Pancaratra and the Ahirbudhnya Samhita, Part 5


Sudarshana Chakra at Jagannatha Puri Dham

Feb 25, 2012 — CANADA (SUN) — A serial presentation the Pancaratra and the Ahirbudhnya Samhita.

Contents of the Ahirbudhnya Samhita (Continued)

Chapters 10 to 12 are devoted to the description of the Sthiti Cakra, that is the Sudarshana as the regulative principle (pramana) of the various forces active during the period between Creation and Dissolution. Chapter 10, on the one hand, and Chapters 11 and 12, on the other, refer to what the Shaivas call the Artha Adhvan and the Shabda Adhvan. Pramana is defined (in sl. 15) as "that by which everything obtains its fixed measure (iyatta)". Another definition (32-33) runs: "The course of Hari's Will possessed of the Regulative Wheel (pramana-cakra) is [to be recognized in] the limit (maryada) eternally fixed for every principle (tattva)."

Chapter 10 shows how the "things" (artha), that is, manifested nature without the universe of sounds (to be dealt with in the following chapters), are governed by the Sudarshana; that is to say: (1) how the "divine pleasures " in Highest Heaven are regulated by it; how owing to it the Kutastha is kept in his place (between Pure and Impure Creation) ; how Time appears always in the form of kalas, kasthas, etc., and Buddhi as righteousness, dispassion, etc.; how each of the five elements keeps its characteristics; etc. etc. ; (2) how, owing to it, the cherishing of the Sattva Guna is rewarded with food, rain, etc., and indulging in Tamas followed by famine and the like; and (3) how it renders possible the continuance of the world by means of the divine Shastras such as the Discus, Plough, Club, Conch, etc., used by the Lord in His Avataras in order to fight the unrighteous, and how, on the other hand, it keeps effective the one hundred and twenty magical Astras, the imprecations by Rsis, et hoc genus omne.

Chapters 11 and 12 are intended to show how the regulative power (pramana) of the Sudarshana manifests itself through the word (sabda), that is, by means of the systems of religion and philosophy. For, says stanza 1 2 of chapter 11: "To resist successfully the enemies of virtue, two means are required: the array (vyuha) of Sastras and Astras, and the Sastra."

Chapter 11 begins by explaining why the Avataras of God become necessary in the course of time. The reason is the inevitable deterioration of the world in the course of the Yugas: first, indeed, there is a predominance of the Sattva Guna, but soon it begins to diminish, owing to the incessant growth of Rajas and Tamas, and so "this Sattvic divine limit" begins to fluctuate (sl. 8).

After this introduction the chapter takes up the description of the original Shastra which, at the beginning of the golden age, came down from heaven "like a thunderclap", "dispelling all inner darkness". It was proclaimed by Samkarshana. It was an harmonious whole comprehending within it everything worth knowing for man: the Vedas and Vedangas, Itihasas and Puranas, Samkhya, Yoga, Pashupata, etc. (sl. 20-46), and consisted of a million chapters.

The first men, the divine Manus, the Manavas and Manavamanavas regulated their whole life by means of it to the satisfaction of the Lord. But then, "by the change of time", the division in Yugas, and with it the shrinking of Sattva and the growth of Rajas, became manifest at the beginning of the Treta age; and, "the high-souled Brahmanas wishing wishes (longing for pleasures), that beautiful system (sudarshanam sasanam) took a slow course".

Lord Nrsimhadeva wielding Sudarshana Chakra

Then the divine Rsis, taking counsel, decided that from the original Shastra separate systems suited for the diversity of intellects should be extracted, and, after having practised severe austerities for very many years, they set to work, with the result that Apantara-tapas (Vacyayana) fashioned (tataksa) the three Vedas, Kapila the Samkhya, Hiranyagarbha the Yoga, and Shiva (Ahirbudhnya) the Pashupata, while the Lord Himself extracted, as the purest essence of the "sole divine Shastra", the " system (tantra) called Paricaratra describing Him as Para, Vyuha, Vibhava, etc.: and being recognizable by having Liberation as its sole result".

Chapter 12. The five recognized philosophical systems described in this chapter, namely the Trayi (or Vedic science), the Samkhya, the Yoga, the Pashupata, and the Sattvata (or Pancaratra), are the same as the five "sciences" (jnanani) mentioned by Vaishampayana in the Shanti Parvan of the Mahabharata. In the latter, however, merely their names are mentioned, for with reason the present chapter has a claim to our special attention, the more so as the Samkhya described in it is not only called by the name Sastitantra, "System of the Sixty Topics", -- which is the name of the source of the oldest Samkhya treatise we possess, the Shamkhya Karika -- but actually consists of sixty topics which are enumerated though unfortunately not explained on this occasion. We have analyzed this chapter and tried to identify the sixty topics in a paper read in Athens in 1912 before the Indian Section of the International Congress of Orientalists and subsequently published (see previous note). Here a few remarks must suffice.

By Trayi or [Vedic] Triad is meant the whole authoritative literature of Brahmanism, that is, not only the three Vedas, but also the Atharvana and all the twenty-one so-called auxiliary sciences down to politics (niti), and the science of professions (vartta).

The Sastitantra consists of two so-called "circles", the "circle of nature" (prakrta-mandala) and the "circle of educts" (vaikrta-mandala), comprising respectively thirty-two metaphysical and twenty-eight ethical topics. All the former have been adopted by the Pancaratra, which, however, has expanded the first of them (Brahman) by advancing the theory of the Vyuhas and the conception of Laksmi. The second, purusa, is evidently the Kutastha Purusa (Samasti Purusa) of the Pancaratra; the third to eighth are identical with the Maya Shakti, Niyati, Kala, and the three Gunas taken separately; the ninth, aksara, must be the guna-samya called Avyakta; the tenth, prana, is Mahat ; the eleventh, kartr, the Ahamkara; the twelfth, sami (very likely a corruption of svami; cf. Bhag. Gita 10.22) is Manas (the central or "ruling" organ); and the rest are, of course, the ten senses and ten elements. To what extent the other "circle" agrees with the Pancaratra, cannot be made out by means of the mere names, though all of these can be discovered in the Samkhya and the Yoga literature, as shown in the paper quoted.

There are, declares our chapter, two systems (samhita) of Yoga, to wit the "Yoga of Suppression" (nirodha-yoga) -- which is, of course, the one dealing with the "levelling of the mind" (citta-vrtti-nirodha) and the "Yoga of Action" (karma -yoga). The former has twelve topics, the latter is divided into "the Yoga of manifold works" and the "Yoga of one work", each of which is again divided into "external" and "internal" Yoga.

The Pashupata system characterized by the enumeration of eight topics is, to judge from the latter and the three shlokas referring to it in the preceding chapter (11.43 fll.), not identical with that "wild and outlandish" system usually referred to as Pasupata by philosophical authors, but rather with that Agamic Shaivism on which are based the later Shaivite systems both of the north and of the south of India, although, when speaking of the Pashupatas as the "people of strong vows" (13.14), our author seems vaguely to include in the name also the less philosophical sects (Kapalikas, etc.) .

The Sattvata system, finally, is said to embrace the following ten topics: 1. Bhagavat, 2. karman, 3. vidya, 4. kala, 5. kartarya, 6. vaisesiki kriya, 7. samyama, 8. cinta, 9. marga, and 10. moksa. Of these, the first and last require no explanation; no. 2, said to be thirteen-fold (1.5.7), must refer to the Kriya Pada; no. 3 is, according to 15.12, the knowledge of the seven padartha; kala appears to refer to the panca-kala-vidhi or rule of the five "timely" observances of the day (abhigamana, etc.) described, for instance, in the thirteenth adhyaya of the Charya Pada of Padma Tantra; by kartarya in all probability are meant the five ceremonies (karman) or sacraments (samskara) constituting the initiation (diksa), while no. 6, as shown by 15.30 fll., are the "special duties" connected with the several castes and stages of life; no. 7 refers to Yoga, no. 8 to meditation, and no. 9 presumably to Bhakti.

About the remaining systems (Buddhism, Jainism, etc.,) shloka 51 simply remarks that they are fallacious systems (shastrabhasa) founded by Gods or Brahmarsis with the object of spreading confusion among the wicked.

Among the synonyms of the term Sudarshana enumerated towards the end, two, namely Prana and Maya, are worth noticing.


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


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