In this part we will explore the meaning of the 93rd Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.

Sattvavaan Saatvikas Satyah Satyadharmaparaayanah     |
Abhiprayah Priyarhorhah Priyakrit Preetivardhanah     ||93||

The Lord is complete with the six qualities (Jnana, Shakti, Bala, Aishvarya, Veerya and Tejas) and confers the fruits of Sattva Guna. He embodies Truth and firmly observes Truth and Dharma. He is the object of the devotees and He deserves to be offered the best. He is the right Deity to be sought after by devotees who desire Moksha. He fulfills the desires of His devotees and He increases the joy of His devotees manifold.

The above Shloka has the following Namas:

  1.    Sattvavaan
  2.    Saattvikah
  3.    Satyah
  4.    Satyadharmaparaayanah
  5.    Abhiprayah
  6.    Priyaarhah
  7.    Arhah
  8.    Priyakrit
  9.    Preetivardhanah

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

  1.    Sattvavaan – He Who controls the Sattva Guna that paves the way for liberation

Sattva is a generic term referring to many good qualities and attributes such as strength, power and courage. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘ShauryaVeeryaadikam Sattvam Asya iti Sattvavaan – Positive attributes such as bravery and strength are called Sattva and since He has an abundance of such qualities, He is called Sattvavaan’. The Lord is complete with all the six Gunas of Jnana, Shakti, Bala, Aishvarya, Veerya and Tejas.

The term ‘Sattva’ has other meanings:
Dravye praane bale jantau vyavasaya svabhavayoh |
Gune vitte sato bhavo sattvam gunini tu trishu ||
Meaning: Among the meanings given are:  quality of goodness (Sattva Guna), wealth (Dravyam), inherent power (Balam, Shakti), determination (Vyavasayah – Nishcayah), etc.

Sri Parasara Bhattar notes that of the three Gunas – Sattva, Rajas and Tamas, the Sattva Guna ultimately leads to Moksha. Bhagavan is called Sattvavaan because He directly presides over the Sattva Guna which has the qualities of lustre, lightness and bliss, which are the pre-requisites for Salvation – ‘Parama-prakaasha laghava, sukhasampada moksha mulam sattvam saakshaat adhishtheyam asya iti Sattvavaan’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar gives reference from the Svetashvatara Upanishad (3.12):
mahan prabhur-vai purushah sattvasya esha pravartakah |
su-nirmalaam imam Santim Ishaano jyotir-avyayah ||
Meaning: This Purusha alone is the Great Giver of Moksha. This Purusha is the propagator of Sattva. Therefore this Immutable light is the ruler (Ordainer) of this pure peace of the form of Moksha.

Sri Parasara Bhattar also gives support from the Varaha Purana:
Sattvena mucyate jantuh Sattvam Narayanatmakam | (VP 3.7.13)
Meaning:  A being is released from bondage and gains liberation with the attainment of Narayana Himself because of Sattva Guna.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri elaborates that Sattva Guna is associated with the ability to remain fearless in war and to be unperturbed in situations which might otherwise cause one to be disturbed and lose balance.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives detailed derivation of the Nama from the basics of grammar – tasya bhaavas-tva- talau – tva is added to ‘Sat’ in the sense of ‘the nature thereof’, leading to ‘Sat-tva’. Further use of Panini Sutra with ‘tat-asya- asmin-asti iti matup’ – the ‘matup’ pratyaya is used in the sense of ‘whose it is’ or ‘in whom it is’.  This is added to sat-tva leading to ‘sat-tva-mat’; and then ‘va’ is substituted for ‘ma’ leading to ‘Sat-tva-vat’, which is the basis for ‘Sattva-vaan’.  The use of pratyaya is to emphasise the abundance of the ‘Sattva’ Guna in Bhagavan.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj uses the meaning ‘Vyavasayah – nishcayah’ for the term ‘Sattva’ and gives the interpretation – ‘Sattvam vyavasayah – nishcayah bhaktanugraha sucako vartate yasmin sah Sattva- vaan – Since Bhagavan is determined to bestow His Blessings on His devotees, He is called Sattva-vaan’.

  1.    Saattvikah – He Who confers the fruits of Sattva Guna

Sri Adi Sankara explains this as ‘Sattve Gune Praadhaanyena Sthitah iti Saatvikah – He is primarily established in Sattva Guna and hence He is called Saatvikah’.

Bhagavan, at times, assumes other Gunas particularly during His incarnations when He displays anger, sorrow etc. but He is naturally established in Sattva Guna with His Sarva Kalyana Guna, thus giving Him the Nama Saatvikah.

Sri Parasara Bhattar gives the interpretation – Dharma Jnana Vairaagya Aishvarya rupa phala niyamanena ca sattvam arhati iti Saattivikah – He dispenses the fruits of righteousness (Dharma), Jnana (knowledge), non-attachment (Vairaagya) and riches (Aishwarya), and hence He is called Saattvikah.

Sri Vasishtha gives the explanation – tathaa ca sarva manushyaadi vanaspatyaadi vargashca sattva-yuktah, sattva-arhah, sattvasambandhi vaa – He bestows Sattva Guna on people, on plants etc., as they deserve.

Sri Raghunatha Thirtha’s interpretation in his tattva tika is – Sattva-Guna janyatvaat Sattvam – jnanam, tad-vaan Sattvi, sva-bhaktam Sattvinam karoti iti Saattvikah – He bestows His devotees with the divine sacred knowledge.

  1.    Satyah – He Who is established in Truth

This Nama occurs several times in Sri Vishnu Sahasranama (Shlokas 12, 23, 31, 54, 56 and 80) and has several meanings, some of which are given below:

  1. He Who is well-disposed towards pious souls
  2. He Who is supremely good
  3. He Who is established in truth
  4. He Who is Real, and who alone exists
  5. He Who is in the form of Prana, Anna, and Surya

Sri Adi Sankara in this instance gives the interpretation for Satyah as ‘Satsu Saadhutvaat Satyah – He is very good to noble people and hence He is called Satyah’. Bhagavan bestows his goodness to anyone who displays good conduct and follows Dharma. Good conduct is more important than mere devotion to God that is unaccompanied with nobility.

Sri Sankara gives several alternate interpretations, some of which are:

  • He is called Satyah because He is the Real, Not False – ‘Avitatha rupatvaat’.
  • OM! brahmavidapnoti param| tadesa’bhyukta| Satyam Jnanam Anantam Brahma| yo veda nihitam guhayam parame vyoman| so’snute sarvan kaman saha| brahmana vipasciteti|| (Taittriya Upanishad 2.1.1)
    Meaning:  OM! The knower of Brahman attains the highest. Brahman is Truth, Knowledge, and Infinite . One who knows that Brahman as existing in the intellect which is lodged in the supreme space in the heart enjoys, in identification with the all-knowing Brahman, all desirable things simultaneously.
  • He, Who alone exists as manifest and unmanifest – Sat ca tyat ca abahavat.
  • He Who is in the form of Prana, Anna, and Surya; or He Who is the Origin of Prana, Anna and Surya – Saditi Pranastityannam yamityasavadityah (Aitreya Upanishad 2.1.5).

Sri Parasara Bhattar explained ‘Sat’ in earlier occurrences as referring to the ‘pious souls’, and gives the explanation that the Nama means teshu satsu Sadhuh – ‘One Who is well-disposed towards the pious souls’.  Sri Bhattar uses the meaning ‘good’ for the term sat, and interprets the Nama as ‘One Who is good in a Supreme way’, or ‘One Who is exceptionally good’, and gives the example of His being good to those who seek His help, such as Manu who sought refuge in Him – ‘manvadishu tat-kala samashriteshu satsu Sadhuh’.

For the current instance, Sri Parasara Bhattar explains the Nama as ‘He Who is Truth Himself’ – ‘Sattvika Shastra-pratipadyataya yathArthavaibhavah Satyah – The Lord is delineated by the Sattvika Shastras, and all the greatness attributed to Him is true, and He stands fully established in Truth’. He gives reference to MahaBharata (Udyoga Parva 69.12) in support:
Satye pratisthitah Krishnah satyam asmin pratihthitam |
Sattasatte ca govindah tasmat Satyah satam matah ||
Meaning: Lord Krishna is rooted in Satya, and the Truth (Satya) is rooted in Lord Krishna. Existence and non-existence are both established in Lord Govinda. Hence He is called ‘Satya’ or ‘Truth’. These are the words of Sanjaya to Dhridarashtra on why Krishna is called Satya.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan gives references from Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi Pasurams (9.10.6 and 9.10.7):
அன்பனாகும் தனதாளடைந்தார்க்கெல்லாம்
செம்போனாகத்து அவணனுடல்கீண்டவன்
நன்போனேய்ந்தமதிள்சூழ் திருக்கண்ணபுரத்
தன்பன் நாளும் தனமெய்யர்க்கு மெய்யனே.
Meaning: He is a friend to all who seek His feet.  He resides in the gold walled city of Tirukkannapuram. He tore the radiant chest of Hiranyasura.  He is the true friend of those who seek Him with true faith.

மெய்யனாகும் விரும்பித்தொழுவார்க்கெல்லாம்
பொய்யனாகும் புறமேதொழுவார்க்கெல்லாம்
செய்யில்வாளையுகளும் திருக்கண்ணபுரத்
தையன் ஆகத்தணைப்பார்கட்கணியனே
Meaning: He is true to those who seek Him with love and false to those who worship him outwardly.  In Tirukannapuram surrounded by fields with fish, He is close to those who keep Him in their hearts.

He is always true to those who are sincerely devoted to Him without looking for any benefits. In other words, those who desire only kainkaryam (service) to Him, and do not worship Him just for some material benefits, He always comes true. He Who is good towards the good – Satsu Sadhutvaat. 

For those others who may worship Him with desire for small benefits, He may give them the benefit, but then will leave them, and there won’t be any bond established between Him and them.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers to Sri Thirumangai Azhwar’s Periya Thirumozhi (5.6.9), where the Azhwar declares that Bhagavan truly reveals Himself to those who seek Him with sincerity.

மெய்யனாகும் விரும்பித்தொழுவார்க்கெல்லாம்
பொய்யனாகும் புறமேதொழுவார்க்கெல்லாம்
செய்யில்வாளையுகளும் திருக்கண்ணபுரத்
தையன் ஆகத்தணைப்பார்கட்கணியனே.
Meaning: He Who reveals His True Nature to those who sincerely seek Him by forsaking the pursuit of the impermanent object of this world, and by desisting from acts of the five senses.

Sri Satyevo Vasishtha refers us to the Shloka in Srimad Bhagavad Gita (17.26 and 17.27) for a definition of ‘Sat’ in Lord Krishna’s words:
Sad bhaave Sadhu bhaave ca sadityetat prayujyate |
Prashaste karmani tatha sac-chabdah Partha ucyate ||17.26

Yajne tapasi daane ca sthitih saditi cocyate |
Karma caiva tadarthiyam sadityevAbhidiyate ||17.27
Meaning: O’ Arjuna, the word Sat representing the eternal is designated to signify the All Pervading existence of the Ultimate Truth in this way the sound Sat, representing the eternals utilised for all auspicious activities. Being established in the performance of sacrifice, austerities and charity is described also by the word Sat, also actions solely meant for the satisfaction of the Supreme is indicative by the word Sat.

Sri Vasishtha gives additional reference to Atharvana Veda (14.1.1) for this interpretation:
Satyenottabhita bhumih SuryeNottabhita ca dyauh |
Rtena Adityas-tishthanti divi somo adhishritah ||
Meaning: Truth (Satya) is the Base that bears the Earth; by Surya are the heavens upheld; By Law the Adityas stand secure, and Soma holds His place in heaven.

Sri Ananta Krishna Shastri translates this as: ‘He Who is in the form of virtue in holy men. He Who is embodied as the virtue of the truth speaking, or, He Who is the Embodiment of Truth since He speaks the Truth, or, He Whose words always come true – Satya vacana Dharma rupatvaat Satyah.

He gives reference to the Shruti:

  • Tasmat satyam paramam vadanti (Maha Narayana Upanishad 79.2) – The path of truthfulness is Supreme form of liberation
  • Satyasya satyam iti Prana vai Satyam, tesham esha Satyam (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 2.1.20) – It is the Truth of truth. The vital force is truth, and it is the truth of that.

Sri Satya Sandha Thirtha’s interpretations is: Sadbhavam yapayati iti Satyah – He Who directs His devotees towards good qualities is Satyah.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives the explanation as – ‘Satsu – Sadhusvabhaveshu paramahita karitvena MahaPurusha pujyah nitya – paramahitakari ca ityarthah’ – He Who is best among those endowed with Sattvic quality because of His disposition to help others, and Who is worshipped by the great souls.

Sarvamityakashe (Taittiriya Upanishad 3.6) – All things that exist in Akasha should be contemplated as Brahman.

He represents all auspicious qualities as stated in the following Shloka from Aditya Purana:
satyesham satyasankalpam satyam satyavratam harim |
satyacaryam satyayonim satyashirsham aham bahaje ||(Aditya. 3.5)

Sri Mahdavacharya in his Bhagavata Tatparya describes Bhagavan as:
Satyam nir-duhkha nitya niratishaya Ananda anubhava svarupam (1.1.1)
Meaning: He Whose Nature is Truth, One without any trace of sorrow, Eternal, of Extreme Splendor, Eternally Blissful.

Sri MadhavAcharya says – Satyo hi Bhagavan Vishnuh SadGunatvaat prakirtitah – Bhagavan Vishnu is called Satya because of His infinite auspicious attributes.

The Munkdaka Upanishad (3.1.6) mantra declares Bhagavan as ‘Satyah’:
Satyameva Jayate Nanritam satyena pantha vitata devyan।
Yenakarmantrishaya hyaptakama yatra tat satyasya paramam nidhanam।।
Meaning: It is truth that conquers, not falsehood. It is the path of rectitude alone that men of learning and piety have trodden, and it is by following this path that the great sages of righteous desires have reached the highest citadel of truth.

In Chandogya Upanishad Mantra 3.7.16 it says:
esha tu ativadati | yah saytena tivadati | so’ham bhagavah satyenaavadaaniti |
satyam tveva vijijnasitavyam iti | Satyam bhagavo vijijjnasa iti ||
Meaning: Transcendent speech is an expression of transcendent knowledge. And transcendent knowledge is that knowledge which is identical with transcendent truth. This is the peak of experience, the peak of wisdom. Our speech should be based on the reality of Being. Only then it manifests itself as reality. Truth and knowledge are identical. Our speech becomes true, because our speech is based on the knowledge of the true.

This is an interesting interaction between Sanatkumara and Sage Narada:

This is what Sanatkumara means when he says, ‘esha tu va ativadati yah satyenativadati’. 

‘Well, my master, then I wish I would be like that—so’ham bhagavah satyenati vadan-iti,’ says Narada. ‘Please initiate me into this mystery of acquiring that knowledge which is tuned up to Reality, which is one with Being. Is it possible for me to have this knowledge?’

‘Satyam tv-eva vijijnasitavyam,—my dear Narada,’ says Sanatkumara. ‘You want a knowledge which is tuned up with reality, but you must know what reality or truth is. Unless you know what truth is, how can you try to identify your knowledge with truth, or truth with knowledge? You must have a clear conception of what I mean by ‘truth’. Only then can you have an aspiration for identifying your knowledge with truth, knowing truth and speaking truth.’

‘Then Master, I would like to know what truth is—Satyam, bhagavah vijijnasa iti. Please tell me what is truth’, Says Narada.

Ti – tanu vistare – Vishnu is complete and full by Desha, Kala, and Gunas. He is perfect and complete, so He is called as ‘ti’.  He is Sarvajna – ‘Yam – yeti jnanam samuddishtam’.  All these denote One Person: ‘sat, ti, yam – Satyam’.

  1.    Satya-Dharma-Paraayanah – He firmly observes Truth and Dharma
  1. He is pleased with the true dharma practiced by His devotees
  2. He is ever devoted to, and established in, Truth and Dharma
  3. He provides support and shows the path to those who follow the superior path of Dharma
  4. He is the Refuge of devotees who take interest in discharging virtuous duties

Satya, in this context, means truthfulness, Dharma is rightful conduct as laid down in the scriptures and Paraayanah is one who is devoted to or established in something. Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Satye Yathaabhutartha kathane Dharme cha Chodanaalakshane Niyate iti Satya-Dharma-Paraayanah – He is ever firmly rooted in speaking the truth and following the practice of Dharma and hence He is called Satya-Dharma-Paraayanah – the steadfast follower of truth and Dharma’.

The core teaching of Veda is ‘Satyam Vada and Dharmam Chara’. Bhagavan sets an example to others by following these doctrines Himself.

Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets the term ‘Satya-Dharma’ as referring to ‘the true dharma as laid down in the Shastras, namely the nivritti Dharma that is practiced by pious men without any expectation of benefit etc., and paraayanam as ‘Parama prinanam’ – that which gives the most happiness to Bhagavan. Bhagavan is ‘Satya-Dharma-Paraayanah’ as He is most pleased with the practice of Dharma by pious men with no expectation of any benefit, as laid down in the Sattvika Shastras. All actions by us should be undertaken in the spirit of ‘Sri Bhagavad Ajnaya Sriman Narayana prityartham’ – all actions we undertake should be in the spirit that these are His commands (we only should do what is prescribed in the Shastras, which are His commands), and for His pleasure only.

Swami ChinmyAnanda points to the definition for Dharma as – kartavya akartavya vidhreva Dharmah – The rules of do’s and don’ts (as per the Shastras) is Dharma.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj explains the Nama as:
Satyah samicino dharma Acharo yesham te satya dharmanah |
Tesham param paramam ayanam gatih Adharo va yah sa Satya-Dharma-Paraayanah ||
Meaning: He Who provides the support to, and Who shows the path for, those who follow the superior path of Dharma, is Satya-Dharma-Paraayanah.

