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Agama and Tantra

 

[Denzing] Please elaborate on the differences between Tantra and Agama? Is the number of agamas 108?

Tantra is defined as follows:

sarve.arthA ye tanyante trayante cha bhayAjjanAH |
iti tantrasya tantratvam tantrajnAH parichakShate ||

One by which the puruShArtha chatuShTaya can be attained and that which protects the aspirant from the fear (of death and duality), the learned call that `Tantra'.

The characteristics of a Tantra are described as below:

sargashcha pratisargashcha mantralakShaNameva cha |
devatAnAm cha samsthAnam tIrthAnAm chaiva varNanam ||
tathaivAshramadharmashcha mantrasamsthAnameva cha |
samsthAnam chaiva bhUtAnAm yantrANAm chaiva nirNayaH ||
utpattiH vibudhAnAm cha tarUNAm kalpasamjnitam |
samsthAnam jyotiShAm chaiva purANakhyAnameva cha ||
koShasya kathanam chaiva vratAnAm paribhAShaNam |
shauchAshauchasya chAkhyAnam narakAnAm cha varNanam ||
harachakrasya chAkhyAnam strIpumsoshchaiva lakshaNam |
rAjadharmo dAnadharmo yugadharmastathaiva cha |
vyavahAraH kathyate cha tathA chAdhyAtmavarNanam ||
ityAdi lakShaNairyuktam tantramityabhidhIyate |

The Tantras are classified into three sets: viShNukrAnta, rathakrAnta and ashwakrAnta, with sixty-four Tantras in each category, resulting in a total of 192 Tantras.

Agamas are technically different from Tantras and as defined as below:

Agatam panchavaktrAttu gatam cha girijAnane |
Manam cha vAsudevasya tasmAdAgamamuchyate ||
srShTishcha pralayashchaiva devatAnAm tathArchanam |
sAdhanam chaiva sarveShAm purashcharaNameva cha ||
ShaTkarmasAdhanam chaiva dhyAnayogashchaturvidhaH |
saptabhirlakShaNairyuktam tvagamam tadvidurbudhAH ||

The classical number of Agamas listed in works like IshAnashivagurupaddhati, jayadrathayAmala etc is 28.

Apart from these, the third category is of the samhitA-s, chiefly vaiShNava in nature with the exception of some works like dakShiNAmUrti, durvAsa, hayashIrsha, dattAtreya etc. The samhitas are so many in number that nothing deifinite can be said about the same:

dwiShaTsahasraparyantam samhitakhyam sadAgamam |

Also, by including the samhitAs under Agamas, the number of Agamas becomes `large' as well.

Tantras are again divided into two chief classes: yAmalas and DAmaras. yAmalas are described thus:

srShTishcha jyotiShAkhyanAm nityakrtyapradIpanam |
kramasUtram varNabhedo jAtibhedastathaiva cha ||
yugadharmashcha samkhyAto yAmalasyAShTalakShaNam |

The chief yamaLas are of Rudra, Brahma, Skanda, Vishnu, Uma, Ganesha and Jayadratha. The chief DAmaras are of durgA, Saraswati, Gandharva, Brahma, Shiva and that dealing with Yoga.