Wednesday, August 25, 2010

"Lord Hari, the Only object of eternal enjoyment" -- Sri Parasara Bhattar

Lord Hari, the paramAtmA

Thus far, we have seen the glories of the great Lord Hari-Vishnu-Narayana thus: According to the Eternal Vedic Religion, He is the eternal Lord of the Universe, who is also very generous and accessible to His devotees, and He is the Supreme Lord of the eternal Vedic Scriptures.

One may now ask "What is the use of knowing all this? How am I going to be benefited? Let your Lord grace you folks as he pleases. Why should I care at all?" Acharya Sri Parasara Bhattar exactly addresses these questions in the introductory portion of the bhagavad-guNa-darpaNa commentary to the shrI viSNu sahasranAma stotra. In this post, I will simply transcribe the English translation of this portion written by the late Sri Uttamur Viraraghavacharya Swami. Before that, let us fill our eyes with the divine image of Sri Parasara Bhattar, and also fill our minds with the contemplation of the verse in praise of this Acharya, and then next to that Sri Bhattar's own answer, in English --

Sri Parasara Bhattar
shrI parAshara bhaTTAryaH shri ra"ngesha purohitaH      | 
shrIvatsA"nka sutaH shrImAn shreyase me-astu bhUyase   ||
[May Sri Parasara Bhattar, the son of shrI shrIvatsA"nka (a.k.a. kUresha or kUrattAlvAn), who has superior wealth of knowledge, and serving as the PurOhithar for Lord RanganAtha bless me with all auspiciousness!]
We see in this world that any intelligent person, after having gained some knowledge of the objects of human pursuit through the sources of knowledge (such as perception, inference etc.), desires to enjoy the good things of life like flowers, sandal, gold, etc., to eschew things like knife, thorns, etc., which are unpleasant, and is indifferent to neutral things like a log of wood or stone or mud. Of these, the two puruSArthas (objects desired by men) known as artha and kAma (wealth and pleasures) are experienced by means of actual direct perception and inference. They are to be given up, because they are associated with innumerable imperfections like the following: They (1) are petty, (2) lead to harmful consequences, (3) are disgusting, (4) are evanescent, (5) are mixed with distressful things, and (6) are not even easily obtainable. On the other hand, (the other two primary objects of human pursuit) dharma (virtue) and paratattva (salvation) can be learnt only from scriptures. They are opposed to the other two puruSArthas (i.e., artha and kAma) and are full of beneficent qualities. Therefore, the shAstras (scriptures and works of religious authority) and their teachings are to be preferred. As is proclaimed with one voice by those learned in the itihAsa-s (epic history) and the purANa-s: 
satyaM satyaM punaH satyam-uddhRtya bhujamucyate  |
vedashAstrAt-paraM nAsti  na daivaM keshavAt-param  ||  
(mahAbhArata:harivaMsha-parva:sheshadharma-parva, 2-15)
[Truth, this is the Truth, and again this is the Truth. This is proclaimed with hands uplifted-- "No shAstra (authority) is higher than the Vedas, no God higher than keshava"]
- Sri Parasara Bhattar in the introductory portion of bhagavad-guNa-darpaNa

 Sri Bhattar recounts here a famous statement of Bhagavan Veda Vyasa in the Mahabharata that Lord Narayana, who is known by the appellation keshava, is the Highest of all Lords, and is the greatest object of pursuit. All other material pursuits are to be given up, as they lead to results that are impermanent (ephemeral) and mixed with pain, and even the process of obtaining these material desires involve huge pain. Let us then bow down to the lotus feet of Sri Parasara Bhattar and other great Acharyas so that we may ever be involved in contemplating on the Lord alone, who is the only eternal object of enjoyment.


Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Ganga - The sacred river having Lord Vishnu's Lotus Feet for its source

The river Ganga is considered to be sacred by followers of the Vedic Sanatana Dharma religion. The waters of the holy river, from time immemorial, are known for their power to cleanse one from all sins. Our dear Lord Narayana too, while enumerating the best of worldly forms and to highlight that He is indeed the indwelling Supersoul of even all those, says (Bhagavad Gita 10.31): "I am Jahnavi  (another name of Ganga) among rivers" (srotasAmasmi jAhnavI), thereby re-establishing the highly-held sanctity of this sacred river.

Sri Narayana Bhattathiri also confirms the excellence of this river in Narayaneeyam:
ga^ngA gItA ca gAyatryapi ca tulasikA gopikA candanaM tat
sAlagrAmAbhi pUjA parapuruSa tathaikAdashI nAmavarNAH |
etAnyaSTApyayatnAnyayi kalisamaye tvatprasAda pravRddhyA
kSipraM mukti pradAnItyabhidadhuH RSayasteSu maam sajjayethAH ||
(Narayaneeyam, 92-9)
[Sages have declared that, in Kali Yuga, eight deeds that take one to liberation easily -
* bathing in river Ganges;
* study of Bhagavad Gita;
* recitaion of Gayatri Mantra;
* Offerings of Tulasi leaves (holy basil);
* Sacred scented clay, Gopika Chandana;
* Worship of Saligrama (a deity form of Vishnu found naturally);
* Fasting on Ekadasi (eleventh day of each fortnight); and
* Chanting of Thy holy names (even if done without understanding their meanings)
- all of which need little effort, lead to swift liberation through propitiating Thee.
O Lord ! May Thou cause me to practice these with sincerity.]

Devaprayag, on the bank of River Ganga (Copyright: Vvnataraj)
Even the popular "Bhaja Govindam" hymn, attributed to Sri Adi Sankaracharya and his disciples, says --
bhagavad gIta ki~ncit adhItA
ga^ngA jala-lava kaNikA pItA |
sakRdapi-yena murAri samarcA
kriyate tasya yamena na carcA ||
[If one reads a little bit of Bhagavad Gita, drinks a few drops of the sacred waters of the river Ganga, or does a little bit of devotional service to Murari (an appellation of Lord Vishnu meaning 'the slayer of the demon Mura'), that person will not be having any unsavory encounters with Lord Yama (the lord responsible for punishing evil persons in hell after their death).]

Itihasas, Puranas, and the works of Acharyas attribute the sacredness of Ganga to its association with Lord Vishnu's lotus-feet. In fact, it is confirmed by them that the river itself has its origin there. We shall see a few instances in those works where these are mentioned.

Sri Adi Sankaracharya's direct disciple Sureshvaracharya says thus in Naishkarmya Siddhi, while saluting his Acharya:
"viSNoH pAdAnugAM nikhila-bhava-nudaM sha^nkaro(a)vApa yogAt
sarvaj~naM brahmasaMsthaM muni-gaNa-sahitaM samyagabhyarcya bhaktyA |
vidyAM ga^ngAM-iva-ahaM pravara-guNa-nidheH prApya vedAntadIptAM 
kAruNyAt-tAm-avocaM janimRtinivahadhvastaye duHkhitebhyaH ||"
- (Naishkarmya Siddhi, IV.76)

[Having worshipped (Acharya Sri) Sankara -- who is all-knowing, established in (the knowledge of) Brahman, accompanied by a host of sages -- with devotion, I obtained from him who is the treasure of most excellent virtues, knowledge which, like the river Ganga, is illuminated by the Vedanta, that follows the feet of Lord Vishnu, and that, while destroying the sorrow of worldly existence, Sankara had attained through yoga; and from compassion, I have set it forth for sufferers to overcome the cycles of birth and death and obtain liberation.]

The above verse is a beautiful word-play comparing Ganga to spiritual knowledge, and is also a double entendre on the name 'Sankara', which stands for both the name of the Acharya as well as Lord Siva who bears the Ganga as his crown. Sri Jnanottama Misra, the advaitic commentator who wrote the "Candrika" gloss expanding on the Naishkarmya Siddhi, explains here --

viSNor-vyApino jagat-kAraNasya padamadhiSThAnaM saccidAnanda-eka-rasam-anugacchatIti viSNoH padAnugA vidyA | ga^ngApi viSNoH puruSottamasya caraNam-anusRtya gacchatIti "vAmapada-a^nguSTha-nakha-sroto-vinirgatAm"-iti smaraNAt |

[The knowledge that bears the fruit of liberation flows from the feet of Vishnu, the all-pervading Creator of the universe. Also, the river Ganga is known to flow from the Divine Feet of Lord Purushottama (another appellation of the Lord, meaning 'best among men'). We read thus in the scriptures: "(The river Ganga) flows from the left toenail (of Lord Vishnu)".]

The full version of the verse quoted by Jnanottama occurs in the Vishnu Purana, the "Gem of all Puranas" (purANaratna), and is given below: 
vAma-padAmbuja-a^nguSTha-sroto-vinirgatAM |
viSNor-bibharti yAM bhaktyA shirasAharniSaM dhRvaH ||
(Vishnu Purana, II.8.104)

In the Srimad Bhagavatam, we are told that Lord Siva, having known that the river washed the feet of Lord Vishnu, bears Ganga on his head as he is aware of the principles of the religious:
tat-pAda shaucaM jana-kalmaSApahaM sa dharmavin-mUrdhny-adhadAt suma^ngalaM |
yad-deva-devo girishaH-candra-maulir-dadhAdara mUrdhnA parayA ca bhaktyA ||
(Srimad Bhagavata Purana, 8.18.28)

Sri Narayana Bhattathiri's Narayaneeyam, which forms a beautiful summary of the Bhagavatam in 1000 verses, explains the same:
prahlAda-vaMshajatayA kratubhir-dvijeSu
vishvAsato nu tadidaM ditijo(a)pi lebhe |
yatte padAmbu girishasya shiro(a)bhilAlyaM
sa tvaM vibho gurupurAlaya pAlayethAH ||
(Narayaneeyam, 30-10)

[The sacred water flowing from Thy feet, adorns the head of Lord Siva. Although a demon by birth, Bali, was fortunate enough to have it sprinkled on his head, perhaps due to his being born in the dynasty of Prahlada, or due to his sacrifices or because of his faith in Brahmins. Oh Guruvayurappa, May Thou of such glory, save me].

Lord Vishnu measures the universe in three steps, subduing Mahabali and the demons

Sri Sarvajnatma Muni, another early Advaita Acharya, writes thus at the end of the sa^nkSepa shAriraka, dedicating the work to the lotus feet of Lord Vishnu:
avirala-pada-pa^nktiH padmanAbhasya puNyA 
caraNa-kamala-dhUligrAhiNI bhAratIyaM |
ghanataraM upaghAtaM shreyasaH shrotRsa^ngAt 
surasaridiva sadyo mArSTu mA^ngalya-hetuH ||
(Samksepa-Sariraka, IV. 61)

[Like Ganga -- the river of the celestials, let these auspicious words running to several thousand lines, from its association with the dust of the lotus feet of Lord Padmanabha (another name of Lord Hari meaning, 'one who has the primordial lotus -- the source of the universe -- springing from his navel'), immediately release one from darkness and ignorance upon hearing them, and serve them as a means for reaching auspiciousness.]

Srimad Ramatirtha, who wrote a sub-commentary "anvayA-artha-prakAshikA" to the Samksepa Sariraka, explains here that the author, Sri Sarvajnatma Muni, is dedicating his work to Bhagavan Narayana, the Lord. (etA kRtiM bhagavati nArAyaNe samarpayan sva-kRter-ma^ngalaM prArthayate).

Ramatirtha says further that Sarvajnatman is presenting this work to all, after having dedicated it to Lord Narayana in the form of Sri Padmanabha -- the form of the Lord residing in the city of Anantapuri, the modern-day Trivandrum/Tiruvanantapuram of Kerala -- by which process the book carries the dust of the lotus-feet of the Lord (padmanAbhasya shrImad-anantapurI-vAsinaH sheshA^nke shayAnasya nArAyaNasya caraNa-kamala-dhUli-grAhiNI taccaraNayoH samarpitA satI tathAvidhA).

The commentator explains the comparison with the river Ganga next: "Indeed, the river Ganga also carries the dust of the same Lord Padmanabha, the one who bore the form of Trivikrama -- the form to which the Lord expanded himself to measure the entire universe by three steps, during the divine Vamana avatAra. Hence, the sin-cleansing auspicious nature of the river Ganga is also meant. (ga^ngA tu padmanAbhasya trivikramarUpaMdhRtavataH caraNa-kamala-dhUli grAhiNI prasiddhA, ata eva puNyA pAvayitrI bhAratI ga^ngA ca ityarthaH).

Lord Ananta Padmanabha Swami of Tiruvanantapuram, Kerala

Finally, the Tamil poet Kambar, in his Kambaramayana (Tamil version of Sage Valmiki's epic Ramayana), re-establishes this Vedic doctrine about the river Ganga:

(1) "The river Ganga was produced from the sacred pot (kamaNDalam) of the four-faced Lord Brahma when he washed the feet of Vishnu" ("pa^nkayattu ayan paNDu tan pAdattin am kaiyin tarum gangaiyin nIrADinAn" - Kambaramayanam ayOdyA kANDam, gangaip paDalam, verse 16).

(2) In the verse that immediately follows, the poet illustrates the scene of Rama having a bath in the river, at which point the poet says that the river Ganga, which washes away the sins of those who take a dip in it, is rejoicing that her own sins are being delivered, since Rama, who as Vishnu was its own origin, took a dip in it! ("panni nIkka arum pAdakam pAruLor ennin nIkkuvar: yAnum inRu en tanda unnin nIkkinen. uyndenan yAn") Kambar clearly implies here that the sin-destroying capacity of the river Ganga itself is dependent on the Highest Lord, Sriman Narayana.


[1] Narayaneeyam references: see end of this article.

[2] Naiskarmyasiddhi of Sureshvaracharya with the Chandrika of Jnanottama, Bombay Sanskrit Series No. XXXVIII, 1891 (edited with notes and index by Colonel G. A. Jacob). Readable online for free here.

[3] Samksepa Sariraka of Sarvajnatma Muni, with the anvayA-artha-prakAshikA Tiika of Srimad Ramatirtha. Readable online fore free here.

[4] Vishnu Purana with Sridhara Swami's "svaprakAsha" gloss, Saraswati Press, Kolkata, 1882. Read online for free here.

[5] Transcriptions of two episodes of Sri U. Ve. Velukkudi Krishnan Swami's Podhigai TV lectures on Bhagavad Gita, dealing with River Ganga and its history: [a][b].


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Unassailable Glory of Lord Narayana: Part 4 -- More from the Narayaneeyam

Little Krishna of Guruvayur
The Keralite scholar Sri Narayana Bhatta of the 16th/17th Century, in his devotion-laden work Narayaneeyam, conveys more about the nature of the highest Paramatma, Sriman Narayana, in the last two verses of the first decad. I will try to summarize the meanings and provide English translations of key portions from the old commentary by Desa Mangala Variar.

Verse 1-9: 
kAruNyAt-kAmam-anyaM dadati khalu pare svaatmadastvaM visheSAd-
aishvaryAdi-Ishate(a)nye jagati parajane svAtmano(a)pi-Ishvarastvam |
tvaiyyuccairAramanti pratipadamadhure chetanAH sphItabhAgyAstvaM
chAtmArAma evetyatulaguNagaNa-AdhAra shaure namaste ||
[Oh Shauri! Thou art omnipotent and the embodiment of all virtue and hence Thou hath the unique power to grant supreme bliss to Thy devotees instead of only desired objects, in contrast to other deva-s. Those who realize this truth are blessed at every step they take towards Thee. Oh Lord Krishna! I pray to Thee for such a blessing.]

kAruNyAditi | pare brahmAdayaH | kAruNyAd bhaktavatsalatayA | anyaM mokSavyatiriktaM kAmaM varaM dadAti | tvaM visheSAd vishiSTAd brahmAdyatishayitAt kAruNyAt svAtmadaH svAtmAnaM svarUpaM mokSamapi dadAsItyarthaH | ki~nca, anye brahmAdayaH aishvaryAd jagati asmin prapa~nce parajane svavyatirikteSu sthiracareSvena Ishate nigrahItumanugrahItuM vA shaktA bhavanti | tvaM tu svAtmanaH svarUpasya brahmaNo(a)pIshvaraH ... he shaure! shrI-kRSNa ! te tubhyaM namaH namaskaromi-ityarthaH ||
[O Shauri! O Krishna! I offer my salutations to Thee! Brahma and others, out of compassion for their devotees, grant to them all sorts of blessings that they wish for, other than final liberation. Since you are special -- being superior to deva-s such as Brahma, being extremely merciful -- being such, you grant Yourself -- Your own Supreme Station that is free from the cycle of births and deaths -- to Thy devotees. Moreover, Brahma and others are only lords of this visible universe consisting of plants, animals, and human beings. You however, by nature, are the Lord of even Brahma and others. It is only Thyself that is equal to Thee.]

