Vaikuntha Dham – The Abode of Lord Vishnu
We dedicate all our efforts at the Lotus Feet of Sri Hari and our revered Guru, Om Swami with whose inspiration, grace and blessings a humble attempt has been made to dive into the deeper meanings of Vishnu Sahasranama – one thousand names of Lord Vishnu. A human mind is in no way qualified to even attempt deciphering the meaning of Bhagwan’s holy names. In fact, it is rather an audacious thought, for a tiny drop cannot comprehend the depths of an ocean unless the drop merges into the ocean and becomes the ocean itself. As seekers of truth, with love and devotion for Sri Hari, stemmed the desire to learn about Lord’s names in the Vishnu Sahasranama. One cursory glance at any number of books written on the topic will make one aware of the wealth of knowledge that surrounds this seemingly small topic. Meanings of the names found in the Vishnu Sahasranama highlight one important thing. What we know about God is just a fraction of what we do not know. But what we know from these names in itself gives plenty of means and ways to celebrate and get absorbed in Him. The names in Vishnu Sahasranama offer a lot to contemplate about. The more we contemplate, the more we get absorbed in the beauty it offers. It took few years before the interest in the Vishnu Sahasranama expanded from mere chanting to knowing a little bit more about its purpose, meanings of the names and its significance. This blog site is shaping up as we walk into Lord Vishnu’s celestial abode – The Vaikuntha. True Vaikuntha is where HIS glories are sung with devotion.
Lord Vishnu says to Sage Narada in Padma Purana, Uttara-khanda (92.21): “Naham vasami vaikunthe yoginam hridaye na cha, mad-bhakta yatra gayanti tatra tishthami narada”
नाहं वसामि वैकुण्ठे योगिनां हृदये न च |
मद्भक्ता यत्र गायन्ति तत्र तिष्ठामि नारद ||
i.e., “I dwell neither in Vaikuntha nor in the hearts of the Yogins, but I dwell where my devotees sing my name, O Narada.”
What better way of singing His Nama than by reciting Vishnu Sahasranamam!
After a few years of chanting the Vishnu Sahasranama, what began as self study and contemplation on each of these thousand names every day, a group on Whatsapp was created in 2020 with some like minded devotees. The idea was to share the learning and imbibe the teachings of our Guru and Siddhas of the lore who offered deep insight into the essence of each name. Soon this large body of study became too large to just contain in a group. Once we started researching and delving into deeper meanings of these names in the light of the messages given by various enlightened Masters, we realized that there is a treasure of knowledge hidden behind these thousand names. There is much joy in reading about the beauty of Lord Vishnu’s various names when it doesn’t remain a mere intellectual exercise, but becomes a tool for transformation in the way we conduct ourselves in our daily lives. It has been our desire to share what we have learnt in the realm of our expanded interest in self purification through these blessed names.
कलयुग केवल नाम अधारा, सुमिर सुमिर नर उतरहि पारा।
Meaning “In the age (of Kaliyug) the only means of deliverance is chanting the holy name of God”. Naam Jaap is the surest and easiest way of purifying and pacifying one’s mind and aligning our energies. The scriptures define tools of transformation which include the five human values of truth, love, peace, right conduct and non-violence that must be employed every day. The super glue that connects these tools and the people who employ them is naama smarana – the relentless chanting of Lord’s name.राम से बड़ा राम का नाम – The name of God is everything. Its glory is as inestimable as the glory of God Himself. The Viṣhṇu Sahasranāma says that names (namani) are gauṇa i.e. based on guṇas or attributes – (yāni nāmāni gauṇāni). They are not mere empty sounds. The Bhāgavata Purāṇa says that the names of the Lord are each expressive of the fame, exploits, divine pastimes and greatness of the Lord. As the Lord’s manifestations are infinite, so His names are also infinite.
Why this website when there are already so many existing on this subject?
There are many translations, explanations and commentaries on Vishnu Sahasranama but we haven’t come across a detailed one on a single platform that fills ours heart with a lot of love and joy for the Lord, inspiring one to work on self purification. Every name is interpreted differently by different authors and that is the greatness of each name. The meanings shared herein, after deeply reflecting on the names, is an attempt to achieve a very detailed and exhaustive compilation in order to gain a comprehensive understanding from the classical commentaries expounded by renowned authorities on the subject as well as deep insights gained from the words of saints, mystics and our revered Guru. Guru Vakyam from Om Swamiji and pearls of wisdom from many saints is shared for each name as an interpretation guided by Sant Vani (Words of Saints) to help a devotee imbibe the name as a living value system every sadhak walking on the path of truth to Vaikuntha Dham would aspire to inculcate pertaining to each one of those thousand names. Two commentaries are referred constantly- The Shankara Bhashyam, an eloquent commentary written by Adi Shankara (the quintessential hero of vedic revival in India) and Bhashya of Sri Parasara Bhattar, a follower of Ramanujacharya. Sri Parasara Bhattar wrote a commentary in the 12th century, detailing the names of Vishnu from a Vishishtadvaita perspective. These commentaries have several translations and is also the basis for many other commentaries written by others. Madhvacharya also wrote a commentary on Vishnu sahasranama, disclosing that each name in the sahasranama has a minimum of 100 meanings. Upon being challenged by the audience during his time, Sri Madhvacharaya not only gives 100 meanings for each name of the Vishnu sahasranama but also expands on the meanings of each name making it a multi-fold complexity and displays an outspoken quality to hold and explain the real and deep hidden meaning of Sahasranama. Unfortunately there are hardly any comprehensive commentaries in English language in print and on digital mediums. There are a few books and websites that provide short meanings on the names but as such there are no major detailed texts based on authoritative commentaries in the English language.
Vishnu Sahasranama chanting with deep faith and conviction, after knowing the meanings results in a joyful heart that is deeply content. This exercise leaves us in no doubt that the omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent consciousness represented by Lord Vishnu is impossible to comprehend intellectually. We may transcend the limitations of our puny minds by constantly reflecting and contemplating on the infinite forms of Sri Maha Vishnu. Vishnu Sahasranama offers thousand ways to transcendence.
We hope you find this reading useful. The purpose of this website is fulfilled if it helps in garnering a greater interest and desire to chant the Vishnu Sahasranama with devotion and mindfulness. Any value you find in this attempt belongs to the Lord and any mistakes that may have occurred is attributable to a limited human mind’s minuscule attempt to know about the limitless existence of the Lord.
Lord Vishnu is the all pervading administrator of the universe. He puts in place, the laws of the universe and administers the universe as a strict disciplinarian, yet he is highly compassionate in nature. He presides over not just the universe, but all the seven planes of the universe. All that we see is indeed Lord Vishnu. Sarvam Vishnumayam Jagath – asserts the Vedas. i.e., The Entire Cosmos is Manifestation of Vishnu. The first Shloka of Isavasaya Upanishad says – ‘Isavasyam idam sarvam‘. All that is here is Divine! This means everything that is around you is filled with divinity and are essentially divine! Concepts of eternal condemnation and a permanent sinner does not arise in Sanatan Dharma.
When everything is filled with Lord Vishnu, what can we offer Him? The only thing He seeks is our Heart! Our Heart should yearn for Him, turn towards Him and Finally be ONE with Him.
The abode of Lord Vishnu – Vaikuntha Dham is supposed to be the Supreme one. He has prescribed various paths through which one has to travel to reach His abode, the point of no return for a soul known as liberation. He has been referred to in Vedas. Without Lord Vishnu, no fire ritual is complete. He is quite often referred to as Puruṣa, the Supreme Soul. His famous sleeping posture on Ananta Sheshnag (the divine serpent), who floats on the ocean of milk, is very well known. This posture is not merely a gross description, but has a subtle meaning. Ananta means infinite and the milk of ocean refers to the eternal bliss. He lies in the restful state of eternal bliss. Those who seek Him also enter the state of bliss. He incarnates in different forms to destroy evil doers. His avatars occur whenever there is imbalance between morality and immorality. When immorality begins to dominate over morality He incarnates. His notable human incarnations are Lord Rāma and the Lord Kṛṣṇa.
The scene of unfolding this great Sahasranāma happened in the great epic Mahābhārata authored by the great sage, Veda Vyāsa. Bhīṣma was lying on a bed made of arrows awaiting his death. At that time, he was meditating on Kṛṣṇa. Knowing this, Kṛṣṇa asked Yudhiṣṭhira (eldest among Pāṇḍava brothers and known for his righteousness) to seek spiritual initiation from Bhīṣma and also told Bhīṣma to initiate Yudhiṣṭhira. Yudhiṣṭhira asks Bhīṣma “kimekaṁdaivataṁ loke” meaning who is the Supreme Lord of the world. Bhīṣma replies by saying, that the purest, the most auspicious, the chief among the gods and the father of all the beings is the One who is Supreme, referring to Lord Vishnu. This conversation appears in the pūrvabhāg of this Sahasranāma. The spiritual initiation of Yudhiṣṭhira by Bhīṣma is Vishnu Sahasranāma. Kṛṣṇa was also present when this happened and this Sahasranāma was blessed by the Lord Himself.
