January 5, 1999 VNN2795
Tantric Literature And Gaudiya Vaishnavism
BY SWAMI B.V. TRIPURARI
EDITORIAL, Jan 5 (VNN) Question: Could you please elaborate a little on the pancaratra and tantra systems and their relation to and influence on Gaudiya Vaisnavism? What is the meaning of Agama? Do all six darsanas accept the pancaratra scriptures? What are considered the pancaratra scriptures? How much alive are the six darsanas in India today? - Arjuna, Holland.
Swami B.V. Tripurari:
The pancaratra are considered the sacred books of various Vaisnava sects. The pancaratra and tantra literature represent the feminine half of sacred literature, laying stress on sakti over saktiman. They are referred to as "samhitas," "agama," "pancaratra" and "tantra." Gaudiya Vaisnavas rely primarily on the Naradapancaratra, Gautamiya Tantra, and Brihad-Gautamiya Tantra. Our mantras for worship come primarily from the Naradapancararta, which deals with Vraja Krishna. Radha is also mentioned therein. Krsnadasa Kaviraja Goswami has spent considerable time in Caitanya Caritamrita on the Brihad Gautamiya Tantra's explanation of Radha.
devi krsna-mayi prokta
kantih sammohini para
"The transcendental goddess Srimati Radharani is the direct counterpart of Lord Sri Krishna. She is the central figure for all the goddesses of fortune. She possesses all the attractiveness to attract the all-attractive Personality of Godhead. She is the primeval internal potency of the Lord."
The tantric literature of Hinduism is two sided, left and right. The left side (vamchara) deals with licentious rites, and sexual debaucery. The right side (dakshinachara) deals with rituals of purification and strict spiritual discipline in service to the primal sakti. Needless to say, the Gaudiyas draw from the right side of the tantra in their approach to the left wing of Krishna's gopis (vama gopis) headed by Radha. The infuence of the right hand of the tantra is apparent in the Bhagavatam.
Krishna tells Uddhava in the Bhagavata:
vaidikas tantriko misra
iti me tri-vidho makhah
vidhina mam samarcaret
"One should properly worship Me by selecting one of the three methods by which I receive sacrifice that is suitable for oneself: Vedic, tantric or mixed."
Vaidika refers to sacrifice performed with mantras from the four Vedas and auxiliary Vedic literature. Tantrika refers to such literatures as the Pancaratra and the Gautamiya-tantra. And "mixed" indicates utilization of both literatures. Our approach is mixed.
In the Hindu Agamas ("the source of the teaching") you will find descriptions of ritual performances such as initiation, deity worship, festivals, temple building, image making, etc., as well as discussion of yoga, kriya, carya, and jnana. If anything in our tradition resembles an Agama, it would be Haribhaktivilasa, which is sometimes called Gaudiya Vaisnava smriti.
Some people do not accept the Pancaratra texts, but Ramanuja wrote Agama-pramanya to establish that the pancaratra has a Vedic basis. Vedanta Desika, the great acarya of the Ramanuja sampradaya, is generally credited with having won the acceptance of these scriptures into orthodox brahmana circles. Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati's famous Bhagavata/Pancaratra symbol for the Gaudiya Math illustrates our position on this.
The six philosophies are still studied at length by Sanskrit scholars in India. However, they are not all alive in the sense of having lineages today. Rather, the six doctrines are alive within the collective doctrine of Hinduism, with Sankhya, Yoga and Uttara-mimamsa (Vedanta) playing a dominant role. Sankhya's hierarchy of material elements and dualism of matter and spirit, yoga's understanding of the process of spiritual development as mind control, and uttara-mimamsa's demonstration of the underlying unity of all existence in Brahman and the identity of Brahman and Atman are tacitly accepted in all Hindu scriptural traditions. Nyaya, which is really a way of logical reasoning, has also been assimilated as a way of argumentation, though the conclusions of the original nayayikas may not be accepted. Vaisesika philosophy is very old, but less influential in Vaisnavism. Purva or Karma-mimamsa is still influential in smarta circles, but not in transcendentalist circles.
RE: Sanga, 1/1/99, 'Bala Krishna: The Supreme Son':
You wrote: "While Christianity stresses God the father, who is approachable through his son, Hinduism speaks further of other relationships souls can have with God."
This statement is what is commonly referred to as a 'straw-man argument'. More direct, it is an outright falsehood about the teachings of Christianity. The point you try to make with this statement is that God can only be reached through someone else in Christianity. However, you ignore that Christianity teaches that the Son IS God; therefore making your statement false.
- Tony Rose, CNE
Swami B.V. Tripurari:
If I am not mistaken, the point I was making is that in Christianity God cannot be conceived of and loved as son, only father. As I understand it, one cannot have a relationship with Christ (God) as son (unless you are Mary) in the sense of tendering to Him as a parent would her child. The realtionship souls have with Christ is one of saved and Savior, never one in which the Godhead takes a subordiante role. Even Catholic mysticism, in which Christ is conceived of as bridegroom of the soul is a relationship steeped in reverence, unlike the paramour love of Krishna in which Radha's love subordiantes Krishna.
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