I know that Hindu scriptures classified as Shruti and Smriti but don't know much about Aagama.

I would like to know about Agama Scripture:

  • What are the Agama Scriptures?
  • Are they related to Vedas?
  • How did they originate or come into existence?
  • And are they classified as Shruti or Smriti?
  • 2
    Agamas are classified as Shruti. Shruti comes in two forms, Nigamas and Agamas. Nigamas, aka the Vedas, focus primarily on Yagnas, whereas Agamas focus on more devotional forms of worship. Commented May 22, 2016 at 12:58
  • You may be interested in my answer here, where I discuss the Pancharatra Agamas: hinduism.stackexchange.com/a/6896/36 Commented May 22, 2016 at 13:00
  • @KeshavSrinivasan and How about it's philosophy? (like that of Vedas & Upanishads)
    – Pandya
    Commented May 22, 2016 at 13:06
  • Well, if you're asking about the kinds of philosophical views expresses in the Agamas, you may be interested in my question here, about how different commentators on the Brahma Sutras view the philosophy of the Pancharatra Agamas and the philosophy of the Shaiva Agamas: hinduism.stackexchange.com/q/10624/36 Commented May 22, 2016 at 13:12
  • 1
    By the way, Agamas are the main scriptures used in pretty much all Hindu temples, but there was a time before the Vedanta school became popular that Purva Mimamsa was the dominant school of Hindu philosophy, and the Purva Mimamsa school rejected all Agamas. So the Sri Vaishnava Acharya Yamunacharya (who was Ramanujacharya's guru's guru) composed a work called the Agama Pramanya, defending the scriptural authority of the Pancharatra Agamas. You can read it here: archive.org/details/AgamaPramanyamSktEng Commented May 22, 2016 at 13:19

5 Answers 5


Well, as far as I know, in Tantra tradition, Agama texts are those in which Devi questions and Shiva answers.

Examples of such texts are numerous like the Mahanirvana Tantra, Kularnava Tantra, Vijyana Bhairava Tantra etc.

And Nigama are those where Shiva questions and Devi answers. Texts of this nature are not many in number .

One example is the Kulachudamani Tantra.

Kulachudamani Tantra is a nigama, meaning that instead of Devi asking questions answered by Lord Shiva (agama), he asks questions answered by Devi, the goddess. In this tantra the cult goddess is Mahishamardini, a Devi with some similarities to Durga.

Another example is the Rudrayamala:

The text takes the form of Shiva asking questions and Shakti answering, making this nigama rather than agama form. Another example of this style is found in the undoubtedly old Kulachudamani Tantra.

According to Astrojyoti.com (Vedic Scriptures of India):

The Vedic literature is also called by several other names –

  • Nigama: Traditional wisdom transmitted from generation to generation
  • Amnaaya: The root texts or primordial texts of (Hindu) tradition
  • Trayi: The Vedic texts comprising of Versified mantras, prose mantras, and melodies.

From Swami Sivananda's writings on Hindu scriptures:

V. Agamas (“Manuals of Divine Worship”)

The Agamas do not derive their authority from the Vedas, but are not antagonistic to them.

They follow a four-fold method of worship: 1) jñana (“knowledge”); 2) yoga (“concentration”); 3) kriya (“esoteric ritual”); 4) charya (“exoteric worship”).

The most important books on the Agamas are: Ishvara-Samhita Ahirbudhnya-Samhita Sanatkumara-Samhita Narada-Pancharatra Spanda-Pradipika

The Agamas are divided into three categories:

  1. The Vaishnava Agamas or Pancharatra Agamas (worship of Vishnu);

  2. The Shaiva Agamas (worship of Shiva);

  3. The Shakta Agamas or Tantras (worship of the Divine Mother or Shakti).

A. The Vaishnava Agamas

There are 215 Vaishnava Agamas, the most important ones being:

  1. Isvara Samhita
  2. Ahirbudhnya Samhita
  3. Paushkara Samhita
  4. Parama Samhita
  5. Sattvata Samhita
  6. Brihad-Brahma Samhita
  7. Jñanamritasara Samhita

The Vaishnava Agamas are divided into four classes:

  a. Pancharatra, considered as the most authoritative. They consist of seven groups:

  1. Brahma
  2. Shaiva
  3. Kaumara
  4. Vasishtha
  5. Kapila
  6. Gautamiya
  7. Naradiya

  b. Vaikhanasa

  c. Pratishthasara

  d. Vijñana-lalita

B. The Shaiva Agamas

There are 28 Shaiva Agamas, of which the chief is the Kamika Agama. There are two principal divisions in Shaivism, both based on these 28 Agamas as well as the Vedas:

  1. Kashmir Shaivism, a.k.a. the pratyabhijna system, a non-dualistic philosophy; and
  2. Southern Shaivism, a.k.a. shaiva siddhanta, a dualistic philosophy.

Each Agama has upa-agamas (“Subsidiary Agamas”). Of these, only fragmentary texts of twenty are extant.

C. The Shakta Agamas

There are 27 Shakti Agamas, usually in the form of dialogues between Lord Shiva and his consort Parvati. The most important ones are:

  • Mahanirvana Tantra
  • Kularnava Tantra
  • Kulasara Tantra
  • Prapanchasara Tantra
  • Tantraraja Rudra-Yamala Tantra
  • Brahma-Yamala Tantra
  • Vishnu-Yamala Tantra
  • Todala Tantra

And, according to Hindupedia.com:

Agamas and Tantras are a vast collection of knowledge and form a major portion of spiritual literature and practices. Like the Veda, they have come down through Guru-Sishya parampara, in oral traditions. Agamas form the base for many of the popular as well as specialist aspects of Hinduism. The word Agama means 'that which has come to (us)'. Tantra means 'that which protects with detail'. Sruti, the eternal word, is said to be of two forms – Nigama (Veda) and Agama. Two kinds of texts, Agama and Tantra are in general grouped under the same class of literature. There are three main classes of Agamic/Tantric texts Vaishnava Agamas, Saiva Agamas and Sakta Tantras, though not limited to these. The Vaishnava and Saiva texts are generally called Agamas, while the word Tantra in general applies to Sakta texts. However, technically Tantra is a part of Agama and owing to the centrality of Tantra the two words are used often interchangeably.

But, in Mahanirvana Tantra (Chapter 9) Sadashiva says:

All Mantras in the Nigamas, Agamas, Tantras, Sanghitas and Vedas, have been spoken by Me. Their employment, however, varies according to the Ages (11).

Now, since Agama, Nigama, Vedas etc. are mentioned separately, they must be different from each other.

In the first chapter of the Mahanirvana Tantra, Devi Adya (Mother Goddess) makes it clear to us, that according to the nature of Yugas, Sadashiva propounds and creates a variety of scriptures.

In Kali Yuga these scriptures are the Tantras or the Agamas & the Nigamas. They are the only mode of liberation.

So, as I have said earlier, Agamas are different from the Vedas. But it is different from Smritis and Puranas as well.

Shri Adya said: O Bhagavan! Lord of all, Greatest among those who are versed in Dharmma, Thou in former ages in Thy mercy didst through Brahma reveal the four Vedas which are the propagators of all dharmma and which ordain the rules of life for all the varying castes of men and for the different stages of their lives (18-19). In the First Age, men by the practice of yaga and yajna prescribed by Thee were virtuous and pleasing to Devas .....By the study of the Vedas, dhyana and tapas, and the conquest of the senses, by acts of mercy and charity men were of exceeding power and courage, strength and vigour, adherents of the true Dharmma, wise and truthful.....

After the Krita Age had passed away Thou didst in the Treta Age perceive Dharmma to be in disorder, and that men were no longer able by Vedic rites to accomplish their desires. ....Having observed this, Thou didst make known on earth the Scripture in the form of Smriti, which explains the meaning of the Vedas, and thus delivered from sin, which is cause of all pain, sorrow, and sickness,....

Then, in the Dvapara Age when men abandoned the good works prescribed in the Smritis, and were deprived of one half of Dharmma and were afflicted by ills of mind and body, they were yet again saved by Thee, through the instructions of the Sanghita and other religious lore ...

