Mahā Nārāyaṇa Upanishad | Full | With Commentaries

Mahā Nārāyaṇa Upanishad

.. महानारायणोपनिषत् ..
.. mahānārāyaṇopaniṣat ..

Here you can read the Mahā Nārāyaṇa Upanishad; full text translated in English together with Romanized Sanskrit text and very detailed commentaries done by Swāmi Vimalānanda of Śrī Ramakrishna Math, done according to other historically significant commentaries on Mahā Nārāyaṇa Upanishad and Taittirīya Āraṇyaka and Brāhmaṇa, from which many mantras of Mahā Nārāyaṇa Upanishad have originated. Mahā Nārāyaṇa Upanishad belongs to Krishna Yajur Veda.

I have already published earlier the much shorter Nārāyaṇa Upanishad, which is a very concise Vedic work describing the Supreme Being Nārāyaṇa, his main qualities, mantras and prayers to him.

Mahā Nārāyaṇa Upanishad is another and much longer work, describing Vedic deities, purification mantras and rites for a person, water and food, Gāyatrī mantras of all deities, Yajñas or Ceremonial Fire rituals, their significance and necessary mantras and a lot more. Commentaries are very recommended, without them the sense included in short Sanskrit mantras and Vedic deities would seem too complicated.

Section 1

verse ... 1 2 3 4-5 6 7 8-9 10 || 11 12 13 14-15 16 17 18 || 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 || 34 35 36 37 38-40 41-42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 || 54 55 56 57 58 59-60 61 62 63-65 66 67 68 69 70

Section ....

2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 || 10 11 || 12 || 13 || 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 || 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 || 33 34 35 36 || 37 38 39 40 || 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 || 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 || 66 67 || 68 69 70 71 72 || 73 74 75 76 77 || 78 || 79 || 80


hariḥ auṁ ..

auṁ śaṁ no mitraḥ śaṁ varuṇaḥ |
śaṁ no bhavatvaryamā | śaṁ no indro bṛhaspatiḥ |
śaṁ no viṣṇururukramaḥ |

namo brahmaṇe | namaste vāyo |
tvameva pratyakṣaṁ brahmāsi |
tvāmeva pratyakṣaṁ brahma vadiṣyāmi |
ṝtaṁ vadiṣyāmi | satyaṁ vadiṣyāmi |

tanmāmavatu | tadvaktāramavatu |
avatu mām | avatu vaktāram ||


auṁ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ ||1||

auṁ saha nāvavatu | saha nau bhunaktu |
saha vīryaṁ karavāvahai |
tejasvi nāvadhītamastu mā vidviṣāvahai |


auṁ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ ||2||

May Mitra, Varuṇa, Aryamān, Indra, Bṛhaspati, and all-pervading Viṣṇu

be propitious to us and grant us welfare and bliss.

I bow down to Brahman in reverence:

O Vāyu, I bow down to Thee in adoration:

Thou verily art perceptible Brahman.

I shall declare Thou art light. Thou art the true and the good.

May that—the Supreme Being adored as Vāyu—preserve me! May He preserve the teacher! Me, may He protect! My teacher, may He protect!

May He protect us both together, may He nourish us both together, may we work conjointly with great energy, may our study be vigorous and effective, may we not mutually dispute (or may we not hate any)!

Let there be peace, and peace, and peace - in me, in my environment and in the forces that act on me!


aṁbhasyapāre bhuvanasya madhye nākasya pṛṣṭhe mahato mahīyān .
śukreṇa jyotīɱṣi samanupraviṣṭaḥ prajāpatiścarati garbhe antaḥ .. 1..

1. The Lord of creation, who is present in the shoreless waters, on the earth and above the heaven and who is greater than the great, having entered the shining intelligences of creatures in seed form, acts in the foetus (which grows into the living being that is born).


The Upaniṣads name the ultimate Principle of religion and philosophy as Paramātman or Parabrahman, the first word emphasizes the immanence and the second the transcendence of that Principle Parabrahman, when described as the cause of the universe, is called Parameśvara or Prajāpati. Prajāpati and Parabrahman are, therefore, one and the same Reality described from two standpoints.

A person is not called a father before his marriage and the birth of a child. He becomes a father after these events. The person, however, remains the same. Parabrahman conditioned by the adjunct of the universe is Prajāpati, from whom the universe is born, and in whom it has its existence and absorption.

The stanza points out that the same Prajāpati, who sustains vast oceans, boundless worlds, and the highest heaven, enters as a seed or a spark into the shining intellect of living creatures and becomes the jīva or the acting and enjoying agent on the earth.

Man is developed from an embryo. The embryo is animated by the internal instrument which is rendered efficient by the reflection or impregnation of the Spirit or Paramātman, here designated as Prajāpati.

