Pancaratra and the Ahirbudhnya Samhita, Part 3


Bharadwaja Rishi
19th c. Company School

Feb 14, 2012 — CANADA (SUN) — A serial presentation of the Pancaratra and the Ahirbudhnya Samhita.

Contents of the Ahirbudhnya Samhita

Chapter 1. The Samhita opens, after a salutation to the Lord and His consort, with a dialogue between the two Rsis Bharadviija and Durvasas, the latter of whom is asked by the former for an explanation of that mysterious discus of Visnu called the Sudarshana.

On many occasions in connection with the divine weapons (astra), powers (shakti), and magic formulas (mantra) the dependence on the Sudarshana having been mentioned, Bharadvaja wants to know:

"Due to whom [or what] is its majesty? Is it innate or created? What is that Sudarshana? What is the meaning ascribed to the word? What work does it perform? How does it pervade the universe? Who are the Vyuhas, how many and of what kind, that have sprung from it, sage? And for what purpose do they exist, and of what nature is He to whom they belong (the vyuhin)? And of what kind is its (the Sudarshana's) connection with Visnu supposed to be? Is it (the Sudarshana) necessarily and always found in connection with Him [alone] or elsewhere too? This is the doubt which has arisen in me from the perusal of various Shastras. Solve it, holy one! I have duly approached thee. Teach me, master! "

Durvasas answers that this is a common doubt among the wise, and that its solution was once obtained by Narada from the only one in this world who is able to solve it, namely the great god Shiva [who in the form of Ahirbudhnya is] the highest representative of knowledge.

Narada had been induced to approach Shiva because he had observed the amazing strength of the Sudarshana in Visnu's fight with the demon Kalanemi. Durvasas agrees to impart to Bharadvaja this dialogue between Narada and Ahirbudhnya, that is, the Ahirbudhnya Samhita. But he only agreed to give it in an abridged form: the extent of the original Samhita was two-hundred and forty chapters; then, time having advanced and human capacity deteriorated, it was reduced, "for the benefit of men", to half the original, and now a further abridgment to only sixty chapters had become necessary.

Chapter 2. Explanation of the word Sudarshana (slokas 7 to 9): it denotes Visnu's Will-to-be (shyam iti samkalpa), darshana (seeing, sight) meaning preksana (prospective thought) and su, (well, perfectly) expressing its being unimpeded by time and space. Everything in the world being dependent on the Sudarshana, the latter's power is, of course, natural (samsiddhika, sl.12) and not created. Two of Narada's questions are herewith answered.

After some more questions of Narada (to be answered in the course of the Samhita) there follows (sl. 22 fll.) a long explanation of the concept of the " Highest Brahman ", the real nature of which is experienced in Liberation only, and which nobody can hope to attain by his own efforts, even if he would fly upwards in space like the king of birds (Garuda) for a thousand years with the velocity of thought. The last section is concerned with the definition of the six Gunas of God (see above, p. 31 fll.)

Visnu with Sudarshan Chakra
Trivakram Caves at Badami

Chapter 3. The object of this chapter is to explain the Sudarsana by identifying it with the Kriya Shakti or active side (force aspect) of the Lord as distinguished from His formal side (matter aspect) called Bhuti Shakti. The chapter opens by explaining the meaning of Shakti: it is the subtle condition (suksmavastha) or thing-in-itself (idamta) of any existence (bhava), recognizable by its effects only. Each manifestation of life (bhava) has a Shakti inseparably connected with it, but there is also one omnipresent Shakti, the Shakti of God. Laksmi is the Lord's "vibration in the form of the world" (prashpuhurta jaganmayi); she is connected with Him as the moonlight is with the moon, or the sunshine with the sun; different from Him only as an attribute (dharma) differs from its bearer (dharmin], or existence (bhava) from him who exists (bhavat).

Many of the names of Laksmi are enumerated and explained in sl. 7 to 24. Then, after mentioning that Shakti is twofold and Bhuti Shakti threefold (details of which follow later), the rest of the chapter (sl. 29-56) is occupied with the mutual relation of the two Shaktis and the identity of the Kriya Shakti with the Sudarshana. The Sudarshana is, according to stanza 30, will (iccha] embodied in wisdom (preksa) and resulting in action (kriya).

Chapter 4 turns to "that cause" which, "pervaded by the Sudarshana", " takes to creation", namely the Bhuti Shakti or material cause of the world, in order to explain how that principle, after having been "a cow in the form of clouds" (megha-rupini dhenuh) becomes once more "the non-cow, sapless and withered, called the Non-manifest (avyakta) ". The pratisamcara "re-absorption" or "in-volution" (=pralaya, 5.) described here at great length is the exact reversal of the process of creation (described in part II of this Introduction).

At the end of the involution the Shakti of Visnu returns to the condition of Brahman (brahma-bhavam rrjati) in exactly the same way as a conflagration, when there is no more combustible matter, returns to the [latent] condition of fire (vahni-bharam). "Owing to over-embrace" (ati-samslesat) the two all-pervading ones, Narayana and His Shakti, have become, as it were, a single principle (ekam tattram ira).


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


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