Parama Samhita (English translation)

by Krishnaswami Aiyangar | 1940 | 69,979 words

This page describes pilgrimage (yatra) which is Chapter 25 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 25 - Pilgrimage (yātrā)


1. To people who are unable to worship you by means of jñāna-yoga (path of wise contemplation), but who are still ever devoted to you, what indeed is the best course of worship for their ultimate good?


2. To these is prescribed as Dharma (duty), O, Kamlāsana! the visit to holy places, in the manner prescribed for devotees of Viṣṇu.

3. Even those, who are possessed of knowledge, but have not given up life (as house-holders), and still desire to pursue the best path of Dharma, should visit holy places all round.

4. In whatever place a man's senses attain to serenity, that place is to be understood as a holy place, destructive of the sins of men.

5. The manner in which those places should be visited to bring about the growth of devotion in the pilgrim, I shall describe to you with a view to the good of the world.

6. Those holy places which can be visited in one day, or even two days, do not gain for the pilgrim, holiness; while those requiring three days and more, bring him merit.

7. A holy place nearer than ten Yojanas (leagues, about 75 miles) is not productive of merit. The greater the time and the longer the distance, the greater is the merit of the pilgrimage (yātrā).

8-9. Even with the length of time and distance, if one happens to go on other business, or for pleasure, or, if through some delusion the place is held in small esteem, or, if a holy place happens to be visited in the course of business, or at the expense of another, by a foolish man, such visits bring no merit.

10. Even in undertaking a pilgrimage (yātrā), if the pilgrim happens, for some reason or other, to lose esteem for the place, by foolishness arising from growing nescience, even then the pilgrimage brings no good.

11. Therefore a man should make the pilgrimage, on his own responsibility, and, with the fixed purpose to gain merit, with a mind serene, and without thought of other business.

12. One who is able, should provide his food, else earn his food by begging. He should never accept food which is supplied with a view to gaining merit.

13. To a pilgrim, means of living is provided only to the extent of keeping his body from becoming unfit. This is laid down for all cases of pilgrimage (yātrā) by men, as it is understood by people.

14-15. Rivers that flow into the sea, and places where they join the sea are holy places (tīrthas). Wells used by saintly people, temples on the tops of hills, places dedicated to gods, inaccesible and fearsome forest-hermitages in the occupation of sages (Siddhas), places possessing vestiges of gods (Divaṅkasas) are also such.

16. Holy places on the Bhāgirathī and Sarasvatī, are found along their course down to the sea; they are particularly holy for men.

17-18. Holy places there are in Kurukṣetra and on the Sālagrāma River (R. Gandaki); so also on the Śrī-parvata (Śrī-Śaila) and in the holy Kumāri (Comorin). Other holy places are the bridge built by Rama (Rama-setu), the holy place of Gokarṇa; so also Surpāraka, Puṣkara, and Naimiśa (forest).

19-21A. Among the holy places, places, dedicated to Viṣṇu arc the most holy is our highest conviction. A wise man, having reached any one of the holy places, should, first of all fast for three days, or at least for one. day. If one is unable to do so, he should live on alms or roots and fruits; and, keeping silent and giving himself to contemplation, let him devote himself to offering worship by repeating mantras inaudibly.

21B-25. Having bathed and taken the holy sip, with other pure water thereby becoming pure, one who knows the mantra should imagine the seat of yoga-contemplation in water, and mentally invoking God thereon, should offer, with that same water, padya (water for washing feet), ācamana (holi sip) and arghya(water for washing one’s hands). Then imagining the water flowing from God’s feet as falling on his own head, let the devotee of Bhagavat take his plunge in silence in the holy water. Sprinkling the water over his head with the pañcopaniṣad-mantra, a thousand or a hundred times, and then, having got through all the prescribed rites for a holy bath, and having offered water-oblations to the gods, let him then take earth from holy place, having given before money largesses to the extent of his means. If he rubs his body over with that earth in his daily bath, he becomes pure.

26. Bringing the water from the holy place, a Vaiṣṇava if desiring purity, should sprinkle it over himself, one day or three days.

27-28. A wise man will listen to the Itihāsas in the holy place, even making the effort to get the chance of doing so, as these are arranged to be read from generation to generation, as conducive to devotion. By hearing let him learn the features of the accomplished initiates who had lived and passed away; so also the wonderful exploits of the gods and sages.

29. Let the gods of the holy places be borne in mind, both inwardly and outwardly, by the pilgrim. Wise Vaiṣṇa-vas are always devoted to their own duties of devotion to Viṣṇu, as else they would not be Vaiṣṇavas.

30. In whatever manner one should conduct himself when one has arrived at the holy place as detailed above, the Whole set of acts is called the mode of the pilgrimage. Let it not be regarded as service imposing hardship.

31. A man should take for company, when he goes on pilgrimage those better than himself or those who are equal, to the number of one, two or three at the most; but never those inferior to him.

32. A wise man will make his pilgrimage (yātrā) with those who have renounced life and have attained to the control of their senses. In the course of the pilgrimage let him give them proper treatment (due to their station in life).

33. Whatever men give up their all, And with shaven heads and dyed robes wander the world over, they are my dearest ones.

34. Therefore a Bhāgavta (a worshipper of Bhagavat or Viṣṇu), should render service always unto them only. Service rendered to them is service rendered to God.

35. Giving to them begging-bowls etc., with full devotion, and getting in return instruction from them, a wise man becomes the most beloved of Viṣṇu.

36. Do nothing unpleasing to the residents of those holy places; nor to the gods of the place, nor to the creatures all round.

37. Whatever is the season for pilgrimage (yātrā) to a particular holy place by good people, one should go to those places then; if one is unable to do so let him visit the place at the parvas (new moon and full moon days).

38. Visit the principal ones among the places, on the twelth day of the month Śravaṇa (month in which the sun is in Leo), or when the sun enters each house of the Zodiac. To other holy places there is no fixed time appointed.

39. Otherwise, to yogins devoted to Viṣṇu, who lead a wandering life on this earth, all times are prescribed as suitable.

40. Whichever holy place gives one’s mind serenity on reaching it, a wise man will stay there long, with a fixed determination to carry out his vow.

41. Wherever one’s mind does not attain to serenity, even after reaching the holy place, let him not stay there long, even if it be One of the chief places of pilgrimage to devotees of Viṣṇu

42. Even under great distress, a man devoted to Viṣṇu should never accept even a little of money, from small minded men, for daily existence.

43. A wise man should not accept alms in a holy bathing place; but he should go out and first beg enough to sustain himself.

44. Where great crowds gather, amidst bad people, and, when one is in great danger to life itself, one is permitted to eke out his existence somehow.

45. A wise man will go on his pilgrimage (yātrā), muttering mantras sacred to Viṣṇu. He should also engage himself in reciting stories relating to Viṣṇu for the delectation of his comp anions on pilgrimage.

46. Having gone to assemblies of people, full of everything desirable and of high character, stay there only till one gets what is wanted and no longer, if that one is eager to gain the benefit of the pilgrimage.

47. A wise man even though he be given to enjoyment of holy places, he should give up playful acts there; such as clapping hands, joking, laughing, playing at dice and sexual indulgence.

48. If one indulges in these in the course of pilgrimages undertaken by him, all the benefits arising from the pilgrimage will be appropriated by Brahmarākṣasas (evil spirits into which Brahmans are transformed for lapse in the conduct of holy rites).

49. To those going on pilgrimages there are great benefits, namely, faith in the path of devotion, and adequate knowledge of meditation on the Supreme.

50. One who goes round the world on pilgrimage (yātrā) bent, obtains the highest benefit desired; he will not be troubled by sins.

51. He obtains great knowledge and recollection of anterior births. He knows how to avert evil, and obtains the grace of the God of Gods.

52. Therefore a devotee should, by all efforts possible, perform pilgrimages for the attainment of the desired end. That is the supreme good.

In the Paramasaṃhitā of the Pāñcarātra Chapter XXV, entitled pilgrimage (Yātra)

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