Saunaka said, How is that illustrious god, viz., the puissant Narayanawho is fully conversant with the Vedas and their branches, at once thedoer and the enjoyer of sacrifices? Endued with forgiveness, he hasadopted, again, the religion of Nivritti (abstention). Indeed, it is thatholy and puissant one who has himself ordained the duties of Nivritti.Why then has he made many of the deities the takers of shares insacrifices which, of course, are all due to the disposition of Pravritti?Why has he again created some with a contrary disposition, for theyfollow the ordinances of the religion of abstention? Do thou O Suta,dispel this doubt, of ours. This doubt seems to be eternal and isconnected with a great mystery. Thou hast heard all discourses onNarayana, discourses that are consistent with the (other)scriptures.
Sauti said, O excellent Saunaka, I shall recite to thee whatVaisampayana, the disciple of the intelligent Vyasa, said when questionedon these very topics by king Janamejaya. Having heard the discourse onthe glory of Narayana who is the Soul of all embodied creatures,Janamejaya, endued with great intelligence and wisdom, questionedVaisampayana 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 actionswhich have been said to be productive of prosperity. Emancipation has, Oregenerate one, been said by thee to be the highest felicity and toconsist of the cessation of existence. They who, being divested of bothmerit and demerit, become emancipate, succeed, we hear, in entering thegreat God of a thousand rays. It seems to be, O Brahmana, that theeternal religion of Emancipation is exceedingly difficult of observance.Turning away from it, all the deities have become enjoyers of thelibations of clarified butter poured with mantras on sacrificial firesand 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, theDeity of the Waters, Infinite Space (as living Being), the Universe too(as a conscious agent), and the rest of the denizens of heaven,–they, itseems, are ignorant of the way of securing annihilation of consciousexistence, that is capable of being brought about byself-realisation. Hence, perhaps, they have not be taken themselvesto the path that is certain, indestructible, and immutable. Henceperhaps, turning away from that path they have adopted the religion ofPravritti which leads to conscious existence that is measured by time.This, indeed, is one great fault that attaches to those that are weddedto actions, for all their rewards are terminable. This doubt, Oregenerate one, is planted in my heart like a dagger. Remove it out byreciting to me some discourses of old on this topic. Great is mycuriosity to listen to thee. For what reason, O regenerate one, have thedeities been said to be takers of their respective shares of sacrificialofferings presented to them with the aid of mantras in sacrifices ofdiverse kinds? Why again are the denizens of heaven adored in sacrifices?And, O best of regenerate persons, to whom do they, that take theirshares of offerings in sacrifices performed to their honour, themselvesmake 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, andthat is not acquainted with the Puranas, can speedily answer it. I shall,however, answer thee by reciting to thee what my preceptor theIsland-born Krishna, otherwise called Vyasa, the great Rishi who hasclassified the Vedas, had said unto us on a former occasion whenquestioned by us. Sumanta, and Jaimini, and Paila of firm vows, andmyself numbering the fourth, and Suka forming the fifth, were disciplesof the illustrious Vyasa. We numbering five in all, endued withself-restraint and purity of observances, had completely subjugated wrathand controlled our senses. Our preceptor used to teach us the Vedas,having the Mahabharata for their fifth. Once on a time, while we wereengaged in studying the Vedas on the breast of that foremost ofmountains, 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 answerthat our preceptor made. I shall now recite that answer to thee, OBharata. Hearing these words that were addressed to him by his disciplesthat dispeller of all kinds of darkness represented by ignorance, viz.,the blessed Vyasa, the son of Parasara, said these words: have undergonevery severe, in fact, the austerest of penances. Ye best of men, I amfully conversant with the Past, the Present, and the Future. Inconsequence of those penances of mine and of the restraint under which Ikept my senses while I dwelt on the shores of the Ocean of milk, Narayanabecame 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 discourseto 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 thebeginning of the Kalpa. He whom both the Sankhyas and those conversantwith Yoga call by the name of Paramatma (the Supreme Soul) comes to beregarded as Mahapurusha (the Great Purusha) in consequence of his ownacts. From Him springs forth Abyakta (the Unmanifest), whom the learnedcall Pradhana. From the puissant Unmanifest sprang, for the creation ofall the words, the Manifest (Byakta). He is called Aniruddha. ThatAniruddha is known among all creatures by the name of the Mahat Atma. Itis that Aniruddha who, becoming manifest, created the