The Notion of 'Dharma' in the 'Panca-ratra' Tradition
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'Panca-ratra' is one of the most important and influential among early 'Vaisnava' traditions belonging to the group of the Tantric traditions of India. It, for much of its existence, had to prove and confirm its authoritativeness and conformity to orthodoxy. The discussion concerning this subject can be found in the works of the famous philosophers and religious teachers such as Yamunamuni in his 'Agama-pramanya', Ramanuja in his 'Sri-bhasya', and Venkatanatha in 'Panca-ratra-raksa'. This subject is still continued, for example in the works of Uttamur Viraraghavacarya who published 'Sri-panca-ratra-paramyam' in 1991 in Tirupati. One of the methods through which 'Panca-ratra' proved its connection with orthodoxy was to use and sometimes to re-define the basic notions of the orthodox tradition. One of such notions is 'dharma'. The article gives some examples of the presentation of this notion in some of the 'Panca-ratra' texts, mainly 'visnu-samhita' and 'Parama-samhita'. In both texts one finds long passages dedicated to the notion of 'dharma' and both texts on the one hand refer to the orthodox understanding of the term known from, for example, 'Bhagavad-gita' and 'Manu-smirti', on the other hand they propose new definitions, sometimes consisting of several elements constituting 'dharma'. Such a policy, namely referring to orthodoxy, but also adding new elements, is typical for the texts of the Tantric traditions claiming to belong to the main stream of the hindu religion, but also claiming to be, in a way, better, special ('visesa').
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