Thursday, October 1, 2015


Narayana – God to worship and Brahman to Meditate

(Compilation for a discourse by N.R. Srinivasan, Nashville, TN, USA. October 2015)



 Narayana is Immaculate and Transcendental. He is expounded  in Vedas and elaborated  in Puranas. Desire oriented Hindus with lower level of Upaasna worship Narayana together with his Sakti   (power) Lakshmi as God, one who creates sustains and destroys all sentient and Non-sentient.  G in the word GOD stands for Generator (Srishthi), one who generates and germinates, O for operator (Sthiti) with his omnipresence and D for Destroyer (Laya) who dissolves everything to himself. Spiritual seekers with higher level of Upasana meditate on him as Brahman.

Nara means human being and Ayana means shelter. So Narayana means the shelter of all human beings. The Narayana Upanishad reads: “Om Namo Narayanayeti mantropaasakah Vaikuntha bhuvanalokam gamishyati”  meaning "Whosoever meditates on the Ashtaaksahree mantra 'Om Namo Narayana'   reaches the ultimate goal Vaikuntha   where one attains eternal blissful life, called Aananda" Vaikuntha is the supreme spiritual abode; there is nothing that exists beyond Vaikuntha.  Vaikuntha means ' Divine abode of no desires'.

“Brahman is expounded by Upanishads by different names--Sat, Aatman, Brahman, Akshara, Praana, Jyoti and Narayana. All the general Names culminate in specific name Narayana. He is the one cause of everything in this Universe. He has transcended everything else and has none equal to him or greater than him. In his immanent aspect he is residing as the Antaryamin or the inner controller in the cave of the hearts of all people. He is necessarily characterized by all auspicious qualities and is opposed to all that is defiling. The Upanishads describe that Brahman has the five qualities –Satyam (Truth), Jnaanam (Knowledge), Aanandam (Bliss), Amalam (Purity) and Anantham (Endless). These determine ITS essential nature. All other auspicious qualities are derived from these five qualities that determine his nature. Terms like Nirguna and Niranjana describe that he does not have any definite quality.  Brahman has infinite Knowledge and therefore is often called as Knowledge. He is the supporter, ruler and master of the Universe. The entire Universe is subservient to Him and exists only on account of his will. The Chetanas (sentient ) and achetanas (non-sentient ) depend upon this Supreme Principle for their very existence, nature and functioning. Though Brahman is supreme in nature, it is also the redeemer of all”— says Ananta Rangacharya.



The word Narayana  in Sanskrit has several derivatives, the most important ones being:  (a) One who has made the causal water his abode; (b) One who has the abode of all human beings; (c) one who has made the hearts of human beings his abode and  (d) One who is the final goal of all the beings.  Narayana is distinguished as primary to the four Vyuhas (emanations) of Vishnu, namely Vasudeva, Samkarshana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha. He is to be contemplated upon as ever abiding in the center of the solar disc (savitar mandala) as seated upon lotus and bedecked with armlets and crocodile shaped ear-ornaments, crown and garland, as having a body of golden hue, and as carrying conch and disc in his hands in his Saguna form. This has been defined in the Dhyana sloka given in Aaditya Hridaya:
Dheyah sadaa savitrumandala-madhyavartee narayanah sarasijaasana-samnivishtah | Keyooravaan makarakundalavaan kireetee haaree hiranmayavapuh dhrita -sankha-chakrah||
Aalodhya sarvasaastraani vichaarya cha punah punah | Idamekam sunishpannam dheyo Narayano Harih ||
After wading all scriptures and repeatedly researching I have come to the firm conviction that   Narayana is the only ONE (Tadekam) who protects me, He being Hari!
Narayana is the most ancient and sacred name of Puranic Vishnu glorified in Narayana Sukta of Vedas as Parabrahman, Supreme Spirit.  Later Ramanuja adopted the same sacred name synonym with Parabrahman in Srivaishnava Tradition. Around 500 B.C., Buddha and Jina moved away Vedic rituals in favor of Moral and ethical codes with no reference to Parabrahman. People felt this as nihilism and soon replaced it with Bhagavatism—worship of Bhagawan ably supported by Bhagavad Gita.  Bhagawan as visualized by them was the one who did not demand sacrifice, who wished his followers to be devoted (Bhakti) and non-violent (ahimsa). This tradition believed in simple rituals with the help of priests and became very popular and brought forth the concept of the God of the People: Bhagawan-Narayana-Vasudeva. They called their worshipful way as Bhakti Marga, easiest way to attain liberation. In due course they also absorbed some of the doctrines of Jnaana Marga.
In the twenty-four forms of Vishnu, he is said to be one among the three emanating from Vasudeva as   Kesava, Madhava and Narayana. The form of Sakti accompanying Narayana in the group is Lakshmi. It is common, therefore, to worship him as Lakshmi-Narayana. Lakshmi is not always shown by the side of Narayana often in temples.  Lakshmi is symbolized by the Srivatsa whom Narayana carries in his chest. (Please refer to my discourse on Vishnu).
The word Narayana is derived from, “aapo naaraa iti proktaa  ayanam sthaanamasya” meaning residence in the water of existence.  This meaning has given rise to description of Naaraayana for the iconic form which is common and popular.
Puranas project the following picture of Narayana:  After the destruction of the Universe in the previous cycle and before the creation of the next, Naaraayana, the Supreme God, falls asleep (yoganidraa) on his bed of the great serpent called Ananta, which is floating on the waters of Ksheerasaagara (ocean of milk). One of his legs is resting on the lap of his consort Lakshmi who is gently pressing it. When he is dreaming, as it were, of the next creation, a lotus springs from his navel along with God Brahmaa seated on it. After waking up, he commands Brahmaa to proceed with creation.
Ananta means endless or infinite, stands for cosmic time which is endless. Worlds that are created come into being in time and are sustained in time. This is what is understood by thousand hoods supporting the worlds, indicating innumerable divisions of time. Ananta also means Sesha (he is called Seshasayee), which means remainder, what is left over at the end. Since creation cannot proceed out of nothing it is assumed that something is left over from the previous creation which forms the seed, as it were, for the next. Sesha represents the totality of the Jeevaatmas in their subtle form left over from the previous cycle and needing more opportunities for regulation.
Non-Vaishnavas popularly worship him as Satyanarayana and his benevolence stories are read with reverence.  Brahman is often addressed as Tad Satyam—That Truth.  Satyanarayana means embodiment of Truth.  He is shown with Solar Orb.
He is also often worshiped as Dhanvantari, an incarnation of Vishnu as the Healing God. “Sareere jarjharee bhoote vyaadhigraste kalebare aushadhee Jahnavee toyam Vaidyo Narayano Harih”—When the body dilapidates due to aging and illness and is threatened with death, Ganges water is the medicine and Narayana is the Doctor to pray for. This mantra is usually chanted with reverence when receiving the holy water from the priest after worship as Teertha prasadam and then consumed.

Nara and Narayana are the great rishis (seers) and inseparable companions, residing in the hermitage on the Himalayan slopes of Badrikaasrama. They are incarnations of Vishnu.  Kalika Purana says they emerged subsequent to Avatar of Narasimha.  Narasimha decided to give up his man-lion body after restoring Prahlada to the throne. Siva assumed the form of Sarabha and tore the body of Narasimha into two halves. From the human part of the body arose Nara, the divine glory and from the lion part came another ascetic of great luster Narayana. The two of them became responsible for all creation. Narayana produced from his thigh unparalleled celestial beauty Uravasi by drawing a picture on his thigh and giving   life to it. Arjuna and Krishna are believed to be incarnations of Nara and Narayana. From dark hair of Narayan came Krishna and from white hair Balarama. Devi Bhagavata says Dharma emerging out of Brahma’s chest married the daughter of Daksha Prajaapati and begot four children. Hari and Krishna became great Yogins. Nara and Narayana became great hermits and Sanyasins. They retired to Pralayaadri of Himalayas and performed austerities for long years at the sacred spot of Badri.
Symbolically Nara means that which does not perish. It refers to cosmic spirit or soul which creates endless stretch of primeval water.  Primeval water is therefore called Naaram.   The Supreme Spirit that lies hidden in this water is Narayana meaning abiding in Nara.



Naaraayana alone is the one supreme, non-second Reality (Truth) that is the internal ruler (Antaryaami) in all other entities sentient and non-sentient. The essence of Naaraayana sookta is the exposition of Naaraayana as the Supreme Principle and surrender unto him as the supreme means of attainment of Brahman.
Naaraayan is the most popular name of Vishnu, the Preserver. The word Naaraayana implies several meanings:
1)      One who is the final goal of all beings;
2)      One who has made the causal water his abode;
3)      One who has made the hearts of human beings his abode;  
4)      One who is the abode of all humanbeings.
The first one is derived from, “Naaraayanasya jnaanasya ayanam praapyasthaanam” meaning the goal of all knowledge. The second one is derived from, “aapo naaraa iti proktaa ayanam sthaanamasya” meaning residence in the water of existence. The second meaning has given rise to description of Naaraayana for the iconic worshipful (Moorti) form which is common and popular.
The fundamental cause of this Universe, the Supreme Principle is generally known as Brahman. This comes from the word Brihat (to expand in Sanskrit) meaning limitless. He is the cause of all causes. The world comes out of him and rises out of Him. He then supports the world and the world ultimately dissolves back in Him. He is the inner-self (antaryamin) of all Beings that Becomes. Though we address this Supreme Principle as He for our convenience, this has no gender or name. He is called Sarvajnah (Omniscient), Sarvasaktah (Omnipotent) and Sarvavyaapi (omnipresent). He has no name and at the same time known by many names—Aatman, Akshara, Aakaasa, Sat, Bhoomaa, Naaraayana, Parabrahmnan, Jaataveda, Prajaapati etc. He is greater than the greatest and smaller than the smallest--(anoraneeyaan mahato maheeyaan). His eyes, ears and mind are everywhere though he cannot be seen, heard or recognized. He is the Lord as well as the sustainer of all creations. All our prayers go to Him only and it is He who grants all our wishes in whatever form we worship Him for he has no form and has every form. He is the ultimate goal for our liberation from repeated births and deaths. Mahaa Naaraayana Upanishad addresses Prajaapati or Brahman as Narayana and praises him in the following mantras at the commencement of this Upanishad. Probably this Upanishad is dedicated to Sriman Narayana (Sriman=Mahaan).
Ambasyapaare bhuvanasya madhye naakasya prishthe mahato maheeyaan | Sukrena jyothee(ga)mshi samanupravishthah prajaapatis-charati garbhe antah ||
The Supreme Principle which is greater than great resides in the vast milky ocean, in the atmospheric region of Adityamandala (in the orb of the Sun) and on the surface of the celestial abode (celebrated as Vaikuntha in Puranas). He who is here called as Prajaapati having entered into the luminary bodies with his own light is also moving within the spiritual heart of all people.
 [In early Vedic literature Supreme Principle was addressed as Prajaapati. Later this term was made specific to Brahma one of the Trinities who is responsible for creation. This mantra later gave inspiration to the sloka “Saantaakaaram Bhujagasayanam” and to the iconic graphical representation of Narayana reposing on the serpent Adisesha floating on a sea looking at the a vast universe by Bhaktimarga followers]
Yasminnida(ga)m sancha vi chaiti sarvam yasmin devaa adhi visve nisheduh | tadeva bhootam tadu bhavyamaa idam tadakshare parame vyoman ||
 What was in the past before creation, what is now,  and what will also be in the future is That into which all this enters at the time of dissolution; it is also That form which gets differentiated at the time of creation to different entities; it is also That in which all the divines seek refuge. That supreme Principle is residing in the supreme abode which is ever lasting. [At the time of dissolution all this Universe merges into Him and loses its identity. At the time of Creation they become differentiated into forms and names. All Universes become  one with the Supreme Principle at the time of dissolution]
Yena aavritam khancha divam maheencha yena–aadtyas-tapati tejasaa bhraajasaa cha | yam-antas-samudre kavayovayanti yadakshare parame prajaah ||
The wise sages who visualize him residing in the ocean, is residing in the supreme everlasting abode; they   know   that the atmospheric regions and the terrestrial regions are pervaded by him and by whose glory and power the Sun shines.
Yatah prasootaa jagatah prsootee toyena jeevaan vyasa-sarja bhoomyaam | yad-oshadheebhih purushaan pasoo(ga)mscha vivesa bhootaani charaaacharaani ||
Brahman is the one from whom the Prakriti (Nature) was born which is the creating mechanism of the Universe; it is he who created the living beings (beginning with the four faced Brahman) along with water (which includes all subtle elements); it is he who entered into all those created entities as inner-self (antaryamin), moving and non-moving such as herbs, plants, animals and humans.
[Individual selves (Jeevaatman) and matter were separately merged into Brahman in the most subtle forms into the body of Brahman at the time of dissolution.   Then matter which is the substance of this gross Universe underwent changes by the will of the Supreme Principle and so Brahman is the cause of this matter. Both Jeeva and matter are unborn and eternal. Brahman is characterized by the subtle matter and Jeeva and therefore he is the cause of the Universe. Matter which was the body of the Brahman undergoes changes as primordial matter called Prakriti, Mahat, Ahankara (ego), five gross elements and the Sense organs. Therefore he is also the source. The Self or Jeeva is an also unborn and eternal. They were with Brahman at the time of dissolution in their subtle form. During creation they got associated with matter evolving forms and names. This association with bodies and sense organs is described as creation in the mantra. Brahman then entered into these creations as inner-self. This mantra describes the process of creation. Parts of Purushsookta and Hiranyagrbhasookta which deal with the creation are also included in this Upanishad.]
Atah param naanyad-aneeyasa(gam)hi paraat param yan-mahato mahaantam |
Yadekam-avyaktam-ananta-roopam visvam puraanam tamasah parastaat ||
This supreme Principle is higher than the Highest and broader than the broadest.  It is the subtlest of all. It is un-manifest as well as of infinite forms. It is primeval. It is beyond darkness (Tamas). It is the ever expanding universe.
[It is primeval as it has no beginning. It is having universe as its body. It is beyond all sense perceptions and has everything else as its body. At the time of dissolution it alone remains as the One. It is “Avyakta” (not perceivable) as it has that as its body. It is “Visvaroopa” meaning universe   as it is having that as its body]
Tadevartam tadu satyamaahus-tadeva brahma  parmam kaveenaam |
Ishtaa-poortam bahudha jaatam jaayamaanam visvam bhuvanasya naabhih ||
This Supreme Principle is Ritam (orderliness); it is Satyam (Truth or Reality)—so says the supreme among seers. It contains all the sacrifices (yajna), all acts of humanity, done in the past as well as now, as it is the hub of active principle of this universe. 
[There is neither any modification in its nature nor there is any change.  It is the same Eon (yuga) after Eons. It is the one that grants all fruits for our meritorious actions like sacrifices and acts of devotion though these are offered to different deities]
Tadeva agnis-tad Vaayus-tat sooryams-tadu chandramaah |
Tadeva sukaram-amritam tad brahma tad-aapah sa prajaapatih ||
This Supreme Principle is Fire (Agni), Air (Vaayu), the Moon (Chandramaa). That is effulgent and immortal. It is Prakriti (Active Principle) and Water (aapah). It is Prajaapati.
[Supreme Principle is the inner-self of all Gods and so it is worshipped through the worship of these Gods. Prajaapati is the one who came out of the golden embryo]
Sarve nimeshaa jagnire vidyutah purushaadadhi |
Kaalaa muhoortaah kaashthascha-ahoraatraascha sarvasah ||
Ardhamaasaa maasaa ritavah samvathsarascha kalpataam |
