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 7 - (Mahābhārata 12.327.1-107)

Janamejaya said:

1–2 The Effulgent God, the Lord takes the first share in sacrifices and is always the bearer of sacrifice and a knower of Vedas and their ancillaries. He, the emancipated one (kṣemī) dear to the Bhāgavatas, is also established in the dharma of renunciation. How indeed did that same blessed Lord lay down the dharmas of becoming (pravṛtti) also?

3 Why has he created the gods fit to take sacrificial shares in pravṛtti dharma, and why did he create those who have the opposite views and have nivṛtti as their dharma?

4 O Brahman, dispel this doubt of ours, the perpetual mystery. You have heard Nārāyaṇa’s narrative which is a compilation of dharmas.

5 All these worlds along with Brahmā and together with gods, asuras and humans are seen completely clinging to the rites prescribed for prosperity. And mokṣa is said by you to be absolute salvation[1] and ultimate happiness, O Brahman.

6 And those who are liberated here are free from merit and sin. They enter the thousand-rayed God, we hear.

7 Aho! How very difficult it is to follow the eternal dharma of salvation disregarding which all the gods became enjoyers of sacrificial offerings and chants.

8–9 And why do Brahmā and Rudra and Indra the lord who defeated Bala, Sūrya, the Moon who is the lord of the stars, Vāyu, Agni and Varuṇa and the sky and the other two worlds and all the other remaining deities not understand the cessation which is created by their own Self. And therefore they are not[2] on the way which is constant, undecaying, and indestructible.

10 Reckoning only the measure of time, they are established only in pravṛtti. This is the great fault of those who perform [ritual] actions, that they remain in the limit of time.

11 O Brahman, this doubt of mine is thrust in my heart like a dart. Resolve it with itihāsa narration. Extreme indeed is my curiosity.

12 Why are the gods said to be “partakers of their portions” in sacrifices, O twice-born one? Moreover, brāhmaṇa, for what reason are the denizens of heaven given offerings in sacrifices?

13 And those who take their share in this sacrifice, O best of the twice-born, when they sacrifice in great sacrifices, to whom indeed do they offer sacrificial share?

Vaiśaṃpāyana said:

14 Aho! You have asked a most mysterious question, lord of the people. It is not possible for one who has not undergone austerities or who does not know the Vedas as well and also one who does not know the purāṇas to reply to it quickly.

15 Alright! I will tell you since guru Kṛṣṇa Dvaipāyana Vyāsa, the compiler of the Vedas, the mighty sage was asked [this question] by me long ago.

16 Sumantu and Jaimini as well as Paila of firm vows, and indeed I am the fourth disciple and Śuka is considered to be the fifth.

17–18 On the best and beautiful mountain Meru, frequented by accomplished ones and celestial singers he taught the [four] Vedas with the Mahābhārata as the fifth to these five disciples assembled full of self-restraint, endowed with purity and proper conduct, having conquered anger and having mastered the senses.

19 Once, when they were studying the Vedas, there arose a doubt. This is the one asked by you which was explained to them by him. There it was heard by me also and is to be expounded to you now, Bhārata.

20 Having listened to the words of his disciples, the blessed Vyāsa, Parāśara’s son, the dispeller of all ignorance said these words,

21 “Indeed great austerity was undertaken by me, extremely difficult penance, so that I may know the past, present and future, best of men!

22–23 Along the banks of the Ocean of Milk, by Nārāyaṇa’s grace, the desired knowledge valid in the three modes of time became manifest (prādurbhūta) to me, who had practiced austerities and had conquered his senses. Hence listen to this as I will explicate on your doubt according to knowledge, since whatever occurred at the very dawn of the eon was seen by me with the eye of knowledge.

24 He whom those who are learned in sāṃkhya and yoga celebrate as the Supreme Soul, (Paramātman), obtains the apellation Mahāpuruṣa through his own action.

25 From him issued the unmanifest. The wise know it as Pradhāna. From the unmanifest, the manifest arose for the sake of creation of the world, from this Lord,

26 Indeed in this world Aniruddha is celebrated as the Great Soul, and it is he who, becoming manifest, created the Grandsire. He [i.e., the Grandsire] is called Ahaṃkāra and he indeed is endowed with all brilliance.

27 Earth, wind, space, water, and fire as the fifth are the great elements issued from Ahaṃkāra, Bhārata.

28 Having created the great elements, he further created their attributes (guṇas). And from those elements the eight embodied ones were produced. Hear about them.

29 Marīci and Aṅgiras, Atri, Pulastya, Pulaha, Kratu, and Vasiṣṭha[3] the greatsouled indeed, and also Manu the son of the Self-born one: all these are to be understood as the eight prakṛtis, in whom are established all these worlds.

30 For the accomplishment of the world, Brahmā the preceptor of the world created the Vedas along with their ancillary texts, sacrifices together with their accessories. And from the eight Prakṛtis this entire universe was born.

31 The embodiment of wrath, Rudra, once born, himself created ten others. These eleven Rudras, are modifications (vikāras) considered to be puruṣas.[4]

32 These Rudras and also Prakṛti as well as gods and Ṛṣis, born for the benefit of the world, approached Brahmā.

33 O Lord, we were all verily created by you who is certainly the most powerful. Who should be in which position of authority, Grandsire?

34 That goal-oriented authority which was ordained by you, how should that authority be carried out by that appointed one?

35 Guide his strength, who is mindful of the purpose of his position.” Thus addressed by those gods the great god said this to them,

36 “Good that you let me know, gods. May there be blessings for you! This thought which was contemplated by you all had arisen in me also.

37 How should the entire administration of the world be undertaken? How should there not be any loss of strength either of you or also of me?

38 Let us go from here to take refuge in the Witness of the world, that Unmanifest Mahāpuruṣa. He will tell us what is beneficial.”

39 Then the ṛṣis and the gods along with Brahmā, went to the northern shore of the Ocean of Milk, desiring the welfare of the world.

40 They undertook austerities as prescribed by Brahmā and as laid down in the Vedas. That indeed is the most difficult austerity called Mahāniyama.

41 Raising their sight and their arms their mind became focused and standing on one foot properly and becoming like logs of wood, they became equanimous.[5]

42 After they performed insuperable austerities for a thousand divine years they heard a melodious voice, adorned with Vedas and ancillary texts.

43 “Greetings, Brahmā, along with the gods and ṛṣis rich in austerities. Having worshipped you all with a welcome, I tell you the highest word.

44 I know your work, it is of great benefit to the world. Associated with pravṛtti, your prescribed duties will increase your vitality.

45 Gods, your austerities are well done with the desire to worship Me. Great beings, enjoy the superlative fruit of this austerity.

46 This Brahmā, the guru of the world and the grandsire of all worlds, and you best of the gods, having become equanimous, sacrifice to Me.

47 You all always apportion offerings for me in the sacrifice. According to your eligibility, I create the good for you lords.”

48–49 Having heard this declaration of the God of gods and horripilated due to joy, all those wise ones, Brahmā and also the great Ṛṣis then performed the Vaiṣṇava sacrifice with the procedures found in the Vedas. Then in that sacrifice, Brahmā himself prepared offerings. The deities and divine Ṛṣis, all of them, made offerings.

50 Having the attributes of Kṛta Yuga, the immensely honored sacrificial portions reached that Puruṣa, who blazes like the sun and who is beyond darkness, the ubiquitous, all-pervading God, the sovereign grace-bestowing Lord.

51 Thereupon, that boon-granting incorporeal God, the Great Lord (Maheśvara) who is situated in the sky, spoke these words to all the immortals who were there:

52 “By whom whatever portion was dedicated to me, has accordingly reached [Me]. Being gratified, today I ordain fruit characterized by recurrence.[6]

53 This will be your characteristic, gods, arising from my grace. Making offerings with sacrifices which are concluded with boons and sacrificial fees, in every age you will become enjoyers of the fruit of Becoming (pravṛtti).

54 Mortals will make offerings to you with sacrifices in all the worlds, gods. They will apportion your shares as prescribed in the Vedas.

55 In whatever way one offers to me a share in this great sacrifice, in a reciprocal manner, by Me he is made a claimant of a sacrificial share according to the vedic sūtras.

56 Uphold the worlds, all of you! In this world, you are those to whom the fruit of the sacrificial portions has come up. You are created according to your function and you take care of all the matters.

57 You will indeed uphold the worlds, your strength increased by those rites graced with the fruit of pravṛtti and which will be prevalent.

58 You will be strengthened by men in all sacrifices and then you will contemplate on Me. This is my conception for you.

59 It is for this reason that the Vedas and sacrifices are created along with the herbs. With these perfectly employed, the gods will indeed be gratified on this earth.

60 O best of the gods, I have accomplished this creation for you, conceived with the characteristic of pravṛtti until the end of the eon. Hence O lords, take care of welfare of the world according to your jurisdictions.

61 Marīci and Aṅgiras, Atri, Pulastya, Pulaha, Kratu, Vasiṣṭha—these are the seven mind-born ones created.

62 These knowers of the Vedas are considered the best exponents of Vedas. They are created as the followers of the dharma of becoming (pravṛtti) with the duty of being progenitors.

63 Of those who perform rites, this is the everlasting way which has become manifest. The Lord who causes the creation of the world is called Aniruddha.

64 Sana and Sanatsujāta, Sanaka together with Sanandana, Sanatkumāra, Kapila, and the seventh, Sanātana.

65 These seven ṛṣis are said to be the mind-born sons of Brahmā. Spontaneously attaining wisdom, they are established in the dharma of being (nivṛttam).

66 These knowers of yoga are also the knowers of sāṃkhya dharma and teachers of the science of mokṣa, and propagators of mokṣadharma.

67 I am that Unmanifest from which I, the great one, having the three attributes, previously spread-out. The one who is greater than that [Unmanifest] is considered the Kṣetrajña. That I [who is linked to the three attributes] is the path of those who have actions and is difficult to turn again to.[7]

68 In whichever way a creature is created, and for whatever karman, may it be pravṛtti or nivṛtti, it does enjoy the fruit of that, becoming helpless.

69 This teacher of the world, the Lord Brahmā is the creator of the universe. Indeed to you all, he is the mother and father and also the grandfather. Being taught by me, he will be the boon bestower unto all beings.

70 And the one born after is Rudra, who issued forth from the forehead. Being taught by Brahmā, he will become the ubiquitous bestower of boons.[8]

71 Go to your respective jurisdictions! Think according to what is prescribed. Let all the actions in all the worlds be set into motion. Do not delay.

72 And let the actions, the destinations and the predetermined lifespans of beings be seen, O best of gods.

73 This Kṛta Yuga is indeed the best period going on. Sacrificial animals are not to be killed (ahiṃsya) in this eon, it will never be otherwise. Dharma will indeed be four-footed and complete here, gods.

74 Thereafter indeed is the Tretā Yuga, where there will be the three.[9] Where, consecrated with water, animals will indeed be killed in sacrifices. There the fourth foot of dharma will verily not exist.

75 Thereafter indeed is the Dvāpara, where time will be mixed. In that yuga, dharma will be depleted of two feet.

76 Thereafter, when the Tiṣya constellation has arrived and the yuga led by Kali, there dharma will be on one foot.

The gods said:

77 Where dharma is standing on one-footed and going awry, what should we do, tell us that, effulgent God.[10]

The Blessed Lord said:

78 That region indeed should be resorted to and dwelt in, where the Vedas and sacrifices and austerity and also truth and self-restraint, where the best gods wander endowed with the law of non-violence (ahiṃsādharma). May lawlessness (adharma) not even touch your foot!

Vyāsa said:

79 Instructed by the effulgent God, those gods together with the groups of ṛṣis, having bowed down to the effulgent God, departed to desired regions.

80 When the gods had departed, Brahmā alone remained still, desirous of beholding that effulgent God abiding in the form of Aniruddha.

81 The God revealed Himself to him, assuming the great head of a horse. Repeatedly chanting the Vedas along with their ancillary texts, carrying a water pot (kamaṇḍalu) and a rosary.

82–83 Then having seen that God of limitless brilliance, having the Head of a Horse, the lord Brahmā, creator of the world, desiring the welfare of the world, bowing his head and saluting the boon-granting God with folded hands, stood before Him. Having been embraced by the God [Hayaśiras], he was told the following words:

84 “Contemplate appropriately on all the states of the workings of the worlds.[11] You are the Creator of all beings, you are the Lord of the universe and its teacher. Placing this burden on you, I will quickly obtain relief.[12]

85 And when the work of the gods becomes unbearable for you I will manifest Myself, teaching Self-knowledge.[13]

86 Having said so, Hayśiras disappeared from there. Brahmā also, having received His instruction, went to his own world at once.

87 Thus is this highly blessed one [Nārāyaṇa] lotus-naveled, Sempiternal, said to be the foremost recipient in sacrifices and also always the support of sacrifice.

88 And [He is the one] who abides in nivṛtti dharma which is the resort of the followers of imperishable dharma. Having created the spectacle of the world (lokasya citram), he laid down the dharmas of pravṛtti.

89 He is the beginning, He is the middle, and He is the end of all created beings.[14] He is the Creator, he is the one to be created,[15] the doer and that which is to be done. At the end of the eon, He sleeps, completely withdrawing the worlds. At the inception of the age He having awakened (prabuddha) emanates[16] the universe.

90 Offer salutations unto that God who is free of attributes (guṇas), of the form of guṇa,[17] to that Unborn (aja), with the universe as his form, the abode of all divinities,

91 To the Lord of the great elements, to the lord of the Rudras as well to the Lord of the Ādityas, and also to the Lord of the Vasus,

92 To the Lord of the two Aśvins well as to the Lord of Maruts, to the Lord of Vedas and sacrifices and to the Lord of Vedāṅgas,

93 To Hari whose eternal abode is the ocean, to the One whose hair is like muñja grass, to the Peace of all beings, to the propounder of mokṣadharma,

94 To the Lord of austerity and of brilliance, as well as to the Lord of Fame, and [salutations] always to the eternal Lord of speech, and also to the Lord of rivers,

95 To Kapardin, to Varāha, to the intelligent Ekaśṛṅga, to Vivasvat, to Aśvaśiras, and always to the One who bears the four-fold form,

96 To the Hidden One who is to be seen through knowledge, to the imperishable and to the perishable. This God, the Undecaying One wanders having entered everywhere.

97 Thus with the eye of knowledge, this has been seen by me previously. Being asked, all that has been recounted faithfully to you by me.

98 O disciples, let my word be obeyed. May that Lord Hari be served.[18] Let Him be glorified with Vedic hymns and may he be worshipped according to injunctions.

Vaiśaṃpāyana said:

99 Thus we all his disciples and his son, Śuka, the knower of the ultimate dharma were told by Vedavyāsa the highly intelligent one.

100 And king, he our teacher, along with us, glorified Him with hymns drawn from the four Vedas.

101–3 Thus the teacher Dvaipāyana told me previously, king. All this is told to you since you repeatedly ask me. The person who always listens to this [discourse] frequently and also he who discourses on it, chanting “Namo Bhagavate!” with a focused mind becomes free of disease, lustrous, imbued with strength and beauty. The afflicted one becomes free of sickness and the entangled [one] becomes emancipated from bondage.

104 May the one who desires gratification obtain his desire and receive longevity. May the brāhmaṇa become a knower of all wisdom and the kṣatriya victorious! May the vaiśya gain plenty. May the śūdra obtain happiness.

105 The childless will beget a son, and a maiden a husband of her choice. May a pregnant woman give birth to a son. May the one in difficult labor obtain relief. The barren one obtains the impulse which has the wealth of sons and grandsons.

106 The one who recites this on the way, traverses the path safely; and whatever one wishes, surely he will obtain that.

107 Devotees attain the highest happiness having listened to this great Ṛṣi’s ascertained teaching, this hymn to that Great Soul, the Supreme Puruṣa and this assembly[19] of Ṛṣis and gods.

Footnotes and references:


Nirvāṇa, literally, absolute cessation.


Reading te na āsthitā rather than tena āsthita.


Cf. the list in 12.322.27.


Rudra will ask Brahmā about the multiplicity of the puruṣas in 12.339.


Samāhita is the adjectival form of the verb samādha. The noun form of this verb is samādhi. The word is repeated in 7.46.


The word āvṛtti implies cyclicality and repetition.


This is a difficult passage. The difficulty stems from text going back and forth between nivṛtti and pravṛtti dharmas and Nārāyaṇa identifying himself simultaneously but with different qualification to both. In one case, He is the one who is the support of the rituals and actions, as the foregoing passages show. But nivṛttidharma is being introduced here as the easier path. Grammatically, the translation has taken yataḥ and tasmāt as pronominal adjectives of avyaktāt. Punaḥ is read as “and,” rather than as qualifying āvṛtti, which already has the sense of repetition, to do justice to the grammar here. Punarāvṛtti adds a lot rhetorically to “repetition.”


Reading sarvatrasavaraprada as sarvatra+ sah+varaprada.


It could mean the three Vedas, or the three feet of dharma.


Translating the passive as active.


In this should be included lokatantra and lokadharma.


The word here is dhṛti. It means steadfastness, constancy, etc. It has an ontological dimension also as well as a contemplative one. See, for example, 12.321.2—Yudhiṣṭhira’s opening question to Bhīṣma.


Ātmajñānadeśikaḥ also guiding with Self-knowledge, a guru. Diśa literally means to denote, point out.


Cf. Bhagavadgītā 10.20.


He is the creator (dhātṛ), the one to be created (dheya). This is a strongly monistic view, nullifying the distinction between the creator and the created; or, on a deeper level, an Advaitin would say, between ātma and jīva.


Literally, utsasrja is “emanated.”


This is the classical distinction between saguṇa and nirguṇa brahman.


Seva is a word rich in meaning. It can mean to serve, to take resort to, to be with and also to enjoy.


This is in contrast to the dialogue of Ṛṣis and gods over the sacrifice, previously.

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