In this part, we will explore the meaning of the 100th Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.

Anantarupo Anantashreeh Jitamanyur Bhayaapahah       |
Chaturashro Gabheeratma Vidisho Vyaadisho Dishah ||100|| 

He has Infinite forms and is omnipresent. He is endowed with unlimited power and Infinite wealth. He has conquered His anger and maintains poise at all times (Shaanta-akaaram). He removes the fear of rebirth in this Samsara. He is always motivated by justice and acts fairly. His mind and forms are unfathomable that is beyond comprehension. He grants appropriate fruits to various deserving persons depending upon their respective merits. As the Commander-in-Chief, He gives various orders to other Devas such as Indra and maintains the Universe. He indicates the fruits or consequences of various actions through the Vedas and scriptures, and shows the right path.

The above Shloka has the following Namas:

932.   Anantarupah
933.   Anantashreeh
934.   Jitamanyuh
935.   Bhayaapahah
936.   Chaturashrah
937.   Gabheeratma
938.   Vidishah
939.   Vyaadishah
940.   Dishah

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

  1.    Ananta-rupah – One Who has Infinite Forms

‘Ananta’ means ‘endless’ and ‘rupa’ means ‘form’. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Anantaani rupani Asya Vishva Prapancha rupena Sthitasya asya iti Anantarupah – He has infinite forms and He manifests Himself in every aspect of the Universe, hence He is called Anantarupah, One with Infinite number of Forms’.

In the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 4 Verse 8), Bhagavan says:
Paritranaya sadhunam vinasaya ca duskrtam |
Dharma-samsthapanarthayasambhavami yuge yuge ||
Meaning: To deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of Dharma, I advent Myself Millennium after Millennium.

Even though the three reasons are given here, the primary reason for all His incarnations is the one stated first – the protection of His devotees; the other two are incidental to the first one. The form in which He appeared at the scene of Gajendra Moksham was one such form.

Sri Parasara Bhattar’s interpretation is –Idrishi sadyah sampadyani anantani rupani asya iti Ananta-rupah – He Who assumes innumerable forms, of His own volition, in an instant as and when the occasion demands.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan gives Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (1.3.2) that extols this Guna of Bhagavan:
எளிவரு மியல்வினன் நிலைவரம் பிலபல பிறப்பாய்,
ஒளிவரு முழு நலம் முதலில கேடில வீடாம்,
தெளிதரும் நிலைமைய தொழிவிலன் முழுவதும், மிறையோன்,
அளிவரு மருளினோ டகத்தனன், புறத்தன னமைந்தே..
Meaning: Bhagavan takes several incarnations that are characterized by simplicity as needed by the circumstances. In these incarnations, He assumes all of His auspicious Kalyana Gunas with His radiant fullness that is without a beginning or an end. Forever providing the ambrosial experience of liberation to His devotees, He exists with cool grace within and without.  He makes Himself easily accessible to His devotees in these forms, while at the same time making it difficult for the foes of His devotees.

He does not mind taking the form of a Boar, a Fish, a half-man and half-lion form, etc., to fulfill the purpose of His incarnation, that is to protect His devotees.

The Azhwar in His Pasuram (2.5.6) says:
பலபலவேயாபரணம் பேரும்பலபலவே,
பலபலவேசோதிவடிவு பண்பெண்ணில்,
பலபலகண்டுண்டு கேட்டுற்றுமோந்தின்பம்,
பலபலவேஞானமும் பாம்பணைமேலாற்கேயோ.
Meaning: The Lord who is reclining on AdiSesha in the Milky Ocean, has countless variety in every respect – His ornaments are many; His Namas are many, His lustrous forms are many; He can be enjoyed in several modes – through seeing, hearing, singing, through contemplation, etc. He Who lies on Anantan is Ananta in the aspects of His Rupa etc. as well’.

Sri Krishnan interprets the Nama as referring to Bhagavan’s forms in the para, vyuha, vibhava, arca and antaryami forms, each of which consists of multiple forms (e.g., in vibhava, the many incarnations suchas Rama, Krishna etc., the numerous arca forms, the countless antaryami forms, etc.). All these forms are taken by Bhagavan for the sole purpose of protecting His devotees.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj adds another dimension to the Nama – ‘Anantam Shaashvatam rupam asya iti Ananta-rupah – He has countless forms that are also ever-lasting and permanent. Many of His forms are eternal, and the Avataars He takes are also there for us to enjoy forever’.

Sri Satya Sandha Thirtha also uses the word Ananta in the context of everlasting and permanent – ‘Anaashaani rupani yasya sa Ananta-rupah’ (naasha – that which decays or is destroyed; anaasha – that which never decays or gets destroyed).

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri adds another dimension to the interpretation– Bhagavan’s form is endless in all dimensions – a reference to His Vishwarupam. He gives reference from the Kaivalya Upanishad – Acintyamavyaktam ananta rupam (6) – That which cannot be clearly comprehended or clearly defined, and is infinite in all dimensions.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha refers us to the Rig Vedic mantra (10.81.3) in support:
Vishvatash-cakshuruta vishvato-mukhovishvato-baahuruta vishvatas- paat |
Sam-baahubhyaamdhamati sampatatrair-dvyava bhumi janayan devaekah ||
Meaning: He Who has eyes on all sides round about Him, mouths on all sides, arms and feet on all sides; He, the One God, producing earth and heaven, keeping them together, with His arms as wings.

In the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 13 Verse 14), Bhagavan says:
Sarvatah pani-padam tat sarvato ‘ksi-siro-mukham |
Sarvatah srutimal loke sarvam avrtya tisthati ||
Meaning: With hands and feet everywhere, with eyes, heads and mouths everywhere, with ears everywhere, He exists in the worlds, enveloping all.

  1.    Anantashreeh – He has Infinite Wealth, Glory, Power etc.

‘Ananta’ means ‘endless’ and ‘Shree’ stands for ‘Aishwaryam and Power’. Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama to mean ‘Ananta Aparimita Shreeh Para Shaktih asya iti Anantashreeh – He has unlimited and infinite power and hence He is called Anantashreeh, one with unbounded capacity’.

Svesvatara Upanishad 6.8 says:
Na tasya kaaryam karanam cha vidyate na tatsamash chaabhyadhikash ca dṛishyate
Paraasya Shaktir vividhaiva Shrooyate svaabhaavikee jnaanabalakriyaa cha
Meaning: He has nothing to achieve for Himself, nor has He any organ of action. No one is seen equal or superior to Him. The Vedas speak of His exalted power, which is innate and capable of producing diverse effects and of His Omniscience and His might.

Sri Parasara Bhattar’s interpretation is – tebhyodeyaah sva-praapati-paryantaah anatah Sriyo’pi asya iti Anantasrih – He who has all the wealth to give to His devotees at His command, including giving the enjoyment of Himself in full to His devotees. In the case of Gajendra, Bhagavan gave him a divine body and sent him to Sri Vaikuntham. Sri Bhattar gives support from Vishnu Dharma 69 – ‘tato divya vapor-bhutva hasti-raatparamam padam jagama’.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan comments that both His Vibhutis – the leela vibhuti in this world, and the nitya vibhuti in Sri Vaikuntham, are purely for the benefit of His devotees. He refers us to Sri Andal’s Nachiyar Thirumozhi (10.10), where she refers to Emperumaan as ‘Selvar periyar’:
நல்லஎன் தோழி நாக ணைமிசை நம்பரர்
செல்வர் பெரியர் சிறுமா னிடவர்நாம் செய்வதென்
வில்லி புதுவை விட்டுசித் தர்தங்கள் தேவரை
வல்லி பரிசு வருவிப்ப ரேலது காண்டுமே
Meaning: My Dear Friends! Our Lord, who reclines on the serpent couch, is rich and powerful. What can we mere mortals do? When Sri Villiputthur’s Vishnuchitta, our Father, welcomes his Lord with proper presents, we shall see him then.

PeriyAzhwar in his Thirumozhi Pasuram (2.8.8) refers to Perumal as ‘Selvattinaal valar pillai’ –One, who, as child Krishna, was growing amidst abundant wealth.

Sri Thirumangai Azhwar’s in his Periya Thirumozhi Pasuram (7.7.1) says – ‘Thiruvukkum tiruvagiya Selva! Deivattukku Arasa!’ – ‘He Who is the Wealth for even Lakshmi – the Goddess of all Wealth! He Who is the Lord of all the Devas!’.

Sri Krishnan refers to Sri Alavandar’s Stotra Ratnam (Shloka 12):
kah Srih Sriyah paramasattvasam Ashrayah kah kah pundarika nayanah purushottamah kah |
kasya yutayuta Sata eka kalaamsakaamse vishvam vicitra citacit pravibhagavrittam ||
Meaning: ‘Who is the Deity that is the Sri for Sri (Lakshmi devi) Herself? Who is the Deity that is the embodiment of Sattva Guna? Who is the Deity that is the Supreme Purusha of all Purushas? Who is the One who is endowed with beautiful lotus-like eyes? Who is the One Deity by whose tiny fragment of Power this whole Universe consisting of the countless forms of cetana and acetana forms are created, protected, and destroyed?  It is none other than the Supreme Deity, Sriman Narayana.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri comments that Bhagavan’s Infinite Shakti is the driving force for all of us in whatever we achieve during our lives.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj uses the meaning ‘indestructible’ – avinashini, for the word ananta, and gives the interpretationas ‘ananta = avinashini Srih Sobha sampat yasya iti Anantasrih’ – He who has eternal beauty and wealth, is Anantashreeh.

Sri Satya Sandha Thirtha also interprets the Nama along the same lines – Ananta = naasha-rahita Srih avarupa Srih yasya sa Anantasrih –He Whose wealth is by nature is eternal.

Swami ChinmayAnanda refers to the three ‘powers’ that the Lord expresses in this Universe:

  1. Iccha Shakti –              Power by Desire
  2. Kriya Shakti –              Power of action
  3. Jnana Shakti –            Power of Knowledge

These three manifestations of His ‘powers’, and their continuous interplay, together weave the fabric of the total dynamic expressions of life in this world. The Supreme, Sriman Narayana, is the one springboard for all these vibrant aspects of life.

  1.    Jita-manyuh – He Who has conquered His anger

‘Manyu’ means ‘anger’ and ‘Jita’ means ‘one who has conquered or gained control over it’. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Manyuh Krodho Jito yena sah Jitamanyuh – He has conquered His anger and hence He is called Jitamanyuh’. Despite strong provocation, Bhagavan maintains His poise and tranquility, and is known for His Shantaakaaram i.e. calm temperament. Anger arises only out of unfulfilled desire and as Bhagavan has no desire, there is no premise for anger at all. Even when He punishes the evil doers, it is not out of anger but out of compassion. Therefore, He is rightly called Jitamanyuh, One Who is totally free from anger at all times.

Sri Parasara Bhattar continues with his interpretation of the current series of Namas in the context of Gajendra Moksham. He explains that Bhagavan controlled His anger at the Crocodile even after seeing that it was not letting go of His devotee Gajendra’s leg. Here was a Saranagata in the form of Gajendra, and this ‘creature’ in the lake was causing pain and misery to His devotee. He controlled His anger, and proceeded with His purpose calmly and took the action required to relieve Gajendra from the clutches of the Crocodile.

Perhaps the best example of His control over anger is the incident where Sage Bhrighu kicked Him on His chest, and in response, Bhagavan calmly comforted the Sage’s foot (and, in the process removed the extra eye and killed Sage’s Ahamkara or ego).

Interestingly, Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets the Nama ‘Jita-krodhah’ in Shloka 49 as ‘Bhagavan conquering the anger in others’; in other words, when He deceived the Asuras and cheated them without giving them the nectar with His Mohini Avataar and instead of getting angry with Him, the Asuras were bewildered and enchanted by His Mohini form, and thus He overcame their anger towards the Devas.

Lord Krishna describes in the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 2 Verse 62 & 63) as to how anger develops in us, and the consequences of unchecked anger:
Dhyayato visayan pumsah sangas tesupajayate |
Sangat sanjayate kamah kamat krodho ‘bhijayate ||
Meaning: While contemplating on the sense-objects, a person develops attachment for them, and from such attachment lust develops, and from lust anger arises.

Krodhad bhavati sammohah sammohat smrti-vibhramah |
Smrti-bhramsad buddhi-naso buddhi-nasat pranasyati ||
Meaning: From anger, delusion arises, and from delusion bewilderment of memory. When memory is bewildered, intelligence is lost, and when intelligence is lost, one sinks again into the material world (Samsara).

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri notes that there are times when Bhagavan forces Himself to become angry, especially if the offense is such that the subject needs to be punished; but in these cases, He gets His anger under control as soon as the objective of anger is achieved. One such case is when Samudra Rajan did not respond to His ‘request’ for assistance during the crossing of the Sea to Lanka.

Sri Shastri points to another Nama that has a similar interpretation – ‘Jitakrodhah’ (Shloka 49, Nama 463), and distinguishes between the three terms– manyu, kopam, and krodham. ‘Manyu’ is the state where one feels anger at a mental level, but this is not visible externally. ‘Kopam’ is the state when the anger is visible through facial indications such as reddish eyes. ‘Krodham’ is the state when this feeling finds expression through harsh words, banging on things, and other actions indicating the state of anger. Bhagavan has all these states of anger under full control, and ‘becomes’ angry only when needed, but still fully under His control.

Sri Shastri points to the two incidents from Srimad Ramayana where Sage Valmiki describes Lord Rama ‘getting’ angry during His battle with Khara and Dooshana:
Vinamya dhanur-bhimam tunyoshcoddhrityasayakan |
Krodhamaharayat teevram vadhartham sarva-rakshasam || (3.24.33)
Meaning: Sri Rama bent His bow and set the arrows to them, and, for the purposes of the destruction of the Rakshasas, and ‘got angry’. In other words, He has His anger under control, and summons it only when He wants it to manifest.

The second instance is when Hanuman was bleeding from the arrows of Ravana while Hanuman was carrying Lord Rama on his shoulders. Lord Rama again ‘got angry’. When He Himself undergoes personal suffering in any of His incarnations, He is in complete control of His anger. But when His devotee suffers, He deliberately and knowingly ‘invites‘ anger – in other words, under His full control, He decides to get angry as He cannot tolerate His devotees’ suffering.

