Mahā Nārāyaṇa Upanishad |Section 10-11



ṛtaṁ tapaḥ satyaṁ tapaḥ śrutaṁ tapaḥ śāntaṁ tapo damastapaḥ
śamastapo dānaṁ tapo yajñaṁ tapo bhūrbhuvaḥ
suvarbrahmaitadupāsvaitattapaḥ .. 1..

1. Right is austerity. Truth is austerity Understanding of the scriptures is austerity. Sub­duing of one’s senses is austerity. Restraint of the body through such means like fast is austerity. Cultivation of a peaceable disposition is austerity. Giving gifts without selfish motives is austerity. Worship is austerity. The Supreme Brahman has manifested Himself as Bhu, Bhuva and Suvaḥ, Meditate upon Him, This is austerity par excel­lence!


All the eight items separately emphasised here as “austerity” practically include all that is required for a complete moral and spiritual discipline.

They are essential for a seeker of the ultimate religious goal of Self-realisation. But they are all subservient to divine contemplation consisting of an unbroken current of a single thought set to flow towards God. That is the principal sādhana and the rest are auxiliary to it.

The term tapas similar to manas, namas, and vacas in form is derived from the root tap literally meaning to give heat and light.

Primarily, therefore, tapas implies an activity of mind or body which demands keen concentration of thought or an effort requir­ing unusual and continuous physical strain and heat.

Tapas is praised often in the scriptures as the highest and best means for securing what is hard of attainment in this world and in the next. Godhood and Ṛṣi-hood are attained through tapas.

Even birth on this earth in situations which yield the highest and best pleasures is attributed to the previous per­formance of tapas.

All physical, mental, moral and intel­lectual perfections are traced to this one source, namely tapas, mainly consisting of self-restraint and whole-hearted devotion to a single purpose.

We get graded definitions of tapas in old texts, such as observance of fast, sexual asceticism, restriction of enjoyment, foreswearing of pleasures, fortitude in the face of difficulties that arise in the discharge of one’s duties in one’s station and order of life, and one-pointedness of mind and senses in the pursuit of spiritual ends.

This passage may be taken as a eulogy of the categories asserted here as tapas, or it may also be taken as a mantra the repetition of which ensures the attainment of qualities enumerated here.


yathā vṛkṣasya saṁpuṣpitasya dūrādgandho vātyevaṁ puṇyasya
karmaṇo dūrādgandho vāti yathāsidhārāṁ karte'vahitamavakrāme
yadyuve yuve havā vihvayiṣyāmi kartaṁ
patiṣyāmītyevamamṛtādātmānaṁ jugupset .. 1..

1. Just in the same manner as the fragrance of a tree in full blossom is wafted by the wind from a distant place, the fragrance of meritorious deeds—the good name that accrues from them— spreads to a great distance (as far as heaven).

There is again this illustration:

The cutting edge of a sword is laid across a pit. “I am placing my feet on it, I am treading over it. So saying, if I walk over it, I will be perturbed by the thought of hurt or fall into the pit.”

In the same manner a man who is exposed to open and hidden sins must seek to guard himself from either in order that he may attain Immortality.


This passage commends the merits accruing from the performance of ordained duties as indirect means of getting illumination, and censures forbidden acts as a direct bar to it.

The vivid and poetic imagery contained in this passage is arresting.  Good deeds are their own recommendations. They cannot be hidden, for they will declare themselves in spite of the humility accompanying their performance, just as strong fragrance reaches distant places because of its very nature.

It is the Purāṇic belief that a man remains in heaven as long as the good deeds done by him on the earth are not forgotten by the people around. This analogy is used by Buddha in the Dhammapada in a significant way in the Puppha Vagga.

The perfume of flowers cannot travel against the wind, be it the scent of sandal, tagara or jasmine, but the sweet odour of a good man travels even against the wind, the righteous pervade every place with their fragrance, those who lead the excellent life ascend to the God’s, as the highest.

The second analogy stresses the need for entertaining the sense of sin, for, sin is to be shunned by all means. One who accepts virtue has to set his face against vice.

Wrong deeds are to be abjured for two reasons:

They bring public odium if they are committed openly and fearlessly.

Attempts to conceal sinful acts will be as hazardous as walking on the sharp edge of a sword. Even if one succeeds in thriving on hidden wicked­ness his fall is as certain as that of the acrobat who slips from the edge of the sword and falls into the pit.

The good path of dharma alone is the royal road for the seeker of liberation.