Viṣṇu Purāṇa | Book 1 - Chapter 2

Chapter II

Prayer of Parāśara to Viṣṇu. Successive narration of the Viṣṇu Purāṇa. Explanation of Vāsudeva: his existence before creation: his first manifestations.

Description of Pradhāna or the chief principle of things. Cosmogony. On Prākriti, or material creation; on time; on the active cause.

Development of effects; Mahat; Ahaṁkāra; Tanmātras; elements; objects of sense; senses; of the mundane egg.

Viṣṇu the same as Brahmā the creator; Viṣṇu the preserver; Rudra the destroyer.


Glory to the unchangeable, holy, eternal, supreme Viṣṇu, of one universal nature, the mighty over all: to him who is Hiraṇyagarbha, Hari, and Śankara, the creator, the preserver, and destroyer of the world: to Vāsudeva, the liberator of his worshippers:

to him, whose essence is both single and manifold; who is both subtile and corporeal, indiscrete and discrete: to Viṣṇu, the cause of final emancipation,

Glory to the supreme Viṣṇu, the cause of the creation, existence, and end of this world; who is the root of the world, and who consists of the world.

Having glorified him who is the support of all things; who is the smallest of the small; who is in all created things; the unchanged, imperishable Puruṣottama; who is one with true wisdom, as truly known; eternal and incorrupt; and who is known through false appearances by the nature of visible objects:

having bowed to Viṣṇu, the destroyer, and lord of creation and preservation; the ruler of the world; unborn, imperishable, undecaying: I will relate to you that which was originally imparted by the great father of all (Brahmā), in answer to the questions of Dakṣa and other venerable sages, and repeated by them to Purukutsa, a king who reigned on the banks of the Narmadā. It was next related by him to Sāraswata, and by Sāraswata to me.

Who can describe him who is not to be apprehended by the senses: who is the best of all things; the supreme soul, self-existent: who is devoid of all the distinguishing characteristics of complexion, caste, or the like; and is exempt front birth, vicissitude, death, or decay: who is always, and alone: who exists everywhere, and in whom all things here exist;

and who is thence named Vāsudeva?

He is Brahma, supreme, lord, eternal, unborn, imperishable, undecaying; of one essence; ever pure as free from defects.

He, that Brahma, was all things; comprehending in his own nature the indiscrete and discrete. He then existed in the forms of Puruṣa and of Kāla:

Puruṣa (spirit) is the first form, of the supreme; next proceeded two other forms, the discrete and indiscrete; and Kāla (time) was the last.

These four--Pradhāna (primary or crude matter), Puruṣa (spirit), Vyakta (visible substance), and Kāla (time)--the wise consider to be the pure and supreme condition of Viṣṇu.

These four forms, in their due proportions, are the causes of the production of the phenomena of creation, preservation, and destruction.

Viṣṇu being thus discrete and indiscrete substance, spirit, and time, sports like a playful boy, as you shall learn by listening to his frolics.

That chief principle (Pradhāna), which is the indiscrete cause, is called by the sages also Prakriti (nature):

it is subtile, uniform, and comprehends what is and what is not (or both causes and effects); is durable, self-sustained, illimitable, undecaying, and stable; devoid of sound or touch, and possessing neither colour nor form; endowed with the three qualities (in equilibrium); the mother of the world; without beginning; and that into which all that is produced is resolved.

By that principle all things were invested in the period subsequent to the last dissolution of the universe, and prior to creation.

For Brahmans learned in the Vedas, and teaching truly their doctrines, explain such passages as the following as intending the production of the chief principle (Pradhāna):

 "There was neither day nor night, nor sky nor earth, nor darkness nor light, nor any other thing, save only One, inapprehensible by intellect, or That which is Brahma and Pumān (spirit) and Pradhāna (matter)."

The two forms which are other than the essence of unmodified Viṣṇu, are Pradhāna (matter) and Puruṣa (spirit); and his other form, by which those two are connected or separated, is called Kāla (time).

When discrete substance is aggregated in crude nature, as in a foregone dissolution, that dissolution is termed elemental (Prākrita).

The deity as Time is without beginning, and his end is not known; and from him the revolutions of creation, continuance, and dissolution unintermittingly succeed: for when, in the latter season, the equilibrium of the qualities (Pradhāna) exists, and spirit (Pumān) is detached from matter, then the form of Viṣṇu which is Time abides.

Then the supreme Brahma, the supreme soul, the substance of the world, the lord of all creatures, the universal soul, the supreme ruler, Hari, of his own will having entered into matter and spirit, agitated the mutable and immutable principles, the season of creation being arrived,

in the same manner as fragrance affects the mind from its proximity merely, and not from any immediate operation upon mind itself: so the Supreme influenced the elements of creation.

Puruṣottama is both the agitator and the thing to be agitated; being present in the essence of matter, both when it is contracted and expanded.

Viṣṇu, supreme over the supreme, is of the nature of discrete forms in the atomic productions, Brahmā and the rest (gods, men, etc.)

Then from that equilibrium of the qualities (Pradhāna), presided over by soul, proceeds the unequal development of those qualities (constituting the principle Mahat or Intellect) at the time of creation.

The Chief principle then invests that Great principle, Intellect, and it becomes threefold, as affected by the quality of goodness, foulness, or darkness, and invested by the Chief principle (matter) as seed is by its skin.

From the Great principle (Mahat) Intellect, threefold Egotism (Ahaṁkāra), denominated Vaikarīka, 'pure;' Taijasa, 'passionate;' and Bhūtādi, 'rudimental,' is produced;

the origin of the (subtile) elements, and of the organs of sense; invested, in consequence of its three qualities, by Intellect, as Intellect is by the Chief principle.

Elementary Egotism then becoming productive, as the rudiment of sound, produced from it Ether, of which sound is the characteristic, investing it with its rudiment of sound.

Ether becoming productive, engendered the rudiment of touch; whence originated strong wind, the property of which is touch; and Ether, with the rudiment of sound, enveloped the rudiment of touch.

Then wind becoming productive, produced the rudiment of form (colour); whence light (or fire) proceeded, of which, form (colour) is the attribute; and the rudiment of touch enveloped the wind with the rudiment of colour.

Light becoming productive, produced the rudiment of taste; whence proceed all juices in which flavour resides; and the rudiment of colour invested the juices with the rudiment of taste.

The waters becoming productive, engendered the rudiment of smell; whence an aggregate (earth) originates, of which smell is the property.

In each several element resides its peculiar rudiment; thence the property of Tanmātra (type or rudiment) is ascribed to these elements. Rudimental elements are not endowed with qualities, and therefore they are neither soothing, nor terrific, nor stupefying.

This is the elemental creation, proceeding from the principle of egotism affected by the property of darkness. The organs of sense are said to be the passionate products of the same principle, affected by foulness; and the ten divinities proceed from egotism affected by the principle of goodness; as does Mind, which is the eleventh.

The organs of sense are ten: of the ten, five are the skin, eye, nose, tongue, and ear; the object of which, combined with Intellect, is the apprehension of sound and the rest: the organs of excretion and procreation, the hands, the feet, and the voice, form the other five; of which excretion, generation, manipulation, motion, and speaking, are the several acts.

Then, ether, air, light, water, and earth, severally united with the properties of sound and the rest, existed as distinguishable according to their qualities, as soothing, terrific, or stupefying;

but possessing various energies, and being unconnected, they could not, without combination, create living beings, not having blended with each other.

Having combined, therefore, with one another, they assumed, through their mutual association, the character of one mass of entire unity;

and from the direction of spirit, with the acquiescence of the indiscrete Principle, Intellect and the rest, to the gross elements inclusive, formed an egg, which gradually expanded like a bubble of water.

This vast egg, O sage, compounded of the elements, and resting on the waters, was the excellent natural abode of Viṣṇu in the form of Brahmā;

and there Viṣṇu, the lord of the universe, whose essence is inscrutable, assumed a perceptible form, and even he himself abided in it in the character of Brahmā.

Its womb, vast as the mountain Meru, was composed of the mountains; and the mighty oceans were the waters that filled its cavity.

In that egg, O Brahman, were the continents and seas and mountains, the planets and divisions of the universe, the gods, the demons, and mankind.

And this egg was externally invested by seven natural envelopes, or by water, air, fire, ether, and Ahaṁkāra the origin of the elements, each tenfold the extent of that which it invested; next came the principle of Intelligence; and, finally, the whole was surrounded by the indiscrete Principle: resembling thus the cocoa-nut, filled interiorly with pulp, and exteriorly covered by husk and rind.

Affecting then the quality of activity, Hari, the lord of all, himself becoming Brahmā, engaged in the creation of the universe.

Viṣṇu with the quality of goodness, and of immeasurable power, preserves created things through successive ages, until the close of the period termed a Kalpa;

when the same mighty deity, Janārdana, invested with the quality of darkness, assumes the awful form of Rudra, and swallows up the universe.

Having thus devoured all things, and converted the world into one vast ocean, the Supreme reposes upon his mighty serpent couch amidst the deep: he awakes after a season, and again, as Brahmā, becomes the author of creation.

Thus the one only god, Janārdana, takes the designation of Brahmā, Viṣṇu, and Śiva, accordingly as he creates, preserves, or destroys.

Viṣṇu as creator, creates himself; as preserver, preserves himself; as destroyer, destroys himself at the end of all things.

This world of earth, air, fire, water, ether, the senses, and the mind; all that is termed spirit, that also is the lord of all elements, the universal form, and imperishable: hence he is the cause of creation, preservation, and destruction; and the subject of the vicissitudes inherent in elementary nature.

He is the object and author of creation: he preserves, destroys, and is preserved.

He, Viṣṇu, as Brahmā, and as all other beings, is infinite form: he is the supreme, the giver of all good, the fountain of all happiness.