The birth of Sri Vishnu Sahasra Nama - The 1008 Names of Sri Maha.
by Mantra & shlokas on Tuesday, April 26, 2011 at 10:41pm
The legend would have it that at the end of the epic Mahabharata war, Bhishmacharya was awaiting the sacred hour to depart from his physical body unto the lotus feet of the Lord. Yudhishtira, the eldest of the Pandavas, was desperately looking for the answers to matters relating to Dharma and Karma. Lord Sri Krishna, who understood Yudhistira’s uneasy mind, guided him to Bhishma to learn insight in to this precious knowledge. It is relevant to mention that Bhishma was acknowledged to be one of the twelve most knowledgeable people. The other eleven being Brahma , Narada , Siva , Subramanya , Kapila , Manu , Prahlada , Janaka , Bali, Suka and Yama .
As directed by the Lord, he meets Yudishtra. At their meeting, Yudhistira presented Bhishma with six questions.
1. kimEkam dhaivatam lokE?
Who is the greatest Lord in the world?
2. kim vaapyEkam parAyaNam?
Who is the one refuge of all?
3. stuvantam kam prApnuyuh mAnavah subham?
By glorifying whom, can man attain peace and prosperity?
4. kam arcanat prApnuyuh mAnavaah subham?
By worshipping whom can man reach auspiciousness?
5. kO dharmah sarva dharmANaam bhavatah paramO matah?
What is, in thy opinion, the greatest Dharma?
6. kim japam mucyatE jantur janma samsAra bandhanAth?
By doing Japa of what, can creature go beyond the bonds and cycle of birth and death?
Bhishma responded by reciting the one thousand names now hailed as the Vishnu Shasranama, and reminded him that either by meditating on these names or by invoking the names through archana (Offering), our minds can be lifted to higher consciousness.
Indeed, such a long recital of nAmAs glorifying the Lord and His splendor is rare in the world. Yet a rational person is apt to question how mere words and their repetition can create such great power.. Just imagine for a moment that you are in an assembly, and the lecturer begins his talk with the word “boat”. You can at one grasp the image of a boat, and there is calmness of mind. Suddenly then, if someone in the assembly, utters the word “snake”, will your calmness continue? It therefore follows that vak (utterance) and artha (meaning) together infuse a subtle energy either positively or negatively. The thousand naamas are storehouses of proven spiritual content that can easily uplift our minds. Indeed the expression NaMa is made up of Na for Naramandala and Ma for manas, our Mind. NaMa, the chanting of which helps to unite our nervous system and Mind.
The main body of Sri Vishnu Sahasranama consists of 107 stanzas which contain the one thousand names of Sri Maha Vishnu. Every one of the one thousand names is full of significance and refers to one particular guna (quality, characteristic, or attribute) of Paramatma. These names invoke a sense of bonding with the Lord. The meanings of the names give us an understanding and depth of God as there is a deep connection between the name and the named.
Why were these 1008 names chosen?
Does the Lord get absolutely defined by these one thousand names? The Vedas affirm that God is neither accessible to words nor to mind. It is said that you cannot comprehend the Paramatma with the human mind alone, even if you spend all your life trying! Given this infinite nature of the Paramatma, who is not governed or constrained by any of the physical laws as we know them, the choice of a thousand names of Vishnu by Bhishma should be recognized as a representation of some of his better known qualities that are repeatedly described in our great epics.
Some might say that they do not understand the meaning of the Sanskrit words, and therefore do not feel comfortable chanting them. But learning the chanting of prayers even without knowing the meaning is a worthwhile act, and can be compared to finding a box of treasure without the key. As long as we have the box, we can open it whenever we get the key of knowledge later. The treasure will be there already.
Others might feel that they do not know the correct Sanskrit pronunciation, and do not want to chant incorrectly. There is an analogy of a mother to whom a child goes and asks for an orange. The child does not know how to pronounce the word “orange” and so asks for “ange”. The mother does not turn away the child and does not refuse to give the child the orange just because the child does not know how to pronounce the word. It is the bhaava (spirit) that matters, and so as long as one chants the name of God with sincerity, considerations such as not knowing the meaning, not knowing the pronunciation, etc, do not matter, and God will confer His blessings on us, there is no way a devotee of Vishnu can meet with any dishonor or disgrace of any kind.
Phala Sruti – The Benefits:
Traditionally our prayers end with a phala sruti – a section on the benefits of reciting the prayer. The Vishnu Sahasranama is no exception.
The necessity of cleansing our body regularly to maintain hygiene and good health is recognized by everyone. But with the busy nature of today’s world, we do not see our mind the same way as we see our body. As a consequence, the need for keeping our minds clean is not appreciated.
Those who do not cleanse their mind on a regular basis become mentally ill over a period of time.. Prayers are a means to mental cleansing when they are chanted with sincerity and devotion. The importance of chanting Sri Vishnu Sahasranama is that the deity being worshiped is none other than Vasudeva. Sri Vedavyasa, who was responsible for stringing the naamas together in a poetic form, points out that it is by the power and command of Vasudeva that the Sun, the Moon, the stars, the world and the oceans are controlled. The whole universe of the Gods, Asuras and Gandharavas is under the sway of Lord Krishna. In Bhishma’s expert judgment, chanting Vasudevas’s name with devotion and sincerity will ensure relief from sorrows and bondage. The person who recites is not the only one who benefits, but also those who for whatever reason are unable to chant benefit by just hearing the chanting as well.
VishnuSahasranamam, compiled with 108 slokhas (versus) that contain the 1008 Names of Sri Mahavishnu. I reproduce in the following pages the meaning of each name; the entire graphics were taken from the website: http://www.stephen-knapp.com/sri_vishnu_sahasranam_translations.htm.
My aim and intention is to bring the inner meaning of every ritual and practices to focus; so that the new generation understands the values and continues to follow the Vedic principles. If one knows his/her constellatilon known as Nakshatra and it's Padam (quarter in which they are born of a nakshatra), they can surely find out the related Vishnusahasranama stanza that aptly linked to their star and by reciting it often one would get immense benefits.