The vaikhAnasa as a community are temple priests. They regard themselves as ordained by birth to be temple priests and they are enjoined not to follow other avocation in life.
To “vikhanas muni ” lord vishnu taught at the very beginning of creation the doctrine subsequently celebrated as vaikhAnasa kalpa-sutraM, which comprehends all the Vedas and contains the secret teaching of the Vedic lore.
And sage vikhanasa in his turn briefly communicated this doctrine to the four sages. No doubt the VaikhAnasa kalpa sutraM is an ancient one, and what is more important, it is comprehensive, dealing as it does with all respects of ‘kalpa‘ ( srauta, smArta or grihya, dharma and sulba). By common consent, this text is held to be the source for all the later vaikhAnasa texts and manuals.
The vaikhAnasa school retained vishnu in his Vedic context and advocated the worship of Vishnu with the six Vedic hymns addressed to vishnu (shadvaishnavam). It may be noted that this scriptural lore aligned itself firmly and uncompromisingly to the Vedic wisdom ,more specifically to the ‘aukheya shAkhA’ of krishna-yajurveda and was therefore described as ‘vaidika‘ in contradistinction to the other approaches which incorporated the tAntrika or folk practices.
Even now, the vaikhAnasa priests, at home and in the temple, insist on first performing the fire-ritual prescribed in the Vedas, and then worshipping Vishnu, as the supreme spirit. In fact, the vaikhAnasa is the only group among temple-priests to have a kalpa-sutra of their own.
The Kalpa sutraM consist of 32 chapters. Among them are 7 grihya sutra, 3 dharma sutra, 21 srauta sutra and 1 pravara sutra. The worship of vishnu was tantamount to the performance of a great Vedic sacrifice. The vaikhAnasa-kalpa-sutra, therefore, prescribe the worship of vishnu in the household as well as in the temple, along with the Vedic rituals that were necessary and sufficient. It is not surprising that the Vedic rituals were gradually subordinated to the worship of Vishnu; but the Vedic rituals were never entirely given up. The vaikhAnasa are probably the only group of Agama adherents who rely heavily on Kalpa-sutra. The vaikhanasa kalpa-sutra, has four distinct divisions:
2. smArta (Grihya),
With the sulba-sutra prescriptions accommodated in the first two divisions.
The first division srauta sutraM begins with the settling up of the ritual fire (agnyAdhana) and goes on till the ritual known as soma samstha. It includes rituals like daily (nitya) and occasional (naimittIka) and also prAyaschittas for these. In all it contains 21 rites and expiations for:
1) sapta havir yagnas,
2) sapta soma yagnas
3) sapta pAka yagnas.
SrlnivAsa diksita’s vyAkhyA is there on the srauta sutraM, really is a prayoga-vrtti, that is a brief explanation of a practical manual for the use of officiating priests, and accordingly rather a paraphrase than an explanation of the words of sutra.
The second one grihya Sutra consists of 7 prasnas with details ranging from ashtadasa sAriraka samskaras, sandhyAvandana vidhI, punyAhaM, agni pratishthA, AghAram, Antha homaM, vAstu homaM, Rites for nitya, pAka, havir yagnas, soma yagnas, grihArcha Methods, Funeral rites, and expiatory rites for astadasa sAariraka samskarAs. The Grihya sutras relate to life in the household and deal with 18 sacramental rites for the individual which are meant to cleanse the physical body and render it fit for spiritual progress. So the vaikhAnasa have the rites beginning with those connected with birth and ending with the rites regarding death and cremation . Among the sacraments included is vishnu-bali which is unique for the vaikhAnasa. The texts also deal with the installation and worship of the icons at home and other details pertaining to religious observances.
Many mantras which, though foreign to the taittarIya texts, are quoted only by their opening words in the vaikhAnasa grihya sutraM, are taken from the Mantra-Samhita of this community,( famously known as vaikhAnasa mantra prashna ) the first four chapters (prasna) of which run parallel to the grihya sutra . The chapters 5—8 of this vaikhAnasa mantra samhitA ( prashna ) —which cannot in its present redaction be contemporaneous with the sutras of this community—are intended to accompany the complete ritual of the vaikhAnasa as described in kashyapa’s manual. The whole collection is still in use. The mantras contained in chapter 9, known as visnudaivatyaM, are not found in any other kalpa sutraM or Vedic text. Most of its 106 mantras—are in praise of vishnu. Their language resembles that of the Vedic purUsha and SrI sukta.
pitrumedha sutras are included in grihya sutraM.
Chapter 5 of grihya sutra is devoted to the funeral rites—for the AhitAgni as well as the common householder and their wives—be it that the last sections (13—15) deal with the srADdha rites. The subjects treated are: the rites in the house of the deceased person, the conveyance of the dead body to the cremation ground; the dead body on the pyre; the cremation; the return of those who have attended the cremation; the rites to be observed during the first ten days; abnormal death; death of little children. By way of introduction section I deals with the moribund person and the two paths the prospect of which is in this late text held out to the dying—viz. that by which one reaches without returning the “place of brahman” and that by which one returns—as well as with the process of dying. Section 8 treats of the disposal of the dead body of ascetics who have no ritual fires; they are interred in sitting posture. In section 11 the author deals with persons whose cremation is not allowed: those who die a violent death, suicides, drunkards, those who have met with an accident, etc. There are some peculiarities of minor importance.
The dharma dutras which are complete in three chapters (prasnas) deal with religious life and conduct of different groups and castes of people, responsibilities and duties in different states of life ( Asrama dharmas), the characteristic conducts of hermits, renunciants and such matter. There are also details concerning the eight-fold technique of yoga and other spiritual practices.
pravara sutram Sutra concerns itself with the lineage of several rishis with special reference to the vaikhAnasa community. It contains one chapter. In essence.
The vaikhanasa kalpa sutra provides the essential code of conduct for a vaikhAnasa in his personal, familial and social settings. The test is intended to enable him to discharge his duties and responsibilities with ability and wisdom, which are occasioned by the association of relevant Vedic mantras with all corresponding kriyas.
Better to end with;
नारायणः पिता यस्य माताश्चापि हरि प्रिया । भ्रुग्वादि मुनयः शिष्यास्तस्मै विखनसे नमः ॥