Mahānārāyaṇa Upanisad

From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Swami Harshananda

Sometimes transliterated as: Mahanarayana Upanisad, MahAnArAyaNa Upanisad, Mahaanaaraayana Upanisad


The Upaniṣads are the last part of the Vedas. Hence they get an appellation ‘Vedānta’ (anta = end). They contain the quintessence of the spiritual wisdom of the same. This wisdom helps us:

  • Loosen our bonds of sansāra[1]
  • Destroys our ignorance of the real nature as the ātman, the pure spirit beyond the body-mind complex
  • Lead us to God giving us the supremely blissful experience


The ten Upanisads upon which Śaṅkara (CE 788-820) has commented upon are considered as the major ones and the Mahānārāyaṇa Upaniṣad comes in the series next to them. It is the tenth prapāṭhaka or section of the Taittirīya Āranyaka of the Kṛṣṇa Yajurveda. The earlier three prapāṭhakas (7th to 9th) form the well-known Taittiriya Upaniṣad. This work is also known as the Yājñik Upanisad.

This Upaniṣad has special information and instructions. The well-known suktas, the Nārāyanasukta, the Medhāsukta, and the Durgāsukta find a place as a part of the text. Many topics denoted below are described here in the elegant language. They are:

  • Mantras and procedures connected with the sandhyā ritual
  • Repetition of Gāyatrī-mantra
  • Mantras used in the Virajāhoma, a part of the procedure for taking sanyāsa
  • Trisuparṇa mantras
  • Usual teachings of the Upaniṣads connected with ātman/Brahman and mukti
  • The paths of devayāna and pitṛyāna
  • Many principles of philosophy and ethics

On the whole it is a very interesting and attractive Upaniṣad. It is extremely popular in the ritualistic circles.

There are two recensions or versions of this Upaniṣad and are:

  1. Drāvida-pātha - It has 64 sections.
  2. Āndhrapātha - It has 80 sections.

Mahānārāyaṇa Upaniṣad Content

The vast contents may be briefly summarized as follows:

  • Description of Brahman in his various aspects as Prajāpati, Parameśvara and Akṣara-Brahman
  • Realization of Brahman in one’s heart
  • Knowledge of God alone leads to mokṣa or liberation
  • God pervades the universe
  • God is one’s all-in-all
  • Various Gāyatri-mantras for upāsanā
  • Prayers to Mother Earth
  • Prayers to Indra
  • Destruction of sins
  • Hymn to Durgā
  • Prayers for the attainment of knowledge
  • Prayers for the increase of retentive faculty
  • Good and bad works
  • God can be seen only by his grace
  • Sacrifices help in getting purity of mind
  • Nārāyaṇa as the cosmic being who also resides in the heart
  • Mantras for consecrating the Śivaliṅga
  • Salutation to the various aspects of Śiva
  • Information of Praṇava
  • Details of Gāyatrī mantra
  • Trisuparṇa mantras
  • Madhumantras
  • Prayers for longevity, safety and wealth
  • Longing for liberation
  • Virajāhoma-mantras
  • Prāṇāgnihotra ritual
  • Unity of Śiva and Viṣṇu
  • Truthfulness as the supreme means for liberation
  • Importance of Agnihotra sacrifices
  • Importance of sanyāsa
  • Yajña as a potent weapon
  • Description of ātmayajña which is the same as sanyāsa and sanyāsin’s life

Commentaries

Bhaṭṭabhāskara (CE 1188) and Sāyaṇa (14th century CE) have written commentaries on the shorter version. They have considered this Upaniṣad as ‘khila’ or a supplementary part of the Kṛṣṇa Yajurveda. The longer version also has a commentary but the author’s name is not known.

The commentary in the name of Puruṣottamānanda Tīrtha is also available. It is in the kārikā form in anuṣṭubh verses. The text is either short or incomplete. Unlike as in the other Upaniṣads, the subject matter here does not seem to follow any systematic arrangement or pattern. All the three major subjects of the Vedas find a place here. They are:

  1. Karma - rituals
  2. Upāsanā - meditation
  3. Jñāna - knowledge

Many of the mantras used in the sandhyā ritual, pujās (ritualistic worship) or other rites are found here. Hence it may be considered more as a miscellany of all the left over subjects.

References

  1. Sansāra means transmigratory existence.
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore