaiva gamyatvaat – Yogah is Knowledge and He is obtainable only through Jnana or Knowledge and hence He is called Yogi’.

The second interpretation is ‘Yogah Samadhih, Sa hi svatmani sarvada samaadhatte svam atmanam tena vaa Yogee – Yogah is self-control and He maintains it within him at all times and hence He is called Yogi, the pinnacle of self-control’.

The VisishtAdvaitam philosophy propounds that Bhagavan is attained only through the Bhakti Yoga, or Prapatti (through Absolute surrender). The Jnana yoga is seen an accessory (together with Karma Yoga) to lead to the Bhakti Marga. Even, Sri Adi Sankara (an Advaitin) acknowledges this aspect in his composition of the ‘Bhaja Govindam’ song. Sri C. Rajagopalachari wrote in his commentary on Bhaja Govindam as “When intelligence (jnana) matures and lodges securely in the heart, it becomes wisdom (vignyana). When that wisdom (vignyana) is integrated with life and issues out in action, it becomes devotion (bhakti). Knowledge (jnana) which has become mature is spoken of as devotion (bhakti). If it does not get transformed into devotion (bhakti), such knowledge (jnana) is useless tinsel.”

Sri Bhattar gives the interpretation – yujyate anena iti yogah; aghatitArtha ghatanam maha prabhavah sa asya atishayena nitya yogena; sarvam etat sambhavayati iti Yogi– He has a unique greatness in harmoniously bringing together a combination of things that usually do not go together. This unique quality is present in Him in extreme abundance, and is quite natural to Him, so He is called Yogi. He is a One who has combined in Him the apparently conflicting Aishvaryas (explained in the previous Shloka) to co-exist in full measure simultaneously, hence He is called a Yogi.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri explains the term yoga as the process by which one draws his/her mind within when it tries to wander and stray away into other things. Bhagavan is called a Yogi since He is attained by the process of Yoga (namely, by control of the mind and the senses).

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha interprets the Nama using the derivation of – ‘yujyate sambadhyate iti yogi – He Who unites or bonds everything together’ as signifying that Bhagavan alone has the ability to keep everything in the Universe bound together as one functioning unit, and hence He is called the Yogi.
Yogair-yuktam ca idam Sariram yogi, sakala’nca vishvam parasparam baddham yogi,
Esha ca yoga rupo guno bhagavato Vishnur eva sarvatra vyaptah.

Swami ChinmayAnanda defines Yoga by taking reference from the Yoga Shastras– Yogah citta vritti nirodhah – Yoga is stopping of all thought flow. One who has no thought agitations – who has totally conquered the mind, and lives in His own effulgent Self is the greatest Yogi, and hence Bhagavan is Yogi.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj gives the interpretation that this Nama signifies that He unites the devotees with their wishes, in other words, He bestows the desired wishes for their devotees – yojayati svajanan tad- abhIshtenaiti Yogi.

  1.      Yogishah – He is the foremost the Lord of all Yogins

ananthasayanamSri Adi Sankara explains this as ‘Anye Yoginah yogantarayaih hanyante svarupat pramaadyanti Ayam tu tadrahitatvaat teshaam Ishah Yogishah – The other Yogis are affected by many distracting influences and get deflected from their path but He is unaffected by such distractions and therefore He is the foremost and the Lord among the Yogis. Hence He is called Yogishah, the Supreme Yogi’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar interpretation is that Bhagavan is called Yogishah because He is the foremost Lord of all Yogins, and He bears the responsibility of bringing about perfection of Yoga in devotees even as they are in the embroiled in midst of this Samsara. Thus, even for the likes of Sanaka, who are naturally gifted with the powers of meditation, Bhagavan is the One who brings about the perfection of Yoga in them, so that they can attain Sri Vaikuntham. Sri Bhattar gives a reference from the Vishnu Puranam – ‘sanandanadin apa-kalmashaan munin cakara bhuyah ati-pavitram padam – He conferred the highest goal, namely Sri Vaikuntham, upon Sanaka and other sages who were flawless’.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers us to Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram which conveys the sense of His being the Yogishah, One who is worshipped by the Yogis:
கலக்க மில்லா நல்தவ முனிவர் கரைகண்டோர்,
துளக்க  மில்லா வானவ ரெல்லாம் தொழுவார்கள்,
மலக்க மெய்த மாகடல் தன்னைக் கடைந்தானை,
உலக்க நாம்புகழ் கிற்பதென் செய்வ துரையீரே.
Meaning: The Seers such as Janaka, Sanaka, etc., who have clear perception as a result of their true penance and devotion, the Nityas who have crossed the Samsara, and enjoying His unlimited auspicious qualities – all serve Him with pure delight. O’ Who churned the Ocean for nectar! Words cannot describe your great qualities.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj gives the interpretation that He is worshipped and meditated upon by the Karma Yogins, Jnana Yogins and Bhakti Yogins, and hence He is Yogishah. He quotes the following verse from the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 6 Verse 47):
Yoginam api sarvesam mad-gatenantar-atmana
sraddhavan bhajate yo mam sa me yuktatamo matah ||
Meaning: He who worships Me with faith, whose innermost self is fixed in Me, I consider him as the greatest of the Yogins.

Swami ChinmyAnanda describes a Yogin as one who is free – completely and fully – from any involvement while being in the midst of Samsara and its bustling activities. Bhagavan alone qualifies as the King of Yogis to fit this description.

Sri Satyasandha Thirtha gives a different intepretation – Yoginam Sam (=sukham) yasmat iti Yogishah – He is the One through Whom (by meditating on Whom), the Yogis attain great delight and so He is Yogishah.

Sri Vasishtha uses the meaning ‘union’ for the word Yoga, and gives the interpretation that Bhagavan has this Nama signifying that He keeps everything bound together – for instance, all the bones in the body are kept united together so that the body is in one functional piece. While this example may sound trivial, the whole Universe is held together only because of His power of Yoga or union.

  1. Sarvakamadah – He Who bestows all desires

Rama 5The word ‘Sarva’ means ‘all’ and ‘Kama’ means ‘desire’. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Sarvaan Kaman Sadaa dadati iti Sarvakamadah – He fulfils all the wishes of His devotees at all times, hence He is called Sarvakamadah’.

Sri Adi Sankara quotes from Bramha Sutra (3.2.38) which says ‘Phalam ata Upapatteh – the Lord alone is capable of bestowing fruits for all actions and observances’. Thus the Nama Sarvakamadah, the bestower of all wishes, is appropriate.

Sri Bhattar points out that Bhagavan grants all desires sought by the devoted Yogins, including the powers such as Anima (one of the Ashtasiddhis), even though these can be impediments to the path for Salvation. Sri Bhattar notes that even those who have not perfected their Yoga and slip from this path because of distractions arising from desire etc., will still get the benefit of their Yogic effort, and will be bestowed with good birth in their next janma. He quotes from the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 6 Verse 41) in support:

prapya punya-krtam lokanusitva sasvatih samah
sucinam srimatam gehe yoga-bhrasto ‘bhijayate ||
Meaning: The unsuccessful Yogi, after many, many years of enjoyment on the planets of the pious living entities, is born into a family of righteous people, or into a family of rich aristocracy.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj gives support from Srimad Bhagavatam (2.3.10):
a-kamah sarva-kamo va moksha-kama udara-dhih |
tivrena bhakti-yogena yajeta purusham param ||
Meaning: He who has no desire in anything, or one who is desirous of all benefits, or one who is realized enough to be interested in Moksha, should worship the Parama Purusha with intense devotion.

In other words, He is the One Whom we should worship, no matter what our desires are – Dharma, Artha, Kama or Moksha, because He alone is the Ultimate Bestower of all benefits- Sarva-kama-dah. This concluding message is given by Sri Suka Muni to Parikshit after discussing several alternate routes such as worshiping other Devatas for attaining lesser benefits.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri gives reference to the Chandogya Upanishad (4.15.3):
esha u eva vamaniresha sarvani vamani nayati |
sarvani vamani nayati ya evam veda ||
Meaning: And He alone is Vamani (bringer of wealth), since He grants all good things to those who seek refuge in Him”.

Sri N.S. Ananta Rangacharya explains that VamanI here refers to Vamanitvam-Sva Ashriteshu Sobhana prapakattvam – He Who bestows all auspiciousness on those Who have taken refuge in Him.

  1.    Ashramah – He is the abode of peace for all wanderers in this Samsara

Maha Vishnu 6‘Ashram’ basically means a cottage or a place of rest in the middle of a jungle where travellers’ can rest. Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Aashramavat  Sarveshaam Samsararanye Bhramataam Vishramasthaanatvaat Ashramah – Like a hermitage in the middle of a forest, He is an abode of peace and comfort for the troubled travellers’ wandering in the forest of Samsara, hence He is called Ashramah, the grantor of peaceful hermitage’.

Sri Bhattar continues his interpretation from the previous Nama, where he pointed out that Bhagavan bestows lesser benefits for those who have swerved from the path of Yoga after starting on that path. When they have completed the enjoyment of the meritorious benefits for their lesser effort, then He gives them ‘a place of rest’ – birth in the houses of pious Sri Vaishnavas where true knowledge of the Lord can be imbibed – ‘tato vivritya subhiksha para vidyeshu Vaishnava grheshutesham vishranti-hetuh Ashramah. In other words, this birth in a good family is to enable those who have been interrupted in their Yoga in their previous birth, to rest and then continue and succeed in the current birth by being provided the right conditions and environment for the successful completion of their pursuit of Yoga. In the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 6 Verse 41) it says – Sucinaam Srimataam gehe yoga-bhrashtah abhijayate – They are born in the house of the pure and prosperous (prosperous here means that they are delighting themselves in pure and exclusive devotion to the Lord).

The root from which the Nama is derived is ‘Shramu – tapasi khede ca’ meaning ‘to take pain, to be fatigued’. The prefix ‘A’ sometimes gives the meaning opposite to that of the verb it follows (e.g., gam – to go, A- gam – to come; da – to give, A- da- to take). Similarly, the word A-Shrama gives the meaning – to rest, opposite of Shrama.  Ashrama refers to a place of rest or a hermitage. This ‘Place of Rest’ is a reference to the act of meditating on His Holy Feet, and the association with Bhagavatas who have nothing but Him on their mind. This is beautifully brought out by Sri NammAzhwar’s in his Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (10.1.2):
இலங்கதி மற்றொன் றெம்மைக்கும் ஈன்தண் துழாயின்
அலங்கலங் கண்ணி ஆயிரம் பேருடை அம்மான்
நலங்கொள் நான்மறை வாணர்கள் வாழ்திரு மோகூர்
நலங்க ழலவன் அடிநிழல் தடமன்றி யாமே.
Meaning: In Tirumogur, where a good number of Vedic seers live, the Lord who has a thousand names wears a Tulasi garland.  I have no refuge other than Him through every birth and in the shadow of His Lotus feet is the lake of all goodness.

In this commentary, Sri Ramanujan points out that the association with the Bhagavatas is extremely beneficial because they are ‘nalam kol vanargal’ – those who are interested in lifting us up to their levels, and those who are interested in our welfare without any benefit for them.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri generalises the concept of Ashramah as the different means by which Bhagavan gives rest to those who have been struggled through the forest of Samsara – including the Ashramas of Vana prastha, Sanyasa, Samadhi and finally Moksha.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives the explanation as – Ashramyante karmAnurupam yonim prapaya yena iti Ashramah – He by Whom the Jivas are made to endure the birth in this world according to their Karmas is Ashramah; or, He is the One on whom the Yogins set their mind while practicing their rigours of meditation and penance and hence He is A-Shramah.

Sri Vasishtha does not using the ‘A’ as a negative prefix of Shrama as Sri Bhattar and Sri Sankara did, but has instead used it as a reinforcement of the word Shrama – One Who ensures that the Jivas go through the toils according to their Karmas.

  1.    Shramanah – He torments the ignorant

Krishna-kills-Kamsa1This Nama is based on the root word ‘Shramu’ meaning ‘to be fatigued or troubled’. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Avivekinah sarvaan Santaapayati iti Shramanah – He torments all those who do not exercise their discriminatory wisdom, hence He is called Shramanah’. Bhagavan is Shramanah as He makes them endure the consequences of their poor choices and or in this sense He torments such unwise people.

Sri Parasara Bhattar has interpreted this Nama in the same spirit in terms of Bhagavan’s relation with the practitioners of yoga, and His benevolence for them, even if they do not complete their yoga in one birth. Sri Bhattar interprets the current Nama as Bhagavan making it possible for those who were not able to complete their Yoga in a given birth, to resume where they left off with minimal effort in their next birth – ‘Anayesena Sramyate iti Shramanah. He quotes support from the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 6 Verse 43):
tatra tam buddhi samyogam labhate paurva daihikam |
yatate ca tato bhuyahsamsiddhau kurunandana || BG 6.43
Meaning: There he regains the disposition of mind which he had in his former body, O Arjuna, and from there he strives much more for success in Yoga.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri explains this as the situation where, even though Bhagavan is indicating the right path for attaining Him, there are many among us who do not want to follow that path, and then He is left with no choice except to make us undergo the effects of our Karma, and as most of us know, it is a tormenting experience to be born and living in Samsara.

Swami ChinamyAnanda puts the idea more graphically: ‘One Who persecutes the worldly people – who are driven by their hungers and passions and seek sense- gratifications. By the very nature of the ephemeral sense-objects and the ever-changing instruments of experience in us, the life of gratifications can only yield exhausting fatigue and weary disappointments. This is the `Law’ and Sriman Narayana is the ‘Law- Giver’.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj attributes the Shramam to Bhagavan Himself, in His incarnation as Nara Narayana, for the protection of the world – Shramayatitapas carati Nara Narayana rupena loka sa’ngrahaya iti Shramanah.

Sri Satyasandha Thirtha interprets the Nama as: Shramanah sanyasinah asya dasattvena santi iti Shramanah –The Sanyasins exist through a sense of dependence on Him and through penance experience tranquility, hence He is called Shramanah.

  1.    Kshaamah – He brings about the decline of all beings

vishvarupamSri Adi Sankara gives the interpretation ‘Kshaamaah Ksheenaah Sarvaah Prajaah karoti iti Kshaamah – He reduces all beings to the state in which they were prior to their current form, hence He is called Kshaamah, the Reducer’.

The Nama can be derived from the following roots: kshi – kshaye – to decay, kshi – himsayam – to destroy, kshi – nivasa gatyoh – to dwell, and ksham – sahane – to allow, to be capable of.  In addition, interpretations have been given by looking at the word as ksham +Ama, ksha + ma, etc.

Sri Bhattar uses the root kshi – kshaye – to decay, in the earlier interpretation of this Nama (444) and explained earlier Bhagavan’s form as the Pole Star, where Bhagavan stands in the form of Dhruva in a diminished form at the time of the dissolution of the Earth inclusive of the five elements.

All the luminaries disappear, and Dhruva alone remains shining in his place, as stated in Vishnu Puranam (2.8.92):
yavan-matre pradeSe tu maitreyavasthito dhruvah |
kshayamayati tavat-tubhumerAbhutasamplave ||

For the interpretation of the current Nama, Sri Bhattar uses the root (ksham – sahane – to allow, to be capable of) and explains that He is the One Who uplifts and supports those that have not successfully completed the Yogic path. He allows those who have slipped from the path of yoga to fulfill their effort by giving them the necessary strength to achieve this, if only they show an inclination for this – Sva Yogabhimukhyamatrena te yoga-bhrashta api durgam taritum kshamante asmat iti kshamagah.  He quotes the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 6 Verse 40) in support:
Partha naiveha namutra vinashas-tasya vidyate |
na hi kalyana-krit kashcitdurgatim tata gacchati ||BG 6.40
Meaning: Neither here (in this world), nor there (in the next), Arjuna, is there destruction for him. For, no one who does good ever comes to an evil end.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan gives the meaning ‘One Who makes the Yogins skilled in continuing and fulfilling the Yoga – tiramai udaiyavanagac ceybavan’.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri gives the example of how Bhagavan gradually removes the functions of the indiryas, mind etc., gradually before the final moment in our own life – the function of Kshaama or decay.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj give another interpretation of Kshaama or destruction- He eliminates the wicked – kshaamaan = kshinaan karoti dur- janan iti Kshaamah.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives an interpretation using the meaning  ‘hidden’ for ‘kshaya’, and explains the Nama as Bhagavan remains hidden amongst us while being present in all of us, or in whom we are all hidden ya etasmin vishve antarleenah tishthati sarvam vyapya, yasmin va idam vishvam praleeyate. Sri Vasishtha gives the alternate interpretation using the root kshi – nivasagatyoh – to dwell, and explains that this Nama of Bhagavan signifies that He is the ultimate abode for all at the time of pralaya -kshaayati = nivaasayati, gamayati iti Kshaamah.

Sri Satya sandha Thirtha interprets this Nama as ksha + ma. He explains this as – Ksha-narakaah,tan mavate – badhnati iti Kshaa-mah – He Who binds (restrains, controls) the demons is Kshaa-mah.

Sri Raghunatha Thirtha’s interpretation is: kshamate sahate iti Kshaamah – He Who endures patiently.

  1.    Suparnah – One Who has beautiful wings

vishnu_on_garudaParnah means a leaf. We covered this Nama earlier as part of Shloka 21 (Nama 194).  Sri Adi Sankara identifies Bhagavan with beautiful leaves (which are the Vedas) on the tree of Samsara and explains this Nama as ‘Shobhanani Parnani Chandaamsi Samsarataru rupinah asya iti Suparnah – Bhagavan is represents the Vedas and He is like the beautiful leaves on the tree of Samsara and hence He is called Suparnah’. He supports this by the quotation from the Bhagavad Gita (15.1):

Urdhvamulam Adhash Shaakham Ashvattham Praahuravyayam;
Chandaamsi yasya Parnaani Yastam Veda sa Vedavit ||
Meaning: They speak of an immutable inverted Peepal tree with its roots above and branches below. Its leaves are the Vedas. He who knows it knows the Vedas.

Sri Bhattar interprets this Nama in two ways, first as ‘One Who has beautiful wings’ (e.g., in His Hamsa incarnation or in His Garuda form), and next as ‘One Who helps the Yogins cross the ocean of Samsara’ (with ‘beautiful wings’ that carry devotees cross the Ocean of Samsara) – Shobhana parnatvat, Samsara-para-nayanaat va Suparnah.

He enables the Yogins who have fallen from the path of yoga to get back in track and cross the ocean of Samsara – evam pratyapanna samadhIn samadhi- vipaka-dvara tamasah param nayati iti Su-parnah. He gives support from the Maula Samhita and the Bhagavad Gita:

  • sva-param Bhagavan nayati – The Lord leads them to reach the shore;
  • prayatnad-yatamAnastu yogi samshuddha kilbishah |
    sva-param Bhagavan nayat aneka janma samsiddhah tato yati param gatim ||BG 6.45
    Meaning: But when the Yogi engages himself with sincere endeavor in making further progress, being washed of all contaminations, then ultimately, after many, many births of practice, he attains the supreme goal.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives two roots from which the different interpretations can be explained: ‘paar–tir– karma samaptau’ meaning ‘to finish or to get through’; and ‘parn–harita bhave’ meaning ‘to make green’. So the word ‘Parna’ can mean a ‘wing’ as well as a ‘leaf’. The different interpretations for the Nama are:

  • One who has beautiful wings,
  • One Who enables the Jivas cross the Ocean of Samsara,
  • One who gives everything the ability to move around
  • One who makes everything live and thrive (“green”)
  • One who is decorated with the Green Thulasi leaves, etc.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan explains the Nama as referring to Garuda, who has Bhagavan as his antaryami. In the Bhagavad Gita (10.29) Bhagavan says ‘Vainateyashca pakshinaam – Among the birds, I am Garuda, the son of Vinata.

Sri  Radhakrishna  Shastri  explains  that  the  two  wings  of  this form of Bhagavan – Suparnah – can be enjoyed as:

  • one wing representing the Vedas that show the path for our conduct; and
  • the other wing representing the virtuous conduct practised by our Acharyas and elders through their conduct of life following the teachings of the Shrutis and Smritis

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha explains the Nama in terms of the Mundaka Upanishad passage 3.1:
mundaka upanishaddva Suparna sayuja sakhaya samanam vriksham parishvajate |
tayoranyah pippalam svadvanti, anashnan anyo abhicakashiti ||
Meaning: A pair of white-winged birds extremely friendly to each other sit on one and the same tree; one eats the fruits, while the other eats not and gazes on.

In the Upanishad, the reference to the two beautiful birds sitting on the same tree – signifies the JivAtma and the ParamAtma dwelling in the same body. One (JivAtma) eats the fruits of actions, and the other (ParamAtma) just gazes on as a witness (Saakshi). Lord Vishnu is this all-experiencing Principle of Consciousness. Sri Radhakrishna Shastri refers to one as the great enjoyer (Perinbam), and the other as the Great Knower (PerArivu).

Sri Shastri continues on the above, and explains that He is also Suparnah because He gives protection to the Jivas in their sojurn in this Samsara by giving them the shade in the form of the beautiful leaves of this immutable Ashvattha tree while they go through the Samsara to expend their Karmas.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj explains the Nama as ‘One Whose form is decorated with the Green Thulasi leaves – Shobhanani parnani thulasI dalani yan-murtau sa Suparnah’.  Sri Bharadvaj gives an alternate interpretation as – ‘He is Suparnah since He has the green emerald colour because of His association with Sri lakshmi Who resides in His Vaksha-sthalam – Shobhanah parno harita bhavo yasya Sri LakshmI Devi sannidhyaat iti Su-parnah’. He gives a third interpretation using the root ‘prn – prinane’ meaning ‘to please, to satisfy’, and explains as – Shobhanam parnam prinanam yasya iti Su-parnah – He Who is easily pleased and satisfied by the sincere offerings by His devotee. In the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 9 Verse 26), Bhagavan says:
patram pushpam phalam toyam yo me bhaktya prayacchati |
tad-aham bhakty-upahrtam ashnami prayatAtmanah ||BG 9.26
Meaning: Whoever offers Me with true devotion a leaf, a flower, a fruit or some water, I accept this offering made with devotion by him who is pure of heart.

Sri Vidya Bhushan’s says that Bhagavan is more pleased wearing the beautiful green thulasi leaves than when wearing the precious jewels, and so He is Suparnah – ‘Sobhanani parnani thulasi patranyeva na tu kanaka ratnani yasmin sa Suparnah’.

Sri Satyasandha Thirtha explains this as ‘One Who is resting on the beautiful green tender leaf of a fig-tree at the time of pralaya – Sobhanam parnam vata-patram Sayyatvena yasya sa Su-parnah’.

Sri Raghunatha Thirtha gives the interpretation as: ‘Su samyak bhumin purayati – vyapnoti iti Su-parnah – He Who pervades the earth completely’.

  1.    Vaayuvahanah – He makes the air flow

maha-vishnu-vahana-garudaSri Adi Sankara’s earlier interpretion of this Nama was that ‘He is the carrier of air in all its seven forms – Vahatah sapta Avahadin vahayati it Vaayuvahanah’. He interprets the current occurrence of this Nama as ‘Vaayur vahati Yadbheetyaa Bhutaani sa Vaayuvahanah – He makes the air flow and carry all beings and thus sustain life forces, hence He is called Vaayuvahanah’. In support he quotes from the Taittriya Upanishad (2.8) which says ‘Bheeshaasmaat Vaatah Pavate – Air moves out of fear for him’. In other words, He causes Vaayu to do its work of sustaining life and hence He is called Vaayuvahanah.

Sri Bhattar interprets the Nama in Shloka 36 as a reference to Bhagavan’s act of driving the air (making it move and flow) that is vital for the survival of all beings. Sri Bhattar gives the interpretation that Bhagavan lifts up those that have fallen into the ocean of Samsara, using Garuda. Vaayu here signifies Garuda, the King of birds, who is known for his swift movement.  Sri Bhattar’s words are – taanshca prabala hetubhih patitAnapi, Vaayuna – anupamagatvarena patagapatina, Vaahayati uttaarayati iti Vaayu-vahanah.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives the roots involved in the Nama as ‘va-gati gandhanayoh’ meaning ‘to go, to blow etc.’, and ‘vah–prapane’ meaning ‘to carry, to flow’. He gives the derivation as ‘Vaayuh vahyate – pravartyate anena iti Vaayu-vahanah – It is because of Him the air flows.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan gives refers us to Sri Thirumangai Azhwar’s Pasuram thiruezhu kutrirukkai – medamum aim-perum bhutamum neeye – You are the Force behind the five great elements that are constituents of the body that houses the Jivas.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri gives reference from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (3.7.7), which describes that Bhagavan is the antaryami of Vaayu, and makes Vaayu flow etc. –
yo vayau tishthan vAyorantaro yam vaayur na Veda yasya Vaayuh Sariram yo Vaayurantaro yamayati esha ta Atma antaryami Amrutah |
Meaning: He who dwells in Vaayu, who is within the Vaayu (Air), whom Air does not know, whose body is Air, and who controls Air from within, is the Inner Ruler (antaryami), the Immortal.

Sri Shastri describes in detail about these seven regions that are controlled by seven different sons of Kashyapa and diti, because of the powers given to them by Bhagavan.  They are called the Sapta-marutas, namely, A-vaha, Pra-vaha, Sam-vaha, Ud-vaha, Vi-vaha, Pari-vaha, and Para-vaha.

The prefix to the term ‘vaha’ in each case signifies the kind of force that is exerted by this type of flow, for instance ud-vaha is the force that lifts up, etc. The seven Maruts control seven regions of the Universe. Six of these regions are listed by many and these regions are:

  1. the space between earth and the clouds,
  2. that between the clouds and the Sun,
  3. that between the Sun and the Moon,
  4. the Moon and the Stars,
  5. the Stars and the Planets,
  6. and the Planets and the Sapta-Rishi Mandala.

It is said that it is because of the pressure exerted by these regions of air that the various stellar objects do not collide with each other.

Sri Shastri gives another explanation that Bhagavan redeems His devotees swiftly like air, and so He is Vaayu-vahanah. Sri Shastri also comments that Bhagavan is Vaayu-vahanah or ‘One Who has Air as His Vehicle’ (explained later in the Story).

Swami ChinmayAnanda summarises the above in the following words: ‘The inconceivable might and power of the winds and their life-sustaining abilities are all lent to the air by Bhagavan’s own munificence and, therefore, He is called Vaayu-vahanah.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha comments that at the time of creation, Bhagavan first makes the air flow, and then gives body to the Jivas so that they can move around or breathe and live, and so He is Vaayu-vahanah. Sri Vasishtha gives several references to the Vedic passages in support:

  • tad-dhavato’nyan-atyeti tishthat-tasmin-apo matarisva dadhati (Ishavasya Upanishad 4) – While not moving, It goes faster than those who run after By Its Power, the Air supports all the living beings.
  • kasmad-a’ngat dipyate agnir-asya kasmad-a’ngAt pavate matarisva (Atharvana Veda 7.2) – By Whose movement or force the Agni glows, and by whose movement the air flows.
  • kva prepsan dIpyata Urdhvo Agnih, kva prepsan pavate matarisva (Atharvana Veda 7.4) – How (by Whose Power) the agni always blazes upward, and by Whose Power the wind flows.
  • YatrAgnish-candramah Suryo vatas-tishthantyArpitah |
    skambham tam bruhi katamah svideva sah || Atharvana Veda 10.7.12
    That Support on which the earth, firmament and sky are set as their foundation, in Whom the Fire, Moon, Sun, and Wind have their foundation.
  • yasmad vata Ritudha pavante yasmad samudra adhi viksharanti (Atharvana Veda 3.2) – He from Whom winds blow pure in ordered seasons, and from Whom the seas flow forth in ordered directions.

Sri Ananta Krishna Shastri takes ‘Vaayu’ to refer to ‘The Vaayu’ – the son of Vaayu, namely Hanuman, and notes that Bhagavan is Vaayu-vahanah since He had Hanuman as His ‘Vehicle’ in His Rama incarnation during his battle with Ravana.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj gives the following interpretation:
vati – gandhayate sucayati Srimad-bhagavad Agamanam iti vaayuh |
tad- vahanam garutmadakhyam yasya iti Vaayu-vahanah |
garutmatah sa’ncalane sama-gitir-udbhavati,
sa ca Sriman Narayanasya Agamanam  sucyati |
Meaning: That which, or one who announces the arrival of Bhagavan is Vaayu, based on ‘vaati – gandhayate – sucayati’. Bhagavan has Garuda as His Vahana, who announces the arrival of the Lord, and so He is Vaayu-vahana.  The movement of Garuda produces Sama Ganam, which again announces the arrival of Bhagavan ahead of His arrival.

