I found this passage in Shanti Parva of Mahabharat:

Assuming a form that is manifest, I dwell, at present, in the heavens. At the end of a thousand Yugas I shall once more with-draw the universe into myself. Having withdrawn all creatures, mobile and immobile into myself, I shall exist all alone with knowledge only for my companion. After the lapse of ages I shall again create the universe, with the aid of that knowledge. That which is my fourth form creates the indestructible Sesha. That Sesha is called by the name of Sankarshana. Sankarshana creates Pradyumna. From Pradyumna I take birth myself as Aniruddha. I create (myself) repeatedly. From Aniruddha springs Brahman. The latter takes birth from Aniruddha's navel. From Brahman spring all creatures mobile and immobile.

The partial sanskrit verse of the same is:

asman-murtish caturthi ya sashrijac chesham avyayam sa hi sankarshanah proktah pradyumnam so 'py ajijanat pradyumnad aniruddho 'ham sargo mama punah punah aniruddhat tatha brahma tan-nabhi-kamalodbhavah brahmanah sarva-bhutani sthavarani carani ca

Observe the bold section in the above English passage.

Who exactly is that 'I' in the passage? What exactly is the meaning of 'That which is my fourth form creates...'? If Sesha is fourth form, what are the other three forms?

  • Because of the way it is narrated, I suppose it is Krishna. But it also depends who is narrating it – Gabriel Alexander Gonzalez Agu Jan 12 at 21:53
  • @RaRe The "I"that you mention is Lord Narayana. If you go above in the same link, you will find this. – Lazy Lubber Feb 1 at 10:27
  • @RaRe In the purusha sukta, it is said that all this creation is one-fourth of the Purusha and three-fourths of him is immortal. The idea is to show both immanence and transcendance of the Purusha. In Bhagavad Gita also, Krishna says that, he sustains everything by a fraction of his powers. Probably this is what is meant by saying that His fourth form creates. The rest of Him is transcendant. – Lazy Lubber Feb 1 at 10:33

As explained earlier in the same chapter, the four forms are referring to Viṣṇu's catur-vyūha forms. 'I' refers to the inactive Puruṣa in the 24/25-form of Viṣṇu (ahaṃ hi puruṣo jñeyo niṣkriyaḥ pañcaviṃśakaḥ).

Chapter 1654 (326)

'Bhishma continued, "Having thus shown himself to Narada, the one generated from Parameshthi again spoke these words. 'O Narada! Without any delay, leave this spot. These devotees of mine are like the moon in their complexions ... There is no doubt that they will merge into me.

There is one who cannot be seen with the eyes. He cannot be touched with touch. He cannot be smelt through smell. He is beyond taste. He is beyond the qualities of sattva, rajas and tamas. He is a witness to everything and people speak of him as the atman. He is in the body of all creatures and is never destroyed. He is without birth. He is everlasting. He is eternal. He is without qualities. He cannot be divided into components. He is beyond the twenty-four principles and is known as the twenty-fifth. He is the passive Purusha and is said to be comprehended through knowledge. O supreme among brahmanas! A person who merges into him is emancipated. He is known as Vasudeva. He is the eternal paramatman.

O Narada! Behold the greatness and power of that god. He is never touched by good and bad deeds. Sattva, rajas and tamas are said to be the qualities. These exist in all bodies and roam around there. Though these qualities are enjoyed, kshetrajna does not enjoy them. He is without qualities. He is free from the qualities. He is the creator of qualities. He is superior to the qualities. O devarshi! When the universe is destroyed, the earth merges into water. Water merges into light. Light merges into the wind. The wind merges into space. Space merges into the mind. The mind is a supreme element and it merges into the unmanifest. O brahmana! The unmanifest merges into the inactive Purusha. There is nothing that is superior to the eternal Purusha. There is no creation in the universe, mobile or immobile, that is eternal. The only single exception is the eternal Purusha Vasudeva. The immensely powerful Vasudeva is in the atmans of all creatures. The great-souled one exists in bodies, known as the accumulation of the earth, the wind, space, water and light as the fifth. O brahmana! Though he cannot be seen, he uses his great valour to enter. That is how birth occurs, through the efforts of the lord. Without a combination of the elements, there cannot be a body. O brahmana! Without the jivatman, that combination of elements wouldn't have moved. That jivatman is also known as the lord Shesha or Samkarshana. Using his own deeds, the one who arises from this is known as Sanatkumara. When all creatures are destroyed, it is into him that they merge. The mind of all creatures is known as Pradyumna. It is from him that the the doer and cause and effect arise. Everything in the universe, mobile and immobile, is generated from Aniruddha. He is also known as Ishana and he manifests himself through all his deeds. The illustrious Vasudeva is kshetrajna and possesses no qualities in his soul. When that illustrious one is born in any creature, he is known as the lord Samkarshana. Pradyumna is said to be generated from the mind and is born from Samkarshana. Aniruddha is generated from Pradyumna and is consciousness, or Maheshvara. Everything in the universe, mobile and immobile, is generated from me. O Narada! This is true of the destructible and the indestructible, the existent and the non-existent. Those who are devoted to me, enter me and are emancipated. Know that I am the inactive Purusha, the twenty-fifth. I am without qualities. I am without separate constituents. I am without opposite sentiments and I am without possessions. You will not understand this, since you are seeing me in a form. However, if I so desire, I can make this form disappear instantly. I am the preceptor of the universe. O Narada! That you can see me is only because of a maya that has been created by me. I seem to possess the qualities of all creatures, but that's because you cannot comprehend me. I have appropriately told you about my four forms.

. . .

At the end of one thousand Yugas, I will destroy the universe again. I will withdraw all mobile and immobile objects into myself. O supreme among brahmanas! I will then exist alone, with nothing except knowledge. Using that knowledge, I will again create everything in the universe. My fourth form creates the undecaying Shesha. This is also spoken of as Samkarshana, and Pradyumna is created from this. From Pradyumna, I repeatedly create myself as Aniruddha.

Brahma, the one who is born from the lotus, results from Aniruddha. All mobile and immobile creatures are created by Brahma. Know that this repeatedly happens in several kalpas . . .

[The Mahabharata: Volume 9, Bibek Debroy]

  • So there are two catur vyuha as per this? – user16895 Feb 2 at 3:21
  • Yes, the 25th form is explaining the four forms! – sv. Feb 2 at 3:27
  • So, 2 pradyumas, 2 Aniruddha, 2 sankarshan as etc.. Do all these stay in this universe? You may try this all are simply quoting one random verse where as I was asking which Vishnu exactly.. All these chatur vyuha can be called by name Vishnu I think. hinduism.stackexchange.com/questions/32009/… – user16895 Feb 2 at 3:29
  • The 24 forms probably includes the 4, check this. – sv. Feb 2 at 3:34

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