In Kularnava Tantra. Chapter 13, Lord Shiva talks about guru and his characteristics. He says following verse :

śaive gurutrayaṃ proktaṃ vaiṣṇave guru pañcakaṃ
vedaśāstreṣu sataso gururekaṃ kulāgame

According to Shaiva Tradition, Gurus are three, according to Vaishnava, Gurus are five, according to Vaidika Tradition Gurus are numerous but according to Kula Agama Guru is only one.

What is the meaning of the text in bold? What does Lord Shiva mean when he says according to Vaishnava tradition, there are five gurus?

Related question about Shaiva gurus on the same verse by Rickross: What does Lord Shiva mean by saying that in Shaiva traditions Gurus are three?

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    The Five Guru's list are varying, but the Standard 2 lists are, 1) Shesha, 2) Garuda, 3) Vishvakasena, 4) Chatura-aanana Brahma, 5) Rudra. OR 1) Shesha, 2) Sanata Kumar and his Brothers, 3) Brahma, 4) Rudra, 5) Lakshmi, These five, represents the Pancharatra Agamas, The later list also reflects the Five Sampradayas of Present Vaishnavism. Commented May 12, 2018 at 4:29

1 Answer 1


The 'vaiṣṇave guru pañcakaṃ' might be a reference to the five disciples of Viṣṇu whom he taught the 'Pāñcarātra-doctrine' over a period of five nights.

This reference is found in the Vihagendra (विहगेन्द्र) or Vihagendrasaṃhitā, which is accorded a Sāttvika category (Yes! even Pāñcarātra have tri-guṇa classification), as I discuss in this answer.


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 ॥

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.

Accordingly, the above-mentioned 'five disciples'must be revered as gurus or preceptors of the Vaiṣṇava-doctrine lineages.

Therefore, the five Vaiṣṇava Gurus are -

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

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