Now the sinful Kali Age is upon them, when Dharmma is destroyed, an Age full of evil customs and deceit. Men pursue evil ways. The Vedas have lost their power, the Smritis are forgotten, and many of the Puranas, which contain stories of the past, and show the many ways (which lead to liberation)....By Thee also have been composed for the good and liberation of men the Tantras, a mass of Agamas and Nigamas, which bestow both enjoyment and liberation, containing Mantras and Yantras and rules as to the sadhana of both Devis and Devas.

The above passage makes it clear that in Krita Yuga, Vedas are the predominant Hindu shastra, in Treta, the Smritis, in Dwapara, it is the Samhitas and religious lore (I think Puranas are meant by this although I'm not quite sure) but in Kali Yuga all the above shastras have lost their powers. Hence Shiva created the Tantras or the mass of Agamas and Nigamas.

So, Agama is a distinct category of Hindu shastra, different from any other like the Vedas, Smritis and the Puranas.

It is repeatedly stated in the Tantra texts that, in this Yuga, the Veda mantras and other powerful mantras are powerless. They are often compared to snakes without any poison.

And that spiritual and material progress and liberation are only achieved by practicing the mantras given in the Tantra texts that is those given in the Agamas.

In Kularnava Tantra we find some definitions of Agama Texts.Which explains the term Agama and also why these texts are so called. Few among them are given below:

AchAra KathanAddwivya Gati PrApti NidAnataha | MahArtha Tattva KathAnAdAgamah Kathitha Priyeh||

Because it narrates the course of conduct, Achara, with a view to arrive at the godly goal, divyaGAti, because it speaks of the great truth(Mahartha Tattva) , it is called Agama.

In PAsupata Sutra Agama is defined as-

The Shastra that came(Agata) from the mouth of Maheswara(Shiva) through Guru Parampara is Agama.

Yet another definition of Agama texts is -

The Shastra which have the seven signs viz : Srishti(creation),Pralaya(destruction),Devata Puja rules(vidhis),Mantra Sadhana of all kinds,Purashacharana,Shatkarma ,the four-fold Dhyana Yoga is called Agama by the wise.(This is as per Viswa SAra Tantra)

  • The answer first says "Nigama are those where Shiva Q and Devi A" but later it mentions (Hindupedia) Nigama as Veda. Also I want to know how Agama came into existence like this.
    – Pandya
    Commented Dec 27, 2016 at 7:03
  • @Pandya ..Yes in Tantra that's how Agama and Nigama are differentiated..And this answer is as much as i know on the topic..I can not tell how the Agamas came into existence..
    – Rickross
    Commented Dec 27, 2016 at 7:08
  • 1
    Thanks for your valuable efforts for providing the appreciable answer!
    – Pandya
    Commented Jan 15, 2017 at 9:08
  • @Rickross thanks for an excellent write up, sir. Question: As you mentioned that Nigam, Agams should be different from Vedas and Smrits as mentioned by Sadashiva in Mahanirvana Tantra ch 9. In that case are Tantras text different from Nigam and Agams too? Because it is mentioned separately by Sadashiva. Thank you
    – Ketan
    Commented Jan 2, 2020 at 15:29
  • 1
    Tantras are not meant for only Kali Yuga. Tantras are there since Satya Yuga. But according to Tantras in Kali Yuga the Tantric methods are best suited compared to other methods. @SethuSrivatsaKoduru
    – Rickross
    Commented May 2, 2021 at 12:20

@Rickross has given a great Answer, I will add a few more things. From Sarvollāsatantram 1st Ullahasa:

आगतः शिव वक्त्रेभ्यो गतश्च गिरिजाननम्‌ । मतः श्रीवासुदेवस्य तस्मादागम उच्यते ॥

A shastra is said to be Agama when it is said by Shiva, heard by ShriDevi and the Opinion is of ShriVasuDeva.

Again from the Sarvollāsatantram, in the same Ullhasa:

चतुःषष्ट्यागमः प्रोक्त: पञ्चधा निगमस्तथा । यामलञ्च चतुर्धोक्तं तस्माच्छास्त्रं प्रकाशितम्‌ ॥ २० ॥

64 types of Agama, 5 types of Nigama and 4 types Yamalas this is Shastra.

निगमादागमो जातः आगमाद्‌ यामलो भवेत्‌ । यामलाद्‌ वेदसंजातः वेदाज्जातं पुराणकम्‌ ॥ २१॥ पुराणात्‌ स्मृतिसज्ञातं स्मृतेः शास्त्राणि यानि च । तानि गृह्माणि यत्नेन चोत्तमं हि क्रमोत्क्रमात्‌॥ २२ ॥

From the Nigama formed the Agamas, from Agamas the Yamala came to existance, from the Yamala the Vedas, from Vedas the Purana, from the purana the Smriti and from the Smriti we get the GrihaSutras. Incorporate these in the same order.


Agamas are classified as shruti. They have various sections and some well known agamic subjects include mantra shastra and temple building and temple rituals etc.

Agamas and Tantras are a vast collection of knowledge and form a major portion of spiritual literature and practices. Like the Veda, they have come down through Guru-Sishya parampara, in oral traditions. Agamas form the base for many of the popular as well as specialist aspects of Hinduism.

The word Agama means 'that which has come to (us)'. Tantra means 'that which protects with detail'. Sruti, the eternal word, is said to be of two forms – Nigama (Veda) and Agama. Two kinds of texts, Agama and Tantra are in general grouped under the same class of literature.

There are three main classes of Agamic/Tantric texts Vaishnava Agamas, Saiva Agamas and Sakta Tantras, though not limited to these. The Vaishnava and Saiva texts are generally called Agamas, while the word Tantra in general applies to Sakta texts. However, technically Tantra is a part of Agama and owing to the centrality of Tantra the two words are used often interchangeably.

Agamas expound a variety of subjects and could be called the guides to a huge range of Hindu practices. They contain

Manuals for worship

Methods for salvation, Yoga

Devata, Yantra

Prayogas using various mantras

Temple Building, Town planning


Domestic practices and civil codes

Social/Public festivals

Holy Places

Principles of Universe, Creation and Dissolution

Spiritual Philosophy



And many other interrelated subjects.

They are very vital part of hinduism. Nigama and Agama are two sides of the coin. Two aspects of same principle.

The Agamas have come down to us, over the centuries, in oral traditions, from master to disciple. They are of practical applications in day-to-day worship practices associated, mainly, with temple-worship. It is likely that, over the centuries, some changes or modifications might have crept into the pristine lore to suit the changing needs of times according to the local contexts. It is, therefore, quite possible the original texts became elastic and new ideas entered into its procedural aspects. We may not be sure that the present versions of the agama are exactly those which existed at that ancient past.

Agama – Classification

It is said; the Agamas, in truth, are countless. But, generally, eleven branches of the Agamas are mentioned; each branch having several texts associated with it. The eleven are : (i) Vaishnava;(ii) Shaiva; (iii) Shaktha ; (iv) Saura; (v) Ganapathya; (vi) Svyambhuva (Brahma); (vii) Chandra ; (viii) Pashupatha ; (ix) Kalamukha; (x) Jina; and (xi) Cina.

The first five branches follow the panchayatana tradition of the Smartas .Of these, Saura and Ganapathya are now not in common use. And the practices of Pashupathas and Kalamukha sects are not in the open. The Agama texts relating to Brahma and Chandra are deemed lost. The China Agama is presumed to be in China, Tibet or Nepal. And, Jina Agama has a very long history; and, is still in practice among the Jains.

Thus, the three prominent branches of Agama shastra in practice during the present times are: the Shaiva, the Shaktha and Vaishnava. And, each of these in turn has numerous sects within it.

24.3. Shabda-kalpa-druma integrates the three branches of the tradition and explains: ‘It has come from Him who has five mouths; and, it is in the mouth of Her who is born from the mountains. And, what else, it is recognized by Vasudeva himself; and, that is why it is Agama’ (Agatam panchavaktrat tu gatam cha Girijanane; matam cha Vasudevasya tasmad agamam utchyate).

25.1. The term Agama is more often used for the Shaiva and Vasishnava traditions; and the Shaktha cult is termed as Tantric. But, there is an element of Tantra in Agama worship too.

Agama – Content

Agamas are a set of ancient texts; and are the guardians of tradition. However, they are not treatises on Philosophy, although they follow and expound a particular theory of life and its goal. They are essentially Sadhana Shastras (practical Scriptures) primarily addressed to ardent aspirants. They, among other things, prescribe the means to attain ones ideal of God through worship, devotion and submission, aided by set of prescribed disciplines. The Agama manuals serve as important guidebooks for deity worship by the devotees of all affiliations: Saiva, Vaishnavas and Shaktas. And each of those has its own set of Agamas.

According to Varahi Tantra (quoted in Shabda-kalpadruma) : Agama is characterized by seven ‘marks’ (sapthabhir lakshana-yuktam tva-agamam): creation (shrusti), dissolution (laya), worship of gods (deva-archanam), spiritual practices (sadhana), repetition and visualization of mantras (purascarana), set of six magical practices (shad-karma-sadhana), and contemplative techniques (dhyana yoga).

Agamas which also mean ‘acquisition of knowledge’, ‘traditional doctrine’, ‘science’ etc draw their theory and practices from many sources, including Tantra. Agamas also draw upon Vedic knowledge, Yogic disciplines, Tantra techniques as also mantras, Yantras and other modes of worship employed in the temples.

Each Agama consists of four parts (paada). These broadly deal with jnana or vidya –paada (knowledge), Yoga-paada (meditation), Kriya (rituals) and Charya-paada (ways of worship).

[The Buddhist and the Jaina traditions too follow this four-fold classification; and with similar details]

It is said; each paada has external (bahir-yajnam) and internal (antar-yajnam) interpretations. The former is about the way of doing things; while the latter explains the esoteric or spiritual significance of the rituals performed.

(i) The first part (jnana paada) includes the philosophical principles, theoretical framework for explaining the ultimate reality, its manifestations; the nature of the universe, creation and dissolution; and the nature of self, bondage and liberation.

(ii) The second part (Yoga-paada) covers the six-limbed yoga (sadanga: asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dhyana, dharana and samadhi) as also the aspects of the physical (bahiranga) and mental (antaranga) disciplines and the essential purity in living and thinking (shuddhi). The aspect of dhyana receives detailed treatment in many of the Agama texts.

(iii) The third segment Kriya – paada (rituals) articulates with precision, the principles and practices of deity worship – the mantras, mandalas, mudras etc; the mental disciplines required for the worship; the initiation (diksha) process, the role of the preceptor (acharya) ,the rules for constructing temples and sculpting the images. They also specify the conduct of other worship services, rites, rituals and festivals.

(iv) The fourth one, Charya-paada, deals with priestly conduct and other related aspects; as also the austerity, purity in conduct; and devotion to one’s own Agama in outlook and in practice.

It is usually the last two segments of the Agama texts – Kriya and Charya paadas – which deal directly with temple or worship. These receive greater emphasis because of their application in the day-to-day worship practices. These are the segments that are in greater use by the priestly class following the Vaishnava-agama – tradition (paddathi) in their day-to-day observances. This seems
quite natural, considering that the Agamas in the present-day are mainly related to the temple and its worship practices.

[The Shaiva Agamas, in contrast, seem to attach greater importance to the first paada (jnana) than to the other three paadas].

The four paadas complement each other; and they all contribute towards the same objective. They all aim at the twin rewards (viniyoga or phala) of liberation from bonds of samsara (mukthi); and prosperity and wellbeing in worldly life (bhukthi).The Agama texts point out that the two aspects are equally important. They decry a person seeking salvation for self without discharging his duties and responsibilities towards his family and fellowmen. And, they therefore praise the virtuous life of a householder as the foundation which supports the other three stages of life; and as the best among the four stages.

Agama -Shilpa

The Agama texts state that if an image has to be worshipped it has to be worship – worthy. The rituals and sequences of worship are relevant only in the context of an adorable icon installed in the heart of the shrine. And the icon is meaningful when its shrine aptly reflects its glory. The temple should be in harmony with the essential character of its presiding deity; and the temple complex should also truly reflect the attributes of its associate gods and goddesses. The worship services are, therefore, structured by Agama texts having in view the nature of the deity and of the shrine in which it resides.

It is in this context that Agama texts forge a special relationship with Shilpa shastra which is basic to iconography; and, in particular, with devalaya-vastu-shilpa the temple architecture and design. The involvement of the Agamas with temple architecture is based in the faith that the temple, in truth, is the expansion or outgrowth of its presiding deity installed in the innermost sanctum of the shrine. And, it believes that the temple must be built for the idol, and not an idol got ready for a temple already built, for the temple verily is the expanded reflection of the icon.

Agama -Nigama

It is said; Agama is distinct from Nigama, just as Tantra is distinct from Veda. Agama is closely linked to Tantra; while Nigama is synonym for Veda. If Veda is taken to mean knowledge, Nigama is that by which one learns, one knows (nigamyate jnayate anena iti nigamah: Sabda – kalpa -druma). Therefore, Nigama, since Panini (, has come to mean Vedas. And, even during the later times the two terms were used interchangeably. For instance; Sri Vedantadeshika is also addressed, at times, as Nigamantadeshika.

Agama, generally, stands for Tantra. The Agama-Tantra tradition is as important and as authentic as the Vedic tradition. Vedas and Agamas are intimately related. The Agama claims that it provides the practical application and the means of action for realizing the teaching of the Vedas and Vedanta.

Agama – Temple worship

The worship of deities in public or at home might be the immediate cause for emergence of Agama traditions.

The Agamas in the present day find their full expression in temple- worship. They form the basis for worship practices at temples, as it exists today. They prescribe the structure and architecture of various kinds of temples, the customs to be followed, the rituals to be performed and the festivals to be celebrated. They in fact cover the entire gamut of activities associated with temples, its activities and its purpose.

The Agamas deal with all types of worship practices followed either in temples or at home; either in communities or in private; either through image or formless fire or otherwise. The worship in a temple has to satisfy the needs of individuals as also of the community. Agamas accommodate collective worship along with individual worship that is characteristically private when performed at home. The worships that take place in the sanctum and within the temple premises are important; so are the festivals and occasional processions that involve direct participation of the entire community. They complement each other. While the worship of the deity in the sanctum might be an individual’s spiritual or religious need ; the festival s are the expression of a community’s joy , exuberance , devotion , pride and are also an idiom of a community’s cohesiveness .

The temple worship ritual has two other distinct aspects; the symbolic and the actual which is secondary. The former is the inner worship (manasa puja or antar yajna) of the antaryamin (the inner being) residing in ones heart; and the latter is external worship characterized by splendour, spectacle and an overflow of religious fervour.

The inner worship involving Tantric rituals that takes place in the privacy of the sanctum is more significant than the external worship These are in a sequence such as shudhi (purification of elements), mudras (assumption of appropriate and effective gestures), pranayama (regulation of breath to enable contemplation of the divinity), dhyana (contemplation), soham_bhava (identity of the worshipper with the worshipped), mantra (words to help realize the deity in worshipper’s heart) and mandala (diagrams representing aspects of divinity). In manasa puja, God is the worshipper’s innermost spirit. The worshipper visualizes and contemplates on the resplendent form of the deity as abiding in his own heart.

Hence, Agama and nigama are same knowledge in two distinct ways. Especially, in todays time, i.e yuga, agama path is deemed more fruitful and feasible for the masses.


agama shastra


In his book The Spiritual Heritage of India, Swami Prabhavananda says (pp 143-145, section heading: The Tantras):

The Tantras are the scriptures by means of which knowledge is spread in order to save humanity from ignorance. They are also known as Agamas--revelations, in conformity, that is, with the revelations of the Vedas. Their authorship is unknown though there is a tradition that Siva uttered them to his divine consort Sakti (the Divine Mother), and that through her they reached mankind. Their date is uncertain, but since Buddha was familiar with them they are obviously pre-Buddhistic. Buddhistic Tantras exist, however, belonging to the Tibetian school of Buddhism.

The original Tantras are divided into three main groups according as the deity chosen to worship is Vishnu, Siva, or Sakti. Thus there are Vaisnava Agamas (or Pancaratra), the Saiva Agamas, and the Sakta Agamas, besides the later Buddhistic Agamas composed in Tibet. The Sakta group is the most popular, so much so that the word Tantra has come to mean, generally though mistakenly, only the Sakta Agamas. It is those that we shall give our attention.

The Tantras are broadly divided into three parts; sadhana, which include spiritual practices and disciplines and ritualistic forms of worship; siddhi, or attainments from such practices; and philosophy. Let us examine the last of these first.

The philosophy of the Tantras is based upon the Upanishads. It is nondualistic, upholding the identity of the individual soul with Siva-Sakti--that is, in the language of the Upanishads and of Samkara [Adi Sankara], the identity of the individual self with Brahman, or the Universal Self. Samkara calls the creative power of the universe maya, or illusion, the universe for him possessing in itself no absolute reality, whereas the Tantras call the creative Sakti, or God the Mother, and regard the universe as her play when she has become mind and matter. Here, in their interpretation of reality, the Tantras apparently approach the philosophy of Ramanuja, who looked upon the universe of mind and matter as a transformation of Brahman--as, in effect, the body of God.

This Sakti, or God the Mother, is not distinct from Siva, or Brahman, the Absolute of the Upanishads, but is the power of the Absolute. In the transcendental plane, which is static, where there is but one undivided, absolute existence, and where there is no universe, the truth is known as Siva, or the Absolute Existence-Knowledge-Bliss; but in the active, immanent plane, that is, the plane in which the universe is known, there is experienced by the seer the play of Sakti, of God the Mother.

...The teachings of the Tantras are never at variance with those of the Upanishads.

In his footnote to the first sentence above, Swami Prabhavananda says:

Of all Indian scriptures, the Tantras are most often misunderstood by Western scholars, and even native scholars are not altogether free from error in dealing with them. But I must declare in this connection that in recent years one Western student of Eastern philosophy, Sir John Woodruffe, an Englishman and at one time Chief Justice of the High Court of Calcutta, has through a lifetime devoted to the study of Tantric literature, done yeoman service in the cause of a proper understanding of these difficult scriptures, both through translations of original manuscripts and through correct interpretations of their spirit. 'Tantra Shastra [scriptures]', he says, '--(is) generally spoken of as a jumble of "black magic", and "erotic mysticism", cemented together by a ritual which is "meaningless mummery". A large number of persons who talk in this strain have never had a Tantra in their hands, and such Orientals as have read some portions of these scriptures have not generally understood them, otherwise they would not have found them so "meaningless". They may be bad or they may be good, but they have a meaning. Men are not such fools as to believe in what is meaningless.'

Since they are not part of the Vedas themselves, they should be classified as Smriti.

As a final note, most people do not realize it, but the mantras and ceremonies of pujas - with only minor differences, of all sects, that are celebrated by everyone are based on the Tantras.


Agamas are found throughout the Vedas and in various places. They are inseparable. For this reason we use the term Ved-Agamas. Agama is the Word spoken by Paramashiva while in the physical body - what He spoke to Devi and was taken up by Vishnu to run the cosmos - this is Agama. Vedas are the pure science of Existence, Agama is the applied science. All authentic Vedic traditions regard Agamas as revealed directly from Paramashiva and their authority is undeniable. However, it is the responsibility of every Hindu to question and interpret the Ved-Agamas as it is applicable to the need of every time period. We accept Ved-Agamas as ultimate, that is not negotiable, but it is necessary to debate and discuss their implementation, it is not permitted to blindly apply the Word, we must also incorporate the intelligence, inspiration, compassion and knowledge with which Paramashiva takes a body and speaks for All Beings. He does nothing casually and He is intelligent enough to know different things are needed for different people at different times. This does not diminish the authority of the Ved-Agamas but nor does it exempt us from the need to comment upon, debate, and re-interpret their meaning. Paramashiva is a living Being, He is not stone, much more alive than each of us, actually. He does not expect His words to be taken only at face value, Hinduism is a tradition that requires us to be intelligent and expanding conscious Beings. We have millions of texts that are commentary on the original Ved-Agamas, and commentary on the commentaries. We are required to debate and discuss, this is called Jeevartha-Sadhas. Nithyanandam.


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