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Skambha Sukta – A Srivaishnava Commentary (Part 2)

(Continued from previous article)
yó bhūtáṃ ca bhávyaṃ ca sárvaṃ yáś cādhitíṣṭhati
sv àryásya ca kévalaṃ tásmai jyeṣṭhā́ya bráhmaṇe námaḥ 1
Meaning: He who is (pervades) that which was and that which will be (as well as that which is), who is also the ruler of all (as he is their inner self), of whom alone is the everlasting enjoyment or the supreme abode (that is to be attained by all), Salutations to that One who is the eldest and the inner controller of sentients and insentients.
This is similar to “bhUtam yac ca bhavyam ca sarvE lOkaH pratishtithaH” which occurred earlier – As everything is pervaded by him, the entire  universe containing the worlds associated with the three times of past, present and future is established in him, ie, he is the innerself of all. SubalOpanishad says “eSa sarvabhUtAntarAtma apahatapApma divyO deva ekO nArAyaNa:”.
“svaH” refers to his nature of being the enjoyment for all owing to his auspicious attributes. Alternatively, it also refers to the supreme abode that belong to him.
“jyEsthAya” – One who created Brahma, hence is older than even Brahma and therefore is the eldest. This establishes his Isvaratvam.
brahmaNE – The term “Brahman” refers to sentients and insentient, ie, AtmA and prakrti. Since he is the inner controller of both, he is designated by their name, and hence he is Brahman. This shows that he is the inner controller.
skambhénemé víṣṭabhite dyáuś ca bhū́miś ca tiṣṭhataḥ
skambhá idáṃ sárvam ātmanvád yát prāṇán nimiṣác ca yát 2
By Skambha (the support of the two vibhUtIs) alone, srI vaikunta and prakrti mandalam are supported  and also established. Skambha (the support of existence) is all this world (skaMbhaH +idam)having as its self that which breathes and that which blinks (ie, the living beings or sentients).
“skambhaneme” – refers to the fact that he alone (nema) is the self-dependent one by whom the nitya and leela vibhUtIs are supported as his body and also exist (established) only because he is their indweller.
The world, which includes both samsAra mandalam and paramapadam, is said to have as its self the living beings – baddhas, muktas and nityas. This is because the world exists on account of being filled by these living beings and serving as their object of enjoyment, otherwise it wouldn’t exist. Hence, the living beings are collectively the self of the existing world.
Skambha is the inner controller of the supreme abode as well as the material world that has the living beings as its self, and also the inner controller of the living beings, by virtue of having everything as his body.
tisró ha prajā́ atyāyám āyan ny ànyā́ arkám abhíto 'viśanta
br̥hán ha tasthau rájaso vimā́no hárito háriṇīr ā́ viveśa 3
Going beyond (atyAyam), the three guNas which are the offspring (prajA) of the evolutes of prakrti, (the individual self) attains it (the supreme abode). Into those other than or different to the supreme abode, ie, the gross forms (anyA), entered (avishanta), the paramAtma (as the inner self of the bound selves) known by the name “arka” from all sides, ie, in all directions (abhitaH). The great one , paramAtma, (brham) indeed (ha) remained unchanged (tasthau) despite being the indweller of the bound selves in gross forms. From (as a consequence of) “rajas” or the quality of passion, the bound self without a dwelling (vimAna), that is golden or associated with desire (haritaH) entered (Avivesha) the gross forms which are golden as they enable experience of the objects of desire (hariNIH).
The previous rk described the two abodes, nitya and leela vibhUtis as supported by Skambha. This rk talks about how these two abodes are attained.
The liberated jIva transcends the three guNas – sattva, rajas, tamasand attains the supreme abode which is suddha sattvam.  In contrast, those still in samsAra enter gross forms within the Universe, which are different to the nitya vibhUti which is suddha sattva, as they are made of guNa trayi.
Here, the rk says, “paramAtma known as arka, entered the gross forms from all sides”. The meaning is that, paramAtma, as the inner self of the bound selves, entered the gross forms. It is the individual selves who are entering the gross forms and by virtue of sAmAnAdhikaraNyam and sharIrAtma bhAva, the paramAtma who is their indweller and who has them as his body is said to enter these forms.
“arka” – paramAtma is food as he sustains the jIvAs and jagat as indweller. Without him, they do not exist. Despite being the indweller and having the gross forms as his body, he is still the great one(brhan)  and remains unchanged.
“vimAna haritaH” – “vimAna” means devoid of an abode or dwelling. The transmigrating self is always changing bodies and is said to be without a permanent dwelling. “haritaH” (yellow/golden) signifies association with desire.
“harinIH” – Entry into gross bodies allow experience of the objects of desire. Hence, these gross forms are said to be yellow/golden.
dvā́daśa pradháyaś cakrám ékaṃ trī́ṇi nábhyāni ká u tác ciketa
tátrā́hatās trī́ṇi śatā́ni śaṅkávaḥ ṣaṣṭíś ca khī́lā ávicācalā yé 4
Meaning: One is the wheel, twelve segmented, with three naves, who has understood it? In that is fixed the three hundred spokes and sixty pins which are not subject to destruction, ie, exists eternally.
Time is the wheel. The twelve segments are the twelve months and the three naves are the three seasons – vasanta, grishma and sarad. Only these three seasons out of the 6 are suitable for sacrifice and hence they have been mentioned. The puruSa sUkta – 6 (vasanto asyAsI-dAjyam | grIshma idhma Saraddhavi:) too alludes that the puruSa yajna was performed in these three seasons.
The three hundred days are the spokes and to that 60 days (pins) are added to make the samvatsara or year. This time is not subject to creation or destruction (avivAcAlaH); it is a dravya and eternally exists as elucidated by srI vedAnta desikan in tattva mukta kalApa.
“Who has understood Kala?” Ie, Time is responsible for all the changes in the world – this is said by mahAbali to Indra in the mahAbhArata. Azhwar also says “oru nAyagamAi oda ulagudan Andavar” – over time, riches are lost and gained, the high become low and vice-versa. The idea is that samsAra operates within the realm of time and all baddhas are controlled by time.
Sriman nArAyaNa is the inner controller of kAla as he has kAla as his body.
idáṃ savitar ví jānīhi ṣáḍ yamā́ éka ekajáḥ
tásmin hāpitvám icchante yá eṣām éka ekajáḥ 5
Meaning: Know this, O Savitr (the individual self that is the prompter of the intellect). Six are the rulers which are the indriyAs. One is the mind, that is solitary or the chief (one of its kind). Whosoever is that solitary mind, with that indeed is friendship desired by all.
“Savitr” – he who stirs or prompts our “dhIya:” or dormant jnAnEndrIyas is Savitr. This normally refers to paramAtma, but here one can say that “Savitr” here refers to the individual self that also prompts or directs its intellect in the secondary sense.
The mind is the chief of the senses. As the Gita says, the mind can be our friend aiding us to meditate on Brahman, or our enemy in swaying us to the objects of attachment that lead to samsAra. Hence, friendship with the mind is desired.
āvíḥ sán níhitaṃ gúhā járan nā́ma mahát padám
tátredáṃ sárvam ā́rpitam éjat prāṇát prátiṣṭhitam 6
Meaning:  (The akshara puruSa is) directly realised by the yogins, very near as it is moving in the heart, well known as  inscrutable, it is the supreme object of attainment. On it are fixed all the beings that move, that breathe and that do not blink.
This mantra occurs in a modified form in the mundakOpanishad and is a description of the akshara puruSa. “AviH” refers to being directly intuited by yogis. This is because it is “sannihitam”, ie, present in the cave of the heart. It is well known as that which is very difficult to be known.
“ejat” signifies the waking state. “prANat” signifies the beings that breathe – this also includes the state of deep sleep which is conveyed more clearly by the mundakOpanishad mantra which says “nimishath”. The idea is that all living beings in different states are fixed on this akshara puruSa.
ékacakraṃ vartata ékanemi sahásrākṣaraṃ prá puró ní paścā
ardhéna víśvaṃ bhúvanaṃ jajā́na yád asyārdháṃ kvà tád babhūva 7
Meaning: The supremely Independent, abides as the (inner controller of) thewheel of time, the innumerable jivAs designated as “akshara”, prior to that which is ancient (the individual self) and entering that which comes later (the created Universe). By one part (it is) fully connected with the worlds that are born (as inseparable attributes). That other part of his (puruSa), where does it remain?
Ekachakram” – He is the matchless, unrivalled and the supreme master of all who is independent.
“ekanemi” – “nemi” refers to the rims of a wheel. “EkaH” means that which is the chief or which is alone. This refers to akhanda kAla or time which is the chief as it is infinite (vibhu), the primary substance (dravya) which undergoes modifications in the form of days, weeks, hours, etc, which is alone not subject to creation and dissolution unlike prakrti and jivAs, which neither has a beginning or an end and which holds the entirety of samsAra under its sway.
