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Studies In Saiva Siddhanta


(Extract from the Indian Patriot, 23rd & 24th February 1912).

"Studies in Saiva Siddhanta" is a recent contribution to the philosophic literature of the world. It is from the pen of Mr. J. M. Nallasvami Pillai, B.A., B.L., who is a well-known figure in the field of original research into the mysteries of the past. The book embodies his labors in that direction for a period of fourteen years and contains the several papers he contributed, from time to time, to three of the monthlies of this Presidency. Even a cursory reader will be struck with the depth of his scholarship; for the exposition of his theme, he appears to have utilized all the available literature on it, both scientific and philosopher, both ancient and modern. A profound student of Tamil, he has not spared pains to indent largely upon it. His range of investigation extends from the remotest portion of the Vedas to the most modern of scientific truths. The book is remarkable for the close reasoning which he adopts, for the apt citations which he makes to bear out his contention, and for the happy illustrations which he brings in to make clear the several questions of controversy. To some extent, it is unique inasmuch as the learned writer treads upon a ground which very few modern savants have trodden in the exposition of the broad principles that underlie the subject.

As the title indicates, the book deals with Saivaism. One European writer has remarked that this particular system of philosophy, though deserving of the greatest attention, on account of its antiquity and comprehensiveness, is not now being regarded with that reverence and patient research which are accorded to the other systems of philosophy. This is, perhaps, due to the fact that few people have understood the real significance of the system and the narrow view that is generally taken of it is not the one which it is justifiable to take Mr. Pillai in his book has not only endeavored to disabuse the public mind of this by his masterly exposition of the main principles of the system, but has boldly faced the general complaint of comparative neglect by its publication. There is another service which he has unwittingly done to the cause of research-work so far as the Indian student is concerned. In India it is said that there are few who, in spite of their brilliant career in the University, are capable of producing a work which involves post-university research. Whatever it is, the book is an instance which shows that an Indian, in spite of the manifold disadvantages peculiar to his position either social or political, is capable of such work of the most persevering kind

As has been remarked in the very able introduction, each of the papers that comprise the book is a happy expansion with the necessary quotations and illustrations of one central idea, and the author has tried to make each paper complete in itself within the limited scope allowed to him. Saivaism has been presented in all its phases, and particular attention is drawn to its antiquity, its underlying principles, its relation to other systems in India, its explanation of the nature of the Jiva and the means of salvation which it offers to the devotee. Read as a whole, it gives a picture of the system as complete as it can be at this stage of philosophic research and form a sage background for future workers in the same field.

Saivaism is popularly associated with the worship of Siva who is regarded as one of the Trinity. That this is the narrowest interpretation that one could imagine, is shown with great scholarly insight in the paper on Saiva Religion. To show that Siva is the one Transcendent Being pervading the whole universe and His worship as such is one of remote antiquity, Mr. Pillai has drawn upon our sacred literature such as the Vedas, the Upanishads, upon the Agamas, the Gita, the great classics – the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, and in fact upon every work which the Hindus are today proud of possessing as an heritage of the past and which, in any way, could lead him to throw light on the subject on which he has set his heart to present as succinct a picture as he possibly can. The reader would be amply rewarded if he would at least take the pains of reading this one single paper. He would be delighted to find that the writer, in the exposition of his pet theme, has disclosed to his mental vision the long vista of philosophic lore left to us by our ancient sages in their anxiety to redeem mankind, and that his eyes are once more turned towards sacred books which have afforded the most supreme satisfaction to more than one savant of modern Europe. In the Rig Veda the worship of Siva is mentioned. "As the God of Gods, he is said to 'derive His renown from himself'…His glory is said to be inherent, independent, or self-dependent God. He is called 'Svapivata' which is variously explained as meaning 'readily understanding,' 'accessible,' 'gracious,' He by whom life is conquered,' 'He whose command cannot be transgressed,' 'Thou by whom prayers are readily received. He is called the 'Father of the worlds' and the Rik story of His becoming the father of the fatherless Maruts can be recalled in many a Puranic Story…" (page 275.)

In the Yajur Veda, "His Supreme Majesty is fully developed, and He is expressly called Siva by name, 'Sivonamasi' and the famous mantra, the Panchakshara, is said to be placed in the very heart of the three Vedas. And the famous Satarudriyam which is praised in the Upanishats and in the Mahabharata forms also the central portion of this central Veda…In the Satarudriya and in the whole Veda, Rudra is called Siva, Sankara, Sambhu, Isana, Girisa, Mahadeva, and Mahesvara," (page 278)

In the days of Mahabharata, "Oriental Scholars point out that the superior castes …. were following the worship of Siva….. and the following passage from Anusasanaparva…. Explains at the same time Rudra's different aspects…. As the Creator, Protector, and Destroyer. Lord Krishna says: 'Large armed Yudhishtira, understand from me the greatness of the glorious, multiform, many-named, Rudra. They call Mahadeva, Agni, Isana, Mahesvara, one eyed, Triambaka, the Universal formed and Siva. Brahmins versed in the Veda know two bodies of this God, one awful, one auspicious, and these two bodies have again many forms. The dire and awful body is fire, lightning, the Sun, the auspicious and beautiful body is fire and the other half is called the moon. The one which is His auspicious body practices chastity, while the other, which is his most dreadful body, destroys the world. From his being Lord and Great, He is called Mahesvara. Since he consumes, since he is fiery, fierce, glorious, an eater of flesh, blood and marrow, He is called Rudra. As He is the greatest of the Gods, as his domain is wide and as He preserves, He is called Mahadeva. From his smoky color He is called Dhurjati. Since he constantly prospers all men in all their acts seeking their welfare (Siva) He is therefore called Siva." (page 283).

Owing to the rise of several systems of Philosophy during the closing centuries before and early centuries after the Christian era, Saivaism had evidently been thrust into the back-ground. About the 7th or 8th century A.D. Saivaism, there is evidence to believe, was prevalent in Kashmir, and there were in that country two schools of Saiva theology called the Pratyabhijna and the Spanda which teach the same doctrines and between which there exists no essential difference. It is said that the Saiva cult after it had been codified in Kashmir came down to Southern India through many channels about the middle of the 12th century. This date synchronizes with the great upheaval which ended, in the Kashmir country, in the overthrow of Jainism and the setting-up of Saivaism for several ages. From the Kanarese country, it spread into the Tamil lands and re-appeared at the beginning of the 13th century as the basis of Saiva Siddhantam. "During the Buddhistic and Jaina period, it was Saivaism that was able to rise above the onslaught of these two creeds and vanquish them. The rise of the Great Acharyas, St. Jnanasambanda, St. Appar, St. Sundarar and St. Manikkavasagar was in this period. By the close of the 9th century, both Buddhism and Jainism had become inert and dead… Following them close, came the great Santana Acharya, St. Meykandan, St. Maraijnana Sambandar, and St. Umapati Sivacharyar, and modern Saivaism may be said to commence from that time." (page 294.)

As is the case with every great system which has ever held the veneration of its votaries, Saivaism has its ritualistic as well as its philosophic side. There are innumerable temples in Southern India dedicated to the worship of Siva where an elaborate course of ritualism is, even today, practiced. "It's form of ritualism… is determined in the South by the Agamas or Tantras, 28 in number from Kamika to Vatula called the Dakshina or Right-handed; the different temples in Southern India follow the rule prescribed in one Agama or another though there are still some temples like the one at Chidambaram where the pure Vedic Rituals are followed…In the rituals….the same mantras forms and words derived from the old Vedic times are used. (page 294.)

On its philosophic – rather abstruse and mystic side, Saivaism claims to be eclectic and to embody in itself the essence of the several systems in India. The learned writer, pressing to the attention of the reader its catholicity, regards it as the one universal religion. In his opinion, Svetasvatara Upanishat and the Gita are its two sacred scriptures. "Saiva Siddhanta, as representing the old Hinduism and with its chief scriptures the Svetasvatara Upanishad and the Gita, claims to be an eclectic philosophy and an universal Religion…It brings itself into agreement with every shade of opinion, religion and philosophy. It describes philosophy accordingly by such terms as 'Sara,' 'Samsara,' 'Siddhanta' meaning 'essence of all,' 'true end,' 'the truth' (page 313.)

It postulates three eternal principles two of which are the mere instruments of the Other One. They are "Pati", "Pasu" and "Pasa" which form the essence of the Saiva creed. It is called the Siddhantam inasmuch as it announces to the world, after carefully weighing every premises by other systems, the conclusion – the existence of the three eternal principles – which it regards as final. 'Pati' is the Lord of Universe. In Him all powers rest. He is the one Transcendent Being and His Pasu is the soul which is subject to births and deaths which, in its ignorance, identifies itself for the time with material bonds, and after aeons of bondage realizes Pati, breaks down the barriers, obtains his grace and lives in blissful union with him. Pasa is the Prakriti or Matter which spreads its coils round the Pasu, fascinates it by its enchanting Metamorphosis, makes it believe that it is the only thing to which it should ever be attached and thus is the cause of the several kinds of material phenomena. 'Pati' is the Master, 'Pasu' and 'Pasa' are subordinate to him. "The Philosophy also retains the old language for its technical terms… The Saiva Siddhanta technical terms to denote these Padarthas or Categories are Pati (God), Pasu (soul) and Pasa (bondage). Pasa is the rope with which the Pasu is tied to the sacrificial stake …. Pati is Param, neither Rupa nor Arupa, Nirguna (without mark) Nirmala, Eka"… (page 297.)

Tattvas are padarthas or categories of matter of which the Universe is composed. Ordinarily, twenty four of these – the five elements, the ten senses, the five deceitful perceptions, the four antahkaranas – are recognized and the twenty fifth is the Mula Prakriti. Saivaism postulates that there are eleven more which are subtler in form. They are Time, Niyati, Kala, Vidya, Raga, Asudda-Maya, Suddavidya, Sadakyam, Isvaram, Sakti, Siva. "Time measures the past, gives enjoyment in the present and contains new store for the future. Niyati tattva fixes the order and sequence of Karma. Kalatattva induces action. Vidya-tattva induces intelligence. The Purushatattva (Raga) induces perception of the five senses. And Maya induces doubt and ignorance… Suddavidya induces more intelligence than action. Sadasiva tattva induces them both in equal proportion. Sakti tattva induces action and Siva-tattva induces Jnana alone." (page 8.) The soul, in the course of evolution, first puts on coverings of the grossest form of Matter – Mulaprakriti. As it advances in spirituality, its sheaths will be composed of subtler forms of matter such as Time, Niyati, etc. Enveloped by Mulaprakriti it is known as the Sakala and when clothed in subtler forms of matter it is differently called Pralayakala and Vijnanakala. In a passage of considerable lucidity the learned writer points out the essential difference between the Saiva cult and some of the other cults in the enumeration of the Tattvas and mentions clearly the three categories of souls. "The Lokyata will only recognize the first four tattvas – earth, water, fire and air and will not recognize even the akas as a real element. The Buddhists and Jains also recognize only these four elements. If you point out to existence of mental powers, the Lokayatas will refer, all of them, as being merely functions of the brain or other organs of the body, and that all these functions are mere phenomena produced out of and caused by, the bodily powers. We proceed a step higher and we come to those who admit the mental powers to be substance, and would reduce all the bodily functions and powers to mere phenomena, and assert that beyond this mind (Buddhi), nothing can there be… What we have all along believed in, as Atman and God, cannot be anything but this Buddhi and they will call this by every name you have learned, to apply to what you regard as higher things. Passing beyond this Buddhi, we reach its immediate cause the Mulaprakriti. With most Indian Theistic Schools they do not carry their notion of matter beyond this Mulaprakriti, standing at the head of the first twenty-four tattavas … And this Mulaprakriti forms the special nature of the lowest classes of souls called Sakala. And these souls range from the greatest Gods to the Minutest living germ; each is clothed with the Gunas – sattva, Rajas and Tamas ….The higher orders of Pralayakalas and Vijnanakalas are all Nirguna beings, and they can never be born again as mortals or human beings… Next above the Sakalas come the Pralayakalas who have a special body (Nirguna) formed out of the tattvas – no 26 to 30 – and it is so distinctive in kind and form and power that it has been regarded as a separate tattva almost, called Purushattva or Atma tattva …The next five, the highest tattvas, constitute a different body highly spiritual for the highest order of souls, called Vijnanakalas and they proceed from Suddha-maya. The foremost in rank among these Vijnakalas become Lords, Isvaras of the Universe and they are variously called Mahesvaras, Sadasivas, Bindu and Nada. These two latter are so nearest God and so potent in their powers that they are almost Siva and Sakti." (Pages 36-39). The above extract, though somewhat long, is a necessary one. It serves to show the writer's method of lucid exposition and close reasoning, and the book abounds with several such passages. But the soul, though an eternal entity, is a dependent one. It has no independent existence. It must either get itself identified with matter for its working or become one with the 'Pati' for its final redemption. Saivaism lays special stress on this peculiarity of the soul. "It must support itself by clinging to the body and the world or to the Lord. If it must give up the world, it must cling to the Lord. If there is no God, the soul must go back to the world and again resume its round of births." (page 323.)

'The studies' discusses at considerable length the relation which Saivaism holds to other systems in some of the papers, especially the three – 'Union of Indian Philosophies', 'Advaita according to Saiva Siddhanta' 'Saivaism in its relation to other systems" – deal exhaustively with this question. Like the Advaita it asserts the transcendency of the One Supreme Being and preaches the eternal Union of the Soul with the Supreme. But to its contention that the soul is God himself and not eternal, Saivaism asks the plain question: "If we were perfect, pure and free, how is it we became imperfect, impure and bound?" There is much doctrinal harmony between Saivaism and Vaishnavaism. Like Buddhism it aims at moral purity. The Saivaite, like the Christian, believes in the ideal of Godhead, God's relation to man, the doctrine of Love and Grace, and the necessity for a divine teacher. Like Mahomedanism, Saivaism asserts that 'God cannot be born as a man, through the womb of the woman' and regards the famous Kaaba of Mecca as only a Sivalinga; between the two, 'in the higher regions of philosophy and mysticism, there is very close resemblance' (page 357.)

To the soul aspiring after oneness with the Lord, Saivaism holds out four paths or margas. They are Dasa Marga, Satputramarga, Sahamarga and Sanmarga. It can approach God in the relation of a master, a father, a friend or a beloved. In those four kinds of relationship it gradually loses its individuality till it realizes blissful eternal union with the Supreme. Mr. Pillai points out with characteristic clearness how some of the religions follow only one or two of these paths and how it is the special feature of Saivaism that it enunciates all the four. "Mahomedanism and the ancient Judaism fall under the first division. It was the merit of Jesus Christ that he brought, into greater prominence, the father-hood of God… Among ourselves, the Madhva system may be said to be the pure Dasa Marga. The Ramanuja in its popular aspects, is Dasa Marga and Satputra Marga and a little more. Sankara's system will be Saha Marga…. Saivaism of today which is regarded as the true modern representative of the historic religion of the Gita and the Mahabharata period, combines all these four paths and its great Saints Appar, Jnanasambandar, Sundarar and Manikkavasagar are regarded as teachers of these four paths". (pages 220-222).

In a brief review of this kind it is possible to notice only the salient features of the system. The 'studies' deserves to be in the hands of every student of philosophy inasmuch as it endeavors to epitomize the several systems of philosophy of the world especially of India, both ancient and modern.


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