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SAIVA SIDDHANTA PHILOSOPHY
Consultant Saiva Philosopher,
London Meykandar Atheenam
is a common name which denotes many Indian religions, including Saivism. It is
not a religion by itself. Saivism or Saiva religion is the dominant religion of
the Hindu fold.
(Saiva Siththaantham in
Tamil) is the philosophy of Saiva religion which considers Lord Siva as its
primary deity. Siddhanta means the final conclusion (reached after taking into
consideration all other important views). It is the popular philosophical system
of the Tamils of South India, based on Saiva Agamas, Upanishds, ancient Tamil
works, Thirumurais and Meykanda Sastra works.
Who am I? Is there a God? What
are the natures of God, Soul and the cosmos? What is my relationship with God
and the worldly things? What is the reason for happenings in life over which one
has no control? Such questions often arise in any philosophical system. Saiva
Siddhanta gives plausible answers and explanations to them.
Saiva Siddhanta believes in the
three eternal entities of God, Soul and Bondage (materials of bondage). These
are called Pati, Pasu
in Siddhanta philosophy. Pati means Lord (of the souls) who is God.
Pasam means bondage. Pasu means that which is under bondage. All
things known and perceived are included in these three categories.
According to Saiva Siddhanta God
is one, Souls are many
and Pasam consists of three impurities (malams) called
Like Pati who is real and eternal, Pasu and Pasam are also real and eternal.
Existence of God and other
eternal entities is established by various epistemological means. Logical
arguments, based on sense perception, inference and scripture are important
means of proving their existence.
Anything that has a beginning,
existence and decay is made by someone. It has a maker. Our physical body
including the mental and psychological equipments, the world and the worldly
things had a beginning. They exist for a certain period of time and then decay.
They, therefore, have a maker who is God. Existence of God is thus established
by inference. The existence of other entities is also established similarly by
(Sivam) is the name given to their God by the Saivites. Siva means One
who is perfect and /or auspicious. His inherent nature is wisdom. He is with
infinite love to benefit the souls. It is His Grace which is part of Him. Like
the sun and its light, He remains inseparable with his
which is Grace. Sakthy literally means power or energy. He is
omnipresent. The Tamil word for God, Kadavul, meaning One who resides
outside and inside, indicates his omnipresence.
According to Saiva Siddhanta,
Souls are many.
No two persons or beings are alike. We may therefore, conclude that every living
being has a soul of its own. Anma
are other names for soul. Soul has the capabilities to know, act and desire.
These are called its gnana sakthy,
kriya sakthy and
respectively. These capabilities are impaired by the associated entity called
Soul has a dependant nature and behaves like the one on which it depends. When
it depends on the worldly things, it behaves like them. When it depends on God,
it behaves like a divine being. This nature of dependency is called in Tamil as
is the cause of all negative qualities of the soul. It is the source of ego,
ignorance, hatred, etc. Anavam is associated with the soul from beginning-less
time. Like verdigris on copper, or the husk on paddy, it has a natural
association with the soul. Obscuring soul’s power to know is the inherent nature
of anavam. It is its special nature, called ‘sorupa
association with karma and maya, anavam misleads the soul to know mistakenly.
This nature of anavam is called ‘thadastha lakshana’.
Anavam’s actions on the soul are summarised under seven categories in Saiva
Siddhanta. Anavam is spoken of only in Saiva Siddhanta and not in any other
means action. Vinai
is the Tamil word for it. Every action has its own result and every one has to
experience the fruit of his action. This is the theory of karma. ‘Good and evil
do not come to us from others’ is a phrase in an early Tamil work, Sangam
literature. This is expressive of the Karmic theory. In philosophical language,
both action and its result are called karma.
Many incidences in life escape
reason for them. Cause of them is not known. Law of karma offers explanations to
them. The results of one’s action or karma in a particular life come to
experience in the same life or in another life, and get exhausted. Good actions
results in good or pleasant experience and evil action result in bad or painful
experience. Fruit of one’s karma is fed to the soul to come to experience by
God, at a suitable time and surrounding decided by Him.
is the subtle entity which is the first cause of all material things. It is
real, and not an illusion as in Vedanta philosophy. To perform any karma or
action, material objects such as the physical body and worldly things are
required. These are created by God from maya. This is akin to a potter making
pots from the clay. The physical body is made from maya and given to the soul.
Soul taking birth is obtaining the physical body. At death its body
disintegrates to maya. Thus birth and death are mere transformation from one
state to another, from maya to gross body and vice versa. According to Saiva
Siddhanta, only that which is in existence comes out in another form. Nothing
comes out from the void. This is an important concept in Saiva Siddhanta, called
‘Sat’ means that which is real; ‘kariya’ means the product and ‘vatham’
When the material things
originate from maya, they first originate as evolutes of maya, called
Most of the Indian philosophical systems speak of twenty four tatvas. Saiva
Siddhanta speaks of thirty six tatvas.
Although maya is a single entity,
by nature of its actions, it is divided into two parts, as
maya. Out of the
thirty six tatvas, five tatvas belong to suddha maya and they are called Siva
tatvas. Sivasakthy, the divine power of Lord Siva acts directly on them.
Thirty one tatvas belong to asuddha maya. Of these, seven tatvas are necessary
to awaken the soul’s capabilities and to drive it to gain experience. These
seven tatvas are called vidya tatvas.
Other twenty four tatvas are necessary for the formation of physical body and
its functions and experiences. They are called
prakrti maya tatvas
and are formed from moola prakrti
which again is a product of asudha maya.
means nature, and is in the form of guna
(gunam). Guna is of three kinds, sathva,
Our experiences of happiness, pain, confusion etc., are in the form of varying
combination of these three guns. The twenty four tatvas of prakrti are
also of this form.
The soul is under bondage of the
(impurities) of anava, karma and maya. When this bondage is
broken, it gets liberation or mukthy.
Evolution of the Soul
Before taking any birth, the soul
was in a state, enmeshed in the darkness of anavam, unable to exhibit its
capabilities to know, act and desire. This state of the soul is called ‘kevalam’.
Lord Siva, out of His immense love to help the soul, provided it with a subtle
body formed with eight tatvas of maya. This subtle body is called ‘puriyatakatyam’.
With this body, the soul, for the first time showed some movement. This movement
became the first karma of the soul and it had its own result. For the result of
this karma to come to experience God Siva provides a suitable gross body created
from maya. This is a new birth for the soul, in the world.
On taking birth, the soul acts or
performs new karma, and the result of the past karma comes to experience through
it and get exhausted. But its action gives rise to another karma which again has
to come to experience and get exhausted. For this to happen, it has to take
another birth. Thus karma and birth follow one after another, till the soul gets
liberation. The state of the soul with the body on earth is called ‘sakalam’.
In every birth, the soul, through
its action, gains experience, and through experience gains knowledge. As it
gains knowledge, the grip of anava, which is the source of its ignorance,
gradually gets loosened, and it evolves towards liberation. In its path of
spiritual evolution, it passes through various stages, called
Malaparipakam, Iruvinai oppu
These are states where anava malam gets ripened to be removed, mental equipoise
to consider pain and pleasure as same is developed and Grace of Siva descends.
Manifestatios of Lord Siva
God Siva in His inherent form is
formless. To bestow grace to the souls He manifests in various forms. His
manifested forms are grouped into three categories. They are
form (without a body), rupa
(uruvam)form (with body) and rupa-arupa
(aruvuruvam) form (with and without body). The image of
(Sivalingam) is symbolic of the last category, which is the intermediate stage
between the other two. Other manifested images of Siva are symbolic of the
second category. The images of Ambikai, Nadarajah,
Dakshnmoorthy, Ganapathy, Murugan
etc., belong to this category.
Saivism does not encourage
worship of minor deities and those alien to it. If any benefit is derived by
worshipping them, it is only temporary and of a psychological change. Often such
worship becomes a hindrance to spiritual progress.
The image of
is often misinterpreted by many. Lord Siva, when taking various manifested
forms, acts first on Natham
which is the first Siva tatva.
This tatva is denoted by a vertical line. Then He acts on the second tatva
which is denoted by a dot. Then he acts on the third tatva called
It is here He takes the manifested form called Sivalingam. The vertical upper
portion of Sivalingam is, therefore, indicative of natham and the bottom
circular portion is indicative of vindhu. The image of Sivalingam is symbolic of
Siva’s arupa rupa
form. It is actually without any definite form and in an amorphous state.
The image of
or Dancing Siva is expressive of the highly evolved arts and culture of the
ancient Tamils. It depicts the five fold activity
of Lord Siva, and the
involving the fusion of His static and dynamic states.
The image of
is seen holding the palm with the forefinger bending towards the thumb. This
posture is called Cinmutra.
The thumb denotes Lord Siva and the forefinger the soul. Other three fingers
denote the triple malams of anava, karma and mays. This cinmutra posture
indicates that the soul should strive to get detached from the three malams, and
lean on Siva’s Grace. Other images also have such significance and explanations.
For spiritual progress and to
earn Siva’s Grace, Saivism encourages everyone to develop good qualities such a
love to all beings. Lord Siva is seen as a personification of wisdom and love.
He is the perfection of all good qualities. Hence every Saivite who worship Siva
must develop such noble qualities and serve all living beings.
Saivism shows certain prescribed
practices to grow spiritually. These practices are called
Sariya, Kiriya, Yoga
Gnana. Sariya is doing
service to devotees and in temples. This is the first stage which will turn the
aspirant toward spiritual progress. Worshipping lord Siva with body and mind is
Kiriya. Meditating on Siva without allowing the mind to stray outwards and
getting united mentally with Him is Yoga. Understanding the books of wisdom,
which explains clearly the triple entities of pathi, pasu and pasam and staying
in the Grace of Siva is Gnanam.
or spiritual teacher also gains importance in Saivism. Proper Guru gives the
necessary guidance and prepares the aspirant to receive the Grace of Siva. Siva
Himself acts through him, and hence he is also considered as God by his
disciple. Guru is such a spiritually highly evolved person hearing his words,
and even seeing him would illuminate the disciple.
Sacred symbols like
Rudraksham are of
utmost importance in Saiva practice.
Saiva Siddhanta is a rational
philosophy. The concept of ‘Satkariya vatham’
is similar to the scientific concept that matter and energy get transformed from
one form to another.
The universe, according to the
Big Bang theory
in science, had an origin from a ‘cosmic egg’ and expanded to the present state.
Even time was born from it. The Siddhanta concept of maya and its products has a
close parallel with this scientific view.
Referring to the universe, the 20th
century Scientist Albert Einstein said, “It is an expanding Universe”. The Saiva
made the same statement more than about 12 century ago. Even the verbal usage,
in his statement appears to be the same.
where the static and dynamic aspects are attributed to the one and the same
Being is akin to the 20th century scientific discovery regarding the
duel aspect of atomic particles. These particles were found to exhibit the
characteristics of particle and wave at one and the same time. Many such
examples can be shown to draw parallels between Siddhanta concepts and
Few comparisons of the views of
few other philosophical systems may be useful.
Vedanta is a dominant
Indian philosophical system. There are three influential Vedanta schools. They
are Advaita Vedanta
of Sankara, Visishdatvaita Vedanta
of Ramanujar, and Dvaita Vedanta
of Madvar. Generally, Vedanta, in modern days, refers to Sankarar’s Vedanta.
According to this system, and even Visishdatvaita, God or Brahmam is the only
reality. Soul is one and it broke away from Brahmam. Maya caused this breaking
away. (Maya in Vedanta is different from that in Sidhanta). The world is an
illusion and a reflection of Brahmam. The soul takes various forms in various
bodies, and joins Brahmam when it gains Gnanam or divine bliss.
What is the necessity for the
soul to break away from God? If maya is the cause of it, is not maya more
powerful than God? If the soul is part of Brahmam, then every man should have
the divine qualities. Is he having it? Even if the soul unites with the God at
the end, what is the guarantee that it will not break away again? Such questions
do not get satisfactory answers. Saiva Siddhanta, therefore, does not accept
such vedantic views.
Budhist and Jain philosophies
adopt sense perception and inference to establish their views. Saiva Siddhnta
considers scriptural authority, in addition to them.
They do not believe in the
existence of God. But Budha and Aruga are worshipped as Gods. Saiva Siddhanta
believes in One God who is Siva. Their concepts regarding soul and liberation
are entirely different from those in Siddhanta.
Both philosophies believe in
karmic theory, but they hold the view that God is not required to make the karma
reach the doer. According to Saiva Siddhnta, Karma is an unintelligent entity
and requires a higher power, God, to enable it to reach the doer.
3. The views of
defer from Old Testament to New Testament and from Catholicism to Protestantism.
According to popular Christianity, Father, Son and Holy Ghost are Gods. By birth
Man is the highest living being. He is born to know and love God. All other
living beings come under his control and are created for his pleasure. Souls
have only one birth. By his action man attains eternal hell or eternal heaven.
Evil of man is due to the original sin committed by his ancestor Adam.
Saiva Siddhanta believes in many
births and spiritual evolution from birth to birth. By the Grace of Lord Siva
every soul attains liberation and eternal bliss at the end. Heaven and hell are
only temporary stages in the soul’s evolution. It does not belief in the
transmission of evil originated by some one of the distant past, to those at
present and in future.
4. According to
God is formless and not born with a physical body. He is with love and grace and
knows everything. He is eternal and is capable of creating and destroying. It is
a sin to worship His creations as divine beings. These views appear to have
similarities with those of Saiva Siddhanta.
Soul, according to Islam, is
created by God and does not take another birth This view is contrary to Saiva
Philosophy of the Tamils
Saiva Siddhanta philosophy is
based mainly on the Saiva Agamas.
Vedas are considered to be of general nature and Agamas of special nature to
Saivism. Saiva Siddhanta developed as a plausible philosophy in the Tamil land
and is considered as the philosophy of the Tamils.
Authoritative texts in Saiva
Sidhanta are the fourteen Meykanda Sastra books
in Tamil. One of these is Sivagnanbodham
which is the primary text in Saiva Siddhanta. The authors of these books are
divine inspired saints.
For a long time it was believed
that Saiva religion, like other Indian religions, had its origin with the Vedas.
The Mohenjadaro – Harappa excavations of the last century proved that Saivism
and Siva worship existed before the Vedic period. Following words of Sir John
Marshall testifies to this:
‘Among the many revelations that
Mohenjadaro and Harappa have in store for us, none perhaps is more remarkable
than this discovery that Saivism has a history going back to the chalcolithic
age’ – John Marshall
The Saiva religion and its
philosophy are praised highly by scholars.
is the oldest pre-historic religion of S. India’ –
of the most closely reasoned religious philosophies found anywhere
the world’. – John H. Piet
(Notes on the presentation given at the ‘World Saiva Conference’ held in
Sydney, Australia, in January, 2006, and again at Scarborough, Canada, in July,