Grandsire Brahman.Aniruddha is known by another name, viz., Ahankara (consciousness) and isendued with every kind of energy. Earth, Wind, Space, Water, and Lightnumbering the fifth, these are the five Mahabhutas (elements) that havesprung from Ahankara. Having created the Mahabhutas (five in number), hethen created their attributes. Combining the Mahabhutas, he thencreated diverse embodied Being. Listen to me as I recount them to you.Marichi, Angiras, Atri, Pulastya, Pulaha, Kratu, the high-souledVasishtha, and the Self-born Mann, these should be known as the eightPrakritis. Upon these rest all the worlds. Then the Grandsire of all theworld, viz., Brahman, created, for the fulfilment of all creatures, theVedas with all their branches, as also the Sacrifices with their limbs.From these eight Prakritis have sprung this vast universe. Then sprangRudra from the principle of wrath, starting into life, he created tenothers that were like him. These eleven Rudras are called by name ofVikara-Purushas. The Rudras, the (eight) Prakritis, and the severalcelestial Rishis, having started into life, approached Brahman with theobject of upholding the universe and its operations. Addressing theGrandsire, they said, We have been created, O holy one, by thee, O thouof great puissance. Tell each of us, O Grandsire, the respectivejurisdiction we shall be vested with. What particular jurisdictions havebeen created by thee for supervising the different affairs? We, each,should be endued with what kind of consciousness and shall take charge ofwhich of these? Do thou ordain also unto each of us the measure ofstrength that we are to have for discharging the duties of our respectivejurisdictions.’ Thus addressed by them, the great god replied unto themin the following way.
“Brahman said, You have done well, ye deities, in speaking to me of thismatter. Blessed be you all! I was thinking of this very subject that hasengaged your attention. How should the three worlds be upheld and keptagoing? How should your strength and mine be utilized towards that end?Let all of us, leaving this place, repair to that unmanifest and foremostof Beings who is the witness of the world, for seeking his protection. Hewill 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 topractise those austere penances that are declared by Brahman in theVedas. 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 raisedupwards. For a thousand celestial years they were engaged in those severepenances. At the conclusion of that period they heard these sweet wordsin harmony with the Vedas and their branches.
“‘The blessed and holy one said, Ye deities and Rishis possessed ofwealth of asceticism, with Brahman in your company, after according youall 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 threeworlds. I shall increase your energy and strength investing the same withPravritti (predilection for acts). Ye gods, well have you undergone thesepenances from desire of adoring me. Ye foremost of Beings, enjoy now theexcellent fruits of austerities which ye have gone through. This Brahmanis the Lord of all the worlds. Endued with puissance, he is the Grandsireof all creatures. Ye also are foremost of deities. Do ye all, withconcentrated minds perform sacrifices for my glory. In the sacrificeswhich you will perform, do ye always give me a portion of the sacrificialofferings. I shall then, ye lord of creation, assign to each of you yourrespective jurisdictions and ordain what will be for your good!”‘
Vaisampayana continued, “Hearing these words of that God of gods, allthose deities and great Rishis and Brahman became filled with suchdelight that the hair on their bodies stood on its end. They forthwithmade arrangements for a sacrifice in honour of Vishnu according to theordinances laid down in the Vedas. In that sacrifice, Brahman himselfdedicated a portion of the offerings to Vishnu. The deities and thecelestial Rishis also, after the manner of Brahman, dedicated similarportions each unto the great God. The portions, thus offered with greatreverence unto Vishnu, were, in respect of both the measure and thequality of the articles used, according to the ordinances laid down forthe 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 theforemost of Beings, situate beyond the reach of Tamas, vast, pervadingall things, the Supreme Lord of all, the giver of boons, and possessed ofpuissance. Thus adored by them, the boon-giving and great God, invisibleand bodiless, addressed those assembled celestials from heaven and saidunto them:–“The offerings dedicated by you in this sacrifice have allreached me. I am gratified with all of you. I shall bestow rewards on youthat will however, be fraught with ends whence there will bereturn. This shall be your distinctive feature, ye gods, from thisday, in consequence of my grace and kindness for you. Performingsacrifices in every Yuga, with large presents, ye will become enjoyers offruits born of Pravritti. Ye gods, those men also that will performsacrifices according to the ordinances of the Vedas, will give unto allof you shares of their sacrificial offerings. In the Veda-sutras I makehim the receiver (in such