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 19 - (Mahābhārata 12.339.1-21)

Brahmā said:

1 Listen, son, how indeed this Puruṣa, who is eternal, unchanging, undecaying, incomprehensible, and ubiquitous is explained.

2 He cannot be seen by you, O best one, or by me, or by any others. Whatever He is, the universal, either with attributes (saguṇa) or without attributes (nirguṇa), he could be perceived with knowledge only.

3 He who is bodiless [nevertheless] lives in all bodies. Even though dwelling in the body, He is untouched by actions.

4 He who is my inner soul and also yours and the witness of all those who are called embodied[1] cannot be comprehended by anyone, anywhere.

5 Having heads on all sides, arms on all sides, and feet, eyes, and noses on all sides, He wanders alone happily in the fields [that is, bodies] as he pleases.[2]

6 The fields are verily the bodies,[3] the meritorious and demeritorious [actions] are the seeds. That Soul, which is of the nature of yoga, knows these and therefore is called Knower of the Field (kṣetrajña).

7–8 His entry and exit [from embodiment] cannot be perceived by any being. I am contemplating His entry according to the Sāṃkhya way,[4] and also that of Yoga, respectively. I do not understand His ultimate destination. However, I am going to describe that Sempiternal Puruṣa, according to [my] understanding.

9 He has oneness and also greatness and He is regarded as the sole Puruṣa. He, who is one and sempiternal, bears the name Mahāpuruṣa.

10 The one [fire] who devours whatever is offered is enkindled in many ways. The one sun is the single origin of many austerities. The one wind blows variously in this world. And the great ocean is the one source of many waters. And [likewise] the Puruṣa is one, ubiquitous, and without attributes. They [the many puruṣas] enter into the Puruṣa who is without attributes.

11 Thus having abandoned all action whatever is composed of the attributes (guṇas), having renounced the meritorious and the demeritorious [actions], [and] casting off both truth and untruth, he becomes free of attributes.

12 That self-controlled ascetic who reflects having understood that inconceivable, fourfold[5] subtle goes to the Lord Puruṣa.

13 In this way, some knowledgeable ones desire the Supreme Soul (paramātman). Likewise others who think about the Self, consider their own Self (ātman) as being the Same One Soul (ekātman).[6]

14 There the one who is the Paramātman is verily considered to be always without attributes (nirguṇa). Verily He is to be understood as Nārāyaṇa. He is the Puruṣa, the soul of all. And He is not stained by the fruits [of action] as a lotus leaf by water.[7]

15 But the other one, who is of the nature of action (karmātman), he is bound by bondages and freedoms.[8] And he is connected with the conglomerate of seventeen [that is, the subtle body].[9] Thus the manifold Puruṣa is explained to you in the proper order.

16–17 Whatever is the entire abode of the working of the world (lokatantra) should be understood as the Supreme: The thing to be realized together with the one who realizes; one who contemplates and that which is to be contemplated; the one who partakes and that which is to be partaken, the one who smells and that which is to be smelt; the one who touches and that which is to be touched; the one who sees and that which is to be seen;the one who causes to hear and that which is to be made to hear; the knower and that which is to be known and that which is with and without attributes. Whatever is expounded as the equilibrium of the guṇas is the pradhāna;it is eternal, permanent, and immutable.[10]

18 The wise declare that to be Aniruddha which gives birth to the primeval repository of the creator. Whatever good Vedic ritual there is in this world, enjoined with blessing, [all] that is His enjoyment.

19 The gods, all the well-controlled sages, offer Him sacrificial portions with primeval sacrifices. I am Brahmā, the foremost lord of the beings born of that. And you are born of me. From me [is created] the universe, the movable and immovable; all the Vedas together with their secrets, son.

20 The Puruṣa is divided into four. He plays as he pleases. Thus he is the same Effulgent Lord enlightened with knowledge.

21 As you asked, this has been explained to you as it is and as is described in the Sāṃkhya discipline as well as in Yoga, son.

Footnotes and references:


Reading dehisañjñitāḥ for dehāsañjñitāḥ.


See Brahma Sūtra verses–32 where Virāṭ Puruṣa is explained as Vaiśvānara. See also Bhāgavata Purāṇa for a description of Virāṭ Puruṣa. All these descriptions hearken back to Ṛg Veda book 10.90 (Puruṣa-Sūkta). See also Bhagavadgītā, chapter 11.


Śaṅkara lists the possible meanings of kṣetra in his commentary on Bhagavadgītā 13.1.


The soul which is endowed with yoga, that is, identified with the absolute. Cf. Bhagavadgītā 6.29.


That is, the four vyūhas.


Here the options seem to be between a sort of dualism and strict monism.


See Bhagavadgītā 5.10.


The two conceptions of Soul as paramātman and karmātman represent the vedantic conceptions of ātman and jīva. The passage plays on para and apara, adjectives that analogously qualify types of knowledge in the Muṇḍaka Upaniṣad in the dialogue between Śaunaka and Aṅgiras (1.1.4–5). The word mokṣabandhaiḥ is translated as “by bondages and freedoms.” The terms liberation and release were not used because these terms connote the final liberation. Because mokṣabandhaiḥ is in the plural, it suggests births and deaths.


“The material subtle body has seventeen parts, viz. the five vital forces, the ten organs of perception and action, the mind and the intellect. This is said to be the subtle body of the Atman (soul).” Śaṅkara’s Pañcikaraṇa, sūtra 2.


For the different ways in which the pradhāna is indestructible, etc. as opposed to Brahman or the Puruṣa here, see Śaṅkara’s commentary on Brahma Sūtra–23, especially 21.

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