Sa aapah pradudhe ubhe ime antarikshaa-athoe suvah ||
The time taken for a wink of an eye is fixed by the Lord of golden hue. All time calculations  like Kaala, Muhootrta, Kashtaa, Ahoraatra, fortnight, month, the seasons of the year and the year are based on the wink of the eyes the basic unit ant the multiples thereof. He milked the waters (Ksheerasagara). He created both Antariksha (sky) and   Suva (Svargaloka).
[Nimesha is the basic unit that is the time taken for the wink of an eye. I8 Nimesha=1 Kashta. For other units see my detailed discourse on the subject  Units of Time, Breath and Cosmology]
Nainam oordhvam tiryancha na madhye parijagrabhat |
Na tasyese kanchana tasya naama mahad yasah ||
Nobody can grasp him from above or the middle or from sides. Nobody can rule him. His celebrated fame is too obvious.
Na sandrise tishthati roopam-asya pasyati kaschanainam |
Hridaa maneeshaa manasaa-abhiklipto ya enam viduar-amritaas-te bhavanti ||
He cannot be known as existing among movable and non movable entities. One cannot perceive these by sense organs like the eye and others. He can be visualized only by the mind full of steadfast devotion. Those who can do so also become immortals. They will not be born again.
[Hrida=bhakti or devotion. Roopa=his auspicious form. Maneesha=steadfastness]
Esha hi devah pradisoenu sarvaah poorvo hi jaatah sa u garbhe antah |
Sa vijaayamaanah sa janishyamaanah pratyang-mukhaas-tishthati visvarto-mukhah ||
This Supreme Principle has entered into all entities found in all directions. He alone is all those entities born in the past that   currently exist in all wombs and all that will be born later. The individual Aatman as well as all non-sentient objects are his body only.
[The Supreme Principle is imminent in all sentient and non-sentient entities as their Antaryamin (inner-controller)]
Visvatas chakshuruta visvato-mukho visvato-hasta uta visvatas-pat |
Sam baahubhyaam namati sam patatrair dyaavaa-prithavee janayan deva ekah ||
Brahman too perceives all worlds like the shining   Sun. At the time of dissolution this universe becomes united without the differentiation of names and forms. At the time of creation this universe is formed with the differentiation of names and forms.   All pervasive Brahman has pervaded all sentient and non-sentient entities, being the warp and whoop.
[Sentient and non-sentient entities are inseparable from Brahman at the time of creation as well as dissolution. They lose their names and forms on dissolution and become one with him. They get their names and forms as they emerge out of him]
Pra tad voche amritam nu vidvaan gandharvo naama nihitam guhaasu |
Threeni padaa nihitaa guhaasu yastad veda savituh (sapituh) pitaa sat ||
Brahman is called Gandharva because he supports the earth is the one who taught Vedas to four-faced Brahma who resides in the space of his navel. The three forms of Supreme Principle are hidden in his supreme abode of Vaikuntha. He who knows that will become the father of the father.        
[The three forms are the object of experience, the place of experience and the instrument of experience. He will become a father of a father means he will never have a son meaning he will be never born again]
Sa noe bandhur-janitaa sa vidhaataa dhaamaani veda bhuvanaani visvaa |
Yatra devaa-amritm-aanasaanaas-triteeye dhaamaany-abhairayanta ||
He is our creator and relative. He is the one who bestowed all good things in life. He knows the three abodes of all the people. The divines experienced in him multiplicity of auspicious qualities like the nectar. Reaching the Supreme abode they sing his glory before him in ecstasy.
[In the very first mantra “Ambasyapaare” the three abodes have been described as the milky ocean, the orb of the Sun and the Supreme abode called Vaikuntha or Paramapada. This gave ideas to the iconic representation in which one visualizes Lord Narayana as reposing on Adisesha (divine serpent) floating on the milky ocean, attended upon by Goddess Lakshmi  while sages like Tumburu and Narada sing his glory. The mantra points out that meditation on Brahman leads Yogis to the Supreme abode after being liberated. Such a Yogi experiences the Lord in all his auspiciousness and lives in his company singing his glory forever. He is our well wisher. He incarnates himself on this earth for redeeming us. He also sends his preceptors and well wishers to lead humanity to deliverance.]
Pari dyaava-prithavee yanti sadyah pari lokaan pari disah pari suva |
Ritasya tantum vitatam vichritya tad-apsyat tad-abhavat prajaasu ||
The liberated ones attain the status of Devas and travel around the heaven and earth. They travel all around the world in all directions and in the supreme abode of the Lord. Those people who see the Lord see the pervading subtle thread of bad and good action of Karma in the bound Jeevas (souls) and grant the fruits of their action as they deserve.
[Only liberated Jeevas can move around in all the worlds. They move in three worlds (lokas)—Prithvi (earth), Dyauloka (intermediary Zone) and in the abode of the Lord called Suva. Brahman judges good as well as bad actions and grants benefits as they deserve.]
Pareetya lokaan pareetya bhootaani pareetya sarvaah pradiso disaascha |
Prajaapatih prathamajaa ritaysay-aatmanaa-aatmanaam-abhi sambabhoova ||
The overlord of all beings was also the first generator of Karma. He pervades all the worlds, all beings and all entities in all directions and inter-directions. As the inner controller he is the creator of individual Jeevaatman (Self) out of himself.
[Rita means Karma. Very fact he also created Jeevaatma shows his auspicious quality of compassion. This shows he is equally concerned to save the souls. If the individual is caught in the net of Karma which is also his creation he will have the opportunity to get out of it also. It is obvious that this is possible only if the Jeevaatman is there! He is the cause of the Karma and he wills to bestow the cause of the Karma to respective Jeevaatmans.]
Sadasadpatim-adbhutam priyam-indrasya kaamyam | sanim medhaa-mayasisham ||
I take refuge in the Lord   who presides over the  assemblage of eternal divines, who is the abode for four marvelous divine qualities, who  is dear to seers, who is the  means to the attainment of all wishes, who is worshipful and who is omniscient (all knowledge).
[The exceptional liberated Aatman declares in this mantra; “I am fortunate to be endowed with that wealth of devotion which is to the liking of the Lord who is the supreme object of that kind attainment”.  This expression in this Mantra serves as an eye opener to all devotees as to what they can hope for by meditation on Brahman.]
Uddeepyasva jaatavedo-apaghnan nirritim mama |
Pasoo(ga)mscha mahyam-aavaha jeevanamscha diso dasaa ||
Oh! All knowledgeable Brahman! Please shine brilliantly destroying all my sins! Please bring me animals that are very much desirable for your worship!  Please bring forth to me food and other essential ingredients for my livelihood from all directions (eight quarters, top and below)
[Jaataveda is Brahman who is omniscient. This Mantra along with the next Mantra is recited at the time of Aarati or waving of the lamp for the Lord at the time of worship. These simple Rishis depended on milk, ghee etc. for worship. Therefore they seek animal wealth.]
Maanoe hin(g)seej-jatavedo  gaamasvam purusham jagat |
Abibhradagna aagahi sriyaa maa paripaataaya ||
Oh Omniscient Jaataveda! Please do not slay the world of cattle, horse and men that belong to us! Oh Agni (Fire God), please come to us without your terrible form! Please bring us wealth!
[This and the mantra above are meant for chanting during deepaaraadhana or waving of lamp before the deity. Therefore the mantras are immediately directed to the deity Agni, the Lord of Fire. However it should be implied that the prayer ultimately focuses on Brahman only through the Vyaahriti Jaataveda or Agni. It should be noted that the sages led a simple life and all their wealth consisted of their cattle on which they heavily depended for carrying out worship and to live.]


