Authenticity of Panchratra

The Brahma Sutra in its second chapter categorically rejects and refutes the number of works authored such as authored works by the Saankyaas, Yoga, Chaarvaakas, Vaiseshikas, the four kinds of Buddhist schools of thoughts (namely Maadyantika, Vaibhashika, Sowntrantika and Yogaachara), the Jainas and the Paasupata-Saiva. The only authored work accepted by the Brahma Sutra as authoritative as Vedas is the Paancharaatra Aagama.

I have heard few saying that the Brahma Sutra has not mentioned directly the name of Shreeman Naaraayana as the Para Brahman. This is absurd to say so because the Brahma Sutra has clearly established that Paancharaatra Aagama as authoritative as the Vedas and there is no room for any doubt regarding Shreeman Naaraayanan is the Parabrahman. The qualities declared for Para Brahman in the Brahma sutra only identifies with Shereeman Naaraayanan who is declared as the Para Brahman in the Vedas – “Naaraayana param brahma Tatvam Naaraayana Paraha: Naaraayana Paro Jyothihe Aatmaa Naaraayana paraha”.


The Aagamas are authored works. They have divisions called samhitas. There are numbers of such aagamas found to be existing based on which religions have evolved. All such Aagamas are not to be accepted as authoritative because it has to be analytically studied whether the Aagama supports the Veda or not. In case of an Aagama contradicting the veda, it has to be appropriately synchronized in accordance with veda or if such aagama if found to deviate from veda, it has to be rejected.
Pancharaatra aagama has numerous samhitas of which Saatvata, Jayaakya and Pouskara Samhitas are considered as gems. Shreeaman Narayanan himself authors Pancharaatra aagama.


MahaBharata (Shanti-Parv) says that the author of Pancharaatra is Shreeman Narayanan himself. Paancharaatra aagama deals with the tatva (reality), hita (means) and the purushaartha (goal). It also talks about temple constructions, worshiping of the Lord in temples, the temple festivals and consecration of aarcha form of Vishnu. It also talks about yoga, mantra, yantra, dharma and code of conduct for people. It is in strict agreement with the Veda.
Paancharaatra specifically deals with a class of forms of Vishnu called the Vyuhaa Roopas. It also talks about the mighty discus (Sudarsana Chakra) of Shreeman Naaraayana. The eternal abode of the Lord namely Shree Vaikunta Paramapada is also described by it. In short Paancharaatra covers every aspect of the Vedic philosophy and practice which is Visistaadvaita (Shree Vaishnavam). Its origin can be traced to a Vedic branch called Ekaayana Veda.

Authority in Vedanta-Sutra

Having declared the Samkhya, Vaisheshika, Yoga, Bauddha, Jaina, and Pashupata doctrines as contradictory to the Vedas in the previous adhikaraNas, these opponents retaliate by raising objections against the pAncarAtra system accepted by the author of the sUtras himself (Brahma Sutras, 2.2.42-43). The first two sUtras of this adhikaraNa is the pUrvapakSha portion that describes the objections. The next two sUtras (2.2.44-45) is the siddhAnta portion that answer these objections. One can refer to Sribhashya of Ramanuja for the details

Utpatiyasambhava-adhikaranam is otherwise called as Paancharaatra-Adhikaranam. This is the last aadhikaranam present in the second paada of second chapter of the Brahma Sutra.

Meaning of Adhikaranam

Before going into the analysis of the four sutras present in this aadhikarana, may I present to you the meaning of the term Aadhikaranam. Aadhikaranam is a sub-section in paada of an aadyaaya in Brahma sutra. Each aadhikaranam has five components. They are Vishayam (Subject), Samsayam (Doubt), Poorvapaksham (Opponent view), Sidhaantam (Established truth with proof) and Prayojanam (Benefit of establishing the truth with proof).
In this Utpatiyasambhavaadhikaranam (otherwise called as Paancharaatraadhikaranam), we find the above five components.

  • The “Subject” is regarding the authenticity/authority of Paancharaatra Aagama.
  • The “Doubt” is “whether Paancharaatra is a authentic authority or not”.
  • The “Opponent View” is “Paancharaatra is not an authentic authority as it contradicts the Veda”.
  • The “Established truth with proof” is “Paancharaatra is an authentic authority as it is not contradicting the Veda and only is in perfect accordance with the Veda”.
  • The “Benefit” of establishing this truth is accepting Paancharaatra aagama as authentic authority as that of the Veda and comprehend its philosophy and practice to attain all the four purushaarthas.

