There is probably enormous sectarian literature claiming this, including sectarian Upanishads - but I am interested in Vedas, principal non-sectarian Upanishads etc AS DIRECT CITATIONS, without too much interpretation.

Wiki says

The Maha Upanishad (Sanskrit: महा उपनिषद्, IAST: Mahā Upaniṣad) is a Sanskrit text and is one of the minor Upanishads of Hinduism.[4][5] The text is classified as a Vaishnava Upanishad.[6]

So if Maha Upanishad says

They say Narayana was alone. There were not Brahma, Shiva, Waters, Fire and Soma, Heaven and Earth, Stars, Sun and Moon.

This is such a sectarian assertion - it can be accepted only by believers of the sect it is catering to.

Are such citations available? And I am looking for EXCLUSIVE citations - if a scripture says this of Vishnu in one place, Brahma in another and Indra in a third, it is obviously poetry/henotheism and nothing else.

  • 3
    Do you agree that the Mahabharata and Ramayana aren't sectarian literature? Perhaps the Puranas can be termed sectarian literature, but Vedanta Desikan says that the Manu Smriti, Mahabharata, and Ramayana aren't sectarian literature.
    – Ikshvaku
    Feb 6, 2019 at 19:29
  • 1
    @SK Scriptures are full of both sided praises. It might be present but antaryami notion whatever it means is there for many gods including Indra in samhitas. Feb 6, 2019 at 19:44
  • 4
    Can you define non sectarian shruti? Shruti is same for all. Feb 6, 2019 at 20:23
  • 3
    There is the antaryami (inner controller) brahmana in the Brihadaranyaka upanishad. While the upanishad itself does not mention the word Vishnu, the advaitins (who are non-sectarian) take the subject matter (antaryami) to be Narayana (Vishnu). Sri Shankara says that it is Narayana (Vishnu) that is talked about in this brahmana. Other advaitins have also said that.
    – user16581
    Feb 7, 2019 at 9:38

4 Answers 4


I can safely quote Sri Shankara as a non-sectarian source.

There is the antaryami (inner controller/internal ruler) brahmana in the Brihadaranyaka upanishad. While the upanishad itself does not mention the word Vishnu, the advaitins (who are all non-sectarian) take the subject matter of the brahmana (antaryami) to be Narayana (Vishnu). Sri Shankara implies that it is Narayana (Vishnu) that is talked about in this brahmana. Other advaitins like Sureshwara and Anandagiri have also said that.

Sri Shankara's commentary on the antaryami brahmana of Brhadaranyaka upanishad -

Such an īśvara, called Nāràyana, who controls the deity of the earth, i.e. directs her to her particular work, from within, is the Internal Ruler about whom you have asked, your own immortal self, as also mine and that of all beings.

  • If you put "(Vishnu)" after each occurrence of "Narayana" it doesn't make it so, @Lazy Lubber
    – S K
    Feb 11, 2019 at 14:49
  • 1
    @SK To understand why I put Vishnu, read Sri Shankara's works, especially his gita bhashya.
    – user16581
    Feb 11, 2019 at 15:16
  • 2
    @Partha Yes it refers. In Gita bhashya, Shankara says that Narayana incarnated as son of Devaki and Vasudeva. In Brahmasutra bhashya, while criticizing Pancharatra, Shankara clarifies that he does not intend to refute the theory that Narayana (the God of Pancharatras) is the Paramatman.
    – user16581
    Feb 20, 2019 at 14:31
  • 2
    @Partha Gods are also jeevas.
    – user16581
    Feb 20, 2019 at 14:40
  • 2
    @Partha Shankara does not talk about Shiva in this context. If Narayana incarnated as Krishna, it must obviously be the well-known Vishnu.
    – user16581
    Feb 20, 2019 at 14:42

Bhagavad Gita says he is indwelling being of all.

सर्वस्य चाहं हृदि सन्निविष्टो मत्तः स्मृतिर्ज्ञानमपोहनं च। वेदैश्च सर्वैरहमेव वेद्यो वेदान्तकृद्वेदविदेव चाहम्।।15.15।।

15.15 And I am seated in the hearts of all. From Me are memory, knowledge and their loss. I alone am the object to be known through all the Vedas; I am also the originator of the Vedanta, and I Myself am the knower of the Vedas.

अहमात्मा गुडाकेश सर्वभूताशयस्थितः। अहमादिश्च मध्यं च भूतानामन्त एव च।।10.20।।

10.20 O Arjuna! I am the Self, seated in the hearts of all beings; I am the beginning and the life, and I am the end of them all.


Are such citations available?

Perhaps these verses from the Mahabharata:

‘That one, unmanifested, infinite, the totality of the universe, the primeval one, lives beyond tamas’

‘He is in the highest imperishable heavens. He indeed is all this, all that is past, that’ will be in future and that is present.'

‘Narayana is great beyond the universe, he is eternal, he is all; he is Hari'



First I'll focus on the claims regarding so-called sectarian Sruti.

For old Vedantists there were no such a thing called "sectarian Sruti". And those wiki statements about some Upanishads being Vaishnava, Shaiva, Shakta, old Vedantists would not accept as correct because for them all genuine Upanishads are non-sectarian, namely Upanishads are not connected with some particular sect.

The proof for that is well known Svetasvatara Upanishad which according to some people bears a designation of Shaiva Upanishad, but even Vaishnava Vedantists often have quoted from it in their writings. Had they believed Svetasvatara being a sectarian text dedicated to the Shaiva sect only, those Vaishnavas wouldn't ever quoted from it. But they did quote from that Upanishad, obviously because they thought Svetasvatara, and all the other genuine Upanishads they quoted from, are meant for Vaishnavas as well.

And that claim about the Maha Upanishad supposedly being a Vaishnava Upanishad, and thus acceptable only to the Vaishnavas, old Vedantists would not accept as correct because for them that Upanishad is Sruti expressing eternal Vedic truth and thus should be accepted by all.

There are verses in the Subala Upanishad which say Lord Vishnu, ie Narayana, is antaryami or the inner controller of all the other divinities, ie devas or gods. Thus Lord Narayana is the Supreme Self, Supersoul, or paramatma in the hearts of all the living beings (jivatmas), including all the divinities or gods in heaven who are rulers of certain aspects of this material universe. Being situated in the hearts of the divinities, Lord Narayana rules even over them.

Thus says Subala Upanishad:

Khaṇda VII

Within the body, is the one eternal Aja (unborn), located in the cave (of the heart). Earth is His body. Though He moves in the earth, earth does not know Him. Waters are His body. Though He moves in the waters, waters do not know Him. Ṭejas is His body. Though He moves in ṭejas, ṭejas does not know Him. Vāyu is His body. Though He moves in vāyu, vāyu does not know Him. Ākāś is His body. Though He moves in ākāś, ākāś does not know Him. Manas is His body. Though He moves in manas, manas does not know Him. Buḍḍhi is His body. Though He moves in buḍḍhi, buḍḍhi does not know Him. Ahaṅkāra is His body. Though He moves in ahaṅkāra, ahaṅkāra does not know Him. Chiṭṭa is His body. Though He moves in chiṭṭa, chiṭṭa does not know Him. Avyakṭa is His body. Though He moves in avyakṭa, avyakṭa does not know Him. Akshara is His body. Though He moves in akshara, akshara does not know Him. Mṛṭyu (death) is His body. Though He moves in Mṛṭyu, Mṛṭyu does not know Him. Such an one is the Mind within all creatures, the remover of all sins and the Divine Deva, the one Nārāyaṇa.

In the above verse Subala Upanishad says that the one eternal Aja (unborn) soul is situated in the divinites of earth, waters, ..., etc, Mṛṭyu (death), and although that one eternal Aja (unborn) soul is situated in all those divinities, they do not know about him, ie they are not aware that he is in them. That the verse says by saying "Though He moves in the earth, earth does not know Him. ..., etc, Mṛṭyu does not know Him." And at the end the verse says, that one eternal Aja (unborn) soul is within all creatures, is the remover of all sins, is one Lord Narayana.

Subala Upanishad was quoted in the writings of old Vedantists such as Ramanuja, and even prior to him by Suresvara who was Shankara's disciple. As I already said the Upanishads which were quoted by the old Vedantists they regarded to be genuine Sruti expressing eternal Vedic wisdom, and not some sectarian texts.

There are similar verses to those which I quoted above, and they are located in the Antaryami Brahmana section of the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, verses 3.7.3–23. In those verses it is also said that there is one soul, paramatma, in various divinities ruling over them all. For this reason that section is called Antaryami Brahmana, namely Antaryami means "the one who controls from within", ie it is paramatma who is within the divinities and thus he governs and controls them, or that is to say he is paramatma in their jivatmas ruling them from within them.

There is also a similar verse in another Sruti text called the Narayana Sukta in the Yajur Veda which says: nārāyaṇaṁ mahājñeyaṁ viśvātmānaṁ parāyaṇam. In that verse Lord Narayana is called as viśvātmānaṁ which means "the inner self (paramatma) of all beings", namely of all the beings including the divinities in heaven. The Narayana Sukta was also quoted by the old Vedantists including Shankara, Ramanuja, and others.

  • Subala and Mudgala Upanishads are late, minor,Vaishnavite upanishads. @brahma jijnasa
    – S K
    Feb 11, 2019 at 2:49
  • @SK All those Upanishads which were quoted by the old Vedantists cannot be late because had they been "late" as you said, then nobody would have quoted from them. I mentioned in my answer above that old Vedantists quoted from the Subala Upanishad, and that means they considered that Upanishad to be genuine Sruti text. Feb 11, 2019 at 14:23
  • Ramanuja might have seen Vishnu everywhere - but Sankara clearly only saw Nirguna Brahman in the Subala upanishad: "The One alone is real; there is no second. How so? When Truth is known, no knowable exists." (Subala Upanishad V. 15.) " @brahma jijnasa
    – S K
    Feb 11, 2019 at 14:57
  • Sureshwara, Shankara's commentator in the Brihadaranyaka Bhashya Vartika says: Sri Sureshwaracharya in the Br.Up.Vārtika has said, in the context of the very Antaryami Brahmanam: यः पृथिव्यामितीशोऽसावन्तर्यामी जगद्गुरुः । हरिर्ब्रह्मा पिनाकीति बहुधैकोऽपि गीयते ॥ [The Br.Up. 'he who, stationed in the pṛthvī devatā impels the mind-body-organs of that devatā....' who is the antaryāmī, jagadguru, even though one, is variously spoken of as Hari, Brahmā and Pinākī (Śiva).] contd... Mar 29, 2021 at 17:10
  • contd..Anandagiri: कथं श्रुत्यवष्टम्भेन ईश्वरस्य कारणत्वं, मूर्तित्रयस्य इतिहासादौ सर्गस्थितिलयेषु यथायोगं कर्तृत्वश्रुतेः, अत आह । यः पृथिव्यामिति । प्रकृतो हि ईश्वरः स्वरूपेण एकोऽपि मूर्तित्रयात्मना बहुधा उच्यते पृथिव्यादौ तस्यैव अन्तर्यामित्वेन स्थितिश्रुतेः, न च तद्विरोधे पुराणादिप्रामाण्यं सापेक्षत्वेन दौर्बल्यादिति भावः । स पूर्वेषां गुरुरितिन्यायेन अन्तर्यामी इत्यस्य व्याख्या जगद्गुरुरिति । contd... Mar 29, 2021 at 17:11

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