In the search for peace, enlightenment and liberation, no path more tolerant, more mystical, more widespread or more ancient than Saivite hinduism. Through history Saivism has developed a vast array of lineages and traditions, each with unique philosophic-cultural-linguistic characteristics, as it dominated India prior to 1100 from the Himalayas to Sri Lanka, from the Bay of Bengal to the Arabian Sea. Here we seek to present the essential features of six major traditions identifiable within the ongoing Saiva context: Saiva Siddhanta, Pashupata Saivism, Kashmir Saivism, Vira Saivism, Siddha Siddhanta and Siva Advaita.
It should be understood that this formal and somewhat intellectual division, however useful, is by no means a comprehensive description of Saivism, nor is it the only possible list. In practice, Saivism is far more rich and varied than these divisions imply. Take for instance the Saivism practiced by thirteen million people in Nepal or three million in Indonesia and fifty-five million Hinduized Javanese who worship Siva as Batara. Ponder the millions upon millions of Smartas and other universalists who have taken Ganesha, Murugan or Siva as their chosen Deity, or the legions of Ayyappan followers who worship devoutly in Lord Murugan's great South Indian sanctuaries. Consider the fact that only a handful of Kashmir's millions of Siva worshipers would formally associate themselves with the school called Kashmir Saivism. Similarly, in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, where there are over fifty million worshipers of Siva, only a well-informed minority would knowingly subscribe to Saiva Siddhanta.
Our discussion of these six schools and their related traditions is based upon historical information. There are wide gaps in the record, but we do know that at each point where the veil of history lifts, the worship of Siva is there. In the 8,000-year-old Indus Valley we find the famous seal of Siva as Lord Pashupati. The seal shows Siva seated in a yogic pose. In the Ramayana, dated astronomically at 2000 BCE, Lord Rama worshiped Siva, as did his rival Ravana. In the Mahabharata, dated at around 1300 BCE we find again the worship of Siva. Buddha in 624 BCE was born into a Saivite family, and records of his time talk of the Saiva ascetics who wandered the hills looking much as they do today.
The Saiva Agamas form the foundation and circumference of all the schools of Saivism. The system of philosophy set forth in the Agamas is common to a remarkable degree among all these schools of thought. These Agamas are theistic, that is, they all identify Siva as the Supreme Lord, immanent and transcendent, capable of accepting worship as the personal Lord and of being realized through yoga. This above all else is the connecting strand through all the schools.
Philosophically, the Agamic tradition includes the following principal doctrines: 1) the five powers of Siva: creation, preservation, destruction, revealing and concealing grace; 2) The three categories, Pati, pashu andpasha: God, souls and bonds; 3) the three bonds: anava, karma and maya; 4) the three-fold power of Siva -- icchha, kriya and jnana shakti; 5) the thirty-six tattvas, or categories of existence, from the five elements to God; 6) the need for the satguru and initiation; 7) the power of mantra; 8) the four padas: charya, kriya, yoga and jnana.
As we explore the individual schools and lineages within Saivism, keep in mind that all adhere to these doctrines. Our discussion necessarily focuses on the differences between one school and another, but this is not meant to obscure the overwhelming similarity of belief and practice among them.
Monism, dualism and philosophies in-between are all conveyed in the Saiva Agamas. The various schools based on Agamas similarly vary in philosophic stance. Kashmir Saivite tradition says that Siva revealed different philosophies for people of different understanding, so that each could advance on the spiritual path toward the recognition of the innate oneness of man and God.
Few worshipers of Siva are now or were in the past familiar with the Agamas. Reading and writing were the domain of a few specially trained scribes, and today the Agamas remain mostly on the olai leaves upon which they have been transmitted for generations. Agamic philosophy and practices are conveyed to the common man through other channels, one of which is the Saiva Puranas. These oral collections of stories about the Gods are interspersed with Agamic philosophy. For example, the Siva Purana proclaims: "Siva is the great atman because He is the atman of all, He is forever endowed with the great qualities. The devotee shall realize the identity of Siva with himself: 'I am Siva alone.'"
A second channel is the Saivite temple itself, for the construction of the temples and the performance of the rituals are all set forth in the Agamas -- in fact it is one of their main subjects. The priests follow manuals called paddhati, which are summaries of the instructions for worship contained in the Saiva Agamas, specifically the shodasha upacharas, or sixteen acts of puja worship, such as offering of food, incense and water. A third channel is the songs and bhajanas of the sants, which in their simplicity carry powerful philosophic import. A fourth is the on-going oral teachings of gurus, swamis, panditas, shastris, priests and elders.
Such matters of agreement belie the fact that Saivism is not a single, hierarchical system. Rather, it is a thousand traditions, great and small. Some are orthodox and pious, while others are iconoclastic and even -- like the Kapalikas and the Aghoris -- fiercely ascetic, eccentric or orgiastic. For some, Siva is the powerful, terrible, awesome destroyer, but for most He is love itself, compassionate and gentle. For nearly all of the millions of Siva's devotees, Saivism is not, therefore, a school or philosophy; it is life itself. To them Saivism means love of Siva, and they simply follow the venerable traditions of their family and community. These men and women worship in the temples and mark life's passages by holy sacraments. They go on pilgrimages, perform daily prayers, meditations and yogic disciplines. They sing holy hymns, share Puranic folk narratives and recite scriptural verses. Still, it is useful for us all to understand the formal streams of thought which nurture and sustain our faith. Now, in our brief description of these six schools, we begin with today's most prominent form of Saivism, Saiva Siddhanta.
Saiva Siddhanta is the oldest, most vigorous and extensively practiced Saivite Hindu school today, encompassing millions of devotees, thousands of active temples and dozens of living monastic and ascetic traditions. Despite its popularity, Siddhanta's glorious past as an all-India denomination is relatively unknown and it is identified today primarily with its South Indian, Tamil form. The term Saiva Siddhanta means "the final or established conclusions of Saivism." It is the formalized theology of the divine revelations contained in the twenty-eight Saiva Agamas. The first known guru of the Shuddha, "pure," Saiva Siddhanta tradition was Maharishi Nandinatha of Kashmir (ca 250 BCE), recorded in Panini's book of grammar as the teacher of rishis Patanjali, Vyaghrapada and Vasishtha. The only surviving written work of Maharishi Nandinatha are twenty-six Sanskrit verses, called the Nandikeshvara Kashika, in which he carried forward the ancient teachings. Because of his monistic approach, Nandinatha is often considered by scholars as an exponent of the Advaita school.
The next prominent guru on record is Rishi Tirumular, a siddha in the line of Nandinatha who came from the Valley of Kashmir to South India to propound the sacred teachings of the twenty-eight Saiva Agamas. In his profound work the Tirumantiram, "Sacred Incantation," Tirumular for the first time put the vast writings of the Agamas and the Shuddha Siddhanta philosophy into the melodious Tamil language. Rishi Tirumular, like his satguru, Maharishi Nandinatha, propounds a monistic theism in which Siva is both material and efficient cause, immanent and transcendent. Siva creates souls and world through emanation from Himself, ultimately reabsorbing them in His oceanic Being, as water flows into water, fire into fire, ether into ether.
The Tirumantiram unfolds the way of Siddhanta as a progressive, four-fold path of charya, virtuous and moral living; kriya, temple worship; and yoga -- internalized worship and union with Parashiva through the grace of the living satguru -- which leads to the state of jnana and liberation. After liberation, the soul body continues to evolve until it fully merges with God -- jiva becomes Siva.
Tirumular's Shuddha Saiva Siddhanta shares common distant roots with Mahasiddhayogi Gorakshanatha's Siddha Siddhanta in that both are Natha teaching lineages. Tirumular's lineage is known as the Nandinatha Sampradaya, Gorakshanatha's is called the Adinatha Sampradaya.
Saiva Siddhanta flowered in South India as a forceful bhakti movement infused with insights on siddha yoga. During the seventh to ninth centuries, saints Sambandar, Appar and Sundarar pilgrimaged from temple to temple, singing soulfully of Siva's greatness. They were instrumental in successfully defending Saivism against the threats of Buddhism and Jainism. Soon thereafter, a king's Prime Minister, Manikkavasagar, renounced a world of wealth and fame to seek and serve God. His heart-melting verses, called Tiruvasagam, are full of visionary experience, divine love and urgent striving for Truth. The songs of these four saints are part of the compendium known as Tirumurai, which along with the Vedas and Saiva Agamas form the scriptural basis of Saiva Siddhanta in Tamil Nadu.
Besides the saints, philosophers and ascetics, there were innumerable siddhas, "accomplished ones," God-intoxicated men who roamed their way through the centuries as saints, gurus, inspired devotees or even despised outcastes. Saiva Siddhanta makes a special claim on them, but their presence and revelation cut across all schools, philosophies and lineages to keep the true spirit of Siva present on Earth. These siddhas provided the central source of power to spur the religion from age to age. The well-known names include Sage Agastya, Bhogar Rishi, Tirumular and Gorakshanatha. They are revered by the Siddha Siddhantins, Kashmir Saivites and even by the Nepalese branches of Buddhism.
In Central India, Saiva Siddhanta of the Sanskrit tradition was first institutionalized by Guhavasi Siddha (ca 675). The third successor in his line, Rudrasambhu, also known as Amardaka Tirthanatha, founded theAmardaka monastic order (ca 775) in Andhra Pradesh. From this time, three monastic orders arose that were instrumental in Saiva Siddhanta's diffusion throughout India. Along with the Amardaka order (which identified with one of Saivism's holiest cities, Ujjain) were the Mattamayura Order, in the capital of the Chalukya dynasty, near the Punjab, and the Madhumateya order of Central India. Each of these developed numerous sub-orders, as the Siddhanta monastics, full of missionary spirit, used the influence of their royal patrons to propagate the teachings in neighboring kingdoms, particularly in South India. From Mattamayura, they established monasteries in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra and Kerala (ca 800).
Of the many gurus and acharyas that followed, spreading Siddhanta through the whole of India, two siddhas, Sadyojyoti and Brihaspati of Central India (ca 850), are credited with the systematization of the theology in Sanskrit. Sadyojyoti, initiated by the Kashmir guru Ugrajyoti, propounded the Siddhanta philosophical views as found in the Raurava Agama. He was succeeded by Ramakantha I, Srikantha, Narayanakantha and Ramakantha II, each of whom wrote numerous treatises on Saiva Siddhanta.
Later, King Bhoja Paramara of Gujarat (ca 1018) condensed the massive body of Siddhanta scriptural texts that preceded him into a one concise metaphysical treatise called Tattvaprakasha, considered a foremost Sanskrit scripture on Saiva Siddhanta.
Affirming the monistic view of Saiva Siddhanta was Srikumara (ca 1056), stating in his commentary, Tatparyadipika, on Bhoja Paramara's works, that Pati, pashu and pasha are ultimately one, and that revelation declares that Siva is one. He is the essence of everything. Srikumara maintained that Siva is both the efficient and the material cause of the universe.
Saiva Siddhanta was readily accepted wherever it spread in India and continued to blossom until the Islamic invasions, which virtually annihilated all traces of Siddhanta from North and Central India, limiting its open practice to the southern areas of the subcontinent.
It was in the twelfth century that Aghorasiva took up the task of amalgamating the Sanskrit Siddhanta tradition of the North with the Southern, Tamil Siddhanta. As the head of a branch monastery of the Amardaka Order in Chidambaram, Aghorasiva gave a unique slant to Saiva Siddhanta theology, paving the way for a new pluralistic school. In strongly refuting any monist interpretations of Siddhanta, Aghorasiva brought a dramatic change in the understanding of the Godhead by classifying the first five principles, or tattvas (Nada, Bindu, Sadashiva, Ishvara and Shuddhavidya), into the category of pasha (bonds), stating they were effects of a cause and inherently unconscious substances. This was clearly a departure from the traditional teaching in which these five were part of the divine nature of God. Aghorasiva thus inaugurated a new Siddhanta, divergent from the original monistic Saiva Siddhanta of the Himalayas.
Despite Aghorasiva's pluralistic viewpoint of Siddhanta, he was successful in preserving the invaluable Sanskritic rituals of the ancient Agamic tradition through his writings. To this day, Aghorasiva's Siddhanta philosophy is followed by almost all of the hereditary Sivacharya temple priests, and his paddhati texts on the Agamas have become the standard puja manuals. His Kriyakramadyotika is a vast work covering nearly all aspects of Saiva Siddhanta ritual, including diksha, samskaras, atmartha puja and installation of Deities.
In the thirteenth century, another important development occurred in Saiva Siddhanta when Meykandar wrote the twelve-verse Sivajnanabodham. This and subsequent works by other writers laid the foundation of the Meykandar Sampradaya, which propounds a pluralistic realism wherein God, souls and world are coexistent and without beginning. Siva is efficient but not material cause. They view the soul's merging in Siva as salt in water, an eternal oneness that is also twoness. This school's literature has so dominated scholarship that Saiva Siddhanta is often erroneously identified as exclusively pluralistic. In truth, there are two interpretations, one monistic and another dualistic, of which the former is the original philosophical premise found in pre-Meykandar scriptures, including the Upanishads.
Saiva Siddhanta is rich in its temple traditions, religious festivals, sacred arts, spiritual culture, priestly clans, monastic orders and guru-disciple lineages. All these still thrive. Today Saiva Siddhanta is most prominent among sixty million Tamil Saivites who live mostly in South India and Sri Lanka. Here and elsewhere in the world, prominent Siddhanta societies, temples and monasteries abound.
The Pashupatas (from Pashupati, a name of Siva meaning "Lord of souls") are the oldest known sect of Saivite ascetic monks. They wandered, pounding the dust with iron tridents and stout staffs, their oily hair snarled in unkempt coils or tied in a knot, faces wrinkled with intense devotion, piercing eyes seeing more Siva than world, loins wrapped in deer skin or bark. The Pashupatas were bhaktas and benign sorcerers of Siva, estranged from the priest-dominated Vedic society. Religious turbulence in India intensified as the dual waves of Saivite Agamic theism and Buddhism washed over the Gangetic plain.
The ways of the Pashupatas were chronicled by several sometimes hostile contemporary commentators of that distant period, leaving us with a mixed impression of their life and philosophy. They originally allowed anyone to follow their path, which was not caste-discriminative. As the popularity of the Pashupata lineage rose, high numbers of brahmins defected to it to worship Siva in unhindered abandon. Eventually it was preferred for a Pashupata to come from the brahmin caste. The relationship between these Pashupata monks and the ash-smeared sadhus of Buddha's time, or the makers of the Indus Valley seal depicting Siva as Pashupata, is not known. They are perhaps the same, perhaps different.
The Pashupata sadhus evoked sheer religious awe. Theirs was a brave, ego-stripping path meant to infuse the seeker with Lord Siva's karunya, "compassionate grace." Their austerity was leavened with puja rites to Siva, with a profound awareness of the cosmos as Siva's constant becoming and with an almost frolicsome spirit of love toward Him. Sadhana began with a strict code of ethics, called yamas and niyamas, stressingbrahmacharya, "continence;" ahimsa, "noninjury;" and tapas, "asceticism." As detailed in their scriptures, their discipline was practiced in stages. First they assumed vows and practiced special disciplines among themselves which included Siva-intoxicated laughing, singing and dancing.
Next they dispersed into mainstream society, living incognito. Here they perpetrated outrageous acts to purposely invite public censure, such as babbling, making snorting sounds, walking as if crippled, talking nonsense, and wild gesturing. This sadhana was a means of self-purification, of rooting out egoism, of getting over the need to be accepted by the public, by friends or by neighbors, and to fully establish in the subconscious the knowledge that like and dislike, good and bad and all these human ways of thinking and feeling are equal if one's love of Lord Siva is sufficiently strong. This was designed to break their links with human society and with their own humanness that came with them when they were born.
Returning to overt sadhana, they practiced austerities, then abandoned all action to perform kundalini yoga and so to achieve perpetual nearness to God Siva. When union matured, they acquired supernatural powers such as omniscience. The Pashupatas believed that when a person is firm in virtue and able to accept with equanimity all abuse and insult, he is well established in the path of asceticism. Sri Kaundinya wrote in his sixth-century commentary, Panchartha Bhashya, on the Pashupata Sutra that the Pashupata yogi "should appear as though mad, like a pauper, his body covered with filth, letting his beard, nails and hair grow long, without any bodily care. Hereby he cuts himself off from the estates (varna) and stages of life (ashramas), and the power of dispassion is produced."
Pashupatism is primarily an ascetic's path that rejects dialectical logic and prizes sadhana as a means to actuate Lord Siva's karunya. Seekers embrace strict yama-niyama vows, their sadhanas graduating from "action" to "nonaction." Worshipful action includes puja, penance, Namah Sivaya japa, wearing sacred ash and showing abandoned love of God Siva.
The sect was said to have been founded by Lord Siva Himself, who imparted the doctrines to certain maharishis. Around 200 CE, Pashupata's most historically prominent satguru, Lakulisa, appeared in what is today India's state of Gujarat. According to the Karavana Mahatmya, he was born to a brahmin family, but died in his seventh month, after displaying remarkable spiritual powers. His mother cast his body into a river (a traditional form of infant burial), and a group of tortoises carried it to a powerful Siva shrine. There the boy returned to life and was raised as an ascetic. By another account, Lakulisa ("lord of the staff") was an anchorite who died and was revived by Lord Siva, who entered his body to preach the Pashupata Dharma to the world. The site of his appearance is a town known today as Kayavarohana ("incarnation in another's body"). The miracle is still festively celebrated. Two stone inscriptions in the village honor the names of this satguru's four main shishyas: Kushika, Gargya, Maitreya and Kaurusha.
Satguru Lakulisa was a dynamic Pashupata reformist. In his sutras, outlining the bold codes of conduct and yoga precepts, he restricted admittance to the three higher castes (vaishya, kshatriya and brahmin) in an attempt to link this school with Vedic orthodoxy. A popular householder path arose out of this exclusively ascetic order. Today numerous Pashupata centers of worship are scattered across India, where Satguru Lakulisa as Siva is often enshrined, his image on the face of a Sivalinga, seated in lotus posture, virilely naked, holding a danda in his left hand and a citron fruit in his right. Their most revered temple, Somanath, is in Gujarat, a powerful, active temple which has endured several cycles of destruction and rebuilding.
A seventh-century Chinese traveler, Hsuen Tsang, wrote that 10,000 Pashupatas then occupied Varanasi. The Pashupata tradition spread to Nepal in the eighth century, where the now famous Pashupatinath Temple became a prime pilgrimage center and remains so to this day. At its medieval zenith, Pashupatism blanketed Western, Northwestern and Southeastern India, where it received royal patronage. In the fifteenth century, it retreated to its strongholds of Gujarat, Nepal and the Himalayan hills.
Traditionally, the deepest Pashupata teachings have been kept secret, reserved for initiates who were tried, tested and found most worthy. Central scriptures are the Pashupata Sutras (ascribed to the venerable Lakulisa), Kaundinya's commentary on them, Panchartha Bhashya (ca 500) and the Mrigendra Agama.
The Pashupata philosophy prior to Lakulisa was dualistic. Little is known of it, as no writings remain. But scholars have discerned from references to Pashupata by other ancient writers that it regarded Siva as only the efficient cause of the universe, not the material. It posited five primary categories -- cause, effect, union, ritual and liberation. The latter category was somewhat unusual, as the Pashupatas believed the soul never merged in Siva and that liberation was simply a state with no further pain. They taught that God can create changes in the world and in the destinies of men according to His own pleasure. God does not necessarily depend upon the person or his karma (actions).
Lakulisa's Pashupata system retained the idea of five categories, but regarded the goal of the soul as attainment of divine perfection. Further, he put God as the material cause of the universe, effectively moving the philosophy from dualism to dual-nondual. The soul, pashu, is prevented from closeness to Siva by pasha, "fetters." The soul retains its individuality in its liberated state, termed sayujya, defined as closeness to but not complete union with God. Lord Siva has no power over liberated souls.
The Kapalika, "skull-bearers," sect developed out of the Pashupatas and were likewise -- but perhaps justifiably -- vilified by their opponents. At worst, they are portrayed as drunken and licentious, engaged in human sacrifice and practicing the blackest of magic. Other portrayals are more benign. For example, in the early Sanskrit drama Malati-Madhava, a Kapalika says with great insight, "Being exclusively devoted to alms alone, penance alone and rites alone -- all this is easy to obtain. Being intent upon the Self alone, however, is a state difficult to obtain." Even today, followers of this sect are found begging food which they accept in a skull, preferably that of a brahmin. Some scholars see a connection between the Kapalikas and the later Gorakshanatha yogis.
In the seventh century, another sect developed out of the Pashupata tradition, the Kalamukhas, "black-faced," who established a well-organized social structure with many temples and monasteries in what is now Karnataka and elsewhere. Like the earlier Pashupatas, they suffered vilification at the hands of hostile commentators. Nothing is left of their scriptures, hence details of their philosophy and life is obscure. However, the esteem in which they were once held is reflected in an 1162 inscription on one of their temples stating, in part, that it was "a place devoted to the observances of Saiva saints leading perpetually the life of celibate religious students, a place for the quiet study of four Vedas,... the Yoga Shastras and the other kinds of learning, a place where food is always given to the poor, the helpless,...the musicians and bards whose duty it is to awaken their masters with music and songs,...and to the mendicants and all beggars,...a place where many helpless sick people are sheltered and treated, a place of assurance of safety for all living creatures." The Vira Saiva school is thought by scholars to have developed out of and eventually replaced the Kalamukhas, apparently taking over their temples and ashramas. Today's reclusive Pashupata monks live in Northern India and Nepal and influence followers worldwide.
Vira Saivism is one of the most dynamic of modern-day Saivite schools. It was made popular by the remarkable South Indian brahmin Sri Basavanna (1105 -- 1167). Adherents trace the roots of their faith back to the rishis of ancient times. Vira, "heroic," Saivites are also known as Lingayats, "bearers of the Linga." All members are to constantly wear a Linga encased in a pendant around the neck. Of this practice, Thavathiru Santalinga Ramasamy of Coimbatore recently said, "I can say that Vira Saiva worship is the best form of worship because Sivalinga is worn on our body and it unites the soul with the Omnipresence. We are always in touch with Lord Siva, without even a few seconds break." Followers are also called Lingavantas and Sivasharanas.
Like the sixteenth-century Protestant revolt against Catholic authority, the Lingayat movement championed the cause of the down-trodden, rebelling against a powerful brahminical system which promoted social inequality through a caste system that branded a whole class of people (harijans) as polluted. Going against the way of the times, the Lingayats rejected Vedic authority, caste hierarchy, the system of four ashramas, a multiplicity of Gods, ritualistic (and self-aggrandizing) priestcraft, animal sacrifice, karmic bondage, the existence of inner worlds, duality of God and soul, temple worship and the traditions of ritual purity-pollution.
Vira Saiva tradition states that Basavanna was a reflective and defiant youth who rejected much of the Saivism practiced in his day, tore off his sacred thread, yajnopavita, at age 16 and fled to Sangama, Karnataka. He received shelter and encouragement from Isanya Guru, a Saivite brahmin of the prevailing Kalamukha sect, and studied under him at his monastery-temple complex for twelve years. There he developed a profound devotion to Siva as Lord Kudalasangama, "Lord of the meeting rivers." At age 28, Basavanna arrived at the insight that the brotherhood of man rests on the doctrine of a personalized, individual Godhood in the form of Ishtalinga ("chosen, or personal Linga"). This spiritual realization gave rise to the central Vira Saiva belief that the human body is to be revered as a moving temple of the Lord, to be kept in a perpetual state of purity and sublimity.
Near the completion of his studies at Sangama, Basavanna had a vivid dream in which the Lord Kudalasangama touched his body gently, saying, "Basavanna, my son, the time has come at last for your departure from this place. There is Bijjala in Mangalavede. Carry on your work of building a just society from there." Having received these inner orders, he journeyed to Mangalavede and sought service in the court of Bijjala. He rose to become chief officer of the royal treasury, minister to this maharaja in his troubled Saivite country at odds with Buddhism and Jainism. This position led to the swift spreading of Basavanna's revolutionary message of a new, visionary religious society.
Basavanna wedded two wives, taking on the householder dharma, exemplifying his teaching that all followers -- not only renunciates -- can live a holy life. He gave discourses each evening, denouncing caste hierarchy, magical practices, astrology, temple building and more, urging growing crowds of listeners to think rationally and worship Siva as the God within themselves. Here Basavanna lived and preached for twenty years, developing a large Saivite religious movement. The function of gathering for discourse became known as Sivanubhava Mandapa, "hall of Siva experience."
At age 48 he moved with King Bijjala to Kalyana, where, joined by Allama Prabhu, his fame continued to grow for the next fourteen years. Devotees of every walk of life flocked from all over India to join with him. Through the years, opposition to his egalitarian community grew strong among more conventional citizens. Tensions came to a head in 1167 when a brahmin and shudra, both Lingayats, married. Outraged citizens appealed to King Bijjala, who took ruthless action and executed them both. The unstable political situation further deteriorated, and the King was shortly thereafter murdered by political opponents or possibly by Lingayat radicals. Riots erupted and the Lingayats were scattered far and wide. Basavanna, feeling his mission in the capital had come to an end, left for Sangama, and shortly thereafter died, at the age of 62. Leaders and followers transferred the institutional resources created in the urban Kalyana to the rural localities of Karnataka.
In spite of persecution, successful spiritual leadership left a legacy of sainthood, including many women saints. If Basavanna was the faith's intellectual and social architect, Allama Prabhu was its austerely mystical powerhouse. The doctrines of these two founders are contained in their Vachanas, or prose lyrics. Vira Saiva spiritual authority derives from the life and writings of these two knowers of Siva and of numerous other Sivasharanas, "those surrendered to God." Roughly 450 writers of these scriptures have been identified. The Vachanas, "the sayings," scorn the Vedas, mock ritual, and reject the legends of Gods and Goddesses. The authors of these verses saw formal religions as the "establishment," static institutions that promise man security and predictability, whereas they knew that religion must be dynamic, spontaneous, freed of bargains extracted in exchange for salvation. These scriptures reject "doing good" so that one may go to heaven. Allama wrote, "Feed the poor, tell the truth, make water places for the thirsty and build tanks for a town. You may go to heaven after death, but you'll be nowhere near the truth of our Lord. And the man who knows our Lord, he gets no results." The Vachanas are incandescent poetry, full of humor, ridicule and the white heat of Truth-seeking, bristling with monotheism, commanding devotees to enter the awesome realm of personal spirituality.
These poems, written in the Kannada language, are central in the religious life of Lingayats. Here are some samples. Ganachara wrote, "They say I have been born, but I have no birth, Lord! They say I have died, but I have no death, O Lord!" Basavanna exclaimed, "Lord, the brahmin priest does not act as he speaks. How is that? He goes one way, while the official code goes the other!" Allama Prabhu said, "Then, when there was neither beginning nor nonbeginning, when there was no conceit or arrogance, when there was neither peace nor peacelessness, when there was neither nothingness nor nonnothingness, when everything remained uncreated and raw, you, Guheshvara, were alone, all by yourself, present yet absent."
Ironically, in the centuries following these days of reform, Vira Saivism gradually reabsorbed much of what Basavanna had rejected. Thus emerged temple worship, certain traditions of ritual purity, giving gifts to gurus, and the stratification of society, headed up by two large hierarchical orders of jangamas -- resulting in the institutionalization of the crucial guru-disciple relationship, which by Vira Saiva precept should be very personal. Efforts were made to derive Vira Saiva theology from traditional Hindu scriptures such as Agamas and Sutras -- a need rejected by the early sharanas. To this day, by rejecting the Vedas, Lingayats continue to put themselves outside the fold of mainstream Hinduism, but in their acceptance of certain Saiva Agamas, align themselves with the other Saiva sects. Vira Saivites generally regard their faith as a distinct and independent religion.
The original ideals, however, remain embedded in Lingayat scripture, which is of three types:
1) the Vachanas,
2) historical narratives and biographies in verse and
3) specialized works on doctrine and theology. Among the most central texts are Basavanna's Vachanas, Allama Prabhu's Mantra Gopya, Chennabasavanna's Karana Hasuge, and the collected work called Shunya Sampadane.
The monistic-theistic doctrine of Vira Saivism is called Shakti Vishishtadvaita -- a version of qualified nondualism which accepts both difference and nondifference between soul and God, like rays are to the sun. In brief, Siva and the cosmic force, or existence, are one ("Siva are you; you shall return to Siva"). Yet, Siva is beyond His creation, which is real, not illusory. God is both efficient and material cause. The soul in its liberated state attains undifferentiated union with Siva. The Vira Saiva saint Renukacharya said, "Like water placed in water, fire in fire, the soul that becomes mingled in the Supreme Brahman is not seen as distinct."
True union and identity of Siva (Linga) and soul (anga) is life's goal, described as shunya, or nothingness, which is not an empty void. One merges with Siva by shatsthala, a progressive six-stage path of devotion and surrender: bhakti (devotion), mahesha (selfless service), prasada (earnestly seeking Siva's grace), pranalinga (experience of all as Siva), sharana (egoless refuge in Siva), and aikya (oneness with Siva). Each phase brings the seeker closer, until soul and God are fused in a final state of perpetual Siva consciousness, as rivers merging in the ocean.
Vira Saivism's means of attainment depends on the panchachara (five codes of conduct) and ashtavarana (eight shields) to protect the body as the abode of the Lord. The five codes are Lingachara (daily worship of the Sivalinga), sadachara (attention to vocation and duty), Sivachara (acknowledging Siva as the one God and equality among members), bhrityachara (humility towards all creatures) and ganachara (defense of the community and its tenets).
The eight shields are guru, Linga, jangama (wandering monk), paduka (water from bathing the Linga or guru's feet), prasada (sacred offering), vibhuti (holy ash), rudraksha (holy beads) and mantra (Namah Sivaya). One enters the Vira Saiva religion through formal initiation called Linga Diksha, a rite for both boys and girls which replaces the sacred thread ceremony and enjoins the devotee to worship the personal Sivalinga daily. Lingayats place great emphasis on this life, on equality of all members (regardless of caste, education, sex, etc.), on intense social involvement and service to the community. Their faith stresses free will, affirms a purposeful world and avows a pure monotheism.
Today Vira Saivism is a vibrant faith, particularly strong in its religious homeland of Karnataka, South-Central India. Roughly forty million people live here, of which perhaps twenty-five percent are members of the Vira Saiva religion. There is hardly a village in the state without a jangama and a matha (monastery). On the occasion of birth in a Lingayat family, the child is entered into the faith that same day by a visiting jangama, who bestows a small Sivalinga encased in a pendant tied to a thread. This same Linga is to be worn throughout life.
Kashmir Saivism, with its potent stress on man's recognition of an already existing oneness with Siva, is the most single-mindedly monistic of the six schools. It arose in the ninth century in Northern India, then a tapestry of small feudal kingdoms. Maharajas patronized the various religions. Buddhism was still strong. Tantric Shaktism flourished toward the Northeast. Saivism had experienced a renaissance since the sixth century, and the most widespread Hindu God was Siva.
According to the traditions of Kashmir Saivism, Lord Siva originally set forth sixty-four systems, or philosophies, some monistic, some dualistic and some monistic theistic. Eventually these were lost, and Siva commanded Sage Durvasas to revive the knowledge. Sage Durvasas' "mind-born sons" were assigned to teach the philosophies: Tryambaka (the monistic), Amardaka (the dualistic) and Srinatha (monistic theistic). Thus, Tryambaka at an unknown time laid a new foundation for Kashmir Saiva philosophy.
Then, it is said, Lord Siva Himself felt the need to resolve conflicting interpretations of the Agamas and counter the encroachment of dualism on the ancient monistic doctrines. In the early 800s, Sri Vasugupta was living on Mahadeva Mountain near Srinagar. Tradition states that one night Lord Siva appeared to him in a dream and told him of the whereabouts of a great scripture carved in rock. Upon awakening, Vasugupta rushed to the spot and found seventy-seven terse sutras etched in stone, which he named the Siva Sutras. Vasugupta expounded the Sutras to his followers, and gradually the philosophy spread. On this scriptural foundation arose the school known as Kashmir Saivism, Northern Saivism, Pratyabhijna Darshana ("recognition school"), or Trikashasana ("Triple Doctrine"). Trika, "trinity," refers to the school's three-fold treatment of the Divine: Siva, Shakti and soul, as well as to three sets of scriptures and some other triads.
Kashmir Saivite literature is in three broad divisions: Agama Shastra, Spanda Shastra and Pratyabhijna Shastra. Agama Shastra includes works of divine origin: specifically the Saiva Agama literature, but also including Vasugupta's Siva Sutras. The Spanda Shastra, or Spanda Karikas (of which only two sutras are left), are both attributed to Vasugupta's disciple Kallata (ca 850 -- 900). These elaborate the principles of the Siva Sutras. The Pratyabhijna Shastra's principal components are the Siva Drishti by Vasugupta's disciple, Somananda, and the Pratyabhijna Sutras by Somananda's pupil, Utpaladeva (ca 900-950). Abhinavagupta (ca 950-1000) wrote some forty works, including Tantraloka, "Light on Tantra," a comprehensive text on Agamic Saiva philosophy and ritual. It was Abhinavagupta whose brilliant and encyclopedic works established Kashmir Saivism as an important philosophical school.
