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From: M K Sudarshan (
Date: Mon Jul 07 1997 - 02:37:01 PDT

srimathE lakshmi-nrsumha parabrahmaNE namaha
sri vedanta guravE namaha

Dear "bhAgavatOttamA-s", 

While on the subject of "vijaya-sakhE" and the more general one of
"bhagavanAmA" we asked ourselves :

Why is it that in our Faith so much fuss is made about "bhagavanAmA" (The
Lord's many names and sobriquets) ? Why is the 1000-versed
'Vishnu-sahasranAmam' universally celebrated by all who abide by the Vedic
religion ? What is in the utterance of a "nAmA" that glorifies the Lord as
no other form of worship can equal ?

There are many well-known reasons of Faith which hail the efficacy of the
chanting of "bhagavanAmA". To summarise them :

(A) Repetition of His "nAmA-s" is tantamount to uttering holy "mantrA".

(B) Constant "nAma-japa" facilitates "dhyAnam" (meditation) and induces
mental transformations. 

(C) "bhagavan-nAma" is the easiest route to "mUktAnubhavam" in these
troubled times of "kali" in which we all live.

There is, however, one last and COMMONPLACE reason which not many scholars
are fond of highlighting but which is what I'd wish to stress here below :

All of us are aware of the famous Shakespearian query "What's in a name?".
Many of us know the answer to that -- "Everything is in a name !" -- but how
many of us really can tell why ? 

Let's try and see why.

In a philosophical sense, we know the first step towards "understanding" is
"to name" ! It is difficult to conceive or apprehend anything without first
giving it a name, isn't it ? Nothing can be said to "exist" unless it is
first "named"!

It is easy to imagine how difficult it would be for us to really comprehend
the deep and unexplained mysteries of the Universe and outer Space if we did
not, at least, have the sort of fanciful "names" given them by our
astronomers and physicists, e.g. "quarks", "black-holes", "nebula",
"time-warp" etc !  

Names also fulfill a LESS philosophical and MORE mundane need.

We may not be conscious of it all the time, but, "names" serve a very
important role in the pyschology of the human mind. "Names" enable the mind
to perform complex processes both at the "conscious" and "sub-conscious"

Psychologists have shown that the development of a child's cognitive and
discriminative faculties first begins with its ability to "mentally
perceive" objects by "naming" them. Otherwise the world of objects would
make no sense to to the tender mind of a child without "names", "names" and
"names" being taught to it ! It is with the aid of "names" that a toddler
slowly comes to terms with the external world around it. 

Even in adult psychology "names" are critical to the preservation of
individual 'persona' or what is called, "our sense of ourselves" !

Experiments in behavioural psychology have proved that "names" give
individuals a great deal of self-worth and dignity. And when you take away a
"name" from a person he/she suffers a grave loss of self-identity !

In the clinical-psychology department of an Amercian University some years
ago, a group of persons were subjected to a unique experiment for a certain
length of time : their names were taken away from them temporarily !

The group members were simply forbidden to use their real names for any
purpose whatsoever. They were given alternate and non-descript first names
like "Jack" and "Jill" with which they were instructed to lead their normal
lives in the University and interact with one another. On no account were
they allowed to use their respective real "names" during the period of the

During the period of incarceration, the University also arranged to have the
group-member's "names" systematically erased from all their past personal
and civic records like passport, birth-certificate, social security, school-
certificate, driving-license etc. from every possible known external source
or data-base of information related to them !

Then, finally, one day the group was told that, for all practical purposes,
the "outside world" had no record whatsoever of their very existence. It was
as if each of the group-members had been "wiped clean off" from the face of
the earth! 

The group-members were then allowed to go out into the "outside world".

A few months later the group members were all recalled by the University and
subjected to clinical observation again.

More than 60% of the experimental group-members were seen to have suffered
serious pyschological damage --- loss of self-image, self-identity,
self-esteem --- and onset of pathological delusion ! 

The individual group-members each found out that living in the world at
large without a "name" was like being a "nobody", "nothing" and utter
"ciphers" ! Wherever they went about in the ordinary world --- to school,
hospital, bank, post-office etc. -- they simply could not do without a
proper record or "registry" of their "name"! The whole word refused to
recognize them as persons simply because they had no verifiable "real" names ! 

It was like living in an "unreal" world of existential vacuum ! Without a
"name" they just could not "function" in life ..... !

The experience -- rather the "experiment" -- almost simply destroyed the
group members psychologically ! 

Such, indeed, is the Power of "nAmA" ---- even that of our own petty ones
---that without it there can be only a surreal and deeply disturbing sense
of existence in this world for us !

Quite similarly, without the aid of the Lord's many "nAmA-s" -- like
"vijaya-sakhE" in the "bhishma-stuthi" for instance -- without "nAmA-s" that
help us in realizing or "sensing" His Identity and His Reality, the world of
religious ideas or mystical experience that our great "AchAryA-s" have
created for our benefit, and which is far more complex and mysterious than
the ordinary world in which we live, would indeed appear even "darker, more
unreal, disturbing and incomprehensible" to us!! 

More on the subject of "nAmA" in the next post.

srimathE srivan satagopa sri narayana yathindra mahadesikaya namaha