You are here: Sri Vaishnava Home Page : Bhakti List : Archives : October 1996

Narayana Suktam, vs. 1-3

From: V Sundar (
Date: Mon Oct 07 1996 - 07:00:03 PDT

Sri Naarayana Sooktam

Shaanti Paatha

sahanaavavatu | sahanau bhunaktu | saha veeryam karavaavahai |
tejasvinaavadheetamasatu maa vidvishaavahai ||
om shaanti: shaanti: shaanti: ||

avatu (may He protect) saha (both) nau (of us, Teacher and Taught) ;
bhunaktu (may He
nourish) saha (both) nau (of us) ;  saha (together) karavaavahai (may we
act) veeryam (with
potency). (may) nau (our) adheetam (adhyayana, recital)  astu (be) tejasvi
(radiant). maa
(Nor) vi-dvishaavahai ( may enmity come between us). Om. (shaanti: shaanti:
May the three-fold peace be.

This is a traditional prayer recited by Guru (Teacher) and Sishya (the
Taught) at the
beginning of learning. The prayer entreats the infinite Bramhan to protect
and nourish both
teacher and taught through the learning process. The  reference to veerya,
potency, is
metaphorical with the 'fruits of knowledge' as a result of this potency.
Learning is
obliquely referred to as an act of creation. Also, the bramhachari,
embarking on his voyage
of learning with the upanayana initiation ceremony, is thenceforth held to
be dvija - twice
born. With a fruitful effort, radiant in its practice and recital of the
Veda, both begin the
journey to truth, steadfast that no enmity (dvesha)  shall come between
them (for traditional Indian learning, truth is a land with many tracks).
Instead, peace of thought, word and deed shall prevail.

Sri Naarayana Sooktam

1. sahasrasheerSHam devam vishvaaksham vishvashambhuvam |
vishvam naarayaNam deva-maksharam paramam padam ||

devam (the Divine One ) sahasra-seerSHam (with a thousand heads),
vishva-aksham (who
is the eyes of this world) vishva sham-bhuvam (who creates the good in this
vishvam (who is this world), a-ksharam (who is without destruction)
narayaNam devam
(that divine Narayana) paramam padam (the highest of all ends.. I meditate
on him)

This first verse is an invocation of Sriman Narayana, echoing the
sentiments of vastness
and viSHNu-tva, or all-pervading-ness, for want of a better word, that are
so often used in
regard to Him. "sahasra sheerSHaa puruSHa: sahasraaksha: sahasrapaat" -
says the
Purusha Suktam (PS)  - A thousand heads has the Purusha, a Thousand eyes and a
Thousand feet. The Vishnu Sahasraaamam (VS) echoes this closely -
vishvaatmaa sahasraaksha sahasrapaat". For just one close parallel in
thamizh, consider
Andal's "Ongi ulagaLanda uttaman".

The akshara purusha is the jivasaakshi - witness to all life, Lord who
lives in our hearts.
Compare the Gita's "kshara: sarvaaNi bhootani kootasto akshara ucyete

"vishvam" of course, is the first, all encompassing name Sriman Narayana is
adored with
in the Vishnu Sahasranaamam, as in " vishvam viSHNur vaSHatkaaro...".  In
the Bhattar
Bhaashyam (BB), this name is given special treatment. "Who pervades
everything, who
permeates everything, who by his nature is always the embodiment of
"mangaLa" - the
essence of well being, who has no bound to His excellence, who is form of
the divine
soul, who is the complete embodiment of divine auspiciousness, greatness
and all good
qualities, he is called "poorNa" - the complete one, by this name. All
other names enrich
this name of Sriman Narayana. Since he is full of unmeasurable great power
(vibhooti), we
need to say this first, and this is why this name is first of all".

One explanation given for the name "naaraayaNa" is "he who resides in the
Another is that he is the ayana (refuge) of naaraNi ( all beings that are
created from soul
(aatmaa, which is called nara)". Both the Shankara Bhaashyam (SB) and the
BB are agreed
in this interpretation.  With a thousand heads, he sees all as the eyes of
this world, causes
all the good (sham) and IS the world itself. His divine nature is without
destruction, and he
is the highest of all goals, and all ends. Compare the VS - " eko naika
sava: ka: kim yattat
padamanuttamam" - of which the last word is translated by Shankara as "Who
has nothing
above Himself, and is the goal that all mumukshu-s try to reach".

God, all pervading, all seeing,
Fount of all Good, and the All,
Narayana, endless,
Of all Ends is He the highest.

2. vishvata: paramaan-nityam vishvam naarayaNam harim |
vishvamedevam puruSHas-tadvishvam upajeevati ||

paramaan (He is greater) vishvata: (than this world), nityam (eternal),
vishvam (is the
world), harim (who destroys his devotees sins), naaraayaNam (I invoke that
idam Vishvam (this world) puruSHa: eva (is verily the purusha). vishvam
(this world) tad
upa-jeevati (because of Him being does it live).

"vishvamedevam puruSHa: " declares this verse, echoing the aazhvaar's
nedumaal". The Vishnu Puraana gives us : "deva manuSHyaa: pashava: pakshee
vrkshasaree srupaa roopametad anantasya viSHNor bhinnam iva sthitam" - The
humans, animals, birds, insects, trees, all of these are but Vishnu's
endless form, that
appear different.  It goes on to resoundingly declare "etad vijaanataa
sarvam jagat
sthaavara-jangamam | draSHtavyam aatmavat viSHNor yatho-ayam vishvaroopadrk
|| "
All in this world that moves and is still, all is vishnu's vishva-roopa, or
literally world-
form. Who knows this sees all as the (param)aaatma's manifestations. "evam
gnyaate sa
bhagavaan anaadi parameshvara: | praseedat-ya acyuto yasmin prasanne klesha
-  If known thus, Achyutha, who is without beginning an is Lord of all,
will bless (the
knower), and by his pleasure will all sorrows be utterly destroyed.

Hari is derived sometimes as " harim vai paapaam gnyaanayor-hartaaram" -
who destroys
sins and their results, rebirths, along with their causes. In a simpler
way, in line with the
swet "pachchai maamalai pol meni", it may also be translated as the green

Hari, eternal, greater than worlds,
Narayana, who is the world,
Who causes the worlds to live by
I invoke him.

3. patim vishvasya aatmeshvaram shaashvatam shivam acyutam |
naaraayaNam mahaagnyeyam vishvaatmaanam paraayaNam ||

patim (Lord) vishvasya (of the worlds), aatma-eeshvaaram (Lord of Souls)
(eternal) shivam (the embodiment of auspiciousness), acyutam (who slips not),
naarayaNam (That Narayana) mahaa aagnyeyam (greatest of instructions, worth
well), vishva aatmaanam (who is the soul of all in this wolrd),  paraayaNam
(is the best

Not only is Sriman Narayana ishvara for all souls, he is the soul, the
inner light of the
world. Sri Krishna declares in the Gita (10.20) "aham aatma gudaakesha
sarva bhoota
cayasthita "  - I am the soul, O Gudaakesha (arjuna) of all beings. He is
called acyuta,
because he slips not - svaroopa saamartyaan na cyute, ca cyavate na
cyavishyate iti acyuta -
says Shankara.  He slips not from his position, nor from our hearts, nor
lets his devotees
slip. Bhattar gives us " He never leaves those who have reached him, nor
lets them slip
away". That Narayana is the best refuge, is the knowledge every bhakta
carries securely  in
his or her heart.

While the SB has " Who is pure because of the absence of the three guNas"
for Shiva, this
interpretation is not concordant with the Srivaishnava view of Sriman
Narayana as the
repository of all the kalyanagunagana-s. The BB has "Who causes Good for
all beings".
Again, he is called "vishvaatmaa" - the soul of all (SB), who is manifest
as all the world
because of gnyaanashakti, the power of his knowing (BB).

Keeper of the Worlds, Lord of Souls,
Auspicious, Soul of the worlds,
Acyuta, Narayana, Of all Refuges the Best.

- Sundar