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Sri Yamunacharya

For my friend  Shri Kannan Rangachar

yamunacharya

In the Vaishanava tradition (Sampradaya); Sri Nathamuni (Ca.823-951?), Sri Yamunacharya (917-1042), and Sri Ramanuja (1017 to 1137) are highly revered as Munitrayam – the Grand Trinity of Acharyas – of their Guru Parampara

Sri Kuresa (Kurathazhwan) reverently submits his homage to the Guru Parampara, the hierarchy of the Acharyas, commencing from Lakshmikantha (Supreme Lord Narayana, the consort of Sri Lakshmi) and ending with his preceptor Sri Ramanuja; with the sages Sri Nathamuni and Sri Yamuna in-between. (This verse is devotedly recited as part of Sri Vaishnava Nithya-anu-sandhanam)

Lakshmikantha samarambham / Natha-Yamuna madhyamam / Asmad Acharya paryantam / Vande Guru-paramparam //

Sri Nathamuni is regarded as the Prathama Acharya with whom the distinguished line of Alagiyas or the Acharyas of the Vishistadvaita tradition begins.  He set the Vishishtadvaita Vedanta on a new and a glorious phase of its progression. But, sadly, none his works is now available.

Sri Nathamuni is said to have lived to a very ripe old age. He was succeeded at Srirangam by Pundarikaksha Uyyakkondar; and, then by Rama Misra Manakkal-nambi.

Sri Yamuna strengthened the Vaishnava tradition and philosophy considerably by proving its validity through the authority of the Upanishads, Brahma-sutras, Bhagavad-Gita and other ancient scriptures. While Sri Nathamuni recovered, compiled and codified the treasure of devotional hymns, which were almost fading into oblivion – the ‘Nalayira Divya Prabhandam’; and, brought those Tamil hymns within the fold of temple worship at Srirangam; it was Sri Yamuna, the grandson and the spiritual heir of Sri Nathamuni, who had the unique privilege of inheriting the spiritual wealth of the past generations; and, who established the principles of Vaishnava Siddantha within the framework of the pristine Vedanta tradition (Aupanishada). Thus, the works of Sri Nathamuni and Sri Yamuna complement each other; enormously enhancing the scope, content and authority of the Vaishnava Vedanta scriptures.

[The disappearance of the earlier texts on the Vaishnava doctrine, within the framework of Vedanta, makes Sri Yamuna the first Vaishnava Vedantin, whose views are well informed and authoritative.]

Thus, Sri Nathamuni and Sri Yamuna occupy a central position (Natha-Yamuna madhyamam) among the illustrious Acharyas, who reformed and revitalized this ancient system of thought and faith – Vishitadvaita Siddantha.

ramanuja3

Sri Ramanuja inherited that rich heritage; and enhanced it further.  It was on the basis of the works of his Grand Acharya (Pracharya*) i. e., Sri Yamunacharya, that Sri Ramanuja, later, established, fortified and perfected the Vishistadvaita Siddantha. [*Sri Yāmunācārya was said to be the preceptor of Mahāpūra who initiated Sri Rāmānuja.]

And, about two centuries later, Sri Vedanta Desika (1269–1369) edited the works of Sri Ramanuja.

flower design

Sri Yamuna is described as the grandson of Sri Nathamuni; and, as the son of Iswara Bhatta Aazhvaan and Ranganayaki

It is said; even as a boy of twelve, Yamuna was learned, scholarly, and highly eloquent. In a prestigious and a much publicized debate of his times, the bright young Yamuna defeated the haughty Akkialvan, of the Pandya royal Court, feared as the terror of all debaters (Prati-vadi-bhayankara). And, in recognition of his victory over a much feared adversary, the grateful  Chola  Queen  (perhaps the queen of Parantaka I 907 – 955 AD ?) conferred on Sri Yamuna the title of Alavandar (the saviour or the one who came to the rescue ); and, also granted him rights over a sizable tract of  land within  the King’s territory . Thus, while still in his adolescence, Sri Yamuna, apart from affluence, achieved great distinction; and, fame for his intellect and debating skills.

Thereafter, initially, the young Yamuna, for a short time, led a life of luxury and pomp; almost forgetting the legacy of wisdom that he had inherited.

It was the influence of Rama Misra also known as Manakkal-nambi, the chosen disciple of the scholar Pundarikaksha (who himself was the foremost among the disciples of Sri Nathamuni) that awakened the young Yamuna; made him realize the futility of the wayward life that he was then leading.  It was Rama Misra, who talked sense to the young man; sparked in him the awareness of his preeminent lineage; prompted him to recognize his spiritual obligations; and, eventually led him to tread the path of virtuousness.

Rama Misra became the teacher of the young Yamuna; and, taught Vedic texts, Mimamsa and other scriptures as also Divya Prabandam. Thereafter; Rama Misra handed over to Sri Yamuna his grandfather’s legacy of the shrine at Srirangam. Soon thereafter, Sri Yamuna became a Sanyasin, settled down at the holy city of Srirangam; and, devoted the rest of his life to the propagation of the Vaishnava faith; and, to spreading the spiritual wisdom he inherited from his teacher Rama Misra  and from  his Parama Guru Sri Nathamuni.

Swami Desika in Sloka 7 of his Yathiraja Saptadhi pays homage to Yamuna thus: 

Vighaahe Yaamunam Theertham Saadhu Brindaavane Stitham |   Nirasthajih Magha Sparse Yatra Krishnah Kritaa Dharah || 

Sri Yamuna, not only by name, was like the one who resided at Brindavana on the banks the Yamuna; but, was also like the one (Sri Krishna) who cleansed the waters of Yamuna. He purified the tainted interpretations of the Vedic texts; and, established the true Vedanta Siddantha

 Like his Grandfather Sri Nathamuni and his distinguished successor Sri Ramanuja, Sri Yamuna is said to have lived for a very ripe old age of about 120 years.

flower design

Sri Yamuna was renowned for his sharp intellect and unerring logic. He could see through sophistry and crooked arguments (Jalpa and Vitanda). He could present his arguments with precision and clarity, in a manner that it could hardly be refuted.

In his exposition of the Vishitadvaita thought, Sri Yamuna closely follows the ancient masters (Purva-charyas) like Bodhayana, Tanaka, Bharuchi and Dramida. And, of course, he was greatly influenced by the works of Sri Nathamuni, particularly by his Nyaya-tattva. Sri Yamuna’s following of Sri Nathamuni was so implicit that the scholar of the later period  Sri Vedanta Desika described Yamuna’s Atma-siddhi as a condensed version Nyaya-tattva ( Nyayatattva prakaranam hi Atmasiddhi).

Sri Yamuna also turned into a prolific writer. The works of Sri Yamuna are of special importance to the students of Vedanta; not only because they are the earliest available Vishitadvaita texts, but also because they present a system of thought and faith that was inspired and nurtured by his Purva-charyas, including Sri Nathamuni ; and, transmitted through an unbroken tradition.

Sri Yamuna is said to have authored at least eight valuable works:  Atma-siddhi; Isvara-siddhi; Samvit-siddhi; Gitartha-samgraha; Purusa-nirnaya; Stotra-ratna; Chatus-sloki; and, Agama-pramanya .

*

[References to the texts of Sri Yamunacharya:

Agamapramanyam –Sanskrit text   : https://archive.org/details/agamapramanyam

Works of Sri Yamunacharya (English) :

Agamapramanyam (pages 1 to 145); Siddhi-trayam (pages 147 to 360); Gitartha Sangraha (pages 341 to 343); Stotra-ratna (pages 344 to 356); Chatus-sloki  (pages 357 to 359)

There is often a mention of Kashmira-agama-pramanya; but, that text now appears to be lost]

flower design

: – Siddhi-traya

The first three are collectively referred to Siddhi-traya (Siddhi trilogy), which describes the relation that exists between the soul, god and the universe : Maha Purusha Nirnayam ; and,  declares that the ultimate reality is the union of Sri and Narayana

But, sadly, much of these texts are lost; and,  Atma-siddhi , which is the most extensive of the three,  is incomplete.  And, it is mainly through the quoted fragments that one gets to know Sri Yamuna’s thoughts on certain important philosophical issues as discussed in these texts. Sri Ramanuja, in his Sri Bhashya, quoted profusely from these splendid texts.

: – Gitartha-samgraha

The Gitartha-samgraha is an excellent epitome of the Bhagavad-Gita. In about thirty-two stanzas, Sri Yamuna very ably sums up the essential teachings of the Bhagavad-Gita, as per the tenets of the Vaishnava tradition. It logically demonstrates how it is only Bhakthi – the loving devotion tempered with Jnana- knowledge and Vairagya – detachment that   can lead the devotee to the presence of the Lord (Svadharma jnana vairagya sadhya bhakyaka gocharah). It is said; the inspiration for this work came from Rama Misra, who had initiated Sri Yamuna into the secrets of the Bhagavad-Gita.  Later, this work served as the foundation for Sri Ramanuja to develop his luminous exposition of the Bhagavad-Gita

: – Purusha-nirnaya

Purusha-nirnaya was said to be an acclamation, upholding the supremacy of Lord Vishnu. But, sadly, this work is lost; and, is no longer available.

