Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam - SLOKA 3


18.  yogah

a) He Who is the sole means or upAya for salvation or mukti.
b) He Who is reached through yoga (meditation).

The word yoga has several different meanings given in the amara koSa:  means, meditation, union, fitness, remedy, etc.

yogah sannahana upAya dhyAna sa’ngati yuktishu (amara koSa 3.3.22)

Given this diversity of meanings for the word ‘yoga’, now let us see the different interpretations for the nAma ‘yogah’.

a) SrI BhaTTar uses the meaning ‘upAya’ or ‘means’ for the term ‘yoga’.  His interpretation for the nAma is that bhagavAn is the sole means or upAya for mukti (salvation) – asyaiva nirupAdhika mukti upAyatvamapi vakti – yogah – He alone is the natural and independent means for salvation.  He further comments – sa sAyujyasya ananyApekshah sAkshAt hetuh ityarthah – The meaning is that He is the immediate cause of salvation, and does not stand in need of the help of anything else. 

He gives support the brahma sUtra and from the gItA:

-        t  ad-hetu-vyapadeSAc-ca (brahma sUtra 1.1.15) – He is the cause of the Bliss that all souls enjoy. – esha hveya AnandayAti (  (taitt. Ananda. 2.7.1)

   -        aham tvA sarva pApebhyo mokshayishyAmi (gItA 18.66) – “I will release you from all sins”.

SrI satya sandha tIrtha gives multiple interpretations, one of which uses the meaning “upAyam” for the word ‘yoga’.  The explanation is along the lines given by SrI BhaTTar  – bhatAnAm bhava taraNa upAya iti yogah – He Who is the means of salvation for His devotees.

Another vyAkhyAna kartA who uses the meaning ‘upAyam’ for the word ‘yoga’ is SrI kRshNa datta bhAradvAj – yogah bhakta abhilAsha adhigamAya amogha upAyah – The unfailing upAya or means for attaining the desires or wishes of the devotees.

b) SrI Sa’nkara uses the meaning ‘union’ or ‘oneness’ for the term ‘yoga’, and gives an interpretation that supports the advaita concept that the individual soul and the Supreme Soul are not different from each other.  He notes that yoga is the process of controlling the senses and the mind, and realizing this “oneness”, and He is called yogah because He is to be reached  by means of yoga as described here (in other words, by attaining this knowledge of oneness).

(It should be noted that one of the main reasons for the great AcArya-s undertaking to write commentaries on important works such as the vishNu sahasra nAmam, the gItA, the brahma sUtra-s, the upanishad-s, etc., is to show that their particular philosophy is what is supported and advocated by the different smRti-s, Sruti-s, purANa-s, etc.  To quote svAmi AdidevAnanda from his Introduction to bhagavad rAmAnuja’s gItA bhAshyam, “Such a method involves some text-torturing to get the meaning that one wants….  To impart a sense of consistency of a text to their followers, they are compelled to give interpretations that may sometimes look far-fetched to others”.  SrI AdidevAnanda is careful to point out that on the whole, the AcArya-s give a reasonable and satisfying interpretation of their philosophy in the process.  This is not just limited to SrI Sa’nkara’s interpretation, and can be seen in all interpretations.  The current interpretation by Sri Sa’nkara is one example of assigning interpretations that bring ‘support’ for their philosophy from the ancient scriptures).

c) SrI baladeva vidyA bhUshaN seems to use both the meanings ‘union’ and ‘meditation’ for the word ‘yoga’, and gives the interpretation that  bhagavAn is called yogah, because the devotee’s mind becomes one with Him when the devotee meditates on Him - yujyate manah asmin iti yogah samAdheh SubhASrayah.

d) SrI cinmayAnanda uses the meaning ‘meditation’ for the term yoga, and gives the interpretation for the nAma ‘yogah’ as “One Who is realized through yoga”.  His interpretation is “By withdrawing the sense-organs from their objects of preoccupation, when the mind of the seeker becomes quiet, he is lifted to a higher plan of consciousness, wherein he attains ‘yoga’, meaning he realizes the Reality”.  He notes:  “At such moments of equanimity and mental quiet ‘yoga’ is gained – samatvam yoga ucyate (gItA 12.48)”.   Note that while SrI Sa’nkara also interpreted the nAma as “One Who is attained through yoga’, his interpretation of yoga was ‘attaining knowledge of oneness of self and the Self’, whereas SrI cinmayAnanda’s meaning for the word yoga is meditation by quieting the mind and controlling the senses.

