Dear and blessed Souls:
Harih Om Tat Sat. India has a great legacy, dating back to the prehistoric Vedic times. Subsequently came up the two important epics Ramayanam and Mahabharatam. Vyasadeva wrote Mahabharatam, an autobiography, at the end of Dvaapara Yuga.
The ascetic author narrates the life, behaviour and interactions of 8 generations linked to his splendorous life. Pandu was Vyasadeva’s son. The lineage continued through Arjuna, Abhimanyu, Pareekshit and Janamejaya. The narration also covers Bheeshma, his father Shantanu, and grandfather Prateepa. Mahabharatam was first read out by Vaishampayana during Janamejaya’s Satram.
Vishnu sahasranama appears in the section of Mahabharatam (Anushaasana Parva) where Bheeshma is instructing Yudhishthira on peace and wellbeing. Mahabharatam is regarded as panchama veda, the fifth Veda.
The 18-day war was over. Of the 45 lakh warriors, only 10 survived. Led by Yudhishthira, countless women for the first time in this holy land, went to the bank of Bhageerathi river to offer water-oblations (tarpana) to the departed souls. In that crucial moment, Kunti came running to Yudhishthira, crying: “Offer oblations to Karna, your elder brother, also”.
Shocked by the sudden outburst, Yudhishthira lamented: “I have not won, but lost my mind! Why did my mother hide the truth about my elder brother? I would have placed everything before him. The entire bloodshed would have been averted.
How can I sit on the throne? I shall go to the forest. Earlier I went on forced exile, defeated in the game of dice. Now I shall go optionally, to live there for ever, eating roots and leaves.”
Yudhishthira’s torment and guilt scorched him like a blazing inferno. Neither his brothers’ nor Krishna’s words could assuage him. It was then that Vyasadeva said: “Go to your grandfather, who still survives in Kurukshetra. Seek the wisdom you need from him. He will give you all the relief and assurance you look for.”
But Yudhishthira had his diffidence: ‘How will I approach the grandfather? I am the sinful one, who had approached him earlier, asking him about the way to defeat him in the war.’ He pleaded to Krishna to lead him to the grandfather, and initiate the dialogue.
Krishna took him along with the brothers to the grandfather, who was lying on the bed of arrows, awaiting the dawn of Uttaraayana to shed his body. Krishna related the grandson’s distress, asking the grandfather to show him the path of relief and refuge.
The dialogue between Bheeshma and Yudhishthira was long and comprehensive. “Grieve not, my dear child, over what has happened. Kurukshetra war is all over. Its memory alone survives in your mind. The wheel of time is inexorable. It cannot be reversed.
“The memory of the event is what torments you. Perform Ashvamedha Yaga, the highest of Vedic sacrifices. Resolve to conduct it. Let the mind be engaged fully with the year-long preparations for the Yaga. By that, the tormenting memory will recede.”
Yudhishthira felt relieved, hopeful. However, he felt concerned about the common people, who also need such relief, redemption. Not everyone can perform Ashvamedha Yaga! What is their succour? It is then that the grandfather spoke about the ‘thousand names’ of Lord Vishnu, which Lord Siva had earlier imparted to Parvati.
Vishnu is the all-pervading Presence. His thousand names have the unique power to penetrate the mind, heart and intelligence, and purify, sublimate and invigorate them. Anyone can chant these. They bring fulfillment to human life.
“Yajno vai Vishnuh”, says Yajurveda. Vishnu means sacrifice. Chanting His ‘thousand names’ bestows the same reward as gained by Ashvamedha Yaga.
5151 years have passed since Bheeshma bequeathed this legacy to Yudhishthira. Vishnu sahasranama Vishwa Yajna Mahotsava, to be held this year, is to enlighten the world about this great heritage.
On 29th December 2013, thousands of people in Naimisharanyam will be chanting Vishnu sahasranama 10 times from 4.30 a.m. to mark the 5152nd year since this great legacy was given to us, a fact that should be let known to many people, not only of India but also of the entire world.
After 1 crore of japa, 25 lakhs of archana will be performed by thousands of devotees collectively. While majority of them will be doing archana with flowers, the others will be doing the same orally and mentally. How benedictory will that holy day with the japa and archana performed collectively on the occasion be!
While the age-old values like fondness for each other, friendship, faith, unity, and hearty cooperation are fast attenuating, the object of conducting Vishnu sahasranama Vishwa Yajna Mahotsavam is to re-establish these values, thereby unify mankind, making their life and progress secure and felicitous. By this, let our famous ideal and practice “the whole world is one family”, grow stronger, leading the people in the right direction, bringing all-fold welfare and cohesion.
Love and aashirvad,
Swami Bhoomananda Tirtha