: – Stotra-ratna

Stotra-ratna and Chatus-sloki are hymns singing the glory and splendour of Lord Vishnu and Devi Lakshmi. They are the fervent outpouring of Sri Yamuna’s intense devotion towards Vishnu and Lakshmi; and, his deep rooted longing for communion with his favorite deities.

Traditionally, the rendering of the Stotra-ratna, commences with paying respects to Sri Nathamuni

Salutations to Sri Nathamuni, the unfathomable ocean of Bhakthi, the divine Love; the very embodiment of the marvellous virtues of Jnana (knowledge), Vairagya (detachment) and Bhakthi (Loving devotion) that is beyond our comprehension

Namoh Achintaya-athbhutha Aaklishta Jnana Vairagya Rasaye |   Naathaaya Munaye Ekaantha Bhagavad Bhakti Sindhave |

guru charana

lotus offering

The Stotra-ratna is a garland of sixty-two -verse hymns submitted to the lotus feet of   Lord Vishnu in the spirit of Sharanagati or complete surrender seeking Moksha. These hymns, in delightfully lucid verses, present the central philosophical theme and outlook of Vishistadvaita doctrine, elucidating its essential principles of Tattva (the intricate relation between god, nature and human); Hita (the excellent path that leads to ones emancipation); and, Purushartha (the attainment of the supreme goal).

Ullanghita trividha-sıma-samati sayi sambhavanam / tava parivradhima-svabhavam/

Maya-balena bhavatapi niguhyamanam / pasyanti kecid anisam tvad ananya-bhavah //

Oh My Lord, everything within this material nature is limited by time, space and thought. We are aware that your attributes, which truly are countless, unequaled and unsurpassed, are ever beyond such limitations. Yet; you sometimes disguise your limitless virtues; however, your guileless devotees, pure in heart, are always able to see through your play.

Desikacharya

Sri Vedanta Desika (Vekaanātha), in his Rahasya-raksha (Secret-Protector), comments that in these lyrical poems of Stotra-ratna, Sri Yamuna has given expression   to the spontaneous overflow of his divine ecstasy. Sri Desika observes that in these hymns one can experience the fragrance of the Divya Prabandhas; especially the Tiruvoimozhi of Saint Satakopa (Nammazhwar), which eulogizes the unfailing efficacy of Saranagati,  the precious secret (Rahasya). And, some of the Stotras seem to be the Sanskrit rendering of the Tamil hymns.

For instance; he says: the following Stotra (2nd sloka of the Stotra-ratna) is replete with the ideas adopted from the Tiruvoimozhi, which worshiped the  Sri Nammalwar as the Father, Mother, Consort, Child and wealth of every sort.

Mata-pita yuvatayah tanaya vibhuti / sarvam yadeva niyamena matanvyanam/ adhyasa nah kulapateh vakula-bhiramanam / Srimad tadangrhri yugalam pranamami murdhana //

vedanta desika

It is said; Sri Vedanta Desika was deeply  moved and highly inspired by the 28th Sloka of the Stotra-ratna, which extols the virtues of submitting to the Lord, in intense devotion, enormous reverence and deep humility, with folded hands (anjali mudra).

thvad-angrim uddhisya kadapi kenacid  / yathaa tathaa vaapi skrit-krito anjali  / tathaiva mushnathi asubhany aseshatha  / subhani pushnathi na jaatu heeyathe // 28 //

Oh Lord! When one submits to your sacred feet , with devotion and humility, as Upayam (means) and Phalam (fruit, result) with folded hands (anjali mudra), even once, his past ill-fated  Karmas would soon be destroyed ; it would secure freedom from every sort of fear ; and, he would enjoy the blessed joy of residing in your supreme abode of Sri Vaikunta. Such submissions to you with folded hands will surely bring all auspiciousness into one’s life.

 It  is said; when Sri Desika pondered over the essence of this verse of the Stotra-ratna, he was struck by the awe-inspiring significance and the immense auspiciousness of this simple gesture of submitting to the Lord with folded hands (Anjali) in a spirit of absolute surrender (Saranagati, Prapatti). And, that   inspired him to annotate its verse 28  ; to give a detailed exposition of its essence;  and, to compose his, now famous, garland of verses under the title Anjali-vaibhavam (the glory and splendor of Anjali).

anjali

Further, it is also said; that Sri Ramanuja was much moved by recitation of the Stotra-ratna; and, that inspired him to compose the Vaikunta-gadyam, a pure expression of Bhakti immersed in the spirit of Atma-nivedana.

: – Catussloki

Catussloki is a brief poem composed of four stanzas. It sings the glory, splendor and the beauty of the Goddess Lakshmi; and, it attributes to her the qualities of the Brahman as mentioned in the Brahma sutras.

The First stanza refers to the Vibuthis of Goddess Lakshmi that are beyond praise. The Second stanza eulogise Her incomparable glory. The Third stanza sings about Her infinite Grace. And, the last stanza describes Her resplendent forms-Vibuthi, which are inseparable from those of the Lord.

: – Agama-pramanyam

The main theme and the purpose of the Agama-pramanyam is the vindication of the Pancharatra doctrine (Agama), its texts (Samhita) and its practices (Tantra). In this Prakarana, Sri Yamuna sets out to prove by reference to ancient scriptures and valid logic that the texts of the Pancharatra Agama have an authority, equal to that of the Vedas.

The motivation for Sri Yamuna to script this text was to rescue, to defend (raksha) and to establish the Pancharatra as the pristine, flawless and sublime doctrine that unerringly leads the ardent devotee to the presence of the Supreme Lord. It was necessitated to defend the Pancharatra, which was under attacks from the rival Schools, such as: Mimamsa, Nyaya and Advaita. By employing varied means of valid knowledge (Pramana), textual authority (Sabda-pramana) and reasoning (Tarka, Yukti), Sri Yamuna establishes that the Pancharatra Tantra is uplifting, beyond any reproach, and is the most authoritative.

Agama-pramanyam promoted the Pancharatra Agama in preference to the already existing Vaikhanasa Agama for worship in the temples. This was an ideological shift from an exclusive, metaphysical approach of the Vaikhanasa Agama towards a more popular and inclusive form of worship. Thereafter, the Pancharatra, with emphasis  on devotional idol worship ; and, with greater scope for festivals , celebrations and processions where all sections of the society,  including ascetics,  can participate  soon spread to most of the Vishnu temples in South India.

The Agama-pramanyam – composed in a mixture of prose and Karikas (verses) – is regarded as the best among the works of Sri Yamuna. It establishes him as a highly learned scholar; and a master dialectician. Further, during the course of his exposition, he discusses and offers his opinion on wide ranging issues including those related to linguistics, psychology, the study of the human mind and its functions, especially those affecting behavior in a given context ; the theories of valid knowledge, especially with regard to its methods, validity, and scope, and the distinction between justified belief and opinion (Pramanya); and, critical explanation and  interpretation of the scriptures, especially the Brahma sutras.

The Agama-pramanyam, the superb treatise which establishes the scriptural validity of the Pancharatra, forms a significant chapter in the Vedanta – mimamsa;   not only because of its excellence, but also because of the influence it excreted on his successor Sri Ramanuja, who perfected the doctrine of Vishitadvaita. Further, it establishes the Pancharatra on the basis of the Upanishads (Agama); and, brings it under the Aupanishada tradition; thus giving a completely new scope for the theistic Vedanta.

At the conclusion of the Agama-pramanyam, Sri Yamuna devotes a stanza, which extols the greatness of his predecessor Sri Nathamunindra, who enhanced the eminence of the past scriptures. It says: May, up to the end of the Aeon (Aakalpam vilasantu) the teachings and the writings of the glorious Sri Nathamunindra guide and protect all those who have implicit faith in the pious Sattvata doctrine.

yamunacharya conclusion

narayana

lotus twin

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Sources and references

  1. Yamuna’s Agama Pramanyam – Edited and Translated by J.A.B. Van Buitenen (Ramanuja Research Society; 1971)https://archive.org/details/pancaratra-agamas
  2. http://sriramanujar.tripod.com/vamsa_vriksham.html#yamunamuni
  3. http://prapatti.com/slokas/english/stotraratnam.pdf
  4. https://archive.org/details/pancaratra-agamas/page/n148
  5. https://www.ibiblio.org/sripedia/ebooks/vdesikan/anjali_vaibhavam/index.html#commentary
  6. http://www.egyankosh.ac.in/bitstream/123456789/22299/1/Unit-22.pdf

Images are from Internet

 

 
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Posted by on September 19, 2019 in Agama, Yamunacharya

 

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Vishnu – Dwadashanamas – Part Three

Continued from Part Two – Narayana – Vasudeva Krishna -Para Vasudeva

E. The Vyuha

Para–Vasudeva and Lakshmi

13.1. As mentioned earlier, the central doctrine of the Pancharatra Agama is that the Absolute, the Brahman, out of loving- compassion, voluntary assumed bodily forms so that the devotees may gain access to his subtle form. He manifests himself in five-fold forms: Para or the supreme form of his transcendent being; Vyuha or the group of his forms called Vyuha-Vasudeva, Sankarshana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha brought together in worship and adoration as a complete body of divine power, and who represent the cosmic consciousness, intellect, mind, and the ego respectively; Vibhava or his glory seen through his incarnations or Avatars; Archa or his presence manifest in his idols and images worshipped by devotees; and as Antaryamin or his immanent presence within the Universe.

13.2. Para–Vasudeva represents the Pancharatra ideology of the transcendental form (para) of Narayana the supreme principle abiding in the highest realm paramapada. He is visualized as pure and resplendent like a clear crystal; and as the divinely auspicious charming form (divya mangala vigraha).  Para is the highest form and is referred to as ‘the first form’,’ the best of the Purushas’ and ‘the Highest Light’ etc. Para –Vasudeva is endowed with countless auspicious virtues (ananta kalyana guna), which include the important six ideal attributes: wisdom or gnosis (jnana), sovereignty (aishvarya), energy (sakthi), strength (bala), valour (virya) and splendour or glory (tejas).His other notable attributes are gambhirya (grandeur, majesty), audarya (generosity or benevolence), karunya (compassion), souseelya (chaste manners)and vaathsalya (affection).

13.3. Lakshmi (Sri) as energies intimately associated with Para –Vasudeva; and is regarded as the composite aspect of his transcendental form. While Para Vasudeva is pure consciousness, Lakshmi as creative energy is the cause of the material world. It is said, Lakshmi at his behest, that is by the power of his will (iccha sakthi), differentiates herself into the power of action (kriya sakthi) and the power of becoming (bhuti sakti). Out of her three powers the next phase of emanations (vyuha) proceeds

It is also explained that Lakshmi and Vasudeva are two aspects of the One reality. Within Para Vasudeva’s unity He implies She; and She implies He. Para Vasudeva is pure consciousness while Devi Lakshmi is his expression of “I-ness”. She is the thought within his consciousness; She is the energy that manifests His glory. She exists because of Him; and He depends on her to manifest all that he intends. Lakshmi is Vasudeva’s power to intend an act (kriya-shakthi); She is also the power to bring this act into being (bhuthi – shakthi).As conscious intent She is Agni –the fire; and as fruitful act She is Soma – the life-juice that feeds the fire (meaning all that sustains life). Just as fire produces liquid and liquid produces fire, She brings forth everything into being. Whenever we speak of Him acting, we understand the actor in fact is She. The Bhagavatas address the Supreme Being as the Unity of He and She; as the Father and Mother of all existence. Some scholars say that in the ancient Tamil poetry, the term Tirumal (Tiru = Shri; Mal = Mahat the Great One) means the Majestic Devi with the Great One, suggesting the essential unity of Lakshmi and Vasudeva. [See Denis Hudson’s Book]

13.4. The later Pancharatra texts mention, in addition to Lakshmi, two other consorts – Bhu-devi and Nila-devi – who too are regarded as energies associated with Narayana. The three Devis are said to also represent the three aspects (gunas) of nature (prakriti): Lakshmi (satva –white); Bhu (rajas –red) and Nila (tamas –dark). She is also the Maha-Maya the transcendent and magical creativity.

Emanation – Shristi 

14.1. The appearance of gunas in Lakshmi and Narayana sets in motion the process of emanation, the vyuha. The term Vyuha stands for structure or group or groups of persons. In the Vyuha emanation, Narayana manifests himself as five heroes of the Vrishni-yadava clan:Vasudeva-Krishna; his brother Sankarshana; Samba (son of Krishna –Jambavathi); Pradyumna (son of Krishna -Rukmini) and Aniruddha (son of Pradyumna).These five are together known as ‘heroes of a family’; and, the Bhagavata cult came to be known as ‘the doctrine of heroes’ (vira-vada). However, with Samba having been omitted from the group, the other four Vrishni heroes were revered as chatur-vyuha, the four essential aspects of Vishnu. Initially worship was offered to them individually; and later they were worshipped together in group.

14.2. Some scholars of the Pancharatra School try to explain why the Vyuha was composed by the relatives of Vasudeva – Krishna. They say when Narayana appeared on the earthly plane as Krishna, some of his attributes too took form as persons surrounding him. While Krishna, they say, is the complete manifestation those around him were sparks of the divine essence. Yet, Krishna and Vrishni heroes all originated from the same source, Narayana.

It is said; the gods are to be celebrated by their name, form, glory of their achievements and together with their friends (sthutistu naama rupena karmana baandhavena cha: Brihad-devatha -17)

Chatur Vyuha

15.1. Para is the undifferentiated Vasudeva while Vyuha is the stage of differentiated creation. Among the four Vyuha forms, the Vyuha-Vasudeva is regarded the most complete representation of Para-Vasudeva or Narayana. He is the embodiment of the ‘para’ nature of Narayana and is endowed with the six gunas in full measure. He is the source of other three Vyuha forms and is the creator of the second Vyuha, Sankarshana. Vasudeva says ‘the four Vyuha forms rest in me’ (chatur murti dharo hyam).

15.2. The chatur vyuha is compared to a pillar (visaka yupa) having four nodes (parva) bearing four resplendent lights, each light at a different height and each facing a different direction. The brightest of the four lights, at the top, glowing like a gem is Vyuha-Vasudeva the pure effulgence; it is all brightness. The other three lights, at the lower level, shining not-so-brightly, represent Sankarshana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha. The light at the second level glowing red like a ruby is Sankarshana; the next one below that burning yellow like gold is Pradyumna; and the light at the lowest level dark like a rain bearing cloud is Aniruddha.

The Vyuha structure, attributes and functions

16. The structure, the symbolisms and the functions assigned to each vyuha-murti is not only elaborate but also very interesting.

It is explained; Vasudeva as the Supreme (para) and Vasudeva as formation (Vyuha) differ only in relation to the beings produced. It is said; the Supreme Being Para-Vasudeva cannot be seen within space-time, just as an embryo cannot see the mother in whom it resides. But Vyuha-Vasudeva as a formation can be seen just as the infant can see its mother soon after birth. Sadhana the devotional way of disciplined and dedicated life is the means to see and experience Vasudeva as the formation Vyuha.

Vasudeva, as formation, re-produces his body, its content and actions, in three specific re-arrangements of himself in sequence. The primary Vasudeva changes into the formation of plougher Sankarshana. He then changes into the pre-eminently mighty Pradyumna. He thereafter changes into the formation of unobstructed Aniruddha.

The four Vyuha forms are in essence the four aspects of Para-Vasudeva from whom they all originate. They represent the four dimensions of the created universe; and regulate the cosmic order, rta.

The emanation of the four Vyuhas follows a certain sequence. The Vyuha Vasudeva is the first emanation. From him arises the second Vyuha: Sankarshana who in turn gives rise to the third Vyuha: Pradyumna.   The fourth Vyuha, Aniruddha, is produced by Pradyumna.

In this process of emanation Para-Vasudeva remains unaffected, unchanged and ‘rests in his nature ‘.The other Vyuha forms are the differentiated aspects of the Para.

This evolution in stages is compared to lighting one lamp from another. Para- Vasudeva is also compared to a seed that holds in its womb the entire tree, but grows and flourishes richly into a visible form, over a period of time.

  • The Vyuha –Vasudeva white in colour like fresh snow or cow’s milk  complete in all aspects (kala) has four arms representing four stages in the evolution and dissolution of the universe: creation or emergence (sristi), maintenance (sthiti), dissolution (samhara) and emancipation (mukthi).

Sankarshana who was dragged out of Vasudeva’s body (akrasya tu svakaad dehaath) too is complete in all the four aspects (chatuskala).He is red in colour. And, he produced Pradyumna

The four armed Pradyumna bright like burnished gold represents universal soul (vishva-atma).He in turn produced from half of his body (dehaardha) Aniruddha dark in colour, the master of yogis.

The alternate names assigned to the four forms are Paramahamasa or Purusha for Vyuha-Vasudeva; Vyoma or Satya for Sankarshana; Naada or Achyuta for Pradyumna; and Hamsa or Narayana for Aniruddha.

Vyuha-Vasudeva represents Purusha (the all inclusive cosmic person); Sankarshana the Prakrti (individual soul or the material manifestation); Pradyumna the Manas (consciousness and mind) and Aniruddha the Ahamkara (the ego or the individual identify).

The four Vyuha forms are also said to represent the four states of consciousness; Vyuha-Vasudeva represents Turiya (the state beyond all states); Sankarshana the Shushupti (dreamless sleep); Pradyumna the Svapna (dream state) and Aniruddha the Jagrat (wakeful state).

Each Vyuha form is associated with a Yuga (a great period or an era). Vyuha-Vasudeva is associated with Krita-yuga; Sankarshana with Treta-yuga; Pradyumna with Dwapara-yuga; and Aniruddha with Kali-yuga.

Among the Dashavataras (the ten avatars of Vishnu) Vyuha-Vasudeva is associated with Vamana and Vasudeva-Krishna; Sankarshana with Matsya, Kurma, Parushuarama, Sri Rama and Kalki; Pradyumna with the Buddha; and Aniruddha with Varaha and Nrusimha.

When Vyuha forms are depicted on the Vimana of a Vishnu temple, the Vyuha-Vasudeva is placed on the East, Sankarshana on the South; Pradyumna on the West; and Aniruddha on the South face of the Vimana.

The Vyuha-Vasudeva who virtually is Para Vasudeva himself, is complete and endowed with all the six divine attributes (shad-guna): wisdom or gnosis (jnana) , sovereignty (aishvarya) ,  energy or potency (sakthi), strength (bala) , valour (virya) and splendour or glory (tejas)

The six attributes (gunas) are grouped into three sets. The first set comprising the first three gunas (jnana, aishvarya and shakthi) is said to be in the ‘plane of rest’; the second set comprising the latter three gunas (balavirya and tejas) is said to be in ‘the plane of activity’; and the third set comprises three pairs of two each :  jnana and Balaaishvarya and virya; the third pair being shakthi and tejas. The scheme of grouping in the third set is such that a guna each from the first set is paired with a guna from the second set. (Please refer to the table appended).

The Vyuha forms are thus significant both in spiritual and in physical planes.

  • It is said that all the six divine attributes (shad-guna) are present in Vyuha-Vasudeva, in full measure. He is the pure aggregate of the six supreme qualities; but they rest in him undifferentiated and un-manifest.

However, only two each of those gunas appear dominantly in each of the other three Vyuhas. The dominant gunas in Sankarshana are: jnana and Bala; in Pradyumna: Aishvarya and Virya; and in Aniruddha: Shakthi and Tejas.

It is clarified that it should not be construed that all six attributes are not present in each of the other three Vyuha forms (Sankarshana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha). But, it is implied that two specific gunas are dominant or explicit in each of those three Vyuhas, while the other four gunas are present in them in seed or potent form.

  • It is said, while Vyuha-Vasudeva represents Dharma, rta the cosmic order, the other Vyuhas are each assigned two distinct types of functions: one related to creation and the other related to guiding the jivas on the path to salvation.

As regards the creation- functions, it is said, that with Sankarshana (Bala) creation assumes an embryonic form; through Pradyumna (Aishvarya) the duality of Purusha and Prakrti makes its appearance; and Aniruddha (ShakthI) enables the body and soul to grow.

[There are various versions of this concept. For instance, Lakshmi Tantra mentions the function of Aniruddha as creation; of Pradyumna as preservation; and of Sankarshana as destruction.]

As regards guiding the souls, Sankarshana (jnana) teaches the ‘siddantha’ the governing principles (ekantika –marga); Pradyumna (virya) helps its translation into practice (tatkriya); and Aniruddha (tejas) brings about the fruit of such practice (kriya phala), which is liberation.

The Vyuha context

17.1. There are arguments among various schools including the Vaishnavas on the Vyuha-concept. All agree with possibility of Vasudeva Parama-purusha manifesting himself in several forms in order to be accessible to the aspirants. However, some, notably Parashara Bhattar (12th century CE), point out that Vyuha- Vasudeva is virtually the Para_vasudeva in full measure. And, wonder if there was a need or relevance for Para-Vasudeva to replicate as Vyuha-Vasudeva –murti. They remark, it would suffice if the Vyuha is restricted to three forms: Sankarshana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha.

17.2. The Vyuha concept appears to be ancient and much older to that of the Avatars. It also appears to be better structured and function- oriented. Each Vyuha form has a designated position, specific aspects and defined functions. The Vyuha manifestations are actively associated with the processes of creation, evolution and maintenance of the world and the world-order. They also protect and guide the devotees on the path to salvation. In other words, Vyuha is a dynamic group which is closely associated with the functions of the world and expresses itself eloquently.

17.3. In the Pancharatra tradition which recommends icon worship (Archa) in the place of rituals like Yajnas, the approach to the divine is graded. And, in its   hierarchy of divinities, the Vyuha murtis are ranked higher than the Avatars. The Vyuha murtis are regarded celestial beings while Avatars are those who descended to the earthly plane.  The devotees, it is said, attain to or gain approach to the Vyuhas only after worship of Vibhava forms (Avatars) such as Sri Rama and others. A devotee contemplates on the subtle form of Vasudeva only through worship of Vyuha murtis.

17.4. In comparison, the Avatar concept appears rather nebulous. Avatar is the Vibhava form of emanation, the pragmatic stage, in which the God makes himself visible (avirbhava) descending to the earthly plane, for a specific purpose. And, only a handful of such Avatars are the major ones (purna), most others being either partial (amsha) or in passing (avesha). The recognition of an Avatar appeared to have come about as a response to the then popular sentiments. Each tradition follows its own interpretation of Avatar; the number of recognized Avatars too varies from School to School. For instance the Pancharatra Samhita lists as many as thirty-nine Avatars, while the Bhagavata – Purana mentions twenty-two Avatars; and the most recognized Avatars are ten. The legends connected with those Avatars also vary. Their virtues or position in the pantheon are often vague.

Next

18. The Vyuha concept is one of the most significant features of the Vaishnava traditions, particularly of the Pancharatra. In its schema of cosmology, Para is the undifferentiated Vasudeva while Vyuha is the stage of differentiated creation closer to the beings. The Vyuha influence is wide spread across its various texts of philosophy, theology and Shilpa (temple architecture).For instance, Sri Parashara Bhattar (c.12th century) in his celebrated commentary on Vishnu-sahasra-nama observed that the Vishnu-names from 1 to 122 glorify Vishnu’s transcendental form Para; the next set of names from 123 to 146 expound the Vyuha forms; and then the stotra moves on to Vibhava (Avatars), Archa and other attributes.

The Vyuha in turn gave raise to twenty-four classical forms of Vishnu, the names of which are recited each day with devotion and reverence by most Hindus. Of the twenty-four secondary Vyuha (Vyuhantara), the first twelve (Dwadasha murti) are regarded more important.

We shall talk about the Dwadasha murti   in the next post.The following is the brief iconographic description of the Vyuhas, in summary.Vyuha murtis are manifestations of Para-Vasudeva, the chief of the Vyuha (adyaksha); and, therefore their general features follow that of Vasudeva. The Agama texts of the Vaishnava persuasion (Vishvaksena Samhita, Isvara Samhita, Vishnudharmottara and Padma Samhita) as also the Shilpa texts such as Rupamandana carry elaborate descriptions of the Vyuha-murtis. The texts prescribe that icons of the four Vyuhas be installed separately. It is also mentioned that Vyuha -Vasudeva be depicted in standing posture (sthanaka); Sankarshana in seated posture (aasana); Pradyumna in resting or leaning posture; and Aniruddha in moving posture(yana karmani). The Vishvaksena Samita (11:145) however states that the Vyuha murti (images) may be depicted either as seated (aasana), recumbent (sayana), standing (sthanaka) or as in motion (Yana).

 

Iconography

Vyuha –Vasudeva murti

Vyuha Vasudeva is represented as bright and clear as the pure crystal (shuddha spatika mani), as the cow’s milk, as jasmine or as the fresh snow. His aspect is peaceful and benevolent (saumya); and he wears yellow or red garments. He may be two or four armed. His lower right hand assumes the gesture of protection or it holds a lotus (padma); and his lower left hand holds the mace (gada).His upper right hand holds the discus (chakra) and the left hand holds the conch (shankha).He is adorned tastefully with ornaments. His image is scaled in uttama-dasatala measure.

Vyuha –Sankarshana murti

Vyuha-Sankarshana is lustrous and glowing red as a ruby or the morning sun. He is depicted as a very strong and vigorous person. He wears yellow or blue garments ; and an earring in one ear (kundalaka vibhushita).In his lower set of hands he holds pestle (musala) and a plough (hala or langala). In the upper hands he holds a bow (dhanus) and a conch (shankha).He is richly ornamented.

Vyuha –Pradyumna murti

Pradyumna is the colour of tender durva –grass or lustrous like the light of a glowing blue gem (durva- marakata prakhyam).He is very handsome; his disposition is as if slightly intoxicated (madothkata) and he wears yellow or red silken garments. His ornaments are rich and delicate.  He holds in the lower set of hands a conch (shankha) and a mace (gada).In the upper hands he holds a lotus (padma) and a discus (chakra).

When he is two-armed he is shown in white garments holding a bow and an arrow.

Vyuha –Aniruddha murti

Aniruddha is dark-blue like the rain- bearing cloud. He is very handsome. He wears yellow silken garments (pitambara). He is also described as rather pinkish like a fresh red lotus, wearing red garments. He is richly ornamented and has flowing long flower- garlands (vanamala). He holds in his lower set of hands a dagger (khadga) and a shield (khetaka). In the upper hands he holds a bow and an arrow.

He is also shown in recumbent position, resting on Sesha and in company of his consorts.

ranganatha

Vishnu Dwadasanama

Sources and References

I gratefully acknowledge the line-drawings and notes from Brahmiya Chitrakarma Sastram  by Prof . Dr. G Gnanananda

Vishnu Kosha by Prof.SK Ramachandra Rao

http://www.gosai.com/chaitanya/saranagati/html/vedic-upanisads/vedic-archeology-2.html

http://www.indiadivine.org/audarya/spiritual-discussions/35835-enclyopedia-visistadvaitam-sri-vaishnavam.html

http://4krsna.wordpress.com/2009/04/10/the-pancharatra-agamas/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pa%C3%B1caratra

http://www.ibiblio.org/sripedia/cgi-bin/kbase/Pancaratra/Modes

http://4krsna.wordpress.com/page/2/

http://www.indiadivine.org/audarya/bhakti-list/126238-sri-sankaras-views-vyuha.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pa%C3%B1caratra

http://www.ramanuja.org/sv/bhakti/archives/apr2003/0043.html

 

 

 
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Posted by on October 1, 2012 in Vishnu

 

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Vishnu – Dwadashanamas – Part Two

Continued from Part One— Vishnu

B. Narayana

4.1. Narayana in Rig Veda is not the name of a god; but is the name of the Rishi to whom the hymn Purusha- Sukta was revealed. Purusha Sukta running into sixteen riks occurs in the last book (mandala 10: 7.90.1-16) of Rig Veda. Purusha- Sukta – commencing with the line sahasraśīrṣā puruṣaḥ sahasrākṣaḥ sahasrapāt – is the only hymn dedicated to Purusha; and is repeated in other Vedas with slight modifications.

The devatha invoked in the Sukta is Purusha the transcendental “primordial person” from whose body the universe was created. He was both sacrificer and the sacrificed, and his rite was the simulated prototype for all later Vedic sacrifices.

The Rishi of the Purusha Sukta is Narayana; and , its Devata is Purusha. It is said, the Rishi and his deity (devatha) merged into one; and , thus Narayana became the Purusha (Satapatha Brahmana 13. 6. 1.1).

puruṣo ha nārāyaṇo’kāmayata atitiṣṭheyaṃ sarvāṇi bhūtānyahamevedaṃ sarvaṃ
syāmiti sa etam puruṣamedham pañcarātram
yajña kratum apaśyattamāharattenāyajata teneṣṭvātyatiṣṭhatsarvāṇi bhūtānīdaṃ
sarva mabha vadatitiṣṭhati sarvāṇi bhūtānīdaṃ sarvam bhavati ya evam
vidvān puruṣamedhena yajate yo vaitadevam veda

[This perhaps is just as Rishi Vamadeva merged into Shiva becoming one of the five faces of Shiva to represent the aspect of Vama or “preserver” associated with the element of water.]

4.2. Purusha Sukta visualizes the universe as a cosmic person. The universe visualized in human imagery is the Purusha (purusha evedam vishvam). He is endowed with countless heads and limbs. He has Agni in the face and mouth; the sun in eyes; moon in the mind; directions around as ears; vayu as his vital currents; Vedas as his speech; and the whole universe is settled in his heart. The space and time, the years, seasons, all creation and the very earth itself emanates from his feet.

candramā manaso jātaś cakṣoḥ sūryo ajāyata |  mukhād indraś cāgniś ca prāṇād vāyur ajāyata ||

chandāṃsi jajñire tasmād yajus tasmād ajāyata ||

 pādo ‘sya viśvā bhūtāni tripād asyāmṛtaṃ divi ||

Purusha is cosmic in nature, fills and enlivens the entire universe; yet, he also dwells hidden in heart-cave of each being as its essence, spirit and strength. He is the antaryamin, the very life of life. Purusha in this sense is the Atman. The essentials of our existence are all settled in the Purusha, like the spokes of the wheel in its hub.

Visualizing the cosmos in the image of a person is a grand analogy; and no other  device appears  to  match that . A reciprocal reflection of that image is the man who finds in his own being a miniature universe. He finds within him the ‘sun’, the ’moon’, the ‘earth’, the ’fire’ and the ‘space’. Man is the fragmentary universe (vyasti); and Purusha is the totality (samasti). The man and universe exist in one another. The potency of the whole is contained in each fragment. Hence they are in me; and I am in them” (mayi te teṣhu chā api aham – Bhagavad Gita 9.29)

Purusha is not a personal deity who creates out of nothingness. It  is the cosmic process that creates and destroys because that is in its nature; just as a man’s blood creates new cells; his hair on head and body spring forth and wither away; and his stomach digests other forms of life. The acts of devouring and being devoured are successive states of everything. The processes of life and death are entwined, each giving rise to the other.

4.3. In the Samkhya context, the term Purusha has the meaning of pure consciousness or spirit, as compared to matter (prakriti) which includes our senses and intellect. Prakriti evolves, changes and binds; yet, it is inert and needs the presence of Purusha to enliven, push and impel. Purusha here is the stimulator who causes creation. It is through Prakrti that Purusha manifests himself. And, every form of creation bears this sign of duality.

When he is animated by the desire to create, Purusha is Prajapathi the creator (srashta)  and protector (Palaka) of all beings. Some scholars explain the giving up (sacrificing) his innate nature of purity, formlessness and transcendence is indeed the sacrifice of Purusha (Purusha medha). In a sense, Purusha was dismembered. Prajapathi could become the creator only as a result of Purusha’s sacrifice; and all the innumerable forms of creation emanated from a common foundation, the fire of desire (Kama) of the Prajapathi. Though Purusha was dismembered , he fills, enlivens all this Universe ; and,  lies hidden in all forms of existence.  Sri Ramanuja, therefore,  described him as the primordial creator adi-karta cha bhutanam.

ime vai lokāḥ pūrayameva puruṣo yo’yam pavate so’syām puri śete tasmāt puruṣastasya yadeṣu lokeṣvannaṃ tadasyā nnam medhas tadyadasyaitadannam medhas tasmāt puruṣamedho’tho  yadasminmedhyānpuruṣānālabhate tasmādveva puruṣamedhaḥ //Sh.Br.13.6.2.1//

4.4. Purusha Sukta had enormous impact on the development of Vishnu; as also in molding the Vaishnava doctrines, theology and world-view.

The concept of Purusha pre-dates the emergence of Vishnu or Shiva forms. The Purusha imagery comprehends the powers associated with Agni, Indra, Vayu, Surya and yajna; and transcends, pervades all existence. For instance, it was said, the power, energy and splendor of the sun are derived from Purusha the resplendent spirit dwelling inside the solar orb, brilliant like the burnished gold. Purusha in the solar orb and the Purusha abiding in the eye were said to be established in one another. Prajapathi, who is the form of Purusha when animated, was considered the Agni on earth. Purusha was the very essence and the purpose of the yajna. Purusha pervades all existence and also resides in heart-cave of all beings.

During the later periods, Purusha came to be recognized as Vishnu and  Purusha Sukta the eulogy of Vishnu, because the all-pervading Vishnu by then was identified with Surya, Agni, and Yajna (yajno vai vishnuh). The virtues and powers of Purusha and his associations with elements in nature were analogues to Vishnu relations with the Vedic deities. And, with that, Vishnu, Narayana and Purusha were all treated as one.

4.5. Some concepts emanating from Purusha Sukta appear to have guided the doctrine and theology of Vishitadvaita. For instance, the Purusha Sukta put forward the premise of the formless absolute entity (amurta) voluntarily assuming a cognizable form (murta) in order to be accessible to the aspirants. It was an act of boundless compassion (karunya) and love for the beings. Purusha is cosmic in nature and pervades all universe; yet, it resides in each being as its very essence (antaryamin).

Similarly, in Vishistadwaita, Narayana the Parama Purusha (the supreme person) is the embodiment of the Absolute the Brahman who assumed the divinely auspicious charming form (divya mangala vigraha) out of compassion for all beings. The transcendental Para Vasudeva assumed the Vyuha forms and Avatars for the benefit of all beings. Narayana Paramatman dwells in all beings and matter as the Antaryami or ‘Suksma Vasudeva’  like the ‘Smokeless flame’ seated in the ‘lotus of the heart ‘. Narayana just as the Purusha is the source of all existence and all that exists resolves in to him.

In the process Purusha, Narayana  , vasudeva and Vishnu all merged in to each other.This became the basis for the Bhagavatha Dharma

Narayanaya  vidmahe  Vasdudevaya  dhimahi

Tanno  Vishnuh  prachodayath  

(Mahanarayanopanishad)

 

4.6. According to Sri Ramanuja, whatever is, is Brahman. His Brahman is not an impersonal Absolute;  but, is a Savisesha Brahman, a saguna Brahman i.e., Brahman endowed with countless auspicious attributes (ananta kalyana guna). He is the infinite ocean of compassion (apara karuna sindhu).  He is eternal (nitya); His nature is truth (satya), knowledge (jnana) and bliss (ananda).

He is Narayana, he who originated from ‘that which has all forms and no form’. Narayana Parama-purusha alone exists; the entire existence dwells in him and he abides in all as antaryamin. Loving devotion and surrender to Narayana is the only path to Moksha, the liberation; and even that is possible only with the loving grace of Narayana. Sri Ramanuja explains Narayana as “He who is the dwelling place, i.e., the source,  support and dissolving ground of all Jivas, including inert matter.” Moksha consists in the jiva remaining in undisturbed bliss in presence of Narayana in Vaikunta.

4.7. Sri Ramanuja’s concept of the Supreme is closer to that of the Rig Veda, which primarily follows Saguno-pasana. The Supreme Reality of Rig Veda, though it is beyond description or definition, is the abode of all auspicious qualities; he is sat-chit-ananda. He is the omniscient and the original cause of the world (tasyedu visva bhuvanadhi mrudani). He manifests himself as the world (Visvarupah).  He is  Jagat_pati, the Lord of the Universe, of all beings. He is the sustainer and the protector. He is omniscient, compassionate and easily accessible to devotees (Niyanta sunrutanam). Rig Veda firmly believes in grace of God; and calls upon all humans to establish a relationship with Deva as one would do with a son, a friend, a father or a mother. There is faith that the Devas respond to prayers and fulfill the desires of the devotees.

370151723_047d147bb9_z

5.1. The famous philosopher Dr.Surendranath Dasgupta in his monumental History of Indian philosophy makes an interesting observation. In the Rig Veda, he observes, Vishnu is called as Gopa, Sipivishta, Urukrama, etc., but not as Narayana. Then he goes on to say, similarly, Bhagavad Gita does not use the term Narayana; but, the Mahabharata identifies Narayana with Vishnu. This, according to him, could show that Bhagavad Gita was composed much before Mahabharata tale was reduced to writing. He opines, Bhagavad Gita was composed when Narayana was yet to be equated with Vishnu. The name Narayana, he says, appears for the first time in the Satapatha Brahmana (xii, 3.4. L,) where, however,  it is not connected with Vishnu.

6.1. The term Narayana is a compound of Nara (Man, more particularly the foundation of all men) and Ayana (the goal); meaning, Narayana is he who directs towards the ultimate goal moksha of the humans. In Mahabharata, Krishna is often referred to as Narayana and Arjuna as Nara. Here Narayana guides Nara the man towards true understanding and liberation. The epic, in fact, commences with salutations to Narayana and Nara (Narayanam namaskrutyam naram chaiva narottamam).

6.2. The expression Narayana also suggests several other meanings; the more common of which, as given in Manu Smriti (1.10) are: ‘the primal waters’; ‘that which does not perish’; ‘the spirit that abides (ayana) in the water (Nara, apah) of existence’ and being the ‘goal of all knowledge’. Narayana’s association with water is very intimate. Narayana, it is said, Narayana as Purusha not only resides in water  in his natural state (prui sete) ; but,  is the very essence of water. These explanations are meant to suggest that Narayana is an infinite cosmic ocean from which all creation arises, in which all beings live and into which all that exists   resolves.

āpo narā iti proktā āpo vai narasūnavaḥ / tā yad asyāyanaṃ pūrvaṃ tena nārāyaṇaḥ smṛtaḥ // Mn_1.10 //

6.3. Further, the creation and destruction of the universe, it is believed, is neither its beginning nor its end. They are just segments of a long spread out cyclical process. When creation is withdrawn, the universe does not totally cease or is it wiped out. The universe that was destroyed persists in a subtle form as a reminder of what once was; and as a germ of what will be the next universe. That potent reminder (Sesha) of the destroyed universe is embodied in Sesha the serpent coiled itself and floating upon limitless ocean of casual waters. Sesha whose other name is Anantha (the endlessness) represents the non-evolved form of nature (prakrti).Vishnu the pervader and preserver rests on Sesha floating on water, until he wills the next cycle of creation. Vishnu then is Narayana the one who abides in water. Narayana also means ‘the abode of man and of all existence’

[There is an interesting sidelight to Narayana’s association with water. It was mentioned to me; and am not sure if it is based in a text. This has reference to the ever –going conflict between two powerful sages of the early Vedic era – Brighu and Angirasa. Brighu was the son of Varuna the Vedic deity of water-principle. The Brighu clan and followers were close to life on rivers and seas. The vast stretch of the mouths of the mighty Sarawathi as it branched into number of rivulets and joined the occasion was the domain of the Brighus. The Brighus were the people of the sea. The Angirasas were, on the other hand, closely associated with mountains, hills, dales, and vast open spaces; they lived mainly in the foothill regions of the Himalayas. The Angirasas were mountain dwellers.

mysore-painting

The myth of churning sea-water with a mountain-head is largely seen as a symbolic representation of the oscillating conflict between the people of the sea (Brighus – Asuras) and the people of the hills (Angirasas- Devas).The Angirasas eventually won the battle; Vishnu the leader of the Angirasas (Devas) took Lakshmi (aka Bhargavi meaning Brighu’s daughter), the daughter of the vanquished sea-people, as his wife. Vishnu also derived his riches like the Kaustuba gem, Panchajanya etc from the sea; and resided among the people of the sea (Brighus). Vishnu who in early Rig Veda was a mountain dweller (giristha) eventually made his home in water. He became Narayana. ]

C.  Vasudeva –Krishna

71. Krishna son of Vasudeva of the vrishni-yadava clan is the soul and spirit of the Mahabharata. Krishna alone rescued the epic from degenerating into internecine family feud; and elevated it into a conflict of great significance in order to uphold Dharma. He taught the world that the ultimate conflict was not about land, riches or power but about the human spirit, the Dharma.

7.2. Towards the end of Mahabharata, Vishnu came to be equated with Narayana and with the Supreme Being. At many places in the epic Krishna and Vasudeva are mentioned as forms of Vishnu/Narayana (MB Udyoga parva and Shanthi parva). In Bhagavad- Gita, Krishna is the virtual Supreme Being. The Anu-gita which appears at the end of Mahabharata reveres Krishna as Vishnu. There are at least six instances in Mahabharata (including the one of Bhagavad Gita) where Krishna displays his awe inspiring cosmic form (vishva rupa) to demonstrate his divine essence.

8.1. Krishna has long been worshipped and revered as Supreme god.  The great grammarian Panini (8th century BCE) in his Astadhyayi explains the term vasudevaka as the devotee of Krishna -Vasudeva. Later, Patanjali (3rd century BCE) in his Mahabhashya too defines the term bhakta (devotee) as the ‘follower of Vasudeva, God of gods’- ke cit kaṃsa-bhaktāḥ bhavanti ke cit vāsudeva-bhaktāḥ (P_3,1.26.6).  Patanjali quotes a verse: “May the might of Krishna accompanied by Sankarshana increase! – saṅkarṣaṇa-dvitīyasya balam kṛṣṇasya vardhatām iti  -(P_2,2.24.4) “

8.2. The Arthashastra of Kautilya, of fourth century BC, refers several times to Krishna; while the Baudhayana Dharma Sutra  (Baudh 2.5.9.10) of the same century gives twelve different names for Krishna, including popular ones like Keshava, Govinda, and Damodara.

8.3. The Jain god Halabhrit referred to in Jaina Puranas is identified as Baladeva or Balarama, elder brother of Krishna. He is shown with snake-hood, a club or ploughshare or both, and a wine cup.

8.4. The Ghata-jataka of the Buddhist Canon (5-6th century) carries the story of a certain Krishna who belonged to a royal family of Matura. He is the son of king Upasagara and queen Deva-garbha; but was given to the foster care of Nandagopa wife of Andaka-vrishni. This Krishna is described as a virtuous and revered person; a Rishi.

8.5. The noted historian Dr. D.C. Sircar, quoting Quintus Curtius Rufus (c. 41-54 AD) says that an image of Vasudeva-Krishna was carried in front by the army of King Paurava, as it advanced against the Greeks led by Alexander the Great (The Cultural Heritage of India, vol. 4. p. 115).

9.1. The archaeological evidences too indicate prevalence of Krishna – Vasudeva worship centuries before Christ. For instance, a stone pillar with a Garuda sculpture on top dedicated to the god Vasudeva the “God of gods”, was erected in front of Vasudeva temple by Heliodorus the Greek ambassador to the court of King Bhagabhadra (around 113 BCE, near Vidisha or Besnagar in MP).

Another second century inscription of Ghosundi (Rajasthan) mentions a pujā-silā-prākar (stone enclosure for worship) in Nārāyana-vata (park of Nārāyana) by king Gājāyana Sarvatāta constructed in service of gods Vasudeva and Sankarshana described as ‘Lords of all’.

And the Mora –well inscription assigned to first century found near Mathura (UP) refers to five heroes of vrishni clan viz Baladeva (Sankarshana), Vasudeva (Krishna), Samba (son of Krishna), Pradyumna (son of Krishna) and Aniruddha (son of Pradyumna).

4th–6th century CE Sardonyx seal representing Vishnu

Heliodorus was a Greek ambassador to India in the second century B.C. He was sent to the court of King Bhagabhadra by Antiakalidas, the Greek king of Taxila. The kingdom of Taxila was part of the Bactrian region in northwest India, conquered by Alexander the Great in 325 B.C. By the time of Antialkidas, the area under Greek rule included what is today Afghanistan, Pakistan and Punjab.

Heliodorus was presumably not the only foreigner who took to  Vaisnava devotional practices ; certainly there must have been many others

The column Heliodorus erected at Besnagar in central India in about 113 B.C is considered one of the most important archaeological finds on the Indian subcontinent.

The inscriptions on the Heliodorus pillar  read:

brahmi-on-columnDevadevasa Va[sude]vasa Garudadhvajo ayam
karito i[a] Heliodorena bhaga
vatena Diyasa putrena Takhasilakena
Yonadatena agatena maharajasa
Amtalikitasa upa[m]ta samkasam-rano
Kasiput[r]asa [Bh]agabhadrasa tratarasa
vasena [chatu]dasena rajena vadhamanasa

Trini amutapadani‹[su] anuthitani
nayamti svaga damo chago apramado

**

“This Garuda-column of Vasudeva (Vishnu), the god of gods, was erected here by Heliodorus, a worshipper of Vishnu, the son of Dion, and an inhabitant of Taxila, who came as Greek ambassador from the Great King Antialkidas to King Kasiputra Bhagabhadra, the Saviour, then reigning prosperously in the fourteenth year of his kingship.”

“Three immortal precepts (footsteps)… when practiced diligently lead to heaven: self-restraint (dama), charity, (thyaga) consciousness (apramada).” 

10.1. The exact relationship between Krishna and Vishnu is complex;  and is a subject of endless debate. Strangely, Krishna became the point of departure for Vaishnava Schools of the North and the South. In the older traditions of the South, Narayana or Vishnu is the summum bonum , the source, support and dissolving ground of all Jivas. Krishna is an aspect or an avatar of Vishnu; not necessarily subordinate to Vishnu. However, the traditions of Gaudiya (Bengal) Vaishnavas, the Nimbarka Sampradaya and follower of Vallabha-charya consider Vasudeva-Krishna as Svayam Bhagavān “The Lord Himself “; and not  different from the ultimate and absolute Brahman. Vasudeva-Krishna   is the source of all avatars, and is the source of Vishnu or Narayana and all other gods.

D. Para-Vasudeva

11.1. The central doctrine of the Pancharatra ideology is that the absolute, formless Brahman, out of loving- compassion, voluntary assumed bodily forms so that the devotees may gain access to his subtle form. He manifests himself in five-fold forms: Para or the supreme form of his transcendent being; Vyuha or the group of his forms called Vasudeva, Sankarshana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha brought together in worship and adoration as a complete body of divine power,  and who represent  the cosmic consciousness, intellect, mind, and the ego respectively; Vibhava or his glory seen through his incarnations or Avatars; Archa or his presence manifest in his idols and images worshipped by devotees; and Antaryamin or his immanent presence within the Universe.

11.2. The approach to the divine is graded. The devotee worships the Vibhava form or the incarnation of God such as Rama and others; then moves on to worship the Vyuha forms. And, from Vyuha form he progresses to worship the subtle forms of Vasudeva. Only the Suris the truly wise ones (gods and emancipated souls) can experience and enjoy His Para form abiding in the highest realm paramapada

He is called Para because he is free and pure, altogether unconditioned by phenomenal process. Para is often referred to as ‘the first form’, ‘the best of the Purushas’ and ‘the Highest Light’ etc; But, Para is not the Absolute –Supreme –formless Brahman. Para is a representation of Brahman.

12.1. Adi – murti or Adi-Vishnu or Para-Vasudeva represents the Pancharatra ideology of the transcendental form (para) of godhead Narayana (Vishnu) abiding in the highest realm paramapada. He is called para because he originated from ‘that which has all forms and no form’, ‘Brahman without beginning, middle and end’; and because he  is the all pervading divinity and the primal source of all other divine forms and manifestations. He is visualized as pure and resplendent like a clear crystal; and as the divinely auspicious charming form.

The identification of Vasudeva-Krishna with Vishnu or Para –Vasudeva had enormous impact on the Pancharatra theology.

Adi Murthi

 

Let’s talk about the Vyuha of the Pancharatra School in the next post.

Continued in

Part Three

The Vyuha

 

Iconography

Narayana

(i) Narayana being one of the most popular forms of Vishnu, number of texts and dhyana-slokas carry the iconographic details of Narayana. The more prominent of such texts are: Chitra-karma sastram; Parasara Samhita; Sesha Samhita; Rupamandana; and Aditya hrudaya. While the general features of Narayana resemble that of Vishnu , Sesha Samhita says, Narayana image should be placed in a solar orb (savitr –mandala) ; he should be seated upon a white lotus;  and bedecked with armlets, crocodile-shaped earrings (makara – kundala) , a rich crown , the kaustubha gem and Srivatsa  on the chest; and  decorated with flowing garlands (vanamala) . He should be dressed in bright yellow or red  garments; and holding conch and discus in his hands. The expression on his face should be bright, beautiful, smiling and evoking happiness in the hearts of the viewers. His complexion should resemble molten golden –hue or luster of blue cloud. (Sesha Samhita 34, 16)

(ii) The usual descriptions of Narayana are that he has four arms representing four vyuhas; and carrying conch, discus, mace and lotus. His complexion is blue like that of sky.  His countenance is tranquil (shanta). His bearing is dignified, standing in equipoise (sama-banga) on a white lotus. He wears yellow silk garments (pitambara) and is richly adorned with gems, ornaments and flower garlands.

Krishna

Krishna is the most adorable of all gods. There are virtually countless forms of Krishna-depictions; and, can hardly be enumerated.  The texts , therefore, suggest, Krishna may be visualized in whatever form one desires. But , they lay down some broad guidelines.

[It is said in Vaikhanasa agama: Krishna‘s forms are indeed infinite; and,  are beyond enumeration . Whoever desires to worship Krishna, let her/him choose one of Krishna’s forms ; and , devote to it entirely, diligently and lovingly – Krishna rupani asankyanivaktum asaktyani; tasmad ethestya rupam karayeth]

(i) To start with, the Krishna iconographic depictions are conceived in three broad forms. They are his Saumya or Lalita-rupa – gracious, delightful and beautiful form; the Aradhya-rupa– worship-worthy divine form , either two-armed , four-armed or eight-armed (Trilokya-mohana)  carrying various ayudhas ; and, the third  is the Vishwa-rupa, or his cosmic form displaying his infinite form as Vishwa or Virat  Purusha pervading every element of the  entire cosmos .

[However, the spectacular Vishwa-rupa depictions and themes are mostly confined to Bhagavad-Gita illustrations]

It is mostly the blend of his two forms – the Saumya and the Aradhya – that have given rise to his Lila –rupa (depicting his various playful deeds and adorable sports) that is widely illustrated and painted in various Schools of art. The Lila Krishna is the most lovable infant/ boy/ and lover. Every mother loves to see Krishna in her little son; and every girl pines to see her lover in the image and spirit of Krishna.

The Lila-rupa is now the prime form of Krishna images. It combines in itself the three other Rupas or forms (Saumya, Aradhya and Vishwa) of Krishna; and projects him as Lila-Krishna or Lila-Purusha.

Again, Krishna’s icons in Lila-rupa may be classed under three broad groups :

: – The first one comprises of his sanctum images, the images installed in temples to which formal worship is offered. For instance:   the universally revered mage of Venu Gopala or Banke Bihari at Vrindavana standing in Tribhangi, with flute on his lips. He is richly decorated with Kaustuba jewel and Srivatsa mark on the chest; and Swastika insignia on his feet.

The sanctum-images of Krishna, Aradhya rupa, try to mirror his cosmic nature. The blue or dark bodied  like a rain-bearing cloud (abhravapu) Krishna corresponds to the sky and the ocean; one defining cosmic vastness and the other cosmic depth; and, both conjointly the Infinity, which as Vishnu’s incarnation Krishna represented [except in Tanjore and Mysore paintings where his figure glows with golden lustre].

: – The second relates to his deeds as the protector of the virtuous and the destroyer of the evil.

The icons depicting Krishna eliminating the evil form another group of Krishna’s iconographic visualization. He subdues the evil ones, such as Kalinga the python, puts an end to agents of death such as Baka, Puthana and Kubalyapitha and others. Here, the detached Krishna eliminates evil, protects environment and Yamuna; removes the polluting venom; puts out forest fires and so on.

As Govardhana-dhari, Krishna lifts mount Govardhana on his left hand little finger for protecting Vrindavana, its people, animals, nature and so on, from Indra’s ire.

His major act of valour in his adolescence was the elimination of Kamsa and Chanura; and establishing a just social order.

Apart from these acts of bravery, Krishna also dispels misgivings and imparts true understanding and knowledge. [Much later in his life, Krishna, as Partha Sarathi,  on the battle field, teaches Arjuna the true perspective of life; and the ways that wise persons act in life].

krishna chatustala0005

: – And, the third is his human forms, where he is the highly  ideal and most beloved  boy, youth and son; and, the sublime, divine lover

In this category of Lila rupa, Krishna as an infant is shown either on the swing or on the lap of Mother Yashodha or on a banyan leaf (vata-patra-shayi) or enjoying a lump of fresh butter (Navaneetha Krishna). In his childhood, Krishna as Bala Krishna is depicted variously as the most lovable ever mischievous little boy stealing butter, breaking pots and playing pranks; as Gopi-Krishna, he plays, sings and dances merrily with the village girls; and in the Radha – Krishna rupa he is with Sri Radha, idealized Love.

As Venu-Gopala or Madana-Gopala or Dhenu Gopala, Krishna adorned with pea-cock feather, vanamala (garland of forest flowers) and a string of gunja-seeds (gunja-avathamsam – siki-pincha),   playing on flute tends the cows (Gopalaka) and plays happily with his mates (Gopala-sukhavahanam).

In Indian tradition, cow (gau) also represents the earth; for, she has earth-like forbearance and capacity to feed mankind. Allegorically, Krishna protects the earth from evils and sustains it. ‘Gau‘ also means the five ‘senses’ that human beings have. Thus, Gopala (Gah palayanti) is he who sustains and controls senses (indriyani). At another level, Krishna stands for the Supreme Self and Gopis for ‘jivatmas‘ or individual selves pining to unite with it. Radha defines the culmination of this longing before she unites with the Supreme Self.

***

(ii) Now, a well respected text of the Shilpa Shastra – Sri Brahmiya Chitra karma Shastram – of Vaishnava orientation devotes the entire of its chapter nine – Sri Krishna Lakshanam – to discuss the various iconographic representation of Krishna.

According to this text:

Krishna, it is said, is usually depicted as an adorable, lovable lad of less than fifteen years; or as a handsome and graceful young man. The boyhood of Krishna, it is suggested, could be split into five segments of three years each. The general prescription is , the images of Krishna of the age of less than three be scaled to five (pancha) tala measure (sixty angulas); the images of three to six years in six (shat) tala measure (seventy two angulas);the images of the age up to nine years in seven (sapta) tala measure (eighty-four angulas); the images of the age from nine to twelve years in eight (asta) tala measure(ninety-six angulas); and, the images of the age from twelve to fifteen years be scaled in nine (nava) tala measure( one hundred and eight angulas).

Certain depictions of boy-Krishna are  stylized and are ichnographically well recognized; these are : Bala_Krishna (infant Krishna playing in mother’s lap or on leaf of banyan tree , sucking his toe); Navanita-tandava (three-year old Krishna standing on his slightly bent left-leg in a dancing pose, the right-hand holding afloat a ball of butter) ;Kaliya-mardana( a seven to nine year Krishna dancing on the hoods of the Kalia serpent , holding in his left hand the tail of the serpent); Govardhana-dhara( twelve year Krishna holding up the Govardhana hill on the tip of his little finger) and Venu-gopala (twelve-fifteen year Krishna under a tree playing on the flute , he stands in tri-bhanga posture and wears a peacock feather in his hair).

Krishna as a young man is depicted lovingly in company of Rukmini or Radha or other gopis;

or as  Govardhana or as Partha-sarathy the teacher of Arjuna on the battle field.

The image of Krishna as a young person is scaled in ten (dasa) tala measure (120 angulas). His complexion resembles light-blue sky; he is clad in garments of golden-hue (the colour of Radha); lovingly adorned with ornaments, flowing garlands swinging across his chest, a beautiful light crown with a peacock feather tucked on top. He could be holding a flute or a baton (danda); his left hand bent at elbow and slightly lifted up in jest. He has a gentle, sweet smile playing on his lips and face; and a sparkle glowing in his eyes.

Krishna is depicted with two hands as also with four or eight hands. Bedecked with ornaments (sarva-abhara-bhushitam)   Trailokya–mohana form may have eight or sixteen arms carrying various ayudhas , such as shakthi (sphere), kumbha (pot), srunga (horn), musala ( pestle) , bana (arrow) , goad (ankusha) , noose ( pasha)  ; and gesturing boons (varada-hasta) or in meditative pose (dhyana-hasta)

 

***

(iii) Another text – Vidyarnava-tantra – mentions that Krishna could be represented differently according to the three segments of the day: morning, afternoon and evening.

In the morning, Krishna is seated on a jewelled throne (ratna-simhasana) in Padmasana (lotus-posture). He is shown as a small boy, blue in complexion; holding a ball of fresh butters; and, surrounded by cows, his fellow cowherd-friends and maidens. He looks happy and cheerful (hasantam) with an enchanting smile playing on his lips (manda-smita-mukhambuja)

In the afternoon, he is a grown-up boy, in his teens, wearing pea-cock feathers on his crown (Shikhi-pincha); bejewelled (ratna-kundala); adorned with Vanamala garland; and, draped in yellow silken garments (Pitambara). He holds a flute in his right hand; and in his left hand he has either a conch (shankha) or a stick (krida vetra) for sport.

And, in the evening, he is resplendent as a monarch of Dwaraka (Dwarakadisha), seated on a jewelled throne in an elegant pavilion surrounded by water bodies. He well decked, adorned with variety of ornaments and a handsome crown. Sometimes, he is depicted with four arms carrying the ayudhas associated with Vishnu – conch, discus, mace and lotus (shankha, chakra, gadha, padma). He is served by many beautiful looking women (surupani) and wise sages. Rukmini of blue complexion holding a red lotus flower (padma or rakta-indīvara) stands to his right; while Satyabhama of golden complexion holding a blue lotus flower (utpala,nīlotpala ) stands to his left.

Krishna symbolism

(iv) There is also a rare depiction of Krishna in the Tantric tradition.

Para Vasudeva

Isvara Samhita (4: 80 to 102) gives a detailed description of the Para Vasudeva. He has four arms and is resting on Adi-sesha, attended by Garuda, Visvaksena, Nitya-suris and others. He carries lotus (symbolizing creation), discus (protection), conch (salvation) and mace (destruction).He is shining like a clear crystal; and is dressed in golden yellow garments. His other features are similar to that of Vishnu.

Sources and References

I gratefully acknowledge the line-drawings and notes from Brahmiya Chitrakarma Sastram

by Prof G Gnanananda

Vishnu Kosha by Prof.SK Ramachandra Rao

http://www.advaita-vedanta.org/archives/advaita-l/2003-May/032971.html

http://www.gosai.com/chaitanya/saranagati/html/vedic-upanisads/vedic-archeology-2.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vasudeva

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Svayam_bhagavan

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heliodorus_pillar

http://www.gosai.com/chaitanya/saranagati/html/vedic-age_fs.html

http://hinduismhome.com/shop/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=16

http://4krsna.wordpress.com/2009/04/10/the-pancharatra-agamas/

http://www.ibiblio.org/sripedia/cgi-bin/kbase/Pancaratra/Modeshttp://www.srivaishnavan.com/ans_iswara.html

http://www.indiadivine.org/audarya/spiritual-discussions/35835-enclyopedia-visistadvaitam-sri-vaishnavam.html

Krishna with cow drawings from http://www.drdhaarts.com/portfolio/?q=node/8

 Other pictures from internet

 
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Posted by on October 1, 2012 in Vishnu

 

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