The famous Vishnusahasranama concludes with the following sloka:

Vanamaalee gadee sarngee sankhee chakree cha nandakee |
Sriman Narayano Vishnuh Vasudevobhi rakshatu ||

Oh Lord Naryana! With Vanamala garland on your neck and with Gada (mace), Sankha (conch), Chakra (disc) and Nandaki (sword) you are Vishnu and Vaasudeva (Saguna and Nirguna Berahman) at the same time. Please take care of our welfare!

All Hindu worships end with the following prayer addressed to Narayana only whatever be the Ishtha Devata (personal God). All prayers end at the feet of the Supreme Principle called Narayana.

Kaayena vaachha manasendriyair vaa  | Budhyaatmanaa vaa prakrite svabhaavaat ||
Karomi yadyat sakalam parasmai | Narayanaaya iti samarpayaami ||

Whatever I knowingly or unknowingly do prompted by physical activities, speech, thought, mind, intellect and Self (Aatman), I surrender all and each one of them at your sacred feet saying   Narayana!

Om Namoe narayanaya—Ashtaaksharee Mantra:

“Om Namoh Naaraayanaya” mantra is called Ashtaakshare Mantra for it contains eight syllables in Sanskrit. It is also customary to chant Naaraayana sookta during worship and  homa  for health, wealth, peace and prosperity.



The spiritual teachings of India have always kept in mind the holistic development of the individual. The body, the mind, the intellect and speech have especially been identified as areas where continual development is necessary. The body, the speech and the intellect have been called tri-karanas (three main instruments). If these are kept fit, 9 out of 10 stressful circumstances will lose their ability to affect us. Please refer to the popular sloka in concluding parayers:

kāyena vāchā manasendriyair vā budhyaatmanavaa prakrite svabhaavaat |
karomi yadyat sakalam parasmai narryanaayeti samrpayaami ||

Whatever I do) with my Body, Speech, Mind or Sense Organs, whatever I do  using my Intellect, Feelings of Heart or (unconsciously) through the natural tendencies of my Mind and whatever I do, I do all for others (i.e. without the sense of attachment to the results) and  I Surrender them all at the Lotus Feet of the Supreme Lord Narayana! This is the prayer with which Hindus end all thir worship surrendering to Parabrhman in his Saguna form  as Narayana.

The Westerner is perplexed by the plethora of Gods and Goddesses that the Hindus swear by. The scriptures, in fact, refer to 33 crores of Gods, 11 crores each in the Terrestrial, Atmospheric and Celestial realms.  As Carlyle put it in his "Abbot Samson"- "So many minds, as many men".

Each Hindu may have his / her own chosen personal God to whom each may pay exclusive obeisance- whether it is one of these 33 crores or those that fall beyond the pale of these - village deities like Paraasakti, Maariyamman, Maanasa, Ayyanaar etc.

Animals like the holy cow, the snake or the monkey or even the rat (as obtaining in a temple in Rajasthan) may hold the attention of some devotees. Botanical spirits like the Pippala or Aswattta tree, the VaTa or Nyagrodha (Banyan) tree, the Asoka tree, the sacred Tulasi (Holy basil) or the Vilvam, not to leave out the humble reeds of Kusa, Darba and Dhurva   have their share of veneration. Besides the natural elements, mountains and rivers are revered with due respect.

So far as the Hindu is concerned, it is another way of recognizing that God is everywhere, in every living being and even in every inanimate object.

The Westerner is intrigued that despite such wild variety and proliferation in the polytheism of the masses, an indisputable undercurrent of unity is discernable in the monotheism of the classes.

This paradox is resolved by the Hindu philosophical dictum that all these multitudinous array of divinities are but the outward representations of the one Brahman that - pervades them all, en-souls them all and whose body they all constitute” says Anbil Ramaswamy, a reputed author on Visishtadvaita.

In the olden days, when everyone accepted the authority of the Vedas, when people had regard for the veracity of the truths expounded in them, none questioned the numerous references declaring Narayana as the Para-Tattva and this fact was well established. Since Paramatma is called Nara, the waters which he created are known as 'Naaraah'. Once, this water was his resting place. Hence, he is called Narayana”. (NARA means water and AYANA means resting place).

AapO Naaraah iti PrOkta AapO vai Nara suoonavaha |Thaa Yatasya Ayataanaam Poorvam tEna Narayana Smritah—Manu Smriti

But, the adherents of other deities    went too far to twist the expressions in the Vedas and other scriptures with interpolations to bend the statements therein to dislodge Vishnu and install their Ishtadevata. They concocted and fabricated any number of spurious Puranas  and even upanishads on the lines of the genuine ones to somehow claim one‑up‑manship, glorifying their Ishta-dEvatas and resorted to a well orchestral propaganda. Uma a Vedic sage of great Intelligence who even Indra sought for knowledge was later elevated as wife Sankra, the benevolent and auspicious form of Rudra.

These later day enthusiasts   came with the concept of (i) All Atmans are the same or(ii) All divine beings are the same or (iii) The Trimurtis (Brahma, Vishnu and Rudra) are Brahman or Ekodeva  forgetting that they are different   aspects of Brahman.

 The 'Trimurtis as three  Devas did not become  popular and Brahama  among trinities was denied temple worship.   Trimurti concept  later instituted a compromise formula in what is known as "Panchayatana Puja" a  conglomerate worship of five deities (instead of the earlier three). This included Siva, his spouse, Sakti, and his son, Ganapathi and perhaps, by way of concession Vishnu and Surya also. This they attributed to Adisankara also linking it to Stotras as composed by him which we are made to believe. May be Sankara tried to consolidate and convince and then take to his concept of turning inwards, “knowing who am I” and give up external form of worship. Only deep  research on Vedic Culture  can establish the facts

Tantric concept assigned phallus   as an object of worship for Siva, Sakti having become a scary representation as Kali and Durga (unapproachable), and Ganapathi vowed to celibacy with an uncouth appearance with his elephant form, they sought after a deity that  could be viewed in a pleasant light to appeal to the layman. In Durga suktam the reference is to effulgent Agni.

The field was, therefore further expanded from five to six to include the personality of Subrahmanya (the second son of Siva) with his consorts Valli and Deivayani on the model of Vishnu accompanied by his consorts, Sridevi and Bhudevi hailed in Purushasukta. Supported by Puranas.

Skanda, glorified in Vedas as Santkumara   and the one who taught   Narada came in handy who was further glorified  when Lord Krishna declared inter alia that he was verily Skanda among   leaders of armies (BG10/24).

And, this experiment was called “Shanmatha”.  Bringing  the entire family of Siva (in Saivam), his wife Sakti (in Saaktam), his first son, Ganapathi (in Ganapatyam) and his brother, Subrahmanya (in Kaumaram).  Vishnu was a compromising candidate to show  equality Staus as Parabrahman and Parasakti.  After Gita became famous, Vasudeva, Sankarshna Pradyumna And Aniruddha were also introduced as Vyuhas of  Paravasudeva, We do not know which came first. Thus we have a Vishnu family from Yadava clan.

Much more recently,  the addition of the story of “Ayyappa”, as the son of Siva and Vishnu‑Mohini, perhaps in an attempt at reconciliation. This Ayyappa was never worshiped  until the middle of the 20th century and this cult is today growing strong with its own quota of  Puranic stories.

I would not like to dwell on other deities Swami Anbil Ramaswamy mentioned and the recent addition of Azhvars, Nayanmars, Goswmis, Swami Naryan,  Saibaba, Seetal Devi, Santoshi Ma, Karumari Amman etc. ,  and their occult powers for it is an ocean.

The  Trinity Acharyas, Sankara, Ramanuja and Madhva brought renaissance to  Hinduism  initiated  by Sankara,  standardized and popularized by Ramanuja and further fortified by Madhva which made Hinduism survive  during pre -independence days under Muslim and Christian rulers who tried to convert many Hindus to their religion with carrots and sticks.   It is also interesting that all the three Acharyas focused on Vishnu Tattva and focused on prayers  and  worships of Sustenance aspect of Narayana that is Vishnu.  Worship of Vishnu and focus on Vishnu Tattva   based on love and devotion is gaining grounds today ably supported by Gaudiya Sampradaya and ISKCON Movement not only in India but also overseas.  Before the invasion of foreigners worship of Siva and Sakti dominated Hinduism.  Though Hinduism is third largest religion more than 90% live in India only.  Around 70% of the Hindus in India are Inclined towards Vishnu worship but those that actually follow the Vishnu-tattva established by Trinities   are alarmingly low. These too have become sectarian oriented like Saivites in pre-Ramanuja period and this needs serious  reform.  Hope Ramanuja Sahasarabdi  celebrated over a year will bring new light and hope in the followers of Vishnu to spreads the message of love, devotion, tolerance, respect for Gurus and the devoted—Bhagavat and Bhagavata seva.

How did Ramnuja conclude Parmaatman as Narayana and base his philosophy on Vishnu Tattva.  Here he had been guided by the divine message he received from Peria Nambi who got it direct from Lord Varadraja. The message of Lord Varadraja to Peria Nambi was:
1.      I am the absolute Brahman, the cause of Prakriti which is the cause of the Universe.
2.      O large-minded one, the distinction between Jiva and Isvara is axiomatic.
3.      Self-surrender (at the lotus feet of God) is the only cause of liberation of those who strive after the final beatitude.
4.      The liberation of My devotees, even though they fail to remember Me at the last moment of their life, is sure to take place.
5.      As soon as My devotees give up their bodies, they attain the Supreme Object.
6.      Take refuge in Mahatma Mahapurna who is endowed with all virtues.  Go soon to Ramanuja and tell him what I have told you.  (Prapannamritam x 66, 67, 68, 69)

Guided by the above divine message Ranmanuja studied Brahmasutras  of Vedavyas  that he got from Kashmir, Vedas,  Upanishads, Puranas and Bhagvad Gita and then came to the above  conclusion. Since he was a Smarta like Sankara and also a renowned scholar in Advaita  Philosophy  studied under the famous Guru Yadavaprakasa, he should have been very much influenced by Bhajagovindam which was the last composition of Sankaracharya as this text had been completed by two of his successors. Unlike their contemporaries who had sectarian views both Ramanuja and  Sankara were broad minded.   I do not know whether Ramanuja  has made any specific reference to the scriptural texts I have cited below but from I own general reading they are quite substantial   and authoritative. Also I have not also quoted all references I had given in my discourse on The Self and The Supreme.  I also strongly believe that I  do not owe further explanation as these quotes from our scriptures and their explanation are self-explanatory.

Adi Sankara declared in unequivocal terms what is to be chanted and what is to be meditated upon always ‑ it is Bhagavad Gita that should be chanted and it is the divine form of the consort of Lakshmi that should be constantly meditated upon:

“GEyam Gitaa naama sahasram; DhyEyam Sripathi Roopamajasram" Bhaja Govinda--27 

Sankara further says that this is the way to achieve what he calls "Vishnutvam" (ultimate self) because Vishnu is the only reality that is 'within you, within me and elsewhere.

Tvayi Mayi Sarvatra EkO Vishnuh" and Sama chittah Sarvatra Tvam vanchasya chirath yadi 'vishnutvam--Bhaja.Govindam. Verses 24 and 25.

This is because he was a great Scholar who knew what he was saying and said it candidly without any bias or prejudice

Vedavyasa is the editor, author and compiler of all Puranas.  He is also a minor avatar of Vishnu. All the four Vedas compiled by him start with “Hari Om”

1. Harih Om! AgnimeeLE purohitam! yagjnasya dEvam ritvijam  hOtaram ratna dhatamam! Harih Om! (Rig VBeda)

2. Harih Om! Eeshetva urjetva! vaayavastha upaayavasth  Devovah savita! Prarpayatu sreshta tamaya karmaNe! Harih Om! (Yajur Veda)

3. Harih Om! Agna ayaahi veetaye! GriNano havya dhaathaye!   Nihotaa satsi Barhishi! Harih Om!(Samaveda)

4. Harih Om! SannO deveer abeeshTaye! Apo bavantu Peethay  Samyor abhisravanthu nah! Harih Om! (Athrva Veda)

In our 16-step worship we always chant the Rigveda Mantra:

Tad Vishnoh Paramam Padam Sadaa Pasyanti Soorayah  Diveeva Chakshur-aathatham / Tad Vipraaso Vipanyavo Jagruvaamsa Samindate / Vishnor yad Paramam Padam //

The Nityasuris (Liberated souls) with eyes wide open enjoy Lord Vishnu's divine form happily. These great and wise Nityasuris are also proficient in praising the Lord endowed with supreme knowledge they are ever vigilant"

Rigveda also states--From Narayana was born Brahma; From Narayana was born Rudra--

Narayanaat  Brahma JaayatE / Narayanaat  RudrO JaayatE

Purushasooktam  from Yajurveda Taitaareeya Aranyakam says that Paramatma is the one who has Mother Earth and Mother Mahalakshmi as his consorts. This is applicable only to Lord Narayana.
Hrees cha Te Lakshmis Cha Patnyou"

Vedavyas   is also the author of  Mahaabhaarata and 17 other Puranas: 

He begins the epic  Mahabharat with an invocation first and foremost only to SRI NARAYANA (which we usually sing in the introductory portion of Vishrusahasranama) thus:
Narayanam  Namaskritya naram chaiva narottamam | Deveem  Sarasvatim vaacham tatho jayam udhirayeth
And, he concludes the epic with the Sloka that says that ONLY SRI NARAYANA should be meditated upon ALWAYS. Why because Nartayana is Paramatman.

To dispel any doubts as to the statement being a superficial conjecture, he affirms with all the force at his command that only after making a thorough research of all the Saastras and only after great deliberation and discussions with knowledgeable persons that he had arrived at this unassailable and irrefutable conclusion thus:

Aalodya sarva saastrani vichaarya cha punar punah | Idamekam sunishpannam Dhyeyo narayanas sadaa ||
asudevO Mahat Bhutam Sarva Deiva Adeivatam |Na Param Pundarikaakshat DrisyatE Porsha Rishabah (Mahabharata, Bhishma Parva 67-2)

Esha Daatha Vidhaata Cha SarvEshaam PraaNinaam Prabhu Param Hi Pundarikaakshath Na Bhutam Na Bhavishyat (Mahabharata Bhisma Parva   67-18)

VASUDEVA is the greatest Soul; He is the supreme; He is the God of all Gods. 

There is none greater than him. He is the creator of all beings; the one who decides their destiny. There was not nor ever will be any God higher than VASUDEVA, 

PUNDARIKAKSHA (another name of Lord Narayana)

MAHA BHARATA (Saanti Parva 355.41) and DAKSHASMRITI explain how all performances in accordance with Saastras reach Sri Vishnu:

Rites performed as prescribed in the Saastras invoking the Manes, Divinities, Brahmins or the Fire God‑ all these performances reach ONLY Lord Vishnu since he is the indweller of all these entities.

Ye Bhajanti (Yajanti) Pitroon Devaan Brahmanaan Sa Hutasanath | Sarva Bhuta Antar Aatmaanam VishnumEva Bhajanti (Yajanti) te ||

In MAHABHARATA Sage Vyaasa says:

"Brahma, Nilakanta (Siva), Indra and other deities are not worshipped by the discreet because they can grant only trivial, temporary worldly benefits and definitely not Moksha‑ which can be granted only by Sri Narayana.

Brahmam sithikanTam cha yaascha anyaahh devata smrutah  | Prati buddhah Na SEvantE yasmaat parimitham phalam || (Saanti  Parva350.36)


                                     NAARAAYANA SOOKTAM 

The popular Narayansooktam is from Taittireeya Aaranyaka X-13, whose idea forms the basis of meditation on the Supreme Being. It is contained in Mahaanaaraayana Upanishad. This sookta is recited along with Bhagavadgeeta, Vishnusahasranaamam etc., daily.  Smriti texts prescribe its use in various rites and ceremonies including Homams and Yajnas.

  Mantras of Naaraayan Sookta

Sahasrasheersham devam viswaaksham visvasambhuvam; viswam Naaraayanam devam aksharam paramam prabhum
Narayana is all that constitutes this universe--who has thousand heads, who has his eyes everywhere and who works out the good of all the worlds, who is the immutable supreme Lord and who is   bestows for all our deeds.
Viswataha paramaannityam viswam Naaraayanagum Harim; viswamevedam purushaha tad-viswa-mupajeevati
He is the most supreme and the eternal because of his being in everything. This universe is Narayana, Hari. This universe is Purusha alone. This universe exists on account of that Purusha.
Patim viswasyat-mesvaragum saasvatagum sivamachyutam; Naaraayana mahaagneyam viswaatmaanam paraayanam
Narayana is the Lord of the universe. This master is the ruler of himself. He is the eternally auspicious one and he is constant and unchanging. This Narayana is the highest thing to be known. He is the inner-psyche of all. He is the supreme object and the highest goal of attainment.
Naaraayana param Brahma tatvam naaraayanaha paraha; Naaraayana paroe jyotihi aatmaa Naaaraayanaha paraha; naaraayana paroe dhyaata dhyaaanam Naaraayanaha paraha
Narayana is the supreme Brahman. Narayana is the supreme Reality. Narayana is the supreme Light. Narayana is the supreme Self. Narayana is the most excellent meditate and meditation.
Yaccha kinchit jagatyasmin drisyate srooyate-pi vaa; antar bahischa tat sarvam vyaapya Naaraayanaha sthitaha
Whatever object is seen because of his proximity or heard through report because of its distance in this world, Narayana resides pervading all these objects within and without.
Anantamavyayam kavigum samudrentam viswasambhuvam; padmakoesa-prateekaasagum hridayaanchaap-yadhoemukham
We should meditate upon the Supreme, the Infinite, the Immutable, the Omniscient, the one whose abode is the ocean, the one who is dwelling in the sea of one’s own heart as the goal of all struggles. The location of his meditation is the space in the heart which is comparable to an inverted lotus bud.
Adhoe nishtyaa vitasyaam tu naabhyaam upari tishtati; jwaalamaalaakulaa bhaatee viswasyaayatanam mahat
The heart, which is located just at the distance of a finger span below the Adam’s apple and above the navel, shines as if wreathed in fire, is the great abode of the universe.
Santatagum siraabhistu lambatyaa koesa sannibham; Tasyaante sushiragum sookshmam tasmin sarvam pratishtitam
The heart is like a slightly closed bud, hangs down being well covered by veins. At the end of that is a subtle hole called sushumna. The Supreme Brahman, the Self of all is located there.
Tasya madhye mahaanagnir viswaarchir viswatoe mukhaha; soegrabhug vibhajantishtan aahaara-majaraha kavihi
In the midst of that heart is a blazing fire spreading in all directions with huge flames surging in all directions. He, the ever awake, the ever roaring stands there, classifying the food and he himself consumes the food first.
Tiryagoordhva madhaha saayee rasmayas tasva santataa; santaapayati svam dehamaapaada-tala-mastakaha
The fire remains assimilating the food consumed, the rays of which spread scattering themselves vertically and horizontally and which warms the body from bottom of its foot to the crown of the head.
Neelatoe-yada-madhyasthaa vidyullekheva bhaasvaraa; neevaara sookavattanvee peetaa bhaasvat yanoopamaa
 In the midst of that there is a flame of fire which is subtle and rising above, which is shining like a streak of lighning in the midst of a blue cloud, which is very subtle like the tip of grain, which is self-luminous and which is incomparable.
Tasyaaha sikhaayaa madhye Paramaatmaa vyavashtitaha; sa Brahmaa sa Sivaha sendraha soeksharaha parmaha svaraat
The Supreme self is established in the midst of that flame. He is Brahma, Siva, Indra, the material and efficient cause of the universe, the supreme self-luminous pure Consciousness, the most liberated master of Karma.
Ritagum satyam param Brahma Purusham krishnapingalam; Oordhvaretam viroopaaksham viswaroopaaya vai namaha
Obeisance to the Supreme Brahma, the Lord of the cosmic form, who is all-pervading, immutable, the one who has an auspicious form of a blac-tawny color, who has eyes that are uncommon in nature.
Om Naaraayanaaya vidmahay Vaasudevaaya dheemahi tannoe Vishnuhu prachodayaat
Vishnu Gayatri—we meditate upon Narayana. For that we devote ourselves on Vaasudeva. May that Lord Vishnu invigorate and impel us!
Om sahanaa vavatu saha nau bhunaktu saha veeryam karavaavahai tejasvi naavadheetamastu maa vidvishaavahai Om saantihi saantihi saantihi
May Brahma protect us both together! May He nourish us both together! May we not quarrel with each other! May we both work together with great energy! May our studies be vigorous and be effective!
Om Saantih! Saantih! Saantih!
The three chants are directed to cosmic disturbances (like lightning, thunder, torrential rains, floods, earthquake etc.) called Aadhidaivikam, external disturbances  around us called Aadhibhautikam and inner disturbances, internal disturbances within us called Aadhyatmikam.
The first Om is chanted aloud, second one soft and the third one mellow. OM is the symbol of Brahman.

Narayana    Vedasira(head)Upanishat

Atha purusho ha vai Naaraayano akaamayata prajnaah srijayeti | Naaraayanaat praano jaayate | manah sarvendryaani cha | kham vaaur-jyotir-aapah prithivee visvasya dharinee | Naaraayanad Brahmaa jaayte | Naaraayanaat Rudro jaayte  | Naaraayanaat Indro jaayate | Naaraayanaat  Prajaapatayah  prajaaynte | Naaraayanaat dvaadasa Aadityaah Rudraah   Vasavah sarvaani yacchandaa(ga)mci  | Naaraayanaadeva  samutpadyante | Naaraayanaat pravartante  |Naraayane  praleeynte | Etad Rigveda siro adheete ||

Narayana, the Supreme Spirit desired to create all beings.  The vital Airs, The Mind, and the sense organs are all born out of Him. Five elements—Ether, Air, Fire, Water and Earth that supports all entities after creation are born out of Narayana. It is from Narayana that all Prajaapatis (Manus) are born. The twelve Aadityas, eleven Rudras and eight Vasus are born of Narayana.  All these entities are born of Narayana and function by his will. They   ultimately merge with Him only. This is read in Rigveda-head.

Atha nityo Naaraayanah | Brahmaa Naaraayanah | Sivascha Naaraayanah | Sakrascha Naaraayanah  | dyavaaprithivyaucha Naaraayanah  |  kaalascha naaraayanah | disascha Naaraayanah | oordhvascha Naaraayanah | adhascha Naaraayanah  || antar-bhaischa Naaraayanah | Naaraayana evedam  sarvam yad bhootm-yaccha bhavyam  nishkalo  nirnjano niraakhyaatah suddho deva eko Naaraayanah | na dviteeyo asti kaschit  ya evam veda | sa vishnureva bhavati ||ya etad Yajurveda siro adhheete ||

Narayana is eternal. Brahma is Narayana, Siva is Narayana and Indra is Narayana being the Inner-self of all of them. Twilight zone and earth are Narayana.  Time, Directions and the inter-directions are Narayana. Region above and Region below are Narayana. That which is within and which exists outside of all beings are Narayana (he pervades all).  All this is Narayan only. Narayana is the One Deva and there is no other deity equal to Him. He has no defect, no taint, no change nor has any limitations but is always pure and auspicious. He who realizes hus becomes similar to Vishnu. Yajurveda-head ordains this.

Om ityagre vyaaharet | nama iti Paschaat | Naaraayaneti uparishtaat | Om ityekaaksahram | nama iti dve akshare | Naraayaanaaya iti panchaaksharaani \ Etadvai Naaraayanasya Ashtaaksharam  padam | yo ha vai Naaraayansyaashtaksharam padam-adhyeti | anapabruvah sarvamaayureti |vindate praajaapatyam raayasposham gaupatyam. | tatah amritatvamasnuta iti | iti evam  Veda ||

One should utter Pranava “Om” first and then he should utter the word ”namah”.  Then he should utter the sacred name Narayana. Pranava consists of one syllable. Namah has two syllables. “Naaraayanaaya”- is a word of five syllables.  These three together comprise of the Ashataaksharee Mantra directed to Narayana.  He who meditates upon the sacred Ashtaakshree Mantra of Narayana will attain full life without any obstacle. He will be blessed with progeny, plenty of wealth and will obtain cattle-wealth in this life and in the end attain Immortality. He attains afterwards Immortality. (This repetition ensures divine assurance.)

Prtyag-aanandam  brahmapurusham pranavaswaroopam | Akaara ukaara makkaara iti Taanekadhaa samabhavat etad omiti | yamuktvaa  muchyate yogee jnaana-samasaara-bandhanaat | Om namo Naaraayanaayeti mantropaasakah | Vaikunthabhuvanalokam gamishyati | tadidam param pundareekam vijnaanamayam | tasmaat tadidaavan mantram  | bramanyo devakeeputro brahmanyo madhusoodanom | sarvabhootastamekam Naaraayanam | kaaranapurusamakaaranam paro  Brahma |  etat   Atharvasiro yo adheete ||

The Pranava comprises of three letters A, U and MA.They are combined   differently and this exhibits itself as OM. Chanting this Om  a Yogi devotee gets freed from the shackles of Samsara (worldly life) such as  repeated births and deaths as  well  as others.  The meditator upon this sacred Ashtaksharee (Om namo Naaraayanaaya) reaches Vaikunta, the abode of Naryana. This is like the Lotus of the Heart where that crystal consciousness resides. From that shines this like the brilliance of lightening.

The child of Devaki is the Supreme Brahman. Madhusudana is Brahman. The lotus eyed one is Brahman. The One with no second, Narayana is residing in all other entities as the inner-self.  He is Supreme Self, the course of every other thing. There is nothing which is the cause of that Supreme Self. He is the Supreme Brahman called by the sacred syllable   Om.  This is expounded in Atharva Veda.

Praataradheeyano raatri kritam paapam naasayati | Saayamadheeyaano divasakritam paapam naasayati | tatsaayam –praataradheeyaano appaapo bhavati | Maadhyandinam aadityaabhimukho adheeyaanah | panchamahaaapaatako papaatakaat pramuchyate sarvavedapaaraayanapunyam labhate | Naraayana sayujyam avaapnoti | Ya evam Veda | Ityupanishat ||

He who meditates upon Om in the morning annihilates the sins committed during the night.  The sins done during the day time are destroyed when this is meditated upon in the evening. Meditating on this during the mornings and evenings one becomes sinless. One who meditates upon this at noon looking at the Sun becomes freed from the five capital sins and sub-crimes. He gets the merit of having chanted all the Vedas together. He merges with (Sayujya) Narayana. He merges with Narayana. (As you know Sandhyavandana daily ritual mantras are from MNU which prescribes similarly three times atonement for sins as  prescribed here)

|| Srīīnārāyaṇāṣṭaka - śrīnsiha purāṇam ||

The following is a rare Ashtakam on Lord Narayana by Sage Markandeya as told by Vag to Sage Markandeya taken from Nrusimha Puranam, and Chapter 10. This hymn was given by Vag to Sage Markandeya as he could still not perceive divine vision of Lord Narayana even  after bathing in all holy places as instructed by Vag who mentioned that one can avail the fruit of bathing in all pilgrim places by chanting this hymn. Lord Narayana, pleased with the prayer,bestowed long life as well the divine vision of His cosmic form.

vāguvāca -
stotreṇānena viprendra stuhi nārāyaaprabhum |
nā'nyathā sarva-tīrthānāṁ phalaprāpsyasi suvrata || 1 ||
mārkaṇḍeya uvāca -
tadevākhyāhi bhagavan stotratīrtha-phala-pradam |
yena japtena sakalatīrtha snāna phalalabhet || 2 ||
vāguvāca -
jaya jaya devadeva jaya mādhava keśava |
jaya padmapalāśāka jaya govinda gopate || 1 ||
jaya jaya padmanābha jaya vaikuṇṭha vāmana |
jaya padma hṛṣīkeśa jaya dāmodarā 'cyuta || 2 ||
jaya padmeśvarānanta jaya lokaguro jaya |
jaya śakha-gadā-pāṇe jaya bhūdhara sūkara || 3 ||
jaya yajñeśa vārāha jaya bhūdhara bhūmipa |
jaya yogeśa yogajña jaya yoga-pravarttaka || 4 ||
jaya yoga-pravarttaka jaya dharma-pravarttaka |
ktapriya jaya jaya yajñeśa yajñāṅga jaya || 5 ||
jaya vandita sadvija jaya nārada-siddhida |
jaya puyavatāṁ-geha jaya-vaidika-bhājana || 6 ||
jaya jaya caturbhuja śrījayadeva jaya daitya-bhayāvaha |
jaya sarvajña sarvātman jaya śakara śāśvata || 7 ||
jaya viṣṇo mahādeva jaya nityaadhokaja |
prasādakuru deveśe darśayādya svakāṁ tanum || 8 ||
Mārkaṇḍeya uvāca -
namostu te devadeva mahācitta mahākāya mahāprājña
mahādeva mahākīrtte brahmendra-candra-rudrārcita-pādayugala
śrīpadma-hasta sammardita daitya-deha || 9 ||
ananta-bhoga-śayanārpita sarvāṅga sanaka sanandanasanatkumārādyair
yogibhir nāsāgra nyasta locanair anavarata
abhicintita moka-tattva gandharva vidyādhara yaka kinnara
kipuruairaharaho gīyamāna divya yaśa|| 10 ||
nsiha nārāyaa padmanābha govinda govarddhana guhānivāsa
yogīśvara deveśvara jaleśvara maheśvara || 11 ||
yogadhara mahāmāyādhara vidyādhara yaśodhara kīrtidhara
trigua-nivāsa tritattvadhara tretāgnidhara || 12 ||
trivedabhāk triniketana trisuvara tridadadhara || 13 ||
snigdha meghābhārcita dyuti virājita pītāmbaradhara kirīṭa
kaaka keyūra hāra mai ratnāṁśu dīpti vidyotita sarvadiśa || 14 ||
kanaka mai kuṇḍala maṇḍita gaṇḍa-sthala madhusūdana
viśvamūrte || 15 ||
lokanātha yajñeśvara yajñapriya tejomaya bhaktapriya
vāsudeva duritāpahārārādhya puruottama namostu te || 15 ||
|| iti śrīnṛṁha purāṇe śrīvāg kta śrīnārāyaṇāṣṭaka
sampūram ||

The following is a rare hymn on Lord Narayana by Akrura taken from Brahma Puranam and Chapter 192.
Akroora Uvacha:
Tanmaatra roopine achintya mahimne paramaatmane |

Vyaapine naikarupaika svaroopaaya namo namah || 1 ||

Sabda-roopaaya te achintya havirbhootaaya te namah |

Namo vijnaana roopaaya paraaya prakriteh prabho || 2 ||

Bhootaatma chendriyaatmaa cha prabhaanaatma tathaa bhavaan |

Aatmaa cha paramaatmaa cha tvamekah panchadhaa stithih || 3 ||

Praseeda sarve dharmaatmaa ksharaakshara mahesvara |

Brahma Vishnu sivaadyaabhih kalpanaabhirudheeratih || 4 ||

Anaakhyeya svaroopaatman anaakhyeya prayojana |

Anekhyabhidhaana tvaam naato-aatmaa paramesvaram || 5 ||

Na yatra naatha vidyante naama-jaatyaadi kalpanaah |

Tad brahma paramam nityam avikaari bhavaan ajah || 6 ||

Na kalpanaamrite athooya sarvsyaadhigamo yatih |

Tatah krishna-achyuta-anata Vishnu-sanjyaatabhir eedhyase || 7 ||

Sarvantmamsa tvam-aja vikalpanabhir |

Etair devaastvam jagadakhilam visvam ||8 ||

Visvatam vitata vikaara bheda heenah |

Sarvaasminna hi bhavatosti kinchidanyat || 9 ||

Tvam brahma-pasupatir aryamaa vidhaataa |

Tvam dhaataaa tridaspatih sameerano-agnih |

Toyeso dhanapatir antakastvameko|

Bhinnaatmaa jagadapi paasi saktibhedaibhih || 9 ||

Visvam bhavaan srijati hanta gabhasti roopo |

Visvam cha te gunamayo ayam–aja prapanchih |

Roopam param saditivaachakam aksharam |

Yajjnaanaatmane sadasate pranatosmi tasmai || 10 ||

Om namo Vaasudevaya namo Sankarshanaaya cha |

Prdyumnaaya namastubhyam Aniruddhaaya te  namah || 11 ||

II Iti Brahmapurane Bhagavat stuti Sampoornam ||


 Narayana, The  Ancient and Sacred Name of God
Posted by The Editor | Feb 17, 2012 | IndiaDivine.Org
Narayana, this ancient name of Indian religion has had a profound impact on world’s theology. The concept and significance behind this name has not been fully recognized in theological studies. Narayana Sukta, one of the most important hymns of Vedic religion, eulogizes God as Narayana, the imperishable self-existent creator of all. As time passed, the word gathered a large amount of theology behind itself. Sample a few of them below:
Nara means Man, Ayana means direction, goal, path – So Narayana means the supreme being who is final destination, goal, or path of all men or living entities. He is the one whom we must seek to attain our salvation. So Narayana means salvation giver.
Nara means Man, Ayana means abode – Narayana, the God, is the universe itself, in which we all dwell. So Narayana means dwelling place of humanity.
Nara means Man, Ayana means resting – so Narayana means the final resting place of humanity. At the end of creation, all the living entities go back to him, rest in him, and become one with him. So Narayana means dissolver.
Nara means Man, A-yana means never ending – so Narayana means eternal primeval Man.
Nara means waters, Ayana meaning resting – so Narayana is someone who rests on waters. This is the reason why God Narayana is frequently depicted in Indian literature and art as resting on waters.
Nara means waters, Ayana means to go – so Narayana means someone who has come out of waters – this further gives the meaning that Narayana means Son of Waters. So God Narayana is often portrayed in Indian literature as a small baby floating on Cosmic Waters or Ether that pervades this entire universe.
Nara means Waters, A-yana means never ending – As per Hindu theology, at the beginning of creation, this whole world was engulfed with Cosmic waters or ether that pervaded this universe. So Narayana means Pervader like Waters, one who pervades this universe.
To top it all, as per English-Sanskrit Dictionaries, the meaning of the word Narayana is Son of Man! Though the dictionaries and the Indian scriptures are silent on why God is called Son of Man, or on why Narayana came to mean Son of Man, the Sanskrit dictionaries give that as the most probable interpretation. As per my understanding, the reason why Narayana means Son of Man is because, Nara means Man, and Ayana means mirror – So Narayana means mirror image of man. Since an offspring is nothing but a mirror image of its parent, Narayana came to mean Son of Man! Another way to look at it is that Nara means Man, Ayana means to go, so Narayana is someone who came out of Man; it means someone who took birth from Man; so Narayana means Son of Man! I have only explained the etymological part of it; the theological part of why Narayana is considered as Son of Man needs further exposition. Purusha Sukta, another most important Vedic hymn, visualizes God as a Cosmic Man, from whose body this universe emanated. Since a certain primeval Man has been visualized as God in this theology, Son of Man also means Son of God! So Narayana means Son of Man as well as Son of God! This is exactly the same way in which Jesus is addressed in New Testament – Jesus is addressed as both Son of Man as well as Son of God. The phrase Son of Man causes lot of confusion across the religions of Christianity, Hinduism, and Judaism. Even Buddha used this phrase to describe himself! A further unraveling of the reasons on why Indian religion calls its God as Son of Man or Son of God can probably reduce a lot of this confusion! My studies even point to a possibility that this ancient and sacred name has even led to the birth of the sacred symbols OM and Swastika, which is the subject of a separate topic off in-depth study.
[Bhagavad Gita says “Sambhavami Yuge Yuge” meaning god will reincarnate himself as somebody’s Son at the same time he is part of God and not affected by Laws of Karma. Whenever He reincarnates He still has   to be present felt   in his abode constantly receiving souls. He can’t create a vacuum. He therefore can’t empty his abode and come here for some time.  He at the same time has to exist in this world as somebody’s son with human values helping in the preservation of Dharma.  You may here ask what about other non-human Avatars. If you look at the Puranas only from Parasuram avatar God took his birth as “Son of Man” in this Earth. All other Avatars have their origin elsewhere. Why Man? Man is the donor of Chromosomes. Subhramanya and Ganesha  are not womb born and are the products of Man effort.  So is also Urvasi. Christians also say Jesus was born to Virgin Mary and Joseph accepted the child. Abrahamic Religions expunged reincarnation theory around 15th century and have difficulty in explaining “Son of God” expression. It seems the origin of this phrase itself is inspired by Gita. Son of man" is a phrase used in the Hebrew Bible, various apocalyptic works of the intertestamental period, and in the Greek New Testament. It is quite easy to explain the term with Avatar and reincarnation phenomenon in Hinduism.]

 1. Ananta Rangacharya, Mahanarayana Upanishad, Bengaluru, India.
2.  Ramachandra  Rao, S.K., Vishnukosha, Kalpatharu Research Academy,   Bengaluru, India.
3. Devdutt Pattanaik, Vishnu,Vakils, Feffer and Simons Pvt. Ltd., Mumbai, India.
4. Swami Bhaskarananda, Hindu Gods and Goddesses, Ramakrishna Math, Chennai, India.
5. Wikipedia and other Internet sources.

[This discourse material is a compilation from the reference above    as well as other sources for a prepared lecture for delivering at Vedanta Class of Sri Ganesha Temple which is gratefully acknowledged. I do not claim anything as original though I have included my explanations and comments elaborately suitably editing. Anybody is free to download partly or fully this discourse, modify and redistribute this as well as other  discourses from the blog Hindu Reflections <> for spreading the wisdom of Vedas and scriptures further.  These  lectures are  posted on the blog for the benefit of those who are not able to attend my lectures personally due to personal reasons or due to not living in Nashville or able to go through the various sources as I have done. ]