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Saivism in a Nutshell

Written by Swami Sivanandhi Adikalar


1.Saivaite Hinduism believes in Lord SIVA as the supreme Godhead, who is worship
ped both in the formless state, symbolically as Siva-Linga or in His various man
ifestations with form; such as SIVA (Nataraja, lord of dance), Vinayaka (Ganapat
y), Murukan (Skanda), Uma (Skakti)-each form exalting one glorious aspect of the
single Godhead.
2. Saivite Hinduism is a living, popular FAITH followed by over 200 Million peop
le in the world today, but its traditional bases are in India, particularly Sout
h India, North and East Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore and other Southeast Asian
countries. Western interest in Saivaite Hinduism has grown steadily over the la
st 50 years. The DANCE OF SIVA is well known in the world today..
3.Although Saivism and the Linga worship of SIVA goes back to the period of the
Indus civilization (c. 2500 B.C) and even beyond, the philosophy of Saiva Siddha
nta crystallised only during the BHAKTI period in South India (c. 600. A. D to 9
00 A. D.) dominated by the four NAYANMAR-SAINTS , the Founder Preceptors of Saiv
ism -St. SAMBANDAR, St. APPAR, St. SUNDARAR, and St. MAN ICKA VACAKAR.
4.SIVAJNANA BODHAM-the Jnanapada of the Agamas.
The School of Saiva Siddhanta Philosophy (also called Southern Saivism) may be s
aid to have gradually evolved from the Saiva Agamas and from the Hymns of Karaik
kal Ammaiyar, Tirumular and the four leading Nayanmar Saints. But it was Sri Mei
kanda Tevar (circa 1250 A.D.) the illustrious saint and author, who systematised
the doctrine of Saiva Siddhanta through his original Tamil work: Siva Jnana Bod
ham, giving an epistemological basis to the whole range of philosophical thought
. It is a Tamil text in the form of Sutras, only 12 in number with some explanat
ory verses.
The Sutras were elaborated in marvelous verses by Meikandar's Guru turned-discip
le, Sri Arulnandi Sivacarya in his work:
Sivajnana Siddhiyar. These Sutras are to the Saiva Siddhantas what Brahma Sutras
of Badarayana are to the Vedantis. The Sivajnana Bodham has a voluminous commen
tary in Sanscrit by Sivagra Yogi (circa, 1564 A. D) from which Sivajnana Swami (
d. 1785) drew inspiration to write his learned Bhasya in Tamil prose called Siva
jnana Mahapaatiyam.
5. THE MEANING OF SIDDHANTA .
Sri Meikanda Tevar appeared at a time when there was much confusion and controve
rsy due to the conflicting interpretations of the eminent Acharyas like Sri Sank
ara (Advaita), Sri Ramanuja (Visistadvaita), Sri Madhava (Dvaita), Sri Srikanta
(Sivadvaita) and other lesser schools of bheda-abheda (that were in vogue during
his period).Meikandar's task was to explain the Saiva stand point in regard to
the fundamentals, like Pathi, Pasu, Pasa or God, Soul and universe; their interr
elation; the true function of Maya; the destiny of the soul; the doctrine of Gra
ce and finally the nature of Mukti..
The aspects of God's transcendence and immanence explained as one, different, an
d being together, is definitely the most satisfying interpretation of advaita co
mmented on and realised in the experience of saints and given expression to in h
ymns and formulated by Sri Meikandar in his Sutras which set out the Jnanapada o
f the Agamas, together with the sadhana for Mukti. So it is called the crown and
fulfillment of philosophic thought - a grand manual of the philosophy of religi

on which appeals to theist and monist alike. In fact the Sivajnana Bodham covers
the whole gamut of Indian philosophic thought and set the SAIVA standpoint crys
tal clear in relation to other systems. The word SIDDHANTA means 'FINAL CONCLUSI
ON' as contrasted with 'Purvapaksha', which is 'prima facie argument'..
6.

THE 14 MEIKANDA SASTRAS.

The Bodham and Sidhiyar, and 12 other pre and post-Meikandar works form the well
known 14 Siddhanta Sastras, otherwise called Meikanda Sastras, (the philosophica
l texts revealing True Knowledge). Although these constitute the doctrinal basis
of Saiva Siddhanta Philosophy, it is useful to remember that they only underlin
e and systematise the Saiva religious insights enumerated in our PANNIRU THIRUMU
RAI (the 12 Holy Books of Saivism) Tamil Hymnal literature codified in the eleve
nth century by Nambi Aandar Nambi and by Cekkizhar in the twelfth century.
7.
The scientific and rational approach of Saiva Siddhanta is evident from
its reliance on the following eternal principles:-.
a.
It is based on the scientific principle of SAT KARYA VADAM - what is in
the cause must be found in the effect and nothing that is not in the cause can b
e posted to exist in the effect.
b.
The metaphysical analysis of all that exists into three eternal realitie
s, including the world of Maya, to gain an insight into Reality.
c.
The use of logic, psychology, and daily experience, both underline the f
act that Truth is always the golden mean between two poles and also to ensure th
at Truth can be experienced by all.
d.
The classification of the 36 TATUVAS can be explained in a logical and r
ational way;realities established through empirical analysis.
e.
It is a religion of Bakti and of life - affirmation of immense practical
significance in daily life.
8.

PATI, PASU, PASAM: A REALISTIC PLURALISM.

The three fundamental categories or entities called the tripadarthas (pati, pasu
, pasam) or the ontological status of god, soul and the world according to Saiva
Siddhanta are as follows:
All three are real and co-eval but their onto-logical status is different:-.
a.

God is sat and sit (Existence and knowledge).

b.

Soul is satasat and sitasit

c. Bonds are asat and asit.


The soul wakes up from its slumber state of Kevala, to the half-awake state of S
akala and eventually of the purified state of Suddha avastha - it is through its
very association with Maya that the soul can ultimately be freed from its bonda
ge.
9.

The role of SAKTI as the power of Siva

Having posted three eternal entities (Tripadartas), Saiva Siddhanta explains cer
tain experiences utilizing the category of Sakti. When paired with Siva it allow
s the sovereign over souls or the World by indirect contact through its Sakti. I
f the three realities are bricks then Sakti is the mortar that binds them. Furth

er, SIVA is pure intelligence existing by itself while Sakti, which as instructo
r, is in contact with other objects, as the sun, through the sun light.
10. BLISS or ANANDA is one of the attributes of God, like Existence (sat) and kn
owledge (cit) Hence, God is called Sat ChitAnanda as he is the embodiment of the
se qualities. The AIM OF HUMAN LIFE, in Saiva Siddhanta, is to attain Bliss (als
o called Mukti or freedom from sorrow) through Prayer and Devotion, BHAKTI, for
Gods GRACE which alone can give release to bound soul. This concept of Grace is
fundamental to the Saiva Siddhanta Bhakti philosophy.
11.
Prayer and worship is normally offered to the Deity installed in Hindu S
aiva Temples built strictly according to the Saiva Agamic Rules. Temple worship
is central to the bhakti tradition in the souls evolution through the four stage
s of Sariyai (Karma), Kiriyai (Temple rites), Yoga (internal worship), and Gnana
(Wisdom paths to salvation).
12.

THE NATURE OF BONDAGE (PASAM).

Pasam is the three-fold bondage which prevents the soul from realizing God:a.
rlds.

Maya is the primordial matter which constitutes successive phenomenal wo

b.

ANAVAM is the soul's egoism,manifesting as I-ness and My-ness.

c.

KARMA is the composite of deeds and their effects.

The bearer or support of Karma is maya alone. That man suffers is evidence of hi
s inherent freedom - this question of freedom and the individuals responsibility
for it, is what the law of karma encodes. Anavam as the root impurity (moola ma
la) is connote to the soul, even to the liberated soul, although powerless at th
at stage), whereas the bonds of maya and karma pertain only to the bond soul.
13.
The corner-stone of the PLURALISM of SAIVA SIDDHANTA rests on the concep
t of SUDDHA-ADVAITAM the three-fold advaita relationship in which God stands wit
h the souls and the material world in:-.
1.

Identification: as in body and soul.

2.

Difference as salt and water in sea-water.

3. Togetherness: as in fruit and its essence..


This dynamic concept is unique to Saiva Siddhanta philosophy.
14.THE SCRIPTURE OF SAIVAISM is called the SAIVA THIRUMURAI.
A collection of 12 Books of hymnal literature (including the Thevaram and the Th
iruvacakam ref fered to as TOTIRA LITERATURE, ment for prayer and recitation.
The philosophy of SAIVISM is contained in the MEIKANDA SASTRAS, 14 in number wit
h the leading work known as the SIVA-GNANA-BOTHAM of SRI MEIKANDAR the SYSTEMATI
SER of Saiva Siddhanta Philosophy.
15. According to Saiva Siddhanta, in Mukti or Liberation, the soul only attains
the bliss of oneness in union with God SIVA, but not oneness in identity. Thus e
ven in Mukti God and soul retain their individualities intact.
16. The catholicity of Saiva Siddhanta is expressed in its positive attitude of
inter-faith co-operation through understanding their insights to enrich our tota

l understanding of religious thought. We are guided by the true spirit which pro
claims " I know other religions must be true because I know my own religion is t
rue". This only means that given their respective standpoint and perspective eac
h one has its validity.