The Brahma Purana

by G. P. Bhatt | 1955 | 243,464 words

This is the Brahma Purana in English (translation from Sanskrit), which is one of the eighteen Maha Puranas. The contents of this ancient Indian encyclopedic treatise include cosmology, genealogy (solar dynasty etc.), mythology, geology and Dharma (universal law of nature). The Brahma Purana is notable for its extenstive geological survey includin...

Chapter 120 - The benefits of singing devotional songs of Viṣṇu while keeping awake at night

Vyāsa said:

1-5. There is no doubt about this that a man who fasts on the eleventh day of either fortnight and carries out the following observances, goes to the greatest region of Viṣṇu. With mental and physical purity he should duly take bath and wear a neatly washed cloth. He should conquer his sense organs. With faith and mental purity he should worship Viṣṇu by fragrant flowers, scents, lamps, incense, cooked foods, different offerings, repetition of holy names and mantras, homas, circumambulations, hymns of various kinds, divine and pleasing vocal and instrumental music, prostration and excellent utterances of Jaya (Be victorious). After duly worshipping thus he should keep awake for the whole of the night narrating the stories of Viṣṇu or singing his songs of prayer. He should be devoted to Viṣṇu.

The sages said:

6. O great sage, describe to us the benefit of the chorus song of Viṣṇu while keeping awake. Great is our eagerness to hear the same.

Vyāsa said:

7. Listen, O excellent sages, I shall describe duly the benefit of the chorus song of Viṣṇu while keeping awake, as mentioned before.

8. The city of Avantī is well-known in the world. Lord Viṣṇu wielding conch, discus and iron club occupies it.

9. At the outskirts of that city there was a Cāṇḍāla who was an expert in singing. He earned much wealth by legitimate means. He duly maintained his servants.

10. That Cāṇḍāla was a devotee of Viṣṇu and he strictly adhered to the observances of holy rites. On the Ekādaśī day be used to come (to the temple), observe fast and sing songs of prayer.

11. His songs in praise of Viṣṇu were sung in various notes such as Gāndhāra, Ṣaḍja, Niṣāda, Pañcama, Dhaivata etc.

12-13. He used to keep awake at night and to sing songs in praise of Viṣṇu. At dawn on the Dvādaśī day he used to worship the lord and return home. O excellent brahmins, after feeding his daughter’s sons-in-law and nephews he used to take food along with his attendants.

14. Many years of his life were thus spent by him in propitiating Viṣṇu by means of different types of songs (of prayer).

15. Once, on the eleventh day in the dark half of the month of Caitra he went to the excellent forest for the purpose of serving Viṣṇu.

16. Engrossed in devotion, he wanted to gather flowers from the forest. He reached the foot of a Vibhītaka tree in the great forest on the banks of Kṣiprā.

17. There he was seized by a Rākṣasa in order to devour him. The Cāṇḍāla then said to him—“I should not be devoured by you today.

18. “O good Sir, you shall devour me (tomorrow) in the morning. In truth I will come back again. O Rākṣasa, I have a great task to be performed today. So release me.

19. “In truth, I will come tomorrow. You will then eat me. For the purpose of serving Viṣṇu I have to keep awake in the night. It does not behove you, O Rākṣasa, to cause any obstacle in the observance of the holy rite by me.”

Vyāsa said:

20. The Rākṣasa said in reply: “O Cāṇḍala, I have not taken food for the last ten days and today you have come across me.

21. I shall not set you free. I shall devour you. I am overwhelmed by hunger”.

On hearing the words of the Rākṣasa, the Cāṇḍāla said to him, consoling him by uttering gentle words which were firm and truthful:

The Cāṇḍāla said:

22. O Brahmarākṣasa, the entire world has its root in truth. Hence, listen, on truth I promise my return.

23. All these know each and every action of men, viz. the sun, moon, fire, wind, earth, firmament, water, mind, day, night, the two junctions (i.e. dawn and dusk) and Yama.

24-38. O Rākṣasa, I promise you that if I do not come again to you let me be infested by the sins which the following persons acquire in the circumstances mentioned, viz. the sin of one who indulges in dalliance with other men’s wives; the sin of those who take wealth of others; the sin of a brahmin murderer; of one who drinks liquor; of one who defiles the preceptor’s bed; the sin of the husband of a barren woman; the sin of the husband of a Śūdra woman; the sin of a temple priest who misappropriates temple funds; the sin of one who takes fish and meat; the sin of one who habitually eats the flesh of pig and tortoise; the sin of one who regularly takes the flesh of the backbone; the sin of one who takes meat without offering the same to gods; the sin of one who kills his friend; the sṃ of an ungrateful fellow and the paramour of a widow (who marries again); the sin of a pollution due to death of a relative; the sin of a man of ruthless actions; the sin of a miser; the sin of one who sends away guests without entertaining them; the sin that befalls one who indulges in sexual intercourse on the new moon day or the sixth, eighth or fourteenth day of a lunar fortnight whether dark or bright; the sin of a brahmin who cohabits with a woman in her monthly course; the sin of a person who indulges in sexual intercourse after performing Śrāddha; the sin of those who take food on Parvan days without taking bath; the sin that befalls one on eating filthy matter; the sin of those who cohabit with the wife of a friend; the sin of a backbiter; the sin of one who is fond of arrogance and deception; the sin of one who destroys honey; the sin that befalls one who promises to give something to a brahmin but does not give it; the sin due to a falsehood in regard to a virgin; the sin due to a falsehood in regard to cows and mules; the sin of a man who kills women and children; the sin of one who utters a lie; the sin of those who are disrespectful to Devas, Vedas, brahmins, kings, sons and friends and to chaste ladies; the sin of those who go to sleep after uttering a lie to or after being disrespectful to the teacher(?); the sin of those who commit arson; the sin of those who burn down forests; the sin due to the nonperformance of domestic sacrifice of a householder; the sin of a slayer of cows; the sin of a base brahmin; the sin of a Parivitta and a Parivedin (i.e. the elder and the younger brothers of whom the younger marries before the elder); the sṃ of those who contract matrimonial alliance with them; the sin of a person who destroys a foetus. (Let all these sins befall me.) O Rākṣasa, of what avail are these different kinds of vows and pledges? Let a terrific vow be heard. It is being uttered though it is very difficult to utter it. Let these sins befall me if I do not approach you, viz. the sin of one who sustains himself through the sinful activities of his own virgin daughter; the sin of a perjuror and that of a false witness; the sin of one who performs a sacrifice on behalf of a person unworthy of it; the sin of a Ṣaṇḍha (eunuch?); the sin of a Sramaṇa; the sin of one who returns to a householder’s life after having renounced the world once; and the sin of a lecherous religious student.

Vyāsa said:

39. On hearing the words of the Cāṇḍāla the Brahmarākṣasa became surprised. He said: “Oh, go, keep your promise”.

40. On being told thus by the Rākṣasa, the Cāṇḍāla gathered flowers and went to the temple of Viṣṇu.

41. He handed over flowers to a brahmin who washed them with water, worshipped Viṣṇu and went to his abode, O ascetics.

42. The Cāṇḍāla observed fast and kept awake during the night staying in the outer ground and singing songs of prayer.

43. As the night dawned into day he eulogised and made obeisance to the lord and set off to the place where the demon was waiting in order to keep his promise.

44. As he was going along the path a certain man asked him: “O gentle Sir, where are you going”? He told everything and the man said again:

45. “Since the body is the means of acquiring virtue, wealth, love and liberation, an intelligent man should maintain his body with great care.

46-48. It is the man who remains alive that obtains virtue, wealth, happiness and salvation. The living man obtains renown. A dead man has no place in the world. No one speaks about him.”

On hearing these words, the Cāṇḍāla replied indicating the reason:

“O gentle sir, it is because of my promise that I am going. I have taken vows.”

Vyāsa said:

49. The man said again unto him: “Don’t be a fool. O my good man, haven’t you heard what has been uttered by Manu?

50. (Learned men) say that the following five untruths are not sinfuḥ viz. the lie that has been uttered for affording protection to cows, women and brahmins; the lie uttered while celebrating a marriage; the lie that has been uttered for the sake of friends; the lie uttered when one is faced with death; and the lie uttered when one is being robbed of all riches.

51. (?) Injunctions regarding righteousness are not applicable in the case of untrue statements to women, and enemies or those uttered when one is faced with death or destruction of wealth or when one is being deceived”.

On hearing his words thus, the Cāṇḍāla replied:

The Cāṇḍāla said:

52. Do not say thus. Welfare unto you. Truth is honoured in the worlds. Whatever happiness is in the world is acquired by truth.

53. It is due to truth that the sun blazes; it is due to truth that waters are juicy; it is due to truth that fire burns; and it is due to truth that the wind blows.

54. The achievement of virtue, wealth and love and the rare acquisition of liberation becomes possible due to the truth of men. Hence one shall never forsake truth.

55. Truth is the supreme Brahman in the world. Truth is the most excellent among sacrifices. Truth descends from heaven. Hence one shall never forsake Truth.

Vyāsa said:

56. Saying this, the Cāṇḍāla ignored that excellent man and went to the place where the Brahmarākṣasa, the slayer of living beings, was waiting.

57. On seeing that the Cāṇḍāla had come, his eyes beamed with wonder. Shaking his head (approvingly) he told him:

The Brahmarākṣasa said:

58. Well done, well done, O highly blessed one. You have kept your promise. I do not consider you a mere Cāṇḍāla since you have distinguished yourself due to your truthfulness.

59. Due to this action I think that you are a brahmin pure and not fit to be disposed of. I shall tell you, gentle sir, something based on righteousness. Tell me what was done by you there in the abode of Viṣṇu on that night?

The Cāṇḍāla said:

60. Listen. I shall tell you exactly what has been performed by me on that night in that abode of Viṣṇu.

61. I knelt down beneath that shrine of Viṣṇu. I kept awake for the whole of the night singing songs of praise of Viṣṇu.

62. Tell me. How long have you been observing this rite of keeping awake devotedly in the abode of Viṣṇu?

63. He replied smilingly, “O Rākṣasa, I have been observing this rite of keeping awake every month on Ekādaśī day, for twenty years” On hearing the words of the Cāṇḍāla, the Brahmarākṣasa said:

The Brahmarākṣasa said:

64. It behoves you to carry out what I am going to tell you. O good man, give unto me the benefit of keeping awake for one single night.

65. In that case I shall set you free. I shall not leave you otherwise, O highly blessed one. I have vowed thrice.

After saying this he stopped.

Vyāsa said:

66. The Cāṇḍāla said to him: “O night-prowler, my own self has been surrendered to you. What is the use of talking much? Eat me up as you please”.

67. The Rākṣasa said to him again: “Give me (the benefit of) keeping awake for two yāmas (six hours) along with the songs sung by you. It behoves you to take pity on me.”

The Cāṇḍāla said:

68. Why this irrelevant talk? Eat me up as you please. I will not give you the benefit of keeping awake.

On hearing the words of the Cāṇḍāla the Brahmarākṣasa said to him:

The Brahmarākṣasa said:

69-71. Who is foolish and evil-minded enough to dare to look at you in order to harass you and inflict pain on you since you have been guarded by your own righteous activities?

Good men should be merciful towards a wretched fellow who has been overwhelmed by sins, who has been deluded by worldly pleasures and who has been distressed by the throes of hell.

Hence, O highly blessed one, take pity on me. Give me the benefit of keeping awake for a single yāma (three hours) and go back to your own abode.

Vyāsa said:

72-73. The Cāṇḍāla said to him again: “I will not go home nor will I give the benefit of keeping awake even for a single yāma”. The Brahmarākṣasa then smilingly said to the Cāṇḍāla:

The Brahmarākṣasa said:

Give unto me the benefit of the song enthusiastically sung by you at the end of the night. Save me. Lift me up from (the mire of) sin.

Vyāsa said:

74-75. When this was uttered by him, the Cāṇḍāla said to him:

The Cāṇḍāla said:

What evil action has been committed by you formerly due to the fault of which you have become a Brahmarākṣasa?

Vyāsa said:

76. On hearing his words the Brahmarākṣasa remembered the evil actions committed by himself and became extremely distressed. He then said to the Cāṇḍāla:

The Brahmarākṣasa said:

77. Who was I before, what had I committed as a result of which 1 had to be born in an evil womb as a Rākṣasa—let it be heard.

78. Formerly, I was a brahmin well-known as Somaśarmā. I was the son of Devaśarman who used to perform sacrifices and regularly study the Vedas.

79. (faulty text) There was a certain king on whose behalf, I performed sacrifice though he had been ostracised and forbidden to use the mantras. Since I was interested in the holy rite I was engaged in the rites near the sacrificial post.

80. Afflicted by greed and delusion I performed the duty of Agnīdhra in the sacrifice. When it was concluded I performed an arrogant rite due to my folly.

81. (In my arrogance) I began to perform a sacrifice intended to last for twelve days. As it was being performed I had a stomach pain.

82-84. Ten days elapsed in full. But the sacrifice had not been concluded. As the offering was being offered to Siva in a moment pertaining to Rākṣasa I died and due to that fault I became a Brahmarākṣasa. I was not conversant with the technique of sacrifice and I performed the sacrifice reciting the texts without proper accents and notes. Due to this faulty performance I became a Brahmarākṣasa.

85. I am therefore immersed in the great ocean of sin. Lift me up therefrom. It behoves you to give me the benefit of the last song of prayer at the holy rite of keeping awake.