Kashmir Saivism provides an extremely rich and detailed understanding of the human psyche, and a clear and distinct path of kundalini-siddha yoga to the goal of Self Realization. In its history the tradition produced numerous siddhas, adepts of remarkable insight and power. It is said that Abhinavagupta, after completing his last work on the Pratyabhijna system, entered the Bhairava cave near Mangam with 1,200 disciples, and he and they were never seen again.
Kashmir Saivism is intensely monistic. It does not deny the existence of a personal God or of the Gods. But much more emphasis is put upon the personal meditation and reflection of the devotee and his guidance by a guru. Creation of the soul and world is explained as God Siva's abhasa, "shining forth" of Himself in His dynamic aspect of Shakti, the first impulse, called spanda. As the Self of all, Siva is immanent and transcendent, and performs through his Shakti the five actions of creation, preservation, destruction, revealing and concealing. The Kashmir Saivite is not so much concerned with worshiping a personal God as he is with attaining the transcendental state of Siva consciousness.
An esoteric and contemplative path, Kashmir Saivism embraces both knowledge and devotion. Sadhana leads to the assimilation of the object (world) in the subject (I) until the Self (Siva) stands revealed as one with the universe. The goal -- liberation -- is sustained recognition (pratyabhijna) of one's true Self as nothing but Siva. There is no merger of soul in God, as they are eternally nondifferent.
There are three upayas, stages of attainment of God consciousness. These are not sequential, but do depend upon the evolution of the devotee. The first stage is anavopaya, which corresponds to the usual system of worship, yogic effort and purification through breath control. The second stage is shaktopaya, maintaining a constant awareness of Siva through discrimination in one's thoughts. The third stage is shambhavopaya in which one attains instantly to God consciousness simply upon being told by the guru that the essential Self is Siva. There is a forth stage, anupaya, "no means," which is the mature soul's recognition that there is nothing to be done, reached for or accomplished except to reside in one's own being, which is already of the nature of Siva. Realization relies upon the satguru, whose grace is the blossoming of all sadhana.
Despite many renowned gurus, geographic isolation in the Kashmir Valley and later Muslim domination kept the following relatively small. Scholars have recently brought the scriptures to light again, republishing surviving texts. The original parampara was represented in recent times by Swami Lakshman Joo. Today various organizations promulgate the esoteric teachings to some extent worldwide. While the number of Kashmir Saivite formal followers is uncertain, the school remains an important influence in India. Many Kashmir Saivites have fled the presently war-torn Valley of Kashmir to settle in Jammu, New Delhi and elsewhere in North India. This diaspora of devout Saivites may serve to spread the teachings into new areas.
Siva Advaita is the philosophy of Srikantha as expounded in his Brahma Sutra Bhashya, a Saivite commentary on the Brahma Sutras (ca 500-200 BCE). The Brahma Sutras are 550 terse verses by Badarayana summarizing the Upanishads. The Brahma Sutras, the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads are the three central scriptures of the various interpretations of Vedanta philosophy. Sankara, Ramanuja and Madhva wrote commentaries on these books deriving three quite different philosophies -- nondualism, qualified nondualism and dualism, respectively -- from the same texts. Each claimed his to be the true interpretation of the Vedas and vigorously refuted all other interpretations. Sankara was a monist and accorded worship of the personal God a lesser status. Ramanuja and Madhva, on the other hand, developed theistic philosophies in which devotion to Vishnu was the highest path. There was as yet no school of Vedanta elevating devotion to Siva to similar heights. Srikantha sought to fill this gap. The resulting philosophy is termed Siva Vishishtadvaita and is not unlike Ramanuja's qualified nondualism. In the process of his commentary, Srikantha put Saiva philosophy into Vedantic terminology.
Srikantha lived in the eleventh century. Of his personal life virtually nothing is historically known, so the man remains a mystery. Nor did he catalyze a social movement that would vie with Vira Saivism or Saiva Siddhanta. But from his writings it is clear that Srikantha was a masterful expositor and a devout lover of God Siva. His influence was largely due to Appaya Dikshita, who wrote a compelling commentary on Srikantha's work in the sixteenth century as part of a successful multi-pronged attempt to defend Saivism against the inroads of Vaishnava proselytization in South India.
According to Srikantha, Siva created the world for no purpose except out of play or sport. Siva is the efficient cause of creation. As His Shakti, He is also the material cause. Siva assumes the form of the universe, transforms Himself into it, not directly but through His Shakti. Yet, He is transcendent, greater than and unaffected and unlimited by His creation. Siva has a spiritual body and lives in a heaven more luminous than millions of suns, which liberated souls eventually can attain. Srikantha in his Brahma Sutra Bhashya said, "At the time of creation, preceded by the first vibrations of His energies -- solely through an impulse of will, independently of any material cause, and out of His own substance -- He creates, that is, manifests, the totality of conscious and unconscious things."
Purification, devotion and meditation upon Siva as the Self -- the akasha within the heart -- define the path. Meditation is directed to the Self, Siva, the One Existence that evolved into all form. Release comes only after certain preliminary attainments, including tranquility, faith and nonattachment. Bonds which fetter the soul can be shattered in the torrent of continuous contemplation on and identification with the Supreme, Siva. Liberation depends on grace, not deeds.
Upon death, the liberated soul goes to Siva along the path of the Gods, without return to earthly existence. The individual soul continues to exist in the spiritual plane, enjoying the bliss of knowing all as Siva, enjoying all experiences and powers, except that of creation of the universe. Ultimately, the soul does not become perfectly one with Brahman (or Siva), but shares with Brahman all excellent qualities. Man is responsible, free to act as he wills to, for Siva only fulfills needs according to the soul's karma. Srikantha wrote in Brahma Sutra Bhashya, "Siva associates Himself with the triple energies [knowledge, will and action], enters into the total agglomerate of effects, and emerges as the universe, comprising the triad of Deities [Vishnu, Brahma and Rudra]. Who can comprehend the greatness of Siva, the All-Powerful and the All-Knowing?"
Appaya Dikshita (1554 -- 1626) is a most unusual person in Hindu history. His commentaries on various schools of philosophy were so insightful that they are revered by those schools, even though he did not adhere to their philosophies. An ardent devotee of Lord Siva, he compiled manuals on puja worship which are used to the present day by Saivite priests. Additionally, he was an excellent devotional poet. Philosophically he adhered throughout his life to the advaita school of Adi Sankara. In his battles to reestablish the worship of Siva against the Vaishnavism of the day, his life came under threat numerous times. Saivism was suffering setbacks in South India in the sixteenth century due largely to the patronage of Vaishnavism by Ramaraja, king of Vijayanagara, whose territory encompassed an area as large as modern Tamil Nadu. When Ramaraja was killed at the fall of Vijayanagara in 1565, his successors ruling from other cities continued the patronage of Vaishnavism. Appaya succeeded at this crucial juncture in gaining the patronage of King Chinna Bomman of Vellore, who ruled from 1559 to 1579. Bomman had once been subject to the king of Vijayanagara, but after the city fell, he declared his own independence.
