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SrIvishNu sahasranAmam – pUrva pItikA – Part 7

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The discussion on ‘saguNa / nirguNa’ brahman:

If someone opines that the worship of brahman attributed with all auspicious qualities (saguNa brahmam) is only for lowly results such as attainment of heaven et al, and that the worship of Brahman devoid of all qualities (nirguNa brahmam) is only for those who desire for the supreme salvation, then down be with such deaf people who have not listened to the scriptures which declare the greatness of the thousand names of the Lord with all auspicious qualities as ‘releasing all creatures from the clutches of samsAra’ and ‘making the practitioners reach the Supreme brahman’.

When yudhishtira has asked “which is the loftiest of all dharmas in your opinion?”and bhIshma has declared “this is the loftiest of all dharmas in the best of my knowledge” in reply, and thus when bhIshma has clearly intended to propound the greatest of all dharmas – namely the chanting of thousand names of the Lord – selected from the most sacred of all scriptures, if someone opines that this is only  for a lowly result, then it becomes imperative to discuss that entity superior to the said brahman, which would be a better solution to attain a higher result.

adhvaithi say that the worship of the saguNa brahman is the first step in achieving the worship of nirguNa brahman and eventual attainment of salvation; because, it would be wrong to differentiate between saguNa and nirguNa brahmams and thus propound the worship of saguNa brahmam as the means to attain nirguNa brahmam. This is simply not the case.

Also, when the Supreme brahman, bhagavan is in fact attributed with so much of auspicious qualities, what would be the basis to call him ‘nirguNa’ (devoid of qualities)? If such basis is known to be ‘avidhyA’ (ignorance), then the tenets of vEdhas are truly beautiful, which prescribe the brahman attributed with all ignorance, confusions and other faults as the supreme medicine to a dying mortal who has been downed with the poison of samsAra effected with birth, death, passion etc. [Note Bhattar’s sarcasm here]

Also, how would the statements supporting the saguNa brahmam lose importance at all? If your reply to this question is “because the nirguNa vAkyas (statements propounding the nirguNa brahmam) refute them”, then can it not also be said the other way, as “the saguNa vAkyas refute the nirguNa vAkyas, and hence saguNa vAkyas gain more importance”? Then, the credits and oppositions to both of these categories of statements are alike. None gain superiority over the other!

In another sense, if at all it is true that the Supreme brahman is devoid of all qualities, and that the ultimate aim of all mortal souls is to attain that nirguNa brahmam, then why did the vEdhas and other scriptures propound the saguNa brahmam in the first place? If your reply to this is “in order to attribute all qualities to the brahman and later show that the brahman indeed is devoid of all those qualities”, then let there not be such refutations at all. If no qualities are attributed to the brahman unnecessarily in the first place, then there would not arise any need to refute each of such statements. Why this over burden at all? Haven’t we learnt from the mahAbhAratha which says “staying away at a safe distance from marsh is much better than touching it and washing off the soil later”?

 Also, it is not a universally applicable logic that when two consecutive statements are mutually in disagreement in their meanings, then the latter is more powerful over the former statement. If we say that certain object “is present in this place”, and later say that the same object “is not present in another place”, nobody would say that the two statements are contradicting, although the meanings differ per context. For all that we know, if the former statement is weaker, it is never possible to write the latter statement without refuting it. If it is written without refuting the former, then it means the two are not mutually contradicting. Thus, even if the saguNa and nirguNa statements come one after the other, they do not refute each other, since they are not mutually contradicting. If it is understood that it is always a fact the latter statement refutes the former ones (irrespective of whether they contradict or not), and thus declare that the nirguNa vAkyas refute the attributes of brahman, then the vEdhas also declare that “void itself is the truth” towards the end. Will that mean that the presence of Supreme brahman itself is refuted? If it is understood that such statements are born out of the ignorance of the lower mortals bound in this samsAra, and thus do not apply to the Supreme Self; then it can also be considered that the vEdhas themselves are born out of the ignorance of the brahman and thus do not apply to the Supreme Entity.

vEdhas intend to negate all bad qualities of the soul-body relationship of the Supreme brahman with all other entities. In order to achieve this, they speak the nirguNa vAkyas.  However, before negating any such bad qualities, they attribute all auspiciousness to the bhagavAn, refuting all faults. That is how the upanishath proudly declare “He is devoid of sins, and does not undergo aging” etc.

Forgetting this, and applying the truth and falsity to the saguNa and nirguNa statements of the vEdhas is nothing but deception unto the vEdhas. If at all the source of knowledge itself is contaminated with falsities, then it loses all its credibility. It would be like possessing unreal gold or silver, which is not very pleasing. As said earlier, if you argue that refuting nirguNa brahmam by attributing qualities to the Supreme Self is false, then, by the same logic we can say that refuting saguNa brahmam by voiding the brahman of all qualities is also equally false. 

The scholars knowledgeable about the Supreme Entity opine thus: The statements supporting the saguNa brahamam intend to speak about the numerous auspicious qualities of the Supreme brahman, such as knowledge, power etc. Similarly, the statements supporting the nirguNa brahmam intend to speak about the voidance of the innumerable faults such as passion, hatred etc. in the Supreme brahman. The vEdhas attribute many auspicious qualities to the brahman by describing Him as ‘sathyakAma:’ (the one whose desires are unfaltering), ‘sathyasankalpa:’ (the one whose desires are always fulfilled) etc. Thus, when it says ‘nirguNam’ (being devoid of qualities), it only means it is speaking only about those qualities which are opposite to the said auspicious ones. That means it is refuting only the undesirable qualities in the brahman and attributing all desirable auspicious qualities unto Him.

This is just like the logic of using words such as ‘padha-AhavanIya’, ‘brAhmaNa-parivrAjaka’, ‘brAhmaNa-kaundinya’, ‘gO-baleevardha’ etc. (usage of common words and special words together, without mutual rebuttals), and is free to be used here as well.

Thus, for the expounders of nirguNa brahmam, it comes as asphyxiation when the vEdhas refute the blemishes in the Supreme brahman as well as attribute all the auspicious qualities to Him in a single statement that begins by saying “He is devoid of all sins” (apahathapApma) and ends by saying “His desires are unfaltering, and are ever fulfilled” (sathyakAma: sathyasankalpa:).

Similarly, another line begins by saying “He who is invisible” (yath tath adhrEshyam), and ends by saying “The learned see that eternal, all-pervading, omnipresent, atomic, ceaseless entity who is also the originator of all” (nithyam vibhum sarvagatham susUkshmam thadhavyayam yadhbhUthayOnim paripaSyanthi dhIrA:).

Such doctrines do not expect application of heavy logic such as in saying “The pillar is there. The pot is not there” etc. The author of brahmasUthras, SrI vEdhavyAsa has explained this invisibility on the one hand and attribution of the auspicious qualities on the other in one of his aphorisms that says “He is possessed with invisibility and other qualities, since the scriptures declare thus”.

(to be continued…)

adiyen srinivasa raja ramanuja dasan

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SrIvishNu sahasranAmam – pUrva pItikA – Part 6

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bhagavAn being the material and auxiliary cause for this creation

The material cause is also said to be the Supreme brahman Himself. Ultimately, at the end of all cycles of creation, all the creatures – sentient and insentient – get reabsorbed into the same brahman. vEdhas declare “From whom these creatures are born, by whose grace these born creatures live, into whom all these living creatures get absorbed at the end of creation, know that entity to be the Supreme brahman”.The brahma sUthra also says “from whom all are born”. Another statement “brahman was the forest, brahman was also the tree” shows the characteristic of brahman being all three types of causes. Quoting thus from all the vEdhas, the composer of brahma sUthras – vyAsa maharishi – has concluded that the Supreme brahman Himself is the cause of all creation.

Thus, it is against the vEdhas to say that bhagavAn is the material cause of this creation and Siva – the demigod – is the instrumental cause. Also, bhagavAn does not undergo any transformations due to His being the material cause of this creation. This is because all of the sentient and insentient entities are verily the body of the brahman. The vEdhas expound this nature of bhagavAn with the illustration of the spider, which creates a web out of its own saliva, and withdraws the web into itself when it feels it is no more needed.

Thus, when one seeks to determine that One Supreme Soul from the upanishadhs with all its characteristics, rank, worshipping modes, the fruits of attainment etc, who is denoted by inclusive tags such as ‘sentient’, ‘insentient’, ‘magnanimous’, ‘eternal’ etc, exclusive tags such as ‘Supreme’ etc, as well as common names such as ‘brahma’, ‘Hari’, ‘Siva’, then he learns about that entity from: (a) the statements such as “ nArAyaNa is the Supreme brahman, and  nArAyaNa is the Supreme Entity”, “That Supreme abode of Lord VishNu”, “Other than whom there is none who is Superior to all”, “There is none superior to the purusha”, “There is none or nothing superior to Me”, “the Supreme purusha is different” etc which talk about the creations in a very generic tone, (b) the other portions of vEdhas such as purusha sUktha, uththara nArAyaNa etc which expound the Supreme Entity in a much stronger way, (c) the declarations of myriad of upanishadhs such as subAla, maithrayanIya, mahOpanishath, chAndhOgya, thaiththirIya, aitharEya, katavalli etc, (d) the sAthvika purAnas that expound the Supreme Soul, (e) the preaching of learned scholars who know in completeness the nature of the Supreme brahman, such as parASara, vyAsa, vAlmeeki and other scholarly sages, and (f) the Agamas supported by the vEdhas themselves, which propound the various abilities of the Supreme Self such as the beauty, weapons, vehicles, special pastimes etc.

From all these sources of knowledge, the absolute supremacy of bhagavAn, and absolute servitude of all others is very easily understood by every intelligent soul. All our fore preceptors have already preached verily this absolute supremacy of bhagavAn with all the sources of knowledge such as dhahara, vaiSvAnara etc, as well as the first chapter of brahma sUthras namely ‘samanvaya adhikaraNa’. Thus, we shall not elaborate on this too much.

SrI kUraththAzhwAn has said thus:

“From all the hundreds of the Supreme vEdhic statements that glorify you, from all the statements in the smrithis and other scriptures that complement the vEdhas, from all the sAthvika purANas and ithihAsas, and from all the nectarine words of the most learned people, we only learn that you are the Supreme Entity” (SrIvaikuNta sthavam –17)

“From the extraordinary beauty and wealth that you possess, from your ownership of the Supreme Abode SrI vaikuNtam, from all the divine pastimes that you showed to your dear devotees during your incarnations,  and from some more particular signs that distinctly identify you – that cannot be refuted by anyone whatsoever, the learned scholars concur in identifying the natural supremacy in you.” (SrIvaikuNta sthavam – 28)

Thus, having well discussed about the most Supreme Entity (Sriman nArAyaNa)  and the various means to attain that supreme entity, and also having propounded the best of those means to attain the supreme entity (nAma sankIrthanam or chanting of His divine names), bhIshma proceeded to engage the listener – yudhishtra – in the discussion about the thousand names of the lord with the next slOka that begins with ‘thasya’.