Sri Raghunatha Thirtha gives the derivation –
Satsu bhavah satyah, sa ca asau dharmashca Satya-Dharmah |
Satya-dharmeshu Sattvika- dharmeshu param tatparyam
yesham te satya-dharma-parah, yadu, turvasha Adi bhkta-janah |
tesham ayanam Asrayah iti Satya-Dharma-Paraayanah |
Meaning: Refuge of devotees such as Yadu, Turvasha, etc., who are always engaged in discharging virtuous duties.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha explains the meaning as ‘One Who conducts Himself according to Satya Dharma, or Who is the Abode of Satya Dharma – Satyashca asau dharmah Satya-Dharmah Saccidananda lakshanah, sa eva parah ayanam, Asrayah svarupam va sa Satya-Dharma- Paraayanah.

  1.    Abhipraayah – He is eagerly sought by His devotees

Sri Adi Sankara gives two interpretations for this Nama. The first is ‘Abhipreyate PurushaarthaKaankshibhih – He is eagerly sought after by those who seek the four Purusharthas (life objectives) namely Dharma (Right conduct), Artha (Wealth), Desire (Kama) and Liberation (Moksha) hence He is called Abhipraayah, One who is sought after’.

The second interpretation is ‘Aabhimukhyena Pralaye asmin Praiti Jagat iti vaa Abhipraayah – At the time of Deluge all beings rush to Him headlong, hence He is called Abhipraayah, the final rallying point at the time of deluge’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar explains the Nama as ‘One Who is the aim or object of the devotees’. His interpretation is: Satyadharma nishthena svacchena nirupadhika uddeshyataya abhipretah iti Abhipraayah – He is the Highest Goal sought after by His devotees who are pure by nature, practice the Sattvika Dharma, and are not seeking lower pleasures.

‘Abhipraaya’ means ‘aim, purpose, intention, wish, desire’ etc. Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj explains the Nama as: abhiprIyate – kamayate svajana hito yena iti Abhipraayah – He Who desires the welfare of His devotees is ‘Abhipraayah’. He derives the meaning from ‘abhi + pri -tarpane kantau ca’ meaning ‘to please or to take delight in’.

The nirukti author explains – sacchena dharma nishthena yo abhitah preyate punah – He Who is decidedly the highest goal sought after by His devotees who are pure at heart.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers to Azhwars’ Pasurams:

  • vizhumiya munivar vizhungum kodalin kani (Periya Thirumozhi 2.3.2) -The delightful fruit with no residual fiber whatsoever, that is relished by the Sages.
  • vizhumiya amarar munivar vizhungum kannar-kani (Thiruvai Mozhi 3.6.7) – He is the sweet fruit enjoyed by the discerning Devas and Sages.

Sri Raghunatha Thirtha interprets the Nama in his Tattva Sara as – ‘abhi abhitah prakarshena prayah preranadikriya yasya iti Abhipraayah’ – He Who exclusively directs the activities of all others.

  1.    Priyaarhah – He Who is rightly the object of love

‘Priya’ means something that is dear to us and Arhah means deserving or worthy of. Taking these together, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Priyaani Ishtaani Arhati iti Priyaarhah – He deserves to be offered the most coveted objects as part of worship by the devotees, hence He is called Priyaarhah’. In other words the devotee should offer the best things within one’s means with the fullest devotion to Bhagavan as offering.

Sri Adi Sankara quotes the following passage from Mahabharatam and Vishnu Dharmam in support ‘Yadyat ishtatamam loke Yat cha asya Dayitam Grihe Tattat Gunavate Deyam Tadeva Akshayam Icchataa – By those that desire the imperishable (Brahman), the most beloved things in the world and the choicest things in the house should be offered to the most exalted person, namely Bhagavan’.

While Bhagavan is satisfied with the simplest offerings (Patram Pushpam Phalam Toyam yo me bhaktya prayacchati)  but the giver should give his best because Bhagavan deserves the best.

Sri Parasara Bhattar comments that Bhagavan is rightly the object of love of the devotees, since He intensely affectionate towards them. By being devoted to Him, Bhagvan feels that His devotees have benevolently given Him all their belongings (Srimad Bhagavad Gita Chapter 7 Verse 18):
Udaaraah sarva evaite jnanI tv atmaiva me matam |
Asthitah sa hi yuktatma mam evanuttamam gatim ||
Meaning: All these devotees are undoubtedly magnanimous souls (Udaaraah), but he who is situated in knowledge of Me, I consider verily to dwell in Me. Being engaged in My transcendental service, he attains Me for he is integrated and devoted to Me alone as the highest end.

Bhagavan considers that by worshipping Him and seeking His help, they have already offered everything they had, and so He considers them benevolent and generous. Such is His Vatsalyam (affection) to His devotees, and hence He is deserving of intense love from these devotees.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives two alternate derivations:

  • priyam arhati iti Priyaarhah – He Who deserves love
  • priyeshu arhah = yogyah, Priyaarhah – He Who is most fitting among objects of love

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers to Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (7.5.11):
தெளிவுற்று வீவன்றி நின்றவர்க் கின்பக் கதிசெய்யும்,
தெளிவுற்ற கண்ணனை,
Meaning: Bhagavan Kannan bestows joy with the constant thought of His Divine Feet to those devotees who surrender unto Him with unswerving devotion.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri refers to a mantra from Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (2.4.5) – ‘Atmanastu kamaya sarvam priyam bhavati’, and notes that of all the things that are dear to one, the self is the dearest.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj – Priyani srak-candanadini arhati iti Priyaarhah – He Who deserves to be worshipped with a wreath or garland of flowers, with sandalwood paste, etc.

  1.    Arhah – The fitting Lord to be worshipped

Arhah, as we saw in the last Nama, means someone who is worthy or deserving. Sri Adi Sankara offers the interpretation ‘Svaagata Aasana Prashamsa Arghya Paadya Stuti Namaskaradibhih Puja sadhanaih Pujaniya iti Arhah – He is worthy of worship by such things as words of welcome, offering of a seat, praise, Arghya or offering of water, milk, etc., Paadya or washing His Feet, prayers of praise, prostrations, etc. hence He is called Arhah’. Generally great persons are to be honoured by sixteen different methods of hospitality called Shodasha Upacharam, of which Sri Adi Sankara has listed a few. Bhagavan is worthy of all these and more. That is why he is called Arhah, the worthy one.

Sri Parasara Bhattar’s interpretation is – ‘ananyasprhanam teshamapi ayameva yogya iti Arhah’ – He is the right Deity to be sought after by devotees who have no other desire in life (other than Moksha).

Sri Parasara Bhattar quotes Lord Krishna’s words from the Bhagavad Gita (7.18): Asthitah sa hi yuktAtma mameva anuttamam gatim – Being engaged in My devotional service, he attains Me.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha captures the spirit of the Nama in the following words:
Sarvantargatan sarvan bhogan vihaya, Sreyorthinam vidusham sarva prakaraih sadhanaih, sopakaranaih puja vidhanaih, sarva karmarpanena nishkama karmabhishca sa eva praptum yogya iti arthah ||
Meaning: Giving up interest in all external pleasures, and desiring only the ultimate bliss, the learned direct all their efforts, spiritual practices, different ways of worship, and all the resultant benefits from these actions, to that One Bhagavan – Vishnu, and therefore He is Arhah – Fit to be worshipped. The point to note is that He is fit to be sought by those who have no interest in anything else.

Arhyate – praptum yujyata iti Arhah – He Who is fit to be attained.

Sri Vasishtha notes that we are all arhas (fit) in some sense or the other only because He reflects His Arhattvam in all of us in some tiny measure.

Sri Raghunatha Thirtha uses a different patham from the others by treating the Nama as ‘arhapriya-krit’ – He Who bestows affection and blessings on the devotees who are deserving – arhebhyah -yogyebhyah bhaktebhyah, priyam karoti – rakshanadi karoti iti arhapriya-krit.

The Story of Narahari

Once, there lived in Pandarpur, a devotee of Lord Shiva by the name Narahari. He was a goldsmith, a craftsman par excellence. He was known for his skill and craftsmanship in the art of jewel-making and renowned for his wonderful ornaments. Though he lived in Pandarpur, he never had the darshan of Lord Panduranga.

He was such a staunch and ardent devotee of Lord Shiva that the glorious form of Lord Vittal did not fancy him at all. He would never listen to Vittala Nama Kirtan and would shut his ears if a group of Saints engaged in Namakirtan ever passed by his shop. He would never allow anybody to sing the praises of Vittala in his presence and would try to surpass them by his lectures on Lord Shiva.

He used to visit a small shrine of Lord Shiva situated on the banks of Chandrabaga and offered his worship. He always envied the popularity of Lord Vittal who had a huge crowd of devotees not only from Pandarpur but also from other parts of the country.

The Lord had his own plan of drawing him closer to His lotus feet and making him His ardent devotee!

Once, a wealthy devotee desired to make an expensive girdle of gold studded with precious stones and gems for Lord Panduranga. He approached Narahari and expressed his desire assuring that he would adequately reward him for his befitting skill and craftsmanship. No sooner did he hear that the girdle was for Lord Vittal than Narahari turned down his request. He said that he would never in his life make an ornament for anyone other than Lord Shiva. The rich man argued that this was just a business deal and a business man should never allow his prejudices to intrude on his business. He further asserted that Narahari would be paid sufficiently just as any of his business deals and this would no way shatter his ideals. Narahari reluctantly accepted the deal but was very firm that he will execute based on the specifications given.

As Narahari was very firm in not entering the temple premises of Vittal, he wanted the rich man to bring the measurement of the waist of Lord Panduranga. The rich man went to the temple with great joy and had the priests of the temple measure the waist size of the Lord and came back to Narahari with exact measurement.

Narahari made an excellent ornament studded with precious stones and gems of the same size and gave it to his wealthy customer on the promised day. The wealthy man had arranged for a grand pooja on that day and took the girdle to the temple in a big procession.

Sadly, the girdle measured bigger and it slipped out of the waist of the Lord when offered!

Crestfallen, the gentleman immediately rushed to Narahari’s shop. Explaining that it measured bigger, he requested Narahari to alter it to the exact size of the idol of Panduranga. Though Narahari protested that this was exactly to the measurements provided, he immediately made the necessary adjustments. But when this was offered to Vittala, the girdle seemed small and it would not fit! The devotee rushed to Narahari. All attempts of Narahari to make the girdle fit Lord Panduranga proved futile.

The devotee felt frustrated and was at his wits end. Narahari, who took great pride in his workmanship, was left flabberfgasted by the whole incident.  The rich man forced Narahari to visit the Temple and take the measurement himself.  Narahari was forced to accept this idea; but he placed a condition that he would not look at Lord Panduranga and that he should be carried inside as he would go blindfolded.

Narahari was carried into the Temple Sanctum Sanctorum. Narahari had never, even in his worst dream, thought of entering the Temple. Though he entered the Temple with an air of indifference, the Lord of the Universe within was highly pleased to see Narahari enter His Sanctum Sanctorum.

Blindfolded, Narahari entered the sanctum and was all set to measure the Lord’s waist. When he touched the deity and started to feel it, he felt matted hair, the moon and also the third eye on the Lord’s forehead, snake in His neck and the trident in His hand! Narahari was startled. ‘How could it be Lord Shiva? he thought and touched again.

Overwhelmed with joy he cried out, ‘Oh! this is My dear Lord – Lord Shiva!” and immediately removed the cloth that blinded his eyes. But he was dumbfounded to see the lotus Panduranga standing along with His Consort Rukmini! Narahari was dumbfounded by the divine sport of the Lord.

He realized the truth that there was no difference between Lord Vittala and Lord Shiva. He at once earned steadfast devotion to Panduranga. He took the measurement of the icon of the Lord and this time the ornament fit the Lord well.

Adi Sankara, in one of his verses, says that Lord Panduranga is none other than the Nirguna Parabrahman (the formless Brahman) which has assumed a beautiful form by its sheer mercy upon mankind and hence worshipping Him would tantamount to the worship of all other deities.

  1.    Priya-krit – He does what is wanted by His devotees

The word ‘Priyam’ means an object of desire and ‘Krit’ means one who creates or fulfills it. Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Na kevalam Priyaarha Eva Kintu Stutyaadibhir bhajataam Priyam Karoti iti Priyakrit – He is not only worthy of being pleased, as explained in the previous Nama, but He in turn pleases His devotees by fulfilling all their desires, hence He is called Priyakrit’. Just as the devotees strive to please him, He pleases His devotees by giving them whatever pleases them.

Sri Parasara Bhattar’s interpretation for the Nama is that Bhagavan does fulfill the wishes of those who desire other lesser pleasures from Him as well (that is, in addition to bestowing Moksha), as long as they are His true devotees. He does not look at their deficiencies, but only considers the fact that they are His devotees.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers us to Sri NammAzhwar’s Periya Thiruvandhadi Pasuram – ‘un adiyarkku en Seyvan enre irutti ni – Bhagavan is always thinking about what He can do next for His devotees’. This way, He pleases them and guides them over time to be solely interested in attaining Him – anya paranapi bhajatah tacchandanuvartanena priyan karoti iti priya-krit.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha observes that when Vedic mantras are invoked in offerings, Bhagavan is pleased and bestows the desired benefits on the devotee, and so He is called Priya-krit.

Some example Vedic verses that are used for invoking His grace:
vashat te vishnavasa akrinomi tan me jushasva Sipivishta havyam |
vardhantu tva sushtutayo giro me yuyam pata vastibhih sada nah || (Rg. 7.99.7)
Meaning: O’ Vishnu, under your command my lips move, let this small offering of mine please You. May these songs of eulogy exalt You, may You continue to protect and bless us as ever.

tat savitur varenyam bhargo devasya dimahi |
dhiyo yo nah pracodayat || (Rig 3.62.10)
Meaning: We meditate on the adorable effulgence of the Lord who creates everything, so that it may energize our consciousness.

Sri Raghunatha Thirtha uses the Nama as ‘arha-priya-krit’, and gives the interpretation as ‘One Who bestows protection and affection to the deserving devotees’.

  1.    Preeti-Vardhanah – He Who increases the joy of His devotees

The word ‘Preeti’ means joy or happiness and ‘Vardhanah’ means someone who multiplies or increases. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Tesham eva Preetim vardhayati iti Preetivardhanah – He multiplies the joy of his devotees manifold and hence He is called PreetiVardhanah, the magnifier of joy’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar comments that by manifesting His qualities more and more, He increases the joy of His devotees, and so He called Preeti-Vardhanah. He quotes from the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 10 Verse 10):
Tesham satata yuktanam bhajatam Preeti purvakam |
Dadami buddhi yogam tam yena mam upayanti te ||
Meaning: To those who are constantly united with Me and who worship Me with immense love, I lovingly grant that mental disposition (buddhi yoga) by which they attain Me.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan also refers us to Bhagavd Ramanuja’s introductory section for his Gita Bhashyam, where he says of Bhagavan Krishna:
niratishaya saundarya sausheelyadi Guna gana Avishkarena Akrura
Malakaradin parama Bhagavataan kritva.
Meaning: He Who made Akrura, Malakara, and others His most ardent devotees by the manifestation of His unsurpassed qualities such as beauty and loving compassion.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan also refers to Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (1.10.10), where the Azhwar recounts that Bhagavan has lodged Himself into Sri NammAzhwar’s heart with the beauty of His lotus eyes, lest Azhwar may forget Him accidentally: marakkum endru Sen-tamaraik kannodu marappara ennulle manninaan tannai.

Swami ChinmayAnanda’s explanation is:

  • The sense of drunken joy that arises in one’s bosom when one loves deeply and truly is called Preeti
  • One Who increases the Preeti in the devotees’ heart is Sriman Narayana. The more He is contemplated upon, the more His glories are appreciated, the more our Preeti in Him increases

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha notes that the word ‘Vardhanah’ can be derived from either of the two roots – vrid – vriddhau – to grow, or vardh – puraNa – to fill.

The two different meanings could then be:

  1. He Who grows the love of the devotees towards Him, or
  2. He Who fulfills the love of the devotees

Using the root vardh – chedana puranayoH – to cut, to fill, Sri Vasishtha gives an alternate interpretation also – Preetim vardhayati = purayati it PreetiVardhanah – He Who fulfills the love of the devotees.

Sri Satya Sandha Thirtha’s explanation for the Nama is: ‘Preetim bhakteshu vardhayati prItya bhaktan vardhayati iti va Preeti-Vardhanah’ – He Who grows the love in the devotees, or He Who grows the devotees through love, is Preeti-Vardhanah.

In Summary

Satvavaan Saatvikas Satyah SatyaDharmaParaayanah     |
Abhiprayah Priyarhorhah Priyakrit Preetivardhanah ||93||

The Lord is complete with the six qualities of Jnana, Shakti, Bala, Aishvarya, Veerya and Tejas, hence He is known as Sattvavaan. He dispenses the fruits of righteousness (Dharma), Jnana (knowledge), non-attachment (Vairaagya) and riches (Aishwarya), and so He is called Saattvikah. As Existence and non-existence are both established in Lord Govinda, He is ‘Satyah‘ or ‘Truth’. He is ever firmly rooted in speaking the truth and following the practice of Dharma and hence He is called Satya-Dharma-Paraayanah – the steadfast follower of truth and Dharma’.

He is the Highest Goal sought after by His devotees who are pure by nature, practice the Sattvika Dharma, and are not seeking lower pleasures, hence He is Abhipraayah, one who is eagerly sought. He deserves to be offered the best as part of worship by the devotees, hence He is called Priyaarhah. He is the fitting Lord to be worshipped and sought after by devotees who are seeking Moksha, hence He is Arhah. He pleases His devotees by fulfilling their desires, hence He is called Priyakrit. He multiplies the joy of His devotees manifold, hence He is called PreetiVardhanah, the magnifier of joy.



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



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