Saiva Siddhantham.. Saiva Siddhanta School is one of the most ancient
schools of Saivism. It has a history of more than 2000 years. Its roots
can be traced back to both Tamil Naadu India and Sri lanka. It gained popularity in the south and established
itself as a dominant sect of Saivism. In the past it had sizeable
following in other parts of the Indian subcontinent. But currently it is
popular mostly in the south India (Tamil Naadu).
The Saiva Siddhanta tradition draws its authority
from the 28 Saiva Agamams, the devotional works of several saints
of Saivism, and the writings of several thinkers and scholars. The first known guru of Saiva Siddhanta tradition
was Nandinathar, who lived around 250 BC in the present day Kashmir. He left
behind a compilation of twenty-six Sanskrit verses called the
Nandikesvara Kasika, in which he laid down the basic tenets of Saiva
Siddhanta school. The next prominent personality of this
tradition was Tirumular, who composed Tirumandiram in Tamil and introduced the
Nandinathar tradition 1 of this
school to the people of
southern India. He was instrumental in making Saivism popular in the south
by emphasizing the devotional aspect. So important was his
contribution to Saivism that the Nandinathar tradition remains popular in
the south even today.
His work was carried
forward by subsequent generations of devotional saints such as Appar,
Sundarar, Sambandhar, whose works are preserved in Tevaram. These
saints moved from place to place and temple to temple, singing the glory
of Siva and making Saivism a popular movement in the face of strong
opposition from Jainism and Buddhism. Manikkavacakar,
who came after these great saints, also
contributed substantially to the popularity of Saiva Siddhanta school in the
south. His work is preserved in the collection of poems known as
The works of these four great Saiva saints were
compiled into a single collection of verses named Thirumurai by Nambi Andar Nambi who lived in the 11th century AD.
Thirumurai is an authoritative source of Saiva Siddhanta literature. It consists of about 18316 padalkal
divided into 12 individual Thirumurais consisting of prayers preserved
from the earlier works mentioned above.
Meykandar is another important work on Saiva Siddhatham. Meykandar lived in the 13th
Century. He came from a place known as Vennai. Not much is known about
him. His works is based mostly on the twelve sutras from the Raurava Agama.
The Siva-gnana-bodhanam laid emphasis on sivam, gnanam and bodham
declaring Sivam as One, gnanam as the knowledge of
Sivam and bodham as the process of experiencing and realizing such
Other important works of the Saiva Siddhanta school include:
Siva-gnana-suddhiyar of Arulnandi
Sivaprakasam and Tiru-varut-payan of Umapathi
A commentary on the Vedanta-sutram by Nilakantha.
Nilakantha's commentary on the Vedantasutras
was an attempt to reconcile the differences between the Vedanta (the end
parts of the Vedas) and the Agamanta ( the end parts of the Agamas).
This idea was shared earlier by Thirumular who declared that wise men considered them to be not different.
Major Concepts of Saiva Siddhantam
According to Saiva Siddhantam, Siva is the ultimate
and supreme reality, omniscient, omnipresent and unbound. He is Pati, the primal being and the supreme
deity. Siva alone is the efficient cause of all creation,
evolution, preservation, concealment and dissolution. He brings forth
the worlds and their beings through his dynamic power, Shakti.
The jivas are the individual souls or beings. They
are not the same as Siva. But they are made of the same essence.
According to Saiva Siddhanta, Siva is the same as the souls but also
other than the souls. The number of souls remains constant throughout.
Their number can neither be increased nor decreased. They may undergo
transformation but their number remains constant. Thus in Saiva
Siddhanta there is a fine distinction between the souls and God. The
difference is not in their essence but in their constitution. Their
relationship with Siva is not a state of oneness but of sameness.
Because Siva and jivas are different but also the same in essence, this
school is considered as pluralistic or dualistic.
The Three Impurities
The soul is neither the gross body nor the
subtle body nor the breath body. It should not be confused with sense
organs or the internal organs (tanmantras). In essence it is the same as
Siva (abheda), but also different (abheda), because it is subject to the
three impurities (malas) or bonds. These three bonds (pasas) or
impurities (malas) are anava, karma and maya. They bind the jivas
to functional limitations and the experience of unreality or asat and
turn them into pasus (animals) or ignorant beings.
Of the three impurities, anava is the natural
impurity (sahaja mala). It is born with the soul and never parts from it
except during the state of kaivalya or sameness with Siva. It clouds the
consciousness of the jivas and makes them act like individual entities
of finite nature (anu) with limited knowledge and limited abilities. It
is the cause of ego, which makes a jiva think itself to be different
from Siva and other beings. Karma or binding action is the second
impurity. It binds the soul to the consequences of its actions.
Actions done from a cosmic perspective are not binding. But actions done
with an egoistic attitude, driven by ones desires, are binding.
Major Concepts of Saiva Siddhantam
Mayai, the third impurity, binds the jeevarasi to the
sense objects through desires and ignorance.
Mayai is an instrument of Siva. In its highest form it is eternal,
indestructible and indivisible. It is of two types, suddha mayai (pure
mayai) and asuddha mayai (impure mayai). The suddha mayai caters to the
adhikara muktas or pure souls. The asuddha mayai caters to the impure
souls. Both the pure and impure mayais together give rise to 36 tattvams .
Pure maya gives rise to pure tattvas which are five in number, namely:
Using these five tattvams, Siva creates the bodies,
organs, worlds and objects of enjoyment for the pure souls. The asuddha
mayai is the cause of prakriti-mayai from which arise 24 tattvams
including the pancha poothams (air, water, ether, fire and earth) and
their five qualities (touch, taste, sound, color and odor), the five
organs of action, the five sensory organs and the four internal organs (manas,
buddhi, chitta and ahamkara). These impure tattvas are used by Siva for
the creation of the bodies, organs, worlds and objects of enjoyment for
the impure souls.
Contrary to the popular belief, the purpose of mayai is two fold. First,
to subject the jeevarasi to the conditions of material existence and help
them acquire pasa-gnanam (sensory knowledge) and pasu gnanam (material
knowledge). Second, to prepare them for final liberation by subjecting
them to the laws of karma and helping them discriminate between right
actions and wrong actions so that they can gain merit by doing right
actions and avoiding wrong actions. This is of course a long and
tedious process and the jivas may have to spend many lives before they
feel the need to work for their liberation.
Although mayai may play some role in bringing the
jivas closer to the path of liberation, it cannot take them far on the
path. When it comes to liberation, mayai is a clumsy instrument. The jivan
cannot know of God through the knowledge of the senses or the knowledge
gained by the mind. He cannot be known either by speech or by any
faculty of the mind. Yet he is not unknowable. He can be known by
pathi-gnanam obtained directly from him through a guru who has already
been blessed or his own grace (anugraham).
In Saiva Siddhantam true liberation is a gift from God
and the result of his direct intervention. When the jivans are immersed
in mayai, they learn about the unreal from the unreal. What they learn is
basically theoretical knowledge or lower knowledge. It does not help
them to transcend their conditioned minds and experience their
true consciousness. It is only when Lord Siva bestows his grace upon
them and comes to them in the form of a personal guru, the jivans
overcome their illusion and realize their Siva consciousness.
Major Concepts of Saiva Siddhantam
According to Saiva Siddhantha school, liberation is
attained through the means of charyai,
kriyai, yogam and jnanam. These four paths are not complimentary. A
guru decides the suitable path based on his study and observation of his
disciple and according to the latter's ability and inclination.
The path of charyai involves serving Lord
Siva in a temple or religious place by performing such tasks as
cleaning, cooking, carrying water, gathering flowers etc. This is
called dasa-margam or the path of the servant. By this path one gains
entry into Kailas or the world of Siva.
The path of kriyai involves performing
devotional tasks such as worshipping the idol of Siva , singing
devotional songs, reciting the mantras, narrating stories about Siva
or doing personal service to Siva like a son does to his
father. This is called sat-putra-margam or the path of a good son. By
following this path one gains close proximity to Lord Siva.
The path of yogam involves practicing
yoga exercises (asanas) and meditation and contemplation (dhyana).
By following this path one gets an opportunity to live constantly in
the company of Siva and become his spiritual companion. Hence this
path is called sakha-margam or the path of friendship.
The path of knowledge gnanam is the the fourth
path. It is the best and most direct path to the world of Siva. The
other three are actually considered inferior to it. On this path,
jnana or knowledge is the means. It is called sat-margam because it
takes the jivas closer to Sat or Truth and makes it possible for
them to experience or become aware of their true Siva consciousness.
After liberation, the liberated soul knows that its
intrinsic nature is that of Siva but that it is not Siva or the Supreme
Self. Thus in its liberated state it continues to experience some form
of duality, while enjoying Siva (pati) consciousness as its true
consciousness free from all bonds (pasas).
In Saiva Siddhantam, liberation of a jivan does not mean that its
exustence as an individual soul is lost forever. After liberation the
jivas enjoy a special relationship with Siva called bheda-abheda
(separation and non-separation), which essentially means the duality
between the two (the linga and the anga) linger, one being the whole and
the other being the part, but the unity of experience prevail. The
relationship is not of oneness but of sameness. In their liberated state
the jivas experience unlimited bliss and freedom from the bonds (pasas)
of Samsara. The Siva-gnana-bodham cautions the individual jivas who have
become free while still living on earth to maintain inner purity
and practice austerities so that, when they finally depart from here,
the fruit of their previous actions do not interfere with their final
Saiva Siddhantan recognizes three types of jivas or
souls based on their degree of bondage to the pasas or impurities. In
the first category are the souls that are bound by all the three bonds (pasas)
namely anavam, karmam and mayai. In the second category are souls that free
from two bonds namely karma and mayai and are bound by anavam alone. In
the third category are souls that become free from mayai only during
pralayam or the dissolution of the entire creation.