Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Vishnu Sahasranamam - Part 2

I stopped the previous part with the following questions -

1. 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?

2. What if mind keeps wandering off?

3. What if I make mistakes in pronunciation? Will it help even if I have all of the above deficiencies?

Let me take the first question first (unlike Bhishma, who answered the 5th question first (actually sixth) :D)

Saints and Rishis swear by the potency of the God's name. But, if we had to trust in our ability to focus or concentrate, it means that Vishnu's name is potent only because of our efforts and not by itself, which is totally incorrect!

A fire will burn the skin of the person who touches it irrespective of the person knowing if the fire is hot or not. Medicine cures the person who may not necessarily believe in the potency of the drug. One need not know the recipe of the food to enjoy it. Same way, each of God's names has the potency to help, cure, palliate, comfort and relax the devotee irrespective of his level of advancement. We only need to keep chanting His names!

There are many incidents in our scriptures which support this claim - For e.g., Saint Valmiki was initiated into the 'Rama' maha-mantra by Sage Narada. Actually, Narada was challenged not to give the mantra as-it-is. So, He initiated Valmiki to the mantra as 'Ma-ra' - Which when repeated sounds 'Ra-ma'. This name alone took Valmiki to His realization and He could write the epic Ramayana with almost 24000 verses! (Mahabharata is even bigger with 125,000 verses - So called Greek classics pale in comparison!)

Another incident which describes the potency of Lord's name is 'Ajamila Upakhyanam' in Srimad Bhagavatam. (I'll describe that in short now)

Ajamilan was a Brahmin by birth - Once when he went to forests to collect herbs and grass for his prayers, he saw a prostitute in the forest and fell in love with her. He never went back to his family. He started living an immoral life which also included stealing from the village for sustenance. As time passed, the prostitute gave birth to many kids.

When his last kid was born, by God's Grace, a saint came that way, and named the kid as 'Narayana'. Ajamilan was totally in love with the kid. He kept calling him by his name always - Narayana, Narayana!

Then Ajamilan fell ill and was in his death bed. He was approached by Yama Ganas (assistants to Lord Yama, the Lord of Death). Ajamilan saw their violent and scary form, and he remembered his last kid playing outside and called him 'Narayana! Narayana'

Suddenly, Vishnu Dhootas (Vishnu's messengers) came over and asked the Yama Ganas to leave! Yama Ganas were taken aback! They told Vishnu Dhootas that this guy was one of the biggest sinners and they have all his records. Vishnu Dhootas told them that, even if he had spent a life time sinning, he called the name 'Narayana' during death and so, he cannot be taken to hell.

Ajamilan who was witnessing this was stunned. He thought how much better his life would have been if he had spent his whole life contemplating Sri Vishnu! Thus, Ajamilan was saved by chanting Narayana name even though his intent was to call his son! Thus is the potency of Lord's name.

I am no way indicating that we can be saved by chanting Narayana's name in our end after spending a life time of sins :-) - Scriptures say that at the time of death, the soul gets into a trance just identical to the dreaming state. Just as we don't have any control on our dreams, we would have no control on our thoughts at the time of death. So, we have to practise chanting Lord's name always!

Alwar sings - "In my old age, Oh Lord Ranganatha, I'll be sick, tired and unconscious. My throat will choke and I cannot speak. My body will not let me remember you. So, Lord I chant your name now itself. Please consider this chanting towards that time!" (appothaikku ippothe solli vaithen, arangathu aravanai palliyane!)

Sri Arunagirinathar sings to Lord Murugan -
"Kar ma misai kalan varin, kalaba
ther ma misai vanthu ethira paduvai!"
When Lord of Death approaches in His large and black buffalo, You must come before me in Your chariot of Peocock, and save me!

So, please don't worry about mind wandering off! Just make it a practice to chant Vishnu Sahasranamam regulalrly - Mind will indeed be subdued sometime. But, if you wait for mind to subdued to start chanting Vishnu Sahasranamam, it would become the case of the guy who waited for the waves in the ocean to subside to take bath. Carpe Diem!

I'll answer the rest of the questions in subsequent posts!

Na Vasudeva Bhaktanam Ashubham Vidhyate Kwachit!
"No ill befalls the devotee of Sri Vasudeva Bhagawan Vishnu:"

Om Namo Narayanaya!
Sri Subrahmanya Rakshitoham!
Arunachala Siva! Arunachala Siva!
Siva Siva Ram Ram!


Meenakshi Sankaran said...

Awesome Sriram. Very good advice for folks with the concentration span of a sedated squirrel like me. :-)

I join the priest and some other devotees in the temple sometimes to recite Vishnu Sahasranamam. Let me tell you that all my focus is on reciting all the words out and not grinding them to death. Simply following the text for chanting is itself a huge task for me.

You have given a very potent message in an easy-to-understand logic. So there is hope for people like me.

Great job Sriram!

Praveen Kumar said...

In Ramayan also there is a descriptions on WHO IS MORE POWERFUL and STRONG, "the LORD RAMA" or "the name of LORD RAMA". In front of LORD RAMA, Hanuman proves that "the name of LORD RAMA" is much more powerful than the LORD RAMA itself.

Sankaran Raman said...

Excellent post, Sriram!

My take on this is that the reason we are made to repeat all the mantras is probably due to the concentration wavering. So, if we say 108 Gayathri's we might have focused on the true effect of it maybe a few times.

Sriram V Iyer said...

@Meena: Thanks! Your allegories are getting funnier by the day! I was rolling when I read your squirrel example :D - I know that you know the names by heart! You and Sankar do a prayer which of the highest form - I'll prove to you that you & Sankar are doing that in my next article :-)

@Praveen: Even in many Tamil structures they say that Name is much more potent than God Himself. Some even go so far to tell that they don't care about God, but only care about His Names :D - I remember this Hanuman episode.. It is a very nice one.

@Sankar: Thanks! I am glad you liked it. Your perspective is quite valid. The word Mantra is split as 'Mananam Trayate it Mantra:' - One which protects (Trayate) on repetition (mananam) is Mantra. It is required that a Mantra is chanted many many times till Siddi of that Mantra is achieved.

hrishikesh.srivatsa said...

Good post Sriram !

About Ajamila story, he was an aparoksha gynani only Sanchita karma was pending; hence he got the mind to chant the Lord's name during his last hours.

To all who, think that Lord's name is more powerful than the Lord; it is a ridiculous proposition. The porposition is just some filmi stories.

All words in the Vedas represent Sri Hari only. Sri Madhvacharya has demonstrated that each word in Sri Vishnu Sahasranama has 100 meanings at least.

Please see this post

Sri Hanuman is always proud to announce that he is Sri Rama's Dasa; it is maha papa to think otherwise. Please read the scriptures and use the tv episodes as a guide only, not a substitute for shastra adhyene.

Jai Bharateesha,

Sriram V Iyer said...

Thanks - I know that he had only some sanchita karma left out. Lord's name doesn't come out lips during death otherwise.

Mukkur Sri Lakshmi Narasimhachariar, of Dwaita / Madhwa school himself said that name is more powerful than the Lord. (I just used that in my blog entry because I wanted all to chant the namas!) - If that's a maha-papa, let tons of them land on me!

Problem with fundamentalism is that it is not too different from other religions that practice it!

FYI, Namah Shivaya in Sri Rudram is the ONLY mantra found in Vedas. As long as you see Sri Hari as superior, and other Gods as 'lower' you'll be stuck in the same Dwaita plane :-) - Congrats, and you'll be happy with it!

Anonymous said...

superb post on vishnu sahasranamam sir..

But i always have this is said in mahabharatha and other holy books of the benefits of chanting vishnu sahasranamam..if bhishma chanted it,why did he got is said in sahasranamam that if kshatriya chants it,he would be successful in all battles anf no enemy can conquer him

Narayanan said...

Great post Sriram. Enjoyed it thoroughly. I have heard this story of Ajamila in Shrimad Bhagawatham rendition by Velakudi Krishanan Swamigal. But well this article added few more diamonds to that crown. Lord Vishnu and Shiva are two end of same Brahmam like two poles of a magnet. Both attract soul. There is no issues whether you get attracted to north or south pole as long as you are attracted towards the magnet

Aditya Hridayam said...

Very informative article about the Vishnu Sahasranama Stotram.
Here I would like to share more information about the Vishnu Sahasranamam.

Aditya Hridayam said...

Very informative article about the Vishnu Sahasranama Stotram.
Here I would like to share more information about the Vishnu Sahasranamam.