Power of Chanting The Sahasranama.
The chanting of the divine name or nama japa has an important place in bhakti tradition. Nama japa can be in the form of japa or stotra. Japa is silent repetition of a mantra while Stotra is uttered out loud. The Sahasranama Stotra is perhaps the most popular of all Stotras. There are Sahasranamas of most of the deities of the Hindu pantheon of which two have attained great popularity. These are the Lalita Sahasranama in praise of the Divine Mother and Vishnu Sahasranama in praise of the Lord conceived as Maha Vishnu.
Vishnu Sahasranama is a part of the Santhi Parva of the Mahabharata. Towards the end of the great war, Bhisma lies on a bed of arrows, waiting for Uttarayana to dawn so that he can give up his mortal coils. At that time he is questioned by Yudhistira who wonders who the Supreme Lord of all is, by praising and worshipping whom one can gain good and attain salvation. Bhisma answers Yudhistira’s query by reciting the Vishnu Sahasranama in Sri Krishna’s presence.
Reciting the thousand names of Vishnu, Bhisma tells Yudhistira that Vishnu is the Jagat Prabhu or Lord of the Universe, Bhuta-Bhavya-Bhavan-Natha — Lord of past, present and future. The Almighty is depicted in terms of space and time as being immanent. He is one in many things to many. The body of Maha Vishnu consists of the three worlds. His feet being the earth, His naval the sky and His head the heavens. The life breath is air, His eyes are the Sun and the Moon. His ears are the directions, his face the flames of fire, His abode the milky ocean, He is himself the Universe. He is the origin of all that originated.
He is adhoksajah, the one who doesn't degenerate. there is no change in His original nature. Vishnu is also Pavanah Pavano Nala or one who is air among all purifying agents. He is Saptajihvah, the Lord in his manifestation as fire having seven tongues of flame, that which cannot be adulterated.
He is Vasavanujah or the one who is born as the younger brother of Indra (Vasava) in his incarnation as Vamana, the dwarf. Even the lord had to resort to the dwarf’s form while begging for a gift of land from King Bali. He is also Suparno Vayu Vahana. Here Suparna is Garuda who carries the Lord. Vishnu in this nama is described as one who has Garuda as his vehicle, but who in turn rides on Vayu, the wind.
The many weapons of Vishnu are described by the various names that occur towards the end of Sahasranama. Samkha - the conch, Nandaki - the sword, Chakri - the disc, Sarnga Dhanva - the divine bow, Gadadhara - the mace and amazingly Bhishma calls Vishnu Rathangapaani - the one who has the wheel of ratha in his hand. It is said that during the Great Mahabharata war Krishna gave his word to the Kauravas that he would not use any weapon in the battle. But on the ninth day he wanted to control the fierce onslaught of Bhisma. He forgot the word given to the kauravas. He jumped down the chariot and dropped the whip He was holding. Realising that He had no weapon in His hand, He is stated to have grabbed a wheel from one of the chariots and rushed towards Bhisma. That sight of Sri Krishna running with the wheel of a ratha in His hand was fresh in Bhisma’s memory even when Bhisma was lying on the bed of arrows.
One-Thousandth nama depicts Vishnu as Sarva Praharnayudha. There is no rule that the Lord has got only the above-mentioned weapons to fight the unlawful and protect Dharma. In His manifestation as Varaha, he used his mighty tusks to kill Hiranyaksha and as Narasimha, he used His fingernails to rip open the belly of Hiranyakashipu to save Prahalada. He also used his foot to crush the ego of King Bali in his incarnation as Vamana the dwarf.
Vishnu Sahasranama is open to all; anyone can chant it without any distinction of caste, creed or sex. It can be chanted at any time and no special rituals are obligatory to do so. It can be chanted anywhere even at a funeral, as it was originated in a battlefield among so many dead bodies. There are no hurdles in chanting the praise of the Lord.