Parama Samhita (English translation)

by Krishnaswami Aiyangar | 1940 | 69,979 words

This page describes pancaratra is vaidika in character 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

Pāñcarātra is Vaidika in character

The general account of the Pāñcarātra as given in the Mokṣadharma chapter gives the impression that the Pāñcarātra as a system is presented there as meeting the general needs of humanity at large, and is intended to explain the general position of the relation of man to God. It starts from a study of the Sāṅkhya and the Yoga, and proceeds therefrom to the teaching of other systems reaching ultimately to that of the Pāñcarātra. The term Sāṅkhya receives the explanation that it is nothing more than a careful or critical examination, rather than anything more technical, as it is generally understood. One often comes upon statements that there is no difference between the Sāṅkhya and Yoga, as is too often assumed in recent critical discussions. We are led on gradually through a series of discussions to the view that there really is no contrariety or opposition between the orthodox Vaidic teaching as a whole, and the Pāñcarātra except the differences due to human capacity and achievement in this department of human activity.

The Mahābhārata expounds the differences and arrives at last to the conclusion, in its own characteristic way, that the Pāñcarātra marks the head and crown of the God-given teaching of the Veda itself. Unfortunately, however, modern discussions, Indian and European, have attempted to trace not merely a distinction, but even a contrariety between the Vaidic teaching and the Pāñcarātra as such. There is a school even of Indian opinion, which regards the Pāñcarātra as outside the fold of the Veda. In regard to this, we need say no more than to refer to the passages of the Sri Bhāṣya where Rāmánuja refutes the opinion expressed by Śaṅkara in his Bhāṣya.[1] Rāmānuja here makes quotations from the Pāñcarātra text books, of which he mentions three, the Pauṣkara Saṃhitā, the Sātvata Saṃhitā and the Parama Saṃhitā. The two passages that he quotes from this last work have reference to the fundamental position of the Pāñcarātra as such, and perhaps exhibits the importance of this work in the estimation of Rāmānuja himself. In this particular, Rāmānuja is not the first of the Ācāryas. The Parama Saṃhitā is referred to, and quoted with approval, by Yāmunācārya before him in his Agama Prāmaṇya, and that receives of course further support from Vedānta Desika later. It is hardly necessary to labour the point further here so far as that particular part is concerned.

The actual claim of the Pāñcarātra works themselves, it must be pointed out, is that it is based on the Veda itself, and the claim is made that it is based entirely upon a particular Śākhā of the Veda called Ekāyana based upon one of the redactions of the Yajur Veda. Ekāyana is sometimes described as at the head of the Veda itself as a whole. This Ekāyana is under reference in the passage in the Chandogya Upaniṣad where Nārada tells Sanatkumāra that that is among the literature that he had already studied. Later writers beginning with Madhvācārya have no doubt that the Ekāyana is Pāñcarātra, and that statement finds support in the Mahābhārata. The Chandogya Upaniṣad itself seems to make the position more or less clear. Further references are given in the Sanskrit introduction that follows.

Footnotes and references:

1.

II. 2. 42.