Veda Vyasa has categorically rejected many authored scriptures – those authored by Chaturmukabrahma (Yoga) and that of Pasupathi (Paasupata Saivam). Chaturmukabrahma can recite all four vedas. Pasupati (Siva) is called Sarvajnya (he who know everything). When Vyasa has rejected even their smruties, is this Paancharaatra which is authored by Vishu to be accepted or rejected? Thus is the doubt.


  1. Utpatiyasambhavat (Subject and doubt))

(The Views of Pancharatra System are untenable) on account of the impossibility of Origination.”From Vasudeva, Sankarshan (Jiva) is born; From Sankarshan, Pradyumn (mind) is born; from Pradyumn, Aniruddh (ego) is born”. Like Sankhya, Pancharatra says that individual selves are created. This is opposed to what is stated in scriptures.1 2. Na cha kartuhu karanam (opponent’s view) “And, there is no Origination of the instrument from the agent”. Again the opponent objects that Paancharaatra contradicts the Veda by declaring that the Indriyas like Manas (mind) etc., are born from the Jeeva. The Veda has declared that the Indriyas like Manas are born from Iswara who is Shreeman Naaraayana.

Mundak upnishad 2.1.3:

एतस्माज्जायते प्राणो मनः सर्वेन्द्रियाणि च। खं वायुर्ज्योतिरापः पृथिवी विश्वस्य धारिणी।।2.1.3।।

From Him originates the vital force as well as the mind, all the senses, space, air, fire, water, and earth that supports everything. But, Panchratra as opposing views:”Samkarshanaat Manas Samiyjna Pradyumno Jaayate” meaning – “From Sankarshana, the mind called Pradyumna was born”


  1. 2

3.Vignyjanaadi bhaave vaa tataprathishedaha

Or, if they (the four Vyhaas) are held to be the lord, who is knowledge and the origin, there is no contradiction in the system.

अजायमानो बहुधा विजायते (Taitriya Aranyak 3.13.1; Purush-Suktam)

“He is unborn, yet he is born as many, in various forms”.

The Sankarshan and others are of the form of Knowledge i.e. Brahman. He assumes on his own accord, these four forms for the good of devotees. Sankarshan and others are called jivas etc. as they are the presiding deities of the jivas, mind, ego etc. Hence, the nomenclecture is appropiate as Brahman too is declared as ‘Akash, Praan, Indra” etc. 4. Viprathishedaancha

And on the account of denial (of the birth of the Jeeva)


The Paancharaatra itself has clearly stated that the Jeeva(Chit), Achit and Iswara are eternal. It itself has clearly negated the birth of jeeva.”The connection between Prakriti and the self is an inseparable in nature”.It is similar to Chhandogya Upanishad (6.2.3)

 तत्तेज ऐक्षत बहु स्यां प्रजायेयेति तदपोऽसृजत । तस्माद्यत्र क्वच शोचति स्वेदते वा पुरुषस्तेजस एव तदध्यापो जायन्ते ॥

‘That Being willed, “May I become many, may I grow forth.” It created fire. That fire willed, “May I become many, may I grow forth”. It created water. Therefore whenever a man grieves or perspires, then it is from fire that water issuesTherefore the Paancharaatra is fully in accordance to the Veda and there is no contradiction with Veda.

Objection: Sandilya is said to have promulgated the Pancharatra system. He found that the teachings of the Vedas couldn’t help him. This shows that the system is opposed to Vedas.

Ans: As regards to the Sandilya’s statement, it’s similar to the Narada’s statement in Chhandogya Upanishad (7.1.2-3).

  1. ऋग्वेदं भगवोऽध्येमि यजुर्वेदm+ सामवेदमाथर्वणं चतुर्थमितिहासपुराणं पञ्चमं वेदानां वेदं पित्र्यm+ राशिं दैवं निधिं वाकोवाक्यमेकायनं देवविद्यां ब्रह्मविद्यां भूतविद्यां क्षत्रविद्यां नक्षत्रविद्याm+ सर्पदेवजनविद्यामेतद्भगवोऽध्येमि ॥ ७.१.२॥ सोऽहं भगवो मन्त्रविदेवास्मि नात्मविच्छ्रुतm+ ह्येव मे भगवद्दृशेभ्यस्तरति शोकमात्मविदिति सोऽहं भगवः शोचामि तं मा भगवाञ्छोकस्य पारं तारयत्विति तm+ होवाच यद्वै किंचैतदध्यगीष्ठा नामैवैतत् ॥                                                                          ‘Revered sir, I know the Rig-Veda, the Yajur-Veda, the Sama-Veda and the Atharvanas the fourth, the Itihasa-Purana as the fifth, grammar, the rules for the worship of the ancestors, mathematics, the science of portents, the science of treasures, logic, the science of ethics, etymology, the ancillary knowledge of the Vedas, the physical sciences, the science of war, the science of the stars, the science related to serpents, and the fine arts – all this I know, revered sir.’ VII-i-3: ‘Revered sir, however, I am only a knower of verbal texts, not a knower of Atman. Indeed I have heard from persons like your revered self that a knower of Atman goes beyond grief. I am in such a state of grief. May your revered self take me across it.’ Sanatkumara replied to him,’ Whatsoever you have studied here, really it is only a name.                                                                                                                                  Such a statement is not meant to disparage the Vedas, but to praise the bhuma-vidya taught by Sanat-Kumar teaches later as gives in clear and succinct manner, the teachings of Vedas which can be grasped even by dulls.

    Sri Yamuna Muni shows that itihAsas and purANas and praise pA~ncarAtra highly:


    bharat2.JPGइदं महोपनिषदं चतुर्वेदसमन्वितम्।
    सांख्ययोगकृतं तेन पञ्चरात्रानुशब्दितम्॥ 12-348-62
    नारायंणमुखोदीतं नारदोऽश्रावयत्पुनः। (Mahabharata, Shanti parvan)

    Meaning: This great doctrine, that takes one close to Brahman (upaniShad), explains the purport of the four Vedas harmoniously. It is based on sAMkhya (j~nAna) and yoga (bhakti) and called ‘pancarAtra’. It has been expounded by Narayana, and Narada explained it once more.

    “ब्राह्मणैः क्षत्रियैर्वैश्यैः शूद्रैश्च कृतलक्षणैः ।
    सेव्यतेऽभ्यर्च्यते चैव नित्ययुक्तैः स्वकर्मभिः ॥ 6-66-39
    द्वापरस्य युगस्यान्ते आदौ कलियुगस्य च।
    सात्वतं विधिमास्थाय गीतः संकर्षणेन वै” ॥ 6-66-40 (Mahabharata,  Bhishma parvan)

    Meaning: Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and Shudras, worship Him (shrI vAsudeva) in their daily rituals and activities. They are to worship Him in the dvApara and in the beginning of kali yuga, using the sAtvata rules expounded by Sankarshana (in the Pancharatra texts).

    “तैरेकमतिभिर्भूत्वा यत्प्रोक्तं शास्त्रमुत्तमम्॥ 12-343-28
    वेदैश्चतुर्भिः समितं कृतं मेरौ महागिरौ।” (Mahabharata, Shanti parvan)

    Meaning: This lofty pancaratra shAstra that has been expounded unanimously, has been declared equal to the four Vedas on the great mountain Meru.


    VARAHA PURANA (proof)

    “वेदेन पञ्चरात्रेण भक्त्या यज्ञेन च द्विज ।
    प्राप्योऽहं नान्यथा प्राप्यो वर्षलक्षशतैरपि ॥” (Varaha Purana, Chapter 66)

    Meaning: I am attainable by means of Vedas, Pancharatra, as well as by devotion-filled worship. I am not attainable by any other means even in millions of years.

    “पञ्चरात्रं सहस्राणां यदि कश्चिद्ग्रहीष्यति ।
    कर्मक्षये च मां कश्चिद् यदि भक्तो भविष्यति ॥
    तस्य वेदाः पञ्चरात्रं नित्यं हृदि वसिष्यति ।” (Varaha Purana, Chapter 66)

    Meaning: He who, among a thousand people, grasps the pancarAtra, and he who remains my devotee after his deeds are exhausted (i.e., at the time of his death after he has surrendered to me), in his heart the Vedas and Pancaratra will remain forever.

