Mahā Nārāyaṇa Upanishad | Section 13



sahasraśīrṣaṁ devaṁ viśvākṣaṁ viśvaśambhuvam .
viśvaṁ nārāyaṇaṁ devamakṣaraṁ paramaṁ prabhum .. 1..
viśvataḥ paramaṁ nityaṁ viśvaṁ nārāyaṇaɱ harim .
viśvamevedaṁ puruṣastadviśvamupajīvati .. 2..
patiṁ viśvasyātmeśvaraɱ śāśvataɱ śivamacyutam .
nārāyaṇaṁ mahājñeyaṁ viśvātmānaṁ parāyaṇam .. 3..

1-3. This universe is truly the Divine Person only. Therefore it subsists on Him—the self-efful­gent Divine Being—who has many heads and many eyes, who is the producer of joy for the universe, who exists in the form of the universe, who is the master and the cause of humanity, whose forms are the various gods, who is imperishable, who is the all-surpassing ruler and saviour, who is superior to the world, who is endless and omni-form, who is the goal of humanity, who is the destroyer of sin and ignorance, who is the protector of the universe and the ruler of individual souls, who is permanent, supremely auspicious and unchanging, who has embodied Himself in man as his support (being the indwelling Spirit), who is supremely worthy of being known by the creatures, who is embodied in the universe and who is the supreme goal.


This anuvāka, according to Bhaṭṭabhāskara, describes the attributes of the Supreme, but according to Sāyana it lays down the nature as well as the quality of the Divine, who is to be worshipped in the heart, as pointed out in the penulti­mate verse of the previous Section.

The Rigveda in the famous Puruṣā Sūkta forestalls the central teachings of the Upaniṣads by announcing Puruṣa as the cause of the universe and the means of attaining liberation.

The various gods described in many hymns merge into the Puruṣa, who in the Yajurveda is mentioned as the Prajāpati. Finally He is comprehended under terms like Ekaṁ Sat, Puruṣa, Prāṇa, Ātman, and Brahman. The whole universe is conceived on the analogy of a human organism and then the unity of all existence as Ātman is emphasized. The concep­tion of Puruṣa, Brahman and Ātman finally becomes identical.

nārāyaṇaḥ paraṁ brahma tattvaṁ nārāyaṇaḥ paraḥ .
nārāyaṇaḥ paro jyotirātmā nārayaṇaḥ paraḥ .. 4..
/nārāyaṇaḥ paro dhyātā dhyānaṁ nārāyaṇaḥ paraḥ ./

4. Nārāyaṇa is the Supreme Reality desig­nated as Brahman. Nārāyaṇa is the highest (Self). Nārāyaṇa is the supreme Light (described in the Upaniṣads). Nārāyaṇa is the infinite Self. [Nārāyaṇa is the most excellent meditator and medita­tion.


According to Bhaṭṭabhāskara, Paramātman is identified with Nārāyaṇa, who is the substantial cause of the universe, nature and souls.

But according to non-dualistic interpretation of Sāyana, Nārāyaṇa is Paramātman described as Brahman and not a personality.

 The verse added in brackets emphasizes the advaitic idea of the trans­cendent unity of meditator, meditation and the Reality medi­tated upon.

yacca kiñcijjagatyasmin dṛśyate śrūyate'pi vā .
antarbahiśca tatsarvaṁ vyāpya nārāyaṇaḥ sthitaḥ .. 5..

5. Whatsoever there is in this world, known through perception (because of their proximity) or known through report (because of their distance), all that is pervaded by Nārāyaṇa within and with­out.


Nārāyaṇa is the substance of the universe just as gold is the substance of an ornament made of it, within and with­out. According to Bhaṭṭabhāskara inside and outside refer to the internal organs and external objects.

anantamavyayaṁ kaviɱ samudre'ntaṁ viśvaśambhuvam .
padmakośapratīkāśaɱ hṛdayaṁ cāpyadhomukham .. 6..

6. One should meditate upon the Supreme— the limitless, unchanging, all-knowing, cause of the happiness of the world, dwelling in the sea of one’s own heart, as the goal of all striving. The place for His meditation is the ether in the heart— the heart which is comparable to an inverted lotus bud.


This stanza links two ideas together with a grammatical gap which is filled in the translation:

 The first half describes once again the nature of the Supreme Divine Being on whom the world subsists and on whom one should meditate.

The second half prescribes the place of meditation, namely, the heart already mentioned.

As long as a man is engrossed in the sense-world seeking external pleasures his heart remains like an inverted lotus bud at night, which turns away from the light of the sun.

But when he seeks the Divine Reality delightfully he turns away from the distracting objects of the world and he enters into the chamber of his own heart in communion. The lotus of his heart then becomes heliotropic to receive the light and life radiating from the Divine Sun.

adho niṣṭyā vitastyānte nābhyāmupari tiṣṭhati .
hṛdayaṁ tadvijānīyādviśvasyāyatanaṁ mahat .. 7..

7. It should be known that the heart, which is located just at the distance of a finger span below the Adam’s apple and above the navel, is the great abode of the universe.


This stanza locates the heart in the body, just at the distance of one’s own finger span below the Adam’s apple denoted by the word niṣṭi here.

The heart is described as the great abode of the universe either because Paramātman, the Soul of all, resides there or because the mind which projects the whole universe dwells there.

santataɱ sirābhistu lambatyākośasannibham .
tasyānte suṣiraɱ sūkṣmaṁ tasmintsarvaṁ pratiṣṭhitam ..8..

8. Like the bud of a lotus, suspends in an in­verted position, the heart, surrounded by arteries. In it there is a narrow space (or near it there is a narrow space called Suṣumnā). In it everything is supported.


