Śaiva Philosophy | 3. Main Categories

3. Main Categories

The main categories of Śaiva-Siddhāṅta are: pati (God), paśu (soul), and pāśa (bond).

According to this system, God, soul and matter are all real; and so the Siddhāṅta is a pluralistic realism.

God is the highest reality in the Siddhāṅta system. He is referred to as pati because he is the only lord of all beings.

The very first sutra of Śiva-jñāna-bodham gives an argument for the existence of God. It reads thus:

“The universe which is diversified as ‘he,’ ‘she' and ‘it,’ and is subject to the three-fold change (i.e. origination, sustentation and de­struction) must be what is created (by an efficient cause).

Owing to its conjunction with the āṇava-mala (impurity of ignorance), it emanated fromHara (God), to whom it returns at the time of dissolution. Hence the learned say that Hara is the first cause.”

Just as artefacts cannot be produced except by an artisan, so the world, in order that it may come into being, exists for a while, and then gets dissolved to be re-created after some time, needs a creator who is God.

God Himself, however, does not change:

Just as time, the producer of all change, itself remains without change,” says Meykandar, “so God who creates, maintains and destroys the world without any extraneous means, and by His mere will remains without change.”

He is the unchanging ground of all that changes. The world is an artefact of God.

God is designated in the Siddhāṅta by such names as Hara and Śiva:

He is Hara in the sense that he removes the bonds of the soul, as also in the sense that in Him the world gets resolved. He is called Śiva, because He is the supreme bliss.

He may be referred to by any of the three genders corresponding to the three-fold form in which the universe appears, i.e. as “he,” “she,” and “it.” He may be called Śivaḥ, Śiva, or Śivam. All the names of Śiva may be rendered thus in the three genders.

Māṇikkavācakar says: “Lo, behold! He is the male and the female and the neuter.”

The Śiva of the Śaiva-Siddhāṅta is superior to the Tri-mūrti, Brahma, Viṣṇu and Rudra.

It is significant that in the terminology of popular Hinduism, the terms Īśvara and Maheśvara refer to Śiva.

And it is the claim of the Siddhāntin that even as identified with Rudra, the third of the Hindu Trinity, Śiva is superior to the other two in the sense that in pralaya Rudra alone stands unaffected, while even Brahma and Viṣṇu are affected in a way.

The function of Rudra is continuous and lasts through sṛṣṭi, sthiti and saṁhāra, whereas Brahma and Viṣṇu have no function to perform in the period of saṁhāra or pralaya.

In the language of the Śvetāśvatara-Upaniṣad:

Rudra is the one god; there is no second to him. He rules all the worlds with his ruling powers. He creates all beings, protects them, and merges them together at the end of time.”

God for the Siddhāntin is nir-guṇa . But the expression does not mean “attributeless” as in the system of Advaita; it only means “devoid of the guṇas of prakṛti, i.e. sattva, rajas and tamas."

It is in this sense that Tirumular uses the phrase “mukkuṇa-nirguṇam” (free from the three gunas).

Śiva is the Turīya (the fourth), and is beyond the states of waking (jāgrat), dreaming (svapna) and sleep (suṣupti), which are conditions respectively of the three guṇas or prakṛti, sattva, rajas and tamas.

 Say's Meykandar:

“Will not the Lord who is nir-guṇa nir-mala (devoid of impurities), eternal bliss, tat-para (superior to all things) and incomparable,

and appears to the soul when the latter gets rid of the categories such as ether, etc., will not He appear (to the soul) as a surpassing wonder and as the inseparable light of its understanding?”

Usually eight qualities are attributed to Śiva. They are:

independence, purity, self-knowledge, omniscience, freedom from mala, boundless benevolence, omnipotence and bliss.

In Thirukural, God is described as en-guṇattān (endowed with eight qualities). In Śiva are all perfections ensured. There is no limit to His greatness.

The sixth sutra of Śiva-jñāna- bodham declares that God is spoken of by the wise as Śiva-sat or cit-sat:

As cit (pure consciousness) or Śiva He is incomprehensible and transcends human intelligence. As sat or Being He is to be realized through divine wisdom. He is above the known, and yet He is not unknown.

Śiva is immanent in the universe and also transcendent. He is Viśva- rūpa (of the form of the universe) and viśvādhika (more than the universe). Almost every Śaiva saint has sung the praise of both these aspects of God.

Śiva appears in the form of the universe; but the universe does not exhaust his nature. He is with form and is formless as well. The conception of Aṣṭa-mūrta (Śiva in eight forms) brings out the aspect of God's immanence.

Māṇikkavācakar sings:

“Earth, water, air, fire, sky, the sun and the moon,

The sentient man—these eight forms He pervades.”

Appar describes Śiva as these eight forms:

as the sacrificer (yajamān), as good and evil, as male and female, as the form of every form, as yesterday, today and tomorrow.

The view that is implicit in such descriptions is not to be confused with pantheism; for Śiva or God exceeds the world, while being its ground.

Meykandar says that Śiva is beyond perception and thought.

Māṇikkavācakar declares that, though the supreme Śiva became man, woman, and what is neither, ether, fire, nor the final cause, He transcends all the forms. He has no name, no form and no marks whatever.

God in the Śaiva-Siddhāṅta is the operative cause of the world and not its material cause also, as in some Schools of the Vedānta. The Siddhāṅta is not Brahma-pariṇāma-vāda; it is prakṛti-pariṇāma-vāda, and in this respect resembles the Sāṁkhya doctrine.

It is māyā that is the material cause of the world, as clay is of pot. But mere clay will not transform itself into a pot, since for such transformation the activity of an agent, i.e. a potter, is required.

So also, for creating the world out of māyā an operative cause is essential; and that is God.

Here, of course, there is difference between the Siddhāṅta and the Sāṁkhya:

God creates the world, being its operative or efficient cause, through His śakti which serves as the instrumental cause, even as the potter makes his pots by operating on his wheel.

The analogy of the potter, however, should not be pressed too far. The potter has only finite intelligence and limited power; and he plies his wheel in order to eke out a living.

Not so is the Lord, Who is omniscient and omnipresent, and has no ends of His own to accomplish. He is satya-saṁkalpa and āpta-kāma; His resolves are all true, and His desires are eternally accomplished.

He makes the world evolve in order that souls may be saved through the removal of their impurities.

Śiva has five functions: tirodhāna (obscuration), sṛṣṭi (creation), sthiti (preservation), saṁhāra (destruction), and anugraha (grace).

Of these, the first four have the last one as their goal. The world-process is for the sake of the soul's release; and it in no way affects God’s nature.

Śiva remains the same whether the world evolves or not. The sun is impartial and the same to all things; but because of him, such diverse phenomena as the blooming of the lotus, the emission of heat by the burning-glass and the evaporation of water, etc., take place.

It is the same sun that makes some lotuses bud, some bloom and some others wither away. Similarly, but for the power of God nothing would move, and the world-process would be impossible. Yet God’s nature remains unaltered by what happens to and in the world.

The Siddhāntin does not favour the doctrine of avatāra (incarnation).

The author of the Śiva-jñāna-siddhiyār says that, while the other gods are subject to birth and death, suffering and enjoyment, Śiva, the consort of Umā, is free from these.

Śiva has no incarnations; for without karma there can be no incarnation, and Śiva has no karma. Bodies that are born and are seen to die are the products of karma. God does not take on a body in the way the transmigrating soul does.

This does not mean that God cannot appear in bodily form. He does appear in the form in which He is worshipped by His devotee and also in the forms that are required to save the soul. But all such forms are not made of matter; they are the expression of His grace .

One of the precious modes in which He appears is that of the guru (teacher) whose purpose it is to save the struggling soul from saṁsāra.

The conception of God as love and grace figures as a frequent theme in the hymns of the Śaiva saints. Tirumular says in one of his memorable verses that only the ignorant distinguish between God (Śiva) and love (anbu), and that wisdom lies in identifying the two.

Of the three categories of the Śaiva-Siddhāṅta, i.e. pati, paśu and pāśa, we have now explained the nature of the first which is the most fundamental category in the sense that it is the only independent substance.

Before proceeding to understand the nature of the soul and its bonds, the other two categories, let us examine the nature of the world and its evolution, for it is the world that provides the soul with locations, vehicles and objects of finite experience.

Māyā is the material cause of the universe. The Siddhāntin argues on the basis of sat-kārya-vāda, that the universe which is an effect must have a material cause which is not different from it in nature.

The universe is non-intelligent (a-cit): and God who is intelligence (cit) cannot be its material cause. So a material cause which is non-intelligent has to be postulated. That is māyā.

Māyā is so called because the universe is resolved (mā) into it, and is evolved (yā) from it. It is the primal matrix out of which the universe is made.

It is from māyā that the souls are endowed with bodies (tanu), organs (kāraṇa), worlds (bhuvana), and objects of enjoyment (bhogya).

By itself, however, māyā cannot function, because it is non-intelligent. It requires intelligent guidance which is provided by Śiva. Śiva operates on māyā, not directly, but through his cit-śakti. Thus guided, māyā throws forth from itself the tattvas (principles) that constitute the universe.

