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Aspects of Saiva Worship

Aspects of Saiva Worship

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Published by Shanmugasundaram
Aspects of Saiva Worship
by M. Arunachalam
Aspects of Saiva Worship
by M. Arunachalam

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Published by: Shanmugasundaram on Jun 29, 2014
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved


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 The goals of life in the Vaidika society are laid down as four dharma, artha, kama, moksa - virtue, wealth, happiness and release; they are called aram, porul, inbam and vidu in Tamil. Of the four, the last, the attainment of release from all earthly bonds, is held supreme. In Saivism, three entities are considered to be eternal: God(Pati), Soul(Pasu), and Bonds(Pasa). The soul is in a state of bondage with the worldly matter; the bonds are three and are here inseperable from the soul and obstruct it from enjoying eternal bliss with God. Release is the severance of the bonds resulting in the eternal enjoyment of that bliss. This severance can result only througn God's grace. Avoidance of evil deeds and the performance of meritorious acts in this birth will earn merit for the doer, which in the proper time will make him fit to receive Siva's grace. The greatest act of merit is the worship of Siva. Worship is called Puja; for the follower of Siva, the Siva- puja is most important. The Karanagama explains the meaning of the term Puja.
 puryante sarvakarmani
 jayate jnanam atmani
 puranajjayate yasmat 
 puja sabdam ihocyate.
 It is that by which all acts become full(or perfect) and that which confers jnana(wisdom). Siva of the Saiva religion is also the absolute of Saiva metaphysics. Siva the Absolute has no form and no attributes. The mind of man cannot grasp one which has no form. Man likes to pray to God, to supplicate to Him, and to desire ultimate union with Him to enjoy eternal bliss. To satisfy this desire on the part of man, Siva is conceived of in three aspects: the formless, the formless-form, and the form. These three are called the arupa, ruparupa and rupa aspects. The arupa aspect is the All-pervasive, All-knowing one, who is beyond the sensory perception of man. The ruparupa aspect is the sivalinga; its is not any manifested form of Siva, nor is it formless, because we have before us here a concrete piece of stone; the Sivalinga form is generally the one to which puja is offered in personal worship or in public temple worship. The rupa aspect is the manifest forms of Siva, such as the Chandrasekhara, Bhiksatana, Daksinamurti and the like, which are said to have been assumed by Siva on different occasions for conferring His Grace on devotees.
 Tradition and literature in India have always emphasized the transient nature of earthly life and insisted that the individual seeking enlightenment must strive for liberation from the earthly bonds and for ultimate union with the Eternal One. The aim of all education and the goal of all human aspirations have ever been this, and every school of thought in the land has evolved its own disciplines for the attainment of this goal. Saivism, as the oldest school of thought in the land, has laid down that Siva-puja is the most appropriate sadhana for a harmonious exercise of thought, word and deed, in the path of God. When these three faculties in the human personality work in unison for a single purpose, naturally integration of the mind with the spirit and union with the object result. The influence of Siva-puja on the lives of the Saivas is also manifest in another way. Thousands of Siva temples dot the TamilNadu and there is a temple in every small village. Siva-puja is daily offered there on the agamic lines; festivals are also conducted there throughout the year; hundred of temples are renovated at great cost even in these days of cold reason and nihilism; every ritual is conducted, not on any modernised or revolutionary lines, but only on the lines laid down in the agamas, some twenty centuries ago. All these are standing monuments to the glory of the agamic worship and the  pulsating vitality of their regulations regarding Siva-puja. The presence of God should always govern the actions of human-beings. The Siva- puja are intended only as a reminder of this presence. The agama lays down. "A man may even dare to give up his life or cut off his own head; but let him not dare to take a single morsel of food without performing Siva-puja." Man cannot live without surrendering himself to a higher being; this was recognised even by Sankara, hailed as the greatest exponent of advaita; he is known to have helped to re-establish the six schools of worship and so he has come to be hailed as the Sanmata-sthapanacarya; he had felt the need for an upasana-murti for man to give him inward  peace.
 The pathway to God realisation in saivism has been set in four stages, so that man can easily comprehend it. They are carya, kriya, yoga and jnana; they are primarily conceived as a course of exercises for the organs of man's body- the
 like the body, hand, leg, tongue etc., the
like the eye, etc., and the mind. The religious observances are intended to make every action of the sadhaka(spiritual aspirant)  progress godward. The pathway is one whole and it is an integrated synthesis of all the four stages. Worship is part of the second stage kriya, called the path of action; it is so called  because, of the four, this calls for the largest number of exercises. The exercises here are  both physical and mental, and they are intended to effect bodily and mental purification and also symbolic purification of the soul. Carya and kriya correspond to the external worship, while yoga and jnana correspond to an internal worship, worship in the heart.
Siva is all-pervasive and the worshipper has always this all-pervasiveness in his mind. hence he extends his love to all beings and if possible serves all beings and never harms any
He cannot therefore be a party to killing and so abstains from meat-eating. The term Saiva in later day society, even up to the present day, has come to mean one who obstains from meat-eating, a vegetarian. The other disciplines for the worshipper are the sacred ash and the rudraksa beads. He is expected to smear the ash in the specified places on his body and wear the beads round his neck at the time of the Siva puja, if not always. He should always utter the name of Siva, not only during the puja-kriya, but at other times also. A qualified guru initiates him into the puja. The qualifying ceremony is called diksa or initiation. The guru teaches him in detail the ritual of the puja, instructs him in the japa he has to perform for life, and also gives him a Sivalinga which he shall worship daily for life. Worship invokes all the three faculties-thought, word and deed. Thought is the process of the contemplation of God as abiding in the Siva-linga-murti; word is the mantras uttered during the puja, the name japa and the words of prayer; deed is the various acts connected with the actual puja.
Even in the matter of this ritualistic worship, the devotion in the heart is held to be more important than the rituals themselves. To give one example, Rules regarding the gathering of the flowers are very strict. Buds which have not yet opened, flowers whose  petals have been eaten by worms, flowers which have fallen to the ground etc., are not to  be taken and used. But yet we find exceptions have been made in the sastras themselves. Arulnandi Sivacarya, the second acarya of Saiva Siddhanta, in the course of his large treatise, Siva-jnana-siddiyar, lays great emphasis on the worship of Siva in the heart and adds:

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