He of infinite knowledge.
Om mahA-buddhaye namah.
SrI Bhattar points out that He is mahA-buddhi because His knowledge does not depend on His sense organs or any external help. He sees and hears and senses all at the same time with any of His organs or with no need for any of the organs. This is supported by several passages from the sruti-s - viSvataScakshuruta viSvatomukhah - He has eyes on all sides and faces on all sides (taittirIya nArAyaNa upanishad 1.12); paSyat_yacakshuh sa SRNoti akarNah - He sees without eyes and hears without ears (SvetASva 3.19); sarvato'kshi Siromukham - He has everywhere eyes, heads, and mouths (gItA 13.13). We also have the venerable AcArya nAthamuni's words - yo vetti yagapat sarvam pratyaksheNa sadA svatah - Who sees directly by perception and of His own accord all things simultaneously (nyAyatatva).
The dhAtu word from which the name is derived is budh ~jnAne to know, to understand. BhagavAn is the buddhi behind the functioning of all His creations, and so He is the mahA-buddhi. SrI satyadevo vAsishTha points out that the behavior of many objects such as even the shedding of the leaves by the trees during the winter months and the regeneration during the summer months etc., is indicative of knowledge that He has invested in them. The establishment of the stars and planets in their respective positions and orbits is a totally different dimension of the same mahA-buddhi of the Lord. The magic of creation of the multitude of beings and their being held together as a functional entity is beyond the knowledge of anyone else but Him. The author also points out cases such as a "lajjAvanti" plant which survives and grows only if a woman waters the plant, and dies if a man pours the water to the plant, which are all examples of the wonders of the ~jnAna that is the mahA-buddhi.
In a publication titled dharma cakram published by SrI rAmakRshNa tapovanam in India, a writer has given the additional example of a crow's behavior when threatened by an enemy as an illustration of the knowledge that He has invested in His creations. When a crow is chased by a small child, it just displays minimal effort to get away. If a grown-up person chases it with a stick, it takes just a little bit more effort to run. If a person with a gun appears, the crow will be nowhere to be seen. Who but the mahA-buddhi could have given the crow this level of buddhi, which in addition gets transmitted from parent to offspring in an unending chain?
SrI rAdhAkRshNa Sastri points out that buddhi is the most important of the four antah:karaNa-s. buddhi chooses between the options provided by the manas, taking into account the pictures of previous experiences provided by the cittam, before the ahamkAram takes over and executes the action. If the buddhi makes a poor choice, then it becomes alpa-buddhi; if the buddhi always chooses noble choices, then it is the mahA-buddhi.
He of great virility.
Om mahA-vIryAya namah.
He is mahA-vIrya because He remains unchanged unlike everything else which changes with time (e.g., milk changing to curd). It is but a tiny fraction of this quality of His that is reflected in the fact that that the Yogins are of steady mind and do not get distracted. Just as flowers give out their fragrance to all their surroundings with no effort on their part, bhagavAn performs all His acts with no effort on His part, and this is an indication of His vIrya.
SrI chinmayAnanda points out that vIrya is the essence of all dynamism or creative urges, and He is mahA-vIrya because He is the driving force from whom alone all the dynamism for creation can manifest.
SrI rAdhAkRshNa Sastri explains that vIryam is the quality of achieving one's objective no matter how difficult it is. bhagavAn's first accomplishment, the creation of this Universe from the prakRti or primordial matter, is a result of His vIrya.
In the vyAkhyAna in dharma cakram it is pointed out that one with the vIrya or creative energy should also be one who has complete control of the indriya-s in order for this creative energy to be beneficial to evreryone else. From this point, the Lord is the only one who can be called the mahA-vIrya.
Of immense power.
Om mahA-Saktaye namah.
SrI Bhattar points out that this nAma emphasizes that bhagavAn is not just the sentient cause of this world, but is also the material cause of this world; i.e., He is not only the brain behind the creation, but He is also the one whose immense power caused the physical creation of this world from the prakRti. SrI Bhattar indicates that this is unlike the view held by the pasupata school that holds that Isvara is only the sentient cause and not the material cause. He points out that the constant change going on in pradhAna or primordial matter, milk, curd, etc., every moment, is but the result of a small fraction of this Sakti of bhagavAn. Unfortunately I am unfamiliar with the details of the point made here about the pasupata school of thought , and would like to invite additional comments/elaborations from the readers.
The word can be derived from Sak - marshane to endure, to be able, or Sak Saktau to be able, to endure, to be powerful. Thus SrI satyadevo vAsishTha interprets the meaning to be similar to be mahA-bala, mahotsAhah etc. SrI Sankara interprets Sakti as sAmarthyam or skill, and Sri chinamayAnanda follows up on this and indicates that He is mahA-Sakti because He is the cause of the interplay of the three Sakti-s, the kriyA Sakti or the power-of-action, the kAma-Sakti or the power-of-desire, and the ~jnAna Sakti or the power-of-knowledge, which in turn is the cause of this Universe.
As pointed out under the previous nAma, He uses the mighty power for the good of the world, and every instance of this Might should remind us of Him.
He of great splendor.
Om mahA-dyutaye namah.
The derivation of this nAma is from the dhAtu dyuta dIptau to shine. dyotate iti dyutih - One who is shining is dyutih, dyotayitA vA dyutih - One who makes things shine is dyutih. SrI satyadevo vAsishTha gives the following yajurvedic mantras to support the point that all that shines in this world is because of His effulgence -
yaste divi sUrye mahimA sambabhUva|
SrI Bhattar explains that this nAma indicates that bhagavAn neither depends on nor needs any external help for any of His actions, and the great splendor (tejas) in His appearance reveals this. This tejas is capable of removing both the outer and the inner darkness in us. The tejas of the Sun and the shining of the precious jewels are but a tiny part of the tejas of the Lord. This tejas of the Lord is so pleasing to His devotees, and so frightening to His enemies (we may recall the description of the nAma nArasimha-vapu earlier, where we emphasized the same point about the nRsimha avatAram).
The sruti references that support this are:
The dharma cakram writer points out that those who worship the Lord are automatically blessed by the Lord with a part of this dyuti (The face is the index of the mind - agattin azhagu mugattil teriyum is the Tamil saying).
SrI rAdhAkRshNa Sastri points out that there are 43 nAmas in sahasranAmam that start with mahA. Of these, the above six nAmas refer to bhagavAn's qualities of overlordship, strength, knowledge, virility, power, and effulgence. The combination of these six guNas is what makes bhagavAn the mahA-mAya or the One who performs the wonderful acts which are His sport.
The six great qualities of bhagavAn that have been referred to in the previous nAma-s 173-178 are also referenced in many sruti-s: (173 - mahotsAhah 174 - mahA-balah 175 - mahA-buddhih 176 - mahA-vIryah 177 - mahA-Saktih 178 - mahA-dyutih )
parA asya Saktih vividhaiva SrUyate svabhAvikI ~jnAna bala kriyA ca (SvetAsvatara U. 6-8) -
~jnAna Sakti bala aiSvarya vIrya tejAmsi aSeshatah |
The word bhagaVan is associated with the six superior qualities of knowledge, strength, lordship or non-dependence on anything else, virility, power, and effulgence, with no association whatever with any negative connotations.
tejo bala aiSvarya mahA avabodha suvIrya SaktyAdi guNaika rASih| (vishNu purANam 6-5-85)
The Lord is the abode for good qualities such as tejas, balam, aiSvaryam, great knowledge, abudant vIrya, Sakti etc.
He who possesses an indescribable body.
Om anirdeSya-vapushe namah.
Something that can be described as this or that, or can be pointed to as this or that, is nirdeSa - idam tat ityAdi rUpeNa vi~jnApanam, ~jnApyasya prakASanam vA nirdeSah. AnirdeSa is something that cannot be described as above. vapu means SarIra or body. vapu also can be derived from the dhAtu vap - bIjasantAne chedane ca - to sow, to scatter, etc. SrI satyadevo vAsishTha uses this latter approach and gives a meaning for anirdeSyavapu as One who cannot be easily described and who is the sower of the seed for this Universe. He indicates that the word bAp, bApu etc., - father in Hindi is derived from a colloquial derivative of vapu.
All beings who have a body as we know it have the body which is formed from the panca-bhuta-s, mahat and ahamkAram. BhagavAn's body is different - it is formed from the six maha-guNa-s that we just learned about. He becomes whatever He wants to become. He is pure effulgence, pure knowledge, pure power, pure lordship incarnate, etc. In vishNu purANa, we have "rUpa varNAdi nirdeSa viSeshaNa vivarjitah - Regarding His form, color, etc., there is nothing that can be compared to them" - (1.2.10). SrI rAdhAkRshNa Sastri remarks in his commentary that the mahA-guNas cannot be visualized by the meager knowledge that we possess, and it is only by the inner experience that He can be realized.
SrI chinmayAnanda points out that He is the knowledge through which we can describe everything else, but He himself cannot be described. (Just as the eye can see others, but the eye cannot be used to see itself).
Possessed of beauty.
Om SrImate namah.
This nAma occurred earlier as nAma 22, and will re-occur as nAma 222 later. NAma 22 occurred succeeding the nAma nArasimha-vapuh, which was nAma 21, and was interpreted in that context (viz., the nRsimha incarnation was of exceptional beauty). The nAmas immediately preceding nAma 222 are interpreted by SrI Sankara and SrI Bhattar in the context of the matsya -avatAra, and so they interpret nAma 222 as referring to the beauty of the matsya-avatAra. For the current nAma, since this immediately succeeds the description of the body of the Lord (anirdeSya vapu), they interpret this in this context, and give the meaning that here it refers to the enormously beautiful ornaments that decorate the body of bhagavAn (SrI Bhattar), or they refer to the beauty associated with the six great qualities (SrI Sankara). Note that even though the same nAma, SrImAn, occurs three times, both SrI Sankara and SrI Bhattar interpret them differently each time depending on the context.
SrImAn also refers to Sriyah pati, or the Lord of Sri or mahA-lakshmi. BhagavAn's beauty is natural to Him because He has SrI in his vaksha-sthala. The dharma-cakram author inteprets this nAma to mean that the prakRti and purusha are inseparable, just as SrI and the Lord are inseparable, and are part of the same para-brahmam.
SrI satyadevo vAsishTha gives the root as "Sri -sevAyAm" - One who is fit to be served. SrI also means SobhA or beauty or "kAnti". He points out that the beauty that is seen all around us in the trees, the birds, the rivers, the flowers, the Sun, the Moon, the stars, etc., should remind us constantly of bhagavAn, the SrImAn whose SrI is shining in everything. SrI also means wealth. The wealth that humans have is transient, and can disappear any time. BhagavAn is SrImaAn whose wealth is nitya or permanent.
He of an incomprehensible nature.
Om ameyAtmane namah.
SrI Bhattar explains that based on the diverse qualities which are in abudance as described in the previous nAma-s, He is ameyAtmA.
SrI Sankara interprets the meaning of AtmA here as buddhi or intelligence, and He is ameyAtmA because He has remarkable intelligence which is beyond measure.
SrI satyadevo vAsishTha starts from the root or dhAtu from which this nAma is derived - mA mAne to measure, to compare with. MAtum arhah meyah; na mAtum arhah ameyah. Here AtmA refers to the svarUpam. Since He in the inner soul of everything, it is not possible to describe Him from outside, just as an ocean cannot be precisely defined when you are in the middle of the ocean.
The bearer of the great mountain.
Om mahAdri-dhRte namah.
There are two instances of bhagavAn bearing the mountain. One was the instance of bearing the mandara mountain during the time of churning of the Milk Ocean, when bhagavAn appeared in the form of the Great Tortoise to bear the churning stick (which was the mandara mountain) on His back. The other is the instance when Lord KRshNa bore the govardhana mountain in gokulam to protect the cows.
SrI chinamayAnanda points out that bhagavAn also supports the mind-intellect of the sAdhaka while he is churning, through SravaNa (study) and manana (reflection), his own milk-like pure heart of devotion in order to gain the amRtam of immortality.
Some versions of sahasranAmam have this nAmam as mahAdridhRk instead of mahAdri-dhRt. Sri rAdhAkRshNa Sastri points out the difference between the two as follows: mahAdri-dhRk - One who is capable of bearing a huge mountain (mahAdraye didhRshNoti); mahAdri-dhRt - One who bears a huge mountain (mahAdrim dharati). My knowledge of samskRt grammar is not good enough to explain this distinction clearly. I would request anyone who can explain the difference between the two versions based on etymological considerations to contribute to clarifying this difference in meaning.