तस्य लॊकप्रधानस्य जगन्नाथस्य भूपतॆ
विष्णॊर्नामसहस्रं मॆ श्रुणु पापभयापहम् ॥ १२ ॥

‘thasya’ – representing the Supreme Entity discussed till now; of that Supreme Soul
‘lOkapradhAnasya’ – of the master of all (ashESha-shEShi)
‘jagannAthasya’ – of the controller of all
‘vishNO: nAma sahasram pApa bhayApaham’ – of all the sacred means related to worship of the Supreme Lord Vishnu, other than surrendering at His lotus feet, the chanting of the thousand names of the Lord is certainly the only surest way to uproot all forms of sins and the fears caused thereof.
‘mE’ – ‘from me’, or ‘for my sake’
‘SruNu’ – listen; an express invitation to yudhishtra – who actually volunteered to
meet bhIshma to listen to all the dharmas – to listen to the thousand glorious names of the Lord.
‘bhUpathE’ – ‘Oh king’; this form of addressing yudhishtra indicates the appreciation of bhIshma towards him with the happiness of having obtained a suitable audience for the lofty discourse .

bhishma then began to explain the greatness of the thousand names of the Lord that he would sing shortly thereafter.

यानि नामानि गौणानि विख्यातानि महात्मनः
ऋषिभिः परिगीतानि तानि वक्ष्यामि भूतयॆ ॥ १३ ॥

‘vikhyAthAni’ – those names that are popularly used among the vEdhas and many scriptures in other languages as well; the names that are known to be popular due to their extraordinary nature; the names that are popularly known among the learned scholars; although prone to change in meanings as per the context, the names that are popularly known to connote a single entity called bhagavAn.

‘rishibhi:’ – by all the true seers of the endless vEdhas with all its purport, such as sanaka, sanathkumAra, nAradha et al.

‘parigIthAni’ – the names that are lovingly used to represent the various forms, divine attributes and connotations of bhagavAn, as affectionately as a cow feeding its calf.

‘yAni nAmAni’ – whichever names have been collected from various sources by vyAsa, just as bees collect honey from various flowers and gather all of it in one place, and strung into verses, and which have been coming down in the rich tradition until ourselves.

‘thAni vakshyAmi’ – I shall tell them to you. For what reason is this being told?

‘bhUthayE’ – the word ‘bhUthi’ originally means that which exists. It represents life.That means to say, all these thousand names of the Lord are being told in order to revive the soul from the bondage of samsAra in which he is bound from time immemorial and thus lost the sight to reach the right abode.

The vEdhas precisely expound these ‘life and non-life’ aspects (sath-asath-bhAvau) of the souls thus: “Those who think of the Supreme Entity as being lifeless, become lifeless themselves – and thus lose sight to reach the supreme abode. Whereas, those who consider the brahman to exist amongst us shall be considered as true scholars (and they are full of life)”.

Owing to the boundless supremacy and boundless knowledge of bhagavAn, with whatever little names that can be offered unto Him, the  souls attain the extraordinary result of the wellness of self (AthmalAbha). This is indicated by the word ‘mahAthmana:’ (meaning, of that great soul). This is also complemented in the scriptures thus: “I have heard of the various auspicious names of the Lord with their origins. As far as my knowledge goes, I can only say that kESava the Supreme Lord is not reached by words, and is not bound by any of the meanings of His names”.

Thus, as the thousand names of the Lord are purely born due to His various auspicious qualities and deeds, all such people eligible to learn these names should refrain from getting associated with those who try to steal those aspects from bhagavAn.

(to be continued…)

adiyen srinivasa raja ramanuja dasan

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SrIvishNu sahasranAmam – pUrva pItikA – Part 5

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In the beginning of kali yugam, the humans condemn the Supreme Lord Hari. By the end of kali yugam, there would be none who chant His divine names. smrithis say that “when one cannot perform a certain ritual, the best alternative is to just do the japam of the respective manthras”. Thus, bhishma considers chanting of bhagavAn’s extraordinarily divine names as the loftiest of all dharmas, a very affable subject to the mind, pleasant to practice, free of cost, free from physical exertion, easily practiced, attractive to the Supreme Master who is not very far away from each of us, by giving joy to Him, capable of removing the greatest fears of samsAra.

The various divine sages also concur in this regard, as can be illustrated as below:
“Of all the dharmas, best are those which are related to the worship of vishNu ”
“bhagavAn vishNu protects His devotees just as a soul protects its body”
“There is no other deed for well-being better than being devoted to gOvindha”.

परमं यॊ महत्तॆजः परमं यॊ महत्तपः ।
परमं यॊ महद्ब्रह्म परमं यः परायणम् ॥ ९ ॥
पवित्राणां पवित्रं यॊ मङ्गलानां च मङ्गलम् ।

bhagavAn gives effulgence even to the other sources of light such as the sun

Thereafter, bhIshma replied to the inquiry about the ultimate destination. Speaking thus, he set the mind of dharmarAja yudhishtra ready for listening to the thousand glorious names of the Lord, with the four slOkas beginning with ‘paramam ya:. Out of those, he replies to the second question “which is the ultimate destination?” in the first one and half slOkas.

‘thEja:’ – being effulgent by nature, and also which lights up the other objects. The boundless effulgence of the Lord is shown in the upanishadhic verses such as “having attained the form of supreme effulgence”, “The sun shines bright by using His effulgence” etc.

The words ‘mahath’ and ‘param’ respectively deny the presence of any other source of effulgence equalling or exceeding bhagavAn. This meaning of the words ‘mahath’ and ‘param’ should be remembered with every subsequent occurrence in the slOkas.

He is called ‘thapa:’ since he rules over everyone (ईष्टॆ सर्वस्य इति तपः). This is as shown in the various scriptural statements such as “The one who rules over the dhEvas”, “the one who is the Supreme to even the rulers”, “He is the Supreme ruler of all” etc.  He is called ‘brahma’ since He possesses ceaseless auspicious nature and qualities, and also since He is magnificent, omnipotent and nurturing everyone.

Removal of impurities upon contact with bhagavAn

Amongst the purities, He is the purest with none to equal or exceed. The word ‘pavithram’ connotes the origin of purity. The word ‘Sudhdhi’ or purification refers to the voidance of impurities. The impurities, here, refer to the transformations in the insentient entities (achEthanam) due to the contact with rajas and thamas. Amongst the sentient entities (chEthanam), impurities refer to the effects of such transformations,such as ignorance, offence unto the Supreme Entity, passion, hatred, etc. Since bhagavAn is totally against such inauspicious effects, He uproots all these impurities from the sentient and insentient entities Himself.

The scriptures declare thus:

“The individual soul is fully purified by the knowledge of the Supreme Soul”
“One should meditate upon the Supreme Lord nArAyaNa at all times such as while taking bath etc. The utterance of the divine names of the Lord are only prescribed by the vEdhas as the remedy for all bad deeds that one might have done in the past”                                                    “The one who knows me as free of births and eternal is freed from all his sins”

Only by contact with bhagavAn shall all entities gain purity

Even the other entities such as the holy rivers and shrines gain their sanctity only by getting in contact with bhagavAn.

“All of those entities (both sentient and insentient bound in this samsara) such as dhEvas and others are impure because they are all bound by karma.”

“All entities right from the highest four-faced brahma up to the lowest inanimate pillar are bound in this samsAra due to their karma.”

It is a well established fact that the purity of such demigods comes from their actions such as worship of the Supreme Lord, praising His divine qualities, partaking of the holy water that washed His lotus feet, and the like.

“gangA gains greatness due to the fact that the water actually originated from the left toe of vishNu”. Also, statements like “vishNu is called ‘apAmpathi’ because water is His abode” show the sanctity of inanimate objects such as water.

The entity called ‘time’ is sanctified by His incarnations and divine deeds such as His slumber (dhakshiNAyaNa), waking up (uththarAyaNa), the twelfth day of the moon (dhvAdhaSa), days when He was born in different incarnations (jayanthi), the divine star of vishNu (SravaNa) etc. All of these periods of time gain sanctity due to His association with them.The qualities of soul such as internal and external restraints and the like gain their sanctity due to their resulting in the knowledge about Him.The various rituals such as oblations, donations, penance, annual ceremonies etc gain their sanctity due to their nature of being limbs of worship of bhagavAn.

The classes of people such as brAhmaNas gain their sanctity due to their eligibility to study the vEdhas which speak about His glories. This is as per the scriptural statement that says “Having known the all pervading VishNu, the learner of vEdhas (vipra) attains the status of a scholar (viprathva) and sees the truth about the Supreme Entity”.

The vEdhas, smrithis and other scriptures supplementing them are all sanctified by their glorifying the Supreme Entity, and also expounding about His auspicious qualities, as illustrated in the statements “All the VEdhas speak about nArAyaNa”, “The vEdhas and smrithis are verily my commandments” etc.

The AraNya kaNda of mahAbhAratha, while talking about the places of pilgrimage, start with the phrase “the holy dhwarakA” and continues thus: “The incomprehensible Supreme Soul hari – the slayer of demon named madhu – resides in that place. That is verily the place of holiness; that is verily the Supreme abode; that is verily the holiest place of pilgrimage; that is verily the abode of highest penance.”

Having spoken about the sanctity of all holy places only due to the association with SrIman nArAyaNa, it is clearly iterated in th mahAbharatha thus: “The holiest of all entities is verily gOvindha Himself. He is the most virtuous among all virtuous entities”.

bhagavAn is more sought after than the lower auspicious entities 

bhagavAn is addressed as “the most auspicious among the auspicious entities” (mangalAnAm cha mangalam). For the same reason, He is also the Supreme Destination to be attained by all the individual souls – who have been released from the clutches of samsAra and thus are engaged in enjoying the eternal bliss of their true nature of self.

The original question reads “which is the Supreme Destination that an individual soul should attain?” (Question no. 2). In reply to this, bhishma says “whoever is the most sought after entity” (ya: parAyaNam). This usage of “whoever” is deliberately made to bring out the high popularity of bhagavAn being the Ultimate Destination for all among the scriptures. Thus, bhIshma says, “whoever is denoted by all the adjectives used till now, He alone is the Supreme Destination for all of us”.

दैवतं दॆवतानांश्च भूतानां यॊsव्ययः पिता ॥ १० ॥
यतः सर्वाणि भूतानि भवन्त्यादियुगागमॆ ।
यस्मिंश्च प्रलयं यान्ति पुनरॆव युगक्षयॆ ॥ ११ ॥

bhagavAn being the instrumental cause of creation, including the four faced brahma

Finally, in response to the first question about the One Supreme Entity prescribed in the scriptures, bhIshma replies from the second half of the previous SlOka, beginning with “dhaivatham”. He is verily the Supreme Godhead entity among demigods such as brahma, Siva,  indhra et al. (‘dhaivatham dhEvathAnAm’). How?

Since He is the caring and affectionate father of all such beings, right from dhEvas up to the most ignorant creatures in this creation (‘bhUthAnAm pithA’).

The prime difference between Him and the fathers that we have in our respective births in this creation is that He is eternal (‘avyaya:’). He never ceases to exist as an ever caring father in all our births. Since He is eternal, and referred by the name ‘sanAthana’ (existing from time immemorial), no one in this world is an orphan. Such fatherhood of the Supreme Entity is shown here, with the SlOkas beginning with ‘yatha: sarvANi’. ‘yatha:’ (by whom) – indicates that He is the instrumental cause of this creation.

‘sarvANi’ (all) – refers to absolutely everything right from the four faced brahma up to the lowest branch of a tree

‘bhUthAni bhavanthi’ – objects are born

‘adhiyugAgamE’ – When the lifetime of one four-faced brahma ends, bhagavAn creates another four faced brahma and continues with the creation process thereon. Also, to indicate that such type of creation – of even the four faced brahma – is not just at the beginning of one creation, but at the beginning of every such creation with several cycles of 71 chathuryugas (a cycle of four yugas namely krutha, thrEthA, dhvApara and kali, recurring 1000 times, makes one day of brahmA and 360 such days make one year of brahmA and 100 such years is the lifetime of brahmA), bhIshma has used the word ‘adhiyugAgamE’, indicating the beginning of every such cycle.

(to be continued…)

adiyen srinivasa raja ramanuja dasan

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SrIvishNu sahasranAmam – pUrva pItikA – Part 4

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The authority of all varNas for worship of the Lord :

The word ‘nAra:’ generally indicates the natural authority to worship the Supreme Godhead as they wish to have it. bhagavAn is the One who is worshipped without any fear even by those who possess condemnable qualities, actions and births, merely due to having the greatest quality of developing taste in devotion. Once such people start worshipping bhagavAn thus, they shall be freed from all sins and distastes and shall be transformed into the most righteous ones, just as the sins are washed away by the flooding waters of gangA by taking a holy dip.

In SrI bhagavath-gIthA, bhagavAn – while talking about the qualities – says thus: “I am equal to all the beings, and I have no love or hatred towards anyone”. In connection with actions, He says “even if the one practicing very bad things in life sings my glories with unwavering mind, he should be considered as a pious man”. About the births, bhagavAn also says, “Oh pArtha! All sinful people born of various births such as the females, vaiSyas and Sudhras also take refuge in me and attain the highest abode”.

The people who follow ill deeds are not liked by bhagavAn, The statements from the scriptures such as “the ones without perseverance, peace, and composition of mind, and the ones who practice ill deeds are never dear to the Lord”. Even the brahma sUthras have concluded that people of all ASramas (brahmacharya, grihastha, vanaprastha and sanyAsa) as well as the ones without ASramas (such as widowers, and the like) are equally eligible for the knowledge about the brahman, and also indicate that all such people should have their mind under control with both internal and external restraint.

There is no restriction for anyone in chanting the names of the Lord who is the natural friend and relative of one and all, who is also just like a mother who is most affectionate towards her child, under any circumstances. This freedom of chanting the Lord’s names can be seen among a multitude of prime personalities such as gajEndhra – the elephant, jatAyu – the eagle, vAyasa – the crow, vibhIshaNa – the sibling of the king of demons, the common populace of kOsala (subjects in the kingdom of SrI rAma), gOpikAs – the cowherd womenfolk, mAlAkAra – the florist at mathurA, and others.

The ‘apaSUdhrAdhikaraNa’ chapter of brahma sUthras denies the eligibility for knowledge about the Supreme Self from the vEdhas and upanishadhs to the athraivarNikas (Sudhras – not belonging to the three varNas namely brAhmana, kshathriya and vaiSya) due to non-prescription of their practicing the various purifying acts such as service unto the preceptor, and others, which in turn are the limbs to the knowledge about the various oblations. So the natural eligibility to take refuge of bhagavAn (to gain the same result as that of learning the vEdhas) has been with these people – the athraivarNikas. Thus, they also have the utmost eligibility for attaining the Supreme by the various paths such as listening to His glories, thinking about Him and the like, which are celebrated by the upanishadhs as the highways for gaining the knowledge about Him and finally attaining Him. Such people (the ones ineligible for study of vEdhas) would have desired for various fruits in the past due to the adulteration of their sAthvik qualities by rajas and thamas at some point in time, due to which they would be born in various births such as females, Sudhras, various birds and animals. Examples of such people
are vidhura, dharma vyAdha. Such people would be disgusted about the origin of their births that they have acquired due to their own actions (karma).  This is shown by SrI Saunaka as well, thus: “Even though people like dharma vyAdha are born into lower births due to their past karmas, yet they attain the Supreme abode due to their instincts of worshipping the Lord – just as sabari attained mOksham”.

A quote from the mahAbhAratha may be remembered: “Oh king of kings! dharma always purifies a person who listens about it, sees it, talks about it, practices it and approves of it”.

The bhagavath-dharma (duties performed to attain the Supreme Godhead) has the power to penetrate into the minds of its beneficiary, approver as well as its practitioner.

Some statements from various scriptures quote thus:

  • All sins are washed away when one chants His names aloud, worships Him, sees Him or prostrates before Him. Then who will not serve the Supreme Lord hari?
  • hari is the One who protects those who chant His names, think about Him, meditate on Him, worship Him, and serve Him. He protects them in all respects granting them immense benefits both in this world as well as the neither.
  • He protects all those who listen about Him, read about Him, and see Him etc.
    Apart from these, the ithihAsa and  purANas also permit even the lowliest dog-eaters to sing the glories of the Lord.
  • bhagavAn declares this in His own words in the vishnNu dharmam thus: “nAradha! If my devotee says ‘nama:’ unto me with all sincerity, he shall attain the supreme abode, even if he is a lowly dog-eater”.

Statements such as these, along with the various anecdotes, are verily the proofs that such practitioners of the bhagavath-dharma such as chanting His divine names shall gain all due respects in the society and also attain the supreme abode at the end. Since these are well established facts, there is no contradiction in these facts to what the scriptures have to say either.

Non-restriction in terms of time and place for meditation, worship, etc

The usage of the word ‘sadhA’ indicates non-restriction in terms of time. Similarly, it also tells us about the non-dependency on the place of chanting, physical and mental purity while chanting, etc. Thus, a person need not see the various time units such as ayana (half year), ruthu (season), mAsa (month), paksha (dark/bright fortnight), nakshathra (star of the day), muhUrtha (the time in a day) etc.

To this effect, we should see the various statements made by the sages, as given below:

  • One should always chant the holy names of the wielder of Chakra – the Supreme Lord – at every time and at every place. When this is done, the person would never be impure at anytime, since the Supreme Lord Hari Himself will purify that person.
  • When one wakes up early in the morning chanting the names of the Supreme Lord as dhEva, krishNa, and gOvindha, then he shall not see any bad things coming his way during the rest of the day.
  • Even if chanting the names of bhagavAn is small in nature, the fruits of such actions are humongous. This is illustrated by a quote from the SrI bhagavath-gIthA that says:
    “Even if such a dharma is followed in miniscule, it protects the practitioner from great fears”.
  • The one who chants the names of the Lord is well equipped to progress towards mOksha.
  • If one rests his mind in achyutha – the Supreme Lord, he shall not reach the hell. To such a person, even the thoughts about the lowly heavens are a great obstacle to reach bhagavAn. Even the brahma lOkam (the highest position in this creation) turns miniscule to him. The One who resides in the unadulterated minds of such pure souls shall Himself grant the highest position of salvation unto them. Given these facts, then, what is really surprising in the fact that a person is freed of all his sins if he just sings the glories of the Lord by chanting his various names?” bhagavan gets pleased with the length of detailed worship and yields the fruits, so also He will be equally pleased with a sincere devotee who takes up the lighter form of worship – namely “chanting His names” – with a pure thought.
  • Even if my devotee offers me a leaf, a flower, a fruit or even just water – with true devotion, I shall partake of it with the most pleased state of mind.
  • The vyAsa smrithi says, “If a person offers a flower or just water to bhagavan by chanting the purusha sUktha, then the whole of this world  (with all animate and inanimate objects) has been worshipped by him”.
  • The vishNu dharma says “Even if a person offers the entire Earth stuffed with precious pearls to krishNa, janArdhana is not easily attained by him if he is impure at heart.”
  • Penance is not faulty, studies are not faulty, natural prescriptions of vEdhas aren’t faulty. The action of restraining the mind from sensual pleasures is also not faulty. The real root of fault is at the heart, where the person lacks purity of thoughts.
  • Schools of fish reside in the sacred rivers such as gangA. Flocks of birds reside in many temples. But, since they lack the sacred thoughts, they do not attain the fruits of being in those sacred places. Thus, the real fruits of pilgrimages and visits to holy shrines are only dependant on our purity of thoughts.

Thus that which was attained in krutha yuga by severe penance, that which was attained in thrEtha yuga by extensive oblations and sacrificial rites, that which was attained during the dhvApara yuga by detailed worship, shall be attained by a seeker during this kali yugam just by singing the glorious names of kESava.

(to be continued…)

adiyen srinivasa raja ramanuja dasan

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SrIvishNu sahasranAmam – pUrva pItikA – Part 3

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<< pUrva pItikA – Part 2

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“vEdhanam or knowledge refers to upAsanam or worship, as discussed in previous part 2. Just like upAsanam (worship), result of bhakthi is also ‘mOksha’ .  As it is said, “His form cannot be beheld with our vision; none can see him with these naked eyes. Those who know him from their heart with full of devotion and knowledge will only attain immortality”.

‘hrudhA’  (हृदा मनीषा मनसाsभिक्लृप्तः) – refers to bhakthi. Not just the vEdhas, but also the smrithis begin by saying “His form cannot be beheld with our limited vision”, and proceed to declare thus: “Only he who has a composed mind with true devotion and equanimity  shall see the Supreme Self, who is the form of knowledge”. bhagavAn also declares in the bhagavadh-geethA thus: “Oh pArtha! That supreme brahman – purusha – is known only by true devotion, and nothing else”, “He can be reached by bhakthi alone, and not by any other means”, and “He knows me by true devotion”.

The angirasa smrithi declares “Only constant uninterrupted devotion leads to salvation”. Similarly, the vaishNava Dharma declares “Pure devotion towards the Supreme Soul gOvindha bestows upon men the Supreme Abode of salvation, let there be no doubt about it”. The rAmayaNa also says “Devotees of You – the Supreme Soul – who are firmly rooted in devotion shall attain all their desires, both in this world as well as the nether”, “Those who are devoted to you shall be invincible”.

The vAmana purANa says thus: “To whom vishNu is ever loveable, and those who are ever loveable to Vishnu, they shall never be born again, and shall attain Him forever”.

The form or object of meditation in both worship as well as devotion (upAsana and bhakthi) should be the Lotus eyed Supreme Brahman alone. That is also a command, as it is said “upAsva (worship)”, “bhajasva (serve)” Both the verbs ‘upAsthi’ and ‘bhajathi’ are two variants, which both mean “service”. For the same reason, the dictionaries refer to ‘service, devotion and worship’ as equivalents (सॆवा-भक्तः-उपास्तिः).

The linga and mArkaNdEya purANas  declare thus: “The root ‘bhaj’ is known to mean servitude. Thus, the learned have inferred the word bhakthi as service to the Lord”.

If a soul develops taste only in being of eternal servitude to the Supreme Soul due to His unlimited divine auspicious qualities and boundless affection towards the souls,as also in His unconditional ownership of the entire world, it is called ‘upAsana’. Another name given to it is ‘bhakthi’.

bhagavAn declares “I am the most loveable to all learned men”, “They serve me with all their love”, “They are ever satisfied with their minds firmly fixed in me”. The vishNu purANa refers to parahlAdha as the best among demons who filled his heart with bliss born out of constant contemplation, and who was exalted by chanting the divine names of the lord .

The vishNu thathva also says thus: “The service done unto the Supreme Soul with the exertion of knowledge is called bhakthi. When such bhakthi is born in the mind, the love towards God automatically develops”.

The bArhaspathya smrithi says “the one who is attached to the Supreme Soul and totally detached from the world shall be freed from all bondage and shall enjoy the eternal bliss enjoyed by the Supreme brahman”.

The thaiththirIya nArAyaNIyam  prays thus “May that Lord engage us in good thoughts”.

anusmaraN – “Repeated remembrance of krishNa is the best” indicate to us the importance of developing taste only in eternal servitude to the Supreme Self alone. The word ‘anu‘  is inferred to mean lowliness by the scholars. The lowliness refers to the natural servitude of the soul to
the Supreme Self. Serving the Supreme Soul with conscious remembrance of the natural servitude is upAsana. That itself is called ‘anusmaraNam’ – remembrance of eternal natural servitude.

Display of simple means such as meditation to those who know no way out :

In response to third question bhIshma shows the simple means  of ‘praising Him and singing His glory’, in response to the third question ‘sthuvantha: kam’. He replied to this question in three SlOkas, starting with ‘thamEva’ and ended with ‘sarvabhUtha-bhavOdhbhavam’. bhIshma proceeded to uniquely demarcate the qualities exclusive to bhagavAn, as against the other lowly demigods. He explained with His characteristic of being eternal, and continued with ten such unique qualities:

अनादिनिधनं विष्णुं सर्वलॊकमहॆश्वरम्
लॊकाध्यक्षं स्तुवन् नित्यं सर्वदुःखातिगॊ भवॆत् ॥ ६ ॥
ब्रह्मण्यं सर्वधर्मज्ञम् लॊकानां कीर्तिवर्धनम्
लॊकनाथं महद्भूतं सर्वभूतभवॊद्भवम् ॥ ७ ॥

‘anAdhinidhanam’ – the One who factors everything without Himself being bound by time .

‘vishNum’ – the One who is not bound by place .

‘sarvalOka-mahESvaram’ – the One who possesses all the wealth required to grant all wishes of all seekers .

‘lOkAdhyaksham’ – the One who is represented by the property of being boundless in any way .

‘brahmaNyam’ – the One who confers wellness upon brahmA by being propounded by the unlimited branches of the vEdhas; for the same reason, the One who is the subject of prayers by everyone .

‘sarvadharmagyam’ – thus, being the knower of all dharmas that glorify Him .

‘lOkAnAm kIrthivardhanam’ – the One who becomes the cause for all the inmates of all worlds who pray sincerely to Him in attaining unsurpassed glory, as spoken in the numerous scriptures and vEdhas, such as in the statement “Having praised whom he shall also attain the glory that should be praised by everyone”.

‘lOkanAtham’ – the master of all worlds, and hence the recipient most eligible for being praised and served by all .

‘mahadhbhUtham’ – the One who is with all the glorious wealth by nature; thus, the One who is very easily worshipped by one and all with just a simple prayer. Great people are only the ones who are most satisfied even with just the signal of people approaching them for their blessings. They do not expect much from the seekers.

‘sarvabhUtha-bhavOdhbavam’ – the One who is indeed the cause of knowledge among the ‘sath’ or knowledgeable entities (individual souls), and who is thus inseparable from those knowledgeable entities, and hence the One who grants them all that they want .

‘sthuvan’ – although lacking in complete devotion, singing the glories of such a Supreme Master.

‘sarvadhu:khAthigO bhavEth’ – one should cross the fires caused by three heats (thApa-thrayam) and attain the Supreme, Blissful, and Pacific hearted bhagavAn. Finally the above two SlOkas explains the simple means of worship, namely prayer .

The loftiness of Remembrance, Praising, Prostration :

bhIshma then proceeds to reply to the fifth question (which – of all dharmas – is the highest?) with the SlOka beginning with ‘Esha mE’

ऎष मॆ सर्वधर्माणां धर्मॊsधिकतमॊ मतः
यद्भक्त्या पुण्डरीकाक्षं स्तवैरर्चॆन्नरस्सदा

‘Esha:’ – The various forms of pleasing the Lord – as detailed before – namely worship, prayers, etc, as per the scriptural prescription with the necessary authorities, and also considering the various ranks of complexities attached to each of them .

‘sarvadharmANAm madhyE adhikathamO matha:’ – is the most superior among all the dharmas.

The word ‘dharmas’ mostly refers to the following four forms: (a) material benefits such as cattle, progeny, wealth,(b) the spiritual benefits such as the attainment of swarga, (c) the salvation characterized by complete knowledge of the Supreme Entity and its enjoyment, with the knowledge being born out of detached worship of the Lord and contentment, (d) worshipping bhagavAn in various forms such as affectionately thinking about Him, singing His praise and prostrating before Him, and thus performing extraordinary service unto Him.Out of these four categories, the fourth category of unconditional servitude to bhagavAn stands as the
supreme dharmA.

‘yadhbhakthyA’ – The unconditional servitude to bhagavAn is the supreme
form of dharmA, because it is filled with the most desirable qualities such as true devotion .

‘bhakthyA’ – bhagavadh-geethA refer ‘bhakthyA’  as ‘the easiest and happiest job to do’ . This is indeed comprehensible, because it is well known that the unrelenting contemplation about a loveable husband is always the  sweetest and most desirable task for a spouse. Thus, bhIshma differentiates the happiness of performing unconditional servitude to bhagavAn from the onus of engaging in similar activities with the servile demigods – which on the contrary is akin to drinking a bitter concoction.

‘puNdarIkAksham’ – The servitude to multi-fold beauty of the Lord with lotus eyes from the servitude to other ugly, horrific and lowly entities.

‘sthavai:’ – intends to differentiate the simplicity of accomplishing the task of pleasing the Lord by words alone, from the complexity of performing the multitude of vows such as viSwajith, chandhrAyana .

bhagavAn vyAsa also says thus: “May the people who are desperate, downcast, flaccid, afraid, and are stuck amidst horrible diseases be freed from all their sorrows and difficulties and lead a happy life, with the chanting of the word’ nArAyaNa’.

The vaishNava dharma says in various instances, thus:

“Irrespective of whether one chants the names of vAsudhEva and sings his glories with or without knowledge, all his sins shall disappear just like the salt put in water.”

“The tools required to reach mOksham are easily acquired by that person who utters the two lettered name ‘hari’ just once”. “All diseases shall be cured with the medicine of chanting the names achyutha, anantha and gOvindha” . “Sing the glories of jagannAtha – the master of the worlds. If not, at least study the Vedas”

The vishNu sUktha says: “Those who sing His glory shall reach His divine abode from where there is no return” (ध्रुवासॊ अस्य कीरयॊ जनासः)

‘asya kIraya:’ – those who sing His glories

‘dhruvAsa:’ – shall reach His divine abode from where they do not return any more .

The word ‘archEth’ indicates the duty of happily worshipping the manifest form of the Supreme Lord. This is also indicated in the bhagavadh-geethA  as ‘understood to be manifest’. Pleasing the Supreme Lord by such worship is not just blandly prescribed by the scriptures like penance and pilgrimage, but it can really be experienced.

(to be continued…)

adiyen srinivasa raja ramanuja dasan

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SrIvishNu sahasranAmam – pUrva pItikA – Part 2

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SrI:  SrImathE SatakOpAya nama:  SrImathE rAmAnujAya nama:  SrImath varavaramunayE nama:

Full Series

<<pUrva pItikA – Part 1

Reply to the question regarding support of verbal chanting

bhIShma spoke in response to these six questions (bhIShma uvAcha). In the process, he first replied to the last question, and then on proceeded to answer the other questions in a different order. Since the final goal is to be attained by some means, he first chose to reply to the questions regarding the means. Even among them, although asked at the very end of all questions, he chose to answer to the question regarding the japAlambanam (support of the verbal chanting) at first, which shows his high regard towards it.

bhIShma said thus:

भीष्म उवाच –
जगत्प्रभुं दॆवदॆवम् अनन्तं पुरुषॊत्तमम्
स्तुवन्नामसहस्रॆण पुरुषः सततॊत्थितः ॥ ४ ॥

jagathhprabhum dhEvadhEvam anantham puruShOttthamam |
sthuvannAmasahasrENa puruSha: sathathOtthitha: ||

‘jagatha:’ – of all moving and non-moving entities in the world

‘prabhum’ – the master

‘dhEvadhEvam’ – just as the Gods are superior to Humans in terms of owning wealth, servitude, et al, so also the One who is superior to even Gods in all respects

‘anantham’ – He who cannot be limited or measured (by space, time, and objects)

‘puruShOththamam’ – the One who is extremely generous

‘nAmasahasrENa’ – with the thousand names that can be taken as a verbal support by chanting.

‘sthuvan’ – as per the ashtAdhyAyi sUthra 3-2-126, there is a a shatRu (शतृ) adjunct because of it ‘being a reason’.  This is related (as a reason) to the statement “He shall surpass all the miseries” (sarvadhu:khAthigO bhavEth सर्वदुःखातिगो भवेत्). The word ‘sthavanam’ means that which removes all sorrows. Who is such a One (who transcends miseries upon recitation)? It is the ‘puruSha’.

‘puruSha:’ – the knowledgeable (here, refers to the individual soul – jeevAthmA). Of what nature is He? He is ‘sathathOththitha:’.

‘sathathOththitha:’ – ever awake.

(Such a soul is considered ‘ever awake’ due to his realization that) The constant prayer of such Supreme Entity with words of praise and uninterrupted thoughts will yield the most desirable and favourable fruits, while any interruptions to such actions bring untold misery.

The vEdhas popularly declare: “When this knowledgeable soul takes refuge in the Supreme One who is unseen with the naked eyes, who has no body made out of prakruthi, who is not reached by words, and who is unsupported by any external entity, he is then firmly rooted in assurance against all fears, and reaches a state of fearlessness. But when he loses interest in contemplation of that Supreme Self, and distances himself from it, he begets the biggest fear of samsAra” (yadhAhyEvaiSha Ethasmin… यदाह्येवैष एतस्मिन्… – thaiththireeya upaniShath).

