Pancaratra and the Ahirbudhnya Samhita, Part 2

BY: SUN STAFF

The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krsna


Feb 13, 2012 — CANADA (SUN) — A serial presentation of the Pancaratra and the Ahirbudhnya Samhita.

It has already been stated that one stanza of Ahirbudhnya Samhita is evidently quoted by Utpala Vaisnava in his Spandapradipika. This would, of course, prove that the Samhita (like Jayakhya mentioned in the latter and also in Utpala's work) must have once existed in Kashmir.

That it was actually composed in that country, must be concluded from two other passages, namely 26 and 45, recommending, or mentioning respectively, the wearing, as an amulet, of a certain diagram (yantra) drawn on a sheet of birch-bark (bhurja-pattra). Birch-bark, as is well known, was the writing material of ancient Kashmir.

In chapter 39 we read (sl. 23): "He shines like the sun freed from the confinement (or obstruction) by hima", which evidently refers to the sun rising from behind the snow-mountains (hima), that is to a sunrise in the Kashmir valley.

A third indication of the Kasmirian origin of our Samhita is probably the story of Muktapida told in the forty-eighth adhyaya. A prince of this name is not known from any other work (according to B. and R.'s dictionary) than the famous Kashmirian chronicle, the Raja Tarangini (4.).

About the age of the Samhita hardly anything more can be said with certainty than that it belongs to that class of Samhitas for which we have fixed the eighth century A. D. as the terminus ad quem. The only passage which might seem to indicate a later date, is the stanza 45, where king Kusadhvaja says to his teacher: " From thee have I obtained the Higher Science and also the Lower one; and by the fire of the Higher Science all my Karma has been burnt up."


Sanskrit Text on Birch Bark, Kashmir


It is difficult to read this without thinking of Shankaracarya's system. But Kusadhvaja, being a Pancaratrin, refers, of course, to the two "methods" (riti) described in the fifteenth adhyaya, distinguishing between the Veda and the inferior systems on the one hand, and the Pancaratra on the other. The distinction is based on that in the Bhagavad-Gita between the orthodox who swear on the Vedas and the enlightened ones who worship the Lord. Nor does the definition of avidya (ignorance), in 45 as the power obscuring the real nature (param rupam) of the jivatman and the paramatman necessarily point to Shankara's Advaita, because in the Pancaratra the Nigraha or Tirodhana Shakti is the cause of the "obscuration" of the souls but not of their plurality.

In both these cases, however, there remains, of course, the possibility of Advaitic terms and phrases (earlier perhaps than Shankara) having been adopted by the Pancaratra. If, on the other hand, there is in our Samhita an indication of an earlier date than the one mentioned, it would seem to be the fact that the "sixty topics" of the older Samkhya are enumerated in it. For, these sixty topics, as I have shown elsewhere, could no longer be enumerated by the Samkhyas themselves as early as the fifth century A. D.

The brilliant Samkhya Karika of Isvara Krsna having by that time completely eclipsed the older Samkhya, no later author could speak of the latter as though it were the only existing one, as does our Samhita. As for the terminus a quo of the latter, I venture to say that a work in which, as, apparently, in the eighth chapter of the Ahirbudhnya Samhita , and as in Shankara's Brahmasutra Bhasya (ad II, 2), Buddhism is understood to be divided into the three great schools of the Skandhavadins (Sarvastitvavadins, S.), Vijnanavadins, and Sunyavadins, cannot well have been written until some time after the Mahayana had established itself, say after 300 A. D.


REFERENCES:

Introduction to the Pancaratra and the Ahirbudhnya Samhita by F. Otto Schrader, Madras, 1916


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