SrIvishNu sahasranAmam – pravESam (Introduction)

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

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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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