SRI VISHNU SAHASRANAMAM (SHLOKA 97) – PART 106

In this part we will explore the meaning of the 97th Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.


Araudrah Kundali Chakri Vikrami UrjitaShaasanah      |

Shabdaatigas Shabdasahah Shishiras Sharvarikarah ||97||

Purport
He has no desire, hatred, anxiety etc., and hence is devoid of anger. He is bedecked with beautiful fish-shaped ear-rings and weilds the powerful Sudarshana Chakra, has giant strides whose commands are inviolable and is strongly rooted in the Vedas.  He is beyond words for description and is extolled in the Vedas.  He rushes to render help to calls of distress and redeems them from the woes of this Samsara to His cool abode. He wields destructive weapons in His hands and is also the Creator of night to provide rest to all beings.

The above Shloka has the following Namas:

  1.    Araudrah
  2.    Kundali
  3.    Chakri
  4.    Vikrami
  5.    UrjitaShaasanah
  6.    Shabdaatigah
  7.    Shabdasahah
  8.    Shishirah
  9.    Sharvarikarah

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

  1.    Araudrah – He Who is not driven to anger easily

The word Raudram denotes any of three things viz. a violent action, passion or anger. Based on this Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Karma Roudram, Raagashcha Raudrah, Kopashcha Raudrah, Yasya Raudratrayam Naasti Avaapta sarva Kamatvena Raagadveshaader Abhaavaat Sa Araudrah – Because Bhagaven has no unfulfilled desire, he is free from violence, passion or anger. Being devoid of all three types of Roudram, Bhagavan is called Araudrah’.

Desire leads to action to attain the desired object, and when it is not attained, it leads to anger; however, when the desired object is attained, more of the same or some other objects are desired, and so the cycle goes on endlessly. As Bhagavan has no desire, hatred, etc., He is called Araudrah.

Sri Parasara Bhattar notes that Bhagavan is – ‘parama aishvaryepi guna Sheetalimna Araudrah’ – He is gentle, agreeable, and cool by nature, who is not irate, even though He is Sarveshvaran, hence He is called Araudrah.

In the Dhyana Shloka Bhagavan is defined as ‘Shantakaram’ meaning His peaceful countenance that radiates kindness, compassion and warmth. Bhagavan has a calm and pleasant temperament at all times that is devoid of anger, passion or violence, hence He is aptly called ‘Araudrah’, the serene one.

We can recall the instance when Krishna was abused and insulted by Shishupala a 100 times.  When Yudhishthira performed the Rajasuya Yajna, he had sent Bhima to obtain the submission of Shishupala, who accepted Yudhishthira’s supremacy without protest, and was invited to the final ceremony at Indraprastha.  The Pandavas had decided that Krishna would be their guest of honour, but Shishupala objected to this and resorted to insulting Krishna as a cowherd and worthless of being honoured as a King. He committed 100 sins while Krishna kept His cool (and count) and pardoned Shishupala a 100 times (keeping his promise). Lord Krishna released His Sudarshana Chakra to kill Shishupala only after forgiving his 100 transgressions.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj explains the Nama as ‘Parama Shanta Saumya Sundara Akaarah’.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan points out that even though Bhagavan is radiating extreme Tejas, it does not deflect His devotees even a bit.

Sri Raghunatha Thirtha gives an essentially similar interpretation – rudati anena iti rudram = duhkham, taj-janakatvena tat-sambandhitvaat raudram = kama krodhadi duhkha sadhanam, tat asya nasti iti Araudrah – He is called Araudrah because He has no association with sorrow that arises out of desire, anger, greed etc.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan notes that Bhagavan is the exact opposite of raudram – Ananda purnatvat Araudrah prasanna murtih – He is the embodiment of Perfect Bliss.

  1.    Kundali – He Who is bedecked with beautiful ear-rings

Kundala means ear rings and it also means a coiled serpent. Based on these meanings, Sri Adi Sankara gives three interpretations. The first is ‘Shesharupabhaak Kundali – He is in the form of a serpent called Shesha or Adishesha, hence He is called Kundali, the serpent’.

The second one is ‘Sahasraamshu Mandalopama Kundala dharanaat Vaa – He wears ear rings which are as shiny as the multi-rayed Sun, hence He is called Kundali, the wearer of ear rings’.

The third interpretation is ‘Sankhyayogatmake Kundale Makarakaare Asya Sta iti Kundali’ – He has fish-shaped ear pendants representing Sankhya and Yoga philosophies, hence He is called Kundali, the one who symbolises Yoga and Sankhya through his ear rings.

Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets the Nama as ‘yathocita nitya divya bhushnah Kundali” – He Who is appropriately bedecked with celestial ornaments befitting His body and His status. Thus, Sri Bhattar takes the Kundala as one representation of all infinite auspicious ornaments. Literally, ‘One Who is adorned with beautiful ear-rings, the Kundalas, is Kundali.’ Since Bhagavan is adorned with Makara kundalam, or ear-rings that are shaped like fish, He is Kundali.

Sri RamanujAcharya, in his Sarangati Gadyam, describes Bhagavan as ‘niratishaya aujvalya kirita makuta cudaavatamsa Makara Kundala graiveyaka hara keyura kataka Srivatsa kaustubha mukta Damodara pitambara kannci guna nupur Adi aparimita divya bhushana!” – One Who is adorned with wonderful Crown embellished with lustrous stone in the central diadem, other head ornaments, fish shaped ear-rings, ornaments, necklaces, garlands, shoulder-bracelets, bracelets in the hands, Sri vatsa and kaustubha, pearl garlands, waist ornaments, lace clothes, gold waist band, leg ornaments and other precious and innumerable other jewels.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers to Sri NammAzhwar’s description of His Makara Kundalam in Thiruvai Mozhi Pasurams:

  • Makara nedum kuzhaik kadan Maayan (7.3.10) – This Mayan has beautiful, long ear pendants that are shaped in the form of fish;
  • Ilagu vilagu Makara Kundalattan (8.8.1) – He Who has shining fish-shaped ear ornaments that are dangling back and forth beautifully while shining lustrously.

Sri Thirumangai Azhwar in his Pasuram from Thrunedum Thaandakam (21) says: Makaram Ser kuzhai iru padu ilangi Ada – With the shining fish-shaped ear pendants dangling from both ears.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri gives reference from Srimad Bhagavatam (12.11.12)
Bibharti Sankhyam Yogam ca devo makara Kundale |
maulim padam parameshthyam Sarvalokabhayankaram ||
Meaning: The Supreme Deity wears the Sankhya and Yoga as His two Makara Kundalas and the whole Brahma loka as His crown.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha indicates that the root words for the Nama are ‘kudi – dahe’ meaning ‘to burn’ and ‘kudi –rakshane’ meaning ‘to protect’.  He gives the derivation, ‘Kundalam daho rakshanam va, sa asya asti iti Kundali’ – That which has the property or Guna of burning or destruction (dahah – dahanam), or protection (rakshanam) is Kundala.

Sri Vasishtha also suggests that this Nama refers to the Sun, Fire etc.; since Bhagavan is their Creator, He is Kundali. The explanation can also be given that since Bhagavan is the One who has the Guna of destruction as well as protection (and creation), He has the Guna of ‘Kundala’ – (destruction and protection), and so He is Kundali.

Sri Raghunatha Thirtha gives the interpretation – Kundalam dahanam Satrunaam asmaat bhavati iti Kundali – He Who destroys His enemies, is Kundali.

In the Sandhya Vandanama, we pay obeisance to Lord Narayana:
ॐ ध्येयः सदा सवित्र मण्डल मध्यवर्ती नारायण सरसिजा सनसन्नि विष्टः
केयूरवान मकरकुण्डलवान किरीटी हारी हिरण्मय वपुर धृतशंख चक्रः ॥
Om dhyeya sada savitra mandala madhyavarti |
Narayana sarasija sanasanni vishtah |
Keyuravana makarakundalavana kiriti |
Hari hiranmaya vapura dhritashankha chakrah ||
Meaning: One should meditate on the form of Lord Narayana situated in the orb of the Sun. He is seated on a lotus, with golden bracelets, crown, with fish-shaped earrings; with radiant golden complexion, and holds the shankha and chakra in His hands.

  1.    Chakri – One with the Discus in His arm

The word Chakra means a wheel. In this context, it refers to the Sudarshana Chakra weapon in the hand of Sri Vishnu, which is also called Chakraayudham. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Samasta loka Rakshaartham Manastattvaatmakam Sudrashanaakhyam Chakram Dhatte iti Chakri – For the sake of protecting the whole world He is carrying a weapon in the shape of a Discus called Sudarshana, which revolves like the mind, hence He is called Chakri, the bearer of the Sudarshana Chakra’. In support of this Sri Sankara quotes the following from Vishnu Puranam (1.22.71):
Chalasvarupam Atyanta Javenaantaritaanilam                      |
Chakrasvarupam cha Mano Dhatte Vishnuh Kare Sthitam ||
Meaning: Vishnu holds in His hand the Chakra which represents the mind that is unsteady, and which is swifter than the wind’.

The Sudarshana Chakra in His hand is always rotating and is ready to be discharged at anyone who causes obstacles to His devotees’, and so it is equated to being ‘unsteady’ in this intepretation. It is also said that the mind, like the Chakra, is always revolving with various thoughts.

An alternate interpretation given by Sri Sankara is that Bhagavan is the Wielder of the Samsara Chakra (or Kaal Chakra) for everyone, and so He is Chakri in this sense as well – samsara Chakram asya Ajnaya parivartata iti va.

Sri Parasara Bhattar explains the Nama as – ‘Taadrisha divya Ayudhah ChakrI’ – He Who has divine weapons. Sri Bhattar elaborates further on the grandeur of Bhagavan’s beauty with His divine weapons which resonates with His Rakshakattvam (Protection) – His nature of protecting His devotees:
Nitya Sudarsanah svabhrityasura pratibhata rakshah asura Shonita |
Kalmashita jvalancitam Chakram api tathiva iti Chakri ||
Meaning: Bhagavan is ever armed with the Sudarshana Chakra. The Chakra is smeared with the blood of the Asuras who are the sworn enemies of the Devas and His devotees. The Chakra also emanates flames shooting in all directions.

Sri NammAzhwar praises and enjoys the Bhagavan’s Guna as the Protector (Rakshakattvam) in his Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (2.2.9) – ‘Kaakkuum iyalvinan’ – One Whose nature is to protect those who seek His refuge.

Sri RamanujAcharya describing the divine Ayudha-s of Bhagavan in his Saranagati Gadyam:
Svarupa acintya Shakti Sankha Chakra Gadha’si Saarngadi asankhyeya Nitya niravadya niratishaya kalyana Divya Ayudha!
Meaning: You, My Lord, bear the various weapons whose powers are par- excellence, and worthy of You alone are the Conch, the Discus, the Mace, the Sword, the Bow, and such other innumerable auspicious divine weapons exceeding all others in power and force.

Sri V.V.Ramanujan gives several references from the Divya Prabandham:

  • eppodum kai kazhala nemiyaan nam mel vinai kadivaan (Sri NammAzhwar in Periya Thiruvandhadhi Pasuram 87) – The Lord who permanently wields a discus will rid us of our Karmas. 
  • Azhiyum Sangum Sumappaar (Thiruvai Mozhi 8.3.3) – He Who carries the Discus and the Conch in His hands.
  • Kurar Azhi ven Sangu Endik kodiyen paal vaaraay (Sri NammAzhwar in Thiruvai Mozhi 6.9.1) – Will you not come to this wicked self one day, with your conch and discus in hand?
  • Naangu Tholan kuni Sarngan on Sangu Gadhai Vaal Azhiyaan (Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi 8.8.1) – He has four arms, with the beautiful weapons (Sarnga – the Bow, Sankha – the Conch, Gadha – the mace, Khadga – the Sword, and Chakra – the Discus).
  • Padmanabhan kaiyil Azhi pol minni valam puri pol nindru adirndu – (Sri Andal’s Tiruppavai 4) – Lord Padmanabha, strike lightning like the resplendent discus on the mighty shoulder, roar with thunder with the great conch, come pouring down on us like arrows cast from the Saarnga bow, that we too may live and enjoy.
  • Tadavarait Thol Chakrapani – (PeriAzhwar Thirumozhi 5.4.4) – The Lord with mountain like shoulders bearing the Chakra in His hand.

Sri Krishna datta Bharadvaj gives several additional references:

  • Sudarshanam Chakram asahya tejah (Srimad Bhagavatam 8.20.30) – The Sudarshana Discus with its intense brilliance.
  • Sankha Chakra dharo Harih (Srimad Ramayanam 1.45.22) – Lord Vishnu who bears the Conch and the Discus.
  • Namaste Chakra hasthaaya (VishNu Puranam 5.30.22) – Obeisance to Lord with the Discus in His hand.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri comments that Bhagavan used the Sudarshana Chakra to liberate Gajendra, and several times during His Krishna Avataar e.g. while holding the Govardhana Giri, Shishupala vadham etc.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan uses this meaning and gives the following interpretation for the Nama: Chakram aparimitam sainyam asya asti iti ChakrI – He Who has a limitless army at His disposal is Chakri.

  1.    Vikrami – One with Giant Strides and Great Prowess

The word Vikrama denotes two things – a) the stride of a person and b) the prowess of a person. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this name as ‘Vikramah PaadaVikshepah, Shouryah Vaa; Dvayam cha Ashesha Purushebhyo Vilakshanam asya iti Vikrami – Vikrama can denote a foot print of a person; it can also denote the prowess of a person; In both these aspects Bhagavan stands above all others, hence He is called Vikrami, the one with unique foot print or the one with unparalleled prowess’.

The enormity of His stride was demonstrated in the Vamana/Trivikrama Avataar where He could measure the whole earth with a single step.  His prowess is proven in all His Avataars, hence He is called Vikrami.

Sri Parasara Bhattar comments that Bhagavan is called Vikrami because it is His nature to dispel any possibility of anything going against His desire or will – Iccha pratihantra prasakti paripanthi svabhavam (asya iti) Vikrami. Sri Bhattar further explains – GambhIryAnukula vilaasah Vikrami – He whose actions are fascinating and befitting His heroic nature.

Srimad Srimushnam Andavan explains that Bhagavan has the ‘Vishesha kramam’ that He will eliminate any obstruction to His Will, and so He is called Vikrami.

Sri Velukkudi Krishnan refers us to Lord Rama’s declaration to Sugriva, that He will eliminate any foe with the tip of His finger, if only He so wishes:
Pishacan danavaan yakshaan prithivyam caiva Rakshasaan |
Angulya matrena taan hanyaam icchan hariganeshvara ||
Meaning: O’ King of Vanaras! If only I so desire, I can eliminate any of the beings, be it a Pishaca (devilish being), Asura, Yaksha, or Rakshasa, with the tip of My finger.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan notes that Sri NammAzhwar in his Thiruvai Mozhi Pasurams 5.10 speaks of Bhagavan’s Vikramam. Some examples are given below:
pirandavaarum valarndavaarum periya Bharatam kai Seidu,
aivarkkut tirangaL kaatti ittuc ceidu pona maayangaLum.. (5.10.1)
Meaning: How You were born, You endured suffering, the miracles You wrought, how You grew up and were mischievous, how you killed Your foes sportively, how You contrived to conduct a battle showing Your deftness in support of Pandavas, the many episodes that You enacted that is beyond one’s understanding.

Vaduvai vaartaiyul Eru paaindadum Maaya Maavinai vai pilandadum (Thiruvai Mozhi 5.10.2) – To win Nappinnai in marriage, You jumped on the seven bulls and slew them. As a boy, You slew BakAsura by splitting open his mouth.

Peyyum pum kuzhal pey mulai unda pIllait tetramum perndu Or Shadirac ceyya paadham ondraai Seida nin Siruc cevagamum (Thiruvai Mozhi 5.10.3) – You beautifully got rid of Putana who tried to trick You by decorating herself like a well-meaning mother, by sucking the life out of her poisoned breast; Your one red foot achieved a small feat by destroying the SakatAsura who took the form of a wheel in a toy cart, by a mere kick at the wheel.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers to Sri PeriAzhwar’s Pasuram from Thirumozhi (5.4.6):
உன்னுடைய விக்கிரமம் ஒன்றொழி யாமல்எல்லாம்
என்னுடைய நெஞ்சகம்பால் சுவர்வழி எழுதிக்கொண்டேன்
மன்னடங்க மழுவலங்கைக் கொண்ட இராமநம்பீ
என்னிடைவந்து எம்பெருமான் இனியெங்குப் போகின்றதே.
Meaning: My Lord! Your valiant deeds are firmly etched in my mind like an inscription on a wall, without leaving out anything. O’ Lord (Parashu) Rama who wielded the axe to subdue insolent kings! My Master! Having come unto me, now where can you go?

Srimad Srimushnam Andavan Sri RangaRamanuja MahaDesikan explains the Nama as a reference to the ‘vikrama gati’ – the walk that is consistent with His Valour and Heroism. He refers us to Sri Andal’s Tiruppavai (23), who describes His majestic stride or Vikrama resembling that of a Lion that is just coming out of its cave and surveying its surroundings with its authoritative majesty:
மாரி மலைமுழைஞ்சில் மன்னிக் கிடந்துஉறங்கும்
சீரிய சிங்கம் அறிவுற்றுத் தீவிழித்து வேரி
மயிர்பொங்க எப்பாடும் பேர்ந்துஉதறி
மூரி நிமிர்ந்து முழங்கிப் புறப்பட்டுப்
போருமா போலேநீ பூவைப்பூ வண்ணாஉன்
கோயில்நின்று இங்ஙனே போந்தருளிக் கோப்புடைய
சீரிய சிங்கா சனத்துஇருந்து யாம்வந்த காரியம்
ஆராய்ந்து அருளேலோர் எம்பாவாய்
Meaning: O’ Dark-Kaya-hued Lord! 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 and shaking all over, then yawning, stretching its back, and stepping out. Ascend your majestic Lion-throne and inquire of us the purpose of our visit, Grace us.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha uses the root word ‘kram – paadha vikshepe’ meaning ‘to walk or stride’. ‘Vishishtah krama iti Vikramah; sa asya asti iti Vikrami’ or, ‘Vishtam kramanam asya asti iti Vikrami – He Who has the distinguishing stride is Vikrami. Sri Vasishtha gives reference from the Rig Veda which describes the Tri-vikrama Avataar:

Idam Vishnur vi cakrame tredha nidadhe padam |
sa-mudhaamasya pagm sure || 1.22.17
Trini paadha vi cakrame vishnurghopa adabhyah
Ato dharmani dhaarayan || 1.22.18
Meaning: Vishnu took three giant strides and covered all this world and the whole was gathered in his footstep’s dust. Vishnu, the protector whom none can deceive, made three steps, and established His high decrees.

Yasyorushu trishu Vikramaneshu adhikshiyanti bhuvanani Vishva (Rig. 1.154.2)
He within whose three wide-extended paces all living creatures have their habitation – referring to His Trivikrama Avataar.

In his Saranagati gadyam, Sri RamanujAcharya lists a series of Bhagavan’s Kalyana Gunas, including Sauryam – Vikramam, which are all used by Him for the benefit of His devotees.

‘Svaabhhavika anavatikatishaya jnana bala aishvarya veerya Shakti tejas sausheelya vaatsalya maardava Arjava sauharda saamya karunya madhurya gambhirya audarya caturya sthairya dhairya saurya parakrama satya kama satya sankalpa krititva kritajnatadi asankhyeya Kalyana Guna ganaugha Maharnava!’
Meaning: ‘You are the Ocean unto which flow rivers of limitless excellent virtues, all natural to You, and useful for the protection of the devotees. These include: All knowledge,  mighty Rulership of the worlds, Untiring virility, Sovereignty, Kind disposition, Affectionate tenderness, Gentleness, Truthfulness in speech, thought and action, Friendliness, Feeling of equality, Mercifulness, Sweetness, Nobility, Generosity, Quickeness to respond to the miseries of the devotees, Firmness in resolve to protect the devotees, Undaunted courage to bring succour to them, Courage to fight for the devotees, Ability to fight the enemies within their own camp, Having Your Will ever fulfilled, Having Your commands ever irresistible, Your deeds fully executed, Always remembering with gratitude even a little worship done to You.’

Bhagavan bestows His blessings on His devotees without their asking, without even thinking that He is bestowing these blessings on the devotee, and without putting any limits or questioning His actions in this respect. He is like an ocean in this respect – the ocean is very deep, immeasurable, and contains treasures. So also, Bhagavan’s desire to bestow His blessings on His devotees is immeasurable and unrestrained, hence He is Vikrama.

Sri Satya Sandha Thirtha gives another interpretation for ‘krama’ and equates it to ‘taaratamya’ or ‘stepwise differences’. The prefix ‘Vi’- gives a negative sense, and so Vi-kramah is ‘One Who does not have differences (between His various incarnations)’ – kramah taaratamyam asya asti iti krami; na krami Vi-kramI sva avataareshu taaratamya rahita iti Vikrami.

Swami Desikan describes the Avatara rahasyam of Emperumaan in his Saranagati deepika (Slokam 17), emphasising that in all of Bhagavan’s incarnations, He has all the qualities that are unique to Him as the Supreme Deity in full perfection, and they are in no way diminished just by His assuming the form of a human or a boar.

Sri Raghunatha Thirtha gives yet another interpretation and explains ‘krama’ as ‘occupation’ or ‘function’, and gives the meaning ‘He Who has a distinguishing occupation or function is Vikrami’ – Vishishtah kramah vyaapaarah Vikramah. As the Lord of all, Bhagavan constantly looks after His creation, which is His unique concern.

  1.    Urjita-Shaasanah – His commands are inviolable and strongly rooted in the Vedas

The word Urjita means strongly implemented or enforced firmly. Shaasana means orders or commands. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Shruti Smriti Lakshanam Urjitam Shaasanam asya iti UrjitaShaasanah – His commands are inviolable that are strongly rooted in the Vedas and the other scriptures, hence He is called UrjitaShaasanah, one whose writ is strongly enforced through the Vedas and scriptures’.

In support of his interpretation, Sri Sankara gives the following quotation ‘ShrutiSmritee Mamaivaajne Yaste Ullanghya Vartate – Aajnaacchedee mama dveshee Madbhakopi na Vaishnavah – The Shruti (Vedas) and Smriti (other scriptures) are my commands. He who overrides them is a violator of law and My enemy. Such a person, though he may profess to be my devotee, is not a true follower of Vishnu’. In other words Bhagavan’s orders are enshrined in the Vedas and other scriptures and are to be obeyed unquestioningly, leading Him to be called ‘UrjitaShaasanah’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar’s interpretation is – ‘Virinci purandaradi alanghyajnah Urjita-Shaasanah – He Whose commands cannot be disobeyed even by Brahma, Indra, and others.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha derives the term Urjita from the root ‘Urj – bala prananayoh’ meaning ‘to strengthen or to live’ and gives the meaning ‘Balavat’ or ‘endowed with Strength’ to the word ‘Urjita’. He derives the word Shaasanah from the root ‘Shaas – anushishtau’ meaning ‘to teach, to inform, to govern, to correct, to advise etc.’ He thus derives the meaning for ‘Urjita-Shaasanah’ as ‘One Who governs with forceful effectiveness’. ‘Balavat anushaasanam = Ajnanuvartanam yasya sa UrjitaShaasanah Vishnuh anatikramaniya niyamah’ – He Whose order cannot be transgressed or violated.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan gives an essentially similar explanation – vidhi rudradi alajnya Ajnatvaat Urjita-Shaasanah – His commands are inviolable.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers to Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvaasiriyam Pasuram (3) where the Azhwar refers to Emperumaan as ‘Anai mei pera nadaya daivam’ – The Lord Whose commands are fulfilled without obstruction.

Sri Thirumazhisai Azhwar, in his Naanmugan Thiruvandadi Pasuram (38) says:
அகைப்பு இல் மனிசரை ஆறு சமயம்
புகைத்தான், பொரு கடல் நீர் வண்ணன்,உகைக்கு மேல்,
எத் தேவர் வாலாட்டும், எவ்வாறு செய்கையும்,
அப்போது ஒழியும் – அழைப்பு.
Meaning:  Not a single one among all the deities can as much as lift a finger against Bhagavan’s Will.

The Taittiriya Upanishad, Brahmananda Valli (2.8) declares:
Bhishaasmaad vaataḥ pavate bhishodeti Suryah
Bhishaasmaad agnis candrash ca mṛtyur dhavati pancamaḥ ||
Meaning: The wind blows out of fear of Him. For fear of Him rises the Sun. Out of fear of Him do Agni and Indra function. Out of fear of Him, does death, the fifth one, run.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj gives support from BrihadAranyaka Upanishad (3.8.9) (and also in Taittriya Upanishad and Gargi Upanishad):
Etasya va aksharasya prashaasane Gargi Surya candramasau vidhritau tishthatah |
Etasya va aksharasya prashaasane Gargi dyavaprthivyau vidhrite Tishthatah |
Meaning: Yajnavalkya said: O’Gargi under the mighty rule of this immutable Brahman, the Sun and the Moon are held in their positions. Under the mighty rule of this Brahman, heaven and earth in their positions…”

In the Srimad Bhagavatam (5.1.12), it says:
na tasya kascit tapasa vidyaya va na yogaviryena manishaya va
naivartha-dharmaih paratah svato va kritam vihantum tanu-bhrid vibhuyat ||
Meaning: One cannot avoid the order of the Supreme, not by the strength of severe austerities, an exalted Vedic education, or the power of mystic yoga, physical prowess or intellectual activities. Nor can one use his power of religion, his material opulence or any other means, either by himself or with the help of others, to defy the orders of the Supreme Lord. That is not possible for any living being, from Brahma down to the ant.

Swami ChinmayAnanda asserts the inviolability of Bhagavan’s Laws – It permits no exceptions, accepts no excuses, admits no circumstantial conditions.

  1.    Shabdaatigah – He Who is beyond words

‘Shabda’ means words and ‘Atigah’ means going beyond. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Shabdapravritti hetunaam Jaatyaadeenaam Asambhavaat Shabdena Vaktum Ashakyatvaat Shabdaatigah’ – He does not belong to a species which can be described in words and so He rises above the scope of words or language hence He is called Shabdaatigah, the one who transcends language. In support of this Sri Sankara cites from Taittriya Upanishad (2.4) ‘Yato Vaacho Nivartante Apraapya manasaa sah’ – Words are powerless to describe Him; The mind also cannot grasp Him.

The second is from Vishnu Puranam (1.17.22) ‘Na Shabdagocharam yasya Yogidhyeyam Parampadsam – His Supreme abode is beyond the reach of speech, and is the subject of contemplation by the yogis’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar’s interpretation is that His Glory is such that even the thousand tongued AdiSesha, or the Vedas with all their innumerable branches, or even Goddess Sarasvati herself, will be unable to describe them through words – ananta jihvena anantena, ananta Saakhaih Amnayaih saakshaat Sarasvatya ca durudaraha mahima Shabdaatigah.

He epitomises Ananta Kalyana Gunas possessing infinite auspicious qualities. We note the thousand Gunas that are extolled by Sri Bhishma in the Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam Stotram, are just a small collection of examples of His Kalyana Gunas.

The Azhwars’ sing this aspect of Bhagavan over and over again. Sri V.V. Ramanujan gives the following examples from Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi:
பொன்முடியம் போரேற்றை யெம்மானைநால்தடந்தோள்,
தன்முடிவொன்றில்லாத தண்டுழாய்மாலையனை,
என்முடிவுகாணாதே யென்னுள் கலந்தானை,
சொல்முடிவுகாணேன்நான் சொல்லுவதென்சொல்லீரே. (2.5.8)
Meaning: His Power, beauty, quality, splendor, feats, etc., are endless. The Thulasi garland around His neck is proof of His Overlordship. How can I describe in words what I have enjoyed? If any of you think you can describe His greatness, try it.

தூநீர் முகில்போல் தோன்றும்நின் சுடர்க்கொள் வடிவும் கனிவாயும்,
தேநீர்க் கமலக் கண்களும் வந்தென் சிந்தை நிறைந்தவா,
மாநீர் வெள்ளீ மலைதன்மேல் வண்கார் நீல முகில்போல,
தூநீர்க் கடலுள் துயில்வானே! எந்தாய்! சொல்ல மாட்டேனே! (8.5.4)
Meaning: You have filled my mind with Your captivating, honey-exuding, moist and kind Lotus eyes. I recall with glee Your reclining in the middle of the Milky Ocean. Oh My Lord! Is it not enough that I have the mental experience; as I will not be able to put it all in words here.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha explains the Nama as ‘Shabdam atigacchati = vaacam atikramya vartate iti Shabdaatigah’ – He is beyond description by words, hence He is called Shabdaatigah.

Swami ChinmayAnanda explains that the Vedas only ‘point to the Truth’, but cannot explain, or even define the Truth. The Infinite and Eternal Truth is beyond even the Vedas, beyond all that can be gained even through the highest faculties of the finite equipment (mind and intellect).

  1.    Shabdasahah – He Who responds to cry of distress instantly

Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Sarve Vedaah taatparyena tameva vadanti iti Shabdasahah – All the Vedas proclaim Him with a single focus, hence He is called Shabdasahah’. The word ‘Shabda’ here is used in the context of the voice of the Vedas and Sahah is used in to mean focus or target.

Sri Sankara gives a reference from the Katha Upanishad (1.2.15) to support this which says ‘Sarve Vedaah yat padam aamananti – All Vedas emphatically declare His position’. He also quotes from the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 15 Verse 15) ‘Vedaishcha sarvairaham eva Vedyah – I am the subject matter of all the Vedas’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar relates the Nama to the cry of help from Gajendra; since Bhagavan bears the responsibility of protecting even animals which may incoherently cry for help, He is called Shabda-sahah – aspashta Shabdaanaam tirashcaamapi Arta-Shabdam ati-bhaaramiva sahate iti Shabda- sahah.

Arta refers to one who is in distress or pain. ‘Bharatvena sahati iti sahah’ – He treats the cry for help from Arta just like carrying a major responsibility or a load on his shoulders. When Bhagavan heard the cry of Gajendra for help as ‘Adhimulame’, it immediately evoked a sense of urgency on His part to help the wounded animal, and He left Sri Vaikuntham in a great hurry to help Gajendra. It is said that Bhagavan carried Garuda as Garuda could not match His spped. Bhagavan witnessed the elephant with a flower in its trunk, and He pondered over its devotion, and this was enough for Him to liberate the elephant.

‘Shabdam’ can refer to both good and abusive words. Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha explains this in the contect of ‘abusive words’, and explains that the Nama signifies that Bhagavan puts up with even abusive words from His enemies, because He is full of patience – kshama vibhusha sakalasya loke, sarvam kshamavan sahate kshamayam. Bhagavan’s kshama or patience is really extolled through this Nama ‘Shabda-sahah’. Lord Rama is described as ‘Kshamaya prithivi samah’ – In patience, Lord Rama is like the Mother Earth.

Sri Satya Sandha Thirtha gives the example of Bhagavan putting up with the insults of Sage Bhrigu – Bhrigvaadi bhakta krita tarjana rupa Shabdam sahata iti Shabda-sahah.

Swami ChinmayAnanda explains the Nama as ‘One Who allows Himself to be invoked by the Vedic declarations’.

  1.    Shishirah – He Who rushes to render help

Generally the word ‘Shishirah’ applies to winter or the cold season of the year. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Tapatraya abhitaptaanaam Vishraama Sthaanatvaat Shishirah – He provides a cool shelter to His devotees who are scorched by the three kinds of afflictions, hence He is called Shishirah, the cool one’. The three kinds of afflictions referred here are 1) Adhyatmic, relating to own body, 2) Adhibhautik, relating to other beings, and 3) Adhidaivik, supernatural or random causes. Bhagavan protects His devotees’ from all these types of torments, hence He is Shishirah.

Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets the Nama in the context of Bhagavan rushing to help Gajendra – ‘Arta Shabda Shravanantaram ati- tvaraya gatah Shishirah’.  Sri Bhattar quotes the following passage in support, to indicate the speed with which He arrived at the scene: ‘Shrutva chakra gadhadharah, sannidhyam kalpayamasa tasmin Sarasi’ – Immediately upon hearing the distress call of Gajendra, the Lord, armed with His Discus and Mace, flew (on the back of Garuda) and stood on the bank of the pond.  It is said that Bhagavan left abruptly without informing Piratti, and, when He found that Garuda was not fast enough, He carried Garuda in His hand, and appeared at the scene in an instant.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers to Thirumangai Azhwar’s Periya Thirumozhi Pasuram (2.3.9) in support: ‘Anaiyin tuyaram tIrap pul Urndu Sendru Azhi tottaan’ – He Who came on Garuda and relieved the misery of the suffering elephant Gajendra by releasing the Sudarshana Chakra on the crocodile’.

Sri Thirumanga Azhwar in his Siriya Thirumadal Pasuram (31) says – ‘Narayana! O’ Mani vanna! Naganaiyai! Vaaraai en idarai nikkaai – ena vegundu theeradha Sheetrattaal Sendru irandu kuraaga Era adanai idar kadindaan- When Gajendra screamed for help as ‘Adhimulame, O Narayana! Mani vanna! Ananta Sayana! Please remove my misery, Bhagavan hurried to the scene, and in an instant split the crocodile into two, and relieved Gajendra from his agony”.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha uses the root ‘Sasha – pluta gatau’ meaning ‘to leap, to jump’. The word ‘Shishirah’ means to go in leaps, Shashati = Seeghram utplutya gacchati iti Shishirah.

Sri Vasishtha uses both the above meanings for ‘Shishira’, namely ‘one who leaps’, and ‘the cool season’, and gives the interpretation that Bhagavan’s Nama ‘Shishirah’ signifies that He is One who supports all the beings by His methodical changing of seasons etc.

Sri Krishna datta Bharadvaj also gives an interpretation similar to that of Sri Parasara Bhattar – Sashati-drutam gacchati svajananam avanaaya iti Shishirah – He Who rushes to the protection of His devotees is Shishirah.

Swami ChinmayAnanda notes that this Nama indicating that Bhagavan is the cool resting place for those tortured by the heat of this Samsara.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan explains the Nama as – drishta matrah teshAm santApam nivartayati iti ShishiraH – By His very darshan, all the sorrows of the devotees are washed away, as signified by the Nama Shishirah.

The Story of the Four Kumaras

Lord Brahma created the ‘Four Kumaras’ also known as the ‘Chatursana’. As the Four Kumaras were born from the mind of Brahma they are referred to as his Manasaputras. Their names: Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanatana and Sanat Kumara. Due to the boon from Brahma and the strength of their tapas, the Four Kumaras looked like 5 year olds.

Once Sanat Kumara rishis out of intense love and devotion for Lord Vishnu rushed hurriedly towards Vaikunta to have his Darshan. Jaya and Vijaya, the gate keepers of the Vaikunta stopped the Kumaras at the gate, thinking them to be children. They told the Kumaras that Sri Vishnu is resting and that they cannot see them now. 

The Rishis cursed them thus: In a place like Vaikunta where there is not even an iota of discrimination you have tried to create a differentiation by assuming authority of your ranks and that too when we were intensely longing for the Lord’s Darshan. So we curse you to be born on earth where there is ample discrimination for beings.

When Vishnu came out hearing the commotion, he learnt about Jaya and Vijaya’s misdemeanour and punished them further by saying that they would take birth as demons, not once but thrice, on earth. He sought pardon on behalf of them from the Sages (such is His humility) while the latter turn modest and reply, ‘Mercy oh Lord! We have longed for your Darshan and we are gratified but we feel disheartened that you seek pardon from us’. 

The great Lord Vishnu replies with these strong words: “What Jaya and Vijaya have done is dreadful. It is not at all inappropriate for me to seek pardon from you who are my devotees, though being the Lord myself, for it is my primordial duty to safeguard and sustain the whole creation. 

I bear this Abhaya Mudra only to protect the ones who long for me and seek me with intense love. If a situation arises that I would fail to fulfill this duty, I, who is the Lord of this entire Creation, solemnly swear keeping all the deities as witness that I would slash this boon giving hand of mine into two pieces.

Such is Lord’s commitment to His devotees’.

Jaya and Vijaya were born in their first birth as enemies of Lord Vishnu, taking the form of Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakashipu in the Satya Yuga. Lord Vishnu assumed the Avatar of Varaha, a boar, slaying Hiranyaksha who was obstructing Him. Hiranyakashipu was slain by the Lord in His Narasimha Avataar, where he rushed to protect His devotee Prahlada.

In the Treta Yuga – Jaya and Vijaya were born as Ravana and Kumbhakarna, and were killed by Lord Rama and Lakshmana.

At the end of the Dwapara Yuga – Jaya and Vijaya were born as Shishupala and Dantavakra (an ally of Jarasandha) and Lord Krishna appreared Himself along with Balarama and killed them.

Therefore, the two attendants of the Lord in Vaikunta, because of their acts, agreed to become the Lord’s enemies, and when killed, they attained salvation, having served their curse.

  1.    Sharvari-karah – He Who had the destructive weapons in His hands

The word ‘Sharvari’ means night and Sharvarikarah means someone who creates the night. Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Samsarinaam Atma Sharvariva Sharvari; Jnaninam punah samsarah Sharvari; taam ubhayeshaam karoti iti Sharvarikarah – For ordinary people, the matters of the soul remain hidden in darkness, like the night; And for the enlightened, mundane and wordly matters remain in darkness, like the night; Since Bhagavan causes both these states (night like), He is called Sharvarikarah, the Creator of night’.

Sri Sankara quotes from the Srimad Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 2 Verse 69) which says:
Yaa Nishaa Sarvabhootaanaam Tasyaam jaagarti Samyamee;
Yasyaam Jaagrati bhootaani Saa nishaa pashyato Muneh ||
Meaning: What is night for all beings is the time of awakening for the self-controlled; and the time of awakening for all beings is night for the introspective Sage’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar indicates the derivation of the word ‘Sharvari’ from the root ‘Shr- himsayam’ meaning to ‘to tear to pieces, to hurt, to kill’, and the application of the affix shvarac to the root SR (SR + shvarac = Sharvari). Sri Bhattar interprets the word ‘karah’ as ‘One with the weapons in His hands’ (kara = hand). Some use the meaning ‘He Who does’ for the word ‘karah’, based on the root – ‘kr – karane’ meaning ‘to do’.

Sri Bhattar continues with his interpretation in the context of Gajendra Moksham – himsa para vidaarini panca Ayudhi kare asya iti Sharvari-karah – He Who had five destructive weapons in His hands, when He came to help Gajendra. Bhagavan’s five weapons are ‘Sankha, Chakra, Gadha (the mace), Saarnga (the bow), and Nandaka (the sword) in His hands, ready to destroy the enemies who cause harm to His devotees’.

One of the meanings for the word SharvarI is ‘night’ – Shrnayam loka Chakashumshi iti Sharvari – That which shuts out the vision of the beings.  To those bound in this Samsara, the knowledge of the Atman is dark as night, and to those who are illumined, Samsara is undesirable and dark as night.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri comments that the daytime reflects Rajo Guna or activity, and the night time reflects Tamo Guna or inactivity. In this night time, the feeling of “I”, “mine” etc., are not dominant in our lives. This alternating of day and night is a great help from nature for our lives in this world. The ‘night’ allows us to rest, and forget all the worldly worries. The jnani enjoys the calm of the night even while he is awake. But the ajnani or the ignorant is given the chance to rest by Bhagavan blessing him with the ‘night’ time to rest. So Bhagavan is ‘Sharvari-karah’ by giving the time to rest – the night time for all of us.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj also gives a similar interpretation – Sharvari nisha loka-vishrama dayini | tasyah karah sampaadakah iti Sharvari-karah – He Who gives the night as a time of rest for all the beings.

Sri Satya Sandha Thirtha uses the meaning ‘rays’ for the term ‘karah’, and the meaning ‘night’ for the word ‘Sharvari’ – Sarvayam = raatrau, karah = kirana yasya Chandrargata rupena iti Sharvari-karah – He Who takes the form of the cool rays of the Moon in the night.

Sri Raghunatha Thirtha uses the meaning ‘doer’ for the word ‘karah’, but gives yet another anubhavam: Sharvari = himsa, taam karoti iti Sharvari-karah – He Who destroys His enemies.

In Summary

Araudrah Kundali Chakri Vikrami UrjitaShaasanah      |
Shabdaatigas Shabdasahah Shishiras Sharvarikarah ||97||

Bhagavan has no desire, hatred, etc., and hence devoid of anger, so He is called Araudrah. He is bedecked with beautiful fish-shaped ear-rings and hence He is Kundali. He weilds the powerful Sudarshana Chakra for the sake of protecting the whole world, hence He is called Chakri, the bearer of the Sudarshana Chakra. He has giant strides and unparalleled prowess, hence He is Vikrami.  His commands are inviolable that are strongly rooted in the Vedas and the other scriptures, hence He is called UrjitaShaasanah.

He is beyond words for description as Words are powerless to describe Him and the mind also cannot grasp Him, so He is called Shabdaatigah. He is extolled in the Vedas and rushes to render help to calls of distress and redeems them from the woes of this Samsara, hence He is Shabdasahah. He provides a cool shelter to His devotees who are scorched by the three kinds of afflictions, hence He is called Shishirah, the cool one. He wields destructive weapons in His hands and is also the Creator of night to provide rest for all beings, hence He is Sharvarikarah.

OM NAMO NARAYANAAYA

HARI OM TAT SAT

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

SRI VISHNU SAHASRANAMAM (SHLOKA 95) – PART 104

In this part we will explore the meaning of the 95th Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.

Ananta-Hutabhuk-Bhokta Sukhado Naikado Agrajah |
Anirvinnah Sadaamarshi Loka-Adhishthanam Adbhutah ||95||

Purport
He is Limitless, Omnipresent and Sustainer of all Worlds. He is the giver of bliss to His devotees and takes many incarnations to protect and re-establish Dharma. He is First born and Hiranyagarbha. He is free from despondency and despair, and is compassionated and forgiving. He is the protector of the three worlds. His acts and creations are wonderful and hence, He is wonderful.

The above Shloka has the following Namas:

  1.    Anantah-Hutabhuk-Bhokta
  2.    Sukhadah
  3.    Naikajah (or Naikadah)
  4.    Agrajah
  5.    Anirvinnah
  6.    Sadaamarshi
  7.    Loka-Adhishthanam
  8.    Adbhutah

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

  1.    Anantah Hutabhuk Bhokta – He is Limitless, Omnipresent and Sustainer

Sri Adi Sankara explains this Nama in three distinct parts viz. Anantah, Hutabhuk and Bhokta. He interprets the first part of the Nama, Anantah, in two different ways. The first is ‘Nityatvaat Sarvagatatvaat Deshakaalapariccheda Abhaavaat Anantah – His Permanence, Omnipresence and the ability to transcend beyond the limitations of time and space aptly makes Him Anantah, the Limitless One’.  

The second interpretation is ‘Anantah Shesharupo va – He is called Anantah also because of His manifestation as the Adishesha (a.k.a. Anantah), the serpent that carries the Earth on its head.

As seen in the previous Shloka, ‘Hutam’ refers to Yagna or Sacrifice and Bhuk means the Protector or the Enjoyer.  Sri Sankara interprets this as ‘Hutam Bhunakti iti Hutabhuk – He protects the Yagna, hence, He is called Hutabhuk, the protector of the Yagna’, just as He did in the case of Vishvamitra’s Yagna from the intrusions of Tadaka and other demons.

Sri Sankara uses the term Bhokta in two senses – ‘Bhunkte one who enjoys or consumes’ and ‘Bhunakti’ meaning ‘one who protects’.  His first interpretation is ‘Prakritim Bhogyaam Achetanaam bhungte iti Bhokta – He enjoys or consumes all the objects of nature which have no faculty of thinking, hence He is called Bhokta, the Consumer’. Clearly all objects of nature get consumed or lose their identity ultimately through Fire, Sun or passage of time.

His second interpretation is ‘Jagat paalayati iti va Bhokta – He protects the World, hence He is called Bhokta’.  Of the three functions of Bhagavan viz. Creation, Sustenance and Dissolution, Bhokta refers to His role as the Sustainer or Protector.

Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets this Nama as representing the last two steps in the Arciradi Marga (the eleventh and twelfth steps to Sri Vaikuntham). Indra and Brahma escort the Jiva in the final steps of the Jiva’s ascent to Parama-padam (sa Indra lokam, sa Prajapati lokam – Kaushitaki Upanishad). Sri Bhattar interprets Huta-bhuk as a reference to Indra, since he is the consumer of all offerings through fire in the sacrifices – sapta tantushu hutam bhunkte iti Indro huta-bhuk. He relates ‘Bhokta’ to ‘Brahma’ – prajah bhunakti – paalayati iti Prajapatih Bhokta. Since Brahma is engaged in the process of Creation, he is called Bhokta (Praja means propagation, production, birth). As both Indra and Brahma are under Bhagavan’s control, Bhagavan is called Ananta-Huta-bhug-Bhokta.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan treats ‘Ananta-Huta-bhug-Bhokta’ as two Namas – ‘Anantah’ and ‘Huta-bhug-Bhokta’, and gives a similar meaning to that of Sri Bhattar for ‘Huta-bhug-Bhokta’ –
Huta-bhugbhih amruta pariNama rupam hutam
bhunjanaih vidyuta paryanta Agatena amanavena purushena sahitaih
Varuna Indra prajapatibhih sva-pada gaminam bhaktam bhunakti paalayati it Huta-bhug-Bhokta
Meaning: He is the Protector of the devotees who have been escorted by the amanava purushas through the Indra loka, Brahma Loka etc., and who are on their final stages of reaching His Abode, escorted by Varuna, Indra, and Prajapati.

His Supreme Lordship is well explained in Srimad Bhagavatam (12.3.1), where Suta Goswami says:
Yam Brahma Varunendra-Rudra-Marutah stunvanti divyaih stavair
Vedaih sanga-pada-kramopanisadair gayanti yam sama-gah
dhyanavasthita-tad-gatena manasa pasyanti yam yogino
yasyantam na viduh surasura-gana devaya tasmai namah||
Meaning: Unto that personality whom Brahma, Varuna, Indra, Rudra and the Maruts praise by chanting transcendental hymns and reciting the Vedas with all their corollaries, pada-kRamas and Upanishads, to whom the chanters of the Sama Veda always sing, whom the perfected yogis see within their minds after fixing themselves in trance and absorbing themselves within Him, and whose limit can never be found by any of the Devas or Asuras — unto that Supreme Personality of Godhead I offer my humble obeisance.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj, like Sri Bhattar, treats ‘Ananta-Huta-bhug-Bhokta’ as one Nama, but interprets it as consisting of two parts – na antah yasya iti anantah – One for Whom there is no end, is Anantah; and huta- bhuja paavakena bhunkte iti Huta-bhug-Bhokta – He Who consumes (the offerings of oblations in sacrifices) through fire is Huta-bhug- Bhokta; Anantashca asau Huta-bhug- Bhokta iti Ananta-Huta-bhug-Bhokta – He Who is eternal, and Who consumes the offerings through fire, is Ananta-Huta-bhug-Bhokta.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha expresses this as ‘rakshako bhakshanashca’. Bhagavan Creates, Protects, and then swallows at the time of    Pralaya or Dissolution.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha uses the meaning bhuj – to eat, and interprets the Nama ‘Bhokta’ as One Who consumes or swallows everything in the form of Kaala or time – Kaala rupo hi Bhagavan Kaalakramena sarvam bhunkte. He also links the term ‘ananta’ to ‘Bhokta’ by pointing out that Bhagavan consumes all things over time in different forms – Agni, Surya, Kaala or Yama, etc.

Sri Vasishtha notes that just as the Ocean is the source of the rain that results in the small rivers, and the rivers merge back into the ocean, so also is Bhagavan who is the Origin of everything, He supports everything (Bhokta), and He also ends everything (One Who consumes everything in the end – Bhokta) – utpaadayita, rakshita, bhakshita ca bhavati.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri refers to the Katha Upanishad (Mantra 2.25):
yasya brahma ca kṣatraṃ ca ubhe bhavata odanaḥ |
mṛtyuryasyopasecanaṃ ka itthā veda yatra saḥ ||
Meaning: Of whom, the Brahma and kshatra are the food, and death but the pickle to (supplement it), His whereabouts, who thus can, know?

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri notes that His protection takes the form of His blessings as He ensures successful completion of the sacrifice even when there may be inadvertent deficiencies in the performance of the Yagna:
yasya smritya ca namoktya taop yaaga kriyaadishu            |
nyunam sampurnataam yaati satyo vande tam acyutam ||

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri elaborates on this further: When offerings are made to different devatas in a sacrifice, Agni (fire) receives it first, and then passes it on to Surya, who then takes it to the respective deities. All the deities ultimately offer these to Bhagavan, Who is the ultimate receiver of all the offerings.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan gives several references to support the above interpretations:

  • Seigaip-payan unbenum yaane ennum (Thiruvai Mozhi 6.4) – I enjoy the fruits of all action;
  • ahamannam_ahamannam_ahamannam ahamannaado ‘hamannaado_’hamannaadah (Taittiriya Upanishad) – I am the food, I am the food, I am the food. I am the eater of food, I am the eater of food, I am the eater of food.

Sri Nammazhwar in his Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram 9.6.10 says:
வாரிக் கொண்டு உன்னைவிழுங்குவன் காணிலென்று
ஆர்வற்றவென்னையொழிய என்னில்முன்னம்
பாரித்து தானென்னை முற்றப்பருகினான்
காரொக்கும் காட்கரையப்பன்கடியனே.
Meaning: I thought, “If ever I see him I will gobble him”, but before I could, he deceived me and hastily drank my all.  My dark Lord of Tirukkatkarai is smart!

The Dharma Chakram writer explains the function of Bhagavan as Bhokta in a way that applies to our day-to-day life, by giving reference from the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 13 Verse 23). Bhagavan is in all of us – as the Observer, as the Guide, as the Enjoyer, etc.
Upadrastanumanta ca bharta bhokta mahesvarah  |
Paramatmeti capy ukto dehe ‘smin purusah parah ||
Meaning: Within the body, supreme to the individual consciousness, an indwelling Observer, a sanctioner, a preserver, an enjoyer and indeed ultimate controller as well, is described as the Ultimate Consciousness.

For those who spend their time in worldly pursuits, He is just the observer. For those who observe the path of Dharma, He is the Bharta or Protector and Supporter in times of need. For those who offer to Bhagavan the worldly gains that they get, such as fame, wealth, etc. that comes to them, He is the Bhokta or the Enjoyer, i.e, He accepts these as offerings, and He bestows on them His Grace.

The more we dedicate our actions and the benefits of these actions to Him, and make Him the Bhokta, the more He reveals us true happiness, and enable us to get rid of undesirable attributes such as ahamkaram, mamakaram, etc. The significance of this Nama thus is for us to realize that we should dedicate all our actions and their effects to Bhagavan as the Bhokta, and we should enjoy Him and attain the eternal bliss.

  1.    Sukhadah – The Giver of Bliss to His Devotees

Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Bhaktanam Sukham khandayati iti va Mokshalakshanam Dadaati iti Sukhadah – He gives comfort and joy to His devotees by leading them to Moksha, hence He is called Sukhadah, the comfort-provider’.

Sri Sankara gives an alternative explanation by taking this Nama as Asukhadah ‘Asukham dyati khandayati iti vaa Asukhadah – He eliminates discomfort or unhappiness from his devotees hence He is called Asukhadah, the distress-remover’.

We can also interpret this in a third way by explaining it as ‘Sukham dyati iti Sukhadah – He destroys the happiness of the evil’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar’s in his earlier interpretation of this Nama referred to Bhagavan’s Guna of bestowing bliss on those who followed Sadacara. The ‘sukha’ that is bestowed by Bhagavan includes the ordinary pleasures of life and specifically refers to the Perinbam or the Supreme Bliss of Moksha, which He alone can bestow among all the deities.

For the current instance of the Nama, Sri Bhattar continues on the earlier theme of his interpretation and describes the ascent of the Jiva to Parama-padam:
Amaanava mukhena sprishtva sa-vaasanam  samsaramutsayam, svapti sukham dadati iti Sukha-dah |
Meaning: Once the Jiva reaches the final step, Bhagavan removes the last traces of contact of the Jiva with this world along with the latent impressions, and confers the bliss of Moksha on the Jiva, and so He is called Sukha-dah. The touch by the Amaanava Purusha removes all traces of association of the Jiva with the Samsara, and thus the purified Jiva is led to the Paramatma.

Sri Bhattar gives support from the Chandogya Upanishad (5.10.2):
masebhyau saavatsara saavatsarad Adityam Adityac candRamasaa candRamaso vidyutaa tat puruno maanavau sa enaan Brahma gamayaty ena deva-yaanau panthaa iti.
Meaning: From there (through the Sun, Moon, Vidyut etc.), the Amaanava, the super-human, takes him to ParaBrahman.  This is known as the path of the Devas.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan’s interpretation is along the same lines – tato maanavena sva-paarshadena AnItaaya vidhvasta-li’nga dehaya sva- bhaktaya sva-parshada tanu labha rupam sukham dadati iti Sukha-dah.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri gives another anubhavam for the Nama: sukha- dah = sukham dyati – Bhagavan even takes away the ‘sukham’ of His devotees, namely the ordinary pleasures of life, in order to help the devotees lose their attachment to the materialistic pleasures, and instead seek the higher Bliss of attainiung Him.

Sri Vasishtha notes that sukham means ‘udakam’ or ‘water’ as specified in nighantu (1.12) – probably based on the root ‘khanu – avadharane’ meaning ‘to dig’. So he interprets the Nama as referring to Bhagavan being the Giver of water in the form of wells, rivers, ponds, etc., for the survival of all the beings.

Alternately, Sri Vasishtha interprets the term su-kha as a reference to this body – a well-dug moat, and since Bhagavan has given this body to the Jivas, He is Su-kha-dah – suvyavasthita khatam ca idam Sariram jivebhyo dadati iti Su-kha-dah. The Lord has beautifully mixed flesh and bones with fluids and made a beautiful piece of creation called the ‘body’, and so He is ‘Su-kha-dah’.

  1.     Naikajah – He who incarnates again and again

This Nama can be divided into Na+Eka+Jah.  Ekajah means one who is born once and Naikajah is the opposite, namely, One who is born again and again. On this basis, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Dharma guptaye Asakrit Jaayamaanatvaat Naikajah – He incarnates repeatedly for protecting and upholding Dharma, hence He is called Naikajah, One who is born again and again’.

In the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 4 Verse 8) Bhagavan says:
Paritranaya sadhunam vinasaya ca duskrtam                |
Dharma-samsthapanarthaya sambhavami yuge yuge ||
Meaning: In order to protect the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to re-establish the principles of righteousness (Dharma), I advent myself millennium after millennium.

Some commentators have taken this Nama as ‘Naikadah’ meaning one who gives gifts to His devotees again and again.

The Nama can also be looked at as na-eka-dah.  Sri Parasara Bhattar continues his interpretation based on the reception accorded to the mukta Jiva upon reaching Sri Vaikuntham. He explains the Nama as follows: ekam dadati iti  eka-dAh; tad-viruddaah Naika-dah – Those who give only one thing are called ‘Ekadah’; unlike these, Naikadah are those who bestow many things. Sri Bhattar interprets the Nama is in terms of the reception accorded to the mukta Jiva as he ascends to Parama-padam. Bhagavan has thousands of celestials as His attendants, who are well-versed in the art of receiving the muktas, and bestow countless garlands, gifts etc., as the Jiva arrives. He quotes the Kaushitaki Upanishad (1.4) in support:
tam pa’nca-Satani apsarasah upadhaavanti Satam maala-hastaah Satam a’njana-hastaah tam Brahmala’nkaarena ala’nkurvanti||
Meaning: Five hundred Apasaras rush forth to receive the Mukta. A hundred of them have garlands in their hands, and another hundred have scented pastes etc., in their hands to decorate him. They decorate him with the adornments of the Brahman itself.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan’s interpretation is also that He is the Giver of many things – ‘na ekam vastu dadati, api tu sva-paryantani sarvaani vastuni dadati’ – He gives everything, including Himself.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj also gives a similar interpretation, namely, that Bhagavan’s Nama as ‘Naika-dah’ refers to His being the Bestower of all the four Purusharthas viz. Dharma, Artha, Kaama and  Moksha – ‘bhaktebhyo na ekan arthan bahun eva kaamaan catur-varga antarvartino dadati iti Naika-dah.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri refers to the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 4 Verse 7):
Yada yada hi dharmasya glanir bhavati bharata
Abhyutthanam adharmasya tadatmanam srjamy aham ||
Meaning: Whenever there is a decline of Dharma, and a predominant rise of Adharma, O’ Arjuna! At that time I incarnate Myself.

Sri Satyasandha Thirtha uses the Nama as Naikajah, but gives an entirely different interpretation – he looks at the Nama as consisting of the upasarga ‘ni’, and the word ka-ja. He interprets the word ka-ja as ‘born from water’, viz. Lotus, ‘ke jayanti iti kajani Kamalani.  He then interprets ‘ni-kaja’ as a reference to Sri MahaLakshmi, and gives the meaning to Naikajah as ‘The Lord of Sri MahaLakshmi’. Alternatively, he interprets ‘nikajam’ as a reference to the gardens or forests containing Lotuses, Tulasi flowers etc., and then gives the interpretation that Bhagavan’s Nama symbolises that He is ever present in these places – nitaram kajani yasmin tad-vanam ni-kajam, tatra bahvo nai-kaja iti – He Who is present where there are lots of Lotus flowers, Tulasi flowers etc.  He quotes:
TulasI kaananam yatra yatra padma vanaani ca |
Vasanti Vaishnava yatra tatra sannihito Harih   ||
Meaning: Hari is present in the Tulasi gardens, in the forests where there are Lotus flowers, and in places where Vaishnavas live.

Sri Raghunatha Thirtha, another Acharya of the dvaita sampradaya, uses yet another variation for the Nama and interprets this as ‘Aneka-dah’, but gives the same meaning as for Naika-dah – anekani bahuni dadati iti Aneka-daH.

  1.    Agrajah – He is the ‘First-born’

‘Agra’ means first, before or at the beginning and ‘Jah’ means one who is born. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets as ‘Agre jaayate iti Agrajah Hiranyagarbhah – He appeared before anybody else hence He is called Agrajah, the first-born’. Here he refers to Bhagavan’s appearance as the primordial golden egg called Hiranyagarbha from which all other creations happened. In support he quotes the following passage from Rigveda ‘Hiranyagarbhah Samavartata agre – Hiranyagarbha appeared prior to all others’.

Sri Bhattar uses the word ‘Agra’ in the sense of ‘in front’, and ‘Ja’ in the sense of ‘One who came forward’. He continues the interpretation of the current Nama along the lines of the Mukta Jiva’s arrival at Sri Vaikuntham.  He explains the Nama as referring to Bhagavan coming forward, or manifesting Himself, along with Sri or MahaLakshmi, to welcome the mukta Jiva on his arrival at Sri Vaikuntham.  His words are – ‘Evam praaptaanaam muktanaam agre saha sarveshvarya Sriya yatha -parya’nka vidyam Parama bhogyo jayate iti Agrajah’.

This is described in the Kaushitaki Upanishad (1.5, 1.6):
sa Agacchati amitaujasam parya’nkam” iti prabhriti |
upa Sri rupa Bramhanam tasmin Brahmaste, tamitthamvit paadenaiva agre Arohati,
tam Brahma Aha “ko’si’iti” iti prabhriti ca|
sa ya Brahmani citih ya vyashtih taam citim jaayati,
taam vyashti vyashnute iti” ityevamanta hi parya’nka vidya           |
Meaning: The Mukta comes near the dazzlingly lustrous couch. The Supreme Brahman is seated on it with Lakshmi beside Him and the celestial attendants around Him. The Mukta who has meditated on the Lord thus, now realizes Him in this manner, and climbs on the couch.  The Supreme Brahman enquires about the Mukta. After that, the Mukta acquires the knowledge that the Supreme Brahman has.  He also enjoys the Bliss of Brahman.

Sri Vasishtha refers us to the Purusha Sukta Mantra (23 and 24) –
Yo devebhya atapati  yo devanam purohitah
purvo yo devebhyo jatah  namo rucaya brahmaye ||23||
Meaning:  I salute the One who is Lord of the Devas; He is the priest of all the Devas. He is the One who emerged earlier than the Devas; He is the brilliant One!

Rucam bramham janayantah  deva agre tadabruvan
yastvaivam brahmano vidhyat  tasya deva asan vase ||24||
Meaning: When this knowledge for given to the Devas, they said thus: The One who realises Him, He will be please with them.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj refers Srimad Bhagavatam, which explains that Brahma was able to see Lord Sriman Narayana and His lokas prior to starting his creation, through intense tapas:
tasmai sva-lokam Bhagavan sabhajitaH sandarahayamasa param na yat-param  |
vyapeta samklesha vimoha sadhvasam sva-drishtavadbhih  abhishtutam  || ( S.B. 2.9.9)
Meaning: The Lord, very much satisfied with the penance of Lord Brahma, was pleased to manifest His personal abode, Sri Vaikuṇṭham, the Supreme planet above all others. This transcendental abode of the Lord is adored by all self-realised persons freefrom all kinds of miseries and fear of illusory existence.

Swami ChinmayAnanda explains the Nama as: ‘The One Who was First-Born’. Naturally, everything came from Him alone. That from which everything comes, in which everything exists, and into which everything finally merges, is Agra-jah.

  1.     Anirvinnah – He Who is devoid of despondency or anxiety

The term ‘Nirvinna’ means ‘despondency, despair or depression’ and so Anirvinnah refers to someone who does not have any concerns, anxieties or worries. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Avaapta sarva kaamatvaat Apraapti hetu abhaavaat Nirvedah asya naasti iti Anirvinnah – He has got everything He could wish for and there is nothing that He cannot obtain, so He has no cause for any depression or anxiety. Hence He is called Anivinnah, the carefree one’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar gives the interpretation that Bhagavan ‘ceases to be concerned – because he is relieved’, and so He is Anirvinnah – devoid of concern. Sri Bhattar explains that Bhagavan is at last relieved that His devotee – the Mukta, has arrived safely at Sri Vaikuntham, and has been united with Him. Until the Jiva, an object of compassion for Bhagavan, reaches Him, He is concerned about the Jiva and whether the Jiva will get rid of the Karmas and move towards Him. As the Jiva becomes a Mukta – a released soul, Bhagavan is pleased. 

Sri Bhattar gives the example of Lord Rama feeling pleased upon fulfilling His promise when Vibhishana was crowned as the King of Lanka.
एष मे परमः कामो यदिमं रावणानुजम् || ६-११२-१०
लङ्कायां सौम्य पश्येयमभिषिक्तं विभीषणम् |
Meaning: Rama said to Lakshmana “O gentle one! This is my paramount desire that I should see this Vibhishana, the brother of Ravana being consecrated for throne in Lanka.

Sri Vasishtha and Sri Radhakrishna Shastri both note that Nirvinnah meaning frustration, despondency, etc., are characteristics of those who keep changing constantly, or for those who can’t get enough of what they want, or not satisfied with what they get. All of these happen because of the effects of Purva-janma Karma. None of these is an issue for Bhagavan – He has no birth and no karma, He is never changing, He has everything He wants, and can get anything He wants at His will. So He is beyond being dissatisfied, frustrated etc., He is full of Bliss, Brahmananda svarupan. Bhagavan’s creations are changing constantly, and are suffering from their karmas, and so they undergo Nirvinna, but He Himself is beyond all these, and so He is Anirvinnah.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives two root words for deriving the Nama: vid-sattaayaam – to happen, to be; and vid – vicaarane – to discuss, to consider. ‘Anirvinnah’ refers to ‘One Who does not have any concerns’. Sri Vasishtha gives the interpretation – nirvedam kshobham klesham Alasyam va na praapnoti sa Anirvinno Vishnuh – He Who does not become despondent, indifferent, depressed, lazy, etc., is Anirvinnah; or, yo na kadaacidapi nir-vedam = khinnataam (viraktataam) praapnoti sa Anirvinnah – He Who does not get inflicted by depression, despair, frustration etc., on any account is Anirvinnah.

Sri V.V.Ramanujan refers to Sri Thirumazhisai Azhwar’s Pasuram (Naanmugan Thiruvandadi 23):
வித்து மிடல்வேண்டுங் கொல்லோ, விடையடர்த்த
பத்தி யுழவன் பழம்புனத்து, – மொய்த்தெழுந்த
கார்மேக மன்ன கருமால் திருமேனி,
நீர்வானம் காட்டும் நிகழ்ந்து.
Meaning: The Lord who killed seven bulls is a Bhakti-cultivator; need we sow seeds afresh in a repeatedly cultivated soil? The crop grows tall, seeking the rain-cloud whose hue resembles the Lord Himself.

Thirumazhisai Azhwar refers to Bhagavan as the cultivator of Bhakti as Bhagavan tries to inculcate Bhakti even in those who have gone away from Him, without giving up, even as a farmer keeps cultivating his land no matter whether he get results out of the first  effort or not.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan comments that in the very first Pasuram of Thiruvai Mozhi, Sri NammAzhwar says:
உயர்வற வுயர்நலம் முடையவன் யவனவன்
மயர்வற மதிநலம் அருளினன் யவனவன்
அயர்வறும் அமரர்கள் அதிபதி யவனவன்
துயரறு சுடரடி தொழுதெழென் மனனே.
Meaning: Arise, O heart, worship the feet of the one, who is higher than the highest good, who is the Lord of the ever-wakeful celestials, who dispels all doubt and grants pure knowledge.

Swami ChinmayAnanda refers us to the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 3 Verse 22):
na me parthasti kartavyam trisu lokesu kincana
nanavaptam avaptavyam varta eva ca karmani  ||
Meaning: O’ Arjuna, there is nothing prescribed for Me in all the three worlds which ought to be done, nor is there anything not acquired that ought to be acquired. Yet I go on working.

Sri Ananta Krishna Shastri gives another view – Bhagavan never gets tired of fulfilling the desires of His devotees, and so also He is Anirvinnah – One Who does not get exhausted, negligent, lazy, etc., in fulfilling His devotees’ desires.

The same explanation is given by Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj – na nirvindati kadapi svajana  kaaman Apramapara purtishu iti  Anirvinnah.

  1.    Sadaamarshi – He is ever patient

Sat stands for good people and Aamarshee means one who forgives. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Satah Sadhoon Aabhimukhyena Mrishyate Kshamate iti Sadaamarshi – He forgives any transgressions that is committed inadvertently by good people, hence He is called Sadaamarshi’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar continues his description of the arrival of the mukta Jiva in Sri Vaikuntham. He explains the Nama in terms of Bhagavan’s trait of helping the mukta Jiva in performing kainkaryam to Him once he is in Sri Vaikuntham. Bhagavan patiently accepts, with pleasure, all kainkaryam offered to Him by the mukta.  The Lord accepts with a pleasant disposition whatever kainkaryam the mukta wishes to perform to out of his intense love and bhakti to the Lord, even if it is not a kainkaryam that He needs.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers us to Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (10.8.10):
உற்றே னுகந்து பணிசெய் துனபாதம்
பெற்றேன் ஈதேயின் னம்வேண் டுவதெந்தாய்
கற்றார் மறைவாணர் கள்வாழ் திருப்பேராற்கு
அற்றார் அடியார் தமக்கல்லல் நில்லாவே
Meaning: My Lord I have rendered joyful service and attained your Lotus feet.  This is all I ask for.  No more shall miseries besiege the devotees of the Lord in Tirupper where many Vedic scholars live.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj echoes the same thoughts as that of Sri Sankara – satah Sadhun Asamantaat masrshitum Seelam yasya iti Sadaamarshi – He forgives any transgressions that is committed inadvertently by good people, hence He is called Sadaamarshi’.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri refers us to Srimad Ramayana in support:
कथंचिदुपकारेण कृतेनै केन तुष्यति |
न स्मरत्यपकाराणां शतमप्यात्मवत्तया || २-१-११
Meaning: That Rama, because of his good bent of mind, feels glad even by whatever way a good thing is done to him. He does not remember any number of bad things done to him.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives support from the Rig Veda, illustrating the extreme patience of Bhagavan: naakshas-tapyate bhuri bharah (Rg. 1.164.13) – The axle of the wheel that supports all the living creatures never becomes over-heated, and is never broken.

Sri Satya Sandha Thirtha derives the exact opposite meaning for the term SadaAmarshi, based on dividing the Nama as ‘Sada + Amarshah’ (instead of Sada + marshah) – Sada Amarshah kopo daityeshu asya asti iti SadaAmarshi – He Who is extremely impatient with the evil people, the demons.

Short stories on Bhagavan’s Karunya Bhaavam (Compassion)

Bhagavan’s Karunya Bhaava is brought out in this Shloka in Srimad Ramayana:
Katha’ncit upakaarena kritena ekena tushyati
Na smaratyapakaranam Satam apyAtma vattaya ||2.1.11||
Meaning: He is glad even if one good act is performed in His service, even if it is done inadvertently.  He forgives hundreds of transgressions done to Him and ignores them.

Short Story 1

Even though this person lived close to the Parthasarathy temple in Triplicane, Chennai, he never went into the temple.  Soon his son got married and had a baby. On the first birthday of this child, he invited the parents of his daughter-in-law. The girl’s parents were very religious and when they visited they brought plenty of gifts for the child and the family for the ‘Ayush homam’ (First birthday event). 

The girl’s father asked this man to take him to the Parthasarathy Temple. He was not very interested in doing that, but, he went with him as a gesture of courtesy to the guest. Even though he visited without any desire or intent, Bhagavan took note of it – ‘Katha’ncit upakaarena kritena ekena tushyati’.

Short Story 2

There was another lazy Brahmin who used to take bath only at 11 o’clock every day. He will go to the riverside and wash his garment and then take a bath. He will come out of the bank and wring out his garments to drain the water. He does not do any of the Nitya karmas (Sandhya or madhyahnikam -noon Sandhya]. 

After his death, Perumal asked His Dhutas to give him His Vishnu Loka. When they said that he had not done anything, He said, “Yes, he has done”.

What did he do? Asked the Dhutas. Bhagavan said, as he came out of the bank and wrung out his garments, there was a Thulasi plant that got water from his dhoti and kept growing. Even though his intent was not to water the Thulasi plant, Bhagavan took his act of wringing water out of his garment and treated it as a good act. He felt satisfied that the man had offered water to the Thulasi plant – Katha’ncit upakarena kritena ekena tushyati.

Short Story 3

Once during the festival season, Perumal went to the river bank for theertha vari (sacred water rite). On the river bank was a fisherman busy fishing.  When he was asked to leave to give way for Perumal’s ritual, he refused to leave saying that there are a lot of fish coming there to take the bait and he would be fishing only at that spot. The Theertha vari was over.

That fisherman got old and died. Vishnu Dhutas came to get him. Again the question arose – this person was causing disturbance during the Theertha vari but why was he getting Vishnu loka?

Just at the moment the fisherman dived into the water to catch the fish to hold on to its tail, the Bhattar (high priest), at that very moment, dipped Perumal into the water. Perumal took note of all those who took bath when He was doing avabhrita snaanam [done at the end of Yagna]. He made a note that this fisherman also was one of them – katha’ncit upakarena kritena ekena tushyati. Even if a person commits a good act without intent, He considers it as an act done with great desire. 

Short Story 4

A person’s daughter’s wedding was fixed. So, he went to buy silk sarees and other things to Kanchipuram. He bought the saris and went back home. PerumAL ordered that he should be credited with having come to Kanchipuram Garuda Sevai as he was buying silk saris in the store, when Perumal was being taken around the streets where the shops were. Even though this person folded his hands in respect of Perumal only from the store and went home after finishing his purchases, the Lord noted that he came for Garuda Sevai and blessed him – katha’ncit upakarena kritena ekena tushyati.

Short Story 5

There was a person who had a habit of drinking coffee early in the morning as the sun rose. As the milk was not available in time, he bought a cow. The cow provided him with milk on time but one day, he did not get his coffee on time. When he asked for the reasons he found that the cow had not been milked. He went to milk the cow but it broke loose from the stump and started running. He kept chasing the fleeing cow and he finally gave up.  He was angry and gave up on the cow.

Upon his death, the Vishnu Dhutas came to get him. Why? When he was chasing and running behind the cow going around the temple, Perumal took it as this person circum-ambulating His temple. This person had done a mile of running around the temple at that time – katha’ncit upakarena kritena ekena tushyati.

The Story of Ajamilan in Srimad Bhagavatam also reinforces Bhagavan’s Karunya Bhaavam.  Bhagavan considers any act done by a person to have been committed for Him, even though the person did not do it for that purpose. He looks for some act that the person does and thinks of it as having been done for Him.

  1.    Loka-Adhishthaanam – He bears and sustains all the Worlds

The word ‘Loka’ means the World and ‘Adhishthaanam’ means ‘to support or to bear’. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Tam Anaadhaaram Aadhaaram Adhishthaaya Trayo Lokaah Tishthanti iti Loka-Adhishthaanam Bramha – All the three Worlds stand stable using Him as their support though He Himself has no external support, hence He is called Loka-Adhishthaanam, the supporter of all the Worlds’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar specifically refers to Bhagavan being the Support of the World that the Mukta Jiva enjoys, namely the world of Bhagavan’s Nitya Vibhuti (Param-Padam).

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan echoes similar thoughts – Lokaanaam svaantikam Agataanaam svajanaanaam nityam Ashrayatvaat Loka-Adhishthaanam – He is the final resting place and Abode for those who have reached the end of their journey and reached Him.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers to Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (3.9.9):
வாய்கொண்டு மானிடம் பாடவந்தகவி யேனல்லேன்,
ஆய்கொண்ட சீர்வள்ளல் ஆழிப்பிரானெனக் கேயுளன்,
சாய்கொண்ட இம்மையும் சாதித்து வானவர் நாட்டையும்,
நீகண்டு கொள் என்று வீடும் தரும்நின்று நின்றே.
Meaning: I was not born to sing in praise of mortal men.  The gracious Discus wielding Lord of great virtues is the one who is deserving to be extolled.  He provides me for my life here and hereafter, and even takes me to Vaikuntham, and tells us: “This is your house. Take it”.  

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives several supports from the Shruti:

  • तस्य नाक्षस्तप्यते भूरिभारः सनादेव न शीर्यते सनाभिः || Rig 1.164.13 – The axle of the wheel that supports all the living creatures never becomes over-heated, and is never broken.
  • रचो अक्षरे परमे वयोमन यस्मिन देवा अधि विश्वे निषेदुः |Rig 1.164.39 – Of what use is the ved, for he whom is not becoming established in the Absolute? What will be the value of this great knowledge other than mere words? It says, become established in atman, the avyayam (undecaying), the even-ness to reap the full value of the knowledge.
  • tasmin idam sam ca vicaiti sarvam sa otah protashca vibhuh prajaasu – Yajur Veda 32.8 – That Being, hidden in mystery, in whom all find single home; in That all this unites; from That all issues forth; He is omnipresent, is present in all created things.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj refers to Rig Veda 10.82.6:
अजस्य नाभावध्येकमर्पितंयस्मिन विश्वानि भुवनानि तस्थुः || Rig 10.82.6 – It rested set upon the Unborn’s navel, that One wherein abide all things existing.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri explains that He is the Support for the world and gives examples of Lord’s Kurma and Varaha incarnations, and His bearing the earth in His form as Adi Sesha. 

  1.    Adbhutah – He is wonderful

Sri Adi Sankara gives the interpretation for this Nama as ‘Svarupa Shakti Vyaapaara Kaaryaih Adbhutatvaat  vaa Adbhutah – His image, His power and His deeds are awesome, hence He is called Adbhutah, a wonderful person’. Bhagavan is wonderful and each and every aspect of Bhagavan is wonderful, thus giving Him the name Adbhutah, the Wonder.

Sri Sankara quotes the following Mantra from the Katha Upanishad (1.2.7) which says:
Shravanayaapi Bahubhir yo na labhyah Shrunvantopi bahavo yam na vidyuh;
Aashcharyo vaktaa Kushalo asya labdhaa Aashcharyo Jnaataa Kushalaanushishtah ||
Meaning: The Supreme Self is such that He is not gained by many for the mere hearing, and not known by many even while contemplating. Rare is an expounder of Him, and rare is an able attainer, and rare is he who knows Him under the instruction of an adept teacher’. Such is the amazing nature of Bhagavan.

Sri Sankara also quotes the following Shloka from the Bhagavad Gita (2.29) which says:
Ashcharya-vat pasyati kascid enam ashcharya-vad vadati tathaiva canyah |
Ashcharya-vac cainam anyah srnoti srutvapy enam veda na caiva kascit ||
Meaning: Some look on the soul as amazing, some describe him as amazing, and some hear of him as amazing, while others, even after hearing about him, cannot understand him at all.

Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets the Nama in terms of Him being ‘Insatiable’ – He is always delightful to enjoy, no matter how much we have enjoyed Him. He is always a source of wonder, as if unseen before – sarvada sarvaih sarvatha anubhave’pi apurvavat ati-vismayaniyah.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha derives the Nama using the root ‘bhu’ meaning ‘to be’, and ‘ad’ to mean ‘occasionally’ or ‘sudden’. The term ‘adbhuta’ also means ‘Ashcharya’ – wonderful.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan captures the spirit of the interpretation through the following words – ‘Vicitraih pratikshanam nItanaih guna rupa caritaih taih tesham vismaya karanaat Adbhutah’ – He makes His devotees, the muktas enjoy Him every second in great wonder and amazement, by expressing His Guna, rupa, etc. through numerous acts that give pleasure to them.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan gives reference from Sri Thirumangai Azhwar’s Periya Thirumozhi Pasuram (8.1.9 and 10.10.9):

  • pandu ivaraik kandu arivadu evvuril yaam – Where have I seen Him before? Wonders the mind.
  • innaar endru ariyen; anne! Azhiyodum pon Ar Sangam udaiya adigalai innar endru ariyen – My mother! I am unable to identify Him Who has the divine chakra in His hand, and also the golden hued bow called Sarngam. I just can’t define

He also refers to Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi (8.6.10):
அற்புதன் நாரா யணனரி வாமனன்,
நிற்பது மேவி யிருப்பதென் னெஞ்சகம்,
நற்புகழ் வேதியர் நான்மறை நின்றதிர்,
கற்பகச் சோலைத் திருக்கடித் தானமே.
Meaning: The wonder-Lord Narayana-Hari, who indulges in playful acts, resides as Vamana in my heart.  The sound of Vedic chants reverberates through the groves of Kalpa trees in Tirukkadittanam.

Swami ChinmayAnanda summarises the message as: ‘He, and the teacher who teaches of Him, and even the student who grasps Him are all wonders’.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives the meaning: ad = kadAcit bhavati iti Adbhutam – He Who appears occasionally is Adbhutam – sannapi a-bhutam iva iti arthah – Being present, He is not present at the same time. While Bhagavan exists amongst us all the while, we are oblivious to this fact, and more or less live in a state where He does not exist for us. This is signified by the Nama ‘Adbhutah’.

Sri RaghunAtha Thrtha explains the Nama as ‘Adyam bhogyam annadikam bhavati asmat iti Adbhutam’ – He, because of whom grains and food exist for sustaining life, is Adbhutah”.

In Summary
Ananta-Hutabhuk-Bhokta Sukhado Naikado Agrajah |
Anirvinnah Sadaamarshi Loka-Adhishthaanam Adbhutah ||95||

He is Limitless, Omnipresent and Sustainer of all Worlds and hence He is called Ananta Hutuabhuk Bhokta. He gives comfort and joy to His devotees by leading them to Moksha, hence He is called Sukhadah, the comfort-provider’. He takes many incarnations to protect the pious and re-establish Dharma, hence He is Naikadah. He is First born and the Hiranyagarbha, so He is Agrajah.

He has got everything He could wish for and there is nothing that He cannot obtain, so He has no cause for any depression or anxiety. Hence He is called Anivinnah, the carefree one. He forgives any transgressions that is committed inadvertently by good people, so He is Sadaamarshi. All the three Worlds stand stable using Him as their support though He Himself has no external support, hence He is called Loka-Adhishthaanam, the support for all the Worlds.  All His acts and creations are wonderful and hence He is Adbhutah.

OM NAMO NARAYANAAYA

HARI OM TAT SAT

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

SRI VISHNU SAHASRANAMAM (SHLOKA 94) – PART 103

In this part we will explore the meaning of the 94th Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.

 
Vihayasagatir Jyotih Surucir Hutabhug Vibhuh |
Ravir Virocanah Suryah Savita Ravilocanah   ||94||

Purport

He is the means of attainment of Moksha and the guiding light leading to Sri Vaikuntham. He is the cause of all effulgence and He is the enjoyer of all offerings in sacrifices and He is Omnipresent.  He is present in the form of the Sun and He has multiple splendours. He generates brilliance and prosperity as He is the Creator of the World. He has Sun as His eye.

The above Shloka has the following Namas:

  1.    Vihaayasa-gatih
  2.    Jyotih
  3.    Suruchih
  4.    Hutabhuk-Vibhuh
  5.    Ravih
  6.    Virochanah
  7.    Suryah
  8.    Savitaa
  9.    Ravilochanah

Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets the Namas in this Shloka to describe the journey of a Mukta Jiva through the various zones, known as the ‘Arciradi Marga’, ultimately reaching Brahman or Parama-padam. The description is very vivid in Sri NammAzhwar’s Pasurams which is at the end of this commentary.

The steps of ascent to Parama-padam are described differently in various Upanishads. In the Chandogya Upanishad there are seven steps described in the Mantras 4.15.5, 4.15.6, 5.10.1 and 5.10.2 as Arcis – Agni, Ahah – Day, Shukla Paksha – Waxing phase of the Moon, Uttrayana – Northerly move,  Samvatsara – Year, Aditya – Ravi, Chandra – Moon, Vidyut – Lightning.

The Chandogya Upanishad Mantras are:
tadya ittham viduh; ye ceme’ranye Shraddha tapa itupasate – te’rcisham abhisambhavanti, arcisho’hah, ahna Apuryamana paksham, Apuryamana pakshat yan shaduda’n’neti maasaanstaan  || (Chandogya Upanishad 5.10.1)
Meaning: Those who know the nature of the five fires – Pancha Agni thus, and those who practice in the forest meditating upon Brahman with faith, will unite with Agni. From Agni to the deity of the day and from there to the deity of the bright half of the month and thereon he comes upon the deity of the half year while the Sun moves towards the north.

Maasebhyah Samvatsaram Samvatsaraat Adityam, Adityaat Chandramasam, Chandramaso Vidyutam| Tat-Purusho Amaanavah| sa enaan Brahma Gamayati Esha Deva patho Brahma pathah etena Pratipadyamana imam manavam Avartam naavartante naavartante || (Chandogya Upanishad 5.10.2)
Meaning: From that half year he reaches the year – Samvatsara. From Samvatsara he comes to the Sun. From the Sun to the Moon, from the Moon to Vidyut, and from there that amaanava, Superhuman, takes him to Brahman. This is known as the path of the gods or the path to Brahman.  Those who go by this path never again return to this world of Samsara’.

The Kaushitaki Upanishad lists six steps (Kaushitaki Upanishad 1.21): Agni Loka, Vayu Loka, Varuna Loka, Aditya Loka, Indra Loka, and Prajapati Loka.

The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (BU 8.2.15, 7.10.1) lists the following: Arcis, Ahah, Shukla Paksha, Uttarayana, Deva Loka, Aditya, and Vaidyuta.

Combining the various Upanishads, the Arciradi Marga comprises of the following twelve steps:
Arcis or Agni, Ahas or Day, Purva Paksha or Shukla Paksha, Uttarayana, Samvatsara or Year, Vayu, Aditya, Chandra, Vaidyuta,  Varuna, Indra and Prajapati. 

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

  1.    Vihaayasa-gatih – He Who is the means for attaining Parama-padam (Moksha)

The Nama has the following meanings:

  1. He Who is the means for attaining Moksha
  2. He Who travels in the form of the Sun
  3. He Who travels in space through His vehicle Garuda – the King of birds
  4. He Who is attained by ascetics through their penance

The word Vihaayasa has many meanings including a bird and the sky. Gatih means the path or travel. Gatih also means the abode. Sri Adi Sankara gives two interpretations based on different meanings for Vihaayasah and Gatih. The first interpretation is based on Vihaayasah to mean the sky and he says ‘Vihaayasam gatih Aashrayah asya iti Vihaayasagatih Vishnupadam – His abode is up in the sky or the Vaikuntha and hence He is called Vihaayasagatih’. His second interpretation is ‘Vihaayasam gatih Aashrayah asya iti Vihaayasagatih Aadityah vaa – He moves in the sky in His form as the Sun hence He is called Vihaayasagatih, the traveller in the sky (as the Sun)’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar gives the interpretation – tatha nirudha bhakti parakotibhih Vihaayasam = parama vyoma padameva gamyate asmaat iti Vihaayasa-gatih – He is called Vihaayasa-gatih since it is through Him and because of Him that those devotees who have reached the highest stage of bhakti attain the Supreme abode i.e. Parama-padam.

He gives reference from the Vishnu Purana (5.19.26) in support:
Bhunktvaa ca vipulaan bhogaan tam ante mat-prasadaadajam |
Mam Anusmaranam praapya divyam lokam avaapsyasi  ||
Meaning: Having enjoyed the worldly pleasures in abundance by My grace, you will remember Me at the last moment of life, and will attain the divine world of Parama-padam.

He also quotes Brahma Sutra 4.2.16 in support:
tadokah agra-jvalanam tat-prakashita-dvaro vidya-samarthyaat tac-cheshagaty anusmriti yogacca hardaanugrhitah Satadhikaya |
Meaning: Because of the efficacy of the bhakti yoga that has been practiced by the devotee and because of the constant meditation and following of the Sattvic path that leads to the Supreme Abode of the Lord, the devotee is able to see the opening through which to go while leaving the body. And when the soul leaves the body through the murdhanya (top of the head) nadi or the sushumna (vein or artery) nadi, it leads the Self to the Supreme Abode of the Lord.

Sri Vasishtha derives the Nama starting with ‘Vi’ as an upasarga (prefix), the root ‘ha gatau – to, to get, to attain’; or ‘ha – tyage – to abandon’, and adding the ‘asun’ as basis, and gati meaning ‘that which is attained’.  So combining the above, the first interpretation for Vihaayasa means one who travels in space. Vihaayasa can also refer to those who sacrifice, or those Sattvic people who perform tapas etc. Thus, Vihaayasa-gatih can mean ‘One Who travels in space’, or ‘One Who is attained by those who follow the Sattvic path’.

Sri Vasishtha gives an alternate interpretation and uses the meaning ‘tapasvin or an ascetic’ for the term Vihaayasa –‘He Who is attained by the ascetics through their penance – Vihaayasaih tapasvibhih, abhigamyate praapyata iti Vihaayasagatih Vishnuh.

He gives another interpretation for the Nama and refers to Bhagavan in His form of the Sun – Vihaayase antarikshe gatih gamanam yasya sa Vihaayasa-gatih – Suryah.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers us to the Divya Prabhandam, where the Azhwars refer to Bhagavan letting His devotee enjoy the pleasures of this world, and then takes them to His world in the end:

  • Ingu ozhindu bhogam nee eidip pinnum nam idaikke poduvaai (Sri Thirumangai Azhwar’s Periya Thirumozhi 5.8.5) – After enjoying the worldly pleasures, you are gracious enough to take us back to your abode.
  • Vaanera vazhi tanda vaattaatraan – (Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi 10.6.5) – He gave the path of liberation, and
  • mann ulagil valam mikka vaattaatraan vandu indru vinn ulagam taruvaanaai Viraigindraan (Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi 10.6.3- We have attained Narayana reciting His many names.  He has come to Earth today, in Tiruvattaru of great wealth, and hastens to give us Sri Vaikuntham at our wish.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri takes Vihaayasa as a reference to the sky, and observes that Bhagavan is called Vihaayasa-gatih because He has the sky as His path – unobstructed, unsupported, vast, limitless – in His the form as the Sun. Bhagavan manifests in the form of the Sun as a reflection of His immense love for His creation – Priya-krit, priti-vardhanah etc.

Swami ChinmayAnanda refers to the Nama of Bhagavan as Surya Narayana, in this context.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj uses the dual meaning of ‘sky’ and ‘bird’ for the word Vihaayasa, and interprets the Nama as ‘One Who travels in space by means of the King of birds – Garuda, as His vaahana – vihaayase – vyomni vihaayah patina gatih yasya iti Vihaayasa-gatih.

Sri Satya Sandha Thirtha also gives the explanation in terms of Bhagavan’s Garuda vaahana – vihaayaso – Garudah, tena tena gatih yasya sa Vihaayasa-gatih.

  1.    Jyotih – The Light that leads to Sri Vaikuntham

The meaning of this Nama is ‘great light or illumination’. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Svata eva dyotate iti Jyotih – One who shines spontaneously from within and hence He is called Jyotih, the self-illuminating great light’. In support he gives the following quotation from Maha Narayana Upanishad (13.1) which says ‘Narayana Paro Jyotih Atma Narayanah Parah – Narayana is the ultimate Light and is the ultimate Soul’.

In the Svetasvara Upanishad (4.14), it says ‘Tameva Bhaantam anubhaati sarvam tasya bhaasaaa sarvam idam vibhaati – He alone shines and all other luminous bodies like the Sun and the stars simply reflect His light’.

Sri Bhattar interprets this Nama as the first step in the ascent of the Jivas to Parama-padam (His abode). This step is also called Arcih. Arcih refers to the first deity that escorts the mukta Jiva to the Supreme Abode. Sri Bhattar refers to the Chandogya Upanishad (5.10.1) and the Brahma Sutras for his interpretations:
te arcisham abhisambhavanti (Chandogya Upanishad 5.10.1)
Meaning: They unite with Agni; from Agni to the deity of the day, and from there to the bright half of the month.

Brahma Sutra 4.3.1 – ‘Arciradina tat-pratitheh – Along the path beginning with light, this is well-known’. Sri Ananta Rangacharya translates ‘Arcih’ as a reference to ‘Agni’.

The Muktas (Released souls) are led along the stages beginning with ‘Arci’ (light), and this is well-known from the Upanishads.

Ativaahikaah tal-li’ngaat | Brahma Sutra 4.3.4
Meaning: Arcih and the other deities are known as Ativaahika (Escorting Angels) because of the nature of their duty which is to lead the Muktas to the Supreme Abode. They are persons deputed to take the meditators to Brahman.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan gives reference to the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 8 Verses 24 to 27), where the path taken by the knowers of Brahman to reach Brahman is described.
Agnir jyotir ahah suklah san-masa Uttarayanam |
Tatra prayata gacchanti brahma brahma-vido janah ||
Meaning: Light in the form of fire, the day, the bright (waxing) fortnight, six months of the northern course of the Sun (Uttarayana) – the knowers of Brahman who take this path go to Brahman.

By contrast, those who reach Swarga (a temporary abode where the Jiva enjoys the benefits of his good karma and then is reborn in this world) take the dhumaadi Marga (B.G. 8.25) – smoke etc., and those who are headed for narakam (hell) take the Yamaya marga according to the Shastras.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan gives an interpretation similar to that of Sri Bhattar: ‘dyotate sushumnaya nirgatah tad-bhaktah arcih prapya yasmaat sa Jyotih’ – He Who is the guiding light for those devotees whose souls leave the body through the sushumna nadi, is Jyotih.

Swami ChinmayAnanda refers us to the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 13 Verse 18) – ‘Jyotisam api taj jyotis – He is the source of all lights’.

Swami ChinmayAnanda also gives support from Mundaka Upanishad (2.2.10):
na tatra Suryo bhaati na ChandraTarakaṃ nema vidyuto bhaanti kuto’yamagniḥ | 
tameva bhaantamanubhaati sarvaṃ tasya bhaasaa sarvamidaṃ vibhaati ||
Meaning: The Sun shines not there, nor the Moon and the Stars. Nor do these lightning shine. How could this fire? All that shine after Him Who shines. All this is illumined by His radiance.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj explains the Nama as – dyotate dipyati kantya iti Jyotih – He Who enlightens through His Kanti (radiance) is Jyotih.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha observes that the Sun and the Fire are both referred to as Jyoti in the Vedic terminology, and since Bhagavan is the One who illumines these, He is appropriately called Jyotih:
Agnir-jyotir-jyotir-agnih svaha|
Suryo jyotir-jyotih Suryah svaha || (Yajur. 3.9)

  1.    Surucih – He who is the cause of all effulgence

This Nama has the following meanings:

  1. One Who has the good desire and the Will to protect the world
  2. He Who is the cause of all the effulgence in everything
  3. He Who has intense attachment to His devotees

Ruchi means both ‘effulgence or shine’ and ‘wish or desire’. Accordingly, Sri Adi Sankara explains the Nama as:

  • ‘Shobhanaa Ruchih Deeptih asya iti Suruchih – One Whose effulgence is beautiful, auspicious and attractive’
  • ‘Shobhanaa Ruchih Icchaa asya iti Suruchih – One Whose Will is beautiful, auspicious and attractive’.

Sri Bhattar interprets the current Nama as a reference to Day time, which is the second step in the ascent of the mukta to Sri Vaikuntham. He derives the interpretation as follows: Suryodayaat rocate iti rucih, sa asya Sobhana iti Su-rucih – The rising of the Sun is pleasing because of its effulgence.  Since He is the cause of that beauty, He is called Su-rucih.

Sri Bhattar quotes the Sruti – arcisho-ahah – (Chandogya 5.10.1) – After Agni to the deity of the day.., where the path to Brahman is described.

The root from which the Nama is derived is ‘ruc – diptaavabhipritau’ meaning ‘to shine, to look beautiful or to be pleased with’. Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives the derivation: sushthu rocata iti Su-rucih – He Who shines beautifully and well is ‘Su-rucih’. He explains the Nama to emphasise the point that Bhagavan is the cause of anything that is effulgent.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan gives an interpretation similar to that of Sri Bhattar and associates the Nama Su-rucih to the daytime – ‘Sobhano rucih  divasah yasmaat sa Su-rucih – He by Whose Grace we have a pleasant day time is Su-rucih’.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri uses the meaning ‘taste’ for the word ‘ruci’, and gives the explanation for the Nama as ‘One who has a good desire or taste to protect the world’.

Swami ChinmayAnanda uses the meanings ‘Glory or Desire’ for the term ‘ruci’, and gives the meanings as ‘He is of auspicious Glory or desire’, both referring to this world being an  expression of His Will or Desire.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj explains the Nama as – Sobhana Su-rucih = abishva’ngah anuragah yasmin bhaktanam iti Su-rucih – He Who is intensely attached to His devotees, is Su-rucih.

  1.    Huta-bhug-Vibhuh – He is the enjoyer of all sacrifices and He is the Supreme Lord

Sri Adi Sankara interprets the above Nama by splitting them as ‘Hutabhuk’ and ‘Vibhuh’.

‘Hutam’ refers to the offerings made in sacrifices to various gods through the medium of fire and Bhuk refers to the one who enjoys or protects. On this basis, Sri Adi Sankara offers two interpretations for this Nama. The first of which is ‘Samasta Devatoddeshena Pravritteshvapi Karmasu Hutam Bhungte iti Hutabhuk – He enjoys the sacrificial offerings made irrespective of which specific god it is offered to and hence He is called Hutabhuk’. He is the ultimate enjoyer of all offerings whether it is offered to Him directly or indirectly through other gods and He is the Supreme God who is Omnipresent.

Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 9 Verse 24 says, ‘aham hi sarva-yajnanam bhokta ca prabhur eva ca – I am the enjoyer of all sacrifices and the Ultimate Lord’.

The other interpretation is ‘Hutam Bhunakti iti Hutabhuk – He protects the sacrifices made by the devotees from interference of enemies, hence He is called Hutabhuk, the protector of sacrifices. As an example, He protected the sacrifice of Sage Vishvamitra by killing Tataka and Subahu.

Sri Adi Sankara gives two interpretations for ‘Vibhuh’. The first is ‘Sarvatra Vartamaanatvaat Vibhuh – He is present everywhere, hence He is called Vibhuh, the Omnipresent’. This is based on ‘Vividho Bhavati iti Vibhuh – He has multiple presence’.

The second interpretation is ‘Trayanam Lokanam Prabhutvaat Vibhuh – He is the Supreme Lord of the three worlds, hence He is called Vibhuh, the Overlord’. The word Prabhu refers to a Lord and Vibhu refers to the Super Lord. Bhagavan is the Lord of Lords and hence He is called Vibhuh, the Supreme Lord.

Sri Bhattar interprets the term ‘huta-bhuk’ to refer to the Moon – ‘Hutam Bhunjaanah – Somah, and for the term Vibhuh, he gives the meaning ‘One who grows and becomes full – purno bhavati’. So, the term Huta- bhug-Vibhuh is interpreted as a reference to the waxing phase of the Moon – one that has consumed (bhuk) the offerings (huta) made to it, and has become full (Vibhuh – purno bhavati). The Nirukti author summarises Sri Bhattar’s interpretation as follows:
Hutam sudha parinatam bhunjaanash-Chandramaas-tatha   |
Vibhuh purno bhavet yasmin sa vai syaat Huta-bhug-Vibhuh ||

This is the third step in the arciradi marga. A reference is made to the Chandogya Upanishad 5.10.1 in support – “arcishah ahah ahna Apuryamaana paksham – From Agni to the deity of the day and from there to the deity of the bright half of the month…”

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan’s interpretation for the current group of Namas is similar to that of Sri Bhattar. He interprets the Nama ‘Huta- bhug-Vibhuh as a reference to the waxing period of the Moon, the Shukla paksha and His explanation is: huta- bhuk = Chandrah, Vibhuh = purnah, yatra sa Huta-bhug-Vibhuh Shukla pakshah. It is because of Him that His devotees’ darkness (despair) is removed just like the Shukla paksha, hence He is called ‘Huta-bhug-Vibhuh’.

Sri Vasishtha explains that ‘hutam’ refers to the offerings in the fire during homa/yagna etc., accompanied by the associated mantras: hutamiti agnau prakshiptam sa-mantram. He refers us to the seven tongues of fire that were described earlier, under the Nama Sapta-jihvah: sapta te agne samidhah sapta jihvah (Yajur. 17.79).  He further adds that it is this ‘Huta-bhuk’ Guna of Bhagavan that is reflected in us, and this is responsible for our ability to consume the offerings in the form of food to nourish our body. Associated with the Prana vayu that we inhale and the fire that is in our body, this food or offering gets ‘consumed’.

Sri Vasishtha explains Vibhu’ as: ‘Vi’ is a prefix, meaning vividha; the root ‘bhu – sattaayaam’ meaning ‘to be or to exist’. Hence, vividho bhavati iti Vibhuh – That which manifests itself in different ways or He Who is present everywhere, or He Who is the Lord of all the worlds.

Swami ChinmayAnanda translates the Nama ‘Vibhuh’ as ‘All-Pervading – Lord Narayana’. The Self, is unconditioned by time or space, for He is Eternal, the Omnipresent.  He is All-pervading as He is unlimited by any conditioning.

Sri Satya Sandha Thirtha gives the interpretation – Vishishta bhavanti asmaat iti Vibhuh – Since beings become distinguished and distinct because of Him, the Lord is called Vibhuh.

  1.    Ravih – The Sun in his Uttarayana (Northerly move) 

Ravih refers to the Sun and this Nama signifies Bhagavan in His manifestation as the Sun. Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Rasaan Aadatte iti Ravih Adityatma – The Sun has the name Ravih because he absorbs all the rasas or fluids from all objects. Bhagavan has the essence of the Sun, hence He is called Ravih’. Sri Sankara gives the following reference from the Vishnu Dharmottara (1.30.16) in support of this – ‘Rasanancha Tathadanaat Raviriti Abhideeyate – The Sun is called Ravi because He extracts and absorbs all the basic essences from all the objects’.

Sri Bhattar uses the root ‘Ru – Shabde’ meaning ‘to sound’, and interprets the Nama as ‘Ruyate – prashasyati iti Ravih – One Who is praised.  Sri Bhattar interprets the Nama as ‘One Who is praised as the Uttarayana – the period in which the Sun begins his movement towards the north.  Uttarayana is the fourth step in the Arciradi Marga.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan gives an interpretation similar to that of Sri Bhattar. He derives the Nama from the root ‘Ru – Gatireshanayoh’ meaning ‘to go’, and gives the explanation for the Nama as – Ravate gacchati Uttarayanena yasmaat sa Ravih; yad-anukampaya Uttarayena yaati iti Arthah – He by Whose Grace the Sun is able to traverse the Uttarayana Marga, is Ravih.

Sri Ananta Krishna Shastry refers to the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 10 Verse 21), where the Lord says:
Adityaanaam aham Vishnuh jyotishaam Ravir-amshumaan – ‘Of Adityas I am Vishnu, of luminous bodies I am the radiant Sun’.

Sri Vasishtha derives the Nama from the root ‘Ru – Shabde’ meaning ‘to cry or to yell or to sound as bees’. Sri Vasishtha indicates that the affix ‘i’ adds the sense of ‘one who does’ or ‘one who causes others to do’ – kartari karane va. So, in his interpretation, the term Ravih means ‘One who causes sound’, or ‘One who enables others to make sound’, and indicates that it is because of Him that all the beings are able to create sound, and so He is called Ravih.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj explains the Nama as – Ruyate stuyate bhakta janaih iti Ravih – He Who is praised by His devotees is Ravih.

  1.    Virocanah – He is of many splendours and who illuminates the World 

The word ‘Vi’ stands for Vividham meaning various or multiple, and Rochanah stands for ‘Rochate’ meaning exhibiting splendour or pleasing aspect. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Vividham Rochate iti Virochanah – He has multiple splendours or gives pleasure to all in a variety of ways hence He is called Virochanah’.

He has many aspects of splendour such as the Sun, Moon, Stars etc. All the beautiful objects of the Universe are His manifestation and we derive immense pleasure from the.  He is truly Virochanah, the one with multiple splendours.

Sri Bhattar explains the Nama as ‘Dvaabhyaam ayana-gatibhyaam samvatsaro rathena virocayati iti Virocanah’ – He represents the year (Time) who illumins the bright Sun when the Sun rides his chariot through the two ayanas or the two periods of six months each (the Uttarayana and the Dakshinayana – the Northerly and the Southerly journey). This is the fifth step in the Arciradi Marga.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan continues with a similar interpretation to that of Sri Bhattar – virocayati samvatsarena gacchantam svopasam abhiprautam dipra’nca karoti it Virocanah – He Who makes the Sun shine as He travels through the Samvatsara or through the year.

The root from which the Nama is derived is ‘ruc – deeptaavabhipritau’ meaning ‘to shine or to look beautiful or to be pleased with’. Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha interprets this Nama as ‘virocate tacchilo Virocanah’ – He Who has the habit of, or for whom it is part of His nature, to shine and to look beautiful. He Who is naturally shining, and Who illuminates this Universe, is Virocanah.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri explains this Nama as the Lord providing various types of rays to assist the growth of plants etc.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj explains this in the context of His shining in special ways in the minds of His devotees – Visheshena rocate bhaktebhya iti Virocanah.  He quotes the Yajur Vedic Mantra – namo rucaya Braahmaye (Yajur. 31.20).

Swami ChinmayAnanda notes: ‘Whatever form the devotee chooses to contemplate upon Him, the Lord manifests in that very Form for the sake and joy of the devotee’. This is also what the Lord says in the Bhagavad Gita (BG 7.21).

Sri Satya Sandha Thirtha gives an alternate Nama as Vi-locanah – One Who gave special sight (Divya Chakshu) to Arjuna, Sanjaya etc. – divyam locanam Parthasya yasmaat sa Vi-locanah. He supports his interpretation with a reference to the Bhagavad Gita (Shloka 11.8) – divyam dadami te Chakshuh.

  1.    Suryah – He Who generates Brilliance and Wealth

Sri Adi Sankara interprets Suryah as ‘Soote Shriyam iti Suryah Agnir Vaa – Suryah’ denotes one who generates or creates wealth or brilliance referring to either the Sun or the fire’.  So this Nama means the Sun or the Fire which describes Lord Vishnu very appropriately as He is the creator of all the wealth and brilliance in the world.

Sri Bhattar interprets the root ‘Sr’ with the meaning ‘to move’, and associates the term with ‘Vayu’, since the wind moves because of Him – Vayuh sada sarati yasmaat iti Suryah. Sri Bhattar maps Surya to the sixth step in the Arciradi Marga.  Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan also gives the same interpretation – Vayum sarati svopasakam nitva iti Suryah.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri explains the Nama as a reference to One Who streaks through the skies like a snake (Sarati). This can closely relate to the interpretation of the Nama as a reference to the wind. Vayu is placed next to Samvatsara in the Arciradi Marga based on the Kaushitaki Upanishad (1.3) – ‘Sa Vayu lokam – He (the Jiva) goes to the Vayu loka’.

Sri Vasishtha derives the Nama from the root ‘Sr – gatau’ meaning ‘to go’ or ‘Su – prerane’ meaning ‘to excite or to impel’.  Based on this, the meaning is ‘That which moves’, or ‘That which impels all beings to action – sarati gacchati iti Suryah, or suvati karmani prerayati lokaan iti Suryah’.

Swami ChinmayAnanda notes that this term etymologically means that ‘One Source from which all things have been borne out or out of which they have been delivered’. The Lord as the First Cause is the Womb of the Universe. The term is commonly used to refer to the Sun, because on the surface of the world it is the Sun that nurtures and nourishes all living creatures.

Sri Satya Sandha Thirtha gives another interpretation – Suri gamyatvaat Suryah – He because of Whom we get enlightenment is Suryah.  Somewhat related to this interpretation, Sri Raghunatha Thirtha gives the following explanation – Suribhih jnanibhih praapyate iti Suryah – He Who is attained by the enlightened Sages.

  1.    Savita – He Who brings forth everything in the Universe

Savita is the short form of the word Prasavita meaning the Creator. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Sarvasya Jagatah Prasavitaa Savitaa – He is the Creator of the whole world and hence He is called Savita’. He gives reference from the Vishnu Dharmottara (1.30.15) which says ‘Prajaanaam tu Prasavanaat Savitaa iti nigadyate – He is called Savita because He creates all the world and its people’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar gives the interpretation – Surya dvara vrishti sasyaadikam sute iti Savita – Bhagavan produces, through the Sun as the medium, rain and the crops, and so He is called Savita or Aditya. This is the seventh step in the Arciradi Marga.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri gives references to the Shruti – ‘Devo Varunah  prajapatih Savita (Chandogya Upanishad 1.12.5) – ‘He who shines brilliantly, He who brings rain, He who is the Protector of people, the Lord Savita’; savanaat Savita – (Maitrayani 5.7).

Sri Anantakrishna Shastry gives an interesting alternate that has the same meaning – ‘Sa pita – He is The Father of All’.

Sri Vasishtha derives the Nama from the root ‘Su – prani garbha vimocane’ meaning ‘to bring forth or to produce’. Sri Vasishtha gives the explanation – Surya dvara vrishti Sasyadikam utpaadya jagat janayati iti Savita – He Who creates grains etc. through rain by means of the Sun and generates and sustains life, is Savita.

  1.    Ravi-locanah – He has Sun as His eye

Ravi means the Sun and lochana means eye.  Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Ravih lochanam chakshuh asya asti iti Ravilochanah – He has the Sun as His eye, hence He is called Ravilochanah’. In support he quotes from Mundaka Upanishad (2.1.4) ‘Agnir Murdha Chakshushee Chandra Suryau – He Who has fire for the crown of His head, and has the Moon and the Sun as His eyes’.

In the Dhyana Shloka 2, it says ‘Bhuh Paadau yasya Naabhih Viyadasura nilash Chandra Suryau ca Netre’ where the Sun and the Moon are described as His eyes.

In the Purusha Suktam, Shloka 13 says ‘Chakshos Suryo Ajaayata – The Sun was born out of His eye’ denoting the close association between the Sun and His eye.

Ravina – tat prakashena, locayati – darshayati iti Ravi-locanah – That which reveals everything to us through its lustre.

Sri Bhattar explains this Nama as the eighth, ninth and tenth steps of Arciradi Marga – the Moon, Indra (lightning), and Varuna. All these thrive by means of the Sun’s rays, and so they are covered together in this Nama by Sri Bhattar in his interpretation – Ravi rashmi Sankraantyadi mukhena Chandra-Vidyud- Varunaan locayati iti Ravi-locanah. The Chandogya Upanishad Mantra – ‘Adityaat Chandramasam, Chandramaso vidyutam’, and the Kaushitaki Upanishad Mantra – ‘sa Varuna lokam (1.3), are quoted in support of this interpretation.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj interprets the Nama as ‘One from Whose eyes arose Surya’ – Ravih Bhaskarah locanaad-yasya iti Ravi-locanah.  He refers to Purusha Suktam (Shloka 13) – Chakshoh Suryo Ajaayata (Rig Veda 10.90.13).

Sri Raghunatha Thirtha derives his interpretation based on the root ru – Sabde – to sound, and gives the meaning ‘praise’ for the word ‘Ravih’. His interpretation for ‘locanah’ is ‘One Who is pleased’. His interpretation for the Nama is: Ravih stutih; locaniyatvaat locanam priyam; Ravih stutih, locanam – priyam yasya sah Ravi-locanaH – He Who is fond of praise, is Ravi-locanah.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives multiple explanations:  Ravina locayati sarvasm iti Ravi-locanah – He Who enlightens everything through the Sun; He Whose eyes are the Sun, and through which we see – locyate anena iti locanah, ravih locanam = cakshuh yasya sa Ravi-locanah.

Sri NammAzhwar’s description of the ascent of the Jiva to the Parama-padam

It is a delightful experience to delve into Sri NammAzhwar’s description of the ascent of the Jiva to Sri Vaikuntham in his Pasurams in Thiruvai Mozhi (10.9.1 to 10.9.10). It brings forth Bhagavan’s deep love for His devotee who is arriving, and this is expressed beautifully by Azhwar in his delightful devotional outpouring.

The Vaidyuta comes first, and announces with joy the arrival of the Mukta to the rest of the Ativaahikas with his thunder – ‘Suzh vishumbani mugil turiyam muzhakkina…’ (10.9.1) – Clouds in the sky played horns like heralds, waves in the ocean clapped and danced.  The seven continents stood with gifts, to see the devotee of eternally-praised Narayana homeward-bound. 

‘Purana pork-kudam… neer ani kadalgal nindru Arttana’ (10.9.2) – On seeing Narayana’s devotee, the rain cloud joyously filled gold-pots in the sky, the oceans stood and cheered in joy.  The mountains made festoons for him, and all the words bowed in worship.

‘Thozhudunar ulagargal dhoopanal malarmazhai pozhivinar…’ (10.9.3) – They call came to offer their obeisance to the arriving Mukta, including the usually meditating and silent sages. As they saw the devotees of the Lord who measured the Earth, they rained flowers, lit incense and offered worship.  The Sages stood on either side and said, ‘This way to Vaikuntha’.

‘Edhiredhiri imaiyavariruppidam vaguthanar, kadhiravar avaravar kainirai kaatinaar…’ (10.9.4) – All the way the celestials made resting points, The Moon and the Sun lighted the path, thundering drums rolled like the ocean, in honour of the devotee of the nectar like Lord Madhava adorning Tulasi garland.

‘Madhavan thamarendru vaasalil vaanavar, Podhumin emadhu idam pudhuguga vendralum…’ (10.9.5)- The Devas are setting up delightfully decorated huts for the temporary stay of the Mukta Jiva to take rest on the way. Varuna, Indra, and Prajapati are eagerly waiting at the entrance to their regions to welcome and receive the Mukta, with a request to the Mukta to bless them by passing through their regions.  

‘Velviyul maduthalum viraigamazh narumpugai kaalangal valampuri kalanthangum isaithanar…’ (10.9.6) – Incense, fire oblations, bugles and conches rent the air, and the Devas with their eyes sparkling offer heavenly gifts.

‘Madandhaiyar vaazhthalum Maruttarum Vasukkalum thodarthengum thottiram sollinar…’ (10.9.7)

The Maruts and Vasus joined in worship as the celestial Apsaras cheered in joy, to see the mukta jiva progressing towards the reclining Kesava, the radiant-crowned Gopala, Lord of Kundandai, – on his journey homeward bound.

‘Kudiyadi yaarivar Govindan thanakkendru mudiyudai vaanavar muraimurai edhir kola…’ (10.9.7) – The Devas lined up in rows to see the Mukta Jiva to greet and said,  “Here comes Govinda’s bonded serf!”, then climbed the high walls of the festooned Gopuram, to catch a glimpse of the devotee, cast in Madhava’s image, as the Mukta Jiva entered Sri Vaikuntham.

‘Vaikuntham pugudhalum vaasalil vaanavar Vaikunthan thamaremar emadhidam pugugendru…’ (10.9.8) – As the devotee entered the portals of Sri Vaikuntham, the bards were filled with joy.  The Devas bowed and offered their riches upon entering Vaikuntham as a place in Vaikuntham is every devotee’s birthright.

‘Vidhivagai pugundhanar endru nal vedhiyar padhiyinil paanginil paadhangal kazhuvinar…’ (10.9.9) – The Nitya Suris, considering themselves blessed to meet the devotee, chanted the Vedas and washed the devotee’s feet, while moon-faced celestials greeted the Mukta Jiva with Purna kumbham, divine lamps and Srichrunam (red Tilaks) and welcomed the devotee.

Vandhavar edhirikolla maamani mandapatthu andha mil perinbathaadiyaadu irndhuamai…’(10.9.10)
வந்தவர் எதிரிகொள்ள மாமணி மண்டபத்து
அந்தமில் பேரின்பத் தடியரோ டிருந்தமை
கொந்தலர் பொழில்குரு கூர்ச்சட கோபஞ்சொல்
சந்தங்கள் ஆயிரத் திவைவல்லார் முனிவரே
Meaning:  Finally the devotee stood face to face with the Lord and His consort, who were seated in the beautifully decked hall, the Jiva entered eternal bliss.  Those who master this decad out of the thousand Pasurams of Kurugur Sadakopan (Sri NammAzwar also known as Sadakopan) they will be blessed with the Lord’s divine grace and become like the great Sages, forever immersed in His thoughts.

In Summary

Vihayasagatir Jyotih Surucir Hutabhug Vibhuh |
Ravir Virocanah Suryah Savita Ravilocanah   ||94||

He is called Vihaayasa-gatih since it is through Him and because of Him that those devotees who have reached the highest stage of bhakti attain the Supreme abode i.e. Parama-padam. As He shines spontaneously from within, He is called Jyotih, the self-illuminating great light. He is known as Suruchih as His effulgence is beautiful, auspicious and attractive. He is the ultimate enjoyer of all offerings whether it is offered to Him directly or indirectly through other gods and He is the Supreme God who is Omnipresent, hence He is called Hutabhug-Vibhuh.

The Sun is one His manifestation and is called Ravih Who extracts and absorbs all the basic essences from all the objects. He Who has multiple splendours and is naturally shining, and illuminates this Universe, so He is Virocanah. He is the One who generates and creates wealth and brilliance, so He is called Suryah.  He is the Creator of the whole world and hence He is called Savita. He has the Sun as His eye, hence He is called Ravilochanah.

OM NAMO NARAYANAAYA

HARI OM TAT SAT

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

SRI VISHNU SAHASRANAMAM (SHLOKA 93) – PART 102

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||

Purport
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.

OM NAMO NARAYANAAYA

HARI OM TAT SAT

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

SRI VISHNU SAHASRANAMAM (SHLOKA 92) – PART 101

In this part we will explore the meaning of the 92nd Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.

shloka-92
Dhanurdharo Dhanurvedo Dando Damayitadamah    |
Aparajitas Sarvasaho Niyanta Niyamo Yamah       ||92||

Purport

He is the wielder of the Bow and is an expert in the science of archery. He is the source of punishment (Danda) of those who administer punishment. He metes out punishment and He is act of punishment to restore Dharma. He is Invincible, supports all beings and steadies the faith of devotees of other Devas. He assigns respective duties and organizes the work pattern for all. He ordains the fruits of worship to each individual according to the nature of their worship.  He is the One Who controls the likes of Yama and He is eternal.

The above Shloka has the following Namas:

  1. Dhanurdarah
  2. Dhanurvedah
  3. Dandah
  4. Damayita
  5. Damah (A-Damah)
  6. Aparajitah
  7. Sarvasahah
  8. Niyantaa
  9. Niyamah (A-Niyamah)
  10. Yamah (A-Yamah)

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

  1.    Dhanurdarah – One Who wields the bow

RamaThe word ‘Dhanuh’ means a bow and ‘Dharah’ means ‘one who wields it’. Based on this Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Sriman Rama Nama Mahat Dhanur-Dharayama sa iti Dhanurdharah – He carried a great bow in His Rama Avataar (to protect the Rishis), hence He is called Dhanurdharah’, emphasising the words ‘the great bow’.

In the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 10 Verse 31), the Lord says ‘Ramas Shastrabhritaam Aham – I am Rama among the carriers of weapons’. This shows the pre-eminence of Rama among all wielders of bow.

Sri Parasara Bhattar says that Bhagavan has this Nama because He carries His Bow named ‘Sarnga’ to remove obstacles from the path of His devotees who are striving to reach Him. The reason for Lord Rama carrying the bow with Him during His exile was precisely for this purpose as He removed obstacles to the penance performed by the Rishis in the forest. This is Kshatriya Dharma – ‘Etad-artham hi loke’smin kshatriyair-dharyate Dhanuh – It is for this reason that the bow is wielded by the Kshatriyas in this world.

‘Dharyate Kshatriyaih capo na Artha Sabdo bhaved-iti – The bow is always carried by the Kshatriyas so that there may not be the cry of distress anywhere’.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan nicely translates the Nama as ‘Sarngapani’ – One Who wields the ‘Sarnga’ Bow.

Sri NammAzhwar personifies all His weapons themselves as being filled with anger at the very sight of the enemy, and ready to remove the sorrow of the devotees – ‘Kaai Sina Azhi Sangu Vaal Thandu Endi em idar kadivaane (Thiruvai Mozhi 9.2.6). The Azhwar also refers to Emperumaan as ‘kuni Sarngan’ (Thiruvai Mozhi 8.8.1) – One Who holds the Sarnga bow that is bent as if with respect. There are others who have carried the bow, but none is equal to Rama in wielding the bow.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri refers to Rama’s skill in wielding the bow and arrow and says that Rama could even convert a blade of grass as an arrow pointing to the incident of Kakasura being chased all over the three worlds and making Him surrender at His Feet ultimately.

Swami ChinmayAnanda gives an interesting reference for the Mundaka Upanishad (2.2.3), where the “bow” refers to the Pranava:
Dhanur-grhitva Upanishadam Maha Astram Saram hyupAsanishitam samdhayita |
Ayamya tad-bhava gatena cetasa lakshyam tadevAksharam somya  viddhi || 
Meaning: Having taken the bow (called Pranava) well known in the Upanishads, one should fix an arrow (the Atman) that has been sharpened by constant meditation to it. Drawing it with the mind fixed on the Brahman, O good looking one, know that the Immutable itself is the target.

The next mantra (M.U. 2.2.4) explicitly declares that ‘Pranavo Dhanuh, Saro hyAtma, Brahma tal-lakshyamucyate’ – The Pranava is the Bow, the Atman is the Arrow and the Brahman is its mark or target.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives reference to the Rig Vedic Mantra:
Aham Rudraya Dhanur-Atanomi Brahmadvishe hanta va u |
Aham janaya samadam krinomy-aham dvayavaA Prithivi Avivesha ||(Rg. 10.125.6)
Meaning: I bend the Bow for Rudra, so that his arrow may strike and slay the hater of devotion. I rouse and order battle for the people, and I have penetrated the Earth and Heaven.

The Story of Tataka


Sage Vishwamitra narrated the story of Tataka to Rama. There was once a yaksha, named Suketu, who had no children. Longing for children, he performed a yagna.

Tataka was a Yaksha princess-turned-demoness due to a curse by Sage Agastya. Suketu had desired a son, but Lord Brahma blessed him with a beautiful daughter endowed with the strength of 1,000 elephants. She was a beautiful princess and married Sunda, an Asura King. She had two sons Maricha and Subahu.

Sunda was killed by Agastya’a curse. Enraged, Tataka went with her son Mareecha to kill Agastya. The sage cursed Mareecha and said he would become a demon. He said Tataka would become ugly, and a cannibal. She would repulse people with her looks. From then on, Tataka became a ferocious demon and began to destroy the beautiful land that had once been prosperous.

rama-killing-tatakaAfter narrating the story of Tataka, Sage Vishwamitra asks Rama to kill her. The Shastras forbid the killing of women by a warrior. Rama was puzzled as to how could the Sage, who was well conversant with the Shastras, ask him to kill Tataka?

Sage Vishwamitra, understanding Rama’s predicament, reminded Rama of the duties of a King. A King’s duty is to uphold Dharma and eliminate those who pose a threat to Dharma. There was no room for mercy, just because the perpetrator of atrocities on innocent people happened to be a woman. Sage Viswamitra gave Rama examples of women who had thus been killed. He mentioned that Indra had killed Manthara, the daughter of Virochana, and Lord Narayana had killed Kavyamata (Usana), the wife of the Sage Bhrigu. When the need of the hour was to save the innocent, it was the duty of the king to kill those who were evil.

Raghava, the best of men bowed his head in obedience. He raised his bow and twanged it, making the distant areas echo with its fearful sound. Aroused and provoked Tataka rushed headlong at Rama in blind rage. She came growling and roaring and began to rain stones and boulders with her supernatural powers. Rama instantly checked the shower of stones and cut off her arms with a volley of sharp arrows. He then struck her with a deadly arrow like a thunderbolt and she fell down dead.

Jai Sri Ram!

  1.    Dhanurvedah – The Propounder of the Science of Archery

rama-dhanurvedaVeda is knowledge and Dhanurveda is the Science of Archery and the Knower of the Science of archery in its completeness is Lord Rama.  Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Sa Eva Daasharathih Dhanurvedam Vetti iti Dhanurvedah – The son of Dasharatha, who alone is the Knower of the Science of Archery (Dhanur Veda) and hence He is known as DhanurVedah’. There were other eminent archers like Arjuna and Karna but Rama was way above the rest of them and so He alone is identified as the personification of the Science of Archery.

Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets the Nama as an example of His being the Propounder of all that is to be known and learnt. In this instance, He is the Propounder of the Science of Archery – Dhanur-Veda, hence He is known as Dhanurvedah.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri gives examples of Lord Rama’s knowledge of the Science of Archery. He could direct the arrows as He wished, retrieve them as He wished, and even change the Nature through discharge of His arrows (e.g. His use of the arrow to warn Samudra Rajan for His initial lack of response to His request).

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives the following interpretations:

  • dhanur vindati – labhata iti – He Who has the Dhanus;
  • dhanur-vedayati sva-rakshanartham sarvebhya iti Dhanur-Vedah – He Who bestows the Dhanus to all His creation as a form of self-defence is Dhanur- Vedah. Here Sri Vasishtha gives a generic meaning for the term Dhanus as a means for self- protection from the natural enemies etc. Thus, he refers to the horn of the cows, paws of the cat, claws of the tigers, lions etc. as their ‘Dhanus’ and the intellect as the Dhanus for human beings (Dhanushca martyasya su-buddhih).

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives support from the Yajur-Veda (16.13) (also found in Sri Rudram 1.11):
avatatya dhanustva sahasraksha Sateshudhe |
nishirya Salyanam mukha Sivo nah sumana bhava ||
Meaning: The Lord of a thousand eyes and hundreds of quivers, remove the arrows from their string, remove their sharpness and grace us with your benevolence.

Swami ChinmayAnanda relates the term ‘Dhanush’ to the Pranava mantra ‘Aum’ and gives the interpretation for the Nama as ‘One Who propounded the unfailing technique of meditation on the Pranavam for realisation of the Self’.

Sri Raghunatha Thirtha explains the Nama as:
dhanumshi vidanti iti  Dhanur-vedah astrajnah bhrityaah |
te asya bhaktanam dasah santi iti  dhanur-vedah ||
Meaning: He Who has His devotees served by those who have the knowledge of the Science of weaponry.

  1.    Dandah – He is the source of punishment for the wicked

rama slaying ravanaThe root from which this Nama is derived is ‘dam – upashame’ meaning ‘to be tamed’. The means of punishment for the wicked is Dandah – ‘Dushtaan dandayati iti Dandah’.

‘Dandam’ is a term used for ‘wand or stick’. It refers to the staff that is carried by Acharyas, and is also a symbol of the position or power (like the Dandam or staff of a King). Thus, Dandah here refers to the means to administer punishment or taming the wicked.

Often the fear of punishment acts as a deterrent and prevents the crime. Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Damanam Damayataam Dandah – Among those who administer justice He is the source of power of punishment’.  Sri Sankara quotes from the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 10 Verse 38) where Bhagavan says – ‘Dando Damayataam Asmi – I am the power of punishment to those who administer justice when the law is transgressed’.

Sri Bhattar comments that Bhagavan is Dandah because He administers the rules of Dharma through the rulers who have the responsibility to punish the wicked and bring protection and happiness to the people by following Dharma as laid down in the Vedas.

Sri NammAzhwar describes the intensity with which Bhagavan punishes the wicked, in his Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (6.10.4):
ஆவா வென்னா துலகத்தை அலைக்கும் அசுரர் வாணாள்மேல்,
தீவாய் வாளி மழைபொழிந்த சிலையா திருமா மகள்கேள்வா,
தேவா! சுரர்கள் முனிக் கணங்கள் விரும்பும் திருவேங் கடத்தானே!
பூவார் கழல்கள் அருவினையேன் பொருந்து மாறு புணராயே.
Meaning: He showers His deadly piercing fiery rain shower of arrows from the Sarnga Bow on the life source of the wicked Asuras, who by their very nature torture people mercilessly. O’ Lord of Venkatam adored by the Devas, the Angels and the Rishis! Pray show this lowly self the way to Your Lotus feet.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri interprets the Nama as a reference to the weapon of Yama in His role of Sankarshana. Bhagavan is verily that power of Yama in the form of His weapon, the Danda – the ultimate of weapons in punishments.

Sri Satya Sandha Thirtha gives the explanation – Daityaan dandayati iti Dandah – He Who punishes the Asuras. He gives an alternate interpretation using the ‘A-Dandah – anya kartrika Sikshana rahitah A-Dandah’ – He Whom no one else controls.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives the explanation that Bhagavan is called Dandah because He is the source of restraint (danda = damana = niyamana = restraint) for all beings so that they act according to His rules.

  1.    Damayita – The One Who Subdues the enemies of His devotees

narasimhaThe word ‘Damanam’ means control and Damayita is who controls or subdues. Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Vaivasvata Narendraadiroopena Prajaa Damayati iti Damayita – He disciplines or subdues His subjects in the form of Yama, the god of death or in the form of the rulers of Kingdoms, hence He is called Damayita, the controller’.

In the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 10 Verse 29) Bhagavan says – ‘Yamas Samyamatam aham – I am Yama among controllers’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar gives the interpretation as – Svayam ca Ravanadin tacchilyena Damayita – He Who destroys the likes of Ravana as a force of habit. The nirukti author gives the description as ‘tacchilyat Ravanadinam harta – Damayita svayam’ – It is because of this habit of His to mete out punishment to the wicked that He takes incarnations such as Rama and Krishna.

Sri Bhattar stresses the Guna Bhagavan as one who subdues the suffering of His devotees.  Emperumaan is always acting in the interests of His devotees – either as One who subdues their sufferings or one who subdues their enemies.

  • He dispels the sufferings of His devotees in this Samsara through the Ganges-like streams of His lustre – Kanti – mandakinibhih bhava taapam damayati iti damanah – or Kanti; or
  • as One who subdues the enemies of His devotees.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers to Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (7.5.2):
நாட்டில் பிறந்தவர் நாரணற் காளன்றி யாவரோ,
நாட்டில் பிறந்து படாதன பட்டு மனிசர்க்கா,
நாட்டை நலியும் அரக்கரை நாடித் தடிந்திட்டு,
நாட்டை யளித்துய்யச் செய்து நடந்தமை கேட்டுமே?
Meaning: Bhagavan takes birth among us, goes through innumerable sufferings in His incarnations for our sake (as evidenced by the incarnation of Rama with Sita Piratti), and then goes after and seeks the wicked, and destroys them.  He gave the Kingdom to Vibheeshana, and liberation to His devotees. Knowing all this, would mortals be devotees of anyone else? 

Sri Satya Sandha ThIrtha explains the Nama along similar lines – Daityaan damayati iti Damayita – He Who subdues the wicked Asuras.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha also echoes a similar thought – Bhagavan has this Nama signifying that He subdues those who violate the rules of Dharma as established by Him – Jagati Jagadisha kritaya jagad-vyavasthaya bhanjakam upashamya sva-vashe sthapayati.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj gives the interpretation that He dispels the sorrowful or miserable state of His devotees (by retrieving them from the bondage of Samsara) – damayati upashamayati dainyam sva-jananam iti Damayita.

Swami ChinmayAnanda explains the Nama as – ‘One Who punishes the wicked, destroys the sinners and thus regulates and cultivates life in the Universe, making it a garden for the spiritual beauties to blossom.

  1.    Damah (A-damah) – He is the act of punishment or One who cannot be tamed

Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Damah Damyeshu Dandakaryam Phalam Tat cha sa Eva iti Damah – Damah is the good effect created by the act of punishment to restore Dharma and this is also an aspect of Bhagavan, hence He is called Damah’. This shows even the punishment meted out by Bhagavan is an act of kindness and carries a permanent after-effect in the recipient’s makeup.

The root from which the Nama is derived is ‘dam – upasame’ means ‘to be tamed’. Sri Parasara Bhattar looks at the Nama as A-Damah and explains the Nama as ‘He Who cannot be tamed or subdued’. 

DamodaraThe Lord can only be tamed with devotion. Many instances of the Lord submitting to the wishes of his devotees are narrated in the Puranas. For e.g. The Lord submitting Himself to be to be tied to a mortar by Yashodha,  Sri Thirumazhisai Azhwar asking Bhujanaga sayana Perumal of Thiruvekka temple to leave Kanchipuram when the King banished Kanikannan (Azhwar’s disciple from his Kingdom) etc.

Sri Bhattar quotes the MahaBharata (Udyoga Parva 67.8) in support:
bhasma kuryat jagatsarvam manasaiva Janardanah         |
na tu kritsnam jagac-chaktam ki’ncit kartum Janardane ||
Meaning: By His mere Will, Janardanah can turn the entire Universe into ashes. But all the Universe combined together can do no harm to Him.

The Nirukti author summarises Sri Bhattar’s interpretation thus: kashcit damayita na asti yasya asau A-Damah Smritah – He is meditated upon as A-Damah because there is no one who can subdue Him in any way.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj explains the Nama as ‘Damayati iti damo damanah parabhavita; na damo yasya kashcit sah Adamah’ – He dispels sufferings by punishing those who deviate from Dharma. And He cannot be subdued by anyone.

Swami ChinmayAnanda captures this sense in his explanation: ‘That which is ultimately gained by the worldly punishments – the final experience of Beatitude in the Self’. One should be able to realize through this interpretation that what happens to us – good or bad -is all for our benefit, bestowed by Bhagavan.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri notes that the term ‘Dama’ also refers to the means that are used to control the unruly; the net result of this control is the control of the senses etc., which is also referred as to Dama.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha derives the meaning for the Nama as ‘Damayati iti Damah – He Who controls’. He gives the interpretation in terms of Bhagavan being the Controller of everything such that they follow the prescribed path as their natural behavior. In other words, He is the Controller of all the planets such that they follow their set courses; He is the Controller of our indriyas such that the eye only sees and does not hear, the ear only hears but not smell, etc. Bhagavan is present everywhere and pervades everything, and has full control of everything – He is Damah, the Controller. This composition of Sri Vasishtha captures his interpretation:
damo hi sarvatra virajamanah, kriyaasu sarvam sa niyamya yu’ngte             |
grahaas-tameva damamatra Vishnum Namanti sarve paridhau bhramantah||

Sri Satyasandha Thirtha takes the Nama as ‘Ada-mah’, and gives the interpretation that He is the Bestower of wealth on all – samyak dadati iti Adah, tesham ma – sampat yasmat iti Ada- mah.

Sri Raghunatha Thirtha gives a similar interpretation for the Nama as ‘Da+Mah’ – kalpa taru sakha iva bhaktanam sarvabhIshytam dadati iti Da-mah – He Who confers all the things desired, to the devotees, like the branches of the heavenly wish-giving tree, Kalpa vriksha.

  1.    Apraijtah – He is Invincible

krishna's armyAparajitah means ‘One who cannot be defeated’.  Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Shatrubhih na Parajitah iti Aparajitah – He is undefeated by any of the enemies and hence He is called Aparajitah’. This Nama had appeared earlier in Shloka 59 for which Sri Sankara had given the interpretation that Bhagavan is not defeated by internal enemies such as anger, greed, desire etc.

Among the different aspects of Bhagavan’s invincibility, there are two that are noteworthy:

  • He cannot be defeated by anyone or anything at anytime, anywhere, under any circumstance; and
  • Anyone who has His support is also equally invincible, for e.g. Pandavas against the stronger army of Kauravas.

Sri Parasara Bhattar explains the first interpretation as follows: Kvacit, kadhacit, kutashcit a-pratihatah A-parajitah – He cannot be obstructed by anyone, anywhere, anytime or by any means.

Sri Bhattar gives reference from Srimad Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 18 Verse 78):
Yatra yogeshvarah Krishno yatra paartho dhanur-dharah |
tatra Srir-vijayo bhutir-dhruva nitir-matir-mama ||
Meaning: Sanjaya saysWherever there is Krishna, the master of Yogas, and wherever there is Arjuna, the supreme archer, there will certainly be opulence, victory, extraordinary power, and morality. That is my conclusion’.

Sri Bhattar quotes several examples from the MahaBharata in support of his second interpretation where the Devas themselves have described over and over again that those who are supported by Bhagavan cannot be vanquished by anyone.
ekam hanishyasi ripum garjantam tam mahaamridhe |
na tu tam praarthayasyekam rakshyate sa mahatmana ||

yam Ahur-veda-vidusho varaham a-jitam harim |
Narayanam a-cintyam ca tena kRshNena rakshyate || (bhA. udyo.129.40)
Meaning: Indra tells Karna: ‘In the great fight, I give you the power to kill one thundering warrior, but this cannot be the one you wish to kill (i.e. Arjuna), as he is protected by the Great Lord Krishna. Krishna is none other than the Invincible Hari, Who had assumed the form of the Varaha, and Who is the Incomprehensible Narayana, as declared by the Vedic scholars’.

The same message is given to Jayadratha by Rudra:
A-jayyanshcapi a-vadhyanshca varayishyasi taan yudhi |
Rte arjunam maha-bahum devairapi durasadam |
yam Ahuh amitam devam Sa’nkha-cakra-gada-dharam |
pradhanah so’stra-vidusham tena Krishnena rakshyate ||
Meaning: In the fight you can ward off the attacks of all invincible and indestructible warriors except the long-armed Arjuna who is unassailable even by Devas, since he is protected by Krishna who is the Unknowable Deity Who bears the conch, discus and mace as His arms.

Bhishma, Drona, etc., declare that they could have annihilated the Pandavas without a trace if only Lord Krishna had not been their Protector, and that just as certainly as truth rests with a Brahmin, humility is certain in the pious, and wealth is sure in the skilful, so also is victory certain for Narayana:
dhruvam vai brahmane satyam dhruva sadhushu sannatih |
Srir-dhruva capi daksheshu dhruvo Narayane jayah ||

yasya mantri ca gopta ca suhrc-caiva Janardanah  |
Harih trailokya nathah san kim nu tasya na nirjitam ||
Meaning: What is there in this world that cannot be conquered by that person who has Bhagavan Hari as His mentor, protector, and friend?

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj describes the Nama as ‘na parajitah kadapi kenapi iti A-parajitah – He Who cannot be conquered by anyone and through any means is A-parajitah.

In the Ayurveda caraka samhita, the invincibility of Bhagavan is declared as:
yatha’ham nahi janami Vasudeve parajayam |
matushca paanigrahanam samudrasya ca Shoshanam |
etena satya-vakyena sicyatam agado hyayam ||
Meaning: On the veracity of the following statements, may this medicine be pounded and be effective – ‘There is no defeat for Vasudeva; I have not witnessed the marriage of my mother; the ocean will never become completely dry. These are all absolute true statements’.

In Vaitarana, the following Shloka is invoked for the efficacy of the poison- removing mantra:
Ratnakara iva akshobhyo himavaniva ca acalah |
jataveda iva adhrishyo Narayana iva Ajayah ||
Meaning: Let this poison-removing mantra be effective just as the ocean is imperturbable, Himavan is unshakable, the fire is unapproachable, and Narayana is unconquerable.

In Srimad Ramayana, there are several instances, for e.g.:

  • A-jayyah Shashvato Dhruvah (Yuddha Kandam 111.15) – He is Inivincible, eternal and constant;
  • A-jitah khadga-dhrik Vishnuh Krishnashchaiva Mahabalah (Yuddha Kandam 117.14) – The Invincible who is the wielder of the Sword named ‘Nandaki’, the all pervader, the bestower of happiness and endowed with great might;
  • Tvam apratima karmanaam aprati dvandvam aahave (Bala Kandam 76.18) – Parashurama comments during his encounter with Lord Rama ‘You are unequalled in your achievements and there is no one to counter you in conflicts.

Sri V.V.Ramanujan gives reference from the Divya Prabandham and quotes Sri NammAzhvar’s Thiruvai Mozhi (2.7.11):
பற்பநாபனுயர்வறவுயரும் பெருந்திறலோன்,
எற்பரனென்னையாக்கிக் ¦ காண்டெனக்கே தன்னைத்தந்த
கற்பகம், என்னமுதம் கார்முகில்போலும்வேங்கடநல்
வெற்பன், விசும்போர்பிரா னெந்தை தாமோதரனே.
Meaning: Padmanabha is the mighty one, higher than the highest.  He has the skill to subdue and overcome His enemies. He is my Kalpa tree, he made me His and Himself mine.  He is my ambrosia, dark as the rain cloud, and He is in Thiru Venkatam.  My Lord Damodara is the Lord of high celestials too.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan gives another reference from the Divya Prabandham – ‘Andru aivarai velvitta mayap por terp paganar (Thiruvai Mozhi 4.6.1) – He, who, in the form of the Charioteer, ensured victory of the Pandavas.

Sri Satya Sandha Thirtha explains the Nama as ‘a-parah + a-jitah’ – He Who has none superior to Him, and He Who can never been conquered – na vidyate para = uttamo yasmat iti A-parah;  A-parashca asau A-jitashca  iti Aparajitah.

One of the interpretations of Sri Satya Sandha Thirtha is based on looking at the Nama as a-pah + rajitah: na vidyaye pah = palako yasya sa a-pah; sa casau rajitashca iti A-pa-rajitah – He Who has no protector above Him, and He Who is resplendent. He is also Unconquerable in another context i.e., One who is not single-mindedly devoted to Him will not be able to attain Him.

Swami ChinmayAnanda gives another dimension to the invincibility of Bhagavan, by referring to the Ishavasya Upanishad – ‘nainad-deva Apnuvan’ – The Devas could not overcome It – the overwhelming powers of desires and passions can never vanquish the Self – the Divine Narayana. He gives yet another dimension and explains that the Supreme Self is Aparajitah since the Self alone remains when everything else is destroyed.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha also derives the interpretation for the Nama starting with the word ‘Para’ meaning ‘Supreme’. He interprets that for one to be defeated, there needs to be someone or something other than that entity. But since there is nothing else that exists other than the Supreme Self, there is no possibility of defeat for this One Truth – ‘para eva kashcin-nasti; na dvitiyo na tritiyah iti atharva vacant, tasmat parajitvasya asambhavaat bhagavatah Aparajita iti namna samkirtanam upapadyate. This is based on the Advaita philosophy (Non-existence of anything except of Brahman in Sat (Truth).

Sri Vasishtha gives another explanation as – ‘parair-na para-jiyate, parabhibhuyate va sa A-parajito Vishnuh – Lord Vishnu cannot be conquered or humiliated in any way by anyone.

Sri Raghunatha Thirtha looks at the power of invincibility of Bhagavan over time as compared to all other entities, whose powers are perishable over time –
parajiyate kalatah iti parajitah – nashvarah vibhutayah;
na vidyante nashvaraha vibhutayah yasya sah A-parajitah

  1.    Sarvasahah – He Who supports all Forms

Maha Vishnu 1Sri Adi Sankara offers three different interpretations for this Nama. The first is ‘Sarva Karmasu Samarthah iti Sarvasahah– He is skilled (expert) in all activities, hence He is called Sarvasahah’. Here Sahah is used in the context of ‘being capable of’.

The second meaning is ‘Sarvaan Shatroon Sahate iti vaa Sarvasahah – He overcomes or conquers all His enemies and hence He is called Sarvasahah’. Here Sahah is used in the sense of ‘defeats or overcomes’.

The third meaning is ‘Prithivyadi rupena va Sarvasahah – He Who supports all such as the earth. Here Sahah is used as ‘to bear or support or put up with’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets the Nama specifically in the context of Bhagavan’s support to the other gods. Because of His support to the other Devas, they continue to be worshipped by people who have not achieved the full realization that Narayana is the Supreme Deity to be worshipped. As the Provider of this support, He is called Sarvasahah – ‘svasasanena sarvam devatantaramapi mandadhikaarinaam Aradhyataya sahate – bibharti iti Sarvasahah.

The same concept is shared by Sri NammAzhwar in Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (5.2.8):
இறுக்கு மிறையிறுத்துண்ண எவ்வுல குக்கும்தன் மூர்த்தி,
நிறுத்தினான் தெய்வங்க ளாக அத்தெய்வ நாயகன் றானே
மறுத்திரு மார்வன் அவன்றன் பூதங்கள் கீதங்கள் பாடி,
வெறுப்பின்றி ஞாலத்து மிக்கார் மேவித் தொழுதுய்ம்மி னீரே.
Meaning: He is the Lord of Devas who has assigned different roles for them.  It is He who accepts the offering you make to your Gods (Sarva Deva Namaskaram Keshavam prati gacchati).  The spirits of the mole-chested Lord have filled the Earth singing songs. So shed hatred, cultivate love; offer worship and liberate yourselves.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha uses the meaning “support”, and interprets the Nama as – Bhagavan supports and protects everything including the sky, the earth, the movables and the immovables. He gives an alternate interpretation and says that as the sea does not lose its nature even though all kinds of water blend with it over time, so also is Bhagavan untouched by all the things that He has to endure. It is the reflection of this Guna of Bhagavan of Sarvasahatvam that is reflected in the ability of the Jiva to endure all that is happening when it is occupying one body, and then moves to another body at the end of this life.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj gives the interpretation – sarvesham sva-jana aparadhanam sahah iti Sarvasahah – He is Sarvasahah because He puts up with all the aparadhas of His devotees.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan gives the example of Lord Krishna putting up with all the insults from the likes of Rukmi (brother of Rukmini), Duryodhana, Shishupala etc. – sarvani rukmyavajna vadamsi sahata iti Sarvasahah.

  1.    Niyanta – He Who directs

mahavishnuSri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Sarvaan sveshu sveshu Krityeshu Vyavasthaapayati iti Niyanta – He sets up various entities in their respective duties and organises the work pattern for all these entities, hence He is called Niyanta or the Organiser’.

In the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 4 Verse 13) Bhagavan says:
catur-varnyam maya srstam guna-karma-vibhagasah |
tasya kartaram api mam viddhy akartaram 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.

Sri Bhattar extends the idea from the previous Nama (Sarvasahah) relating to the worship of the anya Devatas. Those who worship other devatas or gods will be bestowed with their desires as Bhagavan supports all the other Devatas. No matter which God the devotees repose their faith and devotions, Bhagavan supports them in the pursuit of their choice. It is this Guna of Bhagavan that Sri Bhattar brings out through the Nama Niyanta – tatra tat tat rucIn prarocayan niyacchati iti Niyanta – He directs and guides these individuals after letting them make the choice according to their tastes and quotes from the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 7 Verse 21), where the Bhagavan says:
yo yo yam yam tanum bhaktah sraddhayarcitum icchati |
tasya tasyacalam sraddham tam eva vidadhamy aham ||
Meaning: Whichever particular God a devotee desires to worship with faith and devotion, I sustain that faith firmly in him.

This same idea is given by Sri V.V. Ramanujan who gives reference from Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi (1.1.5):
அவரவர் தமதம தறிவறி வகைவகை
அவரவ ரிறையவ ரெனவடி யடைவர்கள்
அவரவ ரிறையவர் குறைவில ரிறையவர்
அவரவ விதிவழி யடையநின் றனரே.
Meaning: Each and every individual chooses, in accordance with his nature and attainments, limited by his intellect, to worship a particular deity of his/her choice in the hope of securing desired results. These deities are, without doubt, capable of granting the lesser boons (i.e. other than moksha) to their devotees according to their merits, because the Lord is the inner soul, controller, and source of their power.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha derives the meaning from the root word ‘yama – uparame’ meaning ‘to lift up, to show, to offer’ and ‘Ni’ is an upasarga (prefix) that denotes, among other things, command, order, etc.  Niyanta is One Who controls, directs, governs, restrains, etc.  He points out that everything functions according to the course laid out by Him as He is the Niyanta of all – including the Sun, all the planets and even the heart inside all of us – niyacchati = nibhadhnati sarvam vyavasthita vartmana gamanaya iti Niyanta Vishnuh.

Swami ChinmayAnanda uses the A-niyanta for this Nama, and gives the interpretation a – One Who has none above Him to control Him’. He is the One Who has appointed all controllers of the phenomenal forces such as the Sun, the Moon, the Air, the Water etc.

  1.    Niyamah – He Who controls

Maha Vishnu 4 - Copy (2)Niyamah means a set path or a set role and based on this Sri Adi Sankara says ‘sveshu sveshu adhikareshu  praja  niyamati  iti  Niyamah – He is the Director of all beings in their respective functions (covered in Shloka 17). 

Sri Adi Sankara’s gives another explanation using ‘A-niyamah’ as ‘Na Niyamah Niyatih tasya vidyate iti Aniyamah – He has no predefined or set path of action, hence He is called Aniyamah’.  He goes on further to say ‘Sarva Niyantuh Niyantratarabhavaat – He sets everybody’s role but there is none to set His pattern of action hence He is Aniyamah, the One who has no one to direct and control Him.

Sri Parasar Bhattar explains this Nama as – He ordains (prescribes, specifies) the fruits of worship to each individual according to the nature of their worship of the anya devatas of their choice – tat-phalam ca – jati, Ayuh, bhogadikam niyamyate asmin iti Niyamah.

Following on the reference to the Bhagavad Gita (7.21) in the previous Nama, Sri Bhattar takes the next Verse from the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 7 Verse 22) where Bhagavan says:
sa taya Shraddhaya yuktah tasya Aradhanam ihate |
labhate ca tatah kaman mayaiva vihitan hi tan    ||
Meaning: Endowed with that faith, he worships that form (of other Devatas) and thence gets the objects of his desire, granted in reality by Me alone.

It is to be noted that:

  • Bhagavan lets the individual choose the deity to be worshiped by him based on his limitations and knowledge;
  • Bhagavan then supports the individual in this endeavour;
  • Bhagavan bestows the benefits of this worship by empowering the Devata that the individual worships to bestow the desired powers, depending on the merits of the individual.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan gives reference from Divya Prabhandam by quoting Sri NammAzhwar’s Pasuram from Thiruvasiriyam (4), where Azhwar notes that Bhagavan is the One Who created the likes of Brahma, Siva etc., along with their limited powers:
ஊழிதோறூழி ஓவாது வாழியே, என்று யான்தொழ இசையுங் கொல்?,
யாவகை யுலகமும் யாவரு மில்லா, மேல்வரும் பெரும்பாழ்க் காலத்து,
இரும்பொருட் கெல்லா மரும்பெறல் தனிவித்து,
ஒருதான் ஆகித் தெய்வ நான்முகக் கொழுமுளை ஈன்று,
முக்கண் ஈசனொடு தேவுபல நுதலிமூ வுலகம் விளைத்த உந்தி,
மாயக் கடவுள் மாமுத லடியே.
Meaning: In the great deluge when all the worlds and all the gods disappeared, the Lord became the precious seed for all that existed, then sprouted a stalk and created the four-faced Brahma, then the three-eyed Siva and the various gods.  Will we experience the joy of relentlessly praising the marvel Lord, the Lord with Lotus on his navel that made all the worlds, through Yuga after Yuga?

Sri V.V. Ramanujan emphasizes the role of Bhagavan as the Ashrita-rakshaka – One Who protects those Who seek refuge in Him, as the Guna that is portrayed in this Nama.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri refers us to the Paatanjali’s Yoga Sutra for the definition of the term Niyama – ‘Soca santosha tapah svadhyaya Isvara pranidhanani Niyamah (Sutra 2.32) – Purity of the body, mental contentedness, austerity, reciting the Vedas, and persevering devotion to the Lord are called religious observances – Niyama’.

Niyama means restraint or check, and Niyamah means ‘One Who restrains’. Using alternate root words, Sri Vasishtha gives the following meanings:

  • ‘yam – uparame’ meaning ‘to check’ – all things and beings are restrained or bound by Him by residing in Him, and move only because of Him;
  • ‘yama – pariveshtane’ meaning ‘to surround’ – ‘niyaman Saktya sakalam vishvam vyapnoti tasmat sa Niyamah’ – One Who pervades and surrounds everything.

The Nirukti author captures the significance of the interpretation as – niymayate jagat yena niyamah sa udiritah – He is called Niyamah because the whole Universe is controlled by Him.

Sri Raghunatha Thirtha in his tattva saara gives the explanation – Sva- vishaya jnanani bhaktebhyo niyamayati – prayacchati iti Niyamah – He is called Niyamah because He bestows sacred knowledge about Himself to devotees in full measure.

  1.    Yamah – The Controller of all the Devas

vishnu1Sri Adi Sankara interprets two versions of this Nama namely Yamah and Ayamah. Using Yamah, Sri Sankara interprets as ‘Athavaa Yamaniyamau Yogaange Tadgamyatvaat Sa eva Niyamah Yamah – Bhagavan is attainable through two yogic paths – Yama and Niyama – and hence He is identified with the two Namas ‘Niyamah and Yamah’.

Using ‘Ayamah he interprets as ‘Naasya vidyate Yamah Mrityuh iti Ayamah – He has no Yamah or Agent of death as He is immortal hence He is called Ayamah, the Deathless one’.

The sequence ‘Niyamo Yamah’ occurs in Shloka 17 as well. Sri Bhattar interprets the whole set of Namas as a reflection of Bhagavan’s Gunas which are Infinite, and hence he is able to provide different interpretations for the different instances of the same or related Namas and provide ever greater delight of His Gunas in the process. Sri Bhattar chooses to describe for the four Namas as below:

  • One Who controls even the likes of Mahabali,
  • One Who corrects all as the antaryami
  • One Who ordains and bestows the fruits of worship of different gods, and
  • One Who controls and directs all the devas.

For this Nama, Sri Bhattar’s interpretation is: tat-tat phala niyamakan yamadin api yacchati iti yamah – He is called Yamah because He is the One Who controls the likes of Yama who are the bestowers of the respective fruits. He quotes Yama’s words from Vishnu Purana in support: prabhavati samyamane mamapi Vishnuh (Vishnu 3.7.13) – Vishnu controls me also.

Sri Satydevo Vasishtha has composed a Shloka in which He conveys that the Namas Niyanta, Niyamah, Yamah, A-niyamah, and A-yamah, all refer to Lord Vishnu:
Vishnur Niyanta Niyamo Yamo’sau Vishnur Niyanta A-niyamo A-yamo sah|
Prakashate vishvam idam samastam yamair Niyamaishca krita vyavastham||

Sri T.S. Raghavendran refers us to Ishavasya Upanishad mantra 16, where there is reference to Bhagavan as Yamah – the Controller and antaryami of all:
Pushannekarshe Yama Surya Prajapatya vyuha rashmin samuha |
tejo yatte rupaṃ kalysṇatamaṃ tatte pashyaami yo’saavasau Puruṣaḥ so’hamasmi ||
Meaning: O, Nourisher, O lonely Courser of the heavens, O Regulator, O Sun, thou offspring of Prajapati, Remove Thy rays, gather up thy effulgence, So that I may see that which is Thy most auspicious effulgence. The Person that is in Thee, I am That.

He also gives reference to the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 11 Verse 39), where Arjuna after being blessed to see the Lord’s divine form (Vishwarupam) says He is the antaryami of all including Vayu, Yama, Agni, Varuna, Moon, Brahma etc.
Vayur Yamo ‘gnir Varunah Sasankah prajapatis tvam prapitamahas ca |
namo namas te ‘stu sahasra-krtvah punas ca bhuyo ‘pi namo namas te ||
Meaning: You are the Controller and antaryami of Vayu, Yama, Agni, Varuna, the Moon, and Brahma; You are the Grandfather and Great Grandfather of all.

yamaIn the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 10 Verse 29) Lord Krishna declares that He is Yama among subduers:
‘Yamah samyatamy aham’ – Among dispensers of Law, I am Yama, the Lord of Death.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers us to Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (4.10.8), where the Azhwar gives an example to show that Bhagavan controls all the others, including Siva:
புக்கு அடி மையினால் தன்னைக் கண்ட மார்க்கண்டேயன் அவனை
நக்கபிரானுமன் றுய்யக்கொண்டது நாராயணனருளே
கொக்கலர் தடந்தாழை வேலித் திருக்குருகூரதனுள்
மிக்க ஆதிப்பிரான் நிற்க மற்றைத் தெய்வம் விளம்புதிரே
Meaning: It is true that Siva granted eternal life to Markandeya when the latter surrendered to Him.  But note that Siva could bestow this because of the Grace of Lord Narayana.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri refers to the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali for the definition of ‘Yama’ – ‘Ahimsa Satya asteya brahmacarya parigraha Yamah’ (Sutra 2.30) – Not hurting others, veracity, not stealing, continence, and not coveting, are part of “Forbearance” – Yama. Sri Shastri gives the additional interpretation that Bhagavan is called Yamah because He controls the life of all beings, and He is  Yama in this role – Controller of the lifetime of all beings.

Sri Satya Sandha Thirtha uses the Nama A-yamah with the root ‘yam – uparame’ meaning ‘to check’, and interprets as ‘One Who has no one to command Him at any time under any circumstance, or One Who has no one similar to Him in any respect – na vidyate yamah = niyamakah, sadrsho va yasya sah Yamah. He gives alternate interpretation as: ayam = Subhavaha vidhim, mati = janati iti A-yamah – He is Aya-mah because He knows and prescribes the mandates that bestow virtues (ma- mane – to measure).

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha refers to Bhagavan being the ‘Yama’ or One Who terminates all life at the time of pralaya by keeping them within Himself – yacchati =  upasamharati sarvam sargante iti Yamah.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj uses the meaning ‘to eat’ for the root Yama and gives the interpretation – yamayati bhojayati svadubhih annaih bhaktan iti Yamah – He feeds His devotees with delectable food (e.g., with delightful thoughts about Himself).

In Summary

Dhanurdharo Dhanurvedo Dando Damayitadamah    |
Aparajitas Sarvasaho Niyantaa Niyamo Yamah       ||92||

lord-rama-poster-with-glitter-ql13_lHe carried a great bow in His Rama Avataar (to protect the Rishis), hence He is called Dhanurdharah. He is the Propounder of the Science of Archery – Dhanur-Veda and so He is known as Dhanurvedah. He sets the rules of Dharma and is the source of punishment for those who administer Dharma, hence He is Dandah.  He disciplines or subdues His subjects in the form of Yama, the god of death or in the form of rulers of Kingdoms, hence He is called Damayita, the controller.  He is Damah as his acts of punishment are to bring them to the path of Dharma. He is A-damah as He cannot be tamed or subdued. 

He is undefeated by any of the enemies and hence He is called Aparajitah. He steadies the faith of devotees who worship other Gods and supports all the other Gods to bestow grace, hence He is called Sarvasahah.  He assigns respective duties and organises the work pattern for all, hence He is called Niyanta or the Organiser. He ordains the fruits of worship to each individual according to the nature of their worship, so He is Niyamah. He sets everybody’s role but there is none to set His pattern of action, hence He is A-niyamah, the One who has no one to direct and control Him. He is the One Who controls the likes of Yama who bestow respective fruits, hence He is Yamah. He is eternal and deathless, so He is A-Yamah.

OM NAMO NARAYANAAYA

HARI OM TAT SAT

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

SRI VISHNU SAHASRANAMAM (SHLOKA 91) – PART 100

In this part we will explore the meaning of the 91st Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.

shloka-91
Bhaarabhrit Kathito Yogi Yogeeshas Sarvakamadah                 |
Ashramah Shramanah Kshaamah Suparno Vaayuvaahanah ||91||

Purport
He supports the burden of the Universe and He is the central theme of the Vedas. He is contemplative ascetic and is the chief amongst ascetics. He is the fulfiller of all desires who provides refuge to all who are stuck in this Samsara. He causes grief to the ignorant who have deviated from their path. He is the Cause of all beings to decay. He is golden winged who represents the Vedas.  He carries the wind and sustains all Life forces.

The above Shloka has the following Namas:

  1.    Bhaarabhrit
  2.    Kathitah
  3.    Yogi
  4.    Yogishah
  5.    Sarvakamadah
  6.    Ashramah
  7.    Shramanah
  8.    Kshaamah
  9.    Suparnah
  10.    Vaayuvahanah

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

  1.    Bhaara-bhrit – He Who shoulders the burden

AdiSeshanBhaara means a load or burden and Bhrit is one who bears or carries. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Anantaadi Rupena Bhuvo bhaaram Bibhrati iti Bhaarabhrit – He carries the weight of the Earth in the form of the Serpent called Ananta or AdiSesha, hence He is called Bhaarabhrit’.  Bhagavan is not just simply carrying the physical weight of the Earth but is carrying the entire burden of running the affairs of the Universe efficiently, in an orderly manner, by establishing and maintaining suitable laws of nature.

Sri Parasara Bhattar continues with his interpretation in the context of Bhagavan’s relation to the Jivas. In the VisishtAdvaita philosophy, the Jivas are of three types – the Baddhas (the bound souls), the Muktas (the liberated souls), and the Nityas (the eternal souls). When baddha Jivas attain liberation and become Muktas, they begin to reside in Sri Vaikuntham, performing eternal service to Him. Bhagavan bears the burden of bringing about this liberation of the Baddhas to become Muktas through the realisation of their true Self and their eventual attainment of His abode, so He is described as Bhaara-bhrit.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers to the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 9 Verse 22), where Bhagavan declares that He shoulders this burden of maintaining the welfare and prosperity of His devotees:
Ananyas cintayanto mam ye janah paryupasate
tesham nityabhiyuktanam yoga-kshemam vahamy aham ||
Meaning: Those who always think of Me and worship Me, excluding all else, aspiring for their eternal union with Me, I carry what they lack and preserve what they have. Their prosperity and welfare (Yoga and Kshema) are looked after by Me.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj also interprets the Nama as referring to Bhagavan’s role of protecting His devotees – Bharam bhakta rakshaya bibharti iti Bhaara-bhrit.

If we merely utter ‘Namah’ to Him, He treats it as a ‘burden’ of His to make sure that He protects us. Sri V.V. Ramanujan quotes from Sri NammAzhwar Thiruvai Mozhi (3.3.6) Pasuram:
வேங்க டங்கள்மெய்ம் மேல்வினை முற்றவும்,
தாங்கள் தங்கட்கு நல்லன வேசெய்வார்,
வேங்க டத்துறை வார்க்கு நமவென்ன
லாங்க டமை,அதுசுமந் தார்க்கட்கே.
Meaning: You just have to utter ‘Namah’ to the Lord of Tirumala – Thiru Venkatathaan and He takes care of the burden upon His shoulder to rid us of our past Karmas and relieve us from future ones too.

Sri Satyasandha Thirtha explains the Nama as a reference to Bhagavan bearing the Universe in the form of a Tortoise in His Kurma Avataar – Bharam Bhara Bhutam BrahmAndam Kurma rupena bibharti iti Bhaara-bhrit.

Swami ChinmayAnanda comments that the ‘carrying’ that is referred in this Nama is not as a man who would carry a load in the traditional sense. As He is the Cause of the Universe, He is the Bhaara-bhrit.

  1.    Kathitah – One Who is spoken about in the Vedas

SurdasThis Nama is based on the root word ‘Kath- vaakya prabandhe’ meaning ‘to tell or to narrate’, so Kathitah means one who is being described or talked about by all. Sri Adi Sankara gives two interpretations for this Nama, the first of which is ‘Vedaadibhih ayameva paratvena Kathitah iti Kathitah – He alone is declared by all scriptures such as the Vedas as the Ultimate Supreme Being, so He is called Kathitah, the One who is pronounced Supreme.

The second explanation is ‘Sarvavedaih Kathitah iti vaa Kathitah – He is described and talked about at length by all the Vedas, hence He is called Kathitah, the One who is talked about’.

Sri Sankara quotes a number of passages from scriptures to support his interpretations.  He quotes from the Katha Upanishad (1.2.15) which says ‘Sarve Vedah yat Padam Aamananti – All Vedas acknowledge His Supreme Status’.

Sri Sankara goes on to comment from the same Upanishad:
Iti ShrutiSmrityaadi Vachanebhyah; Kim Tad adhvanah Vishnoh Vyaapanasheelasya Paramam Padam Satattva iti Aakaankshaayaam Indriyaadibhyah Sarvabhyah Paratvena Pratipaadyate Ityantena Yah Kathitah sa Kathitah’ – He Whose greatness is extolled by all the Vedas, Puranas etc.

In the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 15 Verse 15) the Lord 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 alone am to be known by all the Vedas, am the author of the Vedanta, and the Knower of the meaning of the Vedas.

dasavatharamBhavishya Puranam (132.95) says:
Vede Ramayane Punye Bharate Bharatarshabha;
Aadau Madhye tatha chaante Vishnuh Sarvatra Geeyate ||
Meaning: Lord Vishnu is praised and sung about everywhere at the beginning, middle, and end of the Vedas, the holy Ramayana and the MahaBharata.

In the Katha Upanishad (1.3.9), it says ‘Sodhvanah Param Aapnoti Tad Vishnoh Paramam Padam – The Realised Person reaches the absolute destination Parama Padam i.e., the abode of Vishnu’.
indriyebhyaḥ para hyartha arthebhyashca paraṃ manaḥ |
manasastu para buddhir buddheratma mahanparaḥ ||1.3.10 ||
Meaning: Beyond the senses, are the rudiments of its objects; beyond these rudiments is the mind; beyond the mind is Atman known as Mahat (great).

mahataḥ param avyaktam avyaktat puruṣaḥ paraḥ |
puruṣanna paraṃ kiṃcitsa kaṣṭha sa para gatiḥ || 11 ||
Meaning: Beyond the great Atman is the Unmanifested; beyond the Unmanifested is the Purusha (the Cosmic Soul); beyond the Puruṣha there is nothing. That is the end, that is the final goal.

It asserts that Artha (objects, means of life) are above Indriyas (senses), that Manas (mind) is above Artha in this hierarchy, above the Manas is Buddhi (intellect, his ability to reason), above the Buddhi is Atman (his Soul, great Self). Beyond the Atman, is the Avyaktam (unmanifested Reality), and beyond that is Purusha (cosmic soul) and beyond the Purusha, there is nothing – for it is the final goal, for it is the highest purpose. Purusha is the final goal that is spoken of, so He is Kathitah.

Sri Parasara Bhattar’s interpretation is – ‘Kathitah ukta vakshyamana gunavattaya sarva Shastreshu” – He is called Kathitah because of the fullness of all His Gunas, that have been described so far and that will be described hereafter, in all the Shastras. Sri Bhattar gives support from the jitante stuti (1.7) – vacasham vacyam uttamam – All the words (Shrutis, Smritis etc.) declare the greatness of this Uttaman (Supreme).

Sri V.V. Ramanujan quotes from Thirumazhisai Azhwar’s Pasuram 11 of Tiruchanda Viruttam:
சொல்லினால்தொ டர்ச்சிநீசொ லப்படும்பொ ருளும்நீ
சொல்லினால்சொ லப்படாது தோன்றுகின்ற சோதிநீ
சொல்லினால்ப டைக்கநீப டைக்கவந்து தோன்றினார்
சொல்லினால்சு ருங்கநின்கு ணங்கள்சொல்ல வல்லரே
Meaning: You are the Ultimate goal of the Vedas; You are the One declared as the Supreme Brahman in the Vedas; You are the Supreme Effulgence that cannot be described through words; You created the four-headed Brahma so that he can perform the function of Creation using the Vedas as his aid, but even he cannot describe You through words even nearly.

Sri Ramanujan also refers us to NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi 3.1.10, where Azhwar refers to Emperumaan as ‘Maraiyaya Naal-Vedattul nindra malarchudare– O’ the radiant Lotus-Lord extolled by the Vedas, You are the essence Who is discussed in all the four Vedas’.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj gives the example of His fame being sung by the likes of Narada, Valmiki, etc. – Narada ValmIki prabhritibhih sa’kirtita yasho vistaratvaat Kathitah.

Sri Satyasandha TIrtha refers to His being praised by the Agamas – Kathitah sad-Agamaih pratipaditah.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha comments that even the Vedas fail in their attempt to describe Him completely. We have been provided with the ability of speech only for singing His praise. Sri Vasishtha’s composition summarises thus:
Vishnur-hi loke kathitah puranah tasyantam Apnoti na vaag vacobhih |
tasmatsanadeva ca vartamaana vaagasti vaktum prati-jantu nishtha ||

He remarks that just as Bhagavan is Kathitah or One Who should be spoken about and praised, He is also a darshatah (He Who sees everything, He Who is the Object we should see in everything we see etc.,), Sravanah, Sparshanah, Rupah, Ghrahanah, etc.

  1.    Yogi – One Who is in complete unison with all beings

BrahmanSri Adi Sankara gives two different interpretations for this Nama. In the first one Yogah is defined as  knowledge and in the second it is used in the sense of self control. The first interpretation is ‘Yogo Jnaanah Tenaiva gamyatvaat – Yogah is Knowledge and He is obtainable only through Jnana or Knowledge and hence He is called Yogi’.

The second interpretation is ‘Yogah Samadhih, Sa hi svatmani sarvada samaadhatte svam atmanam tena vaa Yogee – Yogah is self-control and He maintains it within him at all times and hence He is called Yogi, the pinnacle of self-control’.

The VisishtAdvaitam philosophy propounds that Bhagavan is attained only through the Bhakti Yoga, or Prapatti (through Absolute surrender). The Jnana yoga is seen an accessory (together with Karma Yoga) to lead to the Bhakti Marga. Even, Sri Adi Sankara (an Advaitin) acknowledges this aspect in his composition of the ‘Bhaja Govindam’ song. Sri C. Rajagopalachari wrote in his commentary on Bhaja Govindam as “When intelligence (jnana) matures and lodges securely in the heart, it becomes wisdom (vignyana). When that wisdom (vignyana) is integrated with life and issues out in action, it becomes devotion (bhakti). Knowledge (jnana) which has become mature is spoken of as devotion (bhakti). If it does not get transformed into devotion (bhakti), such knowledge (jnana) is useless tinsel.”

Sri Bhattar gives the interpretation – yujyate anena iti yogah; aghatitArtha ghatanam maha prabhavah sa asya atishayena nitya yogena; sarvam etat sambhavayati iti Yogi– He has a unique greatness in harmoniously bringing together a combination of things that usually do not go together. This unique quality is present in Him in extreme abundance, and is quite natural to Him, so He is called Yogi. He is a One who has combined in Him the apparently conflicting Aishvaryas (explained in the previous Shloka) to co-exist in full measure simultaneously, hence He is called a Yogi.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri explains the term yoga as the process by which one draws his/her mind within when it tries to wander and stray away into other things. Bhagavan is called a Yogi since He is attained by the process of Yoga (namely, by control of the mind and the senses).

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha interprets the Nama using the derivation of – ‘yujyate sambadhyate iti yogi – He Who unites or bonds everything together’ as signifying that Bhagavan alone has the ability to keep everything in the Universe bound together as one functioning unit, and hence He is called the Yogi.
Yogair-yuktam ca idam Sariram yogi, sakala’nca vishvam parasparam baddham yogi,
Esha ca yoga rupo guno bhagavato Vishnur eva sarvatra vyaptah.

Swami ChinmayAnanda defines Yoga by taking reference from the Yoga Shastras– Yogah citta vritti nirodhah – Yoga is stopping of all thought flow. One who has no thought agitations – who has totally conquered the mind, and lives in His own effulgent Self is the greatest Yogi, and hence Bhagavan is Yogi.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj gives the interpretation that this Nama signifies that He unites the devotees with their wishes, in other words, He bestows the desired wishes for their devotees – yojayati svajanan tad- abhIshtenaiti Yogi.

  1.      Yogishah – He is the foremost the Lord of all Yogins

ananthasayanamSri Adi Sankara explains this as ‘Anye Yoginah yogantarayaih hanyante svarupat pramaadyanti Ayam tu tadrahitatvaat teshaam Ishah Yogishah – The other Yogis are affected by many distracting influences and get deflected from their path but He is unaffected by such distractions and therefore He is the foremost and the Lord among the Yogis. Hence He is called Yogishah, the Supreme Yogi’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar interpretation is that Bhagavan is called Yogishah because He is the foremost Lord of all Yogins, and He bears the responsibility of bringing about perfection of Yoga in devotees even as they are in the embroiled in midst of this Samsara. Thus, even for the likes of Sanaka, who are naturally gifted with the powers of meditation, Bhagavan is the One who brings about the perfection of Yoga in them, so that they can attain Sri Vaikuntham. Sri Bhattar gives a reference from the Vishnu Puranam – ‘sanandanadin apa-kalmashaan munin cakara bhuyah ati-pavitram padam – He conferred the highest goal, namely Sri Vaikuntham, upon Sanaka and other sages who were flawless’.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers us to Sri NammAzhwar’s Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram which conveys the sense of His being the Yogishah, One who is worshipped by the Yogis:
கலக்க மில்லா நல்தவ முனிவர் கரைகண்டோர்,
துளக்க  மில்லா வானவ ரெல்லாம் தொழுவார்கள்,
மலக்க மெய்த மாகடல் தன்னைக் கடைந்தானை,
உலக்க நாம்புகழ் கிற்பதென் செய்வ துரையீரே.
Meaning: The Seers such as Janaka, Sanaka, etc., who have clear perception as a result of their true penance and devotion, the Nityas who have crossed the Samsara, and enjoying His unlimited auspicious qualities – all serve Him with pure delight. O’ Who churned the Ocean for nectar! Words cannot describe your great qualities.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj gives the interpretation that He is worshipped and meditated upon by the Karma Yogins, Jnana Yogins and Bhakti Yogins, and hence He is Yogishah. He quotes the following verse from the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 6 Verse 47):
Yoginam api sarvesam mad-gatenantar-atmana
sraddhavan bhajate yo mam sa me yuktatamo matah ||
Meaning: He who worships Me with faith, whose innermost self is fixed in Me, I consider him as the greatest of the Yogins.

Swami ChinmyAnanda describes a Yogin as one who is free – completely and fully – from any involvement while being in the midst of Samsara and its bustling activities. Bhagavan alone qualifies as the King of Yogis to fit this description.

Sri Satyasandha Thirtha gives a different intepretation – Yoginam Sam (=sukham) yasmat iti Yogishah – He is the One through Whom (by meditating on Whom), the Yogis attain great delight and so He is Yogishah.

Sri Vasishtha uses the meaning ‘union’ for the word Yoga, and gives the interpretation that Bhagavan has this Nama signifying that He keeps everything bound together – for instance, all the bones in the body are kept united together so that the body is in one functional piece. While this example may sound trivial, the whole Universe is held together only because of His power of Yoga or union.

  1. Sarvakamadah – He Who bestows all desires

Rama 5The word ‘Sarva’ means ‘all’ and ‘Kama’ means ‘desire’. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Sarvaan Kaman Sadaa dadati iti Sarvakamadah – He fulfils all the wishes of His devotees at all times, hence He is called Sarvakamadah’.

Sri Adi Sankara quotes from Bramha Sutra (3.2.38) which says ‘Phalam ata Upapatteh – the Lord alone is capable of bestowing fruits for all actions and observances’. Thus the Nama Sarvakamadah, the bestower of all wishes, is appropriate.

Sri Bhattar points out that Bhagavan grants all desires sought by the devoted Yogins, including the powers such as Anima (one of the Ashtasiddhis), even though these can be impediments to the path for Salvation. Sri Bhattar notes that even those who have not perfected their Yoga and slip from this path because of distractions arising from desire etc., will still get the benefit of their Yogic effort, and will be bestowed with good birth in their next janma. He quotes from the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 6 Verse 41) in support:

prapya punya-krtam lokanusitva sasvatih samah
sucinam srimatam gehe yoga-bhrasto ‘bhijayate ||
Meaning: The unsuccessful Yogi, after many, many years of enjoyment on the planets of the pious living entities, is born into a family of righteous people, or into a family of rich aristocracy.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj gives support from Srimad Bhagavatam (2.3.10):
a-kamah sarva-kamo va moksha-kama udara-dhih |
tivrena bhakti-yogena yajeta purusham param ||
Meaning: He who has no desire in anything, or one who is desirous of all benefits, or one who is realized enough to be interested in Moksha, should worship the Parama Purusha with intense devotion.

In other words, He is the One Whom we should worship, no matter what our desires are – Dharma, Artha, Kama or Moksha, because He alone is the Ultimate Bestower of all benefits- Sarva-kama-dah. This concluding message is given by Sri Suka Muni to Parikshit after discussing several alternate routes such as worshiping other Devatas for attaining lesser benefits.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri gives reference to the Chandogya Upanishad (4.15.3):
esha u eva vamaniresha sarvani vamani nayati |
sarvani vamani nayati ya evam veda ||
Meaning: And He alone is Vamani (bringer of wealth), since He grants all good things to those who seek refuge in Him”.

Sri N.S. Ananta Rangacharya explains that VamanI here refers to Vamanitvam-Sva Ashriteshu Sobhana prapakattvam – He Who bestows all auspiciousness on those Who have taken refuge in Him.

  1.    Ashramah – He is the abode of peace for all wanderers in this Samsara

Maha Vishnu 6‘Ashram’ basically means a cottage or a place of rest in the middle of a jungle where travellers’ can rest. Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Aashramavat  Sarveshaam Samsararanye Bhramataam Vishramasthaanatvaat Ashramah – Like a hermitage in the middle of a forest, He is an abode of peace and comfort for the troubled travellers’ wandering in the forest of Samsara, hence He is called Ashramah, the grantor of peaceful hermitage’.

Sri Bhattar continues his interpretation from the previous Nama, where he pointed out that Bhagavan bestows lesser benefits for those who have swerved from the path of Yoga after starting on that path. When they have completed the enjoyment of the meritorious benefits for their lesser effort, then He gives them ‘a place of rest’ – birth in the houses of pious Sri Vaishnavas where true knowledge of the Lord can be imbibed – ‘tato vivritya subhiksha para vidyeshu Vaishnava grheshutesham vishranti-hetuh Ashramah. In other words, this birth in a good family is to enable those who have been interrupted in their Yoga in their previous birth, to rest and then continue and succeed in the current birth by being provided the right conditions and environment for the successful completion of their pursuit of Yoga. In the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 6 Verse 41) it says – Sucinaam Srimataam gehe yoga-bhrashtah abhijayate – They are born in the house of the pure and prosperous (prosperous here means that they are delighting themselves in pure and exclusive devotion to the Lord).

The root from which the Nama is derived is ‘Shramu – tapasi khede ca’ meaning ‘to take pain, to be fatigued’. The prefix ‘A’ sometimes gives the meaning opposite to that of the verb it follows (e.g., gam – to go, A- gam – to come; da – to give, A- da- to take). Similarly, the word A-Shrama gives the meaning – to rest, opposite of Shrama.  Ashrama refers to a place of rest or a hermitage. This ‘Place of Rest’ is a reference to the act of meditating on His Holy Feet, and the association with Bhagavatas who have nothing but Him on their mind. This is beautifully brought out by Sri NammAzhwar’s in his Thiruvai Mozhi Pasuram (10.1.2):
இலங்கதி மற்றொன் றெம்மைக்கும் ஈன்தண் துழாயின்
அலங்கலங் கண்ணி ஆயிரம் பேருடை அம்மான்
நலங்கொள் நான்மறை வாணர்கள் வாழ்திரு மோகூர்
நலங்க ழலவன் அடிநிழல் தடமன்றி யாமே.
Meaning: In Tirumogur, where a good number of Vedic seers live, the Lord who has a thousand names wears a Tulasi garland.  I have no refuge other than Him through every birth and in the shadow of His Lotus feet is the lake of all goodness.

In this commentary, Sri Ramanujan points out that the association with the Bhagavatas is extremely beneficial because they are ‘nalam kol vanargal’ – those who are interested in lifting us up to their levels, and those who are interested in our welfare without any benefit for them.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri generalises the concept of Ashramah as the different means by which Bhagavan gives rest to those who have been struggled through the forest of Samsara – including the Ashramas of Vana prastha, Sanyasa, Samadhi and finally Moksha.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives the explanation as – Ashramyante karmAnurupam yonim prapaya yena iti Ashramah – He by Whom the Jivas are made to endure the birth in this world according to their Karmas is Ashramah; or, He is the One on whom the Yogins set their mind while practicing their rigours of meditation and penance and hence He is A-Shramah.

Sri Vasishtha does not using the ‘A’ as a negative prefix of Shrama as Sri Bhattar and Sri Sankara did, but has instead used it as a reinforcement of the word Shrama – One Who ensures that the Jivas go through the toils according to their Karmas.

  1.    Shramanah – He torments the ignorant

Krishna-kills-Kamsa1This Nama is based on the root word ‘Shramu’ meaning ‘to be fatigued or troubled’. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Avivekinah sarvaan Santaapayati iti Shramanah – He torments all those who do not exercise their discriminatory wisdom, hence He is called Shramanah’. Bhagavan is Shramanah as He makes them endure the consequences of their poor choices and or in this sense He torments such unwise people.

Sri Parasara Bhattar has interpreted this Nama in the same spirit in terms of Bhagavan’s relation with the practitioners of yoga, and His benevolence for them, even if they do not complete their yoga in one birth. Sri Bhattar interprets the current Nama as Bhagavan making it possible for those who were not able to complete their Yoga in a given birth, to resume where they left off with minimal effort in their next birth – ‘Anayesena Sramyate iti Shramanah. He quotes support from the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 6 Verse 43):
tatra tam buddhi samyogam labhate paurva daihikam |
yatate ca tato bhuyahsamsiddhau kurunandana || BG 6.43
Meaning: There he regains the disposition of mind which he had in his former body, O Arjuna, and from there he strives much more for success in Yoga.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri explains this as the situation where, even though Bhagavan is indicating the right path for attaining Him, there are many among us who do not want to follow that path, and then He is left with no choice except to make us undergo the effects of our Karma, and as most of us know, it is a tormenting experience to be born and living in Samsara.

Swami ChinamyAnanda puts the idea more graphically: ‘One Who persecutes the worldly people – who are driven by their hungers and passions and seek sense- gratifications. By the very nature of the ephemeral sense-objects and the ever-changing instruments of experience in us, the life of gratifications can only yield exhausting fatigue and weary disappointments. This is the `Law’ and Sriman Narayana is the ‘Law- Giver’.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj attributes the Shramam to Bhagavan Himself, in His incarnation as Nara Narayana, for the protection of the world – Shramayatitapas carati Nara Narayana rupena loka sa’ngrahaya iti Shramanah.

Sri Satyasandha Thirtha interprets the Nama as: Shramanah sanyasinah asya dasattvena santi iti Shramanah –The Sanyasins exist through a sense of dependence on Him and through penance experience tranquility, hence He is called Shramanah.

  1.    Kshaamah – He brings about the decline of all beings

vishvarupamSri Adi Sankara gives the interpretation ‘Kshaamaah Ksheenaah Sarvaah Prajaah karoti iti Kshaamah – He reduces all beings to the state in which they were prior to their current form, hence He is called Kshaamah, the Reducer’.

The Nama can be derived from the following roots: kshi – kshaye – to decay, kshi – himsayam – to destroy, kshi – nivasa gatyoh – to dwell, and ksham – sahane – to allow, to be capable of.  In addition, interpretations have been given by looking at the word as ksham +Ama, ksha + ma, etc.

Sri Bhattar uses the root kshi – kshaye – to decay, in the earlier interpretation of this Nama (444) and explained earlier Bhagavan’s form as the Pole Star, where Bhagavan stands in the form of Dhruva in a diminished form at the time of the dissolution of the Earth inclusive of the five elements.

All the luminaries disappear, and Dhruva alone remains shining in his place, as stated in Vishnu Puranam (2.8.92):
yavan-matre pradeSe tu maitreyavasthito dhruvah |
kshayamayati tavat-tubhumerAbhutasamplave ||

For the interpretation of the current Nama, Sri Bhattar uses the root (ksham – sahane – to allow, to be capable of) and explains that He is the One Who uplifts and supports those that have not successfully completed the Yogic path. He allows those who have slipped from the path of yoga to fulfill their effort by giving them the necessary strength to achieve this, if only they show an inclination for this – Sva Yogabhimukhyamatrena te yoga-bhrashta api durgam taritum kshamante asmat iti kshamagah.  He quotes the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 6 Verse 40) in support:
Partha naiveha namutra vinashas-tasya vidyate |
na hi kalyana-krit kashcitdurgatim tata gacchati ||BG 6.40
Meaning: Neither here (in this world), nor there (in the next), Arjuna, is there destruction for him. For, no one who does good ever comes to an evil end.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan gives the meaning ‘One Who makes the Yogins skilled in continuing and fulfilling the Yoga – tiramai udaiyavanagac ceybavan’.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri gives the example of how Bhagavan gradually removes the functions of the indiryas, mind etc., gradually before the final moment in our own life – the function of Kshaama or decay.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj give another interpretation of Kshaama or destruction- He eliminates the wicked – kshaamaan = kshinaan karoti dur- janan iti Kshaamah.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives an interpretation using the meaning  ‘hidden’ for ‘kshaya’, and explains the Nama as Bhagavan remains hidden amongst us while being present in all of us, or in whom we are all hidden ya etasmin vishve antarleenah tishthati sarvam vyapya, yasmin va idam vishvam praleeyate. Sri Vasishtha gives the alternate interpretation using the root kshi – nivasagatyoh – to dwell, and explains that this Nama of Bhagavan signifies that He is the ultimate abode for all at the time of pralaya -kshaayati = nivaasayati, gamayati iti Kshaamah.

Sri Satya sandha Thirtha interprets this Nama as ksha + ma. He explains this as – Ksha-narakaah,tan mavate – badhnati iti Kshaa-mah – He Who binds (restrains, controls) the demons is Kshaa-mah.

Sri Raghunatha Thirtha’s interpretation is: kshamate sahate iti Kshaamah – He Who endures patiently.

  1.    Suparnah – One Who has beautiful wings

vishnu_on_garudaParnah means a leaf. We covered this Nama earlier as part of Shloka 21 (Nama 194).  Sri Adi Sankara identifies Bhagavan with beautiful leaves (which are the Vedas) on the tree of Samsara and explains this Nama as ‘Shobhanani Parnani Chandaamsi Samsarataru rupinah asya iti Suparnah – Bhagavan is represents the Vedas and He is like the beautiful leaves on the tree of Samsara and hence He is called Suparnah’. He supports this by the quotation from the Bhagavad Gita (15.1):

Urdhvamulam Adhash Shaakham Ashvattham Praahuravyayam;
Chandaamsi yasya Parnaani Yastam Veda sa Vedavit ||
Meaning: They speak of an immutable inverted Peepal tree with its roots above and branches below. Its leaves are the Vedas. He who knows it knows the Vedas.

Sri Bhattar interprets this Nama in two ways, first as ‘One Who has beautiful wings’ (e.g., in His Hamsa incarnation or in His Garuda form), and next as ‘One Who helps the Yogins cross the ocean of Samsara’ (with ‘beautiful wings’ that carry devotees cross the Ocean of Samsara) – Shobhana parnatvat, Samsara-para-nayanaat va Suparnah.

He enables the Yogins who have fallen from the path of yoga to get back in track and cross the ocean of Samsara – evam pratyapanna samadhIn samadhi- vipaka-dvara tamasah param nayati iti Su-parnah. He gives support from the Maula Samhita and the Bhagavad Gita:

  • sva-param Bhagavan nayati – The Lord leads them to reach the shore;
  • prayatnad-yatamAnastu yogi samshuddha kilbishah |
    sva-param Bhagavan nayat aneka janma samsiddhah tato yati param gatim ||BG 6.45
    Meaning: But when the Yogi engages himself with sincere endeavor in making further progress, being washed of all contaminations, then ultimately, after many, many births of practice, he attains the supreme goal.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives two roots from which the different interpretations can be explained: ‘paar–tir– karma samaptau’ meaning ‘to finish or to get through’; and ‘parn–harita bhave’ meaning ‘to make green’. So the word ‘Parna’ can mean a ‘wing’ as well as a ‘leaf’. The different interpretations for the Nama are:

  • One who has beautiful wings,
  • One Who enables the Jivas cross the Ocean of Samsara,
  • One who gives everything the ability to move around
  • One who makes everything live and thrive (“green”)
  • One who is decorated with the Green Thulasi leaves, etc.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan explains the Nama as referring to Garuda, who has Bhagavan as his antaryami. In the Bhagavad Gita (10.29) Bhagavan says ‘Vainateyashca pakshinaam – Among the birds, I am Garuda, the son of Vinata.

Sri  Radhakrishna  Shastri  explains  that  the  two  wings  of  this form of Bhagavan – Suparnah – can be enjoyed as:

  • one wing representing the Vedas that show the path for our conduct; and
  • the other wing representing the virtuous conduct practised by our Acharyas and elders through their conduct of life following the teachings of the Shrutis and Smritis

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha explains the Nama in terms of the Mundaka Upanishad passage 3.1:
mundaka upanishaddva Suparna sayuja sakhaya samanam vriksham parishvajate |
tayoranyah pippalam svadvanti, anashnan anyo abhicakashiti ||
Meaning: A pair of white-winged birds extremely friendly to each other sit on one and the same tree; one eats the fruits, while the other eats not and gazes on.

In the Upanishad, the reference to the two beautiful birds sitting on the same tree – signifies the JivAtma and the ParamAtma dwelling in the same body. One (JivAtma) eats the fruits of actions, and the other (ParamAtma) just gazes on as a witness (Saakshi). Lord Vishnu is this all-experiencing Principle of Consciousness. Sri Radhakrishna Shastri refers to one as the great enjoyer (Perinbam), and the other as the Great Knower (PerArivu).

Sri Shastri continues on the above, and explains that He is also Suparnah because He gives protection to the Jivas in their sojurn in this Samsara by giving them the shade in the form of the beautiful leaves of this immutable Ashvattha tree while they go through the Samsara to expend their Karmas.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj explains the Nama as ‘One Whose form is decorated with the Green Thulasi leaves – Shobhanani parnani thulasI dalani yan-murtau sa Suparnah’.  Sri Bharadvaj gives an alternate interpretation as – ‘He is Suparnah since He has the green emerald colour because of His association with Sri lakshmi Who resides in His Vaksha-sthalam – Shobhanah parno harita bhavo yasya Sri LakshmI Devi sannidhyaat iti Su-parnah’. He gives a third interpretation using the root ‘prn – prinane’ meaning ‘to please, to satisfy’, and explains as – Shobhanam parnam prinanam yasya iti Su-parnah – He Who is easily pleased and satisfied by the sincere offerings by His devotee. In the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 9 Verse 26), Bhagavan says:
patram pushpam phalam toyam yo me bhaktya prayacchati |
tad-aham bhakty-upahrtam ashnami prayatAtmanah ||BG 9.26
Meaning: Whoever offers Me with true devotion a leaf, a flower, a fruit or some water, I accept this offering made with devotion by him who is pure of heart.

Sri Vidya Bhushan’s says that Bhagavan is more pleased wearing the beautiful green thulasi leaves than when wearing the precious jewels, and so He is Suparnah – ‘Sobhanani parnani thulasi patranyeva na tu kanaka ratnani yasmin sa Suparnah’.

Sri Satyasandha Thirtha explains this as ‘One Who is resting on the beautiful green tender leaf of a fig-tree at the time of pralaya – Sobhanam parnam vata-patram Sayyatvena yasya sa Su-parnah’.

Sri Raghunatha Thirtha gives the interpretation as: ‘Su samyak bhumin purayati – vyapnoti iti Su-parnah – He Who pervades the earth completely’.

  1.    Vaayuvahanah – He makes the air flow

maha-vishnu-vahana-garudaSri Adi Sankara’s earlier interpretion of this Nama was that ‘He is the carrier of air in all its seven forms – Vahatah sapta Avahadin vahayati it Vaayuvahanah’. He interprets the current occurrence of this Nama as ‘Vaayur vahati Yadbheetyaa Bhutaani sa Vaayuvahanah – He makes the air flow and carry all beings and thus sustain life forces, hence He is called Vaayuvahanah’. In support he quotes from the Taittriya Upanishad (2.8) which says ‘Bheeshaasmaat Vaatah Pavate – Air moves out of fear for him’. In other words, He causes Vaayu to do its work of sustaining life and hence He is called Vaayuvahanah.

Sri Bhattar interprets the Nama in Shloka 36 as a reference to Bhagavan’s act of driving the air (making it move and flow) that is vital for the survival of all beings. Sri Bhattar gives the interpretation that Bhagavan lifts up those that have fallen into the ocean of Samsara, using Garuda. Vaayu here signifies Garuda, the King of birds, who is known for his swift movement.  Sri Bhattar’s words are – taanshca prabala hetubhih patitAnapi, Vaayuna – anupamagatvarena patagapatina, Vaahayati uttaarayati iti Vaayu-vahanah.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha gives the roots involved in the Nama as ‘va-gati gandhanayoh’ meaning ‘to go, to blow etc.’, and ‘vah–prapane’ meaning ‘to carry, to flow’. He gives the derivation as ‘Vaayuh vahyate – pravartyate anena iti Vaayu-vahanah – It is because of Him the air flows.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan gives refers us to Sri Thirumangai Azhwar’s Pasuram thiruezhu kutrirukkai – medamum aim-perum bhutamum neeye – You are the Force behind the five great elements that are constituents of the body that houses the Jivas.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri gives reference from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (3.7.7), which describes that Bhagavan is the antaryami of Vaayu, and makes Vaayu flow etc. –
yo vayau tishthan vAyorantaro yam vaayur na Veda yasya Vaayuh Sariram yo Vaayurantaro yamayati esha ta Atma antaryami Amrutah |
Meaning: He who dwells in Vaayu, who is within the Vaayu (Air), whom Air does not know, whose body is Air, and who controls Air from within, is the Inner Ruler (antaryami), the Immortal.

Sri Shastri describes in detail about these seven regions that are controlled by seven different sons of Kashyapa and diti, because of the powers given to them by Bhagavan.  They are called the Sapta-marutas, namely, A-vaha, Pra-vaha, Sam-vaha, Ud-vaha, Vi-vaha, Pari-vaha, and Para-vaha.

The prefix to the term ‘vaha’ in each case signifies the kind of force that is exerted by this type of flow, for instance ud-vaha is the force that lifts up, etc. The seven Maruts control seven regions of the Universe. Six of these regions are listed by many and these regions are:

  1. the space between earth and the clouds,
  2. that between the clouds and the Sun,
  3. that between the Sun and the Moon,
  4. the Moon and the Stars,
  5. the Stars and the Planets,
  6. and the Planets and the Sapta-Rishi Mandala.

It is said that it is because of the pressure exerted by these regions of air that the various stellar objects do not collide with each other.

Sri Shastri gives another explanation that Bhagavan redeems His devotees swiftly like air, and so He is Vaayu-vahanah. Sri Shastri also comments that Bhagavan is Vaayu-vahanah or ‘One Who has Air as His Vehicle’ (explained later in the Story).

Swami ChinmayAnanda summarises the above in the following words: ‘The inconceivable might and power of the winds and their life-sustaining abilities are all lent to the air by Bhagavan’s own munificence and, therefore, He is called Vaayu-vahanah.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha comments that at the time of creation, Bhagavan first makes the air flow, and then gives body to the Jivas so that they can move around or breathe and live, and so He is Vaayu-vahanah. Sri Vasishtha gives several references to the Vedic passages in support:

  • tad-dhavato’nyan-atyeti tishthat-tasmin-apo matarisva dadhati (Ishavasya Upanishad 4) – While not moving, It goes faster than those who run after By Its Power, the Air supports all the living beings.
  • kasmad-a’ngat dipyate agnir-asya kasmad-a’ngAt pavate matarisva (Atharvana Veda 7.2) – By Whose movement or force the Agni glows, and by whose movement the air flows.
  • kva prepsan dIpyata Urdhvo Agnih, kva prepsan pavate matarisva (Atharvana Veda 7.4) – How (by Whose Power) the agni always blazes upward, and by Whose Power the wind flows.
  • YatrAgnish-candramah Suryo vatas-tishthantyArpitah |
    skambham tam bruhi katamah svideva sah || Atharvana Veda 10.7.12
    That Support on which the earth, firmament and sky are set as their foundation, in Whom the Fire, Moon, Sun, and Wind have their foundation.
  • yasmad vata Ritudha pavante yasmad samudra adhi viksharanti (Atharvana Veda 3.2) – He from Whom winds blow pure in ordered seasons, and from Whom the seas flow forth in ordered directions.

Sri Ananta Krishna Shastri takes ‘Vaayu’ to refer to ‘The Vaayu’ – the son of Vaayu, namely Hanuman, and notes that Bhagavan is Vaayu-vahanah since He had Hanuman as His ‘Vehicle’ in His Rama incarnation during his battle with Ravana.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj gives the following interpretation:
vati – gandhayate sucayati Srimad-bhagavad Agamanam iti vaayuh |
tad- vahanam garutmadakhyam yasya iti Vaayu-vahanah |
garutmatah sa’ncalane sama-gitir-udbhavati,
sa ca Sriman Narayanasya Agamanam  sucyati |
Meaning: That which, or one who announces the arrival of Bhagavan is Vaayu, based on ‘vaati – gandhayate – sucayati’. Bhagavan has Garuda as His Vahana, who announces the arrival of the Lord, and so He is Vaayu-vahana.  The movement of Garuda produces Sama Ganam, which again announces the arrival of Bhagavan ahead of His arrival.

Sri Satyasandha Thirtha looks at the Nama as Vaayuvah + nah: vaayum – svaasa vaayum vahanti iti vaayu-vah, jIvah; taan nayati iti Vaayavaha-nah – Those that inhale and exhale the Prana Vaayu are called Vaayu-vah; One Who leads them is Vaayuvaha-nah.

In his alternative interpretation, Sri Satyasandha Thirtha looks at the Nama as Vaayuvah + vritu – vartana – to exist, to happen, to live on; aha – vyaaptau – to pervade. He Who makes Vaayu exist, and to pervade is Vaayuvah + ahanah – Vaayuvashca asau ahanashca iti Vaayuvahanah.

The Story of Lord carrying Garuda (Gajendra Moksham)

Gajendra-Moksana_2Vinata suta, son of Vinata, the mighty Garuda is the Vahana (mount) of Sriman Narayana and he is Veda himself. While Garuda is the Vahana of the Lord, here is an instance where the Lord used Vaayu as His Vahana and the Lord carried Garuda.

King Indradyumnan, who was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu, was cursed by Sage Agastya as the King remained seated when Agastya walked in. The Sage felt insulted by his ego and cursed Indradyumnan to be born as an elephant who would be absolved from the curse only when he surrendered to the almighty totally. Thus was born Gajendra, an elephant who lived in the forests near Mount Trikuta.

In the nearby lake lived a crocodile. This Crocodile was a Gandharva in his previous birth. He playfully pulled the legs of the Sage Devala while he was bathing. Since the Gandharva had shown disrespect, he was cursed to be born as a crocodile till his liberation from the curse by the Lord himself.

One day Gajendra, went to pluck Lotus from the lake and the crocodile caught the elephant’s leg by its powerful jaws causing much pain. Despite his strength and stamina, the elephant could not free himself from the crocodile. The latter was more powerful in water and dragged the elephant deep into the water. This tussle continued for 1000 years with the elephant relying on his strength to free himself. When he realised at the end that he had no more strength and by purva vasanas recognised that God alone can save him from his plight, he surrendered totally to the Lord Vishnu and prayed for His help crying ‘Adhimoolame, Adhimoolame.’

Hearing this Vishnu jumped on to Garuda His Vahana and commanded him to go speedily to the lake where Gajendra was struggling. Garuda flew with all his strength but he could not keep up to the speed that Lord Vishnu wanted. Lord is full of compassion and wanted to reach His distressed devotee in an instant. So the Lord decided that He would use Vaayu as His Vahana and carry Garuda.  He could not leave Garuda behind as it’s an integral part of His insignia.  Gajendra would recognise Him as ‘Adi moolam’ only when He sees the Lord on His Garuda with His Conch and Chakra. Hence Vishnu appeared with Garuda and killed the Crocodile with the Sudarshana Chakra. Both Indradyumna and Gandharva were liberated.

In Summary

Bhaarabhrit Kathito Yogi Yogeeshas Sarvakamadah                 |
Aashramah Shramanah Kshaamah Suparno Vaayuvaahanah ||91||

Nara NarayanaHe carries the weight of the Earth in the form of the Serpent called Ananta or AdiSesha, hence He is called Bhaarabhrit. He is described and talked about at length in all the Vedas, so He is called Kathitah, the One who is talked about. He has a unique greatness in harmoniously bringing together a combination of things that usually do not go together, hence He is a Yogi. He is the foremost and the chief among the Yogis, hence He is called Yogishah, the Supreme Yogi. He fulfils all the wishes of His devotees at all times, hence He is called Sarvakamadah.

Like a hermitage in the middle of a forest, He is an abode of peace and comfort for the troubled travellers’ wandering in the forest of Samsara, so He is called Ashramah, the grantor of peaceful hermitage. He torments all those who do not exercise their discriminatory wisdom, hence He is called Shramanah.  He reduces all beings to the state in which they were prior to their current form, hence He is called Kshaamah, the Reducer. He is Suparnah, One Who has beautiful wings, and Who helps the Yogins cross the ocean of Samsara. He makes the air flow and carry all beings, and thus sustains all life forces, hence He is called Vaayuvahanah.

HARI OM TAT SAT

OM NAMO NARAYANAAYA

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

SRI VISHNU SAHASRANAMAM (SHLOKA 90) – PART 99

In this part we will explore the meaning of the 90th Shloka of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.

 shloka-90
Anur Brihat Krishas Sthulo Gunabhrin Nirguno Mahaan                       |
Adhritah Svadhritas Svaasyah Praagvamsho Vamshavardhanah ||90||

Purport
He is Atomic, Gigantic, Thin, lightweight, Oversized and heavy, having all contrasting attributes making Him Incomprehesible with human faculties. He possesses three qualities of Sattva (for Creation), Rajas (for Protection) and Tamas (for Dissolution), yet He is free from all qualities and above them. He is Supreme who is supported by none other than by Himself and is naturally superior to all.  He is peerless and foremost who expands or contracts the Universe (Vamshah) at His Will.

The above Shloka has the following Namas:

  1.    Anuh
  2.    Brihat
  3.    Krishah
  4.    Sthulah
  5.    Gunabhrit
  6.    Nirgunah
  7.    Mahaan
  8.    Adhritah
  9.    Svadhritah
  10.    Svaasyah
  11.    Praagvamshah
  12.    Vamshavardhanah

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

This Shloka has some of the Namas paired together with contrasting attributes bringing forth the art of effectively employing terms of contradiction to explain the incomprehensible nature of the Lord with the cognitive faculties of human contemplation.

Nama Meaning   Nama Meaning
Anuh Smaller than an Atom Brihat Great, All pervasive and Gigantic
Krishah Subtle, Light and Invisible Sthulah Immense, Heavy and Massive
Gunabhrit Bearer of all attributes and qualities (Gunas) Nirgunah Devoid of any attributes, qualities  or form

He is Aprameya and AmeyAtma (Immeasurable), Agrahyah (Incomprehensible), Atindriyah (cannot be known by senses) and Krishah (Invisible) yet He is Sarva-vyapi, Sarvagjnah and Sarvadarshanah (All pervasive, Omniscient and Omnipresent).

Sri Bhattar has interpreted the Namas in this Shloka in terms of the grandeur of Bhagavan, describing His Super powers such as becoming smaller than an atom or larger than anything that can be imagined etc.  Sri AnnangarAcharya notes that the powers being described are the Ashta Aishvaryas, namely – Animan, Mahima, Laghima, Garima, Praapti, Ishitam, Vashitvam and Praakaamyam.

  1.    Anuh – He has the power of becoming smaller than an Atom

fire_the_grid_earth_meditationThe word ‘Anuh’ means an atom, the smallest particle or constituent of matter and describes one His eight Aishvaryas i.e., Animan. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara defines this Nama as ‘Soukshmya Atishayatvaat Anuh – He is Anuh, because of His extreme subtleness’.

In support of this, Sri Adi Sankara gives the following passage from Mundaka Upanishad (3.1.9):
Eṣo AṇurAtma cetasa veditavyo yasminpraṇaḥ pancadha saṃvivesha |
praṇaishcittaṃ sarvamotaṃ prajaanaṃ yasminvishuddhe vibhavatyeṣa Atma || 9 ||
Meaning: This subtle Atman should be known by the mind as being in the body, whose prana entered in five different forms; the mind in all creatures is pervaded by these pranas. When it is purified, then the Atman shines out of itself.

This Atman, who is thus seen, is subtle can only be imagined and known by the mind, i.e., by the mere intellect that is purified. Where is this Atman? In the body which, as prana in five different forms, has well entered. He should be known by the mind as existing in the body, i.e., in the heart. When the mind is purified, i.e., freed from the taint of grief, desire, greed etc., then this Atman shines out, shows itself out, by itself.

Sri Parasara Bhattar comments that the Nama signifies His ability to enter into the infinitesimally small void space known as ‘Dahara Akasham’ in the hearts of beings, into Prakriti, and also into the subtle Jivas as He is extremely subtle. Sri Bhattar refers to the Katha Upanishad (1.2.20) to support this interpretation:
Aṇor Aṇiyaan mahato mahiyan Atmasya jantornihito guhayaṃ |
tamakratuḥ pashyati vitashoko dhatuḥ prasadanma himanam Atmanaḥ || 20 ||
Meaning: Subtler than the subtle, greater than the great, in the heart of each living being, the Atman reposes. One free from desire, with his mind and the senses composed, sees the glory of the Atman and becomes absolved from grief.

These Ashta Aishvaryas (powers) are natural to Him.  Sri V.V. Ramanujan points out that some of these powers are also given to those who are bestowed with His grace or blessing. He gives the example of Hanuman, who had the ability to alternate between a very large form and a very small form at will in an instant, which he demonstrate while crossing the Ocean and in his encounter with Surasa (Sundara Kandam). 

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri notes that the ability of the eye to see something is limited by a lower limit and an upper limit with respect to size.  Bhagavan is not constrained by any such limit on either end of the spectrum.  He is beyond all the sensory perceptions.  Sri Shastri gives several references to the Shruti in support:

  • Anor-Aniyaan (Katha Upanishad 1.2.20) – Subtler than the subtle
  • na hi sujneyam Anur-esha Dharmah (Katha Upanishad 1.1.21) – The truth is very subtle and not easily comprehensible.
  • yad-anubhyo’nu ca (Mundaka Upanishad 2.2.2) – That which is smaller than the small.
  • aniyaan hyatarkyam anu paramaanaat (Katha Upanishad 1.2.8) – It is subtler than the subtle and beyond realization through reasoning alone.
  • Esha sa Atmantar-hridaye aniyaan vriher-va yavad-va sarshapad-va Syamakad-va Syamaka-tandulad-va… (Chandogya Upanishad 3.14.3) – This great Being, the Supreme Brahman is in one’s own heart who is as fine and subtle as one can conceive of. It is the subtlest. It is most subtle even among those that we regard as very subtle in this world. The Supreme Being is subtler than a grain of rice or paddy, subtler than a grain of millet, subtler than the kernel of this grain, so small, subtler than a mustard seed etc. who is seated in one’s heart.
  • Sa ya esho Anima (Chandogya Upanishad 6.8.7) – This (Sat) is subtle.

Swami ChinmayAnanda gives the support from the Bhagavad Gita – ‘Sarvasya caaham hridi sannivishtah – I am seated in everyone’s heart’.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishta notes that it is by His Anutvam that He is present everywhere, and permeates everything, including the subtle Jiva.  He also gives an interpretation based on the root word ‘Ana – Sabde’ meaning ‘to sound’, and indicates that the Nama suggests that He, in the form of the sound, pervades the ether, and is also the cause of the sound that emanates from the different life-forms etc. 

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadwaj gives his interpretation based on the meaning ‘Anati – Sabdayati’ meaning ‘makes known or reveals’ – Anati Sabdayati vedaadi Shastram iti Anuh – He Who reveals the Shastras such as the Vedas etc.

  1.    Brihat – He is Gigantic

TrivikramaThis Nama describes His Aishvarya or power called ‘Mahima’ – of becoming greater than anything that we know of as great.   The emphasis here is His power of vastness, in contrast to the Anutva in the previous Nama.

The root word for this Nama is ‘Brh’ which means ‘to grow or increase’. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Brihatvaat Brimhanatvaat cha Bramha Brihat’ – He is immensely huge and also has the ability to grow beyond any limits, hence He is called Brihat. Sri Sankara gives the following passage from Katha Upanishad (1.2.20) to support this – ‘Mahato Maheeyaan – He is greater than great’. It may be noted that Brihat is exactly opposite to Anuh, showing Bhagavan’s qualities are beyond human logic and comprehension. He can project Himself into extreme and contrasting attributes.

Sri Parasara Bhattar describes His greatness in terms of His pervasiveness. Even the vast transcendental world (Parama Padam) can be contained in a corner of His palm.  Sri Thirumangai Azhwar refers to Bhagavan as ‘Alattarku ariyaay’ (Periya Thirumozhi 3.8.1) – He who cannot be measured.  

Sri Bhattar gives reference from the Purusha Suktam (1):
Sahasra sirsa purusah sahasraksah sahasrapat
sa bhumim visvato vrtva atyatisthad dasangulam ||
Meaning: The Supreme Lord in the form of the Universe, has a thousand heads, a thousand eyes and a thousand feet, for He contains all the living entities (in this context thousand means Infinite). Having pervaded the Universe completely to give it existence, being independent, He extended Himself beyond it endlessly (Dasangulam here means in different directions or is endless and transcendental).

Bhagavan’s vastness is further explained in Verse 4 of Purusha Suktam:
tripad urdhva udait purusah pado ‘syeha ‘bhavat-punah
tato visvan vyakramat sasana nasane abhi ||
Meaning: Three quarters of the Lord transcends the material portion. His one quarter of material energy becomes this creation again (and again). Then He pervades this Universe comprising a variety of sentient beings and insentient objects.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri gives references from the Shrutis to explain this Nama:
hamsah sucisad vasur antariksasad dheta
vedisad atithir duronasat|
nrsad varasad rtasad vyomasad
abja goja rtaja adrija rtam brhat || Rig Veda 4.40.5 & Katha Upanishad 2.2.2
Meaning: The brilliant Sun, the wind in the atmosphere, the fire on the altar, the guest in the house, the dweller in man, and dweller in those above them, resident in the world of truth, dweller in the celestial sky, water-born, earth-born, born of yagna, mountain-born – All these are ‘Rtam Brhat’, that is, are of the nature of the Brahman which is unlimited Truth.

In the Svetasvatara Upanishad (3.7), it says:
tataḥ paraṃ brahma paraṃ bṛihantaṃ yathaanikaayaṃ sarvabhuteṣu guḍhaṃ
vishvasyaikaṃ pariveṣṭitaaram ishaṃ taṃ jnatvamṛta bhavanti ||
Meaning: The Supreme Lord is higher than Virat, beyond Hiranyagarbha. He is vast and is hidden in the bodies of all living beings. By knowing Him, who alone pervades the Universe, men become immortal.

Swami ChinmayAnanda explains the two Namas ‘Anuh and Brihat’ as follows: These two Namas may seem paradoxical, but the apparent contradiction dissolves into an illuminating experience for the contemplative mind.  In fact, the Upanishad talks of these two qualities in the same breath – Anor-Aniyaan mahato mahIyaan Atma’sya jantor-nihitam guhaayaam (Katha Upanishad 1.2.20) – Subtler than the subtle and great than the great is lodged in the cave of the heart.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadwaj interprets this as ‘barhati vardhate pratipadam Shobhayaam iti Brihat – He Who enhances or increases the beauty everywhere. Whatever beauty exists in anything, is because of Him.

Sri Satya Sandha Yatiraja interprets the Nama as ‘Gunaih vriddha – He Who is enhanced in His Gunas or auspicious qualities.

  1.    Krishah – He Who has the ability to be lighter than light and Invisible

tula3This Nama represents another of the Ashta Aishvaryas, called Laghima, or the ability to be lighter than anything that we know is light.  The root from which the Nama is derived is ‘Krish – tanukarane’ meaning ‘to become lean or thin or light-weighted’.  The Nama is interpreted as referring to the ability to be lean or thin, or to be light, depending on the interpreter. 

Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Asthulam ityadina dravyapratishedhat Krishah – He is capable of becoming so thin that He is beyond anything material in nature’.  Another version of Sri Adi Sankara’s commentary is ‘Asthulam ityadina drishyatvapratishedhat Krishah – He is capable of becoming so thin that He becomes invisible’.

When Satyabama became exasperated and sought Rukmini’s help in Thulabaram He made Himself so light when Rukmini prayed and placed a mere Tulsi leaf and that was enough to bring the scale back into balance!

He quotes the following supporting passage beginning with Asthulam from Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (3.8.8):
sa hovaca, etadvai tadaksharaḥ, Gargi brahmaṇa abhivadanti,
asthulamanaṇvahrasva ma dirgha ma lohita ma sneha ma cchaya matamo’-vaayvana akaasha masaṅga ma cakshuṣka ma shrotra ma vāgamano’-tejaska ma praṇa ma mucha ma matra ma anantara ma bahyam, na tadashnati kiṃcana, na tadashnati kashcana || 8 ||
Meaning:  Yagnavalkya said: O Gargi, the knowers of Brahman say, this Immutable (Brahman) is that. It is neither gross nor minute, neither short nor long, neither red colour nor oiliness, neither shadow nor darkness, neither air nor ether, unattached, neither savour nor odour, without eyes or ears, without the vocal organ or mind, non-luminous, without the vital force or mouth, not a measure, and without interior or exterior. It does not eat anything, nor is It eaten by anybody.

Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets the Nama in terms of His ability to be lighter than anything light.  Sri Bhattar explains that He is lighter than cotton, wind, etc., and so His movement is unimpeded on all sides and in all respects – ‘sarvatra avyahata gatih’. He quotes from the MahaBharata in support – ‘yatra-kaama-gato vashi’ – He can go wherever He chooses. 

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan interpretation is that Bhagavan is so thin that He can be even inside a rock unobstructed, because of His Krishatvam i.e. leanness or thinness – Silaasvapi apratihat praveshatvaat Krishah. 

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri summarises this Nama and the next one, by observing that the question of whether Bhagavan is lean or hefty, can be answered only if He can be seen. If He is either so huge that we do not even see Him, or so lean that we cannot see Him, then the question of whether He is lean or huge cannot be answered. That is the Nature of Bhagavan, whom we cannot see.  In fact, the passage that Sri Sankara quotes from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, referring to Bhagavan as ‘Asthulam’, and in the very next word says that Bhagavan is ‘an-anu’.  The point to be understood is that He can be whatever He chooses to be, whenever He chooses to be, and He can become anything He wants from being smaller than an atom to a gigantic form in the minutest fraction of time. In other words, He is devoid of all attributes, for He is One without a second; so what is there that can be specified, and through what? He is Immeasurable and Incomprehensible.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadwaj’s interpretation is:  ‘Krishyati tanukaroti svajana vipadam iti Krishah – He Who reduces or eliminates the difficulties of His devotees. 

Sri Satyadevo Vasishta takes the generic meaning for the root – ‘Krish’ meaning ‘to make lean’, and refers to Bhagavan creating the creatures of various forms with features as needed for their survival and comfort. 

Sri Satya Sandha Yatiraja’s interpretation is: ‘daityaan karshayati iti Krishah – He Who makes `light work’ of the Asuras or He Who destroys the evil Asuras with ease. 

  1.    Sthulah – He Who is Immense

Trinavarta 1This Nama describes the ‘Garima’ Aishvarya of His ability to become as big and heavy as He wishes.  The Nama is based on the root word ‘Sthul – paribrhamane’ meaning ‘become big or stout, grow bulky or fat’.  Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Sthulah iti Upacharyate Sarvatmatvaat – He is described figuratively as the ‘mammoth One’ because He is the collective embodiment of all living creatures, so He is called Sthulah’.

When Trinavarta took the child Krishna high into the sky, Krishna made Himself so heavy that it choked the Asura who finally fell to the ground unable to bear the weight.

Sri Bhattar comments that since Bhagavan has the ability to touch any object in any world even while standing in one place, He is called Sthulah.  This Nama is demonstrated in Bhagavan’s Trivikrama Avataar. 

Sri V.V. Ramanujan gives references from the Divya Prabhandam. He quotes Sri NammAzhwar’s Pasuram – taal parappi mann thaaviya Ishan (Thiruvai Mozhi 3.3.11), and Sri Andal’s Thiruppavai – O’ngi ulagalandha Utthaman  (both Pasurams refer to the Bhagavan’s Trivikrama Avataar) to describe this Nama. 

Sri Vasishtha quotes the Mantra 4 from Ishavasya Upanishad in support:
anejadekam manaso javIyo naiand-deva Apnuvan purvamarshat    |
tad-dhavato’nyanatyeti tishthat tasminnapo maatarishva dadhati   || 
Meaning: Brahman is One without a second or an equal. It never moves, yet it goes faster than the mind. The Devas could not overtake it as It is always ahead; the sense organs can never catch up with it. It is still, yet it defeats all in a race. By its power, Matarisva (Prana or Vital Air), it allots (or supports) all activities.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan gives the explanation – Koti Brahmanda vigrahatvaat Sthulah – Since Bhagavan is in the form of Infinite BrahmAndas, He is Sthulah.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri comments that as a consequence of His Aishvarya or power of being Anuh, Brihat, Krishah, Sthulah etc., at will, no one can comprehend Him from one moment to the next.  Sri Shastri draws attention to the similarity of this Nama with `Sthavishtha’ (Nama 437 in Shloka 47) as the latter Nama is made up of a combination of `Sthula’ and `Ishtha’, giving the meaning ‘He Who has willed to be huge’.  

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadwaj gives the interpretation as ‘Sthulayati brimhayati svajana sampadam iti Sthulah – He Who grows or enhances enormously the wealth of His devotees, is Sthulah.  The `wealth’ for the devotees can be in the form of their eternal bliss enjoyed in the act of performing kainkaryams to Him and to His devotees, and need not necessarily refer only to material wealth.

  1. Guna-bhrit – He bears all the Attributes (Gunas)

sri-padmanabha-swamy-thiruvananthapuramThis Nama is an expression of His Aishvarya or power of Ishitvam – Lordship. Guna is a quality or an attribute such as Daya (Mercy), Karunya (Compassion) etc., and also refers to the three attributes, namely Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas. In this Nama, Bhagavan is described as possessing these qualities or attributes.

Sri Adi Sankara interprets this as ‘Sattva Rajas Tamasaam Srishti Sthiti Laya Karmasu Adhishthaatritvaat Gunabhrit – Since He supports the qualities of Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas to varying degrees in the different beings as part of His functions of Creation, Sustenance and Dissolution, He is Gunabhrit’. He is a storehouse of the various attributes as Creation requires Sattva Guna, Sustenance requires Rajo Guna and Dissolution requires Tamo Guna and therefore called Gunabhrit or One Who bears all these three qualities.

Sri Bhattar expands the meaning of Guna-bhrit to cover everything that is subject to the three Gunas. He interprets the Nama as a reference to Bhagavan’s Supreme power of Lordship, ruling over all things in all their states, and supporting them. By His mere Will (Sva-Sankalpa), He supports all of them in their different states, so He is called Guna-bhrit.  He gives the support from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (4.4.22) – ‘Sarvasya Vashi Sarvasya Ishanah Sarvasya Adhipathi -The Supreme Lord governs material nature and everything within it. He is God of all and is the Supreme Authority for everyone’.

Sri Vasishtha gives this explanation for this Nama as –‘Guna Daya Daakshinya-dayah Sattva Rajas Tamas Adayashca, teshaam bhrit dhaaraka ityarthah – Because of His attributes of Mercy and Compassion, He supports the three Gunas of Sattva, Rajas and Tamas, that distinguishes the different beings.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan gives a similar interpretation – Gunan Sattvadeen bibharti iti Guna-bhrit.  Swami ChinmayAnanda also comments that since Bhagavan supports the three Gunas by assuming the Sattva Guna in His process of Creation, the Rajo Guna in the process of Protection, and the Tamo Guna in the process of Annihilation – He is Guna-bhrit, the bearer of the three Gunas.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadwaj gives the explanation – Gunan jnana Anandamadhurya vaatsalyaadeen bibharti iti Guna-bhrit – He Who possesses the qualities such as perfection in knowledge about the past, present and future of everything at all times, absolute bliss, the ability to be kind and sweet even to the enemies, attachment to His devotees like that of a cow to its calf, etc.

  1.    Nirgunah – He Who is Formless and bereft of attributes

milky-wayThis Nama is an expression of His Aishvarya of Vashitvam that represents the Supreme power of holding others in a magical spell at His will.  However, this Nama conveys that Bhagavan, in essence, is devoid of form or qualities. He is Nirguna and Niraakaar in His pure form.

Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Vastuto Gunaabhaavaat NirGunah – Intrinsically He is devoid of all qualities (though he assumes specific qualities when He is performing specific functions) hence he is NirGunah’. Sri Sankara quotes from Svetasvatara Upanishad (6.11) which says ‘sarvabhutadhivaasaḥ saakṣi ceta kevalo nirguṇash ca – He is One God, hidden in all beings, all-pervading, the self within all beings, watching over all works, dwelling in all beings, the witness, the perceiver, the only one, free from qualities’. So in essence He is untouched and untainted by qualities, hence He is Nirgunah.

The Namas Guna-bhrit and NirGunah are contradictory, but in the case of Bhagavan, they are consistent Gunas as we see in the various interpretations.

Sri Parasara Bhattar interpretats this Nama as ‘atatvashyataya tat-samsparshe’pi asprishta-tad-Gunah Nir-Gunah’ – Even though He is in contact with all the Jivas at all the time, He is not tainted by their defects, since He is not subject to any one, and is above all of them.  He has the Supreme power of holding others under His magical spell. He gives the following references to support his interpretation:

  • Vishvasya mishato vashi (Taittriya Upanishad 3.6.1) – He bewitches the entire world with His wide-open eyes.
  • Sattvadayo na santeeshe yatra ca prakrita Gunah (Vishnu Puranam 9.44) Sattva and other Gunas that are in the Prakriti have no place in Bhagavan, the Ruler.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadvaj gives the explanation – Prakrita Guna-traya virahitatvaat Nir-Gunah. Sri Satya Sandha Yatiraja gives a similar interpretation – Sattvadi Guna rahitatvaat Nir-Gunah.

  1.    Mahaan – He is Supreme

Maha VishnuThis Nama signifies the Aishvarya called Praakaamyam (Irresistible will), the power of achieving whatever He desires. Mahaan is somebody who is great or Supreme. Sri Adi Sankara gives a detailed interpretation of Bhagavan’s greatness and says ‘Shabdaadi Guna rahitatvaat, Niratishaya Sukshmatvaat, Nityashuddha Sarvagatatvaadinaa cha Pratibandhakam Dharmajaatam Tarkatopi yato vaktum na shakyam ata eva Mahaan – He is removed from the defining properties such as sound, touch, form, taste and smell; He is immeasurably subtle; He is ever pure and all pervading; He knows no obstacles; He cannot be described fully even for the sake of argument; All these make Him Mahaan, the Supreme personality’.

Sri Adi Sankara quotes from Aapastamba Sutram which says ‘Anango Ashabdo Ashareero Asparshashcha Mahaan Chuchih – He has no limbs, no sound, no body, no touch and He is truly a pure Mahaan, Supreme person’. Sri Sankara explains the Nama in terms of the impossibility of constraining Him to a description even for the sake of discussion – tarkato’pi yato vaktum na Sakyam, because He is One to whom sound and other attributes have no reference, One who is immeasurably subtle, One who is ever pure and all- pervading, One about whom anything in the nature of an obstacle cannot be advanced’.

The root from which the Nama is derived is Maha-pujayam – to honor, to delight, to increase. Mahaan means ‘One who is worthy of worship.  Sri Parasara Bhattar explains the Nama Mahaan in terms of His Supreme excellence in everything – Parama prakarshaat Mahaan. He can plunge into the earth as He wishes, and emerge out of it as He wants, just as we can enter water and get out of it at will.  Sri Bhattar gives the following from MahaBharata support:
samprayojya viyojyaayam kaamakaarakarah prabhuh |
yad-yad-icchet ayam Saurih tat-tat kuryaat ayatnatah  ||
Meaning: The powerful Lord, Sauri, acts as He chooses.  He unites and separates things as He likes. Whatever He chooses to do, He can accomplish it without any effort.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri describes Praakaamyam as the ability to enter others’ mind at will, make them remember or forget things at will, etc.  Sri Shastri further explains the Nama as signifying that He is beyond comprehension and description by words, thoughts or other means. For instance, the previous six Namas described Him in contrasting extremes (small, big, thin, huge, full of Gunas, devoid of Gunas). He is unconstrained by form, space, time, etc., so He is referred to as Mahaan.

Swami ChinmayAnanda echoes the same thought – ‘He is not conditioned by the five elements, nor by time and space’.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadwaj explains this Nama as ‘Mahyate pujyate BrahmAdibhih iti Mahaan – He who is worshiped by the likes of Brahma is Mahaan. Sri Vasishtha explains as ‘Mahyate pujyate iti Mahaan – He Who is worthy of worship’.

Sri Baladeva Vidya Bhushan gives the interpretation – ‘Sarvaih abhyarcayatvaat Mahaan – He is called Mahaan because He is worshipped by everyone.

The Story of SakatAsura

sakatasuraThe little Krishna was just three months old. He was just beginning to turn over on his belly. There was great joy in the heart of Yashoda when she saw her son lying on his stomach and smiling at her. She wanted to celebrate the occasion and invited all the ladies of Gokula. Gathered in a large group, they all went to the banks of the Yamuna. In the midst of the sound of drums, music and chanting of Mantras the child was given a ceremonial bath.

Yashoda found Krishna too tired and sleepy after the bath. As it was sunny she placed the cradle under a big unyoked cart standing nearby and gently laid him.  She busied herself in serving the large number of guests who had come for the event. The child got up after a while and started crying. But in the din of the crowd, Yashoda did not hear the child’s cries. Krishna became very agitated and began to kick with his tiny legs. As Krishna began to kick with his tiny legs, the cart shook and collapsed with a great sound. The wheels separated from the axle. Some of the other children who were watching it got scared and ran to Yashoda and informed her of the baby’s incredible feat.

Yashoda and the others got scared and came running to the cart. Everyone was surprised and frightened. All the boys who witnessed the feat said with absolute certainty that the cart was upset by the kick of the baby. But the elders could not believe their words. Yashoda thought that probably the child might have been possessed and immediately called the priests to chant Mantras to exorcise the ghost. But the baby was least affected by those things. He was once again playing merrily looking with his bewitching smile at everyone. The fact was that SakatAsura had taken the form of a cart on the advice of Kamsa. He had come to Gokula with the intention of running away with the child. But the Lord, in the form of a baby, knew everything and with a kick of his foot destroyed the cart and the Asura.

The Lord is Mahaan as He has the power of achieving whatever He desires. Jai Shri Krishna!

  1.    Adhritah – One Who is Unconstrained not requiring any support

Maha Vishnu 6This Nama represents the Aishvarya called ‘Praapti’ that denotes His ability to achieve anything. It is based on the root word ‘Dhri’ meaning ‘to hold or support’, so Adhritah refers to someone who does not any support from anyone or anything. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this name as ‘Prithivyaadeenaam Dhaarakanamapi Dhaarakatvaat Na kenachit Dhriyate iti Adhritah – He supports even objects like the Earth which support everything else but He is not supported by any other entity, hence He is called Adhritah, the unsupported one’.

Sri Parasara Bhattar explains this Nama in the context of His being totally unobstructed or unconstrained in His ability to achieve anything He wants. He has the power to achieve anything He wants, without any constraint or limitation.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishta rhetorically asks the question – yo hi sarvasya dhata sa kena dhritah syat? –  How can He be supported by anything when He is the Supporter and Sustainer of everything?

Swami ChinmayAnanda gives the example that just as cotton is the support behind the cloth, gold is the support behind the golden ornaments, and mud is the support behind the mud pot, so also Bhagavan is the support behind everything in the Universe, and we should meditate on Sriman Narayana as the support behind us.

  1.    Sva-dhritah – One Who is Self-Sustained

mahavishnuSva means self and hence Svadhritah refers to someone who is self-supporting. In Shloka 5, the Lord is called ‘Svayambhuh’ meaning One who exists by Himself.  Sri Adi Sankara explains this as ‘Yadi evam ayam kena Dhaaryate iti Aashankyaaha Svenaiva Aatmanaa Dhaaryate iti Svadhritah – From the previous name a doubt might arise ‘who then supports Bhagavan?, and the answer is that Bhagavan is supported by Himself and so He is called Svadhritah, one who supports Himself’. To support this interpretation, Sri Sankara quotes from Chandogya Upanishad (7.24.1) ‘Sa bhagavahkasmin pratishthita iti, sve mahimni – Where does that Immensity abide, Sir? It abides in its own glory.’

Sri Bhattar explains this Nama by extending the meaning from the previous Nama and declares that His Sovereignty does not depend on anything else, and is innate and natural to Him. This distinguishes the sublime nature of ParamAtman from the greatness that the bound souls (Baddha Jivas) can acquire through meditations, austerities etc. Bhagavan’s sublimity is not dependent on meditation or austerities, but is natural to Him.

All the other gods, who are all enjoying the effects of their Karmas like the rest of us, are established and supported by Him so that they can be considered Gods.  Sri NammAzhwar in this Thiruvai Mozhi (5.2.8) Pasuram says  – ‘Niruttinaan daiva’ngalaaga ad-daiva naayagan thaane– The other gods have been established by Him and He is the Lord of gods in the Universe’.  It is He who accepts all the offering that devotees make to their Ishtadevatas. 

In the 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: Whichever God a particular devotee desires to worship with faith, I surely sustain that faith firmly in Him.

He is One and Only Supreme Deity who is peerless – Eko ha vai Narayana Asit (Maha Upanishad 1.1).

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri points out that by logic, anything that supports something is supported by something else. If the question is continually asked, there comes a point at which we realize that everything else is supported by One, the Supreme Self.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadwaj gives the meaning sva-janah to the term sva, and gives the interpretation – svaih sva-janaih dhritah citte iti sva-dhritah – He Who is held in mind by the devotees.

Sri Satya Sandha Yatiraja gives a different perspective and interprets the term ‘svam’ as referring to dhanam or wealth, and gives the explanation that ‘svamdhanam dhritam yena iti Sva-dhritah – He Who supports and sustains prosperity and well-being in everything else.

  1.    Svaasyah – He is Peerless

HayagreevaThis is the combination of ‘Su’ and ‘Aasyah’ meaning good or beautiful face. Sri Adi Sankara gives two interpretations, the first of which is ‘Shobhanam Padmodara talavat taamram Abhirupatamam Asya Aasyam iti Svaasyah – His face is rosy and bewitching like the inside of a Lotus flower’.

His second interpretation is ‘Vedaatmako Mahaan Shabdaraashih tasya Mukhaat nirgatah Purushaarthopadeshaartham iti vaa Svaasyah – All the Vedic texts emanated from His mouth for the benefit of people to attain their life goals, hence He is called Svaasyah, one with auspicious mouth or the originator of Vedas’. He quotes from Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (2.4.10) to support his interpretation:
Asya mahato bhūtasya niḥśvasitam etad yad ṛgvedo yajurvedaḥ sāmavedo tharvāṅgirasa itihāsaḥ purāṇaṃ vidyā upaniṣadaḥ ślokāḥ sūtrāṇy anuvyākhyānāni vyākhyānani asyaivaitāni niśvasitāni
Meaning: The Vedas, Puranas and all texts emanated from His breath, hence He is called Svaasyah.

The word ‘Asya’ refers to ‘status’, and is derived from the root ‘As – upaveshane’ meaning ‘to sit or seat’ (e.g., Asanam). Sri Bhattar uses this meaning for the word Asyam and explains the meaning for this Nama as ‘One Who has a glorious status’. Sri Bhattar notes that even though in Sri Vaikuntham, the mukta jivas have saamyam with Bhagavan in their status, His status is superior in the sense that it was never subject to nescience at any time unlike in the case of the mukta jivas.

Sri Satyadevo Vasishtha explains this as ‘Sobhana, Sobhana Asya yasya Svaasyah – One Who has a magnificent or superior status; or, Asanam AsyA, svayam svasmin Asya yasya sa Svaasyah  – One Who has His own innate natural superior status.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri summarises this explanation as ‘One Whose status is such that it never was, is, or will be, tainted by ignorance etc.’ Thus, His status is uniquely superior to that of the mukta Jivas.

Sri Krishnadatta Bharadvaj also gives the same interpretation – Sobhanam Asyanm vadanamyasya aiti Svaasyah.

  1.    Praagvamshah – He Who is eternal and foremost

AnanthasayanamThe word ‘Praak’ means first or foremost and Vamsha refers to a race or dynasty. Based on this, Sri Adi Sankara interprets this Nama as ‘Anyasya Vamshino Vamshaa Paashchaattyaah ; Asya Vamshah Prapanchah Praageva, Na Paashchaattya iti Praagvamshah – His dynasty, namely the Universe, is the most ancient one; All other dynasties came much later and hence He is called Praagvamshah, the one with the most ancient dynasty. There are many famous dynasties such as the Surya Vamsha, Chandra Vamsha, Yadu Vamsha etc. but they all came later compared to the Cosmos, hence He is Praagvamshah.

Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets ‘Praak’ to refer to the nitya suris or the eternally liberated souls who have been in Sri Vaikuntham from the earliest of times. He interprets the term ‘Vamsha’ to mean ‘support’ or ‘Adhaara’. Sri Bhattar gives the explanation for the Nama as ‘He Who is the eternal support for the foremost souls – the nitya suris in Sri Vaikuntham’. He uses the Purusha Sukta Shloka 16 in support: Yatra purve saadhyaah Santidevah – Paramapadam is the place of Lord Narayana where from time immemorial the Saadhya devatas (the ever free Angels) live.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri notes that it is customary to name the different races after someone who is very important and prominent in that race – for instance, the Chandra Vamsha, the Surya Vamsha, the Raghu Vamsha, the Yadu Vamsha etc. In this sense, Bhagavan is the foremost in the Vamsha of the nitya-suris, hence He is Praagvamshah.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadwaj interprets the term vamsham as referring to progeny, and he takes the term praag to refer to Catur-mukha- Brahma, and gives the explanation that the Nama means ‘One Who has Brahma as His progeny – praa’ncati it praag Brahma; sa vamshah santaano yasya iti praag-vamshah.

Sri Vasishtha derives the meaning from the root ‘anc – gati pujanayoh’ meaning ‘to go, to worship’, and takes the meaning ‘to go’ in the current context  and gives the explanation for the Nama as: prakarshena ancati Sabdaayate sambahajate ca – Praag-vamSah – He Who moves around majestically, and Whose greatness is expressed clearly or loudly.

850.   Vamshavardhanah – He expands and dissolves the Universe as He pleases 

krisha-birth-testAs in the previous Nama, Sri Adi Sankara has placed the interpretation of Vamsha as the Universe since it is the dynasty of Bhagavan. Sri Sankara’s explanation is ‘Vamsham Prapancham Vardhayan Chedayan Vaa Vamshavardhanah – He expands the Universe in His role as the Protector and also destroys it when the time comes in His role as the Destroyer, hence He is called Vamshavardhanah.

Sri Parasara Bhattar interprets the term Vamsha (progeny) to refer to the three types of Jivas that he has referred to in the previous Namas.  He described Sva-dhritah as Bhagavan is superior over the baddhas who may have some of the same Ashta Aishvaryas obtained through meditation, prayer, etc.  He described Svaasyah as Bhagavan is superior over the muktas, who have a status equivalent to Him in many respects, but who were once clouded by nescience. And Praag-vamshah as One who is superior over the Nitya suris, the eternal souls in Sri Vaikuntham, since He is their origin, source and eternal support. Sri Bhattar concludes the gist of the three Namas with Vamsha-vardhanah, as referring to Bhagavan being the One who fosters and grows all the three categories of Jivas.

He interprets the current Nama as Bhagavan is the cause for ever increasing the kainkarya rasam (the desire to do eternal service to Him) in the three types of Jivas.

Sri V.V. Ramanujan refers us to NammAzhwar’s Pasuram from Thiruvai Mozhi (9.3.4):
மருந்தே நங்கள்போகமகிழ்ச்சிக் கென்று
பெருந்தேவர்குழாங்கள் பிதற்றும்பிரான்
கருந்தேவனெம்மான் கண்ணன் விண்ணுலகம்
தருந்தேவனைச் சோரேல்கண்டாய்மனமே.
Meaning: The devas, nitya suris etc., offer their obeisance to the Lord in incoherent words – because they are overwhelmed with their feelings on the thought of the Lord, and declare that He is the medicine that offers them Paramapadam, their ultimate bhogam or enjoyment, the tonic that enhances their happiness, pleasure of life and their sustaining force which they want to hold tight to their heart.

The ever-increasing pleasure in worshipping Him and doing kainkaryam to Him and His devotees seek that in life is the real Vamshavardhanam.

Sri Krishna Datta Bharadwaj also gives his interpretation similar to that of Sri Bhattar: Vamsham bhaktanam vardhayate iti Vamsha-vardhanah – He Who grows His devotees.

Sri Satyasandha Yatiraja gives the example of His growing the Vamsha of Pandavas by protecting Parikshit – ‘Parikshit-samrakshanena Pandu- kulam vardhayati iti Vamshavardhanah.

In Summary

Anur Brihat Krishas Sthulo Gunabhrin Nirguno Mahaan                      |
Adhritah Svadhritas Svaasyah Praagvamsho Vamshavardhanah ||90||

krishnaHe is Anuh because of His ability to become smaller than an atom and for His extreme subtleness. He is gigantic and has the ability to grow beyond any limits in an instant, hence He is called Brihat. He is capable of becoming so thin to become invisible that He is beyond anything material in nature, so He is called Krishah.  He is described figuratively as the ‘mammoth One’ because He is the collective embodiment of all living creatures and He is All pervasive, so He is called Sthulah. He supports the qualities of Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas to varying degrees in the different beings as part of His functions of Creation, Sustenance and Dissolution, hence He is Gunabhrit. Even though He is in contact with all the Jivas at all the time, He is untainted by their defects as He is not subject to any one, and is above all of them, hence He is Nirgunah. He wields the power of achieving whatever He desires at His will and hence He is called Mahaan, Supreme or Great.

He supports even objects like the Earth which support everything else but He is not supported by any other entity, hence He is called Adhritah, the unsupported one. His Sovereignty does not depend on anything else, and is innate and natural to Him, so He is Svadhritah. He has His own innate natural superior status and hence He is Svaasyah. He is the eternal and the foremost who supports all souls including the nitya suris and hence He is Praagvamshah. He expands the Universe in His role as the Protector and also destroys it when the time comes in His role as the Destroyer, hence He is called Vamshavardhanah.

HARI OM TAT SAT

OM NAMO NARAYANAAYA

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