Parama Samhita (English translation)

by Krishnaswami Aiyangar | 1940 | 69,979 words

This page describes the pancaratra and vaidika ritualistic teaching of the English translation of the Parama Samhita, representing a manual of the Pancaratra school of Vaishnavism philosophy. These pages summarize ritualistic worship, initiation and other topics, as contained in the various Agamas belonging to the Pancaratra school

The Pāñcarātra and Vaidika ritualistic teaching

The problem of an original Gītā, subsequently inflated by additions and interpolations, does not concern us for the present. The problem Whether there was an epic GĪtā elaborated by additions of doctrinal teaching of various kinds into the present form of the work is a problem which has to be considered separately. We are concerned here with the whole of the Gītā as it is, and its teaching as a whole, which would naturally involve Consideration of the form of the Gītā and its authorship and antiquity. It is often assumed that the Gītā text as it is, was teaching original to the work itself, and was taught for the first time in the work by Kṛṣṇa of Dvārakā, the Mahābhārata hero. This assumption would naturally fix the date of origin of the Gītā to the Mahābhārata. In a discussion of the Pāñcarātraic teaching and its relation to the Gītā we have certainly to consider how far this position that the Gītā teaching was originated by Kṛṣṇa is in consonance with what we know of the Pāñcarātra teaching. By all accounts, in the large variety in which they have come down to us, the teaching of the Pāñcarātra is ascribed “to the Supreme deity of the Bhāgavatas, Vāsudeva, later on identified with Vāsudeva-Kṛṣṇa leading to very important conclusions in regard to the nature of the Pāñcarātra itself.

It has been regarded in consequence that the Pāñcarātra was non-Brāhmaṇic in point of character and Kṣatriya in its origin, and therefore a Protestant school of teaching to Brahmanism, as in fact Buddhism and Jainism are. While we do not feel that it is necessary we should discuss that problem here, we may just remark in passing that while the Pāñcarātra, as it has come down to us, distinctly does make provision for the religious needs of the four varṇas, at any rate specifically and distinctly, it would be hard to postulate from the texts themselves anything anti-Brahmanical in point of character.

Even the much objected Vedic rituals, which certainly were exclusively the monopoly of the Brahmans, not withstanding the fact that the actual purpose of these rituals and the merit accruing therefrom had always been for the benefit of the community as a whole, were never regarded as of benefit only to the Brahman community. Therefore the ascription of anything anti-Brahmanical to the Pāñcarātra seems on the face of it unwarranted. Leaving that question aside, there is still left the question how far the ritualistic performances of the Veda could be regarded as efficacious for achieving the ultimate ends of man. The ritualistic side of the Veda seems obviously intended to propitiate various deities, and it may ultimately be the Deity, with a view to the attainment of benefits of a limited character and not the ultimate benefit of what the Sanskritists call niḥśreyas, the ultimate salvation. It is there that the Pāñcarātraic teaching might be held to come into conflict with the Vedic ritualistic teaching. We find this difference noted with a certain amount of emphasis at the very outset of the Gītā, thus lending colour to the conclusion that it was a Kṣatriya protest against the Brahmanical claims.

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