Aditya Hrudaya storam begins from verse 4. The stotra begins differently from commonly known forms. Generally, benefits of reciting hymns are given at the end as phalaśruti. But, in Āditya Hṛdaya storam, benefit of reciting this stotra is revealed in the first verse itself. This is done with a specific purpose, as at the end of recitation sun god appears before Śrī Rāma and wishes Him for his victory in the battle. We may wonder why Lord Rāma needs sun god’s wishes. Rāma is an incarnation and by leading His life as an incarnation, He sets an example for us to follow. Brahman incarnates at different times, when adharma weighs over dharma. During incarnations, He not only annihilates adharma, but also imparts several spiritual teachings to enable us to pursue the path of dharma.
There is also another reason for declaring the benefits of reciting this mantra at the beginning. When Agastya told Śrī Rāma to recite Āditya Hṛdayam three times, He did so with a lot of devotion and as a result, sun god decided to grant the wishes of Śrī Rāma to win the battle and communicated to Him. When prayers are answered due to devotion, where is the time to talk about benefits? When god appears before us, will we ever think about anything else? This was the situation when sun god appeared before Śrī Rāma in person (with great reverence) and wished Him success in the battle.
Possibly we can think of one more reason for this. There was fierce battle going on. Agastya made sudden appearance in the battle field to reveal the secret of Āditya Hṛdayam. This secret was revealed in the midst of the battlefield. Hence Agastya in the beginning itself told Rāma about the purpose of his revealing Āditya Hṛdayam to Him. The time was short and the battle was to be won immediately, as nobody wants further deaths in the battlefield. Had Rāma thought, He could have killed Rāvaṇa in no time. But, as already discussed, Rāma is an incarnation and had set the righteous path for us to follow. Now let us study the intricacies of this great hymn.
आदित्यहृदयं पुण्यं सर्वशत्रु विनाशनम्।
जयावहं जपेन् नित्यं अक्षयं परमं शिवम्॥ ४
ādityahṛdayaṁ puṇyaṁ sarvaśatru vināśanam |
jayāvahaṁ japen nityaṁ akṣayaṁ paramaṁ śivam || (4)
सर्वमङ्गल माङ्गल्यं सर्वपाप प्रणाशनम्।
चिन्ताशोक प्रशमनं आयुर्वर्धनमुत्तमम्॥ ५
sarvamaṅgala māṅgalyaṁ sarvapāpa praṇāśanam |
cintāśoka praśamanaṁ āyurvardhanamuttamam || (5)
4. ādityahṛdayaṁ puṇyaṁ - This hymn known as Āditya Hṛdayam is full of auspiciousness and virtuousness (this is explained further in the summary below); sarvaśatru vināśanam – capable of eliminating all types of enemies; jayāvahaṁ - it is capable of conferring victory; japen nityaṁ - if recited daily; akṣayaṁ - every nourishing or un-decaying; paramaṁ śivam – highest degree of auspiciousness (which also includes emancipation).
5. sarvamaṅgala māṅgalyaṁ - conferring and exhibiting eternal auspiciousness; sarvapāpa – all types of sins; praṇāśanam – annihilation; cintāśoka praśamanaṁ - healing all types of mental afflictions (worries); āyurvardhana uttamam – gives a long life.
Summary 4 and 5:
Agastya introduces Āditya Hṛdayam to Śrī Rāma by saying, “ādityahṛdayaṁ puṇyaṁ”. Agastya has very carefully chosen his opening words. He speaks about auspiciousness and virtuousness. The form of Śrī Rāma itself is full of auspiciousness and all His deeds are highly virtuous in nature. As Rāma has liking for this quality and attribute, Agastya introduces this by saying that the hymn he is going to declare is full of “puṇyaṁ”.
Agastya begins the next introductory verse by saying “sarvamaṅgala māṅgalyaṁ” which means eternal auspiciousness, the stage of Ānanda, perpetual Bliss. Rāma means pleasing and charming. When one is happy within, enjoying Bliss, the state of happiness is reflected in his face. Agastya knows very well that Rāma is the source of happiness and Bliss. Agastya, having known that the form of Śrī Rāma radiates auspiciousness, chooses his words very carefully in the second verse. Agastya did not say that this mantra is auspicious. Agastya takes into account two factors. One, he is going to advise the eternal and all knowing Brahman who has incarnated in the form of Śrī Rāma. That is why Agastya has chosen to use “sarvamaṅgala māṅgalyaṁ”. When a word is repeated twice, its importance is highly stressed. What made Agastya to open this with “sarvamaṅgala māṅgalyaṁ”, was, when Śrī Rāma was engulfed in deep thought of annihilating Rāvaṇa the next day, Rāma has to seriously listen to him, and the importance of this mantra is to be properly conveyed. (This is known as homonymy in English literature). This is also like ‘first impression is the best impression’. Secondly, Agastya is revealing to Rāma about this most auspicious mantra in the battle field as there is a possibility that this could not be taken seriously, as discussed earlier. Hence, Agastya has chosen to address Rāma the way He likes it.
Agastya did not stop by talking about auspiciousness once. He concludes the first verse by saying, “paramaṁ śivam”, which means the highest degree of happiness, which is known as Bliss. Agastya in his introductory verses talks mostly about the auspiciousness, as Āditya Hṛdayam is full of auspiciousness. Parāśakti has this kind of auspiciousness. Śrī Devī Māhatmyam (Chapter 11: verse 10) says:
सर्वमङ्गल माङ्गल्ये शिवे सर्वार्थ साधिके।
शरण्ये त्रयम्बके गौरि नारायणि नम्ऽस्तुते॥
sarvamaṅgala māṅgalye śive sarvārtha sādhike |
śaraṇye trayambake gauri nārāyaṇi nam'ostute ||
If we look at this verse, words used by Agastya are used as the opening words of this verse. Again, this verse conveys auspiciousness one more time by using “śive”. This is similar to what Agastya has used in Āditya Hṛdayam. Agastya concluded the fourth verse by saying, “paramaṁ śivam” and began the next verse by saying, “sarvamaṅgala māṅgalyaṁ”. In Devi Devī Māhatmyam too the auspiciousness is conveyed without any words in between. Here the verse opens with “sarvamaṅgala māṅgalye śive”. This attribute also proves that Viṣṇu and Devi are brother and sister.
Verse 4 says, “sarvaśatru vināśanam”. Contextually, śatru (enemy) refers to Rāvaṇa. This means that by reciting Āditya Hṛdayam, not only Rāvaṇa be killed, but also his entire entourage. But in general sarvaśatru vināśanam subtly conveys the destruction of all internal enemies such as desire, attachment, ego, etc that work from within. This part of the verse subtly conveys that, by reciting Āditya Hṛdayam, all types of mental afflictions will be removed. This prepares the aspirant for higher spiritual attainments. Akṣayaṁ is the most important quality of the sun. Akṣayaṁ means nourishment. But for the sun, the worldly activities cannot happen. When all mental afflictions are removed and if the body is well prepared with the help of sun’s nourishment, victory is attained. Victory refers to conquering mind after the war within the mind. Agastya says that if one recites Āditya Hṛdayam he can conquer all his internal and external enemies. External enemies are sensory organs. Therefore, conquering sensory organs and the mind leads to victory over enemies, who wage battle against the Descent of Divine Grace (śakti pāta). On the grosser side, this refers to the war between Śrī Rāma and Rāvaṇa and on the subtler side, it refers to realisation of the Self.
Fifth verse explains further benefits of reciting Āditya Hṛdayam. It annihilates all types of sins (sarvapāpa praṇāśanam). The question is how sun god can annihilate all types of sins, which is in violation of “Law of Karma”. This is not a violation, because when mind is purified of all types of afflictions and when individual consciousness becomes one with Supreme Consciousness, no further karmas are accrued. By reciting Āditya Hṛdayam daily, mind gets fixed on Brahman and the aspirant is elevated in his spiritual level to ultimately become one with the Self. He moves up in the spiritual ladder by reaching the stage of sthitaprajña (firm in judgment and wisdom, calm, contented). Once the stage of sthitaprajña is reached, further progress in spiritual path will happen automatically. He is now freed of all his mental disturbances, which is conveyed by “cintāśoka praśamanaṁ”. When mind is purified and body is nourished, one gets a longer and healthier life, which is meant by “āyurvardhana uttamam” at the end of the fifth verse.
Thus, Āditya Hṛdayam has both gross and subtler meanings. In fact, it is a revelation to humanity, as Śrī Rāma does not need a hymn to annihilate Rāvaṇa. As already discussed, having born as a human being, and as an incarnation, he lays down the ethical principles of living. Contextually, He listens to Agastya and by reciting Āditya Hṛdayam thrice, He kills Rāvaṇa.