Janamejaya said, “The Sankhya system, the Pancharatra scriptures, and theAranyaka-Vedas,–these different systems of knowledge or religion,–Oregenerate Rishi, are current in the world. Do all these systems preachthe same course of duties, or are the courses of duties preached by them,O ascetic, different from one another? Questioned by me, do thoudiscourse to me on Pravritti in due order!”
Vaisampayana said, “I bow unto that great Rishi who is the dispeller ofdarkness, and whom Satyavati bore to Parasara in the midst of an island,who is possessed of great knowledge and who is endued with greatliberality of soul. The learned say that he is the origin of theGrandsire Brahma; that he is the sixth form of Narayana; that he is theforemost of Rishis; that he is endued with the puissance of Yoga; that asthe only son of his parents he is an incarnate portion of Narayana; andthat, born under extraordinary circumstances on an Island, he is theinexhaustible receptacle of the Vedas. In the Krita age, Narayana ofgreat puissance and mighty energy, created him as his son. Verily, thehigh-souled Vyasa is unborn and ancient and is the inexhaustiblereceptacle of the Vedas!”
Janamejaya said, “O best of regenerate persons, it was thou that saidstbefore this that the Rishi Vasishtha had a son of the name of Saktri andthat Saktri had a son of the name of Parasara, and that Parasara begot ason named the Island-born Krishna endued with great ascetic merit. Thoutellest me again that Vyasa is the son of Narayana. I ask, was it in someformer birth that Vyasa of immeasurable energy had sprung from Narayana?O thou of great intelligence, do tell me of that birth of Vyasa which wasdue to Narayana!”
Vaisampayana said, “Desirous of understanding the meaning of the Srutis,my preceptor, that ocean of penances, who is exceedingly devoted to theobservance 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 inconsequence of the great strain on his energies occasioned by thecomposition of the Mahabharata. At that time, Sumanta and Jaimini andPaila 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 preceptorfelt, waited dutifully upon him, engaged in doing all that was necessaryfor dispelling that fatigue of his. Surrounded by these disciples of his,Vyasa shone in beauty on the breast of the Himavat mountains like theLord of all the ghostly beings, viz., Mahadeva, in the midst of thoseghostly attendants of his. Having recapitulated the Vedas with all theirbranches as also the meanings of all the Verses in the Mahabharata, oneday, with rapt attention, all of us approached our preceptor who, havingcontrolled his senses, was at time rapt up in thought. Availing ourselvesof an interval in the conversation, we asked that foremost of regeneratepersons to expound to us the meanings of the Vedas and the Verses in theMahabharata and narrate to us the incidents as well of his own birth fromNarayana. Conversant as he was with all topics of enquiry, he at firstdiscoursed to us on the interpretations of the Srutis and theMahabharata, and then set himself to narrate to us the followingincidents relating to his birth from Narayana.
