Vishnu Sahasranama


DHARMAKṚT {धर्मकृत्}

(1) He transcends both Dharma and Adharma, yet performs acts of Dharma and acts in accordance with Dharma – this he does to ensure that he sets the right example for people to follow. (2) He who performs several acts of Dharma-Rakṣaṇa. (3) In each of his avatāras he not only performs acts of Dharma but also acts in accordance with the rules of Dharma(Śaṅkara) (1) He who practices Dharma. (2) Dharma that is flawless and seamless, all-pervasive and all-inclusive cannot be obtained without Bhagavān’s benevolence and grace. (3) He who “induces” and encourages his devotees to follow the path of Dharma by setting an example himself.(Parāsara Battar) (1) Dharma in its simplest form, refers to the path we must take and walk in leading our lives – he who has established this Dharma and laid out the path for us to walk on, is Dharmakṛt. (2) Dharma has an additional connotation – the exclusive guṇa or special characteristic of an object, individual, or organ – the eye’s dharma is vision, the ears of hearing and so on – he who has established this Dharma and also the rules for each of these organs is Dharmakṛt.(Bannanje Govindācārya)

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri in his Tamizh commentary on the Viṣṇu Sahasranāma, says that this nāma is a reference to how Bhagavān demonstrates the practice of Dharma in each of his avatāras. When Bhagavān has transcended both Dharma and Adharma there is no need for him to practice it, but he still does it in order to set an example for the world to follow – we must learn from this and put it into practice in our lives as well. In fact, one of the objectives of his avatāras is to show how it is possible to lead a life of Dharma and not only practice it but be free of adharma. He cites the following verse from the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam in this context:

मर्त्यावतारस्त्विह मर्त्यशिक्षणं
रक्षोवधायैव न केवलं विभो: ।
कुतोऽन्यथा स्याद्रमत: स्व आत्मन:
सीताकृतानि व्यसनानीश्वरस्य ॥ ५ ॥

martyāvatāras tv iha martya-śikṣaṇaṁ
rakṣo-vadhāyaiva na kevalaṁ vibhoḥ
kuto ’nyathā syād ramataḥ sva ātmanaḥ
sītā-kṛtāni vyasanānīśvarasya

The deeper message that comes out of the above verse is as follows: While it is true that Śrī Rāmacandra came to earth to kill Rāvaṇa, that was not the only purpose. If the killing of Rāvaṇa was the only purpose, why should Śrī Rāmacandra go through all the troubles that he faced? Why the separation from Sītā? Why the exile to the forest? Wasn’t he Svayam Bhagavān Nārāyaṇa himself? He wanted to show to the world, what it means to be a Dharma Rāja, a Dharma Putra, and a Dharma-Rakṣaka. He also taught and continues to teach each one of us how to lead a life based on the path of Dharma and how there is more to life than only (the acquisition of) Artha and Kāma and that there is nothing greater than Dharma Gopana.

Bhagavān in the Bhagavad-gītā encapsulates the essence of this nāma through the following verses (chapter-3, verse 22 through 24):

न मे पार्थास्ति कर्तव्यं त्रिषु लोकेषु किञ्चन |
नानवाप्तमवाप्तव्यं वर्त एव च कर्मणि ||3-22||

na me pārthāsti kartavyaṁ triṣhu lokeṣhu kiñchana
nānavāptam avāptavyaṁ varta eva cha karmaṇi

[BG:3-22]: In all the three worlds, there is nothing that binds me (work that can be categorized as Dharma or Adharma). There is nothing for me to gain or attain but I am still engaged in performing work…

यदि ह्यहं न वर्तेयं जातु कर्मण्यतन्द्रित: |
मम वर्त्मानुवर्तन्ते मनुष्या: पार्थ सर्वश: ||3-23||

yadi hyahaṁ na varteyaṁ jātu karmaṇyatandritaḥ
mama vartmānuvartante manuṣhyāḥ pārtha sarvaśhaḥ

[BG:3-23]: If I pause even for a moment and discontinue the performance of action and/or the discharge of my duties, all around me the world (of order) would collapse and others would shun work taking me as an example…

उत्सीदेयुरिमे लोका न कुर्यां कर्म चेदहम् |
सङ्करस्य च कर्ता स्यामुपहन्यामिमा: प्रजा: ||3-24||

utsīdeyur ime lokā na kuryāṁ karma ched aham
sankarasya cha kartā syām upahanyām imāḥ prajāḥ

[BG:3-24]: If I were to give up work, all these worlds would perish and I would be responsible for the chaos and confusion that would result. I do not want to be the cause of this destruction…

Śaṅkara’s interpretation is straightforward: “Dharma maryādā sthāpanārtham dharmameva karoti iti Dharmakṛt” “He follows the path of Dharma in order to lay the path for others to follow and because of his great respect for the Dharma.”

Vishnu Sahasranama


DHARMAGUB {धर्मगुब}

(1) He who protects Dharma. (2) He safeguards Dharma “Dharmam Gopayati“. (3) He who incarnates in every age in order to establish Dharma – as Bhagavān himself confirms in the Bhagavad-gītā (BG-4.8).(Śaṅkara) (1) He is the protector of Dharma. (2) He confers Artha and Kāma but ensures that they are neither misused nor attained through adharmic means. (3) He confers Artha and Kāma on those who wisely follow the path of Dharma.(Parāsara Battar) (1) “Gup” derives from the word “Gopana” which means “to protect” – therefore, Nārāyaṇa who is Dharmagup, is the supreme protector of Dharma. (2) The essence of what Bhagavān says in the Bhagavad-gītā is encapsulated in this nāma.(Bannanje Govindācārya)

Śaṅkara’s interpretation is straightforward: “Dharmam Gopāyati Rakṣati iti Dharmagup

Bannanje Govindācārya in his Kannada commentary on the Viṣṇu Sahasranāma further clarifies that every avatāra of Bhagavān is for the purpose of Dharma-Gopana, i.e., Dharma-Rakṣaṇa. Furthermore, of his many avatāras, his avatāra as Vedavyāsa where he performed the great Dharma-Kārya of organizing and preserving the Veda-Vedānta, the 18 Maha Purānas, the Brahmasūtras and other Dharma-scriptures is one of the greatest acts of Dharma-Gopana – hence he is known as Dharmagub.

The following verse from the Bhagavad-gītā encapsulates the essence of this nāma and this verse is cited by all commentators – “whenever the balance tips precipitously and adharma seems to have not only gained an upper hand but has come to be the dominant force on earth, then he comes, to tip the scales and push the needle back to normal, restore balance, protect the pious and annihilate the wicked...”

यदा यदा हि धर्मस्य ग्लानिर्भवति भारत |
अभ्युत्थानमधर्मस्य तदात्मानं सृजाम्यहम् ||4-7||

yadā yadā hi dharmasya glānir bhavati bhārata
abhyutthānam adharmasya tadātmānaṁ sṛijāmyaham

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri in his Tamizh commentary on the Viṣṇu Sahasranāma, adds that Nārāyaṇa who is the repository of all Artha and Kāma, carefully ensures that he bestows these only to those whose conduct is aligned to the rules of Dharma. This is because Artha and Kāma devoid of Dharma become meaningless and are mere trinkets in the long arc of eternal life.

