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A Study Of Saiva Siddhanta By Kantimatinatha Pillai


[A lecture delivered by Mr. V. P. Kantimatinatha Pillai, B .A., during the 6th conference, (Madras), December 1911 of the Saiva Siddhanta Maha Samajam - Ed. S. I].


In this short discourse of mine I do not propose to enter into anything like a discussion of the principles of Saiva Siddhanta Philosophy, with a view to show its superiority over other schools of Indian thought. I only propose to give an outline of the same; so much as to make clear to a lay mind, what Saivaism or Saiva Siddhantam is, and in what relationship it stands to other schools. Although this school of Saiva Siddhantam is, in the words of a late eminent scholar in Tamil, the oldest and choicest of Indian philosophies; it had so long remained in the back ground that even the term Saivaism has ceased to be understood in its true meaning. It is only very few that know who a Saiva is, and why he is so. It is no surprise then that many of us do not know what Saivaism or Saiva Siddhantam is, and why it is so known. It may therefore be of advantage to begin this discourse with an examination of the definition of the terms Saiva and Saivaism.

2. I have already said that the term Saiva no longer denotes what it ought to. It is used to denote a very narrow section of the Vellala community, who pass for hereditary vegetarians, and to which, I may say, I myself belong. At any rate it is so used in the southern part of this Presidency. A Brahmin, none the less a hereditary vegetarian, is not known as a Saiva; nor is any of other non-Vellala. Even Vellalas that have become Vegetarians for the past few generations, are not accepted as Saivas. What is still worse is, that the so-called Saiva is Saiva, even though he does not stick up to the Vegetarian diet. Indeed, it is no longer used as a name denoting the religion which one professes, but as one denoting the sub-caste he belongs to. It is not that the Vellala section alone is responsible for this degradation in use. Brahmins call this section as Saivas and think it as demeaning to be known by the name themselves; while the other non-Vellalas think, they are too low to be entitled to the name. Why! All of us know that in this town of Madras, there is a street known as Saiva Muttaiya Mudaly street. The name implies that none of the Mudaliyars outside the division of the said Mudaliyar, can possibly be or become a Saiva.

3. What is the cause of this restriction in use? None of the scriptures sanction such. Saiva Samaya Acharyas the expounders of Saivaism in South India are four in number. Of them three are Brahmins. Saiva Santana Acharyas the expounders of Saivaite philosophy in Tamil, are also four and three of these likewise Brahmins. Can it be that these are not Saivas? Why! The former are worshipped as Avatars for propounding Saivaism and festivals in big Siva temples are celebrated in their honour; and the latter also are worshipped as the propounders of Saivaite philosophy. Again Saivaism recognises 63 devotees or Nayanmars as they are called. Each caste from Brahmin to Paraya has its representatives among them. It must be that one and all of them are Saivas. Nay, they are accepted as Saiva Saints, deified and images representing them are worshipped in all Siva temples by all caste men alike. Besides, Saivagamas, the Saivaite Scriptures recognise six classes of Saivaites, Adi Saiva, Maha Saiva, Anu Saiva, Anantra Saiva, Peravara Saiva, and Antya Saiva. The first two are among the Brahmins, the 3rd among the Kshatriyas and Vaisyas, the 4th among the high caste Sudras, the 5th among the inferior Sudras and the last among the Panchamas. It is thus plain that the term Saiva is not to be regarded as a term denoting one's Caste. It denotes one's religion and that alone.

4. Turning then to the etymological meaning of the term Saiva, we see that it prima facie means a worshipper of Saiva, as the only True God. Worship is of different modes, at different stages of one's religious life. Although the Hindu Scriptures one and all prescribe the various observances and practices which a true Saiva ought to adhere to. They alone inculcate the various doctrines which distinguish the Saivaite philosophy from the rest. Hence a Saiva is a follower of Sivagamas. How then the term came to mean a hereditary Vegetarian? Abstinence from animal diet, is one of the various rules prescribed by the Sivagamas. A Saiva is bound to obey it as well as other rules prescribed by the Agamas. Mere vegetarian diet cannot make one a Saiva. A hereditary vegetarian Vellala who makes a breach in any of the rules of the Agamas or who believes in a doctrine different from that inculcated in them, is equally a non-Saiva. Again it is not enough if one belongs to a Saiva family. He must himself be a close follower of the Sivagamas. The moment, he departs from them, he becomes a non-Saiva. So also a non-Saiva becomes a Saiva as soon as he becomes a follower of the Agamas. Thus we see that all the followers of the Agamas, are Saivas and their religion Saivaism, irrespective of their nation or caste or birth and all are entitled to become such. It is in this broad sense, our Saint, Sivajnanayogin has sung.

        "சிவனென்று மொழியைக்கொடிய சண்டாளன் செப்பிடில்
        அவனுடனுறைக அவனுடன் கலந்து பேசுக,
        அவனோடருகிருந் துண்ணுக என்னும்உவமையில்சுருதி"!

The unrivalled Vedas declare:

"With him who recites the word Siva, be he the worst Chandala, one may freely converse, reside, and mess also by his side.

5. We shall now proceed to see what these Āgamas are. The word Āgama is interpreted in various ways. One of them is the following:- The ā sound in the word denotes Pāšam or Bondage, the ga sound denotes Soul or Jiva and the ma sound, the Pati or Lord. The Āgamas thus form the scriptures that treat of Pati, Pašu and Pāša or in other words, God, Soul and Bondage. The same are known as Pāšupatams as they treat of Pašu, its bondage, Paša, and its lord Pati. These are of 2 classes Vaidika and Avaidika Pašupatams. The former are consistent with the Vedas and the latter not. Saint Tirumular refers to this former class of Āgamas, when he says "வேதமோடாகமம், மெய்யாம், இறைவனூல்". According to him, the Vedas and the Āgamas are both of them true, both being the word of the Lord. Sri Nilakantacharya expresses the same view in his commentary on the Pāšupata Adhikarana of Brahma Sutras. He does not perceive any difference between the Vedas and the Šivāgamas. The Veda itself is Šivāgama. This truth is inculcated in the 16th Adhyāya of the Pūrvabhagam of Kūrmapurāna and in the 32nd Adhyāya of Yajňa Vaibhava Khanda of Sūta Samhitā. It is the other class of Āgamas known as the Avaidika Pūšupatams, that are spoken of in deprecating terms in Vāyu Samhitā and suchlike, and the narrow minded sectarians distort the meaning of the Vāyu Samhitā sloka and misapply it to the Sivāgamas beginning with Kamika. The Saivagamas are also attacked on the ground that they do not come under the list of eighteen Scriptures or vidhias as they are called. It is of 2 parts, the general and the special. The same sentiment has been expressly said by Saint Tirumular in his elegant verse, part of which has been above quoted.

        "வேத மோடாகமம் மெய்யாமிறைவனூல்
        ஒதுவும் போதுவுஞ்சிறப்பு மென்றுன்னுக."

6. Where is the necessity then for 2 parts? Will not the special part of the Sivagamas alone do? We see in our experience that our powers are altogether limited and we are gradually improving. We are not able to grasp things, all at once. We require to be instructed only by degrees. This mode of instruction is what is known in Hindu Logic as Sthularuntate Nyaya. Here is one who wants to see the star Arundhati. It is so minutely small as to become visible only after a steady, gradual, and continued practice. Give him the best of the descriptions and he cannot see it. Describe to him another star near the same but easily visible. Say to him that it is the self-same star he wants to see; else he will not care to see it. Once he sees it you may slowly lead him on to see another star which is nearer the true Arundhati and more visible than the former. In this way one may successfully lead him on to see the actual Arundati and to know also its peculiar features. The instruction given to us by our Lord through our Vedas and Sivagamas is of the same mode. With the best of the descriptions therein, we are not able to know the true God. We are first instructed to see such God in one or other of the five elements, the lowest and the most visible in the order of the 36 Tattvas. We are made to think for the time being that the deity presiding over the one or other of them, Indra, Agni, Varuna or the like, is the true God. We are gradually taken to see Him in the higher Tattvas one after another and think that the deity presiding over the one or the other of them, Brama, Vishnu, Rudra and so on, is the true God. The worship of each one of these deities forms a religion of its own. In the end we are instructed to see the true God Himself, in the Being that is above one and all the Tattvas. With this ends the general part. It is general, as it does not describe any one deity in particular. It on the other hand describes all the deities in general. Even when it describes the true God, it describes only His general features, so much as to enable one to distinguish Him from the lower Gods. His other features which form His peculiar ones and modes of worship peculiar to Him, are left to be described in the special part, the Sivagamas.

7. We thus see that the special part is nothing contrary to the general one. On the other hand the latter leads on to the former. Hence the special part or the Sivagamas is called Siddhantam. The word Siddhantam is of two components, Siddham, and Antam; both of which mean conclusion. The word as a whole means, the conclusion of conclusions. The religion of the Sivagamas being such is known as Siddhantam. All the other religions conclude in it; although among themselves one concludes in the other. Even the religion of the Upanishats, Vedantas as they are called, concludes itself in this. It may therefore be taken to be the all-concluding religion. The other religions are but various steps, reaching to this one, one being higher than the other. An all-concluding religion is also an all-embracing one. It can never contradict any one of the other religions. On the other hand it embraces within its fold all the other religions. That this is the test of a true religion has been set forth in clear terms by Arunandi Sivam in the following verse of his Sivajnanasiddhi.

    " ஒதூ சமயங்கள் பெருளுனரு நூல்கள் ஒன்றோ
        டொன் றொவ்வாமலுள பலவுமிவற்றுள்
        யாது சமயம் பொருள்நூல்யாதிங் கென்னில், இது
        வாகுமதுவல்ல தெனும் பிணக்கதின்றி
        நீதியினா னிவை யெல்லா மோரிடத்தே காணநின்றதி
        யாதொரு சமயமது சமயம் பொருள் நூல்
        ஆதலினாலிவை யெல்லா மருமறையாகமத் தேயடங்கியிடு
        மவையிரண்டு மரனடிக்கீழடங்கும்."
Many are the religions and the scriptures teaching them. No one of these agrees with the other. How then to find which of these is true? That religion is true, which not contradicting this or that one, embraces every one of them within its fold. So also the scriptures teaching the same. All the other scriptures are covered by the Vedas, and Agamas; while they themselves are covered by no other than the Lord's Grace.

8. Of the Vedas and Sivagamas, the whole of the Vedas corresponds to the whole of the Sivagamas. The Vedas are four in number and each one of them is divided into 2 parts, the Karma Kanda or the ceremonial portion and the Jnanakanda or the Philosophical portion. So also are the Sivagamas. They are 28 in number. Each one of them is divided into four parts or padams: Charya, Kriya, Yoga, and Jnana padams. The first three correspond to the Karmakanda of the Vedas and the last one, the Jnanapada corresponds to the Upanishat portion of the Vedas.

The Upanishat portion is otherwise known as Vedantam, and the Jnanapada portion of the Agamas as Agmantam. The latter is Siddhantam with regard to the former. This relationship holds also with regard to the ceremonial portions of the two treatises. In Karmakanda, the various Dharmas or modes of worship directed towards deities of an order lower than the true God, are set forth in details. They are known as Pasu Dharmas. Although the mode of worship of the true God is also in a way treated therein, the same is treated in detail only in the Agamas. No Agamic Dharma is directed towards any other than the Lord Siva. Rituals, domestic and these relating to the temples, rituals daily and these on special occasions, and the various mental practices, as set forth in the Sivagamas, are all directed towards the Lord Siva. All aim only at the attainment of Siva's bliss in one way or the other. This Dharma is known as Pati Dharma and in this is concluded, the other one. Hence it is that the first three padams form the Siddhanta for the Karma Kanda of the Vedas.

9. We shall now turn to see how the Vedanta philosophy corresponds to that of the Agmanta. The Sivagamas have already been said to treat of Pati, Pasu and Pasam. So do the Upanishats also. But these latter do not agree among themselves and this is the reason why one school of philosophers has adopted some only of the Upanishats and another, some others. Sri Sankara for instance has adopted ten only of them and class them as Dasopanishats; while Sri Ramanuja would adopt some more. These are schools which prefer some Upanishats to the others. Unlike is the case with the Siddhanta school. This regards all the 108 Upanishats as entitled to the same weight and would reconcile them with the Jnanapadas of the Sivagamas. Take for instance a theory relating to God as to whether He is Saguna (having attributes) or Nirguna (having no attributes). One and the same Upanishat gives varying texts about it. The sixteenth mantra of the sixth Adhyaya of Svestasvatara Upanishat recites, "The Lord of Pasu and Pati is one having attributes." While the nineteenth mantra replies, "He has neither forms nor doings. He is quite impersonal." Agamanta would reconcile them and conclude that He has not got the attributes of a soul. He has not got what called "ஹேயகுணம்". But He has attributes peculiar to Him which form his "விசேஷகுணம்". Next as to the theory of the individuality of Soul, the Upanishats give conflicting texts. There are what are called Bhedasrutis and Abhedasrutis. Texts forming the Bhedasrutis are found in Upanishats, Brihadaranya, Svetasvatara, Mundakopa and others, and the other class of Srutis is found in Chhandogya and other Upanishats. The Agamanta would reconcile these and say that Soul is a distinct entity from God, and they exist as not two. Their existence is co-existence without mutual exclusion. It is this relationship between them that the Agamanata would style as Advaita relationship. According to this school, the word Advaita does not denote the denial of the existence of any other than God, but denotes the relationship between the two distinct entities of God and Soul. Such conflicting texts are also found in Upanishats as to the theory of Maya or Aviddai. According to some, it is an entity in itself. According to some others, it is no entity at all. This school would reconcile them and they say that it is not such an unchanging entity like God. It is capable of change. But it is at any rate an entity. Numerous more instances may be quoted. But I have perhaps taken you into details in violation of my promise at the outset. I hope you will bear with me for it. I mean by the instances quoted above that the school of Siddhanta is not one contradicting any of the various other schools that have arisen out of Upanishats; but one that reconciles the same with the Sivagamas, with may be said to have arisen out of them both.

10. I have shown that the school of Saiva Siddhanta is not one belonging to any particular caste. It is not Sudra philosophy as thought of by some of the Brahmins. It is Brahmanic as well as any other. I have also shown that it is not purely Agamatic; but Vedic as well, and that it is not Dvaitam as thought of generally, but Advaitam in truth. Nay according to it, the truly Vedic and Advaita philosophy is this one and nothing else. It is also thought of by some that it is purely Tamilian; as if this school were prevalent only in Tamil County, and in Tamil language. It is no discredit to any religion that it prevails only in a particular place, or the work bearing on it exists only in a particular language. We are not to test the truth of a philosophy by the place where it prevails or by the language in which it is written. Saint Umapati has well said, "அன்னிய நூலின்விதிய வாரோத மேலது உமுன்னேல் பழுதொன்றுளத்து." It is not at the same time true that it prevails merely in Tamil Country. It prevails in north India though to a small extent. It has been found to prevail in Kashmir. The schools of Pratyabhijna and Spanda there teach practically the same doctrines as this. It is not at all true that works bearing on this school are written only in Tamil. In fact more works of the school are written in Sanskrit than in Tamil. The every Sivagamas, which form the basis of this school, exist only in Sanskrit. The fact is, that many of the works in Sanskrit have been left uncared for, to rust and decay; while some others are lying unknown. Some 20 years ago very few thought that there is a Saiva commentary for Brahma sutras in Sanskrit. It has now become an accomplished fact. It has since been translated into Tamil also by the famous Brahma Sri Sentinatha Iyer to whom the Saiva world is very highly indebted. The very little knowledge I possess of the philosophy of the Upanishats is due to this translation as well as translations of Upanishats appearing in the Light of Truth, the organ of our Samaja. We thus see that this school of Siddhanta is one to which the whole of India can lay claim as its ancestral one.

11. But it must be admitted that this school is at present more flourishing in this Tamil land than elsewhere. This is owing to the advent herein of the four Tamilian Saints whose hymns of Devaram and Tiruvasagam contain beautiful expositions of philosophical thoughts propounded by this school of philosophy. These hymns correspond to the Vedic hymns; but with this difference that the truths they inculcate are peculiarly Sivaite. Hence it is that the Saiva Siddhantins regard them as the Tamil Vedas. The rationale of the philosophy is however not discussed therein. It is left entirely to the succeeding group of four other saints, beginning with Saint Meykandan. It was this saint that raised this system to a scholastic one, by his famous work of Sivajnanabodham in Tamil. This work is composed of 12 Sutras which comprise the whole philosophy. His disciple Saint Arunandi has written a Poetic Commentary on the same by his Sivajnanasiddhi. Then his disciple Saint Maraijnanasambandhar, then again his disciple Saint Umapati wrote similar works. The works of these and two more constitute the fourteen Siddhanta Sastras in Tamil. The line of disciples continued on like this, and, it is believed, is still continuing. So that most of the Saiva mutts Saiva priests, great and small, trace their origin to Saint Meykandan and say they belong Meykanda santanam.

12. The famous mutt of Tiruvavaduturai is one in the order of Meykandasantana mutts. It is famous not merely for the vast wealth it possesses. Great men presided over the mutt and great men were members of the holy order of Tampirans therein. Saint Sivajnana Svami was one of the holy order some 200 years ago. It was he that wrote the famous prose commentary on Sivajnanabodam in Tamil, known as Dravida Maha Bashyam. The whole work is not published yet. The commentary on the last seven sutras alone have been brought to light. I learn that this forms only a third of the whole Bashyam. But from what has come out. We clearly see what a splendid intellectual treat the Bashyam supplies, and what a truly great man the swami was. It is said that the mutt possesses the whole Bashyam. It is highly regrettable then that it did not as yet strike His Holiness the present Pandarasannadhi to publish the same. It should not at all be too much to expect, that if the whole Bashyam is brought out, and translated into English and other important languages, there will come a time when the whole educated world may become the followers of this school.

13. I may perhaps be accused of aspiring too much. Indeed it should appear like that seeing the present condition of our religion. But imagine for a moment what its condition was, some 15 years ago. Few English-cultured men had any scent of it. Our able exponent of this system, I mean our respected President, has brought out his translation of Sivajnanabodam in 1895 and his journal of 'The Light of Truth' soon after. With this may be said to begin the study of this philosophy by the English educated among us. Nay translations of many other Siddhanta works followed in quick succession and also such philosophical Journals like 'The Oriental Mystic Myna.' Besides, Saiva Siddhanta Conferences are being held at various places and lectures on subjects pertaining to the school delivered in English and Tamil. We have formed a Samaja consisting of members throughout this Presidency. We are issuing and small treatises bearing on this religion. We are also sending out touring lecturers for preaching its truth; men who are truly able exponents of our system have given up their other concerns and consented to go out as Samaja lecturers.

14. Is it then too much that I expected that time may come when our religion and philosophy may spread all through the world? Only we have to acquire a substantial fund for this Provincial Conference to enable us to realise our expectations. At present our work is confined more to our Province. As our fund grows, we should be able to extend our work gradually throughout India and elsewhere all through the world. Svami Vivekananda has paved the way for propagation of our religion in America and other western countries and time will not be far off, when we will follow suit, and in our turn send our Saivaite missionaries all through there. I am perhaps detaining you, gentlemen, with expressions of my fond hopes. I shall not do so any longer. I close my paper here with my heart-felt thanks to you, Ladies and Gentlemen, for the very patient hearing you have kindly given me.

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