Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Pancha Sukta Tradition

पञ्चसूक्त परम्परा

In every tradition of Sanatana Dharma, that accepts and uses the Vedas, five (pancha) Vedic hymns (suktas) are selected and considered the most important. The five hymns are recited especially in temple usually during the ablution ceremony (abhishekha).

The Shaiva Pancha Suktas are:

1. Rudra Sukta (Sri Rudram/Chamakam)
2. Purusha Sukta
3. Durga Sukta
4. Sri Sukta
5. Bhu Sukta

The Vaishnava Pancha Suktas are:

1. Purusha Sukta
2. Narayana Sukta
3. Sri Sukta
4. Bhu Sukta
5. Nila Sukta

The Smarta Pancha Suktas are:

1. Purusha Sukta
2. Narayana Sukta
3. Rudra Sukta (Sri Rudram/Chamakam)
4. Sri Sukta
5. Durga Sukta

The Shakta Pancha Suktas are:

1. Devi Sukta
2. Durga Sukta
3. Sri Sukta
4. Bhu Sukta
5. Nila Sukta

Simple observations:

1. All branches share the Sri Sukta.
2. Shaivas, Vaishnavas and Shaktas share the Bhu Sukta
3. Shaivas, Vaishnavas and Smartas share the Purusha Sukta
4. Shaivas, Vaishnavas and Smartas use suktas for both Deva and Devi
5. Shaktas use only suktas for Devi, and omit suktas for Deva
6. Shaktas are unique in using the Devi Sukta
7. Vaishnavas do not use the Rudra Sukta (Rudram/Chamakam)
8. Shaivas do not use the Narayana Sukta
9. Smartas use both Rudra Sukta and Narayana Sukta

Lesson to be learned:

The Pancha Suktas in no way represent the extent of the Vedic canon used by these branches. In fact, the Pancha Suktas represent only a small fraction of the Vedic canonical material utilized by a given branch. However, a simple analysis of which suktas are accepted as most important goes to show that while all these branches of Sanatana Dharma accept and follow the Veda, each branch quotes selectively per their need, and what is compatible with the theology and philosophy of that branch. What is deemed compatible is determined by the respective Agamas of that branch and secondary (smriti) literature. Only that which is compatible is generally highlighted.

The doctrines of different schools listed all find support in the Veda. Therefore, no particular branch can rightly claim theirs is the one and only true interpretation of the entire Veda. Each system within Sanatana Dharma is its own independent and sovereign path to be understood and analyzed within its own context, and not in the context of other systems. Given this background, it makes complete sense to say, as Shaivites do, that Shaivism is based on a dual canon -- the Vedic canon, which is general in nature, and the Agamic canon, which is specific in nature.

|| ॐ नमः शिवाय ||

© Agnideva, 2007

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