Janamejaya said, “O holy one, it behoveth thee to tell me thesignificance of those diverse names uttering which the great Rishi Vyasawith his disciples hymned the praises of the illustrious slayer of Madhu.I am desirous of hearing those names of Hari, that Supreme Lord of allcreatures. Indeed, by listening to those names, I shall be sanctified andcleansed even like the bright autumnal moon.
Vaisampayana said, Listen, O king, to what the significances are of thediverse names, due to attributes and acts, of Hari as the puissant Harihimself of cheerful soul explained them to Phalguna. That slayer ofhostile heroes, viz., Phalguna, had at one time asked Kesava, enquiringafter the imports of the some of the names by which the high-souledKeshva 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, OLord of the universe, O dispeller of the fears of all persons, I desireto hear from thee in detail, O Kesava, the significance of all thosenames of thine, O God, which have been mentioned by the great Rishis inthe Vedas and the Puranas in consequences of diverse acts of thine. Noneelse than thee, O Lord, is competent to explain the significations ofthose names.'”
“The holy one said, ‘In the Rigveda, in the Yajurveda, in the Atharvansand the Samans, in the Puranas and the Upanishads, as also in thetreatises on Astrology, O Arjuna, in the Sankhya scriptures, in the Yogascriptures, and in the treatises also on the Science of Life, many arethe names that have been mentioned by the great Rishis. Some of thosenames are derivable from my attributes and some of them relate to myacts. Do thou hear, with concentrated attention, O sinless one, what theimport is of each off those names (in particular) that have reference tomy acts. I shall recite them to you. It is said that in days of yore youwere half my body. Salutations unto Him of great glory, Him, viz., thatis the Supreme Soul of all embodied creatures. Salutations untoNarayana, unto Him that is identifiable with the universe, unto Him thattranscends 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 thesource whence have sprung all mobile and immobile creatures. O foremostof all persons endued with Sattwa, the attribute of Sattwa consists ofthe eight and ten qualities. That attribute is Supreme Naturehaving for her soul the Sky and Earth and succeeding by her creativeforces in upholding the universe. That Nature is identical with the fruitof all acts (in the form of the diverse regions of felicity to whichcreatures attain through their acts). She is also the pure Chit. She isimmortal, and invincible, and is called the Soul of the universe. Fromher flows all the modifications of both Creation and Destruction. (She isidentical with my Prakriti or Nature). Divested of sex, She or He is thepenances that people undergo. He is both the sacrifice that is performedand the sacrificer that performs the sacrifice. He is the ancient and theinfinite Purusha. He is otherwise called Aniruddha and is the source ofthe Creation and the Destruction of the universe. When Brahma’s nightwore off, through the grace of that Being of immeasurable energy, a lotusmade its appearance first, O thou of eyes like lotus petals. Within thatlotus was born Brahma, springing from Aniruddha’s grace. Towards theevening of Brahma’s day, Aniruddha became filled with wrath, and as aconsequence of this, there sprang from his forehead a son called Rudravested with the power of destroying everything (when the hour fordestruction comes). These two, viz., Brahma and Rudra, are the foremostof all the deities, having sprung respectively from the Propitiousnessand the Wrath (of Aniruddha). Acting according to Aniruddha’s direction,these two deities create and destroy. Although capable of granting boonsunto all creatures, they are, however, in the matter of the concerns towhich they attend (viz., Creation and Destruction), merely instruments inthe hands of Aniruddha. (It is Aniruddha that does everything, makingBrahma and Rudra the visible agents in respect of the universe). Rudra isotherwise called Kaparddin. He has matted locks on his head, andsometimes displays a head that is bald. He loves to dwell in the midst ofcrematoriums which constitute his home. He is an observer of theausterest vows. He is Yogin of mighty puissance and energy. He is thedestroyer of Daksha’s sacrifice and the tearer of Bhaga’s eyes. O son ofPandu, Rudra should be known to have always Narayana for his Soul. Ifthat deity of deities, viz., Maheswara, be worshipped, then O Partha, isthe puissant Narayana also worshipped. I am the Soul, O son of Pandu, ofall the worlds, of all the universe. Rudra, again, is my Soul. It is forthis that I always adore him. If I do not adore the auspicious andboon-giving Isana nobody would then adore my own self. The ordinances Iset are followed by all the worlds. Those ordinances should always beadored, and it is, therefore, that I adore them. He who knows Rudra knowsmyself, and he who knows myself knows Rudra. He who follows Rudra followsme, Rudra is Narayana. Both are one; and one is displayed in twodifferent forms. Rudra and Narayana, forming one person, pervade alldisplayed things and cause them to act. No one else than Rudra iscompetent to grant me a boon. O son of Pandu. Having settled this in mymind, I adored in days of yore the ancient and puissant Rudra, forobtaining 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 forthis reason that I adore Rudra, (Rudra being, as I have already toldthee, my own self). All the deities, including Brahma and Indra and thedeities and the great Rishis, adore Narayana, that foremost of deities,otherwise called by the name of Hari. Vishnu is the foremost of allBeings past, present, or future, and as such should always be adored andworshipped with reverence. Do thou bow thy head unto Vishnu. Do thou bowthy head unto Him who gives protection to all. Do thou bow, O son ofKunti, unto that great boon-giving deity, that foremost of deities, whoeats the offerings made unto him in sacrifices. I have heard that thereare four kinds of worshippers, viz., those who are eager for a religiouslife, those who are enquirers, those who strive to comprehend what theylearn and those who are wise. Among them all, they that are devoted torealising the self and do not adore any other deity, are the foremost. Iam the end they seek, and though engaged in acts, they never seek thefruits thereof. The three remaining classes of my worshippers are thosethat are desirous of the fruits of their acts. They attain to regions ofgreat felicity, but then they have to fall down therefrom upon theexhaustion of their merits. Those amongst my worshippers, therefore, thatare fully awakened (and, as such, that know that all happiness isterminable except what is attainable by persons that become identifiedwith me) obtain what is foremost (and invaluable). Those that areawakened and whose conduct displays such enlightenment, may be engaged inadoring Brahman or Mahadeva or the other deities that occur in heaven butthey succeed at least in attaining to myself. I have thus told thee, OPartha, what the distinctions are between my worshippers. Thyself, O sonof Kunti, and myself are known as Nara and Narayana. Both of us haveassumed human bodies only for the purpose of lightening the burden of theEarth. I am fully cognisant of self-knowledge. I know who I am and whenceI am, O Bharata. I know the religion of Nivritti, and all thatcontributes to the prosperity of creatures. Eternal as I am, I am the onesole 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 formertimes, 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. Andbecause I am the home of all creatures, therefore, am I called by thename of Vasudeva. I am the end of all creatures and their sire, OBharata. 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 Ipervade 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 firmamentbetween the two. For this am I called by the name of Damodara. The wordPrisni includes food, the Vedas, water, and nectar. These four are alwaysin my stomach. Hence am I called by the name of Prisnigarbha. The Rishishave said that once on a time when the Rishi Trita was thrown into a wellby Ekata and Dwiti, the distressed Trita invoked me, saying,–OPrisnigarbha, do thou rescue the fallen Trita! That foremost of Rishis,viz., Trita, the spiritual son of Brahma, having called on me thus, wasrescued from the pit. The rays that emanate from the Sun who gives heatto the world, from the blazing fire, and from the Moon, constitute myhair. Hence do foremost of learned Brahmanas call me by the name ofKesava. The high-souled Utathya having impregnated his wife disappearedfrom her side through an illusion of the gods. The younger brotherVrihaspati then appeared before that high-souled one’s wife. Unto thatforemost of Rishis that had repaired thither from desire of congress, thechild in the womb of Utathya’s wife, O son of Kunti, whose body hadalready 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 mymother. Hearing these words of the unborn child, Vrihaspati, becamefilled with wrath and denounced a curse on him, saying,–Since thouobstructest me in this way when I have come hither from desire of thepleasures of congress, therefore shalt thou, by my curse, be visited byblindness, without doubt! Through this curse of that foremost of Rishis.the child of Utathya was born blind, and blind he remained for a longtime. It was for this reason that, that the Rishi, in days of yore, cameto be known by the name of Dirghatamas. He, however, acquired the fourVedas with their eternal limbs and subsidiary parts. After that hefrequently invoked me by this secret name of mine. Indeed, according tothe ordinance as laid down, he repeatedly called upon me by the name ofKesava. Through the merit he acquired by uttering this name repeatedly,he became cured of his blindness and then came to be called by the nameof Gotama. This name of mine, therefore, O Arjuna is productive of boonsunto them that utter it among all the deities and the high-souled Rishis.The deity of Fire (Appetite) and Shoma (food) combining together, becometransfused into one and the same substance. It is for this reason thatthe entire universe of mobile and immobile creatures is said to bepervaded by those two deities. In the Puranas, Agni and Soma arespoken of as complementary to one another. The deities also are said tohave Agni for their mouth. It is in consequence of these two beingsendued with natures leading to the unification that they are said to bedeserving of each other and upholders of the universe.'”