Friday, January 01, 2010

Vishnu Sahasranamam - Part 1

Most of my New Year Resolutions, sadly, have been centered around a common theme - Losing weight. I came very close to pulling that off last year, but I decided to start a software company, and I became *VERY* busy. I piled on more kilos than I lost, and I am weighing the max I have weighed in my life ever :D

This year, I have decided to get back Vishnu Sahasranamam and few other texts COMMITTED to memory. I used to know Vishnu Sahasranamam quite well about 10 years ago, till I gradually gave up chanting it daily, till some parts of it appear quite new to me.

By, God's Grace I still remember some parts very well along with their meaning. I'll try to share some of it in this post.

1. What is Vishnu Sahasranamam?
Many would know that as thousand (sahasra) names (nama) of Bhagawan Sri Vishnu. This occurs in Mahabharata during the Kurukshetra war description. Bhishma, was defeated by Arjuna and was drilled by arrows so much that it appeared he was lying in a bed of arrows. Since he had a boon that he could decide the time of his death, he was waiting for a time called 'Uttarayanam' to begin, so that it would facilitate his departure to higher worlds. (He was such an exalted soul!). When this holy period was about to start, Sri Krishna went to Pandava's camp and said that one great soul was leaving earth very soon and requested Pandavas, starting from Yudhishtira to come and see Bhishma and learn from him for one final time. So, they all reached the part of the battlefield where Bhishma was lying down. His body was in deep pain (you can imagine that even a needle prick is so painful! Think of whole body riddled with arrows!) but his face was tranquil and serene.

His face lit up on seeing Sri Krishna coming towards him. (Krishna and Bhishma share a very nice bond - More on it later) - He reverentially bowed to Krishna and felt bad that he could not receive Krishna ceremoniously!

Then Yudhishtira asked a few questions to Bhishma:
1. Kim Ekam Daivatam Loke? (Who Only God World) - Who is the Only God?)
2. Kim vap ekam parayanam? (Who is (the) only (and final) refuge ?)
3. Stuvantha: kam kamarchanta prapnuyur Manava Shubham? Stuvantha means to Praise or Extoll. On Praising whom, will Humans (manava) get (prapnuyur / praapthi) Good (Shubham)?
4. Ko Dharma, Sarva dharmanam bhavatha paramo matha: - What Dharma, is First (parama) among all Dharmas (sarva dharmanam)?
5. Kim Japan Muchyate Janthu: Janma Samsara Bhandanath? - On meditating (japa) on whom, can living beings (janthu:) cross the bonding (bhandana) of birth and death (janma samsara)?

Bhishma answers all the above questions, and says that Bhagawan Sri Maha Vishnu is the Ultimate Resting Place and Refuge for all humans - He has infinite names. But, he would tell 1000 names that are very special and have been used by great Rishis and Saints while addressing Him. By chanting these 1000 names, all pain would be removed, happiness will flow and in the end, the endless cycle of birth and death will surely be cut! Btw, that's a tall promise!

Some Saints believe that Sahasranamam is even more special than Bhagawat Geeta, because, Bhagawan told Bhagawat Geeta, but He listened to Vishnu Sahasranamam :-) (along with Pandavas)

I have wondered how this was the FIRST text expounded by Sri Sankara after he concluded his travels and re-established Sanatana Dharma (so called Hindu Dharma) throughout India. Anyone would know that Sri Sankara was an Adwaitin - He believed that God only existed, and did not believe God was separate from Self.

I realized that these names are not just some collection of sounds, but are meaningful names - They show what God Is or Does. For e.g., the first name 'Vishwam' indicates that the entire creation is God. The next name 'Vishnu' means that He is all pervading! There is is NOTHING that is NOT Vishnu. He pervades deep into atoms and the great Sky and Cosmos. (I need to forcefully stop here, otherwise I might go on for long :D)

These names are called 'Bhagawat Guna Darpanam' - Mirror (Darpanam) that reflects the Properties (Guna) of God (Bhagawan) - By realizing these properties in God, we finally see them in the Self, and realize that the Self and God are One. So, if you believe in Adwaita, you should definitely chant Vishnu Sahasranamam! That's the reason why Sri Adi Sankara Bhagawat Pada expounded Vishnu Sahasranamam. (There is another story why He did that First, but that's for later too!)

So, Bhishma said that the person to whom all these names are meant, is standing next to me and listening to me! He bowed reverentially to Sri Krishna and chanted the 1000 names)

And in the end, when the Uttarayanam period started He gave up His Life and Merged into Sri Krishna. As soon as He left the Body, there was fragrance throughout the place and everyone there experienced a mighty peace that they did not even grieve for the death of Bhishma for sometime.

So, I would conclude by this post by telling that if you have a car and drive to office, buy a Vishnu Sahasranamam CD and listen on the way :-) - Even if you travel by bus, it might be good to buy an MP3 player and listen on the way (I have been listening to Vettaikkaran during my past few drives :D)

But, do we need to chant the names with total devotion and concentration for this to work? What if I am not able to focus or get even a semblance of devotion or concentration? What if mind keeps wandering off? What if I make mistakes in pronunciation? Will it help even if I have all of the above deficiencies? - Wait for Part 2 :D (Pssss - Answer is Yes!)


Venkat.R said...

When is the second part :)

Sriram V Iyer said...

Hi Venkat: Will get that out soon :-) - Looks like it will be the longest series - Too much to pen down :-) And, I don't want to make it very brief too (want to write all that comes to my mind regarding this topic)

You've been warned :D

kvl said...

Hi Sriram, Nice to read this on the first working day of the year :)

Eagerly waiting for the answers to Yudistr's Qs -for the many more parts to follow. Do you have any link or book with full exposition?

Also looking forward to scientific metaphors in your exposition :)

wish u a gr8 year ahead!!

Sriram V Iyer said...

Viji, so you are reading this in office? :D LOL

I actually posted the Bhishma's replies but only in brief, because it might become too long. But, since you asked, I'll add something to match Bhishma's answers with Yudhishtra's questions (they come out of order)

Thanks for the wishes, and I wish you a great year ahead too!

Sreedevi Ranjith Menon said...

Hi Sriram

One of my new year resolutions for this year is to learn Vishnu Sahasranamam. I started off learning 5 paragraphs a day and oh My! It's not easy memorizing. So starting off last week, I listen to the namam while driving to work.

I was searching for CD's on Vishnu Sahasranamam, and that's how landed on your blog :-). Glad that i came across it!

Sriram V Iyer said...

Dear Sreedevi:
I'm glad you like the series too! I am quite slow in writing, so would request you to bear the rate at which I churn out the posts :-)

Btw, this should be the best resolution ever :) Hope we achieve it this year!

I listened to a very knowledgeable person talk about VSN. He said, even a few names are enough to take us out of this samsara! Rest are bonus :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Sriram

Read all your explanations and posts regarding the VSN....very interesting.....any idea on how to teach my children aged 10 and 8 to learn this? I was trying to google if there's any tips for kids and found your blog.........Being out of India, have a keen interest in making my kids learn VSN.....


Sriram V Iyer said...

Hi Anu:
The best gift to your kids is to play this at home daily! That's how it is memorized. It gets very difficult as we get older (personal experience :) )

Once it is in their subconscious, a day will come when they read it, it is ALL clear! If they oppose playing it daily, tell them it is good for them to get marks! (it is real though)

All the very best for imparting VSN to your kids :)


Anonymous said...

hi sriram,

I enjoyed reading about VSN. Please keep more articles coming on lord vishnu and lord krishna.. I would like to knos more abt the rules in listening to VSN. For instance, i play it in the evenings while i do some household work or work on my laptop.. Is this accepted or should i concentrate 100% on VSN while listening.. Waiting for your reply..


Sriram V Iyer said...

You can listen / read to VSN anytime / anywhere! It is perfectly ok to play it in the background and listen to it while you are at work.

However, try sparing some time for VSN one day a week, when you try to focus on Vishnu's glorious forms when you chant it. That should more than make up for it.

There is absolutely no anushtanams to be followed for reciting / chanting VSN. (complete contrast to LSN which has many many rules to even listen to it)


holistic said...

Hey Sriram How come you shone suddenly out from the blue. The content of this site no words to say.......

Be in touch

Dr. S. Ananthakrishnan

Sriram V Iyer said...

Hello Doctor Sir! Eppadi irukkel?

That Bheeshmashtami post made me remember that I had written something about this :D - Just wanted to share with Agnilingam members!

holistic said...

The Harivarasanam is still safe with me. dont let this talent die let it grow in leaps n bounds.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for giving the link to your blog on the Agnilingam site... you have such a wonderful flow of words... reading your informative blog... Im very impressed... the Vettaikaran bit had me in splits... cant wait for part 2 of your write up.
As I had mentioned in the Agnilingam group, Bhismashtami is very close to my heart becos it coincides with my Dad's Srardham. My Dad was my Bheeshmar - a great soul who made me what I am today. From very humble beginnings ( almost hand to mouth existence) we have traversed several difficulties and now we are very successful and opulent today all because of what my Dad drilled into me/us.
I do listen to Vishnu Sahasranamam and Sri Lalitha Sahasranamam daily.( though I cant recite it by heart, I do know the full sahasranamam, with prompting) After reading your post, I will incorporate Shiva Sahasranamam also into my routine. Let me do an online search for that.
I vaguely remember seeing a CD in my Mother's collection somewhere...
All the very best for your Computer business and I wish you lose weight soon :)
As a doctor my sincere advice, dont do diet control It never works.
Simple trick to lose weight...
Eat whatever you want, but burn more than what you eat.
An hour of tennis followed by an hour of swimming everyday will do the trick.
Best wishes


Dr Surya Narayanan Sethumadhavan
Medical Officer
Qatar Petroleum

Sriram V Iyer said...

@Dr. Ananthakrishnan: Thank you! Of late, I have given up on writing :( - I'll restart the habit now!

@Dr. Surya: As I mentioned in the group posting, your father must have been a really great soul, to have departed on Bheeshmashtami! You are doing a great job by listening to VSN and LSN daily! AWESOME! Btw, are you initiated into Panchadashi? (one of the requirements of chanting LSN)

Thanks for your advise on losing weight. I'll keep your good advice in mind! Btw, I have written 5 parts already :D - I'll post the links / or you can browse through the blog whenever you are free.

Anonymous said...

Hello Sriram,

I happened to hop in to your space from the Cosmic Consciousness blog. Just wanted to say thank you for sharing your thoughts here, they are very insightful and enlightening. Please keep writing.

Best Regards,

Sriram V Iyer said...

Dear Vidya, Thanks! Glad you like the posts!

V KalyanSuman Kande said...

Hi Sriram,

Thanks for a wonderful explainations..

KalyanSuman KV

jyothi l said...

Hi Sriram ,i liked the way you put down vishnu sahasranamam part-1 .Keep up the good work.

Sriram V Iyer said...

Dear Kalyana Sundaram: Thanks for your kind feedback!