This wheel of time is nothing but avidya or ignorance according to the following pramAna quoted by Bhattar under the nAma “kAlanemi nihA” in the sahasranAma:
avidyAkhyA ca yA nemih kAlacakrasya durdharA   |sA mayIyam samASritya vigraham vidhunoti ca   ||
“avidyA (Ignorance) is an irresistible folly of the wheel of Time;  when it comes to me (vishNu), it loses its form”.  
“sahasrAksharam” – refers to the infinite (sahasra) jivAs which are imperishable (akshara). The idea is that bhagavAn is the inner controller of both the wheel of time, which is the ignorance of samsAra and the jivAs.
“pra purO” – “pra” denotes the quality of being prior to or superior. “pura” refers to the ancient jivAtma which has no beginning.
“ni paSca” – He also enters (ni) the universe which comes later (paSca). Ie, he, as the self of the individual jives and having them as his body thus enters via the medium of the jivAs as they fill up the Universe of names and forms.
The next part of the mantra only echoes the puruSa sUkta rk - pAdo 'sya vishvA bhUtAni, tripAdasyAmRtam divi. This was explained earlier.
Here, the mantra splits the puruSa into two halves or portions (ardha). One portion or ardha includes “pAdo 'sya vishvA bhUtAni” and the other portion includes “tripAdasyAmRtam divi”. Since one part is the leela vibhUti and the other three parts are located in nitya vibhUti, the latter three parts are grouped as one on the basis of their location and function being the same to get two parts in total. This interpretation is necessary to avoid conflict with the puruSA sUkta.
pañcavāhī́ vahatyágram eṣāṃ práṣṭayo yuktā́ anusáṃvahanti
áyātam asya dadr̥śé ná yātáṃ páraṃ nédīyó 'varaṃ dávīyaḥ 8
Meaning: The mind that bears or possesses the five senses of knowledge (panchavAhI), proceeds (vahati) in front (agram) as it guides the senses. The tanmAtrAs that exist by the side of those (the senses), who are connected to the experiences of sense objects (yuktA), together with the senses (anusam), go towards (vahanti) the mind (in obedience). Of this mind in control of the senses (asya), that (quality) of not being situated in experience of sense objects (ayAtam) is perceived (dadrsE).The supreme goal(paraM) is very near or attainable (nedIyaH) to that (mind) situated in the individual self (yAtam). It (that supreme goal) is not that which is inferior or the lowest goal, viz., experience of the objects of enjoyment (avaram) and that which is distant or unattainable, viz., the experience of the individual self (davIyaH).
The mind leads the five senses of knowledge. The five senses are the basis for the functions of the senses which are the tanmAtrAs, that allow experience of the objects of enjoyment. The five senses and tanmAtrAs always go towards the mind in that they are obedient to the latter.
such a mind, which can control the senses, experience of sense objects and the pleasure/pain arising from them is not perceived. “yAta” means “situated”. “ayAta” – “not situated in experience of sense objects”.
It is not enough for the mind to be merely detached from sense objects. The mind should also be situated (yAtam) in meditation on the essential nature of the individual self as being subordinate to Brahman. For such a mind which is detached from sense objects (ayAta) and situated in the individual self (yAtam), the supreme goal (param) is near.
This supreme goal is nothing but experience of the auspicious attributes of Brahman. This goal is different to that which is the inferior goal which include the loukika puruSarthas like svarga, etc designated as “avaram” or inferior. This supreme goal is also not the goal of experiencing the bliss of the individual self which is distant or difficult to attain (alternatively, the experience of the individual self is “distant” because it is distant to or against the essential nature of the self which is subservience to Brahman).
tiryágbilaś camasá ūrdhvábudhnas tásmin yáśo níhitaṃ viśvárūpam
tád āsata ŕ̥ṣayaḥ saptá sākáṃ yé asyá gopā́ maható babhūvúḥ 9
Meaning: There is a bowl that has its opening below and it bulges at the top. Various kinds of glory (or yaSas) have been put in it.The seven sages sit by its side along with (the organ of speech) who have become the protectors of the veda.
The BrihadAraNyaka Upanishad 2-2-3 explains this curious mantra which is related to mukhyaprANa. The bowl with the opening below and which bulges at the top is the head. This is because the mouth is below of the form of an opening and hence is called “tiryagbilas” and the skull above. The various glories kept in it refers to the prANas. “viSvarUpam nihitam” refers to the prANas with different functions like prana, apana and others.  It is said to be “viSvarUpam” or manifold on account of different functions. This air spreads like yaSas.
The seven organs of the head (two nostrils, the two eyes, the two ears and the mouth) are described metaphorically as the seven sages seated by it. The word “sAkam” denotes that these organs are present together along with the organ of speech which communicates with the Vedas. Although the organ of speech is counted as the seventh among the seven sages in the form of eating food, the word “sAkam” also signifies that it is counted as the eighth in a different form, ie, in the form of reciting the vedas.
The word “mahat” refers to the Vedas and these organs along with the organ of speech that communicates with the vedas and the mouth which has union with the vedic recitation are hence described as the protectors of the vedas.
yā́ purástād yujyáte yā́ ca paścā́d yā́ viśváto yujyáte yā́ ca sarvátaḥ
yáyā yajñáḥ prā́ṅ tāyáte tā́ṃ tvā pr̥chāmi katamā́ sā́ r̥cā́m 10
Meaning: That which is prior or ancient (para-vAsudevA), possessed of all auspicious attributes (yujyatE), and that which also comes later(vyUha) that is present in everything by virtue of being associated with everything as its body (antaryAmin), that which also has numerous forms (archa), That which proceeds as sacrifice, ie, acts for the benefit of devotees (vibhava), protects by being in front –which of those, I ask you, is the foremost of those worshippable forms?
The meaning should be clear. These are the various forms of paramAtma – para, vyUha,vibhava, antaryAmin and archa. The superior form is indeed archa, the form in temples and houses owing to its excessive simplicity and ease of accessibility. “sarvataH” – he is present in numerous archa avatAra forms.
prAn tAyatE – he stands in front and protects. The quality of being in front is a reference to the praNava where bhagavAn is the “akAra” (akArasya viSnoH) and in front of the jivA which is “makAra”. In the paramArtha stUti, srI vedAnta desikan says” abhirakshithum agratha: sTitham ThvAM PraNavE PaarTaraTE cha bhAvayantha:” – He is the akAra in praNava which signifies sarva rakshagatvam, and he also sat in the front portion of Arjuna’s chariot.
Feminine gender for “yA” etc. is applicable since it qualifies the word “devatA” as in “yA devatA” “yayA devatayA” etc.
Protection is the primary purpose of assuming these 5 forms. Which of these forms is the best? It is the form in temples, which is the answer given in the following mantra.
yád éjati pátati yác ca tíṣṭhati prāṇád áprāṇan nimiṣác ca yád bhúvat
tád dādhāra pr̥thivī́ṃ viśvárūpaṃ tát saṃbhū́ya bhavaty ékam evá 11
Meaning: That (form of his) which moves (towards his devotees), that (form of his) which descends (patati) to a level so low that is easily accessible for his devotees,that which is also dependent (on his devotees), that which breathes (ie, lives by the services of his devotees), and does not breath (exist) without the devotees (aprAnan), he who exists with closed eyes, ie, devoid of grace (towards the enemies of his devotees). That (form of) Brahman protects by supporting the (baddhas residing in) samsAra mandalam (prthivIm) by his form which is full with all auspicious attributes (viSvarUpam), that despite becoming connected with a body is alone the unique One, matchless in all respects.
This mantra gives the answer to the previous mantra. The greatness of the archa avatAra is described here. It is the form in temples.
This form is assumed only for the sake of his devotees, so it is said he moves towards them (in love) with that form. He, who is independent, unconquerable and not understood by the vedas, forsakes his lofty position and descends to a level whereby all his devotees can see him, unlike other forms which are only accessible to the liberated, or to the devas. In this form, he who is independent actually depends on his devotees for his existence as they feed him, bathe, dress him, etc.
He feels very grateful and truly “alive” only when he receives these services. He, despite his independence and supremacy, cannot exist in this form without these devotees, as he is helpless without them.
This archa form cannot be understood by the ignorant who may think he is made of prakrti and mock his devotees. Thus to these type of asurAs, he, in the archa form, exists as “nimiSa”, a name occurring in the sahasranAma - na Ikshate iti nimishah – his graceful eyes do not fall on those opposed to his devotees.
His helplessness does not mean he has reduced his greatness in anyway. It is not helplessness brought on by karma or inadequacy, but by his own supreme will to mingle with his devotees. This is reiterated by the mantra saying that the very form of sriman nArAyaNa in temples and houses is the supporter of all those in samsAra, since they cannot exist without partaking of his form characterised by auspicious attributes, signified by “viSvarUpam”.
Though he assumes a body for the sake of his devotees and descends to samsAra, he is still “ekaH” – the supreme Brahman whose svarUpa-rUpa-guNa-vibhUti are matchless and unrivalled, being aprAkrta in nature. “eva” is to emphasize he alone always remains that way, unchanged, despite all the attributes he exhibits in the archa avatAra form.
(Hope this convinces readers to develop more affinity to visiting temples rather than wasting time reading the purAnAs or the shAstra. We go through the shAstra on the blog as a necessity, not particularly because it’s desirable. tIrtha yAtra >>> shAstra always).
anantáṃ vítataṃ purutrā́nantám ántavac cā sámante
té nākapāláś carati vicinván vidvā́n bhūtám utá bhávyam asya 12
Meaning: The infinite (not limited by time, space or object), who is spread out or who covers or surrounds the three worlds as the inner controller (vitatam), and who is the protector of srI vaikunta (nAkapAlaH), moves about as the indweller (carati), separating in the form of various gross forms (vicinvan purutrA) the two entities that have the same paramAtma as the source or cause (samAntE) – the sentient self that is eternal or endless in existence (anantam) and the insentient prakrti which is has an end or is perishable (antavat), knowing (vidvAn) the past and future as well as the present (bhUtam uta bhavyam) of this Universe (asya)
The previous rk described his archa forms as helpless. This rk clarifies that despite his exhibition of helplessness , he is still supreme by nature. The quality that makes him supreme is his infiniteness.
Why does he have infinite forms? To delight his devotees. Why does he have infinite power? Again, to protect and satisfy the wishes of his devotees. Why does he have infinite wealth? To gift away all this wealth to his devotees. The kaushitaki Upanishad records the conversation between sriman nArAyaNa and the liberated jivA in srI vaikunta, where bhagavAn says, “whatever victory is mine, is yours”. So, his wealth too exists only for his devotees.
Since he pervades all, he knows all beings in the past, present and future. This also makes him our natural protector.
He is the one who divided the collective of bound selves and prakrti from subtle state into gross forms. These two entities are his body and he is the inner controller. As such, he knows them all.
prajā́patiś carati gárbhe antár ádr̥śyamāno bahudhā́ ví jāyate
ardhéna víśvaṃ bhúvanaṃ jajā́na yád asyārdháṃ katamáḥ sá ketúḥ 13
Meaning: Sriman nArAyaNa, the lord of all entities sentient and insentient, moves within the cave of the hearts of all as the inner controller. Whose auspicious form is of the nature of being unperceivable by sense organs like the eye and others, he is born many-wise on account of his divine will. By one part (he is) fully connected with the worlds that are born (as inseparable attributes). Where is the other part of his (puruSa), which is foremost and of bright appearance?
This is a variant of the puruSa sUkta rk and fits nicely in the context of the previous mantras. BhagavAn is prajApati as he is the lord of all. The rk “ajAyamAno bahudha vijAyatE” appears in a modified form here as “adrsyamAno bahudha vijAyatE”.
“adrsyamAno” – his form is of the nature of not being grasped by sense organs. To this, a pUrvapakSa may be raised that it is fully possible to see his forms in the vibhava and archa states with the eyes, but this is dispelled by saying that while the auspicious form is visible in vibhava and archAvatArAs, the aprAkrtatva or non material nature is not cognized by the sense organs.
The last part of the mantra occurred earlier in the sUkta (part 1) and was already explained. “ketu” refers to bright appearance of the nitya vibhUti.
ūrdhváṃ bhárantam udakáṃ kumbhénevodahāryàm
páśyanti sárve cákṣuṣā ná sárve mánasā viduḥ 14
Meaning: All perceive with eyes (pashyanti sarve cakShusA) but not all know him with their mind (na sarvE manasA viduH), that Being which rises (above all changes), bearing the Universe made of subtle elements designated as “water” (urdhvaM bharantam udakaM), like a water carrier carries a pot (kumbhena iva udahAryam).
That paramAtma who has assumed the forms in temples as well as the other forms can thus be seen by all, from the lowest being to the highest. However, not all understand or meditate on him as paramAtma and hence they mock his avatArAs or consider him as another living being (avajananti mam mudha ~ Gita)
Those who do mock him, do not realize that even in such avatArAs, he has risen above all changes, ie, he is unaffected by changes despite exhibiting such traits during his leelas.
He bears the Universe just as a water carrier bears a pot of water. Just as the water in the pot does not make contact with the water carrier, the changes happening in the Universe do not affect him despite him having the Universe as his body.
(Note: The above analogy is only intended to illustrate that Brahman is unaffected by the changes of the Universe, but it must not be stretched to mean he is not the material cause, since the example of clay becoming clay pots, etc is given elsewhere to highlight material causality as well. Brahman is the operative, efficient and material cause of the Universe).
dūré pūrṇéna vasati dūrá ūnéna hīyate
mahád yakṣáṃ bhúvanasya mádhye tásmai balíṃ rāṣṭrabhŕ̥to bharanti 15
Meaning: Far away (in srI vaikunta), with fullness of attributes (pUrnEna), he (paravAsudeva) dwells. He (vyUha) becomes detached from the distant (paravAsudevan) with less than the full gamut of attributes (Unena). To that great yakSa in the Orb of the Sun (Bhuvanasya Madhye), those who rule (ie, those who have controlled their mind/ego) bring offering (self-surrender).
This of course, refers to his forms which are contemplated by devotees. He is visible as paravAsudeva to nityas and muktas. He is visible in the vyUha forms to devas in the milky ocean. The upAsakas meditate on his beautiful form in the orb of the sun as “tasya yathA kapyAsam pundarIkam evam akshiNi” – he is pundarIkAksha.
This is similar to the famous “ambhasya pArE, bhuvanasya madhyE…” mantra in the mahAnArAyaNopanishad.
“balim” refers to offering. What is this offering? It is nothing but sharanAgati or self-surrender. “rAstrabhrtO” refers to those who have the attribute of ruling. What do they rule? Their mind or ego, which they have controlled to perform self-surrender.
Who do they surrender do? Not to petty devas, but only to sriman nArAyaNa who is “mahad yaksam” – “mahad” means great. “ya + kSa” – he is the great one who destroys that which moves, ie, he destroys the indrIyas and mind which move towards sense objects. Or, he destroys the movement in samsara.
yátaḥ sū́ryaḥ udéty ástaṃ yátra ca gáchati
tád evá manye 'háṃ jyeṣṭháṃ tád u nā́ty eti kíṃ caná 16
Meaning: That from which the Sun rises, that to which he goes to set, I consider that alone as Eldest.  Nobody can ever transgress him.
“jyESTha” – occurs in the sahasranAma. He is “vriddhatamO jyESTha” as he is older than even Brahma who created all beings. “tad eva manyE” – refers to mahAvisvAsam, an angam of prapatti. I consider him alone as the eldest and hence the supreme protector.
“TadunAtyeti kimcana” – No-one can transgress him, meaning, no-one can transcend that Supreme Brahman who is the inner self of all. This mantra occurs in a modified version in the katOpanishad.
This establishes that he alone is worthy of surrender.
yé arvā́ṅ mádhya utá vā purāṇáṃ védaṃ vidvā́ṃsam abhíto vádanti
ādityám evá té pári vadanti sárve agníṃ dvitī́yaṃ trivŕ̥taṃ ca haṃsám 17
Meaning: They (the wise) say that the One with great knowledge (vidvansam) is near to those who are low (baddhas), in between (muktas) and ancient (nityas). In consequence of this,they all say that sriman nArAyaNa known as “Aditya” indeed (is) furnished with fire and is also the three-foldsun (hamsa).
“vidvAmsam” – BhagavAn is omniscient and acutely intelligent in the sense that he knows our sufferings very well and wishes to remove them. Hence, by virtue of his accessibility or sousIlyam/soulabhyam, he is very near to all irrespective of whether they are baddhas, muktas or nityas and hence is capable of protecting them.
Therefore, the wise say that he is indeed Aditya - "A" varNAt Atah ityah prApyah iti Adityah – He who is realised by the “AkAra” is Aditya according to srI parAshara bhattar in the sahasranAma. The “AkAra” is the bIja mantra for SankarshaNa, who possesses the guNams of jnAnam and balam to remove the distress of the jivAs and lead them out of samsAra.
“agnim dvitIyam” – “dvitIyam” means furnished with or possessing. “agni” or fire refers to the quality of accepting all offerings. Thus, this means he has the ability to be the means to liberation.
He is also the three-fold hamsa. Here, “hamsa” refers to the sun. The Upanishad declares that in the flame in the Aditya Mandala are the three purushas of the form of the rk, yajus and saman. In the form of these three, the vidya of the three vedas is shining out.  The mandala of the three vedas in the sun is witnessed by yOgIns as having a beautiful form and that is to be meditated upon.
sahasrāhṇyáṃ víyatāv asya pakṣáu hárer haṃsásya pátataḥ svargám
sá devā́nt sárvān úrasy upadádya saṃpáśyan yāti bhúvanāni víśvā 18
Meaning:Of (the nature or associated with the quality of) taking away the puNya and pApa karmas (hari), the two parts or wings, ie, jnAna and vairAgya or sama and dhama (pakSau) of the sun-like jIvAtma (hamsasya), extendedin knowledge (viyatau), soars over (conquers) theshining abode (paramapada) of infinite daily courses (of the sun), ie, infinite time.He (the jIvAtma), having taken upon oneself or assuming all the “devas” or the divine qualities(sarvAn devAn), stemming from his own self or essential nature (urasi), recognizing (his essential nature), attains all the worlds (bhuvanAni vishvA yAti).
The previous rk described that Brahman is the means to liberation. This rk therefore describes those mumukkshus who know this tattva. The jIvAtma who knows this truth, is said to have two wings which represent the quality of “sama” and “dhama”. Or it could mean the qualities of “jnAna” and “vairAgya”. Swami pillai lokAchArya states “Atma gunangalil pradhAnam samamum dhamamum” in his srI vachana bhUshana.
These two qualities which are metaphorically described as “wings” are capable of taking away the puNya and pApa karmas of the jIvAtma, whose dharma-bhUta-jnAna or attributive knowledge is extended. Thus, these qualities are said to conquer or achieve paramapAda.
“hamsa” – refers to the jIvAtma that is luminous as the sun in its essential nature.
“sahasrAhnyam” –  “ahnyam” means day or daily course, which should be taken as that of the sun. “sahasra” means thousand implying that it is infinite. So, “infinite daily courses of the sun” is the meaning. As the course of the sun is the measure of time, this refers to time which is infinite (sahasra).
“svarga” refers to paramapada. Therefore, “sahasrAhnyam svargam” refers to the supreme abode where time is infinite, as it has no sway. The jnAni conquers this supreme abode by his qualities of sama and dhama.
Such a jnAni, assumes or manifests the divine qualities described in the gita as “daivi sampath” and referred to as “devas” here, which stem from his essential nature. “urasi” cannot  mean “chest” here, but means that these qualities arise from his own self, ie, his essential nature.
He then recognizes this essential nature of seshatva or subservience to Brahman and thus attains liberation.
“yAti bhuvanAni visvA” – He attains all the worlds. In other words, upon liberation, he has free movement in all the worlds. Or it can be said that he attains paramapada which is often described as “worlds” in plural as it is infinite.
satyénordhvás tapati bráhmaṇārvā́ṅ ví paśyati
prāṇéna tiryáṅ prā́ṇati yásmin jyeṣṭhám ádhi śritám 19
Meaning: He (the individual self) shines upwards by truth. He perceives the lower (prakrti) with the Vedas (brahman). He breathes apart from (prakrti)by the Lord who is known as “prANa” as he is the life-breath of his devotees. He does this at a place where (yasmin) the eldest (jyESHtam) is approached or sought (adhishritam) as refuge.
This describes the qualities of the liberated jIvAtma. The practice of “satyam” (sAmAnyadharma or lokahitavachanam) is necessary on the part of a jnAni. Such a jnAni perceives the objects of enjoyment in prakrti, which are lower puruShArthas, with the aid of the Vedas, meaning, he feels dispassion for such enjoyment.
At the same time, he “breathes” or sustains himself apart from or detached from these sense objects, with bhagavAn alone who is his life-breath.
Such a state is attained in an uninterrupted manner only in the supreme abode where all muktas and nityas surrender to bhagavAn and consider him alone as the refuge to the exclusion of everything else.
sriman nArAyaNa is denoted as “jyEshTha” - One who created Brahma, hence is older than even Brahma and therefore is the eldest (as Bhattar comments on this nAma in the sahasranAma). This establishes his Ishvaratvam.
Pillai Lokacharya says “Isvaranai Ozhindavargal Rakshakar alla” – Other than Isvara, none can protect. By saying “jyESTha”, the Veda established that BhagavAn is superior to even Brahma (the oldest and lord of all creatures as prajApati), which establishes his Isvaratvam. By saying “adhisritam”, the Veda establishes that those performing self-surrender do so only to this bhagavAn who is Isvara, as he alone can protect.
yó vái té vidyā́d aráṇī yā́bhyāṃ nirmathyáte vásu
sá vidvā́n jyeṣṭháṃ manyeta sá vidyād brā́hmaṇaṃ mahát 20
Meaning: The wise yogin who knows those kindling sticks (Atman and praNava) by the churning of which, paramAtma known as “vasu” is drawn, will consider that as the Eldest (higher than Brahma), will know (by meditation) that great instructor of the vedas.
The first part of this mantra is a modification of the 1-13 mantra from SvetasvatAra Upanishad. The two kindling sticks to be known are the Atma and praNava.
The analogy of the churning is explained thus – How can we know that paramAtma is the indweller of the jivA as he cannot be directly perceived? The answer is this - Just as fire in the kindling sticks is not directly perceived, but upon churning of the kindling sticks, smoke arises and from that it is established that fire was in it even before, similarly,  bhagavAn, who is not directly perceived as residing in the Atman will be grasped when the Atman is churned with the praNava. Thus, it proves the eternal existence of paramAtma in the jivAtma as the indweller with the latter as his body.
“vasu” – This name occurs three times in the sahasranAma. In this context, bhagavAn is called “vasu” as he is the wealth sought by those who have realised the truth (vAsudevam sarvam idam) or because he dwells in the heart of his devotees upon the slightest indication of devotion.
The wise yogin will accept only that indweller – eSha sarvAntarAtma divyO deva eko nArAyaNa: - and no other – as the eldest (older than brahma and hence the supreme protector) and will meditate accordingly on that paramAtma as the great instructor of the vedas. This also echoes the tattvam of sharanAgati – that the supreme Isvara, sriman nArAyaNa, alone protects and must be resorted to. The wise will not resort to lower devas.
That paramAtma sriman nArAyaNa is the great instructor of the vedas and he is to be surrendered to is also reteirated in the svetAsvatAra, in the form of a beautiful prayer to srI hayagrIva who gifted the vedas to Brahma:
yo brahmANam vidadhAti pUrvam yo vai vedAmSca prahiNoti tasmai | tam ha devam Atma-buddhi prakASam mumukshurvai SaraNam aham prapadye || (~ Sve.Up 6.18)
Meaning: I, an aspirant after liberation, seek refuge in (surrender to), that effulgent God (sriman nArAyaNa) who creates Brahma first (at the time of creation) and who endows him with the vedas also and on account of whom the intellect of mine shines out.
apā́d ágre sám abhavat só ágre svàr ā́bharat
cátuṣpād bhūtvā́ bhógyaḥ sárvam ā́datta bhójanam 21
Meaning: The partless (Omkara) appeared in the beginning, that which is the chief (paravAsudeva who is One without a Second) bears the supreme abode (svarAbharat).  Having become comprised of 4 parts, he (paramAtma who has the jivAtma as his body) accepted everything that is to be enjoyed as food.
This mantra has to do with the 4 parts of the Omkara which are related to Aniruddha, Pradyumna, Sankarshana and Vasudeva who in turn are related to the states of vaisvAnara, taijasa, prajna and tUriya. This is elaborated in the Mandukya Upanishad.
Brahma dhRshti should be made in the pada chatushtaya of OmkAra. As per “Om ityEkAksharam”, the form of Brahman is visualised in the partless OmkAra. All the Universe of sentients and insentients  and all things either limited by time or not limited by time are verily OmkAra alone.
So, the first part of this mantra talks about the partless OmkAra. This means that OmkAra as vyUha vAsudeva  is to be meditated upon as paravAsudeva alone through samastha praNava rUpa – the full form of praNava as vyUha vAsudEva is very close to paravAsudEva.
Hence, the mantra uses the first  “agre” to denote in the beginning that OmkAra or paravAsudeva alone existed undifferentiated, and the second “agre” shows paravAsudeva as chief of the vyUhAs. He bears the supreme abode.
Some acharyas say there are 3 vyUhAs and others say there are 4 vyUhAs. If 3 vyUhas are taken, the first part of this mantra is referring to paravAsudeva. If 4 vyUhAs are taken, the mantra is referring to vyUhavAsudeva. As it is already established that vyUha vAsudeva is very close to paravAsudeva, the difference is insignificant. The fact that it is said “he bears the supreme abode” seems to favor the 3 vyuhAs viewpoint.
Now, coming to the second half of the mantra. The Omkara has 4 parts – Akara, Ukara, Makara and Ardhamathratmaka – and one should have the view that the 4 parts of praNava correspond to the 4 aspects of Parabrahman – Aniruddha, Pradyumna, Sankarshana and Vasudeva which in turn correspond to the 4 states - vaisvAnara, taijasa, prajna and tUriya.
So, the second part of the mantra beginning with “catuspAd bhUtva bhOgya…” means the  following - the jivAtma, which is closely associated with Brahman of the form of OmkAra, which in turn has become the 4 parts and hence (the jivA is) closely associated with the 4 vyUhAs – aniruddha, pradyumna, sankarshana and vAsudeva constituting the akara, ukara, makara and ardhamathratmaka – sees all objects of enjoyment in the 4 states of vaisvAnara, taijasa, prajna and tUriya as food, ie, experiences the objects of enjoyment by the grace of paramAtma.
This explains the mantra. Simply put, it deals with how bhagavAn presides over the 4 states of the mAndUkya in the 4 vyUha forms corresponding to the 4 parts of the praNava and how the jivAtma, which is closely associated with bhagavAn who is the indweller, experiences the objects of enjoyment in the 4 states by the grace of paramAtma.
The jivAtma is the body of Brahman – this is the close association mentioned earlier. So, when the mantra says “He accepted everything to be enjoyed as food”, it employs sAmAnAdhikaraNyam and only means “paramAtma which has the jivAtma as its body, accepted (via the jivA which is its body) the objects of enjoyment to be experienced in the 4 states”. It is the jivA who experiences, with paramAtma as its indweller.
bhógyo bhavad átho ánnam adad bahú
yó devám uttarā́vantam upā́sātai sanātánam 22
Meaning: He who incessantly meditates on the One who sports with the jivAs (Deva), who is the most ancient (sanAtanam) and who possesses the excellent auspicious attributes (uttaravantam),  becomes the enjoyed (as he offers services) and then eats food in abundance (in the form of experience of Brahman).  
“sanAtanam” – This name occurs in the sahasranAma as “sanAtana-tamah”. One meaning is that he is the most ancient as he existed before the jivAs, even before pralaya. This shows he alone is Isvara as he is prior to all. Remember that Gajendra called paramAtma first and foremost as “Adi MoolamE” for protection.
“deva” – occurs in the sahasranAma again (udbhavah kshobano devah). dIvyati krIDati iti devah – He sports with the jivAs and binds them with prakrti known as mAya. Thus, he is the MahEswara who rules over mAya and must alone be resorted to. KrishNa reiterates this in the Gita by saying - mam eva ye prapadyantemayam etam taranti te.
“uttaravantam” – he possesses the most superior and excellent auspicious attibutes that are worthy of being meditated upon.
The jivAtma who surrenders to sriman nArAyaNa by meditating on these qualities of bhagavAn, is termed as the bhOgyam or enjoyed because he becomes food for the paramAtma. The taittriya Upanishad also says “ahaM annam…”. He offers services at all places, all times and in all states to bhagavAn who accepts it. Thus, he is food for bhagavAn.
The jivAtma is then termed as one who eats food. After offering services, he sees paramAtma accept that service with a smile (padiyAy kidanthu un pavalavAy kAnbene – perumAl thirumozhi) and joy wells up in him. Service thus leads to experience of paramAtma’s divine qualities, and since the jivA enjoys these auspicious attributes which are in abundance (hence, paramAtma is known as “bhUma” in the Upanishads), he (the jivA) is called as one who eats food in the form of experience of Brahman.
sanātánam enam āhur utā́dyá syāt púnarṇavaḥ
ahorātré prá jāyete anyó anyásya rūpáyoḥ 23
Meaning: They call this (paramAtma) as “sanAtanam” or one who is associated with an eternal body (who) becomes new every moment. The other different from this paramAtma, ie, the jivA, manifests forms different from this (prakrti) (like) day and night.
“They” refer to the wise AchAryAs.
“sanAtanam” – We again refer to Bhattar’s commentary on “sanAtana tamah” in the sahasranAma. Bhattar indicates the term 'tana' in the nAma to refer to his auspicious form(tanu - SarIram) - sadA-tanatve'pi tadA-tanatvavat nitya nUtana bhogyaH – Even though bhagavAn has always had a body (sadA tanatvam), He looks like One who is just new (tadA-tanattvam) - One who has just been endowed with a new body),and is enjoyed as though He is new, and this is why He is sanA-tana- tamaH. This explanation suits the context.
BhagavAn is 'purA api navaH - purANaH' in that he is ageless, but new in the sense that as you keep enjoying his auspicious qualities, more and more new qualities arise to be enjoyed, thus bhagavAn appears new each time and the enjoyment is endless.
“ahorAtrE prajAyatE anyo anyasya rUpayoH” – The jivAs who are different or other (anya) than the paramAtma manifest multiple forms in samsAra. The difference between the bodies of the jIvas in prakrti/samsAra and the body assumed by paramAtmA is as stark as the difference between day and night. One is impure, the other is pure. One is made of triguNas, the other made of suddha sattva. One is assumed due to karma, the other is assumed due to will, and so on.
By saying “anya”, the difference between jivA and paramAtma is established.
śatáṃ sahásram ayútaṃ nyàrbudam asaṃkhyeyáṃ svám asmin níviṣṭam
tád asya ghnanty abhipáśyata evá tásmād devó rocata eṣá etát 24
Meaning: A hundred, thousand, ten thousand, hundred million, innumerable (auspicious attributes) by nature is his (paramAtma’s) wealth, established (niviShTam) in this (eternal form). They (the auspicious attributes) destroy that (sin) which belongs to the jIvAtma (asya) even as he perceives, ie, meditates on (abhupashyataH) paramAtma. On account of that (tasmAt), this one, the jIvAtma (eShaH) who is designated as “deva”, becomes agreeable or radiant.
The previous rk talked about paramAtma possessing an eternal body. The first part of the mantra refers to innumerable auspicious qualities, which stem from the essential nature of the paramAtma, which can be meditated upon in that eternal form. Such meditation of the form of direct perception destroys the karmas of the jIvAtma, which can be referred to in the singular.
“rocata” – Since karma is destroyed, the contracted attributive knowledge, known as dharma bhUta jnAna, is expanded infinitely and thus the jivAtma shines luminously due to extended knowledge which blossoms out like rays from the sun. Thus, he is radiant. Alternatively, “rocata” can mean that the jIvAtma now becomes pleasing to paramAtma, or agreeable to his own true nature of seshatva.
bā́lād ékam aṇīyaskám utáikaṃ néva dr̥śyate
tátaḥ páriṣvajīyasī devátā sā́ máma priyā́ 25
Meaning: One (the jivAtma) is subtler than a hair and One (the paramAtma) is not even perceived (by the senses).  Therefore, that effulgent God who embraces (the jivA during the state of deep sleep) is dear to me (I hold that as the highest object of attainment).
In the Gita, Arjuna asks a question as to who reaches their goal faster – those who meditate on the jivAtma or those who meditate on paramAtma. That question is answered here.
The jivAtma is subtler than a hair and hence the essential nature of the self is very difficult to be perceived or experienced. Thus, jnAna yOga or meditation on the jivAtma is not only difficult, but also results in delay in achieving the goal.
In the case of paramAtma, he is not perceivable to the senses. However, the BrihadAraNyaka Upanishad (4.3.21) states that during suShupti, the jivAtma is free from all desires, being unaware of all objects internal and external as he is in the close embrace of the omniscient paramAtma. Just who as a person is embraced by his wife is oblivious to anything else, similarly, the embrace of the paramAtma occurs in the suShupti state when the jivA is oblivious to all other objects, is bereft of sorrow and has no desire for anything other than the AtmAn.
That effulgent god, who is luminous on account of the radiance of srI mahAlakshmi on his chest, who possesses vAtsalya guNa or affection for the jivA, who embraces the jivA in the state of suShupti fondly, is considered as the highest object of attainment by the jivAtma. He is attained very easily as well.
iyáṃ kalyāṇy àjárā mártyasyāmŕ̥tā gr̥hé
yásmai kr̥tā́ śáye sá yáś cakā́ra jajā́ra sáḥ 26
Meaning: He (paramAtma), for whom everything is accomplished (kritA), this sentient, auspicious one free from old age and death, resides in the abode (body) of the one subject to death (jIvAtma). He is the one who (in the remote past) created, ie, was the Cause and became old or the ancient, worthy of worship (jajAra).
This mantra shows that paramAtma, who is self-satisfied, free of karma, blemish, etc, nonetheless resides as the antaryAmin of the bound self subject to birth and death by his own will. This antaryAmin, who is the effect (has the effects as his body), is non-different to the paramAtma who is the cause (when he had the subtle Universe as his body).
In other words, the cause is non-different from the effect because the effects are different states of the cause. “neha nAnAsti kincana” – paramAtma does not have any diversity and does not undergo change even if he becomes antaryAmin of the bound self.
tváṃ strī́ tváṃ púmān asi tváṃ kumārá utá vā kumārī́
tváṃ jīrṇó daṇḍéna vañcasi tváṃ jātó bhavasi viśvátomukhaḥ 27
Meaning: You are the woman. You are the man, you are the boy and you are verily the girl. Becoming old, you move with the support of the staff. You alone become born in all kinds of form.
Having established the difference between the individual self and the body, this mantra now addresses that Supreme Brahman. The fact of Brahman being the self of all is described here.
You assume all forms and become all – “tvam sarvarUpo jAthOsi”. Therefore, everything is his vibhUti as he is existing in all entities pervading them as their AtmAn. The connotation of each term like “woman”, “man” etc extends upto the inmost self and all terms signify that supreme paramAtma who is sarvAntarAtma, the self of all entities.
This beautiful mantra occurs in the svetAsvatAra Upanishad and this is the commentary of srI ranga rAmAnuja muni.
utáiṣāṃ pitótá vā putrá eṣām utáiṣāṃ jyeṣṭhá utá vā kaniṣṭháḥ
éko ha devó mánasi práviṣṭaḥ prathamó jātáḥ sá u gárbhe antáḥ 28
Meaning: (That Brahman is) even as the father of these, even as the son of these, even as the eldest, or even the youngest. The effulgent god has entered the mind (ie, is known through meditation), who manifested himself even prior to the origination of the devas, within the cave of the heart as the inner controller.
The first part of the mantra continues the vibhUti yOga of the previous mantra.
“deva” – The effulgent Lord of Sri as mentioned earlier. It signifies his vAtsalya guNa or affection caused by association with Sri as well (sraddhAya devO devatvam asnutE – he becomes a deva or one full of auspicious attributes due to association with SrI).
“manasi pravisthah” – He is to be known through the intellect via meditation.
“prathamO jAtah” – Here, “jAtah” refers to the devas beginning with Brahma. He manifested himself prior to even these gods. This echoes the puruSa sUkta rk “pUrvo yo devebhya jAta:”
“garbhE antaH” – He resides in the cave of the heart as the inner controller.
pūrṇā́t pūrṇám úd acati pūrṇáṃ pūrṇéna sicyate
utó tád adyá vidyāma yátas tát pariṣicyáte 29
Meaning: From pUrNa (para-vAsudeva), the pUrNa (vyUha) rises up. By pUrNa (the vyUha), the pUrNa (the vibhava/antaryAmi/archa) is poured out. We should know it today, that (Brahman) from which it (the manifestations of Brahman) is poured out.
The meaning should be clear. In some AgamAs, antaryAmi and archa are clubbed together with vibhava so that we have only 3 manifestations instead of 5 – para, vyUha and vibhava. That line of thinking is likely seen here.
eṣā́ sanátnī sánam evá jātáiṣā́ purāṇī́ pári sárvaṃ babhūva
mahī́ devy ùṣáso vibhātī́ sáikenaikena miṣatā́ ví caṣṭe 30
Meaning: This one, bhU dEvI (eShA), who guides the worshippers (sanatnI), was indeed born to be long lasting or enduring (in patience). She who is the basis of paramAtma designated as “purANA” (purANI), surpassed everything, ie, conquered all (pari sarvam babhUva). The great devi, or bhU devi, is resplendent due to dawn, ie, knowledge (uShas). She perceives the needs of living beings clearly (vicastE), one at a time, ie, very attentively (ekenaikena), with her (compassionate) eyes (miSatA).
After describing the forms of paramAtma in the form of OmkArA, this mantra describes bhumi devi, who possesses the quality of mediation. As she is the Earth Goddess, she is exalted in the Upanishads as well along with paramAtma.
She is born to endure as she, as Earth, bears all. She is known as “hrI” for her forbearance. Thus, she is patience personified. She is dear to paramAtma and hence is “purANI” or the basis of paramAtma known as “purANa” (as he is ancient but appears ever new).
“purANI” means the controller of basis of “purANA” – meaning, he cannot sustain himself without her company. srI Vedanta desikan in his bhU stuti states that bhagavAn gets his nourishment by his association with bhU devi and becomes empowered to perform his duties as described in the vedas.
As even paramAtma is obedient to her command, and due to her own great qualities, she has surpassed everything. She is radiant because of her knowledge of paramAtma which is designated as “dawn”.
She listens attentively to the pleas of the jIvAs and looks at them with her eyes of compassion.
ávir vái nā́ma devátā́ rténāste párīvr̥tā
tásyā rūpéṇemé vr̥kṣā́ háritā háritasrajaḥ 31
Meaning: The devatA (srI devi), known as “well-disposed to all” is seated along with that all-pervading paramAtma (rta) and is full of auspicious attributes (parivRita). Due to her nature of acting as puruSakAra or mediator (tasyAH rUpENa), these beings designated as “vRkshA”, are golden, ie, desirable for paramAtma (haritA), become adorned in golden garlands, ie, their desires are fulfilled (haritasrajah)
After waxing eloquent on bhU devi, this rk now describes srI devi. Together, these two rks explain the puruSha sUkta rk – “hrIsca tE lakshmisca patnyou”. Just as in the puruSha sUkta, even the order is the same – bhU devi (hri) was described first and now srI devi (lakshmi) is described here.
The upabrahmaNa for this rk is as follows:
vaikuNThe tu pare loke shriyA sArddhaM jagatpatiH | Aste viShNuracintyAtmA bhaktaiH bhAgavataiH saha
She is seated along with paramAtma in srI vaikunta .
“rtEna asti” – paramAtma is “Rta”, which means means “sarvagath” (rtam satyam param brahma). He pervades all jivAs for two reasons: 1) He wants to be close to the jivAs to bestow his grace out of affecton, 2) without his pervasion, the jivAs would not exist as entities. Both these qualities signified by pervasion are due to srI mahAlakshmi’s grace.
“parivRta” could mean she is full of kalyAna guNas (auspicious attributes) that favour the jivAs. It could also mean she is “surrounded” by nityas and muktas in sri vaikunta.
“tasyAH rUpENa” – “rUpa” here means her nature and not her form. She has the nature of being the mediator for jIvAs.
The brihadAraNyaka Upanishad designates all beings as “vRksha”. So this term denotes all beings of the world, who resort to her for mediation.
“harita” or golden refers to desire; it is in plural since there are many jivAs in the world with many desires. By her nature of mediation and acting in favour of the jivAs, she ensures the grace of paramAtma on the latter. Thus, these jIvAs become “golden” (agreeable or desirable) for paramAtma, upon which paramAtma showers his grace on these jIvAs by fulfilling their desires, which is metaphorically again described as wearing “golden” garlands, ie, their desires are satisfied.
ánti sántaṃ ná jahāty ánti sántaṃ ná paśyati
devásya paśya kā́vyaṃ ná mamāra ná jīryati 32
Meaning: Existing in the proximity of (the jivAtma), He (paramAtma) does not forsake that (jivAtma), Existing within the proximity of (matter), he (the jivAtma) does not see (that paramAtma). Behold the Omniscience of the effulgent Lord of Sri (devasya), who is not subject to death (mamAra) and who does not grow old, ie, satisfied (jIryati).
This is similar to the “dvA suparNa” mantra. ParamAtma is very close to the jivAtma by virtue of being the inner self. And as mentioned in the previous mantra, he who is the indweller, by virtue of his affection and other kalyAna guNas, never forsakes the jivAs. He does this despite the fact that the jivAs are very close or connected with prakrti and hence do not see paramAtma who is their inner self.
Why does he do this? Because he is omniscient as he knows the sufferings of the jivAs and what they desire. “kavim” occurs in the nArAyaNa sUkta and means omniscient, same as “kAvyam” here.
Why is he omniscient in this manner? Because he is “deva” as he has the association of the effulgent SrI, because he is not subject to death (and hence, births) like the jivA and hence does not have contracted knowledge. And also because he never grows satisified with what he has – in other words, no matter how many jivAs get liberated, he is not satisfied and wants to liberate all jivAs, not forsaking the ones still unliberated. Also, even after giving the jivAs bodies, giving them the means to attain him, providing them with enjoyment both in this world and in paramapada, he is still not satisfied; he wants to bestow more favour on the jivAs. “Never grows old” is a metaphor for not being satisfied.
All this is again, due to his association with srI devI.
apūrvéṇeṣitā́ vā́cas tā́ vadanti yathāyathám
vádantīr yátra gáchanti tád āhur brā́hmaṇaṃ mahát 33
Meaning: The apAuruSheya Vedas which have no prior cause (apUrvanESita vAcas) say what is proper (to each). Where the Vedas which speak (of many things) go (ie, are directed towards), that (which) they say is the great instructor of the Veda.
“apUrvRnESita vAcas” – refers to the apAuruSeya Vedas. They have no prior cause or origin and are eternal and thus flawless.
“vadanti yathAyatham” – This means that the Vedas deal with various subjects and speak about different puruSarthas (higher and lower) for different kinds of people, as is proper for them based on their dispositions and proportions of triguNas. Gita also says “triguNya vishaya veda..”.
However, the same Vedas which speak of many things identify only one goal as the highest object of attainment and indeed, the different things the Vedas speak about are intended to gradually lead a person to that goal. That object of attainment is none other than the Supreme Brahman, the Lord nArAyaNa, who is the benevolent instructor of the Vedas. He gave the Vedas to Brahma and to all beings to enable them to understand and attain him, by a gradual process.
The name “brAhmaNah” in the sahasranAma is interpreted as “instructor of the Vedas” by Bhattar. “mahaT” signifies greatness in the mantra. He is great in the sense that all objects of enjoyment are contained in him and he is the highest object of attainment, the supreme goal that the Vedas go towards.
yátra devā́ś ca manuṣyā̀ś cārā́ nā́bhāv iva śritā́ḥ
apā́ṃ tvā púṣpaṃ pr̥chāmi yátra tán māyáyā hitám 34
Meaning: Wherein the devas (nitya sUrIs) and also manuShyas (those who meditate; the bound selves) are fixed as spokes (of a wheel) on the hub, I ask you, who (karmas) foster the drinking or experience of pain and pleasure (puShpa) associated with the subtle elements designated as “waters”, where was it (the bound self) fixed in (hitaM) by prakrti known as “mAyA”?  
“devAh” refers to the nitya sUrIs. “manuShya” is a general term referring to all bound selves in the Universe. They are both inseparable attributes of Brahman and dependent on him.
“apAm” refers to waters which in turn connote the subtle elements. “pushpa” – root push- refers to “augment”, “pa” – drinking, which is experience of pain and pleasure. It is the karmas who cause the experience of pain and pleasure.
The bound self experiencing pain and pleasure as a result of karmas, is stationed in the condition of identifying itself with the body (ahaM buddhi) by prakrti which deludes and thus he forgets his true nature of subservience to Brahman. This prakrti which has the 3 guNas as it’s constituents  is called “mAyA” because it is the cause of varied and wonderful creation.
yébhir vā́ta iṣitáḥ pravā́ti yé dádante páñca díśaḥ sadhrī́cīḥ
yá ā́hutim atyámanyanta devā́ apā́ṃ netā́raḥ katamé tá āsan 35
Meaning: Who (karma-vAsaNas) cause the jivAtma signified by “wind” to blow (ie, move ceaselessly in samsAra)? Who (attachments) impel the five quarters (ie, the sense organs) to be directed (to the experience of sense objects)? Who are the ones (desires) who excessively regard (atyamanyata) the offering (pain and pleasure)? Who are the directors, ie, objects of enjoyment (netAraH) of the bound self that is associated with the subtle elements designated as “waters” (apAm), of what nature ie, made of three guNas (katame) were they (te Asan)?  
“vAtaH iSitaH pravAti” – The karma-vAsaNas cause the jivA to move ceaselessly like wind in samsAra.
“dadantE panca diSa sadhrIcIh” – The five quarters refer to the 5 sense organs.  The attachments stemming from karma-vAsaNas direct these sense organs to the experience of sense objects
The karma-vAsaNas cause movement in samsAra. Upon assuming gross forms, these attachments lead the senses to the experience of sense objects. The desires of the jIvAtma, stemming from attachments, “excessively regard” or cause experience of pain and pleasure, which is the offering. The objects of enjoyment which are the source of pain and pleasure and which are of the nature of the three guNas of prakrti thus direct the bound self in samsAra.
imā́m eṣāṃ pr̥thivī́ṃ vásta éko 'ntárikṣaṃ páry éko babhūva
dívam eṣāṃ dadate yó vidhartā́ víśvā ā́śāḥ práti rakṣanty éke 36
Meaning: Of these (entities described above), this One (the self) resides in prithvi or the body, One (the intellect) fully (controls or directs) the intermediate which is the mind (antarIksha), One (the mind) who grants to (the bound self) the shining abode (signifying the objects of desire), is the supporter (of the senses). Many who are incomparable or best of their kind (the objects of desire), protect all desires (existing).
“eko antarIkSam pari” – The mind is signified as “antarIksha” as it is the intermediate that channels the intellect. It is fully controlled by the intellect as the latter is higher than the mind.
“divam” – objects of desire which shine out to the bound self by the mind, which supports the senses. These objects of desire exist for experience and hence are said to protect all desires.
yó vidyā́t sū́traṃ vítataṃ yásminn ótāḥ prajā́ imā́ḥ
sū́traṃ sū́trasya yó vidyā́d sá vidyād brā́hmaṇaṃ mahát 37
Meaning: He who knows that thread (vAyu) by which all beings are strung together, he who knows the thread’s thread, ie, the inner controller of vAyu and all beings, he knows the great instructor of the veda.
This mantra has the same meaning as the dialogue between YajnavAlkya and other rishis in the trutIya adhyAya, saptama brAhmaNa of the BrihadArAnyaka Upanishad. In the mantra 3-7-6, YajnavAlkya clarifies that the thread is actually vAyu and that this world and all beings are strung together by vAyu. YajnavAlkya gives the example of a dead person – the limbs of a dead person are loosened, while they were held together before by vAyu. At the time of death, vAyu does not support the limbs and so they become loosened.
The “thread’s thread” is nothing but the inner controller and this is clarified in the same section as the antaryAmin by YajnavAlkya. After describing vAyu, yajnavAlkya proceeds to talk about the inner controller of that vAyu, as well as all beings and worlds by declaring “yasya prithvi sarIram...yasya Atma sarIram”. All the worlds and beings are the body of the inner controller.
The person who knows this tattva is a knower of Brahman. The name “brAhmaNah” in the sahasranAma is interpreted as “instructor of the Vedas” by Bhattar as mentioned earlier. “mahaT” signifies greatness in the mantra. He is great in the sense that all objects of enjoyment are contained in him and he is the highest object of attainment, the supreme goal that the Vedas go towards.
védāháṃ sū́traṃ vítataṃ yásminn ótāḥ prajā́ imā́ḥ
sū́traṃ sū́trasyāháṃ vedā́tho yád brā́hmaṇaṃ mahád 38
Meaning: I know that thread (vAyu)  by which all beings are strung together,  I know  the thread’s thread, ie, the inner controller of vAyu and all beings, thus I know the great instructor of the veda.
This rk is a practical application of the previous rk. The previous rk clarified that this knowledge was essential for a seeker of truth. This rk now shows that the knowledge is not mere vAkyartha jnAna, but is of the form of meditation leading to direct perception. The words “vedAham” or “I know” must be taken as the mananam, sravanam and nidhidhyAsam which leads to brahma-sAkSAtkAratvam.
So, the purpose of this rk is to show that the upAsaka, after understanding the truth, must meditate on everything as the body of Brahman, who is the inner controller of all.
yád antarā́ dyā́vāpr̥thivī́ agnír áit pradáhan viśvadāvyàḥ
yátrā́tiṣṭhann ékapatnīḥ parástāt kvèvāsīn mātaríśvā tadā́nīm 39
Meaning: Inside which (embodied self), the fire (paramAtma as the inner controller) attains the head and the foot (dyAvaprithvi), while consuming (food) that is fit to be burnt or tormented in its’ entirety, wherein (that paramAtma) dwell the devoted consort, SrI mahAlakshmi (ekapatnI), beyond that state or condition (parastAt), where (kva) did that jIvAtma known as “mAtarishvan” exist, at that time during pralaya (tadAnIM)?
The nArAyaNa sUkta declares tasya madhye mahanagnirviśvārcirviśvatomukhaḥ, so'grabhug vibhajan tiṣṭhan āhāramajaraḥ kaviḥ
The Lord resides in the subtle opening of the heart whence the gastric fire blazing above enters. Hence, he is said to be residing in the gastric fire. He, the ever awake, the ever roaring, classifies the food and consumes it himself first. krishNa also says “ahaM vaiSvAnarO brutvA:” in the Gita.
“dvAvaprithvI” – The nArAyaNa sUkta says that he, as the inner controller of the gastric fire torments the body from the bottom of the foot to the head. Therefore, this term signifies “from top to bottom” of the body.
“ekapatnIh” – Though in plural, it can be interpreted in the singular as the wife who is solely devoted to her husband. This is a description of mahAlakshmi, who dwells on the body of the indwelling Lord, as described in the nArAyaNa sUktam as “nīlatoyadamadhyasthād vidyullekheva bhāsvarā”.
“matarIsvA” – means wind. This refers to the baddha jivAs who move ceaselessly in samsAra like wind.
The question posed here is, where did the jivAs in gross states, who currently have paramAtma as their inner self, exist prior to creation or during pralaya?
The next rk has the answer.
apsv ā̀sīn mātaríśvā práviṣṭaḥ práviṣṭā devā́ḥ salilā́ny āsan
br̥hán ha tasthau rájaso vimā́naḥ pávamāno haríta ā́ viveśa 40
Meaning: The jivAtma which moves ceaselessly like wind in samsAra, entered (into the state) of (association with) subtle state signified as “waters”. The senses signified by “devas” as they illumine objects, had entered into the subtle state signified as “waters”. The self associated with “rajas” or passion, devoid of a dwelling or gross body (rajaso vimAna) remained stationary (ie, in slumber) as (in likeness to) prakrti or insentient matter designated as “great” (brhAn).  The one that purifies, ie, paramAtma (pavamAna), entered the jIvAs associated with desire or passion (haritaH).
“mAtarisvA” refers to the jivA that moves ceaselessly like wind. This bound self, which is associated with a gross body, entered into the condition of association with a subtle body during pralaya.
The “devAs” refer to the five senses of knowledge and the five senses of action. It could mean the aggregate which is the body.
The term, “waters” denotes these subtle elements. So, “devAs entered into waters” indicate the transformation of the senses-aggregate gross forms (bodies) into the subtle state.
“rajaso vimAna” – vimAna means devoid of a dwelling or gross body. The self is still in samsAra, hence it is associated with the quality of passion. But as it is devoid of a gross body, it is unable to execute actions to fulfill its desires. Thus, it remains stationary, without movement in samsAra or in slumber.
In this state of slumber, the dharma-bhUta-jnAna or attributive knowledge is contracted to zero, so that the jIvAtma cannot perceive any external objects. Therefore, it is indistinguishable from insentient matter which also has no dharma-bhUta-jnAna. This insentient matter is prakrti which is great, hence referred to as “brhAn” here. By saying this self is stationary as matter, it means it looks indistinguishable from matter in slumber. The only difference, in this subtle state, between the self and matter is that the self still has the essential nature of “I”, which matter does not.
As the self cannot see external objects, paramAtma, called the purifier as he has maintained this subtle state to extricate the jIva from its attachments, is said to “enter” the jIva in the sense that the jIvA only knows paramAtma as its’ inner controller in this state.
The jIvas are called “haritaH” as they are still associated with subtle bodies and bound in samsAra by the quality of desire, which is designated as “yellow” or “golden”. Or, it could mean, these bound selves are as dear as gold to paramAtma, he loves them and hence they are referred like this.
úttareṇeva gayatrī́m amŕ̥té 'dhi ví cakrame
sā́mnā yé sā́ma saṃvidúr ajás tád dadr̥śe kvà 41
Meaning:  Indeed by his (paramAtma’s) quality of being the rescuer or the means (uttarEna iva), he rose to (vicakramE) the paramAtma by the name of “gAyatrI” in the supreme abode (amrita), upon death or exhaustion of karmas (adhi).  Those who know well (ye samviduH) the paramAtma that is appeasing (sAma), by virtue of (paramAtma) that destroys or brings to an end the samsAra (sAman), they know, ie, perceive the (abode) where the class of nitya sUrIs designated as “unborn” (ajaH) see (dadR^ishe) that “sAman”  or paramAtma who is appeasing (tat).
paramAtma is known as “Uttara” as he is the rescuer, signifying he is the means. By this quality of paramAtma, the jIvAs are liberated upon death and reach paramAtma in the supreme abode.
“gAyatri” refers to paramAtma as the former is described as “brahmasamhitam” – vAchyEna brahmaNA pujyatvEna samithaM samaM” – As Brahman is the vAchya or import of gAyatri, it signifies Brahman.
“sAma” – The word has two meanings according to Bhattar. “sAma” is derived from the root so-antaHkramaNi- which means to destroy or bring to an end. This signifies paramAtma who is the means as he brings an end to samsAra. The second meaning is “sAtibhyam manin maniNau”  - “that which is appeasing”. This again signifies paramAtma.
Thus, they attain that appeasing paramAtma known as “sAman” by virtue of paramAtma who brings an end to samsAra and hence is “sAman”.
“ajas tad dadRse kva” – These jIvAs who know paramAtma as the means and are liberated also perceive that supreme abode where the nitya sUrIs, who collectively belong to the class of “unborn” as they are eternally liberated, always see paramAtma (sadA pashyanti surayaH).
nivéśanaḥ saṃgámano vásūnāṃ devá iva savitā́ satyádharmā
índro ná tasthau samaré dhánānām 42
Meaning: The One (Supreme Brahman) who provides a resting place or shelter to the jIvAs (niveshanaH), who leads or directs the jIvAs (saMgamanaH), like Agni the Chief of Vasus (vasunAm devaH iva), who prompts or instigates the intellect of the jIvAs (savitA), who is the desired ultimate goal for all jIvAs OR the function of the jIvAs (satyadharmA), that all-pervading wealthy Lord (Indra) does not remain in (ie, is not affected by) the confluence or association (samarE), of the jIvAs and prakrti who are his wealth (dhana-s)
This should be self-explanatory as it describes the nature of the Supreme Brahman.
“vasunAm devaH iva” – The chief of vasus is Agni as confirmed by bhagavAn himself in the vibhUti yOga adhyAya of the Gita. Just as Agni directs or leads the vasus, he directs the jIvAs and leads them out of samsAra.
“savitA” – The Lord who prompts the intellect of the jIvAs.
“satyadharmA” – “satya” refers to the jivAtma according to the shruti statements like “satyam cAnrtam ca satyambhavat” and “satyasya satyam”. “dharmA” refers to the dharma-bhUta-jnAna, ie, the function of the jivAtma which is to behold Brahman. Thus, Brahman can be said to be the “dharmA” of the jIvA (satya). Alternatively, it means Brahman is the goal sought by all jIvAs (designated as satya). Both meanings are given by srI vedAnta desikan in the isavasya Upanishad.
“Indra” – Refers to the Lord who is wealthy by virtue of pervading everything in many different ways, as a result of which everything becomes his body, his property and hence his wealth. The root is idi - paramaiSvarye - to own great wealth.
Such an all-pervasive Lord, despite his pervasion of sentients and insentients which are his wealth, does not remain (na tasthau) in the association of the jIvAs and prakrti which are both his wealth (dhanu-s). That is to say, though he pervades the bound selves and prakrti as their inner controller, he does not get associated with prakrti like the jIvAs on account of karmas and is unaffected by the changes the individual selves and prakrti undergo.
Alternatively, it can mean that the all-pervasive Lord (Indra), despite associating himself with his wealth which are the jIvas and prakrti (as the indweller who has them as his body), is unaffected by such association. Either way, the meaning is the same.
puṇḍárīkaṃ návadvāraṃ tribhír guṇébhir ā́vr̥tam
tásmin yád yakṣám ātmanvát tád vái brahmavído viduḥ 43
Meaning: The Knowers of Brahman meditate on that Self, as having (Brahman) as its self, abiding in that lotus like abode which is the heart (within) the body which has nine gates, invested with the three kinds of guNas (sattva, rajas and tamas).
The meaning should be clear since the Gita verses and the Chandogya Upanishad section on dahara vidyA talk about the lotus like heart and the body which is like a city with nine gates. The three guNas are also mentioned here.
“yakSam” – refers to the individual self.
“Atmanvat” – refers to the self of the individual self, ie, paramAtma sriman nArAyaNa who is the indweller.
The knowers of Brahman (brahmaviduH) meditate (viduH) on the individual self within the lotus of the heart as having paramAtma as its indweller. This way, they realise that the individual self is subservient to, is the body of and pervaded by paramAtma. That is the meaning conveyed by this mantra.
akāmó dhī́ro amŕ̥taḥ svayaṃbhū́ rásena tr̥ptó ná kútaś canónaḥ
tám evá vidvā́n ná bibhāya mr̥tyór ātmā́naṃ dhī́ram ajáraṃ yúvānam 44
Meaning: (The individual self is) without desire (when free of karmas), unchanging (in its essential nature), immortal (as only the bodies are destroyed), the self-existent (as it was not created), contented with the bliss (of its essential nature), not inferior in any way in the sense of having no master other than Brahman (na kutashcana UnaH). The knower of that (indweller of the) Self which is firm (in blessing his devotees), not subject to old age (ie, is free from affliction of samsAra), ever-young (in appearance) or fresh (as his auspicious attributes appear newer and newer each time) is free from the fear of death (ie, samsAra).
(That Brahman is) desireless, unchanging (ie, unaffected by samsAra), nectarine (ie, the abode of auspicious attributes), manifesting by his own will (as avatArAs in samsAra), contented in his own essence or nature, ie, self-established (rasena), not inferior anywhere in the sense that his pervasion in different forms and manifestations etc do not cause changes/diminishment to him (na kutashcana UnaH). The Knower of that Self is freed from the fear of samsAra signified by “death”, steadfast (in meditation on Brahman), not affected by old age (ie, free from afflictions of samsAra), always fresh (One whose study of the veda remains fresh on account of non-forgetfulness).
The sukta ends with a beautiful mantra. The uniqueness of this mantra is that it can be taken in two ways – 1) the first set of adjectives can signify the jivA and the second set can signify paramAtma or 2) vice-versa. I have provided both meanings.
“yuvAnam” – If taken as an epithet of paramAtma, it means he is ever-young in appearance or that he is always fresh – his auspicious qualities are endless and if one experiences his qualities, more and more new qualities appear for experience and thus the experience is endless. If taken as an epithet of the knower of Brahman, it means he is always fresh in the sense that his study of the veda is never forgotten.
“dhIra” – If taken for paramAtma, it is synonymous with the “sthAnu” nAma in the sahasranAma which means he is always firm in blessing his devotees. If taken for the jivA, it means he is steadfast in yoga or meditation on Brahman.
This concludes the Skambha Sukta, which waxes eloquent on the greatness of Sriman nArAyaNa, the support of all and highlights the important tattvas of vedAnta. This write-up is my humble submission to the lotus feet of Azhwar, EmperumAnAr and Jeeyar.


  1. Nice posting with intricate meanings. Rgds

    1. Thank you.

      From now on, we request readers to kindly provide a nickname, rather than just be anonymous. It helps us answering questions especially in longer threads where we would be clueless about who we are addressing in a conversation.


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