Nārāyaṇa | Narayana


1. Nārāyaṇa

Nārāyaṇa (Sanskrit: नारायण) is known as one who is in yogic sleep on the celestial waters, referring to Lord Mahā Viṣṇu. He is also known as the "Puruṣa" and is considered Supreme Being in Vaiṣṇavism.

According to the Bhagavad Gītā, he is also the "Guru of the Universe".

The Bhāgavata Purāṇa declares Nārāyaṇa as the Supreme Personality Godhead

- who engages in the creation of 14 worlds within the universe as Brahmā when he deliberately accepts Rajas Guṇa; he sustains, maintains and preserves the universe as Viṣṇu by accepting Sattva Guṇa.

- Nārāyaṇa himself annihilates the universe at the end of Mahā-kalpa as Kālāgni Rudra when he accepts Tamas Guṇa.

According to the Bhāgavata Purāṇa, Nārāyaṇa Sūkta, and Nārāyaṇa Upaniṣad from Vedic scriptures, he is the Ultimate Soul.

According to Madhvācārya, Nārāyaṇa is one of the 5 Vyūhas of Viṣṇu, which are cosmic emanations of God in contrast to his incarnate Avatārs:

Madhvācārya separates Viṣṇu's manifestations into 2 groups:

1) Viṣṇu's Vyūhas (emanations) and
2) His Avatārs (incarnations).

The Vyūhas have their basis in the Pañcarātras, a sectarian text that was accepted as authoritative by both the Viśiṣṭādvaita and Dvaita schools of Vedānta. They are mechanisms by which the universe is ordered, was created, and evolves.

According to Madhvācārya, Viṣṇu has 5 Vyūhas, named:

1) Nārāyaṇa,
2) Vāsudeva,
3) Saṅkarṣaṇa,
4) Pradyumna and
5) Aniruddha,

- which evolve one after the other in the development of the universe.

2. Etymology

In the Vedas, Nārāyaṇa is essentially the supreme force and/or essence of all:

nārāyaṇa paro jyotirātmā nārāyaṇaḥ paraḥ ।
nārāyaṇa paraṃ brahma tattvaṃ nārāyaṇaḥ paraḥ ।
nārāyaṇa paro dhyātā dhyānaṃ nārāyaṇaḥ paraḥ ॥

The Lord Nārāyaṇa is the Supreme Absolute; Nārāyaṇa is the Supreme Reality;
Nārāyaṇa is the Supreme Light; Nārāyaṇa is the Supreme Self;
Nārāyaṇa is the Supreme Meditator; Nārāyaṇa is the Supreme Meditation.

- Nārāyaṇa Sūktam

It is believed the meaning of the Sanskrit word 'Nārāyaṇa' can be traced back to the Laws of Manu (also known as the Manu-smṛiti, a Dharmaśāstra text), which states:

The waters are called narah, (for) the waters are, indeed, the offspring of Nara; as they were his first residence (ayana), he thence is named Nārāyaṇa.

—  Manu-smṛiti, Chapter 1, Verse 10

This definition is used throughout Vedic literature such as the Mahābhārata and Viṣṇu Purāṇa.

'Nārāyaṇa' is also defined as the 'Supreme Being who is the foundation of all men'.

'Nāra' (Sanskrit नार) means 'water' and 'man'
'Yāna' (Sanskrit यान) means 'vehicle', 'vessel', or more loosely, 'abode' or 'home'

3. Description

In the Vedas and Purāṇas, Lord Nārāyaṇa is described as having the divine blue colour of water-filled clouds, 4-armed, holding a Padmā (lotus flower), Kaumodakī (mace), Pañchajanya shankha (conch) and the Sudarśana Chakra (discus).

4. Hinduism

As stated in the epic Itihāsa, the Mahābhārata:

I am Nārāyaṇa, the Source of all things, the Eternal, the Unchangeable.
I am the Creator of all things, and the Destroyer also of all.
I am Viṣṇu, I am Brahmā and I am Śakra, the chief of the gods.
I am king Vaiśravaṇa, and I am Yama, the lord of the deceased spirits.
I am Śiva, I am Soma, and I am Kaśyapa the lord of the created things.

And, O best of regenerate ones, I am he called Dhāt, and he also that is called Vidhātṛ, and I am Sacrifice embodied.

Fire is my mouth, the earth my feet, and the Sun and the Moon are my eyes;
the Heaven is the crown of my head, the firmament and the cardinal points are my ears;

the waters are born of my sweat.
Space with the cardinal points are my body,
and the Air is my mind...

...And, O Brāhmaṇa, whatever is obtained by men by the practice of truth, charity, ascetic austerities, and peace and harmlessness towards all creatures, and such other handsome deeds, is obtained because of my arrangements.

Governed by my ordinance, men wander within my body, their senses overwhelmed by me. They move not according to their will but as they are moved by me.

— Mahābhārata, Book 3, Varna Parva, Chapter CLXXXVIII (188)

In the Mahābhārata, Kṛṣṇa is also synonymous with Nārāyaṇa and Arjuna is referred to as Nara:

The epic identifies them both in plural 'Kṛṣṇas', or as part incarnations of the earlier incarnations of Viṣṇu, recalling their mystical identity as Nara-Nārāyaṇa.

Nārāyaṇa is also described in the Bhagavad Gītā as having a Universal Form (Viśva Rūpa) which is beyond the ordinary limits of human perception or imagination.

Nārāyaṇa's eternal and supreme abode beyond the material universe is Vaikuṇṭha which is a Realm of bliss and happiness called Paramā Pādam, which means final or highest place for liberated souls, where they enjoy bliss and happiness for eternity in the company of supreme lord.

Vaikuṇṭha is situated beyond the material universe and hence, cannot be perceived or measured by material science or logic.

Sometimes, Kṣīra Sāgara (the Ocean of Milk) where Nārāyaṇa rests on Ananta Śeṣa is also perceived as Vaikuṇṭha within the material universe.

5. Buddhism

The Mahā-Samaya Sutta (DN 20) of the Pāli Canon mentions a deity by the name Veṇhu (Sanskrit: Viṣṇu), though the text suggests that this name may also signify a class of deva.

He also appears in the Veṇḍu Sutta (SN 2.12) as Veṇḍu where he addresses Gautama Buddha by celebrating the joy experienced by those who follow the Dhamma. He also makes brief mention of Manu.

Mahāyāna Buddhism elaborates on the character of this deity, where is often called Nārāyaṇa (Chinese: 那羅延天; Tibetan: མཐུ་བོ་ཆེ།) or more rarely, Nṛsiṁha (納拉辛哈) and Vāsudeva (婆藪天).

Literature often depicts him as a Vajradhara (金剛力士).

He is present in the Womb Realm Maṇḍala and is among the 12 Guardian Devas of the Diamond Realm Maṇḍala. He is associated with Śrāvaṇa in esoteric astrology. His queen consort is Nārāyaṇī.

He is said to have been born from Avalokiteśvara's heart. The Buddhas are sometimes described as having a firm body like Nārāyaṇa.

The Yogācārabhūmi Śāstra describes him as having 3 faces with a greenish-yellow complexion. He holds a wheel in his right hand and rides upon a Garuḍa.

Chapter 6 of the Yiqiejing Yinyi explains that he belongs to the Kāmadhātu and is veneration for the acquisition of power. Chapter 41 adds that he has eight arms that wield various "Dharma weapons" (Dharma-yuddha) with which he subjugates the Asuras.

He appears as an interlocutor in several Mahāyāna sūtras, including the Kāraṇḍavyūha Sūtra, Sarvapuṇyasamuccayasamādhi Sūtra and the Nārāyaṇaparipṛcchā Dhāraṇī.

6. Jainism

Balabhadra and Nārāyaṇa are mighty half-brothers, who appear 9 times in each half of the time cycles of the Jain cosmology and jointly rule half the earth as half-Chakravarti.

Ultimately Prati-Nārāyaṇa is killed by Nārāyaṇa for his unrighteousness and immorality. Nārāyaṇa is extremely powerful and is as powerful as 2 Balabhadras. Chakravartins are as powerful as 2 Nārāyaṇas. Hence Nārāyaṇas become half-Chakravartins.

Tīrthaṅkaras are much more powerful than Chakravartins:

In Jain Mahābhārata, there is a friendly duel between cousin brothers Neminātha (Tīrthaṅkara) and Kṛṣṇa (Nārāyaṇa) in which Neminātha defeats Kṛṣṇa without any effort at all.

There is also a story of Neminātha lifting Conch of Kṛṣṇa and blowing it without any effort. In Jain Mahābhārata, the main fight between Kṛṣṇa and Jarāsandha is described as won by Kṛṣṇa.

7. Ancient Texts

Nārāyaṇa is hailed in certain parts of Vedas like:

1) Nārāyaṇa Sūktam and
2) Viṣṇu Sūktam.

Lord Nārāyaṇa is also hailed in selective Vaiṣṇava Upaniṣads like:

1) Nārāyaṇa Upaniṣad,
2) Mahā Nārāyaṇa Upaniṣad and
3) Nṛsiṁha Tāpanīya Upaniṣad.