6 Schools | 7. Śaiva Siddhāṅta


The Śaiva Siddhāṅta Philosophy


In the books that treat of Śaivism, there is a reference to four schools, viz., the Nākulisa Pāśupata, the Śaiva, the Pratyabhijñā and the Rāseśvara.

Śaiva Siddhāṅta is the philosophy of Southern Śaivism. It owes its origins to no single author. It is midway between Śankara’s Advaita and Rāmānuja’s Viśishṭādvaita. Its literature consists chiefly of

1. The 28 Śaivite Agamas
2. The collection of Śaivite hymns as Tirumurai [See Note below]
3. The collection of lives of the Śaivite saints, known as Periyapuranam
4. Meykandar’s Śiva-jñāna-bodham
5. Arulnandi’s Śivajnanasiddhiar
6. The works of Umāpati.

[Note: Tirumular’s work ‘Tirumantiram’ is the foundation upon which the later structure of Śaiva Siddhāṅta philosophy was built.]

The central doctrine of the Śaiva Siddhāṅta philosophy is that Śiva is the Supreme Reality, and that the Jīva or the individual soul is of the same essence as Śiva, but not identical.

Pati (God), Paśu (soul) and Pāśa (the bonds), and the thirty-six Tattvas or principles which constitute the world, are all real.

The Śaiva Siddhāṅta system is the distilled essence of the Vedanta. It prevailed in Southern India even before the Christian era. Tirunelveli and Madurai are the centres of the Śaiva Siddhāṅta School.

Even now, Śaivism is a very popular School in South India. It is a rival school of Vaishnavism.

Characteristics of the Supreme Reality

The Supreme Reality is called Śiva. He is infinite consciousness.

He is eternal, changeless, formless, independent, omnipresent, omniscient, one without a second, beginningless, causeless, taintless, self-existent, ever-free, ever-pure and perfect.

He is not limited by time. He is infinite bliss and infinite intelligence. He is free from defects, the all-doer and the all-knower.

Lord Śiva is the God of love. His grace is infinite. His love is infinite. He is the saviour and Guru. He is engaged in freeing the souls from the thraldom of matter.

He assumes the form of a Guru out of His intense love for mankind. He wishes that all should know Him and attain the blissful Śiva-Pāda.

He watches the activities of the individual souls and helps them in their onward march. He liberates the individual souls from their fetters or bonds.

The Five Activities of the Lord

The Five Activities of the Lord (Pañcha-Krityās) are:

1. Sṛishṭi (creation)
2. Sthiti (preservation)
3. Saṁhāra (destruction)
4. Tirobhāva (veiling)
5. Anugraha (grace)

These separately considered, are the activities of Brahma, Vishnu, Rudra, Maheśvara and Sadāśiva.

Śiva, Śaktī and Māyā

The Lord Śiva pervades the whole world by His Śaktī. He works through His Śaktī.

Śaktī is the conscious energy of Lord Śiva. She is the very body of Lord Śiva.

The potter is the first cause for the pot. The stick and the wheel are the instrumental causes. The clay is the material cause of the pot:

Similarly, Śiva is the first cause of the world.
Śaktī is the instrumental cause.
Māyā is the material cause.

Śaktī is not the material cause of the universe, because she is of the nature of consciousness (Chaitanya). Śiva is pure consciousness, but matter is pure unconsciousness. Śaktī is the intermediate link between the two.

Śaktī is the reflex of Śiva. It has no independent existence. Śiva assumes this form out of His great love for mankind. Śiva wishes that all should know Him.

Evolution of the Tattvas from Śuddha-Māyā

The world undergoes evolution for the benefit of the souls:

The whole process of creation is for the sake of the salvation of the souls. The world is real and eternal. The world of matter and souls forms the body of the Lord.

The Śaiva Siddhāṅta analyses the universe into 36 Tattvas or principles, as against the twenty-five of the Sānkhya.

The 36 Tattvas arise from Māyā, the material cause of the world. Śuddha Māyā is Māyā in its primal state.

From it arise the 5 pure principles called Śiva Tattva, Śaktī Tattva, Sadāśiva Tattva, Īśvara Tattva and Śuddha-Vidyā Tattva. Śiva functions through these five pure principles.

Māyā evolves into the subtle principles and then into the gross.

Śiva Tattva is the basis of all consciousness and action. It is undifferentiated (Niṣkala Śuddha Māyā).

The Śaktī of Śiva starts her activity. Then Śiva becomes the experiencer. Then He is called Sadāśiva, known also by the name Sādākhya, who is not really separate from Śiva.

The Śuddha Māyā becomes active. Then Śiva, the experiencer, becomes the ruler. He is then Īśvara, who is not really separate from Sadāśiva. Śuddhavidyā is the cause of true knowledge.

The Bonds that Bind the Soul

Āṇava, Karma and Māyā

Souls (Paśu) are by nature infinite, all-pervading, eternal and all-knowing like Lord Śiva (Pati).

Yet they think that they are finite, limited and little-knowing, ignorant and temporary. This is due to their bonds (Pāśa), viz., Āṇava, Karma and Māyā that are called the three Malas or impurities.

Āṇava is the impurity which makes the all-pervading Jīva think itself to be atomic (Anu). It produces the erroneous notion of finiteness.

The second impurity or bond is Karma:

The soul acts in certain ways on account of its limitation and does good and evil actions. Karma brings about the conjunction of the soul with its body.

The results of the Karma have to be worked out in the world. There should be worlds and bodies, in order to experience the fruits of actions and acquire knowledge:

These are provided by Māyā, the third Mala or bond. Māyā is the material cause of the world. The soul gets experience and limited knowledge through Māyā.

The soul learns, by long experience, that this Samsāra is full of pains and is transitory, and that he can attain eternal bliss and immortality only by attaining Śivatva or the nature of Śiva or God- realisation.

He develops Vairāgya (dispassion), and Viveka (discrimination between the real and the unreal, the permanent and the impermanent).

Three Orders of Jīvas

The Śaiva Siddhāntins divide Jīvas (individual souls) or Paśu into 3 orders, viz., Vijñānākala, Pralayākalas and Sakalas.

Vijñānākalas have only the Āṇava Mala (egoism). Māyā and Karma have been resolved.
Pralayākalas are those who are free from Māyā alone, in the stage of Pralaya.
Sakalas have all the Malas (defects), viz., Āṇava, Karma and Māyā.

The Malas affect only the Jīvas and not Śiva. Those who are freed from the Malas or impurities attain Śivatva or the nature of Śiva. They are Siddhas or perfected beings.

The Way to the Attainment of Śivatva or God-realisation

You must free yourself from the three bonds, if you want to attain salvation:

You must annihilate Māyā which is the root of all sins.
You must destroy all Karmas which produce rebirth.
You must remove the erroneous notion of a finite self.

The three bonds can be removed only through rigorous Tapas (austerity), proper discipline, the help of a Guru, and above all, the grace of Lord Śiva.

Charya (observance), Kriya (rites) and Yoga (Yama, Niyama etc.) constitute the discipline.

When the aspirant practises in right earnest Charya, Kriya and Yoga, he obtains the grace of Lord Śiva. Then the Lord instructs the soul, reveals Himself and illumines him. Then the soul realises its nature as Śiva (Jñāna).

Discipline and grace culminate in Jñāna:

Jñāna is the supreme means of salvation or the attainment of the final beatitude. Karma and other means are only subsidiary to it. They are only auxiliaries.

The attainment of Śivatva or Śiva-nature does not mean complete merging of the soul in Śiva. The liberated soul does not lose its individuality. It continues to exist as soul in God.

Śivatva is the realisation of an identity of essence in spite of difference. The soul attains the nature of Śiva or God, but it is not itself Śiva or God.