Abhinava Desika, Tarkarnava, Panditara ja Vidwan Uttamur Viraraghavacharya was quite well-known scholar among the Pandits well-trained in Sastraic scholarship. He studied Nyaya and Mimamsa in the early years when the Siromani course was introduced at the Sanskrit College, at Tiruvaiyaru in the Tanjore District of Tamil Nadu. He made a special study of Vedanta under His Holiness Sri Rangaramanuja Maha Desika (Sri Kozhiyalam Swami), one of the best exponents of Visistadvaita Vedanta. Matchless zeal for acquiring knowledge in the other systems of thought, which Uttamur Swami displayed made his Acarya bequeath his mastership to his disciple.
Sri Uttamur Swami was constantly, engaged in propagating Visistadvita Vedanta by writing books. For four decades and more, he has brought out the works of Ramanuja and Vedantadesika in their originals and with his own commentaries in Sanskrit and Tamil. In particular, mention must be made of his untiring spirit in publishing almost all the works of Vedantadesika.
The work Pancaratraparamya now published indicates his originality in executing the ancient theories and presenting them with amazing analytical skill.
The work Pancaratraparamya seeks to establish the supreme position which the Pancaratra system occupies in Vaisnavism. The significance of the name Pancaratra is well expounded. Its validity is established. Its four kinds called Siddhantas are shown to have distinct features. The purposes that are served by the pada division of the Agama gets a well-merited treatment. Name of several texts are enumerated as belonging to this system. The works of the author are mentioned in due order of their publication.
The introduction in English and Sanskrit are very useful to have an easy through the text.
The Veda-s are the oldest records of Indian tradition. The derivative sense of the word veda is that which provides a means to acquire knowledge of reality (tattva). Along with the veda-s, there has been, in existence, another stream of tradition called by the name agama. The Vedas are also called Nigama. The root gam which occurs in both these words means ‘to know’, besides having the sense ‘to go’. The agama-s are not anti-Vedic, as they are based on the Vedic tradition. They are therefore later than the Veda-s but definitely earlier to many later literary productions.
The Agama has some definite features which distinguish it from the Veda. At the same time, they reveal some marks akin to those of the Veda. Like the Veda, the agama is primarily concerned with the worship of God but of God in the form of an idol. Mandala (artistic and geometric drawings with coloured powders), Yantra (drawings in the form of circles in the metallic plate, the syllables of the mantra of a deity that is to be worshipped written in the petals of the lotus drawn in these circles), Mudra (external gestures with the fingers assumed to certain positions to convey the items of worship) and others form part of the act of worship.
While the Veda-s have been admittedly an infallible authority for knowledge, the need for admitting the Agama as a course distinct from the Veda has to be justified. A very limited number of Brahmins, conversant with the ritualistic lore, performed the rituals in which they visualized the deity whom they invoked by the mantra-s. Others, who were twice-born, women and sudra-s could not have received such a vision. There is no surprise, if they too had a yearning to behold the deity. Besides, the women and sudra-s, who were disqualified for having upanayana (investiture with the sacred thread) and therefore could not study the Veda-s, had to remain content with the satisfaction that the ritual is performed. The Agama came into being to provide these people with a concrete form for worship, which would endure to be available to them for all times.
Kashmir seems to have been the home of the Agama. The rivers Ganga and Yamuna are stated in the Pancaratra Agama to flow in the east, and south-east respectively they are indicating that the region where this text should have been available then must be respectively in the west and north-west of the regions through which Ganga and Yamuna flowed. Saraswati flowed to the south of that region which should be Kashmir. God’s grace is called Saktipata, alighting of power. This word occurs only in the Agama texts written in Kashmir. The Yantra is to the prepared in the birch bark by drawing the diagrams. This bark is available only in Kashmir.
Regarding the name Pancaratra, there is a lot of confused accounts for determining its sense. Most of them are ingenous and are incorrect also. The word pancaratra is a compound made up of two parts panca and ratra. The former denotes the number and the latter means the day and night together (ahoratra). Any explanation for this word should convey the significance of these two parts whatever be the explanations offered in the Pancaratra texts, the reasonable explanation offered in the Pancaratra texts, the reasonable explanation lies in taking the name to refer to the five division of the day made in this Agama for purposes of attending to the worship of God at the particular parts of the day marked by these divisions.
Another interpretation deserves consideration. Narayana is stated to have taught five sages the doctrines of the system. The names of these sages are given as Sandilya, Aupagayana, Maunjyayana, Kausika ad Bharadvaja. Here, ratra must be taken to mean not in the sense of the whole day (ahoratra) but day with a part of the night included. Since these sages were promulgators of the doctrines of the system, the name Pancaratra could have been given to this system. Yet, it is hardly possible to believe that the name of a system could have been given the number of promulgators or teachers who preached those doctrines. There is also the difficulty of explaining the word ratra in this interpretation.
The Agama are of two kinds, as far as Vaisnavism is concerned. They are Vaikhanasa and pancaratra. The former is based on the purely Vedic traditions. The latter, has Tantric character.
Thirdly, Sandilya is stated in the Paramasamhita, a Pancaratra text, to have become disappointed by not getting what is good from the study of the Vedas and Vedangas. He acquired what was good for him by a study of the Pancaratra. This goes against Vedic authority and questions the validity of the Vedas. This proves the invalidity of the Pancaratra.
Lastly, the Vaikhanasa texts contain severe criticism of the validity of this Agama. On these grounds, the Pancaratra Agama is held to lack in authority and so is to be discarded.
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