[Advaita-l] on pA~ncharAtra

Satish Arigela satisharigela at yahoo.com
Fri Jul 14 12:22:25 CDT 2006


> On Tue, 11 Jul 2006, Ramesh Krishnamurthy wrote:

> > On the vyUha theory you mentioned in the mail, I
> understand it comes
> > from the pancarAtra Agama-s. Has any list member
> read any of the
> > pancarAtra texts? What is their importance in the
> various vaiShNava
> > traditions? From what I have read/observed, the
> pancarAtra and
> > vaikanAsa texts seem to be used only for temple
> rites by some
> > SrIvaiShNava temples in southern India. They dont
> seem to be known in
> > the rest of the country. Do the other vaiShNava
> sampradAya-s have any
> > use for them?

Some of these texts are also quoted by smArta tAntric
scholars. Interestingly the main pA~ncharAtra texts
like jayAkhya samhita and pAdma samhita, actually
enjoin the worship of the popular ganesha and
sadAshiva(the pAdma samhita has an explicit statement
on this) along with vaiShNava devata-s. Contemporary
shrI vaiShNava-s will actually be horrified if they go
through some of the contents of these texts. :-))

Please see the following write up by a contact of mine
who is a smArta well versed in many aspects of the
tAntric lore.
It is likely that in the later period the vaiShNavas
were ignorant on why the name pA~ncharatra came into
being. This ignorance of the meaning of the name is
plainly seen in the explanation provided by the
prashna saMhitA and padma saMhitA of pA~ncharAtra, and
the nAradIya pA~ncharAtra has only a vague memory
regarding the cause of the name. The kashmirAcharyas
of mahAbala paNDita's school and vidyAraNya yati cite
a number of formulae of pA~ncharAtra vaiShNavism. But
the kashmirAcharyas clearly explain the etymology by
citing the vihagendra saMhitA and the sanatkumAra
saMhitA. viShNu in course of the five night rite, in
which puruSha nArAyaNa was invoked, lectured details
on the pA~ncharAtric mantra shAstra to various
recipients. As per the holy sanatkumAra saMhitA, which
only survives in fragment the recipients of the
lectures on the 5 nights were rudra, prajApati, indra,
the R^iShis and bR^ihaspati. This knowledge was
collected by the chitrashikhaNDins and provided as the
vaiShNavAgamas. The same text mentions that viShNu
also explained this knowledge (probably implying
kR^iShNa) directly to the sAttvata heroes like
sAtyaki, akrUra and kR^itavarman which came to be the
sAttvata branch of pA~ncharatra. The vihagendra
saMhitA states that the five recipients were ananta
(=nAga), garuDa (=vihagendra), viShvaksena, rudra and
prajApati, of which the vihagendra saMhitA is the
collection of the lectures to garuDa. The Ishvara
saMhitA mentions that the five recipients (at least in
the R^iShi class) were brAhmaNas of the clans :
shANDilya, aupagAyana, maunjAyana, kaushika and
bhAradvAja. In addition to pa~ncharAtra the hayagrIva
tantra remembers an independent tradition of tantric
vaiShNavism termed saptarAtra, which was parallel to
pA~ncharAtra, and contained the trailokyamohana viShNu
tantra and hayagrIva tantra amongst others.

The sanatkumAra saMhitA is clearly divided into the 5
sections called rAtras with ten-eleven chapters in
each, with each corresponding to the lecture of a
night between viShNu and the recieving deity or sage
(of them the bR^ihaspati ratra is lost). While it has
some very late corruptions and extrapolations
potentially attributable to the shrIvaiShNavas or
mAdhvas, the sanatkumAra saMhitA by its content and
memory of the actual origin of the term is close to
the source. The sanatkumAra saMhitA assumes the
coeaval presence of a text called nArada saMhitA (in
part a potential precursor of the nAradIya
pa~ncharAtra), mahendra saMhitA and padmodbhava
saMhitA and the vihagendra saMhitA suggesting that
these were composed together as a unit. The middle two
could be internal citations to indra rAtra and
prajApati rAtra (or more complete versions thereof).

The contents of the sanatkumAra saMhitA fragment as we
know it are pretty remarkable. The first section, the
rAtra of rudra: 1) yAgas to deities: agnI yAga, brahma
yAga, vaishravaNa yAga, yAga for pacifying the
vinAyaka and the uchChiShTa ulka, shrI/lakShmI
oblations, the famed yaga to worship dhUrta skanda,
saura prayogaM, rudra yAga, yaga to pacify various
shaktis, sacrifice for yama, indra yAga, viShNu yAga,
yaga for ashvins, worship of kAmadeva, soma offering.
gAyatrIs for these deities and installation of their
idols. 2) mantra-lakShaNaM 3) great nArayaNa mantras
and gAyatrI. mAhAsudarshana mantra prayoga, the
vaiShNava shmashAna prayogaM to capture and deploy
yakShas and yakShiNis, rAkShasa shmashAna prayoga for
sending rAkShasas aided with sudarshana, garuDa mantra
prayogas, sarpa prayogas 4) invocation of 1008 gaNas
of viShNu under viShvaksena, 5) harinivedana 6)
flowers for viShNu worship 7) leaves for viShNu
worship 8) bathing rites for idols 9) public
festivals, balis and related rites 10) construction of
yantras of viShNu.

The detailed tantric agnimukhaM yAgas with 4 fires for
nArAyaNa and his vyUhas is provided in the brahma
rAtra (this as far as my sources known is only
available with some vaiShNava brAhmaNas in shrIrangaM
as a manuscript).

Most interestingly the sanatkumAra saMhitA gives two
forms of upanayanaM, the vedic form for dvijas and
tantric agnimukhaM version for women and shUdras. On
recieving that they may perform several rites, but the
pA~ncharatric brahmin is still supposed to perform
vaidika rites to various deities in addition to the
internal pA~ncharatric sacrifices to vedic deities
given in the rudra rAtra.

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