Śukra in the text stands for the Paramātman who enters the creatures as the seed and becomes their innermost Self. Jyotīɱṣi stands for the transmigrating Souls, identifying themselves with the internal organ and the instruments of knowledge and action. Paramātman ensouling the universe is called Virāt and dwelling in the body is called jīva.

The last foot of this verse is the same as the first line of the Atharvaveda X 4-2-13 and the Taittirīya Āraṇyaka III 13-3

yasminnidaɱ saṁ ca vi caiti sarvaṁ yasmin devā adhi
viśve niṣeduḥ . tadeva bhūtaṁ tadu bhavyamā 
idaṁ tadakṣare parame vyoman ..2..

2. That in which all this universe exists together and into which it dissolves, That in which all the gods remain enjoying their respective powers—That certainly is whatever that has been in the past and whatever indeed is to come in the future. This cause of the universe, Prajāpati, is supported by His own imperishable nature described as absolute ether.


In the previous stanza it was stated that Prajāpati or Parameśvara dwells in creatures as Kartā (doer) and Bhoktā (enjoyer).

This stanza asserts that He is not only the Antaryāmin (God dwelling in creatures) but also the support and final cause of all. Parabrahman alone is the one cause of everything else and there is no other cause for His existence.

The word  vyoman in the text means Āśa or ether This Ākāśa is a constituent element of the universe. It is the cause of the other four elements—air, fire, water, and earth. Ākāśa itself is produced from Paramātman according to the Upaniṣads, and therefore it cannot be the  self-supporting final cause. Hence parama vyoman here is the Akṣara Brahman, which has no other cause or support.

Hence it is stated here that this Reality alone constitutes the worlds which have been in the past and which are to be in the future. The world which we experience at present receives its existence and self-evidence from It alone.

The various gods and powers functioning in the universe and in man have their glory by delegation from Parabrahman.

yenāvṛtaṁ khaṁ ca divaṁ mahī ca yenādityastapati tejasā
bhrājasā ca .
yamantaḥ samudre kavayo vayanti yadakṣare parame prajāḥ .. 3..

3. He by whom the space between heaven and earth as well as the heaven and the earth are enveloped, He by whom the sun burns with heat and gives light, and He whom the sages bind in the ether of their hearts (with the string of meditation), in whom—The Imperishable One— all creatures abide.


Just as the clay, out of which various vessels are made, envelopes those articles that are produced form clay, so also the entire universe is enveloped by Paramātman.

Sages who know this Reality realize the Paramātman the entire uni­verse, as people see the thread woven into the cloth.

yataḥ prasūtā jagataḥ prasūtī toyena jīvān vyacasarja bhūmyām .
yadoṣadhībhiḥ puruṣān paśūɱśca viveśa bhūtāni carācarāṇi .. 4..

ataḥ paraṁ nānyadaṇīyasaɱ hi parātparaṁ yanmahato mahāntam .
yadekamavyaktamanantarūpaṁ viśvaṁ purāṇaṁ tamasaḥ parastāt .. 5..

4-5. From whom the Creatrix of the world, Prakṛti, was born, who created in the world creatures out of elements such as water, who entered beings consisting of herbs, quadrupeds and men as the inner controller, who is greater than the greatest, who is one without a second, who is imperceptible, who is of unlimited forms, who is the universe, who is ancient, who remains beyond darkness or Prakṛti and who is higher than the highest—nothing else exists other than, or subtler than, Him.


The creation of the world from Brahman through avyakta has been described generally in the previous stanzas.

Here some details are given in the order of evolution, namely, the Prakṛti, the five elements consisting of water and the rest, the terrestrial region, plants, animals and men.

Paramātman dwells as the innermost Spirit of all creat­ures:

It is asserted that in spite of the transformation of the Paramātman into the gross universe and His residence within the smallest of created beings, He is still greater than the greatest, higher than the highest, subtler than the subtlest and older than the oldest.

Though he has become the manifold universe of variety and multiplicity, yet, He remains one and undivided. He is beyond the taint of darkness and sensuous knowledge.

tadevartaṁ tadu satyamāhustadeva brahma paramaṁ kavīnām .
iṣṭāpūrtaṁ bahudhā jātaṁ jāyamānaṁ viśvaṁ bibharti
bhuvanasya nābhiḥ .. 6..

6. Sages declare: That alone is right and That alone is true That alone is the venerable Brahman contemplated by the wise. Acts of wor­ship and social utility also are that Reality. That alone being the navel of the universe, sustains manifold the universe which arose in the past and which springs to existence at present.


Paramātman described in the previous stanzas as the cause of the universe is the one existence, and apart from Him nothing else can be presumed. So He is not only present in every atom of the universe but also in every quality, action, and relation This is the truth illustrated in the present stanza.

