Viṣṇu Sahasranāma begins with Pūrvabhāga or the prologue. This part consists of twenty one verses, mostly in the form of invoking Lord Viṣṇu’s blessings and expounding His greatness. This part is in the form of conversation between Yudhiṣṭhira and Bhīṣma.
“I meditate upon the One, who appears in pure white dress, shines like the full moon, the One with four hands, whose eternal bliss is reflected through His face, for removing any obstacles. I pay obeisance to the great impeccable sage Vyāsa, the great grandson of sage Vasiṣṭha, grandson of sage Śakti (the eldest of Vasiṣṭha's hundred sons) and the son of sage Parāśara. I pay obeisance to the Lord Viṣṇu, who is in the form of Vyāsa and to the sage Vyāsa in the form of Lord Viṣṇu, who is the treasure of Vedas. I pay obeisance Vyāsa, who is in the linage of sage Vasiṣṭha. (The inseparability between the devotee and the Lord is highlighted here.)”
I bow my head in reverence to the Supreme Lord Viṣṇu, who is without modifications, pure, eternal, changeless and the Supreme Conqueror. I prostrate before the mighty One, whose mere contemplation ceases the pains of transmigration.
Vaiśampāyana said, (Vaiśampāyana is a pupil of Vyāsa and also the narrator of the Mahābhārata to Janamejaya, a celebrated king) “After having listened to the means to renounce dharma and the ways to annihilate sins, Yudhiṣṭhira again addressed Bhīṣma.”
Yudhiṣṭhira said, “Who is the unified Lord of the universe? Which is the ultimate refuge? By worshipping whom, the humanity attains propitiousness? Which is the best of all dharmas? Having born, what is the way to liberation?”
Bhīṣma said, “By worshipping Lord Viṣṇu, the Lord of the universe, the Chief of all gods, the One who is Infinite, the One who witnesses from Above, through devotion and perseverance with His one thousand nāma-s (names) and worshipping and praising That Puruṣa (the Brahman or the Supreme Self), by means of meditation, praise and prostration, gets rid of all his pains and miseries. The one who worships Him, Who is fond of Vedas, Knower of all righteousness, Who strives for the upliftment of the world, the Chief of the universe, the Almighty, the One who causes birth and death, is relieved of his sufferings.
“Worshipping Lord Puṇḍarikākṣa (lotus eyed, referring to Lord Viṣṇu) all the time with devotion and through verses in His praise, is considered as the supreme amongst all dharmas. That which is the Supreme light, the Supreme penance and the Supreme Brahman is the Supreme Abode. The Purest amongst the pure, the most Auspicious amongst the auspiciousness, the Lord amongst the gods and the eternal Creator, He alone is the Lord of the universe.
“From Whom the entire creation originates and dissolves, the One who is the upholder of the universe and Omnipresent, His one thousand nāma-s are capable of eradicating sins and fearfulnesses. Listen to me for those celebrated nāma-s that describe His guṇa-s (attributes) and versified by great sages and saints. I am declaring these nāma-s to you, for your enlightenment.
“For this Sahasranāma, Veda Vyāsa is the ṛṣi (the sage by whom this Sahasranāma was revealed to the world) and the son of Devaki, the Lord Viṣṇu in the form of Kṛṣṇa.
“I prostrate before the Omnipresent, the in dweller of all the beings, the great Lord, who has innumerable forms, the destroyer of demons, ever radiating Puruṣottama (the highest being), the Lord Viṣṇu.”