HINDU ENCYCLOPEDIA

सनातन धर्म भूमिका

Meaning of "Agama"

Word

Agama

Sanskrit

आगम

IAST

āgama

In General

Agamas and Tantras are a class of literature that comes under the infallible Sruthi literature. The word Tantra is mostly used for Sakteya text of Agama, but in general both the words are synonymous. References to the Agama tradition are found in Atharva Veda. So it is highly probable that some of the Agama literature is developed along with Vedas, which are also called Nigamas. Agama became Popular when temple worship flourished and bulk of the literature belong to this period. Like all other Hindu literature this was also transferred from generation to generation by aural tradition. Agamas are called Sadhanasastras or the practical ritualistic part of religion than philosophical treatises

Agama and Tantra are closely related with the worship of deities and are classed under major three sects, namely Sakta, Saiva and Vaishnava. Agama literatures is available for other deities like Saura, Ganpathya, Svyambhuva (Brahma), Chandra, Kumara, Yaksha etc, but not much popular. 320 Agamas are considered as most important of which 77 are Shakteya Agamas, 28 are Saiva Agamas, and 215 Vaishnava are Agamas. There are again a countless other agama literature available with many kula (families) and gotras though only very few of them is available in print; the remaining are still in palm leaves or continues with its oral traditions. Apart from Sanskrit there are a considerable number of Agama literatures available in Tamil. The Hindu Agama literatures are also available with every language in India and neighboring countries like Indonesia, China, Tibet and Burma. The Buddhists and Jains have their own Agama that developed in parallel with Hindu Agamas.

Agama literatures act as a manual by its Vidhi (injunction) and Niyama(regulation) for the religious practices in temples and houses. The worship in temple widely borrowed Vedic rites but followed the ritualistic practices from tantric tradition. It is with the Agama philosophy that a devotee is seeking grace, mercy and love of supreme God represented by the personal deity, for liberation from earthly attachment (Moksha). Some people from western countries are collaborating occultism and sacred sexuality as part of Agama, but none of the popular Agama supports this kind of worship. The common Hindu concept is that by overcoming the sexual instinct one achieves Yogic power and not surrendering to it. Occultism is always considered an inferior discipline by Hindus and never been part of temple culture in India, and thus not professed in Agamas.

Agama literature stands with the worldly man who has a natural tendency to enjoyment and does not generally welcome renunciation. The uses of mantra and its inherent philosophy, practices and relative importance are described in Agamas. Apart from that it also deals with meditative practices and four kind of Yoga, philosophy, details of Holy places, festivals, vritas, domestic do’s and don’ts . The other allied subjects it teaches are temple construction and creation of Idols, civil codes, mythology regarding the creation and dissolution of universe.

According to Varahi Tantra (quoted in Shabda-kalpadruma): Agama is characterized by seven marks (sapthabhir lakshana-yuktam tva-agamam): creation (shrusti), dissolution (laya), worship of gods (deva-archanam), spiritual practices (sadhana), repetition and visualization of mantras (purascarana), set of six magical practices (shad-karma-sadhana), and contemplative techniques (dhyana yoga).The six goals (shad-karma-sadhana) that Agama strive to achieve are said to be:(i) utchatana - vertical integration of natural energies, maintaining the balance in nature; (ii) sthambhana - increase energy and holding capabilities of a particular place; (iii) maarana- destroy the negative energy influences over a particular area; (iv) bhedana – split different energies within a given area to maintain balance of nature; (v) shanthi - maintaining the balance of nature with social progress; and, (vi) pushti – nourishing the nature and species so that evolution progresses.

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