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Thread: Scriptural canon of Tantrism

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    Arrow Scriptural canon of Tantrism

    Tantrism is based upon Shruti, Divine Revelation, which is of two kinds: Agama (Tantras) and Nigama (Veda-samhitas, Brahmanas, Aranyakas and Upanishads). Additional sources are writings of Tantric Masters and a few texts from Puranas and Itihasas.

    Primary authority for all schools of Tantrism are Agamas or Tantras, which are seen as the essence of Vedas and are the sole practical authority in kaliyuga. Nigamas (Vedic texts) are acknowledged as an integral part of the same Shruti, though they cannot be under-stood and applied properly without Agamic knowledge.

    Vedic sources of Tantric tradition are:
    1. Certain hymns of Vedas, especially those of Agni, Soma and various forms of Devi. In this category we have Shri-sukta, Durga-sukta, Sarasvati-sukta, Devyatharvashirsha and others. Atharvana-samhita is thought to be a Vedic root of Tantras.
    2. Several Upanishadic texts, including some of great Upanishads (passages from Briha-daranyaka, Chandogya, Shvetashvatara, Kena and some other) and numerous minor Upanishads of Muktika canon of 108. The most important are eight Shakta Upanishads: Tripura, Tripuratapini, Devi, Bahvricha, Bhavana, Savitri, Sita and Saubhagya-lakshmi. In addition to these, there are several later Shakta Upanishads which were not included into Muktika list: Advaitabhavana, Kali, Kalika, Kaula, Tara etc.
    3. Bhagavadgita, which is seen as an exposition of Krama system.

    Agamic sorces are:
    1. 64 Bhairavagamas, which include a group of eight Yamalas. The most important texts of these group are Svacchanda-tantra, Vijnanabhairava, Rudra-yamala (incorporating Paratrishika-tantra, Devi-rahasya and other important texts), Devi-yamala or Devya-yamala, Brahma-yamala or Pichumata, Jayadratha-yamala, Tantraraja-bhattaraka, Netra-tantra and Mri-gendra-tantra.
    2. Kaulagamas, which are divided into six Amnayas (flows of Revelation). These Amnayas with corresponding Tantras are:
    • Purvamnaya, Trika school: Siddhayogeshvari-mata, Malinivijayottara-tantra, Shiva-sutra.
    • Dakshinamnaya, Shrividya school: Vamakeshvari-mata (which consists of Nityasho-dashikarnava and Yogini-hridaya), Jnanarnava, Parashurama-kalpasutra, Gandharva-tantra, Tripura-rahasya, Tantraraja, Prapanchasara, Tripurarnava.
    • Pashcimamnaya, Kubjika school: Kubjika-mata, Shatsahasra-samhita, Cincinimatasara-samuccaya etc.
    • Uttaramnaya, including Krama, Kali and Tara schools: Krama-Agamas, Vatulanatha-sutra, Mahakala-samhita, Parananda-sutra, Shaktisangama-tantra, Kali-tantra, Niruttara-tantra, Brihannila-tantra, Todala-tantra, Yogini-tantra, Yoni-tantra, Kulachudamani, Ma-trikabheda-tantra, Tara-tantra, Kumari-tantra, Mahachinacharakrama-tantra, Phetkarini-tantra, Nirvana-tantra and many other.
    • Urdhvamnaya, Kula school: Kularnava-tantra, Kaulajnana-nirnaya.
    • Rahasyamnaya, Rahasya-kaula school: exclusively oral tradition.

    Then, there are several texts which are revered as Agamic Shruti, though formally they are not. These for example include:
    • Tantraloka of Abhinavagupta, which was a direct revelation from Bhairava.
    • Mahartha-manjari of Maheshvarananda.
    • Shrividyarnava of Vidyaranya Yati.
    • Lalita-sahasranama, a part of Brahmanda-purana.
    • Devi-mahatmya, a part of Markandeya-purana.
    • Saundarya-lahari attributed to Adi Shankara.

    In addition to these, Agamas of Shaivism and Vaishnavism are accepted as subsidiary sources. These include twenty eight Siddhantagamas (10 Shaiva + 18 Raudra) and Pancharatra-tantras (Lakshmi-tantra is of special importance out of them).

    There are Tantric commentaries to Vedantic canon of Prasthana-traya: to Gita (Gitartha-sangraha of Abhinavagupta), Brahma-sutra (Shakti-bhashya) and some Upanishads (by Bhaskararaya Makhin and others).

    Puranic and Itihasic sources are:
    1. Kalika-purana, Lalitopakhyana of Brahmanda-purana, Uma-samhita of Shiva-purana, Mahabhagavata-purana, Devibhagavata-purana, Devi-purana, Chandi-purana.
    2. Some parts of Mahabharata, Adhyatma-ramayana and other minor texts.
    Last edited by Arjuna; 10 May 2006 at 07:36 PM.

  2. #2
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    Re: Scriptural canon of Tantrism

    namas te Arjuna!

    For the last couple of years I have been trying to build up a library of important texts of Sanatana dharma.
    I have all 108 upanishads, Bhagavata purana, Shiva purana, Kalika purana, Markendeya purana and lots of other bits and pieces.

    On the net it's easy to find Sanskrit -- as you probably know http://sanskritdocuments.org/ has huge amounts of material -- but no agamas, nigamas, yamalas, damaras, or tantras!

    Tantric texts are much harder to find both on the net and in print. I recently found http://www.muktabodha.org/index.htm . I am not sure if they are still adding to it -- I can only hope so!

    You seem to have some knowledge of shakta shastras, Arjuna -- can you tell me what is the best place to find some of the rarer tantras? For example I have done all sorts of net searches looking for brihannila and some of the others -- it does not seem they are in print. (I only stumbled across this site (hindudharmaforums) because of your post above!) Where would you go?

    svasti te .stu
    bhavanidasa

  3. #3
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    Post Re: Scriptural canon of Tantrism

    The best place for Sanskrit texts which i know is Chaukhamba Sanskrit Pratishthalaya. Second one is too famous to mention, MLBD.
    But it is also beneficial to check small publishing houses in Banaras, Allahabad, Kolkata and South India. Some rare texts are published only locally.
    And ultimately, there are many MS-s in libraries all over India...

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