What is Narayaneeyam?
Narayaneeyam is a Stotram (hymn) composed by Melpathur Narayana Bhattathiri. It is a hymn which sings praises of Lord Narayana (Lord Vishnu in the form of Guruvayurappan). Narayaneeyam is actually the abridged version of the elaborate Shrimad Bhagavatam, one of the 18 main Puranas in the Hindu scriptures. It has only 1036 slokas (hymns) while the Shrimad Bhagavatam has 18,000 slokas in 12 chapters. This sacred text was composed in Lord Krishna’s shrine in the temple of Guruvayur, a temple town in Kerala. It was penned by Narayana Bhattathiri, an ardent devotee of Lord Vishnu, who wrote 10 verses each day (known as Dasakam) and completed the entire text in 100 days.
The first 36 dasakams or chapters talk about the 10 incarnations or avatars of Lord Vishnu. The next 52 chapters talks about the life of Lord Krishna (incarnation of Lord Vishnu). The 10 chapters that follow sing the ultimate praise of Lord Vishnu, extolling him as the primordial deity. In the last chapter, he describes the Lord from head to toe who appeared in front of him moved by his soulful rendition of the hymn.
A Unique Composition
The Narayaneeyam hymn is a unique composition in the form of a direct conversation with Lord Vishnu. It is rendered with great devotion and helps you connect powerfully with Lord Vishnu. Bhattathiri was in great pain when he composed it. Finally, Lord Vishnu as Guruvayurappan cured his illness and blessed him with good health, longevity and everlasting happiness.
When he was 27, Narayana Bhattathiri, then a young Vedic scholar, composed Narayaneeyam. The story goes that he was crippled due to rheumatism which his Guru was also suffering from. By praying to God to relieve his Guru’s illness, he got the disease transferred to him. When his condition deteriorated, he surrendered himself to Lord Guruvayurappan. He believed that his faith would cure him completely. With great difficulty, he reached the temple and prayed to the Lord by composing 10 verses each day. He continued this for 100 days. Having received God’s blessings of longevity, health and well-being, he went on to live a long life. It is believed that chanting the Narayaneeyam can bestow listeners with 25 types of blessings.
Narayaneeyam shows that Bhakti yoga is superior to Karma yoga and Jnana yoga. It also shows the way to achieve salvation or mukti through Bhakti or devotion. In Dasakam 2, verse 7, the poet writes, that the path of Bhakti has been praised by great sages as superior to the other paths as Bhakti, which is the emotion of love for the pure beauty of God is natural to man and hence easily attained by all.
Why Bhakti Yoga is Superior?
Sages like Narada and Vyasa have said that Bhakti Yoga is superior to Karma yoga and Jnana yoga. They realized this after practising all three yogas. The power of Bhakti is exemplified in the stories of Prahlada, Draupadi, the Gopis of Brindavan and even Gajendra the elephant. In dasakam 76, verse 11, Bhattathiri talks of their devotion and says that such God-love has not seen its equal in all the worlds. Before it, scriptural study and austere practices pale into insignificance. This reveals the superiority of the path of Bhakti or devotion.
Bhakti is love that is pure and unadulterated which is free of any desire for rewards. Being natural to human beings, it is not difficult to practice it. Love for one’s child (vatsalyam), love between husband and wife (anuragam), love (sneham) for all, and towards Guru, God and parents, are not difficult to practice.
In dasakam 2 verse 8, Bhattathiri compares the three yogas in terms of the results they help achieve. "Nishkamam niyathaswadharmacharanam yath karmayogabhidam, thath dooretyaphalam yadowpanishadajnanopalabyam puna: thath tu avyakthataya sudurgamatharam chittasya thasmath vibho! twathprematmaka bhaktireva sathatam swadeeyasi sreyasi" This verse says that Bhakti which consists of love for Guruvayoorappan is the sweetest and most exalted of all the three paths of devotion.
Karma yoga, the path of action, is hard to practice and takes a long time to yield results. It is all about performing swadharma or one’s prescribed duties without getting attached to the rewards. This is Nishkama Karma or action not caused by desire. This is not easy as we expect results for our actions. Few do their duty without expecting anything in return.
A human being’s life is divided into four stages of life or asramas. They are Brahmacharya (a celibate), Garhastya (householder), Vanaprastha (hermit) and Sanyasa (ascetic). For each stage, there are prescribed courses called “Swadharmas". They include Nitya (daily rites), Naimittika (occasional rites), Prayaschitta (rites for atonement) etc. Such rites form one's own duty which need to be carried out without expecting rewards. This is Karma yoga. The Bhagavad Gita says, "Karmanyeva adhikarasthey' ma phaleshu kadachana" which means "you have the right to do action and not to the results". These rites involve a lot of strain - monetary, physical and mental - to the one who performs them. When performing rituals like homam, shraddha, marriage, etc., the holy mantras must be properly chanted to get results. Otherwise, it may cause problems. Besides, it is difficult for a householder or grahastha to be Nishkama as he may be drawn to mundane pleasures. Nishkama karma purifies the mind so that it can gain knowledge or Jnana. But this too happens after several birth-death cycles.
Benefits of Chanting Narayaneeyam
There are many benefits of chanting Narayaneeyam. The chanter will be bestowed with fame and long life, wealth, good position, victory, problem-solving skills, overall protection and stable mind. They will be able to avoid dangers and get protection from gossip and negative thoughts. They will also be able to overcome fear and attain mukti or salvation.