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Knowledge And Conduct According to Saiva Siddhanta By A. Raghava Aiyar


A. Raghava Aiyar

[Though A. Raghav Aiyar is a cognoscente par excellence of Saiva Siddhanta, little is known about him. From his writings, it can be inferred with certitude, that he was a scholar of a superior type. It is unfortunate that writers in English on Saiva Siddhanta, have so far made no reference to his writings. Two of his articles are included in this anthology.

The article re-printed here appeared in 1911 in the Christian College Magazine. The succeeding article: Saiva Siddhanta or Suddha Advaita also appeared in the Christian College Magazine, in two instalments.

For us, Raghava Aiyar is a discovery. But what a discovery! We salute this scholar. WE also promise the reader that we will earnestly endeavour to trace his writings and include them in Volume IV. Aiyar’s articles are to be read and re-read with pleasure and profit. Ed].

Before entering upon the more special subject of the present article, it may be usefull to summaries what has been said in two previous articles regarding the metaphysical groundwork of the Siddhanta. The starting-point of the system consists in a recognition of the transitory and unsatisfying character of the world of experience. The world as we know it, being imperfect, is declared to be asat, and God is postulated as the Sat or ultimate reality, that is, as the one home of perfect satisfaction. The conception of experience or life is also analysed and this leads to the recognition of chit-beings or souls or subjects of experience. The element of struggle and defect in this world of souls casts doubt upon the value of life as they experience it. Their lives, that is to say, are asat; but the souls themselves, it is held, learn gradually the unsatisfyingness of their earthly experience and come to attach themselves to God or Sat instead of to the world. Thus the souls are, all of them, dependent spiritual beings whose lives grow in value or reality in proportion as they draw closer to God. This is why the souls are said to be sat-asat. Their dependence on the asat realm must be surrendered if their lives are to show evidence of possessing any permanent value. The asat realm itself is real thought contingent. It is not illusory or fictitious but only a reality of a low order. “Neither waking experience nor dreaming experience need to be called unreal (illusory); both are fruits of karma “ (Sankalpa-nira-karanam 4). There are thus degrees of reality and a continuity of experience in all of them. The lower is an an indiction or glimpse of the higher. The unstable reality of the realm of maya is itself an indication of, and a stepping stone to, the full reality of a life in God. The highest reality or sat is the chit or god, including all the chit-universe or souls. Thus the Saiva Siddhanta come close to Personal Idealism in the West, especially in the form in which t appears in Howison’s Limits of Evolution.

We may now proceed to a consideration of the tow important problems of knowledge and conduct. Knowledge necessarily implies a knower, a chit or spiritual being, either God Himself or the souls through Him. God is eternally and independently all-knowing, but he soul, though capable of knowledge, is at the same time subject to anava and karma, and so is actually enabled to know a little only through the helps of maya . It knows things only one by one discursively. It is liable to forget what it has once learned though it can be reminded of forgotten things. Rarely does it know the nature of itself the knower. It is thrus not an independed centre of knowledge. It is only capable of acquiring knowledge when taught (Sivagnana-siddhi II.v. 3). God alone, who is eternally all-knowing, can know the needs of all souls and englighten them accordingly, (Tiru-Arul Payan V. 2). The soul is thus essentially a dependent knower or learner.

The means by which God imparts knowledge to us in pour present state are “out internal organs, our sense, out bodies, the objects of our enjoyment,1 the Scriptures, ad out fellow-beings” (Sivagnana-siddhi II v.4,5) . Without the help of these means the soul does not know anything that stripping from the soul in its present state its ‘internal organs’, ‘sense’, etc., would make if anything but (as in deep sleep) a bare potentiality of what it is now. (Gnanamtutam 10). Any further development, intellectual or moral on the part of the soul is possible only though the means which God has chosen for its education.

It is usually said by the Siddhanta writers that the soul is competent to know only the infra-soul, the asat; nevertheless, it is recognised to be quite possible for the soul through God’s grace to share fully in His omniscience. Knowledge of the asat realm is called pasa-gnana. At such a stage the soul is not in a position to know either itself or God, that is to say, is not yet capable of pasu-gnana and pasu-gnana . Pasu-gnana comes when the soul learns to distinguish itself as chit from the lower realm of achit and asat. Pati-gnana is a still more difficult attainment. What we know through the aid of our ‘internal organs’, ‘senses’, etc., cannot be the highest possible knowledge. All such objects of knowledge are asat, even as our bodies, senses, etc., are asat. (Sivagnana-bodam VI. a. 1; Sivagnana-siddhi II vi. 2). What we know at such a stage may be symbolical of the highest but cannot be itself the ultimate reality. Nor, on the other hand is God unknowable, because such an entity can be of absolutely no value to us. It can never unite with us nor can we ever become on with it; it cannot in any way affect us, and so it is an empty fiction. There can be strictly nothing that the knower (soul) cannot know (Sivagnana Siddhi II. Vi. 4,6). Hence arises a dilemma or ‘antimony’. What we know in our present state is not the ultimate reality; what we cannot know is no reality for us. The only way, then, of knowing God is ‘to see Him not with our mortal eye but with the eye of His grace.” He cannot be known unless He chooses to reveal Himself. So long as we seek to know Him by our own effort, we are doomed to failure. Nothing that exists is alien to God; He abides in our intelligence, co-operates with us even in our thinking, and cleaneses us of all pride of I and ‘mine’ both inknowledge and in action. (Sivagnana Siddhi II. Vi.8.) Hence He can never be really known to anyone who attaches an independent value to himself as knower or doer. The true relation between God and the soul is the dvaita relation which must be realised before any man can be said to know God or even himself. Advaita means unanimity between God and souls. He who realises himself in God as the fountain of all knowledge has transcended his petty individuality and is therefore said to have outgrown ‘his ignorance as well as his knowledge.” (Sivagnana-Siddhi II.viii.30) Not that the full effulgence of Divine knowledge does not enlighten him, but that he has transcended the stage when he would regard this knowledge as his own.

The object of knowledge is asat as noted above, because the instrumentality of maya through which such objects are known is itself asat. In other words, whatever may form the object of consciousness is bound to be contingent, and the duality of the subjective and the objective in consciousness must be transcended. The knower, it is said, must “merge himself in God, the Gneya or object of all knowledge.” Self-consciousness must pass over into and become indistinguishable from God-consciousness. It is only in such a transcendence of the duality of ordinary experience that according to the Siddhanta, we come face to face with the imperishable reality.

The question of the criterion of truth invites attention next. Perception, inference, and the word of authority, (agama), are the three ususally recognised pramanas or sources of evidence. Here is aconcise list which is a considerable reduction of the lists of pramanas offered by other systems. These pramanas are good enough for most of the practical concerns of life. But in a strictly critical estimate, none of these can be a thoroughly satisfactory criterion. Our experience is woefully discordant and unsatisfying. What is vouched for by the word of authority is sometimes glaringly opposed to the evidence of perception and inference. At other times what claims to be a truth based on the Scriptures, is neighter confirmed nor contradicted by perception and inference, and son on. Consequently, there are no absolutely reliable truths, immutable and unassailable, as far as the struggling souls are themselves concerned. Though truth as it is for God may be immutable and all satisfying, for the souls themselves truth cannot be a simple datum, and there is the necessity for a search after truth. The Siddhanta system would no doubt claim that the Scriptures, being Divine revelations, are in themselves unassailable, though our apprehension of them is very likely mistaken. The goal of all thought is, however, evidently admitted to be at one datum and quaesitum; truth as it is for ever, is given in the Scriptures, but for the countless souls, truth is only an ideal. This ideal would be attained only when all the three Pramanas, perception, inference and testimony, are seen to dovetail into one another, that is when they are all embraced and ratified by a personal realisation the discursive intellect of man is taken up into an intuitive, immediate and certain knowledge of reality. Such knowledge is not laborious and faltering. The direct operation of Divine grace supersedes the knowledge received through maya, and the person who possesses such knowledge is the gnani or seer.

From the Siddhanti’s treatment of the problem of knowledge, we turn now to consider his treatment of the problem of conduct. Without Divine co-operation, no conduct whatever, either good, or evil, is possible any more than knowledge would be. The good means conduct which strengthens or is helpful to the soul; the evil means conduct which is otherwise (Sivagnana-siddhi II. ii.13). For bearance, charity, truthfulness, and other virtues form good karma, that is, they are deeds helpful to the doer as well as to others. (Sivagnana-siddhi II ii 23). And if for a sanction of these individual and social virtues a man adds the religious virtue of adoring the Deity he loves, the Lord will strengthen him in His grace (Sivagnana Siddhi II. ii. 24). Whatever God one may worship, it is God Siva that really helps” (Siddhi II. Ii.25), because He alone is God, all the other so-called gods being only souls like outselves and unable to dod anything without the Lord’s help. Thus the soul is led in due time to the one God and all good comes to centre in Him (Siddhi II. Ii. 27).

Good deeds take us nearer and nearer to God, evil ones farther and farther from Him. There is thus a vital distinction (Siddhi II. Viii 31) between good Karma and evil karma. Although it is said that all Karma must be transcended, yet the two are not on the same level. The evil deed strengthens the tendency to evil and drags the soul down, but the good deed strengthens the tendency to good and leads the way up to the highest good, namely, God. Still, even in the meanest soul God has not left Himself without a witness. The education of the soul consists in passing from a superficial identification of its activities with the animal body and its concerns to a deeper conception of life as that of a person or self in a society of its kind, and in a further passage to the realisation of the absolute dependence of such a person on God. The first stage represents animal life, where there is hardly any moral good or evil; the second stage represents the struggling moral life of man, good and evil in very various degrees; the third and the last stage is the harmonious ethico-religious life of the saint and the liberated soul.

It is erroneous to think that the principle of karma gives no room to any vigorous ethical life. This principle only indicates how, as a matter of fact, our thoughts, words, and deeds tend to work out in the course of experience. But what we ought to think, speak and do the principle of karma does not in the least presume to tell us. If it tell us anything by implication, it is that the souls are free agents whose deeds, once they have been done, have such and such natural consequences. “The sacred Scriptures are His commands, and hell is only the prison intended for those who do not keep to his commandments: (Siddhi II.ii.30). The working out of karma is not simply the blind fulfilment of a low, but is intended directly for the education of souls. We are never although this is a real factor in the shaping of our lives. It is sometimes said that the whole of our present life is pre-determined to the minutest details by karma. This, however, is not warranted. More than of anything else, Siddhanta writers are sure of the soul’s ability to overcome karma, because such karma is expressly an outcome of the soul’s own past activities. Further, though karma may determine that particular sphere of activity within which a soul shall move, choice within that sphere is still admitted. All the moral forces of life apply just here. Certainly, principles of conduct cannot be derived from any set of natural laws. To expect guidance for conduct directly and solely from the principle of karma would be parallel to Herbert Spencer’s attempt to work out a system of ethics, based only on the law of evolution. It may be contended, therefore, that for positive guidance in the ethical realm we are referred not to the principle of karma but to the injunctions contained in the laws of Manu, etc. As a further stimulus to practical life, it may be noted that, according to the Siddhanta, there is not inexorable predestination of certain souls to an unquentchable hell, of other souls to an endless bondage on the wheel of life and death, and of still other souls to salvation and beatitude.

The freedom which consists in the ability to break up old habits by degrees and to develop new lines of activity is certainly quite within the range of Siddhanta thought. The reason why it is not expressly dealt with is that the Siddhanta is particularly concerned with only one variety of freedom, and that is the freedom gradually to overcome all the bonds of life and attain to salvation. This is the only real freedom according to the school, because all the other cases of so-called freedom are only changes from one form of bondage to another and therefore do not deserve the name of freedom. We are certainly responsible for the misuse of the real freedom which we possess of striving to liberate ourselves form the bonds of life as best as we may. Says Umapati in Potri-pahrodai. :Yama would ask the soul after its separation from the body, ‘O sinner, have you not yet striven for deathlessness?”

The souls have to bear their own burden of merit and demerit as long as they are not God-centred in all their deeds. They are themselves answerable for their deeds. They cannot shift the burden on the God as long as their actions are based on their own pseudo-independent choice and not on a realised oneness of their lives with that of God. It is thus that all karma, good or evil, is bondage, whether in the present of in ta future life. Good karma is an action that strengthens the soul or helps it on to its goad. Nevertheless, it falls short of the action of a liberated soul inasmuch as the soul doing karma has not yet overcome the sin of considering itself a distinct and independent source of activity able to do good or evil on its own account. Good karma is thus itself a bond; nevertheless it points out by means of its consequences the path of salvation. Good karma will gradually result in out being placed in the best of surroundings and within reach of the sacred Scriptures, whereby we may come progressively to realise the true nature of the relation between us and the Lord Sivagnana bodam VIII a.1; Siddi II.viii.2.)

As one phase in the process of liberation stands what, from the standpoint of the soul, is called the “balancing of good and evil karma” Siddhi II. Iv. 40, viii.3” ; Tiru-Arul-Payan VI 1). The expression is no doubt unsatisfactory inasmuch as it puts good and evil karma on the same level and tends to ignore the important distinction pointed out above. Nevertheless the meaning of the expression is looking upon both good and evil karma as bondage, while liberation means transcending all karma, that is, all actions good or evil, prompted by self-seeking motives.

Another phase of the process, looked at now from the standpoint of pasa is called the “maturing of mala”. It is explained to mean the cessation of all misery due to pasa of bond. Just as fruit when it is ripe ceases to have any contact with the tree on which it grew, ever son all pasa falls off the soul in due time. It no more hurts the soul. Instead of subjecting the soul to its misery, it is now mastered by the soul with the aid of the Lord. The world which often aggravates the misery of bound souls turns out to be the very home of the Lord, evoking the God-inspired lives of saints.

A third phase of the process, considered next from the side of the Saviour, is called the “impressing of sakti” or manifestation of Divine grace. Divine grace is no doubt essential to all life whether freed or in bondage, yet it is not so explicitly present in bondage as in the realm of freedom. It is present in its purest form in the lives of the liberated ones, permeating them through and through with Divine felicity.

Again regarded from the side of the Saviour as operating through a fitting soul, the process exhibits a fourth phase called “the vision of the good guru.” Divine grace not only words directly upon the soul to be liberated but also through a preceptor or guru. The guru is not simply a man learned in the sacred lore but one who has also had at least a glimpse of Divine beatitude. Such a guru will be in a position to initiate the apt disciple into the riches of Divine experience.

The disciple should regard his guru, never as only another finite soul but as the Saviour Himself (Tiru-arul-payan v.3) No finite creature can know precisely the needs of a God sick soul and enable it to make its peace with the Creator. This will explain the Divine honours accorded not only to the Saiva guru but to all Hindu gurus. The Lord Himself takes on the form of a guru when we realy need Him and are willing to be guided by Him. Here is a helpful illustration (Sivagnana bodam VIII; Siddhi II. viii.1). An emperor’s son who was brought up from infancy by hunters in the forest, does not know his father and is sorely puzzled on that account, but the father reclaims the son from the midst of the hunters and raises him to his own imperial dignity (of. Wordworth’s Ode on the Intimations of Immortality). So too with the soul and its relation to God.

It seems a very poor opinion of the capacity of souls to make out that they are essentially incapable of imparting to others without God’s direct co-operation even what they have already learned. But even here there is the true instinct of securing and emphasizing Divine co-operation in such a Divine duty as that of helping the souls out of bondage and towards the bliss of everlasting day. It should be noted also that Siddhanta writers are prepared to attach stillless significance to the sacred Scriptures. No doubt the revealed words have a very decided importance, but instruction from personal experience is undoubtedly more valuable, the direct operation of Divine grace in the transformation of our lives being incomparably the most important and effective means of liberation. And quite appropriately the whole emphases of the situation is laid on this last consideration by this school of writers.

It follows that God Himself is the one all-sufficient Guru of the suffering souls. In fact, He appears occasionally in this role of spiritual instructor in the history or the tradition of Saiva religion. IN the form of Dashina moortam He instructed the four great rishis, Sanaka, Sanandana etc., from whom all the host of later guru dynasties are said to have sprung up. At a critical moment in the life of Manikka-vachakar Siva appeared to him with a number of His disciples and freed him from all worldly concerns. So also in the lives of Sambandar and Sundarar Siva appeared, making them aware of their eternal bond to Him.

One can become a liberated soul while still in the body; such a freed-being is called a gnani or saint or jivanmukta. The true gnani has no more births before him; his body is the only obstacle to his final consummation (Siddhi II xi.1). He has cut himself away from all pasa; though still in the body given to him by past karma, nor does he give way to the allurements of maya. He stands unaffected by the praise and blame of the world about him. He regards gold and the earthen bowl with an equal eye. Not that he does not know the difference of value usually attached to these different objects but that he has come to realise fully their insignificance in the face of the tremendous value of the inner harmony of a God centred life. He sees God everywhere (Siddhi II. xi.2), that is, the feels that in every item of his life God is the motive force. His organs are no more his but God’s. He disclaims all idea of self as distinct from God (Tirukkalitru-padi 64). Such a gnani may be said to be God Himself moving in our midst (Siddhi II viii.35). He may happen to be a crowned monarch having all the usual social and domestic internally overcome all bondage by binding himself to the Highest (Gnanamrutam 35-38). Social, political, and domestic relations have no intrinsic attraction for him. He freely fulfils God’s life in whatever worldly position we may find him. He thus sets the ideal of a soul living in advaita relation with the Lord.

