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From: N Krishnamachari (
Date: Fri May 09 1997 - 09:33:47 PDT

Subject: Sri Vishnu Sahasra NAmam - Part 2.

Part 2 of the Overview of Sri Vishnu Sahasra Namam follows:

-Dasan Krishnamachari


The Organization

Sri Vishnu Sahasranama Stotram as printed for chanting purposes
consists of three sections:  

  - A prolog, which gives the background on why the Stotram was 
    imparted to the great and just Yudhishthira by Bhishma.

  - The thousand names of Vishnu, organized
    in a poetic format in 107 stanzas, in the anushtup chandas, (a 
    meter with 8 syllables in a quarter), with two quarters per line, and 
    two lines per stanza.

  - The phala sruti, or a recounting of the benefits that can accrue
    by chanting the Stotram.  

The above is the typical organization of many stotrams, for example,
the Lakshmi Ashtottara Satanama Stotram with which many of us are familiar.

The Prolog

In the introductory part of the Vishnu Sahasranama Stotram, 
Yudhishthira asks Bhishma six questions, related to
how mankind can attain happiness.
These are contained in two stanzas starting with "kim ekam daivatam loke" 
in the Stotram.  These questions are: 

  * Who is the One (Supreme) Deity?

  * What is the highest goal of life?

  * By praising which Deity's auspicious qualities
    will human beings attain prosperity in this world as well as
    bliss in the next?

  * By meditating on which Deity
    will human beings attain prosperity in this world as well as
    bliss in the next?

  * By reciting
    which mantra will man be released from the
    bondage of the cycle of birth and death?

  * Of the three means referred to above (i.e., recitation, praise or
    archana, and meditation),
    which is the best
    means for attaining the grace of the Supreme Deity 
    based on your vast experience and knowledge?

Bhishma's response to the above questions follows in the next ten stanzas.
In his considered opinion, a person tides over all the sorrows in this world by
reciting with undiluted devotion 
the Thousand Names of the Eternal Person, worshiping Him always with
devotion, meditating upon Him, glorifying Him,
saluting Him by prostrating before Him, and adoring Him (dhyayan,
stuvan, namasyamsca, yajamanas tameva ca).

Bhishma adds that of all the dharmas, the
dharma or practice involving service done to the Lotus-eyed Lord Krishna,
without any desire for benefit, through
worship (archana) and hymnal praise (stava),
is the best dharma.  

Note that praising is easy, involving only
speech, and does not involve any material sacrifice or bodily
is open to all, and does not need
help from, or dependence on, others.  Other kinds of worship might require
money or other resources to perform the worship, 
or the need to impose on other people for their involvement
(e.g., a priest to give instructions on the method of worship etc.).
For the purpose of chanting the name of God, 
there is also no constraint on the
asrama (i.e., brahmacharya, grihasta, etc.) to which a person
belongs, unlike, for example, the
constraints that the vedas place in performing
the ceremonial rites with sacrificial fire.   There is also no
requirement regarding time, place, status of purity, etc.,
for the chanting of the stotram.
The key element of the act of chanting as a means to attain the
Lord's grace is the sincerity and purity of mind, and there is no
other constraint or consideration.

In summary, 
Yudhishthira asks Bhishma:
"Given my despair and sorrowful state of mind, I want to expend 
the least effort and get the most benefit out of it,
viz. relief from my despair.
Please tell me the means for this."
And Bhishma's response is "Chant the thousand names of Lord Krishna WITH
DEVOTION.  This does not require any effort other than the
willingness to chant.  This is the best way to get relief from all
miseries, sorrows, and sins".

The text will be continued in Part 3.