Parama Samhita (English translation)

by Krishnaswami Aiyangar | 1940 | 69,979 words

This page describes gita, a manual of pancaratra 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

Gītā, a manual of Pāñcarātra teaching

In regard to the Gītā itself, it is hardly necessary to take up the question of an original Gītā and its subsequent growth. This investigation initiated by Professor Jacobi and taken up later on by Professor Garbe has been continued in a recent treatise by Professor Otto, the author of Mysticism, Eastern and Western. He starts with the thesis that there was an original epic Gītā forming an integral part of the Mahābhārata, and not intended to teach anything religious. The religious teaching in it is in consequence relegated as interpolations, and therefore later accretions to the original texts. That hardly concerns us, as we are primarily concerned here with the Gītā as a religious manual, and as such we have to take the Gītā in its entirety. No explanation therefore is required for passing over this aspect of the question here. We are more directly concerned with the Gītā as a manual of religious teaching, and are primarily concerned with its position as a text book of a particular school of Vaiṣṇavism, whether it should be called Pāñcarātra as such, or by any other name such as the Bhāgavata. Considered as such, it would be quite clear that the Gītā is a whole manual teaching Bhakti as the most efficacious method of attaining to salvation, and as such, and as inculcating Viṣṇu Bhakti specifically, it could be regarded, and has been so regarded, as a manual of the Pāñcarātra school. As such and taken as a whole, the similarity between the Pāñcarātra teaching, and the teaching of the Bhagavad

Gītā from the doctrinal point of view is so close that one cannot resist the conclusion that it was intended to be a manual of the Pāñcarātras. It is hardly necessary in this context to go into an elaborate investigation to prove this, as it would be quite obvious to even the most ordinary reader. In the Bhakti school of South Indian Vaiṣṇavism, it is actually taken as such, and wherever we find references, these merely go to establish the truth of this statement. This is in a way confirmed by the statement of Śri Kṛṣṇa in chapter IV of the Gītā quoted above, which seems almost a repetition of the statement contained in the Nārāyaṇiya section of the Śānti Parvan of the Mahābhārata, where the Pāñcarātraic teaching is referred to as “Harigitam Purātanam”[1] sung of old by Hari, which would mean that the teaching was actually given to the world by Hari himself in time primeval.

A full study of the Pāñcarātra teaching therefore would involve a study of the text of the Pāñcarātra as in the Paramasaṃhitā, as perhaps a good example of a full manual, in comparison with the Gītā on the one side, and the Mokṣadharma of the Mahābhārata. leading ultimately to the Nārāyaṇīya. Such a study may involve chronological incompatibilities in the present state of opinion regarding the chronology of the Mahābhārata itself and the Gītā. But without a study like that, it is hardly possible to arrive at any definite conclusions. The Pāñcarātra is a growing tradition, and without a thorough-going study of this tradition as incorporated in the Mokṣadharma of the Mahābhārata involving a study of the Sāṅkhya, Yoga and the modifications that these underwent as well as the relations between the position of Yājña-valkya as innovator and his teachers before him, no definite conclusion in regard to the doctrinal position would be possible

Footnotes and references:


M. Bh, XII, 348 śl, 31-34; 156-10.