Who recorded the Vishnu Sahasranamam?
Once, way back in the 1940’s or 50’s, someone was interviewing Jagadguru Sri Maha Periyava – Kanchi Paramacharya. That gentleman recorded the interview using a tape recorder. Periyava then posed a question,
“Does anyone know which is the oldest known tape recorder?”
Nobody was able to answer. Then Sri Maha Periyava asked another question;
“How did Vishnu Sahasranamam come to us?”
Someone said Bheeshma Pitamah gave it to us.
All agreed. Then Sri Maha Periyava posed another question;
“When all were listening to Bheeshma on the battlefield, who took the notes at Kurukshetra?”
Sri Maha Periyava explained…
“When Bheeshma Pitamah was glorifying Krishna with Sahasranamam, everyone was looking at him including Sri Krishna and the sage, Veda Vyasa. After he finished the 1000 Namas, all opened their eyes. The first to react was Yudhistirar. He said, ‘Pitamah has chanted 1000 glorious names of Vasudeva. All of us listened to it but none of us have noted it down. The sequence is lost’. Then all turned to Sri Krishna and asked for His help. As usual He said, ‘I was also listening like the rest of you. What can we do?’
Then all beseeched Sri Krishna to help them recover the precious rendition. Then Sri Krishna said, ‘It can only be done by Sahadeva and Vyasa will write it down.’
Everyone wanted to know how Sahadeva could do it. Krishna replied, ‘Sahadeva is the only one amongst us wearing the Shuddha Sphatika. If he prays to Shiva and does dhyanam, he can convert the Sphatika into waves of sound and Vyasa can write it down. Then both Sahadeva and Vyasa sat in the same place under Bheeshma Pitamah, where he had recited the Vishnu Sahasranamam. Sahadeva started doing the dhyanam to recover the sound waves from the Sphatika.
The nature of Sphatika is that it will capture sounds in a calm environment which can be got back with proper dhyanam of Maheswara who is Swethambara and Sphatika. So, the world’s earliest tape recorder is this Sphatika which gave us the wonderful Vishnu Sahasranamam. When Sri Maha Periyava explained this all were stunned… From the Sphatika recording, the grantha came to us through Veda Vyasa.
Lord Vishnu is also known as Nārāyaṇa. Garuḍa Purāṇa (III.24.54,55) explains the etymological meaning of Nārāyaṇa. “As He is the resort of merits and demerits and as He abides in the waters of ocean, He is called Nārāyaṇa. Water is also called nāra (probably meaning cosmic water); as He resorts to water, He is called Nārāyaṇa. Water is so called because, as cosmic water it emerges from His sideways glance. As He is the resort of water, He is called Nārāyaṇa, and also because He is the source of this eternal universe.”
Lord Vishnu is the most auspicious form of the Brahman. He is not only invoked during auspicious occasions, but also while performing funeral rites. At the time of conclusion of all rituals, the effect of the rituals are surrendered to Lord Vishnu.
Vishnu Sahasranāma consists of three parts – pūrvabhāg or the first part; stotrabhāg or the main part from which one thousand names or nāmas are composed; and uttarabhāg or the concluding part. The main part consists of 107 couplets from which all the 1000 nāmas are derived. Apart from these three parts, this Sahasranāma has seven dhyāna verses by which one can meditate upon His auspicious form.
Here’s an interesting anecdote on the commentary of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam by Sri Adi Sankara. Sri Adi Sankara wanted to write a commentary on Lalita Sahasranamam and asked one of his disciples to bring palm-leaf manuscripts of Lalita Sahasranamam. The disciple went into the room where it was kept and returned with the manuscript. When Sankara opened it, he found that it was Vishnu Sahasranamam. He asked the disciple to go back and get Lalita Sahasranamam. When the disciple returned, Sankara found that it was Vishnu Sahasranamam again. Sankara once again advised the disciple to bring Lalita Sahasranamam. When the disciple returned for the third time, it turned out to be Vishnu Sahasranamam again! A little annoyed, Sankara asked the disciple “Don’t you understand, I asked you to bring Lalita Sahasranamam.
The disciple replied “Revered Sir, I brought Lalita Sahasranamam every time but I was intercepted by a beautiful little girl on the way who snatched it from me and gave this instead each time”. Sankara was intrigued and looked around for the girl but there was no trace of her. He realised that Goddess Lalita wanted him to write commentary on the Sahasranamam of her brother Lord Vishnu first.
Bhagawan Vishnu says:
Yo maam naama sahasrena stotum ichchati pandava Soham ekena shlokena stuta eva na samshayaha
यो मां नामसहस्रेण स्तोतुमिच्छति पाण्डव ।
सोहऽमेकेन श्लोकेन स्तुत एव न संशयः ॥
“If someone wants to worship me by reciting the Sahasranamam but is able to utter only one Shloka (out of the hundred and seven) I still consider that worship equivalent to the chanting of the full Sahasranamam.”
Going one step further, it is said that repeating even a single Nama is enough to give the full effect of Sahasranamam.
Parvati asks Lord Shiva:
“Kenopayane laghuna Vishnor nama sahasrakam Pathyate panditair nityam shrotum ichchami aham prabho”
केनोपायेन लघुना विष्णोर्नामसहस्रकम् ।विष्णोर्नामसहस्रकम्
पठ्यते पण्डितैर्नित्यं श्रोतुमिच्छाम्यहं प्रभो ॥
“What is the easy way adopted by the learned to recite the Vishnu Sahasranamam daily?”
Lord Shiva replies:
“Sri Rama Rama Rameti Rame Rame Manorame Sahasranama Tattulyam Rama Nama Varaanane”
ईश्वर उवाच —
श्रीराम राम रामेति रमे रामे मनोरमे ।
सहस्रनाम तत्तुल्यं राम नाम वरानने ॥
It is said that recitation of the above Shloka three times, gives the benefit of reciting the whole Sahasranamam. “If one recites the single Rama Nama repeatedly that itself is equivalent to reciting all the one thousand Namas!”
“Yaani namani gounani vikhyatani mahatmanah Rishibhif parigeetani tani vakshyami bhootaye”
भीष्म उवाच —
यानि नामानि गौणानि विख्यातानि महात्मनः ।
ऋषिभिः परिगीतानि तानि वक्ष्यामि भूतये ॥
Mahamahim Bhishma makes it clear that he is expounding just a compilation of His qualities as elaborated by various Sages. In the Hindu scriptures all mantras have three principal elements. They are: 1. Devata or the presiding Deity 2. Rishi (or Sage) to whom it was first revealed 3. Chandas or the verse form. These three-some matrix is described in the preamble to the Sahasranamam as follows:
“Rishirnamnam sahasrasya vedavyaso mahamunihi Chando anushtup tatha devo bhagavan devakee sutaha”
ऋषिर्नाम्नां सहस्रस्य वेदव्यासो महामुनिः ।
छन्दोऽनुष्टुप् तथा देवो भगवान् देवकीसुतःभगवान्देवकीसुतः ॥
Kurma Puranam says:
“Bharatam sarva shastreshu bharate geetika vara Vishnos sahasranamapi gneyam pathyam cha taddvayam”
Meaning Maha Bharata is superior to all Dharmashastras; within that Bhagavad Gita and Vishnu Sahasranamam stand out and these two have to be learnt and recited constantly. Vishnu Sahasranamam is full of deeper meanings and about this aspect it is said:
“trayarthas sarva vedeshu dasharthas sarva bharate vishnos sahasranamapi nirantara shatarthakam”
According to this, all Vedas have three levels of meanings. Maha Bharata, also known as the fifth Veda, has ten different levels of meanings. But Vishnu Sahasranamam has hundred different meanings for each Nama! Apart from the meaning there is also the positive vibration from the chanting of each Nama. So even if the recitation is done without knowing the meaning it is still beneficial but if it is done with full understanding of the import of the meanings, it is sheer bliss.
Bhagavat Gita is the Quintessence of Mahabharata, the essence of Vedas in the Sermon by Sri Krishna to Arjuna who was ready to take the knowledge, while Vishnu Sahasranamam is a Prayer Sung by Bheeshma as His Parting Message to Pandavas. Actually Sri Krishna Himself requested Bheeshma to reveal this Stotra to the Pandavas.
Bhishma surprised questioned Krishna:
“Why are You choosing me at this stage in my life for this, while You Yourself could do this..?”
Then the Lord Clarified :
“Mine is Like Water of the Ocean, which is Not Potable. When the Message is through You, It is Like Rain from the Cloud Formed Out of Water from the Ocean. This can quench the Thirst for everyone. Moreover, I am the quintessence of Vedas. Whatever I say would appear as Though I am extolling Myself. On the Other hand, if you, a realised soul, speaks about It, it will have universal acceptance. “Bhagavat Gita is the Root of the Tree, while Vishnu Sahasranamam is the Fruit.”