In this FINAL PART of the Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam series, we will explore the meaning of the PhalaShruti (benefits) of chanting of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.

PhalaShruti 1

Bhishma Uvaca:
Iteedam Kirtaniyasya Keshavasya Mahatmanah |
NaamNaam Sahasram Divyaanaam Aseshena prakirtitam || (1)
Meaning: Bhishma says, ‘Thus, the thousand divine Namas of Bhagavan Keshava, the Supreme Being, Who is worthy of being praised, have been sung in their entirety’.

Sri Adi Sankara says ‘Iteedam iti anena Namasahasram Anyuna Anatiriktam iti Darshayati Divyanam Apraakritanaam naamnaam Sahasram Prakirtitam iti vadataa Prakarantarenapi Sankhyopapattir darshitaa – The term ‘iteedam’ clearly indicates that the thousand Namas are divine in nature and complete, neither short nor excess of thousand. Also the term ’Prakirtitam’ implies the the fulfilment of the thousand Namas at the end of the shloka.

Sri Sankara further says ‘Prakrame Kim Japan muchyate Jantuh’ iti Japa Shabda upaadaanaat Kirtayet iti anena api trividha Japo lakshyate; Uccha Upaamshu Maanasa Lakshanas trividhah Japah – Both Japa and Kirtana as a form of recitation is mentioned. The significance of this is that Sri Vishnu- Sahasranama can be performed in any of the three forms viz. chanting loudly, whisper to self or by mental contemplation’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar comments that the word ‘kirtaniyasya’ has been chosen to indicate that Bhagavan richly deserves the praise, and by using this word, Bhishma is impressing upon Yudhishtra to begin the recitation of the Namas right awaynstant. The choice of Keshava in this verse is intentional and signifies the all encompassing trinity (Supreme Being).  ‘Ka’ means Brahma, ‘A’ means Vishnu and ‘Isa’ means Rudra; hence ‘Kesa’ denotes Trimurthi’s (the three embodiments) who are under His control.

The word ‘Divyanaam’ means ‘divine’ and applied to the Namas signifies that the Namas are worthy of being sung in this world as well as in Sri Vaikuntham. The word ‘Asheshena’ is used to denote that nothing that is significant or important has been left out by Bhishma in his communication to Yudhistra, and everything that needs to be known has been taught.

PhalaShruti 2

Ya Idam Shrunuyannityam Yashchapi Parikirtayet
Naashubham Praapnuyaat Kinchit Somutreha cha Maanavah ||2||

Sri Adi Sankara explains that nothing inauspicious or unwelcome will accrue to those in this world or the next, when one hears this daily or recites it. The word ‘Amutra’ meaning in the next world has a special significance pointed out by Sri Sankara ‘Paraloka Praaptasyaapi Yayaati Nahushaadivat Ashubhapraapti abhaavam Suchayitum Amutra ityuktam’ – Yayaati and Nahusha ended up suffering after reaching the higher world, because they committed sins even after reaching there. Such inauspicious instances will not happen to those who chant or listen to this divine Sahasranamam’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar comments that he, who according to his qualification and ability, hears it or meditates on it in his mind, will encounter nothing inauspicious in this world, or hereafter. Note that the benefit is attained by chanting, as well as by listening.

PhalaShruti 3

Vedantago Bramhanas Syaat Kshatriyo Vijayee Bhavet                     |
Vaishyo Dhanasamruddhas Syaat Shudrah Sukham Avapnuyat ||3||

The basic meaning is ‘The Brahmins will get knowledge. The Kshatriyas will get victory. The Vaishyas will get abundant wealth. The Shudras will get peace and happiness chanting these Namas’.

Sri Adi Sankara gives a very elaborate commentary on the meaning of this Shloka. He explains ‘Vedantanam Upanishadam artham Bramha gacchati Avagacchati iti Vedantagah – The one who understands or grasps the meaning of Vedanta or Upanishads is Vedantagah’.

He explains further with reference to the question ‘Kim Japan Muchyate Jantuh Janmasamsaara bandhanaat?’ from the prelude to Vishnu Sahasranamam ‘What sort of meditation helps us to get liberated from the bondage of earthly existence?’ It clearly shows that liberation is not achieved by any sort of action but only by knowledge, wisdom and enlightenment. This is emphasised by the phrase ‘Vedantago Bramhanas Syaat’. Sri Sankara further states ‘Karmanaam tu Antah karana Shuddhidvaarena Mokshahetutvam – Action is an effective tool for liberation by purifying the mind but is not sufficient by itself’.

He quotes a number of Shlokas to further this concept:

  • Kashaayapaktih Karmaani Jnaanam tu Pramaa gatih
    Kashaaye karmabhih Pakve Tato jnaanam Pravartate
    Meaning: Action is able to bring the mind to a state of maturity but liberation is achieved only through Knowledge, after the ground is prepared by action.
  • Nityam jnanam Samasadya Naro bandhaat pramuchyate – People get liberated after achieving the eternal knowledge.
  • Dharmaat Sukham cha jnanam cha Jnanat Moksho Adhigamyate – Out of righteous conduct, wealth and knowledge emerge and out of knowledge one gets final liberation’.
  • In the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 5 Verse 11) Krishna says ‘Yoginah Karma kurvanti Sangam tyakvaa Atmashuddhaye’ – Yogis resort to action without attachment for purifying their minds.
  • Bramha Puranam (129.7) says ‘Karmanaa badhyate Jantuh Vidyaya eva Vimuchyate Tasmaat karma na kurvanti Yatayah Paaradarshinah’ – Action leads to bondage, only knowledge to liberation, hence those who seek liberation refrain from desirous action.
  • Garuda Puranam (1.237.6) says ‘Tapasaa Kalmasham Hanti Vidyayaa Amritam Ashnute; Jnaanam Utpadyate Pumsaam Kshayaat Paapasya Karmanah; Yathaadarshatalaprakhye Pashyati Aatmaanam Aatmani’ – One burns away the sins by penance but gains immortality through Knowledge; As the sin goes away Knowledge is generated and starts seeing the Self through the mirror of the self.

Sri Sankara gives further references from the Vedas and Upanishads. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (4.4.22) says:
Tametam Vedaanuvachanena Bramhanaa vividishanti |
Yajnena daanena tapasa anashakena ||
Meaning: The Bramhins seek to know it through the study of the Vedas, sacrifices, charity and austerity consisting of dispassionate enjoyment of sense-objects.

Veda says the following:

  • By performing any homam including the Darvihomam, only the mind is cleansed ‘Yena Kena Yajetaapi vaa Darvihomena anupahatamana eva bhavati’.
  • Liberation is achieved only by Knowledge – ‘Jnaanat eva moksho bhavati’.
  • Only from Knowledge Liberation and freedom from ties are possible – ‘Jnaadeva tu kaivalyam Praapyate tena muchyate’.
  • One who knows the Bramhan attains the highest – ‘Bramhavidyapnoti Param’.
  • One who knows the Self is free from misery – ‘Tarati Shokam Aatmavit’.
  • If you know the Bramhan you become the Bramhan – ‘Bramha veda Bramhaiva Bhavati’.
  • To know the Bramhan you have to become the Bramhan – ‘Bramhaiva San Bramhaapyeti’.
  • Knowing him you conquer death and there is no other way for salvation – ‘Tameva Viditvaa atimrityum eti Naanyah Panthaa Vidyate Ayanaaya’.
  • One who knows the joy of the Bramhan fears nothing – ‘Anandam Bramhano vidvaan na bibheti kutashchana’.
  • If within the human birth, if one attains that knowledge it is great, otherwise it is a great loss – ‘Iha chet Avedeet atha satyam asti na chet ihaavedeen mahatee Vinashtih’.
  • Just as it is never possible to roll up the akasa (sky) as a piece of leather (like a Saree) so it is utterly impossible to put an end to miseries of the world without the knowledge of the Lord – ‘Yadaa charmavat Aakaasham Veshtayishyanti Maanavaah; Tadaa Devam Avijnaaya Duhkhasayaanto Bhavishyati’.
  • You cannot attain immortality by actions, by progeny or by wealth; You can only do it by renunciation of everything – ‘Na Karmanaa na prajayaa dhanena Tyaagaa Naike Amrutatvam Aanashuh’.
  • This state of perfection, which is attained by the real sanyasis, is situated far beyond this world, and is difficult to reach for the ordinary man – ‘Vedaanta Vijnaana Sunishchitaarthaah Sanyaasayogaat Yatayash Shuddhasatvaah; Te Bramhaloke Tu Paraantakaale Paraamrutaah Parimuchyanti Sarve’.

Those Sanyasis, who after realising the actual import of the Vedas, having given up their personal sense enjoyment to be in the service of the Lord, and being completely free from the influence of the material world, will attain liberation from the material world at the end of their lives’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar declares the benefits attained by people of the four varnas, when they chant the Sahasranamam even without necessarily seeking any specific benefit, or following any special discipline etc.

PhalaShruti 4

Dharmaarthi Praapnuyaat Dharmam Arthaarthi Chartham Aapnuyaat |
Kaamaan Avaapnuyaat Kaami Prajaarthi Chaapnuyaat Prajaah ||4||
Meaning: The one who desires righteousness (Dharma), will be blessed with that; the one who desires worldly riches will be blessed with wealth; the one who wishes for the pleasures of life, will be bestowed with all pleasures; the one who desires progeny will be blessed with children.

PhalaShruti 5

Bhaktimaan Yah sadotthaaya Shucih tad-gata-manasah    |
Sahasram Vasudevasya Naamnaam Etat prakeertayet     ||5||
Meaning: He (the reciter of the 1000 Namas of the Lord) who is suffering from any disease will be rid of it. He who is in bondage will be liberated. He who is affected by fear will overcome it, and he who is in difficulties will be free of it.

The devotee, pure of mind and persevering with fully focussed attentive meditation should recite these one thousand Namas of Lord Vasudeva’

Sri Parasara Bhattar’s words are – ‘Atha niyama visheshavat japa rupa sankirtane bhaktasya sarva samriddhim Aha’ – One who recites these as Japa or kirtana will attain all kinds of benefits.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri explains that the stated benefis accrue to those who have single-minded devotion to Vasudeva, meditates on Him constantly, is pure in thought, word and deed, and chants the thousand Namas of Vasudeva as laid down in this Shloka.

  • Bhaktimaan – A devotee. Specifically, it refers to the devotee of Vasudeva (Vasudevasya Naamnaam) with single-minded devotion.
  • Sada utthaaya – always getting up early in the morning.
  • Shucih – The purity referred to is both external and internal. The external purity involves taking a bath etc. The other aspects of purification involved here are the strict observance of nitya karmas as laid down in the Shastras for the devotee, the Varna Ashrama dharmas. Our Acharyas emphasise that any activity undertaken without observing the nitya karmas will end up as a wasted effort.
  • tad-gata-manasah – The mind of the devotee should be concentrated on Bhagavan Vasudeva.
  • Prakirtayet – kirtana specifically refers to chanting, recitation. The specific benefits that such a devotee will attain are specified in the next three Shlokas.

PhalaShruti 6

Yashah Praapnoti Vipulam yaati Praadhaanyameva cha            |
Acalaam Shriyam Aapnoti Shreyah Prapnotyanuttamam ||6||
Meaning: He (the reciter of the 1000 Namas of the Lord) becomes endowed with great reputation and becomes the foremost among his kith and kin. He acquires undiminishing wealth in this world, and he also gets unexcelled prosperity in the next (namely, salvation).

Sri Parasara Bhattar has given his interpretation for the above Shlokas in two short sentences:

  • anuttamam Shreyah meaning Mukti
  • anye abhyudaya visheshaah meaning Salvation as all the other fruits mentioned are fruits of success in this world

Thus, for instance, being rid of fear in this world can be understood as the full confidence that Bhagavan will definitely redeem us from the ocean of Samsara at the end of this birth.

PhalaShruti 7

Na Bhayam Kvachit Aapnoti Viryam Tejashcha Vindati  |
Bhavatyarogo Dyutimaan Balarupagunanvitah           ||7||

There is no fear for him (the reciter of the 1000 Namas of the Lord) from any quarters. He acquires valour and power. He is endowed with good health and always shines. He is bestowed endowed with strength, a healthy body, and noble qualities’.

PhalaShruti 8

Rogaarto Muchyate Rogaat Baddho Muchyeta Bandhanaat |
Bhayaan Muchyeta Bheetastu Muchyetaapanna Aapadah ||8||
Meaning: He, who recites these 1000 Namas of the Lord, who is suffering from any disease will get over it. He who is in bondage will be relieved of it. He who is affected by fear will become free from it, and he who is in difficulties will become rid of them.

  • Rogarto mucyate rogaat – the devotee will be rid of the greatest of diseases, namely attachment to the worldly and materialistic objects of this life, and, above all, the attachment to this body and to all the things associated with the body;
  • Bhayaan mucyeta bhItah – the devotee will be rid of the greatest of all fears – the fear of repeated births, the fear of Samsara;
  • Yashah praapnoti – the devotee will be known for his single-minded devotion to Vasudeva, as his greatest accomplishment;
  • Dyutimaan, tejashca vindati – the tejas of such a devotee will be self-revealing, as we can feel in the presence of our Acharyas.

PhalaShruti 9

Durgaanyatitaratyaashu Purushah Purushottamam     |
Stuvan Naamasahasrena Nityam Bhaktisamanvitah ||9||
Meaning: The one who, with devotion, praises the Supreme Being (Purushottaman) reciting His thousand Namas daily, surmounts all difficulties very easily.

PhalaShruti 10

Vasudevaashrayo Martyo Vasudeva parayanah                 |
Sarva papa vishuddha atma Yaati Bramha Sanaatanam ||10||
Meaning: Any one, who has taken refuge of Vasudeva with the thought that Vasudeva is the highest goal to be reached, becomes cleansed of all sins and his mind becomes pure. He finally attains the eternal abode of Brahma.

PhalaShruti 11

Na Vasudeva Bhaktaanaam Ashubham Vidyate Kvachit   |
Janma Mrityu Jaraa Vyaadhi Bhayam Naivo pajaayate ||11||
Meaning: The devotees of Vasudeva need not worry of any inauspicious occurrence anytime. They will not have any fear from transitions like birth, death, old age and disease.

PhalaShruti 12

Imam Stavam Adheeyaanah Shraddha bhakti Samanvitah |
Yujyeta atma Sukhah Shanti Shri Dhriti Smriti Kirtibhih   ||12||
Meaning: The one who recites this with faith and devotion will attain peace of mind, forbearance, wealth, courage, strong memory and great fame.

Sri Adi Sankara says ‘Shraddha AstikyaBuddhih; Bhaktir Bhajanam Taatparyam; Aatmanah Sukham Aatmasukham; Tena cha Kshaantyaadibhishcha Yujyate – Shraddha means faith in the Lord; Bhakti means dedication and devotion to the Lord; Atmasukham means comfort within oneself; from these qualities one gets forbearance etc. automatically.

Sri Parasara Bhattar comments – niyamavato bhaktasya anushanginim abhyudaya siddhim Aha – For the devotee who recites the Namas in accordance with the scriptural injunctions, there is attainment of prosperity of all kinds that come as a matter of course.

He explains the term Shraddha as sa-gaurava tvara – Eagerness associated with respect. He also comments that bhakti is a result of highly meritorious acts – bhagavati bhaktih mahatah su-kritasya phalam. Thus a true devotee should chant the shlokas with sincere devotion and interest, and should accompany the chanting with other meritorious acts as a way of life. Sri Bhattar further adds that ‘Govinda bhaktyabhyadhikam Sreyashca anyat na vidyate’ – There is no act superior to unflinching devotion to Lord Govinda.

Sri V.V. Ramanujam has used the term anusandhanam (which means inquiry, investigation, scrutiny etc.), in the context of this Shloka. Thus, the difference between the two, is that the first discusses the benefits attained by the Bhakta who chants the Shloka, while the second is about the benefits attained by the Bhakta who delves deep into the meanings etc.

PhalaShruti 13

Na Krodho Na Cha Maatsaryam Na Lobho Naashubhaa Matih |
Bhavanti Kritapunyaanaam Bhaktaanaam Purushottame    ||13||
Meaning: In the case of the devotees of the great Lord, who have acquired lot of good deeds (in order to be devotees), their mind is completely free from anger, jealousy, greed and evil thoughts.

Sri Adi Sankara gives the comment ‘Na Krodho, Na Lobho, Naashubhaa Matih iti ChakaaraanubandhaRahitena Nakaarena Samastam Padatrayam Krodhodayo Na Bhavanti Maatsaryam cha na Bhavati iti Arthah – In this phrase there is no ‘cha’ attached to Krodhah, Lobhah and Ashubhaa Matih but ‘cha’ is only added to Maatsarya implying that not only anger, lust and evil thoughts are absent in the devotees, but also jealousy is absent’. Since other three generally coexist with jealousy, the absence of jealousy is purely incidental to the absence of the other three and hence the use of ‘cha’ or ‘also’ for jealousy.

Sri Parasara Bhattar comments that as a matter of natural course, these defects by themselves keep away from the devotees of Lord Vasudeva.

PhalaShruti 14

Dvauh sa Chandraarka Nakshatram Kham Disho BhurMahodadhih |
Vasudevasya Viryena Vidhrutaani Mahaatmanah                    ||14||
Meaning: The firmament with the Sky, the Sun, the  Moon and the stars embedded in it, all the directions, the Earth and the Ocean – all these are held together in place by the power of the great Bhagavan Sri Vasudeva.

Sri Parasara Bhattar says that there is nothing to doubt about the power and greatness of Bhagavan Sri MahaVishnu, as described in the current Shloka and the next few Shlokas.

PhalaShruti 15

SasuraasuraGandharvam Sa yakshoragaRaakshasam       |
Jagadvashe Vartatedam Krishnasya Sacharaacharam ||15||
Meaning: This entire world, with all its movable and immovable objects (including the Devas, the Asuras, the Gandharvas, the Yakshas, the Snakes and the Demons), is fully under the total control of Lord Krishna.

PhalaShruti 16

Indriyani Mano Buddhih Satvam Tejo Balam Dhritih                |
Vasudeva atmakaanyaahuh Kshetram Kshetrajna Eva Cha ||16||
Meaning: The scriptures declare that the sense-organs, mind, intellect, the quality of sattva, shine, strength, firmness, as well as the body and the Individual soul, all of them have Vasudeva as their Atma or Inner Soul.

Sri Parasara Bhattar comments that this state of all things being under the control of Vasudeva is explained as the body-soul relationship between all objects and Bhagavan. This relationship between the individual soul and the Supreme Soul as one of body-soul relationship is a key aspect of the Vishishta Advaita philosophy.

PhalaShruti 17

Sarvaagamaanaam Aachaarah Prathamam Parikalpate             |
AachaaraPrabhavo Dharmah Dharmasya Prabhurachyutah ||17||
Meaning: All the scriptures declare proper conduct as the first priority in one’s life. Dharma or righteousness springs from right conduct and Achyuta is the foremost upholder of Dharma.

Sri Adi Sankara comments ‘Sarvaagamaanaam Aaacharah-iti anena Avaantara vaakyena Sarva dharmanaam Acharavatah eva Adhikaarah iti Darshayati – By this categorical statement Vyasa makes it very clear that right conduct lies at the root of all Dharma. In other words right conduct is the crystallised outcome of Dharma. Right conduct is the foremost discipline to be observed as noted in all the scriptures.

PhalaShruti 18

Rishayah Pitaro Devaah Mahabhutani Dhaatavah              |
Jangamajangamam Chedam JaganNarayanodbhavam ||18||
Meaning: All the Sages, the departed ancestors, the Devas, the great elements, their effects, the moving and the non-moving objects that comprise the Universe, all have their origin in Narayana.

Sri Parasara Bhattar notes that anything and anyone that is under the influence and control of Dharma has Bhagavan as their origin: dharmanubandhinAmapi tad udbhavatvam Aha.

PhalaShruti 19

Yogo Jnanam Tatha Sankhyam Vidyahs Shilpaadi Karma Ca |
Vedas Shastraani Vijnaanam Etat Sarvam Janardanaat         ||19||
Meaning: The science of Yoga, Sankhya, all branches of knowledge, the arts such as sculpture, all Vedas, all scriptures and all sciences were all brought to light by the grace of Lord Janardana.

PhalaShruti 20

Eko Vishnur Mahadbhutam PrithagBhutaanyanekashah          |
Tri Lokaan Vyapya Bhutatma Bhungte Vishvabhugavyayah ||20||

Sri MahaVishnu is One and has an Immense form, yet he divides Himself and exists in all beings in many different ways. He pervades the three worlds and rules over all of them. He enjoys them and consumes them. He himself has no death or decay.

Sri Parasara Bhattar provides a word-by-word meanings and interpretation:

  • Ekah – svayam ekah san – Being the Supreme Deity above all else;
  • Vyapya – tesham niyama Seshitva Adibhih Atma bhavan – By pervading, by being the Inner Soul of, Controller of, and Master of all beings
  • Anekashah prithak bhutani – asa’nkhyeyataya rupa-prakara- parinamaprayojana bhedena prithak ca sthitani mahanti bhutani – The great Elements that are of countless forms, manners, mutations, and utility which are distinct and different from one another.
  • Trin lokaan ca – Baddha mukta nityan cetanan – And of the three worlds of souls, namely, the bound souls, Released souls, and Eternal angels.
  • Vishva-bhuk – Sarvatha paripalakah – And by being the Sole Protector of everything in all the Worlds.
  • Tathapi – Even so,
  • Avyayah – tad-doshaih aparamrshtah, punashca para vibhutya – being untouched by the faults of any of the souls of whose He is the antaryami.
  • Mahad-bhutam – ava’ng-manasa gocarashca bhavan – His greatness is beyond description, either through words or imagination of the mind, etc.
  • Bhunkte – Leela bhoga rasam anubhavati – And He enjoys the pleasure of Divine Sport and Divine Bliss.

PhalaShruti 21

Imam Stavam Bhagavato Vishnor Vyasena Kirtitam                     |
Pathedya Icchet Purushah Shreyah Praaptum Sukhaani Ca ||21||
Meaning: Any person, who wishes to obtain supreme bliss as well as the pleasures of the world, should read this hymn of Bhagavan Vishnu composed by the great Sage Vyasa.

Sri Adi Sankara comments ‘Imam stavam ityaadina Sahasra Shakhajnena Sarvajnena Bhagavata Krishnadvaipayanena Saakshat Narayanena Kritamiti Sarvaireva Arthibhih Saadaram Pathitavyam Sarvaphalasiddhaye iti Darshayati – By the verse beginning with ‘imam stavam’, Bhishma indicates that this hymn is composed by the revered Sage Krishna Dvaipayana (Vyasa), the knower of all things, the knower of the thousand branches of Veda, who is Narayana Himself, and hence this hymn is to be recited by all with faith, in order to achieve all their wants. This shows the greatness of Sahasranamam both in terms of the greatness of the composer and the greatness of the subject.

Sri Parasara Bhattar comments thus: ‘This Shloka sings the praise of Lord Vishnu, One possessed of unlimited greatness. The one who praises him is none other than Sage Veda Vyasa, who has drunk this greatness in full, and who has no dearth of words to describe that greatness. This gem of a hymn has the greatness of the One who is praised as well as the one who is praising Him. This world which is filled with destitution, is eminently deserving to benefit from the chanting of this Hymn, which is capable of redeeming this world from its penury. Thus, everything is perfect about this hymn, the person who is sung, the person who sings, and the beneficiary who is qualified to benefit by singing His praise. Therefore, any person desirous of Supreme Bliss or material pleasures, whoever he may be, can resort to it’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar in giving his summary above are: ‘Stava ratnam’ to describe Sri Vishnu Sahasranama Stotram, ‘maha daridriyam idam jagat’ to describe the deplorable state of this world which is straying from Dharma, ‘nirvishankah sevatam’ — the benefits will be attained without any doubt. The Shloka itself declares that both Shreyas (denoting Moksham), and the lesser pleasures (sukhani ca) are attained by the chanting of this Hymn.

PhalaShruti 22

Vishveshvaram Ajam Devam Jagatah Prabhum Avyayam      |
Bhajanti Ye Pushkaraaksham Na Te Yaanti Paraabhavam ||22||
Na Te Yaanti Paraabhavam Om Nama Iti ||
Meaning: Bhagavan with Lotus-eyes is the Unborn Supreme Deity, the Ruler of the Universe, as well as the Controller of the Universe. Those who sing His praise will never meet with setback or discomfiture of any kind.

Sri Adi Sankara comments ‘Vishveshvaram Ityaadinaa Vishveshvara Upaasanaat eva Stotaarah Te Dhanyaah Kritaarthaah Kritakrityaa iti Darshayati – This Shloka beginning with Vishveshvaram shows that only by worshiping the Lord of the Universe namely Lord Vishnu, one’s desires are fulfilled and he becomes one who has accomplished everything that is required in one’s life’. In support, he quotes the following two verses from the Garuda Puranam:
Pramaadaat Kurvataam Karma Prachyavetaadhvareshu yat |
Smaranaadeva Tadvishnoh Sampoornam Syaaditi Shrutih ||
Meaning: Any mistake made in rites and sacrifices by carelessness are made good just by meditating on Lord Vishnu.

Sri Sankara further says, ‘Adarena Yatha Stouti Dhanavantam Dhanecchayaa Tathaa chet vishvakartaaram Ko na muchyeta bandhanaat – Just like a man wanting money respectfully pays homage to a rich person, any one who worships Bhagavan will not fail to attain liberation or Moksha’.

Sage Vyasa concludes the Hymn with the oath repeated twice – ‘na te yanti parabhavam, na te yanti parabhavam’ – Never do they meet with any disrespect. Never do they meet with any disrespect.

Sri Parasara Bhattar concludes with the following:
Asmakam atra ca paratranca sarva duhkham
UnmIlya sampadam ashesha vidham vidhaya |
Sri Rangaraja mahishi sa ca Vaishnavanam
Sangaat sukham saha jayena sada kriyaastaam ||
Meaning: May Sri Rangaraja, along with His Consort Sri Ranganayaki, root out all the distress here and hereafter, confer wealth of all kinds on us, and always bless us with happiness, victory and the company of the devoted Sri Vaishnavas.

PhalaShruti 23

Arjuna Uvaca:
Padmapatra Vishalaksha Padmanabha Surottama   |
Bhaktanaam Anuraktanam Trata Bhava Janardana ||23||

Arjuna said ‘Lord Vishnu! Your eyes are large like the lotus leaf. You have a lotus situated in your navel. You are the greatest among the Devas. Please protect your ardent devotees who are deeply engaged in your worship’. While saying this, Arjuna is speaking not just for himself but for all the devotees of the Lord.

PhalaShruti 24

Sri Bhagavan Uvaca:
Yo mam namasahasrena Stotum Icchati Pandava |
Soham Ekena Shlokena Stuta Eva Na Samshayah ||24||
Stuta Eva Na Samshaya Om Nama Iti
Meaning: Bhagavan said ‘Arjuna, when someone has the desire to worship me by reciting my thousand Namas, I consider myself worshiped even when he recites the first Shloka, there is no doubt about this.

Sometimes it so happens that the devotee has the sincere wish to recite the Sahasranamam but he is unable to proceed beyond a few shlokas due to some practical constraints. Bhagavan assures the devotee that it is not the quantity but the intent that matters. Even with one shloka, he considers Himself fully worshipped if it is recited with faith and devotion. The phrase ‘Stuta Eva Na Samshayah’ is repeated at the end for greater emphasis.

PhalaShruti 25

Vyasa Uvaca:
Vaasanad Vasudevasya Vasitam Bhuvanatrayam |
Sarvabhuta Nivaasosi Vasudeva Namostu te ||25||
Shree Vaasudeva Namostuta Om Nama iti
Meaning: Sage Vyasa said ‘The three worlds have become habitable only because Bhagavan Vasudeva is present there. Salutations to Vasudeva, who is the abode for all beings’. The phrase ‘Sri Vasudeva Namostuta Om Nama Iti’ is repeated at the end for greater emphasis.

PhalaShruti 26

Parvati Uvaca:
Kenopayena Laghuna Vishnor Nama Sahasrakam                         |
Pathyate Panditair Nityam Shrotum Icchaamyaham Prabho ||26||
Meaning: Goddess Parvati asked Lord Shiva, ‘O’ Lord, is there any simple and quick method by which learned people are able to recite every day the thousand Namas of Lord Vishnu? If so, I want to hear about it.

It is said that Shiva is an ardent devotee of Vishnu and hence Parvati has chosen the right person to ask about the recitation of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.

PhalaShruti 27

Ishvara Uvaca:
Sri Rama Rama Rameti Rame Raame Manorame |
Sahasranama Tat tulyam Rama Nama Varanane ||27||
Rama Nama Varanana Om Nama iti
Meaning: Lord Shiva replied, ‘O’ beautiful lady, I derive pleasure by always chanting the Rama Nama repeatedly and uttering the Rama Nama even once is equivalent to reciting all the thousand Namas’.

So the simple way to recite the thousand Namas of the Lord is to recite the Rama Nama.

There is another Shloka which says ‘Maanasam Vaachikam Paapam Karmanaa samupaarjitam Sri Rama Smaranena Eva Vyapohati Na Samshayah – Any sin which one might have committed either in thought, or in speech or by action is annulled by simply meditating on the Rama Nama’. The phrase ‘Rama Nama Varanana Om Nama iti’ is for further emphasis.

PhalaShruti 28

Bramha Uvaca:
Namostvanantaaya Sahasramurtaye
Sahasra PadakshiShirorubahave
Sahasranamne Purushaaya Shaashvate
Sahasrakoti Yugadhaarine Namah            ||28||
Sahasrakoti Yugadhaarine Nama Om Nama iti
Meaning: This is a prayer from Bramha to Lord Vishnu. Salutations to the endless and immortal One, who has thousands of forms, thousands of feet, thousands of eyes and thousands of arms. Salutations to Him who has thousands of Namas, who is the soul in all beings and who is permanent. Salutations to Him who keeps creating billions of Yugas or time cycles.’

The phrase ‘Sahasrakoti Yugadharine Nama Om’ is recited again for emphasis.

PhalaShruti 29

Sanjaya Uvaca:
Yatra Yogeshvarah Krishno Yatra Paartho Dhanurdharah     |
Tatra Shreer Vijayo Vishnuh Dhruvaa Neetir Matir Mama ||29||

This is a Shloka from the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 18 Verse 78). This was the statement of Sanjaya to Dhridharashtra at the conclusion of the dialogue between Arjuna and Krishna. This means ‘Where there is Krishna, the Lord of Yogas, and where there is Arjuna, wielder of the bow, there is fortune, victory, prosperity and infallible morality, in my opinion’.

Sanjaya’s final statement in the Gita can be viewed from three standpoints.

  • Taken literally, we can see that Sanjaya wanted to very subtly inform Dhridharashtra that the Pandava army would be victorious, and that his sons, the Kauravas, would be vanquished. This was bound to happen because the world’s foremost warrior, Arjuna, and Shri Krishna, the Lord of all Yogas, were on the opposing side of the Kauravas.
  • From the standpoint of our duty, we can interpret this Shloka as follows. Regardless of how much time and effort we put into any action, we cannot be assured of success as it depends on a multitude of factors. But it boils down to two things – Own effort and God’s grace. If either aspect is missing, our actions will not be successful. Own effort alone cannot guarantee result, neither can waiting for God’s grace or prasada without any effort from the part of the individual.
  • From the absolute standpoint, liberation from bondage, realisation of our true self is not possible purely through self effort. We need to perform our duty selflessly, in a spirit of service to the Lord, without any other selfish object as our goal. Selfless devoted service to God, combined with Lord’s grace, will result in progress and success in the spiritual journey. Without God’s grace, it is not possible.

PhalaShruti 30 and 31

Sri Bhagavan Uvaca:
Ananyas Chintayanto Mam Ye Janaah Paryupasate                   |
Tesham Nityaabhiyuktanam Yogakshemam Vahamyaham ||30||

Paritranaya Sadhunaam Vinashaya cha Dushkritam |
Dharma Samsthaapanaarthaaya Sambhavami Yuge Yuge ||31||

Meaning: The first Shloka is from the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 9 Verse 22). This means ‘For those who are constantly engaged in my worship with single minded focus, I carry the what they lack and preserve what they have’.

The implication is that if we devote ourselves wholeheartedly in the pursuit of the Lord, we need not spend any time incessantly worrying about our needs. As long as we perform our duties efficiently and in a spirit of service to the Lord, we will be taken care of. The Lord will not just carry our burden of needs, he will also carry all of our worries as well.

Our entire life comprises two major activities: acquisition and preservation. The early part of our life goes in acquisition of knowledge, wealth, family, position and title. This is denoted by the word ‘Yoga’. The later part of our life is devoted to preservation of what we have acquired. This is ‘kshema’ and the Lord takes care of both these needs if we surrender to Him completely.

The second Shloka is from the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 4 Verse 8. This means ‘In order to protect the virtuous and the destruction of evil, as well as to re-establish Dharma, I reincarnate myself millennium after millennium’.

This implies that God descends into the world in various forms again and again to establish Dharma. Whenever the evil takes the upper hand and the virtuous people suffer Bhagavan appears and restores Dharma by destroying the evil doers and protect the virtuous.

PhalaShruti 32

Aartaah Vishannah Shithilaashcha Bhitah
Ghoreshu Cha Vyadhishu Vartamanah
Sankeertya Narayana Shabda Matram
VimuktaDuhkhah Sukhino Bhavantu ||32||
Meaning: This is another summary of the benefits of reciting the Narayana Nama. This means ‘Anyone who is downtrodden, depressed, devastated, fearful or suffering from a dreaded disease will get relief and happiness just by reciting the Nama of Sriman Narayana’.

We should appreciate that there is no instant magic cure for diseases but reciting the Namas of Sriman Narayana grants one immediate peace of mind and composure.

Sri Adi Sankara concludes his commentary on Vishnu Sahasranama with the following verse of his own:
Sahasranama Sambandhi Vyaakhyaa Sarvamukhavaha
Shruti Smriti Nyaaya mula Rachita Hari-padayoh ||
Meaning: This commentary of Vishnu Sahasranamam which brings happiness to all, and which was written consistent with the Shruti, Smriti and Logic is offered at the Lotus feet of Hari’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar’s explains:
Evam svabhavata eva samasta-dvandva- pratidvandvi – sakala Kalyana Gunakaram,
Prapanna parijatam, pundarikaksham, lakshmi-patim,
Bhagavantam bhajamananam sa eva sarvasvam iti, tad-sampado vacam agocarah |
Kutah Samsarika- paribhava-prasangah iti paryaptayati – visveshvaram iti ||
Meaning: Bhagavan Narayana, the Consort of LakshmI and the Lotus-eyed Lord, is by nature opposed to all kinds of unwelcome things, and is full of all auspicious qualities. He is like the celestial Parijata tree for those who have taken refuge in Him. They consider that He alone is their wealth. Therefore the riches and well being of these people are beyond words. This being the case, there is no occasion for them to suffer dishonour or disgrace.”

I would like to conclude this commentary with Sri Thirumangai Azhwar’s Periya Thirumozhi Pasuram (1.1.9):
குலம்தரும் செல்வம் தந்திடும் அடியார் படுதுயராயினவெல்லம்,
நிலந்தரஞ்செய்யும் நீள்விசும்பருளும் அருளொடுபெருநிலமளிக்கும்,
வலந்தரும்மற்றுந்தந்திடும் பெற்ற தாயினு மாயினசெய்யும்,
நலந்தருஞ்சொல்லை நான் கண்டுகொண்டேன் நாராயணாவென்னும்நாமம்.
Meaning: It gives a good life of land, wealth and prosperity, good family. It rages to the ground all travails facing the devotees’. It grants liberation (Moksha) and benign grace. It gives a man strength, and all that there is, with love that exceeds that of a mother’s. It gives pure goodness, I know that Good bestowing Mantra – Narayana is that Nama that bestows all Grace!

The final Shloka as a dedication to the Lord, which is common to all Pujas and prayers:
कायेन वाचा मनसेन्द्रियैर्वा बुद्ध्यात्मना वा प्रकृतेः स्वभावात् ।
करोमि यद्यद् सकलं परस्मै नारायणायेति समर्पयामि ॥
Kaayena Vachaa Mana-Sendriyair Va Budhyaatmana Va Prakruteh Swabhaavaat |
Karomi Yadyad Sakalam Parasmai Narayana Yeti Samarpayaami ||
Meaning: Whatever I do with my body, speech, mind or with other senses of my body, or with my intellect and soul or with my innate natural tendencies, I offer (dedicate) everything to Lord Narayana.

Sarvam Sri Krishnarpanam Astu – Dedicated in all humility to Lord Sri Krishna _/\_



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



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.



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.


Adi Kesava Perumal

In this part we will explore the meaning of the 96th Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.

Sanaat Sanatana-tamah Kapilah Kapir-Avyayah   |
Svasti-dah Svasti-krit Svasti Svasti-bhuk Svasti-dakshinah ||96|| 


He is Ancient, Most Ancient, and Radiant with a beautiful complexion with a Golden hue. He is the Enjoyer of undiminished Bliss and He bestows auspiciousness on His devotees.  The Doer of Good to His devotees and the One Who is auspiciousness Himself. He is the protector and promoter of auspiciousness of His devotees.

The above Shloka has the following Namas:

  1.    Sanaat
  2.    Sanatana-tamah
  3.    Kapilah
  4.    Kapir-Avyayah
  5.    Svasti-dah
  6.    Svasti-krit
  7.    Svasti
  8.    Svasti-bhuk
  9.    Svasti-dakshinah 

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

  1.     Sanaat – He is Ancient

Sanaat is an avyaya or an indeclinable word which means ancient or of long duration. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Sanaat iti Nipaatash Chiraartha Vachanah. Kaalashcha Parasyaiva Vikalpanaa Kaapi – The word Sanaat denotes a long period of time and time is just a manifestation or symbol of Bhagavan and hence He is called Sanaat, of long duration’. In support of this Sri Sankara gives a quotation from the Vishnu Puranam (1.2.15) which says:
Parasya Bramhano Rupam Purushah Prathamam Dvija
Vyaktaavyakte Tathaivaanye Roope Kaalas tathaaparam ||
Meaning: The first form of Para Bramha is Purusha. Then comes the Vyakta or the manifest one and then the Avyakta or the Unmanifest one, finally comes His form called time. This shows that time is just a dimension of Bhagavan.  Just as He is without beginning and without end, Time is also without beginning and without end.

Sri Parasara Bhattar’s interpretation is:  tesham sambhajanaat Sanaat – Because He confers perfect enjoyment on all the muktas equally, He is called Sanaat.

Two distinct derivations have been used to interpret the Nama.  Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj uses the root san-daane meaning ‘to give or to worship’, and gives the definition – sanoti – dadati svadarshanam  bhaktebhya iti Sanaat – He Who gives His darshanam to His devotees is  Sanaat.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha interprets the Nama as meaning ‘Sashvat, nitya’ – permanent, eternal.  The word ‘Sana’ is an indeclinable word, meaning ‘perpetually, forever’, and gives the definition – ‘Sana nitye’.  The word ‘Sanatana’ is derived from the word Sana.

Sri Vasishtha gives the description – Sanaat nityah avikaarah  ekarasah ityarthah – He Who is Eternal, Immutable, and always of the  same beautiful Form.  He gives references to the Shruti in support:

  • Sanaat yuva Namase havaamahe – Rig Veda 2.16.1 – He is Eternal while everything else decays
  • Sanaad eva sahase jaata ugrah – Rig Veda 4.20.6 – He is ancient and mighty
  • Ayo mahah Surah Sanaadanilah – Rig Veda 10.55.6 – A great Hero who is ancient and Who has no one above Him

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan gives the interpretation – sanam tad- datttam rasa gandhaadi atti iti Sanaat – He Who gladly accepts the offerings from His devotees.

  1.     Sanatana-tamah – The Most Ancient

The word ‘Sanatana’ means ‘ancient’ and the suffix ‘tamah’ gives the sense of a superlative for any adjective. For instance ‘Sundara’ means beautiful and ‘Sundaratamah’ means most beautiful. In the same vein ‘Sanatanatama’ means most ancient. Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Sarvakaaranatvaat Virinchyaadeenaam api Sanatananaam Atishayena Sanatanatvaat Sanatanatamah – He is the primary cause of everything and he is more ancient than the very ancient beings like Bramha, the Creator, hence He is called Sanatanatamah, the most ancient one’.

The Cause has to be prior to the effect. He is the Cause of all beings and therefore He is the most ancient One.

Sri Parasara Bhattar comments that even though He is ancient, He is always new, and is always refreshing, as though He is new and not seen before.  In the case of Bhagavan, He is `Pura api navah  Puranah’  – Ancient and Ageless but new.  Sri Bhattar uses the term `tana’ in the Nama to refer to rupam or form (tanu – Sariram).  He remarks as ‘Sadaa- tanatve’pi tadaa-tanatvavat nitya nutana bhogyah – Even though, He has a body (Sada tanatvam), He looks like One who is just new (tadaa-tanattvam – One who has just been endowed with a new body), and is enjoyed as though He is new, and hence He is Sana-tana- tamah.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan’s interpretation supports that of Sri Parasara Bhattar –
Sanatananaam muktanaam ayam atishayena sanatana-tamah |
Sanatanve’pi teshan tada-tanatvavat pratiya itayarthah ||
Meaning: He is the most ancient, eternal and forever refreshing.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers us to Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (2.5.4), which captures the thought of Bhagavan being forever for our delight, no matter how many Yugas pass:
எப்பொருளும்தானாய் மரகதக்குன்றமொக்கும்,
அப்பொழுதைத்தாமரைப்பூக் கண்பாதம்கைகமலம்,
எப்பொழுதும்நாள்திங்க ளாண்டூழியூழிதொறும்,
அப்பொழுதைக்கப்பொழு தென்னாராவமுதமே.
Meaning:   The Lord represents everthying, his frame is like a huge dark gem.  His eyes, feet and hands are like freshly opened lotus flowers.  Every moment, every day, every month, every year, every age, and age after age, my insatiable ambrosia flows like fresh juice.

Sri Vedanta Desikan explains this as, ‘It is because of the experience I have is refreshingly new every moment, even after I have enjoyed it for days, years, and ages I don’t get sated.  The infinite variety, makes every moment a fresh bliss; it is an experience that is new always.  It is not because of me discovering something new every moment or because of my growing intellect.  The Lord has given me flawless intellect at the very outset.  The experience of the Lord’s company is on an entirely different plane.  He Who is the inner soul of all, having all things as His aspects, looks like a greenish cool hill of beauty, with eyes, feet, hands, all like lotus flowers that have freshly blossomed at this very moment.  He is nectar that is sweeter and sweeter every moment, insatiable and unceasingly enjoyable’.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha says that the addition of suffix (‘tana’) to the word ‘Sana’, creates the meaning of a sense of `belonging to’.  Thus, the term ‘Sana-tana’ has the meaning `belonging to ancient times’.   With the addition of the `tama’ suffix, the meaning for `Sanatana-tama’ becomes ‘The Most ancient’.  He was present before anything else was present, and He is present when everything else is destroyed during the Pralaya or Dissolution, so He is Sanatana-tamah.

Sri Vasishtha gives support from the Shruti:
Sanatanam-enam-Ahur-utadyah syat-punar-navah    |
aho-raatre prajaayete anyo anyasya rupayoh   || (Atharvana Veda 10.8.23)
Meaning: Even though He is ancient, He appears new every moment, even as the day and night reappear fresh repeatedly, one assuming the form of the other. 

  1.     Kapilah – He Who is of beautiful complexion

The word Kapilah refers to an orangish brown colour somewhat like an attractive shade of golden hue. Using this meaning, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Badavaa analasya Kapilo varnah iti tadrupee Kapilah – Badavaa, the fire at the heart of the ocean is tawny or orange brown in colour. Bhagavan is beautiful and having the same form and hue as this fire hence He is called Kapilah, the fire-like orange brown one’.  Badavaa is the name of the subterranean fire under the ocean which keeps the ocean in control and prevents it from overflowing. It has a bright orange brown colour called Kapila. Since Bhagavan has the same glow, He is also called Kapilah.

Sri Adi Sankara and Sri Parasara Bhattar had given the same interpretation for this Nama in Shloka 57 and referred to Bhagavan’s incarnation as Kapila, who propounded the Sankhya system of philosophy.  Both Sri Sankara and Sri Bhattar interpret the current instance of the Nama using its generic meaning i.e. ‘One Who has a beautiful complexion’.

Sri Bhattar enjoys the Nama in terms of Bhagavan’s beautiful bluish complexion, with Maha Lakshmi represented by sparkling streaks of lightning – madhyastha nIla toyada vidyul- lekhojjvala varnah Kapilah – He is of radiant form in the self- luminous Sri Vaikuntham, very much like a blue cloud in the midst of sparkling streaks of lightning.

Sri RadhaKrishna Shastri describes Kapila as referring to a colour that is golden with a black tinge.

The roots from which the Nama are derived from: kam – kantau –  kantir-iccha – to desire, or, kabr – varne – to colour.  Through the application of grammar, the ma of `kam’ or  br of `kabr’ is changed to pa, and the affix ‘ilac’ is added, leading  to Kapilah – ‘One who is tawny (reddish) in colour’.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha uses the meaning of ‘Sun’ for ‘kapi’ and ‘tawny in color’ for ‘pingala varnah’. Sri Vasishtha gives the interpretation – kapim = Suryam lati –  Adatte, sarvasya jagatah pravartanaya iti Kapi-lah – He Who brings the Sun for the sustenance of everything in this world is Kapi-lah.

Srimad RamanujAcharya’s renowned interpretation of the Chandogya Upanishad Verse (1.6.7) uses the meaning of Kapi as Sun – ‘tasya yatha kapyasam pundarikam evam akshini’- ‘The eyes of that Supreme Person are as lovely as the Lotuses blossomed by the rays of the Sun’.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj uses the meaning `monkey’ for the term ‘Kapi’, and gives the interpretation – Kapin Sugriva Hanumat  Adin lati sevayaam iti Kapi-lah – He Who got SugrIva, Hanuman etc., serving Him.

  1.     Kapir-Avyayah – He Who enjoys the never-diminishing Bliss

Some interpreters treat this as two Namas: Kapih and Avyayah or Apyayah.  Kapih can be viewed as consisting of Kam meaning water and Piban meaning a drinker. On this basis, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Kam jalam rashmibhih piban Kapih Suryah – He drinks water using His rays, namely the Sun, hence He is called Kapih, the Sun’.

The other interpretation is ‘Kapir Varaaho vaa’ – Kapih also means the boar and this refers to Bhagavan’s incarnation as Varaha, the great Boar. Sri Sankara refers to the MahaBharata (Shanti Parva) ‘Kapir Varaho va Kapir Varahah Shreshthashcha Dharmashcha Vrisha Uchyate’ – The words Kapih, Varaaha, Shreshthah, Dharmah and Vrishah can all refer to the same entity’. So this Nama also refers to Bhagavan’s incarnation as the Varaha.

Taking the second part of this Nama as Apyayah, Sri Sankara interprets this as ‘Pralaye asmin Apiyanti Jaganti iti Apyayah’ – At the time of deluge all beings get absorbed in Him and so He is called Apyayah, the final resting place.

Some commentators have used ‘Avyayah’ for this Nama. This can be interpreted as ‘the unchanging one’ or as ‘one who never moves away from his devotees’.

In Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets this Nama is Kapir-Avyayah and Avyayah means ‘undiminished’.  The word ‘kam’ is used with the meaning ‘sukham’ and the word Kapih is explained as ‘Kam pibati, pati va Kapih’ – He Who experiences Bliss, or He Who protects the Bliss of His experience for others.  He derives the word Kapih as:  kam +pa = ka-pih and explains the Nama as –

  • svayamapi tad-anubhava sukha nirvrtim pati pibati va Kapir- Avyayah – He protects (pati) the pleasure of enjoyment of His Bliss  for the muktas, Undiminished (Avayaya); or
  • He experiences (pibati) the pleasure of the enjoyment of His Bliss by the muktas without decrease (avyaya), and so He is called Kapir-Avyayah.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj treats ‘Kapir-Avyayah’ as one Nama, but interprets it as a combination of two Gunas – Kapih and Avyayah.  He explains ‘Kapih’ as – kaam -jalamapi pibati sva-janaih sa-prema upahritam iti Kapih – He Who accepts an offering from His devotee, even it be only water, as long as it is offered with love and devotion.  He explains ‘Avyayah’ as ‘Sadaiva avyayo = nir-vikara iti Avyayah’ – He Who is Eternal and unchanging, is Avyayah.  He Who is both Kapih and Avyayah is Kapir-Avayayah.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives several alternate root words from which the word ‘Kapih’ can be derived:

  • kai – Sabde – to sound;
  • kr –  vikshepe – to pour out, to scatter; or
  • kan – deepti Kanti  gatishu -to shine.

Based on the above, he gives the following interpretations:

  • Because Bhagavan enjoys (‘drinks’) the praise that is in form of Shabda, He is called Ka-pih stavah Shabda rupah tam pibati iti  Kapih;
  • kam – jalam, pati = pibati; He that ‘drinks’ water, referring to Surya.  Since Bhagavan is the antaryami for Surya, He has this Nama

Sri Vasishtha gives the interpretation – apiyanti iti Apyayah – leeyante asmin bhutani pralaya kale, atah Apyayah iti ucyate – He in whom all beings merge at the time of Pralaya, is Apyayah.  We have
‘tena devan apiyanti’ in Taittiriya Upanishad – BrahmAnanda Mimamsa – ‘Through these, they reach the Devas’.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan interprets the Nama Kapih as:  tad- seva rupam kam pibati iti Ka-pih – He Who accepts water etc., when offered as a devotional offering by His devotees.

In the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 9 Verse 26), the Lord says:
patram pushpam phalam toyam yo me bhaktya prayacchati  |
tad-aham bhaktyupahritam ashnati prayatAtmanah      ||
Meaning: Whosoever offers to Me with true devotion a leaf, a flower, a fruit or water, I accept it.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan gives the interpretation for Avyayah as ‘na vyeti tesham  samajat iti Avyayah’ – He Who never moves away from His devotees, and  Who is always with His devotees.

  1.     Svasti-dah – The Giver of Auspiciousness

Svasti means auspiciousness and Dah means the giver or the bestower so Svastidah refers to someone who bestows auspiciousness to His devotees.

The word Svasti occurs in many popular Mantras like ‘Svasti Praajaabhyah Paripaalayantaam’ and ‘Svasti Na Indro Vriddhashravaah Svasti nah Pushaa Vishvavedaah Svasti Nas Taarkshyo Arishtanamemih’. Based on this Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Bhaktaanaam Svasti Mangalam Dadaati iti Svastidah’ – He is called Svastidah because He confers auspicious results to His devotees.

Sri Parasara Bhattar explains the Nama as ‘evam mahan-mangalam dadati iti Svasti-dah’ – In this way He gives supreme auspiciousness to all.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan explains that the Supreme Auspiciousness i.e. Brahma Jnana that leads to the ultimate bliss of Sri Vaikuntham, which He alone can give.  He refers us to the following Azhwar Pasurams:

  • uyar vinaiye tarum one  Sudark katrai (Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi 1.7.4) – The Beam of Light that gives the Supreme knowledge that leads to the moksha;
  • pirama guru Agi vandu, podil kamala an- nenjam pugundu, en SennittiDaril pada ilaccinai vaittar (PeriAzhvwar  Thirumozhi 2.8) – Bhagavan came as the guru Who performed Brahmopadesam to me, entered the seat of true knowledge in me – my mind, and set His Feet there, and this removed all the flaws, deficiencies and ignorance in my mind.

The word Svasti is formed from the root ‘as – bhuvi’ meaning ‘to be’, with the addition of ‘su’ as prefix, savaseh, that denotes blessing.   Sri Vasishtha explains the word as ‘su + asti’ = svasti.  svastim dadati  iti svasti-dah – kalyana-dah – The Bestower of auspiciousness.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj uses the root ‘asa – gati dIptyadaneshu’ meaning to go, to shine, to accept, and gives the derivation – Sobhana astih = gatih arthat jnanam gamanam praptih, Svastih, taam dadati bhaktebhya iti Svasti-dah – He Who bestows the path for the attainment of true knowledge to the devotees.

Sri Vasishtha gives an alternate explanation – Atma dharanaya – arthaat jivanaya jivana upayogini sadhanani dadati sa, Svasti-dah – He Who gives the necessities for the Jivas to sustain themselves.

  1.     Svasti-krit – The Doer of Good to His devotees

Svasti means auspiciousness as explained in the previous Nama and Krit is one who does or acts. Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Tadeva karoti iti Svastikrit – He always acts in a way which is auspicious for His devotees, hence He is called Svasti-krit, one who acts auspiciously’.

Whatever He does is always directed to enrich the auspiciousness for His devotees.

Sri Parasara Bhattar explains that after giving the Brahma Jnana (Svasti- dah), He then makes Himself available to the muktas to enjoy Him and His qualities (Svasti-krit).

Sri Ananta Krishna Shastri adds another interpretation and explains as He Who makes His devotees do good things is Svasti-krit.

Swami ChinmayAnanda gives an alternate  interpretation using the root ‘krit – chedane’ meaning ‘to cut’, and explains the Nama as One Who robs an individual of all bliss when that  individual follows a path that is not according to Dharma.

  1.     Svasti – He Who is Auspiciousness

Svasti is auspiciousness and here Bhagavan is identified as a symbol and personification of the same. Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Mangala svarupam Atmeeyam Paramananda lakshnam Svasti’ – He is the embodiment of auspiciousness being the essence of Supreme joy, hence He is called Svasti. Auspiciousness and joy are one and the same. He is Aananda Svarupi or whose nature is pure joy, hence He is a symbol of auspiciousness also and so appropriately termed Svasti.

Sri Parasara Bhattar explains the Nama as – svayameva mahan-mangalam –  Svasti – He Who is Himself the incarnation of auspiciousness.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan gives several supports on this.

  • en amudinaik kanda kangal matrondrai Kaanaave – (Sri Thiruppaan Azhwar’s AmalanAdipiraan) – My eyes that have seen my Sweet Nectar, will never stray away from Him and see anything else again;
  • yatra na anyat pashyati, na anyat vijaanaati, na anyat Shrunoti,  tad bhuma – Sanat Kumara – That which is auspicious or Bliss is that from which the eyes can’t turn away, the mind does not move away, and  the ears can’t divert.  This object of Supreme Bliss is all-absorbing, and the best that there can ever be.
  • Icchuvai thavira yaan poi Indralokam aalum, acchuvai perinum venden Arangamangar ullane – Sri Thondadipodi Azhwar’s Thirumalai Pasuram) – After enjoying your blissful form, even if I were given to rule Indra’s kingdom, even if you were to give it, I shall not want it.

Sri RadhaKrishna Shastri reminds us that Bhagavan is ‘pavitranam  pavitram’ – The Purest of the pure, mangalanam ca mangalam’ -The  Most Auspicious among the auspicious, and ‘mangalam param’ – The  Supreme Bliss.

Swami ChinmayAnanda comments that He is of the Nature of Sat-Cit-Ananda, and thus there is no cause for inauspiciousness in Him.

Sri Satya Sandha Thirtha interprets the Nama as – su atyantam asti iti sakala desha kaleshu vartata iti Svasti – He Who always exists in the past, present and the future, is Svasti.

  1.     Svasti-bhuk – The Protector of Auspiciousness

Sri Adi Sankara uses the word ‘bhuj’ as ‘to enjoy’, and interprets the Nama as –
tadeva bhunkta iti Svasti-bhuk |
Bhaktanam mangalam  Svasti bhunakti iti va Svasti-bhuk ||
Meaning: The Enjoyer of Bliss, or He Who enables His devotees to enjoy His auspiciousness.

Sri Parasara Bhattar uses the meaning `to protect’, for the root ‘bhuj’, and gives the interpretation – sarvam etat svasti bhunakti – palayati iti Svasti-bhuk’ – The Lord protects everything auspicious, and protects His devotees.  The pleasure of experiencing the Lord in the mind, the extreme satisfaction that the devotees get on that account, and the services that the devotees are induced to perform thereby, are all preserved and protected by the Lord.

The nirukti author summarises the above thoughts through the following:
Paalanaat mangalasya iva Svasti-bhuk ca iti gamyate’ – He is sung by the Nama ‘Svasti-bhuk’ because He protects all that is auspicious.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan has similar interpretation – svasti – kalyanam bhunakti – palayati samrtrunaam  iti svasti-bhuk – He protects and supports all that is auspicious.

In the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 9 Verse 22), the Lord says:
Ananyas cintayanto mam ye janah paryupasate |
tesam nityabhiyuktanam yoga-ksemam vahamy aham ||
Meaning: But those who worship Me with devotion, meditating on My transcendental form-to them I provide what they lack and preserve what they already have.

Sri Satya Sandha Thirtha interprets the Nama as – svasti sukham bhojayati it svasti-bhuk – One Who feeds (bestows) sukham or happiness on His devotees, is svasti-bhuk.

The Story of Krishna protecting Arjuna from the destruction of the Chariot

After the MahaBharata war was over and Lord Krishna realized that the mission of that chariot was accomplished, and hence he took the chariot to a deserted place and asked the Arjuna to get off the chariot. Arjuna was reluctant and asked Krishna, as the Sarathy, to leave the Chariot first. Upon Krishna’s insistence Arjuna descended from the chariot.  Then Lord Krishna asked Hanuman also to leave the chariot along with his flag and Hanuman followed suit.

The moment Lord Hanuman left the chariot, Krishna too got off and the chariot exploded with the deafening sound detonation as if a big weapon had collided with it. The chariot was blazing as if incandescent had burst into flames and it was reduced to ashes and completely razed in no time.

Arjuna, recovering from the shock of what he witnessed, asked Lord Krishna the reason behind the explosion of the chariot. Lord Krishna explained that the weapons that were used by Maharathi Sage Dronacharya and Maharathi Karna on him and his chariot were so powerful that there was and there could be no escape from them for Arjun and his chariot. They were intended to create the havoc and could not be subdued. They are extremely efficacious and what Arjun had just now witnessed was the result of those celestial weapons launched by Dronacharya and Karna on him.

Bewildered Arjuna asked the Lord as to why did it take so much time to explode and did not do what they were intended to at the time of the war? Clearing his doubts, Krishna told Arjuna that it was His (Krishna’s) presence of on his chariot that barred those weapons from creating the desired effect. Krishna had made those weapons powerless for the time being and hence the reason for those weapons not causing any harm to Arjuna or his chariot. It was also the presence of Lord Hanuman on the chariot flag that prevented those weapons from taking effect.

Lord Krishna further explained that the celestial weapons used by Karna and Dronacharya were given by the Devas and thus they had had to deliver the effect. By making them null would be an insult to the Devas who had bestowed those powers on Karna or Dronacharya. Hence, to make them take the desired effect it was necessary for them to consume the chariot which they had just done.

Arjuna realised that it was Lord Krishna who was protecting him at all time and it is because of Him that he had emerged victorious.

The Lord protects His devotees at all times. Jai Sri Krishna _/_

  1.     Svasti-dakshinah – He Who gives auspicious things as Dakshina to His devotees 

Sri Adi Sankara gives the following in support of this Nama:
Smaranadevam devasya siddhyanti sarva siddhayah   ||
smrite sakala kalyana bhaajanam yatra jaayate   |
purushas-tam-ajam nityam vrajami Sharanam Harim   ||
smaranaadeva Krishnasya paapa sanghaata panjaram   |
Shatadha bhedam Ayati girir vajrahato yatha   ||
I always take refuge in Hari, the Supreme Person, the Unborn, and Eternal, Who, by just being remembered, becomes the source of all auspiciousness.   By the mere remembrance of Krishna, the body of accumulated sins are destroyed just as a mountain gets destroyed (broken into many pieces) by Indra’s thunderbolt.

Sri Sankara gives three interpretations. The first is Svastirupena Dakshate vardhate iti Svasti-dakshinah – He makes His devotees grow through His auspiciousness, hence He is called Svastidakshinah’.

The second interpretation is ‘Svasti daatum samartha iti vaa Svasti-dakshinah – He is competent or skillful in giving bliss to His devotees, hence He is called Svasti-dakshinah’.

The third interpretation is a further enhancement of the second one -‘Athavaa Dakshinashabda Aashukaarini Vartate Sheeghram Svasti  Daatum ayam eva Samartha iti Yasya Smaranaadeva Sidhyanti Sarvasiddhayah – Here taking the word Dakshina to mean one who is capable of achieving things very fast Svasti-dakshanah is taken to mean one who is capable of giving auspicious results instantly even as the devotee thinks of Bhagavan’. In this context, Svastidakshinah means one who gives instant results at the mere thought of him.

Sri Parasara Bhattar uses the term ‘Dakshina’ in the sense of a ‘fee’ or a ‘gift’ that is offered to the officiating priests in religious ceremonies etc.  He interprets the Nama as ‘One Who offers ‘Svasti’ or auspiciousness as ‘Dakshina’ to His devotees.  Sri Parasara Bhattar’s interpretation is that, Bhagavan is performing an eternal, never-ending sacrifice, called deergha satram, in which the ‘officiating priests’ are the nityas and the muktas (the eternal souls and the liberated souls).   The purpose of this yaaga of Bhagavan is to offer Himself to be enjoyed by His devotees.  Bhagavan gives Himself to His devotees, the nityas and the muktas, as an offering in this ‘sacrifice’.  In addition, He gives them auspicious things such as a celestial body that is made of Shuddha Sattva, material that never decays or ages, and other powers such as Shakti, Jnanam, etc.   So Bhagavan is like the Master of Sacrifice who offers dakshina or fee to the priests who are officiating in it, He is Svasti-dakshinah.   Sri Bhattar wrote thus – ‘anyAdapi sva-paricarana anugunam divya- Sharira Sakti Adi Svasti Svatma dana deergha satre Ritvigbhyo deya  dakshina asya iti Svasti-dakshinah‘.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan gives an interpretation that is along similar lines:
sva-nityam dhamadikam kalyana rupatvaat svasti iti ucyate  |
sa Dakshina sva-bhaktisatra Ritvigbhyo deyam asya iti  Svasti-dakshinah.
Meaning: In this interpretation, Sri Vaikuntham and other aspects of Sri Vaikumtham are referred to as ‘Svasti’ because of their eternal and auspicious nature.  Bhagavan offers these to the officiating Ritviks in His bhakti yajna as dakshina or fees, and so He is called Svasti-dakshinah.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj gives a similar interpretation – Svastibhih Ashirbhih dakshayati vardhayati svajanan iti Svasti- dakshinah’ – He bestows auspiciousness and blessings on His devotees, hence He is called Svasti-dakshinah.

Swami ChinmayAnanda nicely captures the spirit of the above:  ‘The Nama indicates that Sri Narayana will quickly and efficiently reach His sincere seekers to give them the experience of auspiciousness which is the Lord’s very nature’.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha explains the Nama as – svastim dakshate vardhayati iti  Svasti-dakshinah – varada-hasto mangala hasta iti – He Who grows  auspiciousness by bestowing the desired boons and other auspicious  things to His devotees, as signified by His Varada-hasta or mangala  hasta, is Svasti-dakshinah.

In Summary
Sanaat Sanatana-tamah Kapilah Kapir-Avyayah   |
Svasti-dah Svasti-krit Svasti Svasti-bhuk Svasti-dakshinah ||96||

He is Ancient and hence He is called Sanaat. He is Most Ancient, who created the Creator Brahma, so He is Sanatana-tamah.  He is Radiant with a beautiful complexion and a Golden hue, hence called Kapilah.  He is the Enjoyer of undiminished Bliss and One Who protects the Bliss of His experience for His devotees’, hence He is Kapir-Avyayah.

He bestows auspiciousness on His devotees, so He is Svasti-dah.  He is the Doer of Good to His devotees and hence He is Svasti-krit. He is Svasti, Who is auspiciousness Himself. He is the protector of auspiciousness and hence Svasti-bhuk. He is the provider and promoter of auspiciousness for His devotees’ and hence He is Svasti-dakshinah.



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


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

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

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

The above Shloka has the following Namas:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1.    Satyah – He Who is established in Truth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He gives reference to the Shruti:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is an interesting interaction between Sanatkumara and Sage Narada:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1.    Abhipraayah – He is eagerly sought by His devotees

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives two alternate derivations:

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

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

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

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

  1.    Arhah – The fitting Lord to be worshipped

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Story of Narahari

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Swami ChinmayAnanda’s explanation is:

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

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

The two different meanings could then be:

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

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

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

In Summary

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

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

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



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


In this part we will explore the meaning of the 87th Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.

Kumudah Kundarah Kundah Parjanyah Paavano Anilah    |
Amritaasho Amritavapuh Sarvajnas Sarvatomukhah     ||87|| 

He pleases the Earth by lightening its load. He gives fruits, as pure as the Jasmine flower and His body is beautiful like the Kunda (jasmine) flower and blemishless. He showers gifts on His devotees like a cloud delivering rain on the crops. He purifies people when they engage even in the mere process of thinking about Him and He has no over-riding authority above Him. He has an undiminishing desire to bestow blessings on His devotees. He has an Immortal Body, He is Omniscient and Omnifaced.

The above Shloka has the following Namas:

  1.    Kumudah
  2.    Kundarah
  3.    Kundah
  4.    Parjanyah
  5.    Paavanah
  6.    Anilah
  7.    Amritaashah
  8.    Amritavapuh
  9.    Sarvajnah
  10.    Sarvatomukhah

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

  1.    Kumudah – He rejoices in this world in the association of His devotees

gopakumar_krishna.l-1This Nama has the following meanings:

  1. He rejoices in this world in the association of His devotees;
  2. One Who unburdens the earth by ridding it of the evil-doers;
  3. One Who bestows Moksha;
  4. One Who delights in the Sky, in the form of Sun;
  5. One Who wears a garland made of Blue Lilies and Lotus.

The word ‘Ku’ means ‘the world or the Earth’ and ‘mudah’ means ‘to rejoice or to be glad’.  Modata iti mudah – One who rejoices, or modayati iti mudah – One Who makes others rejoice.  Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Kum Dharanim Bharavataranam Kurvan Modayati iti Kumudah – He pleases the Earth by reducing its burden or lightening its load and hence He is called Kumudah, the pleaser of the Earth’.

Sri Ananta Krishna Shastry observes that He lightens the burden of the Earth through the elimination of the evil and wicked people. 

Another way to look at this Nama is ‘Ku + mu + dah’ where ‘Ku’ means the Earth, ‘Mu’ means Mukti or Moksha and ‘Dah’ means the Giver or Bestower. Sri M. V. RamanujAcharya gives the interpretation for this Nama as One Who bestows the world of Mukti or Moksha or Parama Padam.

Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets the Nama as ‘ku + mudah’ and explains as ‘Kau – prakriti mandale mudah (taih saha) modate’ meaning He rejoices in the company of His devotees, so He is known as Kumudah. 

While Sri Sankara explains the Nama as His giving joy to the earth by freeing it of its burdens, Sri Bhattar explains the Nama as His rejoicing and deriving pleasure by the company of His devotees.  The difference in approach is that Sri Sankara emphasises Lord’s Power and Valour while Sri Bhattar emphasises His affability and affection towards His devotees (Saulabhyam and Saushilyam). 

Swami ChinmayAnanda gives the meaning as ‘One Who gladdens the Earth’ or ‘One Who is gladdened by the Earth’.  He explains that the Bhagavan’s delight is a sheer expression of His Omnipotence – the very fact that He has created this dynamic and complex Cosmos that is so scientifically precise that it is a matter of delight as the fulfillment of His Omnipotence.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri gives the example of His taking many incarnations for the same purpose – to destroy the wicked people and protect His devotees.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives the interpretation for ‘Kumudah’ as ‘One Who delights in the Sky, in the form of Sun – Sabdavat Akaashe modayati iti kumudah; Sabdashraye khe modata iti kumudah Suryah’ by using the meaning ‘Sky’ for ‘Ku’. 

The word ‘Kumuda’ is also used to refer to the Lotus and Blue Lilies. Based on this, Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan explains that ‘He Who wears a garland made of these flowers is Kumudah – Utpala dharo Kumudah’.

  1.    Kundarah – The Bestower of Knowledge of the Supreme Reality

hayagriva2This Nama has several meanings:

  1. The Bestower of knowledge about the Supreme Reality;
  2. He Who dissolves or eliminates the sins accumulated over countless births;
  3. He Who bestows benefits as what is sought or desired;
  4. He Who accepts offering that are pure like the Kunda (Jasmine) flowers;
  5. He Who pierced the Earth in His Varaha Avataar while searching for HiranyAksha (Kum-darah);
  6. He Who created the Oceans by piercing the Earth (Kum-darah);
  7. He Who is very pleased with the offerings of the Kunda (Jasmine) flowers by His devotees.

Sri Adi Sankara gives three different interpretations for this Nama. The first ‘Kunda-pushpa-tulyaani shuddhaani phalaani Raati Dadati iti Kundarah – He gives fruits as pure as the Jasmine flower to His devotees, hence He is called Kundarah’.  In this context, Kunda also means pure white Jasmine flower.  

The second interpretation is ‘Kunda-pushpa-tulyaani shuddhaani phalaani Laati Aadatte iti Kundarah – He accepts offerings which are as pure as the Jasmine flower’.

The third interpretation is ‘Kum Dharaam Daarayamasa HiranyAksha Jighaamsayaa Varaham rupam Aasthaaya – While searching for HiranyAksha, He took the form of a wild boar (Varaha) and pierced the Earth, hence He is called Kundarah, the piercer of Earth’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar uses the word ‘Kundam’ as referring to ‘Knowledge of the Supreme Reality’ or ‘Para-tattva jnanam’.  This is based on the meaning of ‘Ku’ as ‘mukti-bhumi’, rather than just ‘bhumi’. Kundam is that which gives the mukti-bhumi i.e. the knowledge of Para-tattva.  Since He is the Giver of this knowledge, He is Kunda-rah (rati = dadati = gives). 

This interpretation of Sri Bhattar can is also in the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 10 Verse 10) where Lord Krishna says:
Tesham satata-yuktanam bhajatam priti-purvakam
Dadami buddhi-yogam tam yena mam upayanti te ||
Meaning: To those who are ceaselessly united with Me and who worship Me with immense love, I lovingly grant that mental disposition (buddhi-yoga) by which they come to Me.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers to Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (2.3.2):
ஒத்தார்மிக்காரை இலையாயமாமாய,
ஒத்தாயெப்பொருட்கு முயிராய், என்னைப்பெற்ற
அத்தாயாய்த்தந்தையா யறியாதனவறிவித்த,
அத்தா, நீ செய்தன அடியேனறியேனே.
Meaning: O Great Lord without a peer or superior!  Close to all things and all beings, you are my life, you are my mother, my father, my friend, imparting me with true knowledge and teaching me all that I do not know.  O’ what you have done for me is immeasurable!

Using the meaning ‘Sin’ for the word ‘ku’ the Nirukti writer explains the Nama as ‘Kum avyayam paapa-vaaci, tasya daaranaat Kun-darah – He Who dissolves or eliminates the sins accumulated over countless births. 

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives the following interpretations for this Nama:

  1. ‘Ku’ means ‘sinful’ – tyajet ku-jana-sangam – Leave the association of sinful people;
  2. Paapam drinati sva-sevanam iti kum-darah – He who tears apart or removes the sins of His devotees;
  3. Sa eva buddhim jaritur-vishodhya su-medhasam tam kurute sa Vishnuh – He makes them see knowledge by removing the sins from their mind;
  4. Taking the root for the word ‘Kunda’ as ‘kamu – kantau’ meaning ‘to desire’- ‘Kamayata iti Kundah kamaniyah, kamaniyam va’ncitam dadati iti kunda-rah’ –One Who gives what is sought or what is desired is Kundarah.
  5. kum – prithivI darayati iti kun-darah – (based on the root drr – vidaarane – to tear, to divide).  He is referring to Bhagavan creating the great oceans by tearing apart the bhumi – sa kun-daro Nama vidarya bhumim sa Atma-Saktya kurute samudram |

Sri Satyasandha Yatiraja gives the interpretation – Bhakta-samarpita kunda pushpena ramati iti Kunda-rah – He Who is very pleased with the offerings of ‘Kunda’ flowers by His devotees. 

  1.    Kundah – He Who grants higher knowledge successively

perumal-in-jasmineThis Nama also has some interpretations similar to the previous Nama:

  1. He Who grants higher knowledge
  2. He Who cleanses the sins of His devotees
  3. He Who is pure and beautiful like the Kunda (Jasmine) flower
  4. He Who bestows purity like the Kunda flower to His devotees
  5. He Who has the spear by the name Kunta (Kuntah)
  6. One who is sharp like the kunta spear in removing the sins of His devotees (Kuntah)
  7. He Who gave an offering of the earth to Kashyapa Rishi
  8. He Who cleanses the earth through Sun, Rain, etc.

As explained in the previous Nama, the word ‘Ku’ refers to Earth (Bhumi) as well as Sin; the word ‘Kunda’ refers to the Jasmine flower.  The word ‘dah’ can be interpreted in three ways as ‘Dadati – gives’, as ‘Dayati – cleanses’, and as ‘Dyati – eliminates’, thus leading to the different commentaries. 

img_4656Sri Adi Sankara gives several interpretations for this Nama. The first is ‘Kundopama Sundaraagatvaat Svacchatayaa Sphatikanirmalah Kundah – His body is beautiful like the Kunda flower and blemishless like crystal, hence He is called Kundah or the Jasmine flower’.

The second interpretation is ‘Kum Prithveem Kashyapaaya adaat iti Kundah’ – He gave away the Earth to Sage Kashyapa hence He is called Kundah. This is explained in the Harivamsha (1.41.16/17):
‘Sarvapaapa Vishuddhyartham Vaajimedhena Cheshtavaan
Tasmin yajne Mahaadaane Daksinaam Bhrigunandanah
Maareechaaya Dadau Preetah Kashyapaaya Vasundharaam
Meaning: In his incarnation as Parashurama, the Son of Sage Bhrigu, Bhagavan performed the Asvamedha Yajna and as an offering for the Yajna, He gave away the Earth to Sage Kashyapa. Because of this He is called Kundah.

The third interpretation is ‘Kum Prithveem dyati Khandayati iti vaa Kundah – He purged the earth (of Kshatriyas) hence He is called Kundah’.  In support of this Sri Sankara quotes from Vishnudharma (43.37):
Nih Kshatriyaam yashcha chakaara medineem Anekasho Baahuvanam Tataacchinat;
Yah Kaartaveeryasya Sa Bhaargavottamo Mamaastu Maangalyavivriddhaye Harih ||
Meaning: Let Hari, the best of the Bhrigu family, who made the earth free from wicked Kshatriyas many a time, and who cut off the thousand arms of Kaartaveerya, be with me for our prosperity.

Sri Parasara Bhattar distinguishes the current Nama from the previous one by referring to the aspect of giving of the para-tattva knowledge by Bhagavan to those that have started climbing the steps of knowledge through self-control etc., through delivering incremental steps of para-bhakti, para-jnanam, and ultimately parama-bhakti.  Sri Bhattar gives an alternate interpretation and says that Bhagavan first removes the sins from His devotee (Kundarah), and then makes them pure so that they do not commit/attract any further sins (Kundah) – Paapam darayati iti kundarah, api ca vidaritam paapam Sodhayati iti Kundah.  

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives a similar meaning – kum iti paaparthakam avyayam, tad khandayati iti Kundah; yad-va kum = papam dayati + Sodhayati iti Kundah.  Sri Vasishtha gives an additional interpretation using the meaning ‘Earth’ for ‘Ku’, and Dayati = Sodhayati for Dah. He who cleanses the earth of its impurities through Rain, Sun etc. – PrithivIm varshanena Sodhayati iti Kundah. 

Sri NammAzhwar uses the ‘Kunda’ in his Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (2.6.1):
வைகுந்தாமணிவண்ணனே, என்போல்லாத்திருக்குறளா,
என்னுள்மன்னி, வைகும்வைகல்தோறும் அமுதாயவானேறே,
செய்குந்தா, உன்னைநான் பிடித்தேன் கொள்சிக்கெனவே.
Meaning: Gem-hued Lord Vaikunta, my impishly beautiful eternal Lord residing in me sweetly, at all times and forever! O Kunda blossom giving relief to devotees and woe to the Asuras! Know that I have You firmly held in me!

He removes the sins of His devotees, and gives them to the evil-doers as just desert for their karmas.  The word Kunda is ‘One Who is pure like the Kunda pushpam – the pure white fragrant Jasmine flower’.  So the Nama can be understood as ‘One Who is pure like the Kunda flower’, or ‘One Who bestows purity like that of the Kunda flower on His devotees’. 

 Sri V.V. Ramanujan comments that the term can also be taken to mean ‘One who has the spear called Kunta’ (nin kaiyil vel potri – Thiruppavai).  Another meaning given is ‘One who is sharp like the Kunta spear in removing the sins of His devotees’. 

  1.    Parjanyah – He Who bestows His blessings on devotees like the rain-cloud

rain-cloud-krishnaThe word Parjanya means a cloud and using this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Parjanyavat Aadhyaatmikaadi Taapatrayam Shamayati iti’ – Like a cloud gives relief from the heat of the Sun, He brings relief from the three types of affliction that people are subject to, hence He is called Parjanyah’. The three forms of affliction are:

  1. a) Those arising from within the body (Aadhyatmik)
  2. b) Those caused by other beings (Adhibhautik), and
  3. c) Those caused by acts of god (Adhidaivik).

Bhagavan gives us relief from all these three burning affliction like a cloud gives from the heat of the Sun.

Sri Sankara also gives another interpretation ‘Sarvaan Kaamaan Abhivarshati iti vaa Parjanyah’ – He showers gifts on the devotees like a cloud delivering rain on the crops hence He is called Parjanyah, the Cloud.

Sri Parasara Bhattar derives the Nama from the root ‘aja – ardane’ meaning ‘to dispel’.  He explains the Nama in terms of His removing (dispelling), the three kinds of the taapa-trayas – AdhyAtmika, the Adhi-daivika, and the Adhi-bhautika types.  These three are:  the pain cause by one’s own mind etc., the pain caused by fate or gods, and the pain caused by animals, other people, etc.  

Sri V.V. Ramanujan adds that it is by bestowing the knowledge about Him that He relieves us from the taapa-trayas.  Bhagavan is frequently referred as the rain-cloud by Sri Thirumangai Azhwar for showering His blessings on His devotees:

  • Thirunedum Tandakam (30) – minnu ma mazhai tavazhum mega-vanna – The rain-cloud like dark hue Lord;
  • Periya tirumozhi 7.9.9 – karu ma mugil uruva! Kanal uruva! Punal uruva! – You are like the rain cloud for some, fire for some, and comforting water for many!

Swami Desikan refers to Bhagavan’s Guna of removing the tapa-trayas of the devotees who are immersed in devotion to Him in his Saranagati Dipika (23):
taapa-trayena vihatim na bhajanti santah
samsara gharma janitena samadhimantah   || 
Meaning: Those jnanis who are immersed in Bhakti Yoga towards You do not suffer from the taapa-trayas that are caused by the heat of samsara.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj looks at the Nama as Pari-janyah, which is treated same as Parjanyah. His interpretation is ‘parita Asina janah parijanah; tebhyo hita-tamah iti pari-janyah; ikara-lope parjanyah – pari-janas are those that are around Him, those that worship Him;  He Who bestows welfare on them is Pari-janyah, which is same as Parjanyah.

Sri Satyasandha Yatiraja gives the interpretation – param janyam yasmat Parjanyah – He from whom a superior birth is attained. 

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha derives the Nama starting from the root ‘prsh – secane’ meaning ‘to sprinkle’ and says that which wets or drenches is Parjanya – parshati – sincati iti parjanyah.  Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan gives a similar interpretation:  tasyam cinta-bhumau varshati nija-rupa amritam iti Parjanyah – He Who showers His actual Self in the thoughts of His devotees is Parjanyah. Sri Vasishtha also gives different ways of deriving the Nama, starting with different root words.  One of these is pr – palana puranayoh – to protect, to fill, to bring out; with the addition of the anya suffix, this becomes parjanyah, which means ‘One Who protects’. 

  1.    Paavanah – One Who purifies

rama-lakshmana-and-janakiThis Nama was covered earlier in Shloka 32 (Nama 292). There are two meanings for this Nama. The root word is ‘Pavi’ which can mean both ‘purify’ and ‘move about’. Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Smriti maatrena Punaati iti Paavanah’ – He purifies people even when they engage in the mere process of thinking about Him, hence He is called Paavanah, the Purifier. We can also see this aspect in the Shloka ‘Apavitrah Pavitro vaa Sarvaavasthaan gatopi vaa, Yas Smaret Pundarikaaksham Sa Baahyaabhyaantarash Shuchih’ – Even the worst sinner becomes purified all over once he contemplates on Bhagavan’s Nama. Such are His purifying powers.

Sri Parasara Bhattar uses the latter meaning and says – that which goes, that which blows, that which purifies, etc.  and says that Bhagavan goes Himself to His devotees to remove their distress  –  pavate iti Paavanah. 

This aspect is also expressed by Sri Thirumangai Azhwar in Periya Thirumozhi Pasuram (1.10.9):  vandaai, en manam pugundaai, manni nindraai – You came of Your own free will, entered my mind, and have decided to stay there. 

Sri NammAzhwar conveys the same thought in his Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (5.7.7) – ‘Vandaruli en nenjidam konda vaanavar kozhunde!  … Adiyenai agatrile’ – Oh Lord! You have been kind enough to come and take a place in my heart.  O’ now please don’t ever leave me.

In the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 10 Verse 31, Lord Krishna says:
Pavanah pavataam asmi Ramah Shastra-bhritaamyaham   |
Meaning: Of moving things, I am the wind.  Of those who bear weapons, I am Rama.

In the context of Bhagavan being the Great Purifier, Sri Radhakrishna Shastri comments with the Shloka ‘Pavitraanaam pavitram yah..’, that acts such as taking a dip in the holy waters, visiting Divya kshetras, etc., are ways of ridding ourselves of sins.  When we undertake these acts with the faith and belief and contemplating our mind on Him, He removes our sins through His purifying power. 

Swami ChinmayAnanda conveys that – ‘He Who manifests as the life-giving atmosphere around the world and sustains the existence everywhere’.  He gives another meaning as ‘One Who ever purifies’.  He comments that the impurities of a personality are gathered when the mind and intellect, in a natural impulse of animal instinct, rush towards the sense-objects with ego-centric passion.  The purification by His power occurs when we peacefully let our minds settle in contemplation of the divine nature and eternal glory of Sriman Narayana. 

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha’s interpretation is the same whether the Nama is taken as Pavanah or Paavanah.  He gives the meaning as ‘He Who purifies’, and points out that Bhagavan purifies in many ways:  in the form of the wind by blowing, fire by burning, water by washing, earth by consuming, etc. – Vaayuh pavitram sa ma punaatu agnih pavitram sa ma punaatu.   So His purifying power is manifest all over.  He gives the reference to Rig Vedic hymn (1.160.3):  punaati dhIro bhuvanaani Mayaya – Rig Veda (1.160.3) – He, with the power to cleanse, sanctifies the world with His unsurpassing powers.

Sri Vasishtha also summarises in the form of the following Sloka:
Sa paavano Vishnur-amartyakarma punaati vishvam vividha-prabhedaih   |
Sa eva Surya sa hi vaasti vaayau jale sthale va pavitaa sa eva   ||
Meaning: He really is the Creator of the World, grantor of Moksha, He is the Sun, Wind, Water, Earth etc.

Sri Satyasandha Yatiraja uses the version ‘Paavanah’, and looks at the Nama as pa + avanah – He Who protects the protectors. 

  1.    Anilah – He has no one above Him

AnanthasayanamThis Nama was covered earlier in Shloka 25 (Nama 236). Sri Adi Sankara offers three different interpretations for this Nama. The first is ‘Ilati Preranam karoti iti Ilah Tat rahitatvaat Anilah – He has no over-riding authority above Him, hence He is called Anilah, the highest authority’.

The second interpretation is ‘Ilati Svapiti Tad Vipareeto Nityasvarupatvaat iti vaa Anilah’ – Ilati refers to someone ‘asleep’ hence Anilah refers to the ever alert and Wakeful spirit namely Bhagavan who is therefore called Anilah, the ever Wakeful One.

Sri Sankara’s third interpretation is related to the affability of Bhagavan to His devotees. Using the noun form nilah meaning ‘difficult to understand’, Sri Sankara interprets the name Anilah as ‘One Who is not difficult to understand for the devotee’. A-gahanah A-nilah – Bhaktebhyah Sulabhah – easily accessible by His devotees.  Another interpretation given by Sri Sankara is: anaaditvaat Anilah – One Who has no beginning or end.

Sri Parasara Bhattar derives the interpretation based on the root ‘ila – prerane’ meaning ‘to urge’.  Ila refers to that person who urges another to do an act.   Since Bhagavan does not have to be urged by anyone to bless those who worship Him, He is called Anilah. He gives the following in support: tadapyaprArthitam dhyaato dadaati Madhusudanah – When Bhagavan is meditated upon, Lord Madhusudana bestows His blessings on His devotee even though the devotee may not seek them – Vishnu Dharma 74.42.

Sri NammAzhwar, in his Pasuram in Thiruvai Mozhi 5.6.2, declares: kaangindra ik-kaatrellaam yaane – All this air and wind around us is but a tiny fraction of this Anilah i.e. Bhagavan.  

The following verses from scriptures further support the above:

  • Ko hyevaanyaat kah praanyaat – Whoever can breathe and whoever can live if the Akaasha (i.e., ParamAtma) were not there? – (Taittiriya Narayana 7);
  • Praanaat Vaayurajaayata – The wind was born out of His breath (Purusha Suktam 13). Note that in this interpretation, Anilah is not equated with air or wind, but as His breath – Prana, that supports the wind and all other life.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri looks at this Nama as ‘An+ilah’ where ‘Ila’ refers to Bhumi, used in the sense of support here – AvidyamAna ila Asrayataya An-ilah.  Since He needs no support of the Earth, Air, etc., He is Anilah.  Sri Shastri’s alternative interpretation is that neither punyam nor paapam stick to Him – Na nilati Adatte punyam papam va. 

The Amara Kosha interpretation – ‘Na vidyate nilah nilayam sthaanam yasya iti Anilah’ – He Who does not have a fixed place is Anilah.  

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan seems to use ‘nilah’ instead of Anilah in his interpretation – nitaraam laati grhnaati aikaantino bhaktaan iti – Since He totally attracts the single-minded devotees, He is ‘Ni-lah’.

An alternate interpretation by Sri Vidya Bhushan is that this Nama signifies that He gifted the kingdom to Ugrasena after killing Kamsa – ‘kamsa vada nirjitaaya ilaya bhumeh Ugrasenaya danat’.

Sri Vidya Bhushan gives yet another interpretation and says that Krishna spending  sleepless nights planning the rescue Rukmini.  The term ila is used with the meaning ‘to sleep’ – ‘Rukmini-sprhaya nidraparityagat Anilah.  He quotes Lord Krishna’s words to support this interpretation:  tathahamapi tac-citto nidraam ca na labhe nisiti. 

The Dharma Chakram writer gives the meaning for this Nama that Bhagavan is in the form of air, and emphasises the importance of meditating on this Guna of Bhagavan for our life. We can go without food for many days;  we can survive without water for a few days; but without air, we can live for a few minutes. That is how important air is for our living; and so also is meditating on Lord Vishnu for our spiritual life.

The air is also spread around everywhere, just as MahaVishnu.  Our mind wanders around everywhere, and occupies everything, just as air occupies all available space.  Man has learned to control and contain air.  So also, he can learn to control his mind by constantly meditating on Vishnu.

  1.    Amritaashah– He Who feeds His devotees with the Nectar Himself

mohiniThe Nama consists of ‘A + mrita+ Ashah’.  A-mrita refers ‘to eternal, or to nectar’.  Ashah is derived from the root ‘ash – bhojane’ meaning ‘to eat’.  So, Amritashah means One Who consumed Amritam (nectar), or One Who gives Amritam to others, is Amritaashah  – ashnaati Ashayati va Ashah. 

Sri Adi Sankara gives three different interpretations for this name. The first is ‘Svaatmaanam amritam Ashnaati iti Amritaashah – He consumes the nectar of His internal joy or bliss which is His very nature hence He is called Amritaashah, the consumer of His own nectar’.

The second interpretation is ‘Mathitam Amritam Suraan Paayayitvaa Svayam cha Ashnaati iti Amritaashah – Having churned the Milky Ocean and obtained the nectar, Bhagavan first gave it to the Devas and then consumed it Himself hence He is called Amritaashah, the consumer of nectar’.

The third interpretation is ‘Amritaa Avinashvara Phalatvaat Aashaa Vaancchaa asya iti – He has an undiminishing desire to bestow blessings on His devotees hence He is called Amritaashah, one with a constant desire to reward His devotees’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar’s interpretation is – taan sva-guna amritam Ashayati iti Amritaashah – He Who feeds His devotees with the Nectar of His Gunas. 

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers to Sri NammAzhwar’s Thivruvai Mozhi Pasuram (8.8.4), where the Azhwar says:
யானும் தானா யொழிந்தானை யாதும் யவர்க்கும் முன்னோனை,
தானும் சிவனும் பிரமனும் ஆகிப் பணைத்த தனிமுதலை,
தேனும் பாலும் கன்னலும் அமுதும் ஆகித் தித்தித்து, என்
ஊனி லுயிரி லுணர்வினில் நின்ற வொன்றை யுணர்ந்தேனே.
Meaning: The Lord who was there before all things and beings.  The first-cause who cleaved Himself, and became Brahma and Siva. He is sweet as honey, milk and sugarcane juice, stands in my consciousness, in my life, and in my body.  I have realised Him.

Sri NammAzhwar also describes that Bhagavan voluntarily entered into him and gave him bliss as the insatiable nectar –   Ara amudamaai al Aviyul kalanda kaaraar karu mugil pol en amman akkannanukku (Thiruvai Mozhi 2.5.5).

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan gives a similar interpretation – Amritam ayaacitam moksham Ashayati bhojayati bhkataan iti Amritaashah – He Who bestows Moksham (Liberation) to His devotees, even without asking, is Amritaashah.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri explains this Nama as referring to ‘His desires or wishes being fail-safe – Amrita’.  

Sri Satyasandha Yatiraja’s interpretations is based on the meaning ‘desire or attachment’ for the word ‘Asha’, and the meaning ‘muktas’ for the word Amritas’ – One Who is very dear to the Muktas – Amritaanaam muktaanaam Asha iccha yasmin vishaya iti Amritaashah. 

Sri Vasishtha explains that Bhagavan has this Nama because He provides for an unending supply of means of survival for all His Creation – pravaahato nitya-sthaayIdam catur-vidha bheda vibhaktam yathatadarha jIvana sadhanani Ashayati = bhojayati iti Amritaasho Vishnuh.

  1.    Amrita-vapuh – He has an Immortal Form

Sri Krishna 7The word ‘Mritam’ means death and ‘Vapuh’ means body.  Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Mritam Maranam Tadrahitam Vapuh asya asti iti Amritavapuh – He has a body which is free from death and decay, hence He is called AmritaVapuh, the one with an Immortal Body’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar’s interpretation is that Bhagavan has a body that is like Nectar.  His devotees meditate on His Divya mangala vigraham – His Thirumeni, and never get satiated.  Bhagavan is called ArAvamudan (of Thirukkudandai fame). 

Sri NammAzhwar dedicates Thiruvai Mozhi Pasurams 5.8.1 to 5.8.11 to sing the praise of ArAvamudan – the Nectar that never gives fulfillment of satisfaction, no matter for how long we stand in front of Him and worship Him.   He again calls out to His ArA Amudam in his Pasurams – appozhudukku appozhudu en Ara amudame (2.5.4), Ara amudamai al Aviyul kalanda(2.5.5), enakku ArA Amudu Anaaye(10.10.5), enakku ArA amudamaai(10.10.6), etc. 

Sri V.V. Ramanujan remind us of Emberumanar’s (Sri Ramanujam’s) Sri Vaikuntha Gadyam, where he describes the experience of Bhagavan in Sri Vaikuntham. The contact with His feet (Thiruvadi) makes one experience a joy as if one has had a dip in an ocean of nectar (amrit) i.e. ‘amrita sagarantarnimagnah and sarva avayava sukha masita’ i.e. every inch of one’s body experiences the joy and bliss. To experience and enjoy that bliss one should eternally seek His feet.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri’s anubhavam is that Bhagavan who took incarnations as Rama, Krishna etc., is giving His Darshan to us still in that form, even after the passage of time, with that same Thirumeni (this is precisely the belief behind the Archa rupam of Perumal in our temples). 

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha uses the meaning ‘one who sows’ for vapuh – ‘va – bijasantane chedane ca’ meaning ‘to sow, to cut’.  His interpretation is – ‘Bhagavan pravahanityam idam vishvam vapati santanoti tatha sarvam antakale cchinatti’ – Bhagavan has this Nama signifying that He is the One Who sows the seed of life continuously in this Universe, and when the time comes, He is the One who cuts it too.  He is the One Who propagates the vistara Dharma – of propagation of each species from other members of the same species, with no violation of this rule anywhere.

  1.    Sarvajnah – He is Omniscient

sri-padmanabha-swamy-thiruvananthapuramThis Nama occurred earlier in Shloka 48  – Nama 454.  Sarva means all and Jnah denotes the knower. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Sarvam Jaanaati iti Sarvajnah – He knows everything hence He is called Sarvajnah, the All-Knower’. Mundaka Upanishad (1.1.9) says ‘Sarvajnas Sarvavit – He knows all and He has learnt everything’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar gives the interpretation that Bhagavan is Sarvajnah because He knows that He is the antaryami in everything – tatha SarvAtmana Atmaanam janati iti Sarvajnah.  He gives another interpretation that Bhagavan knows what is particularly beneficial for the devotee – tesham Sakya ashakya saadhya asaadhyaadikam anusandatte iti Sarvajnah. He will help us achieve things that we cannot achieve by ourselves.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri refers to us Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, which conveys:  idam sarvam yad ayam Atma (B.U. 6.5.7).  He knows that He is the best means and the best end (best ‘Upaayam’ and best ‘Upeyam’).  Sri Shastri has given several additional references from the Sruti where the Supreme Brahman is referred to as Sarvajnah:

  • yah sarvaj~nah sarvavit (Mundaka Upanishad 1.1.9);
  • sa Sarvajnah sarvo bhavati (Prashna Upanishad 4.10);
  • esha sarveshvara esha Sarvajnah (Mandukya Upanishad 6);
  • sa vishvakrit sishvavid Atmayonih jnah kalakalo gunI Sarvavidyah (Svetashvara Upanishad 2.6.2,16).

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers us to Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi (4.7.7), where the Azhwar refers to Emperuman as ‘Nirainda jnana murti’ – Sarvajnan. 

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha comments that as the Maker of everything that exists, He (the Creator) knows the ins and outs of everything there is to know about everything.  He gives several references from the Shruti, where He is referred to as ‘One Who knows everything’:

  • tvam indra asi vishva-jit sarva-vit puruhutas-tvam Indra| (Atharvana Veda 17.1.111)
  • sa no bandhur-janita sa vidhata dhamani veda bhuvanani vishva| (Yajur Veda 32.10)
  • yo nah pita janita yo vidhata dhamani veda bhuvanani vishva |  (Rig Veda 10.82.3)
  • yas-thishthati carati yasca vancati yo nilayam carati yah prata’nkam | (Arjuna Vivadha)
  • dvau sannishadya yan-mantrayete raja tad veda varunas-tritiyah| (Atharvana Veda 4.26.2)

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj brings out the significance of ‘Omniscience’ aspect through the following words – Sri Bhagavan hi sarvam sarvatra sarvada sarvatha ca janati – He knows everything, always, everywhere, through all means.  He is the Only One Who knows the past, present and the future – bhuta-bhavad-bhavishyAdinam jnanam. He is inside everyone and everything.  All the bodies and all the souls are His body, and nothing is beyond His reach.  His Sarvajnatvam thus covers everything that is known, and everything there is to know. 

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers to Sri Thirumangai Azhwar’s Pasuram where the Azhwar captures this Guna of Perumal. Perumal did not reveal Himself to Azhwar right away, even after knowing fully well how much Azhwar is suffering from the separation from Him (Periya ThiruMozhi 4.9.6):
சொல்லா தொழிய கில்லேன் அறிந்த சொல்லில், நும்மடியார்,
எல்லா ரோடு மொக்க வெண்ணி யிருந்தீ ரடியேனை,
நல்ல ரறிவீர் தீயா ரறிவீர் நமக்கிவ் வுலகத்தில்,
எல்லா மறிவீ ரீதே யறியீர் இந்த ளூரீரே.
Meaning: O Lord, I cannot refrain from saying it, let me say what I feel; You only think of me as yet another devotee, You know who is good and who is bad, you know everything about this world.  You know who Your devotees cannot bear separation from You. But somehow You do not seem acknowledge the intense pain that I am undergoing right now, because You are not showering your Grace by giving Your Darshan to me right away!

Swami ChinmayAnanda gives the interpretation for Sarvajnah as ‘One Who illumines all’ – The Illuminator of all thoughts, all intentions, motives, emotions, and all sense perceptions in an individual.

  1.    Sarvato-mukhah – He has faces on all sides and everywhere

VishvarupamThe word ‘Sarvatah’ means ‘from all sides, in every direction, everywhere’ and ‘mukham’ means ‘face, mouth, and in a generic sense, to an opening’. 

Sri Adi Sankara’s interpretation is based straight on Srimad Bhagavad Gita Shloka (13.14) where the Lord says ‘Sarvato akshi Shiromukham’ – He has eyes and faces on all sides and everywhere. Since Bhagavan has faces on all sides and sees everything, He is called Sarvatomukhah, one who has faces on all sides.

Sri Parasara Bhattar gives the interpretation that this Nama signifies that there are many ways of accessing and attaining Him.  He has not laid down any rule that He can be attained only by a particular means and not by another.  He can be easily attained by means that are sometimes inexplicably simple – yena kenapi vyajena supraveshatvaat Sarvato-mukhah. 

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers us to Sri Ramanuja’s Saranagati Gadyam 17, where Emperuman tells: Yena kenapi prakarena dvaya vakta tvam kevalam madIyayaiva dayaya – As long as one surrenders with the utterance of the dvaya mantra with or without sincerity, the natural Divine Grace of Bhagavan will protect this person.   Be it with sincerity (sa-hrdaya), or with feigned sincerity (a-hrdaya), one who needs immediate help (Arta), or one who may need support sometime in the future (dripta), one who is His friend or one who is His sworn enemy (such as Ravana), as long one approaches Him in the name of Saranagati, it is His vow to protect that person.  During Vibhishana Saranagati, Lord Rama says:
Sakrideva prapannaya tavasmiti ca yacate |
abhayam sarva bhutebhyo dadamy etad vratam mama || (Yuddha Kandam 18.33)
Meaning: “He who seeks refuge in me just once, telling me that I am yours’, I shall give him assurance of safety against all types of beings. This is my solemn pledge”.

Lord Rama tells SugrIva that He considers it His sworn duty to protect anyone who surrenders to Him, even by giving up his own life if needed:
Arto va yadi va driptah paresham Saranagatah | 
arih pranaan parityajya rakshitavyah kritAtmana || (Yuddha Kandam 18.28).

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri gives the meaning that the Lord is Omniscient and quotes references from the Shruti in support:

  • Vishvatash-cakshuruta vishvato-mukhah (Taittriya Arayaka 10.1)
  • Pratya’ng-janaas-tishthati sarvato-mukhah (Svetashvara Upanishad 2.16)

Swami ChinmayAnanda gives the analogy of the Sun whose light shines in all directions, or the light from a lamp that shines in all directions simultaneously. 

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj says that Bhaktas are singing His praise from all sides simultaneously, and He has faces on all sides to listen to all of them simultaneously – ‘Sarvaasu dishasu bhajamAnaih bhaktair-hi Srimad bhagavato mukham avalokyate’.  


Kumudah Kundarah Kundah Parjanyah Paavano Anilah    |
Amritaasho Amritavapuh Sarvajnas Sarvatomukhah     ||87|| 

perumal-in-jasmineHe pleases the Earth by reducing its burden or lightening its load and hence He is called Kumudah. He gives fruits, as pure as the Jasmine flower, to His devotees hence He is called Kundarah. His body is beautiful like the Kunda flower and blemishless like crystal hence He is called Kundah or the Jasmine flower. He showers gifts on His devotees like a cloud delivering rain on the crops, hence He is called Parjanyah, the Cloud. He purifies people when they engage even in the mere process of thinking about Him, hence He is called Paavanah, the Purifier. He has no over-riding authority above Him hence He is called Anilah, the highest authority.

He has an undiminishing desire to bestow blessings on His devotees hence He is called Amritaashah, one with a constant desire to reward His devotees. He has a body which is free from death and decay, hence He is called AmritaVapuh, the one with an Immortal Body. He knows everything hence He is called Sarvajnah, the All-Knower. He has eyes and faces on all sides and sees everything hence He is called Sarvatomukhah.



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


In this part we will explore the meaning of the 82nd Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.

Shloka 82
ChaturMurtish ChaturBaahush ChaturVyuhash ChaturGatih   |
ChaturAtma ChaturBhaavash ChaturVedavidekapaat             ||82||

He has four forms, has four arms and four different personalities manifested as different Vyuhas.  He is the goal of all the four stages of life and He has an expert mind that is not afflicted by desires and hatred. He is the source for all the four Purusharthas. He knows the true meaning of the four Vedas and He is known through the Vedas. Only a fraction of Him (1/4th) is manifest as the Universe and three-fourths of His splendour is in the realms of immortality. He is also the Sole Protector.

The above Shloka has the following Namas:

  1.    ChaturMurtih
  2.    ChaturBaahuh
  3.    ChaturVyuhah
  4.    Chaturgatih
  5.    ChaturAtma
  6.    Chaturbhaavah
  7.    Chaturvedavit
  8.    Ekapaat

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

  1.    Chatur-Murtih – He has Four Forms

The word ‘Murti’ means an icon or an image and throughout this Shloka different kinds of the fourfold aspect of Bhagavan is described.

Sri Adi Sankara has given two interpretations for the Nama ‘ChaturMurtih’. The first intepretation is ‘Chatasro Murtayo ViraatSutraAvyaakritaTureeyaAtmanah asya iti ChaturMurtih – He exhibits four different facets namely Virat, Sutra, Avyaakrita and Turiya forms hence He is called Chaturmurtih’.

TrivikramaVirat refers to the Universal form as in Bhagavan’s Trivikrama Avataar or Lord Krishna showing His Vishvarupam. Sutra refers to the subtle form which is smaller than the smallest (Anoraneeyaah). Avyaakrita is the Avyakta or the unmanifested form, the formless Bramhan. Finally Turiya is the fourth form which only the Yogis experience at the height of Samadhi or in deep meditation.

Sri Adi Sankara’s second interpretation is ‘Sita Raktaa Peeta Krishna cha iti Chatasro Murtayo asya iti vaa – He has got the White, Red, Yellow and Black forms, four in all hence He is called ChaturMurtih’. In different incarnations He assumed different coloured bodies ranging from white, red, yellow and black hence He is called ChaturMurtih, the one with four coloured bodies.

Sri Parasara Bhattar comments that the reference to the ‘Four Forms’ immediately reminds one of the four Vyuha forms of Lord (Vasudeva, Samkarshana, Pradyumna, and Aniruddha).  These four Vyuha forms preceded the Vibhava incarnations such as Rama, Krishna, etc.  Even in His vibhava form as Lord Krishna, He had four forms, in the forms of Balabhadra, Vasudeva, Pradyumna, and Aniruddha.  Similarly, in His incarnation as Rama, the four brothers (Rama, Lakshmana, Bharata, and Shatrugna) originated from the same potion that was given to King Dasharath upon completion of the Putra Kameshti Yagam. 

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri provides the following explanation for the four forms:

  • In the process of Creation, the first tattva is called ‘Avyakta’, the state of Mula Prakriti before it started evolving;
  • Virat refers to the ‘Sthula’ or gross form of the evolved state of Mula Prakriti, before Bhagavan entered it in the form of Antaryami and made it functional;
  • Sutratman refers to the Prana Shakti in all of us; Sri Shastri refers to this form as Hiranyagarbha (or Golden embryo); This is the form in which Bhagavan manifests Himself in our intellect and mind (‘Sukshma’ form); 
  • The Turiya state is the one that is beyond the three states listed above, and is called Parama Purusha or Purshottama. This is the state in which everything is contained in Him, and He alone exists, with His Supreme effulgence.

The body has three aspects to it:  Sthula, Sukshsma, and Karana.  Sthula is the physical external appearance, with a shape and a form.  Sukshma aspect refers to Manas, Prana, etc.  The Karana Sharira aspect is reflected in memories acquired from previous births.  An example of this can be witnessed in the knowledge of a child, which as soon as it is born, knows that by crying it will get fed, by sucking the mother’s breast it will get milk etc.  The Vishva, Taijasa, and Prajna are the states of the Jiva associated with the Sthula, Sukshma, and Karana Shariras.  These are also associated with the person is in waking, dream, or sleep states.   In all the above states, the Jiva wrongly considers that the Sharira belongs to “him”, and has the feeling of ownership of the body.  When the Jiva realises the truth and passes beyond this feeling of “I”, this is the Turiya state.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj refers to His four forms in Sri Vaikunta, Satya Loka, Sveta dvipa, and Kshirabdhi respectively.  He quotes the following in support: 
Vaikunthe prathama murtih Satya loke tathaa’patra   |
Sveta dvipe tritiyaa ca Caturthi Kshira Sagare    ||

Swami ChinmayAnanda refers to His four forms with four different colors in the four yugas:  white in Krita Yuga, Red in Treta Yuga, Yellow in Dvapara Yuga, and dark (black) in Kali Yuga.  Swami ChinmayAnanda also refers to the four states of the Self as – the waking state, the dream state, the deep sleep state, and the Pure Self state.  In the microcosm, these are called Vishva, Taijasa, Prajna, and Turiya States, and in the macrocosm, they are called Viraat, Hiranyagarbha, Ishvara, and ParamAtma.

  1. Chatur-Baahuh – The Four-armed

The word ‘Baahu’ means arm so Chaturbahu refers to someone who has 4 arms. Based on this Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Catvaaro baahavo asya iti Chaturbaahuh iti naama Vasudeve Roodham – He has got four arms, hence He is called Chaturbaahuh and this Nama is associated with Para form Vasudeva’.

The Dhyana Shloka says ‘Chandraananam Chaturbaahum Shrivatsaankita Vakshasam – I bow to Krishna who has a Moon like face, four arms and chest marked with Shrivatsa mark’. We have already seen a similar Nama i.e. ‘Chaturbhujah’ which has a similar meaning. According to Sri Adi Sankara this Nama connotes Vasudeva. The Prapatti Shloka to the Lord is as below:
Sankha Chakra Gadha paane Dwaraka-NilayAcyuta      |
Govinda Pundarika Aksha raksha maam Saranagatam ||
Meaning: O’ the holder of conch, Disc and mace, the Lotus eyed one, the Govinda of  Dwaraka, please protect me as I have surrendered unto you.

krisha-birth-testSri Parasara Bhattar interprets various groups of Namas as connected to each other in a string that describes a particular form or incarnation of Bhagavan. Sri Bhattar relates the current Nama to the Lord’s Krishna Avataar in which the Lord was born with four arms to Devaki.  Devaki pleaded with the Lord to appear as a normal child and the Bhagavan obliged by withdrawing His two extra arms. Sri Bhattar gives reference from Srimad Bhagavatam (10.3.9) on Lord Krishna’s appearance with four arms as child to Devaki:
Tam adbhutam baalakam ambujekṣaṇam
Catur-bhujam Sankha-Gadhaady-udaayudham
Shrivatsa-lakshmam gala-Shobhi-kaustubham
Pitambaram saandra-payoda-saubhagam
Meaning: Vasudeva then saw the newborn child, who had very wonderful lotus like eyes and who bore in His four hands the four weapons Sankha, Chakra, Gadhaa and Padma. On His chest was the mark of Srivatsa and on His neck the brilliant Kaustubha gem. Dressed in yellow, His body blackish like a dense cloud.

He also gives reference from the Vishnu Puranam in support, as Devaki describes Him soon after He was born:
Upasamhara sarvAtman rupametat Catur-bhujam     |
Jaanaatu maavataaram te kamso’yam diti-janmajah ||   (V.P. 5.3.13)
Meaning: O’ the Inner Soul of all beings! Please withdraw this four-armed form within Yourself.  Let not this Kamsa that belongs to the Asura race know that you are the incarnation of Vishnu. 

Sri NammAzhwar refers to Him as ‘Naangu Tholan’ in Thiruvai Mozhi (8.8.1) as He has four long arms just to embrace Azhwar! 

In the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 11 Verse 46), Arjuna refers to His divine form with four hands:
Kiritinam gadinam cakra hastam icchaami tvam drishtum aham tathaiva   |
tenaiva rupena Catur-bhujena sahasra baaho bhava Vishva murte  ||
Meaning: I wish to see You adorned in the same way (as before) with the crown, having your mace and discus in hand.  Assume again that four-armed Form (that is, in the divine form of Vishnu), O Thou Universal Being with thousand-arms.   

Sri Andal describes Him as “Ir Irandu Mal varait thol Senkan thiru mugattu Selvat thirumal” (Thiruppavai 30) denoting Lord’s four arms.

Perukkaranai Sri Chakravarty Acharya’s interpretation is that the four arms of the Lord are for bestowing the four Purusharthas namely Dharma (duty, righteous action, ethics), Artha (prosperity, wealth), Kaama (pleasure, sensual gratification), and Moksha (the pursuit of liberation).

The Lord, however, keeps increasing the number of arms as needed, to carry many more weapons to protect His devotees or as the occasion demands. Thus, when He came to protect Gajendra, He came with eight arms; as Sudharsana Azhwar He had 16 arms, carried 16 weapons (reference from Sri ShodashAyudha Stotram of Swami Vedanta Desikan). 

Sri Thirumangai Azhwar also refers to His four arms in Periya Thirumozh (8.1.1) – “malai ilangu thol naange matru avanukku! etre kaan”.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri points out that Lord Vishnu is typically personified with Sankha, Chakra, Gadha, and either a Bow or a Lotus flower in His four hands. 

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj gives the reference to Srimad Bhagavatam describing Bhagavan as One with Four arms: 

  • Chatur-bhujah Sankha Gadaabja Chakrah pisa’nga vasa nalinAyatekshanah (S.B. 8.18.1) – His four hands were decorated with a conch shell, Mace, Lotus and disc, He was dressed in yellow garments, and His eyes appeared like the petals of a blooming lotus;
  • tam adbhutam balakam ambujekshanam Chatur-bhujam Sankha GadhayudAryudham (S.B. 10.3.9) – He saw the new born child, who had very wonderful lotus like eyes and who bore in His four hands the four weapons Sankha, Chakra, Gadhaa and Padma.

Swami ChinmayAnanda described Chaturbhujah in Shloka 15 as ‘the four arms of Bhagavan carrying the Sankha, Chakra, Gadha and Padmam’.  These are meant for maintaining Dharma among mankind.  The Conch calls for the man to adopt the righteous path that directly leads to Peace and Perfection, and ultimately to His Lotus Feet.  But most of us, in the enchantment of the immediate sense-gratification, refuse to listen to the small inner voice of conscience from His Conch.  For those, He wields the Mace (Gadha) very gently, and we suffer from small setbacks and tragic jerks in our otherwise smooth existence.  If still the individual is not listening to the call of the “Conch”, then the Chakra – the Wheel of Time, annihilates the entire being.  The call and the punishment are only to take the man towards his Ultimate Goal, represented by the “Padmam” in His hand. 

For the current occurrence, Swami ChinmayAnanda’s interpretation that the four hands represent the four factors that together constitute the inner equipments in man – Mind (manas), Intellect (buddhi), Thought flow towards objects (Citta), and the Ego (Ahamkara).  These are the four agents through which all the physical activities are controlled, regulated, and constantly commanded from within the body.  

A related explanation is that the Self functions in a four-fold pattern involving mind, intellect, cit, and ego, and these are represented by the four arms containing the Conch, the Mace, the Cakra, and the Padmam.

The Cit is represented by the Lotus or Padma, the intellect is the ‘Conch’, the ego is the ‘Mace’, and the mind is the ‘Discus or Chakra’.

Sri Satyasandha Yatiraja has given the following interpretations: 

  • Bhun’gte bhunakti iti bhujah; Chaturnaam dharma artha kaama mokshanaam bhujah Chatur-bhujah – Lord Vishnu is Chatur-bhujah since He makes Dharma, Artha, Kaama, and Moksha to be experienced by the deserved.
  • Chaturbhyah vedebhyah bhavati iti Chatur-bhug Jnanam tena jayate abhityajyate iti Chatur-bhujah – Lord Vishnu is known as Chatur-bhujah because He can only be known by the four Vedas.
  1. Chatur-Vyuhah – He has four forms of Emanations (Vyuha forms)

Parthasarathy-aniruddha-pradyumna-balaramaThis Nama has the following meanings:

  1. He has four Vyuha forms – Vasudeva, Samkarshana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha
  2. He Who had four manifestations in His Vibhava form (as Krishna, Balarama, Pradyumna, Aniruddha and Rama, Lakshmana, Bharata and Shatrugana)
  3. He Who manifests Himself as Purusha, Chandah Purusha, Veda Purusha, and Maha Purusha
  4. He Whose Supremacy is established by the four-fold Vedas
  5. He Who is in the form of four divisions of speech (three Vedas, and ordinary speech)

Vyuha means a formation and it also means a person. It is in this sense that Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Shareera Purushah Chandah Purusho Veda Purusho Mahaa Purushah; iti Bahavrich Upanishadktaah chatvaarah Purushaah Vyuhaah asya iti Chaturvyuhah – He has got four different personalities manifested as the Purusha in the body, the Purusha in the form Vedic recitation, the Purusha enshrined in the Vedas and the Supreme Purusha hence He is called Chaturvyuhah, the one with four different personalities’.

The Shareera Purusha is the spark of Bhagavan present in every single person. The Chandah Purushah materialises in the form of a sound wave when the scriptures are recited. Veda Purushah is resident in the Vedas in the form of their deep inner meaning.  Maha Purushah is the Supreme Lord of the Universe, the Paramatma itself and as He encompasses all these four aspects He is called Chaturvyuhah.

Sri Sankara also quotes the words of Sage Veda Vyasa in support:
Vyuha Atmanam Chaturdha vai, Vasudevadi murtibhih |
SrishtyadIn prakarotyesha, VishrutAtma Janardanah    ||
Meaning: He Who is known as VishrutAtma, JanArdana, etc., divides Himself into four forms, and performs the functions such as creation, sustenance and dissolution. 

The word ‘Vyuh’ also means divide, distribute, separate, resolve, etc.   It is used to refer to the four forms in which Para Vasudeva or Narayana decided to divide Himself for His functions of Creation, Preservation, and Destruction.  This is a fundamental and integral concept of the Paancharatra Agama.  In this concept, in the para or transcendental mode, the Deity is like an Ocean of nectar altogether devoid of waves, quiet, profound, still, limitless and unfathomable, unfragmented by space or time.  This is His form in Sri Vaikuntam.  It is the plane in which knowledge and bliss are abound and unobstructed, where the Nitya Suris (ever free angels), and the muktas (liberated ones) dwell.  The Para form is full of the six attributes of Jnana, Bala, Aishvarya,, Veerya, Shakti and Tejas.  The Vyuha mode of Bhagavan emphasises the differential manifestations and functions of the six attributes. The Vyuha forms are four in number:  Vasudeva, Samkarshana, Pradyumna, and Aniruddha. Vasudeva has all the six attributes in their fullness and equal dominance.

Vasudeva appears as three additional sequential emanations as:

  • Samkarshana with Jnana + Bala
  • Pradyumna with Aishvarya + Veerya
  • Aniruddha with Shakti + Tejas

Sri Parasara Bhattar points out that each of the Vyuha forms have their own unique features with different colour, ornaments, weapons, vehicles, banners, etc.  These forms are assumed by Bhagavan for the purpose of meditation and worship (Dhyana and Aradhana) by His devotees.  The four states of meditation that are associated with each of these four forms are Jagrat – Wakeful State; Svapna – Dream State; Sushupti – Deep Sleep State; and Turiya – Deep Meditative or Samadhi State. In the Wakeful State, the external senses function; in the Svapna State, they do not function, but only the mind is active; in the Sleep State, even the mind does not function, and there is only breathing; and in the Turiya State, even the breath is suspended. 

Sri Bhattar continues his description of Bhagavan’s Vibhava incarnation as Lord Krishna, and the four forms viz. Krishna or Vasudeva, Balabhadra (BalaRama, His brother), Pradyumna (His son), and Aniruddha (His grandson).  Just as in the Vyuha incarnation, in the Vibhava incarnation, Krishna was full of all the six qualities, and BalaRama (as Samkarshana), Pradyumna, and Aniruddha had two of the six qualities respectively as dominant features.  

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri explains that Sharira Purusha refers to the Soul or Atma in the Sharira of the cetanas; Chandah Purusha is the Atma in the form of the correctly pronounced Mantras; the Veda  Purusha is the Atma in the form of the Vedas; and the Maha Purusha refers to the Purusha in the form of Kaal or Time.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj refers us to Srimad Bhagavatam (10.40.21), where the four Vyuhas are mentioned by Sri Akrura:
Namaste Vasudevaya Namah Samkarshanaya ca     |
Pradyumnaya Aniruddhaya Sattvataam-pataye Namah ||
Meaning: Obeisances to You, Lord of the Sātvatas, and to Your forms of Vasudeva, Samkarṣhaṇa, Pradyumna and Aniruddha.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan gives the explanation that He has this Nama because His Supremacy is established by the four divisions of the Vedas – Rig, Yajur, Saama, and Atharva – ‘Chaturbhih Vedaih vyuhyate pareshatvena vridhyate yam iti Chatur-Vyuhah’. 

Sri Satyadevo Vasishta quotes from the Rig Veda – “Chatvaari vaak parimitaa padaani (1.164.45), and interprets the Nama as referring to “four divisions of speech and the Brahmins who have understanding know them”.  Only the fourth form of speech is in vogue as in current form and the other three are concealed in the form of Vedas.

The Dharma Chakram writer gives a different interpretation.  He takes Vyuha to mean “greatness”, and then interprets the Nama as representing Bhagavan as having the following four mahimas: 

  1. Performing the function of Creation, Sustenanace and Destruction, just as part of His Leelas (Sport);
  2. Revealing the greatness of Para-bhakti (extreme devotion) through Rasa-kreedas;
  3. The revelation of the relation between JivAtma and ParamAtma by being the Naatha simultaneously for innumerable Gopis; and
  4. The calm acceptance of the curse of Gandhari upon the destruction of the Vrishni race.

774.   Chatur-Gatih – He is the Goal for all the Four types of Seekers

poornima-satyanarayana-poojaThe word Gatih has many meanings, one of which is a goal or aim. Based on this Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Aashramaanaam Varnaanaam Chaturnaam Yathoktakaarinaam Gatih Chaturgatih – As prescribed in the scriptures He is the goal of all the four stages of life, for all the four categories of people, hence He is called Chatugatih, the goal for all four’.

The four stages of life are Bramhachari (Student), Grihastha (Householder), Vaanaprastha (Retired) and Sanyasi (Recluse). For all these stages of life, the final goal is Bhagavan. The four categories or Varnas are Brahmin (Thinkers), Kshatriya (Rulers or Leaders), Vaishya (Merchants or Traders) or Shudra (Workers). Again Bhagavan is the goal for all these categories. So He is aptly called as ChaturGatih.

Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets the Nama as referring to His being the path for all the four goals desired by His devotees – Upasaka abhiyoga taratamya krita-kramat catasrah praptayah asmin iti Chatur-gatih.  The four goals are the four PurushArthas – Dharma, Artha, Kaama, and Moksha. 

In Srimad Ramayana, Hanuman describes Lord Rama to Sita Piratti as Chatur-Gatih (Sundara Kandam 35.19) – Catur-dasha samadvandvas-Catur-damshtras-Catur-Gatih – The word ‘Gatih’ is interpreted as His “gait” meaning as “One Who has the four kinds of gaits (resembling the walks of a lion, a tiger, an elephant and a bull)”.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan gives reference from Sri Andal’s Thiruppavai Pasuram 23 – ‘maari malai muzhanjil manni kidandhu urangum seeriya Singham arivutru thee vizhuthi veri” meaning ‘Pray come out of sleeping chamber and grace us, like a fierce lion that lay sleeping, hidden in the cavernous mountain-den, waking now with fiery eyes, raising its mane’.

In Srirangam Emperuman’s gait is enjoyed in four different ways in Utsavams.  These are the Rshabha gati (the walk of a bull, characterized by pride and exultation), matta gaja gati (the gait of an intoxicated elephant, characterized by majesty), the Vyaghra gati (associated with an angry tiger), and Simha gati (the walk of Lordliness associated with the Lion as the King of the forest). 

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan gives the interpretation that Bhagavan has this Nama because He is the Refuge for the four kinds of Bhaktas – the Arthas (the Distressed), Jijnasus (the Inquisitive), Artharthis (the Materialistic) and Jnanis (the Learned or Realised) – Caturnaam Artadinam bhaktanam yatha-bhaavam Asryatvaat Chatur-Gatih. 

Sri Satyasandha Yatiraja also gives this interpretation, and gives the reference from the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 7 Verse 16:
Catur-vidha bhajante maam janaah sukritino’rjuna |
Arto jijnasur-artharthI jnanI ca bharatarshabha    ||
Meaning: Four types of men of good deeds worship Me, O Arjuna.  These are the distressed, the inquisitive, the wealth seekers, and men of knowledge”.

Who is the Lord’s favourite devotee?

One day Sage Narada visited Lord Vishnu and said that he wanted to know ‘Who was His favourite devotee?’ Sage Narada, a staunch devotee of Lord Vishnu, was expecting to be named and praised by Lord Vishnu as His favourite devotee. But Narada was shocked when he heard that Lord Vishnu referred to a farmer on earth as his favourite devotee.

Narada2Sage Narada decided to test the devotion of the farmer. He visited farmer’s house early morning and noticed that the farmer after feeding cows and a short prayer went to the field for work. In the evening the farmer returned and again after a short prayer spent time with family and went to sleep.  Sage Narada was puzzled as to how this farmer could be the most favourite devotee of Lord Vishnu who remembered HIS name just twice a day.

Narada returned to Lord Vishnu, a bit agitated and asked him about the basis of HIS judgement.

Lord Vishnu telling Narada about true devotionLord Vishnu said that before He would answer there was one task that Narada had to do. He gave an earthen pot of water and told him to walk around the earth and return without dropping single drop of water.

Narada followed the Lord’s order and went ahead. While walking he was extremely careful so as not to drop any water and finally returned completing the task successfully. Now, Lord Vishnu asked Narada how many times did he remember Him or utter His name while performing task.

Narada replied that he was too engrossed and concentrated on the task that it was not possible for him to remember the Lord or utter His name. Lord Vishnu answered that the farmer was also loaded with responsibilities but still he managed to take some time out for remembering him. This was a clear message to Narada who felt overwhelmed that Lord has so mercifully shown him that he should not feel proud on his feeling of devotion.

Lord Vishnu said that “Those who selflessly remember Me while doing their duties are ever dearer to Me than those who ignore all responsibilities and chant My name day and night in expectation of some favour or reward.”

  1.    Chatur-Atma – He is present in all Four States (Waking, Dream, Sleep and Meditative)

Maha Vishnu 2The word ‘Chatura’ means an expert and based on this Sri Adi Sankara gives his first interpretation ‘RaagaDveshaadirahitatvaat ChaturAtma Manah Asya iti  – He has a mind which is an expert in keeping away desire and hatred from affecting His tranquility, hence He is called ChaturAtma, the expert mind’.

The word Chatur also means four and using this Sri Adi Sankara gives the second interpretation ‘ManoBuddhi Ahankaara Chittaakhyaantah Karana Chatushtyaatmakatvaat Vaa ChaturAtma – He is endowed with the four attributes which are Mind, Intellect, Ego and Instinct or Intuition hence He is called ChaturAtma’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar’s sees a connection between groups of Namas in Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam, and has grouped the 1000 Namas into 44 groups, like 44 petals of a lotus flower.  So in Sri Bhattar’s commentary, we will see the interpretation that is most appropriate to the form of Bhagavan for a given Nama.  In this instance the term Atma is defined as Rupam and based on the nirukti description – Vasudevadi rupatvaat ChaturAtma iti kathyate. He gives the interpretation that Bhagavan makes Himself available for experience of the devotees both in Sthula form and Sukshma form, in any of the four states of experience: the Waking State, the Dream State, the Sleep State, and the Turiya State, depending on the capacity of the devotee to meditate on Him. 

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri describes the four aspects as the mind function, the buddhi function, the citta function, and the ahankara.  The mind function involves thinking of doing something, the buddhi function is one of analysis, the citta function is one of drawing on prior experiences in execution, and the ahankara is the feeling of accomplishment at the end of this process.  These four are called the four antah karanas, or internal organs.  Since Bhagavan is the Atma of function behind these, He is called Chatur-Atma –
mano buddhir-aha’nkarah cittam karanam Antaram  | 
samshayo nishcayo garvas smaranam vishaya ami  || 

Sri Shastri gives another interpretation based on Narasimhottara tapini.  This describes His manifesting Himself in four forms. 

  • The first form is where He supports the Sthula Sharira of the Jiva (called Vishva), in His form as Viraat. The combined manifestation is known as Otaa.
  • The second form is where He supports the Sukshma Sharira of the Jiva called Taijasa, in His form as Sutra. This combined manifestation is called anujnata. 
  • The third aspect or dimension of the soul, which is called Karana Sharira (also called prajna), which is carries the memories from previous birth, such as the memory of the new born child that crying will result in its getting fed. The manifestation of His Self that supports this Karana Sharira of the soul in His form as Ishvara is called anujnaikarasa. 
  • The fourth form is His Self which is past these three aspects of the soul, and which is realized through brahma Jnana is called avikalpa.

Thus the Nama ChaturAtma, based on the Narasimhottra tapini, refers to the four forms of Him described above – otaa, anujnata, anujna ekarasa and avikalpa – ‘Atha turiyash-ChaturAtma turiyAvasitvaat ekaikasya otAnujnAtranujnA vaikalpaih (1.11).  The first three forms lead to the fourth form – the ParamAtman, through knowledge and realisation. 

Swami ChinmayAnanda gives the patham as CatvarAtma as the one corresponding to this interpretation – catvara + Atma – “The One Infinite Efflugence that expresses Itself as the four aspects of our inner equipment – antah karana catushtaya.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj gives the interpretation that the Nama refers to His being the antaryami of the four types of devotees – the Arti, artharthI, jijnasu and mumukshu – those who worship Him for relief

from sufferings, those who seek wealth, those who seek knowledge, and those who seek liberation or Moksha – Caturnam Arta arthArthi jijnasu mumukshunam Atma antaryami priya iti ChaturAtma.

Sri Satyasandha Yatiraja gives an interpretation that is based His being the cause of the four types of desires (Dharma, Artha, Kaama and Moksha) in the devotees – ‘Caturshu dharma artha kaama moksheshu jananam yogyatAnusarena Atma mano yasmaat sa ChaturAtma’.

Sri Satyasandha Yatiraja also gives another interpretation – Bhagavan is called ChaturAtma because He created and equipped Brahma – Caturah kushala Atma Catur-mukho yasmaat iti ChaturAtma.  Another of his interpretations is that Bhagavan has all the qualities of the four types of Atmas:  Atma, AntarAtma, ParamAtma, and JnanAtma  – ‘Catvaara Atmanah – Atma, AntarAtma, ParamAtma, Jnanatma lakshna yasya iti ChaturAtma).  

Sri T. S. Raghavendran explains that ParamAtma resides in our hearts in the rupa of Atma.  The AntarAtma resides in the heart of the Soul.  He explains Jnanatma by referencing the TaittirIya Upanishad – Satyam Jnanam Anatam Brahma.  He is Prana Maya, Mano Maya, Anna Maya, Vijnana Maya, and Ananda Maya.  Manomaya and Ananda Maya refer to His manifestations as Jnanatma.  He also quotes the Brihat Samhita to distinguish between Atma and AntarAtma as distinct manifestations of Hari:
Atma AntarAtma iti harir-eka eva dvi-vidha sthitah     |
nivishto hridaye nityam rasam pibati karmajam   ||

Sri T.S. Raghavendran also gives reference from the Markandeya Purana which states that ParamAtma enters the bodies of all creatures with the four forms of Vishva, taijasa, prajna, and turiya:
ParamAtma catu-rupah sarva-pranisariragah    |
Vishvashca taijasah prajnas-triyashceti kathyate    ||

Sri Raghavendran associates the Vishva form with the wakeful state of the Jiva, the taijasa with the dream state, the prajna with the sleep state, and the turiya with the state that is above all the other three, the moksha state.

  1. Chatur-Bhaavah – He is Source of all Purusharthas

IMG_0435The word ‘Bhaavah’ means ‘source’ among other things. Based on this Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Dharmaartha Kaama Mokshaakhya Pururushaartha Chatushtayam Bhavati Utpadyate asmaat iti Chaturbhaavah – In him are born the four Purusharthas (objectives) of every human being namely Dharma (Righteous conduct), Artha (Wealth), Kaama (Pleasure) and Moksha (Liberation) and therefore He is called Chaturbhaavah, the source for all the four’. Bhagavan bestows His devotees’ with all these forms of blessings depending on their devotion and maturity.

Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets the word ‘Bhaava’ as standing for ‘Bhavana’, which means ‘manifesting, revealing’ – Bhavah = bhaavana = abhivya’njanam, which means ‘manifesting, revealing’.  He continues his interpretation by linking the Nama to the previous ones, which dealt with His Vyuha forms, and interprets the current Nama as revealing the expression of these Vyuha forms through actions. Creation, sustenance, protection of the beings, and propagation of the Shastras are the four actions or duties.  These are distributed respectively as follows:     

Vasudeva – Srishti, Creation of the Universe; Samkarshana – Sthiti, keeping the Universe in balance; Pradyumna – Rakshana, protection; Aniruddha – Shastra pradanam – bequest of a good number of instructional scriptures as guides for living – abhivya’njanam – manifesting, revealing.

Swami ChinmayAnanda takes the generic meaning “The Source of the Four”, and then expands on it.  He is the Source of the four Varnas, the four Ashramas, the four PurushArthas etc. He gives reference from the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 4 Verse 13 in support:
Catur-varnyam maya srishtam guna karma vibhagashah|
tasya kartaaramapi maam viddhi akartaaram avyayam   ||  
Meaning: According to the three modes of material nature and the work ascribed to them, the four divisions of human society were created by Me. And, although I am the Creator of this system, you should know that I am yet the non-doer, being unchangeable and Immutable.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha notes that the meaning for the word ‘Bhaava’ can be ‘One who exists or one through whom existence takes place or one who came into existence by himself or one who makes others appear” etc.  Accordingly, Sri Vasishta gives the interpretation that the current Nama signifies His creation of the four kinds of species:  Svakritavyavasthaya Catur-vidhaam srishtim Utpaadayati – One Who has created the four kinds of species through His own Free Will. 

  1.    Chatur-Vedavit – He is the Knower of the four Vedas

hayagriva2The word ‘Vit’ means ‘one who knows or a learned one’. Chaturveda is the term for the four Vedas. So, Chatur-Vedavit means One who is an expert in all the four Vedas. With this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this name as ‘Yathaavad Vetti Chaturnaam Vedaanaam Artham iti Chaturvedavit – As the Creator of the Vedas, He knows the true meaning of the four Vedas and hence He is called ChaturVedavit’.

In the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 15 Verse 15), Bhagavan says:
sarvasya caham hrdi sannivisto mattah smrtir jnanam apohanam ca |
vedais ca sarvair aham eva vedyo vedanta-krd veda-vid eva caham ||
Meaning: I am seated in everyone’s heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness. I am to be known by the Vedas; indeed I am the compiler of Vedanta, and I am the knower of the Vedas.

Chatur-Vedavit literally refers to one who is an expert in all the four Vedas.  This unequivocally applies only to Bhagavan.  Other who are learned in the four Vedas, see but a drop of the Great Ocean that He is, because the magnificence displayed in the Vyuha and Vibhava is vast like the ocean, which cannot be comprehended by anyone.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan gives reference from Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi (3.1.10) where in the Azhwar addresses Him as ‘மறையாய நால்வேதத் துள்நின்ற மலர்சுடரே’ meaning ‘O Radiant Lord! You are the One Who is very clearly revealed and praised in the Vedas as the Supreme Deity’.

‘Marai’ also refers to this great secret being concealed from those who are not devoted, and Vedam refers to it being revealed to the great devotees.  To know Him fully is extremely difficult but in His Vyuha and Vibhava forms, with His Grace, a tiny part of His Mahima can be realised.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri comments that not only it is true that He alone knows the four Vedas completely with their correct meanings, but He is also the Vedas Himself.  Thus, knowing Him is only possible for those who have learned the Vedas correctly with their true meanings.  

Swami ChinmayAnanda comments that a student of Veda can be considered to have achieved his study only when he has realised the Lord.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan has a different interpretation and explains that Bhagavan has this Nama because He is the One Who enables His devotees to know the four Vedas – Caturo Vedan Vedayati bhaktaan iti Chatur-Vedavit.  In other words, only through devotion to Him will a student of Veda be able to know and understand the Vedas and their meanings correctly. 

  1.    Eka-paat – He Who is the Sole Protector

Maha Vishnu 6The word ‘paat’ is used in the sense of ‘a part’. So Ekepaat implies that Bhagavan manifests only a very small part of His total Self. Using this Sri Adi Sankara says ‘Ekah Pado asya iti Ekapaat – Only a small part of Bhagavan is manifest as the Universe hence He is called Ekapaat’. Sri Sankara quotes from the Purusha Suktam (3) which says:
Etaavaanasya Mahima-Ato Jyaayaash-Ca Puurussah |
Paado-Asya Vishvaa Bhuutaani Tri-Paad-Asya-Amrtam Divi ||3||
Meaning:  The entire Universe is a manifestation of His splendour But His glory is more effulgent than all this. The Purusha is Greater than all the Greatness (which can be expressed by words). Only One fourth of His entire being is this manifest Universe (visible Worlds), and Three fourths of His splendour is in the realms of immortality.

Sri Sankara quotes from the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 10 Verse 42) where Bhagavan says:
atha va bahunaitena kim jnatena tavarjuna
vistabhyaham idam krtsnam ekamsena sthito jagat
Meaning: But what need is there, Arjuna, for all this detailed knowledge and so many examples? With a single fragment of Myself I pervade and support this entire Universe.

In other words what we perceive of him is but a tip of the iceberg. The major part remains unmanifested and hidden from us.

Sri Parasara Bhattar gives the interpretation that Bhagavan chooses to show only a part of His greatness when He takes incarnations amongst us. He has His complete and undiminished attributes at His command, but He just does not invoke them or use them.  This is revealed in Srimad Ramayanam, where Lord Rama emphasises that He is only a human – aham maanusham manye, even though Vishwamitra and others knew His true Nature. Lord Rama revealed some of His divine powers when He had to summon Samudra Rajan to assist in the construction of the Setu.

Sri Bhattar gives the following references:

  • Amshaavataaro brahmarshe! Yo’yam yadu kulodbhavah (V.P. 5.1.2) – “O Brahmarshi! This incarnation of the Lord as Krishna in the Yadu race is only a small part of Himself”.
  • Amshaamsena avatirya urvyaam (V.P. 5.1.3) – “He has come down to this world only with a part of Himself”.  
  • Vishnor-ardham Mahabhaagam putram ikshvaaku nanadanam (Balakandam. 18.11) – “Rama, the delight of the Ikshvaaku race, took birth as half the amsam of Vishnu”.

It is important to note that all of Bhagavan’s incarnations are Purna Avataars but He chooses to reveal only a portion of His Greatness.  This has described by Swamy Sri Vedanta Desikan in his work on Saranagati Deepika (Verse 17) which explained the avatara rahasya of Sriman Narayana. Bhagavan has taken different incarnations out of His sheer Mercy in order to be accessible to us in many ways. The six rahasyas are behind His incarnations are:
Nanavidahaih akapataih ajahat-svabhavaih aprakrtaih nija viharavasena siddhaih   |
AtmIya rakshana vipaksha vinasanarthaih Samsthapayasyanagha janmabhir adyadharmam ||

  1. Nana-vidahih – The incarnations are of different forms, including Matsya, Kurma, Rama, Krishna, etc.; 
  2. Atmiya rakshana, vipaksha vinasanarthaih – The incarnations are taken by Him for the protection of His devotees and for the destruction of their enemies; 
  3. Akapataih – These incarnations are real, and not a display of trickery or magic; 
  4. Ajahat-svabhavaih – In these incarnations He retains all His qualities intact; 
  5. Aprakritaih – He is not made of the pancha bhutas as we are; they are pure Suddha-satva and not contaminated by rajas, tamas etc. and 
  6. Nija vihara vasena siddhaih – His ‘births’ or incarnations are not a result of purva karmas but are taken because of His Samkalpa or Leela. 

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan gives the following reference from the Smriti:
Andaanaam tu sahasranam sahasranyayutani ca  |
Idrisanam tatha tatra koti koti Satani ca   ||
Meaning: All the thousands of Universes together are nothing more than a tiny part of Him.

Sri Satya Sandha Yatiraja bases one of his interpretations by looking at the Nama as ‘ekapo mukhya Alakah san atati’ – He is constantly on the lookout as the Sole Protector of His devotees. 

The root ‘pa – rakshane’ meaning to protect (paati – protects), also suggests that the Nama can also be viewed to take the meaning that He is the Sole Protector.


ChaturMurtish ChaturBaahush ChaturVyuhash ChaturGatih      |
ChaturAtma ChaturBhaavash ChaturVedavidekapaat             ||82||

Maha Vishnu 5 - Copy (2)He exhibits four different facets namely Virat, Sutra, Avyaakrita and Turiya forms hence He is called ChaturMurtih. He has got four arms and hence He is called ChaturBaahuh and this Nama is associated with Para form Vasudeva. He has got four different personalities manifested as the Purusha in the body, the Purusha in the form Vedic recitation, the Purusha enshrined in the Vedas and the Supreme Purusha hence He is called ChaturVyuhah.  He is the goal of all the four stages of life, for all the four categories of people, hence He is called ChatuGatih, the goal for all four.

He has a mind which is an expert in keeping away desire and hatred from affecting His tranquility, hence He is called ChaturAtma, the expert mind.  In him are born the four Purusharthas (objectives) of every human being namely Dharma (Righteous conduct), Artha (Wealth), Kaama (Pleasure) and Moksha (Liberation) and therefore He is called ChaturBhaavah, the source for all the four. As the Creator of the Vedas, He knows the true meaning of the four Vedas and hence He is called ChaturVedavit. Only a small part of Bhagavan is manifest as the Universe hence He is called Ekapaat. The Nama can also be viewed to take the meaning that He is the Sole Protector.



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