There remains the important question of the relation between soul and soul. IN the Siddhanta system, as in Hindu thought generally, the one all-absorbing question in religion and philosophy is the relation of the soul to God, the question of its relation to other souls being largely neglected or left to be understood by implication. No doubt the soul’s relation to God is more fundamental than its relation to its fellow-beings, but in any systematic treatment of the former question will be found also an answer to the latter. It is necessary that every systematic thinker should consider not only the relation of man to God but also that of man to man. So it may be asked what the Siddhanta school has to say regarding the individual and his relation to society.

The Siddhanta system stars with an attempt to understand the individual soul in its present condition, and then traces the means of its emancipation. The past as well as the future development of the soul is made to depend on its own karma and God’s co-operation. God places the soul in such and such surroundings according to its karma, and gives the soul opportunity to draw nearer the goal of its life. The individual’s own karma is, however, wide enough to take in the whole set of circumstances in which the soul finds itself in any life. On account of its past karma the soul is prepared more or less for living in the midst of a society of other souls at a certain stage of development capable of exerting a certain influence on its life. It will be seen, therefore, that the working of one’s own karma does not exclude but positively requires the medium of society. The need for society and social relations for the past as well as the future development of a soul is thus pretty well recognised, and it is also admitted that all souls without exception are called to the same goal of a life in God. The person who regards other merely as means to his ends does not understand his own nature (Siddhi II xii.2); he must regard himself only as one struggling soul endeavouring to secure liberation in a society of other souls working for the same goal. The relation, then, of one soul to another is that of a blind suffering. Any effective help by one soul of another, either in the way of knowledge or of action. This, whoever, ought not to mean that there is no obligation lying upon any of us to attempt to help our brethren. It only means that whether we know it or not, all our help is really only God’s help through us. So again with regard to society as a whole, that is, with regard to the universe of all souls, God is the one central life-giving principle. He is the guarantee of whatever germs of love, truth, and righteousness there may be in society. He is the one Person in loving whom we love the whole of creation. If therefore we are God-centred in all our lives, we have in our hands the one clue not only to our own salvation but also to any successful attempt to redeeming our fellow creatures.

It may appear at first sight as if in the Saiva Siddhanta the salvation of the individual is the only concern in life, and as if when the individual reaches his goal of salvation he need have no further care but nay enjoy perfect happiness in God heedless of the bondage and suffering of innumerable other souls. “The Lord of Lords is alone entitled to the five deeds, ‘creation’, etc., but the soul is entitled only to Siva-anubhava or bliss in Siva” (Siddi II xi 10). Does this mean that the soul in salvation abstracts itself form all active and sympathetic relation with other souls, caring only for its own salvation? Is it not a privilege and a joy, on the other hand, for a soul to co-operate with God in His work as the Saviour of souls? In other words, is such a thing as ‘personal’ salvation possible or desirable independently of the salvation of the world?

There is no direct and explicit answer to this question. The system apparently renders itself liable to the charge of “social atomism.” But this is a paradoxical result. How can a system which actually founds itself upon self-sacrifice, that is, on a surrender of all conception of the self as an independent entity either in the way of knowledge or desire or action, be liable to the charge of being based throughout on the conception of a fictitiously isolated individual working out his own karma and securing his own salvation quite independently of others? Self-sacrifice on the part of the individual, that is, a life a complete submission to God, is not possible except as the individual goes out to himself and embraces an absolutely disinterested life of service of God and His world. It has been noted above how in the working out of karma, the individual dual does not abstract himself from but necessarily requires the help of society. There is by implication of social factor even in the liberated state.

