SRI VISHNU SAHASRANAMAM (SHLOKA 98) – PART 107

SRI VISHNU SAHASRANAMAM (SHLOKA 98) – PART 107

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


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

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

The above Shloka has the following Namas:

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

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

  1.    Akrurah – He is Merciful

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Story of Akshayapatra

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

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

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

Jai Shri Krishna!

  1.    Peshalah – He Who is Charming

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Nama Dakshah has several meanings:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OM NAMO NARAYANAAYA

HARI OM TAT SAT

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

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 96) – PART 105

Adi Kesava Perumal

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


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

Purport

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

The above Shloka has the following Namas:

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

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

  1.     Sanaat – He is Ancient

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1.     Sanatana-tamah – The Most Ancient

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1.     Kapilah – He Who is of beautiful complexion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Based on the above, he gives the following interpretations:

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

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

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

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

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

  1.     Svasti-dah – The Giver of Auspiciousness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1.     Svasti – He Who is Auspiciousness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1.     Svasti-bhuk – The Protector of Auspiciousness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.