Mahā Nārāyaṇa Upanishad | Section I 34-53
sahasraparamā devī śatamūlā śatāṅkurā .
sarvaɱharatu me pāpaṁ dūrvā duḥsvapnanāśinī .. 34..
34. May Durba (the panic grass), who represents the divine Spirit, who is superior to a thousand purifying agencies, who has innumerable nodes and sprouts and who destroys the effects of evil dreams, remove all my impurities.
In the foregoing mantras it has been pointed out that there is only one Supreme Divine Reality and that the manifold objects of the universe represent that Reality symbolically.
The Rudra Sūkta salutes, among scores of other things, trees and plants and grass beds as the visible form of Rudra. By association some of the flora have acquired particular religious importance in Hindu spirituality. Durba is a variety of pertinaciously growing beautiful grass, the shoots of which are used in various purification religious acts in the faith that they have an unseen effect in imparting to worshippers holiness and inner purity.
The religious pattern of individual life worked out by the scriptures spreads throughout the texture of the waking life of a spiritual man. A brāhmaṇa who lives according to the rules of the scriptures eliminates impulsive actions as far as possible and tries to approximate every act of his life to the form prescribed in the scriptures. From the moment he awakes from sleep in the last watch of night till he goes to bed late at night, every hour of his life is programmed for the performance of religious duties. Worship of God (dharma) is the pivot on which all his other actions turn. His creaturely needs are fulfilled in such a way that a religious impress is put upon them by the repetition of certain mantras and adherence to a fixed pattern. Thus the mode of his leaving the bed, objects of his first sight, attending to his personal needs, his ablution, time, manner, material, place and preparation of his food, movement and rest of his body, and utterance of his speech are all governed by the scriptural rules. These are given in the Dharma Śāstra texts at length. Actions of worship accompanied by sacred utterances repeated during their performance are particularly deemed efficacious. Although such ritualism at times degenerates into dry formalism which may give one the satisfaction that his religious obligations are fulfilled in the cheapest and easiest way, when performed in true spirit, it serves as a great carrying medium of true religion. Repetition of ritual acts creates an appropriate path, a habit of doing things in a worshipful spirit, and it thus purifies, enlightens and transforms the life subjected to it. Habit and attention, so necessary for religious life, are cultivated through proper religious acts.
The Anuṣṭubh stanza given above in praise of Durba is repeated at the time of a plunge bath, which is taken early in the morning, then a few shoots of the grass with a little earth are placed on the head as an auspicious act. Such an auspicious bath is an ingredient of a life of worship.
kāṇḍāt kāṇḍāt prarohantī paruṣaḥ paruṣaḥ pari .
evā no dūrve pratanu sahasreṇa śatena ca .. 35.
35. O Durba, just as thou growest farther and farther multiplying at every node putting forth roots and fresh stalks, so also help us to grow in progeny by hundreds and thousands,
The ancients who lived in an agrarian society, close to Nature, in a sparsely populated country, valued growth of family in successive generations. They shuddered at the thought of the break of a lineage and the extinction of the social heritage transmitted through it. These families envied, as it were, Durba which gradually spread by the extension of its stalk in all directions.
yā śatena pratanoṣi sahasreṇa virohasi .
tasyāste devīṣṭake vidhema haviṣā vayam .. 36..
36. O Devi, worshipped by devotees, may we worship thee with oblations — thou who multipliest thyself by hundreds and growest in thousands.
These two stanzas are found originally in Taittirīya Saṁhitā IV. 2. 9.
aśvakrānte rathakrānte viṣṇukrānte vasundharā .
śirasā dhārayiṣyāmi rakṣasva māṁ pade pade .. 37..
37. O earth that is traversed by a horse, a chariot and Viṣṇu, I shall keep thee on my head, protect me at every step.
A sacrificial ground is made holy by taking a horse over it. To indicate the sacredness of the earth the word aśvakrānte is used. So also it is believed that the earth is purified by the wheel of a chariot. In the incarnation of Trivikrama, Viṣṇu placed one foot on the earth and paced heaven. The earth is made sacred in that way also. The earth having these associations for holiness is considered particularly holy. What wonder if man is struck by feelings of reverence when he remembers the earth which is his support and source of nourishment?! Therefore as a symbolic act of self-purification the religious man places a little earth on his head muttering this mantra over it when he is about to take his morning bath.
bhūmirdhenurdharaṇī lokadhāriṇī .
uddhṛtāsi varāheṇa kṛṣṇena śatabāhunā .. 38..
mṛttike hana pāpaṁ yanmayā duṣkṛtaṁ kṛtam .
mṛttike brahmadattāsi kāśyapenābhimantritā .
mṛttike dehi me puṣṭiṁ tvayi sarvaṁ pratiṣṭhitam .. 39..
mṛttike pratiṣṭhite sarvaṁ tanme nirṇuda mṛttike .
tvayā hatena pāpena gacchāmi paramāṁ gatim .. 40..
38. The earth is the giver of happiness like the milk cow, the sustainer of life and support for all living beings. (Represented as such the earth is addressed:)
Thou wert raised up by Kṛṣṇa in His incarnation of the boar having hundred hands.
39. O excellent earth, destroy my evil deeds as well as sins connected with me! O excellent earth, thou art a gift from God to creatures! Thou art prayed over by Kaśyapa! O excellent earth, grant me prosperity, for everything depends on thee!
40. O excellent earth, on which all creatures are supported, cleanse all that (sin) from me! O excellent earth, my sins having been destroyed by thee, I attain to the highest goal.
Like the preceding stanza, this passage, containing seven lines divided into three mantras, is also used for purifying a quantity of earth held in the right hand before ablution.
The repetition of the address ‘O excellent earth’ five times should be taken as an indication of the devotion which the seer of the mantra felt when he thought of the glory of the earth.
Hindu religion reverences the earth which supports all life with the same feelings which a mother would call in the minds of her children. The earth is cited as the suitable illustration whenever one is in need of impressing about the necessity of patience. Man transforms the surface of the earth by cutting, digging, levelling and building with hard implements. Yet she yields him prosperity and enjoyment in turn.
yata indra bhayāmahe tato no abhayaṁ kṛdhi .
maghavañchagdhi tava tanna ūtaye vidviṣo vimṛdho jahi .. 41..
svastidā viśaspatirvṛtrahā vimṛdho vaśī .
vṛṣendraḥ pura etu naḥ svastidā abhayaṅkaraḥ .. 42..
41. O Indra, make us fearless of those (causes such as sin, enemies and hell) of which we are afraid! O Maghavan, destroy that, i.e. the cause of fear, that is in us (thy devotees). For our protection destroy our harassing enemies
42. May Indra come to our succour—Indra who is the giver of welfare on earth and bliss in the next world, who is the lord of people, who is the slayer of Vṛtra, who is the subduer of enemies and giver of rain, who is peaceable and giver of safety.
These two mantras reproduced from the Taittirīya Brāhmaṇa III 7-11 constitute a prayer to Indra for protection and safety when one is about to take bath.
In the Rigveda Saṁhitā a very large number of hymns are addressed to Indra who is described as the one ruler of the universe, the king of men, god of gods, lord of heaven, controller of the world, the Most High, immortal, protector of all, friend of sages, and the destroyer of the wicked.
From these epithets it is clear that Indra is none other than the Supreme, the guide and protector of the universe. In these two mantras the devotee invokes His nearest presence for the destruction of internal and external enemies and the attainment of well-being and bliss. The regular morning bath of the pious Hindu is not merely an act of personal hygiene but a religious duty enjoined by the scripture in order to acquire religious merit and to destroy mental impurities as well. Prayers uttered invoking the favour of divine Powers like Indra facilitate this end.
svasti na indro vṛddhaśravāḥ svasti naḥ pūṣā viśvavedāḥ .
svasti nastārkṣyo ariṣṭanemiḥ svasti no bṛhaspatirdadhātu ..43..
43. May Indra who is profusely praised by the devotees through sacred hymns, or frequently worshipped with oblations, vouchsafe to us safety and well-being! May the all-knowing or all-possessing Pūṣan vouchsafe to us well-being! May Garuda, the son of Tṛkṣa, whose chariot is not injured by anyone, vouchsafe to us safety! May Bṛhaspati, the preceptor of gods, grant us wellbeing!
This mantra reproduced here from Rigveda I 89-6 is intended to serve as a prayer for safety and well-being. It is uttered by one about to take bath in the belief that it helps to ward off the peril of sharks and crocodiles in water.
āpāntamanyustṛpalaprabharmā dhuniḥ śimīvāñcharumāɱ ṛjīṣī .
somo viśvānyatasāvanāni nārvāgindraṁ pratimānāni debhuḥ .. 44
44. Soma who is of mild anger, who strikes with stones, who shakes enemies, who has many deeds, who wields weapons and who delights in soma juice kept over, causes the jungles of dried up trees and bushes (to grow by the downpour of rains). Counter-weights do not weigh down making Indra light.
This mantra occurs at Rigveda X 89-5.
Here Indra is called Soma. Indra is depicted in the Rigveda mantras as the overlord, protector of men, immortal, the one sovereign of the universe, the eldest king, breaker of the wicked, the friend of sages, protector of all, the most powerful and the like. Whatever activity there is requiring power and energy, all belongs to Indra. He slew the demon Vritra and released pent up rain which caused the earth smile with vegetation. This mantra gives some instances of the power of Indra, his heroism and activities in heaven.
Soma cup is identified with soma, the moon, and soma the moon as the king of herbs increases vegetation spread everywhere. No comparison hurts Indra—He is nonpareil.
brahmajajñānaṁ prathamaṁ purastādvi sīmataḥ suruco vena āvaḥ .
sa budhniyā upamā asya viṣṭhāḥ sataśca yonimasataśca vivaḥ .. 45..
45. Vena, the noon sun who was born at the beginning of creation as the first effect of the Supreme Reality, Brahman, and who is of excellent brilliance, spreads over the whole world up to its boundary. He illumines also the heavenly bodies. He remains manifold in his own limited forms which are like himself. He also spreads over and permeates the causal substance out of which the visible and the invisible universe emerges.
This mantra is found in the Taittirīya Saṁhitā IV 2-8-2 etc. , and Atharvaveda IV 1-1 and V 6-1.
Here it is taken as a glorification of Paramātman, the ground of the universe and the cause of the energising and illumining sun through whom He functions.
syonā pṛthivi bhavān nṛkṣarā niveśanī .
yacchā naḥ śarma saprathāḥ .. 46..
46. Being the producer of creatures including men and their settler in respective regions and also far-famed for forbearance, O earth, be to us an ender of sorrows and giver of bliss here and hereafter.
This stanza occurs at Rigveda I 22-15.
gandhadvārāṁ durādharṣāṁ nityapuṣṭāṁ karīṣiṇīm .
īśvarīɱ sarvabhūtānāṁ tāmihopahvaye śriyam .. 47..
47. I invoke in this act of worship Śrī, the support of all, who is known through smell, who is unassailable, perpetually prosperous, rich in cowdung and the mistress of all created beings.
This Anuṣṭubh mantra can be traced to Śrī Sūkta of Rigveda khila.
Here Bhū devatā is glorified as Śrī because of the earth’s being the cause of prosperity. According to some, this verse is repeated while the ground is purified by cowdung, and according to others, while smearing earth on the body before bath.
The regent of the earth is lauded as the mistress of all created beings because all life depends upon the earth. Even denizens of heaven are maintained by worship made on the earth. Prosperity of the earth consists in fruitful vegetation plenty of cattle and towns and cities built in hospitable areas. Special mention of perpetual prosperity, cowdung and fragrance suggest this.
Though man has by his toil and skill brought out unprecedented wealth from the bowels of the earth still she remains unassailable or durādharṣā.
śrīrme bhajatu alakṣmīrme naśyatu .
mahāɱ indro vajrabāhuḥ ṣoḍaśī śarma yacchatu .. 48..
48. May Śrī favour me! May Alakṣmī connected with me and mine be destroyed! The gods having Viṣṇu for their chief (who is the perpetual abode of Śrī) by the help of (the means prescribed in) the Vedas won these worlds for themselves free from the fear of enemies. May Indra, armed with thunderbolt and worshipful moon, grant us happiness!
Of the three lines given above the second and the third occur at Taittirīya Saṁhitā I 7-5 and I 4-29 respectively.
This mantra and the following two are said to be employed as a prayer for entering water for bath.
svasti no maghavā karotu .
hantu pāpmānaṁ yo'smān dveṣṭi ..49..
49. May Indra grant us welfare! May he destroy the evil one hostile to us!
somānaɱ svaraṇaṁ kṛṇuhi brahmaṇaspate kakṣīvantaṁ ya auśijam .
śarīraṁ yajñaśamalaṁ kusīdaṁ tasmintsīdatu yo'smān dveṣṭi .. 50..
50. O Lord of prayers, make me the presser of soma juice, well known among the gods like Kakṣīvān, the son of Uśik. Make me physically capable of performing sacrifices! Let those who are hostile to us remain ‘there’ long, in the hell!
This stanza is found at Rigveda 1. 18-1 and Taittirīya Saṁhitā I 5-6.
caraṇaṁ pavitraṁ vitataṁ purāṇaṁ yena pūtastarati duṣkṛtāni .
tena pavitreṇa śuddhena pūtā ati pāpmānamarātiṁ tarema .. 51..
51. He who is rendered holy by the ancient, widespread, sanctifying feet (or by virtuous conduct) crosses over evil deeds and their effects. Having been rendered holy by that naturally pure and purifying feet of the Lord (or conduct), may we overcome our enemies, the sins!
This mantra is reproduced from the Taittirīya Brāhmaṇa III. 12-3 here for the purpose of japa to be done by one standing in knee-deep water about to plunge for taking his bath. This is also repeated while a holy Brāhmaṇa’s feet are ceremoniously washed.
The term caraṇaṁ, however, in the singular number as we see in the text is directly interpreted as śāstrīyacaraṇa, virtuous conduct as ordained by the scriptures. This gives an apt and ethically ennobling meaning. Interpreting in the context of worship, caraṇaṁ in singular is taken to stand for caraṇa devatā, Viṣṇu, and by implication the two feet of Nārāyaṇa, the Ancient One, whose wide gait encompassed earth, sky and heaven. Symbolically He is worshipped in the holy Brāhmaṇa also.
sajoṣā indra sagaṇo marudbhiḥ somaṁ piba vṛtrahañchūra vidvān .
jahi śatrūɱrapa mṛdho nudasvāthābhayaṁ kṛṇuhi viśvato naḥ .. 52..
52. O Indra, O slayer of Vṛtra, O valorous one and all-knowing one, accept with pleasure our soma oblations in the company of your retinue and troop of gods! Slay our enemies, give us victory in battle and grant us safety and fearlessness from every quarter!
This Rig-verse is originally found at Rigveda III 47. 2. and also at Taittirīya Saṁhitā I 4-29-8 and III 47.2.
sumitrā na āpa oṣadhayaḥ santu .
durmitrāstasmai bhūyāsuryo'smān dveṣṭi yaṁ ca vayaṁ dviṣmaḥ .. 53..
53. For us may (the regents of) water and herbs be friendly and to those who dislike us and whom we dislike let them be unfriendly!
This mantra is reproduced from the Taittirīya Saṁhitā I.4. 45 and also Taittirīya Brāhmaṇa II 6-3.
Standing in waist-deep water the worshipper repeats the first half of the mantra, takes a quantity of water in the hollow of his joined palms and throws it to his front thinking about his friends; repeating the remaining half similarly again he throws some water towards the direction in which his enemies are supposed to be.
The complementary passage in the Brāhmaṇa is:
May I be cleansed from sins by the waters just as a culprit is released from the wooden clog for his legs, just as a man who perspires is purified by a bath, and just as clarified butter is strained by a filter.
The Vedas are meant to generate in those who follow them certain potencies which help them in all situations and conditions.
The highest ideal held forth by the Vedas to those who have completed the discipline prescribed in them is realisation of the Infinite Self dwelling in all creatures as the reality behind their finite existences.
Those who have attained to this goal have no friends and no foes. They see equally God in all. They are extremely rare. Therefore the Vedas have only a luminously precious fraction describing them.
The largest part of the Vedas is meant for the common man who is tossed by likes and dislikes. Failure to recognise the fears and hopes of the natural man makes a scripture unrealistic. Ideals unconnected with the practical needs of human nature cannot enter into the daily life of the ordinary man. To suppose that the Vedas always deal with high philosophy and ethics only will be a delusion. Mystical formulas like the present one are found in many passages of the Vedas. They are given to propitiate friendly agencies and to suppress the enemies. Without peace and prosperity, śānti and puṣṭi, higher religious aspiration is impossible. That is why we find in the Vedas prayers like this one which deal with the lower Puruṣārthas.