One could argue here, that some people get things that they don’t deserve or that wealth seems to be concentrated in the hands of a few or for that matter that some who seem to be clearly Asura-prakṛtis seem to be specially favored – one needs to examine what Bhagavān says about such people in Chapter-16 of the Bhagavad-gītā which deals with the “Daivāsura-Sampad-Vibhāga-Yoga“. While attainment at the material plane is not in itself bad, some people go to any extent to achieve this, deep down they are ravaged by the consequences of their actions. Acquisition through adharmic means may make one materially rich but emotionally and spiritually drained and empty:

चिन्तामपरिमेयां च प्रलयान्तामुपाश्रिता: |
कामोपभोगपरमा एतावदिति निश्चिता: ||16-11||

chintām aparimeyāṁ cha pralayāntām upāśhritāḥ
kāmopabhoga-paramā etāvad iti niśhchitāḥ

[BG:16-11]: Beset and ravaged by the desire for more, the thirst for innumerable things, engrossed in the enjoyment of all material things and assuming them (alone) to be real…

आशापाशशतैर्बद्धा: कामक्रोधपरायणा: |
ईहन्ते कामभोगार्थमन्यायेनार्थसञ्जयान् ||16-12||

āśhā-pāśha-śhatair baddhāḥ kāma-krodha-parāyaṇāḥ
īhante kāma-bhogārtham anyāyenārtha-sañchayān

[BG:16-11]: Bound by a hundred different shackles of desire, craving after all things, brimming with lust and overflowing with anger, they strive to amass a mountain of wealth, through means that are foul and for the sole purpose of fulfilling their lust…

Besides, when the greatest treasure is Viṣṇu himself, why focus on other treasures which are fleetingly ephemeral, seems to be the purport of this nāma and the associated commentaries

Sri Narasimhan Kṛṣṇamācāri in his multi-volume translation of the Viṣṇu Sahasranāma, points out that Dharma is not only at the level of the individual but also at the level of the collective. When the rulers of a nation or if a majority of the people in a country are Adharmis, then one should expect disease, famine, epidemics, floods and other such disasters. Dharma has the power to confer protection but for that Dharma has to be first practiced – by the rulers as well as the ruled.

The symbolism of Kṛṣṇa as Pārthasārathi in the battle of Kurukṣetra is significant – he is the one kṣetrajña at that kṣetra where the greatest Dharma warriors of the time had assembled to work out their Karma as well as Dharma – that is why he is Rathāṅgapāṇi – he who holds the wheel (of Dharma) in his pāṇi (hands) – this can be interpreted in two ways – seen as the wheel of Dharma, he who holds it in his hand, is the one who has come to establish (or re-establish) Dharma. Seen as the one who holds the reins of the Dharma-Ratha (the chariot of Dharma) in his hands, it is clear that victory and as a corollary Dharma will always be on the side where he stands. The Dharma-Ratha is also symbolic of our bodies which is also the kṣetra where our individual battles take place and it is in handing over the reins to the one knower of the kṣetra, that kṣetrajña, that we find ourselves and also are able to tread the path of Dharma.

Vishnu Sahasranama


DHANEŚVARAḤ {धनेश्वर:}

(1) He who is the supreme “Dhana-Īśvara” of all wealth, the repository of all Aiśvaryam – “Dhananām Īśvaraḥ iti Dhaneśvaraḥ(Śaṅkara) (1) He is the “quick” giver of wealth to his devotees based on what they desire and/or deserve.(Parāsara Battar) (1) Bhagavān is the repository of all wealth – he is the supreme master of all “Dhana-Sampath” – Aiśvarya-Sampath, Bhakti-Sampath, Jñāna-Sampath and so on. (2) He gives as well as takes away based on what he thinks his devotees deserve.(Bannanje Govindācārya)

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri in his Tamizh commentary on the Viṣṇu Sahasranāma, brings another perspective with regard to this nāma. He points to the verse in the Bhagavad-gītā where Bhagavān in describing his many vibhūtis says that among the wealth-givers, he manifests as Kubēra:

रुद्राणां शङ्करश्चास्मि वित्तेशो यक्षरक्षसाम् |[1]

Rudrāṇāṁ śhaṅkaraśh chāsmi vitteśho yakṣha-rakṣhasām

[BG:10-23]: vitta-īśhaḥ = Kubēra the celestial treasurer and the Deva of wealth

Two points to note here include:

  1. All manifestations are forms of the one supreme Nārāyaṇa
  2. All worship to whatsoever form of divinity/deity ultimately winds its way to the same supreme being, as this Śloka alludes to:

आकाशात् पतितं तोयं यथा गच्छति सागरम् ।
सर्वदेवनमस्कारः केशवं प्रति गच्छति ॥

ākāśāt patitaṃ toyaṃ yathā gacchati sāgaram |
sarvadevanamaskāraḥ keśavaṃ prati gacchati ||

Just as the raindrops that fall from the sky ultimately wind their way to the ocean (through rivers and other water bodies), so also does all worship to the various Devas, ultimately make their way to the one supreme Keśavaṃ

Bannanje Govindācārya in his Kannada commentary points out that wealth is not just money but includes Aiśvarya-Sampath, Bhakti-Sampath, Jñāna-Sampath and so on. He further points to Bhagavāns special līlā where he sometimes chooses to deprive some of his most favorite devotees of everything that they possess, strip them down to the bare bones, stripping them of all their riches and possessions and pushing them from one distress to another… This too is a form of “Dhanam” that he confers on his devotees. Unless they go though these distressing situations how will they remember him who is the greatest of all treasures?

He points to the following verse from the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam in this context:

यस्याहमनुगृह्णामि हरिष्ये तद्धनं शनै: ।
ततोऽधनं त्यजन्त्यस्य स्वजना दु:खदु:खितम् ॥ ८ ॥

śrī-bhagavān uvāca
yasyāham anugṛhṇāmi hariṣye tad-dhanaṁ śanaiḥ
tato ’dhanaṁ tyajanty asyasvajanā duḥkha-duḥkhitam

Yasya = That person/devotee; aham = I; anugṛhṇāmi = take a special liking to and want to help and bestow my anugraha/favor; hariṣye = I sweep away; tat = his/that person’s; dhanam = wealth; śanaiḥ = gradually and relentlessly; tataḥ = then; adhanam = poverty-stricken; tyajanti = abandon; asya = his; sva-janāḥ = abandoned by relatives and friends; duḥkha-duḥkhitam = suffering and moving from one distress to another.

This might seem cruel and heartless but the reality is that unless one is put through the wringer, human tendency is to continue to live in a state of inertia – unless they are knocked out of this state, very rarely do people make the effort to find if there is more to life than just eking out a living. If we are born only to die, then why be born at all, is a question that is not only essential but is also the first step in the quest of the overself that dwells beyond our own self.

Bannanje Govindācārya further goes on to add that everything is Bhagavāns Sankalpa. If he chooses to bestow material riches on us, good, if he chooses not to, or chooses to withdraw these riches, that is good to – because that is what he wants to bestow on you now and therefore, so be it. He points to how, Yudhiṣṭhira lost everything and became a destitute forest-dweller within a week of conquering the entire world after performing the  rājasūya yajñaa classic case of life flipping on the toss of a pair-of-dice.

