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IMPORTANCE OF SRI VISHNU SAHASRANAMAM - Anbil Ramaswamy

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1. ORIGIN OF "SRI VISHNU SAHASRANAMAM"
- Dharmaputra, the epitome of righteousness and virtue, was so depressed on seeing
the devastation caused by the KurukshEtra war.
- Bhishma, the grand sire and the very personification of Dharma was on his death
bed. It was feared that after his departure, his lifetime experience in Dharma was
sure to be lost to the world.
- Lord KrishNa who was himself the Eternal Dharma (KrishNam Dharmam Sanaatanam)
advised Dhramaputra to seek clarifications of his doubts from Bhishma Pitamaha.
- Sage Veda Vyaasa and other sages and Lord KrishNa himself were personally
witnessing the exposition of Bhishma - including this �Sri VishNu Sahasranamam�

What more is required to exemplify the greatness of 'Sri VIshNu Saharanaamam"?


There does not appear to be any event comparable to this galaxy of noblest souls
for this purpose.

2. THE GLORY OF SRI VEDA VYAASA


Sri Veda Vyaasa who classified the Vedas was the author of Mahabharata in which
this Sahasranamam forms an integral part. The glory of his lineage has been
succinctly encapsulated in the famous
slOkam:

�Vyaasam VasishTa naphtaaram, SaktEh poutram akalmasham, Paraasara Atmajam vandE


Sukha taatam TapOnidhim�
Meaning:
�He was the great grandson of VasishTa, grandson of Sakti, son of Paraasara and
the father of Sukha-brahmam�. It may be noted that while one derives greatness
from one�s ancestors, Sage Vyaasa�s glory
was in no mean measure enhanced by that of his son,"Sukha Brahmam" as well.

This, indeed, is a rare honor!

Besides the above, another slOka depicts him as the very incarnation of Bhagavaan
Sri VishNu Himself:

�Vyaasaaya VishNu roopaaya, Vyaasa roopaaya VishNavE�

3. SATVIKA vs RAAJASA AND TAAMASA SCRIPTURES


Besides, Mahabharata , the greatest epic of all times, Sage Vyaasa authored at
least 18 PuraNas that have been classified into 3 categories, namely, Saatvika,
Raajasa and Taamasa., the first being most
authoritative, the second less authentic and the last the least in the scale � to
satisfy the needs of different levels of knowledge and understanding of the
readers.

The litmus test to differentiate Saatvika from the rest is that in Saatvika
scriptures, questions of a general nature on deities are raised and answers zero
in on the one who fits the bill, whereas in the other categories, they begin with
questions on a specific deity requiring expatiation on the qualities of that deity
in particular.

For example, in Srimad Vaalmiki RaamaayaNam, to a genearl query by Sage Valmiki


whether there was anyone who possessed all the 16 qualities catalogued by him, pat
comes the reply from Sage Naarada that
there indeed was one and that was Sri Rama.
Similarly, here, Dhramaputra asks 6 questions:

�Kim Ekam daivatam lOkE Kim vaapi Ekam paraayaNam/


Stuvantah kam kam archantah paraapnuyur maanavaa: subham//
kO dharma: sarva dharmaaNaam bhavata: paramO mata:/
kim japan muchyatE jantu janma samsaara bandanaath//
Meaning:
- Who is the ONE Supreme deity?
- What is Supreme goal of life?
- Which deity should be praised by human beings for attaining prosperity here and
everlasting bliss in the hereafter?
- Which deity should be meditated upon by human beings to attain the above?
- Which Mantra when recited, releases human beings from the bondage of Samsaara?
- Of the three means mentioned above, which is the best means of attaining the
grace of the Lord?

In reply, Bhishma answers his considered opinion that it is the recitation,


meditation of and prayers to the names of Sri Mahaa VishNu that can bestow the
desired results
"dhyaayan, sthuvan, namasyamscha yajamaanas tamEva cha"

4. Why only 1000 Naamas?


There are millions of naamas of Sri VishNu and they definitely fall short of the
actual qualities of Bhagavaan. Even the Vedas are reported to have attempted and
returned crestfallen unable to complete the
enumeration of Bhagavaan�s glories.

"yatO vaachO nivartantE apraapya manasaa saha"

In his infinite mercy, Sage Vyaasa compiled a few out of them to help us meditate
at least these 1000 names!.

5. NarayaNa, the greatest thief!


Vaamana PuraaNa cleverly brands Sriman NarayaNa as the known dacoit (KD)! What
does he steal? He steals the insurmountable burden of our sins accumulated over
several lives, the moment he hears our
mentioning his name.

"NarayaNO naama narO naraaNaam, prasiddha chowrah kathitha prithivyaam/


anEka janma aarjita papa sanchayam harati arishTaan sruta maatramEva//"

Hari gets his name from "Harir Harati Paapaani!"

6. What do these 1000 names signify?


Each one of these 1000 names points to a particular quality of Bhagavaan.
Let us see a few examples:
- GajEndra, when caught by the crocodile cried out �Aadhi moolamE�, none other
deity could boast of a claim to that honorific and it was Lord NarayaNa who sent
his Chakra to save the pachyderm by cutting the
throat of the crocodile like an expert surgeon taking care to see that the foot
of GajEndra was not affected! It was thus the "name" that really saved GajEndra!

- Draupadi while she was about to be disrobed, cried aloud the name of the Lord as
�GOvindaa�, The "dooravaasi" that he was, he did NOT appear in person. But, it was
his "name" that saved her honor.
In fact, Lord KrishNa regretted later saying:

�Her cry wrenched my heart so deep and I feel eternally indebted to her like an
unsatisfied debt that carried usurious rate of interest�

"GOvindaa! Iti yat aakraandat krishNa maam doora vaasinam RiNa pravruttamiva mE
hridayaat na apasarpati"

- Sri AnjanEya crossed the ocean by merely reciting the "Name" of Sri Rama whereas
Sri Rama had to physiaclly build a bridge to cross over to Lanka. Thus, �Rama
naamam� proved more powerful than
Sri Rama himself!

Thus, every single name of the Lord exhibited his unique quality of
accessibility and compassion (Soulabhyam and Souseelyam)

That is why,these naamas denoting qualities were praised by one and all �
Celestials, Parama Rishis, Azhwaars, AndaaL and many others and secured instant
relief

Yaani naamaani gouNaani vikhyaataani mahaatmana:/ Rishibhi: pari geetaani taani


vakshyaami bhootayE//

7. Commentaries on Sri VishNu Sahasra naamam


There are over 40 commentaries of Sri VishNu Sahasranaamam.

Adhi Sankara, the earliest to commentator based his work on the Advaita philosophy
according to which only "NirguNa Brahmam" (Paramaatma without qualities) was real
and others were mere illusion.

Sri Paraasara BhaTTar, a disciple of Bhagavad Ramanuja based his commentary on


VisishTaadvaita philosophy according to which the Paramaatma and the Jeevatmas
were both real and Paramaatma being
SaguNa Brahmam is having all auspicious qualities like Souseelyam and Soulabhyam
and was prepared to suspend his Paratvam and subordinate his Supramacy to the
dicatates of his sincere devotees.

The Madhva Saint Satyasanda Yatiswara commented based on Dvaita philosophy.

Besides the above Sri NilakanTar, Sri VidyaaraNyar and many others also wrote
commentaries according to their own view points.

These commentaries are complementary and NOT contradictory. We thus have a


cornucopia of delectable fare that presents different facets of the qualities of
Bhagavaan to delight our intellect.

8. Aadi Sankara�s Advice


Aadhi Sankara in his �Bhaja GOvindam� advises that it is Bhagavad Gita and Sri
VishNu Sahasranaamam that should be sung, and the person to be constantly
meditated upon is none other than the Svaroopam
of Sriya: pathi (Consort of Mahaalakshmi)

�gEyam gitaa naama sahasram dhyEyam Sreepathi roopam ajasram�

9. Why Sankara wrote commentary on �VishNu Sahasranaamam�?


The story goes that after completing his commentaries on Brahma Sutram,
Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita (called Prastaana Trayam) he desired to write a
commentary on �Lalitaa Sahasranaamam� and asked his
disciple to bring that book from his personal library. When he opened the book,
it was NOT the one on �Lalitaa� but was on �Lord VishNu�. He sent him back but
again the disciple brought another copy of
Sri VishNu Sahasranaamam and told him that a spinster ordered him to take only
this book. When Sankara went in to check, she had disappeared. He took it as an
order of Lalitaa (His aardahaka
dEvata) that he should write commentary on �VishNu�.
Thus, the word �Sahasranaamam� even when it is�stand alone� came to mean
exclusively �Sri VishNu Sahasranaamam�

10. Can women recite Sahasranaamam?


This is a FAQ that has been raised and answered a million times. The prohibition
relates only to the recital of Vedas because they are required to be practiced
without break during the years of adhyayanam in
Gurukulam extending to several years and women being subject to biological
disabilities would not be able to do so, they were EXEMPTED from recital of Vedas;
It is NOT correct to say that they were prohibited.

They are, however, advised to read Itihaasas and PuraaNas that explain the purport
of the Vedas. Mahaabhaarata is an Itihaasa. Bhagavad Gita and Sahasranaamam are
integral part of this Itihaasa.
So, there appears to be no such restrictions in reciting them There is a SlOkam
that permits this:

�Sthree Soodra Dvija bhandoonaam trayee na sruti gOcharaa:/


iti Bhaaratam aakhyaanam kripayaa muninaa kritam//
(Vide page 29 Sri VishNu Sahasra naama StOtram� by Keezhaatur
Srinivasaachariar published Lifco)

11. Why �Naama Samkeerthanam� is so important?


There is a SlOkam that says: �What one can obtain only by YoganishTa or Dhyaana
(Concentrated meditation) in Krita Yuga, only by yagjna (severe penance) in TrEtaa
Yuga, only by intense worship (archana)
in Dvaapara Yuga, can be achieved by merely reciting the names of Bhagavaan known
as �Naama Samkeerthanam� in Kali Yuga�

�Dhyaayan kritE yajan yagjnE TrEtaayaam DvaaparE archayan/


Yad aapnOti tad aapnOti kalou Samkeerthya kEsavam//�

Thaayumaanavar adds that Group recitation of �Naama Samkeerthanam� is almost


infectious in a healthy sense. He cites an example saying that as in a bunch of
bananas, one ripe fruit ripens the rest, the
mellifluous vibrations imperceptibly draws even the one who is indifferent in the
beginning.

12. Kabir Daasar and Naama DEvar


Kabir Daasar suggested feeding mud in the mouth of one who refused to recite the
names of Bhagavaan:
�jasE mukha naama nahi vO mukha dhooLi bhari�

On hearing this Naama DEvar said:�Don�t do this. By chance, the mud might have
been purified by the touch of the feet of Saadhus who might have treaded the path
and so such people might escape punishment. Let their tongues putrefy with worms�

�naama nakE raagOpaasE kite paTO dyaasi vaachE�
(p.6 of Sri VishNu Sahasra naama StOtram� by Keezhaatur Srinivasaachariar
published by LIfco)

13. What happens when one is drawn into the vortex of devotion?
The mind of the person who is deeply attached to enjoying the GuNa-anubhavam of
Bhagavaan automatically gets detached from sensual objects and gets purified so as
to deserve the grace of the Lord and the
person attains the Kingdom of God.

�Paramaatmani yO raktO viraktO a-paraatmani� (Barhaspatya Smriti).

Just as we cleanse our body by taking bath, the recital of Lord�s names purifies
our mind. And, no special or strenuous effort is needed for doing this!

14. Let us consider the meanings of some of the more familiar �naamas�

Achyuta: One who never forsakes or lets down those who seek refuge in him
Anantha: Endless, limitless by space, time or object
GOvinda: Rescuer of Earth, Cows representing all living beings
KEsava: The Lord of Brahma and Siva (Ka: = Brahma; Isa= Siva)
NarayaNa: The Universal abode, Supporter of hosts of souls
Madhava: The Consort of �Maa� or Mahaalakshmi
VishNu: One who pervades naturally without constraints of space, time or object
Madhusudana: The destroyer of Madhu
Trivikrama: Conqueror of three worlds
Vamana: The resplendent dwarf, literally, deserving praise and conferring praise
Sridhara: Bearer of Sri or fortune
HrishikEsa: Controller of the emotions )Literally heart) and other senses
Padmanaabha: One who has a lotus in his navel
DamOdara: the Self-restrained, One who holds the worlds in his tummy

All names of the Supreme Lord Sriman NarayaNa. Let us remember to recite His holy
names at all times.

SarvE jana: SukhinO Bhavantu/