In this part, we will explore the meaning of the 105th Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.

Yajnabhrit Yajnakrit Yajni Yajnabhuk Yajnasadhanah      |
Yajnaantakrit Yajnaguhyam Annam Annaada Eve Ca ||105|| 

He bears the full brunt of the responsibility of taking the Yajna to its successful completion. As the creator, He also created Yajna as a means for devotees to reach Him. He is the Master of all the Yajnas and it is for Him all the sacrifices are performed. It is He who consumes and enjoys the offerings made in the Yajnas. He is the One Who is sought through the Yajnas. He provides not only the inspiration to perform Yajnas but also the resources to perform the Yajnas. He is the One Who concludes the Yajnas fruitfully and He is the hidden underlying spirit of the noblest of Yajnas. He is eaten by all beings in His form as food and He is the Enjoyer of those who enjoy Him.

The above Shloka has the following Namas:

  1.     Yajnabhrit
  2.     Yajnakrit
  3.     Yajni
  4.     Yajnabhuk
  5.     Yajnasadhanah
  6.     Yajnaantakrit
  7.     Yajnaguhyam
  8.     Annam
  9.     Annaada Eve Ca

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

  1.     Yajna-bhrit – He Who brings about the completion of the sacrifice

The root word is ‘bhri’ meaning ‘to hold or support’. Based on this Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Yajnam bibharti pati iti va Yajnabhrit – He bears the full brunt of the responsibility for taking the Yajna to its successful completion, hence He is called Yajnabhrit’. When the success of a Yajna is threatened, Bhagavan lends a supporting hand and ensures its completion.

Sri Parasara Bhattar notes that even if there are deficiencies in the actual performance of a Yajna, the final offering of Purna Ahuti results in the rectification of all these deficiencies and the successful completion of the Yajna- ‘Vikalpam api Yajnam svasmarana Purnahutibhyaam pushnati iti Yajna-bhrit’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar gives the following support from the Shruti:
Pramaadaat kurvataam karma pracyavatyadhvareshu yat |
Smaranadeva tad-Vishnoh sampurnam syad-iti Srutih ||
Meaning: If there is a mistake in the performance of sacrifices due to negligence or oversight, the sacrifice will become imperfect. If the person thinks of Vishnu for the removal of these deficiencies, they are removed and the sacrifice becomes perfect. This is what the Shruti declares.

He Who supports the sacrifice and brings it to successful completion is called Yajna-bhrit – ‘Yajnam bibharti pushnati, dhaarayati iti Yajna-bhrit’.

The Yajamana must seek forgiveness for any deficiencies in the Yajna and offer the Purnahuti to Bhagavan who takes on the burden to perfect it. The final Ahuti that is offered, with divine thoughts at the Lotus feet of Lord Krishna, asking for His forgiveness for all the known and unknown, intended and unintended deficiencies in the performance of the Yajna to ensure that the Yajna becomes complete (Purnam). The faults inherent in the performer of the Yajna, the faults in the procedures, the faults used in the materials used in the offering, (deficiencies in mantra, tantra, vidhi, viparyasa etc.), are all forgiven by Bhagavan when the final Ahuti is made medidating on His Divine Feet.

Among the mantras that are meditated upon at the time of Purnahuti are:
PraayashcittAnyaseshani tapah karmany Atmakani vai |
yani tesham asheshaanaam Sri Krishnanu smaranam param ||
Upacarapadeshena kritan aharar maya|
Apacaran iman sarvan kshamasva Purushottama ||
Purnahutim uttamaam juhoti; karmam vai Purnahutih |
Avirgirbhih yatatona Unam tena uktim vidhema||

Swami Chinmayananda points out, Yajna here is not just confined to the sacrificial offerings made to the Gods, it also covers all acts performed as selfless service to the public at large. Bhagavan supports all such acts and ensures their successful conclusion. He continues his earlier interpretation of the term Yajna, and gives his interpretation for the current Nama as: One Who helps us conclude successfully all our good, dedicated, selfless acts of service to others.

  1.      Yajna-krit – He Who created the Sacrifice

The word ‘Krit’ means ‘to do or to create’. It can also take the form ‘Krintati’ when it means ‘to destroy’. On this basis, Sri Adi Sankara gives two interpretations. The first of his interpretation is ‘Jagat Aadou Yajnam Karoti Yajnakrit – At the time of creating the world, He also created the process of Yajna, hence He is called Yajnakrit, the Creator of Yajna’. Yajnakrit can also be interpreted as the performer of Yajna. In fact, the very creation of the world is an act of Yajna by Bhagavan.

Sri Sankara gives an alternate interpretation for the term krit to mean ‘One Who destroys’ – krintati: jagadadau Yajnam karoti, tadante Yajnam krintati iti va Yajna-krit – He Who created the sacrifices at the beginning, or He Who destroyed them at the end of the Universe.