This is explained further:

“Those moments in time when vAsudhEva is not contemplated are lost forever. They are the biggest voids in one’s life. That is the time when ignorance covers the soul and that only leads to the deterioration of the soul.” (yanmuhUrtham kShaNam vApi vAsudhEvO na chinthyatmE | sa hAnisthanmahachchidhram sA bhrAnthi: sA cha vikriyA)

“It is better to be put up in a cage of high flames, rather than to stay in the doomed company of those who refrain themselves from the thoughts of shouri (bhagavAn kriShNa).” ( Saunaka samhithA – varam huthavahajvAlA-panjarAyAm vyavasthithi: | na shouri-chinthA-vimukha-jana-samvAsa vaishasam)

“Even if one moment is lost without the thoughts about the Supreme Soul, it only leads to so much of miseries at once as much as one experiences when the robbers have robbed him of all his wealth.” (EkasminnapyathikrAnthE muhUrthE dhyAnavarjithE | dhasyubhirmuShithEnEva yuktham Akrandhithum bhruSham)

Thus speak the vEdhas and other supporting scriptures in connection with the ‘japa Alambanam’ as the means of attaining a goal.

The discussion on the loftiest entity eligible for worship

Since the scriptures have regarded the worship and prayers of the Supreme Soul as the highest duties, bhIShma deferred the reply to the fifth question (which among the dharmas prescribed by the scriptures is the best in your opinion?) and proceeded to first reply to the fourth and third questions respectively, which inquire about the objects of prayer and worship respectively (having prayed to whom, and worshipped whom, will the humans attain all auspicious results?). Thus, he described about bhagavAn, the Supreme Soul, who is the object of prayers and worship, and explained the means of worshipping Him:

तमॆवचार्चयन् नित्यं भक्त्या पुरुषमव्ययम्
ध्यायन् स्तुवन् नमस्यञ्श्च यजमानस्तमॆव च ॥ ५ ॥

thamEvachArchayan nithyam bhakthhyA puruSham avyayam |
dhyAyan sthuvan namasyamscha yajamAnasthamEva cha ||

He establishes that the same entity which is the object of ‘japa’ as explained before is itself the object for worship as well. This can be understood by the use of “thamEva cha” (him only). As it is said in the mahAbhAratha itself,

“We wish to worship this supreme soul who possesses all wealth, who is the supreme master, the father, the preceptor, and the one who is fit to be worshipped. All of you should agree to this.” (sabhA parva) (tham imam sarvasampannam AchAryam pitharam gurum | archyam archithum ichchAma: sarvE sammanthum arhatha).

“I do not comprehend another entity more fit to be worshipped than janArdhana.” (sabhA parva) (thasmAth pUjyathamam nAnyam aham manyE janArdhanAth)

“The wise men do not worship / serve the lower demi-gods such as the four faced brahmA, the blue necked shiva, and others of the same rank, for – the fruits of such worship are very limited.” (mOkSha parva) (brahmANam shithikantam cha yAshchAnyA dhEvathA: smruthA: | prathibudhdhA na sEvanthE yasmAth parimitham phalam)

“If one worships anybody other than me, the fruits are always limited” (SrI bhagavadh gIthA) (antavaththu phalam thEShAm…)

‘puruSham’ – the lotus eyed One

‘avyayam’ – even after having been experienced by everyone continuously, the One who knows no exhaustion, and the One whose divine auspicious qualities keep multiplying exponentially without end

‘archayan’ – being the ardent worshipper who serves such a One with bhakthiyOga

‘nithyam’ – not being able to place the mind elsewhere even for a single moment, just as illustrated in (the SrI bhagavadh gIthA as) “the ones who have placed their mind and soul with me…” (machchiththA: madhgathaprANA:..). How do they worship bhagavAn? ‘bhakthyA’ (with devotion)

‘bhakthyA’ – the state of deep love of a servant towards his master is called ‘bhakthi’. ‘bhakthyA’ means ‘with such a mindset’ (towards the lord). How else do they worship? ‘dhyAyan’ (by meditating)

‘dhyAyan’ – a mental deed; constantly meditating on the many auspicious qualities of the Lord, which are like torrential rains that are capable of subduing the three types of heats of samsAra completely, with no obstacles in between. How else? ‘sthuvan’ (by praying)

‘sthuvan’ – a verbal deed; by singing the glories of the Lord and praising his auspicious qualities with an excited body and a choking voice with eyes filled with tears out of the joy felt by experiencing Him. How else? ‘namasyan’ (by prostrating)

‘namasyan’ – with all humility; meaning to say – having submitted oneself – who is soiled by ignorance of ego – at the Lotus Feet of the Lord physically and verbally, saying “All that I considered mine is now yours, please accept”, placing everything that is his such as his senses and faculties, without the least bit of attachment to them, and with all love, humility and utter devotion. How else? ‘yajamAna:’ (worshipping)

‘yajamAna:’ – by performing the dhEva-pUja / rituals of worship of the Lord; knowing no favour in return for the greatest favour that the Lord has done unto him – of accepting him into his fold, ‘yajamAna’ is the one who does an extraordinary, continuous and most affectionate service of the Lord with all beautiful items collected with pure devotion such as scented water, flowers, a mixture of honey and fruits, et al. by performing servile actions in various forms including touching the Lord, talking to Him, and offering him many enjoyments (bhogas) as per His wishes. Such a practitioner (yajamAna) will surpass all the difficulties and sorrows in his life (as said in ‘sarvaduHkhAthigO bhavEth’).

This itself is called ‘bhaktiyOga’, and is considered to be a highway to reach salvation. This is discussed and promoted in the principal upanishaths. Similarly, the worship of brahman (brahmOpAsanam) is achieved directly by following varNa-Ashrama principles. It is also known to be the product of developing auspicious qualities of the soul such as internal and external restraints and the like. It is born out of the various limbs of worship. It is accomplished by those who have purified their minds with constant uninterrupted flow of repeated affectionate thoughts about the Supreme Soul – also referred by other equivalent words such as ‘knowledge’, ‘meditation’, ‘uninterrupted contemplation and remembrance’, ‘wisdom’ etc, which is backed by firm belief. Such a brahmOpAsanA or worship of the Supreme Brahman that is characterized by auspicious qualities mentioned in various paravidhyAs such as upakOsala, etc., is thoroughly analyzed by bhagavAn bAdharAyaNa (vyAsa) with the help of the numerous vEdhic statements and the logics of brahma sUthras, and he has concluded upon the best means for attaining salvation – mOksham. Some of the various vEdhic statements and brahmasUthra lines that have assisted in this analysis are thus:

“The one who knows Him will attain immortality in this birth itself” (thamEvam vidhvAn amrutha iha bhavathi)

“The knower of brahman shall attain the Supreme Abode” (brahmavidhApnOthi param)

“The seekers try to know the Brahman by worship, donations, penance and by fasting” (yajnEna dhAnEna thapasA anAshakEna…)

“Restraining his internal and external faculties, the seeker shall worship the Supreme Brahman” (shAnthOdhAntha..)

“Just as the reins are most important to control a horse, so also the duties or karmas prescribed by the scriptures are most important to control the mind and worship the Brahman” (sarvApEkShA cha yajnAdhi shruthE: ashvavath)

“One should worship the Supreme Self by restraining his internal and external faculties” (shama-dhamAdyupEthaththvAth)

“One must repeatedly think about the Supreme Self” (Avruththirasakruth upadEshAth).

The commentator of the sUthras has stated thus: “vEdhanam or knowledge refers to upAsanam or worship, since the vEdhas say so”.

Maturity in such upAsanA or worship itself is termed as ‘bhakthi’ or devotion. Bhakthi is not anything else outside of this.  How do we say this? It is because it is not any different from the perception of spiritual union.

(to be continued…)

adiyen srinivasa raja ramanuja dasan

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SrIvishNu sahasranAmam – pUrva pItikA – Part 1

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<< pravESam

Although not questioned, sage vaishampAyana – out of utter affection – volunteered to speak thus to janamEjaya, who had a very peaceful mind having heard repeatedly from various learned people about the glories of the Lord, in order to enlighten him on many more esoteric meanings as preached in the scriptures:

श्री वैशम्पायन उवाच –
श्रुत्वा धर्मान् अशॆषॆण पावनानि च सर्वशः
युधिष्टिरः शान्तनवं पुनरॆवाभ्यभाषत  ॥ १ ॥

SrI vaishampAyana uvAcha –
shruthvA dharmAn ashEshENa pAvanAni cha sarvasha:
yudhiShTira: shAnthanavam punarEvAbhyabhAShatha || 1 ||

Having heard fully about all purifying dharmas in detail in the battle field, yudhiShTira asked the glorious son of shAntanu [bhIshma pitAmaha] further.

dharmAn – all the dharmas that are of varied kinds, mentioned in the vEdhas and smrithis, which bestow upon the followers a multitude of auspicious spiritual and material benefits – such as the rAja dharma (duties of the king), mOksha dharma (duties to be observed by a seeker of salvation), dhAna dharma (duties of a donor), and many more.

ashEShENa – in entirety, meaning – as much as needed.

pAvanAni cha – along with purifying deeds such as penance, pilgrimage, worship, et al.

sarvasha: – in all respects; meaning – in terms of fruits, limbs, nature and authority of the prescribed actions.

shruthvA – having heard.

yudhiShThiraH – yudhiShTira, verily the son of dharma [yama dharmarAja]

shAnthanavam – unto bhIshma, the one with a high-class birth, born of shAnthanu from gangA

punarEva abhyabhAShatha – asked again. The reason for asking again was to know from bhIshma about the dharma that he held close to his heart as the highest of all. This can be known from the fact that he later asks bhIshma “which – of all dharmas – do you think is the supreme?” [Reference: the next two verses in series]. Also, yudhistira considered the fact that the wise men search and seek refuge of other learned men who are strongly rooted in the ancient good practices (sadhAchAra). Being subservient to them, the seekers also engage in similar practices that are most liked by their preceptors – the learned people. In the process, the seekers also develop a taste for those good deeds and fruits. That is to say, they do not engage in the most lofty deeds for the mere reason that it is stated in the scriptures, but because such deeds have been accepted and practiced by other learned men in the past.

It has been already stated [at the very beginning of the introduction post] that the wise men should distinctly identify the subjects of knowledge from the various sources available to them, and accept only those that prove to be conducive for their welfare. Such knowledge is of two types – upAya (means) and upEya (goal). The means and the goal can further be thought to be of three types: likeable, more likeable and most likeable ‘goals’; and beneficial, more beneficial and most beneficial ‘means’.

Of these, the goals usually have their own obstacles such as birth, growth, transformations, transient nature, the various effects on the soul namely sorrow, fruits of action, ignorance, desires etc. All these are considered to be the drawbacks of the goals. Similarly, they also have their share of positives such as being free from blemishes, developing taste for soul and body, permanence, abundant knowledge, bliss, wealth etc.

The means also have drawbacks such as deterioration, exhaustion, being long-routed, deception, being over-rewarding or under-rewarding etc. The good qualities of the means are: being definitive, safe, and easy to follow, being extremely rewarding etc.

The distinction in the aforesaid three types of goals and means is achieved keeping in mind the qualities and drawbacks of each of them, as discussed previously. When a seeker finds the ‘most beneficial’ way, he should give up the other two ways namely ‘beneficial’ and ‘more beneficial’, considering them as lowly in comparison to what he holds. Similarly, when he finds the ‘most likeable’ goal, he should give up the two other lower categories of goals namely ‘likeable’ and ‘more likeable’. The true seeker should understand the need for rightly judging between the various goals and the means and holding on to the best out of them.

Thus, in order to clearly differentiate between the various goals and means, yudhiShTira further classified his doubts into six questions, and posed them to bhIshma thus, as seen in the following two slokas:

युधिष्ठिर उवाच –
किमॆकं दैवतं लॊकॆ किं वाsप्यॆकं परायणम्
स्तुवन्तः कं कमर्चन्तः प्राप्नुयुर्मानवाः शुभम् ॥ २ ॥

yudhiShTira uvAcha –
kimEkam dhaivatham lOkE kim vApyEkam parAyaNam
sthuvantha: kam kamarchantha: prApnuyurmAnavA: shubham || 2 ||

कॊ धर्मः सर्वधर्माणां भवतः परमॊ मतः
किं जपन् मुच्यतॆ जन्तुः जन्मसंसारबन्धनात् ॥ ३ ॥

kO dharma: sarvadharmANAm bhavatha: paramO matha:
kim japan muchyathE janthu: janmasamsArabandhanAth || 3 ||

A question on The Supreme Entity as the Goal

Having known that the various means lead to an ultimate goal, yudhiShTira proceeded to inquire about the ultimate goal at first. Since the philosophies and scriptures have projected and preached about the ultimate goal in two forms namely ‘The Supreme Entity’ and ‘The Ultimate Destination’, he inquired about the ‘Supreme Entity’ at first.

yudhiShTira asked ‘Which is the Supreme Godhead shown by the scriptures? and who is the one whom we should attain?”. The words “Which” (kim) and “in the scriptures” (lOkE) are to be read along with every question that yudhiShTira has asked. Similarly, the phrase “the loftiest in your opinion” (bhavatha: paramO matha:) should also be applied to all the six questions that he has asked, according to the ‘simha-avalOkana nyAya’ (just as a lion looks back at the way it has treaded after walking a certain distance). The “vibhakthi”s in each of the questions need to be modified as required while applying these aforesaid phrases in all the questions. The word ‘lOka’ has an origin as: ‘lOkyathE anEna’ (through which everything is seen), which indicates that the word ‘lOka’ in this context doesn’t refer to the world as it normally does, but refers to the ancient scriptures such as vEdhas, smrithis, and other SAsthras using which we see the Supreme Reality.

The word ‘Ekam’ refers to the main entity that has no equivalent or superior power to it. This is in concord with the phrases “the Supreme One who is also the biggest effulgence”, “of that One who is the chief of the world” etc. This doesn’t stop at the nature alone (the word ‘Ekam’ doesn’t refer to the nature of being Supreme alone), but also represents the numeral ‘one’ as it normally does. The next word ‘dhaivatham’ – due to its connotation and the use of singular form of the word – does not eliminate its representation of the Supreme Godhead as well as singularity. No Godhead exists, which has no nature of its own or which is multiple in number (in other words, all Godhead entities are indeed one in number, and have their own nature). Thus, even though it is known that the Godhead being referred to is singular, the usage of ‘Ekam’ is made specifically, for which no other meaning can be deduced. So in this context, the word ‘Ekam’ holds a special meaning, which represents ‘the Supreme One’, and not just the numeral one.

The word ‘dhaivatham’ refers to the connotation of the Supreme Mastery of all worlds, as also the representation of extraordinary qualities. Yudhishitra meant to ask “which is the loftiest of such Godheads professed by the scriptures in your opinion?” The reason being: even some of the learned scholars, who know about the Supreme Entity from the various scriptures, have their own doubts regarding the natural superiority of that entity due to the various ill-effects on it driven by illusion, limitation, transformation etc, and also due to the differentiation seen among the divine trinity – hari, hara and hiraNyagarbha (Brahma) – due to various common and special causes. So, in order to get these doubts clarified by bhIShma, yudhiShTira asked unto him: “Which is that Supreme Godhead, which is professed by the scriptures, in your opinion?”

A question on The Ultimate Destination as the Goal

A similar confusion about the salvation (mOksha) can be found in the phala-SAasthras, the scriptures that detail about the ultimate goal. Many people are of the opinion that the destruction of the identity of self along with ignorance is itself called as salvation, while many others opine that the voidance of some special characteristics of the soul itself is mOkSham. While some more propound that attaining the status and powers of the Supreme Brahman itself is salvation, some others declare that attaining of the qualities of Bhagavan is salvation. Some also opine that attaining the abode of the Supreme Self and residing in his shelter is mOkSham. Many others think that attaining the eight qualities such as the Supreme Bliss and the like is mOkSham, whereas some others think that performing eternal service of all kinds to the Supreme Brahman itself is mOkSham. With so many people professing so many meanings for ‘salvation’, yudhiShTira – with a mind to know the truth – posed his second question unto bhIShma thus: “Which is the only ultimate goal?” (in other words, “what is mOkSham?”)

Further to this, he has asked for two things – ‘dhaivatham’ and ‘parAyaNam’ (Supreme Entity and Ultimate Goal). In order to know if the two are totally different from each other or refer to the same entity in different states, there is the usage of two conjunctions ‘vA’ and ‘api’ (‘or’ and ‘also’). The word ‘Ekam’, as before, refers to the entity (destination, in this case) being Supreme – with no equivalent or superior, untainted, and auspicious in nature, and hence being the ‘Most likeable’ goal. ‘ayanam’ refers to the goal/result; the one which should be attained. yudhiShTira, in this question, intends to inquire about the highest goal (parAyaNam) in everyone’s life that helps achieve immense benefits both in this world as well as the nether, in bhIShma’s opinion. Thus are the first two questions on the “Goal” (puruShArtha – the Supreme Entity and Destination) that needs to be attained by every soul.

Question on the means – simple/detailed means and pursuable/established means

Further, the various scriptures indicate three means of attaining the ultimate goal – namely karma yOga, jnAna yOga and Bhakthi yOga. There are again confusions about these means of attaining the highest goal. Some people say the three means are mutually exclusive. Some others say they should all be treated / practiced together. Some say that one of three is the main way, and the other two are just limbs of it. With all these confusions in mind, it is naturally the best to inquire about the different ways of achieving the highest goal of life from a learned scholar. The upAya or the means of attaining a certain result is of three types – sidhdha (established), sAdhya (pursuable) and sAlambana (supported). Of these, the ‘established’ way refers to verily the Godhead that provides the intended fruits upon due worship. This worship of the Godhead can further be classified into two subtypes, namely ‘simple worship’ (laghu) and ‘detailed worship’ (alaghu). Classifying thus, yudhiShTira asks in the second half of the SlOka thus: “praying to whom and worshipping whom, will the humans attain their welfare?”

‘kam sthuvantha:’ – pleasing whom by prayers alone (only by singing the glories, praising the qualities) –> refers to the simple worship

‘kam archantha:’ – worshipping whom – in the form of upAsana – with utmost devotion –> refers to detailed worship

‘mAnavA:’ – all ‘Humans’ – devoid of any restrictions in terms of race, clan, gender, age, etc

‘shubham’ – two types of auspicious results, namely ‘well-being in this world’, and ‘attainment of the Paramapadham (ViShNulokam)’

‘prApnuyu:’ – shall attain

Question on the ultimate pursuable means

The ‘sAdhya’ upAya or the pursuable means refers to an absolute involvement of the three prime faculties called speech, mind and body in terms of chanting, meditating and worshipping respectively, in order to please the respective Godhead and gain the benefits. When yudhiShTira asks “Which – of all dharmas – is the loftiest, in your opinion?” (SlOka 3), he means to ask “Of all the dharmas prescribed by the scriptures and connotative of all the aforesaid natures, which is the One – in your opinion – that is distinctly unique with no equal or superior dharmas to it, which is clearly proven and can be relied upon similar to Apaddhanam (wealth in times of dire need)?”

Question on the verbally supported means

Finally, he asks a question regarding the verbally supported means of achieving the goal. He inquires about the support of verbal chanting done along with the help of prayers, mantras, and the idol of the deity, sandal, flowers, and other things. He asks, “Having chanted which one, will all the born souls be released from the cycles of births and samsara?”

‘japa:’ – refers to the restricted and specialized repetitions of mantras and the like

The manu smruthi declares: “Only by japa will a brAhmaNa attain all benefits/fruits; there’s no doubt about it. Whether a person practices anything else or not, he will be considered as a brAhmaNa only by his friendly nature”.

The same scripture also says: “The worship with japa is ten times better than worship with physical objects”.

Krishna, in his SrI bhagavadhgIthA declares: “I am the japa-yajna among the modes of worship”.

Since the loftiness of verbal ‘japa’ has been established with such assurances, the other modes of worship with mind and action are not being inquired by yudhiShTira.

‘janthu’ – that which is born

‘janma’ – the cycle of aging, death, and birth, and other pains as an effect of samsAra are shown with this word, and

‘samsAra’ – refers to the main causes due to which the soul is bound in this creation, namely ignorance, fruits of action, habits, tastes / desires etc.

The ‘janma’ and ‘samsAra’ are the two obstacles that are stopping a soul from attaining the ultimate goal of life called paramapadham. These obstacles will be warded off with the help of japa. The ‘mOksha’ or salvation mentioned in this context is representative of all other auspicious benefits, since the various scriptures clearly mention both material as well as spiritual benefits in plenty for the japas that they prescribe.

Thus, beginning with phrases like “in entirety” (ashEShENa), “by all means” (sarvasha:) etc, and later on using more phrases such as “in the scriptures” (lOkE), “all humans” (mAnavA:), “auspicious material/spiritual benefits” (shubham), et al, these questions also clearly intend to highlight the best modes in terms of time, authority, limbs of action, and the fruits of action.

adiyen srinivasa raja ramanuja dasan

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SrIvishNu sahasranAmam – pravESam (Introduction)

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श्री पराशरभट्टार्यैरनुगृहीतं भगवद्गुणदर्पणाख्यं श्री विष्णुसहस्रनामभाष्यम् (A treatise on SrI viShNu sahasranAma, ‘bhagavath guNa dharpaNam’ by name, graced by SrI parASara bhattar)

श्री पराशरभट्टार्यः श्रीरङ्गॆशपुरॊहितः |
श्रीवत्साङ्कसुतः श्रीमान् श्रॆयसॆ मॆsस्तु भूयसॆ ||

SrI parASara bhattArya SrIrangESa purOhitha: |
SrIvathsAngasutha: SrImAn SrEyasE mEsthu bhUyasE ||

— thaniyan on SrI parASara bhattar

May SrI parASara bhattar – the priest of SrIranganAtha and the glorious son of Sri kUraththAzhwAn (SrIvathsAnga) – confer upon me all auspiciousness in abundance.

