In this part, we will cover the various techniques that can be adopted to invoke Lord Vishnu by chanting Vishnu Sahasranamam. There are three basic techniques and these are:
- Japa or repetitive meditation of a selected Nama or Mantra.
- Archana or worship with each Nama in order.
- Parayana or recitation of the whole book in the form of continuous chanting.
Now, let’s learn about these three techniques
- Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam as Japa
Mantra in Sanskrit means a word or a verbal string, the constant repetition of which in the mind gives power and peace. It stands for ‘Mananaat traayate iti Mantrah’ or that which protects by repetition in the mind. There are 3 forms of Japa:
- In the Maanaseeka form, the sound is internal. There is no lip movement and nothing audible;
- In the Upamshu form, the lip moves but the sound is inaudible; and
- In the Vaikhari form, the lip and the tongue move and the sound is clearly audible.
The best among the three forms of Japa is the ‘Manaseeka’ form which is also called ajapajapam. Initially, when the concentration of the mind is not strong enough, it is recommended to begin with the Vaikhari form, then gradually transitioning to the Upamshu form and finally progressing to the Manaseeka form.
While there are no limits or prescribed number of Japas, it is usually chanted for 108 times. It is also chanted 1008 times on some occasions.
As mentioned earlier, each Nama in Vishnu Sahasranamam can be considered as a Mantra and used for Japa. However, there are a few Namas that are particularly conducive for Japa. Apart from being part of the Vishnu Sahasranamam, they are powerful Mantras in their own right. A few of the most important Mantras are described below.
- Om Namo Narayanaaya!
This is also called Ashtakshari because it contains eight syllables. Sage Narada always meditated on this name. Prahlada got his enlightenment from this Mantra and Sri Ramanujacharya famously revealed the meaning of the Ashtakshari and Charma Shlokam.
Vedic Hymns say:
“Narayana paro jyotiratma Narayanah parah
Narayana param brahma tattwam Narayanah parah
Narayana paro dhyaataa dhyaanam Narayanah parah”
The Lord Narayana is the Supreme Light; Narayana is the Supreme Reality; Narayana is the Supreme Absolute; Narayana is the Supreme Self; Narayana is the Supreme Meditator; Narayana is the Supreme Meditation.
- Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya!
This is another powerful Mantra for meditation and is known as Dvadashakshari because it contains 12 syllables.
The phalashruti of Vishnu Shasranamam says:
“Vasanad Vasudevasya vasitham bhuvana trayam,
Sarva bhutha nivasosi vasudeva namosthuthe.” And also
“Dyaus sachandrarka nakshatram Kham diso bhur mahodadhihi.
Vasudevasya veeryena vidhrithani mahatmanah”
This means the whole Universe exists because of the presence of Vasudeva. Also the sky, the sun, the moon, the stars, the earth and the ocean are held in place by the power of Vasudeva.
In the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 7 Verse 19, Bhagavan says:
“Bahoonam janmanaamante gnanavan mam prapadyate
Vasudevas sarvamiti samahatma sudurlabhah”
Meaning: After many births and deaths, one perfected in wisdom, Knowing Me as the ultimate cause of all causes, surrenders unto Me; Such a great soul is very rare.
- Om Namah Shivaya!
This is the Panchakshari Mantra of 5 syllables. Some may be surprised that the Mantra of Lord Shiva is found in Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam. In fact, Shloka 4 of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam goes as follows:
“Sarvas sharvash shivas sthanur bhutadir nidhi ravyayah
Sambhavo bhavano bharta prabhavah prabhu reeshvarah”
Thus Shiva is the 27th name enshrined in Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam. Shiva means purity. Shiva means auspiciousness. Sri Adi Sankara, in his commentary, points out the abheda (or no difference) in the identity of Vishnu and Shiva. It, therefore, comes as no surprise that the Panchakshari Mantra, which is the embodiment of Lord Shiva, is also contained within Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam.
- Om Namo Ramaya
This is the Mantra revealed by Narada to Valmiki which marked Valmiki’s transformation from a sinner to a saint. To make it simple we are allowed to chant the short form of ‘Hare Rama’ or even just ‘Rama’. This Nama is contained in Shloka 43 as the 394th Nama of Vishnu as under:
“Ramo viramo virato margo neyo nayo nayah
veerash shaktimatam shreshtho dharmo dharma viduttamah”
Sri Adi Sankara defines the word Rama as ‘Nithyananda lakshane asmin yoginah ramante iti Ramah’, or that which gives delight to Yogis with its perfect eternal beauty.
Rama is also interpreted as a combination of Ashtakshari and Panchakshari, the letter Ra coming from Om Namo Narayanaya and the letter Ma coming from Om Namah Shivaya thus compounding the benefits of both these Mantras.
2. Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam as Archana
This method is generally adopted in a formal Pooja like say SatyaNarayana Pooja or Janmashtami Pooja.
To begin with, the idol or picture of Sriman MahaVishnu is set up and decorated with sandal paste, kumkum, ornaments and flowers. Then the preliminary poojas such as asana pooja, ghanta pooja, Ganesh pooja, kalasha pooja, shankha pooja, atma pooja, peetha pooja and Guru pooja are performed. Then Lord Vishnu is invoked with divinity by doing the process of Prana pratishta. After which Sri Vishnu Sahasranama Archana is performed.
For this each Nama is separately chanted with the prefix of OM, a suffix of Namaha and a flower is offered to the deity after reciting each Nama.
For example the first line of Vishnu Sahasranamam is:
“Vishvam vishnur vashatkaro bhootabhavyabhavatprabhuhu”. This is the verse form, but to perform as an Archana this is split into individual Namas which will be recited as:
• Om Vishvaya Namaha
• Om Vishnave Namaha
• Om Vashatkaraya Namaha
• Om Bhoota-bhavya-bhavat-prabhave Namaha
After each Namaha, a flower is offered with reverence at the feet of the deity. This is repeated for each of the 1000 Namas and this procedure is called Sahasranama Archana. Finally, Neivedhyam is offered.
3. Vishnu Sahasranamam as Parayanam
This will be described in the next part.
HARI OM TAT SAT
OM NAMO NARYANAAYA
This Vishnu Sahasranamam series has been authored with the help of my friend Shri Balaji.