Janamejaya said, "The Sankhya system, the Pancharatra scriptures, and the Aranyaka-Vedas,--these different systems of knowledge or religion,--O regenerate Rishi, are current in the world. Do all these systems preach the same course of duties, or are the courses of duties preached by them, O ascetic, different from one another? Questioned by me, do thou discourse to me on Pravritti in due order!"
Vaisampayana said, "I bow unto that great Rishi who is the dispeller of darkness, and whom Satyavati bore to Parasara in the midst of an island, who is possessed of great knowledge and who is endued with great liberality of soul. The learned say that he is the origin of the Grandsire Brahma; that he is the sixth form of Narayana; that he is the foremost of Rishis; that he is endued with the puissance of Yoga; that as the only son of his parents he is an incarnate portion of Narayana; and that, born under extraordinary circumstances on an Island, he is the inexhaustible receptacle of the Vedas. In the Krita age, Narayana of great puissance and mighty energy, created him as his son. Verily, the high-souled Vyasa is unborn and ancient and is the inexhaustible receptacle of the Vedas!"
Janamejaya said, "O best of regenerate persons, it was thou that saidst before this that the Rishi Vasishtha had a son of the name of Saktri and that Saktri had a son of the name of Parasara, and that Parasara begot a son named the Island-born Krishna endued with great ascetic merit. Thou tellest me again that Vyasa is the son of Narayana. I ask, was it in some former birth that Vyasa of immeasurable energy had sprung from Narayana? O thou of great intelligence, do tell me of that birth of Vyasa which was due to Narayana!"
Vaisampayana said, "Desirous of understanding the meaning of the Srutis, my preceptor, that ocean of penances, who is exceedingly devoted to the observance of all scriptural duties and the acquisition of knowledge, dwelt for some time in a particular region of the Himavat mountains. Endued with great intelligence, he became fatigued with his penances in consequence of the great strain on his energies occasioned by the composition of the Mahabharata. At that time, Sumanta and Jaimini and Paila of firm vows and myself numbering the fourth, and Suka his own son, attended on him. All of us, O king, in view of the fatigue our preceptor felt, waited dutifully upon him, engaged in doing all that was necessary for dispelling that fatigue of his. Surrounded by these disciples of his, Vyasa shone in beauty on the breast of the Himavat mountains like the Lord of all the ghostly beings, viz., Mahadeva, in the midst of those ghostly attendants of his. Having recapitulated the Vedas with all their branches as also the meanings of all the Verses in the Mahabharata, one day, with rapt attention, all of us approached our preceptor who, having controlled his senses, was at time rapt up in thought. Availing ourselves of an interval in the conversation, we asked that foremost of regenerate persons to expound to us the meanings of the Vedas and the Verses in the Mahabharata and narrate to us the incidents as well of his own birth from Narayana. Conversant as he was with all topics of enquiry, he at first discoursed to us on the interpretations of the Srutis and the Mahabharata, and then set himself to narrate to us the following incidents relating to his birth from Narayana.
"Vyasa said, 'Listen, ye disciples, to this foremost of narratives, to this best of histories that relates again to the birth of a Rishi. Appertaining to the Krita age, this narrative has become known to me through my penances, ye regenerate ones. On the occasion of the seventh creation, viz., that which was due to the primeval Lotus, Narayana, endued with the austerest penances, transcending both good and ill, and possessed of unrivalled splendour, at first created Brahma, from his navel. After Brahma had started into birth, Narayana addressed him, saying; Thou halt sprung from my navel. Endued with puissance in respect of creation, do thou set thyself to create diverse kinds of creatures, rational and irrational. Thus addressed by the author of his being, Brahma with his mind penetrated by anxiety, felt the difficulty of his task and became unwilling to do what he was commenced to do. Bowing his head unto the boon-giving and illustrious Hari, the Lord of the universe, Brahma said these words unto him,--I bow to thee, O Lord of the deities, but I ask what puissance have I to create diverse creatures? I have no wisdom. Do thou ordain what should be ordained in view of this. Thus addressed by Brahma, the Lord of the universe, viz., Narayana, disappeared there and then from Brahma's sight. The Supreme Lord, the god of gods, the chief of those endowed with intelligence, then began to think. The Goddess of Intelligence forthwith made her appearance before the puissant Narayana. Himself transcending all Yoga, Narayana then, by dint of Yoga, applied the Goddess of Intelligence properly. The illustrious and puissant and immutable Hari, addressing the Goddess of Intelligence who was endued with activity and goodness and all the puissance of Yoga, said unto her these words:--For the accomplishment of the task of creating all the worlds do thou enter into Brahma. Commanded thus by the Supreme Lord, Intelligence forthwith entered Brahma. When Hari beheld that Brahma had become united with Intelligence. He once more addressed him, saying--Do thou now create diverse kinds of creatures.--Replaying unto Narayana by uttering the word 'Yes,' Brahma reverently accepted the command of his progenitor. Narayana then disappeared from Brahma's presence, and in a moment repaired to his own place, known by the name of Deva (Light or Effulgence). Returning to His own disposition (of Uumanifestness), Hari remained in that state of oneness. After the task of creation, however, had been accomplished by Brahma, another thought arose in the mind of Narayana. Indeed, he reflected in this strain:--Brahma, otherwise called Parameshthi, has created all these creatures, consisting of Daityas and Danavas and Gandharvas and Rakshasas. The helpless Earth has become burthened with the weight of creatures. Many among the Daityas and Danavas and Rakshasas on Earth will become endued with great strength. Possessed of penances, they will at diverse times succeed in acquiring many excellent boons. Swelling with pride and might in consequence of those boons that they will succeed in obtaining, they will oppress and afflict the deities and the Rishis possessed of ascetic might. It is, therefore, meet that I should now and then lighten the burthen of the Earth, by assuming diverse forms one after another as occasion would require. I shall achieve this task by chastising the wicked and upholding the righteous. (Thus looked after by me), the Earth, which is the embodiment of Truth, will succeed in bearing her load of creatures. Assuming the form of a mighty snake I myself have to uphold the Earth in empty space. Upheld by me thus, she will uphold the entire creation, mobile and immobile. Incarnated on the Earth, therefore, in different forms, I shall have to rescue her at such times from peril. Having reflected in this way, the illustrious slayer of Madhu created diverse forms in his mind in which to appear from time to time for accomplishing the task in view. Assuming the form of a Boar, of Man-lion, of a Dwarf, and of human beings, I shall quell or slay such enemies of the deities as will become wicked and ungovernable. After this, the original Creator of the universe once more uttered the syllable, Bho, causing the atmosphere to resound with it. From this syllable of speech (Saraswati) arose a Rishi of the name Saraswat. The son, thus born of the Speech of Narayana, came to be, also called by the name of Apantara-tamas. Endued with great puissance, he was fully conversant with the past, the present, and the future. Firm in the observance of vows, he was truthful in speech. Unto that Rishi who, after birth, had bowed his head unto Narayana, the latter, who was the original Creator of all the deities and possessed of a nature that was immutable, said those words: Thou shouldst devote thy attention to the distribution of the Vedas, O foremost of all persons endued with intelligence. Do thou, therefore, O ascetic, accomplish what I command thee.--In obedience to this command of the Supreme Lord from whose Speech the Rishi Apantaratamas sprang into existence, the latter, in the Kalpa named after the Self-born Manu, distributed and arranged the Vedas. For that act of the Rishi, the illustrious Hari became gratified with him, as also for his well-performed penances, his vow and observances, and his restraint of the senses or passions. Addressing him,--Narayana said,--At each Manwantara, O son, thou wilt act in this way with respect to the Vedas. Thou shalt, in consequence of this act of thine, be immutable, O regenerate one, and incapable of being transcended by any one. When the Kali age will set in, certain princes of Bharata's line, to be called by the name of Kauravas, will take their birth from thee. They will be celebrated over the Earth as high-souled princes ruling over powerful kingdoms. Born of thee, dissensions will break out among them ending in their destruction at one another's hands excepting yourself. O foremost of regenerate persons, in that age also, endued with austere penances, thou wilt distribute the Vedas into diverse classes. Indeed, in that dark age, thy complexion will become dark. Thou shalt cause diverse kinds of duties to flow and diverse kinds of knowledge also. Although endued with austere penances, yet thou shalt never be able to free thyself from desire and attachment to the world. Thy son, however, will be freed from every attachment like unto the Supreme Soul, through the grace of Madhava. It will not be otherwise. He whom learned Brahmanas call the mind-born son of the Grandsire, viz., Vasishtha endued with great intelligence and like unto an ocean of penances, and whose splendour transcends that of the Sun himself, will be the progenitor of a race in which a great Rishi of the name of Parasara, possessed of mighty energy and prowess, will take his birth. That foremost of persons, that ocean of Vedas, that abode of penances, will become thy sire (when thou wilt take birth in the Kali age). Thou shalt take thy birth as the son of a maiden residing in the house of her sire, through an act of congress with the great Rishi Parasara. Doubts
