THE NAME OF GOD
Praising or chanting the name of God is a special form of prayer. In
many religions, the excellence of chanting the name(s) of God lies in the
mystic syllables which invoke God's purity and sovereign power. The var-
ious mantras in Hinduism and Buddhism, such as OM, Hari Krishna,
Namu-myo-ho-renge-kyo or Om Mane Padme Hum, and the Roman Catholic prac-
tice of chanting the Rosary, all focus the mind on Ultimate Reality and
call forth its mystical elevating influence. In Christianity, prayers are
offered in the name of Jesus Christ, who promises to do whatever is asked
On the other hand, in the Jewish tradition the explicit name of God is
too holy to be uttered by the human tongue. In particular, the
Tetragrammaton YHWH, which is translated "the Lord" in modern Bibles, is
never to be spoken. To show respect, God is often referred to paraphras-
tically by such terms as the Lord, Heaven, the King, the Almighty, the
Name, and G-d. Thus, to praise and bless the name of God, as in the psalm
quoted here, means to extol God's greatness and mighty works without men-
tioning his sacred name.
Of special mention are traditions of the many names of God which
enumerate his many attributes. The Qur'an contains the Ninety-nine Most
Beautiful Names of Allah, and in an excerpt from the Mahabharata we give a
few of Vishnu's Thousand Names. To recite these names is to give a magni-
ficent description of the height, depth, and breadth of divinity.
Verily nothing is more purifying than the holy name of God.
Hinduism. Srimad Bhagavatam 6.1
Srimad Bhagavatam 6.1: In Vaishnavite Hinduism, the names of God are
Krishna, Rama, Hari, Narayana, and other titles of Vishnu.
Wonderful is the teacher, Sri Krishna;
Wonderful are his deeds.
Even the utterance of his holy name
Sanctifies him who speaks and him who hears.
Hinduism. Srimad Bhagavatam 10
Contemplate solely the Name of God--
Fruitless are all other rituals.
Sikhism. Adi Granth, Suhi, M.1, p. 728
Contemplate the Name yourself; inspire it to others;
By attending to it, discoursing of it, living by it,
The true essence, eternal is the Lord's Name:
By spontaneous devotion, says Nanak, chant the Lord's praise.
Sikhism. Adi Granth, Gauri Sukhmani 19, M.5, p. 289
All Buddhas in the universe througout past, present, and future invari-
ably attain Buddhahood with the seed of the five characters of
If there be anyone who commits evil deeds... let him utter the name
"Buddha Amitayus" serenely and with voice uninterrupted; let him be cont-
inually thinking of Buddha until he has completed ten times the thought,
repeating, "Namu Amida Butsu." On the strength of uttering Buddha's name
he will, during every repetition, expiate the sins.
Buddhism. Meditation on Buddha Amitayus 3.30
Suhi, M.1: In Sikhism God is formless; worship of idols, which in Hinduism
is the practice of puja, is not permitted. Nam, the Name of God, image-
less sound, is the only substantial form of God that can be apprehended by
humans; it signifies the presence of Divine Reality. Hence the Name is
the medium of communication between God and man. The supreme name of God
is Ek Oankar, and repeating or contemplating this or any of God's other
names or titles is the chief form of prayer and devotion. The word Nam
also signifies this devotion. Cf. Var Majh, M.1, p. 728; Asa Chhant, M.5,
p.839. Nichiren: Nichiren (b.1222), the great Buddhist reformer in Japan,
set up these five words as the Daimoku; the words mean Homage to the Lotus
Sutra. The Lotus Sutra, which is seen as the epitome of the truth, may
only be received through faith (see Lotus Sutra 3, p. 757). Hence to
chant its praises is to align oneself with the teaching of the sutra and
so receive its benefits. Chanting the Daimoku is the prevalent practice
in the various religious organizations which descend from Nichiren and
revere the Lotus Sutra, such as Nichiren-shu, Soka Gakkai, and
Rissho-kosei-kai. Meditation on Buddha Amitayus 3.30: Pure Land Buddhists
in Japan keep the mind fixed on Ultimate Reality by constantly chanting
'Namu-Amida-Butsu,' All Hail to Amitabha Buddha. Cf. Myokonin, p. 778.
Hail Mary, full of grace! Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is
the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our
Christianity. The Rosary
The goal which all the Vedas declare, which all austerities aim at, and
which men desire when they lead a life of continence, I will tell you
briefly: it is OM.
This syllable OM is indeed Brahman. This syllable is the Highest. Who-
soever knows this syllable obtains all that he desires.
Hinduism. Katha Upanishad 1.2.15-16
OM! This syllable is this whole world. Its further explanation is: the
past, the present, the future--everything is just the word OM. And what-
ever else that transcends threefold time--that, too, is just the word OM.
For truly everything here is Brahman; this Self (Atman) is Brahman. This
same Self has four fourths: the waking state, outwardly cognitive... the
dreaming state, inwardly cognitive... the deep sleep state, unified, a
cognition-mass...and the state of being one with the Self, the cessation
of phenomena, tranquil....
This is the Self with regard to the word OM, with regard to its elements.
The elements are the fourths, the elements: the letter A, the letter U,
the letter M.
The waking state, the common-to-all-men, is the letter A... the sleeping
state, the Brilliant, is the letter U... the deep-sleep state, the Cog-
nitional, is the letter M... The fourth is without an element, with which
there can be no dealing, the cessation of phenomena, benign, without a
second. This AUM is the Self indeed.
Hinduism. Mandukya Upanishad
The Rosary: For Roman Catholics, frequent repetition of this chant is a
devotion and a penance that expiates sin. Mary is 'Mother of God' in that
she is the mother of Jesus, yet she is by no means God herself, but a hu-
man being, 'blessed among women.' As first among the saints in heaven,
she serves God alongside the angels as a mediator of divine grace (see
Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah 81, p. 371n.). The first half
of the Rosary is a quotation of Luke 1.42. Katha Upanishad 1.2.15-16: A
number of passages in the Upanishads praise the mystic syllable OM, which
is chanted at the beginning of all sacred discourse. See the Mandukya
Upanishad (below), Mundaka Upanishad 2.2.6, p. 839; Bhagavad Gita 8.13,
p. 344; also Taittiriya Upanishad 1.8 and Prasna Upanishad 5.1-7.
Mandukya Upanishad: Although, in fact, OM is not pronounced 'AUM,' in
Sanskrit the vowel O is a dipthong contracted from AU. Hence the
Upanishad can analyze OM as three letters A-U-M. These are invested with
mystical significance. The last non-element is the end of the sound,
Mind's arising dependent
On a sense and an object
Are said to be man;
Tra means protection.
Protection by means of all the vajras,
Of the pledges and vows explained,
Free from the ways of the world,
Is called "the practice of mantra."
Buddhism. Guhyasamaja Tantra 18.69c-71b
Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it, that the Father may be glori-
fied in the Son; if you ask anything in my name, I will do it.
Christianity. John 14.13-14
God's messenger is reported as saying, "The words dearest to God are four:
Glory be to God, Praise be to God, there is no god but God, and God is
Islam. Hadith of Muslim
I will extol thee, my God and my King,
and bless thy name for ever and ever.
Every day I will bless thee,
and praise thy name for ever and ever.
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised,
and his greatness is unsearchable.
Judaism and Christianity. Psalm 145.1-3
unutterable, fading away, merging with silence. Uttering the mystic syll-
able OM corresponds with the movement of the soul from the external senses
through successively deeper levels of being towards ultimate merging with
the Unattributed. See Katha Upanishad 3.13, p. 840. John 14.13-14:
Christians pray in the name of Jesus Christ, calling upon him who assures
the efficacy of their prayers; cf. Colossians 3.17, p. 777. Latter-day
Saints do likewise; see 3 Nephi 18.19-21, p. 827. Hadith of Muslim: These
words are spoken in the five obligatory daily prayers, called salat and in
phrases which the Muslim continually repeats throughout the day. Each
repetition (rakat) of the salat begins with the words, "God is most great,"
and ends with the words "Glory be to my Lord, the Most High." It includes
a recitation of the opening sura of the Qur'an, p. 53, which includes the
words, "Praise be to God, Lord of the Worlds." The Shahadah, or declara-
tion of faith, reads "There is no god but God, and Muhammad is His
Prophet." Psalm 145.1-3: This is the beginning of an acrostic psalm, for
which each verse begins with the next letter in order of the Hebrew alpha-
bet. In Jewish tradition, God is too holy to be spoken of directly by his
proper name, the Tetragrammaton. Hence, to praise the name of God means
to praise God's attributes and mighty works.
He is God, there is no god but He.
He is the knower of the Unseen and the Visible;
He is the All-merciful, the All-compassionate.
He is God, there is no God but He.
He is the King, the All-holy, the All-peaceable,
The All-faithful, the All-preserver,
The All-mighty, the All-compeller, the All-sublime.
Glory be to God, above that they associate!
He is God, the Creator, the Maker, the Shaper.
To Him belong the Names Most Beautiful.
All that is in the heavens and the earth magnifies Him;
He is the All-mighty, the All-wise.
Islam. Qur'an 59.22-24
The Thousand Names of the great Lord which are based on his qualities, and
which the sages have sung, I shall proclaim for the weal of the world,
"He who is in the form of the Universe and is All-pervasive, who is of
the form of Sacrifice, who is the Lord of the past, future, and pres-
ent, the Creator of all living beings, their Sustainer and their
Existence, their Indweller and Well-wisher; the Pure and Supreme
Being, the highest Goal of the liberated, the imperishable Spirit
that is the Onlooker and the eternal Knower of the body; who is the
Path and the Leader among those who know the path, himself Matter,
Spirit, and God, the Supreme Being who took the form of the Man-lion,
who has rays of light as hair, and possesses the Goddess of Fortune;
the All, the Destroyer, the Beneficent, the Steadfast, the Prime
Source of beings, the Inexhaustible Repository, who manifests himself
as he pleases, the Benefactor, the Protector, One whose birth is uni-
que, the Capable, the Master; the Self-born, the Giver of happiness,
the Solar Deity, the Lotus-eyed, the Speaker of the sublime sound
named Veda... the King, the Destroyer of sins; he who holds the Conch,
the Sword, the Discus, the Bow, and the Mace, the Discus-armed, the
Unperturbed, he who can use anything as a weapon for striking."
Thus these Thousand from among the divine Names of the Great Kesava,
fit to be sung, have been fully told. He who listens to this or recites
it daily shall encounter nothing untoward here or in the hereafter.
Hinduism. Mahabharata, Anusasana Parva 254
Qur'an 59.22-24: Islamic tradition lists Allah's Ninety-nine Most Beautiful
Names, each one drawn from the Qur'an. Mahabharata, Anusasana Parva 254:
Reciting this list of God's Thousand Names, which are actually God's
attributes, is a major form of Hindu devotion.