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Re: aagamA-s

From: Mani Varadarajan (
Date: Fri Mar 10 2000 - 11:41:37 PST

sampath kumar writes:
> Mani, I have done no research whatsoever on this
> subject except reading a few articles on it. So I
> don't claim any sort of irrefutability in these
> matters.

Sri Sampath Kumar,

To settle this question of the status of the Agamas, 
we should go to the original sources.  Unanimously,
all our acharyas as well as acharyas outside our
tradition (Sankara, Madhva, et al) have recognized
that the Agamas and Vedas are two different bodies
of scripture.  

Let's look at the two types of scripture for a moment.

The Vedas are unauthored, eternal, "preterpersonal"
texts (apaurusheya).  Being eternal, they do not
have an origin in time, not even from Brahman (Narayana).
This is established in the mImAmsA and is accepted
both by the ritualists (pUrva-mImAmsakas) and 
Vedantins (uttara-mImAmsakas).  Only the Veda is known
as "Sruti", meaning eternal words that are "heard", 
not read or written.

All Agamas, whether Vaishnava, Saiva, or Sakta, on the
other hand, are *authored* texts.  Among the Vaishnava Agamas, 
there are two varieties, the Pancaratra and the Vaikhanasa,
the former being prevalent.  The Pancaratra is universally
known in our tradition as "Bhagavat Sastra", because
it is believed by us to have been authored by Bhagavan Narayana
Himself. The Vaikhanasa texts are believed to be authored
by rishis, beginning with Vikhano Muni.

This difference between the two sets of scriptures is
taken as axiomatic by the ancient scholars.  Let me cite
Sri Yamunacharya's statements in his monumental treatise
"On the Validity of the Agama" (Agama prAmANyam), the 
first work establishing the authority of the Pancaratra
texts against outside objections.

Notice how Yamuna assumes a distinction between the Veda
and the Pancaratra Agamas:

   There should be certainty about the lack of defects
   of the self-validity of both bodies of texts.
   In the case of [the Veda] there is certainty because 
   there is no person who authored it, and therefore no 
   possible source for the defect; in the case of [the
   Pancaratra] there is certainty because the author
   of the texts [Bhagavan] possesses virtues which preclude
   all defects.

       -- Para 112

       [ etad uktam bhavati - ubhayor api svataH prAmANyayor
         ekatra doshAbhAvaniScayaH, tad ASraya-purusha-abhAva-
         niScayAt, anyatra tad viruddha-guNa-vaktRkatva-niScayAd
         iti ]

In para 82, Yamuna further establishes that the Pancaratra sastra 
is a perfect text, because it is *created* by Narayana.  This
is why, in his view, the Agamas and Tantras of other schools
are not authoritative. Their authorship rests with imperfect
beings such such as Rudra, etc., and they communicate ideas
that are at odds with the Vedas.

Now, what about the statement that the Agamas have their
origin in the Ekayana Sakha of the Yajur Veda? If you read
Yamuna's arguments, he says this in reply to people who
argue that the Pancaratra Agamas have practices which are
*nowhere mentioned* in the Vedas.  Yamuna replies that 
the followers of the Pancaratra simply follow a different
branch of the Veda, which indeed contains descriptions of
similiar practices.  Because the Ekayana Sakha (and indeed
other parts of the Veda) were difficult to understand, 
Bhagavan Narayana condensed it, took the essence,
and presented it again as the Pancaratra Agamas:

   The Omniscient Lord Hari took the essence of the 
   Upanishads and condensed it out of compassion
   for his devotees, for their convenience.

     -- Para 89, from Pancaratra Agama quoted by Yamuna
   [ vedanteshu yathAsAram sangRhya bhagavAn hariH |
     bhaktAnukampayA vidvAn sancikshepa yathAsukham || ]
Ramanuja follows this line of argumentation in brief in
the Sribhashya, and as cited earlier, Desika accepts this
distinction as well.

Sankaracharya would certainly have accepted the Pancaratra
entirely if it were part of the Vedic samhita; he would 
have no choice in doing so, as he is a Vaidika. On the other
hand, he finds it possible to reject its authority in his
Brahma-Sutra bhashya precisely because it is not *part* of
the Vedas, but an outside body of texts. (See comments on
Pancaratra-adhikaraNa for both Ramanuja and Sankara).

Furthermore, the Pancaratra does not have svara, etc., which
characterize any portion of a Vedic samhita.

I hope this establishes clearly that while the Pancaratra
Agama is *based* on the Vedas (as argued by our acharyas), 
it is not *part* of the Vedas.

adiyen ramanuja dasan,

                  - SrImate raamaanujaaya namaH -
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