Stotras are Hindu prayers that praise aspects of God, such as Devi, Siva, or Vishnu. Stotras, according to Swami Tapasyananda, are invariably uttered aloud and consist of chanting verses conveying the glory and attributes of God. The three most famous and sacred stotras in Hinduism are Lalitha Sahasranama, Shri Rudram Chamakam, and Vishnu Sahasranama. Other famous Stotras are: Narayana Kavacha, Sri Ramraksha Stotra, and Sri Maruti Stotra.
Stotras are useful for cutting away at karma. They are not bound by the rules that Shruti such as the Vedas are bound by, so therefore, they are accessible by the everyday householder. But that is not to say that they are not as potent as the Vedic mantras. Any stotra chanted with (a) concentration (b) devotion will have a net effect of eliminating karmas and purifying the life of the reciter, so as to render him/her with favorable circumstances. It is a mistake to compare Stotras with Vaidik mantras, since each are unique and special unto themselves.
What is meant by (a) concentration and (b) devotion. The words seem self relevant. However, concentration means restraint of the mind to the stotra being chanted and preventing it from wandering. Undoubtedly, this is much easier than it sounds. However, it is comparable to the Zen parable of containing a wild oxen in a square fence. Obviously, the wild ox, would like to run free in the fields, but what the farmer does is let him in a big pen, so he can continue to run, and then gradually lessen his freedom, until the ox does not mind being contained within the square fence. Similarly, with the mind, it must be cautiously and slowly restrained, otherwise it will cause rebellion in the practitioner. As for devotion, the Sanskrit approximation for this is, of course, bhakti, and bhakti serves as a multiplier to increase the potency and effect of the stotram many times, just in the same way a transformer serves as a voltage multiplier.
Stotras contain the names of God. According to Hinduism, the names of God are the most valuable tools for the liberation and annihilation of the mind. The mind is the only thing standing between the practitioner and God. So stotras, when repeated daily, will have a most subtle effect, just as a sponge gradually soaks up water.It is advisable, or rather, a must in order to obtain the maximum result, to observe the following regulations while maintaining a cycle of stotra repetition:
a) Brahmacharya or celibacy as known to the Western world. However, this is not sexual suppression, but rather sex sublimation, so that the sexual energy can be taken to the brain centres and transmutate the practitioner into God. Married couples are advised to regulate their sex life in the absence of Brahmacharya.
b) The practitioner must lead a life of virtue. Lying must be minimized. Cheating/stealing/killing animals unnecessarily. All these regulations are conductive to stotra repetition.
c) Before commencing to read a stotra like Sri Sri Nrshimha Kavach stotra, one must preferably bathe, or at least perform ablution, clean the mouth in the case of consuming food in the past hours, sit with a glass of water to perform achamana with.
d) It is true that many verses in Hindu literature can bring material benefits like riches, (wealth), a beautiful spouse, many children, prosperity etc. However if a stotra is chanting with the intention of serving God and not entertaining such mundane desires, the desires will be fulfilled automatically even without thinking too much about them. As Sri Rama Tirtha, the great Vedantin, said, in order to "get" one must "let go". A rather fundamental law, that can be put to use for benefit, if understood correctly.
The following stotras are highly beneficial:
I. Vishnu Sahasranama (the 1000 names of Lord Vishnu)
II. Sri Nrshimha Kavacha Stotram (which comes in two versions, recommended is the one in Brahma Purana, as spoken by Nrshimha Deva's devotee Prahlada Maharaj)
III. Shiv Kavach IV. Shiva Sahasranama V. Sri Hanuman ChalishaA Kavach is a "protective shield". Sahasranama means "1000 names"; Sahasra means 1000 and nama means names.Stotras are a wonderful means with which to cross the boat of material nescience and eliminate worrying thoughts. They are undoubtedly a gift from the Hindu religion and are accessible not only to Hindus, but to the entire world, regardless of caste, creed, religion, sex and social status.
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