EACH of the Ages has its appropriate Śāstra or Scripture,
designed to meet the characteristics and needs of the
men who live in them.1 The Hindu Śāstras are classed
into: (1) Śruti, which commonly includes the four Vedas
(Ṛg, Yajur, Sāma, Atharva) and the Upaniṣ ads, the doctrine
of which is philosophically exposed in the Vedānta
Darśana. (2) Smṛ ti, such as the Dharma Śastra of Manu
and other works on family and social duty prescribing
for pravṛ ttidharma. (3) The Purāṇ as,2 of which, according
to the Brahma-vaivarta Purāṇ a, there were originally
four lakhs, and of which eighteen are now
regarded as the principal. (4) The Tantra.
For each of these ages a suitable Śāstra is given.
The Veda is the root of all Śāstras (mūla-śāstra). All
others are based on it. The Tantra is spoken of as a fifth
Veda. Kulluka-Bhatta, the celebrated commentator on
Manu, says that Śruti is of two kinds, Vaidik and Tāntrik
(vaidiki-tāntriki caiva dvi-vidha śrutihkīrtitā). The
various Śāstras, however, are different presentments of
śruti appropriate to the humanity of the age for which
they are given. Thus the Tantra is that presentment of
śruti which is modelled as regards its ritual to meet the
characteristics and infirmities of the Kali-yuga. As men
1 On the subject matter of this paragraph see my Introduction to “The
Principles of Tantra” (Tantra-tattva), where it is dealt with in greater
2 These are referred to as saṃ hitā (collection), which term includes
amongst other things Dharma-Śāstra, Smṛ ti, Śrutijīvikā, Purāṇ a,
ās, Itihāsa (history), the books of Vaśiṣ tha, Vālmīkī, and others. See
Śabda-ratnāvali, and Brahmavaivartta Purāṇ a, Jnāna-Kāṇ ḍ a, chap
have no longer the capacity, longevity, and moral
strength necessary for the application of the Vaidika
Karma-kāṇ ḍ a, the Tantra prescribes a special sādhana,
or means or practice of its own, for the attainment of
that which is the ultimate and common end of all
Śāstras. The Kulārṇ ava-Tantra says1 that in the Satya
or Kṛ ta age the Śāstra is Śruti (in the sense of the
Upaniṣ ads); in Tretā-yuga, Smṛti (in the sense of the
Dharma-Śāstra and Śrutijīvikā, etc.); in the Dvāpara
Yuga, the Purāṇ a; and in the last or Kali-yuga, the
Tantra, which should now be followed by all orthodox
Hindu worshippers. The Mahānirvāṇ a 2 and other
Tantras and Tāntrik works3 lay down the same rule.
The Tantra is also said to contain the very core of the
Veda to which, it is described to bear the relation of the
Parāmātmā to the Jīvātmā. In a similar way, Kulācāra
is the central informing life of the gross body called
vedācāra, each of the ācāra which follow it up to kaulācāra,
being more and more subtle sheaths.
1 Kṛ te śrutyukta ācāras Tretāyām
̣ smṛ ti-saṃ bhavāh, Dvāpare tu purāṇ
oktaṃ Kālau āgama kevalaṃ .
2 Chapter I, verse 23 et seq.
3 So the Tārā-Pradipa (chap. i) says that in the Kali-yuga the Tāntrika
and not the Vaidika-Dharma is to be followed (see as to the Śāstras, my
Introduction to “Principles of Tantra”).