It was in the year 1974 that Professor Mr. Sampath Kumaran of Madras wrote to me asking whether I would deliver three lectures on Vaishnava Agamas. These lectures were to be held under auspicious of Professor M. Rangachariya Memorial Trust of which Professor Sampath Kumaran was the founder and patron. I agreed to deliver the lectures. Three months later the lectures were delivered at Chennai and was well attended by the scholars like Professor Ober Hammer of Vienna, Dr.V. Raghavan and Dr. M. Narasimhachari. Few days later Prof. Sampath Kumaran suggested to me to take up the writing a book on Agama-s on the basis of the lectures delivered by me. Agreeing to write this book, I prepared the materials when Professor Sampath Kumaran raised problems now the then which were genuine and required my solutions for the same. The result of writing the book which included my opinions on these brought the book to a considerable size and was given the name Agama-s and South Indian Vaishnavism. This included the treatment of the concepts of both Vaikhanasa and Pancharatra Agama-s. This book was well received.
In the Year 1991, my friend Professor S.B. RAghunathachariya, formerly Vice Chancellar of the Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeetha, Tirupathi made a suggestion that the Pancharatra Agama could receive a smaller work at my hands. I agreed and sent him the manuscript. This has now been taken up the T.T.D., Tirupathi Publication. I hope that this would receive the attention of scholars when it is released for the public. I thank immensely the T.T.D. authorities for giving due attention to this book. I prey to Lord Srinivasa who had written this book keeping me, a devotee servant for the cause of Pancharatra Agama as an instrument for the purpose.
The Vedas are the perennial source of Indian philosophy and culture. The Agamas, next only to the Vedas, are also looked upon as equally important source-books for satisfying the spiritual aspirations of man. The agamas viz the Pancharatra and Vaikhanasa sanctified the Bhakti cult and stressed the need for worshipping a personal God who is the fountainhead of all creation.
The Pancharatra agamas form an important part of the liturgical tradition in the country. The greatness of this Agama has been well established by Sri Yamunacharya in his Agamapramanya and by Sri Ramanujacharya in his Sri Bhashya. The devotees of Sriman Narayana regard the Pancharatra tradition as authoritative as the Vedas themselves. According to the samhitas dealing with this mode of worship, the Lord created the Pancharatra literature also for the attainment of the Highest Bliss by the worship of the Deity and the realization of His nature. In the Moksha Dharma of the Mahabharata Vyasa describes at length the teachings of this Agama and concludes with the following remarks: “This great Upanishad containing the teachings of the four Vedas and the teachings of Karma Yoga and Jnana Yoga is known as Pancharatra. This is the good sought of men. This is Brahman. This is the highest goal; it includes all the four Vedas.”
This monograph on Pancharatra by Dr. Varadachari, a renowned scholar and an authority on the Agamas discusses the fundamental concepts of the Pancharatra system and elucidates the philosophy underlying this ancient tradition. Written in a clear and simple style, the book enables one to understand how the Pancharatragama has exercised considerable influence on the religious movement and stimulated the growth of Bhakti consciousness in our country.
We hope that the book which is brought out as a part of TTD’s programme to revitalize our spiritual tradition, will be well received by our readers.
From the earliest times, communities of people have been living on earth in healthy surroundings. Some of them, who felt their life insecure in the region where they lived, migrated from place to place in search of areas with peace and plenty. All of them had to face at one time or other, disappointments and failures and undergo trials and tribulations. They adopted the means available to them to overcome their afflictions, but these measures did not yield the intended result. Temporary relief was there but the worldly misery could not be eradicated. It is then they realized that human efforts are fruitless and that the helping hand was beyond their reach and control. Assistance to solve these problems was in the control of a superhuman power which was given the same god. Prayers were offered to him. The concepts of religious beliefs and practices varied from community to community. Religions thus became a potent factor in their lives. There is no direct evidence to ascertain the nature of religious concepts which those communities believed in.
Fortunately, for the followers of Sanatana-dharma in India, there is the literature called Veda containing the dogmas of the religion followed by the ancient people. The Veda is the oldest record in the world and has been transmitted down to the present day by oral tradition. The word Veda is derived from the word ‘vid’ to know and stands for the means of knowing reality.
Along with the Veda-s there has been, in existence, another course of thought called Agama, which arose as a distinct current with dependence upon the Veda-s and so was later to the Veda-s in origin. This however did not have any literature for a very long period.
The Veda-s are also known by another name Nigama. The names Nigama and Agama are obtained from the same root ‘gam’ meaning to go and also to know. Both the Veda-s and Agama-s mean thus two currents of religious thought.
The Veda-s are religious in character. They contain the hymns of invocation for god, who arrive at the sacrificial sessions, receive the offerings made by the priest and disappear. Many deities were worshipped in this way. Secular matters also are treated in them.
The Agama has two divisions with the names Agama and Tantra. These must have been distinct from each other in the early periods. They became closely allied to each other with some common features. The names Agama and Tantra were freely used to refer to both, the distinctive feature however being kept on.
The Agama is a source of knowledge. It treats the means and practices that would put an end to human misery. The practical part lies in worshipping God following the rules laid down in them.
The word ‘tantra’ is made up of two roots ‘tan’ and ‘tra’. The former means extending or elaborating the knowledge about the topics (tattva) which require to be studied. The latter root means protection. The two roots together mean a system which provides people with the means of knowing reality and protects them from distresses.
Both the Agamas and Tantra recognize Sakti, a female principle of microcosmic energy which the tantra in particular, takes as present in the human body in the form of a serpent in the perineum (Muladhara) and moves upwards through circles (cakra) called Svadhisthana. Manipura, Anahata, Visuddha and Ajna. This is to be controlled, according to th Tantric directions by Yogic power. The universe could then be brought within man who gets miraculous powers. Cosmic energy is thus utilized for attaining spiritual excellence and salvation.
Both the Agama and. tantra deal with the cruel practices, more importance being given to them in the Tantra. These should have been practiced for purposes of defence when the enemies were to be faced and sometimes for offensive purposes as well.
Both the systems prescribe initiation (diksa) as a preparatory step qualifying the aspirants to practice the rituals. Initially, this process destroys the material defects and creates perfection in the aspirant. While the Agama enjoins the worship of the idol externally and meditate on the deity and mantra internally, the Tantra lays stress on internal worship, without ignoring the external process.
Construction of temples, installation of idols and conduct of festivals are given prominent treatment in the Agama-s. These have secondary treatment in the Tantra-s. Such practices got mixed up in the Agama and Tantra leading to the treatment of the Agama as Tantra and vice-versa.
An objection is raised against the admission of the Agama system which is not necessary, while there is already a full-fledged and authentic vedic system. The Agama-s are to be disowned for their non-vedic character. Tantrika mantra-s are used as against the vedic ones. Women and sudra-s, who are not eligible to have investiture with the sacred thread (upanayana) are taught the tantrika mantras and are allowed to worship the idols after undergoing initiation (diksa). Invocation (avahana) and send-off (visarjana) which mark the worship of God according to the vedic practice are dispensed with. Instead, an enduring form of God as idol is instituted. Monotheism is the doctrine of godhead, in the place of worship of many deities in the vedic fold. Besides cruel practices are enjoined resulting in causing injury to others.
In answer to the points raised above, it must be admitted that the deity, which is invoked while performing a ritual, is not visible to any one but to the actual participants as rests. Hence too, the deity is stated to present itself in the Mantra. Others, who are mere onlookers, are denied the vision of God. Earnestness on their part and also in the case of women and sudra-s, who are prohibited from actual participation as they do not study the Veda-s, should have expressed itself in favour of an enduring form of God. An idol alone could be enjoined to serve this purpose and so does not require invocation or send-off. Women and sudra-s who are not eligible for the use of Vedic mantra-s are therefore given initiation and taught Tantrika mantra-s which are formed out of the Vedic mantra-s with the mingling of Tantrika syllables. More than one deity could not receive worship in the case of the idol. Monotheism must therefore mark the concept of godhead in the Agamas. Other deities are also given their due share and treated as forming part of the retinue of the principal deity. Regarding the practice of cruel acts, it must be understood that a way of life prescribed by the Agama should take note of the possible occasions, when one has to face the enemy and prepare, in advance, to defend himself by resorting to such practices.
In this context, it must be noted that the practices of the Agama against which objections are raised are already formed in the vedic texts. The worship of God in the form of idol is mentioned in the Sadvimsabrahmana of the Samaveda. This passage refers to the impending calamities. The tantrika syllables are found used in the Vedic texts.
Upanayana is done to the hunter and wheelright for their attendance to their duties connected with the temple building. There are references to cruel practices in the Vedic texts and also to the expiatory rites when such practices are undertaken.
Not merely are the Agama-s free from invalidity but are held authoritative on the following grounds. Names of sages like Sanatkumara, Bharadvaja, Atri, Kasyapa and others occur as those of narrators or interlocutors. They figure also prominently in the Vedic texts and texts allied to the Veda-s. The Mahabharata uphold the authority of the Pasupata, Pancaratra and other systems.
Your email address will not be published *
Send as free online greeting card
Email a Friend