In the Mahabharata (considered as the fifth Veda), Lord Krsna, acceding to request of Grandsire Bhisma, narrates to Yudhisthira the 1008 names of Lord Siva, which He had received from the great Sage Upamanayu in the form of spiritual instruction long ago. This divine hymn bestows material success and spiritual unfoldment upon every sincere 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 nobililty 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 (na-mah-si-va-ya) is pre-eminent. There again, the pair of syllables si-va are the most precious, ’We have the line namah sivaya ca sivataraya ca in Sri Rudra-Namaka. The five-syllabled mantra picked up from there is thus said by the Veda.
In the Veda 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 as Visnu in the body of Vedas. To the question, ‘Chanting what is the way to liberation?’ ‘Sri Yajnavalkya 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 (sarvopanisadam saro rudradhyayah samarthitah). We have it in the Kurma-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
mauni 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 tress 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 brahmana, says the Prapada Brahmana. Therefore He is the best among gods, it says. 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.’ (sarvesam-adhiko yasmad bhagavan brahmanah sivah) The opinion is so because, being a brahman with the sacred thread on, He is higher than gods such as Visnu.
The Rudra-Adhyaya has proclaimed that all his universe, consisting of the unmoving and the moving, is no other than Supreme ‘Siva, through such mantras as-namo hrasvaya ca vamanaya ca, namo vrddhaya ca, namo 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 sivam-advaitam caturtham manyante (Mandukya Upanisad, mantra 7). The instrucation that the Rudra Adhyaya gives to all humanity is meant for everybody seeking the truly good: ‘O the Most Auspicious One! be unto us auspicious and pleasing’ (sivatama sivo nah sumana bhava-Anuvaka 10, 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 the (ekamevadvitiyam 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 meaning. 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. We do not think of Visnu and Siva differently at all. But here are these wicked people who talk ill of Siva. Just to cut their arguments into pieces, we have written these texts. Visnu is the Supreme Brahman, says our final position.” Diksitar wrote a beautiful hymn to Visnu called Varadaraja-stava and came out with a commentary upon it by himself too. We many see the following verse by Diksitar:
mahesvare va jagatamadhisvare
janardane va jagadantaratmani,
na vastubheda-pratipattir-asti me
“ My understanding leaves no room for any sense of difference between ‘Siva the Great, who is the Master of the universe, and Sriman-Narayana, who is the Inner Self of the universe. Both of them are one truth in their source. Yet I have special devotion towards Siva, who sports young moon upon His head.”
The nondual substance Brahman, which is devoid of attributes, free from action and utterly without any specifications, is one only. When it associates with (the power of) maya, which consists of three attributes, it conducts the three operations creation, maintenance and dissolution. Then it gets the different names such as Brahma, Visnu and Siva. To facilitate upasana (qualified meditation or worship) by devotees, this principle may assume varieties of names and forms. It is for this reasons that Sri Sankara Bhagavatpada brought into practice the five-fold worship-pancayatana puja-and tried to remove the false notions of plurality in people. He tried to establish the final understanding of one God.
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 Anusasnika Parva of the Maha-Bharata has in it a Siva-Sahasra-Nama. Dharmaraja Yudhisthira begs of the Grandsire Bhisma to narrate before him in their original from 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 know that Visnu is the heart of Siva and Siva is the heart of Visnu (sivasya hrdayam visnuh, visnosca hrdayam sivah). 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 meaning 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 meaning 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 world 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 (adrsta, beyond senses and logic), there is no room for any notion of faulty style. When you chant names such as sarvatma (the Self of all) and visvatma (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 ‘way of the srauta’ that different words 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 meaning 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 praise of the Lord. Purification of the mind takes of 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 Upanisad said-na mantranam jamitasti-the mantras have no ‘want of energy’ in the matter of conveying meaning.
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