Sri Parasara Bhattar give the interpretation that Lord Vishnu has this Nama because He created Yajna as a means for the well-being of the Universe.  Sri Bhattar’s interpretation is ‘Jagad- hitaaya Yajnamadi srijati iti Yajnakrit – He first created the sacrifice for the well-being of the Universe.

The following Slokas in the Bhagavad Gita explain in detail, in the words of Lord Krishna:

Saha-Yajnah praja srishtva purovaca prajapatih |

Anena prasavishyadhvam esha vostvishta kama-dhuk ||(BG 3.10)

Meaning: In the beginning, the Lord of all beings, creating man along with the sacrifices and said: By this shall you prosper; this shall bestow upon you all desirable things.
Devan bhavayat Anena te deva bhavayantu vah |
Parasparam bhavayantah Sreyah param avapsyatha ||(BG 3.11)
Meaning: By this (Yajna), please the gods, and the gods will support you. Thus nourishing one another, may you obtain the highest good.

Ishtaan bhogan hi vo deve daasyante Yajna bhavitah |(BG 3.12) – The gods, pleased by the sacrifice, will bestow on you the enjoyments you desire.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri elaborates on the connection and inter-dependence between the devas and the manushyas as follows: The Devas depend on the manushyas for their havir-bhagam through the Yajnas, and the people depend on the Devas for their sustenance through rain etc. Thus, Bhagavan has set up the Yajna as the bridge between the Devas and the people, therefore, He is called Yajna-krit.

The term Yajna-krit has also been interpreted as One Who is the performer of Yajnas. Swami ChinmayAnanda interprets this Nama as: One Who performs Yajna. He notes that the Lord issued forth Creation as an act of Yajna, a pure and selfless act of service to the Jivas.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj interprets as ‘Yajnan makhan svayamapi karoti avataara vigrahe iti Yajna-krit – He Who performs Yajnas Himself during His incarnations.

  1.     Yajni – He is the Master of Yajnas

He is Yajna personified and He is also its most important component. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara gives the interpretation as Yajnanam Tatsamaradhanatmanam Sheshee iti Yajni – He makes the Yajnas, which are performed as worship to Him, complete and meaningful, hence He is called Yajni, the core of Yajna’. As the scriptures proclaim ‘Yajno vai Vishnuh – Vishnu is the essence of Yajna and Yajni is the essence of Yajna. The two are one and the same. Yajna is just a manifestation of Bhagavan and therefore He is named Yajni, the Lord and recipient of every Yajna.

Sri Parasara Bhattar’s intereprtation is like that of Sankara, where he says ‘Sarva Yajnanam Sheshi Yajni – He Who is the Lord or Master of all the Yajnas. All Yajnas are performed to propitiate Him as He is the ultimate Bhokta.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers us to the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 9 Verse 24) in support:
Aham hi Sarva Yajnanam bhokta ca prabhureva ca |
Na tu mam abhijananti tattvenatash-cyavanti te ||
Meaning: For, I am the only Enjoyer and the only Lord of all sacrifices. They do not recognise Me in My true nature, and hence they fall”.

Sri Ramanujan also refers us to Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi – ‘Seigaip payan unbenum yaane ennum…. (Thiruvai Mozhi 5.6.4) – Fruits of acts anyone does are but Mine’.

Sri Thondaradipodi Azhwar in his Thirumozhi Parsuram 25 laments thus:
குரங்குகள் மலையை தூக்கக் குளித்துத்தாம் புரண்டிட் டோடி
தரங்கநீ ரடைக்க லுற்ற சலமிலா அணிலம் போலேன்
மரங்கள்போல் வலிய நெஞ்சம் வஞ்சனேன் நெஞ்சு தன்னால்
அரங்கனார்க் காட்செய் யாதே அளியத்தே னயர்க்கின் றேனே.
Meaning: Azhwar tells the Lord that he has not performed the Karmas ordained for his Varna, he has not followed the Jnana Yoga or the Bhakti Yoga, he has not spent any time singing the name of the Lord, he has not done anything even remotely similar to the offering of a flower like Gajendra, he has not even offered the relatively small service like the squirrels or the monkeys to Lord Rama, but the only thing he knows is to cry for the help from the Lord. The Lord accepts this as sufficient Yajna, and takes Azhwar to His Feet.

This example is an excellent illustration of why Bhagavan is called the Lord of all Yajnas. Bhagavan takes the offering of a flower by Gajendra, the offering of a few specks of sand by the squirrels, the service offered by the monkeys, or the sheer cry for help from Him, as a sufficient offering to Him, to bless His devotee.

Of course, one should remember that it is just sheer modesty of Azhwar to declare that he has no devotion of any kind, as he had devoted his life in the service of Lord Narayana.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha notes that the word Yajni is derived from the word Yajna by the addition of the ‘ini’ as suffix – Yajnah asya asti iti Yajni – He for Whom the sacrifices are performed.

  1.     Yajna-bhuk – The Enjoyer or the Protector of the sacrifice.

The root word for this Nama is ’bhuj’ which means ‘to enjoy’. The root word used is ‘bhuj – palanam abhyavaharayoh’ means ‘to protect, to eat, to consume, to enjoy’. Thus, both the meanings (He as the Enjoyer, and He as the Protector) are given.

Sri Adi Sankara gives two interpretations. The first is Yajnam bhungte iti Yajnabhuk – He consumes and enjoys the offerings made in the Yajna, hence He is called Yajnabhuk, the enjoyer of the Yajna’.  The second interpretation is ‘Yajnam bhunkte bhunakti iti va Yajnabhuk – He protects the Yajnas, hence He is called Yajnabhuk, the protector of the Yajnas’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets this Nama as He is One who protects the Yajna and ensures its completion.  He cites the example of Bhagavan once protecting the Yajna being performed by Brahma.

The Story of Lord Narayana protecting Brahma’s Yajna

Once Lord Brahma was preparing for Aswamedha Yajna to be performed in Kancheepuram. As one has to perform Yajna together with one’s consort, Brahma asked for Sage Vasistha to bring Goddess Saraswati.  Brahma commenced chanting the mantras and prepared for the Agnihotra and started offering havis (homam materials).

Meanwhile Goddess Saraswati refused to join as she was still angry with Brahma from a previous episode. Brahma decides to carry on with the Yajna by asking Savitri to join and continues with his Yajna.  As Saraswati learns of this, she is filled with further rage and she takes the form of the Vegavati river near Kancheepuram and surges towards the Yaagashaala to disrupt the Yajna.

Just then, Lord Narayana lies down on the Adhiseshan blocking the flow of the river towards the Yaagashala.  The Yajna was completed without further disruption.

This place in Kancheepuram is called Thiruvekka and one can obtain the divine blessings of Lord Narayana on Adiseshan in this divine temple.

Om Namo Narayanaaya _/\_

In the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 9 Verse 24), Bhagavan says ‘Aham hi Sarva Yajnanam bhoktaa ca prabhureva ca – I am the enjoyer and the Lord of all Yajnas’. In His Avataars, He plays an active role in the protection of Yajnas. For example, as Rama, He gave protection to the sacrifice performed by Vishwamitra.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj gives the following interpretation:
Ijyante diyante samarpyante svajanaih iti Yajnah, arthat nana-vidha rucirah padarthah |
tan bhunkte ashnati iti Yajna-bhuk ||
Meaning: He Who accepts and enjoys the different kinds of offerings that are offered with devotion by the devotees is Yajna-bhuk. He gives support from the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 9 Verse 26), where Bhagavan says:
Patram pushpam phalam toyam yome Bhaktya prayacchati |
Tadaham bhaktyupahrtam asnami prayatatmanah ||
Meaning: Whosoever, offers Me a leaf, a flower, a fuit or water with devotion, I accept and eat the offering of devotions by the pure-hearted.

For all the Yajnas performed, Bhagavan is the means, the end, the One Who is worshipped, the One Who is the Object of worship, and is also the One Who ensures the successful completion of the Yajna by protecting it from all obstacles. This is the significance of the interpretation that ‘He is the Protector of Yajnas’.

Swami ChinmayAnanda makes another important point – ‘All that is offered into the sacred Fire during a Yajna, though with an invocation to any of the deities, in tender devotion and with joy, goes to Him alone, The One receiver of all that is offered’.

  1.     Yajnasadhanah – He Who is attained through Yajnas as Sadhana

The term ‘Sadhanam’ means ‘an instrument or a tool to make something’. Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as Sadhanam tat Praptau iti Yajnasadhanah – He is a major instrument in the performance of a Yajna, hence He is called Yajnasadhanah, the instrument of Yajna’. He provides not only the inspiration to perform Yajnas but also the resources to perform the Yajnas. Without his goodwill and support it is impossible to perform Yajnas.

This Nama can also be interpreted as an instrument or a means to attain Him. Sri Parasara Bhattar gives the interpretation – te asya jnana-dvara asiddhyupaya iti Yajnasadhanah – The sacrifices are a means for the attainment of fruits only because of our knowledge about Him.

The emphasis is made that it is the knowledge about Bhagavan, about the relationship between us and Bhagavan – the Seshaseshi bhavam or the servant-Master relationship, and above all, the love with which the offerings are made to Him are essential for the attainment of the fruits. It is not so much the substance of what is offered that is important, but the dedication and devotion behind it that is important, as has been emphasized it repeatedly in the scriptures.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan’s interpretation is along similar lines – jnana danena Yajna upakaritvat Yajnasadhanah – Because He gives the knowhow for the performance of the Yajna, and thus assisting in the conduct of the Yajna, Bhagavan is called Yajnasadhanah.

