Pancaratra and the Ahirbudhnya Samhita, Part 4


Sri Krsna's Universal Form, with Sudarshana

Feb 24, 2012 — CANADA (SUN) — A serial presentation the Pancaratra and the Ahirbudhnya Samhita.

Contents of the Ahirbudhnya Samhita (Continued)

Chapters 5 to 7 contain an account of creation which has been fully utilized in part II of this Introduction. Chapters 8 to 12 endeavour to show the various forms of the activity of the Sudarshana: (1) as the adhara base or "support" of the world during the periods of creation and dissolution (chapters 8 and 9) ; and (2) as the pramana "measure", that is, regulating principle during the period of the continuance of life (sthiti) in which it appears as the regulator (a) of things (artha) (chapter 10 ), and (b) of sounds (sabda) (chapters 11 and 12).

Chapter 8, before taking up the above subject, answers a question of Narada as to the diversity of philosophic views (slokas 1 to 23). Narada complains that there are so many different opinions about creation, some holding that it is effected by three elements(1), others assuming four(2), again others five(3), six(4), seven(5), eight(6), nine(7), ten, or eleven elements; some tracing it back to an egg(8), others to a lotus(8), others again to fire(9), to "another body"(10), to knowledge (vidya) (11), or to the Void (sunya) (12).

Ahirbudhnya answers that the variety of opinions has several causes: first, the natural impossibility for human speech to express adequately truths concerning the Absolute; then, that people ignorant of synonyms (aparyayavido janah) often mistake different names for different things; that the intellectual attainments of men differ considerably; and, finally, that God has an infinite number of different aspects one of which only is, generally, grasped and taught by a philosopher. Ahirbudhnya concludes by mentioning that of the "Brahmic days" some are pleasant, while others show an excess of rain, war, etc., and then, at the request of Narada, turns to the question of the adhara (sl. 34 fll.).

Lord Visnu's Attendants with Sudarshan and Shankh
10th-11th Century

The Sudarshana is the perpetual support (adhara) of this whole Bhuti or universe [of names-and-forms] which is borne (dhriyate) by it just as gems (pearls) are borne by the thread running through them, or as the leaf (betel leaves) by the pin [pierced on which they are offered for sale]. The Sudarshana, in upholding the universe, is the Calana Cakra or "Wheel of Motion" (9. 41-42), and as such has a peculiar form in each of the three periods, appearing respectively as the "Wheel of Creation", the "Wheel of Withdrawal", and the "Wheel of Continuance", while each of the three again operates as a whole as well as through a number of minor "wheels" corresponding to the several Tattvas.

Then there is, as the counterpart of the Calana Cakra, the Maharatridhara Cakra or "Wheel carrying the Great Night" which is said to have a single spoke and to be meditated upon by the sages. When creation begins, there appears first the "Wheel of Dawn" having two spokes; then, as the disk of Samkarsana, the "Wheel of Sunrise" having three spokes; then, with Pradyumna, the "Wheel of Lordship" having four spokes; then, with Aniruddha, the "Wheel of Potency" having five spokes; after this the "Wheel of the Seasons" having six spokes and representing the twelve Sub-Vyuhas; then the twelve-spoked "Great Sudarshana Wheel" connected with the Avataras, chief and secondary ones; and finally a thousand-spoked wheel holding the Highest Heaven.

Then (9. 1-9) there follow the wheels engaged in Non-pure Creation, namely: the Paurusa Cakra with three spokes, and the Shakti Cakra having thirty spokes and comprehending the Naiyata Cakra (with thirty spokes), the Kala Cakra (with six spokes), etc., the "Wheel of Space" (with one spoke), the "Wheel of Air" (with two spokes), etc., and finally the "Wheel of the Senses" (with eleven spokes).

Chapter 9, after the enumeration mentioned before of the "wheels" of Non-pure Creation, gives a most circumstantial description of the "Wheel of Motion" (creation, continuance, withdrawal; sl. 33) called here Mahavibhuti Cakra, "the Wheel of the Great Splendour (or of the Powerful Manifestation)"; and then describes, by means of only five stanzas (36 fll.), the "Wheel of Withdrawal" (Samhrti Cakra) which does apparently not differ from the (practically indescribable) "Wheel of the Great Night" except in having, like the "Wheel of Great Splendour", an infinite number of spokes.

The "Wheel of Great Splendour" is described as wearing a garment variegated by milliards of milliards of Cosmic Eggs; infinite numbers of Spaces [each pervading a "universe", but] appearing [from this higher point of view] like insignificant specks; crores of crores of Mahats which are a-mahat (not great); etc. etc.

Among the images there is the one mentioned above (part II, section 1, end) of the clouds, and the following bold comparison [ ], at the beginning of this section: "As the cloth of a big banner unfolded in space is upheld by the ever-purifying wind, even so Bhuti of the nature of Visnu's Shakti, from Samkarsana down to Earth, is upheld in the Support-less Place by [His] Will-to-be (samkalpa)."


1 Fire, water, earth; Chandogya Upanisad VI, 4 fll.
2 Earth, water, fire, air; view of a materialistic teacher of the Buddha's time, also apparently of a Buddhist sect (the Janakas).
3 The four and ether; view of many Upanisads and of certain materialists.
4 The five and the soul; a view mentioned in the Jain scriptures and called (by the comm.) atinasastha-vada.
5 The four, the soul, and pleasure and pain (regarded as substances); the saptakaya-vada of a rival of the Buddha (Pakudha Kaccayana) and evidently also of some later philosophers.
6 The five, Buddhi, Ahaipkara, and Manas (Bhagavad Gita VII, 4), or, possibly, the eight Aksaras (fire, earth, wind, atmosphere, sun, heaven, moon, stars) enumerated in Mahasanatkumara Samhita (Indraratra I, 30 fll).
7 The eight and the soul; Bhagavad Gita VII, 4-5.
8 See above pp. 80-81. ["Of such eggs…"
9 Cf. the theories, in the Upanisads, about Tapas, Tejas, Agni Vaishvanara, and Kalagni.
10 That is, "another aggregate [of Skandhas]" or "other Skandhas" (kaya="aggregate" or "trunk, stem"); referring to the Sautrantika school of Buddhism and its doctrine of the santati. That (cf. next note) "another substance" is meant is less likely.
11-12 Evidently the two Buddhist schools of the Vijnanavadins and Shunyavadins are meant.


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


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