Appaya Dikshita set out to compose commentaries on the various philosophies of his day, including that of Srikantha. Appaya's commentaries on the writings of the dualist Madhva are revered to this day by Madhva's adherents. Through his 104 books, Appaya created more harmonious relations with the other systems of thought, promoted Saivism from several philosophical approaches at once and contributed to the basic devotional worship of Siva. The patronage of King Chinna Bomman assured the wide spread of Appaya's ideas through specially convened conferences of up to 500 scholars and extensive travel for both Appaya and the trained scholars who served as Saiva missionaries. Appaya wrote in one text, "Since the summer heat of the evil-minded critics of Lord Siva and His worship are awaiting in order to burn out and destroy the sprouts of Siva bhakti or devotion that arise in the minds of the devotees, for which the seed is their accumulated merit in their previous births, this work, Sivakarnamrita, with its verses made, as it were, of nectar, is written to help rejuvenate those sprouts."
Appaya Dikshita concluded that the philosophies of Srikantha and those of other dualists or modified dualists were necessary steps to recognizing the truth of monism, advaita. He argued that Srikantha's emphasis on Saguna Brahman (God with qualities) rather than Nirguna Brahman (God without qualities) was meant to create, for the moment, faith and devotion in fellow Saivites, for such devotion is a necessary prerequisite to the discipline needed to know the Transcendent Absolute, Parashiva, Nirguna Brahman. Appaya Dikshita said in Sivarkamani Dipika, "Although advaita was the religion accepted and impressed by the great teachers of old like Sri Sankara [and the various scriptures], still an inclination for advaita is produced only by the grace of Lord Siva and by that alone."
Siva Advaita apparently has no community of followers or formal membership today, but may be understood as a highly insightful reconciliation of Vedanta and Siddhanta. Its importance is in its promotion by Appaya Dikshita to revive Saivism in the sixteenth century.
Siddha Siddhanta, or Gorakshanatha Saivism, is generally considered to have issued from the lineage of the earlier ascetic orders of India. Gorakshanatha was a disciple of Matsyendranatha, patron saint of Nepal, revered by certain esoteric Buddhist schools as well as by Hindus. Gorakshanatha lived most likely in the tenth century and wrote in Hindi. Historians connect the Gorakshanatha lineage with that of the Pashupatas and their later successors, as well as to the siddha yoga and Agamic traditions. Gorakshanatha adherents themselves say that Matsyendranatha learned the secret Saiva truths directly from Siva, as Adinatha, and he in turn passed them on to Gorakshanatha. The school systematized and developed the practice of hatha yoga to a remarkable degree, indeed nearly all of what is today taught about hatha yoga comes from this school.
Gorakshanatha, the preeminent guru and author of Siddha Siddhanta Paddhati ("tracks in the adept doctrines"), was a man of awesome spiritual power and discerning practicality. As a renunciate, his early life is unknown, though he is thought to have been a native of Punjab. After twelve years of study under his famed guru, Matsyendranatha, he mastered the highly occult Natha yoga sciences. Roaming all over North India from Assam to Kashmir, he worshiped Siva in temples, realizing Him in the deepest of samadhis and awakening many of the powers of a Saiva adept.
By creating twelve orders with monastery-temple complexes across the face of North India, Gorakshanatha popularized his school and effectively insulated pockets of Saivism from Muslim dominance. Matsyendranatha had already established it in Nepal, where to this day he is deified as the country's patron saint. Scholars believe that Gorakshanatha's yoga represents a development out of the earlier Pashupata and related ascetic orders, as there are many similarities of practice and philosophy.
To outer society, Gorakshanatha's siddha yogis were mesmerizing, memorable men of renunciation -- dressed in saffron robes, with flowing, jet-black hair, foreheads white with holy ash, large circular earrings, rudraksha beads and a unique horn whistle on a hair-cord worn around the neck, signifying the primal vibration, Aum. Muslims called the Gorakshanathis "Kanphati," meaning "split-eared ones," referring to the rite of slitting the ear cartilage to insert sometimes monstrous earrings. Some Muslims even joined the Kanphatis, and heads of a few Gorakshanatha monasteries are known by the Muslim title pir, "holy father." This unusual ecumenical connection was of enormous benefit at a time of general religious persecution.
These Nathas perceived the inner and outer universes as Siva's cosmic body (Mahasakara Pinda), as the continuous blossoming forth of Himself as Shakti (power) into an infinity of souls, worlds and forces. Earth and life, human frailties and human Divinity are Siva manifest. As such, these men expressed spiritual exaltation in mankind and joyous devotion through temple worship and pilgrimage. But their daily focus was on internal worship and kundalini yoga. Inside themselves they sought realization of Parasamvid, the supreme transcendent state of Siva.
Gorakshanatha, in Viveka Martanda, gives his view of samadhi: "Samadhi is the name of that state of phenomenal consciousness, in which there is the perfect realization of the absolute unity of the individual soul and the Universal Soul, and in which there is the perfect dissolution of all the mental processes. Just as a perfect union of salt and water is achieved through the process of yoga, so when the mind or the phenomenal consciousness is absolutely unified or identified with the soul through the process of the deepest concentration, this is called the state of samadhi. When the individuality of the individual soul is absolutely merged in the self-luminous transcendent unity of the Absolute Spirit (Siva), and the phenomenal consciousness also is wholly dissolved in the Eternal, Infinite, Transcendent Consciousness, then perfect samarasattva (the essential unity of all existences) is realized, and this is called samadhi."
Having achieved samarasattva (or samarasa), the yogi remains continually aware of the transcendent unity of God, even while being aware of the ordinary material world. This is the supreme achievement of the system. The school is noted for its concept of kaya siddhi, extreme physical longevity, and even the claim of immortality for some. Indeed, Gorakshanatha himself and many of his followers are considered to be alive today, carrying on their work from hidden places. The precise methods of this are not delineated in their texts, but are taught directly by the guru. Among the central scriptures are Hatha Yoga Pradipika by Svatmarama, Gheranda Samhita, Shiva Samhita, and Jnanamrita, which are among forty or so works attributed to Gorakshanatha or his followers. Most deal with hatha yoga.
The Siddha Siddhanta theology embraces both transcendent Siva (being) and immanent Siva (becoming). Siva is efficient and material cause. Creation and final return of soul and cosmos to Siva are described as "bubbles arising and returning to water." Siddha Siddhanta accepts the advaitic experience of the advanced yogi while not denying the mixed experiences of oneness and twoness in ordinary realms of consciousness.
Through the centuries, a large householder community has also arisen which emulates the renunciate ideals. Today there are perhaps 750,000 adherents of Siddha Siddhanta Saivism, who are often understood as Shaktas or advaita tantrics. In truth, they range from street magicians and snake charmers, to established citizens and advanced sadhus. The school fans out through India, but is most prominent in North India and Nepal. Devotees are called yogis, and stress is placed on world renunciation -- even for householders. Over time and still today, the deeper theology has often been eclipsed by a dominant focus on kundalini-hatha yoga. Values and attitudes often hold followers apart from society. This sect is also most commonly known as Natha, the Goraksha Pantha and Siddha Yogi Sampradaya. Other names include Adinatha Sampradaya, Nathamatha and Siddhamarga. The word gorakh or goraksha means "cowherd." (The name Gorkha denotes an inhabitant of Nepal and is the same as Gurkha, the famous martial tribe of that country.)
Today this Natha tradition is represented by the Gorakshanatha sadhus and numerous other venerable orders of Himalayan monks who uphold the spirit of world renunciation in quest of the Self. Millions of modern-day seekers draw from their teachings, treasuring especially the sixteenth-century text by Svatmarama, Hatha Yoga Pradipika, "elucidation on hatha yoga." From these strong, ancient roots, yoga schools have arisen in major cities in nearly every country of the world. They are aggressive. They are dynamic. They produce results, physically, mentally and emotionally. They usually do not include Hindu religion but for a minimal presentation of puja, guru, karma, dharma and the existence of an all-pervasive force, called energy. Because of this loosely-knit philosophical premise and the pragmatic results gained from the practices of hatha yoga, pranayama and meditation, a large following of seekers from all religious backgrounds ever expands. Today these schools encompass ayurveda, astrology and various forms of holistic health practice. Advanced meditation is taught to the most sincere. Thus the ancient wisdom of Siddha Siddhanta survives in the modern age to improve the quality of life for mankind and aid truth seekers everywhere to attain their goal.
Today, in one form or another, each of these six schools of Saivism continues unhindered. Their leaders and gurus have reincarnated and are picking up the threads of the ancient past and bringing them forward to the twenty-first century. Seekers who worship Siva are carefully choosing between one or another of them. Gurus, initiated, uninitiated or self-appointed by the spiritual forces within them, find themselves declaring God Siva as Supreme Lord and aligning themselves with one or another of the Saiva lineages. Non-Hindus have been attracted to the profound Saiva philosophy, serving as unheralded missionaries. Many have fully converted to Saivism as the religion of their soul. In this modern age, toward the end of the twentieth century, Saivism has gained a new strength and power. The schools of Saivism relate and interrelate in love, kindness, compassion and understanding, share their strengths and fortify each other's weaknesses.
Our most exalted God Siva knew His creations were not all the same. In different moods He created different kinds of souls at different times. Similarly, in His supreme wisdom, He created these six approaches to His grace upon one common Vedic-Agamic foundation -- one for yogic ascetics, one for heroic nonconformists, one for kundalini mystics, one for the philosophically astute, one for immortal renunciates and one for devotional nondualists. None was forgotten. Yea, even today, Lord Siva is ordaining leaders within the boundaries of these six philosophical streams to preach His message in sacred eloquence.
Shaivism has six schools:
1) Pashupata Shaivism - emphasizes Shiva as supreme cause and personal
ruler of the world; liberated soul retains individuality in a state of
complete union with Shiva
2) Vira Shaivism - holds that after liberation the soul experiences a
true union and identity os Shiva and soul; the soul ultimately merges
in a state of shunya, or Nothingness, which is not an empty void
3) Kashmir Shaivism - teaches that liberation comes through a
sustained recognition of one's true Self as nothing but Shiva. After
liberation, the soul has no merger in God, as God and soul are
4) Gorakhnath Shaivism (aka Siddha Siddhanta) - liberation leads to a
complete sameness of Shiva and soul, described as "bubbles arising and
returning to water."
5) Shiva Advaita - liberation leads to the "akasha within the heart."
Upon death, the soul goes to Shiva along the path of the Gods,
continuing to exist on the spiritual plane, enjoying the bliss of
knowing all as Shiva, and attaining all powers except creation.
6) Shaiva Siddhanta - two subsects:
a) Meykandar's pluralistic realism - God, soul and world are
eternally coexistent; liberation leads to a state of oneness with
Shiva, in which the soul retains its individuality, like salt added to
b) Tirumular's monistic theism (aka Advaita Ishvaravada) -
evolution continues after earthly births until jiva becomes Shiva, the
soul merges in perfect oneness with God, like a drop of water
returning to the sea.
The following are concise philosophical summaries of the six schools of Saivism, along with maps showing the primary areas of origin or present-day influence and concentration of each school in India's states.
Siva Siddhanta: In Rishi Tirumular's monistic theism (ca -200), Siva is material and efficient cause, immanent and transcendent. The soul, created by Siva, is destined to merge in Him. In Meykandar's pluralistic realism (ca 1200), God, souls and world are beginningless and eternally coexistent. Siva is efficient but not material cause. Highlighted are Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka.
Pashupata Saivism: This school, traced to Lakulisa (ca 200), is bhedadbheda, simultaneously monistic and theistic, emphasizing Siva as supreme cause and personal ruler of soul and world. The liberated soul retains individuality in its state of complete union with God. Final merger is compared to stars disappearing in the sky. Noted areas of influence (clockwise) include Gujarat, Kashmir and Nepal.
Vira Saivism: Made popular by Basavanna (1105-1167), this version of qualified nondualism, Shakti Vishishtadvaita, accepts both difference and nondifference between soul and God, like rays are to the sun. Siva and the cosmic force are one, yet Siva is beyond His creation, which is real, not illusory. God is efficient and material cause. Influential primarily in Karnataka.
Kashmir Saivism: Codified by Vasugupta (ca 800), this mildly theistic, intensely monistic school, known as Pratyabhijna Darshana, explains the creation of soul and world as God Siva's shining forth in His dynamic first impulse. As the Self of all, Siva is immanent and transcendent, a real but abstract creator-preserver-destroyer. Founded in Kashmir.
Siva Advaita: This monistic theism, formulated by Srikantha (ca 1050), is called Siva Vishishtadvaita. The soul does not ultimately become perfectly one with Brahman, but shares with the Supreme all excellent qualities. Appaya Dikshita (1554-1626) attempted to resolve this union in favor of an absolute identity -- Shuddhadvaita. Its area of origin and influence covers most of Karnataka state.
Siddha Siddhanta: Expounded by Rishi Gorakshanatha (ca 950), this monistic theism is known as bhedabheda, embracing both transcendent Siva Being and immanent Siva Becoming. Siva is efficient and material cause. The creation and final return of soul and cosmos to Siva are likened to bubbles arising and returning to water. Influential in Nepal, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal.