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From: M K Sudarshan (
Date: Wed Jul 09 1997 - 08:15:46 PDT

srimathE lakshmi-nrsumha parabrahmaNE namaha
sri vedanta guravE namaha

Dear "bhAgavatOttamA-s", 

There is one more "commonplace" reason why great importance is given to
"bhagavanAmA-s" (like "vijaya-sakhE") in our religious traditions.

"nAmA" -- or "names' -- aid complex processes of the human mind such as
memory-"store", memory-"recall", "non-symbolic/non-verbal comprehension" and
a host of other psychological functions !

To take only one common example, we know how the art of "mnemonics" aids
memory! And we all know that many "mnemonic" techniques involve the skillful
use of "names" to "trigger" memory-responses of the human mind !

"nAmA" enables or elicits a variety of psychological responses from the
human mind not only in day-to-day living but also in its spiritual or
religious endeavours. Such "responses", in ways, remain mysterious to
psychologists even today just as they have remained over the ages to
religious "sAdhakA-s" or spiritual aspirants.

Let me further explain the point with a simple analogy from the modern world
of sports so that it could be easily understood !

In the tennis world we have many "racquet-wielding" heroes of past and present. 
We know their "names" from the Roll Call of Honour hung in the many 'Halls
of Fame' inside the hallowed tennis-establishments of Wimbledon, Rolland
Garros or Flushing Meadows.

Many are such heroes -- Fred Perry, Lew Hoad, Manuel Santana, Rod Laver,
John Newcombe or Bjorn Borg.... the list is long!

Each of these great names has made his indelible mark on the history of the
game. Their great exploits on court are all written down somewhere in the
records of the times when their great exploits were performed --- somewhere
in newspapers columns or, perhaps, on TV or video footage.

Now, whenever a fan of a particular hero wants to recollect or "re-visit"
the glorious moment of a past tournament in which, say, Bjorn Borg or Rod
Laver, set Wimbledon Centre Court 'on fire', what does the fan do ? 

He can do one or more of the following things :

a) He can ferret out an old newpaper-clipping from the past and which he'd
taken the trouble of preserving in his scrap-book. He can then reminisce
happily with his scrap-book !

b) He can go back to an old video-clip he'd recorded for his personal
video-library; or he could buy or borrow the same from a video-library.

c) He can go to his club and gather a group of like-minded fans/"buddies"
around him and together they could chat and re-live those glory-moments of
their tennis-hero.

Now suppose, the fan is unable to do any of the above for want of a
facility, then, what would he do to still re-live those great moments of the
game ?

In all probability, our fan would sit in an armchair and recall, in his own
mind, Wimbledon Centre Court from a distant past and visualise the great
games his hero played on that day ! Our fan would most likely go into a long
personal reverie, wouldn't he ? His mind would make a "personal journey into
the past" ...what is commonly called "taking a walk down memory-lane " !

In personal "memory-lane walks", unfortunately, there are no buttons and
knobs available (as in a VCR) with which, by a mere flick of the finger,
vivid scenes of a hero's fantastic tennis-shots can be "re-played" on
screen, "fast- forwarded", "zoomed", "re-wound" or "action-frozen" ! 

The only way that our fan would however, be able to recall a particular
moment of a game in the past, when his hero brilliantly "served" or
"volleyed", is for him to "flick-on" the "knobs/buttons" of a different
variety i.e. the "knobs and buttons" of the human mind ! It is by
"operating" those "mental buttons" -- of human memory and imagination --
that the fan will be able to recall... and "re-play"... on the
"digital-screen" of his mind every moment of the glory of a Centre Court
game of tennis played in a distant past !

Now, one such "mental-button", that "triggers" complex human imagination,
would be the special "name" or "sobriquet" ascribed to the fan's great hero !

For example, every great tennis hero of the past, we know, has been
investitured by fans with a special, inimitable "nAmA" by which posterity
knows him much better than even by his original name :

                  Rod "Rocket" Laver !
                  "Ice" Borg !
                  "Pistol" Pete Sampras !
                  John "Brat" McEnroe !
                  "Ivan the Terrible" Lendl !
                  "Nasty" Nastase !
                  "Boom-boom" Becker !

The above "nAmA-s" for each of the above tennis-heroes are all, indeed,
uniquely definitive and characteristic of them, aren't they ?! 

Now, each time a fan recalls the special sobriquet of one of his above
heroes he/she instantly can be said to be "pushing a button" inside the mind
.... and presto ! ... the fan is immediately transported into a mental-state
of "experience" where a glorious "five-setter" played between "pistol-Pete"
and "boom-boom Becker" can be witnessed most enjoyably ! 

In other words, it becomes possible then for the human mind to perform the
COMPLEX and INTENSE activity of "walking down memory lane" and
"experiencing" its joys ("AnandAnubhavam") ! Now, such "experiences" are
called (in technical terms) "non-verbal"/ "non-symbolic" processes of the
human mind. And such "experiences" of the mind, too, are considered
"spiritual" --- although to a very, very small and insignificant degree  ---
in the same sort of way our great "pUrvAchAryA-s" had had in a religious
context ! 

It is the sobriquet which somehow conjures up instantly for the tennis-fan,
in his mind, all the "mighty exploits" of his hero on court --- all the
"serves", the "volleys", the "drop-shots" and the superb "cross-court
winners" executed on that great day at Wimbledon many years ago !! The fan
is able to enjoy the scene in his mind just exactly as he would have
otherwise done through images on a VCR-screen !

The source of such enjoyment for the tennis-fan, if you notice carefully, is
undoubtedly the "triggering" device called "nAmA" -- that special sobriquet
bestowed on the tennis hero !

Now, exactly as the tennis-fan above, but to a much, much MORE INTENSE and
COMPLEX degree, our great "pUrvAchAryA-s", too, used the
"triggering-devices" of "bhagavanAmA-s" (the Lord's sobriquets like
"achuthA", "govindA", "mAdhavA" and even "vijaya-sakhE" !) to switch on the
"mental-screen" in the depths of their hearts and on which they "played" and
"re-played" the intensely spiritual, "non-verbal and non-symbolic" moments
of extreme delight associated with the Lord's "avatarA-s" and His "leelA-s" !!

As in the case of the tennis-fan, but again to a MUCH, MUCH MORE INTENSE and
COMPLEX DEGREE, so was it with the "AchAryA-s" : each of the Lord's "divya-
nAmA-s" became for them the "key" to an unbounded source of pure and inward
spiritual enjoyment !

(Which is why the great mystic Sri."Bhadrachala" Ramadas sang in one his
very popular Telugu compositions (rAgam: PurvikalyANi) "O Rama, nin nAmam,
entha rucheerA !!")

If we truly and sincerely understand this "triggering" nature of
"bhagavanAmA", as explained above, and the impact it has on our psychology,
we will then realize why such a pre-eminent role has been reserved in the
religious traditions of India for simple and plain "nAma-samkirtanam",
"nAma-shravanam" and "nAma-japam" !

We might also be able to appreciate, at the same time, why in the
"bhishma-stuthi", thus, the extraordinary epithet "vijaya-sakhE", in Verse
#2,  became one such glorious and rare "nAmA" or sobriquet for Lord Krishna !!
In the next post, we will continue to examine, in further and more thorough
detail, the 'nAmA', "vijaya-sakhE" !

srimathE srivan satagopa sri narayana yathindra mahadesikaya namaha