|Listen to Prabhaata-rashmih Audio|
I would like you to come along with me to the Kurukshetra battle field where 4.5 million warriors had assembled. The war cries had already been raised and the discharge of arrows alone was to take place. Right at that time Arjuna asked Krishna, his charioteer, to drive his chariot to the front and station it in a suitable place so that he could survey the whole army and decide to take his positions to fight with whoever he wanted to. Accordingly Krishna takes the chariot and stations it in front of Bheeshma and Drona and suddenly Arjuna had a consternation. He was totally baffled, became weak, was unable to stand, the Gandiva slipped from his hand. Unable to stand he was, he sat keeping his weapons away. I think the contrast between the two, between the two means what? Arjuna having come there with thirteen years of preparation, and suddenly crumbling like this. This is something that you should remember. Kurukshetra was not a field of retirement, a field for retirement. It was a field for the intense activity called war, an administrative mission which was to last for eighteen days where all the (4.5 million – 10) were killed. Arjuna felt that the war was absolutely sinful, not called for, and by participating in such a war he, Krishna and all the others would be damned in hell. Can you imagine the contrast? It was at that time that Krishna began to speak and there ensued a conversation between the two which lasted, I believe for about two to three hours.
The whole conversation is recorded by Vyasa Deva and this particular conversation runs into eighteen chapters and seven hundred Sanskrit verses. The end chapter mainly the eighteenth naturally will be a summary and also a restatement of all that Krishna wanted to convey plus something additionally significant. This chapter commences with a question, enquiry from Arjuna saying that, what is tyaga, renunciation and what is sanyaasa renunciation? In that chapter Krishna says that there are three important virtues, disciplines and practices for the human beings which cannot be relaxed or abandoned at any time. One is Yajna, another is Daana, the third is Tapas. Yajna is whatever you do in whichever manner in honor of and in dedication to the supreme reality, religiously called God. That is called Yajna. It can be a physical action. It can be a ritual. It can be in the form of a discipline. Anything whatsoever done as an offering to God is called Yajna. Daana is whatever you give from your resources to people not related to you through blood or matrimony, requesting them to take it and make use of it saying you are very happy if they do so. This is called Daana. The third is Tapas. Tapas is any kind of a denial of whatever you are otherwise used to or incorporating something new and additional, making efforts involving time, bodily, orally, mentally or intellectually. There is an effort factor, there is a time factor and it should be different from the normal secular or worldly activities.
We have physical austerity, oral austerity, mental austerity and intellectual austerity. These are the four levels of activity we have. Vishnu Sahasranama, I feel is a beautiful and effective austerity which anybody from the age of five or six can continue to do as a practice. It involves recitation of the one thousand names in honor of Lord Vishnu who is actually the Lord of all religious sacrifices. Not only religious, any kind of a sacrifice we do, yajna, he is the Lord of it. MahaVishnu is also responsible for sustaining and preserving the universe. In the few decades of life that every individual will continue to live Lord MahaVishnu is the source by which his life as well as the life of the world is sustained. So you are very much linked to MahaVishnu and his grace and grandeur. This Vishnu Sahasranama consists of one thousand names which are all epithets in descriptions of Lord Vishnu. Whenever I say about Vishnu Sahasranama two factors come to my mind. I don’t know when I started chanting Vishnu Sahasranama. Maybe the moment I was able to read poetry and recite, maybe at the age of six or seven my mother asked me to recite Vishnu Sahasranama and I started it. Maybe for years I must have recited it.
