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Aum Namashivaya!

 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).

Literary Sources

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 Thiruvasagam.

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. 

Siva-gnana-bodhanam by 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 knowledge.  

Other important works of the Saiva Siddhanta school include:

  1. Siva-gnana-suddhiyar of Arulnandi

  2. Sivaprakasam and Tiru-varut-payan of Umapathi and 

  3. 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

Siva

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

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

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: 

  1. siva-tattvam, 

  2. sakti-tattvam, 

  3. sadasiva-tattvam, 

  4. isvara-tattvam, and 

  5. suddhavidya-tattvam

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

Liberation

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).

Bheda-Abheda

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 liberation.

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.

Aum Namashivayah!
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