This is another reason why the greatness of Lord Hari surpasses other devas, as He alone is the one who grants liberation, while the other deva-s are only able to grant material benefits. The ancient Tamil work paripADal says thus about Vishnu:
"Unless the One who wears a garland of fragrant Tulsi leaves (Vishnu) grants libeation, it is extremely hard to reach the same" (நாறு இணர்த் துழாயோன் நல்கின் அல்லதை ஏறுதல் எளிதோ வீறு பெறு துறக்கம்).

Lord Vishnu is ever consorted by Lakshmi
Verse 1-10:
aishvaryaM sha^nkarAdi-IshvaraviniyamanaM vishvatejoharANAM
tejassanhAri vIryaM vimalamapi yasho nispRhaish copagItam |
angAsa^ngA sadA shrIrakhilavidasi na kvApi te sa^ngavArtA
tadvAtAgAravAsin murahara bhagavacchabda-mukhya-Ashrayo(a)si ||
[Oh Lord Murari ! Ordainer of even great lords such as Shiva and others! Who excels all in splendor! Your famous pastimes are sought after and sung about even by great yogis. Lakshmi, who is the goddess of all riches, likes to reside in your chest always. Thou art the embodiment of all the six divine qualities of greatness viz., Sri (prosperity), Jnana (knowledge), Vairagya (detachment), Aishwarya (sovereignty), Veerya (valour) and Yashas (fame) and hence the word Bhagavath is the most befitting attribution to Thee, who art the resident of the Guruvayur temple.]

aishvaryamiti | he vAtAgAravAsin! murahara! te tvaishvaryaM sha^nkarAdInAmIshvarANAM viniyamanaM tattadadhikArapravartakam | ki^nca, tava vIryaM vishveSAM sarveSAM tejaH parAkramaM harantIti vishvatejoharAH shrIsha^nkarAdayaH, teSAM tejaH prabhAvaM saMhartuM shIlamasyeti tathA | vakSyati ca 'muhustAvacchakraM' (10.82. 9) ityAdi | tava yasho(a)pi vimalaM pApashodhakam | nispRhair-muktair-apyupagItaM, tvaccaritAkRSTacetastayA taishvarNitamityarthaH | shrIshca sadA a^ngAsa^ngA tava vakSaHsthalamAshrityaivAste | akhilavidasIti | akhilaM svAtmAnaM svamAyAM tatkAryaM ca vittItyakhilavidasi tvaM | anye tvAM tattvato na jAnantIti bhAvaH | kvApi viSaye | te sa^ngasya vArtApi kathApi na shrUyata ityarthaH | tat tasmAt, yasmAdaishvaryayashaH shrIvIryaj~nAnasa^ngatAnAM bhagavacchabdavAcyAnAM tvayyatishayena vRttistasmAdityarthaH | bhagavacchabdasya mukhyAshrayo vAcyArtho bhavasi, anyeSu bhagavacchabdasya lAkSaNikI vRttirityarthaH ||
[O Divine Resident of Guruvayur! Slayer of the demon Mura! Thy sovereignty includes being the Lord of, the controller of, the one who gives orders to -- even Shankara (Shiva) and others! Moreover, Thy prowess is better than those of Shiva who is of very great potence himself. It is also said by Sri Narayana Bhattathiri elsewhere that the Lord's prowess is better than those of Brahma, Siva, Indra, Varuna, and Yama (82-9).

Your glory is also blemishless -- listening to the same removes the listener's sins. Even those who have conquered their senses, and those who have attained liberation sing Thy glory, having all their senses irresistably drawn towards hearing Thy Divine Pastimes.

Even Lakshmi (Shri), who is the Goddess of all riches likes to reside in your chest for ever, not wanting to be separate from Thou even for a moment. You are the one who is possessed of all knowledge of the entire cosmos and its beings. Others do not know these fully.

From this, it is clear that since Thou alone art the One possessed of unlimited Sovereignty, Glory, Wealth, Prowess, and Wisdom, the term 'Bhagavan' denotes Thee primarily. Thou alone naturally possess the title of 'Bhagavan' by Thy own nature. With regard to the others, it is only an acquired title.]


[1] Complete Narayaneeyam online
[2] Narayaneeyam of Narayana Bhatta, with the commentary, Bhaktapriya, of Desamangala Varya. Edited by T. Ganapati Sastri, Travancore Government Press, 1912


Monday, June 7, 2010

The Unassailable Glory of Lord Narayana: Part 3 -- From the Narayaneeyam

In a previous post, we have learned a little bit about the Narayaneeyam, a devotional work by Sri Narayana Bhattathiri, a 16th Century Keralite scholar. The following verses firmly establish Sri Bhattathiri's conviction that Lord Narayana is the Supreme One:

Narayaneeyam, 82-9:
muhustAvacchakraM varuNamajayo nandaharaNe
yamaM bAlAnItau davadahana pAne(a)nila sakham |
vidhiM vatsasteye girishamiha bANasya samare
vibho vishvotkarSI tadayamavatAro jayati te ||
[Thy repeated victories over Indra, over Varuna (when Nandagopa was kidnapped by him while bathing), over Yama (by reclaiming from him the son of Thy preceptor, Sandeepani), over Agni (by Thy devouring the wild forest fire), over Brahma (when he stole the calves) and over Siva here in the battle with Bana, O Lord, amply prove that this avatAra of Thine as Krishna surpasses all other avatAra-s and is most superior.]

Narayaneeyam, 90-1:
vRka bhRgu muni mohinyambarIShaadi vRtteSu
ayi tava hi mahattvaM sarvasharvAdi jaitram |
sthitamiha paramAtman niSkalArvAgabhinnaM
kimapi tadavabhAtaM taddhi rUpaM tavaiva ||
[O Supreme Being ! From the episodes of Vrikasura, Sage Bhrigu, the Mohini incarnation, King Ambarisha and others, it is here firmly established that Thy glory is superior to, and transcends, that of Siva and all other deva-s. Thou art none other than the Nishkala Supreme Brahman, as also all the Sakala forms, and art that Indefinable One who doth shine as the essence of all.]

Sri Madhusudana Saraswati expounds on this further in his Gudhartha Dipika, in his commentary to verse 7-24 of the Bhagavad Gita:
"nanu janma-kAle(a)pi sarva-yogi-dhyeyaM shrIvaikuṇṭhasthaM-aishvarameva rUpaM-AvirbhAvitavati saMprati ca shrIvatsa-kaustubha-vanamAlA-kirITa-kuNDalAdi-divya-upakaraNashAlini kambu-kamala-kaumodakI-cakra-varadhAri-caturbhuje shrImad-vainateyavAhane nikhila-sura-loka-saMpAdita-rAjarAjeshvara-abhiSekAdi-mahAvaibhave sarva-surAsura-jetari vividha-divyaliilA-vilAsashIle sarva-avatArashiromaNau sAkSAd-vaikuNTha-nAyake nikhilaloka-duHkha-nistArAya bhuvamavatIrNe viri~nci-prapa~nca-asaMbhavi-niratishaya-saundaryasAra-sarvasvamUrtau bAlaliilA-vimohita-vidhAtari taraNi-kiraNojjvalavyapItAmbare nirupamashyAmasundare karadIkRta-pArijAtArtha-parAjita-purandare bANayuddha-vijita-shashA^nkashekhare samasta-surAsura-vijayi-naraka-prabhRti-mahAdaiteya-prakara-prANa-paryanta-sarva-svahAriNi shrIdAmAdi-parama-ra^nka-mahAvaibhava-kAriNi SoDasha-sahasra-divya-rUpadhAriNya-parimeya-guNagarimaNi mahAmahimani nArada-mArkraNDeyAdi-mahAmunigaNastute tvayi katham-avivekino(a)pi manuSya-buddhir-jIvabuddhir-veti?"

[Well, with regard to you who even at the time of Your birth had manifested that Divine Form itself which exists in the holy Vaikuntha, and which is an object of meditation for the yogis, and who at present possesses charming adorations such as the Srivatsa, the Kaustubha, a garland of flowers etc. reaching up to the feet, a crown, earrings, etc., who have four hands holding a conch, a lotus, the (mace called) Kaumodaki and an excellent discus, who have the graceful Vainateya (Garuda) as your carrier, who are possessed of the great glory of having been coronated as the Supreme King of kings by the entire heavenly world, who have conquered all the devas (celestial beings) and asuras (demons), who like to remain engaged in various divine sports, who are the crest-jewel of all avatAra-s, who are none other than the Lord of Vaikuntha, who have descended on the earth to help all people get rid of their sorrows, who are the embodiment of all that constitutes the essence of the unsurpassable beauty that is not to be found in the creation of Brahma, who outwitted Brahma by the divine sport of your childhood, who wear a dazzling yellow garment as bright as the rays of the sun, who are incomparably dark and charming, who defeated Indra to make him offer the Parijata tree as a tribute, who defeated Siva while fighting Bana, who took away everything including the lives of mighty demons such as Naraka and others who had defeated all the devas and asuras, who made an extremely poor person like Sudama greatly opulent, who had assumed sixteen thousand divine forms, who are endowed with virtues the excellence of which is immeasurable, who are possessed of great fame, and who are prayed to by the great sages such as Narada, Markandeya and others, how can even the non-discriminating persons have the idea that You are a human being or a jiva?]

In another place, Sri Narayana Bhattathiri cites the incident where the devas and asuras were churning the ocean seeking the amRta (elixir), with the aid of none other than Lord Vishnu. Lakshmi, the eternal companion of the Lord in His Vaikuntha abode, manifested herself as one of the by-products during the course of churning. She examined all the onlookers one by one, and finally chose our Lord Sri Hari as her husband. Sri Bhattathiri says thus:

Narayaneeyam, 28-7:
girishadruhiNAdi sarvadevAn guNabhAjo(a)pyavimukta doSaleshAn |
avamRshya sadaiva sarvaramye nihitaa tvayyanayA(a)pi divyamAlA ||
[Knowing that all the others such as Brahma and Siva, though virtuous were still not blemishless, she offered the divine garland to Thee, who art the eternal embodiment of perfection and charm.]

It is worth noting here that in Sri Vishnu Sahasranama Bhashya, Sri Sankara explains the name "shrIpatiH" as follows: "amRtamathane sarvAn sura-asurAdIn vihAya shrIrenaM patitvena varayAmAseti shrIpatiH" [He who was chosen by Laksmi after she rejected all the other devas and asuras during the churning of the cosmic ocean for nectar].

Sri Bhattathiri further confirms this doctrine in the following verse belonging to the section describing the deliverence of the elephant Gajendra:

Narayaneeyam, 26-8:
shrRtvaa stotraM nirguNasthaM samastaM brahmeshAdyairnAhamityaprayAte |
sarvAtmA tvaM bhUri kAruNya vegAt tArkshyArUDhaH prekSitobhUH purastAt ||
[On hearing the entire hymn, describing the impersonal nature of the Universal Being, Brahma, Siva and others, knowing that it did not refer to them, did not come there. But Thou, who art all knowing, manifested before him, seated on Garuda, impelled by Thy flow of mercy.]

Hence, our Acharyas have repeatedly emphasized the point that the glory of Lord Narayana surpasses that of the other devas such as Brahma, Siva, Indra, and others.


Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Unassailable Glory of Lord Narayana -- Part 2: Unequalled and Unsurpassed Supremacy

Long before the advent of great Acharyas, ancient India had a glorious time during which Vedic knowledge had spread far and wide, owing to the unparalleled efforts of great sages such as Valmiki, Vasishta, Shakti, Parashara, Vyasa, and Shuka who propounded that knowledge among the masses through the Smritis, Itihasas, and Puranas. Their reach extended from East to West, and from North to South, all over the great nation of India. No wonder then that the Vedic conception of Lord Sri Hari as the "Supreme revealed in the Vedas" (வேத முதல்வன்) found its way into secular Tamil literature of the ancient times. The following invocatory verse of the literary work "naRRiNai" (நற்றிணை) bears testimony to this:

மாநிலஞ் சேவடி யாகத் தூநீர்
வளைநரல் பெளவம் உடுக்கை யாக 
விசும்புமெய் யாகத் திசைகை யாகப்  
பசுங்கதிர் மதியமொடு சுடர்கண் ணாக 
இயன்ற எல்லாம் பயின்றகத் தடக்கிய 
வேத முதல்வன் என்ப  
தீதற விளங்கிய திகிரி யோனே

Translation: "Having the earth for His tender reddish feet, wearing as cloth the oceans that contain pure water and resonating conch-shells, having the space for His body, having the directions as His hands, having the sun and the moon for His eyes, enveloping everything as His very body, He -- the One who bears the discus (Lord Vishnu) is praised as the foremost of all divinities in the Vedas."

Clearly, the author of the invocatory verse in naRRiNai is familiar with Vedic concepts, as he praises Lord Vishnu, following the manner of Mundaka-Upanishad, Purusha-Suktam, Narayana-Suktam, etc. (See this post). More such references to the Lord Vishnu as the "essence of the Vedas" are available in the work called "paripADal".

In the last post, we saw that Acharyas such as Sri Sankara clearly expounded this ancient Vedic wisdom alone, and did not deliberately invent anything on their own.

We now continue our discussion of the supreme glory of Lord Narayana as explained by our Acharyas. We explain the verses where our Acharyas have shown that the glory of Lord Narayana cannot be compared with those of the other devas, and that He is the one who rules all of them.

 The devas, headed by Lord Brahma revere Lord Narayana
Thanks:  Copyrighted image and caption reproduced with permission of the artist Smt. Madhavapriya Devi

'None is equal or greater to Lord Narayana': 

When Lord Krishna expounded to Arjuna the Vedic philosophy by revealing the Bhagavad Gita, He showed His Supreme Universal Form to Arjuna. Awed at that stunning magnified form, Arjuna praised Krishna thus, in the following Bhagavad Gita verse. Let us read the a part of one such verse (11.43) and then Sri Sankara's and Sri Anandagiri's explanations to the same.
na tvat samo(a)sti, abhi adhika kuto-anyo loka-trayo-api, apratima-prabhAva?
(Bhagavad Gita, 11.43)
[There is none who is equal to you, and when that is the case, how even can there be any who is superior to You in any of three worlds, Oh Lord, who is of unrivaled power?]

 Sri Sankara's explanation reflects the Acharya's opinion that the above mode of praise is not at all exaggerated. The Bhagavatpada-Acharya explains thus: "na hi IshvaradvayaM saMbhavati, anekeshvaratve vyavahAra-anupatteH" [Translation: For there cannot be two Supreme Gods, if so, the world as it exists now will not be able to function properly]. 

Sri Anandagiri confirms this further at the same place:  "IshvarAntaraM tulyaM bhavishyati-ityAsha^nkyAha -- 'na hi' iti | Ishvarabhede pratyekaM svAtantryAt-tadaikamatye hetvabhAvAt-nAnAmatitve ca ekasya sisRkSAyAM anyasya saMjihIRSAMsa-bhavAt vyavahAralopada-yuktaM-IshvaranAnAtvaM-ityarthaH" [Translation: The following presents itself as a doubt: can there ever be two Supreme Gods? The Acharya answers: Surely no. If there be several independent Supreme Gods, then their decisions will be independent, as there is no guarantee that they will be of one mind. The effort of one Supreme God in one direction will be neutralized by the effort of the other in the opposite direction. Then the world could not exist as it does now.]

'Lord Vishnu, the ruler of all other deva-s':

Commenting on Gita verse 10.2, Sri Sankara explains:
na me viduH na jAnanti suragaNAH brahmAdayaH | kiM te na viduH? mama prabhavaM prabhAvaM prabhushakti-atishayam, athavA prabhavaM prabhavanaM utpattiM | na-api mahaRSayaH bhRgvAdayaH viduH | kasmAt te na viduriti-ucyate -- aham AdiH kAraNaM hi yasmAt devAnAm mahaRSINAM ca sarvashaH sarvaprakAraiH
["(Lord Krishna says) 'neither the devas -- Brahma and others-- know; -what do they not know? My majesty, abundance of lordly power-or, derived in the sense of 'coming into being', it means origin. Nor even the great sages, Bhrgu, Marici, Atri, Pulastya, Pulaha, Kratu and Vasistha. This is because I am the Supreme Primordial Cause of all, including the devas and the sages.'"]
This is re-emphasized by the Acharya in his commentary to Gita verse 10.12 (Arjuna's words):
paraM brahma paramAtmA paraM dhAma paraM tejaH pavitraM pAvanaM paramaM prakRSTaM bhavAn ! puruSaM shAshvatam nityaM divyaM divi bhavaM AdidevaM sarvadevAnAm Adau bhavam ajam vibhum vibhavanashIlam | ishvaram
[ (Arjuna says) 'Oh Lord! You are the Supreme Brahman -- the Supreme Soul, the Supreme Light, and the Supreme Sanctifier. You are the eternal divine Person, the Primal deva since you preceded all the devas by time. You are birthless, omnipresent, and capable of assuming many forms.]
Sri Madhusudana Sarasvati, in Gudhartha Dipika, offers a very interesting explanation for a verse not very far (10.14) from the above verse.  Here, Sri Madhusudana Sarasvati says that Arjuna's addressing Krishna by one of His special Divine Names, "Kesava (keshava)" has a deep purpose: He says that the name "Kesava" is apt here since Arjuna is referring to Sri Krishna's supremacy --
tacca-sarvaj~natvAt tvaM jAnasIti -- keshau brahmarudrau sarveshAvapi-anukampyatayA vAti-avagacchatIti vyutpattim-Ashritya niratishaya-aishvarya-pratipAdakena keshava-padena sUcitam | ato yaduktam 'na me viduH suragaNAH prabhavaM na mahaRSayaH' ityAdi tattatheva -- hi yasmAt he bhagavan samagra-aishvaryAdi sampanna! te tava vyaktiM prabhAvaM j~nAnAtishayashAlino(a)pi devA na viduH na-api dAnavA, na mahaRSaya ityapi draSTavyam |
['And You know that since you are omniscient.' - this is indicated by the word keshava, by which is suggestive of 'unsurpassed sovereignty', according to the following derivative sense of the word: 'He who looks upon Ka and Isha, i.e., Brahma and Rudra,  as fit for compassion, even though they are great lords (compared to other devas and human beings).' Hence, what was said in 'Neither the deva-s nor the great sages know My Lordliness.' (10.2) is truly so. For, Oh Lord who art endowed with Sovereignty etc. in their entirety, neither the deva-s nor the demons, or even the great Rishis, comprehend your glory.]
- Madhusudana Sarasvati, Gudhartha Dipika, 10.14

One may wonder whether all the above statements by Arjuna, and by Acharyas like Sri Sankara, Anandagiri, Madhusudana Sarasvati are merely exaggerations for the sake of praising Lord Krishna. This doubt can be safely answered in the negative, as Sri Sankara himself says thus in his Brahma Sutra Bhashya (I.ii.17) where the Acharya is involved in serious polemical discussion, where he establishes the identity of 'the person in the eye' described in the Vedanta:
tathApi AtmatvaM tAvanna sambhavati, parAgrUpatvAt | amRtatvAdayo(a)pi na saMbhavanti utpatti-pralaya-shravaNAt | amaratvamapi devAnAM cirakAlAvasthAna-apekSam | aishvaryamapi parameshvara-Ayattam, na svabhAvikam; 'bhIshAsmAd-vAtaH pavate, bhISodeti sUryaH | bhISAsmAd-agniH-candraH-ca mRtyuH-dhAvati pa~ncamaH' iti mantravarNAt | tasmAt parameshvara eva-ayam-akSisthAnaH pratyetavyaH |
[Inner-self-hood cannot be ascribed to the sun (Aditya), on account of his externality. Immortality, also cannot be predicated of him, as Scripture speaks of his origin and his dissolution. For the so-called deathlessness of the deva-s only means their comparatively long existence. And their lordly power also is based on the highest Lord and does not naturally belong to them; as the mantra declares, 'From terror of it (Brahman) the wind blows, from terror the sun rises; from terror of it Agni and Indra, yea, Death runs as the fifth.'—Hence the person in the eye must be viewed as the highest Lord only.]

- Sri Sankara,  Brahma Sutra Bhashya, 1.2.7

Thus, the Acharyas have discussed at great length, the greatness and sovereignty of Lord Hari as per the Vedas.


[1] For the naRRiNai and other Sangam and post-Sangam Tamil works, see here or here. (Flash player and font download required for first link; first link contains several commentaries by ancient and modern Tamil commentators).
[2] References for Bhagavad Gita commentaries etc. are as given in this post.
[3] Brahma Sutra Bhashya: See here and English translation here.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Unassailable Glory of Lord Narayana -- Part 1: The Lord Extolled by the Vedas

The Veda, which forms the basis of sanAtana dharma (The Eternal Religion), is believed by all Astika-s (people who accept the authority of the Veda) to be unauthored (apauruSeya). It contains eternal truths which are not authored by anyone, human or even divine. All the great Acharyas of the different philosophical schools in sanAtana dharma concur on this one fact. Classified as Rg, yajuH, sAma, and atharva, and containing four sections (samhita-s, brAhmaNa-s, AraNyaka-s, and authentic upaniSad-s), all portions of the Veda are taken to be authentic in their entirety by all major philosophical schools, including advaita, vishiSTAdvaita, dvaita, and other schools of Vedanta. The Veda has been passed down from time immemorial, solely by the mode of rigorous study through listening, repeating, and chanting.

Students in a traditional Vedic school

Our great Lord Narayana is known as "vedAnta-vedya pratipAdyaH" which means "The Lord who is known from the eternal Vedic texts". Hari, one of the names of Lord Narayana, is uttered along with the divine praNava (the syllable "Om"), at the beginning and end of Vedic chants thus: "|| hariH om ||". This was mentioned by Kambar (kambanATTAlvAr in Tamil), the Tamil poet who sang Valmiki's Sanskrit Ramayana in beautiful Tamil, in the following invocatory verse at the beginning of his work:

"ஆதி அந்தம் அரி என யாவையும்
ஓதினார் அலகு இல்லன உள்ளன
வேதம் என்பன மெய்ந்நெறி நன்மையன்
பாதம் அல்லது பற்றிலர் பற்று இலார் "
Translation: Those great souls, who are devoid of selfish interests and therefore neutral, who chant the timeless and immeasurable Veda, beginning and ending it with "hariH om", do not put their faith in anything other than the tender feet of the One (i.e., Lord Vishnu or Narayana) who Himself is the truest way (to the highest human end, i.e., liberation) and is an ocean of auspicious qualities.

Let us enjoy the following passages from the commentaries of Sri Adi Sankara and other pUrvAcArya-s in his disciplic succession that confirm that it is none but Lord Narayana (known by various names such as Vishnu, vAsudeva, and Hari) alone who is to be known from the study of the Veda. We first take a look at the commentary to the Bhagavad Gita verse 15.15 and the commentaries to it:
sarvasya ca-ahaM hRdi sanniviSTo mattaH smRtirj~nAnamapohanaM ca |
vedaishca sarvairahameva vedyo vedantakRt-vedavit-eva ca-aham ||
(Bhagavad Gita 15.15)

In the above verse, Lord Narayana, in his Krishna form, teaches the following to Arjuna: "I am seated in the hearts of all beings. Memory, knowledge, as well as their loss come from Me. I alone am to be known from all the Vedas; I am indeed the author of Vedanta as well as its knower."

Sri Sankaracarya explains Lord Krishna's words here thus: "(Lord Krishna says): 'I am the Supreme Soul, the Paramatman to be known from all the Vedas. I alone am the originator of the Vedantic traditions, and it is I who know the Vedic teachings.' Thus, the majesty of the Lord, the Bhagavan who is known as 'Narayana' by name, are stated": vedaisca sarvair-ahameva paramAtmA vedyaH veditavyaH | vedantakRt vedAntArtha sampradAyakRt ityarthaH | vedavit vedArthavit eva ca aham | bhagavataH Ishvarasya nArAyaNAkhyasya vibhUtisaMkSepaH uktaH. Sri Anandagiri who wrote "glosses" (Tiika) to many of Sri Adi Sankara's works explains here that the statement of the Lord in the current verse removes any doubt that may linger in one's mind as to whether the Supreme Brahman extolled in the Vedas is different from Bhagavan Narayana: "vedavedyaM parambrahma bhagavato(a)nyAditi sha^nkAM vArayati -- vedairiti". Indeed, Sri Sankaracarya says in his commentary to the Bhagavad Gita thus:
"It (the Bhagavad Gita) expounds specially the nature of the Supreme Being and the Truth known as vAsudeva, the Para-brahman, who forms the subject of the discourse": paramArtha-tattvaM ca vAsudevAkhyaM parabrahma-abhideya-bhutaM visheSataH abhivyaj~nayad vishiSTa-prayojana-sambandha-abhideyavad gItA-shAstraM  (Introductory Chapter, Sri Sankara's bhagavadgItAbhASya).

"(Lord Krishna says) 'I, the Supreme Parabrahman known by name as vAsudeva, am the source of the whole world. From Me alone evolves the whole universe in all its changes, including existence and dissolution, action, effect, and enjoyment'": ahaM paraM brahma vAsudevAkhyaM sarvasya jagataH prabhava utpattiH | matta eva sthiti-nAsha-kriyA-phalopabhoga-lakSaNaM vikriyA-rUpaM sarvaM jagat pravartate |  (Sri Sankara's commentary to Bhagavad Gita, 10.8)

Moreover, in his commentary to the Kathopanisad verse 1.3.9, Sri Sankara says: "The statement here that 'He obtains The Supreme Abode of Vishnu' refers to entering the Supreme Abode and State of the all-pervading Brahman, the Supreme Soul, known by name as 'vAsudeva' ": tadviSNor vyApanashIlasya brahmaNaH paramAtmano vAsudevAkhyasya paramaM prakRSTaM padam sthAnam satattvaM-iti-etad asAvApnoti.

Echoing all the above points, Sri Anandagiri writes in his gloss to Sri Sankara's commentary (15.15) that Parabrahman cannot refer to anyone other than Bhagavan Sri vAsudeva -- "vedavedyaM parambrahma bhagavato(a)nyAditi sha^nkAM vArayati -- vedairiti".
The Lord as Sri Parthasarathy Perumal deity in the temple of Triplicane (Chennai, TN, India) - He is in His battlefield attire, ready to serve His devotee, Arjuna

Sri Madhusudana Sarasvati, in his magnum-opus "gUDhArthadIpika" (a glorious, independent commentary to the Bhagavad Gita) explains here (15.15) that even though the Vedas contain hymns to Indra and other devas, it is still only Bhagavan vAsudeva alone is to be known from the Vedas as He is the in-dwelling supersoul of all: "vedaishca sarvaih-indrAdi-devatA-prakAshaih-api ahameva vedyaH, sarvAtmatvAt". Sri Sarasvati then explains that Vedic passages such as --
"They call Agni as Indra, Mitra, and Varuna; they also say that He is the divine Garutman of beautiful wings. The sages speak of Him, who is one, in many ways; they call Him Agni, Yama, mAtarishvan."
(Atharva Veda, 9.10.28)

and "... for He is all the devas" (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, 1.4.6) are to be understood in that way.

As if to reiterate all these, Sri Sankara explains as follows, in the Vishnusahasranama Bhashya:

"shabdasahaH" (# 912):

He (Vishnu) is known as "shabdasahaH" as He is the one who alone is proclaimed by all the Vedas unanimously: sarve vedastAtparyeNa tameva vadantIti shabdasahaH

"kathitaH" (# 848):

vedAdibhir-ayameka eva paratvena kathita kathita iti kathitaH | sarvairvedaiH kathita iti vA kathitaH | "sarve vedA yatpadamAmananti", "vedaishca sarvairahameva vedyaH", "vede rAmAyaNe puNye bhArate bharatarSabhaH! adau madye tathA cAnte viSNuH sarvatra gIyate" iti shruti-smRtyAdi-vacanebhyaH |

Translation:  He (Vishnu) is known as kathitaH since He alone is declared as supreme by the Veda and Vedic texts; or He who is described by all the Vedas. The following statements from the shruti (Vedas) and smRtis confirm this:

"All the Vedas describe His status.." (Kathopanishad 1.2.15),

"I alone am to be known from all the Vedas" (Bhagavad Gita 15.15),

"Vishnu is sung everywhere at the beginning, middle, and end of the Vedas, the holy rAmAyaNa and the mahAbhArata, O Best of the lineage of Bharata!" (Harivamsa, 3.132.95).

[Sri Taraka Brahmananda Sarasvati, in his gloss on Sri Sankara's Vishnusahasranama Bhashya, has explained some finer points in the above explanations.]

Govinda ("govindaH", #539):

The word "go" can be taken to mean "speech/words", and hence "govindaH" is one who is known through the "words", i.e., the words of the Vedanta. The Vishnutilaka text says, "You are known as Govinda as you are to be known through scriptural texts": gobhiH vANIbhiH vedyata iti vedAntavAkyairiti vA govindaH | 'gobhireva yato vedyo govindaH samudAhRta' iti viSNutilake |

The Lord is known only through the timeless Vedic statements. He cannot be known by experimentation and logical inference, as He is beyond what we can perceive. Moreover, the Vedic statements are unaothored. Any compromise on any of these points would lead to cyclic logic. This is also highlighted by Sri Sankara's explanation to the divine name "Govinda". Sri Amalananda Sarasvati was another Acharya who commented on Sri Sankara's works. In his work "vedAnta kalpataru" (a gloss on the "Bhamati", which is a sub-commentary to Sri Sankara's commentary on the Brahma Sutras), he explains this while refuting the views of Saivas, Pasupatas, and Vaiseshikas (in Sutra 2.2.37) by saluting Sri Hari thus:

"tat-sukha-advaitabodha-AtmsvabhAva haraye namaH |
vedAntaika pramANAya kutarkANAM abhUmaye ||"
Translation: "Salutations to Lord Hari, who is blissful, who is without a second, who is pure and transcendental by nature, who is inferred from the texts of the Vedanta alone, and who cannot be understood by those who rely solely on pointless argumentative means."

Yet another point relevant to this discussion: In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Sri Krishna says: "I am the sacred syllable Om (known as Pranava)in all the Vedas". (Bhagavad-Gita 7.8). Here Sri Sankara adds "In Me (Lord Krishna), who am that Pranava, all the Vedas are woven" (tasmin praNavabhute mayi sarve vedAH protAH). Closely related to this Gita verse are the following divine names occurring in the Vishnu Sahasranama:

"mantraH" (#280)

Sri Sankara explains in his commentary that the Lord is called "mantraH", which means "the sacred chant", as He exists as the Rg, yajuH, and sAma Vedas (RgyajussAma-lakSaNaH mantraH). Moreover, He is the one revealed in those sacred chants (mantra-bodhyatvAt-vA mantraH) - this is the second explanation given by Sri Sankara.

"praNavaH" (#957)

Sri Sankara explains this name as: "praNavo nAma paramAtmano vAcaka oMkAra tat-abheda-upacAreNa-ayaM praNavaH" meaning, "The Supreme syllable 'Om', the Pranava, denotes the Paramatman, the Supreme Soul. He is hence said to be verily the Pranava itself."

Thus, it is indeed Lord Narayana who is the object of all Vedic knowledge and meditation.

(to be continued)

[1] Free online viewer/downloads of (a) the Sanskrit original and English translations of of Sri Sankara's Bhagavad-Gita commentary, and (b) Sanskrit texts of Sri Anandagiri's and Sri Madhusudana Saraswati's commentaries for the same: see under this article.
[2] Sanskrit commentary and English translation of Sri Sankara's commentary are adopted from the book titled "Visnusahasranama - with the Bhasya of Sri Samkaracarya, translated into English in light of Sri Samkara's Bhasya" by R. Ananthakrishna Sastry, published by Adyar Library and Research centre (1980 edition).
[3] English translation of Sri Madhusudana Sarasvati's "Gudhartha Dipika" commentary to the Bhagavad-Gita can be bought online at this link.
[4] Relevant page from Sri Amalananda Sarasvati's Kalpataru can be viewed here.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Generosity in Vishnu Sahasranama Bhashyas - Part 2

This post is a continuation of the previous post. It analyzes further instances of the Lord's generosity or audAryam explained in the commentaries to Vishnu Sahasranama by Sri Adi Sankaracharya and Sri Parasara Bhatta.

[AS# 557, PB# 562] mahAmanaH:  Sri Parasara Bhattar explains this name as follows: "teSu agAdhodAravismRta manAH" which means "one who has a deep, generous, and broad mind (towards His devotees)."

[AS# 570, PB# 575] draviNapradaH:  Sri Sankara explains this as "draviNaM vA~nchitaM bhaktebhyaH pradAtIti" (One who bestows the objects desired by His devotees to them). Sri Bhattar's explanation goes as "samagraM shAstra-tad-artha-rUpa draviNaM pradAtIti", meaning "One who bestows the wealth in the form of shAstras (scriptures, lit. instructive books)." Here, we should recall similar statements by Sri Sankara in the introduction to his commentary on the Gita where the Acharya explains similarly that Lord Vishnu (Hari), the Supreme Lord of the Universe, came down to the earth in the form of Krishna, the son of Devaki and Vasudeva, to expound on the Vedic religion for the benefit of all Humans, out of His concern for our well-being. Continuing with his explanation of the Divine Name in the current discussion, Sri Bhattar asks us to recall the dhyAna shloka (invocatory verse) on sage Vyasa (who is none other than our Lord Sriman Narayana's avatar): 

vahnvai vAmahastena sarvashAstrArthasaMcayam           |
dakSiNena ca shAstrArthAnAdishaMshca yathAsthitAn     ||
Translation: Vyasa holds in his left hand the collection of all the shAstra-s and their
purport, and propounds by his right hand (the upadesha mudrA, i.e., hand-gesture indicating scriptural advice) the true import of all the shAstra-s.

[AS# 605, PB# 612] shrIdaH:  Sri Sankara says, "shrIyaM dadAti bhaktAnAmiti shrIdaH" - One who grants (dadAti) wealth (shrIH) to His devotees is known as shrIdaH.

[AS# 609, PB# 616] shrIvibhAvanaH:  Sri Sankara says that this name indicates the Lord's fairness in His act of distributing different kinds of wealth to all beings in accordance with their past karma-s (karmAnurUpeNa vividhAH shrIyaH sarvabhUtAnAM vibhAvayatIti shrIvibhAvanaH).

[AS# 611, PB# 618] shrIkaraH: Sri Sankara's commentary here is "smaratAM stuvatAM arcayatAM ca bhaktAnAM shriyaM karotIti shrIkaraH" (One who makes those who meditate on, praise, and worship Him with flowers - His devotees - prosperous).

[AS# 693/694, PB# 698/699] vasupradaH:  This name occurs twice consecutively in the Vishnu Sahasranama hymn. Hence, two explanations are given by both the Acharyas.

Sri Sankara:

"vasu dhanaM prakarSeNa dadAti sAkSAt-dhanAdhyakSo(a)yaM, itarastu tatprasAdAt dhanAdhyakSa iti". To put this in English - It is noted that as per the Vedas, it is possible for one to please the celestial being (devata) Kubera and obtain wealth from him as a result. Sri Sankara says that even Kubera is able to bestow wealth only on account of Lord Vasudeva's grace.

"vasu prakRSTaM mokSAkhyaM phalaM bhaktebhyaH pradAtIti dvitIyo vasupradaH". Sri Sankara explains the second instance of the same name as "One who bestows the greatest wealth - that of salvation or liberation from rebirth - to His devotees". He then quotes a verse from the Veda (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, 3.9.28) which says - 'It is Brahman, who is wisdom and bliss, the final goal of the giver of wealth.'

Sri Bhattar gives the following vivid explanations for the same name:

"paramanidhiM AtmAnaM devakI-vasudevAbhyAM putratvena pradAtIti", meaning "He who bestowed the greatest wealth - in the form of Himself - on Vasudeva and Devaki, by being born as their son. (The name of the person who fathered Lord Krishna during His pastime on the earth was 'Vasudeva', pronounced vasudeva, as opposed to vAdueva, the name of the Lord Himself. See transliteration scheme here for a pronunciation guide.) For the second instance, Sri Bhattar explains as: "He who brought glory and fame (vasu - kIrti) to Devaki and Vasudeva. He brought them fame by choosing them as His parents during His pastime as Krishna".

[AS# 744, PB# 750] ghRtAshIH:  Sri Bhattar comments on this name thus: "ghRtaM sacenaM svaguNaiH jagadApyAyanaM". This is one of the two explanations given by this Acharya at this place. He says that the Lord sprinkles prosperity on the world and makes it prosperous by means of His benevolent qualities.

[AS# 808, PB# 814] kundaraH:  Sri Sankara explains - "kunda-puSpa-tulyAni shuddhAni phalAni rAti dadAti" which means "He who gives (ra) rewards as agreeable and pure as white jasmine (kunda) flowers."

[AS# 936, PB# 936] caturashraH: Sri Sankara says that the Lord is known as "caturashraH" since He is fair to everyone (nyAyasamavetaH). Sri Sankara then says that this is justified since the Lord distributes rewards in accordance with the merits men have accumulated through their own past actions (pumsAM karmAnurUpaM phalaM prayacchatIti).

In the last several posts, we got to experience the joy of contemplating on the Lord's Divine nature of being benevolent, graceful, and generous to His creatures. This post winds up the discussion that we started here. In the next post, we will start a new chapter in our journey filled with glimpses of various facets of the Divine Lord of the Vedas, Sriman Narayana.

REFERENCES - Kindly consult previous post.


Monday, May 10, 2010

Generosity in Vishnu Sahasranama Bhashyas - Part 1

In the following two posts, we will wind up our discussion of Generosity as one of the Divine Attributes of the Lord Narayana. This time, let us sit back and enjoy the following divine names as explained in the viSNu-sahasranAma-bhASya-s (commentaries to the Chapter on the 1000 divine names of the Lord in the mahAbhArata epic) of Sri Adi Sankaracharya and Sri Parasara Bhatta. The arrangement of names differ slightly in the commentaries of the two Acharyas, and hence I will indicate two numbers for each name. The label "AS#" indicates 'according to Sri Sankaracharya', and "PB#" means 'according to Sri Parasara Bhatta'. I will provide the English translations for each name, plus the original Sanskrit commentaries wherever possible. I believe that the explanations given by the Acharyas are quite clear and explain various aspects of the Lord's generosity. Hence, I will not venture to elaborate them further. I have pointed out the source material at the end of this post.

[AS# 48, PB# 47] hRSIkeshaH:  One of the explanations given by Sri Adi Sankara for this name is: "yasya vA sUrya rUpasya candrarUpasya jagat-prItikarA hRSTAH keshA rashmyaH saH hRSIkeshaH |" meaning, "He who, in the form of the sun and the moon, delights the earth with His rays." The Acharya then provides a verse from the Veda that supports this interpretation (Krishna Yajurveda, Taittiriya Samhita, 4.6.3.h) and the following verse from the Mokshadharma (mokSadharma) section of the Mahabharata [1-2]:
sUryA-candramasoH shashvadaMshubhiH kesha-saMj~nitaiH      |
bodhayan svApayaMshcaiva jagat-uttiSThate pRthak                    |
bodhanAt svApanAccaiva jagato harSaNaM bhavet                      ||
agnISoma-kRtairebhiH karmabhiH pANDunandana!                      |
hRSIkesho(a)hamIshAno varado lokabhAvanaH                             ||
Translation: "The sun and moon through their rays (known as kesha in Sanskrit) always uphold the world as it were by awaking it and causing it to sleep. By such awaking and causing to sleep, the world  is delighted (Sanskrit: harSa). It is in consequence of these acts of the fire (sun) and Soma (moon) who uphold the universe that I have come to be called by the name of hRSIkesha, O son of Pandu! Indeed, I am the boon-giver, the Lord, the sustainer of the universe."

In relation with this explanation, we have also seen similar statements by Sri Sankara in his commentary to the Bhagavad Gita verse 9.19 in a previous post on this page.

[AS# 64, PB# 64] ma^ngalaM paraM:  Sri Sankara Bhagavatpada Acharya connects the term "param" (supreme), which he explains as "paraM sarvabhUtebhya utkRSTaM brahma" (Lord Vishnu is the Supreme Brahman on account of His supremacy over all beings), with the term "ma^ngalaM" which he explains in two ways:

(1) Supreme beneficence, as explained by the following verse, says Sri Sankara:
"ashubhAni nirAcaSTe tanoti shubhasantitaM                         |
smRtimAtreNa yat puMsAM brahma tadma^ngalaM vidhuH ||"
Translation: "That Brahman is known as beneficence which wards off all evils and brings on a series of benefits to men on being merely remembered by them."

(2) kalyANarUpAdvA ma^ngalam (or, due to His attractive appearance, He is known as ma^ngalam).

Hence,the explanation given by Sri Sankara is "Supremely beneficient/attractive".

[AS# 257, PB# 258] vRSabhaH:  Sri Sankaracarya explains, "varSatyeSa bhaktebhyaH kAmAn iti vRSabhaH", meaning "The showerer of desired objects on His devotees".

[AS# 298, PB# 299] kAmapradaH:  According to Adi Sankara, this name is to be explained as "bhaktAnAM kAmAn prakarSeNa dadAtIti kAmapradaH", meaning "He who fulfills all the desires of His devotees". Sri Bhattar explains the name as "svakAmebhyaH kSudrakAmeshca yatArhaM kAmyaM pradAti", meaning "One who fulfills everything: He grants Himself to those who long for Him. He also grants wishes of those who long for trivial, lowly fruits (i.e., materialists)." Sri Bhattar then quotes the Veda (Katha Upanishad verse 2.2.13), which says "eko-bahUnAM yo vidadhAti kAmAn", meaning "The Supreme being, though One, dispenses desired objects to many".

[AS# 330, PB# 332] varadaH:  One explanation that Sri Sankara adopts for this name is "abhimatAn varAn dadAti varadaH", meaning "The granter of boons of the objects desired".

[AS# 350, PB# 352] mahArddhiH:  Sri Bhattar explains this name as follows: tad-yoga-kSema-kSama nissIma-vibhUtiH ("Lord Vishnu is known as mahArddhiH as He has boundless riches which can bring about prosperity and security to His devotees").

[AS# 460, PB# 461] suhRt:  Sri Sankara Bhagavatpada explains "suhRt" as "Friend", exactly in the same manner as he did in Gita Bhashya 5.29 - "pratyupakAra-nirapekSatayA-upakAritvAt suhRt", meaning "He is a true Friend as He confers benefits without desiring anything in return". Sri Bhattar explains more vividly: "nupakAriNi api 'kiM asya bhavishyati? kiM karavANi' iti SubhASamsi SobhanahRdayatvam su-hRtvam. su-hRtvam" which means, "friendliness is that quality of a benevolent person who wishes good even for those who have not helped him in any way, and who, being apprehensive of any evil that may befall them, always thinks 'How shall I help them?'". Note the similarity with Sri Periya Vachan Pillai's comment on "audArya" in the Saranagati Gadyam of Sri Ramanujacharya.
(to be continued)


[1] English version of the quote can be found at page 164 here.

[2] Sanskrit version of the quote:

[3] A comparison of Sri Bhattar's and Sri Sankara's commentaries to the Vishnu Sahasranama can be read here in five parts.

[4] Sanskrit commentary and English translation of Sri Sankara's commentary are adopted from the book titled "Visnusahasranama - with the Bhasya of Sri Samkaracarya, translated into English in light of Sri Samkara's Bhasya" by R. Ananthakrishna Sastry, published by Adyar Library and Research centre (1980 edition).

Friday, April 30, 2010

Sri Ramanujacharya's Saranagati Gadyam: Dimensions of Lord Hari's Benevolence

Bhagavad Ramanujacharya (AD 1017-1137), the great scholar, philosopher, social reformer, and reviver of Vaishnavism in Tamil Nadu has written a total of nine works, all in Sanskrit. Sri Ramanujacharya focused on the doctrine of surrender to Lord Narayana as per the Vedic texts, as a means to reach Him and be in His eternal service. It is said that this Acharya went to Srirangam and pleaded with Lord Ranganatha (name of Lord Vasudeva at Srirangam) to offer this supreme fruit of liberation cum eternal service to Him in the spiritual world to those who take refuge under him (Ramanujacharya) during the Acharya's time and for ever after that. Sri Ramanujacharya himself wrote down, in prosaic style, the manner in which he surrendered to Lord Ranganatha, in three different texts: Saranagathi Gadyam, Sriranga Gadyam, and Vaikunta Gadyam. These three texts expound on the finer points of the doctrine of surrender. Together, they are known as the "Gadya Trayam (gadya trayam)", which means "The Prosaic Trilogy".

 Lord as Ranganatha (main deity, known as periyaperumAL in Tamil) and namperumAL (utsava deity) in Srirangam

In the Saranagathi Gadyam, Bhagavad Ramanujacharya pleads with Sri Narayana by enumerating the latter's divine attributes. The divine attribute of audArya (Generosity, Benevolence, or Magnanimity in English), which is the current subject matter for us, has been invoked by Sri Ramanujacharya in two key places. We are going to understand these two instances with the help of extant commentaries written by later Acharyas of the Ramanuja tradition.

Bhagavad Ramanujacharya

Two commentaries to the Gadya Trayam are available today. The first one is authored by Sri Sudarsana Suri -- the author of the celebrated Sruta Prakashika, a sub-commentary on the Sri Bhashya of Bhagavad Ramanuja Acharya. It is written in Sanskrit. The other commentary is by Sri Periya Vachan Pillai, the celebrated commentator of the entire 4000 Divya Prabandhas, written in chaste Manipravala (maNipravALa) style (a style of writing that combines both Sanskrit and Tamil). The two commentaries explain the divine attribute of benevolence by exploring its manifoldness and detailing its dimensions. It is indeed an enjoyment to read the commentaries of these two great Acharyas at these two instances of interest to us.

(1) The first instance of "audArya": 

Here, Sri Sudarsana Bhattar gives three definitions for this divine attribute of the Lord:
A. While giving generously, the Lord does not think that He is giving to some stranger. He thinks thus: "This person who has come to me is verily my own son. So he has the right to obtain and enjoy all these from me."
B. The Lord does not maintain accounts of what was given and how much was given by Him. He just gives.
C. Even though He gives everything graciously, He is not satisfied if He doesn't give more. (Sri Sudarsana Bhattar cites the instance of Draupadi here).
Sri Periya Vachan Pillai says: "aashritaruDaiya apEkSitangaLai tAnE irandu koDukkai", meaning: "(the nature of) granting what His devotees want, with mercy and compassion." This Acharya cites here the following three verses from scriptures: 
A. Yajur Veda, Khata Shakha, 7-5-36: "ya AtmadA baladAH", meaning: "The Supreme Person (The Lord) who grants even Himself as well as all the means to enjoy Him."
B. Ramayana (Ayodhya Khanda 16.27): Not only does He give Himself in the manner explained above, but He even greets and pleases those who came to Him before giving. Poet Valmiki Bhagavan says thus in this citation: "atha madhyama-kakSyAyAM...sametya pratinandyaca", meaning -- "Then, that Prince, the Best of men, met His friends in the middle chamber. He saw all the people who came there to behold Him, approached nearer to them, greeted them and mounted the excellent chariot."
 C. Gita 7.18: "udArAs sarva evaite j~nAnI tvAtmaiva me matam". In this verse, Lord Krishna tells Arjuna that He considers the man of wisdom (j~nAnI) to be verily His supporter. Thus, Lord Krishna is so generous that He celebrates those who come to Him for some benefit as "ones who gives support and strength to Him"!

(2) Second instance of "audArya":

Acharya Sri Sudarsana Bhattar writes "as explained before" here, but Sri Periya Vachan Pillai opts to give an additional dimension of the Lord's generosity. This Acharya says that when the Lord grants what His devotees desire, He conducts Himself as if some desire of His own is met! Even though He is of infinite generosity and does everything for the devotees, He feels within Himself thus: "I have not done enough for my children".

Sri Periya Vachan Pillai cites here the Mahabharata verse (Udyoga-Parva, 47-22: "govindeti yadAkrandat...hRdayAnnA pasarppati") which says that Lord Sri Krishna constantly recalls the incident when Draupadi called Him for help, as if He still has not fulfilled her wish, even though He did save Draupadi from being disgraced. He still recalls her call for help even after the Pandavas won the great war against the Kauravas and got back their kingdom. The Acharya also quotes Nammazhwar's Periya Thiruvandadi (periya tiruvandAdi), verse 53, which says: "Oh Lord, You are constantly under the thought about what you will do next for your devotees" ("unnaDiyArkku enseyvEnenRE irutti nI").
Lord Krishna protects the honor of Draupadi

Thus, great Acharyas, including Sri Adi Sankaracharya as we saw in the last two posts, have elaborated on Supreme Lord Narayana's generosity and magnanimity in many different ways, for us to contemplate upon. We will continue further in the next post.


[1] Thanks- for providing freely downloadable books on the works of Srivaishnava Purvacharyas.

[2] Humble prostrations to Sri Puttur Krishnaswamy Iyengar (Sri Sudarsanam Swamy) for the voluminous books published for the benefit of all mankind. I found this kind Swamin's Gadyatraya Bhashyam book (containing Sri Sudarsana Bhattar's and Sri Periya Vachan Pillai's commentaries) immensely helpful in writing this article. The book can be downloaded here.

[3] The genesis of the idea for this article was a google search on "ஔதார்யம்" that resulted in stumbling upon this beautiful blog posting in Tamil. Many thanks to the author of this blog!

[4] Valmiki Ramayana translations on the web:,

[5] A version of the Mahabharata verse quoted in the article can be found in the form of verse 21 on this page.

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