Sri Narasimhan Kṛṣṇamācāri in his multi-volume translation of the Viṣṇu Sahasranāma, cites V.V. Rāmānujān‘s reference to the following verse from the Thiruvaimozhi 3.9.7:

சேரும் கொடைபுகழ் எல்லையிலானைஓ ராயிரம் பேரும் உடைய[4,5]

sErum kodai pugazh ellaiyilAnai OrAyiram pErum udaiya

Matchless and unparalleled is the stature and generosity of the one with a thousand names…

He also points to how Bhagavān changed the life of Sudāmā (Kuchela) in a moment through his generosity and love for his devotee.

Swami Chinmayananda Saraswati in his commentary says that Nārāyaṇa is Lakṣmīpati and therefore the master of all wealth and the greatest wealth he can bestow on us, is the wealth of mokṣa.

This nāma completes the 50th couplet of the Viṣṇu Sahasranāma containing 10 beads for a total of 475 nāmabeads till date in the garland of a 1,000 names…

Couplet# of Names
विश्वं विष्णुर्वषट्कारो भूतभव्यभवत्प्रभुः । भूतकृद्भूतभृद्भावो भूतात्मा भूतभावनः ॥ १॥09
पूतात्मा परमात्मा च मुक्तानां परमा गतिः । अव्ययः पुरुषः साक्षी क्षेत्रज्ञोऽक्षर एव च ॥ २॥08
योगो योगविदां नेता प्रधानपुरुषेश्वरः । नारसिंहवपुः श्रीमान् केशवः पुरुषोत्तमः ॥ ३॥07
सर्वः शर्वः शिवः स्थाणुर्भूतादिर्निधिरव्ययः । सम्भवो भावनो भर्ता प्रभवः प्रभुरीश्वरः ॥ ४॥12
स्वयम्भूः शम्भुरादित्यः पुष्कराक्षो महास्वनः । अनादिनिधनो धाता विधाता धातुरुत्तमः ॥ ५॥09
अप्रमेयो हृषीकेशः पद्मनाभोऽमरप्रभुः । विश्वकर्मा मनुस्त्वष्टा स्थविष्ठः स्थविरो ध्रुवः ॥ ६॥09
अग्राह्यः शाश्वतः कृष्णो लोहिताक्षः प्रतर्दनः । प्रभूतस्त्रिककुब्धाम पवित्रं मङ्गलं परम् ॥ ७॥09
ईशानः प्राणदः प्राणो ज्येष्ठः श्रेष्ठः प्रजापतिः । हिरण्यगर्भो भूगर्भो माधवो मधुसूदनः ॥ ८॥10
ईश्वरो विक्रमी धन्वी मेधावी विक्रमः क्रमः । अनुत्तमो दुराधर्षः कृतज्ञः कृतिरात्मवान् ॥ ९॥11
सुरेशः शरणं शर्म विश्वरेताः प्रजाभवः । अहः संवत्सरो व्यालः प्रत्ययः सर्वदर्शनः ॥ १०॥10
अजः सर्वेश्वरः सिद्धः सिद्धिः सर्वादिरच्युतः । वृषाकपिरमेयात्मा सर्वयोगविनिःसृतः ॥ ११॥09
वसुर्वसुमनाः सत्यः समात्माऽसम्मितः समः । अमोघः पुण्डरीकाक्षो वृषकर्मा वृषाकृतिः ॥ १२॥10
रुद्रो बहुशिरा बभ्रुर्विश्वयोनिः शुचिश्रवाः । अमृतः शाश्वतस्थाणुर्वरारोहो महातपाः ॥ १३॥09
सर्वगः सर्वविद्भानुर्विष्वक्सेनो जनार्दनः । वेदो वेदविदव्यङ्गो वेदाङ्गो वेदवित् कविः ॥ १४॥11
लोकाध्यक्षः सुराध्यक्षो धर्माध्यक्षः कृताकृतः । चतुरात्मा चतुर्व्यूहश्चतुर्दंष्ट्रश्चतुर्भुजः ॥ १५॥08
भ्राजिष्णुर्भोजनं भोक्ता सहिष्णुर्जगदादिजः । अनघो विजयो जेता विश्वयोनिः पुनर्वसुः ॥ १६॥10
उपेन्द्रो वामनः प्रांशुरमोघः शुचिरूर्जितः । अतीन्द्रः सङ्ग्रहः सर्गो धृतात्मा नियमो यमः12
वेद्यो वैद्यः सदायोगी वीरहा माधवो मधुः ।अतीन्द्रियो महामायो महोत्साहो महाबलः ॥ १८॥10
महाबुद्धिर्महावीर्यो महाशक्तिर्महाद्युतिः । अनिर्देश्यवपुः श्रीमानमेयात्मा महाद्रिधृक् ॥ १९॥08
महेष्वासो महीभर्ता श्रीनिवासः सतां गतिः । अनिरुद्धः सुरानन्दो गोविन्दो गोविदां पतिः ॥ २०॥08
मरीचिर्दमनो हंसः सुपर्णो भुजगोत्तमः । हिरण्यनाभः सुतपाः पद्मनाभः प्रजापतिः ॥ २१॥09
अमृत्युः सर्वदृक् सिंहः सन्धाता सन्धिमान् स्थिरः । अजो दुर्मर्षणः शास्ता विश्रुतात्मा सुरारिहा ॥ २२॥11
गुरुर्गुरुतमो धाम सत्यः सत्यपराक्रमः । निमिषोऽनिमिषः स्रग्वी वाचस्पतिरुदारधीः ॥ २३॥10
अग्रणीर्ग्रामणीः श्रीमान् न्यायो नेता समीरणः । सहस्रमूर्धा विश्वात्मा सहस्राक्षः सहस्रपात् ॥ २४॥10
आवर्तनो निवृत्तात्मा संवृतः सम्प्रमर्दनः । अहः संवर्तको वह्निरनिलो धरणीधरः ॥ २५॥8
सुप्रसादः प्रसन्नात्मा विश्वधृग्विश्वभुग्विभुः । सत्कर्ता सत्कृतः साधुर्जह्नुर्नारायणो नरः ॥ २६॥10
असङ्ख्येयोऽप्रमेयात्मा विशिष्टः शिष्टकृच्छुचिः । सिद्धार्थः सिद्धसङ्कल्पः सिद्धिदः सिद्धिसाधनः ॥ २७॥9
वृषाही वृषभो विष्णुर्वृषपर्वा वृषोदरः । वर्धनो वर्धमानश्च विविक्तः श्रुतिसागरः ॥ २८॥9
सुभुजो दुर्धरो वाग्मी महेन्द्रो वसुदो वसुः । नैकरूपो बृहद्रूपः शिपिविष्टः प्रकाशनः ॥ २९॥10
ओजस्तेजोद्युतिधरः प्रकाशात्मा प्रतापनः । ऋद्धः स्पष्टाक्षरो मन्त्रश्चन्द्रांशुर्भास्करद्युतिः ॥ ३०॥8
अमृतांशूद्भवो भानुः शशबिन्दुः सुरेश्वरः । औषधं जगतः सेतुः सत्यधर्मपराक्रमः ॥ ३१॥7
भूतभव्यभवन्नाथः पवनः पावनोऽनलः । कामहा कामकृत्कान्तः कामः कामप्रदः प्रभुः ॥ ३२॥10
युगादिकृद्युगावर्तो नैकमायो महाशनः । अदृश्यो व्यक्तरूपश्च सहस्रजिदनन्तजित् ॥ ३३॥8
इष्टोऽविशिष्टः शिष्टेष्टः शिखण्डी नहुषो वृषः । क्रोधहा क्रोधकृत्कर्ता विश्वबाहुर्महीधरः ॥ ३४॥10
अच्युतः प्रथितः प्राणः प्राणदो वासवानुजः । अपांनिधिरधिष्ठानमप्रमत्तः प्रतिष्ठितः ॥ ३५॥9
स्कन्दः स्कन्दधरो धुर्यो वरदो वायुवाहनः । वासुदेवो बृहद्भानुरादिदेवः पुरन्दरः ॥ ३६॥9
अशोकस्तारणस्तारः शूरः शौरिर्जनेश्वरः । अनुकूलः शतावर्तः पद्मी पद्मनिभेक्षणः ॥ ३७॥10
पद्मनाभोऽरविन्दाक्षः पद्मगर्भः शरीरभृत् । महर्द्धिरृद्धो वृद्धात्मा महाक्षो गरुडध्वजः ॥ ३८॥9
अतुलः शरभो भीमः समयज्ञो हविर्हरिः । सर्वलक्षणलक्षण्यो लक्ष्मीवान् समितिञ्जयः ॥ ३९॥8
विक्षरो रोहितो मार्गो हेतुर्दामोदरः सहः । महीधरो महाभागो वेगवानमिताशनः ॥ ४०॥10
उद्भवः क्षोभणो देवः श्रीगर्भः परमेश्वरः । करणं कारणं कर्ता विकर्ता गहनो गुहः ॥ ४१॥11
व्यवसायो व्यवस्थानः संस्थानः स्थानदो ध्रुवः । परर्द्धिः परमस्पष्टस्तुष्टः पुष्टः शुभेक्षणः ॥ ४२॥10
रामो विरामो विरजो मार्गो नेयो नयोऽनयः । (or विरामो विरतो) वीरः शक्तिमतां श्रेष्ठो धर्मो धर्मविदुत्तमः ॥ ४३॥11
वैकुण्ठः पुरुषः प्राणः प्राणदः प्रणवः पृथुः । हिरण्यगर्भः शत्रुघ्नो व्याप्तो वायुरधोक्षजः ॥ ४४॥11
ऋतुः सुदर्शनः कालः परमेष्ठी परिग्रहः । उग्रः संवत्सरो दक्षो विश्रामो विश्वदक्षिणः ॥ ४५॥10
विस्तारः स्थावरस्थाणुः प्रमाणं बीजमव्ययम् । अर्थोऽनर्थो महाकोशो महाभोगो महाधनः ॥ ४६॥9
अनिर्विण्णः स्थविष्ठोऽभूर्धर्मयूपो महामखः । नक्षत्रनेमिर्नक्षत्री क्षमः क्षामः समीहनः ॥ ४७॥10
यज्ञ इज्यो महेज्यश्च क्रतुः सत्रं सतां गतिः । सर्वदर्शी विमुक्तात्मा सर्वज्ञो ज्ञानमुत्तमम् ॥ ४८॥10
सुव्रतः सुमुखः सूक्ष्मः सुघोषः सुखदः सुहृत् । मनोहरो जितक्रोधो वीरबाहुर्विदारणः ॥ ४९॥10
स्वापनः स्ववशो व्यापी नैकात्मा नैककर्मकृत् । वत्सरो वत्सलो वत्सी रत्नगर्भो धनेश्वरः ॥ ५०॥10
Total Number of nāma475
Image for representative purpose only. Copyright belongs to original owner of image. Image source:
Vishnu Sahasranama