Bhaṭṭabhāskara takes the narrow space in the heart to be the seat of everything. By everything he means the inner man consisting of the spirit, the mind and the faculties.

Sāyana takes ante in the sense of “near” and not inside, as the former exegete does.

He tells us that the narrow space is the Suṣumnā nādi. According to him, when the mind enters into this space through the process of yoga, one intuits Paramātman, the source of all the universe.   Hence the narrow space is spoken of as the support of all.

tasya madhye mahānagnirviśvārcirviśvatomukhaḥ .
so'grabhugvibhajantiṣṭhannāhāramajaraḥ kaviḥ .. 9..
/tiryagūrdhvamadhaḥśāyī raśmayastasya santatāḥ ./
santāpayati svaṁ dehamāpādatalamastakam .
tasya madhye vahniśikhā aṇīyordhvā vyavasthitā .. 10..
nīlatoyadamadhyasthā vidyullekheva bhāsvarā .
nīvāraśūkvattanvī pītā bhāsvatyaṇūpama .. 11..

9-11. In the middle of that (narrow space of the heart or Suṣumnā) remains the undecaying, all-knowing, omni-faced, great Fire, which has flames on every side, which enjoys the food pre­sented before it, which remains assimilating the food consumed, (the rays of which spread scatter­ing themselves vertically and horizontally,) and which warms its own body from the insole to the crown.

In the centre of that Fire which permeates the whole body, there abides a tongue of Fire, of the colour of shining gold, which is the topmost among the subtle, which is dazzling like the flash of the lightning that appears in the middle of a rain-bearing cloud, which is as slender as the dawn of a paddy grain; and which serves as a comparison to illustrate subtlety.


These lines convey to us the following thoughts:

Somatic heat is the sign of the presence of life. When the body loses all warmth, life has departed. A great Fire is thus at the root of life. Its place is within the narrow space of the heart or Suṣumnā.

This Fire or energy radiates through arteries and nerves like heat through conductive bodies. It also receives stimuli from outside through sensations and percep­tions which act as its many mouths.

Whatever is presented to this Fire is analysed, enjoyed and assimilated by it, without itself being transformed or destroyed in the process. It can make use of knowledge from the distant past and project thoughts into the future.

Thus the vital principle of the jīva described here in the simile of the Fire is responsible for all physical and mental activities ordinarily observed in the living and functioning man. Every part of the body is per­vaded by the Jīva like the rays of light radiating in all direc­tions.

 One particular tongue of flame is specially mentioned as abiding in the centre of this great Fire, which is the real principle of the Jīva described here with a wealth of imagery.

The brilliance of a lightning flash suddenly appearing in the background of a deep blue cloud, which acts as a foil to it, gives it a specially charming colouring.

When this streak of light is as slender as the awn of a paddy grain, this Upaniṣad wants us to take it as the example of the central flame which represents the Jīva.

The Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad V 9 also says that the individual Soul is as subtle as a hair point divided and sub-divided hundred times. So also ibid, V 8 and Muṇḍaka III 1 9 speak of its atomicity.

Yet the Jīva is potentially infinite.

For further discussion of the matter see the Brahmā Sūtras II 3 19 to 32.

The laymen’s reply to the question—what is Jīva? - is given in the statement:

The undecaying one who is responsible for the chemistry of the body—who breaks ingested food and builds up living tis­sues.

Bhaṭṭabhāskara considers the locus of the great Fire in the narrow space of the heart, and Sāyana says that it is in the Suṣumnā near the heart.

According to the former, the Jīva draws towards it all existence, to an open mouth as if it were, containing the entire realm of space. This metaphor suggests to us that the Jīva is capable of infinite knowledge and joy.

It is evident from the Agni mantras in the Rigveda that Fire is Puruṣa, Ātman and Brahman and so it dwells in the human body as Vaiśvānara, responsible for human life and activity.

The Jīva entangled in the activities and enjoyments of mundane life has his vision diverted from the Supreme and got absorbed in the world.

In this state he is shrouded in the gloom of delusion and consequently his inner Light is reduced to a narrow streak like the flash in the cloud.

But when he retracts from worldly engrossments and turns towards the Supreme, the curtain of delusion cast by the spell of the world is drawn and his inner Light shines in all the brilliancy of the Supreme.

tasyāḥ śikhāyā madhye paramātmā vyavasthitaḥ .
sa brahmā sa śivaḥ /sa hariḥ/ sendraḥ so'kṣaraḥ paramaḥ svarāṭ.. 12..

12. Paramātman dwells in the middle of that flame. (Although He is thus limited) still He is the four-faced creator, Śiva, Viṣṇu, Indra, the material and efficient cause of the Universe and the Supreme Self-luminous Pure Consciousness.


This stanza concludes the meditation upon the Supreme in the heart:

The Paramātman has apparently reduced Himself in order to dwell in the heart, in the Fire of the Soul, ruling from the centre of the body.

This self-limitation does not, however, affect the Paramātman who remains ever the Truth designated by the divine names, Brahma, Śiva, Hari and Indra—though He is viewed as the conditioned Brahman, originating, sustaining and retracting the universe and as the acosmic self-luminous Supreme Brahman.

According to Bhaṭṭabhāskara who gives a viśiṣṭādvaita interpretation of the passage, the following ideas stand out:

Paramātman is Nārāyaṇa, the source of Jīvas. He remains contracted in the heart for the benefit of the Jīvas. He is the creator, protector and dissolver of the universe.

He is Svarāt, because He is the only independent Reality causing all other dependent categories He shines forever in His own glory. The Deities and scriptural duties taught by mantras and brāhmaṇas have their finality in Him. Worshipping Him thus one attains Him.