mudigoNDa nAgalinga shAstrI (1876-1948), one of the foremost scholars and the famous proponent of shrauta shaiva siddhAnta in Andhra desha is not very popular among many of the smArta vaidikas and vaiShNavas, due to his scathing attacks on the philosophy of shankara, madhva and rAmAnuja. While he deserves some credit for his compilations from various shaivAgamas, he also makes some interesting comments such as the one below:
Some minds ponder over the need for the japa of shaiva pa~nchAkSharI mantra when there is the wish-fulfilling sAvitrI. Undoubtedly sAvitrI, who represents the essence of vedatrayI, should be chanted as she grants one dvijatva. However, for a mumukShu, the shruti prescribes shAmbhava vrata:
vratametatcChAmbhavaM tatsamAcharenmumukShurnapunarbhavAya |
As the mukhyA~Nga of shaiva vrata is pa~nchAkSharI japa, it can be concluded that mokSha is impossible without the japa of pa~nchAksharI. Though dvijatva siddhi occurs through sAvitrI, she does not confer mokSha siddhi. This statement finds puShTi in the shruti ordaining the vimukti phalaka shAmbhava vrata. One might express serious reservations against this statement as to how the great sAvitrI, who is sakalavedasArA, is incapable of granting mokSha. The shrauta shaiva siddhAntins are not alone in making such a statement. After embracing turIyAshrama, a smArta discards gAyatrI and recites praNava. This is a clear negation of the mokSha sAdhanatva of sAvitrI. The vaiShNavas, for a similar reason, attach greater importance to mantras such as aShTAkSharI over gAyatrI.
It is said in sUta saMhitA:
ssadya ena paramaM sukham yuyuH |
Here, the mukhya shabda referred to is the sacred name shiva and thus, muktipradatva of tannAmaghaTita mahAmantra (shaiva pa~nchAkSharI) is clearly inferred. If one objects stating that this mantra is Agamokta and not vaidika, such an argument can be easily countered by pramANas such as that of jAbAla shruti where shaiva ShaDakShara mantra is discussed with great clarity.
There can be several objections from pratipakSha here:
1. If praNava grants mokSha, then it should be noted that gAyatrI is recited praNavayutA by varNatraya.
2. If the argument of smArtas using praNava and vaiShNavas using aShTAkSharI is accepted as stated by nAgalinga shAstrI, then he would need to accept one of these mantras for mokSha rather than switching to shaiva panchAkSharI.
It would have sounded less catholic if mokShadAtrtva of gAyatrI was not contested for the sake of promoting shaiva pa~nchAkSharI vidyA. One can recollect a great debate that went on between H H chandrashekhara bhAratI and a vamshaja of nAgalinga shAstrI for six days which has been recorded in the book: shrutisAramaNDana.
To examine whether mokSha is unattainable through gAyatrI, as stated by not only nAgalinga shAstrI but also shrIkaNTha (the shaiva bhAShyakAra on the vedAnta sUtra), one can examine the following pramANas. A discussion on how mere recitation of any mantra cannot grant mokSha except when paving way to tattvajnAna - is unneeded here as pUrvapakSha ignores this aspect.
sahasrakratvastvabhyasya bahiretattrikaM dvijaH |
nahato.apyenaso mAsAt tvachevAhirvimuchyate ||
yo.adhIte.ahanyahanyetAM trINI varShANyatandritaH |
sa brahma paramapyeti vAyubhUtaH svamUrtimAn ||
ekAkSharaM paraM brahma prANAyAmaH paraM tapaH |
sAvitryAstu paraM nAsti maunAtsatyaM vishiShyate ||
prANAyAmashabdena vyAhr^itayo lakShyante | maunaM samAdhiH | satyaM japaH | praNavaH parabrahmasvarUpam | vyAhr^itayaH paramatapaHsAdhanabhUtAH | sAvitryA vishiShTaM na ki~nchidasti | tasmAtteShAM japaH samAdherapi vishiShyata ityarthaH ||
praNave nityayuktasya vyAhr^itIShu cha saptasu |
tripAdAyAM cha gAyatryAM na bhayaM vidyate kvachit ||
chaturNAmapi vedAnAM gAyatrI jananI bhavet |
tAmupAste tu nityaM sa vipraH mokShabhAjanaH ||
atha vakShyAmi mantreshIM gAyatrIM vedamAtaram |
yayA tu saguNaM brahma gIyate pratipAdyate ||
nirguNaM yAM vinA muktirna kasyApi prajAyate |
mahAmAyAsvarUpAyAM mahAkAlaH svayaM yajet |
yatprabhAvAdahaM tvaM cha jAtakAla ivAparaH ||
praNavasya vyAhR^itInAM gAyatraikyamathochyate |
atrApi tatpadaM pUrvaM proktaM tadanuvarNyate ||
sR^iShTyAdikAraNaM tejorUpamAdityamaNDale ||
abhidheyaM sadAnandaM paraM brahmAbhidhIyate || ityAdi
lakShaNairiti nirdiShTo vedasAreShu niShThitaH |
phalArthI phalamApnoti mokShArthI mokShamR^icChati ||
avyaktaM te svarUpaM duradhigamatamaM tattu shuddhaikasattvaM
vyaktaM chApyetadeva sphuTamamR^itarasAmbodhikallolatulyam |
sarvotkR^iShTAmabhIShTAM tadiha guNarasenaiva chittaM harantIM
mUrtiM te saMshraye.ahaM pavanapurapate pAhimAM kR^iShNa rogAt ||