sacrifices) of a share similar to that which hehas himself offered one in this sacrifice. Created to look after thoseaffairs that appertain to your respective jurisdictions, do ye uphold theworlds according to the measures of your strength as dependent on theshares you receive on those sacrifices. Indeed, drawing strength fromthose rites and observances that will be current in the several worlds,taking their rise from the fruits of Pravritti, do ye continue to upholdthe affairs of those worlds. Strengthened by the sacrifices thatwill be performed by men, ye will strengthen me. These are the thoughtsthat I entertain for you all. It is for this purpose that I have createdthe Vedas and sacrifices and plants and herbs. Duly served with these byhuman beings on Earth, the deities will be gratified. Ye foremost ofdeities, till the end of this Kalpa, I have ordained your creation,making your constitution depend upon the consequence of the religion ofPravritti. Ye foremost of Beings, do ye then, as regards your respectivejurisdictions, engage yourselves in seeking the good of the three worlds.Marichi, Angiras, Atri, Pulastya, Pulaha, Kratu, and Vasishtha,–theseseven Rishis have been created by a fiat of the will. These will becomethe foremost of persons conversant with the Vedas. In fact, they willbecome the preceptors of the Vedas. They will be wedded to the religionof Pravritti, for they have been intended to devote themselves to the actof procreating offspring. This is the eternal path that I disclose ofcreatures engaged in acts and observances. The puissant Lord who ischarged with the creation of all the worlds is called Aniruddha, Sana,Sanatsujata, Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanatkumara, Kapila, and Sanatananumbering the seventh,–these seven Rishis are known as the spiritualsons of Brahman. Their knowledge comes to them of itself (without beingdependant on study or exertion). These seven are wedded to the religionof Nivritti. They are the foremost of all persons conversant with Yoga.They are possessed also of deep knowledge of the Sankhya philosophy. Theyare preceptors of the scriptures on duty and it is they that introducethe duties of the religion of Nivritti and cause them to flow in theworlds. From Unmanifest (Prakriti) has flowed Consciousness and the threegreat attributes (of Sattwa, Rajas, and Tamas). Transcending Prakriti ishe called Kshetrajna. That Kshetrajna is myself. The path of those thatare wedded to Karma emerging out of Ahankara is fraught with return. Onecannot, by that path, reach the spot whence there is no return. Differentcreatures have been created with different ends. Some are intended forthe path of Pravritti and some for that of Nivritti. According to thepath that a creature follows is the reward that he enjoys. This Brahmanis the master of all the worlds. Endued with puissance it is he thatcreates the universe. He is your mother and father, and he is yourgrandfather. At my command, he will be the giver of boons unto allcreatures. His son Rudra, who has sprung from his brow at his command,will, endued with puissance, uphold all created beings. Go ye to yourrespective jurisdictions, and seek, according to the ordinances, the goodof the worlds. Let all the scriptural acts flow in all the worlds. Letthere be no delay in this. Ye foremost of celestials, do ye ordain theacts of all creatures and the ends that they are to attain therefore. Doye appoint also the limits of the periods for which all creatures are tolive. This present epoch that has been set to run is the foremost of allepochs and should be known by the name of Krita. In this Yuga livingcreatures should not be slain in the sacrifices that may be performed. Itshould be as I ordain and let it not be otherwise. In this age, yecelestials, Righteousness will flourish in its entirety. After thisage will come the epoch called Treta. The Vedas, in that Yuga, will loseone quarter. Only three of them will exist. In the sacrifice that will beperformed in that age, animals, after dedication with the aid of sacredmantras, will be slain. As regards Righteousness again, it will lose onequarter; only three quarters thereof will flourish. On the expiration ofthe Treta will come the mixed Yuga known by the name of Dwapara. In thatYuga, Righteousness will lose two quarters and only two quarters thereofwill flourish. Upon the expiration of Dwapara the Yuga that will set inwill be called Kali yuga which will come under the influence of Tisyaconstellation. Righteousness will lose full three quarters. Only aquarter thereof will exist in all places.
“‘When the great God said these words, the deities and the celestialRishis addressed him and said, If only a fourth part of Righteousness isto exist in that age in every place, tell us O holy one, whither shall wethen go and what shall we do!
“‘The blessed and holy one said, Ye foremost of celestials, ye should, inthat age, repair to such places where the Vedas and sacrifices andPenances and Truth and Self-restraint, accompanied by duties fraught withcompassion for all creatures, will still continue to flourish. Sin willnever be able to touch you at all!
“‘Vyasa continued, ‘Thus commanded by the great God, the deities with allthe Rishis bowed their heads unto him and then proceeded to the placesthey desired. After the Rishis and denizens of heaven had left thatplace, Brahman remained there, desirous of beholding the great Deityeminent in the form of Aniruddha. The foremost of deities then manifestedhimself to Brahmana, having assumed a form that had a vast equine head.Bearing a bowl (Kamandalu) and the triple stick, he manifested himselfbefore Brahman, reciting the while the Vedas with all their branches.Beholding the great Deity of immeasurable energy in that form crownedwith an equine head, the puissant Brahman, the Creator of all theworlds.. moved by the desire of doing good to his Creation, worshippedthat boon-giving Lord with a bend of his head, and stood before him withhands joined in reverence. The great Deity embraced Brahman and then toldhim these words.
“‘The holy one said, Do thou, O Brahman, duly think of the courses ofacts which creatures are to follow. Thou art the great ordainer of allcreated Beings. Thou art the master and the lord of the universe. Placingthis 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 purposesof the deities I shall then appear in incarnate forms according to myself-knowledge. Having said these words, that grand form with the equinehead disappeared then and there. Having received his command, Brahman tooproceeded quickly to his own region. It is for this, O blessed one, thatthe eternal Deity, with the lotus in his navel, became the acceptor ofthe first share offered in sacrifices and hence it is that He came to becalled as the eternal upholder of all Sacrifices. He himself adopted thereligion of Nivritti, the end after which those creatures strive that aredesirous of indestructible fruits. He ordained at the same time thereligion of Pravritti for others, with the view to giving variety to theuniverse. He is the beginning, He is the middle, and He is the end of allcreated Beings. He is their Creator and He is their one object ofmeditation. He is the actor and He is the act. Having withdrawn theuniverse into Himself at the end of the Yuga, He goes to sleep, andawakening at the commencement of another Yuga, He once more creates theuniverse, Do you all bow unto that illustrious one who is possessed ofhigh soul and who transcends the three attributes, who is unborn, whoseform is the universe, and who is the abode or refuge of all the denizensof 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 untoHim who is the Lord of the Aswins, and the Lord of the Maruts, who is thelord of all the Sacrifices ordained in the Vedas, and the Lord of theVedangas. Bow unto Him who always resides in the Ocean, and who is calledHari, and whose hair is like the blades of the Munja grass. Bow unto Himwho is Peace and Tranquillity, and who imparts the religion of Mokshaunto all creatures. Bow unto Him who is the Lord of Penances, of allkinds of energy, and of Fame, who is ever the Lord of Speech and the Lordof all the Rivers also. Bow unto Him who is called Kaparddin (Rudra), whois the Great Boar, who is Unicorn, and who is possessed of greatintelligence: who is the Sun, who assumed the well-known form with theequine head; and who is always displayed in a four-fold form. Bow untoHim who is unrevealed, who is capable of being apprehended by knowledgeonly, who is both indestructible and destructible. The supreme Deity, whois immutable, pervadeth all things. He is the Supreme Lord who can beknown with the aid of the eye of knowledge alone. It was thus that, aidedby the eye of Knowledge, I beheld in days of yore that foremost ofdeities. Asked by you, I have told you everything in detail, yedisciples, and do you act according to my words and dutifully serve theSupreme Lord called Hari. Do you hymn His praises in Vedic words andadore 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 onthat occasion. His son, the highly righteous Suka, and all his disciples(viz., ourselves) listened to him while he delivered that discourse. Ourpreceptor, with ourselves, O king, then adored the great Deity with Richsextracted from the four Vedas. I have thus told thee everything aboutwhat thou hadst asked me. It was thus, O king, that our Island-bornpreceptor discoursed to us. He who, having uttered the words–I bow untothe holy Lord,–frequently listens, with concentrated attention, to thisdiscourse or reads or recites it to others, becomes endued withintelligence and health, and possessed of beauty and strength. If ill, hebecomes freed from that illness, bound, freed from his bonds. The man whocherishes desires obtains (be this) the fruition of all his desires, andeasily attains to a long life also. A Brahmana, by doing this, becomesconversant with all the Vedas, and a Kshatriya becomes crowned withsuccess. A Vaisya, by doing it, makes considerable profits, and a Sudraattains to great felicity. A sonless man obtains a son. A maiden obtainsa desirable husband. A woman that has conceived brings forth a son. Abarren woman conceives and attains to wealth of sons and grandsons. Hewho recites this discourse on the way succeeds in passing happily andwithout impediments of any kind along his way. In fact, one attains towhatever objects one cherishes, if one reads or recites this narrative.Hearing these words of the great Rishi, fraught with certainty ofconclusion, and embodying a recital of the attributes of that high-souledone who is the foremost of all beings, hearing this narrative of thegreat conclave of Rishis and other denizens of heaven,–men who aredevoted to the supreme Deity derive great happiness.'”