SrI satya sandha tIrtha also uses the meaning ‘meditation’ for the word yoga in one of his interpretations – yujyate hRdi yogibhih dhyAyata iti yogah – He Who is meditated upon by the yogi-s is yogah .   

This nAma is probably a very good example where different vyAkhyAna kartA-s use the diversity of meanings for a word, and give interpretations that support their own schools of philosophy, and we get the benefit of diverse enjoyment of His guNa-s in the process.

19.  yogavitAm netA

One who leads those who practise yogA until they reach their Goal.

From Sankara BhAshya, a yoga-vit is one who inquires into, realizes, or acquires yoga - yogam vidanti, vicArayanti, jAnanti, labhanta iti vA yoga vidah.
Nayati iti netA - one who leads .

In GItA, Sri Krishna says:

"ananyAs-cintayanto mAm ye janAh paryupAsate|
teshAm nityAbhiyuktAnAm yoga-keshemam vahAmyaham|| (GItA - 9-22)

" On those who meditate on me with single-minded devotion, those that want to be with Me unceasingly, I confer on them .the Bliss of .union (yoga) with Me constantly and never returning back to samsAra again (the safety or kshema)"

20.  pradhAna purusha Isvarah

One who is the Lord of Primordial Matter as well as the Jivas.

PradhAna here refers to the cause of bondage, and purusha refers to the jivAtmA. Perhaps the easiest way to understand the concept of prakrti or pradhAna is through the following explanation for the Brahma Sutra - deha yogAdvA so'pi - This conealment of the true nature of jiva is caused by the contact with the body (at the time of creation) or by the contact with the Primordial Matter (prakrti or pradhAna) at the time of deluge. Thus prakrti or pradhAna can be conceived of as the undifferentiated or 'asat' form of the bondage of the jiva, and the sarIra or body can be conceived of as the sat form that keeps the jiva in bondage.

Chapter 13 in the Bhagavad Gita deals elaborately with the concepts of prakrti and jIvAtmA and their interrelationship to each other. In sloka 19 of chapter 13, BhagavAn points out that both prakrti and purusha have always existed, and this nAma indicates that He is the Lord and Master of both. "prakrtim purusham caiva vidyanAdau ubhAvapi". prakrti can be considered to be composed of rajas, tamas and sattva, and from these all the rest such as the panca bhUtas, the eleven indriyas, the five indriya-gocaras, etc. arise. These are explained in detail in the gItA bhAshya by TirukkaLLam Sri NrsimhAchArya.

21.   nArasimha vapuh - 

He Who is possessed of a body of man and lion combined.

om nArasimha-vapushe namah.

SrI BhaTTar captures several thoughts about this incarnation of  bhagavAn in one sentence in his commentary: sva-bhaktyantarAya  nivAraNam bhkata-bhayApaha tadapekshA samakshaNa pratipannayathA  kAma divya mahA-nRsimha samhananh. 

1. This incarnation shows a removal of impediments to devotion to Him.
2. He takes incarnations at will. 
3. His incarnations are divine.
4. They remove the fear of His devotees .
5. The incarnations are assumed the moment the request is made.

SrI rAdhA kRshNa SAstri elaborates on these, and add his own anubhava-s. Among his additional thoughts are:

6. This incarnation shows that when it comes to bhagavAn, our "normal" rationalization should not be applied to anything 
associated with Him. For instance, we know that man is the best evolved species in the thinking capability (brain power). Similarly, lion is the most evolved in physical strength. Its strength is located in its body and its powerful nails. So, in order to destroy a powerful asura such as hiraNya kaSipu, it would have made a lot more sense if bhagavAn had taken a form with the head of a human being (with the associated highly evolved brain), and the body of a lion (the most evolved with respect to physical strength). BhagavAn does exactly the opposite - the head of a lion, and the body of a human being. This is a simple illustration of the point that He is beyond our capabilities of analysis. 

BhagavAn does whatever it takes to fulfill the request of His devotee, irrespective of whether it shows Him in the best light or not. ANDAL refers to His varAha incarnation as "mAnam ilAp panRi" - the shameless boar with dirt dripping from all over its body, to go after another rAkshasa, hiraNyAksha, the brother of hiraNyakaSipu.

7. Anyone who observes a scene of an ausra being torn to pieces with its nails by a lion-faced form with a human body, will be terror-stricken. And yet, we see prahlAda standing in great reverence, unperturbed, and pleased at having the divya darSanam of the Lord. But seeing the same form, hiraNya kaSipu was terror-stricken as the half-man-half-lion form emerged from the pillar. Thus, at the same time, with the same form, bhagavAn was pleasing to the eye of the devotee, and causing terror to the devotee's enemy. This is another revelation of the greatness of bhagavAn – that simultaneously He is 
endowed with all opposites at the same time.

8. In addition to the aspect of His being able to induce fear or love at the same time, there is the beauty aspect to His form of half-man half-lion. Just for a moment, think of some human form with the head of a lion appearing in front of us, and imagine the aversion that this sight will induce in us. Not so with Lord nRsimha. He was absolutely beautiful in this form, as SrI BhaTTar elaborates in the next nAma – SrImAn – because He is always associated with SrI or Lakshmi. tirumazhiSai AzhvAr describes His beauty as “ari po’ngik kATTum azhagu (nAnmugan tiru. 21) – The beauty of nRsimha form looked like beauty bubbling and spilling over because it can’t be contained anywhere.tirumazhiSai AzhvAr describes His beauty as “ari po’ngik kATTum azhagu (nAnmugan tiru. 21) – The beauty of nRsimha form looked like beauty bubbling and spilling over because it can’t be contained anywhere.

9. In normal course of life, something that came from breaking a jaDa form such as the pillar should be expected to be another piece of the same jaDa form. One should expect a live form to be originating only from another life form. Hers relating to Him, we should not be applying normal logic as we are used to do.
SvAmi deSikan describes this unusual birth of Lord nRsimha from the pillar in his daSavatAra stotram in one of his poetic naya-s. He describes the lucky pillar from which Lord nRsimha emerged, as the grandmother of brahmA – mahAsura gRha sthUNA pitAmahyabhUt (Slokam 5). The “lineage” in this description is that bhagavAn is the father of brahmA, and since the pillar gave “birth” to Lord nRsimha, the pillar thus becomes the grandmother of brahmA. 

10. SrI satyadevo vAsishTha does not support the interpretation that bhagavAn had an actual mixed body consisting of some aspects of man and some aspects of lion. Instead, he suggests that the nAma means that He took a normal form that possessed the best aspects such as the strength of a lion, and the best aspects of man such as the ability to think. We will not go into the merits of this interpretation. Only the interesting philosophical aspect that he brings out is dealt with here. He sees in this nAma the illustration that neither karma alone, nor j~nAna alone, are sufficient in the fulfillment of any undertaking, and that both are needed. He quotes from the Srtuti-s in support:
idam me brahma ca kshatram ca ubhe Sriyam aSnutAm (yajur. 32.16)

yatra brahma ca kshatram ca samya'ncou caratah saha |
tam lokam puNyam pra~jnesham yatra devAh sahagninA || (yajur. 20.25)

As a lesson to take from this nAma, SrI vAsishTha makes the point that whatever action one undertakes, this should be done after fully analyzing and understanding the consequences associated with this action. One can also extrapolate from this the thought that it is not enough to have the ability to use force, but also along with that, one should know how to use this force, when to use this force, etc., in order for the force to have beneficial effects.

11. svAmi deSikan describes the six rahasya-s associated with bhagavAn’s incarnations 
in his SaraNAgati dIpikA Slokam 17. All of these naturally apply to nArasimha vapuh also. These are:

- He takes many incarnations with different forms at will as needed – nAnA vidhaih. One of these is the nRsimha incarnation.

- The incarnations are all true forms that He assumes, and not just mAyA forms – a-kapaTaih.

- Every incarnation of His is fully endowed with His parattvam and all His kalyANa guNa-s in full, irrespective of the incarnation He takes – ajahat-svabhAvaih

- His forms in His incarnations are not made of pa’nca bhUta-s like ours, but His tirumEni in His incarnations is also made of Suddha-sattva, and so He is beyond the three guNa-s, sattva, rajas, and tamas – a-prAkRtaih

- The forms in His incarnations are takenas part of His leelA, and not as a result of any karma as in our case – nij-vihAra-siddhaih

- They are taken purely for the protection of His devotees and the destruction of their enemies – AtmIya rakshaNa vipaksha vinASanArthaih.

22.  srImAn

One with a lovely form.

In the context of the uncommon and frightful form of nara-simha that we encountered in the previous nAma, one would not normally expect this to be a form of beauty. Not so in the case of BhagavAn, since His form is celestial, charming and beautiful. It is difficult to translate the description that Sri Bhattar has given in Sanskrit - soundarya lAvaNyAdibhih ati-manohara divya rupa.

Sri Sankara interprets this name as One who has Lakshmi always with Him in His vaksha-sthala - yasya vakshasi nityam vasati srI: sa srImAn. And for this reason, even though He has the form of a man-lion, there is no diminution in His beauty.

23.  kesavah

One with lovely locks of hair.

The name can be derived from the word kesa - hair. He is beautiful not only because he has Lkashmi with Him, but because He is naturally beautiful. "prasastah kesAh santu asya iti kesavah.

An additional interpretation for this name, which is supported by VishNu purANa, is given by Sri Sankara. This interpretation says that kesava derives from the fact that KrishNa is the destroyer of the demon Kesi who was sent to kill the child KrishNa by Kamsa.

"yasmAt tvayaiva drshTAtmA hatah kesI janArdana: |
tasmAt kesava nAmnA tvam loke jneyo bhavishyati || "

However, the name kesi-hA appears later on in the stotra, and this literally means the destroyer of kesi. So a different interpretation here will be appropriate since otherwise there is the punarukti dosha, or the fault of repetition. In fact, the name kesava itself repeats later on in the stotra, and we will wait to see what interpretation the great vyAkhyAna kartAs are going to give us at that time (kesavah kesi-hA hari: ).

24.  purushottamah

The Supreme amongst the purushas (i.e., individualsouls).

Purushebhya: uttama:, purushANAm uttama:, purusheshu uttama: are all possible derivations for this nAma.

We find the uttama purusha (purushottama) described in more detail in the Gita in sloka 15.16 and 15.17. Here the purushas are described as of two kinds - the kshara or those who have the association with prakrti and are under the bondage of samasara, and the akshara or the muktas who are released from bondage. The uttama purursha is different from either of these kinds of purushas, and is the paramAtmA who supports the acetana and the chetans who are either the baddhas (purushas under bondage) or muktas (purushas released from bondage)..

In Gita 15-18, Lord Krishna summarizes the above as follows:

"yasmAt ksharam atIto'ham aksharAdapi cottama: |
ato'smi loke vede ca pratithah purushottama: ||

"Because I am superior to both kinds of purushas - the kshara and the akshara, all the srutis and smrtis praise Me as purushottama."