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The Saiva Siddhanta : An Outline of Its Main Doctrines By A.C. Clayton



[ReveAlbert Charles Clayton knew many languages. He studied Tamil in depth and took pains to write books that would help foreign missionaries to master Tamil. The S.I.M.A. Tamil Examination Papers’ edited by him with an introduction on beginning the study of Tamil, enjoyed a well-deserved popularity. He was also well versed in Sanskrit. When the Christian Literature Society entrusted to him the task of revising Dr. Murdoch’s ‘Account of the Vedas’, he found out, on scrutiny, that no revision of that work could be made that would adequately represent modern knowledge and modern methods of interpretation of the Vedas. His work, in this connection, resulted in the publication of ‘The Rig Veda and Vedic Religion in 1913.

Right from the year 1892, he carefully observed the religious practices of the Dravidians in South India. He contributed many articles to the Madras Government Museum Bulletin, the Madras Christian College Magazine etc., His ‘Gangai’s Pilgrimage’ and ‘The Tamil Bible Dictionary’ are among his outstanding works.

Tamil Saivism held out a special charm for him. He pored over the Saiva Canonical works as well as the Sastras. He studied with joy the devotional poems of Saivism. In 1899 appeared his pamphlet “Sivan Seyal” – the translation into English of a poem of St. Taayumanavar. This pamphlet contains a valuable Introduction as well as Notes. In the same year appeared “Gurumarapin Vanakkam”. One more verse of St. Taayumaanavar stood translated by him. The pamphlet is valued for the useful Introduction and Notes provided by the translator. His “The Siva Puranam: A Psalm by Manikka Vasaga” also appeared in 1899.

It is to be said to the credit of Clayton that he took pains to understand Saivism. Though his interpretations were not always right, they at least bespeak the earnestness of this untiring endeavour.

We do not know when the article printed hereunder appeared in the Madras Christian College Magazine. Judging from the circumstances, the year 1904 appears to be a good guess. Ed.]

The authorities mainly used by the author in preparing this paper were:

1) Saiva Darsana Sangraha of Madhava Chariar (Tirubner’s Oriental Series.)

2) The Tiruvasagam of Manikka Vasagar, edited and translated by Dr. G.U. Pope (Clarendon Press, Oxfortd).

3) Tiruvasagam Mulamum Ureiyum, edited, by P.Vasudeva Mudaliar. (R.Press)

4) Tayumana Swamikal podal, mulamum ureiyum, edited by T. Sambunda Mudaliar (Vidhya Vinodini Series).

5) Sivagnana Botham of Meikanda Deva, edited by J.M.Nallaswami Pillai.

6) The Light of Truth published monthly in Madras, a journal conducted to expound the Saiva Siddhanta.

An outline of its main doctrines

The Siddhanta in Tamil: The student of Tamil literature early perceives that many of the books, new and old, that he reads refer to and are the result of a system of thought very different from the absolute monism or modifiec pantheism that he has learned from many Western Sanskrit scholars to consider to be the normal theosophies of India . When he studies this system and compares it with the great systems of philosophy in Sanskrit, he soon finds, as Prof. Max Muller remarked in the preface to his Six Systems of Indian Philosophy, that “in the South of India there exists a philosophical literature which, though it may show clear trades of Sanskrit influence, contains also original indigenous elements of great beauty and of great importance for historical purposes.” This literature is the out-com and the exposition of the Saiva Siddhanta. Indeed the assertion might easily be proved that of the best literature in Tamil cannot be understood except by the aid to the Saiva Siddhanta.

The development of this syste, or ‘faith’ as the Rev G. Mackenzie Cobban calls it in this translation of Arumuka Navalar’s Catechism, has yet to be traced and there are many difficulties in the way.

1) The term Siva: The first is in connection with the key word of the philosophy. How comes it that in what is almost certainly a Dravidian production the chief name for God is not Kadavul or Aiyyan but Sivan, a word, distinctly Sanskrit. The history of the word, so far as we have it, does not help us. In his Sanskrit-English Dictionary Monier Williams remarks that though the name Siva was not applied to any God in the Vedas, “the worship of the destroying and re-producing principle under this name was rapidly developed in the Puranas and epic poems, and became very general in latter times.” He would account for its extensive use either on the ground that the name Siva belonged originally to the principal God of the aboriginal tribes of India”- for which it seems to me that there is no adequate evidence-, and according to a more likely supposition the adjective Siva, auspicious, being at first only used as an euphemistic epithet to propitiate the lord of tempests, passed afterwards into; his nam, and was ultimately adopted as the principal name of the God of destruction.’ This is possible. From Houen Tsang’s account of India (vii Cen. A.D.) it is clear that Sivan was worshipped in his time, and in the time of Periplus (ii Cent. A.D.) the fact that Cape Comorin possessed its present name Kumari the shorter form of Kanya Kumari, the Virgin, a name of Durga, wife of Sivan, seems to point to the prevalence of the worship of Sivan in South India at a very early date, but without present limited information we are not yet able to ascertain how far the Puranas owe their mythology of Sivan to South Indian or Indian or aboriginal influences nor to understand how philosopher poets like Manikka Vasagar, or polemic sages like Sundaramurtti Nayanar and Tirugnanasambandha Nayarnar accepted the name and legends of Sivan as the foundation of their teaching and preaching.

2) Origin of the Siddhanta: A second difficulty is the origin of Siddhanta as a system. Dr. Pope claims that the Saivtie school of thought was founded by the great Sankara Acharya, the disciple of Kumarila Bhatt, who came from Berar in the Eighth Centuty and taught the existence of a personal deity in opposition to the Buddhists2 . He asserts categorically that Sankar Acharya was a Saivite, and is regarded as an incarnation of Sivan himself. There may be some truth in the assertion, for there is much that is unknown about Sankara Acharya, but if Weber and Cowell are to be believed, and if the commentaries on the Upanishads (now being translated in the series published by Messers. G.A. Natesan &Co.) are his work, the founder of the Sringari Mutt and the head of the eclectic Smartha sect was a Vedantin. At any rate, his successor in the Fourteenth Century (1331 A.D) Madhava Acharya considers the Saiva system to be a heresy.

3) What is primitive Siddhanta: A third difficulty is to discern the primitive Siddhanta. That the school of thought created by Sankara Acharya exerted a great influence on the thought of the Saiva thinkers in later times is evident enough in the comparatively modern hyms of Taayumaanavar commonly assigned to the Seventeenth Century A.D. The opening verses of his poem entitled Karunakarakkadavul is proof of that: __________________________pg 80_________________

The lines may be translated:”Shall I for mediatate constantly on thee who art without qualities (nirguna). Without defects (nirmaya) , without falsehood (niranjana, untinged), independent (niralamba, without support), unattached to phenomena (nirvishaya) emancipated from all matters (kaivalya), indivisible (nishkala), unhindered by any relations, (asanga) without motion (sanjalarakitha), without speech (nirvachana), without sucession, Eternal One, Liberated One, Absolute One! Source of all! O highest fullness pervading the atmosphere! Possessor of Bliss, O Wisdom! Happy on, O Granter of Happiness (Sambhu) O Sankara (auspicious one), O Lord of all!”

Every epithet is Sanskrit. Almost every epithet is in its Sanskrit form. And every epithet seems to be used in the same sense as in Sankara Acharya’s commentaries on the Upanishads of some centuries earlier.

The same things is also evident in the early legends of the Nayanars. (A passage in, the legendary history of the Brahman bhaktas of Chidambaram, the Tilleivazhantanar puranam, contained in the Periya Purana Vasanam, refers by name to the Chandogya Upanishad3).

In short, the Saiva Siddhanta as we now are able to discern it, even in the Tiruvasagam, has come under the all powerful influences of Vedantic Monism, and the works of the Siddhars such as Agappey Siddhar, - and I believe that the Agappey Siddhar Padal is representative- are occasionally more Vedantic than the most thorough going Vedantin4. Thus the Agappey Siddhar padal, the sage declares:

“I am not,
	And the Lord is not,
Myself is not,
	The Satguru is not,
The Mantiram, (i.e., Panchaksharam) is not”  

And adds that the supreme state or existence corresponding to the Parabrahmam of the Vedantin does not really exist as a continuous state!

It is therefore exceedingly difficult to the state what was contained in the earlier forms of the Siddhanta, and until more critical attention has been given to the writings of the Siddhanta school there must be constant confusion between the earlier and the more elaborate and more apparent forms of that teachings.

Leaving these difficulties, the great principles of the Siddhanta now claim our attention.

The three ‘categories’ which are the key to the Saiva Siddhanta are three Sanskrit words Pasu, that which is bound, Pati the possessor, Pasa, a fetter, snare, net. The three combined form an allegory of humanity, the deity, and sin5, quality represented by an animal Pasu, Pati its master, and Pasa, the rope that fastens it. I propose to take these categories one by one and to define them and to illustrate them by references to the Tiruvasagam and to some other sources.


Definitions: On page LXXVI of his introduction to the Tiruvasagam, Dr. Pope quotes a definition from ‘the Saivite catechism’ defining Pati as “the eternal, all pervading, all-wise, eternally blessed, absolutely independent Creator of all, who is from eternity free from all taint of evil.”

Arumuka Navalar’s answer to the question ‘what is the nature of Siva Peruman?’ is as follows:

‘Eternal; omnipresent; free from beiginningless embryonic evil (anathimalam);all wise; the universal Doer; every joyful; independent.” Manward aspect of Sivan: The Sarva Darsana Sangraha says categorically: ‘Now Siva is held to be the Lord/’ Later it says significantly “God is the universal agent, but not irrespective of the actions done by living begins”; and this brings out what is a fundamental part of the Saiva Siddhanta Viz., that God concerns himself with men; it is the manward aspect of the God that appeas to the Siddhantin even when insisting most forceibly on the independence of God. Pati is always considered as related to Pasu.

Take the sonorous third hymn in the Tiruvasagam. The Psalmist asserts the transcendence of Sivan in a multitude of glowing epithets. _____________________pg 83_____________________

Possessor of a nature ________________unknown to Brahma and Vishnu.

But it is not the unconditioned absolute passionless ‘Parabrahmam’ that attracts the devotion of the singer, but a deity having personal relationship with his universe, a god of grace and mercy, of personal affection, who appeals to the ‘helpless dead heart:’ ________pg 84______ . In another place he sings:-

“A poor worshipper was I! How long a time have I watered barren land, not worshipping the Supreme _____pg 84____ The precious jewel, from eternity the First, indestructible, came and destroyed my bar of birth!” Tirutonokkam verse 13. (Pope, p. 189.)

The Saivite thinker constantly that insists that Siva Peruman is infinitely above Brahma, the Creator of the later Hindu trinity, but it would be a mistake to treat Pati as equivalent to Brahman, the unconditioned one. One of the few lines that speaks of the Deity impersonally as ____________pg 84__________ “The deity came to destroy the many natured complexity of creation”) is part of a mosaic portraying ____________, ‘Peruman, the gracious Isan’ ‘who owns me’, and ho is confidently invoked to visit me’ – which could hardly be the prayer of an enquirer anxious to be absorbed in unqualified ‘Brahmam’.

‘The living God’: Dr. Pope does not hesitate to employ Christian or Hebrew terms to interpret Tamil thoughts, or to phrase in richer English the melody of the Tamil rhythm, and sometimes he is justified. One phrase, so far as I remember, he has not used, which presents the concept at the base of the Saivite idea of Pati as well as any one phrase can, and brings the Christian mind an aspect of Hindu theology which can recognise. That phrase is:’the living God’ El Hai Ps. 42.2 Ps,84.2 Josh.3.10).

The garment in which the idea is presented is often strange, sometimes grotesque, occasionally repellent, but the Saiva thinker has grasped more fully and more truly than the most advanced follower of the semi-reformed neo-Krishnaism of educated Bengal the idea of God as the creator, preserver, friend and guide of those who devote themselves to his service, yes, even as the saviour of those who, drowned in the depths of ignorance and sensuality, seem all lost to his grace.

A selection of the predicates, which describe the omnipotent, eternal, constant activity of Siva Peruman, will illustrate what I mean. (The figures refer to the page in Dr. Pope’s edition).

He is ‘the rider on the great bull ----- ----- (71)

He bears Ganga in his locks ----- ----- (passim)

He is the Bridegroom ---pg---85- ----- ----- (41) (210)

Lord of Kailasam ----- ----- (40)

The Father ------------pg 85-------------- ----- ----- (45)

The Owner _______________________ ----- ----- (45)

The Madam _________________ ----- ----- (157)

The Wind _____________ ----- ----- (49)

The Mendicant ----- ----- (166)

The Light ----- ----- (49)

God of Gods ----- ----- (57)

He is the Reguge of his slave who is tossed

on the billows of sensuality ----- ----- (232)

He is Sivan who dwells in Tiru Perunturei ----- ----- (passim)

He is Ambrosia dancing in Ponnambalam ----- ----- (215)

His land in which he manifested himself

As sage and ascetic is aye the Southern

Pandi Land ----- ----- (203)

The Fourteenth Hymn in the Tiruvasagam (p175 in Dr. Pope’s edition) shows even so thoughtful a poet as Manikka Vasagar embellishes his speculations with a wide elaboration of mythology, fantastic and not always delicate, to exhibit the energy of the Deity. But the most constant reference is to Sivan as Nadarajan, Lord of the Dance, worshipped at Chidambaram, where the figures of Sivan the Dancer represent the operation of God in the universe.

From Tayumanavar’s poems a similar list may be gathered. But a phrase like ----------------------pg 86 -------------------- Which may be rendered “O all, universal, undivided, permanent, true, intelligent, blissful state of union with Sivan ______________ points to the Vedantic influence which modifies Tayumanavar’s poems to a greater extent that it does those of Manikkavasagar.

The Tirumantiram of Tirumoolar an attempt to reproduce in Tamil the essence of the Vedas, affirms that Sivan is ‘one person’- ---------------------pg 86-------------------

It constantly uses mythologic references which can only be explained by the aid of the Puranas, and the invocation of Sivan as ‘Our Father ______pg 87____, ‘O Hara’ , ‘O Sivan’, shows that though it is affirmed that he is -_____pg 87__________ the Supreme of the Supreme, the thought of God as a person cannot be disguised or done away with The Saiva Pati is a personal God.

There is no need to emphasise this further nor to develop the contrast in this between the Vedanta and the Saiva systems, for the consideration of the second great affirmation of Saiva speculation on the doings of the Pati completely separates the two schools of thoughts.

The Guru: This is the plain assertion that Siva Peruman appeared on earth as a spiritual teacher, a Guru, and in human guise taught and saved and still by his grace teaches and saves from the awful cycle of me tempsychosis those who put their trust in him.

Attention has often been called to this dogma, but so far as I have observed, modern Saivites, such for example, as the writers in the Anglo-Tamil’ Light of Truth;, fait to give it that prominence that it deserves, and that it has in the Saivite classics.

Manifestations: In the Periya Purana Vasanam the many legends of the appearances of Siva Peruman in his divine glory to his devotees have been collected in an easilyreadable form. It is these legends6 that are the basis of the Saiva Devaram, and without them the Devaram hymns are unintelligible. Even with the aid to be derived from the Vasanam these hymns are most difficult. But the doctrine of the appearance of the Lord Sivan as the teacher lifts the philosophy to a far highter plane that these travesties of a noble and true intuition of the relations of God and Man8

The Work of the Guru: In the Sivagnanabotham, the eighth Sutra defines the appearance and work of Sivan as the Guru. ___________________ pg 88 _______________

“The First One as a Guru said (to the soul) ‘Having been nurtured by the five sets of members of the body who are like hunters, thou hast fainted’, and then He made (true knowledge) known (to the soul) by (the power of) penances, (and the soul forsook the members) and (he bade it) by the consequent absence of separation (from Him) attain the foot of Sivan.”

Saivism, Buddhism and Jainsim: I am not satisfied with the translation, but it contains the idea in its true Saivite form. Whether this idea is derived form Buddhism10, whether it is the original from which the doctrine of the Buddha, the enlightened Sakyamuni (the ascetic of the Skyas) was derived, or whether Buddhism and Jainism and the doctrine of the Sat-Guru are alike derived from the same primitive conception that a Divine Teacher has appeared to teach the enlighten men, is beyond the scope of this paper to enquire. That therei s at any rate a close relationship between the three, the legends of the contests between Manikka Vasagar and the Ceylon Buddhists __________ and the strife between Tirugnanasambandhamurttinayanar and the Jains ______ show clearly enough, though they do not distinctly show what happened.

Inconsistencies: Like almost every teaching in Hindu theology the doctrine of the Guru is set forth with much insistency11 . At times it would seem as if the doctrine is lost sight of altogether, and the devotee whorships only Sivan, the Lord the King, the Father. At other times it is some definite incarnation, e.g, Nadarajan at Chidambaram whom he seeks. The stories of the Nayanars represent those saints as worshipping definite lingams as the homes of special manifestations of Sivan. AT times the wild speculations of the Tantric Agamas seem to be all their religion, and again it is Sivan the destroyer, husband of Kali, naked, clothed in ashes, wearing the jada, dweller in the burial ground, who is the awful object of this awe-struck worshipper’s adoration12 . But when in the more gracious atmosphere of the Siddhanta the calmer minds of the Siddhar find their sanest expression, it is the thought of Sivan as the Guru that is dwelt on and elaborated with interest and most genuine fervour. Yet single aspects of the theory constantly eclipse all others13 . Sometimes it is almost an earthly Guru who has attained to ‘Sivam’- highest union with Sivan, almost Vedantic oneness14 who is reverenced. Sometimes it is Sivan who himself makes himself the form, and teaches those who will hearken. More commonly it is Sivan who appears to the mind of the devout, making that heart his home, dispelling all illusion, enlightening the saint as to the one eternal reality, the existence of Sivan, and the possibility of union with the Lord, taking upon himself the task of eating the fruits of the actions of former births and nullifying by his grace the Karma that the saint has accumulated in this birth, and so saving the sinful soul from its past and present and assuring it of perfect union with its Lord for all its future.

There is no need to quote more than a line or two to indicate the exquisite beauty of this thought of the crowning exhibition of the grace of Sivan.

The two following are from Manikka Vasagar:-

“Call me not stony-hearted-Deceiver-Obstinate of mind;

Thou didst make my stony heart to minish, and by thy grace didst make me thine.” –(Tirukkottumbi, v, II)

“To the four the four-fold Veda’s inner meaning right well,

That day, beneath the banyan, there, and virtue ______pg 90___________ he spoke. Behold him, Beloved! __________- (Tirussazhal. v.16.)

(The reference in this second passage is to the appearance of Siva Peruman as an ascetic teacher near Trichinoploy and to his teaching the four Brahmaputtirar15 viz., Janaka, Janantanan, Janatkumaran, Janasujatha). Some of the epithets that Manikka Vasagar most delights to use are ‘Pearl of Gurus’ (Gurumani)16,’Teacher’ (Ariyan, Asariyan) ‘spritual guide of the heavenly beings’ ___________ pg 90___________ ‘’supreme spiritual guide came down to this earth ‘_________ and many others. These all show the wonderful hold that the doctrine had on the poet’s mind.

But for its fullest expression one must go to the poems of Tayumanvar. not only do some of his most elaborate poems such ___ and ____ indicate by their opending words that they deal with the subject of the Guru, there is scarcely a stanza which does not directly or indirectly refer to the doctrine.

I quote one or two: ______________pg 91___________

“First cause revealing neither beginning nor end, as thou hast chosen and cherished us for thy services, thou hast become the Guru of Righteousness.” (Porulvanakkam11.) __________pg 91__________

“Thou O Supreme ___________ having come as my Guru besides choosing me for thy disciple wilt reveal to me all other teaching.” (Paraparakanni, 240.)

In the poem beginning ‘Payappuli’ the fact is again asserted with the beautiful conception that the Divine Guru is as full of love as a mother. _______’ “Thou, O Mouna Guru camest, (loving) as a mother, and graciously gavest me the conception that thou and I are not distinct, and cherished me as a child …. …. ….. “ (Payappuli, 58.)

The musical phrase ___________ (used on pp 376 and 556) is rendered ‘The holy, real form taking the appearances of the Guru, the visible image ________ pg 92______ of the Lingam, and movable universe’. Here the Guru is considered as the image of Siva Peruman, formed in the heart of the Bhaktan. The outer form in which this idea may be represented to the eye is the Lingam, and beyond all special forms, to the initiated, the whole movable universe, all that is instinct with life, is the vestment of the Creator.

The Guru is represented as the supreme teacher of sinful men in the melancholy music of the verses of Pattanattu Pillei-some of the sweetest in Tamil:

	‘Be purposed to seek the feet of the Sat-Guru.
	Trust him.  Consider the activity of the
	Wicked body as a puppet show”.
					(Ripon Press Edition, p.253)

It is not merely fear, reverence or cold speculation that inspires such poetry, but heart-stirring love,-the love of Siva Peruman for the erring soul answered by the enthusiastic affection of glad heart; and whether it is the Gurumani of Manikkavasagar or the Mouna Guru of Tayumanavar or the Sat-Guru of Pattanattu Pillei, the Guru is loved by the singer as the Teacher of Truth and the Saviour from Ignorance. Permanence of the doctrine: Curiously enough-and this may be of importance in deciding on some points in the history of Saiva Siddhanta , this doctrine of the Guru does not find any exposition in Madhava Acharyar’s summary though in a quotation from those well-versed in the Tantra doctrines there is reference to the ‘the Guru of the world’ and later on there is a quotation from ‘the Siddha Guru,’but toward the end of his account Madhava Acharya mentions that the Supreme Being ‘having assumed the form of a teacher’ stops the continued accession of maturity, and contracts his manifested power, and ultimately grants liberation by the process of initiation’ to the hundred and eighteen ‘Lords of the Mantras’

Evidently the compiler did not comprehend the high place that this doctrine holds in the Siddhanta.

Dr. Pope places Manikka Vasagar in the vii Century A.D.17 Mr. K.G.Sesha Aiyar in the Christian College Magazine for September 1901 tries to show that he belonged to the V Century A.D. ‘if not earlier.’ The Nayanar Appar (or Tirunavukkarasar) flourished a little later18 than Manikka Vasagar and Tirugnanasambandhamurtti Nayanar ‘attained such celebrity in the seventh century as to induce Sankara Acharya who lived in the eighth Century to mention him in his Soundariya lahari by the honorific name of Dravida sisu.’

There is an interval of perhaps ten centuries between this Tirugnanasambandhar and Pattanattu Pillei10 (xvii) and Tayumanavar, but it is noteworthy that inspite of the seeming inappreciation in the Sringeri mutt in the Fourteenth Century the doctrine which si prominent in Manikka Vasagar holds a highter place in the thought of his later successors,’ even the one most saturated with Vedantic philosophy, than it holds in the earliest time of which we have a record.


Sankhya teachings: Leaving this imperfect and limited account of the teaching of the Siddhanta about the Lord, the second of the three categories Pasu, needs definition. Here one is reminded of the Sankhya. The Tattva samara, and authoritative teatise on the Sankhya embodied in Max Muller’s Six Systems of Indian Philosophy, defines the Purusha as ‘without beginning, subtle, omnipresent, perceptive, without qualities, eternal, seer, experiencer, not an agent, knower of objects, spotless, not production,’ and it is this multiplicity of the Prusha or Atman or Prana which is peculiar to Sankhya thought. The attainment of complete knowledge and suspension of all passion produces the destruction of all that is called merit and demerit, and out of this annihilation there arises final liberation – moksha – complete detachment from the world and concentration of the Atman in itself. The Atman is an entity distinct from matter (Prakriti) and persistent in its own identity, and there are many Atmans. The Monism of the Vedanta has no influence here.

In the Saiva Siddhanta doctrine of Pasu something of the same kind is seen. For while the Siddhantin would oppose the follower of the Sankhya and insist on the existence of the a Supreme Being, he too insists on the multiplicity of the souls that people the universe and form the Sthavarajangamam, the whole universe of motionless and mobile creatures, in which the soul may find its degradation or work out its liberations.

Personality: The Siddhantin has grasped the idea of personality and holds to it. He believes in a personal God who manifested that personality as a religious teacher. He believes that each of the myriad souls in existence in his own true personality may know that teacher, may understand what evil (malam)20, and the fetter, Pasa, are, and may escape by grace of the Guru from the environment of illusion, cease from all activity and in silent devotion attain to release.

The devotee may pray:-

“O partner of her with eyes like those of the carpamid the blue lotus! By thy grace shall it be granted to me, who am truly desiring (to be united to) thy servants, and gain the ancient sea of bliss, to find solace, freed in soul and body, from the thought of “I” and “mine”?

But the idea is that “I” seek and obtain “my” salvation by thy grace, not that by losing personality and the sense of possession I attain salvation.

I should hesitate to assert that the Siddhantin contemplates the eternal existence of these separate atmas, but there is much to lead to that conclusion and some teachers certainly teach this.

On the origin of the soul the Saiva Siddhanta is silent. True it speaks of Siva Peruman as the ‘Ancient One, Creator of all’, ‘the source of the Heavenly ones’ (____________pg 95____), but to the thinkers of the Siddhanta the souls are so many distinct entities, separate from Sivan, attaining freedom from sin and manifest existence by his grace, but however closely united with him, still living distinct in him.

All souls may attain to his ‘freedom, and if all souls find freedom in union with Sivan then the bond (Pasa) of ignorance (Anava) will be finally dissolved and the third category in the Saiva triad will cease, but as far as I can tell the Pasu persists so that the Lord and the Individual Souls are the tow constants in the Saiva universe. Here again there is a divergence of teachings. Some hold that Anava is never dissolved, but only made latent “like the darkness in a room when a lamp is brought into it.” This apparently implies that Anava is equally with Pati and Pasu, or rather that the nature of Pasu is radically liable to the contingency of Anava at any time21.


The third of the three Savivite postulates is Pasa, ‘the fetter.’ This ‘fetter’ is described by another term Anava, darkness, ignorance, the eternal liability of the Pasu to yield to error though ignorance of the Pati, an ignorance which is the effectual cause of separation between itself and the Lord, and which must be annihilated or rendered latent before union can take place between the soul and its ‘owner.’

Its analysis: The nature of ‘the fetter’ has been variously analysed. In the Sarva-darsana-sangraha it is described as four-fold and its constituents are called mala, karma, maya and rodhasakti22. Monier Williams defines the first as meaning original sin or natural impurity in Saivite writings. It refers to the defilement of the soul through ignorance. Karma is the fruit of deeds done, which has to be ‘eaten’ before any emancipation can begin. In other words it is the balance of demerit which has to be counterbalanced by a corresponding value of merit as a condition of salvation. Maya is the essential ‘illusion which forces the soul into continual misapprehension concerning the realities of its won state and the grace of the Lord23. The fourth is ‘the obscuring power’ of Mayeswaran. Some thinkers add a fifth distinction, Tirodhaya, the energy of Sivan which causes Anava, or Mala, Karma and Maya to become active, but this is a refinement. The more usual and simpler distinction is three-fold. According to it the three constituents of the ‘letter’ are Anava, Karma and Maya – darkness deeds and dlusion24. The soul which is tainted by these three is in bondage to the round of the births and re-births. All three are fatal to attainment of freedom, and while one trace of any of the three remains the soul is unable to obtain release from the weariness of existence. The Christian doctrine of sin has no equivalent in the Saiva Siddhanta, but the doctrine of the ‘fetter’ has a certain resemblance to some forms of the Christian teaching of the inherent natural depravity of the soul, and still more to some forms of Manichaeanism and Gnosticism. The Siddhantin fully believes that the darkness of ignorance, the activity of the soul, and the illusions which afflict it, separate it from Sivan, and make it a stranger to his grace and a prey to lust.

Is there any liberation from this bondage? The Siddhanta affirms that there is, provided that the soul obtains sufficient illumination to apprehend the path which the grace (Tam, arul, Sanks. Anugraha) of the Lord, as guru, has prepared for it. Madhavacharya declares that release is to be obtained by knowledge of ‘the four feet’. These by the performance of ceremonial, by profound meditation, and by right conduct the soul is initiated into union with the Lord. In Tamil these are arranged differently. It is interesting to note the different forms that the words assume in Tamil. They are as follows: ________pg 97______ (sarithei), right behaviour, __pg 97____________ (yokam), meditation, and (nyanam), knowledge. The Saivite Catechism of Arumugha Navalar translated by Mr. Cobban, referred to above, defines these feet as follows:

Sariya is “service at Saiva temples and to the servants of Siva.”

Kriya is ‘mental and outward worship of Siva-linga Peruman.’

Yoga “ consists in meditating on Sivan with the mind abstracted from all sensible objects, and obtaining the gift of losing one’s self and his meditation in the perception of Siva only.”

Gnana “is the possession of that perfect knowledge of God, soul and matter (pati, pasu, pasa) which comes by profound study of the sacred books joined with the practice of asceticism.”

And Arumugha Navalar adds: ‘By Sariya, Siva’s good world is gained, by Kriya, nearness of Siva, by Yoga, Siva’s form. These three are the lower states of bliss. By Gnana, absorption or perfect union is obtained, which is the highest bliss..

Stages of release: In the poems of Manikka Vasagar and Tayumanavar little is said about the precise process of release 25. In some passages the experience is described in terms that might almost be appropriate to a description of what evangelical Christainity knows as sudden conversion, but more exact observers discern stages in the emancipation of the soul, to which they give definite names, according as the soul is freed from the fetters of darkness, of deeds, and of delusion. The ordinary man living a life unenlightened by knowledge, crowded with activities, and taking for realities, is regarded as entirely immersed in the sea of sentient existence. Such men are the _________pg 99_________ (sakalar) , (from two Sanskrit roots sa, all and kala, a part). Those who have escaped from the snare of illusion (maya) and whose delusion has been overwhelmed by’destruction’ (Sansk, pralaya) are called pralayakalah; in Tamil pralayakalar. In the third class, that of the vijnanakalah, are those who, being free from maya , have also performed enough goods deeds to counterbalance the eyil that they have done. Their ‘discernment’ (Snask. Vijnana) has enabled them to escape all but ‘darkness’ (anava), the last tie to the interests of mundane life. Only those ‘saints’ (bhakti) who have received the grace (Tam. Arul) of the Guru, can escape this darkness (Tam. Irui) entirely.

The Sarva-darasana-samgraha adds tow further distinctions but they may be omitted as unnecessary elaborations. As Madhavacharya says “we are obliged to pass on through fear of prolixity.”

No ethics 27: It will naturally occur to the Western reader to ask what are the ethics of the Siddhanta. Such an enquiry ends in disappointment. There are many elaborate directions in the catechisms as to certain rules of outward conduct, and such sins as adultery and theft are prohibited, but as in all systems of thought where intellectual perception is exalted as the means of salvation, morals take a secondary place, Mental ability rather than moral worth is the condition of liberations.

Sakti: One other important matter may be mentioned. The term Sakti (the energising force having its origin in Sivan) has become associated in the minds of some with a form of Saivite worship of the female energy in nature which is celebrated with disgraceful in the Saiva Siddhanta28. It seems to vary between the assertions the Sakti is the female consort of a puranic deity of very distinct appetites and passions, and the theory that it is the mysterious causative influence, emanating from Siva Peruman, whereby the giddy dance of darkness, deeds and delusion, and the round of births and rebirths is actuated though not directed. One thing I gladly declare, viz., that there is a great gulf between the Saiva Siddhanta and the worshippers of Sakti, whether sensual Vama or obscene Vani Saktas.

There is no space for me to attempt to deal with such interesting subjects as the psychology, the logic, the physiology, the geography and the elaborate mythology of the Siddhanta, and they are of subordinate importance in a study of the system.

No one can feel more clearly than the writer how incomplete this paper is in many ways, and admittedly there is much that may be criticised. Pressure of work has prevented any but the most meagre selection of lines form the poets. But this outline will have served its purpose, if it has made clear that in South India there is a school of thought, of ancient date, teaching the existence of a personal, active God, of abundant grace, who in the guise of a Divine Teacher appeared on this earth, and taught the weary souls of men the truth that makes them free.

1) The much-needed corrective is administered by J.Bruce Long’s article: “Rudra as an Embodiment of Divine Ambivalence in the Satarudriya Stotram.” Read essay number twelve in Saiva Siddhantam, Volume Two (1988).

2) The Saivite school of thought was not founded by Sankara Aachaarya.

3) The Tillaivaazhantanar Puranam does not refer by name to the Chandogya Upanishd.

4) Saiva Siddhantam is opposed to Vedantic Monism. A gappey Siddar and a few others form a class by themselves. These may subscribe to the differing views of Siddhantam as well as Vedantam.

5) Paasam should not-be translated as sin

6) For a correct understanding read Francois Gros’ “Towards Reading Tevaaram” in Tevaaram-Pann Murai, volume 1 ; published by Institu Franais D’ Indologie, Pondichery (1984)

7) The language of the author is not at all happy.

8) The translation of the sutra by the author is not correct.

9) Saivism has not derived any inspiration from Buddhism.

10) The author has not properly understood the doctrine of the Guru

11) See note !

12) What the author says is no true.

13) The oneness spoken to by Siddhantam is anything but Vedantic.

14) The names are not properly described.

15) Mani, in Tamil, means gem. The ruby is so referred to.

16) Maanickavaasakar flourished during the ninth century. Read ‘Tirukkovaiyar’, translated by T.N. Rama Chandran, Tamil University, Thanjavur (1989)

17) St. Appar flourished between 675 A.d. and 756 A.D.

18) Pattinatthu Pillai whose works are included in the Eleventh Tirumurai belongs to the tenth century.

19) Malam is blemish/defect.

20) The view expressed by the author is incorrect.

21) The word should be Tirodhasakti.

22) The concept of Maya is wrongly interpreted here.

23) Maya is not delusion. That is the view of Sankara.

24) The author should have known that the works of St. Maanickavaasakar and St. Taayumaanavar are not theological treatises.

25) The author has not properly understood the meaning of the words Sakalar, Pralayaakalar and Vigngnaanakalar.

26) The observations of the author are not merited.

27) Obviously the understanding of the author is far from profound.


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