About Hindu Scriptures
By Swami Sivananda
V. Agamas (“Manuals of Divine Worship”)
The Agamas do not derive their authority from the Vedas, but are not antagonistic to them.
They follow a four-fold method of worship: 1) jñana (“knowledge”); 2) yoga (“concentration”); 3) kriya (“esoteric ritual”); 4) charya (“exoteric worship”).
The most important books on the Agamas are:
The Agamas are divided into three categories: 1) The Vaishnava Agamas or Pancharatra Agamas (worship of Vishnu); 2) The Shaiva Agamas (worship of Shiva); 3) The Shakta Agamas or Tantras (worship of the Divine Mother or Shakti).
A. The Vaishnava Agamas
There are 215 Vaishnava Agamas, the most important ones being:
1. Isvara Samhita
2. Ahirbudhnya Samhita
3. Paushkara Samhita
4. Parama Samhita
5. Sattvata Samhita
6. Brihad-Brahma Samhita
7. Jñanamritasara Samhita
The Vaishnava Agamas are divided into four classes:
a/ Pancharatra, considered as the most authoritative. They consist of seven groups:
B. The Shaiva Agamas
There are 28 Shaiva Agamas, of which the chief is the Kamika Agama.
There are two principal divisions in Shaivism, both based on these 28 Agamas as well as the Vedas: 1) Kashmir Shaivism, a.k.a. the pratyabhijna system, a non-dualistic philosophy; and 2) Southern Shaivism, a.k.a. shaiva siddhanta, a dualistic philosophy.
Each Agama has upa-agamas (“Subsidiary Agamas”). Of these, only fragmentary texts of twenty are extant.
C. The Shakta Agamas
There are 27 Shakti Agamas, usually in the form of dialogues between Lord Shiva and his consort Parvati.
The most important ones are: