Saunaka said, "O Sauti, excellent is this narrative which thou hast recited. Verily, these ascetics, having heard it have all been filled with wonder. It is said, O Sauti, that a discourse that has Narayana for its topic, is more fruitful of merit than sojourns unto all the sacred retreats and ablutions performed in all the sacred waters on the Earth. Having listened to this discourse of thine that has Narayana for its topic, that is sacred and capable of cleansing one of every sin, all of us have certainly become holy. Adored of all the worlds, that illustrious and foremost of deities is incapable of being beheld by the deities with Brahma numbering among them and all the Rishis. That Narada was able to obtain a sight of the God Narayana, otherwise called Hari, was due, O son of Suta, to the special grace of that divine and puissant Lord. When, however, the celestial Rishi Narada had succeeded in obtaining a sight of the Supreme Lord of the universe, a residing in the form of Aniruddha, why did he again proceed so quickly (to the retreat of Vadari on the breast of Himavat) for beholding those two foremost of godly of Rishis viz., Nara and Narayana? Do you, O Sauti, tell us the reason of such conduct on the part of Narada."
Sauti said, During the continuance of his snake-sacrifice, Janamejaya, the royal son of Parikshit, availing himself of an interval in the sacrificial rites, and when all the learned Brahmanas were resting. O Saunaka, that king of kings, addressed the grandfather of his grandfather, viz., the Island-born Krishna, otherwise called Vyasa, that ocean of Vedic lore, that foremost of ascetics endued with puissance, and said these words.
Janamejaya said, "After the celestial Rishi Narada had returned from White Island, reflecting, as he came, on the words spoken to him by the holy Narayana, what indeed, did the great ascetic next do? Arrived at the retreat known by the name of Vadari on the breast of the Himvat mountains, and seeing the two Rishis Nara and Narayana who were engaged in severe austerities at that spot, how long did Narada dwell there and what were the topics of conversation between him and the two Rishis? This discourse on Narayana, that is really an ocean of knowledge, has been raised by thy intelligent self by churning that vast history called Bharata which consists of a hundred thousand verses. As butter is raised
from curds, sandal-wood from the mountains of Malaya, the Aranyakas from the Vedas, and nectar from all the medicinal herbs, after the same manner, O ocean of austerities, hath this discourse that is like nectar and that has Narayana for its object, been raised by thee, O Brahmana, from diverse histories and Puranas existing in the world, Narayana is the Supreme Lord. Illustrious and endued with great puissance, He is the soul of all creatures. Indeed, O foremost of regenerate ones, the energy of Narayana is irresistible. Into Narayana, at the end of the Kalpa, enter all the deities having Brahman for their foremost, all the Rishis with the Gandharvas, and all things mobile and immobile. I think, therefore, that there is nothing holier on earth or in heaven, and nothing higher, than Narayana. A sojourn unto all the sacred retreats on Earth, and ablutions performed in all the sacred waters, are not productive of as much merit as a discourse that has Narayana for its topic. Having listened from the beginning to this discourse on Hari, the lord of the universe, that destroys all sins, we feel that we have been cleansed of all our sins and sanctified entirely. Nothing wonderful was accomplished by my ancestor Dhananjaya who was the victor in the great battle on Kurukshetra, for it should be remembered that he had Vasudeva for his ally. I think that, person could have nothing unattainable in the three worlds, who had for his ally Vishnu himself, that great Lord of the universe. Exceedingly fortunate and commendable were those ancestors of mine, since they had Janarddana himself for looking after their temporal and spiritual prosperity. Adored of all the worlds, the holy Narayana is capable of being beheld with the aid of austerities alone. They, however, succeeded in beholding Narayana, adorned with the beautiful whirl on his chest. More fortunate than my ancestors was the celestial Rishi Narada, the son of Pramesthi. Indeed, I thank that Narada, who transcends all destruction, was endued with an energy that was not little, for repairing to White-Island he had succeeded in beholding the person of Hari. Indeed, it is evident that the sight he had obtained of the Supreme Lord was due to only the grace of that Being. Fortunate was Narada inasmuch as he had succeeded in beholding Narayana as existing in the form of Aniruddha. Having beheld Narayana in that form, why did Narada hasten once more to the retreat of Vadari for the purpose of beholding Nara and Narayana? What was the reason, O ascetic, of this step taken by Narada? How long also did Narada the son of Pramesthi, after his return from White Island and arrival at Vadari and meeting with the two Rishis Nara and Narayana, live there, and what conversations had he with them? What did those two high-souled and foremost of Rishis say unto him? It behoveth thee to say all this unto me!'"
Vaisampayana said, 1 "Salutations unto the holy Vyasa of immeasurable energy. Through his grace I shall recite this narrative having Narayana
for its topic. Arrived at White Island, Narada beheld the immutable Hari. Leaving that spot he quickly proceeded, O king, to the mountains of Meru, bearing in his mind those weighty words that Paramatma (the Supreme Lord) had said unto him. Arrived at Meru he became filled with wonder at the thought, O king, of what he had achieved. And he said unto himself, 'How wonderful is it! The journey I have performed is a long one. Having proceeded to such a distance, I have come back safe and sound. From the mountains of Meru he then proceeded towards Gandhamadana. Traversing through the skies he quickly alighted upon that extensive retreat known by the name of Vadari. There he beheld those ancient deities, viz., those two foremost of Rishis, (called Nara and Narayana), engaged in the practice of penances, observing high vows, and devoted to the worship of their own selves. Both of those adorable persons bore on their chests the beautiful whirls called Sreevatsa, and both had matted locks on their heads. And in consequence of the effulgence with which they illumined the world they seemed to transcend the very Sun in energy. The palms of each bore the mark called the swan's foot. The soles of their feet bore the mark of the discus. Their chests were very broad; their arms reached down to their knees. Each of them had four 'Mushkas'. 1 Each of them had sixty teeth and four arms. 2 The voice of each was as deep as the roar of the clouds. Their faces were exceedingly handsome, their foreheads broad, their brows fair, their cheeks well-formed, and their noses aquiline. The heads of those two deities were large and round, resembling open umbrellas. Possessed of these marks, they were certainly very superior persons in appearance. Beholding them, Narada became filled with joy. He saluted them with reverence and was saluted by them in return. They received the celestial Rishi, saying 'Welcome', and made the ordinary enquiries. Beholding those two foremost of Beings, Narada began to reflect within himself,--'These two foremost of Rishis seem to be very like, in appearance, unto those Rishis respected by all, whom I have seen in White-island. Thinking in this way, he circumambulated them both and then sat down on the excellent seat made of Kusa grass that had been offered unto him. After this, those two Rishis that were the abode of penances, of famous achievements, and of energy,--and were endued with tranquillity of heart and self-restraint, went through their morning rites. They then, with controlled hearts, worshipped Narada with water to wash his feet and the usual ingredients of the Arghya. Having finished their morning rites and the observances necessary for receiving their guest, they sat down on two
seats made of wooden planks. 1 When those two Rishis took their seats, that place began to shine with peculiar beauty even as the sacrificial altar shines with beauty in consequence of the sacred fires when libations of clarified butter are poured upon them. Then Narayana, seeing Narada refreshed from fatigue and seated at his ease and well-pleased with the rites of hospitality he had received, addressed him, saying these words.
"Nara and Narayana said, 'Hast thou seen in white Island the Paramatma (Supreme Soul), who is eternal and divine, and who is the high source whence we have sprung?'
"Narada said, 'I have seen that beautiful Being who is immutable and who has the universe for his form. In Him dwell all the worlds, and all the deities with the Rishis. Even now I behold that immutable Being, in beholding you two. Those marks and indications that characterise Hari himself of undisplayed form, characterise you two that are endued with forms displayed before the senses. 2 Verily, I behold both of you by the side of that great God. Dismissed by the Supreme Soul, I have today come hither. In energy and fame and beauty, who else in the three worlds can equal Him than you two that have been born in the race of Dharma? He has told me the entire course of duties having reference to Kshetrajna. He has also told me of all those incarnations which he will, in the future, have in this world. The inhabitants of White Island, whom I have seen, are all divested of the five senses that are owned by ordinary persons. All of them are of awakened souls, endued as they are with true knowledge. They are, again, entirely devoted to the foremost of Beings, viz., the Supreme Lord of the universe. They are always engaged in worshipping that great Deity, and the latter always sports with them. The holy and Supreme Soul is always fond of those that are devoted to him. He is fond also of the regenerate ones. Always fond of those that are devoted to Him, He sports with those worshippers of His. Enjoyer of the universe, pervading everything, the illustrious Madhava is ever affectionate towards his worshippers. He is the Actor; He is the Cause; and He is the effect. He is endued with omnipotence and immeasurable splendour. He is the Cause whence all things spring. He is the embodiment of all the scriptural ordinances. He is the embodiment of all the topics. He is possessed of great fame. Uniting Himself with penances, He has illumined Himself with a splendour that is said to represent an energy that is higher than (what occurs in) White Island. Of soul cleansed by penances, He has ordained Peace and Tranquillity in the three worlds. With such an auspicious understanding, he is engaged in the observance of a very
superior vow which is the embodiment of holiness. That realm where he resides, engaged in tie austerest penances, the Sun does not warm and the Moon does not shine. There the wind does not blow. Having constructed an altar measuring eight fingers' breadth, the illustrious Creator of the universe is practising penances there, standing on one foot, with arms upraised, and with face directed towards the East, reciting the Vedas with their branches, he is engaged in practising the severest austerities. Whatever libations of clarified butter or meat are poured on the sacrificial fire according to the ordinances of Brahma, by the Rishis, by Pasupati himself, by the rest of the principal deities, by the Daityas, the Danavas, and the Rakshasas, all reach the feet of that great divinity. Whatever rites and religious acts are performed by persons whose souls are entirely devoted to him, are all received by that great Deity on his head. No one is dearer to him in the three worlds than those persons that are awakened and possessed of high souls. Dearer even than those persons is one that is entirely devoted to him. Dismissed by him who is the Supreme Soul, I am coming here. This is what the illustrious and holy Hari has himself said unto me. I shall henceforth reside with you two, devoted to Narayana in the form of Aniruddha.'"
171:1 The questions of Janamejaya, it would seem, were addressed to Vyasa. All the editions, however, make Vaisampayana answer those questions.
172:1 It is difficult to say what this word means. I think with the commentator that it means shoulder joints.
172:2 The Bengal reading is ashta-bhujau. The Bombay reading ashta-dangshtrau does not seem to be correct. By accepting the Bengal reading, the word mushka becomes clear.
173:1 Avyagran means with tranquil souls. It is said that with most young men what occurs is that their hearts at first leave them when they see a respected guest arrived who is to be received with due honours. A little while after, they get back their hearts. In the Nara and Narayana, however, nothing of this kind happened when they saw Narada first, although Narada was one to whom their reverence was due.
173:2 Nara and Narayana are the displayed forms of the undisplayed Hari.