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Who first recorded the Viṣṇu-Sahasranāma?

Once, in the 1940s or 50s, someone interviewed Jagadguru Śrī Mahā Periyava, the Kañci Paramācārya, using a tape-recorder.

Śrī Periyava then posed a question: ”Does anyone know what is the oldest known tape-recorder?” Nobody was able to answer.

Then Śrī Mahā Periyava asked another question: “How did Viṣṇu-Sahasranāma come to us?” Someone said Bhīṣma Pitāmaḥ gave it to us. All agreed.

Śrī Mahā Periyava then posed a third question: “When all were listening to Bhīṣma on the battlefield, who took notes at Kurukṣetra?” Again, silence.

Śrī Mahā Periyava explained...

When Bhīṣma Pitāmaḥ was glorifying Kṛṣṇa with Sahasranāma, everyone was looking at him, including Śrī Kṛṣṇa and the sage Veda Vyāsa. After he finished the 1,000 Nāmas, everyone opened their eyes. The first to react was Yudhiṣṭhira. He said, "Pitāmaḥ has chanted 1,000 glorious names of Vasudeva. All of us listened to it but none of us noted it down. The sequence is lost!" Then, all turned to Śrī Kṛṣṇa and asked for His help. As usual He said, "I too was listening, like the rest of you. What can we do?"

All beseeched Śrī Kṛṣṇa to help them recover the precious rendition. Then, Śrī Kṛṣṇa said, "It can only be done by Sahadeva, and Vyāsa will write it down."

Everyone wanted to know how Sahadeva could do it. Kṛṣṇa replied, "Sahadeva is the only one among us wearing a śuddha sphāṭika (a pure crystal mālā). If he prays to Śiva and does dhyānam, he can convert the sphāṭika mālā into waves of sound and Vyāsa can write it down."

Then both Sahadeva and Vyāsa sat in the place where Bhīṣma Pitāmaḥ had recited the Viṣṇu-Sahasranāma. Sahadeva started doing dhyānam to recover the sound waves from the sphaṭika.

The nature of sphaṭika is that it will capture sounds in a calm environment, which can be recovered with proper dhyānam of Maheśvara who is Śvetāmbara (a form of Śiva) and sphaṭika.

So, the world’s earliest tape-recorder is this sphaṭika, which gave us the wonderful Viṣṇu-Sahasranāma.

When Śrī Mahā Periyava explained this, all were stunned. From the sphaṭika recording, the grantha came to us through Veda Vyāsa.

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In old age, Sri Rangayyan's failing eyesight caused him to find someone to read the scriptures to him.

His deriving great benefit from them being read is the inspiration behind this page.