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Sri Vishnu Sahasra NAmam - Part 3.

From: N Krishnamachari (krish_at_ihgp.ih.lucent.com)
Date: Mon May 12 1997 - 12:57:28 PDT

Dear Devotees:

I sincerely appreciate the encouragement I received from Sri Sadagopan and
others in continuing this article.  Even though I am originally from India
unlike Sri Mohan Sagar, Sri Mani, etc., in the level of knowledge on Sri
Vaishnavism, I am like an unborn child.  The main benefit of the article I am
submitting is that it makes me spend some time on things that I probably spend
on useless things otherwise.  With His grace, after this article is over, I
plan to continue to look into the meanings of some of the thousand names and
share these with you.  I have atarted this effort, but it is turning out to be
more than what I am able to handle with my limited knowledge of Sanskrit.  I
am going to depend on the rest of you to help me with your inputs once I 
start this.

Part 3 of the article follows:

- Dasan Krishnamachari

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                  Sri Vishnu Sahasra NAma Stotram - Part 3.


The Thousand Names

The word sahasra in the title of the Stotram means "one thousand".  
The main body of Sri Vishnu Sahasranama Stotram consists of 107 stanzas which
contain the thousand names of Sri Maha Vishnu.
Every one of the Thousand Names in
Vishnu Sahasranamam is full of significance in that it refers to one
particular quality, guna, characteristic or attribute of Paramatma.
(yani namani gaunani, where the emphasis is that
each name is indicative of a guna of Vishnu). 

One could legitimately ask the question:  Why were these 1000 names chosen?
Does the Parama Purusha get absolutely
defined by these thousand names?  The obvious answer is that God is Infinite and
Indescribable, and can only be experienced, but cannot be
translated into words and communicated from one to another.  
The vedas conclude that God
is neither accessible to words nor to mind (yato vacho nivartante aprapya
manasa saha - Taittiriya Upanishad).  In Isavasya Upanishad, 
it is said that you cannot reach (understand) the Paramatma
with the human mind (reasoning) alone even if you spend all your life.
This holds true
even though mind can travel (think) 
faster than anything known to us, including 
the speed of light (anejadekam manaso javiyo.... ).
Given this Infinite nature of the Paramatma who is not governed or constrained
by any of the
physical laws as we know them, the choice of a thousand names of Vishnu by Bhishma should be
recognized as a representation of some of the better-known qualities
of Sriman Narayana that are repeatedly described in our great epics, vedas, 
puranas, etc., and sung by the devout sages repeatedly.  

As was indicated earlier, the thousand names are strung together in a poetic
form by Sri Vedavyasa.  While identifying the thousand names of Narayana from this
poetic composition describing the qualities of the Infinite 
Paramatma, the different revered acharyas have come up with slightly differing 
sets of thousand names.
This is partly because of the 
ability of these great acharyas to be able to enjoy the indescribable Parama
Purusha in their own ways, 
based on the unique philosophies which they
have propounded.

Of the thousand names, some are repeated:  For example, in Sri Parasara
Bhattar's choice of the thousand names, two names occur
four times, 12 names occur three times, and 82 names occur
twice.  When a name occurs more than once, the revered commentators have interpreted
the meaning of the name differently in each instance
depending on the context in which the name occurs.  They have also quoted
extensive
evidence from ancient scriptures in support of their
interpretation.  
The commentators have emphasized that the
recurrence
is not the result of a 
dosha (deficiency of being repetitive) in the composition.

Part 4 will follow.