Parama Samhita (English translation)

by Krishnaswami Aiyangar | 1940 | 69,979 words

This page describes questions and answers (prashna-prativacana) which is Chapter 1 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

Chapter 1 - Questions and answers (praśna-prativacana)

1. Devala came to see the great sage Mārkaṇḍeya who was then sitting at ease in his hermitage beautiful with trees all round.

2. Having saluted him in the prescribed form, and, by him been welcomed with kindness, the learned Devala began addressing his questions to Mārkaṇḍeya who had knowledge of the Supreme Truth.

3. O, Bhagavan! (the all knowing) I have learnt the Vedas with all the Aṅgas and Upāṅgas (auxiliary studies) in their elaboration; I have studied from masters the auxiliary sciences including Vākovākya (Logic).

4. After all this learning I am not able to discover, without besetting doubts, what indeed is the way which leads ultimately to Supreme Bliss.

5. Nor am I able to find, in any one of the Āgamas, the Supreme Good. Even after studying all these Āgamas my doubting only became the worse.

6. In this perplexity, O, Bhagavan! teach me that which would remove my doubts. I see no one who is master of the ways which lead to the ultimate good, other than you.

7. Thus addressed by Devala, the Great Saint Mārkaṇḍeya, answered, with a smile, Devala’s question as follows:—

8. I have obtained long life, my memory has never left me, many cycles of destruction and creation have been seen by me as also; many ages of Manu.

9. I have seen many teachers, and the Śāstras, I have learnt a thousand times over. In spite of it all, I have not been able to obtain from them even a little of what is the only ultimate Good.

10. Therefore, feeling sorely pained, I went to Sālagrāma, with a burning heart, and devoted myself to worshipping Viṣṇu there.

11. For a thousand and eight years, I conducted the worship in the manner that seemed best to me, but, with deep interest and: devotion.

12. Then was seen by me the Supreme God with eyes beautiful as lotus flowers, of dark blue colour and a gracious countenance.

13. Prostrated by me in salutation and belauded in hymns of praise, that King of Gods spoke to me with great kindness, in the following words.


14. ‘O, Mārkaṇḍeya’ by force of the worship which you offered through such a long period, with such great devotion and in the manner; prescribed, I am here before you.

13. Ask what boon you wish to have; whether it be length of life, knowledge, wealth, or whatever else you may desire. O the disciplined; one, all prosperity to you.

16. Having been thus addressed by God, I asked, with hands raised in adoration, that knowledge pure, clear and free from doubt may be mine.

17-20. When I addressed this request, the God of Gods replied smiling, ‘if your object is to gain “Supreme knowledge” go hence to Śvetadvipa situate amidst the Ocean of Milk; the place of attainment to great Yogis (Saints). There, serving in due form the Wise Ones of Great Knowledge, obtain from them the knowledge you desire which is capable of procuring for you the Heaven of the Gods, and the still higher freedom. You shall have, O Disciplined one! unobstructed freedom, to move wherever you please, as also long life, by my Grace’, The great God having told me this disappeared then and there from my view.

21. Thereafter having been struck with wonder, O Devala! I started towards Śvetadvīpa, and kept travelling for a long time without anybody obstructing me on the way.

22-24. Crossing mountains and oceans I reached that island ultimately. There I found Saints all light, each with four arms bearing marks of the Disc, the Conch, and the Lotus. Being all devoted to Puruṣottama, contemplating Him alone (as the sole refuge), these (people with only one ultimate end to attain) were happy, unequalled, without wives, with their minds intuned, and always intent on contemplating the Supreme.

25. Seeing them and making my obeisance, in wonder, to all of them as befitted them, I then went to the hermitage of the Saint Sanaka.

26-29 There having done him reverence I addressed him in the following words: ‘Please understand I am Mārkaṇḍeya coming from another dvīpa (division of land), O wise One! who has attained to the highest knowledge, enlighten me who has come all the way for the sake of knowledge’. Thus addressed by me the highly learned and great minded Sanaka, making reverence to the Supreme God, said in reply “Be it so”. The treatise which was then taught me by Sanaka, well pleased with my devotion, removed the doubts and darkness enveloping my soul. Effort arose (jāta) in me and my mind became clear.

30. Continued vexation of mind ceased, and attachment to anything became subdued. ‘O, Devala’! This Treatise was obtained by me in the Manvantara (the age of Manu) before the present one.

31. Through this long interval of time no one was taught this work as a whole because of its vastness.

32-33. Having acquired this in parts, many ascetics have gone satisfied; for that reason therefore this work is known in the world in various forms, without giving a satisfactory meaning, missing the essence of its teaching and even contradicting one another. The Pāñcarātra taught in this treatise is spoken of as the Supreme “Yoga-tantra”.

34. O austere in devotion, because it is the work of the Parāma Puruṣa Himself. That it conveys the truth, is not open to counter argument, and is of immense good to the world.

35. It is acceptable to the devoted, the more so to the devotees of Viṣṇu; among the Āgamas this is treated as alone authoritative.

36-37. It has continued intact through the various ages of creation by command of the God of Gods. The wise ones who know this work completely, will have no doubt of any kind in the pursuit of the path of holy living. Their life would not be lived in vain; there is nothing that they could not attain to.

38-39. They will have no suffering, no anger, and no anguish of mind. The fruit of deeds, the illumination resulting from knowledge and the co-operation of these two is expounded in this treatise. The five qualities of the primary elements are said to be rights to the embodied soul.

40-43. This is called pāñcarātra either because of the union, or because of the separation, of these five Bhūtas (primary elements), the Tanmātras (subtle elements), Ahaṅkāra (individuation), Buddhi (thought), Avyakta (the formless), these five have been described as the five rātra (gifts) of Puruṣa, and hence they are called pāñcarātra. If this work is fully and carefully mastered by one, to him the benefit that would accrue from the study of any other Śāstra is little. If you have doubts to clear in respect of your pursuit of the holy way of life, have this work expounded. To those who remain in doubt even after consulting other treatises bearing on the subject, this treatise is recommended the best (by the Wise).

44-55. Seeing you in that condition of doubt, the feeling of surprise arises in me; therefore listen attentively to the pāñcarātra as heard by me of old from Sanaka through the grace of the God of Gods. This treatise contains one lac of chapters, treating of evolution and involution; teaching the attainment of perfection as the result of various deeds. O Devala; this work however it is not possible to hear in full, as I myself could learn it only after gaining length of life; I shall therefore teach you the work, taking from it only the essence of it, beginning with the introduction and leading up to the account of Vaikuṇṭha (Supreme abode of Bliss). This Universe was all darkness, ununderstandable, without form, incapable of being described or even conceived, as if all was asleep all round. In such darkness the Supreme One assuming the sleep of Yoga (contemplation), remained long in that condition; the self-luminous One then gave thought to bringing about creation. Then again taking the form of a Yogin, the Lord first created the seed of the Universe in the form of a white lotus, with a thousand petals all round the circle of pistils (keśara) surrounding the pericap (karṇikā), springing from out of His navel. In this lotus He created Vidhāta (the creator) with four faces, the source of all art and learning, with soul sanctified by meditation on the Supreme, the lord, of all creation. That Lord, having created the five elements first, then created all the worlds, including the moving and the unmoving, by means of the elements separately and jointly. Having in this manner created all the worlds, Brahma (Pitāmaha) the great Yogi, in unwavering contemplation began concentrating (his breath). In that condition there arose in his mind a doubting enquiry regarding all that was around him.

56. Springing from out of that doubt there came a sudden flash upon his mind. He then saw the God of Gods, lying in his couch in the Ocean of Milk (Kṣīrasāgara).

57. He, the lotus-eyed, was in bed on the body of Ananta (the great snake Śeṣa), with four arms bearing the Conch, the Disc, the Club and the Lotus.

58. He was dark of hue, wearing cloth of golden colour; Śrī, His consort was sitting at His feet. He was of pleasing colour, and bore on His chest the mole, Śrīvatsa, and the Jewel Kaustubha.

59. Vainateya (the bird-Garuḍa) was seated on His side constantly serving Him. Having seen the Excellent Puruṣa, Brahma.

60-62. Not translated being unintelligible owing to lapse of words which looks like a break in the MSS.


63. To all embodied beings activities are two; knowledge (jñānam), and action (kriyā). Emancipation results from the active development of Jñāna and life (Saṃsṛti) results from the active development of Karma.

64. Action which is limited gives rise to result which is also measurable, while jñāna which cannot be measured produces result which has no limit.


65. To people involved in life and looking to the satisfaction of the senses, how is the attainment of knowledge (vijñāna), even in a limited measure, possible, though they be Yogins.


66. The knowledge attained by worldly men does not avail to bring them emancipation at all; it only serves them to understand the means by which to get rid of the bonds of action.

67. When thus the bonds of Karma, composed of action and means thereto, are destroyed, one becomes ipso facto possessed of the highest knowledge, and forever remains as such.


68. In what manner are the emancipated, who are your bodies to be distinguished from the embodied. This Secret of Secrets, may it please You to tell me O, Lord’.


69. They become Myself alone;, there is no difference whatsoever between the two. In whatever manner I divert myself, the emancipated do so in the same manner likewise.

70. What is it that brings the embodied souls into bondage? That, tell me, O, Puruṣottama. In what manner do the means of bondage bind man.


71. O Brahman, the three guṇas (qualities), which act both in conjunction and separately, make thrice two kinds of sleep. By these men get bound.

72. Sattva sleep is happy. The sleep arising from Rajas promotes action; from Tamas comes confusion and bewilderment. These are considered the three forms of bondage.


73. These three qualities are found in conjunction in men; how can these be separated by those Yogins who wish to achieve emancipation.


74. These are not qualities of man as such: but are the result of attachment to objects of the senses. They spring from them and cease with them.


75. O, the Best of Heavenly Ones! what is it that you called viṣaya to men, attachment to which brings into existence the guṇas, and detachment destroys them?


76. The embodied ones existing in the material world have the three qualities (guṇas) in their nature (prakṛti). They are bound so long as they are associated with her (nature); when that association ceases they become free.

77. Man knows always that the three guṇas (qualities) exist in Prakṛti (material cause). It is Prakṛti that always creates in him various kinds of sleep (forgetfulness).

78. Man enjoys this sleep, as he would a woman dear to him and in the exercise of her own right. In consequence he forgets his own nature. This is regarded as the nature of the association between man and his material nature (Prakṛti).

79. By what cause is brought about his association with Prakṛti. This is regarded a great secret, O Great One, do teach me this.


80. Māya is indeed the cause of this, according to my original disposition. Man however is overcome by Māya as a result of Karma (his own action).

81. To the Māya created by me there is no cessation in this world except as the result of my Grace. There is no need to enquire about it.

82. As long as this Māya is not removed by my Grace, so long is worldly existence to man. When Māya ceases emancipation follows.


83. You are perfection, O God, what can compel, you to show Grace. I do not understand the compelling cause, do expound it to me please.


84. Faith, Devotion and Meditation which people show towards me, result in good; that good may be taken to be my Grace.

85. The devotion shown to me, though not as prescribed in the Śāstras and the Āgamas, brings only good, even to men who may be uncultured. Of this there is no doubt.

86. Therefore to man in worldly life nothing but my Grace can do the ultimate Good. No other way need be searched for for the attainment of this;

In the Parama Saṃhitā of the Pāñcarātra, Chapter I entitled “Questions and Answers.” (praśna-prativacana)

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: