Vishnu Sahasranamam



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Vishnu Sahasranamam

(Meanings: based upon the commentary of Shankaracharya)
Meanings: Courtesy: http://www.mypurohith.com

Sanskrit script courtesy: Shri. N. Krishnamachari: http://home.attbi.com/~chinnamma/
Vishnu Sahasranama means the “Thousand Names of Vishnu.” This narrative is based upon the commentary of Shankaracharya. Acharya sankara reached the feet of his Guru, Sri Govindapaachaarya, and on the bank of Narmada, the Nambootiri-boy from kaaladi got initiated into the secrets of the Mahaavaakyas. At the end of his short but intense study, sankara, the inspired missionary, wanting to fulfill his glorious work, craved from the blessings of his teacher. Govindapa Acharya tested sankara by ordering him to write an exhaustive commentary (Bhaashya) upon the Vishnu Sahasranaama. He accomplished his great task and the very first work of the Upanishadic commentator, sankara, the greatst Hindu missionary of the 7 th century, thus came to see the light of the day.
Govindaacharya, satisfied with the proficiency of the student blessed him and set him on the road of service and action. Earning the grace of the teacher and the blessings of the Lord Vishnu, Sri sankara inaugurated an incomparable revival movement of the decadent culture of the 7th century Hinduism. We shall here follow closely Sankara’s commentary and also draw our material from the Puranic literature that has an endless store of appeal to the hearts of all devotees.

The Vishnu Sahasranaama was composed by Sri Veda Vyaasa, the author of the Puraanas, and we meet this great chant in his classical work, the Mahaabaarata, Prince Yudhisthira, the eldest of the pandavas, at the end of the war approached Bheeshma Pitaamaha, when the mighty grandsire of the Kuru family was lying on the bed of arrows, unconquered and in conquerable, awaiting the scared hour of his departure to the feet of the lord. Yudhishthira, the righteous, asked six questions, Bheeshma, the constant devotee of Krishna, the gigantic Man of Action, calmly answered them all. This is how we find the “Thousand Names of Lord Vishnu” introduced in the immortal classic of the Hindus, the Mahaabaarata.


For the eradication of all obstructions, I meditate ("dhyayeth") on Vishnu, who is wearing ("dharam") a white ("shukla") cloth ("ambara"), who is of the color ("varnam") of the moon ("sashi"), who has four ("chatur") arms ("bhujam"), and who has a placid expression ("prasanna") on His face ("vadanam").











Shree Vaisham pãyana uvacha:
Shruthvã dharmãna séshéna pãvananicha sarvashaha  
Yudhishtara shanthanavam punarévãbya bashatha  

Vaisampayana, the narrator to Dhritrastra says: Yudhishthira, as a righteous man ("dharamana") of spiritual inclination, with the mortal integrity ("paavanaani") of a careful mortal, asks ("bhaashatha") Bhishma ("shaantanavam") quite an interesting set of questions which are typical queries which the heart of seekers will always ask.


Yudhishtira uvacha 
Kimékam daivatham loke kim vápyekam parãyanam  

Sthuvantha kam kamarchanda prapnuyur mãnavã shubam

Who ("kim") is the greatest ("ekam") Lord ("daivatam") in the world ("loke")?

Who is the one ("ekam") refuge ("paraayanam") for all?

By glorifying ("sthuvantah") whom ("kam") can man ("manavah") reach the Auspiciousness ("shubam") (peace and prosperity)?

By worshipping ("archantah") whom can a man reach 


                   auspiciousness (peace and prosperity)?

Ko dharma sarva dharmãnam bhavatha paramo mathaha  

Kim japan muchyathé janthur janma samsãra bandhanãth
What ("ko") is, in thy opinion, the Greatest Dharma?

By ("kim") doing japa of what can “creatures” (jantu) go beyond ("mutchyate") the bonds ("bandhanaath") of samsara?



Shree Bheeshmã Uvacha 
Jagath prabhum deva devam antham purushothamam  
Sthuvan nãma sahasréna purusha saththo thithaha

The supreme ("uttamam") Purusha, who is ever up and working for the welfare of all, the Lord ("prabhum") of the world ("jagat") the endless ("anantam") – Sri Maha Vishnu.



Thameva chãr chayanth nithyam bhakthya purusha mavyayam  
Dhayãyan sthuvan namasyamsha yajamãnas thamevacha    10

By meditating upon ("sthuvan naama"), by ("cha") worshipping ("archayan") and by prostrating at the same Purusha, man can reach true Auspiciousness.


Anãdhinidhanam vishnum sarva lokamahesvaram 

Lokãdhyaksham sthuvan nithyam sarva dhukkã thigo bhavéth

The greatest Dharma is the one Vishnu, who has neither a beginning (Aadi) nor an end (Nidhanam), the supreme Lord ("maheshwaram") of the world. All creatures can go beyond the bonds of samsar, “and he goes beyond all sorrows” who daily ("nityam") chants ("stuvan") the sahasranaamas and within glorifies “the knower of the world” (Lokaadhyaksha).



Brahmanyam sarva dharmangyam lokãnãm keerthivardhanam  
Lokanãtham mahath bhootham sarva bhootha bhavothbhavam


Esha mé sarvadharmãnãm dharmodhi kathamo mathaha  
Yath bhakthyã pundari kãksham sthavai rar-chén nara ssatha


Paramam yo mahath teja paramam yo mahath thapaha 
Paramam yo mahath brahma paramam ya parãyanam

He who is the great ("mahat") effulgence ("tejah"); He who is the Great controller ("tapah"); He who is the Supreme All-Pervading Truth; ("brahma") he who is the Highest (Param) Goal (Ayanam)-the Lord Vishnu.



Pavithrãm pavithram yo mangalãnãncha  mangalam  
Daivatham dévathãnãncha bhoothãnãm yovyaya pithã    15

He who is ("yo") the very sanctity ("pavitram") that sanctifies all sacred things ("pavitraanaam"); he who is most auspicious ("mangalam"); he who is the god ("devataa") of gods ("daivatam"); he who is the eternal ("avyayah") father ("pitaa") of all creatures ("bhootaanaam") is the one god – VISHNU.


Yatha sarvãni bhoothãni bhavanthyãdhi yugãgamé  

Yasmimscha pralayam yãnthi punaréva yugakshayé

Thasya loka pradhãnasya jagan-nãdhasya bhoopathé  
Vishnor nama sahasrm mé srunu pãpa bhayãpaham


Yãni nãmãni gounãni vikyãthãni mahãthmanaha  
Rushibhi parigeerthãni thãni vakshãyãmi bhoothayé


Rushirnãmnãm sahasrasya védhavyãso mahãmunihi  
Chchando-nushtup thadha dhévo bhaghavãn dhévagee-suthaha


Amruthãm soothbhavo bheejam shakthir dhévaki nandhanaha  
Thrisãmã hrudhayam thasya shãnthyarthé viniyujyathe    20


Vishnum jishnum mahãvishnum prabhavishum mahéswaram  
Anaika roopa dhaithyãntham namãmi purushoth-thamam

----------------------------------------------------------Meanings of the Dialogue------------------------------------------------

Yudhistirau Uvaachaa:

(Question 1.)  Kim ekam daivatam loke?

Who ("kim") is the greatest ("ekam") Lord ("daivatam") in the world ("loke")?


(Answer 1.)

Pavitraanaam pavitram yo
                   Mangalaanaam cha mangalam


Daivatam devataanam cha
                   Bhootaanam yo avyayah pitaa.

He who is ("yo") the very sanctity ("pavitram") that sanctifies all sacred things ("pavitraanaam"); he who is most auspicious ("mangalam"); he who is the god ("devataa") of gods ("daivatam"); he who is the eternal ("avyayah") father ("pitaa") of all creatures ("bhootaanaam") is the one god – VISHNU.

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(Question 2. )  Kim vaapyekam paraayanam?

                    Who is the one ("ekam") refuge ("paraayanam") for all?



(Answer 2.)

Paramam yo mahat-tejah Paramam yo mahat-tapah
Paramam yo mahat-brahma Paramam yah paraayanam
.
He who is the great ("mahat") effulgence ("tejah"); He who is the Great controller ("tapah"); He who is the Supreme All-Pervading Truth; ("brahma") he who is the Highest (Param) Goal (Ayanam)-the Lord Vishnu.
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(Question 3.)   Stuvantam kam praapnuyuh (
                    Maanavah subham)?

By glorifying ("sthuvantah") whom ("kam") can man ("manavah") reach the Auspiciousness ("shubam") (peace and prosperity)?



Answer 3.     

Jagat-prabhum deva-devam
                    Anantam purushottamam
Stuvan naama-sahasrena
                    Purushah satatotthitah.

The supreme ("uttamam") Purusha, who is ever up and dong for the welfare of all, the Lord ("prabhum") of the world ("jagat") the endless ("anantam") – Sri Maha Vishnu.

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Question 4. (Kam archantah) praapnuyuh Maanavaah subham?

                   By worshipping ("archantah") whom can a man reach 


                   auspiciousness (peace and prosperity)?
Answer 4.   Tameva cha archayan nityam
                  Bhaktyaa purusham avyayam


Stuvan naama-sahasrena
                   Purushah satatthitah
.

By meditating upon ("sthuvan naama"), by ("cha") worshipping ("archayan") and by prostrating at the same Purusha, man can reach true Auspiciousness.


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Question 5.  Ko dharmah sarva-dharmaanaam
                   Bhavatah paramo matah?

What ("ko") is, in thy opinion, the Greatest Dharma?
Question 6.  Kim japan muchyate jantuh
                  Janma-samsaara-bandhaaat?

By ("kim") doing japa of what can “creatures” (jantu) go beyond ("mutchyate") the bonds ("bandhanaath") of samsara?




Answers 5&6.

Anaadi-nidhanam vishnum
                  Sarvaloka-maheshvaram


Lokaadhyaksham stuvan nityam
                   Sarva-duhkha-atigo bhavet.

Both questions are answered here: - the greatest Dharma is the one Vishnu, who has neither a beginning (Aadi) nor an end (Nidhanam), the supreme Lord ("maheshwaram") of the world. All creatures can go beyond the bonds of samsar, “and he goes beyond all sorrows” who daily ("nityam") chants ("stuvan") the sahasranaamas and within glorifies “the knower of the world” (Lokaadhyaksha).

The supreme is described as that from which the whole world of names and forms had risen in the beginning of the creation, that in which the world continues to exit, that into which alone the world can merge back during the ‘Dissolution’ (Pralaya); this supreme is VISHNU.
After thus answering all questions, “His thousand Name”, said Bheeshma, “I shall now advise you. Please listen to them with all attention”. This is how the Sacred Hymn, called as “The thousand names of Lord Vishnu”, is introduced in the Mahaabhaarata.
------------------------------------------------------END: Meanings of the Dialogue------------------------------------------------
Extra Comments: The Supreme cannot be defined and since He is the very substratum of all qualities, He cannot be denominated by any name, or indicated by any term, or defined in any language, or ever expressed, even vaguely, in any literary form. He is beyond both the “Known” and the “Unknown”. He is the very illumining Principle of Consciousness that illuminates all experiences.
And yet He has many manifestations and, therefore, He can have infinite names in terms of His manifestations. Definitions should directly describe the thing defined, and here we have a thousand indirect definitions with which the Real, the Infinite is being indicated in terms of the unreal and the finite. These “Thousand names of the Lord” have been coined and given out by the Rishis. They were collected and strung together into a joyous Hymn to Vishnu, a garland of devotion and reverence, by the poet-seer Vyaasa.

Since each of them is thus an indicative definition of the unknown in terms of the known, each term here is believed to rocket-us up into the realms of the divine experience, only when we have lifted our minds towards it through contemplation. Thus the Vishnu Sahasranaama is employed not only by the devotees, in the sweet attitude of ‘sporting with the Lord’, but these are also employed by the contemplative students of philosophy, as gliders to roam in the realms of inspired Higher Consciousness.


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More commentary: In the Kali-Santarana Upanishad, which is one of the minor Upanishads, we find the great devotee Naarada approaching Brahmaaji to enquire what is the way out for man to evolve in these hard days of extrovertedness, which is quite natural and unavoidable in the Iron-age (Kaliyuga).”Repetition of the names of Naaraayana is sufficient enough”, was the reply given.
It is to be carefully noted here that in the sixth question the enquiry was how can ‘creatures’ realise the Highest. Jantu means ‘that which is born’ (Janana-dharman). So all living creatures are fit for this easy path. ‘Creatures’ could even include the animal kingdom as it is described in the Puraanas in their own poetic language. In the Trikutaachala lake, the elephant that was caught by the crocodile is described as having been saved by the Lord (Gajendra Moksha). The story of Jadabharata is yet another example.

Sankara in his commentary describes here Japa as comprehensive of all the three types. (A) That which can be heard by others; (B) That which is heard by ourselves; (C) That which is mental.

Vishnu Sahasranaama can be employed in performing Japa of all these three kinds.

In the following “Thousand Names”, we meet with, though rarely, some repetitions. Exactly 90 names have been repeated in this Great Hymn; and of them, 74 are repeated twice, 14 are repeated thrice, and again 2 of them are found to have been repeated four times. Sometimes, the terms are repeated as such Vishnu- Vishnu, Siva-Siva etc. and sometimes different words with the same meaning are also employed (Sreepati- Maadhava; Pushkaraaksha- Kamalaaksha). These need not be considered as a defect, since this Hymn is a chant of His Glory .In a chant of glory (stuti) repetitions are acceptable-it is but a style of the emotional heart to repeat its declarations of love.

There are exactly 1,031 single “Names” of the Lord in the 1000-Name-Chant (Sahasranaama). The extra 31 Names are to be considered each as an adjective qualifying (Viseshana) the immediately following noun. When one makes Archanaa to the Lord the correct dative case is to be used. There are 20 double-names in the first 500 Names and 11 double-names in the second half of the chant. There is one indeclinable (Avyaya) word used, and it (896th) should be used in the dative for Archanaa as Sanaat Namah; so too the 929th Name in the chant, being a plural noun, should be used in Archanaa as Sadbhyo Namah.
It will also be found, as we study the significances of these Divine names, that Vyaasa has employed sometimes masculine gender, on other occasions feminine gender and some other times even neuter gender. Wherever it is masculine. , it denotes Vishnu, the Lord of Lakshmi. and when it is feminine it is indicative of His Might. Glory or power (devataa) that is manifest everywhere, and when the term is in neuter gender, it means Pure Brahman, the infinite Reality.
This Archanaa is generally performed by devotees daily; if this is not convenient they perform this worship at least on their own birth-days, on eclipse days and on the day on which the Sun moves from one zodiac to another (the Samkraanti-day). This performance has been prescribed by the Sastra for warding off troubles arising from the position of planets, anger of the rulers, incurable diseases and ruthless enemies. The highest effect is for purifying the mind and thus gaining more and more inner-poise for the Saadhaka in meditation.
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INSTALLATION OF THE LORD

All ritualisms start in Hinduism with a beautiful function-the installation of the Lord in the devotee’s own physical form. This is technically called as Anga-Nyaasa and Kara-Nyaasa. The “Installation in the Limbs”, and the “Installation in the Palm”. This is a method by which the seeker with wilful thoughts and deliberate physical signs sanctifies himself to be a Divine Temple and installs various sacred deities in himself.

This helps the student to realise that though he is worshipping the Lord as a Goal (or an Ideal) other than himself (bheda or anya), in fact, he is to seek his identity with no traces of differentiation (Abheda or Ananya), between himself and the Lord. The final realization is a perfect identity indicated in the Mahaavaakya. “I am Brahman”. (Aham Brahmaasmi).
Neither in the Northern texts nor in the original Mahaabhaarata do we find this ‘subjective installation ceremony’ (Anga-Nyaasa) prescribed. However, pundits of ritualism in the South employ the Anga-Nyaasa; and it being such a beautiful act, so very helpful to the seekers, we give here below the most popular one practised widely in the South.
This “Installation Ceremony” declares to the devotees that the enchanting form of Vishnu is to be ultimately realised as One Infinite Reality without names or forms-in which the recognition of even the distinction of the meditator-meditated- meditation is to cease. Beside this deep significance, even though it be only for the time being, the student is also given a sense of purity and sanctity in himself. Just as a devotee feels highly inspired in the divine atmosphere of a sacred temple, so too, after the Anga-Nyaasa, however shattered we might have been, before we entered the Pooja-room, we can artificially work ourselves up into a divine mood of peace and purity.

The body itself is rendered as the temple of the Lord, wherein the various limbs become the altars upon which, with a heart of love and faith, the devotee invokes and installs various deities. In this process, in order to bring the full blast of the sacred suggestions to him, the repetition of each of these mantras is emphasised by a corresponding physical sign. The idea is only, as we have already explained, to establish the correct mood for devoted contemplation.





A. asya Vishnu-sahasranaama-stotrasya veda-vyaasa Rishih
For this sacred chant, the “Thousand Names of Lord Vishnu”, Sri Veda Vyaasa is the divine Rishi.

Great mantras of deep spiritual significance and sublime Vedic dignity are not mere poetic compositions by mortal fallible intellects. When a. mastermind through meditation transcends the lower levels of his personality and soars into the higher mental altitudes, through his contemplation, there he ‘receives’ certain ‘revelations’ that are faithfully repeated by them to the world. Such ‘heard’ statements (Srutam) alone have the power to stand against the onslaught of the intellect, the ravages of time, the forces of criticism etc.


Such statements when contemplated upon by lesser seekers, they too, in the spiritual cadence of these mantras, get unconsciously uplifted into realms unknown, and there they come to live a world of experiences unfrequented by the ordinary multitudes. The ‘author of the mantra’ is thus termed in our Vedas as the ‘Seer’ (Mantra- Drashtaa). Such Rishis themselves admit that they did not manufacture, compose or create the mantra, but they had a revelation or vision (Darsanam) of the mantra.
The Mantra- Drashtaa, the Rishi, is the guru of the seeker, who is seeking his path with the help of that particular mantra. The Rishi of a mantra is installed at the roof of the head and the seeker, in his seat of Vishnu-Sahasranaama-chanting,

Symbolism: ... chants this mantra in his mind, and, with his right-hand thumb, middle-finger and ring-finger touches the top of his head.





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