As I discuss in this question, one of the most popular forms of Shiva worshipped in South India is the young sage Dakshinamurthi, whose name literally means "the South-facing form". The Advaita philosopher Adi Shankaracharya composed a poem about Dakshinamurthi called the Dakshinamurthi Stotram, and his shishya Sureshwaracharya wrote a commentary on it called the Manasollasa. In this excerpt from the Manasollasa, Sureshwaracharya describes the theories of different philosophical schools concerning how many Tattvas or elements reality consists of:

The doctors of Samkhya-Shastra enumerate twenty-four tattvas (principles) comprising the five bhutas (elements of matter), the five vital airs, and the fourteen indriyas (organs of sensation and action). To these adding Mahat, Time, Pradhana, Maya, Avidya and Purusha, the Pauranikas enumerate thirty principles. Adding to these Bindu and Nada, Shakti and Shiva, Shanta and Atita, the doctors of Shaivagama enumerate thirty-six principles.

Now it's well-known that followers of Kapila's Samkhya school believe in 24 Tattvas (25 if you include Purusha), and that followers of Shaiva (and Shakta) Agamas believe in 36 Tattvas. But my question, who are the "Pauranikas" that Sureshwaracharya alludes to, who believe in 30 Tattvas?

The closest theory I could find is that of Pashupata Shaivites, who believe in 31 Tattvas as described in this section of Anandagiri's subcommentary on Adi Shankaracharya's Mandukya Upanishad Bhashya. Their list has some overlap with the Pauranika list, but there are some differences, like Pashupata Shaivites believing in Tattvas called Rāga, Kalā, and Niyati.

In any case, since they're called Pauranikas, I assume their beliefs are based on the Puranas. So does anyone know if the Puranas ever describe this theory of 30 Tattvas?

EDIT: Narayana Bhattar mentions the Pauranikas in this excerpt from his Manameyodaya, in the course of listing the number of Pramanas or means of valid knowledge accepted by different schools of Indian philosophy:

Perception and inference, similarly authority and analogy, presumption and negation - these are the six means of valid knowledge for those who think like us. Charvakas speak of one; the Buddhists and the Vaisheshikas speak of two; Bhasarvajna and the Samkhyas speak of three; Udayana and others speak of four; the followers of Prabhakara speak of five; we and those well-versed in Vedanta speak of six; the Pauranikas, however, speak of eight, adding inclusion and tradition.

So out of all the philosophical schools listed, the Pauranikas believe in the greatest number of Pramanas.


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