SRI VISNU SAHASRANAMA (With Text, Transliteration, Translation and commentary of Sri Sankaracarya / Shankaracharya)
From the Jacket:
Of all the means of God-realization the easiest is chanting the name of lord with fervour as Sri Ramakrishna has pointed out repeatedly. Vishnu Saharsranama is unique hymn in that the Vishnu who is extolled is not a sectarian Deity but the Universal Spirit who is the ultimate guiding Principle of the universe. All the Namas are mellifluous and if chanted with an understanding of their meaning they enable a devotee to attain remarkable peace and bliss. Sri Sankaracharya's commentary helps the devotee to have an insight into the deep significance of each Nama.
We have great pleasure in presenting to our readers the great Vishnu Sahasranama Stotra with the translation of Sri Sankaracharya's Commentary. This litany of a thousand names of Vishnu, far from being sectarian, brings out the universality of the Divine and so is eminently fit to be chanted by everyone, irrespective of the religious denomination to which he or she belongs. One of the meanings of the word Vishnu is "all-pervasive," and the Vishnu Sahasranama aims to bring the devotee closer to the Ultimate Reality that is at once Personal and Impersonal. The very fact that Sri Sankaracharya, who always soars in the empyrean of Non-duality, has chosen to write an eloborate com- mentary on this Sahasranama is proof positive, if proof were needed, of its magnificence and profundity. When the Divine appellations are chanted with an understanding of their deep implications, their sweetness is all the greater. We wish our readers all the peace, power and plenty that come from reciting these hallowed names.
The hyphonising of the words in Devnagri script is done only to make the reading easy for those who are not familiar with Sanskrit. The words thus con- _nected are to be as single expression.
The chanting of the Nama or the Divine name has an important place in the disciplines advocated by the Bhakti tradition. This adoration of the Divine by the name takes two forms-Japa and Stotra. Japa is the silent repetition generally of a single divine name or of a Mantra which may also be a long formula. The Stotra, however, is invariably uttered aloud, and it may consist in chanting verses conveying the glory and attributes of the Divine. The Sahasranama is perhaps the most popular and the holiest form of Stotras among devotees.
The word Sahasranama means "the thousand names of the Lord." According to the Vedic tradition there is only one manifesting sound (sabda) indicative of the Supreme Being (Para-Brahman), and that is called 'Om', as far as the human ears could capture it. Just as that one Para-Brahman is adored as manifesting in the form of many Deities, the one name Om,indicative of Him, also takes the form of innumerable sound forms representing Divine attributes and other excellences. Sahasranama is perhaps the most extensive elaboration of the Divine Name. This is a special feature of Hindu devotional practice, unknown to other religions which invoke the Supreme Being by one name only.
It may be asked what devotional purpose the elabora- tion of Names serves. Inward concentration is the essence of devotional practice, but inward concentration is also the most difficult to practise. Even a great man like Arjuna says to Sri Krsna in the Gita (6.34) "The mind is fickle, turbulent, powerful and unyielding. To control and concentrate it is as difficult as controlling the wind itself." So aspirants treading the path of devotion are given practices of varying subtlety for communion with the Divine. Concentrated meditation is the highest form of communion, Japa comes next; and Stotra and external worship come still after. While meditation and Japa can be done only very imperfectly by the majority of men, Stotra and external worship can be practised much more successfully and with greater devotional satisfaction. Hence the importance of Stotra in devotional practice.
Loud invocation of the Divine may take the shape of Kirtana, which is singing songs conveying the names and. attributes of the Deity by a group of people. But a Stotra is not set to music; it consists in chanting aloud verses in praise of the Deity, mostly by individuals alone or sometimes in the company of a few. The Sahasran ama Stotra, the thousand-named praise of the Divine, is a special form of this kind of devotional composition. Every Sahsran ama Stotra is an invocation of a particular cult Deity, and the names strung together into verses in it will briefly indicate the philosophical, theological and ritualistic doctrines of the cult as also the world- saving exploits of that Deity elaborately dealt with in the Puranas and other cult literature. A Stotra has six characteristics-salutation, benediction, statement of the doctrine, praise of the Deity and His attributes, descrip- tion of His valour, form and deeds, and prayer. While in the elaborate Stotras, which often take the shape of long literary pieces, these features can be clearly seen, in the Sahasranama Stotra too these are brought out through the selection of meaningful names that are strung together into verses.
While there are Sahasranama Stotras in praise of most of the Deities of the Hindu pantheon, two of them have attained great popularity and form parts of the devotional programmes of the worship of the Deities to whom they are related. These are Lalit a-sahasranama in praise of the Deity as the Divine Mother and Visnu- sahasranama in praise of the Lord conceived as Visnu. The latter forms the Text dealt with in this book.
Visnu-sahasranama is a part of the santi Parva of the Mahabharata. Tradition says that it was composed by Sanaka, one of the Kum aras (eternally living Youths) and was transmitted to Bhisma who recited it in the presence of Sri Krsna to the Pandava brothers when he was questioned by Yudhisthira: "Who is that Being' who is the supreme Lord of all, who is the sole refuge of all and by praising and worshipping whom man gains what is good and attains to salvation?" The thousand names of Visnu is the answer that Bhisma gives to this enquiry.
Besides its inherent quality, the importance of the Stotra is enhanced a hundredfold by the fact that no less a personage than the great Sri sankaracarya thought it worthwhile to write a commentary on it, expounding the meanings of the various names that find a place in it. An interesting tradition has something to say on how sri sankara came to write his commentary. It seems Sri sankara wanted at first to write a commentary on the Lalita-Sahasra-nama and asked a disciple to fetch the text of the Sahasranama, He brought Visuu-sahasra- nama. Twice this was repeated and then the Acarya heard a disembodied voice asking him to comment on this text. A tradition of this type is the way in which the Pauranikas expressed the importance of the text with telling effect.
Today of all Sahasranamas, the Visnu-sahasranama is known as 'the Sahasranama', It is the most widely chanted by people in al1 stations of life, and besides there are cassettes made of it as rendered by well-known artistes. According to orthodox Hindu tradition, a devotee should daily chant the Upanisad pertaining to his Sakha, the Gita, Rudram, Purusasukta and Visnu-sahasranama. It is believed that if he cannot do all this on any day, chanting Visnu-Sahasranama alone is sufficient. It is open to all to chant it, without any distinction of caste, creed or sex. It can-be chanted at any time and no special rituals are' obligatory on one chanting it. It is also interesting to note that in some parts of India students are asked to learn by heart the Visnu-sahasranama when they begin Sanskrit studies.
Item Code: IDF894 Author: Swami Tapasyananda Cover: Paperback Edition: 2017 Publisher: Sri Ramakrishna Math ISBN: 8171204201 Language: With Text, Transliteration, Translation and commentary of Sri Sankaracarya / Shankaracharya Size: 7.0" X 4.7" Pages: 216 Other Details: Weight of the Book: 150 gms