By Swami Harshananda
Nārāyaṇa Upaniṣad is a short Upaniṣad classed among the Minor Upaniṣads of the Kṛṣṇa Yajurveda and has four khandas or sections, all in prose.
Contents of Nārāyaṇa Upaniṣad
The first describes how Nārāyaṇa, the Puruṣa desired to create the world of beings. From him evolved the following objects and beings:
- Prāṇa - the vital force
- Manas - mind
- Indriyas - the ten sense-organs
- Pañcabhutas - five elements
- Gods Brahmā, Rudra and Indra
- Nine Prajāpatis like Dakṣa
- Twelve Ādityas
- Eleven Rudras
- Eight Vasus
All these get manifested out of Nārāyaṇa, are activated by him during the life of the created world, and then, get merged back in him at the end of the cycle. and hence Lakṣmī herself. Iconographically she is shown just like Nārāyaṇa or Viṣṇu.
The second khaṇḍa describes how Nārāyaṇa is eternal and how Brahmā, Śiva, Indra, time in its three aspects, the quarters, and all the directions are all different facets of Nārāyaṇa. Nārāyaṇa who is without parts, without any imperfections or changes or names, is absolutely pure and the one without a second. One who knows him thus, becomes Viṣṇu Himself.
The third khaṇḍa describes the well- known aṣtākṣarīmantra, the mantra of eight letters of Nārāyaṇa, ohm namo nārāyaṇāya. One who repeats this great mantra regularly as per the directions of the guru, will transcend all dishonor and live long. He will also get wealth, cows and other objects of desire while living here and go to Brahmaloka after death. Later on, he will attain final liberation. Nārāyaṇī is a well-known name of Lord Viṣṇu.
The last khaṇḍa describes Nārāyaṇa as Brahman, the Puruṣa who is of the nature of Praṇava comprising the three syllables a, u and m. The yogi who utters this Praṇava or the aṣṭākṣarīmantra will be liberated from the bondage of sansāra and attain the world called Vaikuṇṭha. Nārāyaṇa, who is pure solidified consciousness, resides in the lotus of the heart. He is identified with Devakīputra-Kṛṣṇa, who is dear to the knowers of Brahman. He is also the dweller in the hearts of all beings, the uncaused Cause of the universe.
The Upaniṣad concludes with the eulogy that its study will destroy all the sins, will bestow the merits of reciting all the Vedas and ultimately result in merging into Nārāyaṇa Himself.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore