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Sri Vishnu SahasraNamam.

From: N Krishnamachari (
Date: Thu May 22 1997 - 07:38:06 PDT

I had submitted an overview of Sri Vishnu SahasraNamam in four parts earlier.
The following can be considered Part 2, which I will submit in 2 sections.
The first section deals with the benefits of analysing and understanding 
the meanings of the Lord's Names.  

Dasan Krishnamachari

                 Sri Vishnu Sahasra NAmam - Part 2 - Section 1.

In the previous write-up, I had presented the view that it is beneficial to 
chant Sri Vishnu Sahasra NAma Stotram even if we do not know the meaning, 
even if we do not know the correct pronunciation, etc.  In the current and
subsequent articles, I am going to attempt to present the meanings of the
Names occurring in Sri Vishnu Sahasra NAmam.  One can legitimately ask the
question:  Why spend our time to learn the meanings, when the benefit of 
chanting is obtained anyway even without knowing the meanings?  In fact, one of
our devotees had sent me mail privately earlier, referring to the sloka
that occurs in the phala sruti portion:  

    sri rAma rAma rAmeti rame rAme manorame
    sahasra nAma tat tulyam rAma nAma varAnane

(As stated by Lord Siva to PArvati - if you just chant the name "RAma", it
is equivalent to chanting the 1000 names of Sri MahA Vishnu").

Sri Bhattar very nicely gives the explanation on why it is desirable to delve
into an analysis of the meanings behind the Names:  "Names
pronounced merely and without knowledge of their meanings is beneficial
(upakAriNAmapi), but
revelation through etymological interpretation quickly affords DELIGHT TO MIND
AND PURITY TO HEART (mana: prAsanatvam pAvanatvam ca).

Sri Bhattar also refers to the chapters in MahAbhArata relating to the
significance in knowing the meanings of the Names in addition to just
chanting without knowing the meanings:  

  nAma karmArtavit prApnuyAm purushottamam   (Udyoga Parva 59)

While I am not proficient in Sanskrit, I certainly derive great mental delight
in trying to understand the meanings behind the Names; and in trying to
the grammatical interpretation
behind these Names.  The reason for the latter is that it helps one to
delve deeper mentally into the
guNas of Sri Vishnu and enjoy His qualities even more.

In his Bhagavad guNa darpana, Sri Bhattar proceeds to explain the names of MahA
Vishnu in accordance with rules of grammar, etymology, and interpretation by
the great Sages, with special reference to their significance, context, 
and propriety.  Etymology according to the English dictionaries is the
analysis of a word, based on its origin and development, including how the
words are formed from their simple roots.  Sri Bhattar also indicates in his
introduction that even though the same name may occur more than once, its
interpretation is different depending on the context in which it occurs, 
and there
is no redundance or repetition in Sri Vishnu SahasranAmam based on the

In his commentary on Sri Vishnu Sahasra Namam, Sri Bhattar has beautifully
traced a thread of connectivity in the sequence of the 1000 names as they
occur in the stotram.  He has identified an organization and structure in the 
composition that refers to the guNas of the Lord in the five manifestations 
in which He has revealed Himself to us, as described in the PancharAtra Agamas.
These manifestations are:
para, vyuha, vibhava, archa, and antaryAmi.  Thus, for instance, Sri Bhattar
has noted that the first 122 names in the stotram describe the qualities of
the Lord in his para vAsudeva form.  The next set of names describe the vyuha 
forms etc.  Thus the names as they occur in the stotram are not just a random
collection of names, but have a beautiful thread of organization and structure
to them.  
Sri Bhattar has identified 44 such manifestations of Bhagavan in his exposition.
Sri Srinivasachariar, in his editorial introduction to Sri Vishnu Sahasra
Namam published by LIFCO, (1967), describes this beautifully as an arrangement
of the petals of a rose 44 layers deep, or a step of stairs with 44 steps
leading to the enjoyment of the Supreme.  I will not go into the enumeration
of these 44 forms at this stage. but will identify these as we go along.  The
enumeration and the corresponding slokas can be found in the LIFCO publication.

A brief introduction to the five types of manifestations of the Lord 
will follow in the next section.