In the Mahabharata (considered as the fifth Veda), Lord Krsna, acceding to the request of Grandsire Bhisma, narrates to Yudhisthira the 1008 names of Lord Siva, which He had received from the great Sage Upamanyu in the form of spiritual instruction long ago. This divine hymn bestows material success and spiritual unfoldment upon every sincere seeker who chants these names.
The Translation and explanation of each name given by Vidvan Sesachala Sharma will add the much needed clarity of thought, which when coupled with purity of mind and nobility of purpose, will liberate the seeker, who chants these names with devotion, from all bondages of delusion and sorrow.
An ancient verse goes as follows:
Vidyasu srutir-utkrsta rudraikadasini srutau
tatra pancaksari tasyam siva ityaksara-dvayam
'Among all disciplines of knowledge, the Vedas are valued the most. Among the Veda mantras, the Rudra- Namaka having eleven sections is the best. Among the mantras of this Namaka, the string of five letters ina-mah- si-va-ya) is pre-eminent. There again, the pair of syllables si-va are the most precious.' We have the line namali sivaya ca sioataraua ca in Sri Rudra-Namaka. The five-syllabled mantra picked up from there is thus said by the Veda.
In the Vedas are found, in Sri Rudra-Namaka, a large number of glories of Siva described and so are 'salutations to Siva' and 'synonyms of Siva's holy name'. We do not find such large numbers in the case of other God-forms such as Visnu in the body of the Vedas. To the question, 'Chanting what is the way to liberation?' Sri Yajfiavalkya replies in the Jabala-Upanisad, 'These indeed, the names of the Immortal.' He refers to the names mentioned in the Rudra portion. Siva is immortal (untouched by death, time) and ever free. Two more names of the portion are Sata-Rudriya and Sata-Rudriya.
"The Rudra-Adhyaya is established as the essence of all the Upanisads," declares Siva-Purana (saruopanieadam earo rudradhyayah samarthitah). We have it in the Kurrna-Purana that SrI Krsna, son of Devaki, applied ash to his body, took the vows of Pasupata and performed austerities devoted to Lord Siva. The Linga-Purana says Sri Krsna stood in the middle of water and recited the Rudra ten million times.
evam stutva mahadevam krtva pasupata-vratam,
jajapa rudram bhagavan koti-varam jale sthitah.
Hari-Vamsa normally describes the greatness of Sri Hari only. Listen now to this verse, found in it:
bhasvat-tripundro bhasitaih sitah san
maunt jati valkalavan mukundah,
nirantaram cetasi candracudam
vicintayan panca jajapa varnan.
'Mukunda, being desirous of a son, set out to meditate on Siva relentlessly. He became as though fair-complexioned by putting the three holy lines on his forehead and by applying ash all over his body. During that time of repetition of the mantra, he tied his hair like Siva does, assumed silence, wore bark of trees and stayed absorbed in the recitation of the five-syllabled mantra, while meditating on the Lord with the crescent moon on His head.'
Hundreds of such evidence can be presented in support of the surpassing greatness of Supreme Siva.
Among all gods, Siva alone is brhmana, says the Prapada Brahmana. Therefore He is the best among gods, it says. tvam devesu brahmano'si. They have praised Siva in the Parasara-Sanhita, saying - 'As He is above all, Siva the Lord is brahmana.' (soroesam-adhiko yasmad bhagavan brahmanan sivah) The opinion is so because, being a brahmana with the sacred thread on, He is higher than gods such as Visnu.
The Rudra-Adhyaya has proclaimed that all this universe, consisting of the unmoving and the moving, is no other than Supreme Siva, through such mantras as - nama hrasvaya ca uamanava ca, nama vrddhaya ca, nama rathebhyah etc. (brief, short, old, chariot etc). The Vedas have clearly said that Siva is the 'fourth' that goes beyond the three states of experience, by saying - prapancopasamam santam siuam-aduauam caturiham manyante (Mandukya Upanisad, mantra 7). The instruction that the Rudra Adhyaya gives to all humanity is meant for everybody seeking the truly good: '0 the Most Auspicious One! be unto us auspicious and pleasing' (sivatama siva nan sumana bhava - Anuvaka l0, Rudra). All this had to be written for the sake of those who have a dual, divided thinking and who get down to arguments with regard to the question whether Siva is superior or Visnu is.
The supreme truth is - Brahman is One only without a second. Vedic statements such as this (ekameoadoittuam brahma; cause the mind of the nondualists to become pure and peaceful. The problem (of who is superior) just does not arise in their case. There is a verse that shows the right path:
kalayati mudho na vai vidvan
Meaning: Hari and Hara have no difference between them. The deluded one says there is difference. The learned one does not say so. One source - Supreme Brahman - is behind both Hari and Hara. The sense of difference arises in us because we get associated with attributes and activities, and therefore there appears to be difference between them.
The poet in the verse above refers very skillfully to the words Hari and Hara in support of his argument (that they are one). The word pratyaya in the verse has two meanings. It means understanding (buddhi) and also a suffix in grammar. The verbal root hr is behind both the words. The suffix i causes Hari and the suffix a brings forth Hara. harati iti harih, harati iti harah. The first word ends in i and the second in a.
At one time in the past, certain resentment towards Siva was widespread in Tamil Nadu because of the large number and much influence of Sri Vaisnavas. Then a certain great, nondual scholar called Appayya Diksitar wrote a number of exalted works such as Siva- Tattva- Viveka and established Siva to be the supreme and the best. He made all those who had an aversion to Siva keep their mouths shut. Appayya Diksitar himself has said clearly, "We are nondualists, advaitis. We have no negative feeling about Visnu.
sarva-vyapi sa bhagavan tasmat sarva-gatah sivah
(Lord Siva is everywhere for His are the faces everywhere, His are the heads and necks at all places. He resides in the hearts of all living beings and He pervades all space.)
