(1) S'rî S'aunaka said: "O Sûta, may you live long, o saintly one; o best of speakers, please speak to us, because you are for a mankind wandering in the endless darkness the seer of the opposite. (2-5) People say that the son of Mrikandu, a seer [called Mârkandeya] blessed with an exceptionally long life span, was the only one to remain at the end of the kalpa when this entire universe is engulfed. He, the foremost descendant of Bhrigu, was this kalpa factually born in my own family and we as yet haven't any great deluge of all creation seen taking place in our age. Alone wandering this great ocean he spotted, so the story goes, a single wonderful personality, an infant boy, lying within the fold of a banyan leaf. About this, o Sûta we are in great doubt; please o yogi who by everyone are regarded the greatest authority on the Purânas, put for us eager to know about it an end to that."
(6) Sûta said: "O great sage this question of you takes away the giddiness of the entire world because it leads to the discussion of the story of Nârâyana which removes the dirt of kali-yuga. (7-11) Mârkandeya having received the second-birth initiation rituals from his father, orderly studying the vedic hymns along with the religious duties, was complete in his austerities and studies. Keeping to the great vow [see yama] he was peaceful with matted hair and bark for clothes carrying a waterpot, a mendicant's staff, the sacred thread and the belt of the celibates. With the skin of a black deer and lotus-seed prayerbeads he for the good of his regulated practice [see niyama] worshiped at the junctures of the day the Lord in the form of the fire, the sun, the guru, the learned ones and the Supreme Soul. In the morning and the evening he with a controlled voice brought what he had collected begging to his spiritual master and once being invited by his guru joined in the eating or, not being asked, he would fast [see also 7.12; 5 and 7.14: 17]. This way of penance and study worshiping for countless [or millions of] years the Master of the Senses, he had conquered what is impossible to conquer: death. (12) Brahmâ, Bhrigu, S'iva, Daksha, the sons of Brahmâ and the other human beings, the demigods, forefathers and ghostly spirits all were most astonished about that [achievement]. (13) This way maintaining the great vow by his austerities, recitations and restraint, the yogi meditated upon the Lord in the Beyond and with his mind turned inwards he rid himself of all hindrances. (14) As he was fixing his mind thus by means of yoga, passed by the enormous lapse of time consisting of six manvantaras [of 71 mahâyugas each]. (15) In the seventh period of Manu Purandara [Indra] learned of the austerities. He became fearful, o brahmin, and decided to obstruct them. (16) He sent to the sage celestial singers and dancing girls, Cupid, the spring season, the [sandalwood scented] Malaya breeze, the child of passion and the child of intoxication. (17) O mighty one, they all went to his hermitage on the northern side of the Himâlaya mountains where there is the river Pushpabhadrâ and the peak named Citrâ. (18-20) The good site of the âs'rama where many twice-born souls had come to live was marked with fine trees and creepers and reservoirs of pellucid water everywhere. Humming with maddened bees it was filled with families of birds - excitedly cooing cuckoos and busily dancing, proud peacocks. The winds blowing there transported the cooling drops of mist from the waterfalls and called, being embraced by the charm of flowers, for the god of love. (21) With the moon rising at night showing its face, springtime appeared there with series of new sprouts and blossoms from the multitude of creepers closely embracing the trees. (22) Followed by groups of singing Gandharvas playing musical instruments the god of love, the master of hordes of heavenly women, was seen there holding his bow and arrows. (23) The servants of Indra found him in that place. Having offered his oblations, he sat in meditation with his eyes closed, invincible as fire personified. (24) The women danced in front of him and the celestial singers sang making charming music with drums, cymbals and vînâs. (25) And while the servants of Indra, the child of greed and the child of spring attempted to agitate the mind of the sage, five-headed Cupid (to the sight, smell, sound, touch and taste) fixed an arrow on his bow. (26-27) Flowers fell from the wreath of hair of Puñjikasthalî [an Apsara] who with her waist greatly challenged by her heavy breasts was playing with a number of balls. Running after the balls, with eyes glancing here and there, the belt of her thin garment loosened and the wind lifted up her fine garment [see also 3.20: 35-36, 3.22: 17, 5.2: 14, 8.12: 17-24]. (28) Cupid, thinking he had conquered him, then shot his arrow, but all these actions directed at the sage proved to be as futile as the endeavors of a disbeliever. (29) O sage, they this way trying to compromise the sage, felt themselves being burned by his potency and thus they desisted, just like children having aroused a snake. (30) O brahmin, even though the followers of Indra had violated the great muni, he didn't yield to the sentiments of ego. And that is something not that surprising at all for a great soul.
(31) Seeing and hearing how, because of the strength of the brahmin seer, Kâmadeva along with his associates had proven powerless, the mighty king of heaven was greatly amazed. (32) When Mârkandeya thus fixed his mind in austerity, recitation and restraint the Supreme Lord manifested Himself as Nara-Nârâyana to show His mercy. (33-34) Of the two of Them was one white and the other black; Their eyes were like blooming lotuses, Their arms were four, Their clothes black deerskin and bark, Their hands most purifying, carried a waterpot and a straight staff of bamboo, and Their sacred thread was three-stranded. With prayer beads of lotus seeds which purify all living beings and with the Vedas [in the form of bundles of darbha] they, worshiped by the chief demigods, of an effulgent yellowish color and standing tall, represented the austerity radiating with light. (35) Seeing Them, Nara and Nârâyana, the direct personal manifestations of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, he stood up with great respect to offer his obeisances and prostrate himself. (36) Because he, when he saw Them, experienced happiness all over his body, mind and senses and the hairs on his body stood on end, he was unable, from the tears filling his eyes, to see Them clearly before him. (37) Standing humbly with folded hands he addressed Them eagerly as if he wanted to embrace Them, and choking he managed to say to the two Lords the syllables 'na-ma-ha, na-ma-ha' (my obeisances, my obeisances). (38) Offering Them sitting places, bathing Their feet and anointing Them with sandal wood and other fragrant substances, he was of worship with incense and flower garlands. (39) Sitting comfortably on Their places ready to bestow Their mercy he, again bowing down at Their feet, spoke the following to the Ones Supremely Worshipable.
(40) S'rî Mârkandeya said: 'O Almighty One, how can I describe You because of whom of all embodied living beings as well as of Brahmâ, S'iva as of myself the vital air, with in its wake the power of speech, the mind and the senses is stirred into action; nevertheless You [despite of this physical imposition] become the loving friend of the ones who are of worship. (41) These personal forms of the Fortunate One, o Supreme Lord, You manifest for the ultimate benefit of the cessation of the material misery and the defeat of death; and just as You, for the protection variously manifest other transcendental bodies, You, once having created this universe, again, just like a spider, swallow it up entirely. (42) Because of Him, the Protector, the Supreme Controller of the moving and nonmoving living beings, the one situated at the soles of His feet is never touched by the emotions of karma, guna and kâla; it is before You indeed that the sages with the Veda in their heart at every moment in praise bow down to worship and meditate to attain You. (43) Nothing else but the attainment of Your feet, the very form of liberation, is what benefits the person who has to fear from all sides o Lord. We know that Brahmâ, whose time takes two parârdhas, is most afraid on account of this, he is afraid because of the Time that is You - and how much more wouldn't that be true for the worldly entities who are created by him [see 10.13: 56]? (44) So let me therefore give up this covering of the self, the material body with everything to it that being temporal, being remembered for only a moment, insubstantial as it is, is so meaningless. Let me worship the soles of Your feet, of You, the Intelligence of what is real and the Master of the Soul who is the Supreme Truth from whom one obtains everything desirable. (45) O Lord, o Friend of the Soul, even though the products of Your illusory potency known by the names of sattva, rajas and tamas, for the causes of the maintenance, destruction and creation of this universe exist as [Your] pastimes, it is the goodness [the sattvic] that [with You] continues for the liberation and not the other two which for men bring danger, bewilderment and fear [see also guna-avatâras and 10.89: 18]. (46) Because fearlessness, the happiness of the soul and the spiritual world are attained through the mode of goodness the Sâtvatas are of that consideration and never of any other [mode or] form of the Original Person. For that reason the spiritual authorities in this world worship as most dear to them the transcendental personal form [Vishnu] of You as well as the form of the ones with only You in their eyes [the Vaishnavas], o Supreme Lord [see also 1.2: 26]. (47) Him, the All-pervading, All-inclusive Manifestation and Master of the Universe, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, I offer my obeisances, for He is the supremely worshipable deity, Nârâyana, the sage who is the best of the humans situated in perfect purity who, as the master of the vedic scriptures, has the command over His word [see hamsa]. (48) He who deceived by the deceptive veil over his eyes becomes diverted in his intelligence about Your presence within his own senses, heart and even within the objects perceived, can know You, the Spiritual master of All, when he obtains the vedic knowledge, even though his understanding was originally covered by Your mâyâ. (49) The vision of the Supreme Soul, the mystery revealed by the vedic texts, is what the great scholars headed by the Unborn One [Brahmâ] become bewildered about when they try to adjust with all kinds of philosophies the subject matter of Him to their way of life. For He escapes the understanding of the [conditioned] spirit soul, He, the Supreme Personality whom I offer my respects [compare 1.3: 37, 4.31: 11, 4.18: 5, 5.6: 11, 5.14: 1, 7.15: 58, 11.19: 1, 11.20: 7 and B.G. 16: 23-24]."