“Vyasa said, ‘Listen, ye disciples, to this foremost of narratives, tothis best of histories that relates again to the birth of a Rishi.Appertaining to the Krita age, this narrative has become known to methrough my penances, ye regenerate ones. On the occasion of the seventhcreation, viz., that which was due to the primeval Lotus, Narayana,endued with the austerest penances, transcending both good and ill, andpossessed of unrivalled splendour, at first created Brahma, from hisnavel. After Brahma had started into birth, Narayana addressed him,saying; Thou halt sprung from my navel. Endued with puissance in respectof 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 histask and became unwilling to do what he was commenced to do. Bowing hishead 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 nowisdom. Do thou ordain what should be ordained in view of this. Thusaddressed by Brahma, the Lord of the universe, viz., Narayana,disappeared there and then from Brahma’s sight. The Supreme Lord, the godof gods, the chief of those endowed with intelligence, then began tothink. The Goddess of Intelligence forthwith made her appearance beforethe puissant Narayana. Himself transcending all Yoga, Narayana then, bydint of Yoga, applied the Goddess of Intelligence properly. Theillustrious and puissant and immutable Hari, addressing the Goddess ofIntelligence who was endued with activity and goodness and all thepuissance of Yoga, said unto her these words:–For the accomplishment ofthe task of creating all the worlds do thou enter into Brahma. Commandedthus by the Supreme Lord, Intelligence forthwith entered Brahma. WhenHari beheld that Brahma had become united with Intelligence. He once moreaddressed him, saying–Do thou now create diverse kinds ofcreatures.–Replaying unto Narayana by uttering the word ‘Yes,’ Brahmareverently accepted the command of his progenitor. Narayana thendisappeared from Brahma’s presence, and in a moment repaired to his ownplace, known by the name of Deva (Light or Effulgence). Returning to Hisown disposition (of Uumanifestness), Hari remained in that state ofoneness. After the task of creation, however, had been accomplished byBrahma, another thought arose in the mind of Narayana. Indeed, hereflected in this strain:–Brahma, otherwise called Parameshthi, hascreated all these creatures, consisting of Daityas and Danavas andGandharvas and Rakshasas. The helpless Earth has become burthened withthe weight of creatures. Many among the Daityas and Danavas and Rakshasason 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 theywill succeed in obtaining, they will oppress and afflict the deities andthe Rishis possessed of ascetic might. It is, therefore, meet that Ishould now and then lighten the burthen of the Earth, by assuming diverseforms one after another as occasion would require. I shall achieve thistask by chastising the wicked and upholding the righteous. (Thus lookedafter by me), the Earth, which is the embodiment of Truth, will succeedin bearing her load of creatures. Assuming the form of a mighty snake Imyself have to uphold the Earth in empty space. Upheld by me thus, shewill uphold the entire creation, mobile and immobile. Incarnated on theEarth, therefore, in different forms, I shall have to rescue her at suchtimes from peril. Having reflected in this way, the illustrious slayer ofMadhu created diverse forms in his mind in which to appear from time totime for accomplishing the task in view. Assuming the form of a Boar, ofMan-lion, of a Dwarf, and of human beings, I shall quell or slay suchenemies of the deities as will become wicked and ungovernable. Afterthis, the original Creator of the universe once more uttered thesyllable, Bho, causing the atmosphere to resound with it. From thissyllable of speech (Saraswati) arose a Rishi of the name Saraswat. Theson, thus born of the Speech of Narayana, came to be, also called by thename of Apantara-tamas. Endued with great puissance, he was fullyconversant with the past, the present, and the future. Firm in theobservance of vows, he was truthful in speech. Unto that Rishi who,after birth, had bowed his head unto Narayana, the latter, who was theoriginal Creator of all the deities and possessed of a nature that wasimmutable, said those words: Thou shouldst devote thy attention to thedistribution of the Vedas, O foremost of all persons endued withintelligence. Do thou, therefore, O ascetic, accomplish what Icommand thee.–In obedience to this command of the Supreme Lord fromwhose Speech the Rishi Apantaratamas sprang into existence, the latter,in the Kalpa named after the Self-born Manu, distributed and arranged theVedas. For that act of the Rishi, the illustrious Hari became gratifiedwith him, as also for his well-performed penances, his vow andobservances, and his restraint of the senses or passions. Addressinghim,–Narayana said,–At each Manwantara, O son, thou wilt act in thisway with respect to the Vedas. Thou shalt, in consequence of this act ofthine, be immutable, O regenerate one, and incapable of being transcendedby any one. When the Kali age will set in, certain princes of Bharata’sline, to be called by the name of Kauravas, will take their birth fromthee. They will be celebrated over the Earth as high-souled princesruling over powerful kingdoms. Born of thee, dissensions will break outamong them ending in their destruction at one another’s hands exceptingyourself. O foremost of regenerate persons, in that age also,endued with austere penances, thou wilt distribute the Vedas into diverseclasses. Indeed, in that dark age, thy complexion will become dark. Thoushalt cause diverse kinds of duties to flow and diverse kinds ofknowledge also. Although endued with austere penances, yet thou shaltnever be able to free thyself from desire and attachment to the world.Thy son, however, will be freed from every attachment like unto theSupreme Soul, through the grace of Madhava. It will not be otherwise. Hewhom learned Brahmanas call the mind-born son of the Grandsire, viz.,Vasishtha endued with great intelligence and like unto an ocean ofpenances, and whose splendour transcends that of the Sun himself, will bethe progenitor of a race in which a great Rishi of the name of Parasara,possessed of mighty energy and prowess, will take his birth. Thatforemost of persons, that ocean of Vedas, that abode of penances, willbecome thy sire (when thou wilt take birth in the Kali age). Thou shalttake 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 thouwilt have none with respect to the imports of things past, present, andfuture. Endued with penances and instructed by me, thou wilt behold theincidents of thousands and thousands of ages long past away. Thou wiltsee through thousands and thousands of ages also in the future. Thoushalt, in that birth, behold me, O ascetic,–me that am without birth anddeath,–incarnated on Earth (as Krishna of Yadu’s race), armed with thediscus. All this will happen to thee, O ascetic, through the merit thatwill be thine in consequence of thy ceaseless devotion to me. These wordsof mine will never be otherwise. Thou shalt be one of the foremost ofcreatures. Great shall be thy fame. Surya’s son Sani (Saturn) will, in afuture Kalpa, take birth as the great Manu of that period. During thatManwantara, O son, thou shalt, in respect of merits, be superior to eventhe Manus of the several periods. Without doubt, thou shalt be so throughmy grace. Whatever exists in the world represents the result of myexertion. The thoughts of others may not correspond with their acts. Asregards myself, however, I always ordain what I think, without the leastimpediment! 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 thecommand of Hari. Once more have I taken birth as the celebratedKrishna-Dwaipayana, a delighter of the race of Vasishtha. I havethus told you, my dear disciples, the circumstances, of my own formerbirth which was due to the grace of Narayana in so much that I was a veryportion of Narayana himself. Ye foremost of intelligent persons, Iunderwent, in days of yore, the austerest penances, with the aid of thehighest abstraction of the mind. Ye sons, moved by my great affection foryourselves that are devoted to me with reverence, I have told youeverything relating to what you wished to know from me, viz., my firstbirth 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, thecircumstances 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 namessuch as Sankhya, Yoga, the Pancha-ratra, Vedas, and Pasupati. Thepromulgator of Sankhya cult is said to be the great Rishi Kapila. Theprimeval Hiranyagarbha, and none else, is the promulgator of the Yogasystem. 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 bythe name of Pasupata was promulgated by the Lord of Uma, that master ofall creatures, viz., the cheerful Siva, otherwise known by the name ofSreekantha, the son of Brahma. The illustrious Narayana is himself thepromulgator of the cult, in its entirety, contained in the Pancharatrascriptures. In all these cults, O foremost of kings, it is seen that thepuissant Narayana is the one sole object of exposition. According to thescriptures of these cults and the measure of knowledge they contain,Narayana is the one sole object of worship they inculcate. Those personswhose visions, O king, are blinded by darkness, fail to understand thatNarayana is the Supreme Soul pervading the entire universe. Those personsof wisdom who are the authors of the scriptures say that Narayana, who isa Rishi, is the one object of reverent worship in the universe. I saythat there is no other being like Him. The Supreme Deity, called by thename of Hari, resides in the hearts of those that have succeeded (withthe aid of the scriptures and of inference) in dispelling all doubts.Madhava never resides in the hearts of those that are under the sway ofdoubts and that would dispute away everything with the aid of falsedialectics. They that are conversant with the Pancharatra scriptures,that are duly observant of the duties laid down therein, and that aredevoted to Narayana with their whole souls, succeed in entering intoNarayana. 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 isNarayana’s self. Thou shouldst know that whether acts, good or bad, arelaid down in the Vedas and occurrence in heaven and Earth, between thesky and the waters, are all caused by and flow from that ancient RishiNarayana.