RATNAGARBHAḤ {रत्नगर्भ:}

(1) He who is in the form of the (mighty) ocean. (2) As the ocean holds in its depths, precious gems, it is so called (as Ratnagarbhaḥ) – and since Bhagavān has taken the form of the ocean, he is called Ratnagarbhaḥ.(Śaṅkara) (1) He who possesses abundant wealth (2) The conch and the discus are his symbols of Artha and Kāma -he gives these to those that desire/deserve it.(Parāsara Battar) (1) He who holds “Rati” in his womb. (2) Bhagavān is the ocean of happiness. This universe that we experience and enjoy is an expression of his supreme joy and “Rati” – hence he is Ratnagarbhaḥ. (3) This world is the greatest treasure that we are bestowed with – he who holds this treasure in his womb is called Ratnagarbhaḥ.(Bannanje Govindācārya)

All translations (with the exception of Bannanje Govindācārya), look at this nāma as either:

  1. He who possesses immense wealth (Aiśvarya) and is always willing to give it to those of his devotees who deserve it – Parāsara Battar takes this position.
  2. He who holds in his “womb” immeasurably precious gems – Śaṅkara takes this position – and in taking this position he points to the vastness of the limitless ocean which harbors within its unfathomable depths, rare jewels. Furthermore, he also says that the ocean is Bhagavān himself (he who has taken the form of the ocean).
  3. Bannanje Govindācārya of course brings in a whole new perspective, when he parses the nāma as “Rati” and Garba
    • Rati can also be seen as an expression of the supreme sexual union of Puruṣa and Prakṛti which is what is expressed as the supreme joy of Nārāyaṇa – this world that we enjoy and experience.

While we have all of these interpretations in front of us, it is also important for us to ask as to how we can relate to such nāmas at a practical and individual level – how do we make meaning of it and put it to use?

One way obviously is to look at a literal interpretation and the see the ocean and in fact the whole of the manifest nature as Bhagavān himself – as his mysterious and inimitable līlā – there is nothing wrong in this, to see the divinity in all things – it is from this that the uniquely Sanātanic element of Kṣētra and Kṣetrakṣetrajña derives – sacred geography and the “knower” of that sacredness – the “numinous-element” that is unique to a kṣētra – and then according that Kṣētra the place and reverence it deserves.

There are however other ways too to make meaning of this nāma:

Let us look at the previous nāma in this particular thread – Vatsīḥ. We can trace the nāma-beads further back as well – in this particular thread as well as to several other nāmas in the the garland of a thousand nāmas – the pattern in the arrangement will reveal itself to us – that is in fact the architecture of the Viṣṇu Sahasranāma.

However, for now, let us look at the previous nāma alone “Vatsīḥ” – he who is the loving parent to all beings in the universe, he cares for each being just as a cow cares for its youngest newborn calf – when we see this nāma in conjunction with the present nāma Ratnagarbhaḥ, we could make the connection that this nāma refers to he who nurses in his womb, children who have the potential to realize their own divinity and how they are a part of him who is the supreme all-pervading being of the entire universe.

Perhaps, it is this that Swami Vivekananda means when he says, “Each soul is potentially divine. The goal is to manifest this divinity…” In the pristine state of existence, in the womb of the universal being, each ātman holds within itself the potential to unravel the mystery of eternal life – that “secret” is the “Ratna” (gem) which one needs to find for oneself.

Another way of making meaning for ourselves and relating this nāma to our lives is to see the deep, unfathomable ocean as a reflection of our own inner being – its depth as unfathomable and mysterious as the ocean itself – isn’t it true that the microcosm is a reflection of the macrocosm and vice versa? Therefore, this nāma tells us that in order to find ourselves, we need to delve deep into our own being, turning our gaze inward and plunging into the ocean within – there, in that Hṛdayaguha (the heart-cave) dwells the spark of the eternal being – Nārāyaṇa.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri in his Tamizh commentary on the Viṣṇu Sahasranāma, makes several comparisons – Just as the ocean protects precious gems in the depths of its being, as the gems secreted in the nodes of the bamboo shoot, as the mānickyam (Nāgamaṇi), stored in the hood of the snake, so also does Bhagavān protect within his womb, those that are dear to him. Bhagavān is also eager to confer the greatest riches on those who deserve it and approach him as the sole refuge – he who is the supreme master of all Aiśvaryam.

Sri Narasimhan Kṛṣṇamācāri in his multi-volume translation of the Viṣṇu Sahasranāma, cites V.V. Rāmānujān‘s reference to the following verse from the Thiruvaimozhi: “வைத்த மாநிதி யாம்மது சூதனை யேயலற்றி”[1]Madhusūdana is like the treasure that has been placed as a deposit in safekeeping – one can draw from it when in need.

And, Bhagavān himself says in the Bhagavad-gītā, he is the ocean among the waterbodies “सरसामस्मि सागर:[2]

Thus he comes to be known as Ratnagarbhaḥ.

Vishnu Sahasranama


VATSĪ {वत्सी:}

(1) He who is the protector of calves is known as Vatsīḥ – this Vātsalya-guna of Nārāyaṇa makes him Vatsīḥ. (2) He who protects those who are dear to him and seek him out as their only refuge. (3) Being the “father” of all the world’s he holds everything in the universe as dear to him – surrounded as he is by those who are dear to him, his children (Vatsas).(Śaṅkara) (1) He who possesses such loving children. (2) Innumerable are the children he has to tend to.(Parāsara Battar) (1) He who is father to innumerable children, starting with Brahma. (2) He who is father to Brahma and Vāyu(Bannanje Govindācārya)

This nāma flows from the earlier nāmas in this string which speak of him as the Parama-Bhakta-Vatsalaḥ and the Vatsaraḥ. Here, he is called the supreme-father of all beings in the universe – across time and the continuum of past-present-future…

In the fourth chapter of the Bhagavad-gītā, Bhagavān says that it is he (at the beginning of each cycle of creation) who transmitted the immortal, imperishable and eternal knowledge (of the Vedas) to Vivasvān (Sūrya) who in turn taught it to Manu and who then transmitted it to the line of the Ikṣvākus

श्रीभगवानुवाच |
इमं विवस्वते योगं प्रोक्तवानहमव्ययम् |
विवस्वान्मनवे प्राह मनुरिक्ष्वाकवेऽब्रवीत् ||4-1||

śhrī bhagavān uvācha
imaṁ vivasvate yogaṁ proktavān aham avyayam
vivasvān manave prāha manur ikṣhvākave ’bravīt

[BG:4-1]: It is I who taught this imperishable Yoga to Vivasvān who then taught it to Manu, who in turn transmitted it to the line of Ikṣvākus.

The reference to Sūrya, and then Manu, specifically Vaivasvata-Manu who represents the current creative-cycle (starting with Svāyambhuva Manu) is as clear an indicator as any, that Bhagavān is the one anādiavyayam who predates everything and everyone who is there – before, at, during, and after each creation-destruction cycle.

Arjuna, still does not get it and asks Kṛṣṇa how this could be possible – isn’t Vivasvān (Sūrya) much older than this “friend” standing before him here in the battlefield of Kurukṣetra? That was the question in Arjuna’s mind:

अर्जुन उवाच |
अपरं भवतो जन्म परं जन्म विवस्वत: |
कथमेतद्विजानीयां त्वमादौ प्रोक्तवानिति ||4-4||

arjuna uvācha
aparaṁ bhavato janma paraṁ janma vivasvataḥ
katham etad vijānīyāṁ tvam ādau proktavān iti

[BG:4-4]: Your birth is recent. Vivasvān however is the ancient one, much much older to you. I don’t quite understand how to make sense of this (apparent contradiction). How can I get to grips with what you are saying – that you instructed Vivasvān at the beginning of everything?

Bhagavān then makes one of those statements that makes one realize why the gītā is called Bhagavad-gītā – the supreme song of God himself:

श्रीभगवानुवाच |
बहूनि मे व्यतीतानि जन्मानि तव चार्जुन |
तान्यहं वेद सर्वाणि न त्वं वेत्थ परन्तप ||4-5||

śhrī bhagavān uvācha
bahūni me vyatītāni janmāni tava chārjuna
tānyahaṁ veda sarvāṇi na tvaṁ vettha parantapa

[BG:4-5]: Many lives of mine have passed as also yours… The one difference between you and me is this – I know them all (every single birth and lifetime). You have forgotten them…

This is the reason he is Vatsīḥ – the father to innumerable children. The very first verse in the Puruṣasūkta must also be seen in this context – he who thinks and cognizes through a thousand heads, sees through a thousand eyes and acts though the medium of a thousand limbs – here, thousand is synonymous with innumerable/countless:

सहस्रशीर्षा पुरुषः सहस्राक्षः सहस्रपात ।
स भूमिँ सर्वतः स्पृत्वाऽत्चतिष्ठद्यशाङ्गुलम् ।।1।।

sa̠hasra̍śīr​ṣā̠ puru̍ṣaḥ । sa̠ha̠srā̠kṣa-ssa̠hasra̍pāt
sa bhūmi̍ṃ vi̠śvatō̍ vṛ̠tvā । atya̍tiṣṭhaddaśāṅgu̠lam

And, not only does he cognize, see, and act though a thousand heads, eyes, and limbs he has also pervaded and circumambulated the entire universe and still extends beyond it by a 10-finger span. This reference to the 10-finger span can also be seen as a reference to the Hṛdayaguha (the heart-cave), the place of the in-dwelling Antaryāmin – when one places the two palms one on top of the other at the region of the nābhi (the navel), the 10th āṅgu̠lam (finger) touches the region of the heart where Nārāyaṇa dwells – the center of our being and a spark of the eternal…

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri in his Tamizh commentary on the Viṣṇu Sahasranāma, speaks of that Gōpāḷa of Vṛndāvana who protected and is the protector of the calves. He also points to how Bhagavān treats every single living being as his own child…

Vishnu Sahasranama


VATSALAḤ {वत्सल:}

(1) He who loves his devotees dearly. (2) He is the epitome of accection and compassion.(Śaṅkara) (1) He who is the affectionate one.(Parāsara Battar) (1) He who is compassionate, affectionate and showers his devotees with love and runs to their aid when they need him.(Bannanje Govindācārya)

Shri Bannanje Govindācārya in his Kannada translation of the Viṣṇu Sahasranāma, says Vatsalaḥ here should be seen as Nārāyaṇa being the Bhaktavatsalaḥ. He comes running to his Bhakta every time he slips and falls, or calls out to him when in difficulty. He does not send his emissary or someone else to help his devotee. He himself comes to his devotee’s rescue – that is why he is Parama-Bhakta-Vatsalaḥ.

