By Swami Harshananda
Narsī Mehtā lived in A. D. 1415-1481. If Vivekānanda (A. D. 1863-1902) declared that he alone lives who lives for others, he was probably echoing another great saint who preceded him by four centuries, who sang thus: ‘He alone is a Vaiṣṇava—a man of God—who understands the sufferings of others’ (vide his song Vaiṣṇava janato...’). This was Narsī Mehtā (also spelt as ‘Narasī Mehatā’), the foremost saint of Gujarat.
Bom in A. D. 1415 as the second son of Kṛṣṇa Dāmodar Dās and Lakṣmī-gaurī
(who were nāgara-brahmaṇas by caste) at the village Talājā (near the modern town of Junagadh in Gujarat), Narasimharām
—that was his earlier name—was dumb right from his childhood days. Having lost both the parents at the age of five, he was brought up by his grandmother Jayakuvarī. When he was eight years old, he was suddenly endowed with the power of speech by a great saint, who made him utter the words ‘Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa!’
After the death of Jayakuvarī, the boy Narsimharām or Narsī Mehtā, had to be taken care of by his elder brother Vamśīdhar and aunt Duritgaurī. As per the traditions of the family, Vamśīdhar tried to get him educated and also got him married to Māṇikgaurī, a girl from a good family. Narsī was blessed with two children—a boy and a girl—in course of time. However, this shrew of an aunt made his life so miserable that he, one night, leaving behind his own wife and two children escaped to a deserted temple of Lord Śiva on the outskirts of the town.
After seven days of fasting and intense prayer he was blessed with the vision of Lord Śiva who was instrumental in vouchsafing to him an actual experience of participating in the Rāsalīlā dance of Kṛṣṇa with the gopīs! This changed his whole life permanently and Lord Kṛṣṇa gave him the boon of remaining as his eternal friend, guide and protector.
Narsī Mehtā now started an entirely new life, a life rooted in God, spending most of his time in composing and singing devotional songs related to Kṛṣṇa, as also dancing in ecstasy.
True to his word, as promised in the Bhagavadgītā (9.22), Kṛṣṇa came to the rescue of Narsī many a time, when evildoers created serious problems. Some of the miraculous happenings described in
his traditional biographies are: supplying all the things demanded of Narsī by the parents of his son-in-law; giving plenty of money to a rich man who had brought a ‘demand draft’ issued by Narsī; getting garlanded by Kṛṣṇa himself in the temple, by a garland of tulasī leaves, and so on.
Narsī’s son predeceased him. This, instead of making him dejected, made him more happy since he could pray to his Lord even more intensely.
He gave up the body in great peace, during the year A. D. 1481.
His contribution to Gujarati literature in the form of beautiful songs of devotion is considerable.
Some of his compositions are: Syāmaldāsno Vivāh; Hārmālā; Surat Sañgrām; Sudāmācarit; Rāsasahasrapadi; Srñgārmālā', Govindāgaman and Bālalīlā.
He laid great stress on devotion to God and ignored caste restrictions. Cultivation of firm faith in God and dependence on Him are his other teachings.
Nāsadiyasukta (‘the sukta [beginning with the word] “nāsad” ’)
How exactly the creation of this world came about, this world of myriads of mysteries and insoluble riddles, has been too knotty a problem to be satisfactorily solved by the puny human intellect, which itself is a product of the whole process! The effect cannot discover its cause, even as we cannot see our own back.
However, we can see our back provided we use two mirrors, one at the back and the other in our front, properly adjusted. Similarly, if we can judiciously use the knowledge of the Sruti (the Vedas) to back up our intellect and be guided by
the sayings and doings of the ṛṣis, persons of intuitive or superconscious (spiritual) experience, we can succeed in getting some glimpses of the secrets of creation that will ultimately help us in reaching the final goal of our life. Study of selected parts of the Vedas like the Nāsadiyasukta, is a great aid in this endeavour of ours to attain perfection.
The Nāsadiyasukta is a part of the Rgveda (10.129.1-7). Prajāpati Parameṣthī is said to be the ṛṣi (sage) to whom it was revealed. Paramātmā (God, the Creator, called ‘Bhāvavṛttam’ by Sāyaṇa, the commentator) is the devatā or the deity. Triṣṭubh is the metre in which it is composed.
This is a wonderful and highly poetic hymn that describes what existed before creation and how creation came about.
The Sukta begins with an account of what existed before creation. Since Hinduism posits a cyclic theory of creation —sṛṣṭi (creation or evolution), sthiti (sustenance) and pralaya or laya (destruction or involution), taking place eternally in that order— this description applies to all cycles. That (or He) alone—the Brahman of the Upaniṣads or God of religion— existed, the One without a second, breathing (living) by himself though without breath. There was deep blinding darkness everywhere. However, that One, Brahman, through intense tapas—self-reflection or profound thinking—became (through his own greatness or power) transformed into this world. Actually, this desire to create arose in him due to the ‘seed’ in his mind, the unmanifested karmas of the beings carried over from the previous cycle. The ṛṣis or sages possessing transcendental or
intuitive wisdom, had discovered this secret.
As Brahman willed the evolution of this world, the inanimate (various objects) and the animate (the jīvas or the living beings) got manifested, the latter being superior to the former.
This evolution went on continuously, producing not only the pañcabhutas (the five primordial elements) but also the devas (gods who exercise control over these).
However, this process—how the One became the many—remains a mystery even to these devas, since they too came afterwards.
This Brahman, the Supreme Being, not only created this world (out of his free will) but is also sustaining it.
If he does not do this, who else can?
The whole secret of creation is known only to him. If he cannot, who else can?
This is the gist of the whole Sukta.
In this hymn we find a very advanced theory of creation which is developed later in the Upaniṣads also (vide Taittiriya Upanisad 3.7; Chāndogya Upanisad 6.2.1; Mundaka Upanisad 1.1.9; Aitareya Upanisad 1.1.1 and so on).
It is interesting and even puzzling to note that the sage to whom this Sukta was revealed, has used quite a few mutually contradictory words and phrases. For instance, he says: There was then neither what is (sat) nor what is not (iasat)... There was no death (mrtyu) and hence nothing immortal iamrta). There was no night (rātri) nor day (ahan).
The only explanation that can be offered for the use of apparently contradictory terms is that in the beginning
there was only the One (tat) and there was no second person or object when and when only comparative statements are possible.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore