A Thousand Names — Gateway Of Infinite Grace
The fact that Sriman Narayana is Numero Uno has been unequivocally established by Sri Vaishnava Acharyas, drawing extensively from the Vedas, Saasthras, Ithihaasas, Puranas and other time-tested scriptures. He is the means and end of all beings. He is the protector and benefactor of the whole world. His auspicious virtues (திருக்கல்யாண குணங்கள்) are countless and His glory limitless.
Perhaps, because of this the Lord has given us a Thousand Names (Sahasra Naamam) of His through Bhishma for us to sing His greatness, atleast to some extent. The grandsire was in his death-bed after having been pierced by arrows all through the body in the Kurukshethra war. He was waiting for the advent of Uththaraayanam to breathe his last. The power of his penance and will helped him stay alive till such time Dakshinaayanam gave way to Uththaraayanam.
During this period only Bhishma composed the famous Vishnu Sahasranaamam and Bhishma Sthuthi and they formed part of the Mahabharatha as narrated by sage Vyasa.
With Bhishma's death, an era of great wisdom and knowledge was about to come to an end. Hence, Krishna advised Yudhishtira to seek Bhishma's counsel on any and all aspects of life. The resultant dialogue was witnessed by both Vyasa and Krishna.
Yudhishtira posed questions such as 'who is the ultimate Supreme reality', 'by worshipping whom a man attains salvation' and 'what is the easiest way by which mankind can get everlasting happiness, eternal peace and become free from misery and sorrow'. Bhishma's only answer to all these questions was 'Vishnu' and he mentioned thousand names of the Lord, in the process. This is the origin of Sahasra Naamam.
The uniqueness of these names is that even any of these names will bequeath as much auspiciousness as the Lord Himself. The names are as powerful as their owner.
Reciting and even hearing the masterpiece comprising the Lord's glorious names eradicates all evils and bestows auspiciousness. The significance of 'Naama Sankeerthanam' was derived from this. Naama Sankeerthanam, in turn, will eventually pave the way for the ultimate goal — Saraanaagathi. That is why the Lord's names are held in such high esteem in our Sampradaya.
Azhwars and our Acharyas have expressed the greatness of the Lord's names in no uncertain terms. As many as nine Azhwars have sung the glory of these great names. The following is a sample list in the chronological order:
That Madhurakavi Azhwar and ThirupPaan Azhwar do not figure in the above list is least surprising - the former sung only on Satakopa, his Acharya, and the latter got immersed in the narration of Lord Ranganatha's form. However, Kulasekhara Azhwar's absence is a matter of intrigue.
Of course, the above is not an all-inclusive list and contains only some of the impromptu references emphasising the importance of the Lord's names. There are a few decades dedicated to the greatness of His names, such as, போய்ப்பாடு (Periyawar Thirumozhi 2-3), காசும் கறையுடை (Periyazhwar Thirumozhi 4-6), வாடினேன் வாடி (Periya Thirumozhi 1-1), கேசவன் தமர் (Thiruvoymozhi 2-7), etc.
Sri Andal's penchant for the Dwaadasa Naamas is evident as she has sprinkled them all through Naachhiyar Thirumozhi and, of course, Thiruppaavai in excess of 40 places in all. An analysis would reveal that all except Vishnu occur in Naachchiyaar Thirumozhi, some of them a number of times. The term Vishnu has been used only as a reference to herself, as the daughter of Vittuchiththar (as signature) in the final verses of some of the decades.
It may be noted that our elders have held that we should recite particular names of the Lord before some of our routines — Hari as we wake up, Govinda before we eat, Kesava when we start out, Madhava when we go to bed, etc.
Let us all call out the Lord's name as many times as possible during our daily routines, besides chanting the Sahasra Naamam regularly and derive the benefits accruing from it.
Meet you in the next Note.
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