When Ravana hit Hanuman in the forehead, and Hanuman was bleeding, Rama reached the peak of anger:
ततो रामो महातेजा रावणेन कृतव्रणम् |
दृष्ट्वा प्लवगशार्दूलं क्रोधस्य वशमेयुवान् || ६-५९-१३६
Meaning: Seeing Hanuman, the Tiger among the monkeys, getting wounded by Ravana, Rama was transported with anger.

Thereupon, Rama stuck Ravana with a great force with his shaft shining brightly as the thunderbolt. At that point, instead of continuing the attack Ravana, Rama calmly told him: ‘I find you are completely tired and destabilized, and so I will not kill you now. I will permit you to go back to your palace, take rest and recuperate, and then come back, and then you can see My true Might’.

प्रयाहि जानामि रणार्दितस्त्वं | प्रविश्य रात्रिंचरराज लङ्काम् |
अश्वस्य निर्याहि रथी च धन्वी | तदा बलम् प्रेक्ष्यसि मे रथस्थः || ६-५९-१४३
Meaning: O, King of the Ranger of night! I know you have been tormented in the battle. Go and return to Lanka. Having regained your breath, come back in your chariot with your bow and then standing in your chariot, you will witness once more my prowess.

After Lord Rama killed Ravana, He asked Vibheeshana to proceed to perform the final rites for his brother. When Vibheeshana hesitated because of the feeling of enmity, Lord Rama pointed out to him that the enmity between Him and Ravana ended the moment Ravana was dead.

Marana antaani variaani nirvrittam nahprayojanam |
kriyataam asya samskaaromamApyesha yatha tava || 6-109-25||
Meaning: Lord Rama says, ‘The enmity (between Ravana and Me) was only until Ravana’s death. The purpose of our mission has been accomplished. Now he is as related to Me as he is to you. Now please proceed to do the final rites for your brother’.

The above incidents demonstrate Lord Rama’s total control over His anger.

  1.    Bhayaapahah – He Who destroys the fear (of Samsara) in the mind of the devotees

The word ‘Bhaya’ means ‘fear’ and ‘Apahah’ refers to ‘one who removes it’. Using this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Bhayam Samsarajam Pumsaam Apaghnan Bhayaapahah – He removes the fear arising out of Samsara or the repeated cycle of births and deaths in the mind of His devotees and hence He is called Bhayaapahah, the dispeller of the fear of repeated worldly life’.  In Shloka 89 we saw another version of the same Nama as ‘BhayaNaashanah’ meaning the remover of fear from the minds of those who follow the path of Dharma.

Sri Parasara Bhattar explains the current Nama as Asmadaad Inamapi sva-vatsalyena taadrisha anaathatva bhayam vadhyaat iti AshamsanArhah – Because of His love for His devotees, He can be relied upon to dispel the fear. Sri Bhattar quotes – ‘Bhayemahati magnaanshca traati nityam Janaradanah’ – Janardana will always protect those who are drowned in the great fear (of Samsara). It is the trust that we repose in Bhagavan and we can rely on Him to protect us without fail, if we surrender unto Him.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan gives references from the Divya Prabandham where the Azhwars extol this Guna using the word ‘Namban’ meaning ‘One Who can be trusted’.

  • nambanai narasinganai’ (PeriyAzhwar Thirumozhi 4.4.9) ‘Lord Narasimha who can be trusted (to protect us)
  • nambane! …Azhi mun Endi kamba-ma-kari kol viduttaane! (PeriyAzhwar Thirumozhi 5.1.9) – ‘He the Most Trustworthy One when it comes to the protection of His devotees! He came with His Cakra in His hand and relieved the pain and distress of the great elephant Gajendra.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri comments that fear is the state that occurs because of anticipation of some problem, and its effect and intensity is even more severe and lasts longer than the problem itself. Those who trust in the Lord do not have this fear, and when any problem does arise, they accept it.  A true devotee is one who sees pain and pleasure without any difference – that is, he neither rejoices when something good happens, nor suffers when something bad happens. This is revealed to us in several verses in the Bhagavad Gita:

  • sukha-duhkhe same krtva labhalabhau jayajayau |
    tato yuddhaya yujyasva naivam papam avapsyasi ||2.38||

    Meaning: Do fight for the sake of fighting, without considering happiness or distress, loss or gain, victory or defeat—and, by so doing, you shall never incur sin.  
  • duhkhesv anudvigna-manah sukhesu vigata-sprhah |
    vita-raga-bhaya-krodhah sthita-dhir munir ucyate ||2.56||

    Meaning:  One who is not disturbed despite the threefold miseries, who is not elated when there is happiness, and who is free from attachment, fear and anger, is called a sage of steady mind.
  1.    Catur-ashrah – One Who is skilled in all aspects

This Nama has several meanings:

  1. One Who is skilled in all aspects
  2. One Who is fair to everybody
  3. One from whom wishes are asked for
  4. One Who pervades in all four directions
  5. One Who nourishes and feeds everything in all four directions
  6. One Who is worshipped by the knowledgeable people

Literally this Nama means ‘the square shaped one’. The idiomatic interpretation is ‘The fair and just one who teats everyone equally’. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Nyaaya samavetah Chaturashrah Pumsaam Karma anurupam Phalam Prayacchati iti – He is always motivated by justice and acts fairly, hence He is called Charurashrah; He distributes the fruits fairly as per the actions (Karma) of each person’.

He makes sure that each person gets a fair treatment, be it reward or punishment, purely based on their Karma. He does not show any personal bias and hence He is called Chaturashrah or the fair one.

The term ‘Catur’ refers to the number ‘Four’, and ‘ashra’ means ‘corner’, so combining this, Catruashrah becomes a geometrical Square. This term has been used to mean ‘One Who is fair-minded, or is just to everyone’.  Swami ChinmayAnanda explains the Nama as ‘One Who deals squarely with all’.  

Sri Parasara Bhattar uses the meaning ‘One Who is skilled in all aspects’, using the term Catura to mean ‘One Who is skilled’ – a reference to one’s Saamarthya, so He Who is skilled in all aspects is Caturashrah.

Srimad Andavan explains that Bhagavan has this Nama to indicate that He does whatever is appropriate for the benefit of the devotees under all circumstances. In the context of Gajendra Moksham, He relieved the crocodile from its curse, even as He fulfilled the desire of Gajendra to perform the kainkaryam to Him, and He demonstrated to all of us that He will protect those who surrender unto Him.

All His actions are appropriate and consistent with His real nature – ‘Kaakkumiyalvinan’ as described by Sri NammAzhwar – One Whose real nature is that of protection.

Using the meaning ‘Caturya’ for the word ‘catur’, Sri Krishnan gives an example of Bhagavan’s Caturyam from Srimad Ramayana. During Vali vadham, when Vali lies wounded by Rama’s arrow, he starts accusing Rama of unfairly hitting him while hiding behind a tree. After Vali and Rama exchange some words, just before dying, Vali praises Rama for His righteousness. It is not easy for a mortally wounded one to praise the one who is causing death. This is only possible by the ‘One who is a Caturashrah – skilled in all respects’.

Sri Ananta Krishna Shastry gives an elaborate list of examples and explanations for the term Catura (four) in the Nama:

  1. Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha – Bhagavan distributes these to the deserving ones in accordance with their Karmas;
  2. He nourishes the four kinds of creatures – born of womb, born of egg, born of sweat, and those that emerge out of Earth;
  3. He protects four kinds of people – the distressed, those desirous of knowing Him, the desirers of wealth, and the wise ones.
  4. He is known by the four Vedas.
  5. His command is obeyed in all four corners of the world.

Sri Vasishtha gives the meaning ‘One from whom something is asked’, to the term ‘catur’ – catati catyate va iti – Catur.  Sri Vasishtha gives an alternative meaning as ‘catasro disho ashnute Caturashrah’ – One Who pervades in all four directions, or ‘Catasrshu dikshu sthitanam praaninaam bhojanasya daata iti Vishnuh’ – One Who nourishes and feeds everything in all four directions.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj explains the Nama as – Caturaih Sriyate =sevyate iti Catur-Asrah – He Who is worshipped by those who have the knowledge to understand His greatness.

The Story of Aghasura

The demon Aghasura was the younger brother of Putana and Bakasura. He assumed the form of a great python, expanded to the length of eight miles and grew as high as a mountain. He lay on the road with his mouth wide open, and Krishna’s friends playfully entered into the demon being curious about the giant form that looked like a cave, and feeling confident in Krishna’s protection.

Finally, Krishna also entered into the mouth of the demon in order to protect His friends, and then expanded His own body to such an extent that the demon suffocated and died, and then brought all of His friends back to life and out of the demon.

Lord Krishna once again showed His benevolent nature by rescuing His friends and giving liberation to Aghasura.

Jai Shri Krishna!

  1.    GabheerAtma – He is of deep and profound nature

The basic meaning of Gabheera is ‘deep and unfathomable’. On this basis, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as Atma svarupam chittam va gabheeram paricchettum ashakyam asya iti Gabheeratma – His mind and form are deep and unfathomable that is beyond comprehension, hence He is called Gabheeratma – a complex personality’. Our mind and sense organs are finite and cannot comprehend Bhagavan’s full form and intellect which are Infinite, hence He is rightly called Gabheeratma, the incomprehensible one.

Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets the Nama as ‘One who has a deep and profound nature’, that is beyond the understanding of even the likes of Brahma and others – anyesham Catur-mukha-mukhanam apradhrishya gaambheeryah GabheerAtma.

Sri NammAzhwar points out that Brahma can know things that he created, but cannot have full knowledge of all the things that existed long before he was created. Thus, Brahma’s knowledge of the One who created all the things including him, is not totally within his comprehension:

  • Surar arivu aru nilai (Thiruvai Mozhi 1.1.8) – Even Brahma and Devas do not know Him fully.
  • Unarndu unarndu unarilum irai nilai unarvadu aridu uyirgaal (Thiruvai Mozhi 1.3.6) – Despite deep contemplation and knowing the Self, it is not possible to fully comprehend the Supreme Being.

In fact, Bhagavan is One whose greatness is such that even He cannot know it – ‘tanakkum tan tanmai arivariyaan’.

Sri Thirumazhisai Azhwar in his Naanmugan Thiruvandadhi Pasuram (73) says:
ஆரே யறிவார் அனைத்துலகு முண்டுமிழ்ந்த,
பேராழி யான்றன் பெருமையை,- கார்செறிந்த
கண்டத்தான் எண்கண்ணான் காணான், அவன்வைத்த
பண்டைத்தா னத்தின் பதி.
Meaning:  Who can comprehend the greatness of Emperumaan who is like the deep Ocean, and who swallowed all the Universes at the time of pralaya, and then spit them out at the time of creation? No one! The eight- eyed Brahma (four-faced), and dark blue throated Siva (because he swallowed the poison), do not even know the greatness of the surest means to reach Him – the Carama Shloka.

Sage Valmiki describes Lord Rama as ‘Samudra iva gaambheerye’ – ‘As deep as the Ocean’; Bhagavan conceals His greatness such that even the Devas can’t easily recognise His greatness without deep devotion.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri elaborates that His mind is such that He never gets disturbed easily, and does not easily reveal what is in His mind, as He considers pros and cons of everything deeply.

Swami ChinmayAnanda describes the unfathomable nature of Bhagavan through the following words: ‘One Who, in His Real Nature, is too deep to be fathomed by the frail instrument of our mind. Depth here indicates profoundness – the Supreme Essence pervading the Universe is unfathomably profound in its significance and glory.’

Sri Vasishtha uses ‘Gabheera gambheerau –to mean ‘deep’. The term ‘Atma’ here refers to ‘sva-rupa’ or inherent nature. Sri Vasishtha gives interpretations based on the root ‘gam – gatau- to go’ – gacchati gamyate praapyate anena – He because of Whom everything is attained or He Who is the object of attainment, meditation or worship, is Gabheerah. He is also Gabheerah as He makes everything move through death or decay.

  1.    Vidishah – One Whose nature, forms, and qualities are spread out in all directions

The Nama Vidishah has the following meanings:

  1. One Whose nature, forms, and qualities are spread out in all directions
  2. One Who can be reached from all directions
  3. He Who bestows all benefits on His devotees
  4. He Who pervades everything and is everywhere
  5. He Who is the cause of happiness for the knowers (of Brahman, based on ‘vid’ – to know)
  6. He Who has revealed all Shastras in elaborate detail

This Nama and the next two Namas all have root word as ‘Dish’ (Vi-dishaH, Vyaa-dishah and Dishah) but has different meanings. It can be used to mean direction, order or command, daanam or bestowing etc. The different interpreters use different combinations of these meanings in their commentary for the three Namas.

Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Vividhaani Phalaani Adhikaarebhyo Visheshena Dishati iti Vidishah- He grants various appropriate fruits to the various deserving persons depending on their respective merits, hence He is called Vidishah, the bestower’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar’s interpretation is: ‘tesham vinaya gadgada stutigiraam asyadure vividha dishah deshah iti Vidishah’ – He Who is far above everything, and beyond the reach of words. Bhagavan is One Whose nature, forms, and qualities are immeasurable, as if they are spread out in space in all directions. Even when the Devas seek Him by praising Him in moving words, His Kalyana Gunas are far beyond their description or reach.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan gives references from the Divya prabandham in support to extol the virtues of the Lord:

  • Sri Thirumangai Azhwar in his Periya Thirumozhi Pasuram (1.7.8) says:
    நாத்தழும்பநான்முகனும் ஈசனுமாய்முறையால்ஏ

    த்த, அங்கோராளரியாய் இருந்தவம்மானதிடம்
    Meaning: While the four-headed Brahma and Siva praise Him till their tongues swell, He reveals Himself to devotees like Prahlada etc. as per their wish.
  • Sri NammAzhwar explains in his Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (2.7.12) as:
    தாமோதரனைத்தனிமுதல்வனை ஞாலமுண்டவனை,