Ṛita and Satya - rendered as light and true are two important terms in the Vedas:

The first term stands for the physical, moral, and spiritual laws or the order of things evident everywhere, and the second one denotes individual and social acts of truthfulness.

tadevāgnistadvāyustatsūryastadu candramāḥ .
tadeva śukramamṛtaṁ tadbrahma tadāpaḥ sa prajāpatiḥ .. 7..

7. That alone is Fire; That is Air, That is Sun, That verily is Moon, That alone is shining Stars and Ambrosia. That is Food; That is Water and He is the Lord of creatures.


Two views of the ultimate Divine Reality are pre­sented in the Veda:

One of them is that Paramātman or Parabrahman is Pure Being beyond all relations, attributes, and particularizations.

The other view is the one which takes into consideration all the differences, relations, attributes, and qualities, noticed in the universe as embedded in that Reality.

These are not two categories, but one and the same Reality as seen through vidyā and avidya:

Brahman is realized as pure Sat through Nirguṇā vid or pure āna.

The same is contemplated as adhyātma, Adhibhūta, and adhidaiva uni­verse, so long as one is in the condition of avidya. But the objects contemplated in the state of avidya also have their support and reality in the unchanging and all-com­prehending Being which is Parabrahman. Just as a gold statue is gold in every part of it, so also Paramātman is in every part of the universe, whether it be sun, moon, and stars, or fire, air, and water, and all their products.

The phrase śukramamṛtaṁ is taken together also and explained as the parental seed which gives rise to progeny which is immortality, for the parents live through their offsprings endlessly.

Brahma is interpreted as food or Divinity embodying universal knowledge and action called Hiraṇyagarbha. Prajāpati may be Virāt embodied as the universe or the first prog­enitor.

sarve nimeṣā jajñire vidyutaḥ puruṣādadhi .
kalā muhūrtāḥ kāṣṭhāścāhorātrāśca sarvaśaḥ .. 8..

ardhamāsā māsā ṛtavaḥ saṁvatsaraśca kalpantām .
sa āpaḥ pradudhe ubhe ime antarikṣamatho suvaḥ .. 9..

8-9. All nimeṣas, kalās, mūhurtas, Kāṣṭhās, days, half-months, months, and seasons, were born from the self-luminous Person. The year also was born from Him. He milked water and also these two, the firmament and the heaven.


The Vedas teach a single Reality as the source and support of the universe.

Some of the traditional systems of philosophy hold that nature, time and the like are also eternal and independent sources of the universe. Here it is emphasized that they are all derived from Paramātman and so cannot be eternal and independent.

Divisions of time have no existence separate from Paramātman. They are born from Him. The magnitude of the divisions of time is graded thus:

18 nimeṣas make one Kāṣṭhā, 13 Kāṣṭhās make 1 kalā, 30 kalās make one kṣaṇa, 12 kṣaṇa make 1 muhūrta, 30 muhūrtas make day and night, 15 days and nights make 1 pakṣa or half-month, 2 pakṣas make one month, 2 months make 1 season, and 6 seasons make 1 year.

The term Nimeṣa denotes the time required for the winking of the eyes.

nainamūrdhvaṁ na tiryañcaṁ na madhye parijagrabhat .
na tasyeśe kaścana tasya nāma mahadyaśaḥ .. 10..

10. No person ever grasped by his under­standing the upward limit of this Paramātman, nor His limit across, nor His middle portion. His name is “great glory’ for no one limits His nature by definition.


In the previous stanzas Paramātman was described as the material and efficient cause of the universe.

The world and its content are essentially Paramātman alone. If God has become the universe, it is easy for one to perceive Him in the manifold objects presented before the senses.

But seeing the world is not grasping God. If it were so, one could easily understand the length, breadth, and central part of God.

It is said here that man cannot grasp like that by his understanding. Even if we accept the verdict of modern science and conceive the circumference of the universe to be of the order of 6000 million light years (Light travels 186,000 miles a second. A light-year is the distance it travels in a year), still the Veda holds that it is only an imaginable part of Paramātman who extends limitlessly beyond.

Therefore it is said none can grasp Him by thought.

Yaśas translated as glory means permanent renown received from all without any exception:

Those who have dominion over others and have the freedom to exercise power, enjoy renown in the world. Those who have only limited domin­ion and power, therefore, have only limited glory.

Paramātman whose power and dominion cannot be grasped even by the exceptional understanding of man is alone worthy of being called ‘the Great Glory’. For the use of the term Yaśas as an epithet of Paramātman you can see Chāṇḍogya Upaniṣad VIII. 14. 1.

The Reality denoted as Paramātman is neither masculine nor feminine nor neuter. ‘He’ or ‘It’ is used in this translation if context does not particularly demand ‘She’.