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Agama Pramanyam

A Vaishnava text, Agama Pramanyam was written by Yamunacharya (known in Tamil as Alavandar), who had also written several other erudite works such as Gitarthasangraha, Siddhitraya, Stotraratna, Shristuti, Purushanirnaya and Kashmiragamapramanya.

The two branches of agama literature of Sri Vaishnavas are Pancaratra and Vaikhanasa. The differences between these two schools are restricted to some details of ritualistic worship in temples. Vaikhanasa texts, which are founded on sutras written by a Vedic sage named Vikhanas and which were later expounded by his students, became very popular and acceptable to the people. However, Pancaratra, which was believed to contain the direct sayings of Vasudeva, the Supreme Godhead, came to be criticized on account of some rituals which it contained, which were considered to be non-Vedic, such as prescribing a special initiation ceremony for a man, who had already been initiated by Upanayana, in order to be able to perform ritualistic worship in Vishnu temples.

The Pancaratra School had innumerable critics including Mimamsaka Prabhakara. Kumarila Bhatta, the famous Mimamsaka Prabhakara, seriously doubted the Vedic character of Pancaratra texts. He included Pancaratra as a non-Vedic school in his work, Tantravarttika. Shankaracharya’s commentary on Pancaratra-adhikarana highlighted the opposition between some of the philosophical tenets of Pancaratra and those of Vedanta. Naiyayikas were also opposed to these Pancaratra texts. Yamunacharya believed Pancaratra texts to be Vedic in character and thus wrote Agama Pramanyam, in order to prove the Vedic character of Pancaratra texts.

In Agamapramanya, Yamunacharya refutes the criticism leveled at the Pancaratra School by its adversaries in systematic manner. The followers of Pancaratra Agamas believe that these are the direct utterances of Vasudeva. Bhatta Mimamsakas, however, deny the very existence of a Supreme God and believe only in the sole authority of Vedas. Hence, in Agama Pramanyam, Yamunacharya, first of all, refutes the arguments of the followers of Bhatta School. He then systematically silences the arguments put forth by Naiyayikas, with whom he shares much in common, Prabhakara Mimamsakas and Advaitins.

In Agama Pramanyam, Yamunacharya conclusively proves that Pancaratra texts are in no manner contradicted by the statements made in Vedas. This author also adds that the criticism that Pancaratra Agamas are contradicted by texts such as Smritis is totally unfounded since, on close scrutiny, these seemingly contradictory passages are actually not so.

This work, which consists of passages in prose as well as verse is composed in a very powerful style and only those familiar with the different schools such as Nyaya and Mimamsaka will be able to follow the arguments put forward by Yamunacharya to refute the criticisms of his varied opponents.

This scholarly work is written in a rather terse manner, probably because the author had to silence the queries put forth by the critics of Pancaratra Agamas. At the very beginning of the work Yamunacharya makes the statement that the Pancaratra Tantra is authoritative like Vedic sentences ordaining jyotistoma, etc., on the ground that it is, like Vedic sentences, based upon knowledge which is free from all defects. At the end of his work there are verses which praise Nathamuni, the grandfather of Yamunacharya, as a great devotee of Bhagavan Vishnu. The verses also praise the students of Nathamuni who are stalwarts of Bhagavata (Sattvata) religion and who are excellent dialecticians.

This work had its influence on later generations of writers also. Pancaratra section of the well-known Sribhashya of Ramunja, very closely resembles some portions of Agama Pramanyam. In later periods, two separate works on the question of the authority of Pancaratra Agamas were written, namely, Pancaratrakantakoddhara of Vadhula Varadacharya, in which which Agama Pramanyam is specifically mentioned and quotations from it are also found, and Tantrasudha of Bhattaraka Vedottama, which is also definitely based on Agamapramanya although this is not specifically mentioned in this text.