- 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�
�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//
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
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 theLord 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
Yaani naamaani gouNaani vikhyaataani mahaatmana: /
Rishibhi: pari geetaani taani vakshyaami bhootayE//
7. Commentaries on Sri VishNu Sahasra naamamThere 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 Supremacy to the dictates 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� stands 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�
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/
Samastha San MangaLaani santu//