Vyāsa said:

86. The Cāṇḍāla said to him: “If you desist from killing living beings I shall offer unto you the benefit of the last song of prayer”.

87. “Yes, of course”, said he and the Cāṇḍāla invoked by means of Mantras the holy rite of keeping awake for half of a Muhūrta and offered the benefit of the last song of prayer.

88. After the benefit of the song of prayer had been given the Brahmarākṣasa became delighted. He bowed down to the Cāṇḍāla and went to the holiest of pilgrim-spots named Pṛthūdaka.

89-90. He decided on a fast unto death there, O brahmins, and died. Invigorated by the benefit of song of prayer he became freed of his Rākṣasahood. As a result of the great power of the holy centre he attained the region of Brahmā which is difficult of access. Freed of all agony he stayed there for ten thousand years.

91. At the end of that period he was born as a brahmin endowed with the faculty of memory and control over his sense-organs. O brahmins, I shall tell you his story later on.

92-93. Even as I narrate listen to the rest of the story of the Cāṇḍāla. When the Rākṣasa departed that self-possessed (Cāṇḍāla) of good control over himself returned to his house. Remembering the incidents in the story of that brahmin this pure man became disinterested in worldly pleasures. He entrusted his wife to the care of his sons and began the circumambulation of the Earth.

94. Beginning with Kokāmukha (holy centre) he went up to the holy shrine of Skanda. After visiting Skanda he performed the rite of circumambulation in Dhārācakra.

95. O brahmins, he then came to the lofty rocky top of the excellent mountain Vindhya and reached the holy spot Pāpapramocana.

96. That scion of a Cāṇḍāla family performed the holy dip that dispelled his sins. Freed from sins he remembered many of his previous births.

97. In a previous birth he had been a mendicant who had restrained his body and controlled his speech and mind. He was intelligent and he mastered the Vedas.

98. Once while cows were being taken away by thieves the alms became defiled by dust and they were discarded by the mendicant.

99-102. Due to that fault and sin he was born as a Cāṇḍāla. He took his holy dip in the Pāpapramocana and passed away on the banks of the Narmadā river. O brahmins, he was reborn as an excellent brahmin though foolish. After he had completed his stay there for thirty years, a man of great spiritual attainment who was endowed with Yogic Māyā and Śakti was wandering here and there assuming an ugly form. On seeing him the foolish brahmin mockingly saluted him and said: “Welfare O Siddha, whence are you coming?”

Vyāsa said:

103. On being addressed thus, the venerable one thought that he had been recognized and replied: “I have come from heavenly region.”

104. The foolish one said to the Sīddha: “In the heaven do you know Urvaśī the most excellent celestial damsel born of the thighs of Nārāyaṇa?”

105. The Siddha said: “I know that Urvaśi who is the chief ornament of heaven, whose birth and parentage is very noble and who bears the Cāmara for Indra.”

106-108, The brahmin bereft of straightforward ways said to the Siddha: “O my friend, my message should be conveyed to Urvaśī by you, with great respect. You will please tell me what she says in reply”. The Siddha said: “Of course”. The brahmin was pleased at that. The Siddha went to heaven at the top of Mem and met Urvaśī. He told her what had been said by the brahmin.

109. She said to that excellent Siddha: “I do not know the brahmin who is the ruler of Kāśī. The truth has been mentioned to you. The fact is not retained in my mind.”

110. On being told thus the Siddha returned. After some time he went to Varāṇasī and was again met by the foolish brahmin.

111. On seeing him he asked again: “What did the lady born of the thighs, say to you?” The Siddha said: “Urvaśī spoke to me thus, ‘I do not know’

112. On hearing the words of the Siddha he said again with a gentle smile separating his lips: “Urvaśī should be told thus by you—‘How will you know?’”

113. “Of course I will do this.” After saying this the Siddha went to heaven and saw Urvaśī coining out of Indra’s abode.

114-119. The excellent Siddha said (everything) to her. She replied: “Let the excellent brahmin perform some holy rite whereby Siddha, I can know him. Not otherwise”. Approaching the foolish brahmin again, the Siddha told what was said by Urvaśī. The brahmin thereupon pledged the following holy rite: “O Siddha man, this holy observance has been taken up by me in front of you. From today onwards I will not eat mixture. The truth has been uttered by me.”

On being told thus, the Siddha went to heaven, met Urvaśī and said: “The man has said thus: ‘From today onwards I will not eat Saktu at all’

Urvaśī spoke to him again: “Now I have come to know him. The manner of taking up such a vow indicates he is foolish and ridiculous.” After saying this Urvaśī went to her abode.

120-122. The Siddha roamed over the Earth as he pleased. The excellent lady Urvaśī went to Vārāṇasī and took her bath in the waters of Matsyodarī assuming her divine form. This foolish brahmin too had gone to the river Matsyodarī. On seeing Urvaśī bathing there he was overwhelmed by passionate love that agitated him too much.

123. He showed many gestures and pranks befitting a foolish person. Urvaśī understood him. Coming to know that he was the selfsame fool as mentioned by Siddha she smilingly spoke:

Urvaśī said:

124. O highly blessed one, what do you desire from me? Let it be mentioned quickly. I shall carry out your injunctions. Rest assured.

The foolish brahmin said:

125. O lady of pure smiles, save my life by surrendering yourself.

Vyāsa said:

126. Then Urvaśī said to the brahmin: “I am now in the midst of a holy observance. Stay here for a while. Await my arrival”.

127-130. The brahmin said: “I am staying (here). She then went to heaven. The celestial damsel returned after a month and saw that brahmin lean and emaciated as he had been staying on the banks observing the fast. Seeing him steadfast in his decision she assumed the body of an old woman. She then went to Matsyodarī and prepared a mixture of sugar, honey and ghee. After taking her bath the lady of nice eyes stood on the bank with a meaningful intention. She then called the brahmin and said:

Urvaśī said:

131. For the purpose of prosperity and well-being, O brahmin, a holy vow has been undertaken by me. At the conclusion of observance I am making this charitable offering. O brahmin, please accept it.

Vyāsa said:

132. He said: “What is this that is being offered? It is sugar-coated. O gentle lady, my throat is being parched due to hunger. Hence I am asking. Please tell me”.

133. She said: “O brahmin, it is a mixture prepared from flour mixed with sugar. Take this and please yourself. Do not delay”.

134-135. On hearing that the brahmin remembered what had happened before. Although he was afflicted by hunger he said: “O gentle lady, I cannot accept this. In front of the excellent Siddha, the holy vow that I will not eat the mixture had been undertaken by me in order that Urvaśī might recollect me. Give this to someone else.”

136. She said: “O gentle Sir, the observance undertaken by you refers to the wooden one. This is not made of wood. You have been extremely afflicted by hunger. Eat this”.

137. The brahmin replied to her: “O gentle lady, the statement had not been qualified by me. A general vow had been undertaken by me.”

138. That lady then said again: “O brahmin, if you do not want to eat take this home. Your family shall partake of it.”

139-141. He said to her: “O lady of bright teeth, I am not going home. The excellent lady who surpasses everyone in the three worlds (Urvaśī) by her qualities had been here. Afflicted by love I had requested her and I had been consoled by her saying: ‘Stay here for a while’ and I had said: ‘I shall stay’. O gentle lady, a month has elapsed after she had gone and I have been staying here. O one who has undertaken a vow, I have been steadfast in my love for truth and I am eager to have a union (with her).”

142. On hearing his words, Urvaśī resumed her excellent form. Smiling with a majestic grandeur she said to the brahmin:

Urvaśī said:

143-145. Well done, O brahmin. Desirous of seeing me you have observed the holy rite with fully concentrated mind.

I am Urvaśī, O brahmin, and I have come here with a desire to know you. You have been tested (and found to be) firm in your decision. You are saintly and truthful in your austerity. Go to the place Sūkarava well known as Rūpatīrtha.

O great brahmin, you will achieve a great Siddhi. Then you will attain me.

Vyāsa said:

146. O brahmins, after saying this Urvaśī flew up to heaven. That brahmin of truthful austerity went to Rūpatīrtha.

147. There he was devoted to peaceful enterprises. He was pure and he undertook holy observances. After casting off his physical body he went to the excellent Gandharvaloka.

148. For a period of one hundred Manvantaras he experienced all pleasures and then was born as a king in an excellent dynasty. He was eager in delighting and encouraging his subjects.

149. He performed various sacrifices, concluding them with excellent monetary gifts. After entrusting his sons with the work of ruling the realm he went again to Śaukarava.

150. He died in the holy spot Rūpatīrtha and again went to the region of Indra. After enjoying pleasures there for a period of hundred Manvantaras he came off.

151-152. O sages, for the union with Urvaśī he became Purūravas, the son of Budha in the excellent city Pratiṣṭhāna. Thus any brahmin of truthful austerity can attain salvation after enjoying pleasures if he propitiates Viṣṇu in the holy spot Rūpatīrtha in this birth.

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