You are here: Sri Vaishnava Home Page : Bhakti List : Archives : April 2000

pA'ncarAtra - An Overview - Part 5.

From: Narasimhan Krishnamachari (
Date: Tue Apr 11 2000 - 10:50:06 PDT

                pA'ncarAtra - An Overview - Part 5.

pA'ncarAtra and viSishTAdvaita:

It is believed by some that the pA'ncarAtra system and the
viSishTAdvaita philosophy are one and the same thing, in the sense that
one is derived from the other, and they both have the same philosophic
background.  This is an incorrect notion.  The two thought-streams
stemmed from independent sources, and have had different and
independent courses.  It is true that some of the great AcArya-s of
viSishTAdvaita have attempted to integrate the two systems.  However,
the distinct origin of the two systems can be seen based on the
differences between the earliest of the pA'ncarAtra samhita-s
(sAttvata, jayAkhya, ahirbudhnya) and the later ones (vishvaksena,
vihagendra, lakshmi-tantra etc.).  The later ones clearly follow the
lead of viSishTAdvaita.

Following are some of the points that clearly indicate the independent
origin, evolution and course of the two systems:


1. Not a philosophy but a thought system justifying a compendium of
practices relating to worship.
2. Early tests were indifferent to vedic claims, and in fact claimed to
be more ancient than the veda-s.
3. Prapatti is mentioned in later pA'ncarAtra tests, but not in the
early ones - probably a reflection of
       the influence of viSishTAdvaita philosophy on pA'ncarAtra.
4. pA'ncarAtra existed even at the time of mahAbhArata.


1. A philosophy by no means confined to worship.
2. Seeks to justify its position wholly based on vedic authority.
3. Prapatti is an integral part of the pA'ncarAtra philosophy.
4. More recent than pA'ncarAtra.

The pA'ncarAtra system is not a philosophy but more a thought-system
justifying a compendium of practices relating to worship. 
ViSishTAdvaita is a philosophy by no means confined to worship, and
seeks to justify its position wholly based on vedic authority.  The
early pA'ncarAtra texts were indifferent to vedic claims , and in fact
claimed to be more ancient than the four veda-s.   We see mention of
prapatti (SaraNam) in the later pA'ncarAtra texts, probably as a result
of the influence from viSishTAdvaita, but not in the earlier ones.  As
has been mentioned earlier, pA'ncarAtra existed even at the time of the

It has been pointed out by van Buitenen that SrI rAmAnuja has not used
any quote from the pA'ncarAtra, and for that matter from divya
prabandham as well, in any of his known works.   An explanation offered
is that this might have been because in SrI rAmAnuja's days there was
so much resistance to anything even remotely considered non-vedic in
nature, and quoting from pA'ncarAtra or prabandham could weaken his
case in the eyes of the biased.   The postulate advanced is that SrI
rAmAnuja was in a position to make a good case with purely the help of
the Sruti-s and well-accepted smRti-s, and there was no need for him to
bias his case by using quotes from sources which could have been dubbed

The topic of the inter-relationship between the two systems is in
itself a subject that deserves dedicated analysis and understanding,
and is a separate subject which we will defer.  At a high level, the
following are some common aspects between the pA'ncarAtra and
viSishTAdvaita systems as they are accepted today, and are greatly
emphasized by SrI rAmAnuja (e.g., prapatti in the gadya-traya-s).

1. The concept of prapatti
2. insistence on an austere life, 
3. dedicating all actions including sleeping and eating to bhagavAn, 
4. the concept of disinterested action which in the end leads to God
realization, etc". 

High-level view of the postulates of the pA'ncarAtra:

	At a high-level following are some of the highlights of the
pA'ncarAtra system:  

  1. The pA'ncarAtra does not admit of a plurality of God, but is an
uncompromising monotheism.  

  2. prapatti is a means to moksha that is available to everyone
without any constraints regarding varNa etc., and which is available in
this birth itself.

  3. A very austere way of life where everything that is done is done
for bhagavan's pleasure, not excepting eating and sleeping.

  4. nishkAmya karma, or disinterested action, which will ultimately
lead to God-realization.

  5. pA'ncarAtra emphasizes ritual worship consisting of dIkshA,
ArAdhana, pUjA, function and use of nirmAlya and naivedya, and
pa'ncakAlikA (these will be covered more elaborately later).  

What is listed below is one interpretation of the postulates of
pA'ncarAtra.  I am not listing multiple interpretations here in the
interests of brevity and simplicity.  

1.  The nature of Godhead - bhagavat who denotes the manifested
configuration of the six qualities;  not only an absolute,
indescribable, and transcendental Brahman of the vedAntins, but also a
personal god, worthy of adoration and worship;  also different forms
(vyuha, vibhava, arcA etc.) assumed by the personal god.

2.  karma - panca-kAla procedures

3.  vidyA - systematized spiritual knowledge, or the energy of the
Godhead which works within the individual for producing knowledge.  The
samkarshaNa aspect of Godhead bestows the knowledge of scriptures
(Sastra-j~nAna), the pradyumna aspect the knowledge of practice
(anushThAna mArga), and the aniruddha aspect the benefits of such
knowledge and practice (kriyA-phala).

4.  kAla - the principle of time.  Time is viewed as that which causes
the disturbance in the guNa-s and which brings about everything in the
universe in an orderly fashion.

5.  kartavya - what ought to be done as a duty.  The daily and
imperative worship at home, meditation, etc.

6.  vaiSeshika - special ceremonies such as pratisTha in a temple,
pavitrotsava, adhyayanotsava, etc.

7. samyama - yogic practices - the yoga of restraints.  (Chapter 6 of
bhagavad-gItA emphasizes the value of yoga, and Lord kRshNa tells
arjuna - tasmAt yogI bhavArjuna - therefore you should become a yogi). 

8.  cintA - dhyAna (contemplation), cintana (visualizations), etc. 
These are in the category of antar-yAga (internal or mental
9.  mArga - the path to be chosen for securing salvation.  SAttvata
samhitA mentions devotion (bhakti) as the mArga - bhakti which is firm
(acala), pure (Suddha), constant (nitya), unwavering (avyabhicAriNI). 
ahirbudhnya samhitA indicates that the mArga is namana (bowing) -
involved in the mantra-s which proclaim SaraNAgati (surrender).  This
refers to total and confident surrender of oneself and all that belongs
to oneself to Godhead, and is an important concept of viSishTAdvaita.

-To be continued.

-dAsan kRshNamAcAryan

Do You Yahoo!?
Talk to your friends online with Yahoo! Messenger.

 You have a voice mail message waiting for you at

           - SrImate rAmAnujAya namaH -
To Post a message, send it to:
Visit for more information