SRI VISHNU SAHASRANAMAM (SHLOKA 98) – PART 107

SRI VISHNU SAHASRANAMAM (SHLOKA 98) – PART 107

In this part we will explore the meaning of the 98th Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.


Akrurah Peshalo Daksho Dakshinah Kshaminaam Varah |
Vidvattamo Vitabhayah PunyashravanaKeertanah     ||98||

Purport
He is completely devoid of anger and consequently He is free from cruel thought at all times. He is charming and like-able in His thoughts, deeds and speech as well as in His physical appearance. He is immense, powerful and swift while being very kind, compassionate and affectionate towards His devotees. He is the foremost among those who are endowed with patience and endurance and has an extraordinary knowledge of everything, hence He is the greatest of all scholars. He is completely devoid of fear coming either from worldly life or from fear of worldly life as He is the Lord of all.  Hearing and/or reciting His Nama results in accretion of Punya or store of auspicious deeds.

The above Shloka has the following Namas:

  1.    Akrurah
  2.    Peshalah
  3.    Dakshah
  4.    Dakshinah
  5.    Kshaminaam Varah
  6.    Vidvattamah
  7.    Vitabhayah
  8.    PunyashravanaKeertanah

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

  1.    Akrurah – He is Merciful

The word ‘Krura’ means cruel and hence Akrurah denotes someone who is merciful. Sri Adi Sankara interprets this in detail as ‘Krauryam Nama manodharmah Prakopajah Aantarah santaapah Saabhiniveshah AvaaptaSamastaKaamatvaat Kaamaabhavaat eva Kopaabhaavah Tasmaat Krauryam asya naasti iti Akrurah – Cruelty springs from the mental state of anger; Anger itself comes because of unfulfilled desires.  Since Bhagavan is totally free from unfulfilled desires, He is completely devoid of anger and consequently He is also free from cruel thought at all times and hence He is called Akrurah, the one not touched by cruelty’.

The best example of His disposition of ‘not being cruel’ is His treatment of Ravana during the battle with him. When Ravana was all but defeated, and Rama could have finished him with one more arrow, He told Ravana to go back home, and come back refreshed to fight the next day to continue the battle. Given the nature of the sin that Ravana had committed, the strength of the enemy, and the deceitful means that he employed in the battle, none but the kindest at heart would give ‘time to rethink and recuperate’ for the enemy.

In the Gajendra Moksham, when the crocodile refused to let go of Gajendra, He did not kill it with cruelty, but did it in an instant by splitting it into two, so that it did not suffer for a prolonged time in the process.

Sri Parasara Bhattar gives the following support:
Graahagrstam Gajendram ca tam graaham ca jalaashayaat |
ujjahaara AprameyAtma tarasa Madhusudanah ||
Meaning: Madhusudana, the Lord of inscrutable nature, quickly took out not only the elephant which had been seized by the crocodile, but lifted the crocodile also from the waters of the pond.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri notes that the anger that Bhagavan had while slaying Hiranyakashipu was ‘made up’ and not natural, hence the moment the Lord saw Prahlada, His disposition immediately changed to love from anger. Thus, by nature, Bhagavan is Akrurah.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha indicates that the root from which the Nama is derived is ‘krit –chedane’ meaning ‘to cut or to divide’. The affix rak comes after the root krit, the verb itself replaced by kru, leading to krurah meaning wicked or cruel, and as Bhagavan is not cruel, He is Akrurah.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan adds another incident to illustrate that Bhagavan is, by nature, forgiving. He cites the Durvasa episode, where the sage harassed the Pandavas by demanding feast for a large battalion of his disciples after draupadi had washed her ‘akshaya-patra’ for the day. In spite of this harassment to His dear devotees, Lord Krishna did not harm him because, by His nature, He is Akrura – Pandava klesha kaarakam Durvasasam na kritavaan iti Akrurah.

The Story of Akshayapatra

During the Pandavas’ exile, Durvasa and several disciples arrived at Hastinapura. Duryodhana with his maternal uncle Shakuni managed to gratify the Sage. Sage Durvasa was pleased enough to grant him a boon. Duryodhana, secretly wanting Sage Durvasa to curse the Pandavas in anger, asked the Sage to visit his cousins in the forest at a certain time knowing that Draupadi would have eaten her meal, and the Pandavas would be left with nothing to feed him.  Sage Durvasa and his disciples visited the Pandavas in their hermitage in the forest, as per Duryodhana’s request.

During their period of exile, the Pandavas would obtain their food by means of the Akshaya Patra, which would become exhausted each day once Draupadi finished her meal. Because Draupadi had already eaten by the time Sage Durvasa and his disciples arrived that day, there was no food left to serve them, and the Pandavas were very anxious as to their fate should they fail to feed such a venerable sage.

While Sage Durvasa and his disciples were away bathing at the river, Draupadi prayed to Krishna for His help. Krishna immediately appeared before Draupadi saying he was extremely hungry, and asked her for food. Draupadi grew exasperated and said she had prayed to Krishna precisely because she had no food left to give. Krishna asked her to bring the Akshaya Patra to him. When she did, he took the lone grain of rice and piece of vegetable that he found stuck to the vessel and announced that he was satisfied by the “meal”. This satiated the hunger of Sage Durvasa and his disciples, as the satisfaction of Krishna (portrayed here as the Supreme Being who pervades the entire universe) meant the satiation of the hunger of all living things. Sage Durvasa and his disciples then quietly left after their bath, without returning to the Pandavas’ hermitage, for they were afraid of facing what they thought would be the Pandavas’ wrathful reaction at their impolite behaviour of refusing the food that would be served to them!  The Lord showed His immense compassion by rushing to the aid of Draupadi at her distress call.

Jai Shri Krishna!

  1.    Peshalah – He Who is Charming

Peshala refers to the quality of being charming, soft and likeable and Peshalah is someone who is having this quality abundantly both physically and in action. Based on this basis, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Karmana Manasa Vaachaa Vapushaa cha Shobhanatvaat Peshalah – He is charming and like-able in His thoughts, deeds and speech as well as in His physical appearance, hence He is called Peshalah, the charming one’. This Nama is a summary of His total personality in a nutshell. In every single aspect He is affable, charming and handsome.

Sri Parasara Bhattar explains the Nama as One Who was charming at the time of Gajendra Moksha, even with all His ornaments in disarray because of the hurry in which He left Sri Vaikuntham to rescue Gajendra – sambhramaat ayathaayatha srag-bhushambara ramaniyah – Peshalah.

Sri NammAzhwar explains Gajendra Moksham in his Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (3.5.1):
மொய்ம்மாம் பூம்பொழில் பொய்கை முதலைச் சிறைப்பட்டு நின்ற,
கைம்மா வுக்கருள் செய்த கார்முகில் போல்வண்ணன் கண்ணன்,
எம்மா னைச்சொல்லிப் பாடி எழுந்தும் பறந்தும்துள் ளாதார்,
தம்மால் கருமமென் சொல்லீர் தண்கடல் வட்டத்துள் ளீரே.
Meaning: Pray tell, O People of the Ocean-girdled Earth!  What good are they those who cannot sing and dance in joy, the glories of the dark hued Lord who saved the elephant from the jaws of the crocodile in the lotus tank?

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri comments that the Nama indicates ‘One with a soft heart, like a flower’. He is One who is full of kindness and compassion, and this reflects in all His thoughts, words and deeds.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha uses the meaning ‘pish – avayave’ meaning ‘to form’, and interprets the Nama as signifying that Bhagavan is One Who has formed or separated every major form in His creation (such as our human body) into its several parts – pimshati – avayavam karoti it PeshalaH. He also gives examples of the Nakshatra Mandalam being separated into individual stars, time being separated into its subdivisions, etc.

Sri Satya Sandha Thirtha gives an alternate interpretation by looking at the Nama as pa + isa + la: Isham = rudram, laati = bhaktatvena grihnati, iti Ishlah; pati iti pah; pashca asau Ishalashca iti Peshalah – He Who has Rudra who is devoted to Him, and He Who protects him, is Peshalah.

Swami ChimayAnanda comments that the Lord has Infinite kindness and Mercy, His Heart is divine and is ever flowing in love and tenderness towards His devotees and is everready to help when they call out for Him and lifts them from their body consciousness and egocentric life of sense-pursuits.

  1.    Dakshah – He Who is Powerful and appears in an instant

The Nama Dakshah has several meanings:

  1. He Who removes evil elements very quickly (Daksh – SIghrArthe)
  2. He Who came to the rescue of Gajendra in a flash (Daksh – SIghrArthe)
  3. He Who grows into, or manifests Himself as the Universe (Daksh – to grow)
  4. He Who is deft in His creation, sustenance and destruction (Daksha –dexterous)
  5. He Who destroys His enemies (Daksh – himsanayoh)

Daksha can denote any one of 3 different qualities namely immensity, strength and quick action. Since Bhagavan has all three of these, He is appropriately called Dakshah. Sri Adi Sankara explains as ‘Pravriddhah, Shaktah, Sheeghrakaari cha Dakshah, Trayam cha etat Parasmin Niyatam iti Dakshah – He is immense, powerful and swift, so He is called Dakshah’.

Sri Sankara gives another interpretation – jagad-rupen vardhamanatvat Dakshah – He Who grows into, or manifests Himself as, the Universe.

Sri Sankara also interprets this as ‘Sarva karmani kshipram karoti va Dakshah – He Who performs all actions fast’. The term ‘Sankalapa matrena’ is used extensively in describing this Guna of Bhagavan – All He has to do is to ‘will’, and the action will be done.

Sri Parasara Bhattar, in his explanation for the Nama Shishirah, has referred to Bhagavan’s speed by reaching in an instant to rescue Gajendra. For the current Nama, Sri Bhattar explains Bhagavan as ‘One Who is skilled and who has the power to arrive very fast’ based on ‘Daksha – Saamarthya shaali’ or ‘Shakti-shali’.  Sri Bhattar says ‘kshipram Aganta Dakshah’, referring to Bhagavan’s ‘speedy arrival’ (kshipram Aganta) again.

Sri Parasara Bhattar also explains how Bhagavan will get rid of the evil elements very quickly in his Kalki incarnation (dasyu-vadhe dakshate – Shighra-karI iti dakshah).

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan also gives his interpretation in terms of Bhagavan’s speed in responding to His devotees’ distress call when He is meditated upon – smrita matrah tvaraya gatavan iti Dakshah.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj also echoes the idea of the speed with which Bhagavan rushes to the protection of His devotee – dakshate = Shighratam kurute svajana avane iti Dakshah.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri explains that He is deft in creation, and this is indicated by this Nama.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha derives the Nama from the root ‘Daksh – vriddhau Shighrarthe ca’ meaning ‘to grow, to go in speed’.  Sri Vasishtha explains the Nama as ‘Pravriddhah, Shaktah, Shighrakari ca’ – One Who has the power (Shakti), and One Who achieves things fast (Sighra-kari).

Swami ChinmayAnanda explains Dakshah as ‘One Who undertakes creation, sustenance, and destruction of the whole Cosmos with ease and efficiency, diligence, and promptitude.

Sri Satya Sandha Thirtha explains this as ‘Shatrunam hanta Dakshah – He Who destroys His enemies’. This interpretation uses the meaning – ‘Daksh – himsanayoh’ meaning ‘to hurt’.

  1.    Dakshinah – He Who is very kind, compassionate and affectionate

Sri Adi Sankara gives two meanings for this Nama. The first meaning is the same as for Dakshah namely one who is endowed with immensity, prowess and swiftness in action. Sri Sankara says ‘Dakshina Shabdasyaapi Daksha eve arthah; Punaruktidosho naasti Shabdabhedaat – Dakshinah has the same meaning as Dakshah, and there is no flaw of repetition because Daksha and Dakshina are two different words and hence two distinctly different Namas albeit with same meaning’.

The second meaning is based on the grammatical rule which says ‘Daksha Gati Himsanayoh – Daksha is a root signifying either go or destroy’. On this basis, Sri Sankara interprets this as ‘Athavaa Dakshate Gacchati Hinasti iti vaa Dakshinah- He moves around or He destroys, hence He is called Dakshinah’. The first one refers to Him being omnipresent, while the second refers to His role as the destroyer at the time of the Pralaya (Dissolution).

The Siddhanta kaumudi gives the following meanings for the word Dakshinah – dakshate vardhate Shighrakari bhavati va sa Dakshinah; saralo vamabhagaH paratantro’nuvartanam meaning right, honest, courteous, and submissive.

As explained above, the term ‘Dakshina’ has the same meaning as the term ‘Daksha’ meaning ‘dexterous, skillful, one who arrives fast, one who accomplishes things fast’, etc., but additionally, it means ‘pleasing, amiable, courteous, civil’, etc. Thus, the word ‘Dakshina’ means ‘One who is fast, One who destroys, One who is courteous, One who grows His devotees, One who is compassionate’, etc.

Sri Parasara Bhattar uses the meaning ‘courteous and compassionate’ for the word ‘Dakshina’, and comments that even though Bhagavan responded immediately to the cry for help from Gajendra, He still expressed regret to Gajendra that He was not close enough and consoled Gajendra with kind words – ‘thatha Agatya, ‘dhing maam, duragato’ham tvam’, iti santvanaih, Gajendrasya anukulah Dakshinah’.  He gives support from the Vishnu Dharma:
Pritiman pundarikAkshah Saranagata vatsalah |
bhajantam Gajarajanam madhuram Madhu-sudanah ||
Meaning: The Lotus-eyed Slayer of Madhu, Who is kind and affectionate to those who have surrendered to Him, showed His love to Gajendra, who worshiped Him.

The word ‘santvanam’ that has been used by Sri Bhattar means ‘consolation, pacification’.

This was also the case in Vibhishana Saranagati. ‘vacasa santvayitvainam locanAbhyam pibanniva’ – Yuddha Kandam 19.7 – ‘Lord Rama uttered words of consolation to Vibhishana, and blessed him with His kataksham, as if He drank Vibhishana through His eyes’.

Srimad Srimushnam Andavan explains the Nama as referring to His Dakshinyam – politeness, civility and courtesy. For Sarveshvaran to express regret to a mere animal, is a clear expression of His Guna of Saushilyam.

Sri Krishnan graphically describes that Bhagavan knelt at the feet of the elephant, checked for the injuries, took out His uttariyam – the vastram at the top of His divya tirumeni, blew at it to get some heat, and then applied the heat to the elephant’s leg to give comfort to the elephant’s wound. In addition, He expressed regret for not having come earlier. This Nama thus illustrates that Bhagavan is Saranagata-vatsalan – One Who is dearly attached to those who surrender unto Him.

Using the meaning ‘to kill’ or ‘destroy’ for the root ‘Daksh’, Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan gives the example of Lord Krishna preventing the rise of Duryodhana – damshati duryodhana udyamam iti Dakshinah.

Swami ChinmayAnanda interprets the Nama in terms of Daakshinya meaning liberal-hearted – the opposite of selfishness and attachment to wealth one possesses. He sums up the meaning of the Nama as ‘One Who has Infinite Kindness and Charity towards all good people and One Who is thus ever ready to liberally give away His endless benevolence’. He gives the example of the offering of ‘Dakshina’ to the priests after a ritual as their fee – this should be given in a spirit of large-hearted, liberal charity. Recall the Nama Svastidakshinah (Nama 905 in Shloka 96), which was interpreted along these lines.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha comments that Bhagavan arrives fast if one calls Him for help, and is pleasant once He arrives – kshipram Agacchati Ahuta, Agatya ca santushto mukta-hastam dadati iti udaraH sa Dakshina ucyate.