In our ashram we have an austerity, a prayer austerity in the morning. The primary factors, constituents in that session of half an hour is the recitation of Vishnu Sahasranama and one or two chapters of Bhagavadgeeta alternately. If there is anything religious and it has got any significance I think Vishnu Sahasranama comes supremely in that list. We cannot praise ourselves or our parents. If at all we can pray and praise, we can only do it in honor of the Lord of the universe, the power that sustains us. Thus all the Sahasranama or all the Sahasranamas are addressed to Lord Vishnu. But in reality, it is an act and a prayer which the individual himself does. Every act he does is primarily and ultimately to benefit himself. When you have your food, it is not to please the food, but it is to appease your hunger and provide nourishment. Every act proceeds from the individual, is sustained by the individual, subsists on him and concludes in him. So there is a benefit for the performer always. Vishnu Sahasranama chanting is also meant to benefit the reciter. The namas are a variety. In reality all of them are addressing one’s own mind, intelligence and heart. Our body is activated by the mind and intelligence. Our inner personality consists of mind, intelligence and ego. It is this personality that goes, gets more and more enriched and empowered and ultimately elevated, enlightened and fulfilled. Vishnu Sahasranama is meant for that. The first nama is
विश्वं विष्णुर्वषट्कारो भूतभव्यभवत्प्रभु:, viśvaṁ viṣṇurvaṣaṭkārō bhūtabhavyabhavatprabhuḥ
The first name refers to the whole universe. This means what? There is something called the universal expansion and dimension. Our body is limited but what is present in the body, animating and activating it is a spiritual presence, a spiritual reality which has got a universal dimension. It is because of this universality within the body that you are able to see through the small eyes an infinite range and magnitude. Actually that infinity, or infinitude is felt in your mind, that means the experience is in your mind. So the mind has an expanse extending upto infinitude. The last nama is
Aayudha means weapon. Sarva Praharana means it is a weapon to hit or strike at any kind of an obstruction, opposition or confrontation. The human mind has got tremendous power and we need the power primarily for two purposes. To withstand and resist whatever is to be resisted and withstood and to generate sufficient inspiration, confidence and creativity to go ahead and make our contributions to the world pool, to eliminate all undesirable elements and to incorporate all the desirable ones. This twin process should go on throughout our life, the last breadth. Now Vishnu Sahasranama reminds you of your inner magnitude and expansion by the first word and by the last name, the last description it tells you how profoundly potent your own mind, intelligence and ego are. You can spill and name anything that you want mentally with a view to ward off, eliminate all kinds of undesirable elements either in your life or coming from outside. When Rama was fighting Ravana he found himself in a consternation. Every time he cut the neck of Ravana and it fell, by the time he cut the second, the first sprouted. He was amazed. What kind of a phenomenon is this? He could not get any answer or suggestion. He closed his eyes, reflected upon his own inner soul’s splendor. Then he opened his eyes, took a dart, and aimed it at the chest of Ravana. Ravana fell. Now this is called sarva-praharaṇā-yudhaḥ.
All the arrows he discharged were the same. But what happened to this one arrow? Because it was impregnated with a suggestion and direction that emerged from his mind. So our mind can act on matter, it can act on the world, our shastras speak about ashta aishwaraya sidhis, so many different kinds of powers where the mind employs itself, makes a specific contemplation as a result of which you derive a certain power. This is what happens. So it is to, it is to enrich, empower, activate and energize your own mind. Now when you do a Vishnu Sahasranama chant understand it falls under austerity, tapas. In this tapas you chant it with the tongue and the mouth through the vocal system, so it is a sound phenomenon and in order to chant you must have the mind first and when you are able to pronounce it properly you hear it and see that all the words are pronounced in a proper manner. So there is an intellectual application while you are chanting. So it is an austerity where the mouth is employed, mind is employed, ear is employed and intelligence is employed. If you want to read it and recite then the eyes also are employed. To turn the pages the hands also are employed. Thus you will find it is a multi-fold austerity primarily, primarily oral and inner.
I think this austerity, you may not understand the meaning then it becomes a piece of information. Otherwise as an austerity when the mind, intelligence, ear, eyes and hands are employed in a specific activity with enough of concentration and identity it becomes a tremendous austerity. Suppose you read a book and you understand, does it mean you practice the message of the book? So don’t think that it is the understanding that counts. It is austerity that counts. And by this austerity you are reinforcing, reinforcing and showering untold strength and creativity to your own inner personality. So it is benedictory, empowering, enriching, elevating all through a process of multifold austerity. I think it has got the power to ward off all evils wherever you are remaining and also to provide, safeguard against the unseen hazards of life.
Harih Om Tat Sat. Jai Guru. Jai Guru.