When Gajendra, the king of the elephants was exhausted in his terrible fight with the crocodile, all he could do was to pluck a lotus from the marshy waters under his feet and hold it up as an offering to Nārāyaṇa – that is all he could do – but that was enough. Viṣṇu immediately arrived there riding on Garuḍa to save his devotee. When Prahlāda declared that there was no place in the universe that is not animated by the presence of Viṣṇu and Hiraṇyakaśipu disdainfully smashed the iron pillar, asking if this Viṣṇu would be in that pillar, he came out as the fierce and fearsome Narasiṃha sending shivers down the spine of Hiraṇyakaśipu as well as all the inhabitants of the three worlds. The same Narasiṃha who seemed uncontrollable and poised to consume the whole world (even after tearing Hiraṇyakaśipu to pieces), calmed down and placed the young Prahlāda on his thighs – such is his affection to those who come onto his Śaraṇ.

Parāsara Battar in his commentary adds that this nāma not only speaks of Nārāyaṇa’s affectionate nature towards his devotees who have sought refuge in him, but also speaks of those qualities that define Nārāyaṇa and his avatāras where he has repeatedly demonstrated this quality again and again. He cites the words of Sītā-Devi to Rāvaṇa which can be seen as an advise as well as a warning:

Vihitaḥ sa hi Dharmajña Śaraṇāgat-Vatsalaḥ

It is well known that Ś Rāma is known for one supreme virtue – he is very affectionate to those who have come into his benevolent protection and surrendered to him as their one refuge…

Over the course of the Rāmāyaṇa we come across several instances of Ś Rāma’s affection and love towards those who sought his refuge – In this context, Sri Narasimhan Kṛṣṇamācāri in his multi-volume translation of the Viṣṇu Sahasranāma, cites V.V. Rāmānujān and points to the instances SugrīvaŚaraṇāgati, Vibhīṣaṇa-Śaraṇāgati and how Ś Rāma treated them with great affection and regard and helped them at all times.

From among all those Ś Rāma treated with great affection and love, he reserved a very special place for Hanumān. This is because of the supreme nature of Hanumān’s Bhakti towards Ś Rāma – to Hanumān, Ś Rāma gave himself over completely – this is what is symbolized by the episode of Hanumān tearing open his chest to reveal Ś Rāma seated therein – the supreme Bhakta and the supreme Bhagavān had so identified themselves with each other that the one was inseparable from the other.

This divine union of the Bhakta and his Iṣṭa is revealed in the following answer that Hanumān gives to Ś Rāma’s question: O Hanumān! How do you look upon me? Hanumān‘s answer takes one’s breath away and makes the hairs stand on end:

When my consciousness rests in my body, I see you as my master and I as your servant. When, my consciousness reveals to me that I am the ātman housed in this body, then I see myself as an Aṃśa of your own divinity. When my consciousness merges in my ātman and sees the truth of who I actually am, then you are me and I am you…

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri in his Tamizh commentary on the Viṣṇu Sahasranāma says that the affection and love that Viṣṇu has for his devotees is like the love and affection that a cow has for her youngest calf. He further adds that those who practice Prapatti or Śaraṇāgati at the feet of Nārāyaṇa, never lose their way.

This reference to a cow and its calf is interesting and if we were to reflect on this, we would find how this is relevant. Let’s examine the following verse from the Bhagavad-gītā Dhyana-Śloka, where the upaniṣads are called the milk-giving cows and Sri Kṛṣṇa is the one of milks their essence, and who does he offer this milk to? To Arjuna, who is referred to as the calf (the favorite calf) and then of course all pure-minded people also partake of this nectarine milk – as calves do from their mother-cow – personified here in the form of Kṛṣṇa. This desire to give to his devotees is a special quality of Nārāyaṇa that is revealed to us though this nāmaVatsalaḥ

सर्वोपनिषदो गावो दोग्धा गोपालनन्दनः
पार्थो वत्सः सुधीर्भोक्ता दुग्धं गीतामृतं महत्

sarvopaniṣado gāvo dogdhā gopālanandanaḥ
pārtho vatsaḥ sudhīrbhoktā dugdhaṃ gītāmṛtaṃ mahat

Again in verse-15 of chapter-15, Bhagavān indicates that he himself is the author of the Vedanta besides being the one who is to be known through the Vedas – he, who dwells within the hearts of all beings. Now, connect the previous verse and this and we see that in the former, the upaniṣads are compared to milk-giving cows and in the verse below, Bhagavān says he is the author of the Vedānta, i.e., upaniṣads which means he himself is the milk-giving cow as well as the one of milks the essence for the sake of his Bhakta and that is why he is the ParamaVatsalaḥ

सर्वस्य चाहं हृदि सन्निविष्टो
मत्त: स्मृतिर्ज्ञानमपोहनं च |
वेदैश्च सर्वैरहमेव वेद्यो
वेदान्तकृद्वेदविदेव चाहम् || 15||

sarvasya chāhaṁ hṛidi sanniviṣhṭo
mattaḥ smṛitir jñānam apohanaṁ cha
vedaiśh cha sarvair aham eva vedyo
vedānta-kṛid veda-vid eva chāham

Seated in the heart-cave of all living beings, I am the inner controller of each person’s memory, consciousness, knowledge – both, the source and giver (of these) as well as he who withdraws these… I alone am to be known by all the Vedas – I, who am the author of the Vedānta, and the knower of the Vedas…

Vishnu Sahasranama


VATSARAḤ {वत्सर:}

(1) He in/within whom everything/everyone dwells. (2) Everything resides here (Vasati atra akhilam) – hence Vatsaraḥ.(Śaṅkara) (1) He who resides in all beings. (2) He is the embodiment of Dharma – the Dharmātma who resides within each being and bestows the fruits of their actions – the arbiter who decides what is just and what each person deserves.(Parāsara Battar)

Shri Bannanje Govindācārya in his Kannada translation of the Viṣṇu Sahasranāma provides two additional interpretations over and above the ones mentioned above:

  1. Vatsara = Varsha or Saṃvatsara – referring to a year. The year is a finite unit of time, however, seen as Kāla it is the infinite-continuum. Caturmukha (चतुर्मुख), i.e., Brahma holds sway over Kāla. Nārāyaṇa, resides within Brahma as well (and is also the progenitor of Brahma) – as the master of Kāla and transcending even Kāla as the eternal one – therefore he is Vatsaraḥ.
  2. Seen as Vasat + Ra this nāma could be seen as a reference to any individual who conducts himself (according to the rules of Dharma) in the deep and settled knowledge that within his heart dwells the master of the universe – to such people, Nārāyaṇa provides supreme Paramānanda (परमानन्द) – bliss supreme…

Swami Chinmayananda (English translation) provides another interpretation where he speaks of how this nāma is a reference to he who is the very epitome of endless time and infinite space- both at once. He further adds that one could look at this nāma as Vatsa + Ra where Vatsa is a reference to the young calves of Vṛndāvana so dear to Sri Kṛṣṇa – therefore this nāma points to him who protected the cows and calves of the Gopas – he who freed from the clutches of Indra, all the calves that had been stolen and handed them back to the Gopas.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri in his Tamizh commentary on the Viṣṇu Sahasranāma speaks of three aspects of Viṣṇu that are covered under this nāma:

  1. He is the substratum and the basis for the entire universe – everything rests on and abides in him.
  2. As the supreme master of Dharma, he decides what is the most suitable/appropriate Dharma for each individual – For this to work, i.e., for people to realize what their true Dharma is, they have to turn inward towards that in-dwelling  Antaryāmin who knows everything
  3. As the supreme master of Kāla, he dwells within each till the time their present journey ends, even as he lives on as the eternal Paramātman pervading and interpenetrating everything in the universe.

While, there seem to be several interpretations of this nāma, the common thread that connects these several interpretations is that, Viṣṇu is the all-pervasive being, who also interpenetrates and enters into everyone and everything and dwells therein as the Antaryāmin – the in-dweller, observer, the eternal witness and the arbiter – in turning to him, we turn a new leaf in our lives – a life guided by him who is the knower of all things – past, present, future. He is also the moral compass that guides us and helps us choose the path that is aligned with Dharma.

One is reminded of the following quote attributed to the author-philosopher Fyodor Dostoevsky (from “The Brothers Karamazov”): Without God, all things are permitted. Without a Dharmic-compass, without an acknowledgement that deep within, at our very core we are all divine beings couched in the material of our bodies, there would be little reason for us to be good and walk on the path of Dharma. Purpose, priorities, goals, objectives and all other so called mundane pursuits that inform and occupy our day-to-day lives, would be meaningless if each one of these is not aligned to the Dharmic compass within

This is the inherent purpose of the Viṣṇu Sahasranāma which through the medium of its thousand names, reveals to ourselves the core of our own being and the divinity that dwells therein – who is the arbiter of Kāla (Time) Krama (Order) and Karma.

Vishnu Sahasranama


NAIKAKARMAKṚT {नैककर्मकृत्}

(1) He who engages in innumerable activities for the sake of Lokakṣema. (2) He who performs the three key actions of Utpatti (creation), Sampatti (sustenance), and Vipatti (Destruction).(Śaṅkara) (1) He who performs diverse acts. (2) He who was instrumental in and helped in the performance of many acts like the churning of the ocean – supporting Mandāra mountain, overcoming the enemies of the Devas, distributing amṛta (nectar) and so on – therefore he comes to be known as Naikakarmakṛt.(Parāsara Battar)

Parāsara Battar’s interpretation continues to flow and derive from the Samudra Manthan (churning of the ocean of milk), which in itself is an allegory for the churning that must happen within each one of us, in order for us to be able to discard all that is unnecessary to spiritual progress and focus on the amṛta (nectar) – the realization of  Nārāyaṇa within.

Śaṅkara sees this nāma as an extension of the previous two nāmas where Viṣṇu is the all-pervading being, Vyāpīḥ and since he is all-pervading and interpenetrates everything and everyone, he is the Ekātma that has become the Anekātma, Naikātma – and since he is the “one” that has become the “many” all actions performed by anyone flow from him.

Furthermore, he is constantly involved in action – ceaselessly performing and overseeing the actions of Utpatti (creation), Sampatti (sustenance), and Vipatti (Destruction) in a world of constant flux and eternal churn.

As Bhagavān says in the Bhagavad-gītā (Chapter-3, Verse-24):

उत्सीदेयुरिमे लोका न कुर्यां कर्म चेदहम् |
सङ्करस्य च कर्ता स्यामुपहन्यामिमा: प्रजा: ||3-24||

utsīdeyur ime lokā na kuryāṁ karma ched aham
sankarasya cha kartā syām upahanyām imāḥ prajāḥ

[BG:3-24]: This entire Universe would perish if I stopped working even for a moment and/or discharging prescribed duties. I would be responsible for the pandemonium that will come in its wake… (and therefore I work… ceaselessly)

Shri Bannanje Govindācārya in his Kannada translation of the Viṣṇu Sahasranāma says the following (in the context of this nāma): there are so many processes and activities happening within each one of us – an entire world, a microcosm exists within each one of us that works constantly and functions on its own to keep us alive and animated. It is Nārāyaṇa who keeps all of this functioning – when you reflect on this, we realize how much we take the multitude of processes working with clockwork precision within us, for granted. We think of these processes only when something goes wrong, else we don’t pause to reflect on the sheer magic of life not just in the world outside but within each one of us as well.

An understanding of this aspect also clarifies, why the injunctions on food, its quality, quantity, source etc. are all given so much importance in our Dharma – we are feeding the Pañcabhūtas through the Pañcavāyu who in turn derive their existence from Nārāyaṇa who is the in-dweller, the observing-witness, as well as the conscience-keeper, intricately intertwined with the doer but still apart…

Another example that we can easily relate to is the affirmations that are made before starting a pūja. The following verse from the Uttara Gītā (4-27) is a verse that is quoted before starting the pūja. It is an affirmation that the body is the temple and the divinity that is housed within it, is a spark of the eternal being:

Deho devalaya: prokto jivo deva sanatana

A variation of this verse can also be found in the Maitreyi Upaniṣad where Mahādeva himself states the following:

स होवाच महादेवः ॥
देहो देवालयः प्रोक्तः स जीवः केवलः शिवः ।
त्यजेदज्ञाननिर्माल्यं सोऽहम्भावेन पूजयेत् ॥ १॥

sa hovAcha mahAdevaH ||
deho devAlayaH proktaH sa jIvaH kevalaH shivaH |
tyajedaj~nAnanirmAlyaM so.ahambhAvena pUjayet ||1||

Therefore it flows, from the above verse as as well as from this nāma, that all work that we do is for him, all work we do is dedicated to him, and all work we do is (knowingly or unknowingly) directed towards realizing him who is the director of all and of all things.

Shri Narasimhan Kṛṣṇamācāri in supporting Parāsara Battar’s interpretation of this nāma in his multi-volume translation of the Viṣṇu Sahasranāma, cites V.V. Rāmānujān‘s reference to the following pāsuram (verse-5.10.10) from the Thiruvaimozhi:

kUdi nIraik kadaindha ARum amudham dhEvar uNNa asurarai
vIdum vaNNangaLE seydhu pOna viththagamum

This is a reference again to the churning of the ocean of milk.

You were instrumental in motivating the Surās and Asurās to take up the churning of the ocean. You urged Vāsuki to become the rope and Mandāra to become the churning rod (nIrai = making arrangement such as mortar, rope…). When the amṛta (nectar) rose to the top, you assumed the form of Mohinī and offered it to the Surās while driving away the Asurās” There is an important lesson here. Both the Surās and Asurās worked together but only the Surās received the amṛta – it is not enough to do work, it is critical to be sure that the work you do is within the bounds of Dharma.

He also refers to the following verse from the nAnmugan thiruvandhAdhi-49:

malaiyAmaimEl vaiththu vAsugiyaichchuRRi thalaiyAmai thAnoru kai paRRi alaiyAmal pIRak kadaindha perumAL…[3]

Taking the Mandāra mountain and placing it on himself (in the form of Kūrma), using Vāsuki as the rope that Perumal helped churn the ocean of milk. This he did in order to protect those who lacked the strength to go through with the difficult job of churning of the ocean…

As we rush around in our own little world, we perhaps need to stop to ponder at the sheer magic and magnificence of all that happens on a daily basis and in pondering over it, remember him who is behind it all and comes to be known as Naikakarmakṛt.

Vishnu Sahasranama


NAIKĀTMĀḤ {नैकात्म}

(1) He who manifests in and across various forms. (2) He is the “One” who expresses himself as the “many“. (3) He who appears as the manifest universe and all that is contained therein.(Śaṅkara) (4) He who is the one consciousness that expresses itself as the creator, sustainer, and destroyer in order to maintain the cosmic order and the eternal play of the universe. (5) He who is the ViṣṇuTattva that has become the trinity. (6) He who manifests in different forms as the subsidiary deities and agencies that are responsible for the various cosmic processes.(Interpretations from various sources, based on Śaṅkara) (1) He who assumes diverse forms. (2) He who assumed diverse forms during the Samudra Manthan (churning of the ocean of milk).(Parāsara Battar)

Parāsara Battar’s interpretation comes from the episode of the churning of the ocean of milk where Viṣṇu assumed many forms to help the Surās and Asurās in the churning – as Kūrma (Tortoise), to support Mandāra mountain, as Mohinī while distributing amṛta (nectar) and so on.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri in his Tamizh commentary on the Viṣṇu Sahasranāma, which is primarily based on Śaṅkara-Bhāṣya, cites the verse below from the Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad which speaks of that beginning-less and endless supreme being, who remains centered in the midst of universal chaos and has taken the multiple forms that we see in the world around us:

From Swami Tyagisananda’s translation, published by the Sri Ramakrishna Math, Mylapore, Madras, 1949

Pandit Satyadev Vasishta in his commentary on the Viṣṇu Sahasranāma, quotes from the Yajur Veda in the context of this nāma (verse: 32-1):

तदेवाग्निस्तदादित्यस्तद्वायुस्तदु चन्द्रमाः । तदेव शुक्रन्तद्ब्रह्म ताऽआपः स प्रजापतिः ॥[2]

तत्। एव। अग्निः। तत्। आदित्यः। तत्। वायुः। तत्। ऊँ इत्यूँ। चन्द्रमाः॥ तत्। एव। शुक्रम्। तत्। ब्रह्म। ताः। आपः। सः। प्रजापतिरिति प्रजाऽपतिः॥१॥

That supreme being, is the very same being who is, and is within, (and the cause of) everything: Agni, Āditya, Vāyu, Chandra, Śukra, Brahma, water, the Prajapati and the Praja

and the  Ṛgveda (verse: 8.98.11)

त्वं हि न॑: पि॒ता व॑सो॒ त्वं मा॒ता श॑तक्रतो ब॒भूवि॑थ । अधा॑ ते सु॒म्नमी॑महे ॥
tvaṃ hi naḥ pitā vaso tvam mātā śatakrato babhūvitha | adhā te sumnam īmahe ||[3]

You are my father, and mother, Indra… favor me with your benevolence – that, I seek and beg of you…

This nāma flows from the previous nāma where Viṣṇu is the all-pervading being, Vyāpīḥ. Because he is all-pervading and interpenetrates everything and everyone, he is the Ekātma that has become the Anekātma – the unitary-essence that has also become the all-pervading essence of all essences – the one that has become the many.

Vishnu Sahasranama


VYĀPĪḤ {व्यापी:}

(1) He who interpenetrates everything – like Ākāśa (filling all spaces and pervading everything). (2) He who is omnipresent and the material cause of everything and causal substance of all things (in the universe)- the eternal one.(Śaṅkara) (1) He who is the “pervader” – the one who pervades everything and everyone. (2) When the ocean was being churned, it was he who pervaded the Devās, Asurās, Vāsuki, and Mandāra mountain, rejuvenating and infusing them with the strength and energy to complete the great churning.(Parāsara Battar)

Ākāśavat Sarvagataś ca nitya” – “like Ākāśa the omnipresent and eternal one pervades and interpenetrates everything…” – this is how Śaṅkara interprets this nāma. Nārāyaṇa is he who is everywhere, within and without – there is nothing that is not suffused and imbued with his essence, because he is the essence of everything and the essence of all essences.

From the above, flows the following:

That which cannot be perceived (by and through the normal senses), that which cannot be seen and/or grasped (as in understood) through the use of the normal faculties available to us, beginning-less and endless, the substratum of all and the thread that connects everything with everything else in this universe – such a being is he who is known as Vyāpīḥ – he who envelops everything as well as interpenetrates everything – he is an integral and inseparable part of everything in the universe.

Sri Radhakrishna Shastri in his Tamizh commentary on the Viṣṇu Sahasranāma, cites the following verse from the Muṇḍaka Upaniṣad in the context of this nāma:

यत्तदद्रेश्यमग्राह्यमगोत्रमवर्णमचक्षुःश्रोत्रं तदपाणिपादम् ।
नित्यं विभुं सर्वगतं सुसूक्ष्मं तदव्ययं यद्भूतयोनिं परिपश्यन्ति धीराः ॥ ६ ॥

yattadadreśyamagrāhyamagotramavarṇamacakṣuḥśrotraṃ tadapāṇipādam |
nityaṃ vibhuṃ sarvagataṃ susūkṣmaṃ tadavyayaṃ yadbhūtayoniṃ paripaśyanti dhīrāḥ || 1.1.6 ||

Imperceptible and unperceivable, that which cannot be grasped, beginning-less and endless, eternal, un-decaying, all-pervading, subtler than the subtlest, the “yoni” of all Bhūtās, i.e. the source and resting-place of all beings, devoid of all properties, without sense organs or hands and feet…

He further cites the Atharvaśikhā Upaniṣad and the Kaṭhopaniṣad in the context of this nāma (highlighted portions in the image below):

He who envelops, covers, interpenetrates, suffuses and imbues everything with his essence is that puruṣa – the in-dweller within all beings.

Shri Narasimhan Kṛṣṇamācāri in his multi-volume translation of the Viṣṇu Sahasranāma, cites V.V. Rāmānujān‘s reference to the following pāsuram verse from the Thiruvaimozhi:

பரந்த தண் பரவை யுள் நீர் தொறும் பரந்துளன்
பரந்த அண்டம் இது என நில விசும்பு ஒழிவு அறக்
கரந்த சில் இடம் தொறும் இடம் திகழ் பொருள் தொறும்
கரந்து எங்கும் பரந்துளன் இவை உண்ட கரனே

parandha thaN paravai uL nIr thoRum parandhuLan
parandha aNdam idhu ena nila visumbu ozhivu aRak
karandha sil idam thoRum idam thigazh poruL thoRum
karandhu engum parandhuLan ivai uNda karanE

Here, “parandha-paravai” is a reference to the wide ocean. In that widespread and expansive ocean of limitless creation, in the singular mass of water, as well as in every drop, in that cosmic egg, limitless and beginning-less, endless, in the earth and in the sky and in every particle, in the minutest of substances, subtler than the subtlest, imperceptible and invisible (to the normal senses),dwells that self-effulgent one…

And that self-effulgent one is referred to here as Vyāpīḥ.