Sri Satyasandha Thirtha looks at the Nama as Vaayuvah + nah: vaayum – svaasa vaayum vahanti iti vaayu-vah, jIvah; taan nayati iti Vaayavaha-nah – Those that inhale and exhale the Prana Vaayu are called Vaayu-vah; One Who leads them is Vaayuvaha-nah.

In his alternative interpretation, Sri Satyasandha Thirtha looks at the Nama as Vaayuvah + vritu – vartana – to exist, to happen, to live on; aha – vyaaptau – to pervade. He Who makes Vaayu exist, and to pervade is Vaayuvah + ahanah – Vaayuvashca asau ahanashca iti Vaayuvahanah.

The Story of Lord carrying Garuda (Gajendra Moksham)

Gajendra-Moksana_2Vinata suta, son of Vinata, the mighty Garuda is the Vahana (mount) of Sriman Narayana and he is Veda himself. While Garuda is the Vahana of the Lord, here is an instance where the Lord used Vaayu as His Vahana and the Lord carried Garuda.

King Indradyumnan, who was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu, was cursed by Sage Agastya as the King remained seated when Agastya walked in. The Sage felt insulted by his ego and cursed Indradyumnan to be born as an elephant who would be absolved from the curse only when he surrendered to the almighty totally. Thus was born Gajendra, an elephant who lived in the forests near Mount Trikuta.

In the nearby lake lived a crocodile. This Crocodile was a Gandharva in his previous birth. He playfully pulled the legs of the Sage Devala while he was bathing. Since the Gandharva had shown disrespect, he was cursed to be born as a crocodile till his liberation from the curse by the Lord himself.

One day Gajendra, went to pluck Lotus from the lake and the crocodile caught the elephant’s leg by its powerful jaws causing much pain. Despite his strength and stamina, the elephant could not free himself from the crocodile. The latter was more powerful in water and dragged the elephant deep into the water. This tussle continued for 1000 years with the elephant relying on his strength to free himself. When he realised at the end that he had no more strength and by purva vasanas recognised that God alone can save him from his plight, he surrendered totally to the Lord Vishnu and prayed for His help crying ‘Adhimoolame, Adhimoolame.’

Hearing this Vishnu jumped on to Garuda His Vahana and commanded him to go speedily to the lake where Gajendra was struggling. Garuda flew with all his strength but he could not keep up to the speed that Lord Vishnu wanted. Lord is full of compassion and wanted to reach His distressed devotee in an instant. So the Lord decided that He would use Vaayu as His Vahana and carry Garuda.  He could not leave Garuda behind as it’s an integral part of His insignia.  Gajendra would recognise Him as ‘Adi moolam’ only when He sees the Lord on His Garuda with His Conch and Chakra. Hence Vishnu appeared with Garuda and killed the Crocodile with the Sudarshana Chakra. Both Indradyumna and Gandharva were liberated.

In Summary

Bhaarabhrit Kathito Yogi Yogeeshas Sarvakamadah                 |
Aashramah Shramanah Kshaamah Suparno Vaayuvaahanah ||91||

Nara NarayanaHe carries the weight of the Earth in the form of the Serpent called Ananta or AdiSesha, hence He is called Bhaarabhrit. He is described and talked about at length in all the Vedas, so He is called Kathitah, the One who is talked about. He has a unique greatness in harmoniously bringing together a combination of things that usually do not go together, hence He is a Yogi. He is the foremost and the chief among the Yogis, hence He is called Yogishah, the Supreme Yogi. He fulfils all the wishes of His devotees at all times, hence He is called Sarvakamadah.

Like a hermitage in the middle of a forest, He is an abode of peace and comfort for the troubled travellers’ wandering in the forest of Samsara, so He is called Ashramah, the grantor of peaceful hermitage. He torments all those who do not exercise their discriminatory wisdom, hence He is called Shramanah.  He reduces all beings to the state in which they were prior to their current form, hence He is called Kshaamah, the Reducer. He is Suparnah, One Who has beautiful wings, and Who helps the Yogins cross the ocean of Samsara. He makes the air flow and carry all beings, and thus sustains all life forces, hence He is called Vaayuvahanah.



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



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