Nama Parayana



Next to one’s body, one’s name becomes the most precious possession. Name and form are the basic symbols without which no ideation is possible. We think of a person. At once his name and form flash on our minds. Personality is as much identified with the name as with the physical features. If the names of ordinary persons like us are so vital, how much more powerful the name of Lord’s must be? God and His name are congruent. Call Him by His name and He comes. His identification with His name is so thorough and absolute that He responds to our call even if our utterance of His name is casual.

Why the name of the Lord is so powerful?

Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in his Siksastakam says:

“Naamnaamakaari bahudha nijasarvasakti

Tatraarpitaa niyamita smarane na kaalaha

The meaning of this sloka is as follows:

“Various are Your names revealed by You into which You have infused Your own omnipotent powers, and no limitations of time for remembering those are ordained by You.”

So, from this it is clear that reciting the holy names of God introduces a new rhythm, harmony, into the personality which calms the nerves and unifies the powers of our mind. And in due course, this leads to the awakening of the Spirit within. As the saints showed in the past, so in the present it has been proved time and again that the power of God does manifest through the divine Name.

When we have different forms of worship like doing ritualistic pujas, visiting holy temples, observing fasts, meditating on the divine form of God, why are we attracted towards this nama parayana form of worship?

The special features of nama parayana answer to this question:

Chanting of Lord’s name is incredibly free from rules and rigid regulations. One can recite it in any place, at any time, in any manner that suits him or her.

Even the pronunciation of the Name need not be correct. We have the example of highway robber who got transformed as sage Valmiki just by repeating the words ‘mara’ , ‘mara’.

Even without real devotion, the Name can be chanted and it will give its results. Supposing if a person swallows poison by mistake, will it not produce physiological changes in the consumer?

Ignorance does not excuse one from its effects. Whoever utters the name of God, voluntarily or involuntarily, and pronounces it howsoever, attains Immortality. Life of Ajamila comes as proof to this point. One may say that Ajamila in his death bed called his son Narayana only, to whom he was very much attached and he did not call the name of the Lord Narayana. Yes, it is true. It is because of his attachment towards his son, he saw the Yama- dhutas. But Ajamila also saw the sacred and blissful Vishnu-dutas, because his mind had acquired the necessary purity, thanks to the inherent power of the Lord in His name Narayana. Thus, his impure mental tendencies made him saw the Yama-dutas and the power of the Lord in His name made him see the Vishnu-dutas and finally it was Vishnu – dutas who won and Ajamila reached the abode of the Lord Narayana.


The above said special features of nama parayana should not desist one from having the faith on the powers of divine name. We must have faith in the power of the divine name. The name may appear very simple. But we should remember that a banyan seed is able to crack the rock and grow into a mighty tree to which elephants can be tied. We have the story of a man who wanted to cross the sea from Sri Lanka to India. Vibhishana gave him a folded leaf and asked him to tie it to a corner of his cloth and told him that he could walk on the water with that. The man also did as he was told and was happily walking on the water. Suddenly he felt the curiosity of knowing the thing that was kept inside the folded leaf. In the midway on the water he opened the knot and found nothing inside the leaf except a two – letter Sanskrit name, ‘Rama’ written upon it and said, “Pooh! only a name”. He was at the bottom of the sea in the next moment. If we have faith then all our mistakes are pardoned off.

Now, coming to reciting the sacred 1000 names of Lord Vishnu, popularly called as “Vishnusahasranama” , if we study the background of its origin, it will help in enhancing our devotional attitude. According to the 149th chapter of Anushāsanaparva

the names were handed down to Yudhisthira by the famous warrior Bhisma who was on his death bed at the battle of Kurukshetra. 

Yudhisthira asks Bhishma the following questions:

kimekam daivatam loke

kim vāpyekam parāyaṇam
stuvantaḥ kam kamarcantaḥ prāpnuyurmānavāḥ subham
ko dharmaḥ sarva dharmāṇām bhavataḥ paramo mataḥ
kim japan mucyate jantuḥ janmasamsārabandhanāt

The meaning of the sloka is as follows:

“In this universe who is the one deva of all? (i.e., at whose command all beings function?, or who is God of all?. Who is the one greatest refuge for all? Who is the one Divinity by praising and by worshipping whom a man attains good? Which according to you is that highest form of dharma  (capable of bestowing salvation and prosperity on man)? What is that by uttering or reciting which any living being can attain freedom from cycle of births and deaths?”

Bhisma answers by stating that mankind will be free from all sorrows by chanting the Vishnu sahasranāma’ which are the thousand names of the all-pervading supreme being Vishnu, who is the master of all the worlds, the supreme light, the essence of the universe and who is Brahman.  All matter animate and inanimate reside in him and he in turn resides within all matter.

In the Sri Vaishnava tradition, the Bhagavad Gita and the Vishnu Sahasranama are considered the two eyes of spiritual revelation.

Believers in the recitation of the Sahasranama claim that it brings unwavering calm of mind, complete freedom from stress and brings eternal knowledge. A translation of the concluding verses (Phalasruti) of Vishnu sahasranama, state the following: “Nothing evil or inauspicious will befall a man here or hereafter who daily hears or repeats these names.. Whichever devoted man, getting up early in the morning and purifying himself, repeats this hymn devoted to Vasudeva, with a mind that is concentrated on Him, that man attains to great fame, leadership among his peers, wealth that is secure and the supreme good unsurpassed by anything. He will be free from all fears and be endowed with great courage and energy and he will be free from diseases. Beauty of form, strength of body and mind, and virtuous character will be natural to him…. One who reads this hymn every day with devotion and attention attains to peace of mind, patience, prosperity, mental stability, memory and reputation…. Whoever desires advancement and happiness should repeat this devotional hymn on Vishnu composed by Vyasa… Never will defeat attend on a man who adores the Lotus-Eyed One (Kamala Nayana), who is the Master of all the worlds, who is birthless, and out of whom the worlds have originated and into whom they dissolve.”

We should recall the wonderful incident that took in the holy shrine of Guruvayoor. Though it further explains the earlier point that we had already discussed that wrong pronunciation is not a mistake in the eyes of the Lord who sees only the mental attitude of the devotee, we mention it here as it relates to Vishnu Sahasranama parayana. An uneducated Namboodiri was chanting the Vishnu Sahasranama. He recited “Padmanabho maraprabhu”. Another scholarly Namboodiri who was seated nearby scolded the earlier one saying that he did not study the Sanskrit grammar rule and the way in which the compound word should be split and advised him to chant as “Amaraprabhuhu” – the God of gods, as “maraprabhuhu” would mean ‘lord of trees’. All the persons who were assembled and listening to the conversation of these two Namboodiris were taken aback when suddenly out of the sanctum sanctorum was heard a golden voice,” Who else is the Lord of trees? Allow him to chant in his own way.” The Lord does not reject a devotee’s call merely because it is not properly pronounced. He doesn’t see the outer expression but sees the inner mental attitude.

Swami Nishthatmananda

Ramakrishna Mission Sevashrama

Muzaffarpur, Bihar, India  





Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: