Narayaniya (Narayaneeyam)

by Vishwa Adluri | 41,385 words

The English translation of the Narayaniya (Narayaneeyam), literally, “the work containing everything about Narayana”) which is a small text of 1006 verses occurring in the Shantiparva of the Mahabharata. The aim of the text is the glorification of the God Hari-Narayana, who is described as the God of gods (devadeva). Narayana is described as the g...

Chapter 2 - (Mahābhārata 12.322.1-52)

Bhīṣma said:

1 Addressed by Nārāyaṇa the Highest Puruṣa, the best amongst men [Nārada] spoke thus to Nārāyaṇa, whose dwelling[1] in this world is for its welfare.

2 [Nārada said:] “O Self-Manifest One, that purpose for which you [took] thy supreme birth as fourfold in the house of Dharma—to fulfill that purpose of benefiting the world, today I go to behold your original nature.

3 O Lord of the Universe, I studied the Vedas perfectly, performed austerities and never before uttered any untruth. I always perform worship of elders and teachers (gurūṇām), and the secrets of another I have never divulged before.

4 I guarded the four[2] in accordance with scripture; I am always impartial towards friend and foe. I always take refuge in that First of the Gods, I always choose that inexhaustible One through one-pointed devotion. How then can I, who has thus purified my mind[3] through all these special [practices], not behold the Infinite Lord?”[4]

5 Hearing these words of the Parameṣṭhin’s son [Nārada], the protector of Sātvata dharma, Nārāyaṇa said to Nārada honoring him with the rites and rules He Himself had ordained: “Go then!”

6 Thus being dismissed, the Parameṣṭhin’s son, having worshipped that Ancient Sage, soared into the sky with the highest speed. Then he at once descended upon Meru.

7 And there the sage rested for a while, reaching a solitary spot on the crest of the mountain. Casting his glance in a northwesterly direction, he beheld an exceedingly wonderful form.

8 The island called Śveta lay sprawling towards the very north of the Milky Ocean. The poets say it is more than thirty-two thousand thousands yojanas[5] from Meru.

9 Transcending senses and abstaining from food, unblinking and very fragrant, the men there are luminous,[6] free of all sins, blinding the eyes of evildoing men.

10–12 Adamantine in bone and body, equanimous in honor and dishonor, of divine origin and form and of auspicious essence, with umbelliform heads and sonorous like thunder, quadruple testicled,[7] having feet with coverings [i.e., soles] like lotuses,[8] who were endowed with sixty white teeth and eight canines, with their tongues, they repeatedly and with devotion lick the God who has his face [turned] everywhere who is called Sūrya and from whom all worlds have come into existence.[9] The Vedas, the dharmas, the universe, the peaceful sages and Gods, all are his emanations.

Yudhiṣṭhira said:

13 How are these persons who are transcending the senses and abstaining from food, unblinking and fragrant, born and what is their ultimate goal?

14 Whatever the characteristic of the dwellers of Śvetadvīpa, best of the Bharatas, is it the very characteristic of persons here who are liberated?

15 Regarding this dispel my doubt. Great indeed is my curiosity. You are the pleasure-garden of narratives and we resort to you.

Bhīṣma said:

16 King, this narrative which is heard by me in the company of my father, is extensive.[10] It is fit to be narrated to you. Indeed it is said to be the essence of narratives.

17 There was a king called Uparicara. He was famous as Indra’s friend and as being devoted to Nārāyaṇa Hari.

18 He was righteous and ever devoted to his ancestors and always vigilant. In the past, he gained sovereignty due to the boon of Nārāyaṇa.

19–20 Abiding in sātvata injunctions issued forth from the mouth of Sūrya, he worshipped the Lord of Gods first and with the sacrificial remainder, the ancestors, with the remains of the ancestral offerings, the wise ones, and having distributed among his dependents, he used to eat whatever food remained. He was non-violent towards all beings. He was completely devoted to the God of Gods, Janārdana.

21 Bane of enemies [Yudhiṣṭhira], the king of gods Indra himself shared his own bed and throne with him [Vasu][11] who was bearing devotion to Nārāyaṇa.

22 “This is all for the Lord” thus [Vasu] always regarded his own self, his kingdom, wealth and wife and vehicles.

23 He always performed all the great sacrificial rites—solicitous and incidental—being equanimous and[12] abiding in the Sātvata way.[13]

24 In the house of that great soul, the foremost scholars of Pañcarātra used to partake the best food offered to the Lord and [then] brought [to them].

25 When that destroyer of foes was ruling the kingdom with dharma, his speech never became untrue, his mind never became defiled nor did he commit the slightest sin with his body.

26 That which those sages celebrated as the seven Citraśikhaṇḍins, becoming of one mind enunciated, became the best Scripture.[14]

27 Marīci, Atri, Aṅgiras, Pulastya, Pulaha, Kratu, and Vasiṣṭha of great brilliance are the Citraśikhaṇḍins.

28 These indeed are the seven prakṛtis to whom that of the Self-Born One is the eighth. By these the world is sustained and to these the Scripture was transmitted.

29 The disciplined sages, one pointed in mind, who were engaged in controlling [themselves] propounded the Scripture contemplating in their minds the worlds thinking, “This is the highest Good, this is Brahman, this is the insuperable Felicity.”

30 Therein Dharma, prosperity (artha), pleasure (kāma), and, finally, liberation (mokṣa) were propounded. Regulations of various kinds [to be followed] in heaven and earth were also established.

31 All those along with all the Ṛṣis worshipped the God Hari Nārāyaṇa, the Lord, with austerities for a thousand divine years.

32 The goddess Sarasvatī then entered into those ṛṣis,[15] commanded by Nārāyaṇa, with the desire of benefitting all the worlds.

33 Then she, born of the first creation, was set into motion in word, meaning and reason by those twice-born ones who knew austerities perfectly.

34 At the very commencement itself the Scripture adorned with the phoneme Oṃ was manifested by the ṛṣis there, where the Compassionate One was.

35 Becoming gratified by that, the invisible Lord Puruṣottama, being in a body that is undefinable, said to the sages:

36 “Excellent is this [Scripture] of a hundred thousand verses, composed [by you] from which the dharma of the entire working of the world springs forth.

37 This [Scripture] which is in accord with Ṛk, Yajus, Sāman, and the chants of Aṅgiras’s Atharvans as well will become the source of both pravṛtti (becoming) and nivṛtti (Being).

38 Likewise Brahmā born of [my] grace is made an authority by me, so also Rudra born of [my] wrath, and also you wise ones, and likewise the elemental forces;

39 [And also] both the sun and moon, and wind, earth, water and fire as well, and all the starry constellations and whatever else is said to be a bhūta [i.e., a being, or that which has come into existence.]

40–42 The brahmavādins [i.e., the ontologists] respectively are in their positions (adhikāra). As they all are authorities (pramāṇa), likewise this highest scripture, will also become the authority (pramāṇa). This indeed is my decree. From this [scripture] Manu, the self-born one himself will expound on dharmas. When Uśanas and Bṛhaspati are born, they will expound on the scripture drawn from your intellect.

43–44 When the scripture regarding Svayambhū’s dharmas has been made by Uśanas, as well as the doctrine of Bṛhaspati has been circulated in the world, then, O best amongst the twice-born, the ruler of men Vasu indeed will obtain from Bṛhaspati this scripture made by you.

45 Absorbed in Me, the king will verily become my devotee. Following that scripture, [he] will perform all duties in the worlds.

46 Among all scriptures, this scripture (śāstra) is considered the best indeed. This [scripture] is excellent for prosperity and dharma and fame as well.

47 And due to its promulgation, you will verily have progeny. And that king, the great Vasu, will become endowed with splendor (śri).

48 But, after the demise of that king, this eternal scripture will disappear. This is the truth prophesied to you by me.”

49 Having spoken these words, the invisible Puruṣottama dismissed all those sages and went away somewhere.

50 Then those sires of the world, well-wishers of all the worlds, set in motion that Scripture, the eternal source of dharma.

51–52 And when Bṛhaspati was born in Aṅgiras’s [clan], at the dawn the first yuga [i.e., Kṛta], then depositing the scripture and the upaniṣad with the auxiliary sciences [with Bṛhaspati], those promulgators of all dharmas went away to the region they desired, resolved to perform austerities in order to uphold all worlds.[16]

Footnotes and references:


Lokahitādhivāsa = lokahitāya adhivāsaḥ yasya. Vāsudeva in the Mahābhārata is related to–vas (to dwell, and to shine). Cf. Viṣṇupurāṇa 1.2.12: “Who can describe him who is not to be apprehended by the senses: who is the best of all things; the supreme soul, self-existent: who is devoid of all the distinguishing characteristics of complexion, caste, or the like; and is exempt from birth, vicissitude, death, or decay: who is always, and alone: who exists everywhere, and in whom all things here exist; and who is thence named Vāsudeva?” Wilson glosses this verse as follows: “The ordinary derivation of Vāsudeva has been noticed above (p. 1): here it is derived from Vas, ‘to dwell,’ from Vishnu’s abiding in all things, and all in him. The Mahābhārata explains Vāsu in the same manner, and Deva to signify radiant, shining: ‘He causes all things to dwell in him, and he abides in all; whence he is named Vāsu: being resplendent as the sun, he is called Deva: and he who is both these, is denominated Vāsudeva.’ See also b. VI. c. 5.” The term Vāsudeva means that all beings abide in that supreme being, and that he abides in all beings, as was formerly explained by Keśidhwaja to Khāṇḍikya called Janaka, when he inquired of him an explanation of the name of the immortal, Vāsudeva. He said, ‘He dwelleth internally in all beings, and all things dwell in him; and thence the lord Vāsudeva is the creator and preserver of the world.’” VP 6.5.80–81.


Nīlakaṇṭha says the four are: “catvāri pāṇipādodaropasthāni,” that is, the four are the hands, feet, the stomach and the generative organ;from this we might infer that Nārada has been self-restrained and chaste.


Translating sattva as mind.


The characterizations of that One are: first (ādya), inexhaustible (ajasra), infinite (ananta). All these are marks of Nārāyaṇa as tad ekam.


Yojana = a measure of distance equal to four kroṣas or eight or nine miles. Cf. Apte s.v. “yojana.”


Śveta means white, pure, bright and luminous. It is less a physical color and more a quality of luminescence, illumination, and purity. This sense is clearly brought out in this verse: the men here are pure and effulgent, blinding the eyes of those who are impure.


Reading puṣkara as muṣka as per Nīlakaṇṭha. Nīlakaṇṭha interprets the four muṣka as also four shoulders. See Ganguli’s note. Puṣkara means lotus, which is often the metaphor for various body parts especially the eyes. These variants do not affect the philosophical sense I wish to underscore: that these beings are dyadic, displaying a doubling of body parts: be they shoulders, testes, or eyes.


Preferring Nīlakaṇṭha’s reading of rājīvacchadapādāh to the critical edition’s rājīvaśatapādāh. The latter reading will give us “hundred lotus like feet.”


Nīlakaṇṭha says: yasmāt hetoḥ devaṃ parameśvaraṃ saṃprasūtāḥ dhyānabalena hṛdaye vyaktīkṛtavantaḥ sūtyagāre mātā putramiva = due to which cause they have given birth to the God, that is, Parameśvara. That is, with the power of their contemplation, they have made him manifest in their heart. Just as in the maternity room, the mother [gives birth to] the son.


The father is Śaṃtanu. Verse 12.802* attests to this. “Narada the great sage, when asked by the king told this story previously to Shamtanu there I heard it for the first time (pura), when I was with my father.” The proximity of this narrative and genealogy is significant. As Śaṃtanu and Gaṅgā constitute the first descent in the epic. Thus, the Ādiparvan is evoked explicitly not merely by the narrative of Vasu. The Vasu Bhīṣma himself is related to descent in Book I, and King Vasu will now respresent the fall and ascent. This is why the narrative is said to be “the essence of all narratives” (kathāsāra) in that it is the essential fall and ascent which the epic articulates. It is also “extensive” (vistīrṇā) in the sense that it is the summary of the extensive Mahābhārata.


That is, Indra shared his bed and throne with Vasu.


Reading kāmyanaimittikā ajasram for kāmyanaimittikājasram, since kāmyanaimittikāh is adjective of parama kriyāh. The contracted form the critical edition preserves is grammatically problematic but is necessary for meter.


Kṛṣṇa appears in the Sātvata clan. Therefore we can interpret this adjectival form of the term narrowly as “Krishnaite.” Thus the Sātvata way could mean ritual methods which are “Krishnaite,” provided we keep in view that the so called “Krishna-bhakti” is part of a philosophical argument for monism, which is underscored by the one being which has become fourfold. One ought not derive the term from later texts, such as Sātvata Tantra, and believe the present passages to be interpolations, a move that is now impossible to hold since we have the archetype of the Mahābhārata. It is more cogent to argue the Mahabharata innovation to be originary.


Supplying the implied tat for the relative pronoun yat.


The idea here is that they were inspired by the divine muse.


Ablative here is taken in the sense of dative.

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