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pA'ncarAtra - An Overview - Part 4.

From: Narasimhan Krishnamachari (
Date: Fri Mar 17 2000 - 05:17:29 PST

				pA'ncarAtra - An Overview - Part 4.

Other Opposition to pA'ncarAtra:

Other main points raised by the vedAntin-s were:

  1. The pA'ncarAtra prescribed, or required, a
special initiation called dIkshA for anyone to be
qualified for performing temple worship (the
equivalent of priests in the temple).  dIkshA was not
explicitly mentioned in the veda-s, and so the
argument was that pA'ncarAtra was non-vedic. 

  2. Unlike the pA'ncarAtra system whose authorship
was not ascribable to any human source, the vaikhAnasa
school was initiated by a vedic sage by name vikhanas,
and so it was easier to accept the vaikhAnasa system's
known vedic basis.  

  3. A very well known mImAmasaka by name
kumArilabhaTTa (around 800 A.D.) published his work
titled tantravArtikA, in which he included the
pA'ncarAtra as a non-vedic Agama.  Because of his
popularity, the confidence of the people in the vedic
origin of pA'ncarAtra was put under severe test.  

  4. The interpretation of four aphorisms of the
brahma sUtra-s considered to deal with the pA'ncarAtra
system by the well-known Adi Sa'nkara led him to
conclude that the pA'ncarAtra was non-vedic.  (We have
covered the details of this earlier).

5. In one of the pA'ncarAtra samhitA-s (parama
samhitA), SANDilya is quoted as saying that he has
studied all the four veda-s but has not been able to
find beyond all doubt the road to bliss, and so he
undertook the study of pA'ncarAtra.  This has been
quoted by the advaitin-s as proof that the pA'ncarAtra
undermines the veda-s by saying that they are
incapable of revealing the truth. 

6. The term sAttvata refers to a class of  low-born
people called vrAtya-s according to  manu-smRti.  The
vrAtya community is decidedly non-vedic.  Since the
pA'ncarAtrin-s are referred to as sAttvata-s,  it was
argued that they must be the same class of low-borns
that is referred to in the smRti, and so pA'ncarAtra
is non-vedic, and the bhAgavata-s (sAttvata-s) are not
even brAhmaNa-s.

7. Partaking the food offered in worship is forbidden
in smRti, and since the people who do temple worship
in the pA'ncarAtra tradition partake in the food
offered to the Lord, they are in violation of smRti-s.

8. The people who do temple worship should not benefit
by this activity, and some of the people who do
pA'ncarAtra worship have their livelihood from this.

9. vAsudeva, the person from whom the pA'ncarAtra is
said to have originated, is known to have deceived the
asura-s in His mohini incarnation, deceived mahAbali
in His trivikrama incarnation, etc., and so He is
unreliable, and could have also deceived people by
creating the pA'ncarAtra.

10. While the veda-s have got a particular sequence
(krama) - I presume the reference here is to the
intonations, there is no such krama for pA'ncarAtra
texts, and so pA'ncarAtra is non-vedic in character. 

11.  For the same rite, there is a vedic and a tantric
rite, and this again establishes that Agama-s are
opposed to, and different from the veda-s.

The defense of pA'ncarAtra - Continued:

 Sa'nkara's interpretation of the pA'ncarAtra section
of the brahma sUtra-s and the responses from the
SrIvaishNava AcArya-s has been covered earlier.   Some
of the additional objections raised and identified in
the previous section are addressed below.  There is an
excellent English summary of the specifics that
yAmunAcArya used in defending the pA'ncarAtra in the
book titled AgmamprAmANya of yAmunAcArya by M.
Narasimhachary and published by the University of
Baroda.  The following is an extract from this

1. Response to the Objection of dIkshA Being Required
for Temple Worship:

yAmunAcArya replies that the requirement of dIkshA for
performing temple worship is not non-vedic.  He points
out that special sacraments are ordained in the veda-s
as and when necessary, to qualify one to perform
particular duties.  Thus, for instance, for performing
the jyotishToma rite, special dIkshA is ordained by
the injunction "AgnAvaishNavam ekAdaSa kapAlam
puroDASam nirvaped dikshishyamANah", on a person who
has already been initiated by upanayana.  This is a
vedic passage, and so it is authoritative by the
standards of the vedAntin-s.

2, 3. Authorship, vedic vs. non-vedic character:

yAmunAcArya points out that if the mimAmsaka does not
have a problem accepting the authenticity of the
veda-s, then he should not have problem with the
authenticity of the pA'ncarAtra.  The mImAmsaka would
say that the veda-s are apaurusheya (impersonal in
character), and therefore their validity is
unquestionable.  So also the pA'ncarAtra Agama-s are
the direct utterances of the Omniscient and Merciful
vAsudeva, and are therefore unquestionable. 

4. SrI Sa'nkara's interpretation of the four brahma
sUtra aphorisms related to the pA'ncarAtra and the
responses by our AcArya-s have been covered in an
earlier write-up.

5. Defense of SANDilya's words that from the veda-s he
could not find the road to bliss:

yAmunAcArya points out that SANDilya's statement does
not mean that there is no human end in the veda-s.  It
only means that he could not find the human end in the
veda-s, because of their vastness.   In fact, this
only means that the purport of the Agama-s and the
veda-s is one and the same and there is no
contradiction between them.  Both rAmAnuja and deSika
point out that what is meant here is that it is
difficult for everyone to understand the veda-s, and
the style of the pA'ncarAtra texts is more easily
grasped.  So this statement is not meant to be
anti-vedic in any sense, but is only meant to
emphasize the easy style of the pA'ncarAtra texts.

6. Refutation of the contention that the bhAgavata-s
were not brAhmaNa-s:

Regarding the argument that "bhagavata-s" who
practiced pA'ncarAtra during the mImAmsaka's times did
not belong to any one of the three higher castes,
yAmunAcArya points out that they are in every sense
brAhmaNa-s.  This is evident both by the fact of
occular perception (pratyaksha) of their practices and
observances, and also by the fact that there is the
practice of remembering the gotra from which they
come.  There is no reason to doubt their brAhmanical

Then yAmunAcArya deals with the statement by the
opponents that manusmRti (10.23) says the term
sAttvata refers to people from a community called
vrAtya-s who are decidedly non-vedic, and since the
sAttvata-s practiced pA'ncarAtra, pA'ncarAtra is
non-vedic by the fact of being practiced by a
non-vedic group.   yAmunAcArya points out that the
term sAttvata as used in pA'ncarAtra context need not
refer to the same group of sAttvata-s as referred to
in manu-smRti.  He illustrates this by pointing out
that the same manu-smRti (10.23), also uses the term
AcArya to refer to the low born belonging to the
vrAtya community.  

	 vaiSyAttu jAyate vrAtyAt vrAtyAt sudhanvAcArya eva
ca     |
   	  kArushSca vijanmA ca maitrah sAttvata eva ca    

But no one disagrees that the term AcArya does not
only refer to the person of the vrAtya community, but
also refers to a learned brAhmaNa teacher. 
yAmunAcArya points out that when the etymological
meaning for the words bhAgavata and sAttvata are
available, indicating that these terms refer to the
devotees of the Lord, there is no need to reject these
and resort to some other meaning.  By profession,
vrAtya-s look after the temple, but bhAgavata-s
perform the five-fold activities for bhagavAn, and
these are not comparable and identical.

The atharva veda also mentions a class called vrAtya-s
who are naturally pure and thus need no samskAra.  In
praSnopanishad, prANa is referred to as vrAtya -
vrAtyatvam prANaikarshirattA…(2.11), which is
interpreted as "paRNa is vrAtya - One born first, and
so not needing purification etc.".  In the atharva
veda (15-11) it is said that anyone who entertains a
vrAtya will gain the road that gods travel etc.

7. naivedya offered to Lord vishNu is Holy: 

On the objection that the bhAgavata-s partake in the
food offered to the Lord in violation of the smRti-s,
yAmunAcArya gives evidence from many samhitA-s and
smRti-s and points out that this applies only to the
food offered to other gods, and not to the sacred
prasAdam offered to Lord vishNu.  The naivedya offered
to bhagavAn is holy, and there is nothing to dispute

8. Brahminical character vs. earning livelihood:

On the contention that the bhAgavata-s are not
orthodox brAhmaNa-s because they worshipped the Lord
for their livelihood, yAmunAcArya points out that
except under dire financial conditions, this is not
the case, and even when this is the case, this has
nothing to do with their brAhmanical character.  It is
only when worship is done with greed as the motive,
that this is unacceptable. 

9. Refutation of mimAmsaka's Position on VAsudeva
Being Deceitful:

yAmunAcArya points out that until there is reason to
believe beyond doubt that a certain utterance is not
dependable, there is no reason to doubt its validity. 
 Since the upanishad-s glorify the author of the
pA'ncarAtra as Omniscient and Merciful, there is no
reason to assign any evil designs in Him in composing
these Agama-s.

10, 11. Response to the Objection that A Tantric
Procedure is Specified for A Karma when a Vedic
Procedure Already Exists, and So Agama is Anti-vedic:

Regarding the objection that for the same karma,
pA'ncarAtra provides for a tantric rite when there is
a prescribed vedic rite and so pA'ncarAtra is
anti-vedic, I did not find a direct explanation. 
However, based on SrI deSikan's nyAsa vimSati and
other writings, I feel that a justifiable explanation
is the veda-s limit the vedic rite only to those who
are qualified to perform these by their varNa etc.,
whereas the tantric rites are open to anyone without
these restrictions.  An example is the prapatti or
bhara-nyAsa, for which svAmi deSikan clearly points
out that those who cannot utter the vedic mantra-s
required for the vedic procedure should follow the
tantric procedure.  So it is purely because of His
Infinite Mercy or karuNA that SrIman nArayaNa gave the
pA'ncarAtra Agama so that people who cannot perform
the vedic rites can still perform the same rites using
the Agama or tantric procedure. 

-To be continued.

-dAsan kRshNamAcAryan

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