The fully liberated soul, since it comes fully to share in God’s knowledge (Siddhi II v.8; ix. 12) must be quite aware of the infinite needs of the suffering souls as well as of the infinite capacity of God to help them. But this is not all. The soul’s desires and activities are also there, and they must have their full scope-of course, in perfect harmony with God’s own life. Such a life on the part of the souls is surely nothing but being, like God, an embodiment of love to suffering souls. They will certainly find it a joy to co-operate with Him. It is only thus that they can have the bliss of their full being. They will be overflowing with love and loving activity. This is Siva-anubhava (bliss in God or life in God) properly understood, and means that the soul in salvation completely merges its self in a life of universal love. Like God, its compassion for the souls in bondage is unbounded, and when an opportunity presents itself it pours forth God’s grace most spontaneously. “In view of the sufferings of souls attached to the false independence of ‘I’ and ‘mine’,” says Umapati (-Tiru-arul-payan x.10), “the gnanis will be greatly moved to pity out of their boundless grace.” It is true, however, that this is a slighter reference than one would expect in the case of such a vital point. But this particular aspect of the system still remains to be explicitly worked out.

Says Arulnandi Sivacharya: “Those who have no love for God’s devotees neither have any for Him; those who have no love for Him have none for the countless lives in His world; such people again have no real love for themselves’ (Siddhi II. xi.2). It is explained in the commentary by Sivagnana Swami that a person’s love towards God can be determined only by His attitude towards His devotees, and that, where a person does not love and serve God’s devotees, his love for God is nothing but a pretence. This shows that there can be no satisfactory relation between soul and God if it does not comprehend also the soul’s attitude towards other souls. And again, the soul does not have a satisfactory conception of itself apart from God and society. The person who does not love God and the other souls, it is said, cannot do what is good to himself, and therefore does not really love himself. Realisation of a God centred life is at the same time self-realisation. “There is no acquisition higher than realising one’ self’ (Tirukkaliture-padi 45 ; vide also Irupa-Irupahdu, last stanza ; also 6, 18; Siddhi II. ix.5.) It will be seen that our present selves are not yet our real or ideal selves. Self-sacrifice means sacrificing our present selves, inas much as they are characterized by a pseudo-independence of God and of the other fellow-souls. The more the individual thus sacrifices his lower self, his selfishness and self-centredness, for a life of universal love, the better does he realise himself in God. None of the selves cease to exist in salvation; only their ‘I’-ness and ‘mine’-ness are no more there; their abstractness and indifference are overcome; they develop of feeling of unanimity and perfect harmony with God and the other souls. Such is their salvation which is impossible without a world of souls, a society to which they stand related eternally.

According to the varying capacity of the souls concerned there are four paths of progressive submission to a life in God. In the course of the first path, dasa-marga or the path of a servant, the soul is only at the stage of considering itself a servant of God, the Lord or Master. The servant may still have his independence in so many particulars, say, his thoughts and feelings, and yet be a good servant of his master. So also the devotee at this stage offers up his body to the service of God. This path is also called charya-marga.

The next higher path is puta-marga, the path of a son. At this state the soul comes to realise the closer relation of father and son. The son has a more natural and inward claim upon the father than the servant, upon his master. The soul at this stage dedicates not only his body but also his thoughts and feelings to God. He invokes God’s presence in some visible form and worships Him daily in whatever form excites his love most (Sivagnana-bodam xii). This is Kriya-marga.

A third and still higher path is that of a Sakha-marga or the path of a loving friend. At this stage the individual is said to be raised almost to a status of equality with God. He has his powers considerably developed by God’s grace. He is enabled to acquire an extraordinary control over his body, sense, etc., and concentrate all his powers at will. In consequence of so transcending his bodily limitations, becomes to have supernal powers of vision (Siddhi II. xii. 6) and is enabled to share largely in the bliss of God’s life. This path is also called Yoga-marga.

The fourth and last stage is called San-marga. On this path the individual comes to attach supreme importance to a true knowledge of the one God, of the souls, and of their bond. In following the Sakha-marga, though a man offers up his body, sense, thoughts, and feelings to God, yet he does not sacrifice his ‘I’ and ‘mine’ to God; that is, he has not yet come to merge his life in God and realise his one-ness or advaita with God. On the San-marga, or Gnana-marga as it is also called, the individual knows this secret of secrets and is therefore enabled through rapt contemplation to see God as He is, the very Life of his life. It is the marga that leads to the goal of eternal beatitude.

Here is the mystic vision of God. It is not a “state of brutish torpor” but a thrill of unspeakable bliss-a beatific vision. It does not weaken the soul’s active powers but is a most powerful stimulus to a harmonious ethico-religious life of useful activity. The vision is not a matter of mortal sight. Like perfect health, it is not describable, but there is nothing uncertain about it. “If you say, nothing can be perceived when we lose our sense, no, nothing can be perceived by those who have not seen the true. The unmarried girl does not understand what conjugal happiness is” (Siddhi II. viii 36; vide also Gnanamrutam 60; of, also the lines beginning with “that blessed mood in which” is Wordsworth’s Tinterna Abbey)2. It is a matter of the deepest personal experience. The perversions to which it is liable only indicate the extreme difficulty of the path leading to it and the incapacity of most people to attain to such a height in their present lives. For the ordinary run of human beings the first two paths are sufficiently adapted, the third and the fourth being practicable only to those who have already passed through the first two stages and who have a sufficiently adapted, the third and the fourth being practicable only to those who have already passed through the first two stages and who have a sufficient degree of self-determination to rise above the petty hankerings of the body and the sense.

In the course of these two higher paths there are one or two formulae intended to help the soul in realising its advaita relation with the Lord. Such are the statements Sivoham, “I am Siva,” and Tat-tvam-asi,. “That thou art.”. What is the nature of the that, the one really existent Being, what of the thou or individual being, and what is meant by the art? How is the individual and soul related to God? “I am Siva” means according to the Siddhanta that there is no ‘I’ in the least degree independent of Siva-not that there are no souls at all except God Himself. The Vedic text Ekam-eva-advitiiyam Brahma means that there is only one Supreme Being without a second. And this one is the Pati and not the soul. “You who say you are one with the Lord are the soul and are bound by pasa” (Sivagnana-bodam ii.a.2). Even when the soul is liberated from bondage it is essentially and wholly dependent on God, but is now able to share fully in God’s life. “Are there no objects in this world which become dark in darkness and become illuminated in light”,” (Tiru-arul-payan ii.8; vide also Siddhi II. viii.37). The eye, the mirror and akas are such objects. Such is the soul too. Just as the colour of a crystal is identical with that of the object with which it is in contact, so iti s with the soul. The soul gradually learns to identify itself with God, and is enabled to reflect God’s life more and more fully. It is the soul’s nature, according to the Siddhanta, to become one with that with which it is in contact, that is, with the ideal which it continually sets before itself. The soul acquires the nature of that which it contemplates continually. Hence if the soul contemplates always its advaita relation with the Lord by means of the above formulae, it is enabled by God’s grace to overcome its bondage and attain salvation ISiddhi II. ix. 10). As a parallel to this contemplation of God, Siddhanta writers point to the adept in mantras who, with the help of the meditation. “I am garuda,” acquires garuda’s (kite’s) potence sufficiently to cure the poison of a snake-bite. Whatever may be said about the psychological tenability of such a principle of acquirement of novel aptitudes, it is certainly obvious that the formulae only point to the ideal of an advaita relation with God and that a persistent pursuit of the ideal will lead us into liberation.

From the side of Divinity this advaita relation is an eternal fact, that is to say, God is as a matter of fact the very life of all lives at all times. From the side of souls this advaita relation is not yet a fact but an ideal. In the way of the realisation of this ideal, however, the only obstacle is the soul itself, including its bond. The ideal is not a bare possibility but an actual fact as far as God is concerned. IN the words of W.R. Inge: “the ideal according to this type of idealists not only ought to be really but is real.” Hence the permissibility of such as expression as “I am Siva” though it sounds blasphemous as well as ludicrously untrue in the mouth of the ordinary flesh-bound soul.

Last comes the consideration for the fully liberated stage. The soul attains oneness with God in salvation. What exactly is meant by this oneness? There can surely be no oneness if the soul attaining it is destroyed altogether. If on the other hand the soul stands by itself distinct in salvation it cannot be one with the Lord. The soul as an entity different from God is certainly eternally existent (Unmai Vilakkam 51). But in salvation it overcomes all sense of its distinctness and independence and merges itself in God. The seeker is asked to become God-possessed in all his deeds, even as he may become possessed by a devil (Tiru-arul-payan viii.7). The term advaita does not mean that there is only one thing-ekam would then be the proper word-but a relation of oneness between two things.

The phenomenal realm does not cease to exist for the liberated souls. It is true that the asat realm ceases to be a drag upon the souls in salvation. But this only means that the whole of the asat realm is transformed in significance and rendered thoroughly subservient to the souls in salvation. Even in the liberated state, it is said in Unmai Vilakkam 51, “there are the three eternal entities God, soul, and mala.” God is eternally as He is. But soul and mala are transformed or ‘converted’ in salvation. The soul, instead of identifying itself with mala, and looking away from God, comes to identify itself with God and so frees itself from mala. Mala again in the liberated state is no more an impurity, a hindrance to the soul; it helps the soul positively in the realisation of Divine beatitude (Unmai Vilakkam 51). The hurtful power of mala is removed, and mala itself is taken into the spiritual realm as an unimpeding factor. The created realms of maya are all the ground of fruition for the liberated souls; though actively engaged in the blissful life of God there can be no karma possible to them; while anava, no longer the root-evil, serves to intensify the advaita relation of the souls with God. In consequence of the unimpeding character of mala in salvation, it is said to be practically non-existent. It follows also, without needing to be pointed out, that the soul in liberation is not in inert, unconscious, and inactive like a block of stone. If that were the case, everyone in deep sleep, in swoon, or in death, would attain salvation which is absurd. The soul is, on the other hand, fully alive and shares in God’s life.

There is another extreme position. One school of thought, called Siva-sama-vadam, says that the soul in salvation attains perfect equality with God. But the Siddhanta says: “The Lord of lords is alone entitled to the five deeds, ‘creation’, etc., but the soul is entitled only to Siva-anubhava” (Siddhi II.xi.10). The soul has been aptly compared to a crystal. Just as a crystal reflects light the more powerfully, the more it is clean, the soul when it is purified form mala is quite capable of sharing in God’s infinite power and bliss. Still as the crystal is not the sun, the soul is not God. It can only reflect God’s glory more or less fully, and when it is perfectly transparent it becomes most God-like, not because it has upset God’s supremacy and become itself His rival, but just because of the fullness of His Grace3. The supremacy of God is thus vindicated and His uniqueness guaranteed by the fullness of Grace shared in by the countless souls in salvation.

The liberated soul is thus only a factor in the harmonious working out of God’s will. Its happiness consists in freely fulfilling God’s purpose, for it has become one with God and merged its will in His (Tirukkalitru-padi 64). The souls may be said to co-operate with God for a common world-purpose, but he relation between God and souls is something deeper than a moral harmony. “The freed soul feels: all my deeds are your commandments; you stand within me, you make me do and you do. No deeds are mine, they are yours” (Siddhi II.x4: cf. also Phil ii.13).

Thus again it is erroneous to think that the liberated soul has passed to a state of eternal rest from a life of activity. The passage is rather from a life of struggling and sinful activity to a life of harmonious and loving activity. The Siddhanta system tends, no doubt, to emphasize only the escaping from the misery of earthly life and the enjoyment of Divine felicity in the liberated state. This should not mean, however, that the liberated state. This should no mean, however, that the liberated life is not at the same time a life of active service.

In conclusion, the salient points of the Siddhanta system may be summed up in the following admirable stanzas from Manikka-vachakar’s ‘House of God’. “This day in Thy mercy unto me Thou did’st drive away the darkness and stand in my heart as the rising sun. Of this Thy way of rising-there being nought elase but Thou-I thought without thought, I drew nearer and nearer to Thee, wearing away atom by atom, till I was one with Three. O Siva, Thou art not ought in the universe, nought is there save Thou. Who can know Three?” “It was Thyself Thou didst give, and me Thou did’st take. Beneficent Lord, who is the gainer? Endless bliss have I gained. What hast Thou gained from me? O Lord that hast made my heart Thy abode, Siva, dweller in the holy shrine at Tirupperunturai, O Father, Sovereign, Thou hast made Thy abode in my body. For it I have nought to give Three in return.”


1.    The word ‘enjoyment’ refers to experience.

2.     “…………………………….. that blessed mood
    In which the burthen of the mystery,
    In which the heavy and weary weight
    Of all this unintelligible world,
    Is lightened:- that serene and blessed mood,
    In which the affections gently lead us on,
    Until the breath of this corporeal frame
    And even the motion of our human blood
    Almost suspended, we are laid asleep
    In body, and become a living soul:
    While with an eye made quiet by the power
    Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,
    We see into the life of things.” – W. Wordsworth,

3.    Satanic evil causes one to think that one is God..
    Of Satan Milton sys:
    “………… rebel angels, by whose aid aspiring
    To set himself in glory above his peers,
    He trusted to have equalled the Most High,
    If he opposed; and with ambitious aim
    Against the throne and monarchy of God
    Raised impious war in heav’n and battle proud
    With vain attempt.”    

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