By Swami Harshananda
Nārāyaṇasukta literally means ‘hymn to Nārāyaṇa’.
The Mahānārāyana Upaniṣad forms the fourth section of the Taittiriya Āraṇyaka. It is often considered as khila or supplement to the Taittiriya Upaniṣad, which precedes it. It contains four well-known Vedic suktas, of which the Nārāyanasukta is the most important. It forms the thirteenth anuvāka or section and has twelve mantras or stanzas. It is generally used to offer flowers at the end of a pujā or even chanted on auspicious occasions. It describes the greatness of Nārāyaṇa, the Supreme God and how to meditate on him in one’s heart.
Content of Nārāyaṇasukta
A general translation is as follows:
This universe is truly the Divine Person only. Therefore it subsists on him. He, the Divine Being, has countless heads and eyes. He is the giver of joy to the universe. It is He who exists in the form of the universe and is also the abode of all the human beings. He is self-effulgent, imperishable and the final abode of all.
He has transcended the universe. He is eternal. He is all-pervading, refuge of all humanity and the destroyer of sins. This universe is verily that Divine Person and on Him it subsists.
He is the lord of this universe. He is the Self of all beings as also the ruler. He is eternal, indestructible and ever auspicious. He has entered into all beings as the in-dweller. He is supremely worthy of being realized). Though embodied in the universe as its original cause, he is also the goal of all, the highest refuge.
Nārāyaṇa is the Supreme Reality designated as Brahman. He is the highest. He is the Supreme Light. He is the infinite Self. He is the excellent meditator and meditation.
Whatever there is in this world, directly perceived or known through the scriptures, Nārāyaṇa has pervaded all that, both within and without.
One should meditate upon the Supreme, dwelling in the heart, who is limitless, unchanging, omniscient, the giver of happiness to all, as the goal of all striving. The place of His meditation is the ether in the heart which is like an inverted lotus-bud.
It should be known that the heart which is located at the distance of a finger-span below the Adam’s apple and above the navel is the great abode of the universe which is shining like a garland of flames.
Like the bud of a lotus, the heart is suspended in an inverted position, surrounded by arteries. In it or near it, there is a narrow space. Everything is supported in that.
In the middle of suṣumnā remains the non-decayed, all-knowing, omni-faced, great fire which has flames on every side. It enjoys the food presented before it and assimilates it. Its rays are scattered vertically and horizontally.
It warms its own body from the foot to the head. In the center of that fire there abides a tongue of fire which is extremely fine or subtle.
It is dazzling like the flash of the lightning that appears in the middle of a rain-bearing cloud, which is slender as the awn of a paddy grain and which serves as a simile to illustrate subtlety.
Paramātman dwells in the middle of that flame. It is He who has become Brahmā, Śiva, Indra and the Akṣara. It is He who is the Supreme Ruler.
In some texts there are two additional stanzas:
- He is Rta, Satya, the highest Brahman, the dark and tawny Person who has absolute control over Himself. He has strange and variegated eyes and is omni-form. We meditate on Him and bow down to Him.
- This is the famous Nārāyana gāyatri:
‘We know Nārāyaṇa. We meditate on Vāsudeva. May that Viṣṇu inspire us!’
We can sum it up saying that this is an excellent hymn, not only for prayer but also for meditation.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore