Janamejaya said, "O holy one, it behoveth thee to tell me the significance of those diverse names uttering which the great Rishi Vyasa with his disciples hymned the praises of the illustrious slayer of Madhu. I am desirous of hearing those names of Hari, that Supreme Lord of all creatures. Indeed, by listening to those names, I shall be sanctified and cleansed even like the bright autumnal moon.
Vaisampayana said, Listen, O king, to what the significances are of the diverse names, due to attributes and acts, of Hari as the puissant Hari himself of cheerful soul explained them to Phalguna. That slayer of hostile heroes, viz., Phalguna, had at one time asked Kesava, enquiring after the imports of the some of the names by which the high-souled Keshva is adored. "Arjuna said, "O holy one, O Supreme ordainer of the Past and the Future. O Creator of all Beings, O immutable one, O Refuge of all the worlds, O Lord of the universe, O dispeller of the fears of all persons, I desire to hear from thee in detail, O Kesava, the significance of all those names of thine, O God, which have been mentioned by the great Rishis in the Vedas and the Puranas in consequences of diverse acts of thine. None else than thee, O Lord, is competent to explain the significations of those names.'"
"The holy one said, 'In the Rigveda, in the Yajurveda, in the Atharvans and the Samans, in the Puranas and the Upanishads, as also in the treatises on Astrology, O Arjuna, in the Sankhya scriptures, in the Yoga scriptures, and in the treatises also on the Science of Life, many are the names that have been mentioned by the great Rishis. Some of those names are derivable from my attributes and some of them relate to my acts. Do thou hear, with concentrated attention, O sinless one, what the import is of each off those names (in particular) that have reference to my acts. I shall recite them to you. It is said that in days of yore you were half my body. Salutations unto Him of great glory, Him, viz., that is the Supreme Soul of all embodied creatures. Salutations unto Narayana, unto Him that is identifiable with the universe, unto Him that transcends the three (primal) attributes (of Sattwa, Rajas and Minas), unto Him that is, again, the Soul of those attributes. From His grace 'lath arisen Brahman and from His wrath hath arisen Rudra. He is the source whence have sprung all mobile and immobile creatures. O foremost of all persons endued with Sattwa, the attribute of Sattwa consists of the eight and ten qualities. That attribute is Supreme Nature having for her soul the Sky and Earth and succeeding by her creative forces in upholding the universe. That Nature is identical with the fruit of all acts (in the form of the diverse regions of felicity to which creatures attain through their acts). She is also the pure Chit. She is immortal, and invincible, and is called the Soul of the universe. From her flows all the modifications of both Creation and Destruction. (She is identical with my Prakriti or Nature). Divested of sex, She or He is the penances that people undergo. He is both the sacrifice that is performed and the sacrificer that performs the sacrifice. He is the ancient and the infinite Purusha. He is otherwise called Aniruddha and is the source of the Creation and the Destruction of the universe. When Brahma's night wore off, through the grace of that Being of immeasurable energy, a lotus made its appearance first, O thou of eyes like lotus petals. Within that lotus was born Brahma, springing from Aniruddha's grace. Towards the evening of Brahma's day, Aniruddha became filled with wrath, and as a consequence of this, there sprang from his forehead a son called Rudra vested with the power of destroying
everything (when the hour for destruction comes). These two, viz., Brahma and Rudra, are the foremost of all the deities, having sprung respectively from the Propitiousness and the Wrath (of Aniruddha). Acting according to Aniruddha's direction, these two deities create and destroy. Although capable of granting boons unto all creatures, they are, however, in the matter of the concerns to which they attend (viz., Creation and Destruction), merely instruments in the hands of Aniruddha. (It is Aniruddha that does everything, making Brahma and Rudra the visible agents in respect of the universe). Rudra is otherwise called Kaparddin. He has matted locks on his head, and sometimes displays a head that is bald. He loves to dwell in the midst of crematoriums which constitute his home. He is an observer of the austerest vows. He is Yogin of mighty puissance and energy. He is the destroyer of Daksha's sacrifice and the tearer of Bhaga's eyes. O son of Pandu, Rudra should be known to have always Narayana for his Soul. If that deity of deities, viz., Maheswara, be worshipped, then O Partha, is the puissant Narayana also worshipped. I am the Soul, O son of Pandu, of all the worlds, of all the universe. Rudra, again, is my Soul. It is for this that I always adore him. If I do not adore the auspicious and boon-giving Isana nobody would then adore my own self. The ordinances I set are followed by all the worlds. Those ordinances should always be adored, and it is, therefore, that I adore them. He who knows Rudra knows myself, and he who knows myself knows Rudra. He who follows Rudra follows me, Rudra is Narayana. Both are one; and one is displayed in two different forms. Rudra and Narayana, forming one person, pervade all displayed things and cause them to act. No one else than Rudra is competent to grant me a boon. O son of Pandu. Having settled this in my mind, I adored in days of yore the ancient and puissant Rudra, for obtaining the boon of a son. In adoring Rudra thus I adored my own self. Vishnu never bows his head unto any deity except his own self. It is for this reason that I adore Rudra, (Rudra being, as I have already told thee, my own self). All the deities, including Brahma and Indra and the deities and the great Rishis, adore Narayana, that foremost of deities, otherwise called by the name of Hari. Vishnu is the foremost of all Beings past, present, or future, and as such should always be adored and worshipped with reverence. Do thou bow thy head unto Vishnu. Do thou bow thy head unto Him who gives protection to all. Do thou bow, O son of Kunti, unto that great boon-giving deity, that foremost of deities, who eats the offerings made unto him in sacrifices. I have heard that there are four kinds of worshippers, viz., those who are eager for a religious life, those who are enquirers, those who strive to comprehend what they learn and those who are wise. Among them all, they that are devoted to realising the self and do not adore any other deity, are the foremost. I am the end they seek, and though engaged in acts, they never seek the fruits thereof. The three remaining classes of my worshippers are those that are desirous of the fruits of their acts. They attain to regions of great felicity, but then they have to fall down therefrom upon the exhaustion of their merits. Those amongst my worshippers, therefore, that are fully awakened (and, as such, that know that all happiness is terminable except what is attainable by persons that become identified with me) obtain what is foremost (and invaluable). Those that are awakened and whose conduct displays such enlightenment, may be engaged in adoring Brahman or Mahadeva or the other deities that occur in heaven but they succeed at least in attaining to myself. I have thus told thee, O Partha, what the distinctions are between my worshippers. Thyself, O son of Kunti, and myself are known as Nara and Narayana. Both of us have assumed human bodies only for the purpose of lightening the burden of the Earth. I am fully cognisant of self-knowledge. I know who I am and whence I am, O Bharata. I know the religion of Nivritti, and all that contributes to the prosperity of creatures. Eternal as I am, I am the one sole Refuge of all men. The waters have been called by the name of Nara, for they sprang from Him called Nara. And since the waters in former times, were my refuge, I am, therefore, called by the name of Narayana. Assuming the form of the Sun I cover the universe with my rays. And because I am the home of all creatures, therefore, am I called by the name of Vasudeva. I am the end of all creatures and their sire, O Bharata. I pervade the entire firmament on high and the Earth, O Partha, and my splendour transcends every other splendour. I am He, O Bharata, whom all creatures wish to attain to at the time of death. And because I pervade all the universe, I have come to be called by the name of Vishnu. Desirous of attaining to success through restraint of their senses, people seek to attain to me who am heaven and Earth and the firmament between the two. For this am I called by the name of Damodara. The word Prisni includes food, the Vedas, water, and nectar. These four are always in my stomach. Hence am I called by the name of Prisnigarbha. The Rishis have said that once on a time when the Rishi Trita was thrown into a well by Ekata and Dwiti, the distressed Trita invoked me, saying,--O Prisnigarbha, do thou rescue the fallen Trita! That foremost of Rishis, viz., Trita, the spiritual son of Brahma, having called on me thus, was rescued from the pit. The rays that emanate from the Sun who gives heat to the world, from the blazing fire, and from the Moon, constitute my hair. Hence do foremost of learned Brahmanas call me by the name of Kesava. The high-souled Utathya having impregnated his wife disappeared from her side through an illusion of the gods. The younger brother Vrihaspati then appeared before that high-souled one's wife. Unto that foremost of Rishis that had repaired thither from desire of congress, the child in the womb of Utathya's wife, O son of Kunti, whose body had already been formed of the five primal elements, said,--O giver of boons, I have already entered into this womb. It behoveth thee not to assail my mother. Hearing these words of the unborn child, Vrihaspati, became filled with
wrath and denounced a curse on him, saying,--Since thou obstructest me in this way when I have come hither from desire of the pleasures of congress, therefore shalt thou, by my curse, be visited by blindness, without doubt! Through this curse of that foremost of Rishis. the child of Utathya was born blind, and blind he remained for a long time. It was for this reason that, that the Rishi, in days of yore, came to be known by the name of Dirghatamas. He, however, acquired the four Vedas with their eternal limbs and subsidiary parts. After that he frequently invoked me by this secret name of mine. Indeed, according to the ordinance as laid down, he repeatedly called upon me by the name of Kesava. Through the merit he acquired by uttering this name repeatedly, he became cured of his blindness and then came to be called by the name of Gotama. This name of mine, therefore, O Arjuna is productive of boons unto them that utter it among all the deities and the high-souled Rishis. The deity of Fire (Appetite) and Shoma (food) combining together, become transfused into one and the same substance. It is for this reason that the entire universe of mobile and immobile creatures is said to be pervaded by those two deities. In the Puranas, Agni and Soma are spoken of as complementary to one another. The deities also are said to have Agni for their mouth. It is in consequence of these two beings endued with natures leading to the unification that they are said to be deserving of each other and upholders of the universe.'"