Pancaratra and the Ahirbudhnya Samhita, Pt. 9


Sudarshana in His Eight-armed Form
Tiruchirapalli, c. 1830

Mar 09, 2012 — CANADA (SUN) — A serial presentation the Pancaratra and the Ahirbudhnya Samhita.

Contents of the Ahirbudhnya Samhita (Continued)

Chapter 40 contains the story of the first intervention of the Lord in order to fight evil. It is the Puranic story of the two demons Madhu and Kaitabha who wrested the Vedas from Brahman before he could make use of them for creating the world. Brahman, in his distress, goes to "the other shore of the Sea of Milk" and addresses a hymn to the Lord, in answer to which the Lord appears to him and hears his complaint. By His mere thought of the two demons these are forced to appear before Him, yet still they refuse to return the Vedas.

The enraged Lord now orders Visvaksena to kill them, but V., in spite of leading against them "all the Vaisnavite armies" (sarvah sena Vaisnavih), is unable to do so. Now the Lord Himself "in His discus-form" (cakrarupin), with sixty-two arms, wearing all His divine weapons, appears on the battle-field with the splendour of a thousand suns, and the armies of the demons, unable to bear the sight, are instantly destroyed, whereupon the Lord hurls His discus against the two evil-doers, decapitating both of them.

Chapter 36 teaches how the Sudarshana Yantra, the construction of which was explained in chapter 26, is to be worshipped. There are two aspects of this Yantra, namely the form aspect and the Mantra aspect, called respectively the prior constituent (parranga) and the posterior constituent (aparanga), the former consisting of figures (namely the Sudarshana Purusa surrounded by the twelve Sub-Vyuhas, etc.), and the latter of Mantras only in the place of the figures. The meditation on the second form is for the teacher of Mantras, the Brahmana, only; the worship of the first is much recommended to kings and others desirous of material prosperity (sri) who, to ensure complete success, may build a special vimana (kind of temple) for the purpose. The very preparation of the soil (karsana) for such a building is a highly meritorious act.

The final part of the chapter (sl. 49 fll.) answers some doubts such as how Kesava, etc., being the Lord Himself, can be meditated upon as His retinue (parirara).

Chapter 37 has two parts. The first part enjoins that in times of great danger, when the enemy is overrunning the country, the king shall construct and worship an image of the sixteen-armed Sudarshana, of whom a detailed description is given.

The second part (sl. 22 fll.) is devoted to the explanation of Nyasa which is declared to be a third sadhana (religious expedient) in addition to worship and Yoga. The word nyasa (putting down, giving over, renouncing) is here understood in the sense of bhakti, the six constituents of which are enumerated, and which is defined thus:

"Taking refuge (saranagati) is the praying thought: I am a receptacle of sins, naught, helpless; do thou become my remedy (upaya)", the Mantra to be employed being: "Lord who art invincible through the all-conquering thousand spokes [of Thy discus], I am taking refuge in Thee." The act of taking refuge implies all austerities, pilgrimages, sacrifices, and charities, because it means self-sacrifice, than which nothing is higher. The devotee should meditate on God as a sacrifice (yajnarupa-dharma devam): His body being the altar, His mouth the Ahavaniya fire, His heart the Southern fire . . . the enemies of His devotees the sacrificial animals . . . His sixteen arms the priests . . . compassion His sacrificial gift, etc. Warning to the kings not to neglect the Sudarshana worship.

Chapter 38 deals with the origin and cure of diseases. In order to explain the former the author begins by describing (in five slokas) the dissolution of the world. When Pralaya [and the Great Night] was over -- the account continues -- the Lord, in order to play, created the world once more: first (purram) the "names and forms", then (punah) Prakrti consisting of the three Gunas, called Maya, with whom He began to enjoy Himself. "

She, however, possessing a shakti (female energy) for each of the creatures and giving them pleasure, made them eager to enjoy her, and so became (lit. : becomes) the cause of the obscuration of the [true nature of both the] individual and the highest soul." Owing to her influence man begins to identify himself (that is, his soul) with his body; then, having sons, etc., he forms the idea of the "mine"; this leads to love and hatred, and herewith the seeds (rasanah) have appeared, the fruits of which are inevitably a new life conditioned by the good or bad use made of the preceding one. The diseases, therefore, are nothing but the sprouting forth of the sins we have committed in former lives.

There follow five magical recipes for curing (1) fever, (2) consumption, (3) urinary troubles, (4) dysentery, and (5) epilepsy. In the several cures the throwing of certain substances into the sacrificial fire, the use of vessels with Yantras, etc. engraved on them, and presents to Brahmins play an important part, while practically no internal medicine is prescribed for the patient.

Narada Muni
Tiruchirapalli, c. 1830

Chapter 39. Narada wishes to know whether there is not one remedy for curing all diseases, destroying all enemies, and attaining whatever one might desire to attain. The answer is a description of the ceremony called Mahabhiseka "Great Baptism'' which everybody can have performed, though it is specially recommended to kings and government officials. It should be executed in a temple or other sacred building, on even and purified ground, and commences with the drawing of the Mahendra circle and Saudarshana diagram, culminates in a fire sacrifice (homa) performed by eight Rtvijs (corresponding to the eight directions of space), and ends with the baptism by the chief priest who successively sprinkles the person concerned with sacred water from each of the nine pitchers employed. He who has gone through this ceremony, "will promptly attain whatever be in his mind".

Chapter 42, before relating the two stories to be summarized later, contains the following: (1) Narada inquires about the origin, devata (presiding deity), etc., of the Auga Mantras described in Chapter 19. Ahirbudhnya answers that he has extracted them from the Atharva Veda, and that their devata is the Lord Himself in His Sudarshana form, their purpose the protecting of the body of the devotee, etc.

(2) How a king may recognize that divine weapons and black magic (abhicara) are being used against him, and how he may neutralize their influence. The symptoms (enumerated in ten stanzas) are among others: the sudden death of horses, elephants, and ministers; a violent disease attacking the king; poor crops; the appearance of snakes and white ants at the door of the palace or temple; the falling of meteors; frequent quarrels among the ministers; enigmatical conflagrations breaking out in the town; appearance to the king, in dreams, of his own figure showing a shaved head, clad in black, and driving to the south (the region of Death) on a car drawn by donkeys.

The remedy is the construction of a picture or image of the Lord carrying the Nivartaka Astras, and the meditation on, or worship of, the same. Not only the king but also his ministers should do so. Then the Lord will at last be pleased and check by His Upasamhara Astras the magic or the divine weapons threatening His devotee.


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


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