    ஆமோதரமறிய வொருவ ர்க்கென்றெதொழுமவர்கள்,
    தாமோதரனுருவாகிய சிவற்கும்திசைமுகற்கும்,
    ஆமோதரமறிய எம்மானையென்னாழிவண்ணனையே.
    Meaning:  Can even those who worship ‘Damodara’ know his greatness? He is the first-cause, and the swallower of the Universe.  Can even Brahma or Siva, performing steady contemplation, fathom his greatness when they are but a part of him?
  • Sri NammAzhwar explains in his Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (10.7.6) as:
    திருமாலிருஞ்சோலையானே ஆகிச் செழுமூ வுலகும் தன்ஒ

    ருமா வயிற்றி னுள்ளேவைத்து ஊழி யூழி தலையளிக்கும்தி
    ருமாலென்னை யாளுமால் சிவனும் பிரமனும்காணாது
    அருமா லெய்தி யடிபரவ அருளை யீந்த அம்மானே
    Meaning:  He shows grace to the whole Universe at the time of pralaya by protecting all the Jivas in His stomach. Siva and Brahma contemplate on Him and pay homage to Him in humility yet they cannot comprehend Him fully. He has lovingly given His graceful feet to me for worship.

Srimad Srimushnam Andavan explains that the Nama signifies that Bhagavan can be reached by calling Him from far and wide – ‘Vividhah dishadeshah yasya sa Vidishah’.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj’s interpretation is also along the same lines – ‘Vishesheha dishati = dadati bhaktebhyah abhishtam iti Vi-dishah – He Who bestows the desired objects to His devotees’.

Swami ChinmayAnanada echoes the same interpretation: ‘One Who is unique in His giving’. He is divinely liberal, magnificently benevolent in fulfilling the earnest desires of all His true devotees.

Sri Vasishtha indicates the root for the Nama as ‘dish – atisarjane’ meaning ‘to grant, to allow (atisarjanam = daanam)’- He grants or bestows various fruits in accordance with one’s Karmas. Sri Vasishtha further comments that the Nama also signifies that Bhagavan pervades everything, everywhere, in all directions, and there is no place where He is not present.

Sri Satya Sandha Thirtha looks at the Nama as Vidishah, and derives the meaning based on ‘vid’ meaning ‘to know’ He explains the Nama as ‘sukham yasmat sa Vidishah – He Who is the cause of happiness in those who are knowledgeable (about Brahman).

Sri Raghunatha Thirtha explains the Nama as ‘Vi = atishayena, dishati = upadishati iti Vidishah’ – He Who shows in a special way, referring to Bhagavan showing the procedures for performance of sacrifices etc. – ‘vi = atishayena yajna kriya prakaran dishati = upadishati iti Vidishah’. The explanation can equally apply to His revelation of all the Shastras and Dharma.

  1.    Vyaadishah – He Who Commands

The basic root word is ‘Aadesh’ meaning ‘to command or to order’. On this basis, Sri Adi Sankara’s interpretation is ‘Vividhaam Ajnaam Shakraadeenaam Kurvan Vyaadishah – He gives various orders to the various Gods like Indra, Brahma etc., hence He is called Vyaadishah, the command-issuer’. The Universe behaves in an orderly manner obeying the laws of nature very faithfully. The Gods get their mandates from Bhagavan and carry them out scrupulously so the Universe functions smoothly. Thus, He is the one who directs the Gods with specific commands and is therefore called Vyaadishah, the Commander.

The word ‘Vyaadish’ means ‘to distribute, to divide among, to appoint, dispatch to any place or duty, direct, order, command’.  Sri Parasara Bhattar explains the Nama as ‘One Who establishes the likes of Brahma and Rudra in their respective functions – tesham abhimatam tat-tat padam atisrijati iti Vyaadishah.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers to Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (5.2.8), where the Azhwar refers to Bhagavan as the One who establishes the Devas in their respective positions:
இறுக்கு மிறையிறுத்துண்ண எவ்வுல குக்கும்தன் மூர்த்தி,
நிறுத்தினான் தெய்வங்க ளாக அத்தெய்வ நாயகன் றானே
மறுத்திரு மார்வன் அவன்றன் பூதங்கள் கீதங்கள் பாடி,
வெறுப்பின்றி ஞாலத்து மிக்கார் மேவித் தொழுதுய்ம்மி னீரே
Meaning: To accommodate the people with different desire for worship, Bhagavan formed the anya devatas from His body, and established them in their various positions so that offerings can be made to them, which ultimately reach Him. So, it is none other than Bhagavan who established the other deities in their various positions, so that they can collect offerings from their respective devotees, and pass them on to Him’. 

In Srimad Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 7 Verse 21), Lord Krishna says:
yo yo yam yam tanum bhaktah sraddhayarcitum icchati |
tasya tasyacalam sraddham tam eva vidadhamy aham   ||
Meaning: As soon as a devotee desires to worship any of the other Devas, I steady their faith and fulfil their desires so that they can devote themselves to the deity of their choice.

Srimad Srimushnam Andavan explains the Nama as ‘Visheshena Adishati iti Vyaadishah’ – He Who bestows the benefits as they deserve in accordance with their Karmas.

Sri Krishnan gives Bhagavan’s Vamana incarnation as an example: Bhagavan was satisfied that He fulfilled Indra’s wish; Indra was satisfied that he got his wish fulfilled; Mahabali was happy that he got the chance to give daanam to Maha Vishnu Himself; everyone in all the worlds got the blessings of His Holy Feet; The Azhwars were happy that they got to praise the Holy Feet that accomplished so much for the devotees; and the Shastras themselves were happy that Bhagavan proved their declaration that all the worlds belong to Him.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha uses the root ‘dish – atisarjane’ meaning ‘to grant, to allow’ (atisarjanam = daanam), and explains the Nama as ‘Vividham Asamantaat dishati = dadati iti Vyaadishah – He Who bestows diverse benefits on devotees from all directions is Vyaadishah.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj derives the Nama as: ‘Visheshena Adishati = Ajnapayati iti Vyaadishah’ – He Who commands in a special way (because everyone and everything is under His command, and there is no exception, it is command in a special way).

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan explains the Nama as – ‘Vividhaan adhikaaraantasya Adishati = Ajnaapayati adhikaarini tasmin evam eva ucitamiti bhaavah’ – He gives orders or commands to the different Devas as deemed appropriate.

Swami ChinmayAnanada explains the Nama as ‘One Who is unique in His Commanding Power. One Who orders even the phenomenal powers, the deities and the Gods’.

Sri Satya Sandha Thirtha explains the Nama as ‘Visheshena Adishati = Ajnaapayati iti Vyadishah’ – One Who has unique and special commanding power.

  1.    Dishah – He Who shows the righteous path

The word ‘Dish’ is used to mean ‘to show’. Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Samastanaam Karmanaam Phalaani Dishan Vedatmana Dishah – He indicates the fruits or consequences of various actions through the medium of the Vedas, hence He is called Dishah, the pointer’. It is often very difficult to know the right course of action under a given circumstance. Bhagavan has given guidance through the Vedas for all complex issues, hence He is called Dishah, one who shows the right path.

Sri Parasara Bhattar uses the meaning ‘command’ for the word Disha in explaining this Nama. In addition to establishing the likes of Brahma and Rudra in their positions, Bhagavan also commands and controls them in their proper functions. This is unlike His treatment of devotees such as Gajendra, who are treated with intimacy – na taan Gajendravat antarangi karoti, kim tu Ajnapayati iti Dishah.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri interprets the Nama as signifying that Bhagavan, in the form of the Vedas, shows what is good to follow, and what is bad that should be avoided.

Sri T.S. Krishnamoorthy interprets this as: ‘One Who, in the form of the Vedas, bestows on different beings the fruits of their ritualistic actions’.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj explains the Nama as – Dishati = dadati Karmaphalam iti Dishah – He Who gives the fruits of karma to the Jivas.

Swami ChinamyAnanda captures the same sense in his explanation: ‘One Who advises and gives knowledge. Lord Narayana has gives the knowledge of the Self in the form of Shrutis’.

Sri Raghunatha Thirtha explains the Nama as ‘Dishyate = Bhaktaih pracchyateiti Dishah’ – He Who is sought after or enquired into by the devotees, is Dishah.

Sri Satya Sandha Thirtha explains Dishah as ‘He Who transfers knowledge of Dharma – dharma jnana atideshanaat Dishah (‘vid – atisarjane’ meaning ‘to grant, to allow’).

Sri Vasishtha explains the Nama as ‘Dishati = Ajnaapayati Veda mukhenavishva nibandhanena ca, evam kartavyam evam na iti Dishah’ – He ordains, through the Vedas, the ways in which things should be done, and ways in which things should not be done.

In Summary

Anantarupo Anantashreeh Jitamanyur Bhayaapahah       |
Chaturashro Gabheeratma Vidisho Vyaadisho Dishah ||100||

He has infinite forms and shapes as He manifests Himself in each aspect of the Universe, hence He is called Anantarupah. He has unlimited and infinite power and so He is called Anantashreeh, one with unbounded capacity. He has conquered his anger and maintains a serene (Shaanta-akaaram) disposition, hence He is called Jitamanyuh. He removes the fear arising out of Samsara or repeated cycle of births and deaths in the minds of his devotees and hence He is called Bhayaapahah.

He is always motivated by justice and acts fairly, so He is called Charurashrah. His mind and form are unfathomable and beyond comprehension, hence He is called Gabheeratma. He grants appropriate fruits to various deserving persons depending on their respective merits, hence He is called Vidishah.  As the Commander-in-Chief, He gives various orders to Devas like Indra, hence He is called Vyaadishah.  He indicates the fruits or consequences of various actions through the medium of the 


Vedas, hence He is called Dishah, one who shows the right path.



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


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