thou wilt have none with respect to the imports of things past, present, and future. Endued with penances and instructed by me, thou wilt behold the incidents of thousands and thousands of ages long past away. Thou wilt see through thousands and thousands of ages also in the future. Thou shalt, in that birth, behold me, O ascetic,--me that am without birth and death,--incarnated on Earth (as Krishna of Yadu's race), armed with the discus. All this will happen to thee, O ascetic, through the merit that will be thine in consequence of thy ceaseless devotion to me. These words of mine will never be otherwise. Thou shalt be one of the foremost of creatures. Great shall be thy fame. Surya's son Sani (Saturn) will, in a future Kalpa, take birth as the great Manu of that period. During that Manwantara, O son, thou shalt, in respect of merits, be superior to even the Manus of the several periods. Without doubt, thou shalt be so through my grace. Whatever exists in the world represents the result of my exertion. The thoughts of others may not correspond with their acts. As regards myself, however, I always ordain what I think, without the least impediment! Having said these words unto the Rishi Apantaratamas, otherwise called by the name of Saraswat, the Supreme Lord dismissed him, saying unto him.--Go. I am he that was born as Apantaratamas through the command of Hari. Once more have I taken birth as the celebrated Krishna-Dwaipayana, a delighter of the race of Vasishtha. I have thus told you, my dear disciples, the circumstances, of my own former birth which was due to the grace of Narayana in so much that I was a very portion of Narayana himself. Ye foremost of intelligent persons, I underwent, in days of yore, the austerest penances, with the aid of the highest abstraction of the mind. Ye sons, moved by my great affection for yourselves that are devoted to me with reverence, I have told you everything relating to what you wished to know from me, viz., my first birth in days of remote antiquity and that other birth subsequent to it (viz., the present one)!"
Vaisampayana continued, "I have thus narrated to thee, O monarch, the circumstances connected with the former birth of our revered preceptor, viz., Vyasa of unstained mind, as asked by thee. Listen to me once again. There are diverse kinds of cults, O royal sage, that go by diverse names such as Sankhya, Yoga, the Pancha-ratra, Vedas, and Pasupati. The promulgator of Sankhya cult is said to be the great Rishi Kapila. The primeval Hiranyagarbha, and none else, is the promulgator of the Yoga system. The Rishi Apantaratamas is said to be the preceptor of the Vedas, some call that Rishi by the name of Prachina-garbha. The cult known by
the name of Pasupata was promulgated by the Lord of Uma, that master of all creatures, viz., the cheerful Siva, otherwise known by the name of Sreekantha, the son of Brahma. The illustrious Narayana is himself the promulgator of the cult, in its entirety, contained in the Pancharatra scriptures. In all these cults, O foremost of kings, it is seen that the puissant Narayana is the one sole object of exposition. According to the scriptures of these cults and the measure of knowledge they contain, Narayana is the one sole object of worship they inculcate. Those persons whose visions, O king, are blinded by darkness, fail to understand that Narayana is the Supreme Soul pervading the entire universe. Those persons of wisdom who are the authors of the scriptures say that Narayana, who is a Rishi, is the one object of reverent worship in the universe. I say that there is no other being like Him. The Supreme Deity, called by the name of Hari, resides in the hearts of those that have succeeded (with the aid of the scriptures and of inference) in dispelling all doubts. Madhava never resides in the hearts of those that are under the sway of doubts and that would dispute away everything with the aid of false dialectics. They that are conversant with the Pancharatra scriptures, that are duly observant of the duties laid down therein, and that are devoted to Narayana with their whole souls, succeed in entering into Narayana. The Sankhya and the Yoga systems are eternal. All the Vedas, again, O monarch, are eternal. The Rishis, in all these systems of cult, have declared that this universe existing from ancient times is Narayana's self. Thou shouldst know that whether acts, good or bad, are laid down in the Vedas and occurrence in heaven and Earth, between the sky and the waters, are all caused by and flow from that ancient Rishi Narayana.