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In many questions asked on this site, I frequently see a line about Vishnu teaching principles of Vaishnavism to his four disciples:

Vishnu is said to have taught the principles of Vaishnavism to four disciples: Lakshmi, Brahma, Shiva and Sanatkumara. And in turn they started the four main Sampradayas or traditions of Vaishnavism: Sri Sampradayam, Brahma Sampradayam, Rudra Sampradayam, and Kumara Sampradayam.

So, I want to know which scriptures mention this thing? I know it's not mentioned in Valmiki Ramayana and Mahabharata of Vyasa. Neither it's mentioned in Srimad Bhagavata, Vishnu and Padma Purana as far as I know There is possibility that it's mentioned in other Puranas like Varaha and Narada.

Most probably it's mentioned in Pancharatra Agamas. If it's mentioned, I want to know which Samhita and Chapter of Pancharatra Agamas mention it? Also when did Lord Vishnu do this teaching?

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  • According to this article it's mentioned in Padmapurana but I'm not sure.
    – Pandya
    May 20, 2019 at 2:52

2 Answers 2

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It is mentioned in the Garga Samhita. This is what I found:

Garga Samhita, Canto 10, chapter 61, verses 23, 24, 25, 26:

vamanas ca vidih sesah sanako visnu-vakyatah dharmartha-hetave caite bhavisyanti dvijah kalau

visnusvami vamnangsa-statha madhvastu brahmanah ramanujastu sesanga nimbaditya sanakasya ca

ete kalau yuge bhavyah sampradaya-pravartakah samvatsare vikramasya catvarah ksiti-pavanah

sampradaya-vihina ye mantraste nisphalah smritah tasmacca gamanang hyasti sampradaye narairapi

TRANSLATION Vamana, Brahma, Ananta Sesha and Sanaka Kumara will appear as brahmanas by the order of Visnu, for the preservation of eternal righteousness in kali yuga.

Visnu Swami, Madhvacarya, Ramanuja and Nimbaditya will appear respectively as a portion of Vamana, Brahma, Ananta Sesha and Sanaka Kumara.

These saviours will be the establishers of the four authorised and empowered spiritual channels of disciplic succession in the period calculated from the reign of King Vikrama in 54 B.C. subsequently through the present era of kali yuga.

These four authorised and empowered spiritual channels of disciplic succession are to be fully accepted by all beings; as any word, combination of words or formulation of sounds frequencies, invoked or addressed, audible or inaudible, secret or revealed, ancient or contemporary, outside their auspices prove to have absolutely no efficacy.

The fact that they appeared "by the order of Vishnu", and the fact that only mantras taught in their Sampradayas have any effectiveness, clearly implies that what they taught was taught to them by Vishnu.

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  • 4
    Thanks for your attempt to answer the question... But this doesn't answer the question...
    – Tezz
    Jun 15, 2017 at 0:53
  • 3
    How does this answer the Q?
    – Rickross
    Jun 16, 2017 at 5:34
  • 3
    And what about Lord Shiva and Lakshmi?
    – Rickross
    Jun 16, 2017 at 5:39
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    Apologize for not answering the actual question. Vishnu teaching Brahma is discussed in Chap 2.5 of Bhagavata Purana, VIshnu teaching Lakshmi is likely discussed in Lakshmi Tantra (have read a while ago, need to check), Vishnu teaching Rudra is likely discussed in Vishnu Purana (again need to check), Vishnu teaching the Kumaras is likely the Hamsa avatara - there is a mention of this in the 11th canto of Bhagavatha Purana. I will provide references once I get time to go through them.
    – rk567
    Jan 19, 2019 at 3:15
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Yes, god Viṣṇu taught the doctrine of Pāñcarātra (पाञ्चरात्र) or Pāñcarātr-āgama over a period of five consecutive nights to five of his disciples, and hence, it is one of the many reasons as to why this category of Vaiṣṇava Āgamas is known as Pāñcarātra (five nights - five disciples).

The five disciples are -

Night 1. Ananta (Śeṣa)
Night 2. Garuḍa
Night 3. Viṣvaksena
Night 4. Brahmā
Night 5. Rudra (Śiva)




Further,

Also when did Lord Vishnu do this teaching?

The teaching happened at the beginning of Kṛta-Yuga (Satyuga).



Now,

I want to know which Samhitā and Chapter of Pancharatra Agamas mention it?

This is mentioned in Vihagendra (विहगेन्द्र) or Vihagendrasaṃhitā, which is accorded a Sāttvika category (Yes! even Pāñcarātra have tri-guṇa classification).

Vihagendra-Pāñcarātra-saṃhitā, Chapter I: Verse 30.(b) to 34.(a)

आदौ कृतेयुगे प्राप्ते केशवेन प्रसादिता ॥ ३०.२ ॥
अनन्तो गरुडश्चैव विष्वक्सेनःकपालभृत् ।
ब्रह्मा इत्येव पञ्चैते शृण्वन्ति पृथगीरितम् ॥ ३१ ॥
अनन्तः प्रथमे रात्रौ गरुडश्च द्वितीयके ।
तृतीयरात्रे सेनेशश्चतुर्थे वेधसा श्रुतम् ॥ ३२ ॥
रुद्रःपञ्चमरात्रे च श्रुत्वा शास्त्रं पृथक् पृथक् ।

ज्ञानयोगक्रियाचार्याग्रन्थं शतसहस्रकम् ॥ ३३ ॥
पञ्चलक्षप्रमाणं स्यात्पाञ्चरात्रमिति स्मृतम् ॥ ३४.१ ॥

ādau kṛteyuge prāpte keśavena prasāditā ॥ 30.2 ॥
ananto garuḍaścaiva viṣvaksenaḥkapālabhṛt ।
brahmā ityeva pañcaite śṛṇvanti pṛthagīritam ॥ 31 ॥
anantaḥ prathame rātrau garuḍaśca dvitīyake ।
tṛtīyarātre seneśaścaturthe vedhasā śrutam ॥ 32 ॥
rudraḥpañcamarātre ca śrutvā śāstraṃ pṛthak pṛthak ।

jñānayogakriyācāryāgranthaṃ śatasahasrakam ॥ 33 ॥
pañcalakṣapramāṇaṃ syātpāñcarātramiti smṛtam ॥ 34.1 ॥

Here's a rough translation attempt of the above by me:

At the beginning of Kṛta-Yuga (Satyuga), by grace of god Keśava (Viṣṇu), the five disciples, viz. Ananta (Śeṣa-Nāga), Garuḍa, Viṣvaksena, Brahmā, and Śiva (kapālabhṛt) - heard the various treatises (śastras) of Pāñcarātra doctrine. On the first night - Ananta, second - Garuḍa, third - Viṣvaksena, fourth - Brahmā, and fifth - Śiva, respectively, were bestowed with the treatises constituting lakhs of verses each - on 'Supreme-knowledge', 'Yoga', 'Rituals' and 'Conduct'. Since the complete set of instruction were given over a period of five nights, therefore, these treatises are known as Pāñcarātra.




Another minor-reference which can be slightly considered is Mahā-sanatkumāra-saṃhitā, or simply sanatkumāra-saṃhitā (which is another Pāñcarātra text). In this, the complete voluminous text is divided into four sections, the four Sections of which is named as -

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  • Forgive me if any mistake is there in the translation. I have poor knowledge of Sanskrit translation. But, in any case, I hope the overall answer is helpful in ameliorating the doubts posed in the question.
    – Vivikta
    Feb 10 at 12:23
  • Nice find.. but what about Lakshmi and Sanatkumara... so maybe there is another separate story which talks of 4 disciples who started 4 sampradaya.. so I think this is only partial answer...
    – Tezz
    Feb 10 at 14:54
  • @Tezz that cannot be answered because: it's either just a belief based on words of Vaisnava acharyas, or the texts/verses claiming such proposition are not extant now.
    – Vivikta
    Feb 10 at 16:50

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