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Narayana Suktam -- A Srivaishnava commentary

We believed it is necessary to have a traditional commentary of  this sUkta up on the blog in order to dispel the many erroneous and facetious “interpretations” on the internet.
The mahAnArAyaNopanishad occurs in the 10th prapataka of the taittiriya araNyaka in the krishNa yajur veda. The Narayana Suktam occuring in this Upanishad needs little introduction as this sUkta is the most important portion of the Veda, next only to the puruSha sUkta. This sUkta identifies the parama-puruSha of the veda as nArAyaNa, which can be understood by the fact that it begins with sahasrasIrsham devam…” just as the puruSha sUkta begins with “sahasrasIrsha purusha:”
Who is nArAyaNa? The meanings of the name have already been discussed in other articles elsewhere. In short, He is the resort of all the nArAs, and he has the entire Universe as his abode and is the means for all puruShArthas. He is the Supreme Brahman, characterized by the svarUpa nirupaka dharmas – satyam, jnAnam, anantam, anandam and amalatvam – and the nirupita svarUpa viSesanams – jnana, bala, veerya, shakti, aishwarya, tejas. He is the jagatkArana and One referred to by terms such as “sath”, “Atman”, “Brahman”, “Siva”, “AkAsha”, “Shambhu” and others in the Veda. He is the object of all upAsaNas, recipient of all offerings and the granter of all fruits. He is the Lord of SrI, reclining on the waters of the milky ocean and the One known as vishNu deva.
The Lord who is the object of the Vedas, who is beyond the speech and mind but is accessible by his own will, who is the jagatkAraNa and the creator of devas like brahma, rudra, indra, etc, who is the all-pervasive Being referred to either directly or as the indweller of all who constitute his body, is nArAyaNa.
This sUkta is accepted by advaitins, vishishtadvaitins and dvaitins as of paramount importance in ascertaining the true nature of the Supreme Being and showing that this Being is the object of all upAsaNas described in the Veda. The name “nArAyaNa” is the highest name of the Supreme Person, evidenced by the fact that no other sUkta, even if it is dedicated to the same Being, uses terms like “para tattva:, parO jyOtir, param brahma:” so directly as the nArAyaNa sUkta does. The idea is to show the importance of this name.
To advaitins, “nArAyaNa” is the saguNa Brahman under sattva upAdhis, who is beyond prakrti, who has a suddha sattva form with auspicious attributes, the Lord of Sri, who is nirguNa in essence. This is confirmed by the words of Anandagiri who says in his vArtika – na kevalam purANAgamAbhyAmeva so(a)dhigamyate| kintu srutyakSarairapItyAha etameveti|
Some miscreants on the internet, who do not even have a rudimentary knowledge of advaita, claim nonsensical ideas like “nArAyaNa is a name of nirguNa Brahman”. Such statements are equivalent to an oxymoron like “true lie” (meaning, there is no such thing as a true lie). Because nirguNa Brahman in advaita, being precisely nirguNa, is devoid of both name and form. It assumes the name “nArAyaNa” only by virtue of being associated with sattva upAdhis as saguNa Brahman. Hence, the name denotes the saguna iShvara in advaita, who is nirguNa in essence. Of course, readers must note that the ignoramuses are inventing their own brand of advaita here in attributing names to an attributeless entity. The very name “nArAyaNa” is indicative of attributes of the supreme person in vedAnta – advaita, vishishtadvaita and dvaita.
Thus, such silly layman arguments are nothing but gibberish and display a stark ignorance of advaita. Anandagiri’s statement is simple – nArAyaNa, as the saguNa Brahman, is eulogized not only in the purAnAs and Agamas, but also in shruti. That is to say, saguNopAsaNa is the theme of this sUkta for advaitins.
Lastly, it may be said that even Appayya Dikshita accepts that the Being described in this sUkta is none other than the Lord of Lakshmi. However, Diskhita tries to prove that there is a “sadA shiva” higher than this nArAyaNa. This has been addressed in the commentary below.
So much for advaitins. Now, to vishishtadvaitins and dvaitins, nArAyaNa is only saguNa in truth, the Supreme Being with a non-material form and infinitely auspicious attributes, the Lord of Sri. The Universe is real, the jIvas are real, Brahman is real – the true nature of this Brahman is expounded in this sUkta.
This nArAyaNa is identified with vishNu by virtue of his creatorship over the other devas, which differentiates the former from the latter beings, and also by the vishNu gAyatri, which is uniquely different from the other gAyatris by its character of referring to the nArAyaNa nAma directly, thus equating it with vAsudeva and vishNu.
In contrast, other gAyatris begin with “tatpuruSha” which implies that those devatas are vibhUtIs of Brahman, or in rare cases with names like “bhAskara” for aditya which is a direct name of Aditya but references nArAyaNa as the indweller.
As mentioned earlier, we have already explained the meanings of the name “nArAyaNa” in a separate article; we will skip that and move on to the sUkta. Here, we will be using the Vishishtadvaitic commentary of sri ranga rAmAnuja muni.
This sUkta exists in two different readings – the andhra paTa and the dravida paTa. While there are some minor differences, the genuine reading is definitely the dravida paTa. We can say this definitely since ancient advaitins, vishishtadvaitins and even Vedic commentators like Sayana follow the dravida paTa. For instance, Anandagiri's TIka upon the vArtika on Sankara's BrihadAranyaka Upanishad commentary (3-7-3), which we had quoted partly earlier, says (in full):
"na kevalam purANAgamAbhyAmeva so(a)dhigamyate| kintu srutyakSarairapItyAha etameveti| '''sahasrashIrSam devam vishvAksham vishwa shambhuvam| vishvam nArAyaNam devam aksharam paramam prabhum|''' "
Here, Anandagiri uses the words “vishvaM nArAyaNam devam aksharam paramam prabhum”. This is the dravida paTa. The Andhra paTa however, contains “paramaM padaM”.
Similarly, the dravida paTa contains “sa brahma sa siva sEndra” whereas the Andhra paTa contains “sa brahma sa hari sa siva sEndra”. However, we see that Sayana, in his commentary, has followed the dravida paTa only and writes – “brahmA caturmukhaH, shivo gowrIpatiH, indraH svargAdhipatiH".
Bhatta Bhaskara, the oldest commentator on the Vedas, also references the dravida paTa only. srI rAmAnuja too, in his vedArtha sangraha, quotes the sUkta as “sa brahma sa siva sEndra”, conforming to the dravida paTa. So, it is established that the dravida paTa alone is the true authentic version.
However, to no-one’s surprise, modern day shaiva advaitins who are ever dedicated to do exactly the opposite of what Adi Shankara taught, follow the Andhra paTa. Hence, to show that we have no qualms in accepting the Andhra paTa (despite the dravida paTa being the genuine one), we have commented on both versions, where they differ here. The differences between the paTas are not a problem at all.
This endeavor is to ensure a proper commentary is present on the net, as opposed to bland incorrect translations and deliberate misinterpretations like the ones we have refuted earlier in this blog.
ōm sahasraśīrṣaṁ devaṁ viśvākśaṁ viśvaśambhuvaṁ,
viśvaṁ nārāyaṇaṁ devamakśaraṁ paramaṁ prabhum
Meaning: The God who has a thousand heads, who has his eyes everywhere, who works for the good of all the worlds, who is the immutable and supreme lord, who is the bestower of the fruits of all the deeds, is Narayana who is all this Universe.
The nArAyaNa sUkta occurs in the mahAnArAyaNopanishad right after the section on dahara vidya. In the previous section, it was taught that nArAyaNa is the deity to be meditated on in the dahara vidyA. In this current sUkta, it is emphasized that nArAyaNa alone is the object of meditation in all brahmOpAsaNas – where he is the Being denoted by names like shambhu, parabrahman,  paramjyOti, paramAtmAn, AkAsha, prANa, puruSha and others.
SrI rAmAnuja makes the above clear in the lingabhuyastva adhikaraNam of the Brahma sUtrAs and adds that the terms like “sahasrasIrsha” and others in the accusative case have to be taken in the nominative case. srI bhAshyakAra also clarifies that the nArAyaNa sUkta forms an independent unit and is not related to topic expounded in the previous anuvAka (daharOpAsaNa).The statements in the nominative case such as “viSvameveda puruSha:” and “tattvam nArAyaNa: para”: affirm the usage of the accusative case in the nominative here  
The term “nArAyaNa” is found to be repeated in many mantras of this sUkta and also repeated in every pada in the 3rd mantra. From this, it is clear that this anuvAka is prescribing nArAyaNa as the particular deity to be meditated upon in all brahmOpAsaNas. This is to refute any opinions that nArAyaNa is only the deity for dahara vidyA and not any other.
“sahasrasIrsham” signifies he is having infinite or limitless (anantam) heads everywhere  - this brings out his pervasion. “viSvAksham” means he is capable of perceiving everything directly. Such a description parallels the cosmic form in the bhagavad gita (and thus rules out nonsensical interpretations of “tripura sundari”, “sadA shiva tUrIya brahman” etc).
The Andhra paTa reads “paramaM padam” which does not change the meaning.
viśvataḥ paramam nityaṁ viśvaṁ nārāyaṇagï harim,
viśvamevedaṁ puruṣastadviśvamupajīvati.
Meaning: He is the most supreme and the eternal on account of being in everything. This Universe is Narayana, Hari. All this Universe is Purusha alone. This Universe lives on account of this Purusha.
The Purusha is the inner self in all, and therefore he is all. The Universe depends on him for its existence and functioning. In other words, the Purusha is the “upajIvya” and the Universe is the “upajIvi” or that which lives on account of him.
It should be understood that the Purusha is not the Universe on account of his nature or svarUpa but only on account of him being the inner self of all. Terms denoting the body denote the AtmAn, so only sAmAnAdhikaraNyam is intended.
patiṁ viśvasyātmeśvaragï śāśvatagï  śivamacyutam,
nārāyaṇaṁ mahājñeyaṁ viśvātmānaṁ parāyaṇam.
Meaning: Narayana is the Master of the Universe. This Paramatma is the ruler of himself. He is “shivam” or eternally auspicious and “achyutam” or unchanging or one who does not let his devotees slip. This Narayana is the highest object to be known. He is the inner self of all. He is the supreme object of attainment or the highest goal.
The word “pati” means master and signifies the “sesha-seshi” (servant-master) relationship between ourselves and Narayana. This means that the nature of the Universe (ie, all in it) is to glorify him alone by all its deeds. Ie, the great works done by any being in the Universe has the ultimate glorification of Bhagavan as its end. The Universe is thus subservient to Narayana.
“AtmEshvaraM” means he is the lord of himself and that there is no-one who rules over him (which puts paid to ridiculous theories of rAma/krishNa worshipping shiva, etc). He is “svAdInasarvaiShvarya” – possesses all excellences by nature and is not lacking.
The term “shAshvatam” or eternal is an attribute of the term “shiva” in the mantra. This excludes the well known pArvati pati who is not “shAshvatam” as he is created (nArAyaNAt rudrO jAyatE). Here, “shiva” refers to Narayana in terms of “nirUpAdhika shuddimatvam”. The Upanishad further goes on to say he is the antaryAmin of brahma, shiva and others.
“mahAjnEyam” means he is the highest object of knowledge. As his nature always remains the same, he is “achyuta” or unchangeable.
Alternatively, srI parAsara bhattar interprets “achyuta” as “one who does not let his devotees fall”. That can be taken here as well. When bhIshma was lying on the bed of arrows, he called krishNa as “achyuta” when the latter blessed him with the knowledge of the veda and took away his bodily pain. BhagavAn never lets his devotees fall, unlike the other devas.
nārāyaṇaḥ paraṁ brahma tattvaṁ nārāyaṇaḥ paraḥ,
nārāyaṇaḥ paro jyotirātmā nārāyaṇaḥ paraḥ.
Meaning: Narayana is the Supreme Brahman. Narayana is the Supreme Reality. Narayana is the Supreme Light. Narayana is the Supreme Self.
The acharyas bring up a pUrvapakSha raised by appayya dikshita and refute it here. Appayya interprets this as “nArAyaNAt paraM brahma” – “There is a being (sadA shiva) higher than nArAyaNa” – and thus unscrupulously tries to bring in the sadA shiva tUriya brahma vAda.
To this, the true vaidikas reply, in the first pada “narayanaparam” is not one word. Narayana is in the nominative case and hence cannot be taken as “nArAyaNAt paraM brahma”. In addition, the mahOpanishad has a clearer reading – it says “nArAyaNa: paraM brahma”. Thus, Appayya’s claims are not valid.
Yet another factor is the successive mantras such as “antar bahisca tat sarvam vyApya nArAyaNa stitha:” – these mantras talk of nArAyaNa as sarva-vyApi. That in turn implies that nArAyaNa alone is spoken of as parabrahman, for it makes no sense for the sUkta to first say there is a “sadA shiva” above nArAyaNa and follow it up by saying nArAyaNa is sarva-vyApi.
Also, it is pertinent to note that even hardened and biased shaivas do not deny that – 1) nArAyaNa is a proper noun denoting only vishNu, 2) nArAyaNa is saguNa according to their advaitic philosophy. In the srikaNtha bhashya written by appayya under the pseudonym of “srikaNtha” and commented on it by himself, appayya himself only tries to make a claim that a being greater than nArAyaNa exists and does not make even stupider claims like “nArAyaNa is nirguNa” or “nArAyaNa is not mahA-vishNu” as modern day “internet ignoramuses” do. As a proper noun, nArAyaNa denotes vishNu. Regardless of nouns, nArAyaNa still only is vishNu based on the vishNu gAyatri and statements of difference from other deities.
The name “nArAyaNa” is repeated by each pada of this mantra to remove any doubts that nArAyaNa alone is the upAsya in all brahmOpAsaNas.
The Andhra paTa contains another line - nārāyaṇaḥ paro dhyātā dhyānam nārāyaṇaḥ paraḥ. Fairly straightforward.
yacca kiñcijjagatyasmin dṛśyate śrūyate'pi vā,
antarbahiśca tatsarvaṁ vyāpya nārāyaṇaḥ sthitaḥ.
Meaning: Whatsoever object is seen or heard in this world, Narayana resides pervading these objects within and without.
This mantra points out the vyApagatva of the Lord. The isavasya Upanishad also begins with “IshA vAsyamidam sarvam”. Bhagavan has both antarvyApti and bahirvyApti. The antarvyApti is of the form of the antaryAmin which rules over every sentient and insentient object from within. The veda says “antha: praviSta: shAstA: janAnAm.
BhagavAn pervades the atomic self totally to the extent of its existence without causing any break. The acharyas say this is on account of his “agatitagatanA sAmarthya” – quality of reconciling contradictions – Being both the greatest and also pervading the atomic self.
Additionally, this also completely demolishes theories of a “being greater than nArAyaNa” since it talks about the pervasion of nArAyaNa only.
The andhra paTa contains “yacca kiñcijjagatsarvaṁ”.
anantamavyayaṁ kavigï samudre'ntaṁ viśvaśambhuvam
Meaning: The Infinite, the Immutable, the Omniscient, the One whose abode is in the Ocean, the inner controller of Shambhu.
“ananta” implies he is not limited by time, space or object. “avyayam” means he is of the same nature always and unchanging. He is the one seer or omniscient principle. “samudrEntam” – here “antam” means “sthAnam” and hence implies he has his abode in the Ocean.
“viSvashambhuvam” here refers to him being the inner controller of Shiva, who is blissful (hence the name “Shambhu”) on account of meditating on him.  Vide the pramAnas:
nArAyaNAtmako GYeyaH pANDaveya yuge yuge ~ O Arjuna, know (Rudra as) 'nArAyaNAtmaka' in every yuga

vaishNavAnAM yathA shambhuḥ  - Shambhu is the greatest among those (bhakti yOgIs) who meditate on vishNu (~bhAgavata purAna 12.13.16)

viṣṇuś cātmā bhagavato bhavasyāmita tejasaḥ” –Vishnu is the Self of the revered Bhava who has great tejas (~karna parva, mahAbhArata)
The context of referring to Shiva is mainly because this sUkta is going to later on describe the Being in the lotus of the heart. Since the highest form of meditation of the “hArda rUpi” is sankarshaNOpAsaNa according to the mAndUkya (prajna stage), it thus makes a reference to Shiva who is renowned in that particular mode of upAsaNa.
padmakośapratīkāśagï hṛdayaṁ cāpyadhomukham
adho niṣṭayā vitasyānte nābhyāmupari tiṣṭhati,
hRdayam tad vijAnIyAd bhāti viśvasyāyatanaṁ mahat
Meaning: The heart is comparable to a lotus bud that is pointing downwards and is situated below the neck joint and above the navel at a length of 12 inches. That heart should be known as the place of that Lord who is the supporter of the Universe.
So far, sriman nArAyaNa was declared the upAsya of all brahma-vidyAs. So here, it is now shown that he is the object of meditation in the dahara vidyA. This is according to the nyAya that a general rule is declared first and then  it is applied in a specific manner. Similarly, we see in the ChandOgya a general statement such as “ithadAtmiyam idam sarvam” – he is the innerself of all and follows it up with a specific statement “tat tvam asi” – he is the inner self of the jivAtma.
In short, this mantra says that the heart is the abode of the paramAtma who is viSvAtmaka. The antaryAmi svarUpam of the Lord is dual – one form of his “antaryAmitvam” is that of him being the inner controller of all sentient and insentient entities, whereas the second form of his “antaryAmitvam” is his manifestation in the lotus of the heart for the purpose of upAsaNa. His presence in the lotus of the heart is for the dahara vidya form of meditation.
Sri vaishnava acharyas opine that it is not clearly known whether the second form of “antaryAmitvam” exists with a divya mangala vigraha (form) even prior to the upAsaNa, or whether a rUpa is assumed by the Lord once upAsaNa commences, prior to which he exists as divyAtma svarUpa only. However, that is not important since the essence of dahara vidyA is meditating on his form in the lotus of the heart and he is associated with such a form.
The Andhra pAtam contains “jvālamālākulaṁ bhāti” instead of “hRdayam tad vijAnIyAd”. The meaning does not change much.
santatagï śilābhistu lambatyākośasannibham,
tasyānte suṣiragï sūkśmaṁ tasmin sarvaṁ pratiṣṭhitam
Meaning: That heart which is like a slightly closed bud hangs down being well covered by veins. At the end of that is a subtle hole. There is established the Supreme Brahman, the self of all.
The subtle opening is the elemental ether (akasha). The term “sarvam” signifies the inner self of all who manifests in the heart of everyone as the antaryAmin. The “sarvAtma”, the Supreme Brahman, is established in the heart of all people as the upAsya for facilitating the upAsaka. The description of the heart as a slightly closed bud with a subtle opening is mentioned to indicate that the jaTarAgni or gastric fire passes through it. This is described in the next mantra.
tasya madhye mahanagnirviśvārcirviśvatomukhaḥ,
so'grabhug vibhajan tiṣṭhan āhāramajaraḥ kaviḥ. santāpayati svaṁ dehamāpātatalamastakam
Meaning: In the midst of that heart is a blazing fire spreading in all directions with huge flames surging on all sides. He, the ever awake, the ever roaring, stands there, classifies the food and he himself consumes it first. He torments with heat his body from the bottom of his foot to the head.
“tasya madhyE” implies that the gastric fire is in the middle of the heart. How so, when it is actually elsewhere below for digesting food and drink? It only means that the gastric fire is indeed below, but its flames blaze upward through the subtle opening of the heart mentioned earlier and so it is taken as containing the gastric fire. The warmth of the entire body is on account of this blazing fire in the heart.
The Andhra pATham contains another line – “tiryagūrdhvamadaḥśāyī raśmayastasya santatāḥ”
tasya madhye vahniśikhā aṇīyordhvā vyavasthitaḥ nīlatoyadamadhyasthād vidyullekheva bhāsvarā, nīvāraśūkavattanvī pītā bhāsvatyaṇūpamā.
Meaning: In the midst of that, there is a flame of fire which is very subtle and rising above, which is shining like a streak of lightening in the midst of a blue cloud, which is very subtle like the tip of a grain, which is self-luminous and incomparable.
The gastric fire is situated below. But its subtle flame has entered the heart through that subtle aperture and that is described here. That subtle fire is in the middle of the heart and within that flame is the ever auspicious body of paramAtma that shines out like a dark cloud. Thus, the subtle flame contains within itself that auspicious form of paramAtma which is like a dark-blue cloud. That form of the Lord is resplendent like lightening.
Just as a streak of lightening in the midst of a dark cloud pervades all around and shines out, in the same way, Sri Maha Lakshmi, who has the effulgence of gold, is situated in the chest of Bhagavan, between his arms and pervades the body of Bhagavan with her radiance. Because of this, it appears as though she herself has the auspicious form of the Lord in the midst of her effulgence.
SrI vedAnta desikan explains the same tattva in his work, srI vadarAja panchAsath as follows:
nāgācaleśa nikhilopanishan manīshā-tvām | paricinvatām mañjūshikā marakatam di sphurati kāpi tanvī hrDi śikhā munīnām tā nava megha garbhā || saudāmanīva nibhr

Meaning: Oh atthi Giri Lord! Just as a jewel box is housing a green gem (Maragatham), You are present inside the meanings of all Upanishads as the Maragatha Manivannan. In the heart lotuses of the Sages, who meditate on You, there is a small flame that remains stationary. You are seated on the middle of that flame just like a still lightning amidst the new cloud. Thus meditate the Yogis about You as at the center of a small agni jwālai in their heart lotuses.
(~ Sri Varadaraja PanchAsath, Sloka 20, Credit for translation goes to Sri V Sadagopan)
The words of the mantra “kApi tanvI” are incorporated in this slOka by the acharya, which signifies lakshmi. Therefore, the anuvAka describes that the Lord resides as “sriya: patiH” in the hearts of all people. SrI rAmAnuja too describes it as such in the vedArtha sangraha as follows:
sEyaM daharapundarIkamadhyastAkAsha varthinI vahnishikA svAntarnihita – nIlatOyadAbaparamAtma svarUpasvAntarnihitanIlatOyadA vidyudivAbhAtItyartha (~vedArtha sangraha, 211)
Meaning: ‘Luminous like a streak of lightning enclosing a blue cloud (M.B.).’ This means that the subject spoken of is like a streak of lightning enclosing a blue cloud. The sentence as a whole means as follows: The flame burning in the space in the centre of the lotus of the heart has within it the supreme Self whose radiant colour is like that of a blue cloud. Therefore that flame bears resemblance to a streak of lightning enclosing a blue cloud.

tasyāḥ śikhāyā madhye paramātmā vyavasthitaḥ,
sa brahma sa śivaḥ sendraḥ so'kṣaraḥ paramaḥ svarāṭ
Meaning: The Supreme Self is established in the middle of the flame. He is Brahma, Shiva, Indra, the liberated Self, the most celebrated Master of Karma.
This mantra expounds the fact that sriman nArAyaNa is “sarvapadavAchyan” on account of his sarvAntaryAmitvam of all entities.
Since everything is the body of Brahman (yasya prithvi sarIram…yasya Atma sarIram), all terms denoting various objects denote the Supreme Brahman, sriman nArAyaNa, who is the inner self of all, in its ultimate analysis. Therefore, this is the logic of co-ordinate predication or sAmAnAdhikaraNya used for sa brahma: and others. The term “akshara” means muktAtma. “paraM” means “utkRshtaM” – most celebrated. “vyavasthitaH” means he is residing there assuming a golden form.
SrI rAmAnuja points out in the vedArtha sangraha that this mantra shows the following:
  1. That all entities are pervaded, controlled and supported by nArAyaNa alone, are subservient to him and have him as their inner self.

  1. This mantra ascribes the status of vibhUtis to gods like Brahma, Shiva and Indra as well as the liberated self and others.

  1. Not only does this mantra declare the above two tattvas, but it also places Brahma and Shiva (who are vastly superior to other gods) in the same line with minor deities like Indra, thus treating them as equals! The implication being, the difference in the prowess of these beings is miniscule in comparison with the Supreme Brahman, for whom these entities are vibhUtis or “property under his control”
In srimad rAmAyaNa, this is summed up succinctly by srI hanuman as follows:
brahmaa vaa svayambhuuH chaturaananaH rudraa vaa triNetraH tripuraantakaHmahendraH vaa indraH suranaayakah na shaktaaH traatum raamavadhyamyudhi (~sundara khAnda – 51.45) 

Meaning: Brahma the self-existing god with four faces or Rudra with three eyes and the destroyer of Tripura or Mahendra the god of atmosphere and sky as also the lord of celestials would not be able to protect the one to be killed by Rama in battle." 
Note that the anvaya is Brahma, Rudra and Indra in the same manner as the nArAyaNa sUkta which declares sa brahma: sa shiva: sEndra. In addition, Hanuman describes these deities with their relative glories – Brahma with his four faces which chant the four Vedas signifying his great ascetic might – Rudra who has the third eye and who destroyed Tripura – Indra who is  the great lord of devas – The idea is that even with all these glories, they cannot defeat Rama singly or combined, and in fact, all these devas together with their glories are vibhUtIs of srI rAghava
The Andhra pATham contains the extra “sa hari”. On account of the fact that srI shankara and srI rAmAnuja quote the paTha with “sa brahma: sa shiva: sEndra” and the words of Hanuman which correspond with that anvaya, it is clear that the recension without “sa hari” is the more authentic. The kaivalya shruti also contains – “sa brahma sa sivah sendrah so'ksarah paramah svarat” and then only goes on to say “sa eva visnuh sa pranah sa kalo'gnih sa candramah”
However, adding “sa hari” is not a problem as it preserves the general meaning that all devas are vibhUtIs of nArAyaNa. Then, “sa hari” implies that vishNu, of his own will, is born among these vibhUtIs and is verily an avatAra of the Supreme Brahman. It can be taken in the vein of the brahmAviShNurudrEndras tE sarvE samprasUyantE in the atharvasikha quoted by srI rAmAnuja – according to  “nArAyaNAt brahma jAyatE, nArAyaNat rudrO jAyatE, nArAyaNat indrO jAyatE”, these gods are born of nArAyaNa, whereas nArAyaNa himself is born of his own will according to “ajAyamAno bahudha vijAyatE”. The vishNu purAna reteirates the same:
srisHtistHityantakaraNI brahmavishnushivAtmikAm | sa sangyAm yAti bhagavAnEka eva janArdanah |" (Vishnu Purana 1:2:66)
Meaning: "That god Janardana alone assumes the forms of Brahma, Vishnu and Rudra for the tasks of creation, maintenance and destruction".
vishNu is verily that janArdhana/nArAyanA as indicated by the vishNu gAyatri and other pramAnAs. The others are vibhUtIs.
ṛtagï satyaṁ paraṁ brahma puruṣaṁ kṛṣṇapiṅgalam,
ūrdhvaretaṁ virūpākśaṁ viśvarūpāya vai namaḥ.
Meaning: Obeisance unto the Supreme Brahman, the Lord of the Cosmic Form, who is all-pervading, immutable, the One who has an auspicious form of a black, tawny color, who has risen above all changes, who has eyes that are dissimilar in nature.
“Rtam” means “sarvagata”. “satyam” means “nirvikAra”. The auspicious form of bhagavAn is a blend of dark blue with the golden hue of srI mahAlakshmi.
“UrdhvarEtam” means that his “vIrya” is celebrated (“retas” means “vikAra” or change). “vIrya” is the quality to be able to effect change in others while remaining  unchanged himself.
“virUpAksham” means that his two eyes are not the same. One eye is like fire as it is always looking at the transgressions of the jivAs in anger whereas the other eye is cool as snow as it is looking at the merits of the jivAs with grace.
ōm nārāyaṇāya vidmahe vāsudevāya dhīmahi, tanno viṣṇuḥ pracodayāt.
Meaning: We meditate upon nArAyaNa. For that we devote ourselves to vAsudeva. May that vishNu invigorate us.
This is the well-known vishNu gAyatri recited at the end of the sUkta. The usage of “nArAyaNa” thus identifies vAsudeva and vishNu with the Supreme Brahman, as opposed to the usage of “tatpuruSha” for rudra and variants for other deities in their respective gAyatrIs.
The “tatpuruSha gAyatri” for rudra is explained in the “rudra in the Upanishads” article. It denotes Rudra belongs to nArAyaNa or Rudra leads the jIvAs to nArAyaNa. In the case of say, sUrya gAyatri, we have “bhAskarAya vidmahE” which implies that bhAskara is a name of sUrya and here “bhAskara” denotes nArAyaNa who is the indweller, and sUrya leads one to him.
However, for “nArAyaNaya vidmahE..”, it is well known that nArAyaNa has no indweller. Neither can it be said vishNu/vAsudeva is a distinct deity who leads one to nArAyaNa since that inference is only possible with “tatpuruSha” sabda. That establishes the identity of vishNu with nArAyaNa. Also, owing to the special nature of the names “nArAyaNa”, “vishNu” and “vAsudevA” which are vyApaka nAmas, the Being referred by these names is the same, viz, the Lord of Lakshmi. Not that this explanation is needed since it is a well accepted fact anyway.
This nArAyaNa sUkta has been lucidly explained by sri vaishnava acharyas as celebrating the greatness of the Supreme Brahman, the Lord of Sri, revealed by the shruti and smriti.


  1. Adiyen!

    In the sentence "anantamavyayaṁ kavigï samudre'ntaṁ viśvaśambhuvam" , for word "Visvasambhuvam" , why we need to interpret it as inner controller of Sambhu? in that case Visva has no meaning? It seems to be more appropriate to interpret it as Visva(universe)+sambhuvam(origin) - i.e the deity amidst Samudra is the origin of Universe.


    1. "viSvasambhuvaM" has already occured in the first rk - ōm sahasraśīrṣaṁ devaṁ viśvākśaṁ viśvaśambhuvaṁ, where the meaning you mentioned is given. It would be redundant to take the same meaning again.

      The ithihAsa which says "nArAyaNAtmako GYeyaH pANDaveya yuge yuge" - Know "Rudra" as nArAyaNatmaka is a direct upa-brahmaNa here.

      "viSvasambhUvam" - He who is fully (viSva) pervading, entering and controlling Shambhu. The term "viSva" refers to pervasion as the inner controller without interruption, to the very essence of Shambhu's existence.

  2. Simple, Succint, yet on the dot in conveying the deep and esoteric meanings of the suktha. Excellent.

  3. hare krishna

    I would like to know whether ,the name vasudeva and name visnu is also a proper noun(like narayana) or it can be a common noun as well.

    1. As far as I know, the name vAsudeva can be interpreted in a pure yaugika way. However, the name is rUDha only for Sriman nArAyaNa as per scriptures (i.e., the word primarily can only mean Sriman Narayana).

    2. Hare Krishna sir, can you tell me from where to get vaishnava upanishad translations? I've searched so hard,but I didn't get any Vaishnava commentary on Upanishads,all I'm getting is advaitic translations.

    3. Well, there are NS Anantharangachariar's translation of Rangaramanujacgarya's commentaries on the principal upanishads that are taken up in the Brahma Sutra.

      Gita Bhashya - Thirukallam Swami's translation on Haristore

  4. Dear readers,

    Being bored, I was just reading the "nArAyaNasabdasAdhAraNyaM" of Govinda Nayaka. This is a shaiva work of the 16-17th century that desperately tries to prove that the term "nArAyaNa" can be applied to brahma and shiva besides Bhagavan. Obviously, the shaivAdvaitins were attempting new things previously unheard of during this period.

    A vaishnava rejoinder to this work named "nArAyaNasabdaniruktiH" exists. But neither the shaiva nor the vaishnava works are of great scholarship and thus serve no purpose for us.

    Still, what I found amusing was this. The author tries to show Shiva is referred to as "Narayana" in the Puranas by quoting the following shlOka from Linga Purana:

    maheśvarāya devāya namaste paramātmane // LiP_1,71.96 //
    nārāyaṇāya śarvāya brahmaṇe brahmarūpiṇe /

    This is a tAmasic section of the Linga Purana where Vishnu praises Shiva after the latter destroys the tripurAsurAs. The author believes that the term "nArAyaNa" there thus refers to Shiva.

    Here is an excellent sample of the ignorance of later day shaivAdvaitin dveshis. For that shloka does not say Shiva is nArAyaNa. Rather, here is the meaning,

    maheśvarāya devāya namaste paramātmane // LiP_1,71.96 //
    nārāyaṇāya śarvāya brahmaṇe brahmarūpiṇe /

    Meaning: Salutations to Maheshvara, to the effulgent god, to the Supreme Self, to Vishnu (nārāyaṇāya), to Shiva (śarvāya), to Brahma (brahmaṇe), to the one who has the Vedas as his body (brahmarūpiṇe).

    This shloka is certainly hailing Shiva as Brahman and saying Vishnu is praising him, but look how carefully it attributes the name "Narayana" to only Vishnu. It hails Shiva as one who is Vishnu (Narayana) and does not attribute the name "Narayana" directly to Shiva!

    That is clear by the reference to sharva and brahma namas. It is merely saying Shiva is in the form of the trimUrtIs, of whom Narayana (Vishnu) is one.

    An example of how even the tAmasa purANAs do not dare to attribute the name "nArAyaNa" to anyone other than the Lord, even when they are trying to belittle him in favor of other devatas. It is also an example of the poor scholarship of the vishNu-dhvEshi who authored this work. This is why we don't address it much.

    1. By the way, the Sri Vaishnava rejoinder work nArAyaNasabdaniruktiH says that these Tamasa Puranas' statements calling Shiva as Narayana are interpolations. And interestingly, it says that not are these verses interpolations in the Tamasa Puranas, but also the very citation of them in the works of Appayya Dikshitar are interpolations in the works of Appayya Dikshitar:

      "You cited usages of interpretations explaining the term "narayana" as referring to Shiva. However, these usages are not cited in the Shaivite texts such as Nilakantha Bhashya, Shivarkamanidipika, Shivastutisuktamalika, Shivatattvaviveka, and Shaivakarnamrita, etc., which are extremely insistent upon establishing that the term "narayana" refers to Shiva. Our texts, which refute the above texts line by line, also do not cite those passages. Interpolations are seen in the texts of Mahabharata, etc. Therefore, it is inevitable to suspect the existence of interpolations in the very Puranas, such as Shiva Purana, Skanda Purana, etc. The Shiva Purana, Skanda Purana, etc. are generally edited only by the Shaivites. Even narrations of greatness of modern temples are presented as though they belong in the Shiva Purana, Skanda Purana, etc. Therefore, the usages you cited are not at all from the puranas.

      "It is said that Appayya Dikshita quoted a statement from the Skanda Purana. Some modern writers too have written that in the lexicons within the last ten years. It is not seen in the previous books. Our partisans, who refuted the book by Dikshita, did not cite it."

      So it looks like Shaivites may have even been willing to interpolate the works of their own Acharya.

    2. Yes, I read that. We have no idea of knowing. May or may not be true.

      It might also be the fact that the vaishnava author doesn't seem very scholarly, whoever he was, and being unable to explain the tAmasic verses, labelled them as interpolations. Any proper vidvan of Sri Vaishnava sampradaya can address even the quoted tAmasic verses properly. None of those verses, despite neing tAmasic, actually attribute the name "nArAyaNa" to shiva for one thing.

      Certainly, the Shaiva puranas have interpolations for sure, that cannot be denied.

      This is not to say the Shaiva work is superior. Both are poorly written works in reality, but the Shaiva one is much worse.

  5. Dear Readers,

    Here is a somewhat interesting Q I came across. It is posed by none other than Veerashaiva of course, who is desperate to find any straw he can clutch upon, but I thought it was good to answer it here:

    //The Shiva-related popular vedic hymn, for example, the Sri Rudram, or any Shiva-specific upanishad such as the kaivalya or Jabala, is considered by srivaishnavas as not shiva-specific but they are directly Vishnu/Narasimha hymns. They also hold all the names such as nilakantha, shambhu, etc. are actually Vishnu's. Hence my question: In that case, why are these names not given to their children, considering them as legitimate Vishnu-names?//

    Firstly, there is no such concept as "shiva related upanishad". Let us dispel that myth which came out of Veerashaiva's brain. There are certainly "shiva related purANAs" and even "shiva related hymns in the vedas" but the Shri Rudram is not one of them, and even "shiva related" means, "related to shiva-sharIraka-paramAtma sriman nArAyaNa (this holds true even for the tAmasa purANAs). The Upanishads are directly about paramAtma and not about shiva.

    Even Shiva says Krishna is called "Shankara" in the Harivamsha, and the shruti/smriti are full of pramANAs like names like "umApati" etc refer to Vishnu.


  6. Cont'd from above...

    That being said, the naming system for sri vaishnavas is simple:

    1) Bhagavan has mukhya and amukhya namas as described by shri pillai lokacharya. The mukhya namas are the vyApaka namas - Narayana, Vishnu and Vasudeva. The name Narayana solely denotes the Supreme Brahman in all the shastras even if it could be used etymologically to denote other entities, and the other two are etymologically connected namas and mentioned in the vishNu gAyatri. Hence they are asAdhAraNa namas for the Supreme Reality. These are common names for all vaishnavas.

    2) The amukhya namas are rama, krishna, narasimha, varaha, gopala, shiva, indra, brahma, vashishta, vishwamitra, agastya etc etc...they are endless. These namas describe his guNAs.

    3) Names like Shiva, Indra, etc are amukhya as they do not describe the svarupa-nirupaka dharmas of Brahman like the vyApaka namas. They merely describe one guNa like "mangalatva" or "aishvarya". Furthermore, they can be applied to other entities as well -- insentient objects like the mind, sentient objects like the Jiva, the devas like Rudra or Indra. Hence, we do not name ourselves with these names as there is no special meaning for them.

    4) Other names like Narasimha, Varaha, Rama, Krishna are also amukhya, it is true. They merely describe certain attributes just like the Shiva, Indra, etc and others could also bear those names. However, an exception is made because the avatArAs appeared under those names. There may be many people with blackish complexion but the Lord chose to bear the "krishNa" name, and similary "rAma", "govinda", "madhusudhana" names when he took avatAras, and thus, these names assume a level of importance in that manner. Whereas, the Lord, despite having names like "shiva" or "rudra" or "indra", did not take avatArAs bearing those names, and so we do not name ourselves that way.

    It is not restricted to devas like shiva anyway. There is a purANa shloka quoted by madhwas which says that names like vashishta, vishwamitra etc are also names of vishNu. For the simple reason that there is no avatAra by the name of those rishis, we do not have those names.

    5) A third category of amukhya namas are popular names like "varada", "devanatha" etc. Note that smritis often describe devas like Shiva or Indra as "varada" as well. Then why do we name ourselves that? It is an exception based on the fact that the azhwars have praised the Lord that way in divya-prabandhas. These have become names of "archa-avatArAs" - the avatAra of the Lord in temples and so we name ourselves with those names out of love for the azhwars and the archa-forms.

    6) A fourth category are amukhya namas like "upendra", "dattatreya" etc which are avatArAs of the Lord and his names. But we do not name ourselves that because these avatArAs have no consequence for us unlike "rAma", "krishNa" etc and accomplished something for the sake of others.

    7) Finally, note that despite all this, there are some who have named themselves with amukhya namas in ancient times. Shri Ramanuja quotes commentators on the brahma sUtras with names like "guhadeva", "kapardi" etc. If you accept Shri Ramanuja matham as parama-vaidika-siddhAnta, these commentators are also sri vaishnavas/vishishtadvaitins.


  7. Cont'd..

    Not understanding this age-old practice, there is an anti-vaishnava rabble rouser sitting in New Jersey with the brains of a gnat, who has been spouting venom without an iota of knowledge. He replies thus to Veerashaiva's comment:

    //That all names belong to vishnu is only polemics - they don't really mean it. They use that argument to neutralize scripture that glorifies Siva. When they recite Shatarudriyam at Srirangam or tirupati, we'll know they are serious - hell will freeze over before Iyengars would do that//

    This ignorant buffoon does not know that Shri Rudram is indeed recited in all veda pArAyaNams in vishNu temples! Who ignores a portion of the vedas in any manner? The Rudram is recited during ghoshti, porappadu, and certain utsavams along with other sUktAs. I assume hell has frozen over now?

    However, primacy is accorded to the Purusha Sukta, Narayana Sukta and Vishnu Sukta for daily bathing (thirumanjanam) -- why? Because Purusha Sukta is the essence of the Vedas, Narayana is the highest name of Brahman and Vishnu is the mukhya vyApaka nAma. These 3 sUktas do not have any phala like svarga, aishvarya etc but are solely aimed at describing the nature and qualities of Brahman.

    In contrast, the Rudram has the phala of indrIya-nigraha and thus it is not contextual to bathing the supreme deity, hence it is not chanted during that procedure in temples, just as other sUktas which describe the Lord as indra, chandra etc with different phalas are not chanted.

    But how can we expect a clown who thinks the shruti vAkya "eko hi rudro' means "there is only one person named rudra" to understand all this, eh? He even rivals Veerashaiva in ignorance and doubles in hatred.



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