Three Books on a ‘Deity with a Thousand Names’: Vishnu Sahasranama

Compiled from London swaminathan

Post No 1806; Date 17th April 2015

Uploaded in London at 15-24

The first book review is from my old paper cuttings file; before I destroy the paper cuttings, I want others to read it. Published on 9-11-99; probably in The Hindu

Sree Vishnu Sahasranama – A Treatise: Kalluri Suryanarayana;Sankhyayana Vidhya Parishad, H No.2-12-34, Annapurna Colony, Uppal, Hyderabad- 500039, Rs.153

The religious importance of Vishnu Sahasranama can be gauged from the nearly forty commentaries by saints and scholars for this most popular hymn; three of them have been rendered by the leaders of the three different systems of Hindu philosophy.

Of them Adi Shankara’s was the first and a version says how when he wanted to write his commentary on another Sahasranama, this work was placed before him.

His was based on Advaita, while the Dwaita approach was by Sri Satya Sandha Tirtha whereas the “Bhagavad Guna Darpana” was by Parasara Bhattar as per Vishishtadwaita school. The entire work, as contained in the Mahabharata, refers to the glory of Vishnu.

The treatise by the author, with Sanskrit text and English annotation, explains the significance of the 1000 names. Since the English meaning of this hymn is given in this work, many in this country and those living abroad, will welcome it. The author points out that the commentary of Sankara is like that of River Ganges, of Bhattar’s like Yamuna of the Madhwa saint’s as Saraswati. Every name is a mantra by itself, some with two and some ranging up to eight words. The hymn is an antidote for all ills.

The author mentions the benefits which will accrue by  by reciting the various name of Vishnu. One gets immortal ecstasy by chanting the names.  He connects twenty four Bhijaksharas of Gayatri mantra to the 24 names of Vishnu. In his commentary, Sankara has explained the glory of Visnu in Saguna and Nirguna forms, fit for meditation to attain the merger of Jeeva with the Paramatma.

The brief meaning of each name is simple as for instance for “Kshamaya”, the author says that for devotees who could not realise him earlier, Vishnu will confer liberation immediately when they start meditating on Him. The hymn can be chanted by everyone and for this, , no special ritual is prescribed. The book will quench the thirst of people who wish to achieve progress in the realm of spiritualism. The name of Koorattazhwan has been mis-spelt in the book giving an unsavoury meaning—DVV

Two More Books on Sahasranama

Thousand Ways to the Transcendental by Swami Chinmayananda

Central Chinmya Trust, Mumbai -400 072, 2009, Price Rs 115

“There is a deep connection between the name and the named. The name brings to our mind the image of the person thought of and the more one thinks, the more consistent the impressions. Eg. When I say flower, you immediately conceive a mental picture of the flower. This is the sole principle behind association.

“The 1000 names of Lord Vishn are meant to invoke a sense of bonding with the Lord, who’s the most intimate one, whether we recognise it or not. Yet how often and how deeply do we call out to him? The meanings of the names given out here will help in understanding the magnitude and depth of Godhood.

Vishnu Sahasranama was taught by Bhisma lying on a Bed of Arrows to Yudhisthira. It bought joy and solace to both. May t do the same to you as well”

“In the Thousand Names, 90 names have been repeated; and of them 74 are repeated twice, 14 are repeated thrice, and again two of them repeated four times.

“There are exactly 1031 single “Names” of Lord in the 1000 Name Chant (Sahasranama). The extra 31 names to be considered each as an adjective qualifying (vishesana) the immediately following noun”.

(This book contains how to use the names in Archana)

SRI VISHNU SAHASRANAMAM by Swami Tapasyananda, Sri Ramakrishna Math, 16 Ramakrishna Math Road, Mylapore, Madras – 600 004

From Introduction:

Vishnu Sahasranama is part of the Santi Parva of the Mahabharata. Tradition says that it was composed by Sanaka, one of the Kumaras (eternal living youths) and was transmitted to Bhisma who recied in the presence of Sri Krishna to the Pandava brothers when he was questioned by Yudhisthira “Who is the Being who is the Supreme Lord of all and by praising and worshipping whom man gains what is good and attains salvation?” The Thousand Names of Mahavishnu is the answer Bhisma gives to this enquiry. Besides its inherent quality, the importance of the Stotra is enhanced by the fact that no less than a personage than the great Sri Sankaracharya thought it worthwhile to write a commentary on it, expounding the meanings of the various names that find a place in it.

My comments: Read Vishnu Sahasranama every day and solve all your problems the easy way!

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1 Comment

  1. R Nanjappa

     /  April 17, 2015

    For the devout, any edition of Vishnu Sahasranama is good enough. Sengalipuram Anantarama Dikshitar has included his commentary in his famous Jayamangala Stotram, which is almost like a spiritual materia medica in all orthodox households. For the spirit who wants to study deeper, I suggest the following 3 editions ( after viewing more than 20):

    1. By ‘Anna’ N. Subrahmanya Iyer. His commentary is lucid, faithful to the tradition, while giving references to other sources and saints. His introductions to all the books he has edited are a great source of concise wisdom on the subject. In his introduction to Vishnu Sahasranama, he says how the parayana of this Sahasranama is prescribed as effective remedy, by the respective sastric authorities, for bodily and mental afflictions, for astrological problems, for unpleasant experiences like bad dreams, and as prayschitta for dharmic transgressions.

    2. By Eknath Easwaran, that modern teacher of perennial practical wisdom. His commentary is based on his own spiritual life and practice, and directly connects this ancient scripture to modern life and times in a remarkable way. He does not cover all the names, but where he does, he does a wonderful job. One title is ‘The Thousand Names of Vishnu’. There is another title too.

    3. By C.V.Radhakrishna Sastri. Published by Agasthiyar Publications, Teppakulam, Trichy-620 002. *THIS IS EASILY THE BEST COMMENTARY AVAILABLE ON EARTH. It has an excellent and extensive introduction of 45 pages, explaining many important points. And the speciality of the commentary is that for each Nama, he is citing the relevant mantra from the Upanishad. Thereby he is showing how this is directly linked to and continues the Vedic parampara. This is an excellent source for all astikas. This book is worth its weight in gold.*

    While on the subject, it is important to remember how the Vishnu Sahasranama and the Gita are organically connected. Arjuna was plagued by doubt, at the beginning of the great War, about *dharma*- (dharma sammudha cheta:) which triggers the Gita discourse. At the end, Bhagavan tells him to give up all dharmas and worship Bhagavan alone. ( *Sarva dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja).*Yudhisthira on the other hand had no such doubts then. But after the war, he is stricken by remorse that so much of killing took place on his account and he loses peace of mind. Krishna prompts him to approach Bhishma to obtain clarification on dharma. But after listening to Bhishma expound all dharmas without remainder ( *srutva dharman aseshena), *he is even more confounded. He asks Bhishma 6 sharp questions, one of them being which is the best dharma:

    *Kim ekam daivatam loke kim vap ekam prayanam* *Stuvanta: kam;kam archantaka: prapnuyur manava shubam* *KO DHARMA SARVA DHARMANAM BHAVATA: PARAMO MATA:* *Kim japan muchyate jantu: janma samsara bandhanat.*

    *So, Bhishma expounds the Vishnu Sahasranama in reply to those 6 questions, clearly establishing that ‘etamae sarva dharmanam dharmo atikatamo mata: yat bhaktya pundarikaksha stavararschen nara:sada:’ . This conclusion is reiteratedd in the phalasruti: Sarvagamanam achara: pratamam pariklapate; achara pratamo dharmo; dharmasya prabhu achyuta:. Dharmaputra’s great mistake was that all his life he held on to dharma, but forgot the Lord of Dharma and hence got into all difficulties! (Does not Lord Shiva ride the bull, which is of the form of dharma?) Arjuna, endowed with daiva sampat, caught hold of the Lord first! *

    *So we see how the Sahasranama and the Gita are intimately connected.*

    *Let us not forget: just like the Gita means only Bhagavad Gita, Sahasranama without any prefix means only Vishnu Sahasranama. So much so that our Master , Arunagirinatha who celebrates all forms of Divinity, clearly says in Tiruppugazh: SAHASRANAMA GOPALA!* *Our endless salutations to our sages and saints!*

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