The Scriptures of the Ages

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Written by Sir John Woodroffe, Book: Introduction to Tantra Sastra 


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 detail.
2 These are referred to as saṃ hitā (collection), which term includes amongst other things Dharma-Śāstra, Smṛ ti, Śrutijīvikā, Purāṇ a, Upapurān ās, Itihāsa (history), the books of Vaśiṣ tha, Vālmīkī, and others. See Śabda-ratnāvali, and Brahmavaivartta Purāṇ a, Jnāna-Kāṇ ḍ a, chap cxxxii.


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”).














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