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Sri VishNu SahasranAmam - (1)

From: Srinivasan Srivilliputhur (srini_at_euclid.chem.washington.edu)
Date: Fri Mar 08 1996 - 14:48:31 PST

Dear Bhakti Members-
With your permission and encouragement, I am planning a periodic mailing 
of the  VishNu SahasranAmam and its translation to this list. This will,
hopefully, over a period of time, put this divine shloka in the 
electronic format.  I am very aware of the monumental nature of this task 
and pray that I be able to complete this.  This reformatting will 
primarily be based on translations of Sri SankarAchArya's and Sri ParAshara 
Bhattar's commentaries (taken from two publications - 
	(1) from Ramakrishn Mutt (Swami Tapasyananda's translation) and 
        (2) by Sri K.E.Parthasarathy)

This will give us an oppurtunity for a side-by-side comparison of these 
2 authoritative commentaries, representing, respectively, the Advaita and 
Vishsistadvaita schools. I will truncate the introduction given in these 
two books, but will reproduce in full the commentaries of the two AchAryas.
If anybody has any problem with this please contact me at: 
		sgsrini@u.washington.edu

With this, I begin the reformatting.


Om Sri Maha Ganapathaye Namaha-

		TRANSLITERATION
		---------------
For the transliteration we use the following notation (suggested by 
Sri Mani Varadarajan)

For the Vowels:

	a A i I u U R RR e E ai o O au M [H or :]

For the Consonants:

	k kh g kh 'n
	c ch j jh ~n
	T Th D Dh  N
	t th d dh  n
	p ph b bh  m
	y r l v S sh s h L

Nasals can be interchanged with 'n' somewhat freely since it is still 
intelligible.


			INTRODUCTION (Abridged Version)
			------------

The name of God is everything. Its glory is as inestimable as the glory 
of God Himself. The VishNu SahasranAmam says that nAmas (names) are GauNa 
i.e. based on GuNas or attributes - yAni nAmAni GauNAni. They are not 
mere empty sounds. The BhAgavata PurANa says that the names of the Lord 
are each expressive of the fame, exploits and greatness of the Lord. As 
the Lord's excellences are infinite, so His names are also Infinite.

In seeking God through praise and worship, there are three forms of 
approach; firstly to describe in varied and poetic manner the greatness 
and glory of God; secondly, to expatiate on His varied glory by several 
significant attributes in the form of manifold names and lastly to invoke 
His grace and succor by the repetition of only one name of His. Under the 
first category comes all poetic Hymns, under the second SahasranAmam, 
AshTottara nAmam and the nAmAvalis sung in the Bhajans; and under the 
last comes nAma PArAyaNa or the repetition of a single name, RAma, 
KrishNa, Siva etc.

The SahasranAma Stotras addressed to some particular diety and invoking 
Him with a thousand names are found scattered in the Epics and PurANas. 
Several of them are about Devi (Lalitha, Lakshmi etc.), Ganesha, Shiva, 
but there is only one SahasranAma Stotra in praise of VishNu.  VishNu 
SahasranAmam is a part of the ShaniI Parva of the MahAbhArata.  
MahAbhArata is itself considered to be a commentary on the SahasranAmam 
Tradition says that it was composed by Sanaka, one of the KumAras 
(eternally living Youths) and was transmitted to BhIshma.  Although 
composed long ago and sung here and there by the pupils of VyAsa, the 
wide and formal publication of the Stotra appears to have been reserved 
for a formal delivery of it in the famous Dharmashetra Kurukshetra from 
the purest and holiest lips of BhIshma. Thus, the first SahasranAma 
archana was done to KrishNa by the old BhIshma in his dying moments.  It 
is also significant that KrishNa himself induced YudhishThira to learn 
the great virtues and tenets at the feet of BhIshma and among these 
expositions of BhIshma, the VishNu SahasranAmam is set as a rare gem in a 
diadem.

BhIshma recited it in the presence of Sri KrishNa to the PAndava brothers 
when he was questioned by YudhishThira, unsatisfied even after hearing all 
forms of Dharma capable of effecting complete purification:

	"Kimekam daivatam loke kim vApyekam parAyaNam, 
	stuvantaH kamkam arcantaH prApnuyur mAnavAH Subham"

	[ In this universe who is the one Divinity (at whose command all 
	  beings function)? What is that one supreme Status which one 
	  should seek to attain? Who is that Divinity by praising whom and 
	  by worshipping whom a man attains the good?  ]

The thousand names of VishNu is the answer that BhIshma gives to this 
enquiry.
Today of all SahasranAmas, VishNu SahasranAma is known as 'the 
SahasranAma'. The collections of the thousand names is believed to have a 
mystic power of its own. It is also considered as a MahA mantra of which  
Devakinandana, the son of Devaki is the Sakti or power. According to 
orthodox tradition, a devotee should daily chant the UpaniSad pertaining 
to his SAkhA, the GitA, Rudram, PuruSasUkta and VishNu SahasranAmam. It 
is believed that if one cannot do all this on any day, chanting VishNu 
SahasranAmam alone is sufficient. BhaTTar has considered that uttering 
even one of the holy names is as good as a thousand and is potent to 
grant to the devotees all benefits and that such a name is equivalent to 
a mantra like the twelve syllabled OM Namo Bhagavate VAsudevAya or the 
eight syllabled OM Namo NArAyaNAya.  Apparently BhaTTar has in mind the 
memorable verse in the Tiruvoimozhi (Bhagavad Vishya) of NammAlvar, which 
states: "Our protector is the great Lord NArAyaNa whose greatness is sung 
by a SahasranAmam, each name of which is thousand by itself and is 
capable of protecting all the worlds. Further, each name of God is 
capable of doing good in a thousand ways".

VishNu SahasranAmam can be chanted by all, without any distinction of 
caste, creed or sex.  It can be chanted at any time and no special 
rituals are obligatory on one chanting it. Hopefully, these translations 
of the commentaries of Sri Sankara and ParAsara BhaTTar will stimulate in 
all of us an unquenchable thirst for the enjoyment of God-knowledge- His 
GuNAs and glories- and, lift us from the SAmsAric narakA and immerse us in 
the ocean of Ananda.

-Srivilliputhur Gopalan Srinivasan

-----------------------To be Continued------------------------------