The Beneficial Nature of Siva-Sahasra-Nama
Many are the hymns containing the thousand names of Siva the Great, the Supreme Lord, in the legendary stories (Puranas) and in the historical stories (Itihasas). Many are the hymns having a thousand names whose titles have the word Siva as their first part. Well-known Siva-Sahasra-Nama-Stotras are as follows:
1. The seventeenth chapter of the Anusasanika Parva of the Maha-Bharata has in it a Siva-Sahasra-Nama. Dharrnaraja Yudhisthira begs of the Grandsire Bhisma to narrate before him in their original form the glorious names of Supreme Siva, the Master of the Universe. Thinking that he is not competent to describe Siva's glory, the son of Ganga decides that Sri Krsna alone is the right person for this task. He prompts Sri Krsna to sing the greatness of Siva's names. The words of Bhisma, the Grandsire, are as follows:
Ko hi sakto bhavam jnatum madvidhah paramesvaram rte narayanat putra sankha-cakra-gada-dharat
(Who like me is able to know Bhava, the Supreme Lord? O son, who, other than Narayana who holds the conch, the disc and the mace, can know Him?)
Sri Krsna - the Supreme Self - then begins to narrate the names, endowed with glory, of Supreme Siva, which he had received from the Great Sage Upamanyu in the form of spiritual instruction long ago. This hymn of Siva's 1000 names, understood and imparted by none else than Sri Krsna, bestows success and is great. Maha-Bharata is famous as the fifth Veda. In it, we have this piece authored by Sri Krsna. It is regarded on par with the Veda.
It is well known that Visnu is the heart of Siva and Siva is the heart of Visnu (sivasya hrdauam uisnuh, uisnosca hrdauam sioah). Therefore who else than Sri Krsna is capable of expressing the greatness of Siva? There are 1008 divine names of Siva in this hymn. Sri Nilakantha Pandita who wrote a commentary on Maha-Bharata has explained all these names. Dividing them into ten sets of a hundred each, he has given the meanings of each name. All these names are on par with the Vedas. Nilakantha points to Vedic statements at many places in his commentary as the authority to justify the meanings that he gives to many of the names here. Though it is coincidence (like the maxim kaka-taliya, where a palm fruit falls when a crow sits upon the palm tree) that the name of the commentator on the hymn of Siva's 1000 holy names is Nilakantha (which is also Siva's name), the work simply touches our hearts. Nilakantha speaks out in gentle but strong words, ''It may seem that there is, in this hymn of thousand names, some repetition of either the word or of the meaning at places. However, the word is different when the meaning is the same in some cases; the meaning is different when the word is the same in some other cases. Thus the fault of style (dosa) called tautology (punarukti) goes away. Since the recitation of these names leads to merit unseen (adrsia, beyond senses and logic), there is no room for any notion of faulty style. When you chant names such as saruatma (the Self of all) and (the Self of everyone), special religious merit accrues to you as is the case of Veda mantras. These words generate different emotions because they have different etymologies. It is well known in the science of the 'ways of the srauta' that different words in the Vedas, even when they have the same meaning, give out different and unique 'potential results (apurva)'. Therefore, though the word is the same, different meanings come out due to different etymologies. Though the meaning is the same (in other cases), the uttering of the different words leads to special religious merit. Even if the word and the meaning happen to be the same, there is no fault of style called tautology in the context of praise of the Lord. Purification of the mind takes place when we contemplate repeatedly upon the glory of the Lord." Sri Sankara Bhagavatpada has expressed the same opinion in his commentary on the Visnu-Sahasra-Nama.
This gem of a hymn is like a great mantra for it expresses the glories and the greatness of the Supreme Lord who is the God of gods and the Master of the universe. This is the best means for (the practice of) all those who desire the highest good and who wish to read, recite, hear or meditate upon (the Lord). These divine names place before us the infinite, auspicious attributes of Supreme Siva. The names that seem to indicate other gods are actually such that they establish the fact that all those gods are really different glories of the one Supreme Lord. Thus they praise the Supreme Lord only through their ultimate purport. Even though the meaning may be the same, the different words (names) do not suffer from the fault of repetition because they are the extended form of Sabda-Brahma (Divinity in the form of Sound / Name), which is the Lord's glory indeed. All the names are like mantras. Therefore we ought to remember what Bhagavat-pada in his commentary on the Isavasya Upanisadsaid - na maniranam jamitasti - the mantras have no 'want of energy' in the matter of conveying meaning.
Since the Supreme Lord, the Supreme Self, assumes all forms, we may say that we can praise Him with words that are masculine, feminine, or neuter in gender. To do so amounts to contemplation of His greatness that pervades the universe. After all this, He is indeed beyond everything too. Therefore words that are indeclinables (avyaya) also point to Him alone. Members belonging to all the (four) stations (asramas) may extol the Supreme Lord and get blessed. Names that are in favour of different stations indicate that the Supreme Lord shines as the special glory in each of the stations. This hymn of 1000 names is the easy means of attaining the human goals, without strain. Being of the nature of 'sacrifice of the nature of repetition of holy names (japa yajna),' this is directly a glory of the Supreme Lord. The recitation of this hymn is free of shortcomings or restrictions like injury (to creatures), need of help from others, expenditure of money or some other material resources, requirements of specific place or time, special rules etc. To win over the Supreme Lord, the recitation of this hymn is the easiest means.
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