    “यदिदं पञ्चरात्रं मे शास्त्रं परमदुर्लभम् ।
    तद्भवान् वेत्स्यते सर्वं मत्प्रसादादसंशयम् ॥” (Varaha Purana, Chapter 66)

    Meaning: You will know in entirety this pAncarAtra shAstra belonging to me, which is the highest means, and which is easy to follow, through my grace. There is no doubt about this.

    Pancharatra Authority accepted by Advaitins:

In his commentary to Srimad Bhagavatam, Shridhara Swami says that the highest devotee of the Lord follows the dharma explained in the pAncarAtra texts, and performs worship of Vishnu according to them (Proof: 1, 2):

(11.10.1) “ मयोदितेष्ववहितः स्वधर्मेषु मदाश्रयः वर्णाश्रमकुलाचारम् अकामात्मा समाचरेत् ” मया – पञ्चरात्राद्युक्तवैष्णवधर्मेषु, अवहितो अप्रमत्तः।

Meaning: “Taking full shelter in Me, with the mind carefully fixed in the devotional service of the Lord as spoken by Me, one should live without personal desire and practice the social and occupational system called varṇāśrama.” Here, ‘devotional service spoken by me’ refers to the Vaishnava dharma explained in the pAncarAtra texts. ‘Fixed in such devotional service’ means to be attentive/careful.

(3.29.15) “ क्रियायोगेन शस्तेन नातिहिंस्रेण नित्यशः ” क्रियायोगेन – पाञ्चरात्राद्युक्तप्रकारेण
Meaning: “Without excessive violence, one should regularly perform one’s devotional activities.” Here, kriyA yoga means “by the method of worship enjoined in the pAncarAtra etc.”
If Sridhara Swamin had considered these Vaishnava Agamas as veda-bAhyas, he would not have said that exemplery devotees of the Lord follow the Vaishnava dharma of pA~ncarAtra diligently.
Sridhara Swamin also says that the Vishvaksena the commander of Lord’s army in Shri Vaikuntha, is the personification of the pA~ncarAtra tantra, just as Shri Garuda the Lord’s mount is the personification of the Vedas, in Srimad Bhagavatam 12.11.19-20.

Even Aadi Sankara Bhagavat paada is in agreement with Paancharaatra but he says “the portions of paancharaatra, which do not contradict the Veda, are authentic authority”. But as established by the Sutrakaara (Veda Vyasa) and the Bhaashyakaara (Shree Raamanuja), there is no portion in the Paancharaatra aagama, which is contradiction, the Veda. Therefore the entire Paancharaatra Aagama is authentic authority. The paancharaatra aagama is a treasure of knowledge. It stresses that he/she who has undivided faith in Lord Shreeman Naaraayananan alone can reach the eternal abode attaining moksha and doing eternal service to His lotus feet. I will elaborate this more in the future lessons after a detailed study of certain Veda verses.

“विद्याविनयसम्पन्ना ब्राह्मणा वेदपारगाः । मयि भक्तिं न कुर्वन्ति ये ते चण्डालतां गताः ॥
ब्राह्मणो वैष्णवो ज्ञेयो न ह्यस्मादन्यदेवता । मातृवत् परिरक्षन्तं जगत्स्रष्टारमीश्वरम् । यो हि नार्चयते मूढस्तमाहुर्ब्रह्मघातकम् ॥
वृथा जप्तं वृथा दत्तं वृथा चेष्टं वृथा हुतम् । वृथा तप्यं च तप्तञ्च यो न भक्तो मयि द्विजः ॥
यत्कृतं हुतञ्चापि यदिष्टं दत्तमेव वा । अवैष्णवकृतं सर्वं राक्षसा एव भुञ्जते ॥”

Meaning: Those brAhmaNas who are not devoted to Me must be considered fallen to the state of outcastes. It does not matter if such persons are thorough experts in the Vedas, endowed with learning and qualities such as humility. A Vaishnava must be considered a brAhmaNa. There is no devatA to be worshipped other than such a Vaishnava. I create, protect and rule this universe like a mother. Therefore, a person who does not worship Me is a fool and a killer of brAhmaNas. If a Vedic rite is performed by a person who is not devoted to Me — whether it is chanting (japa), gifting (dAna), sacrificial offering (iShTam), oblations (hutam), austerity performed and yet to be performed — all of it will go in vain. Vedic rites performed by a non-Vaishnava will only nourish evil beings like rAkShasas.

Thus says bhagavAn shrI kR^iShNa to yudhiShThira. (This shloka is quoted in the Adyar library edition of Shankara’s Vishnu Sahasranama Bhashya of name- Vishwa.).
Moreover, advaitins like amalAnanda has acknowledged total acceptance of pAncarAtra siddhAnta as vedic.
amalAnanda says thus in shAstra darpaNa as well as in bhAmati kalpataru (Proof: 12) —
जीवाभिन्नब्रह्मणो जगत्सर्गं वदतः समन्वयस्य जीवोत्पत्तिप्रतिपादकपाञ्चरात्रस्मृतिविरोधसंदेहे, अधिष्ठातैवेश्वर इति मते निरस्ते, प्रकृतिरपि स इति मतस्य वेदसंमतत्वाज्जीवोत्पत्तावपि प्रमाणत्वम् — एवंभूतावान्तरसंगतिलोभेन स्मृत्पादसंगतमप्यधिकरणमिह लिखितम् । तत्र —
ईशोक्तं न पुराणेषु व्यामोहार्थमितीरितम् ।
पञ्चरात्रमतो जीवो विकार इति मीयते ॥
पञ्चरात्रकर्तुर्वासुदेवस्य वेदादेव सर्वज्ञत्वावगमात् कपिलपतञ्जल्यादीनां च जीवत्वात्, पञ्चरात्रस्य च पुराणेषु बुद्धादिदर्शनवत् व्यामोहार्थमीश्वरप्रणीतत्वाश्रवणात् ब्रह्मनिमित्तत्वप्रकृतित्वसंप्रतिपत्तेश्च जीवोत्पत्तावप्यद्वैताव्याघातात्तत्सिद्धजीवोत्पत्तिरबाध्या । अत एवागतार्था च । एवं प्राप्ते, अभिधीयते —
“बुद्धिपूर्वकृतिस्तन्त्रं ब्रह्मनिःश्वसितं श्रुतिः ।
तेन जीवजनिस्तत्र सिद्धा गौणी नियम्यते ॥”
यावद्ध्येकदेशे वेदाविरोधादीश्वरबुद्धेर्वेदमूलत्वं वेदाद्वा सर्वविषयत्वं प्रतीयते, तावदेव स्वतःप्रमाणवेदाज्जीवानुत्पत्तिप्रमितौ तादृशबुद्धिपूर्वकेश्वरवचनान्न जीवोत्पत्तिरवगन्तुं शक्यते । अतः प्रमाणापहृतविषये गौणं तद्वचनम्, न तु भ्रान्तं पूर्वोक्तयुक्तिभिरिति ।
Meaning: The adhikaraNa is begun as follows — there is a doubt as to whether the the origination of the individual soul (jIvotpatti) must be accepted literally from statements in the pAncarAtra Agama. This tantra was composed by the Omniscient Lord, and are in agreement with the Veda in terms of the oneness of material and efficient causes. It cannot be said that these statements are made in error, since they were uttered by the Lord Himself, compared to other darshanas like sAMkhya, yoga, etc. that were composed by jIvas like Kapila, Patanjali, etc. Moreover, we do not see anywhere in the Puranas that the pAncarAtra tantra was propagated by the Lord Himself for the sake of delusion not unlike the doctrine of the Bauddhas propagated again by Himself to delude the wicked. Such a doubt is raised here.
The correct position, on the other hand , is as follows: “Since the Lord’s voluntary composition is the pAncarAtra tantra, and His involuntary breath is the shruti, statements of origination of the soul are secondary and figurative, not primary and literal”. The omnscience, benevolent nature, and infalliability of the Lord are all understood to be true only from the self-evident shruti. Hence, the pAncarAtra Agamas are dependent on the Veda for their authority. Hence, it cannot be said that they propagate the theory of origin of the individual soul literally, since it would contradict the shruti that says the individual soul is eternal. Therefore, such statements in the pAncarAtra are to be understood as secondary and conveying something else, and are not erroneous due to the reasons given in the prima facie position.
Note also that amalAnanda agrees with the pUrvapakSha’s reasons to believe in the infalliability of pAncarAtras, which we have highlighted above. This guru notes that no purANa condemns pAncarAtra as un-vedic.


  1. Sri Bhasya translation by Swami Sarveswaaranand and Swami Adidevanand


Author: ramanujramprapnna

studying Ramanuj school of Vishishtadvait vedant

2 thoughts on “Authenticity of Panchratra”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: