In the beginning of the sixties Mrs. Seeta Padmanabhan approached me with the desire to undertake some research work. As a member of the Madras Educational Service, she could not join my Department in the University of Madras as a regular research scholar. Consequently I had to decide upon some work which she could do in course of time, in the limited leisure she could find in the midst of her teaching duties. I had already at that time planned for some sustained work in the neglected field of Pancaratra Agama and put her on the work of preparing detailed summaries in English of the contents of the .Agama texts that had been published in Grantha, Telugu and Devanagari scripts and at the same time, asked her also to take up one text either not printed or printed in Grantha or Telugu script for critical edition and publication in Devanagari script. This explains the background of the present publications. Mrs. Padmanabhan applied herself to the work and over the long period that she had been at it, she had gone through several Pancaratra texts in print and in manuscript, visited well known Pancaratra experts at Srirangam and other Vaisnava temple centres, collected a good deal of material on the subjects dealt within the Pancaratra texts and prepared inventories and charts of the topics, rites, rituals etc., dealt within them. The other item of work done by her is the preparation of materials for a Devanagari edition of the Pancaratra text Sriprasnasamhita.
As she has explained in the English Introduction to the present edition, this text had been published in Grantha script in Kumbhakonam in 1904. For the present edition that Grantha printed text had been collated with the paper manuscript in the Madras Government Oriental Mss. Library bearing the number D. 531. The text presented is based on this manuscript. The readings of the Grantha edition are given in the footnotes and apart from these readings, additional critical notes have also been added from other Samhitas, where parallel passages occur. Although owing to the increase in the bulk of the volume and the delay and difficulty in printing, and more so because of the Agamakosa under preparation, we could not include several charts and illustrations prepared as accessories to this edition, Appendices have been added to the introduction giving in tabular statements, lists of some of the topics dealt with in the text like the Mudras, the musical Ragas, Talas, instruments and dances employed during the numerous services in the temple and the very large number of the Vedic, Puranic and Agamic mantras mentioned in the text, as also tables of parallel lines in the Sriprasna and other texts from which it derives its material to a large extent namely the Yogatattva Upanisad and the Padma, Satvata and lsvara Samhitas. For facilitating easy reference to the different topics dealt within the Text, an elaborate analysis of the contents of each chapter of the Text has been given in Sanskrit.
Of the two sources used for this edition, some of the variants found in the Grantha edition ('Gr') are better, but several of these better readings appear to be emendations effected for words and passages showing metrical and grammatical lapses' in the original. Some corruptions and difficult and doubtful words and passages are common to both. There are additional lines in 'Gr' which are included in the text within square brackets.
With Veda, Smrti and Purana, Agama is also one of the most important Sastras in Hinduism governing, in various degrees and ways, the temple and household ritual of the different sects. This Sastra is therefore worthy of study as an important part of religion and culture.
The main question is how to realise practically the truths of religion. The answer is Sadhana. And this Sadhana Sastra is the Tantra or Agama in its different sc4001s, which prescribes a particular way of life and a practical course of self-discipline in conformity with the theoretical teachings. In this fact lies the chief significance of Agama. As regards fundamental doctrines, the Tantra Sastra does not teach anything which is not found in essence in Indian philosophy. The Tantra Sastra accepts the authority of the Veda and the Vedanta or the six philosophic systems. It also accepts the sabda doctrine of the Mimamsakas, subject to certain modifications to suit its own theory, the Purusa and Prakrti Tattvas of the Samkhyas, and the Yoga philosophy in all its forms. On the ritualistic side, it contains the commonly accepted rituals of Hinduism, namely Nyasa, Mantra, Japa, Puja, Dhyana etc., as well as the Vedic rites, the various Samskaras, Homa etc. As man have, no longer the capacity, longevity and moral strength required to carry out fully the Vaidika Karma Kanda in the present Kali Yuga, the Tantra Sastra prescribes a Sadhana of its own, for the attainment of the common end of all the Sastras in terms of a happy life on earth and at the end, liberation.
The three main schools of the Agama Sastra are Sakta, Saiva and Vaisr.wva, inculcating respectively the worship of Sakti, Siva and Visnu, through symbols and images consecrated according to the sacred texts and traditions of the respective Agamas. Necessarily, there are certain things common to all these schools and certain other matters wherein they differ. The main elements of Sadhana are common to all these three, such as Puja (internal and external), Pratima (Images) and other modes of worship, rites and meditation Upacara,sandhya Yajna, Vrata, Mandala, Yantra, Mantra, Japa, Nyasa Bhuta-suddhi, Mudra, Dhyana, Samskaras, Homa, etc.
Not withstanding a general community of ritual forms, there are some differences, which are due to two causes. Firstly, due to differences in the Deity worshipped, and secondly to difference of the philosophical background, Dvaita, Visistadvaita and Advaita. The presentation of the fundamental ideas are sometimes made m different terms. Vaisnava Pancaratra Agama describes the creative process in terms of the Vyuhas, while the Saiva-Sakta Agamas explain it on the basis of the Abhasa theory and the thirty six Tattvas. But all these schools agree in postulating the three main realities namely (1) The Supreme Being, (2) the individual souls and (3) the objective universe. Likewise they hold the view that the world is real.
Wrong notions prevail on the subject of the relation of the Tantras to the Vedas. Statements are made by opposing schools that certain Sastras are contrary to Sruti even though they profess to be based thereon. Vaisnava Pancaratra is considered non-Vedic by some; in the same way, the Saiva and Sakta by others. Let us examine how far these various Agamic schools differ from the Vedas. The worship of the Deity as well as personal observances of the worshipper include the whole gamut of Vedic Mantras and Samskaras of ablution, Sandhya, the Samskaras, Japa, utterance of Mantras, Homa, Tarpana etc. Even Bijaksaras and use of Mudras can be traced to the Vedas, the Brahmanas and Srauta sutras. OM or Pranava dominates the Tantras, and it is so in the Vedas too. The Tantras also direct the use of certain Yantras which may be of various kinds and forms and used for various purposes. One such that is constantly used is a triangle within a square and these can be traced to the rules for the preparation of the fire altar of the Vedic people.
The word Tantra has been derived from the root "Tan" to "spread" with the addition of the suffix "stran". Vacaspati.Anandagiri and others however derive the word from the root" Tatri" or "Tantri" in the sense of Vyutpadana or origination (of knowledge). According to one derivation, Tantra is from "Tan" and "Tra", Tan meaning ''to spread". Tantra is that scripture by which knowledge is spread (Tanoti, vistarayati jnanam). The "Tra" means to save".
That is, a particular kind of religious scripture is called Tantra because it promulgates knowledge concerning Tattva and Mantra and thus saves the Sadhaka from Samskara. Historically speaking, this class of scripture deals with the worship of Saguna Brahman which gained increasing vogue at the close of the age of the Upanisads, partly because of the falling into disuse of the elaborate and difficult Vedic Acara and partly because of the increasing numbers of persons entering into the Hindu fold, who required other forms and practices. The Ghosundi and Besnagar inscriptions show that in the second century B.C. the Bhagavata religion had overflowed the boundaries of the Mathura region and it had reached even the non-Indian peoples, some of whom became converts to this faith.
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