There are still a few places left on our India Pilgrimage Tour. Please see the video links in the right column for a preview of the tour.
|Pancha Ratra School of Spiritual Development|
Originally, the word itself meant Five (Pancha) Disciplines (Ratra). These disciplines were and are
Tattwa The study of Beingness
Mukti Prada Studying and practicing paths to liberation
Bhakti Prada Practicing the path of Devotion
Yaugika The study and practice of Yoga
Vaishayika The study of spiritual science
Definition: In various scriptures in praise of the Pancha Ratra school, it is described as the school which has the four Vedas contained within it. It has also been described so comprehensive that it eclipses the Shastras of Shaivism, Samkhya, Yoga, Arhata and Bauddha. It has been called the path that destroys ignorance: that which destroys the reality conveyed by the senses. Interestingly, there is no one commonly accepted definition. So these above are variously referred to in diverse texts.
Origin of the School
Because of the long history of the oral tradition, the exact roots are not known. By inference, it is quite ancient because it predates writing. Its existence has been traced to prior to some of the great Indian epics, such as the Mahabharata, where it first makes its prominent appearance. But even references to it there are later interpretations and not original, according to most scholars. Many of the sources in which references to the Pancha Ratra school appears are contained in fragments of documents the majority of which have been lost: e.g. the various scriptures referred to as a group by the name Pancha Ratra Samhitas. It is estimated that originally there were 1.5 million shlokas or verses dedicated to this school. That we do not have these verses is tragic in the extreme. The primary concern of the Pancha Ratra School seems to have been sadhana or practical methods of realizing the Supreme.
Roots of PhilosophyThis school has the underlying precept that reality is non-dual, One Supreme Reality that possesses two fundamental aspects:
1. Static or NivrittiBrahman
2. Dynamic or PravrittiShakti.
The ultimate reality is described as an attributeless consciousness substance, always transcending and thus eluding intellectual comprehension and verbal expression.
The use of tantric mantras and practices permeates Pancha Ratra. Indeed, it not only propounds the esoteric nature and power of mantras, but states that the world has come into existence because of them. They state that everything has come into existence through some application of Sudarshana Power, the Power of Mind attributed to Vishnu. All the natural, physical and other kinds of energies are more manifestations of Kriya Shakti, the potency of Vishnu that many call Lakshmi. In fact, much of the Pancha Ratra system refers to the Lakshmi Tantra for the details of its ideas and methods.
Although there is heated controversy on this point, it is my opinion that Pancha Ratra has roots in the Purusha Suktam of the Rig Veda, given the latter's clear statement about the Mental Fire Sacrifice by the Celestials and the Siddhas that ultimately created the phenomenal world as we understand it. Thus it is Vedic in character, whereas many Brahmins emphatically deny this link. I admit I am perplexed by this since the Purusha Suktam is so clear.
The Nature of Reality
The highest reality is similar to that presented by all other Eastern schools and scriptures: an unconditional and undifferentiated existence devoid of characteristics of any kind, yet the source of all characteristics through its potency alternately called Maya, Prakriti, Shakti and the like. But Maya and Prakriti are often described as insentient in character with Brahman alone being the sentient factor. But with the use of the term Shakti, we begin to see consciousness expressed through self-determination of the all pervading force of the universe at every level, both physical and non-physical.
Personal Supreme Being
All the difficulties among the schools begin with the consideration of a personal approach to Deity. Shankara denied the personal aspect. Ramanuja embraced it. Madvacharya not only embraced and adored it, but also dedicated himself in eternal service to it.
Adi Shankara and the Pancha Ratra School agree that the ultimate reality is unknown and unknowable, beyond the reach of human understanding whether through sense or mind. But in agreement with the Ramanuja school and those who follow Narayana, the Deity becomes personal and reveals him/her self to the devotees and genuine seekers of truth. Thus, the Pancha Ratra school teaches that the incomprehensible can and does appear in human form, and can speak through a human tongue as vehicle of Divine Grace to help us realize Truth in an aspect related to by human beings. Terms found in Pancha Ratra that to refer to a personal God or Truth in this way are these: Vasudeva, Ishwara, Narayana and Maha Purusha.
Denial of the Unity of the Power of the Personal
The vehement opposers of the Pancha Ratra school state that since Brahman is unmoving, always transcendent and actionless, it cannot have created the world. Thus, it is not the creator. Since some other aspect created it, then this is dualism and denies the essential unity of all creation.
But the Lakshmi Tantra states that this is because the non-dualists put their own definitions upon the nature and being of creation, and then attack anything that does not conform to their definitions. This is classical circular reasoning, to say the least. Instead, the Lakshmi Tantra, a foundation Pancha Ratra document,states that while the always transcendent part, God, remains, another part of that same reality manifests itself as activity: That activity and inactivity are two halves of the same Truth. They ask why the Advaitins would strive to limit God, when clearly there is a manifest reality that we live in every day. While the Advaitins call it Maya, the Panch Ratrans call it another form of Truth; the changing aspect of the changeless reality.
The dynamic part of this changeless Truth is what Lakshmi calls herself in the scripture dedicated to her.
Attributes of the Supreme Being
Often knowledge is stated to be the prime or principal attribute of the Supreme Being. Other phrases are the Lord of Speech, or preceptor of the universe. A misleading and incorrect statement is that when all other things have perished, knowledge alone remains as the sole companion of the supreme being. This idea, mostly put forward by the various schools of Vedanta, flies in the face of the various koshas or sheaths that surround the jiva, soul, atman, or whatever one wishes to call the piece of the supreme that dwells in the heart of all of us.
The sheaths covering the soul area universally listed as:
Anamaya Kosha Food Sheath
Pranamaya Kosha Vital Life Energy Sheath
Manomaya Kosha Mental Sheath
Vijnanamaya Kosha Intellect Sheath
Anandamaya Kosha Bliss Sheath
The middle sheath surrounding the soul is the Manomaya Kosha or the mental sheath wherein all things are analyzed. Next, second from the soul is the Vijnanamaya Kosha or the intellect sheath. This is the realm where the great ideas are apprehended and passed on to the mind for analysis. If knowledge were the last thing to remain after everything else had perished, then this kosha would be closest to the Soul, but it isn't. The Anandamaya Kosha or Bliss sheath is the closest to the soul. Thus, when everything else has perished, including knowledge, the Bliss alone remains as the sole companion to the Supreme Being.
Forms of the Deity
The Supreme Brahman is formless and beyond attributes, but there is deity that is with form, approachable, that responds to prayer. The forms given by Ramanuja are through the Avatars and consecrated images in temples. But it is also important to add the saints and sages who have realized some aspect of truth and serve as God's mouthpieces and vehicles on earth.
Abode of the Deity
Many different abodes have been described from Kailas Mountain, as the dwelling of Lord Shiva, to Badarinath, where Narayana lives. And these are only earthly locations. In the divine spheres there are descriptions of Vaikunta, Brahma Loka, and other such places. But finally, the abode of God is in the heart of all.
Manifestation of Deity
The Pancha Ratra descriptions derived from scriptures pertaining to Narayana describe the first manifestation of Mula Prakriti, the foundation substance that composes all the physical and non-physical spheres of existence. This is really Lakshmi. But some in the Pancha Ratra school are not comfortable with a sentient feminine principal of unending power. Thus they turn to the unconscious Prakriti principle. The apparent manifestation of Mula (foundation) Prakriti is Vasudeva or Narayana, the indwelling conscious, beingness inherent in everything. But other references to Prakriti attribute a conscious volition to this feminine force, just as Lakshmi herself does in the Lakshmi Tantra.
The second manifestation is a conditioned order of existence called Vyuhas in Sanskrit. Vyuhas are divine qualities discussed in some detail in the Lakshmi Tantra. The Vyuhas are:
1. Jnana - Absolute knowledge2. Aishvarya - Sovereignty
3. Shakti - Potency
4. Bala - Strength
5. Virya - Immutability which is the ultimate in Divine Virility
6. Tejas - Splendor and Might
Mind and Consciousness at the individual level make their appearance as individual beings appear. The crown of individual beings are of course, the geat Rishis, the Maha Siddhas, and Avatars.
The third manifestation is the appearance of avatars. In the scriptures called the Puranas, accounts relate that the Supreme Being takes incarnations through Vyuhas and Avatars to restore Dharma and eliminate evil influences from the environment of Good souls (those who have chosen to follow the path of the Good.) It is not said that evil everywhere in the universe is eliminated, but this fact is never discussed in the scriptures. It is, thereby assumed that God likes only the good. This is assumption. We do not know what form God may take in the nether regions, because they are not reported in scripture. The closest we have in the Puranas' discussion of negative beings is the impartiality of Shiva, who bestows blessing on good or bad alike if they complete the necessary disciplines to achieve it.
This mantra begins the process of bringing the power of manifestation through the Sahasrara Chakra (crown chakra) down through you as an individual to the Earth Plane at your first chakra.
Thus you will increase your power of manifestation.
|Certified Priests and Pujari|
Maheshwara and Sri Savitri Devi, Sanatana Dharma
Satsang Certified Priests, are available for pujas and fireceremonies in absentia. Please click here for further details: Pujas in absentia.
Mahavir has been certified by Sanatana Dharma Satsang as a Pujari for 7 years. He is available to do puja at your location in New York City on a donation basis. He can be reached at email@example.com
The works of Thomas Ashley-Farrand (Namadeva Acharya) give unprecedented, detailed instruction in how to empower yourself using the techniques of the ancient sages and rishis. He and Satyabhama have been given the mission by their Gurus Sadguru Sant Keshavadas and Guru Rama Mata to bring these teachings to everyone.
To that end, he has written and recorded a number of works, and he travels to North America and the UK to teach workshops. Bi-annually, we lead a Pilgrimage Tour of India's Holy Places, visiting with the Shankaracharayas at Kanchi Math, Guru Mata at Vishwa Shanti Ashram, and doing fire ceremonies in the Himalayas, among the highlights of the trip.
We have founded a religious organization, Sanatana Dharma Satsang, which has opened a Gayatri Temple in Beaverton, Oregon. Plans are in the works to found temples with residential communities in Oregon, New Mexico, and other locations. The link to it is in the right column.
These works are offered in a spirit of service. We sincerely hope that they will further you on your path.
Prem & Shanti,
Satyabhama (Margalo Ashley-Farrand)
Saraswati Publications, LLC
Video Quick LinksIndia Video
Visit with Guru Mata at Vishwa Shanti Ashram and Pujas
India Video HD
At Henson Studios in Hollywood, Namadeva and Satyabhama recorded a DVD of 5 pujas-Ganesha, Dattatreya, Shiva, Lakshmi and Saraswati. If you want the great spiritual energy of puja in your home, get the Pancha Devata Puja DVD and play it often, even while you are out.
Mantra Therapy for Prosperity CD - Help with blocks to prosperity and mantras to bring it in
Ancient Power of Sanskrit Mantra and Ceremony, Volume I & II CDs now recorded and available
Mantra, Path to Spiritual & Material Attainment - a 15-hour workshop on 14 CDs
2009 Schedule of Workshops
We will be doing workshops in the following places:
March - Cambridge, Kripalu, MA; Keene, NH
April - Kansas City, MO; Portland, OR
May 1-24 India Pilgrimage
(We still have places left. Click on the link in the box above for more info.)
June - Guru Mata-Portland, OR; Pensacola, FL; Atlanta, GA, and Charleston, SC
July- Boston, MA; St. Louis, MO.
August - Far Horizons, Sequoia Nat'l Monument, CA
Sept - Lansing, MI; Chicago, IL; Keene, NH, MA: Boston & Kripalu
October - CANADA: BC - 3 workshops, Alberta - 2 workshops
November - CANADA, Alberta
December - Austin, TX
2009 information: http://sanskritmantra.com/schedule.shtml
Cochrane, Alberta, Canada Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Las Vegas, NV
Los Angeles, CA
Jyoti Atma Chanting Group, Contact Jagadamba, who is a Certified Mantra Instructor, email@example.com
Contact Mary Huddleston, who is a Certified Mantra Instructor at
The Ancient Power of Sanskrit Mantra and Ceremony Recordings
The Ancient Power of Sanskrit Mantra and Ceremony, 2nd. Ed., is now being revised to simplify pronunciation.
As promised some time ago, material to be chanted is being recorded by Namadeva
to be sold in CD sets of 7 or more CDs.
Volume I and Volume II 7-CD sets are now for sale at our online store for $65 each.
Volume III, which will be more than 7 CDs, will be ready in late 2009.