Shivaism Scriptures and Basic Teachings
Here I am giving a short, concise introduction in Shivaism Scriptures and basic teachings. This introduction is based on a Tamil Shaivite book issued in 1863 called "A Catechism of the Shaiva Religion" by Sabhapati Mudaliyar of Kanjipuram and Sadashiva Mudaliyar of Chaturangapattanam.
What is meant by the word “Shaivam”?
All that is related to the religion of the God Shiva.
Q.-What are the attributes of Shiva?
A.-He is eternal; without outward form; without passions; without external marks of existence ; whose fullness fills all worlds ; without any divine superior; unchangeable both in thought and word ; without carnal desire ; without enmity ; and the life of all living beings. He is, moreover, immeasurably great, and spotlessly pure.
Q.-What evidence can you produce to prove that there is but one Supreme Being?
A.-The world, which is his creation, is a proof of this.
For, if it be asked, whether this world is self-created, or the work of some being external to itself?
It may be sufficient to reply, that the world is an inanimate thing, and therefore could not create itself.
We may therefore be certain that it must have had a creator.
Since also the creator of so great work must necessarily be omnipotent, we conclude that He, and He alone, is the Supreme God.
Q.-The Supreme Being is himself immaterial: how then was it possible for him to create this material world? And how, also, is it possible for us to form a visible representation of him so as to worship and praise him?
A.-In order that we might be able to represent him, and to serve and praise him, he assumed a concrete form, and concentrated all his divine grace in the supreme Shakti, who constitutes his left side.
In this form he is known by the name of Kailashapati,-' the lord of the sacred hill Kailasha.'
Moreover, in order to accomplish the three divine functions of creation, preservation, and final destruction, he exists in the three forms of Brahma, Vishnu and Rudra.
Q.-How may we learn the nature of the Supreme Being, the nature of the world, and the right way to worship God?
A.- From the Vedas, the Agamas, the Puranas and the Shastras.
Which are the Vedas?
They are four in number:
1.the Rig Veda
3. the Sama Veda
- Are there any other Vedas besides these?
- Yes : the four supplementary Vedas, called:
1. The Ayur
3. The Dhanur
And also the six subordinate Vedas, called:
4. The Chhandobisidha
- Which are the Agamas?
-They are twenty-eight in number. Their names are the following:
-Which are the Puranas?
-The following eighteen:
- Are these Puranas classified?
-Yes: they belong to the five following classes:
-Which are the Shiva-Puranas?
-The following ten:
1. The Shaiva
6. The Varaha
-Which are the Vishnu-Puranas?
-The following four:
1. The Narada
3. The Garuda
-Which are the Brahma-Puranas ?
-The following two:
1. The Brahma,
2. The Padma
-Which is the Surya-Purana?
-The Brahmakaivartta Purana
-Which is the Agni-Purana?
- The Agneya Purana.
-Are there any Puranas besides these?
-Yes: the secondary Puranas.
- Which are they?
-They are eighteen in number; and their names are as follows:
1. The Usanas
7. The Chaurava
13. The Bharggava
-Which are the Shastras?
-The following six:
1. The Vedanta
4. The Prabakara
- Which of these relate to the Shaiva religion?
-All of them: but more especially the Agamas.
-What special doctrines of the Shaiva religion are taught in the Agamas?
-Amongst many others they teach of the three- fold class of existences, namely:
1. The Lord,
2. The Soul,
3. The World;
Of the four kinds of religious life, namely:
1. Religious services,
2. Religious ceremonies,
3. Religious contemplation,
4. Spiritual wisdom;
And of the four degrees of future happiness, namely:
1. The presence of god,
2. Near-approach to god,
3. Unity of form with god,
4. Complete unity with god
-What is meant by the expression “The Lord”?
-The above-mentioned perfect, incomprehensible, and immaterial being is, The Lord.'
-What is the nature of the soul?
-It is without size; eternal; sunk in the darkness of pollution; capable, in obedience to the divine will of the supreme god, of assuming a body in which it may accumulate merits and demerits; in which also whilst passing through the various experiences of this world, it commits sins and performs meritorious deeds, through which it becomes subject to a succession of births and deaths; and capable, also, by the help of a priest obtained at the time when its merits and demerits counterbalance each other, of being finally united to god.
- What is the nature of the world?
-It is uniform; eternal; of immeasurable power; able to conceal from sight all the soul’s wisdom, as the rust on a drinking-vessel hides its brightness ; subject to changes through the accumulation of Shaiva merits ; and involved in darkness deeper than the darkness of night. For, the darkness of night makes itself visible, even while it hides the earth from sight: but this moral darkness both hides itself from view, and conceals also the Lord, the soul, and the world.
-What actions are called Charita, or religious services?
-The following deeds are called by that name: - piously sweeping the temple ; cleansing it with cowdung; supplying it with lamps; planting a flower garden beside it; weaving garlands and hanging them on the image of the god ; attending the temple worship ; frequenting the presence of the god ; and reverently saluting the saints of Shiva.
-What degree of future happiness is to be obtained by performing these religious services?
-They who perform them shall dwell in the presence of God.
-What do you mean by “dwelling in the presence of God”?
-Dwelling in the heaven of Shiva.
-What actions are called “Kriya”, or 'religious ceremonies”?
-Performing the ablutions of great Shiva according to the ritual of the Vedas and Agamas ; worshipping him With offerings of sacred leaves and flowers; making oblations to him of incense and lights; and affectionately adoring him, and singing his praise.
They who perform these religious ceremonies shall obtain that degree of future happiness which is called “Near approach to God”; which means, dwelling in close intercourse with great Shiva.
-To what visible forms may the worship of Shiva be offered?
-To the mental image ; the earth; paintings on wood, cloth, or walls; sculptured images ; the stone lingam; the lingam worn as a personal ornament; the temporary lingam; and other similar forms.
-How is the worship of the mental image performed?
-It consists in the mental performance of the anointing and other ceremonies of the temple-worship.
-What is meant by the worship of the earth?
-The worship of the lord of the earth.
-What is meant by the Worship of the temporary lingam?
-The worship of a lingam made of earth for any single occasion.
-Which of these lingam-worships is the most important?
-The worship of the stone lingam and the lingam ornament.
-What are these lingam ornaments?
- Lingams which were originally worshipped by a devotee called Bhana.
-Where are these lingams found?
-They are constantly to be met with in the bed of the river Kandaki.
-What benefits are obtained by worshipping them?
-The merits obtained by bathing in the Ganges and the other sacred rivers: the merits acquired by pilgrimages to the different sacred shrines; the merits accruing rom the sixteen gifts of charity: and the merits which are resulting from the twenty-one kind of sacrifice. Moreover it removes the guilt of all the greater sins.
-Which are the merit-bestowing rivers?
1. The Ganges
5. The Kaveri
To which are sometimes are added:
- Which are the merit-bestowing temples?
- They are a thousand and eight in number; and are the same which those most eminent religious teachers, Tiru-Jnanasambandasvami, Apparsvami, and Sundaramurttisvami have celebrated in their religious poetry.
-Are hymns in existence at the present time referring to all of the above mentioned thousand and eight temples?
-There are hymns relating to two hundred and seventy four of them. Of these:
190 are in the Chora land,
14 in the Pandya land,
1 in the Malayala land,
2 in the Ira land,
7 in the Konkan land,
22 in the Nadu land,
32 in the Tonda land,
1 in the Tulava land, and
5 in the north of India.
The whole number, however, of existing sacred songs is eight hundred.
-Which are the sixteen gifts of charity?
1. Gits of food,
9. Gifts of horses,
- Which are the twenty one sacrifices?
-Their names are:
-What sins are called “the greater sins”?
-The following five:
These sins subject the offender to the pains of hell. The following sins are also visited with the same punishment:
1. Coveting a neighbour’s wife,
-What is meant by the “Yoga” or “religious contemplation”?
-The withdrawal of the mind from its usual mode of communication with outward things through the five senses, and confining it to one single channel of communication: added to an ascetical course of life.
-What is meant by the “Yoga” or “religious contemplation”?
-What degree of future happiness is attained by means of the Yoga?
-The degree called “Unity of form”.
In what does ' Unity of form” consist?
-In being like great Shiva, having clotted hair, a poison-blackened neck, four arms, and three eyes.
-What is meant by “Jñana, or 'spiritual wisdom?
- The destruction of ignorance, and the knowledge of the truth, respecting the Lord, the soul, and the world. It is to be attained through the kind help of the teacher of religion.
-How is ignorance to be destroyed?
-By separation from external things, obtained through the initiation of the priest.
How many of these external things are there?
– Thirty-six: namely:
24 connected with the soul,
7 connected with knowledge,
5 connected with God
-What are those that are connected with the soul?
The 5 natural elements,
The 5 senses,
The 5 organs of sense,
The 5 organs of action,
The 4 intellectual faculties.
-What are those which are connected with knowledge?
-The following seven:
-Which are those that are connected with God?
-The following five:
-What degree of future happiness is attained through spiritual knowledge ?
-The highest state, called “Complete identity”.
-What is meant by “Complete identity”?
- Perfect oneness with God.
-Which then is the most important of the four kinds of religious life?
- Spiritual knowledge.
-Since spiritual knowledge is thus the most important of the four, what occasion is there for undertaking the other three kinds?
-It is the divine decree that spiritual knowledge can only be attained after the performance of the other three.
-How do you prove that?
- Those eminent men, who have attained spiritual knowledge, have declared that they arrived at it after the observance of the other three.
-What have they said?
-Amongst others, Tayumani-svami says:
"To those who seek the shrine, the fane, the pool,
The sacred priest reveals the deity.
The four-fold life of saints is as the bud,
The lower, the shell, the fruit: then God appears."