The ‘Vishnu Sahasranama’ is the 149th adhyaya of the Anushasana parva of the epic, Mahabharata. Tradition holds it that it was composed by Sanaka and was given to Bhishma. Bhishma, in turn, recited it to the Pandavas in the presence of Bhagavan Shri Krishna. At the end of the war, Yudhisthira, the eldest son of the Pandavas approached Bhishma who was lying on his death bed and asked him, ‘who is the supreme Lord of all, who is the refuge of all and by worshipping whom will one gain all that is good and also the ultimate end?
In answer to this question Bhishma gave the Vishnu Sahasranama. This is how the Mahabharata introduces the advent of the thousand names of the Lord.
The Lord or Ishvara is everything and everything constitutes the various forms of Ishvara. If all forms are Ishvara and all forms are countless then the names for all these forms are also countless. Thus Ishvara has infinite names though only a thousand are mentioned here. These are some special words that reveal the essential nature of Ishvara like satya, etc, some which reveal Ishvara as the cause of the world and some that indicate the manifest form as even the form of an ‘Avatara’.
But we find that none of the known words can really reveal Ishvara. Ishvara being the very nature of consciousness. In the very consciousness there is no knower, no knowing nor any object to be known. There is only one without a second.