Viṣṇu Purāṇa | Book 1 - Chapter 22

Chapter XXII

Dominion over different provinces of creation assigned to different beings. Universality of Viṣṇu. Four varieties of spiritual contemplation. Two conditions of spirit. The perceptible attributes of Viṣṇu types of his imperceptible properties. Viṣṇu everything. Merit of hearing the first book of the Viṣṇu Purāṇa.

WHEN Prithu was installed in the government of the earth, the great father of the spheres established sovereignties in other parts of the creation:

Soma was appointed monarch of the stars and planets, of Brahmans and of plants, of sacrifices and of penance. Vaiśravaṇa was made king over kings; and Varuṇa, over the waters.

Viṣṇu was the chief of the Ādityas; Pāvaka, of the Vasus; Dakṣa, of the patriarchs; Vāsava, of the winds. To Prahlāda was assigned dominion over the Daityas and Dānavas; and Yama, the king of justice, was appointed the monarch of the Manes (Pitris).

Airāvata was made the king of elephants; Garuḍa, of birds; Indra, of the gods. Uchchaiśravās was the chief of horses; Vṛṣabha, of kine. Śeṣa became the snake-king; the lion, the monarch of the beasts; and the sovereign of the trees was the holy fig-tree.

Having thus fixed the limits of each authority, the great progenitor Brahmā stationed rulers for the protection of the different quarters of the world:

he made Sudhanwan, the son of the patriarch Virajā, the regent of the east; Sankhapāda, the son of the patriarch Kardama, of the south; the immortal Ketumat, the son of Rajas, regent of the west; and Hiraṇyaroman, the son of the patriarch Parjanya, regent of the north.

By these the whole earth, with its seven continents and its cities, is to the present day vigilantly protected, according to their several limits.

All these monarchs, and whatever others may be invested with authority by the mighty Viṣṇu, as instruments for the preservation of the world; all the kings who have been, and all who shall be; are all, most worthy Brahman, but portions of the universal Viṣṇu.

The rulers of the gods, the rulers of the Daityas, the rulers of the Dānavas, and the rulers of all malignant spirits; the chief amongst beasts, amongst birds, amongst men, amongst serpents; the best of trees, of mountains, of planets; either those that now are, or that shall hereafter be, the most exalted of their kind; are but portions of the universal Viṣṇu.

The power of protecting created things, the preservation of the world, resides with no other than Hari, the lord of all:

He is the creator, who creates the world; he, the eternal, preserves it in its existence; and he, the destroyer, destroys it; invested severally with the attributes of foulness, goodness, and gloom.

By a fourfold manifestation does Janārdana operate in creation, preservation, and destruction:

In one portion, as Brahmā, the invisible assumes a visible form; in another portion he, as Marīchi and the rest, is the progenitor of all creatures; his third portion is time; his fourth is all beings: and thus he becomes quadruple in creation, invested with the quality of passion.

In the preservation of the world he is, in one portion, Viṣṇu; in another portion he is Manu and the other patriarchs; he is time in a third; and all beings in a fourth portion: and thus, endowed with the property of goodness, Puruṣottama preserves the world.

When he assumes the property of darkness, at the end of all things, the unborn deity becomes in one portion Rudra; in another, the destroying fire; in a third, time; and in a fourth, all beings: and thus, in a quadruple form, he is the destroyer of the world.

This, Brahman, is the fourfold condition of the deity at all seasons.

Brahmā, Dakṣa, time, and all creatures are the four energies of Hari, which are the causes of creation.

Viṣṇu, Manu and the rest, time, and all creatures are the four energies of Viṣṇu, which are the causes of duration.

Rudra, the destroying fire, time, and all creatures are the four energies of Janārdana that are exerted for universal dissolution.

In the beginning and the duration of the world, until the period of its end, creation is the work of Brahmā, the patriarchs, and living animals.

Brahmā creates in the beginning; then the patriarchs beget progeny; and then animals incessantly multiply their kinds: but Brahmā is not the active agent in creation, independent of time; neither are the patriarchs, nor living animals.

So, in the periods of creation and of dissolution, the four portions of the god of gods are equally essential.

Whatever, oh Brahman, is engendered by any living being, the body of Hari is cooperative in the birth of that being; so whatever destroys any existing thing, movable or stationary, at any time, is the destroying form of Janārdana as Rudra.

Thus Janārdana is the creator, the preserver, and the destroyer of the whole world--being threefold--in the several seasons of creation, preservation, and destruction, according to his assumption of the three qualities:

but his highest glory is detached from all qualities; for the fourfold essence of the supreme spirit is composed of true wisdom, pervades all things, is only to be appreciated by itself, and admits of no similitude.

MAITREYA:--But, Muni, describe to me fully the four varieties of the condition of Brahma, and what the supreme condition is.


That, Maitreya, which is the cause of a thing, is called the means of creating it; and that which it is the desire of the soul to accomplish is the thing to be created.

The operations of the Yogi who is desirous of liberation, as suppression of breath and the like, are his means: the end is the supreme Brahma, whence he returns to the world no more.

Essentially connected with, and dependent upon, the means employed for emancipation by the Yogi, is discriminative knowledge; and this is the first variety of the condition of Brahma.

The second sort is the knowledge that is to be acquired by the Yogi whose end is escape from suffering, or eternal felicity.

The third kind is the ascertainment of the identity of the end and the means, the rejection of the notion of duality.

The last kind is the removal of whatever differences may have been conceived by the three first varieties of knowledge, and the consequent contemplation of the true essence of soul.

The supreme condition of Viṣṇu, who is one with wisdom, is the knowledge of truth; which requires no exercise; which is not to be taught; which is internally diffused;

which is unequalled; the object of which is self-illumination; which is simply existent, and is not to be defined; which is tranquil, fearless, pure; which is not the theme of reasoning; which stands in need of no support.

Those Yogis who, by the annihilation of ignorance, are resolved into this fourfold Brahma, lose the seminal property, and can no longer germinate in the ploughed field of worldly existence.

This is the supreme condition that is called Viṣṇu, perfect, perpetual, universal, undecaying, entire, and uniform:

and the Yogi who attains this supreme spirit (Brahma) returns not to life again; for there he is freed from the distinction of virtue and vice, from suffering, and from soil.

There are two states of this Brahma; one with, and one without shape; one perishable, and one imperishable; which are inherent in all beings. The imperishable is the supreme being; the perishable is all the world.

The blaze of fire burning on one spot diffuses light and heat around; so the world is nothing more than the manifested energy of the supreme Brahma:

and inasmuch, Maitreya, as the light and heat are stronger or feebler as we are near to the fire, or far off from it, so the energy of the supreme is more or less intense in the beings that are less or more remote from him.

Brahma, Viṣṇu, and Śiva are the most powerful energies of god; next to them are the inferior deities, then the attendant spirits, then men, then animals, birds, insects, vegetables; each becoming more and more feeble as they are farther from their primitive source.

In this way, illustrious Brahman, this whole world, although in essence imperishable and eternal, appears and disappears, as if it was subject to birth and death.

The supreme condition of Brahma, which is meditated by the Yogis in the commencement of their abstraction, as invested with form, is Viṣṇu, composed of all the divine energies, and the essence of Brahma, with whom the mystic union that is sought, and which is accompanied by suitable elements, is effected by the devotee whose whole mind is addressed to that object.

This Hari, who is the most immediate of all the energies of Brahma, is his embodied shape, composed entirely of his essence; and in him therefore is the whole world interwoven; and from him, and in him, is the universe;

and he, the supreme lord of all, comprising all that is perishable and imperishable, bears upon him all material and spiritual existence, identified in nature with his ornaments and weapons.

MAITREYA: --Tell me in what manner Viṣṇu bears the whole world, abiding in his nature, characterised by ornaments and weapons.

PARĀŚARA:--Having offered salutation to the mighty and indescribable Viṣṇu, I repeat to you what was formerly related to me by Vasiṣṭha:

The glorious Hari wears the pure soul of the world, undefiled, and void of qualities, as the Kaustubha gem. The chief principle of things (Pradhāna) is seated on the eternal, as the Śrīvatsa mark. Intellect abides in Mādhava, in the form of his mace.

The lord (Īśvara) supports egotism (Ahaṁkāra) in its twofold division, into elements and organs of sense, in the emblems of his conch-shell and his bow.

In his hand Viṣṇu holds, in the form of his discus, the mind, whose thoughts (like the weapon) fly swifter than the winds.

The necklace of the deity Vaijayantī, composed of five precious gems, is the aggregate of the five elemental rudiments.

Janārdana bears, in his numerous shafts, the faculties both of action and of perception. The bright sword of Achyuta is holy wisdom, concealed at some seasons in the scabbard of ignorance.

In this manner soul, nature, intellect, egotism, the elements, the senses, mind, ignorance, and wisdom, are all assembled in the person of Hṛṣīkeśa.

Hari, in a delusive form, embodies the shapeless elements of the world, as his weapons and his ornaments, for the salvation of mankind. Puṇḍarikākṣa, the lord of all, assumes nature, with all its products, soul and all the world.

All that is wisdom, all that is ignorance, all that is, all that is not, all that is everlasting, is centred in the destroyer of Madhu, the lord of all creatures.

The supreme, eternal Hari is time, with its divisions of seconds, minutes, days, months, seasons, and years:

he is the seven worlds, the earth, the sky, heaven, the world of patriarchs, of sages, of saints, of truth: whose form is all worlds; first-born before all the first-born; the supporter of all beings, himself self-sustained:

who exists in manifold forms, as gods, men, and animals; and is thence the sovereign lord of all, eternal: whose shape is all visible things; who is without shape or form:

who is celebrated in the Vedanta as the Rich, Yajus, Sāma, and Atharva Vedas, inspired history, and sacred science.

The Vedas, and their divisions; the institutes of Manu and other lawgivers; traditional scriptures, and religious manuals; poems, and all that is said or sung; are the body of the mighty Viṣṇu, assuming the form of sound.

All kinds of substances, with or without shape, here or elsewhere, are the body of Viṣṇu. I am Hari. All that I behold is Janārdana; cause and effect are from none other than him.

The man who knows these truths shall never again experience the afflictions of worldly existence.

Thus, Brahman, has the first portion of this Purāṇa been duly revealed to you: listening to which, expiates all offences.

The man who hears this Purāṇa obtains the fruit of bathing in the Puṣkara lake for twelve years, in the month of Kārtik. The gods bestow upon him who hears this work the dignity of a divine sage, of a patriarch, or of a spirit of heaven.