Agamas, like Vedas, are the sources and ground of almost all the philosophical doctrines and the religious life of Hinduism in general and Saktaism and Saivism in particular. It is the treatise which enunciates the nature of the supreme as well as the way to achieve it.
Agamas are encyclopaedic in nature. They intensively advocate the ritualistic aspect of religious life and elaborately deal with the scriptural sanctions and regulations of he worship regarding the personal life, as well as the temple rituals. They emphatically assert the truth that is inherent in the philosophical teachings and the mystic experiences of spiritual life. Vedas are the treasures of the elite Aryas and hence to a great extent inaccessible to the common people, where as Agamas preach the spiritual and philosophical doctrines along with the intensive religious sacrament for all which can easily be implemented in the life of the common man irrespective of caste, colour and creed. It is to be noted here that Agama, unlike Veda offers authority of both the principle and the practice to all including the low caste and the women.
Agama and Tantra, as it is commonly known and accepted as the synonyms, is the vast treasure believed o be revealed by the Lord of the lords Siva. It is generally a discourse between the God Siva and the Goddess Parvati and with the other manifestations of the divinities such as Rudras, Rsis etc. the contents of Agamas are much more extensive and vibrating than Upanisads as it is related to and observed in almost all the aspects of the life by all the people of society. Some Agmas are also much more older than the later Upanisad Brihat jabala certainly came into existence long time after he old Agamas. Agamas are deemed to have scriptural authority as that of Veda. Sanskrit lexicon 'Nighantu' name the Veda as Nigama and Tantra as the Agama and hence both have been regarded under a common caption as 'Sruti'. since Vedas are mostly of the nature of mantra and so in the form of aphorisms; Agamas, on the other hand, are composed in verses. It is belived to be emanated from God and hence termed as 'Agama'. The syllable 'A' denotes that which is originated, 'ga' signifies 'falling' i.e., falling to the Goddess Parvati and 'ma' means the religion or the doctrine for the devotee. It is the exposition of divine knowledge, the supreme Reality and the way to attain it through the means of prescribed procedures and meditation with the hymns. According to some Saiva sects 'Agama' illustrates the knowledge (a), the liberation (ga) and the means to destroy the bonds (ma). It has been emphasized that the adherers of Agama aim a the ultimate Reality as pure consciousness and bliss, enhance the power of the body and mind for apprehending the Reality in and through their own being. It is to be note3d here that in Agama and Tantra emphasis has been laid down on the fact that human body (anda) consists of the potentiality of the divinity and the supreme Power inherent in the whole creation (pinda). Macrocosm is implied in Microcosm. That implicit Power can be awakened by being immersed in the unflinching deep meditation on the particular points immersed in the unflinching deep meditation on the particular points in the body (cakra) which are regarded to be the base of the power. Mantras are the potent fire that kindle the consciousness-power within; religious rites and duties are the helping processes that prepare the ground and the congenial state to get the ultimate power. Manifested within.
It is clear tha unlike Vedic trend agama aims at invoking the divinity within one's own self rather reaching Him. Hence various ways and means have been propounded in the form of Kriyapada and Caryapada, apart from Jnana and Yogapada to prepare the field for the manifestation of the Supreme Power. Almost all the Agamas consist of the four Padas namely Jnana, Yoga, Kriya and Carya. The four Padas conjoined together lead to the ultimate goal of life. Though the word Agama is a generally term signifying any scripture that is revealed, but the Agamas regarded by the Vaisnavas are named as the Samhita and almost all the Agamas of Sakta are known as Tantras. There are five schools of worshippers namely Saiva, Sakta, Vaisnava, Saura (related to the worship of sun) and Ganapatya (related to the worship of Ganapati), are collectively known as Pancopasana. In the later period, Kaumara school, relating to the worship of Kartikeya was also added and thus six schools had come into existence known as 'Sanmatam'. Bhagavat i.e., Pancaratra (Vaisnava sects) and Pasupatas (Saiva sects) had developed an unique procedure of worship in which the worshipper identifies himself with the God by purifying the external gross elements, inducing the life in the image to be worshipped by the process of nyasa, Mudra, mantra, Mandal etc. The underlying principle is worshipping God by becoming 'one with God'. Various rites such as festivals, vratas, fasting, had emerged as the external expressions of worship where as an unique internal procedure named as Kundaliniyoga had been evolved as the supreme means of attaining the goal. The scripture from which this special path which is founded on a definite principle of its own and that is different from the Vedic tradition, had emerged, is known as Agama. Various rituals that had been developed in this procedure are included under the caption of Caryapada of Agama tradition which is regarded as the complementary part of the Jnana and Yoga. Hence these four (Jnana, Yoga, Kriya and Carya) are the manifestations or the aspects of the one and the same procedure of worship which have influenced the later Puranas and Dharmasastras to a great extent. There is no doubt in it that Tantras, mainly the later ritualistic development of the previous Agama scripture, have widely influenced the Indian way of life both empirical and spiritual. Not only that these Tantra rituals have taken a new shape in Bauddha Tantra in the premedieval period.
There are twenty-eight Agamas divided into two groups namely Sivagamas and Rudragamas. Suksma, Yogaja, Cintya, Karana, Ajita, Dipta, Sahasra, Amsumat, Suprabheda are regarded as Sivagamas and Vijaya, Nihsvasa, Svayambhuva, Anala, Vira, Raurava, Makuta, Vimala, Candrajnana, Mukhbimba, Prodgita, Lalita, Siddha, Santana, Sarvokta, Paramesvara, Kirana and Vatula are the Rudragamas. These are advocated by the ten Sivas such as Pranava etc. and the Eighteen Rudras like Anadi etc.
Candrajnana also known as Candrahasa which is in the ninth position of the list of Rudragamas contains the Kriyapada in twelve chapters and Caryapada in eight chapters presented in the form of discourse between Anantarudra and Brhaspati. After describing the philosophical tenets of Saivism, in short, i.e. the nature of Pati, Pasu, Pasa, and the different spheres of the universe which is nothing but the manifestation of and controlled by the ultimate principle Siva, a detailed discussion has been illustrated about the Astavarana (Guru, Linga, Jangama, Padodak, Prasada, Bhasma, Rudraksa and Mantra), Pancacara (Lingacara, Sadacara, Sivacara, Ganacara, and Bhrtyacara), special features and the way of life of different Saivas and the Doctrine of 'Jnana-Karma samuccaya' in Kriyapada and the Procedures of last rites to be performed in case of the demise of Saivadevotees and the different procedures of atonement (prayascitta) for the various sins, in Caryapada. These are the righteous rites to be observed as an integrated part of the Sambhava vrata that leads to the attainment of final goal i.e. liberation and the enjoyment of the nature of God i.e. eternal Bliss. Thus, Candrajnanagama embodies almost all the philosophical tenets and religious sacraments of the Virasaivism.
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