At the end of Dvāpara yuga, Nārada2 went to Brahma and addressed him thus: “O Lord, how shall I, roaming3 over the earth, be able to cross Kali?” To which Brahma thus replied: “Well asked. Hearken to that which all Śrutis (the Vedas) keep secret and hidden, through which one may cross the samsāra (mundane existence) of Kali. He shakes off (the evil effects of) Kali through the mere uttering of the name of the Lord Nārāyana, who is the primeval Purusha.” Again Nārada asked Brahma: “What is the name?” To which Hiranyagarbha (Brahma) replied thus: (the words are:) “1. Harē, 2. Rāma, 3. Harē, 4. Rāma, 5. Rāma, 6. Rāma, 7. Harē, 8. Harē; 9. Harē 10. Kṛshna, 11. Harē, 12. Kṛshna, 13. Kṛshna, 14. Kṛshna 15. Harē, 16. Harē. These sixteen names (words) are destructive of the evil effects of Kali. No better means than this is to be seen in all the Vedas. These (sixteen names) destroy the āvarana (or the centripetal force which produces the sense of individuality) of jīva surrounded by the sixteen kalās (rays). Then like the sphere of the sun which shines fully after the clouds (screening it) disperse, Parabrahman (alone) shines.”
Nārada asked: “O Lord, what are the rules to be observed with reference to it?” To which Brahma replied that there were no rules for it. Whoever in a pure or an impure state, utters these always, attains the same world of, or proximity with, or the same form of, or absorption into Brahma.
Whoever utters three and a half kotis4 (or thirty-five millions) times this mantra composed of sixteen names (or words) crosses the sin of the murder of a Brāhmana. He becomes purified from the sin of the theft of gold. He becomes purified from the sin of cohabitation with a woman of low caste. He is purified from the sins of wrong done to pitṛs, devas, and men. Having given up all dharmas, he becomes freed at once from all sins. He is at once released from all bondage. That he is at once released from all bondage is the Upanishad.
1. This Upanishad treats of the means of crossing Kali completely: Nārada having asked the question in Dvāpara yuga—the third of the four yugas.
2. Nārada is called Kali-Kāraka or the generator of kali or strife and discord. If Nārada is himself the strife-maker, why should he go to Brahma for the means of crossing Kali? Nārada being himself an adjuster of the laws of karma, this Upanishad gives the means of getting over strife, etc., in this Kali-age when the whole of nature is thrown off its balance by the depraved tendencies of men. The jive, has sixteen kalās, corresponding to which sixteen mantras or words are given.
3. The story is that he was cursed by Daksha to roam over the worlds with a lute in his hand (viz., to adjust the laws of harmony).
4. This number can be reached by uttering the mantra completely within one year if uttered at the rate of a lakh per day: and within ten years if uttered at the rate of 10,000 per day; and within 100 years if uttered at the rate of 1,000 per diem.