“Yudhishthira said, ‘If a man be a house-holder or a Brahmacharin, aforest-recluse or a mendicant, and if he desires to achieve success, whatdeity should he adore? How can he certainly acquire heaven and attainthat which is of the highest benefit (viz., Emancipation)? According towhat ordinances should he perform the homa in honour of the gods and thePitris? What is the region to which one goes when one becomesemancipated? What is the essence of Emancipation? What should one do sothat one, having attained to heaven, would not have to fall down thence?Who is the deity of the deities? And who is the Pitri of the Pitris? Whois he that is superior to him, who is the deity of the deities and thePitri of the Pitris? Tell me all this, O Grandsire!’
“Bhishma said, O thou that art well acquainted with the art ofquestioning, this question that thou hast asked me, O sinless one, is onethat touches a deep mystery. One cannot answer it with the aid of thescience of argumentation, even if one were to strive for a hundred years.Without the grace of Narayana, O king, or an accession of high knowledge,this question of thine is incapable of being answered. Connected thoughthis topic be with a deep mystery, I shall yet, O slayer of foes, expoundit to thee! In this connection is cited the old history of thediscourse between Narada and the Rishi Narayana. I heard it from my sirethat in the Krita age, O monarch, during the epoch of the Self-born Manu,the eternal Narayana, the Soul of the universe, took birth as the son ofDharma in a quadruple form, viz., as Nara, Narayana, Hari, and theSelf-create Krishna. Amongst them all, Narayana and Nara underwentthe severest austerities by repairing to the Himalayan retreat known bythe name of Vadari, by riding on their golden ears. Each of those carswas furnished with eight wheels, and made up of the five primal elements,and looked exceedingly beautiful. Those original regents of theworld who had taken birth as the sons of Dharma, became exceedinglyemaciated in person in consequence of the austerities they had undergone.Indeed, for those austerities and for their energy, the very deities wereunable to look at them. Only that deity with whom they were propitiatedcould behold them. Without doubt, with his heart devoted to them, andimpelled by a longing desire to be-hold them, Narada dropped down onGandhamadana from a summit of the high mountains of Meru and wanderedover all the world. Possessed of great speed, he at last repaired to thatspot whereon was situated the retreat of Vadari. Impelled by curiosity heentered that retreat at the hour of Nara’s and Narayana’s, performingtheir daily rites. He said unto himself.–This is truly the retreat ofthat Being in whom are established all the worlds including the deities,the Asuras, the Gandharvas, the Kinnaras, and the great snakes! There wasonly one form of this great Being before. That form took birth in fourshapes for the expansion of the race of Dharma which have been reared bythat deity. How wonderful it is that Dharma has thus been honoured bythese four great deities viz., Nara, Narayana, and Hari and Krishna! Inthis spot Krishna and Hari dwelt formerly. The other two, however, viz.,Nara and Narayana, are now dwelling here engaged in penances for theobject of enhancing their merit. These two are the highest refuge of theuniverse. What can be the nature of the daily rites these two perform?They are the sires of all creatures, and the illustrious deities of allbeings. Endued with high intelligence, what is that deity whom these twoworship? Who are those Pitris whom these two Pitris of all beingsadore?–Thinking of this in his mind, and filled with devotion towardsNarayana, Narada suddenly appeared before those two gods. After those twodeities had finished their adoration to _their_ deities and the Rishis,they looked at the celestial Rishi arrived at their retreat. The latterwas honoured with those eternal rites that are ordained in thescriptures. Beholding that extraordinary conduct of the two originaldeities in themselves worshipping other deities and Pitris, theillustrious Rishi Narada took his seat there, well pleased with thehonours he had received. With a cheerful soul he cast his eyes then onNarayana, and bowing unto Mahadeva he said these words.
“Narada said, In the Vedas and the Puranas, in the Angas and thesubsidiary Angas thou art sung with reverence, thou art unborn andeternal. Thou art the Creator. Thou art the mother of the universe. Thouart the embodiment of Immortality and thou art the foremost of allthings. The Past and the Future, indeed, the entire universe has beenestablished on thee! The four modes of life, O lord, having the domesticfor their first, ceaselessly sacrifice to thee that art of diverse forms.Thou art the father and the mother and the eternal preceptor of theuniverse. We know not who is that deity or that Pitri unto whom thou artsacrificing to-day!
“The holy one said, This topic is one about which nothing should be said.It is an ancient mystery. Thy devotion to me is very great. Hence, Oregenerate one, I shall discourse to thee on it agreeably to the truth.That which is minute, which is inconceivable, unmanifest, immobile,durable, destitute of all connection with the senses and the objects ofthe senses, that which is dissociated from the (five) elements–that iscalled the in-dwelling Soul of all existent creatures. That is known bythe name of Kshetrajna. Transcending the three attributes of Sattwa,Rajas, and Tamas, that is regarded as Purusha in the scriptures. From Himhath followed the unmanifest, O foremost of regenerate ones, possessed ofthe three attributes of Sattwa, Rajas, and Tamas. Though reallyunmanifest, she is called indestructible Prakriti and dwell in allmanifest forms. Know that She is the source whence we two have sprung.That all-pervading Soul, which is made up of all existent andnon-existent things, is adored by us. Even He is what we worship in allthose rites that we perform in honour of the deities and the Pitris.There is no higher deity or Pitri than He. O regenerate one, He should beknown as our Soul. It is him that we worship. This course of dutiesfollowed by men has, O regenerate one, been promulgated by Him. It is Hisordinance that we should duly perform all the rites laid down in respectof the deities and the Pitris. Brahman, Sthanu, Manu, Daksha, Bhrigu,Dharma, Yama, Marichi, Angiras, Atri, Pulastya, Pulaha, Kratu, Vasishtha,Parameshthi, Vivaswat, Shoma, he that has been called Karddama, Krodha,Avak, and Krita,–these one and twenty persons, called Prajapatis, werefirst born. All of them obeyed the eternal law of the Supreme GodObserving all the rites, in detail, that were ordained in honour of thedeities and the Pitris, all those foremost of regenerate persons acquiredall those objects which they sought. The incorporeal denizens of Heavenitself bow to that Supreme deity and through His grace they attain tothose fruits and that end which He ordains for them. This is the settledconclusion of the scriptures that these persons freed from these sevenand ten attributes, (viz., the five senses of knowledge, the five sensesof action, the five vital breaths, and mind and understanding), who havecast off all acts, and are divested of the five and ten elements whichconstitute the gross body, are said to be Emancipate. That which theEmancipate attain to as their ultimate end is called by the name ofKshetrajna. He is regarded (in the scriptures) as both possessed of andfree from all the attributes. He can be apprehended by Knowledge alone.We two have sprung from Him. Knowing him in that way, we adore thateternal Soul of all things. The Vedas and all the modes of life, thoughcharacterised by divergences of opinion, all worship Him with devotion.It is He who, speedily moved to grace, confers on them high ends fraughtwith felicity. Those persons in this world who, filled with His spirit,become fully and conclusively devoted to Him, attain to ends that aremuch higher, for they succeed in entering Him and becoming merged in hisSelf. I have now, O Narada, discoursed to thee on what is high mysterymoved by the love I bear to thee for thy devotion to me. Indeed, inconsequence of that devotion which thou professest towards me, thou hastsucceeded in listening to this my discourse!”