Saunaka said, How is that illustrious god, viz., the puissant Narayana who is fully conversant with the Vedas and their branches, at once the doer and the enjoyer of sacrifices? Endued with forgiveness, he has adopted, again, the religion of Nivritti (abstention). Indeed, it is that holy and puissant one who has himself ordained the duties of Nivritti. Why then has he made many of the deities the takers of shares in sacrifices which, of course, are all due to the disposition of Pravritti? Why has he again created some with a contrary disposition, for they follow the ordinances of the religion of abstention? Do thou O Suta, dispel this doubt, of ours. This doubt seems to be eternal and is connected with a great mystery. Thou hast heard all discourses on Narayana, discourses that are consistent with the (other) scriptures.
Sauti said, O excellent Saunaka, I shall recite to thee what Vaisampayana, the disciple of the intelligent Vyasa, said when questioned on these very topics by king Janamejaya. Having heard the discourse on the glory of Narayana who is the Soul of all embodied creatures, Janamejaya, endued with great intelligence and wisdom, questioned Vaisampayana on these very subjects.
Janamejaya said, "The whole world of Beings, with Brahma, the deities, the Asuras and human beings, are seen to be deeply attached to actions which have been said to be productive of prosperity. Emancipation has, O regenerate one, been said by thee to be the highest felicity and to consist of the cessation of existence. They who, being divested of both merit and demerit, become emancipate, succeed, we hear, in entering the great God of a thousand rays. It seems to be, O Brahmana, that the eternal religion of Emancipation is exceedingly difficult of observance. Turning away from it, all the deities have become enjoyers of the libations of clarified butter poured with mantras on sacrificial fires and other offerings presented to them by the same or similar means. Then, again, Brahman, and Rudra, the puissant Sakra the slayer of Vala, Surya, Chandramas (the Lord of the stars), the Wind-god, the Deity of fire, the Deity of the Waters, Infinite Space (as living Being), the Universe too (as a conscious agent), and the rest of the denizens of heaven,--they, it seems, are ignorant of the way of securing annihilation of conscious existence, that is capable of being brought about by self-realisation. Hence, perhaps, they have not be taken themselves to the path that is certain, indestructible, and immutable. Hence perhaps, turning away from that path they have adopted the religion of Pravritti which leads to conscious existence that is measured by time. This, indeed, is one great fault that attaches to those that are wedded to actions, for all their rewards are terminable. This doubt, O regenerate one, is planted in my heart like a dagger. Remove it out by reciting to me some discourses of old on this topic. Great is my curiosity to listen to thee. For what reason, O regenerate one, have the deities been said to be takers of their respective shares of sacrificial offerings presented
to them with the aid of mantras in sacrifices of diverse kinds? Why again are the denizens of heaven adored in sacrifices? And, O best of regenerate persons, to whom do they, that take their shares of offerings in sacrifices performed to their honour, themselves make offerings when they perform great sacrifices?"
Vaisampayana said, "The question thou has asked me, O ruler of men, relates to a deep mystery. No man that has not undergone penances, and that is not acquainted with the Puranas, can speedily answer it. I shall, however, answer thee by reciting to thee what my preceptor the Island-born Krishna, otherwise called Vyasa, the great Rishi who has classified the Vedas, had said unto us on a former occasion when questioned by us. Sumanta, and Jaimini, and Paila of firm vows, and myself numbering the fourth, and Suka forming the fifth, were disciples of the illustrious Vyasa. We numbering five in all, endued with self-restraint and purity of observances, had completely subjugated wrath and controlled our senses. Our preceptor used to teach us the Vedas, having the Mahabharata for their fifth. Once on a time, while we were engaged in studying the Vedas on the breast of that foremost of mountains, viz., the delightful Meru, inhabited by Siddhas and Charanas, this very doubt arose in our minds that has been expressed by thee today. We, therefore, questioned our preceptor about It. It heard the answer that our preceptor made. I shall now recite that answer to thee, O Bharata. Hearing these words that were addressed to him by his disciples that dispeller of all kinds of darkness represented by ignorance, viz., the blessed Vyasa, the son of Parasara, said these words: have undergone very severe, in fact, the austerest of penances. Ye best of men, I am fully conversant with the Past, the Present, and the Future. In consequence of those penances of mine and of the restraint under which I kept my senses while I dwelt on the shores of the Ocean of milk, Narayana became gratified with me. As the result of the great God's gratification, this omniscience with respect to the Past, the Present, and the Future, that was desired by me, arose in my mind. Listen now to me as I discourse to you, in due order, on this great doubt that has disturbed your minds. I have, with the eye of knowledge, beheld all that occurred in the beginning of the Kalpa. He whom both the Sankhyas and those conversant with Yoga call by the name of Paramatma (the Supreme Soul) comes to be regarded as Mahapurusha (the Great Purusha) in consequence of his own acts. From Him springs forth Abyakta (the Unmanifest), whom the learned call Pradhana. From the puissant Unmanifest sprang, for the creation of all the words, the Manifest (Byakta). He is called Aniruddha. That Aniruddha is known among all creatures by the name of the Mahat Atma. It is that Aniruddha who, becoming manifest, created the Grandsire Brahman. Aniruddha is known by another name, viz., Ahankara (consciousness) and is endued with every kind of energy. Earth, Wind, Space, Water, and Light numbering the fifth, these are the five Mahabhutas (elements) that have sprung from Ahankara. Having created the Mahabhutas (five in number), he then created their attributes. Combining the Mahabhutas, he then created diverse embodied Being. Listen to me as I recount them to you. Marichi, Angiras, Atri, Pulastya, Pulaha, Kratu, the high-souled Vasishtha, and the Self-born Mann, these should be known as the eight Prakritis. Upon these rest all the worlds. Then the Grandsire of all the world, viz., Brahman, created, for the fulfilment of all creatures, the Vedas with all their branches, as also the Sacrifices with their limbs. From these eight Prakritis have sprung this vast universe. Then sprang Rudra from the principle of wrath, starting into life, he created ten others that were like him. These eleven Rudras are called by name of Vikara-Purushas. The Rudras, the (eight) Prakritis, and the several celestial Rishis, having started into life, approached Brahman with the object of upholding the universe and its operations. Addressing the Grandsire, they said, We have been created, O holy one, by thee, O thou of great puissance. Tell each of us, O Grandsire, the respective jurisdiction we shall be vested with. What particular jurisdictions have been created by thee for supervising the different affairs? We, each, should be endued with what kind of consciousness and shall take charge of which of these? Do thou ordain also unto each of us the measure of strength that we are to have for discharging the duties of our respective jurisdictions.' Thus addressed by them, the great god replied unto them in the following way.
"Brahman said, You have done well, ye deities, in speaking to me of this matter. Blessed be you all! I was thinking of this very subject that has engaged your attention. How should the three worlds be upheld and kept agoing? How should your strength and mine be utilized towards that end? Let all of us, leaving this place, repair to that unmanifest and foremost of Beings who is the witness of the world, for seeking his protection. He will tell us what is for our good. After this, those deities and Rishis, with Brahman, proceeded to the northern shores of the Ocean of milk, desirous of doing good to the three worlds. Arrived there, they began to practise those austere penances that are declared by Brahman in the Vedas. Those austerest of penances are known by the name of Mahaniyama (the foremost vows and observances). They stood there with mind fixed, immovable as posts of wood, and with eyes upturned and arms raised upwards. For a thousand celestial years they were engaged in those severe penances. At the conclusion of that period they heard these sweet words in harmony with the Vedas and their branches.
"'The blessed and holy one said, Ye deities and Rishis possessed of wealth of asceticism, with Brahman in your company, after according you all welcome, I say unto you these words. I know that is in your
hearts. Verily, the thoughts that engage you are for the good of the three worlds. I shall increase your energy and strength investing the same with Pravritti (predilection for acts). Ye gods, well have you undergone these penances from desire of adoring me. Ye foremost of Beings, enjoy now the excellent fruits of austerities which ye have gone through. This Brahman is the Lord of all the worlds. Endued with puissance, he is the Grandsire of all creatures. Ye also are foremost of deities. Do ye all, with concentrated minds perform sacrifices for my glory. In the sacrifices which you will perform, do ye always give me a portion of the sacrificial offerings. I shall then, ye lord of creation, assign to each of you your respective jurisdictions and ordain what will be for your good!"'
Vaisampayana continued, "Hearing these words of that God of gods, all those deities and great Rishis and Brahman became filled with such delight that the hair on their bodies stood on its end. They forthwith made arrangements for a sacrifice in honour of Vishnu according to the ordinances laid down in the Vedas. In that sacrifice, Brahman himself dedicated a portion of the offerings to Vishnu. The deities and the celestial Rishis also, after the manner of Brahman, dedicated similar portions each unto the great God. The portions, thus offered with great reverence unto Vishnu, were, in respect of both the measure and the quality of the articles used, according to the ordinances laid down for the Krita age. The deities and the Rishis and Brahman, in that sacrifice, adored the great God as one endued with the complexion of the Sun, as the foremost of Beings, situate beyond the reach of Tamas, vast, pervading all things, the Supreme Lord of all, the giver of boons, and possessed of puissance. Thus adored by them, the boon-giving and great God, invisible and bodiless, addressed those assembled celestials from heaven and said unto them:--"The offerings dedicated by you in this sacrifice have all reached me. I am gratified with all of you. I shall bestow rewards on you that will however, be fraught with ends whence there will be return. This shall be your distinctive feature, ye gods, from this day, in consequence of my grace and kindness for you. Performing sacrifices in every Yuga, with large presents, ye will become enjoyers of fruits born of Pravritti. Ye gods, those men also that will perform sacrifices according to the ordinances of the Vedas, will give unto all of you shares of their sacrificial offerings. In the Veda-sutras I make him the receiver (in such sacrifices) of a share similar to that which he has himself offered one in this sacrifice. Created to look after those affairs that appertain to your respective jurisdictions, do ye uphold the worlds according to the measures of your strength as dependent on the shares you receive on those sacrifices. Indeed, drawing strength from those rites and observances that will be
current in the several worlds, taking their rise from the fruits of Pravritti, do ye continue to uphold the affairs of those worlds. Strengthened by the sacrifices that will be performed by men, ye will strengthen me. These are the thoughts that I entertain for you all. It is for this purpose that I have created the Vedas and sacrifices and plants and herbs. Duly served with these by human beings on Earth, the deities will be gratified. Ye foremost of deities, till the end of this Kalpa, I have ordained your creation, making your constitution depend upon the consequence of the religion of Pravritti. Ye foremost of Beings, do ye then, as regards your respective jurisdictions, engage yourselves in seeking the good of the three worlds. Marichi, Angiras, Atri, Pulastya, Pulaha, Kratu, and Vasishtha,--these seven Rishis have been created by a fiat of the will. These will become the foremost of persons conversant with the Vedas. In fact, they will become the preceptors of the Vedas. They will be wedded to the religion of Pravritti, for they have been intended to devote themselves to the act of procreating offspring. This is the eternal path that I disclose of creatures engaged in acts and observances. The puissant Lord who is charged with the creation of all the worlds is called Aniruddha, Sana, Sanatsujata, Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanatkumara, Kapila, and Sanatana numbering the seventh,--these seven Rishis are known as the spiritual sons of Brahman. Their knowledge comes to them of itself (without being dependant on study or exertion). These seven are wedded to the religion of Nivritti. They are the foremost of all persons conversant with Yoga. They are possessed also of deep knowledge of the Sankhya philosophy. They are preceptors of the scriptures on duty and it is they that introduce the duties of the religion of Nivritti and cause them to flow in the worlds. From Unmanifest (Prakriti) has flowed Consciousness and the three great attributes (of Sattwa, Rajas, and Tamas). Transcending Prakriti is he called Kshetrajna. That Kshetrajna is myself. The path of those that are wedded to Karma emerging out of Ahankara is fraught with return. One cannot, by that path, reach the spot whence there is no return. Different creatures have been created with different ends. Some are intended for the path of Pravritti and some for that of Nivritti. According to the path that a creature follows is the reward that he enjoys. This Brahman is the master of all the worlds. Endued with puissance it is he that creates the universe. He is your mother and father, and he is your grandfather. At my command, he will be the giver of boons unto all creatures. His son Rudra, who has sprung from his brow at his command,
will, endued with puissance, uphold all created beings. Go ye to your respective jurisdictions, and seek, according to the ordinances, the good of the worlds. Let all the scriptural acts flow in all the worlds. Let there be no delay in this. Ye foremost of celestials, do ye ordain the acts of all creatures and the ends that they are to attain therefore. Do ye appoint also the limits of the periods for which all creatures are to live. This present epoch that has been set to run is the foremost of all epochs and should be known by the name of Krita. In this Yuga living creatures should not be slain in the sacrifices that may be performed. It should be as I ordain and let it not be otherwise. In this age, ye celestials, Righteousness will flourish in its entirety. After this age will come the epoch called Treta. The Vedas, in that Yuga, will lose one quarter. Only three of them will exist. In the sacrifice that will be performed in that age, animals, after dedication with the aid of sacred mantras, will be slain. As regards Righteousness again, it will lose one quarter; only three quarters thereof will flourish. On the expiration of the Treta will come the mixed Yuga known by the name of Dwapara. In that Yuga, Righteousness will lose two quarters and only two quarters thereof will flourish. Upon the expiration of Dwapara the Yuga that will set in will be called Kali yuga which will come under the influence of Tisya constellation. Righteousness will lose full three quarters. Only a quarter thereof will exist in all places.
"'When the great God said these words, the deities and the celestial Rishis addressed him and said, If only a fourth part of Righteousness is to exist in that age in every place, tell us O holy one, whither shall we then go and what shall we do!
"'The blessed and holy one said, Ye foremost of celestials, ye should, in that age, repair to such places where the Vedas and sacrifices and Penances and Truth and Self-restraint, accompanied by duties fraught with compassion for all creatures, will still continue to flourish. Sin will never be able to touch you at all!
"'Vyasa continued, 'Thus commanded by the great God, the deities with all the Rishis bowed their heads unto him and then proceeded to the places they desired. After the Rishis and denizens of heaven had left that place, Brahman remained there, desirous of beholding the great Deity eminent in the form of Aniruddha. The foremost of deities then manifested himself to Brahmana, having assumed a form that had a vast equine head. Bearing a bowl (Kamandalu) and the triple stick, he manifested himself before Brahman, reciting the while the Vedas with all their branches. Beholding the great Deity of immeasurable energy in that form crowned with an equine head, the puissant Brahman, the Creator of all the worlds.. moved by the desire of doing good to his Creation, worshipped that boon-giving Lord with a bend of his head, and stood before him with hands joined in reverence. The great Deity embraced Brahman and then told him these words.
"'The holy one said, Do thou, O Brahman, duly think of the courses of acts which creatures are to follow. Thou art the great ordainer of all created Beings. Thou art the master and the lord of the universe. Placing this burthen on thee I shall soon be free from anxiety. At such times, how-ever, when it will be difficult for thee to accomplish the purposes of the deities I shall then appear in incarnate forms according to my self-knowledge. Having said these words, that grand form with the equine head disappeared then and there. Having received his command, Brahman too proceeded quickly to his own region. It is for this, O blessed one, that the eternal Deity, with the lotus in his navel, became the acceptor of the first share offered in sacrifices and hence it is that He came to be called as the eternal upholder of all Sacrifices. He himself adopted the religion of Nivritti, the end after which those creatures strive that are desirous of indestructible fruits. He ordained at the same time the religion of Pravritti for others, with the view to giving variety to the universe. He is the beginning, He is the middle, and He is the end of all created Beings. He is their Creator and He is their one object of meditation. He is the actor and He is the act. Having withdrawn the universe into Himself at the end of the Yuga, He goes to sleep, and awakening at the commencement of another Yuga, He once more creates the universe, Do you all bow unto that illustrious one who is possessed of high soul and who transcends the three attributes, who is unborn, whose form is the universe, and who is the abode or refuge of all the denizens of heaven, Do you bow unto Him who is the Supreme Lord of all creatures, who is the Lord of the Adityas, and of the Vasus as well. Do you bow unto Him who is the Lord of the Aswins, and the Lord of the Maruts, who is the lord of all the Sacrifices ordained in the Vedas, and the Lord of the Vedangas. Bow unto Him who always resides in the Ocean, and who is called Hari, and whose hair is like the blades of the Munja grass. Bow unto Him who is Peace and Tranquillity, and who imparts the religion of Moksha unto all creatures. Bow unto Him who is the Lord of Penances, of all kinds of energy, and of Fame, who is ever the Lord of Speech and the Lord of all the Rivers also. Bow unto Him who is called Kaparddin (Rudra), who is the Great Boar, who is Unicorn, and who is possessed of great intelligence: who is the Sun, who assumed the well-known form with the equine head; and who is always displayed in a four-fold form. Bow unto Him who is unrevealed, who is capable of being apprehended by knowledge only, who is both indestructible and destructible. The supreme Deity, who is immutable, pervadeth all things. He is the Supreme Lord who can be known with the aid of the eye of knowledge alone. It was thus that, aided by the eye of Knowledge, I beheld in days of yore that foremost of deities. Asked by you, I have told you everything in detail, ye disciples, and do you act according to my words and dutifully serve the Supreme Lord called Hari. Do you hymn His praises in Vedic words and adore and worship Him also according to due rites!'"
Vaisampayana continued, "It was thus that the arranger of the Vedas, endued with great intelligence, discoursed to us, questioned by us on that occasion. His son, the highly righteous Suka, and all his disciples (viz., ourselves) listened to him while he delivered that discourse. Our preceptor, with ourselves, O king, then adored the great Deity with Richs extracted from the four Vedas. I have thus told thee everything about what thou hadst asked me. It was thus, O king, that our Island-born preceptor discoursed to us. He who, having uttered the words--I bow unto the holy Lord,--frequently listens, with concentrated attention, to this discourse or reads or recites it to others, becomes endued with intelligence and health, and possessed of beauty and strength. If ill, he becomes freed from that illness, bound, freed from his bonds. The man who cherishes desires obtains (be this) the fruition of all his desires, and easily attains to a long life also. A Brahmana, by doing this, becomes conversant with all the Vedas, and a Kshatriya becomes crowned with success. A Vaisya, by doing it, makes considerable profits, and a Sudra attains to great felicity. A sonless man obtains a son. A maiden obtains a desirable husband. A woman that has conceived brings forth a son. A barren woman conceives and attains to wealth of sons and grandsons. He who recites this discourse on the way succeeds in passing happily and without impediments of any kind along his way. In fact, one attains to whatever objects one cherishes, if one reads or recites this narrative. Hearing these words of the great Rishi, fraught with certainty of conclusion, and embodying a recital of the attributes of that high-souled one who is the foremost of all beings, hearing this narrative of the great conclave of Rishis and other denizens of heaven,--men who are devoted to the supreme Deity derive great happiness.'"