Sri Krishna datta Bharadvaj uses the root ‘daksh –vardhate’ meaning ‘to grow’, and interprets the Nama as – dakshayati vardhayati svajanaan iti Dakshinah – He Who helps His devotees grow is Dakshinah.  An alternate interpretation by Sri Bharadvaj is – ata eva vishvarange udaratamo nayakah – Bhagavan is the most compassionate Lord of all. Dakshihah is explained as ‘sarala, udarau ca’ – honest, sincere, generous and compassionate.

  1.    Kshaminaam-varah – The foremost in bearing the burden of protection of His devotees

The root word for the Nama is ‘ksham – sahane’ meaning ‘to allow, to suffer’ and vara is derived from ‘vrin – varane’ meaning ‘to choose’.  Thus, ‘Kshaminaam varah’ refers to ‘One Who is superior among those who are endowed with patience and endurance’.

Sri Adi Sankara gives several interpretations for this Nama. The first is based on Kshami denoting a yogi. It is ‘Kshamaavataam yoginaam Varah Shreshthah iti Kshaminaam Varah – He is the foremost among Yogis hence He is called Kshaminaam Varah’.

The second interpretation is based on ‘Kshami’ denoting a load bearer. It is ‘Prithivyadinam Bharadharakanam Shreshtha iti Kshaminaam Varah – He is superior to the other load bearers such as the Earth hence He is called Kshaminaam Varah’. Sri Adi Sankara goes on to quote from Valmiki Ramayanam (1.1.18) which says ‘Kshamya Prithvisamah – Rama is earth-like in patience’.

His next interpretation is ‘Brahmandam akhilam vahan Prithiviva bharena naardita iti Prithivya api varo vaa – Though He carries the whole Universe, He is not afflicted by this load like the Earth and hence He is superior to Earth, therefore He is Kshaminaam Varah – superior to other load bearers like the Earth’.

The last interpretation is ‘Kshaminah Shaktaah Ayam tu Sarvashaktimattvaat Sakalaah kriyaah kartum kshamate iti vaa Kshaminaam varah – Kshami is a capable person; Bhagavan is possessed of all powers and so He is capable of doing any task, hence He is called Kshaminaam Varah, the one with the best capabilities’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar explains as – ‘tad-darshanena dhritAtma; abhavat tatra deveshah – It was only after ensuring Gajendra’s safe that He felt relieved; The Lord of all Devas stood as though revived (after securing Gajendra’s safety). This signifies that Bhagavan was throbbing with anxiety on behalf of His devotee and patiently putting up with this anxiety for the short duration between Gajendra’s call and His rescue. His desire to protect His devotee is so extreme and intense, and the seriousness with which He takes His commitment to protect His devotee is extolled by Sri Bhattar. Bhagavan is the foremost in bearing the burden of protection of His devotee, hence He is aptly called Kshaminaam varah.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha explains the Nama as ‘Sahana Shilayaam, kshmavataam madhye varah = Shreshtha ityarthah’ – He is able and competent in addition to His qualities of forbearance and patience.

Swami ChinmayAnanda’s interpretation is that Bhagavan is the most patient when it comes to tolerating and forgiving the sins of the Jivas. His words are: ‘He exhibits supreme patience with the evil-minded, the tyrant, the foul and the fiendish. Asuras such as HiranyAksha, Hiranyakashipu, Ravana, and others were given many opportunities to realise for themselves the folly of their baser attitudes and their Adharmic ways of life. It is only when no other method of treatment could cure them that the Lord destroyed them in His Infinite kindness (they all reached parama padam as a result of having His darshan).

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj brings about another dimension of Bhagavan’s forbearance explaining that it is His willingness to forgive the sins of His devotees that makes Him Kshaminaamvarah – ‘kshamitum sodhum bhakta aparadhaan Seelam yesham te Kshaminah; tesham varah uttama iti Kshaminaam varah’.

Bhagavan subjected Himself to innumerable sufferings in His Rama Avataar. The whole Ramayana is a demonstration of Him being Kshaminaam varah, along with Sita Piratti, who is in all respects equal to Him. The incident where Sage Bhrigu kicks Bhagavan in His vaksha sthalam, and the composed reaction of Bhagavan to this incident, is another example of His most superior Kshama or endurance and forbearance.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan gives another example from Lord Krishna’s incarnation: – the magnanimity with which Bhagavan forgave Sage Durvasa for his ignoble act of harassing the Pandavas on behalf of Duryodhana during their exile. The KakAsura incident shows His kindness where Sita Piratti positions the evil asura such that his head was facing Lord Rama’s feet so that Lord Rama will forgive the Asura, and Bhagavan forgiving the Asrua by just punishing him very mildly instead of killing him as he justly deserved, is an example of both Bhagavan and Piratti match each other in their Kshama, or willingness to forgive and put up with aparadhas of their children.

Sri NammAzhwar repeatedly reminds us that not even Brahma, who is gifted with superior knowledge by Bhagavan Himself, will be able to describe Bhagavan’s Kalyana Gunas or do justice to even one of His Gunas.

  1.    Vidvat-tamah -The Best among those who know what to do

The word ‘Vidvat’ refers to scholarship and the suffix ‘Tamah’ denotes the superlative degree, so Vidvat-tamah means the greatest scholar. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Nirasta Atishayam Jnaanam Sarvadaa Sarvagocharam asya asti na itareshaam iti Vidvattamah – He has an extraordinary knowledge of everything which no one else has, hence He is called Vidvattamah – the greatest of all scholars’.

Bhagavan has the complete knowledge of all things in the Universe, being the Creator and the Cause of All beings.  All the others have only a partial or imperfect knowledge, hence He is Vidvattamah, the topmost scholar.

Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets the Nama in terms of the Gajendra Moksham, and points out that the Nama reminds us that Bhagavan knew exactly how to administer the treatment to Gajendra as soon as He arrived at the scene – taccikitsaayaam vidvat-tamah – Bhagavan gently touched the elephant, and started speaking to the elephant comfortingly. Gajendra’s intense devotion to Bhagavan was the reason for him to go to the pond to pluck the Lotus flower for offering it to Him. The pain vanished instantly and nothing seemed important to Gajendra than Bhagavan’s Darshan, and all his ailments were cured right away.

Sri Parasara Bhattar gives support from the Vishnu Dharma:
evamuktva kurushreshtha! Gajendram MadhusudanaH |
sparsayamasa hastena.. . . .
Meaning: The Bliss from the touch of Bhagavan’s hands eliminates all misery, and is like the herb that can cure any ailment. His divine hands were the medicine for Gajendra, and the warmth from His beautiful red lips were the comfort that Gajendra would do anything to have.

Srimad Srimushnam Andavan explains the Nama with the comment that Bhagavan is the ‘greatest Doctor there ever was and is, – the way He administered the most appropriate cikitsa or treatment to Gajendra, (who had suffered for a thousand years in the clutches of the crocodile)’. Bhagavan knew precisely what would give Gajendra the greatest comfort, and so He is called Vidvat-tamah.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan also interprets the Nama based on the Gajendra episode – Atha Gajendra uddharakatam sucayan Aha – svaika Saranyasya Gajendrasya vipad vinaashe ati-nipunatvaat Vidvat-tamah – He Who dealt with the surrender of Gajendra in the most skillful manner.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri explains the Nama as ‘Bhagavan is the One Who knows how to remedy the Devotees’ problems.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives the following derivation for the Nama – Vidanti iti vidvamso jnaninah teshu atishayena Shreshthah sarvajnatvaat iti Vidvattamo Vishnuh – He Who is the best among those endowed with knowledge – the All-Knowing. He from Whom all knowledge originated, He Who gave the Vedas to the world, etc., is Vidvat-tamah. This cannot be said of anyone else. This is how the Vedas praise Him.

  1.     Vita-bhayah – He Who is Devoid of Fear

The word ‘Vita’ means ‘removed or got rid of’ and ‘Bhaya’ means ‘fear or fright’. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Vitam vigatam bhayam Saamsarikam samsaralakshanam vaa asya iti Vitabhayah Sarveshvaratvaat Nityamuktatvaat cha – He is completely devoid of fear coming from worldly life or fear of worldly life as He is the Lord of all or He is fully liberated from all things; hence He is called Vitabhayah, one who knows no fear’.

Basically there are two types of fears associated with Samsara or the worldly life’. The first is the various day to day fears such as the fear of poverty, disease, old age and fear of death. The second is the fear of rebirth and having another Samsara all over again. Bhagavan is completely free of both these fears as He is the ultimate master who is liberated from all these afflictions, constraints and limiting conditions.

Sri Parasara Bhattar emphasises on the Guna of Bhagavan as One whose sole purpose is to help His devotees and explains that He has this Nama since He drives away the fear in His devotees – vitam bhayam yasmat sa VIta-bhayah. Sri Bhattar’s interpretation is: tat-samagama tumula upalambhat vItam bhayam Gajendrasya iti Vita-bhayah – Seeing the ardent zeal of the Lord in coming to his help, the fear of Gajendra vanished. Thus, Bhagavan has this Nama since He is the ‘One Who dispelled the fear of Gajendra by arriving promptly to his distress call’.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan comments that Gajendra had called for help from Lord Narayana, and was afraid that Bhagavan’s Guna of Ashrita rakshanam might be questioned by some if He did not come right away, and it was this fear that was removed as soon as Bhagavan arrived.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan echoes the same thoughts as above – VItam = vinashtam Gajendrasya grahat bhayam yena sa Vita-bhayah – He Who relieved Gajendra of the fear of being gripped by the crocodile, is VItabhayah.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri comments that the worst of all fears is the fear of Samsara, or being born in this world again; since Bhagavan is beyond this, He is Fearless, and beyond fear – Vita-bhayah.

Sri Satya Sandha thirtha also gives the explanation along the same lines – Bhaya Shunyah Vita bhayah – One Who is without fear. 

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha derives the meaning ‘One Who has no fear’ – Vi = visheshena, itam = gatam, bhayam = bhitih yasya iti Vita-bhayah – One Who is totally devoid of fear.

  1.    Punya-Shravana-kirtanah – He Whose Nama Shravanam and kirtanam are purifying

Punya is an act of bliss or sanctified deed.  ‘Shravana’ is ‘hearing’ and ‘Kirtana’ is ‘reciting or singing’ aloud. Both hearing and reciting about His glory adds to one’s stock of auspicious deeds. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara says ‘Punyam Punyakaram Shravanam Keertanam Cha asya iti PunyashravanaKirtanah – Hearing and/or reciting His Nama results in accretion of Punya or store of auspicious deeds, hence He is called Punya-Shravana-Kirtanah’.

Punya here refers to ‘that which purifies’ – pavate, puyate va anena iti Punyam. Shravana refers to hearing from others, and Kirtana refers to our own chanting. The Nama says that Bhagavan’s glory is such that by hearing it from others, or by singing His glory ourselves, we will be purified.

Punyam = pavitrikraranam, namnam Shravanam Kirtanam ca yasya sa Punya-Shravana-kirtanah Vishnuh.  One by hearing whose names, and by chanting whose names, we get purified, is called ‘Punya-Shravana- Kirtanah’ – yasya Vishnor-nam nam anyatah Shravanam, tatha sva-mukhata uccarya kirtanam, ityubhayata pavitrikaranam bhavati, sa etan-namnam abhidhiyate.

Sri Parasara Bhattar continues his interpretation of the Nama as it relates to Gajendra moksham, and explains the Nama as: “He by hearing whose gajendra moksham episode, or by narrating it ourselves, we get purified”. This is one example of the purifying power of singing His glory or hearing His glory.

Sri Parasara Bhattar refers us to a Shloka from Vishnu Dharma in support:
Shrutena hi kuru-Shreshtha! Smritena kathitena va |
Gajendra mokshenaiva sadyah Paapaat vimucyate ||
Meaning: O’ the best of Kurus! A person is immediately rid of his sins if he hears, thinks or talks about the story of Gajendra Moksham.

Srimad Srimushnam Andavan points out that Bhagavan is Punya Shravana Kirtanah also because He has thee Kirtanas (fame) that is worthy of being heard (Shravana), and that will remove all our sins. He reminds us that this is the reason why we do the anusandhanam of the following Shlokam on Gajendra Moksham every morning as we get up:
graaham graste Gajendre sarabhasam taarkshaym Aruhya dhaavan
vyaaghurnan maalya bhusha vasan parikaro megha gambhira ghoshah |
vibhraano rathanngam Saram asim abhayam Sankha capau ca
khetau hastaih kaumodakim api avatu harirasaavamhaaam samhaternah||
Meaning: The Shloka reminds us how Bhagavan rushed to the scene of Gajendra’s suffering, climbing on to the Garuda’s back in a big rush, with disheveled ornaments in his hurry, with the roaring sound of His arrival clearly noticeable, and with all His weapons ready for the protection of the devotee. The anusandhanam (thinking with the meaning in our mind) of this act of Bhagavan will protect all those who meditate on it, chant it, or hear it from others.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan echoes the same – Papahari Gajendra-sambandhi-ShravanAditvaat Punya-Shravana-Kirtanah.

Both Sri Sankara and Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha give reference to the phala Shruti Shlokam of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam which conveys the same message that is conveyed by this Nama:
Ya idam Shrunuyan-nityam yashcapi parikirtayet |
nashubham prapnuyat kincit somutreha ca manavah ||
Meaning: Nothing inauspicious or unwelcome will accrue either in this world or in the world beyond, to anyone who hears the Vishnu Sahasranamam stotram daily, or one who recites it daily.

Swami ChinmayAnanda comments that ‘kirtana’ should not be just interpreted to mean mechanical repetition, but the serious student should reflect upon the glories of the Lord. We must learn to get ourselves committed to the life of spiritual activities. It is not to be a mere noisy chanting of hymns, a mere muttering of mantras. We must teach ourselves to allow Him to express through us. Our physical activities, mental feelings, and intellectual thoughts must all shine forth the awareness of His Divine Presence that is in us at every moment, everywhere. The life of such a devotee will itself become, in its dynamic beauty, love and devoted tenderness, a constant worship (pooja), a continuous (akhanda) hymn chanted (kirtana) in praise of the Lord-of-the-heart.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha summarises the meaning of this Nama through the following composition of his own:
Yasyasti namnam Shravanam pavitram, sankirtanam capyamalam hi tasya |
So’nanta Nama Bhagavan hi Vishnuh, sva-Namabhir vishvamidam punati ||
Meaning: Lord Vishnu, whose Namas are purifying to those who hear them or chant them – this Lord Vishnu with His infinite Namas (representing His infinite Kalyana Gunas), purifies this whole Universe through His Namas.

In Summary
Akrurah Peshalo Daksho Dakshinah KshaminaamVarah |
Vidvattamo Vitabhayah PunyashravanaKeertanah        ||98|| 

He is completely devoid of anger and consequently He is free from cruel thought at all times, hence He is called Akrurah. He is charming and likeable in His deeds, in His mind, in His speech and in His physical appearance, hence He is called Peshalah, the charming one’. He is immense, powerful and swift, so He is called Dakshah’. He is very kind, compassionate and affectionate towards His devotees and hence He is known as Dakshinah.  He is the foremost among those who are endowed with patience and endurance, so He is called KshaminaamVarah.

He has an extraordinary knowledge of everything, hence He is called Vidvattamah – the greatest of all scholars. He is completely devoid of fear coming from worldly life or fear of worldly life as He is the Lord of all. He is fully liberated from all things, hence He is called Vitabhayah, one who knows no fear. Hearing and/or reciting His Nama results in accretion of Punya or store of auspicious deeds, hence He is called Punya-Shravana-Kirtanah’.

OM NAMO NARAYANAAYA

HARI OM TAT SAT

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

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