Parama Samhita (English translation)

by Krishnaswami Aiyangar | 1940 | 69,979 words

This page describes the mode of worship (arcana-vidhana) which is Chapter 4 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 4 - The mode of worship (arcanā-vidhāna)


1. O, Deva! I should like to hear the best way of worshipping Viṣṇu. In what manner is the worship to be offered to the highest Puruṣa known as Viṣṇu?


2. Therefore then I shall expound clearly the course of worship to be offered to Viṣṇu by the practice of which a devotee attains to the world of Viṣṇu.

3. Going to the appointed place of worship, wash and take the holy sip (ācamana) with due humility; then look, uttering the prescribed mantra, round the room including the altar and the floor.

4. Go round the altar by the right and make your salutation; then collecting yourself, throw your upper cloth from under the right arm over the left shoulder, and, being clean, turn towards the east.

5. Being then seated, rub over both your hands uttering the Praṇava mantra while so doing. Then utter the Pañcopaniṣad touching the tip of each of your fingers in order, beginning with the little finger.

6. Touch the six organs of the body with one hand uttering mudrā mantra. Protect yourself (against evil) from the cardinal points by uttering the astra mantra.

7. By Tejo-mantra make a surrounding wall and centre space for fire and, thus protecting yourself all round, practise abstraction of mind.

8-11. First of all make the Yoga-Sampuṭa with; three Prāṇāyāmās (breath-concentration). Then, by effort, beginning with the in-breath and then taking the out-breath, or the other way, if you control breath, that act is called Prāṇāyāmās meditating, by the Puruṣātma mantra, the breath at the lotus of the naval, concentrate there the supreme spirit in the form of breath. Then, by means of the mantraViśvātma, consider the Sun in the heart as fire (Agni) and concentrate the supreme Spirit there in the form of fire all round. Then concentrate in the throat with the Bhava (spirit) placed in Māhendra?[1]

12. With the Nivṛtti-mantra, concentrate on the head Varuṇa in the form of water. Black, red, golden and the white are the colour forms of Dhāraṇā (concentration).

13-18. Each one of these Dhāraṇās (abstraction of mind) detailed above must be performed with three prāṇāyāmas done in the manner prescribed above. In case of these Dhāraṇās, contemplate the universe as if conjoined with that particular guṇa, remaining during the time in unshaken concentration. The way of attaining to Dhāraṇā is in order Pūraka (in breath), Rechaka (breathing out), Kumbhaka (the holding in of breath) and Nirāmaya (stop breathing altogether) for Bhāgavātas. Having in this manner destroyed by Dhāraṇā all impurities, then perform the: meditation upon God with concentration which gives purity to the soul. In unshaken composure take the five elements beginning with the earth into the Supreme Soul, adopting the method of Pralaya (Dissolution). After this, thinking over in your own mind the order of creation down to the attainment of the gross body, then uttering the mantras in order and creating with your right hand, and then contemplating the causes, set each thing in its place again.

19. Place the five elements beginning Ākāśa (ether) uttering the Pañcamantra in the middle of the mouth, the heart, the privates and on the feet respectively.

20-23. Having thus become mantra-bodied by means of Mahāyoga Samādhi (extreme abstraction), bathe yourself in water of nectar brought in golden pots by the Ladies of the Directions. Contemplate the Sun in the form of his brilliant orb in your heart; contemplate the moon in the Sun’s orb, and an orb of fire in the middle similarly of the moon. In this manner having created by mantra alone, one’s body both inside and out, a sādhaka (one that worships) becomes fit to perform worship of Viṣṇu. Then becoming himself immediately let him worship the God of Gods.

24-26. While capable of being regarded as of the same nature, the worshipper is not the worshipped nor is the worshipped the worshipper. Therefore destroying your material body (Śarīra) as in the process of Dissolution (Pralaya) create another clean body and then proceed to worship the Supreme Puruṣa. Worship him on the ground, in the form of an image, in water or even fire; or else worship Him in a circle in the space (ākāśa) of your own heart, in the middle of the circle of the Sūrya-maṇḍala (orb of the sun) by a mental process.

27. Collecting first of all clean articles needed for worship and setting them around you, sprinkling them with the mantra Parameshtyātma, make a seat for worship (Yāga-pīṭha).

28. In that sanctified seat God Hari is to be worshipped. For this sanctified seat Vāsudeva and others are. to, form the legs.

29-32. The Adharma group of four form the base for the legs. In the south-east (Agneya) Vasudeva, the embodiment of Dharma, the supreme One is placed; in the southwest (Nairṛti) God Saṅkarṣaṇa, the embodiment of Jñāña (wisdom); in the North-east (Vāyavya) Pradhyumna the embodiment of Vairāgya (non-desire) is placed. In the North-East (Aiśānya) Aniruddha the embodiment of aiśvarya (power) is similarly placed. In this manner the four legs are constituted; the four buddhis (intelligence) adharma, etc., and, the three ahaṅkāras (individuation), are the binding ropes and the three guṇas are the, shed for sacrifice. The bhūtas (elements) are the sheet covering the floor, called Rudrac-chadana.

33. On this seat is set the lotus, from which was born the supreme Brahma, surrounded by twelve smaller ones, with the spacious pericarp in the middle, the interspaces filled with the pistils of the flower.

34. Seated on this is Virāt in the form of the universe and the creator of all. The twelve mūrtis (forms of Viṣṇu) are to be understood as being seated on the lotus petals.

35. In the pistils are the fifteen Śaktis (powers), at the base of the pericarp is the source of the three guṇas in order.

36. In the middle of the pericarp are the three Śaktis of the Guṇas in order; on the top of the pericarp are placed in order, fire, the moon and the sun.

37. Having in this manner created the seat by the mantras intended therefor, offer worship to the God-seat with sandal, flowers, etc.

38-39. On this seat contemplate with the aid of the great good Śaktis the form of the Supreme Soul (Paramātman) pure as clear crystal and with four arms adorned with the conch, the disc, the mace and the lotus. In this image invoke the God Acyuta, the Paramātma or Supreme Soul of the universe.

40. In the open but joined hands first of all make the seat by act of mind; then invoke the all-pervading God there for maintaining Him there.

41. Into that open hand in the form of praṇava invoke the Supreme Soul which enjoys satisfaction eternal, by the mantra Parameṣṭi; having installed Him in the praṇava form of the hands, invoke him again by the mantra Puruṣātma.

42. Then contemplate by the mantra Viśvātma the Supreme seated in the open hands; and then uttering the mantra Nivṛttyātma make Him enter the body.

43-44. By the mantra Sarvātma then contemplate Him thus embodied; after getting up partially and making your obeisance, and after once again giving Him welcome, having prayed for His presence by means of the Sattva-Guṇavidyā, then by the mantra of Rajas Śakti give water for washing (pādya), etc., in due form.

45. With the mantra of eight syllables (Nārāyaṇa mantra) present water for washing hands in the prescribed form. Then with the vidyā of Rasa mātra present the mouth-perfume (mukha-vāsa).

46. Having offered by means of incense, flower garland &c., and obtaining permission, proceed in circumambulation to light up the fire and prepare the food (havis) in the prescribed manner.

47. Then coming back to God’s presence proceed, in the prescribed form, to give Him ablution with the mantra Tamas (Tamas Śakti), with water.

48. Having with clean water propitiated by the mantra Pañcopaniṣad, present with the guṇa-mantrā, the pair of cloths with the sacred thread (Yajñopavīta).

49. Then give the God ornaments if available or else mentally; and then with the Gandha-mantra-Vidyā, the auspicious sandal as well as garlands and flowers.

50. Then present a looking glass with the rūpa-mantra. Then present incense with Sparśa-mantra and light with the Rūpa mantra.

51. Then give water to wash, in due form, uttering the mantra of twelve syllables; and then the specially prepared food with the Rasa mantra as also other food, cakes, etc.

52. Then having offered water and betal etc. with the appropriate mantra as before, say the prayers with the Sparśa-mantra making due obeisance.

53-55. Go round saying the Dik-mantra, and, making by Kāla-Mantra the time of muttering prayer auspicious according to your wishes, and contemplating the God with the mantra Paramahaṃsa or the mantra of 12 syllables, or the mantra of eight syllables, or the Praṇava (the syllable then give water to wash with, the mantra Paramahaṃsa, and then prostrating and announcing yourself as His servant, send Him back.

56. In the manner in which He was invoked to be present, He must be requested to retire, apologising by prayer, for errors of performance in the course of worship.

57-58. This is an abbreviated exposition by me of the heroic course of worship. Worshipping daily in this manner, a devotee of Bhagavān (Viṣṇu) becoming holy and clear of all his sins, makes himself fit to pursue the path of emancipation, and obtain all he wishes for here and in the hereafter.

59-60A. He gets over all hindrances to salvation, and ceases to be troubled by tendencies inimical to salvation. A follower of this teaching, having well understood the prescribed course of worship, obtains the accomplishment of his object by worshipping in due form; otherwise he becomes a great sinner.

60B-61. Offer your worship to the image, having made a seat in the prescribed form. Conceiving in your mind the image itself to be the Yoga form of God, and installing in it Hari, worship Him after invoking Him there in due form.

62. The offer of worship in water does not differ from this; but when it is offered in fire do all that is prescribed, giving up whatever involves use of water.

63. If you offer worship in the vast space of your heart (Hṛd-Ākāśa), perform all acts of worship by the mind. He who wishes to worship Him in a circle (maṇḍala) however, let him do Worship as laid down below.

64. The worshipper shall place YogaAiśvarya and other Śaktis in the outer circle round the Yoga-pītha, the seat of God, each Śakti being placed in the point of the compass appropriate to her.

65. In a circle outside of this place the twelve protecting deities of the months (the 12 Ādityas). Outside of these place the guardians of the directions (Loka-Pālas) in the directions appropriated to them beginning with Indra in the East.

66. Contemplating all of these along the circles made in due order and regarding the seat as being on the axis, worship God there.

67-69A. Even when you worship God in the circle of the Sun the prescribed method is the same. In this manner, in all these places of worship, the expert in the rules of worship shall worship the God in Vaikuṇṭha in due time and on prescribed occasions. Having performed worship beginning with worship on the floor, and having gained faith in the doing of it, then proceed in order to other places prescribed; otherwise the resulting evil will be great.

69B-70A. In all forms of worship, in order to protect the worship of the Supreme Being from contamination of evil, place the guardians of the directions outside (the enclosure of worship).

70B-71A. Of all forms of worship that which is rendered by the mind is the highest. If the mind is not clear (in devotion) the act of worship brings no result.

71B-75. Meditation. with love is what is taken to be Bhakti. Worship offered without loving devotion is as good as not offered. Loving devotion is regarded as consisting of eight integral parts—the more so devotion to Viṣṇu, by attaining to which (Viṣṇubhakti) one gains the supreme Siddhi (emancipation) quickly. (1) The daily worship of God; (2) the preservation of the rule of the community; (3) the love of the devotees of Viṣṇu; (4) great zeal for worship of Viṣṇu; (5) effort at the performance of worship by oneself; (6) eagerness to hear stories relating to Viṣṇu; (7),absence of desire to do hurt to others; and (8) not living by means of Viṣṇu-worship. These make up the eight features of Bhakti as seen in man.

76. He who has heard the exposition of this treatise, is fit for expounding it to others.


77. What you stated as the worship of God (Apara Deva, God of the Worldly) by those wishing for prosperity, that worship of the Apara–God, pray expound to me now.


78. This same is the course of worship generally, even in regard to the worship of Apara-Viṣṇu. I shall expound that which is special as it was first given out, all the rest being the same for born.

79. Janārdhana should be worshipped on a red lotus, eight armed, with all his vehicles, weapons and attendants.

80. Place the serpent Ananta in the east, the lord of birds (Garuḍa) in the west. On the left of the God, Lakṣmī and on the right, Sarasvatī.

81. On the south-east Vṛddhi (growth) and on the south-west Siddhi (accomplishment); on the north-west Mati (wisdom) and on the north-east Śānti (Serenity).

82. Oh, Lotus born! the Conch, the Disc, the Mace, the Lotus, the Sword, the Shield, the Arrow and the Bow. These are the weapons in the eight hands of the divine one.

83. Bearing on His chest the jewel Kaustuba and wearing the mole Śrī-Vatsa, He assumes many forms for the successful accomplishment of His mission of beneficence to the world.

84. Twelve are the forms in which God should be worshipped by those wishing to attain prosperity. In the worship thus offered set the Haṃsa-mantra in the place of the Parama-Haṃsa wherever this is prescribed.

85-88. Adopting the course of creation, place the elements in their appropriate places. At the end of the worship should come the expression of one’s wish; the unbroken performance of worship in due time; the feeding of Vaiṣṇavas on proper occasion to the utmost extent of one’s capacity; gifts of all kinds in the same manner; respectful treatment to teachers; acquiring of the mantra of Vaiṣṇavas by means of proper instruction; carrying out without break, on the due occasion, of the vows enjoined on Vaiṣṇavas; these are the duties enjoined upon those who wish for attaining prosperity. Worship God for a year, or a period of 12 years if so desired.

89. Considered from the point of view of the prescribed worship, the prosperity to be attained are of two kinds; the first is that which is gained in this birth alone, and the other that which could be gained only in another future birth.

90-92. Of these two, the first is easier and the other is said to be more difficult. Having become a devotee to God to gain an object, and having died without gaining it, he will gain this object of his wish in another birth. Those who, through their life long, devote themselves to God’s service with a view to gain prosperity, become kings of regions well peopled. Nothing depends on the measure of time.

93. Those of intense devotion attain the accomplishment of their wish which is not otherwise attainable. This is but a brief account of the way of worship of God in the apara form (not the supreme), though that way of worship is described very elaborately.

In the Parama Saṃhitā of the Śrī Pāñcarātra, the Fourth Chapter entitled Arcanā Vidhāna (the mode of worship).

Footnotes and references:


The meaning of the second half of this sloka is not clear.

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