Śakti in Pāñcarātra Āgamas
The word Śakti means power, ability, capability, capacity and so on. The norm that Pāñcarātra system has held to admit this, is to worship shakti as a Goddess. However other texts that mentions Pāñcarātra, and Pāñcarātrikas themselves do not refer to Śakti as an extremely significant deity which has a prominent role. Bāṇa the author of Harṣacaritra, does not associate Śakti tattva with Pāñcarātrikas who are mentioned to be in an assembly in the Buddhist monk Divākaramiśra.
The Vedantic commentators Śaṅkara, Rāmānuja and Madhva also do not refer to it while treating the validity of Pāñcarātra system in the Utpattyasambhavādhikaraṇa. Jayanta Bhaṭṭa while discussing the validity of Pāñcarātra system in his Nyāyamañjarī and Āgamaḍambara, does not refer to Śakti as a factor relating to the doctrine. Cakradhara who commented on Nyāyamañjarī is also silent about this.
Śrī Vaiṣṇava Ācārya Yāmuna does not make any reference to this in his grantha Āgamaprāmāṇya while vindicating the validity of Pāñcarātra. Vedānta Deśika a strong supporter of the system makes no mention of this in his grantha Pāñcarātrarakṣā. However Ahirbudhnya Saṁhitā and Lakṣmī Tantra which admits Śakti as a deity are cited as pramāṇas by Vedānta Deśika. It may be speculated that while the doctrine of Śakti could have been an integral part of Pāñcarātra system since ancient times but were ignored by Yāmuna and others.
It is also possible that Ekāntidharma which was preached by Ṛṣis Phenapas and others from time to time, continued unchanged for a long time even after it fully evolved in to the system of Pāñcarātra at the end of Dvāpara yuga. In due course of time the Śakti element originally present in Shaiva Śākta Tāntrika systems had a deep influence on Pāñcarātra.
Even without admitting the Śākta aspects in to consideration, Pāñcarātra can be considered as a fully equipped Vaiṣṇava Āgama. While Vaikhānasa Āgamas contain many derogatory remarks towards Pāñcarātra but Pāñcarātras Śākta elements are not criticized.
The Sāttvata saṁhitā mentions Śrī and Puṣṭi as the consorts of Viṣṇu.
prāgvallakṣmyā sametaṁ ca tadekaṁ rūpamaiśvaram |
śrī puṣṭyoratha madhyasthaṁ dvitiyaṁ parikīrtaye ||
There in Śrī represents the power of the Enjoyer, and Puṣṭi is called as the agent.
These two are said to be the Śaktis imperishable and have risen along with Īśvara.
bhogārthamavatīrṇasya tasya lokānukampayā |
uditaṁ saha tenaiva śakti dvitayam advayam ||
Here the two consorts are identified as two simultaneously arising Śaktis from Īśvara. Nārāyaṇā is the name of Śakti identical with Śrī and is mentioned as Parameśvarī.
śaktir narāyaṇākhyā yā svamūrtiḥ parameśvarī |
Bhagavān enumerates the names of Śakti as:
Lakṣmī - awarding all prosperity
Puṣṭi - offering all kinds of fulfillment
and also as Kānti, Prabhā, Matiḥ, Śakti, Kriyā, Icchā, Mahimonnati, Svadhā, Vidyā, Aṇimā, Māyā, Mūrti, Hrīḥ, Śrīḥ, Kalā, Dyutiḥ, Niṣṭhā, Ṛjvī, Ruciḥ, Ceṣṭā, Śobhā, Śuddhiḥ, Vibhūtiḥ, Vṛttiḥ, Vyāptiḥ, Gatiḥ, Suptiḥ, Bhāgā, Vāgīśvarī, Rati, Siddhi, Naṭi, Pluti, Krīḍā, Sampat, Kīrti, Śikhā, Mati, Gāyatrī, Maryādā, Srṣṭi, Acyutā.
As a devatā, Śakti is said to have a mantra. Jayākhya saṁhitā, does not mention a separate Śakti tattva, but while mentioning the mantras of Lakṣmī, Kīrti, Jayā and Māyā, says they rest in Viṣṇu with all their powers. While they are discussed in an elaborate manner, the word Śakti is not used anywhere. However a later editor to this text has given the name Śakti-mantra-sādhana to this chapter. Īśvara Saṁhitā mentions three consorts of Viṣṇu, namely Śrī, Bhū and Vīralakṣmī. However, even there they are not addressed as Śaktis.
Both Parameśvara and Pādma Saṁhitās do not consider Śakti to be identical with Lakṣmī. They only mention Śaktis as powers possessed by Viṣṇu. These powers are fivefold as per Parameśvara Saṁhitā - Jyeṣṭhā, Vidyā, Kānti, Śānti and Śraddhā.
Ahirbudhnya Saṁhitā and Lakṣmī Tantra treats Śakti Tattva as a Devatā. Śakti of Parabrahman is as moonlight to moon. It fulfills all the activities on behalf of Parabrahman. It has an independent identity in rising and disappearing. It is referred to in these saṁhitās as Pūrṇā, Lakṣmī, Śrī, Kamalā, Viṣṇu Śakti, Gaurī, Gāyatrī, Prakṛti, Mātā, Tārā, Śānta, Sarasvatī etc. They are more than 25 in number.
jagatyā lakṣamānā sā lakṣmīriti vigīyate l
śrayanti vaiṣṇavaṁ bhāvaṁ sā śrīriti nigadyate ||
viṣṇoḥ sāmardhya rūpatvāt viṣṇu śaktiḥ pragīyate |
śuddha-sattvāśrayāt gaurī trāyantī jagataḥ sarvān gāyatrītyarthābhidhīyate
tārā saṁsāra tārāṇām ll
She is called as Lakṣmī because she manifested as the world. She is Śrī because she manifested as ever associated with Viṣṇu. Being Viṣṇu's ability and skill she is Viṣṇu Śakti. As she is pure Sattva, she is called Gaurī. As she delivers to all those who praise her through Veda trayee, she is called Gāyatrī. As she enables baddha ātmans to cross over saṁsāra she is called Tārā.
She is mentioned as distinct from Brahman who owns her. The relationship between Brahman and Śakti are said to be of Being and Becoming -
In the state of this relationship they are said to be one in Tattva -
'bhavadābhava svarūpeṇa tattvamekamivoditau' |
As she has an independent function from Viṣṇu she is called as consort of Viṣṇu -
svātantryena rūpeṇa viṣṇupatnīyamadbhutā |
This Śakti has two fold nature - kriyā and bhūti.
Bhūti is of three kinds - unmanifest, time and ātmans -
lakṣmīmayaḥ samunmeṣaḥ sa dvidhā vyavatiṣṭhate |
kriyā vibhūti bhedena bhūti sā ca tridhā matā |
avyakta kāla puṁ bhāvāt teṣāṁ rūpaṁ pravakṣyate ll
Kriyā means that which makes things active, like opening of closed eyes. Kriyā makes bhūti active. Kriyā is manifested as Viṣṇus Sudarśana cakra.
Lakṣmī Tantra also addresses Śakti in a similar manner. However it has more of a Śākta element. Śakti is inseparable from Viṣṇu, she is Nārāyaṇī Śakti which manifests as Brahman's desire to create.
sarvāvasthā gatā devī svātma bhūtānapāyinī |
ahaṁ nārāyaṇī śaktiḥ sisṛkṣā lakṣaṇā tadā ||
The relationship between Brahman and Śakti is that of 'I' the entity and 'I' hood -
ahamarthā and ahantā l
The relationship between them is of oneness -
anyonyenā nābhāvādanyonyena samanvayāt |
tādātmyaṁ viddhi saṁbandhaṁ mama nāthasya cobhayoḥ ||
Śakti has all six attributes of Brahman.
ṣāḍguṇya vigrahaṁ devaṁ tādṛśyā ca śri̱yā yutam |
Every manifestation of Brahman is nothing but Śakti's manifestation. She is the Supreme will of Īśvara and acts under His guidance. She has no separate existence from Īśvara but at the same time she has her own identity.
Ahirbudhnya Saṁhitā and Lakṣmī Tantra have made an unique contribution by offering explainations to the name " Śrī ".
Ahirbudhnya Saṁhitā -
śṛṇāti nikhilān doṣān śṛṇāti ca guṇair jagat |
śrīyate cākhilair nityaṁ śrayate ca paraṁ padam ||
She destroys all the defects that arise from past karmas. She mitigates and softens the pain of saṁsāra with her sympathetic nature and affection. She is always resorted to, by all. She occupies the supreme position.
Lakṣmī Tantra -
śṛṇomi karuṇāṁ vācaṁ śrṇomi duritaṁ satām |
śṛṇomi ca gaṇair viśvaṁ śaraṇaṁ cāsmi śāśvatam |
śarīraṁ ca harirasmi śraddhayā copsitā suraiḥ ||
"I listen to the lamentations of those who beseech me. I destroy pāpakarmas along with their results, of sincere people. I envelop the universe with my qualities. I am ever lasting refuge. I am the very body of Hari. Devatās approach me with faith to get their desires fulfilled".
Vedānta Deśika observes that in Pāñcarātra, name Śrī is derived in six ways -
śrīyate, śrayate, śṛṇoti, śrāvayati, śṛṇāti, śṝnāti.
All these except śrāvayati are derived from Ahirbudhnya Saṁhitā and Lakṣmītantra.
̂Śrāvayati means Śrī acting as an intermediary between Īśvara and ātmans, and makes him listen to her recommendations on behalf of jivātmans for receiving Īśvaras grace or dayā. From this we get that in Pāñcarātra system place given to Śrī is not exactly as same as found in Śākta systems.
While in Ahirbudhnya Saṁhitā Ahirbudhnya is the speaker and Nārada is the listener, in Lakṣmī Tantra Śrī herself is the speaker while Indra is the listener. Among late day Pāñcarātrikas, Yāmunācārya of Śrī Vaiṣṇava tradition glorifies Śri in his Catuśślokī as follows:
kāntaste puruṣottamaḥ phaṇipatiḥ śayyāsanam l
vāhanaṁ vedātmā vihageśvaro yavanikā māyā jagan mohinī ll
brahmeśādi suravrajaḥ sadayitas tavad dāsa dāsī gaṇaḥ l
śrīr ityeva ca nāma te bhagavati brūmaḥ kathaṁ tvāṁ vayam ||
"Your consort is Puruṣottama, Ādiśeṣa is your bed and seat, Lord of birds Garuḍa who is the very manifestation of Vedas is your vehicle, Māyā which deludes people is your veil. Hosts of devatās such as Brahmā and Rudra along with their wives are your servants and maid servants. O Goddess, Sages named you as Śrī, what more can we speak of you " ?
🙏 Namo Narasimha 🙏