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There is the sage Narayana along with Nara who did the pancharatra yajna described in the Pancharatra texts, then there is the Narayana as parabrahman. What is the difference?

Most Sri Vaishnava scholars say that Narayana is a proper noun and only refers to the ParaBrahman Narayana, so how can there be a sage Narayana who is the avatar of Vishnu?

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There is ample description of Sage Narayana and Brahman Narayana in Shreemad Bhagvat purana and others.

Let's see wht they tell us about your question.

Lord Narayanan as Supreme Brahman Narayana is the Supreme God. From Vaishnavism point of view Supreme Para Brahman and is also known as Vishnu and Hari and is venerated as Purushottama or Supreme Purusha in Hinduism scriptures.

Narayana is the name of the Supreme God in his infinite all pervading form. He is the Supreme Purusha of Purusha Sukta. The Puranas present a seemingly divergent, but accurate description of Narayana (as an Enlightened Supreme Being).

The verses of the Narayana Sukta , a hymn in Yajurveda, states that Narayana pervades whatever is seen or heard in this universe from inside and outside alike.

नारायण: परं ब्रह्म तत्त्वं नारायणः परः।
nārāyaṇaḥ paraṁ brahma
tattvaṁ nārāyaṇaḥ paraḥ ।।

The Lord Narayana is the Supreme Absolute; Narayana is the Supreme Reality; 


यच्च किञ्चिज्जगतसर्वं दृश्यते श्रूयतेSपि वा ।
अन्तर्बहिश्च तत्सर्वं व्याप्तं नारायण: स्थित: ।।

yacca kiñcijjagatsarvaṁ dṛśyate śrūyate'pi vā,
antarbahiśca tatsarvaṁ vyāpya nārāyaṇaḥ sthitaḥ.

Whatever all this universe is, seen or heard of—pervading all this, from inside and outside alike, stands supreme the Eternal Divine Being (Narayana).


Another important translation of Narayana is The One who rests on Water. The waters are called narah, [for] the waters are, indeed, produced by Nara [the first Being]; as they were his first residence [ayana], he is called Narayana.  Here is the relevant verse from Bhagvatam.

तास्ववात्सीत्स्वसृष्टासु सहस्रं परिवत्सरान् ।
तेन नारायणो नाम यदापः पुरुषोद्भवाः ॥2.10.11॥

tāsv avātsīt sva-sṛṣṭāsu
sahasraḿ parivatsarān
tena nārāyaṇo nāma
yad āpaḥ puruṣodbhavāḥ

That Supreme Person is not impersonal and therefore is distinctively a nara, or person. Therefore the transcendental water created from the Supreme Nara is known as nara. And because He lies down on that water, He is known as Narayana.SB 2.10.11

Here Narayana is Para Brahmam

यूयं द्विजाग्रया बत भूरिभागा ।
यच्छश्वदात्मन्यखिलात्म भूतम्।
नारायणं देवमदेवमीश मजस्त्र भावा
भजतविवेश्य।।12.12.56।।

yūyaḿ dvijāgryā bata bhūri-bhāgā yac chaśvad ātmany akhilātma-bhūtam nārāyaṇaḿ devam adevam īśam ajasra-bhāvā bhajatāviveśya

O most eminent of brahmanas, you are all indeed extremely fortunate, since you have already placed within your hearts Lord Sri Narayana — the Personality of Godhead, the supreme controller and the ultimate Soul of all existence — beyond whom there is no other god. You have undeviating love for Him, and thus I request you to worship Him.SB 12.12.56

Here Shathapath Brahmana says Purusha Narayana carried out five days sacrifice and he became everything.

  1. Purusha Nârâyana desired, 'Would that I overpassed all beings! would that I alone were everything here (this universe)!' He beheld this five-days’ sacrificial performance, the Purushamedha, and took it , and performed offering therewith; and having performed offering therewith, he overpassed all beings, and became everything here.

Now coming to Narayana Rishi. Sage Narayana is fourth incarnation of above supreme Purusha Narayana.Nara-Narayana are the twin sons of the wife of King Dharma.

धर्मस्य दक्षदुहितर्यजनिष्ट मुर्त्यां नारायणो नर ऋषि प्रवर: प्रशान्त: ।
नैष्कर्म्यलक्षणमुवाच चचार कर्म योSद्यापि चास्त ऋषिवर्यनिषेविताङघ्रि:।।11.4.6।।

dharmasya dakṣa-duhitary ajaniṣṭa mūrtyāḿ nārāyaṇo nara ṛṣi-pravaraḥ praśāntaḥyo
naiṣkarmya-lakṣaṇam uvāca cacāra karma yo 'dyāpi cāsta ṛṣi-varya- niṣevitāńghriḥ

Nara-Narayana Ṛsi, who is perfectly peaceful and is the best of sages, was born as the son of Dharma and his wife Murti, the daughter of Daksa. Nara-Narayana Ṛsi taught the devotional service of the Lord, by which material work ceases, and He Himself perfectly practiced this knowledge. He is living even today, His lotus feet served by the greatest of saintly persons.SB 11.4.6


भारतेऽपि वर्षे भगवान्नरनारायणाख्य ।
आकल्पान्तमुपचितधर्मज्ञानवैराग्यै।
श्वर्योपशमोपरमात्मोपलम्भनमनुग्रहायात्मवतामनुकम्पया तपोऽव्यक्तगतिश्चरति।।
॥5.19.9॥

bhārate 'pi varṣe bhagavān nara-nārāyaṇākhya
ākalpāntam upacita-dharma-jñāna-vairāgyaiśvaryopaśamoparamātmopalambhanam anugrahāyātmavatām anukampayā tapo 'vyakta-gatiś carati

The glories of the Supreme Personality of Godhead are inconceivable. He has appeared in the form of Nara-Narayana in the land of Bharata-varsa, at the place known as Badarikasrama, to favor His devotees by teaching them religion, knowledge, renunciation, spiritual power, sense control and freedom from false ego. He is advanced in the opulence of spiritual assets, and He engages in executing austerity until the end of this millennium. This is the process of self-realization.SB 5.19.9


तुर्ये धर्मकलासर्गे नरनारायणावृषी ।
भूत्वाऽऽत्मोपशमोपेतमकरोद् दुश्चरं तप: ॥1.3.9॥
turye dharma-kalā-sarge
nara-nārāyaṇāv ṛṣī
bhūtvātmopaśamopetam
akarod duścaraḿ tapaḥ

In the fourth incarnation, the Lord became Nara and Narayana, the twin sons of the wife of King Dharma. Thus He undertook severe and exemplary penances to control the senses.SB 1.3.9

Although the Names appear same ,Lord Narayana is supreme Brahman and unborn and Sage Narayana is incarnation of this supreme Brahman which is born out of womb. SageNarayana taught the devotional service of the Lord.

  • Good answer, but now who performed the 5 day sacrifice? Brahman Narayana or Rishi Narayana? Because I thought Rishi Narayana did the 5 day sacrifice and that became the Pancharatra agamas. – Ikshvaku Oct 27 '17 at 13:57
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    That answer is also given in Shreemad Bhagvatam ,there are lot's of verses in there ,But i think Brahman Narayana in the form of virat purushsa performed this 5 day sacrifice. i will update the answer in some time by searching the exact verses from scriptures.BTW if there any other explanation you want pls.feel free to ask.:) – SwiftPushkar Oct 27 '17 at 14:00
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    The supreme purusha who was alone at the begining (Narayana in this case) performed it ,since it's said in Shathapatha Brahmana that after sacrifice he became everything .That mean Brahman Narayana became everything , sage Narayana is still present in Badri-Asheama till present day to teach & to guide us. And he is rishi incarnation but not everything. i.e.Supreme Brahman. – SwiftPushkar Oct 27 '17 at 14:08
  • Ok thanks. But don't they say Pancharatra texts came from Rishi Narayana? – Ikshvaku Oct 27 '17 at 14:16
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    @Ikshvaku - Here a Bhagvatam verse says Narada composed "Pancharatra Grantha".But it's most likely that it is pointing toward s Narada Pancharatra"- vedabase.com/en/sb/4/13/3 – SwiftPushkar Oct 27 '17 at 14:27

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