[SrI parASara bhattar’s divine words commence from here]

वन्दॆ गॊविन्दतातौ मुनिमथ मनवै लक्ष्मणार्यं महान्तम्.
ध्यायॆयं यामुनार्यं ममहृदि तनवै राममॆवाभियामम् |
पद्माक्षं प्रॆक्षिशीय प्रथममपि मुनिं नाथमीडॆ शठारिम्
स्तौमि प्रॆक्षॆय लक्ष्मीं शरणमशरणः श्रीधरं संश्रयॆयम् ||

I salute gOvindha (embAr) and my father (kUraththAzhwAn), and meditate upon lakshmaNa muni (emperumAnAr) and mahApUrNa (periya nambigaL). I meditate upon yAmunAchArya (ALavandhAr), and fill my heart with rAmamiSra (maNakkAl nambigal). May I see puNdarIkAksha (uyyakkoNdAr), also along with the first preceptor nAthamunigaL (SrIranganAthamuni) – to whom I prostrate. I pray to SatAri (nammAzhwAr). May I see lakshmi (periya pirAttiyAr). May I, who am with no other refuge, surrender to SrIdhara (periya perumAL).

ॐ नमॊ गजवक्त्राद्यैः पारिषद्यैः प्रशासतॆ I
श्रीरङ्गराजसॆनान्यॆ सूत्रवत्या समॆयुषॆ II

I first salute vishwaksEnar – the consort of sUthravathI and the commander-in-chief of SrIrangarAja, who rules us with many his assistants including the elephant faced one.

नमॊ नारायणायॆदं कृष्णद्वैपायनात्मनॆ |
यदामुष्यायणा वॆदा महाभारतपञ्चमाः ||

I salute krishNa dhvaipAyana (vyAsa), who is nArayaNa himself, and who divided the vEdhas into four and also graced us with the fifth vEdham called mahAbhAratha.

जातॊ लक्ष्मणमिश्रसंश्रयधनात् श्रीवत्सचिह्नादृषॆः
भूयॊ भट्टपराशरॆति फणितः श्रीरङ्गभर्ता स्वयम् |
श्री श्रीरङ्गपतिप्रसादतृषया श्रीरङ्गनाथाह्वयः
श्रीरङ्गॆश्वरकारितॊ विवृणुतॆ नाम्नां सहस्रं हरॆः ||

I, SrIranganAtha by name, the son of the great rishi SrIvathsachihnar (kUraththAzhwAn) – who considered the shelter of SrI rAmAnuja as the biggest wealth, later rechristened as parASara bhattar by SrIranganAtha Himself, have sought to elaborate on the thousand names of the lord SrIranganAtha in pursuit of the His grace, having been inspired by Himself.

संसारॊsयमपण्डितॊ भगवति प्रागॆव भूयः कलौ
पूर्णं मन्यतमॆ जनॆ श्रुतिशिरॊगुह्यं ब्रुवॆ साहसात् |
तत्र स्तॊत्रमिदं प्रकाशयति यः स्तुत्यश्च यस्तावुभौ
व्यासः कारुणिकॊ हरिश्च तदिदं मौर्ख्यं सहॆतां मम ||

This samsAra (material realm) is full of people unlearned about the supreme self, more so in this age of kali. I have sought to an adventurous deed of elaborating the thousand names of the Lord to people who are full of arrogance, who think they know the secrets of vEdhas and upanishaths in completeness. May vyAsa maharishi – who gave us this sthOthra of SrI viShNu sahasranAma, and SrI vishNu Himself – who is the subject of this sthOthra, tolerate this stupidity of mine.

अर्थॆ हरौ तदभिदायिनि नामवर्गॆ
तद्व्यञ्जकॆ मयि च बन्धविशॆषमॆत्य |
सॆवध्वमॆतदमृतं प्रणिपत्य याचॆ
मध्यस्थमत्सरिजना इह मा च भूवन् ||

I prostrate and pray to you with folded palms please believe firmly in SrIhari as also in the thousand names that connote Him, as well as in me – who has resorted to elaborate their meanings. Please drink in this elixir of “SrI viShNu sahasranAma” (in order to be released from the clutches of samsAra). May there not be any mediocre people with hatred (lest they prevent others from enjoying the bliss of the thousand names).

1. Justification for accepting mahAbhAratha as a pramANa in par with SrImadh rAmAyaNa

In this world, every learned soul should distinctly identify the subject of knowledge from the various available sources. If the subject of such knowledge is conducive to their welfare, they should happily accept it – just as they would accept beautiful jewellery, sandal paste and gold. If they determine the subject of knowledge to be marring their welfare, they should shun it – just as they would shun a blade or a thorn. If the subject of knowledge is known to be different from either of these options, it should be disregarded, just as a log of wood or a bag of sand.

With this background, when we analyze the three pramANas namely prathyaksha (perception), anumAna (inference) and Agama (authentic scriptures), we conclude that the various subjects professed by them leading us to wealth (artha) and other material desires (kAma) are to be shunned due to their nature of being limited, spoiling, frightening, momentary, sadness-filled and difficult-to-earn, and hence being respite with unlimited faults. On the other hand, the qualities of righteousness (dharma) and salvation (parathathva/moksha) professed by the scriptures (SAsthras) are full of auspiciousness, and are opposite in nature to the former two. Hence the latter need to be sought by the learned people.

The authors of ithihAsas and purANas (historical scriptures) unanimously declare thus: “It is true. It is true. We reiterate that it is true. With raised shoulders (palm over head), we repeat it is only true that there is no scripture higher than the vEdhas and there is no God superior to kESava”.

vEdhas hold the prime position as the source of all the fourteen vidhyAs expounded by the ithihAsas and purANas. It is said that the vEdhas should be explained with the help of ithihAsas and purANas, without which the vEdha mAthA (SAsthram in the form of a mother) fears deception by the expounder. When the vEdhas are to be expounded thus, more prominence is given to ithihAsas than purANas. Among the ithihAsas, the learned people give the same prominence to mahAbhAratha as much as they revere SrImadh rAmAyaNa.

Even in the mahAbhAratha itself, the chapter of SrI viShNu sahasranAma is to be held in high reverence in comparison to the others. The reasons are thus:

  1. This is the essence of mahAbhAratha
  2. This has been sung by various sages (rishis) in various forms
  3. This has been compiled by none other than the vEdhAchArya SrI vyAsa maharishi
  4. This has been glorified as the supreme of all prayers by bhIshma himself
  5. This has been accepted with high reverence by the most learned people of yore
  6. This has been held in par with the SrI bhagavath gIthA in expounding esoteric meanings

2. SrI viShNu sahasranAmam – essence of mahAbhAratha

Many learned scholars have accepted mahAbhAratha as the source of all knowledge, with special reverence. It has been accepted thus, due to its properties of flawlessness and crystal-clear elucidation. This has also been held in high esteem by the various purANas due to the fact that this is a historical account (and not just a story).

The vAyu purANa and Siva purANa declare that vEdha vyAsa churned the ocean of vEdhas with his mind and gave the moon named “mahAbhAratha” for the welfare of this world. The bhavishyath purANa says – the essence of all Sasthras has been given in a beautiful poetic work by vEdha vyAsa, since a common man would shudder at the very thought of learning the deep meanings of the endless vEdas, just as he would shudder at the thought of drinking a bitter medicine. The mathsya purANa says – from whom SrI vEdha vyAsa was born, who in turn was the cause for the birth of the moon called “mahAbhAratha”. SrI parASara maharishi proudly declares in SrI vishNu purANa thus – “Hey maithrEya, know my son krishNadhvaipAyana or vyAsa to be nArAyaNa himself, for – who else on earth, if not him, would author a scripture of the magnitude of mahAbhAratha?” The mArkaNdEya purANa says – the flood of vyAsa’s words started from the mountain of vEdhas and uprooted the trees of unrighteousness, thus purifying this world. In addition to all these and more, the mahAbhAratha itself declares thus:

“A brAhmaNa by knowledge of all four vEdhas, along with knowing the limbs of vEdhas as well as the upanishaths, would still be considered as unlearned as long as he has not studied the ithihAsa called mahAbhAratha in detail”.

Since the mahAbhAratha is in line with vEdhas along with its limbs, smrithis (works born out of memory), ithihAsa and purANas, it is rightly said “What can be found here, can surely be found everywhere else; what is not found here will never be found anywhere else”. The mahAbhAratha – due to its expounding of all material and spiritual meanings in line with vEdhas in a fully unbiased manner – is studied by the most learned scholars as being superior to even the purANas.

In the very heart of such mahAbhAratha is where the SrI viShNu sahasranAma chapter lies. This chapter is befittingly placed in the anuSAsanika parva, in the context of explaining the various righteous deeds such as charitable activities (dhAna-dharma) after discussing the various meanings in the SAsthras. This chapter truly lies as the essence of all the discussions regarding righteousness in this parva. For all the aforesaid reasons, it can certainly be concluded that the SrI viShNu sahasranAma is one ultimate source of true knowledge, and that the true intention of this chapter is to preach the esoteric meanings of all the vEdhas. Also, since this is considered as a pramANa (source of knowledge) beyond doubts, and since it propounds the highest philosophy of all, the seekers genuinely in pursuit of true knowledge and their own welfare should give in to SrI viShNu sahasranAmam for the best results.

3. SrI viShNu sahasranAma – sung by hermits, and compiled by vyAsa

The viShNu sahasranAma chapter has been sung by various sages with all devotion. This can also be stated as a sole reason for holding this chapter in high esteem.

Also, the vEdhAchArya SrI krishNadhvaipAyana vyAsa maharishi is the supreme Lord SrIman nArAyaNa Himself – the most compassionate. Being an incarnation of the Supreme Lord, and hence possessing a multitude of auspicious qualities such as boundless knowledge, power etc, and also having no limiting qualities such as forgetfulness, confusions etc, He had the capacity to divide the vEdhas into four. With this capacity, He authored the fifth vEdha known as the mahAbhAratha in order to uplift the less knowledgeable people affected by the kali age. He authored the mahAbhAratha in order to clear all confusions and doubts that could be raised by the dull-heads due to their ignorance in practicing the principles laid down by the scriptures in this age.

Being the great grandson of the glorious vaSishta maharishi – who, by his own words, made a warrior viSvAmithra perform penance and turn into a brAhmaNa (by knowledge); being the son of parASara maharshi – who gained the divine knowledge about the Supreme Self by the grace of vaSishta and pulasthya and hence authored many purANas and samhithAs, and who has also greatly gained accolades in many other purANas including linga purANa etc;  having gained a high reverence among the most learned scholarly sages (parama rishis), due to His extraordinary penance, and experience of God; sage vEdha vyAsa has given us the SrI viShNu sahasranAma chapter with the thousand names strung into a sthOthra form, which were previously sung and glorified by the sages of the rank of vaSishta and parASara. Thus the vishNu sahasranAma chapter is to be considered as the most sacred and should certainly be sought by one and all.

4. SrI viShNu sahasranAma – glorified by bhIshma 

Further, SrI viShNu sahasranAma is glorified by bhIshma as his best choice of prayers. bhIshma is also to be trusted as much as vEdha vyAsa himself. For the same reason, bhagavAn vyAsa – while explaining the royal duties and rights to yudhishTira – speaks thus:

“Hey yudhishtra, if you wish to listen to all the righteous duties, go to the elderly and wise bhIshma pithAmaha. He – being the son of gangA, and the all-knowing wise man – will clear all your doubts in the esoteric scriptures. He is the one who has seen indra and other Gods in reality, and all the brahmarishis approach him as his audience (in learning the deep hidden meanings in the scriptures). There is nothing that he doesn’t know. He is full of knowledge, and can clear all your doubts”.

The Supreme Lord Himself speaks thus, in glory of bhIshma – “bhIshma, who is reclining on the arrow-bed, is now slowly giving up his life, just as fire dies down slowly. He – the lion among men – is contemplating upon me during his last moments in this world. Therefore, even my mind has reached him. He is the valiant one who holds many glorious weapons, and is truly intelligent. He is the one who has filled in his mind all four vEdhas along with their limbs. Therefore, I have reached him mentally. He only knows what happened in the past, what would happen in the future, and what is happening at present. He is the best among men practicing righteousness. Thus my mind has reached him. If that grandsire of the kuru clan – bhIshma – passes away, the knowledge in this world is sure to decline. Thus, oh king yudhishtra! I recommend you go to him (to learn all the royal duties and righteousness, before he passes).”

krishNa has also addressed bhIshma thus: “Oh bhIshma, that which the pANdavas ask you and that which you advice them to follow would be well rooted in this Earth as the very own words of vEdas for all the future generations to benefit from. All that has happened in the past, all that happens in the future, and all that is happening right now are clearly known to you – the most learned – like a fruit in your palm. I (The Supreme Self) know what you are! With the powers that you have gained out of your penance, you are capable of creating all worlds and all creatures in them. Your powers know no contraction; your knowledge has no taints. Your mind is well rooted and always residing in sattva guNa. It is untouched by rajas and thamas, and is distinctly shining like the moon in the sky that is untouched by the passing clouds.

Sage nAradha has spoken thus, in praise of bhIshma: “All dharmas that need to be known by all four classes of people – brAhmaNa, kshatriya, vaishya and SUdra – are known to bhIshma. So rush to him and get all the doubts nested in your minds cleared right away”. Having praised bhIshma as the one who has spent his lifetime serving many learned sages and the elderly people, the one who has strictly adhered to the vow of celibacy for a long time, the one who has performed penance and the one who has attained a spiritual union with the Supreme Self and thus possesses boundless knowledge, bhagavAn nAradha has granted him the powers to profess the supreme philosophy and righteousness in this world, and has appointed him for this purpose.

By the blessings that he obtained having served his parents, bhIshma has himself spoken thus: “Hey gOvindha! Thirst, passion, weakness and pain have all subsided now by your grace. Hey achyutha! All the past, present and future are now known to me as clearly as a fruit in my palm, by your divine grace. All dharmas spoken in the vEdhas and upanishaths are now seen by me due to your grace, oh achyuta! Hey janArdhana, having meditated upon you endlessly, I am now as energetic as a youth. I have now become capable of preaching the dharmas that bestow welfare to this world, and this – again – is by your grace!” Having spoken thus, bhIshma has clearly indicated his knowledge of the Supreme Self. Such well learned bhIshma has declared “This is – in my knowledge – the best of all dharmas”. Thus, the vishNu sahasranAma is to be considered as the most sacred and sought by one and all.

5. SrI viShNu sahasranAma – upheld by all SAsthras as well as unlearned and the dumb

The vishNu sahasranAma chapter has been well accepted by everyone in this world due to its greatness. Thus, bhagavAn athri maharishi has addressed the Supreme Self as ‘the God with thousand names’ in the sabhA parva of mahAbhAratha, and thus upheld the greatness of the sahasranAma chapter. Even in the vishNudharmam, the Supreme Self is referred thus during SrI gajEndhra-mOksham: “The one with thousand auspicious names, the absolute cause of all creations, the one who has no births (due to karma) and the all-pervading Self”. Even here, the great limitless auspicious qualities of bhagavAn are expounded – both at the beginning and at the end of the work.

Even in many other material and spiritual sciences such as Ayurvedha, the greatness of the thousand names of the Lord are extensively discussed. The charaka samhithA, for instance, declares thus: “A sick man would be free from all diseases if he sincerely prays to vishNu – the thousand (infinite)-headed, the ruler of all moveable and immoveable entities, and the all-pervading Self – with His thousand names”. Even in the current times, the remedies to various urinary complications indicate the chanting of purusha sUktham at first, and also strongly recommend chanting of the thousand names of the Lord contained in the mahAbhAratha. The chanting of sahasranAma – the thousand glorious names of the Lord – has been suggested as a sure remedy to various respiratory disorders as well. As a remedy to various kinds of fevers, the scriptures recommend performing the oblations (hOmas) as detailed by them, followed by chanting of the vishNu sahasranAmam. The remedial procedures for planetary positions also suggest the chanting of SrI viShNu sahasranAma in addition to the maruth-sUktham. It is further recommended that the true seeker search for more of such proofs as desired.

Even the ordinary poets and other mortals also project these thousand names of the Lord as the saviour of all lives. For instance, bhattabANa – while picturing the maternity room – says that the vishNu sahasranAma is chanted endlessly. These thousand names of vishNu are considered as the best for listening, chanting, singing, writing, commenting, and sincere worshipping. Chanting of these names is the best suited remedy for curing all types of difficulties posed by poisons, demons, diseases, planets, bad dreams, bad omens, and all other inauspicious entities in this world. It is also considered the best for gaining both material and spiritual benefits, releasing oneself from the bonds of this samsAra, reaching the Supreme abode SrIvaikuntham of vishNu, as also in enjoying the sweetness of the nectar of the divine qualities of vishNu to the fullest. This is also considered as the best for all classes of people such as children, the dumb, the stupid, women, and the non-believers of God. It is in fact considered as the best medicine for all these classes of people. Such wide acceptance is not found even for the vEdhas, since the ignorant wouldn’t accept them, and also since the vEdhas have wide restrictions in terms of who can study them and who cannot. Thus, the vishNu sahasranAma with such wide acceptance should certainly be sought by the wise.

6. SrI viShNu sahasranAma – Equivalent to SrI bhagavath gIthA, nArAyaNIyam, yAna sandhi

SrI viShNu sahasranAma chapter provides us with the same meanings as expounded in the other parts of mahAbhAratha, namely SrI bhagavath gIthA, nArAyaNIya, yAna sandhi, agra pUjA, uththama anushAsana etc. Even for this reason, the sahasranAma adhyAyam is to be considered as very sacred and sought by the wise men.

In light of the six reasons as detailed here, it can be concluded that the chapter of thousand names of the Lord – SrI viShNu sahasranAmam – should be studied by one and all for their own benefit. In addition, the initial discourse on the thousand names of vishNu by bhIshma pithAmaha in the war field from the arrow-bed was graced by the greatest of sages like vyAsa, dhEvashravas, dhEvasthAna, nAradha, vAthsya, Ashma, sumanthu, and other brahmarishis and dhEvarshis – who are the authorities of all knowledge expounded in the vEdas – as his audience. The session was also attended by none other than the Master of all, the expounder of SrI bhagavath gIthA (gIthOpanishath), the foremost among the Acharyas, the Lotus eyed bhagavAn SrI krishNa Himself, and was accepted by Him as a prayer par excellence. I seek to write a treatise on these thousand glorious names of bhagavAn – the vishNu sahasranAma adhyAyam – with an intention of elaborating on His most auspicious qualities.

adiyen srinivasa raja ramanuja dasan

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SrIvishNu sahasranAmam

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maNavALa mAmunigaL who is considered as yathi punaravathAram (re-incarnation of emperumAnAr (SrI rAmAnuja)) glorifies nammAzhwAr as “vEdham seydha mARan” in upadhESa raththina mAlai 14th pAsuram, explaining that nammAzhwAr presents the essence of vEdham in simple and beautiful thamizh language.

nammAzhwAr, emperumAnAr, mAmunigaL

Such nammAzhwAr highlights in thiruvAimozhi 2.5.6pala palavE AbharaNam pErum pala palavE pala palavE sOdhi vadivu paNbeNNil” (emperumAn has many many ornaments, many many names, many many forms and qualities), in thiruvAimozhi 8.1.10 “thOLgaL AyiraththAy! mudigaLAyiraththAy! thuNai malark kaNgaL AyiraththAy! thALgaLAyiraththAy! pErgaLAyiraththAy!” (Oh one with thousand shoulders! Oh one with thousand heads! Oh one with thousand lotus like pair of eyes! Oh one with thousand divine feet! Oh one with thousand names!”) and in thiruvAimozhi 9.3.1 “pErAyiram koNdadhOr pIdudaiyan” (the one who is having the unique greatness of having thousand names). This is in line with how bhagavAn is explained in the most important hymn of vEdham which is purusha sUktham, where bhagavAn is described as “sahasra SIrshA purusha: | sahasrAksha sahasra pAdh |” (the supreme lord is with thousand heads, thousand eyes and thousand feet). Here thousand indicates the countless nature of his limbs, features etc. The whole of thiruvAimozhi is focussed on emperumAn and his auspicious qualities. Each name of emperumAn is reflective of a particular quality. For example, achyutha indicates the quality of not abandoning his devotees, anantha indicates the quality of being infinite and so on.

SrIvishNu sahasranAmam is a divine hymn which is part of mahAbhAratham. bhIshma pithAmaha, laying down on the arrow bed, instructs to pANdavas, the highest principle of meditating upon bhagavAn’s auspicious qualities through his divine names.

AzhwAn, bhattar

parASara bhattar, the celebrated son of kUraththAzhwAn, one of the most important among the direct disciples of emperumAnAr, compiled an elaborate commentary for SrIvishNu sahasranAmam. This divine treatise is named as “bhagavath guNa dharpaNam” (A mirror revealing the auspicious qualities of bhagavAn). It is our desire to explore the wonderful meanings of this treatise and present an english translation of the same for the benefit of the devotees of SrIman nArAyaNa.

We pray unto the divine feet of Sriya:pathi, AzhwArs and AchAryas and begin this effort as a humble offering at their divine feet.

Translation by SrInivAsarAja rAmAnuja dhAsan

adiyen sarathy ramanuja dasan

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