Yajna can be described as any means adopted to attain Him – ‘Praapti upaayah Yajnam’ and does not necessarily need to be a Yajna with Agnihotram.  It includes all efforts employed to reach him like Smaranam, Sravanam, Kirtanam, Archanam etc. Bhagavan accepts these as ways to attain Him, so He is called Yajnasadhanah.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha explains the Nama as – ‘Yajnah sadhyate anena, Yajnam sadhayati va Yajnasadhanah’ – He through whom the Yajna gets accomplished, or He Who fulfils the Yajna, is Yajnasadhanah.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj notes that He is called Yajnasadhanah because He enables the devotees to perform the Yajna, and He is also Yajnasadhanah because He is attained through the Yajnas – ‘Yajnah puja Aradhanam va, tam bhaktanam sadhayati iti Yajna-sadhanah, tatha Yajnah puja sadhanam praptaye yasya iti Yajna-sadhanah’.

Swami ChinmayAnanda explains the Nama as: ‘One Who fulfils all yajnas. It is by His Grace alone that all noble endeavours undertaken in an honest and sincere manner gain spectacular success’. The term Yajna is used in a broad context to mean any effort undertaken for public good in a selfless way.

Sri Satya Sandha Thirtha explains the Nama as ‘Yajnasya sadhanam sruk sruvadikam mantradikam va yasmat iti Yajnasadhanah’ – He is called Yajnasadhanah since it is He who is the cause for the means such as the ladle, the mantras, agni, ghee etc. used during the Yajna. The terms sruk and sruva refer to two different types of ladles used in the Yajna (sruva refers to the smaller ladle, and sruk refers to the larger ladle). Lord Krishna declares in the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 4 Verse 24) that He is the means for all the aspects associated with a Yajna:
Brahmarpanam brahma havih brahmagnau brahmana hutam |
Brahmaiva tena gantavyam brahma karma samadhina || (Bhagavad Gita 4.24)
Meaning: Brahman is the instrument to offer with; Brahman is the oblation. By Brahman is the oblation offered into the fire of Brahman; Brahman alone is to be reached by him who meditates on Him in His works.

Bhagavad Ramanuja explains the term ‘Brahmarpanam’ as a reference to the means for offering in a Yajna, such as a ladle – ‘arpyate anena iti arpanam srugadi, tad brahma karyatvat brahma, brahma yasya havishah arpanam tad-brahmarpanam’ – That by which an offering is given, such as a ladle, is an arpana. It is called Brahman because it is an effect of Brahman, Brahman being the material cause of the Universe. Brahmarpanam is the oblation, of which the instrument is Brahman.

Sri Raghunatha Thirtha gives another interpretation – ‘Yajna Sabdah Subha-vaci, tam sadhayati iti Yajnasadhanah’ – The term Yajna refers to auspiciousness, and since Bhagavan gives auspicious results, He is called Yajnasadhanah.

  1.     Yajnaanta-krit – He Who produces the fruit of the sacrifices

The word ‘Anta’ means the finish or the successful conclusion.  Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara offers two interpretations, the first of which is ‘Yajnasya Antam Phalapraaptim Kurvan Yajnaantakrit – He brings about the conclusion of the Yajna by bestowing the desired fruit or the object of the Yajna, hence He is called Yajnaantakrit, the one concludes the Yajna fruitfully.’

The second interpretation is ‘Vaishnava Rik Shamsanena Purnahutya Purnam Kritva Yajna samaaptim karoti iti va Yajnaantakrit – He brings about the successful conclusion of the Yajna with the chanting of the vaishnavee Rik or the Purnahuti mantra as the final oblation, hence He is called Yajnaantakrit, one who formally brings the Yajna to a close’.

Yajnasya antam samaaptim phalam va karoti iti Yajnanta-krit – He Who brings about the successful conclusion of the Yajna, or He Who gives the fruits of the Yajna.

It should be remembered that Yajna is a Karma, and its goal is to attain the true knowledge of Bhagavan, when it is performed without material goals in mind. Sri Parasara Bhattar’s interpretation is that Bhagavan is called Yajnanta-krit since He makes the attainment of true knowledge about Him as the end and the goal of all sacrifices – Yajna paryavasanam sva-tattva jnanam karoti iti Yajnanta-krit.  Sri Bhattar quotes from the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 4, Verse 33) in support of this concept:
Shreyaan dravya mayat Yajnat jnana Yajnah parantapa |
Sarvam karma akhilam partha jnane parisamapyate ||
Meaning: Of the two sacrifices, the sacrifice of knowledge is superior to the component of material sacrifices. O’ Arjuna, all actions in their entirety culminate in knowledge.

He Who realises that great Brahman attains the Moksha Anandam; there is no other path to attain moksha – ‘tamevam vidvan amrita iha bhavati, naanyah pantha ayanaya vidyate’ –In other words, it is the knowledge about Him that ultimately leads to Moksha and as Bhagavan gives this knowledge, He is called Yajnanta-krit.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri quotes the following Shloka in support:
Yasya smritya ca namoktya tapo ya Su-kriyadishu |
Nyunam sampurnataam yati satyo vande tam acyutam ||
Meaning: Our prostrations to Achyuta Who brings to fruition any good act, by the very thought of Him or the mention of His Nama.

Swami ChinmayAnanda’s explanation for the Nama is: ‘One Who performs the last, concluding act in all Yajnas’. He notes that when total surrender of all vehicles and their actions is accomplished (in the form of Purnahuti offering), the transcendental experience of the Self, Narayana alone, comes to manifest in all His divine Splendour.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj notes that the Nama signifies that Bhagavan blesses the conclusion of the Yajna by His very auspicious appearance, out of His Sheer Mercy –
Yajnanam anto Ramaniyo bhagavad- Avirbhavavela |
Tamapi kripaya karoti it Yajnanta-krit |

He gives support from Srimad Bhagavatam (4.19.3):
Yatra Yajna-patih saakshaat Bhagavan harir Ishvarah |
Anvabhuyata sarvatma sarva-loka-guruh prabhuh ||
Meaning: The Supreme Deity, Lord Vishnu, has everything and everyone as His body, and He is the Lord and Master of all, Who was offered worship. The subsequent Slokas, e.g. 4.19.6 describe Bhagavan’s actual appearance at the Yajna, accompanied by the Siddhas, Kapila, Narada, Dattatreya, etc.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha notes that the Nama signifies that Bhagavan brings about the successful conclusion of the Yajna by removing all the obstacles, and also gives the fruits of the Yajna to the karta – vighnAn vihritya yo Yajnam samapayati, sampaditasya tasya Yajnasya yo antam = phalam ca dadati sa Yajnanta-krit abhidIyate.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan chooses the meaning that Bhagavan decides the final fruit of the Yajna – Yajnasya antam phala nishcayam karoti iti Yajnanta-krit.

In an alternative interpretation, Sri Satya Sandha Thirtha uses the root ‘kr – himsayam’ meaning ‘to hurt or to kill’, and explains the Nama as ‘One Who destroys or kills the likes of Subahu and Marici, who tried to put a premature end to the yajna performed by Sage Vishwamitra – Yajnasya anto naasho yebhyah te Yajnantaah Subahu Maricadayah, taan krinoti iti va Yajnanta-krit.

  1.     Yajna-guhyam – He Who is the secret of the sacrifice

The wordGuhyam’ means something ‘hidden or a secret’. Sri Adi Sankara interprets this to mean ‘Yajnanam Guhyam Jnana Yajnah, Phala abhisandhirahito va Yajnah; Tadabhedopacharat Bramha Yajnaguhyam – A Yajna performed for spreading Knowledge is the rarest or secret Yajna and so is the Yajna performed without any expectation of reward; Bramhan or Bhagavan is identified with these Yajnas and so He is called Yajnaguhyam, the hidden underlying spirit of the noblest of Yajnas’.

Only enlightened people can perform such Yajnas whose inner significance is Bhagavan himself. Sri Parasara Bhattar comments that Bhagavan is the ‘secret’ behind the sacrifice, because not everyone understands that He is the ultimate object of the sacrifice, even though Bhagavan is not in need of any offering, He still feels satisfied as if He has been long expecting the offerings, and enjoys them.

Only those who are wise and knowledgeable about the decrees, the means and the fruits of the sacrifices, realise this secret about Him. Sri Parasara Bhattar quotes the following from the MahaBharata in support:
Sarve vedah sarva vedyah sa sastrah Sarve Yajnah sarva ijyashca Krishnah |
Viduh Krishnam Brahmanas-tattvato ye tesham rajan Sarva-Yajnah samaaptah ||
Meaning: All the Vedas and the Shastras, all the sacrifices, and all worship – all are Sri Krishna. Those who know Krishna correctly this way, may be considered to have completed all the sacrifices successfully.

Jyotigmshi Sukrani ca yani loke Trayo lokah loka-paalas-trayi ca |
Trayognayashca Ahutayashca panca Sarve deva devakiputra eva ||
Meaning: All the shining luminaries in the Universe, the three worlds, the three guardians of the world, the three fires, and the five offerings in those holy fires, and all the gods, are all Sri Krishna, the Son of devaki.

Srimad Srimushnam Andavan explains that even though the offering in each Yajna may be for any of the other deities, the real Deity Who ultimately receives all the offerings is Bhagavan and no one else. Bhagavan is the antaryami of all these other deities, and while He feels satisfied with the offering, He also ensures that these other deities are satisfied, and thus it is no one other than Bhagavan Who is the ultimate object of all Yajnas. Not everyone who performs Yajnas understand this, and thus Bhagavan is the secret behind the Yajnas in this sense as well, so He is Yajna-guhyam.

Bhagavan can give to the performer of the Yajna, the benefit even up to moksham while accepting the relatively meager offering with great delight; in other words, there is no limit to the grace He can bestow on the performer of the Yajna in return for the relatively trivial offering. This is a great secret that is not easily understood as He keeps the means of Yajna as a great secret that is understood only by a few who know the Yajna Shastra, and so He is Yajna-guhyam.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri notes that there are two aspects to any sacrifice – the material aspects, and the thoughts behind the performance of the karma.  Lord Krishna declares that the thought behind the actions is more important than the act itself. When the thought itself is dedicated to Bhagavan without the aim of receiving some benefit for the performer of the Yajna; that is the best form of Yajna. This is the Yajnaguhyam, the secret behind the performance of Yajnas in their ultimate true sense.

Swami ChinmayAnanda explains the Nama as ‘The most profound truth to be realised in all Yajnas’. He elaborates thus – ‘The Self is the noblest truth to be sought through ‘offering’ all the dravya (objects) into the ‘consciousness’ (fire) in the ‘body’ (kunda). This kind of subjective Yajna is called in the Bhagavad Gita as Knowledge sacrifice (Jnana-Yajna). This is also called in the Vedas as Brahma Yajna.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan reinforces the true spirit behind the performance of sacrifices – It is for Bhagavan’s pleasure alone, and not for any material benefits for the performer, that the Yajna is to be undertaken, and so He is the secret behind the Yajnas – tena yajnena tasyaiva mukhya uddeshyatvat Yajna-guhyam.

  1.     Annam – He is the Object of Enjoyment

Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama in two ways, the first is ‘Adyate Bhootaih Annam – He is eaten by all beings in His form as food, hence He is called Annam, the one who manifests Himself as food to sustain life’. Sri Sankara’s second interpretation is ‘Atti cha Bhutaan iti Annam- He eats all beings when the time comes (Pralaya), hence He is called Annam, the consumer of all beings at the appropriate time’. Bhagavan is thus the prime mover in the Universal food cycle that rules our lives.

Sri Parasara Bhattar explains the Nama as ‘Bhoktrasaktibhih bhujyate iti annam’– He Who is enjoyed, or is the Object of enjoyment by those who have been blessed by Him with the power to enjoy Him. In fact, for the true devotee, everything except Bhagavan is not of interest, and He is everything for them.

The root from which the Nama is derived is ‘ad – bhakshane’ meaning ‘to eat’. atti bhakshati iti annam – He who consumes or enjoys is ‘Annam’. Alternatively, adyah iti Annam – That which is consumed or eaten, is Annam.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives another derivation using the root ‘ana – pranane’ meaning ‘to breathe or to live’.  He Who makes the beings live, or He because of Whom the beings exist – ‘aniti iti annam, yadva anyate = pranyate yena tad annam’. This can refer to the vital air that is necessary for the beings to survive and live. Sri Vasishtha also points out that the word ‘Annam’ is used in the Shruti to refer to any offering in a Yajna – that which can be offered as havis, including ghritam (ghee) etc.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refer us to Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (6.7.1):
உண்ணுஞ் சோறு பருகுநீர் தின்னும்வெற் றிலையுமெல்லாம்
கண்ணன், எம்பெருமான் னென்றென் றேகண்கள் நீர்மல்கி,
மண்ணினுள் அவன்சீர் வளம்மிக் கவனூர் வினவி,
திண்ண மென்னிள மான்புகு மூர்திருக் கோளூரே.
Meaning: To His devotee, everything is Krishna. Food – eaten to satisfy the appetite, water – drunk to quench the thirst, and betel leaves – consumed after the food, are all Krishna in their case. Saying His nama, speaking of His qualities, and thinking of Him, His devotee will feel the hunger and the thirst and all other needs satisfied. They will not eat any other food since Krishna-consciousness is enough food for them. Reciting His nama and enquiring everyone on the way ‘Am I on the right path to Thirukkolur? How far is it? The devotee will proceed without any other need for sustenance. The very thought of His place serves as nourishment for the devotee.

Sri Ramanujan also refers us the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 7 Verse 19) in support where Krishna says:
Bahunaam janmanaam ante jnanavan mam prapadyate |
Vasudevas sarvam iti sa mahatma sudurlabhah ||
Meaning: After many births and deaths, he who is actually in knowledge surrenders unto Me, knowing Me to be the cause of all causes and all that is. Such a great soul is very rare.

The well-known Shruti mantra from Taittriya Upanishad says:
Aham annam aham annam aham annam |
Aham annaado’ham annaado’ham annaadah |
Meaning: Bhagavan is Annam because He allows Himself to be enjoyed by those who are qualified and endowed with the knowledge to enjoy Him. He in turn enjoys those who thus enjoy Him, and so He is also called Annaadah – Enjoyer (next Nama).

Sri NammAzhwar refers to both the aspects of Bhagavan being Annam and Annaadah. In the ten Pasurams of Thiruvai Mozhi 5-10, Azhwar repeatedly refers to both these aspects. The entire Divya Prabandham is a treatise where the Azhwars relish Bhagavan as Annam. In Periya Thiruvandadi Pasuram 34, the Azhwar says:
பாலாழி நீகிடக்கும் பண்பை,யாம் கேட்டேயும்
காலாழும் நெஞ்சழியும் கண்சுழலும்,-நீலாழிச்
சோதியாய்! ஆதியாய்! தொல்வினையெம் பால்கடியும்,
நீதியாய்! நிற்சார்ந்து நின்று.
Meaning: Oh Lord! You have the brilliance of the dark Ocean, and You are the First Cause of all the Worlds. It is Your nature to remove the blemishes in the likes of me. When I think of You and the beauty of Your reclining posture in the Milky Ocean, the experience is so profound that my legs are not able to support me any more, my mind is not able to comprehend Your beauty, and my eyes experience the same profoundness.

Sri Kulasekhara Azhwar in his Perumal Thirumozhi (2.3) says:
ஏறடர்த்ததும் ஏனமாய்நிலம் கீண்டதும்முன்னி ராமனாய்
மாறடர்த்ததும் மண்ணளந்ததும் சொல்லிப்பாடிவண் பொன்னிப்பே
ராறுபோல்வரும் கண்ணநீர்கொண்ட ரங்கன்கோயில் திருமுற்றம்
சேறுசெய்தொண்டர் சேவடிச்செழுஞ் சேறெஞ்சென்னிக் கணிவனே
Meaning: When I sing Your glory – Your great feat of destroying the seven mighty bulls, Your lifting of the whole Earth in Your Varaha Avataar, Your measuring of the Earth in Trivikrama Avataar, Your causing destruction of the evil Ravana in your Rama Avataar, tears of joy well into my eyes and overflow like a river……and the slush created by the devotees coming makes the perfect Tilak for me.

Sri Thondaradipodi Azhwar, in this famour Pasuram from his Thirumaalai 2 says:
பச்சைமா மலைபோல்மேனி பவளவாய் கமலச் செங்கண்
அச்சுதா அமர ரேறே ஆயர்தம் கொழுந்தே என்னும்
இச்சுவை தவிர யான்போய் இந்திர லோக மாளும்
அச்சுவை பெறினும் வேண்டேன் அரங்கமா நகரு ளானே.
Meaning: O’ Lord of Arangama-nagar (Ranganatha), with the hue of a huge green mountain! Lord of coral lips, lotus-red eyes, Achyuta! Lord of Eternals, O Cowherd-Lord”, — denying the joy of praising you thus, if I were given to rule Indra’s kingdom, – even if you gave it, – I shall not want it. The Azhwar shuns even the Indra Loka for the pleasure of enjoying the Lord who is like a nectar.

Sri Thiruppaan Azhwar in his Amalanaadipiraan Pasuram 10 says:
கொண்டல் வண்ணனைக் கோவல னாய்வெண்ணெய்
உண்ட வாயன்என் னுள்ளம் கவர்ந்தானை
அண்டர் கோனணி யரங்கன்என் னமுதினைக்
கண்ட கண்கள்மற் றொன்றினைக் காணாவே.
Meaning: The dark-hued Lord is, the Lord who came as a cowherd-lad and stole butter, He is the Lord of the Devas, and the Lord of Arangam also. He has stolen my heart. After seeing my Lord of ambrosial delight, my eyes will seeks to see nothing else.

Swami ChinmayAnanda gives the alternate interpretation that He is called Annam – One Who eats – ‘Atti bhutaani iti Annam’ – He Who consumes everything at the time of pralaya. He includes all the sense-objects that satisfy the needs of the sense-organs under scope of Annam represented by Him, and explains this as ‘One Who has Himself become the sense- objects which are the ‘food’ consumed by the sense-organs’.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj uses the root ‘Aana – pranane’ meaning ‘to breathe or to live’, and gives the explanation – ‘anyante upjivyante Bhaktah yena svadarshana-dana dvara iti Annah’ – Bhagavan sustains the Bhaktas by giving them His darshan, and so He is the Sustainer – Annam.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan extends the topic of Yajna that has been the subject of the previous Namas to the current one as well, and explains the Nama as indicating that at the successful conclusion of the Yajna by the devotee, when the devotee reaches the ultimate objectives of Sri Vaikuntham. Bhagavan presents Himself to the devotee in the forms of the most enjoyable objects in Sri Vaikuntham through His sankalpa Shakti, and so He becomes the ultimate Annam for the devotee – ‘Yajna labhye parama vyomni yad-divya-rasa- gandhAdikamadanIyam bhogyam’.

  1.     Annaadah Eve Ca – The Enjoyer of those who enjoy Him

Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Annam atti iti Annaadah – He devours food, hence He is called Annaadah, the consumer of food’. At the time of dissolution of the Universe all objects are taken out of existence or consumed by Bhagavan and in that sense, He is the great consumer of food or Annaadah.

The participle Eva is used in the sense of ‘after all’ per Sri Sankara. He says ‘Sarvam Jagat Annadirupena Bhoktru Bhogyaatmakam eva iti Darshayitum Evakaarah – The whole world plays the dual role of being both food and consumer of food (victim and predator!) and Bhagavan after all demonstrates the same role of being Annam and Annaadah’.

Per Sri Sankara the use of Ca implies that every name here applies to a single underlying Super entity. He says ‘Ca shadbah Sarvanam naam Ekasmin Parasmin Pumsi Samucchitya Vrittim Darshayitum – Ca is used to emphasise that all Namas given in the Sahasranamam point to a single root Bramhan or Supersoul’.

The word ‘Annam’ can be derived from the roots ‘ad – bhakshane, or ‘ana – pranane’, as indicated in the previous Nama, and one of the meanings is food. In the current context, the meaning is that Bhagavan is the Enjoyer of those who enjoy Him. The previous Nama indicated that He is the One who is enjoyed by His devotees as Annam, and in the current Nama He in turn enjoys the devotees who enjoy Him – Annam atti iti Annaadah.

Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets this Nama as – ‘Taanshca tatha bhunkte iti Annaadah – He is Annaadah since He also enjoys them in the same way as they enjoy Him’. He proceeds to explain the significance of the next two words – eva and ca, which are not Namas of Bhagavan per se. He explains that the significance of the word eva is that there is no one else like Him – ko anya Idrishah? iti eva-kaarah. The significance of the word ca is that all that has been described thus far are present perfectly in this one Deity, namely Lord Vishnu – ‘ca’ Sabdah sarvamuktam ekatra asmin samuccinoti |

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan echoes the same interpretation for the words eva and ca – ‘na hyetadrik anyosti iti bodhayitum eva-kaarah |

nikhila bhhogya samuccaya ca-kaarah ||

This mutual love of the devotees to Bhagavan (He being Annam), and for Bhagavan to His devotees (He being Annaadah), is beautifully described by Sri NammAzhwar in his Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (9.6.10), almost like a mutual competition of who enjoys whom most:
வாரிக் கொண்டு உன்னைவிழுங்குவன் காணிலென்று
ஆர்வற்றவென்னையொழிய என்னில்முன்னம்
பாரித்து தானென்னை முற்றப்பருகினான்
காரொக்கும் காட்கரையப்பன்கடியனே.
Meaning:  The Azhwar says that he had been just waiting to see Bhagavan, and as soon as He would see Him, his plan was to just swallow Him completely with nothing left for anybody else. But even before that could happen, Bhagavan planned more skillfully, and displayed His extreme sausheelyam to Azhwar. This made Azhwar melt down completely, and Bhagavan just drank him totally in this ‘dravya’ form. Azhwar exclaims that this Thirukkaatkarai Appan is an extremely hard nut to crack, and One with whom no one can compete in this kind of game, or in anything else for that matter. Azhwar wanted to make Him Annam, but Bhagavan instead became the Annaadah in this case.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri comments that everything in this world can be classified in two categories: food, and the eater of food. Sri Bhishma indicates to Dharmaputra that Vasudeva who is seated in front of them is the One that has been described all along through all the Namas starting with Vishvam, all the way up to the current Nama. In the next Shloka, he states explicitly that Lord Vishnu who has been praised in all the previous Shlokas, is none other devaki-nandana Krishna Who is seated in front of them.

The concluding section of Bhrigu Valli in the Taittriya Upanishad summarises that Bhagavan pervades food as well as the eater of food, and so He is both, the form of Annam and Annaadah – aham annam annamadantamadmi.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj explains the Nama as – Annam – svajanopahrtam modakani atti iti Annaadah – Bhagavan is called Annaadah because He gladly accepts the offerings from His devotees.

In Summary

Yajnabhrit Yajnakrit Yajni Yajnabhuk Yajnasadhanah     |
Yajnaantakrit Yajnaguhyam Annam Annaada Eve Ca ||105||

He bears the full brunt of the responsibility of taking the Yajna to its successful completion, hence He is called Yajnabhrit. At the time of creating the world He also created the process of Yajna, hence He is called Yajnakrit, the Creator of Yajna. He is the Lord or Master of all the Yajnas, hence He is called Yajni. All the sacrifices are performed for Him and He consumes the offerings with enjoyment, hence He is called Yajnabhuk, the enjoyer of the Yajna.  He provides not only the inspiration to perform Yajnas but also the resources to perform the Yajnas, so He is called Yajnasadhanah.

He concludes the Yajna fruitfully, hence He is Yajnaantakrit. Bhagavan is identified with these Yajnas and so He is called Yajnaguhyam, the hidden underlying spirit of the noblest of Yajnas. He is eaten by all beings in His form as food, hence He is called Annam, the one who manifests Himself as food to sustain life. He enjoys those who enjoy Him and He is the Supersoul, hence He is Annaadah Eve Ca.



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



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