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From: N Krishnamachari (krish_at_ihgp.ih.lucent.com)
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 understand 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 interpretation. 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.