The Siddhāntin makes a distinction between two orders of evolution, one pure (śuddha) and the other impure (a-śuddha). Māyā is, accordingly, two-fold, pure and impure, śuddha-māyā and a-śuddha-māyā. It is pure when it is not mixed with āṇava and karma, and impure when it is mixed with them.

Śuddha-māyā which is also called mahā- māyā and kuṭilai is operated on by Śiva Himself through His śakti in its threefold aspects, i.e. icchā (desire), jñāna (knowledge) and kriyā (will).

There are five evolutes of śuddha- māyā: nāda, bindu, sādākhya, māheśvarī and śuddha-vidyā.

Nāda is Śiva-tattva, while bindu is śakti-tattva. The former is the result of the operation of jñāna-śakti on śuddha-māyā; the latter arises when kriyā- śakti operates on nāda.

Jñāna and kriyā śaktis operating on bindu in an equal measure produce sādākhya. From this, māheśvarī is derived when more of kriyā-śakti is active along with jñāna.

And from māheśvarī, śuddha-vidyā is evolved when jñāna-śakti is the dominant operative factor. These five evolutes of śuddha-māyā are collectively known as Śiva-tattvas or preraka-kāṇda.

From śuddha-māyā is evolved also the system of sounds. The forms of sound are four:

The first is parā which is absolutely supreme and subtle.

The second is paśyantī which is relatively gross and yet undifferentiated, like the colours of the peacock in the contents of a peahen's egg.

The third is madhyamā which is grosser still and differentiated, but not articulate. The fourth is vaikharī which is articulate sound.

Meaning is made known by a capacity (śakti) which is manifested through letters and words. The grammarians give the name sphoṭa to this capacity. It resides in nāda-tattva, the first evolute of śuddha- māyā.

The rest of the principles in the Siddhāṅta scheme of evolution arise out of a-śuddha- māyā which is also called adho-māyā (the downward māyā) or Mohinī (that which deludes).

Śiva does not act on a-śuddha- māyā, because of its impurity. Over the remainder of the evolution it is the divinities like Sadāśiva and Rudra who proceed from śuddha-māyā that presides.

Sadāśiva produces from a-śuddha-māyā by means of his śakti three principles: kāla (time), niyati (destiny or necessity), and kalā (lit. particle), and from kalātwo more principles, i.e. vidyā (knowledge) and rāga (attachment).

These five tattvas constitute the sheaths or cloaks (pañca-kañcuka) of the soul.

As conditioned by these sheaths, the soul becomes what is called puruṣa-tattva . Prakṛti which is the counterpart of puruṣa arises out of kalā by the activity of Rudra.

The five sheaths along with puruṣa and prakṛti are known as vidyā-tattvas; and they constitute what is called bhojayitṛ-kāṇda, the part of evolution which brings about enjoyment,

as distinguished from preraka- kāṇda which is the directive part consisting of the evolutes of śuddha-maya, as already noticed.

From prakṛti in its avyakta (unmanifest) state arise citta and buddhi (intellect). From buddhi evolves ahaṁkāra (individuality). There are three varieties of ahaṁkāra, distinguished by the predominance, respec­tively, of sattva, rajas and tamas.

The names which ahaṁkāra acquires in these three forms are taijasa, vaikṛta and bhūtādi.

From the taijasa ahaṁkāra the organs of sense and manas (mind) are derived, from the vaikṛta the organs of action, and from the bhūtādi the subtle elements called tanmātras.

From the tanmātras are produced the gross elements (mahā-bhūtas).

With these the evolutionary scheme is complete, consisting of thirty-six principles.

Śuddha-māyā A -śuddha- māyā
Nāda Kāla Niyati Kalā
Bindu     Vidyā Prakṛti
Sādākhya      Rāga  Citta  Buddhi
Māheśvarī          Ahaṁkāra
śuddha-vidyā          Taijasa  Vaikṛta  Bhūtādi
           Jñānendriyas i.e.manas, sense-organs of sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch  Karmendriyas i.e.organs of speech, grasping, walking, ex-cretion and generation  Tanmātras
               Sound  Touch Colour  Taste   Smell
               Ether  Air  Fire  Water  Earth

Māyā is one of the bonds (pāśas) of the soul. It provides the soul with the means, locations and objects of enjoyment called bhogya-kāṇda.

The world of māyā is usually referred to as a-sat . This expression, however, does not mean that the world is “non-existent” or “unreal”; it only means that the world is other than God who is sat. In the sense that māyā is a-cit or non-intelligent, it is a-sat.

Souls are by nature infinite, pervasive and omniscient. But because of their association with impurities (malas) or bonds (pāśas), they experience themselves as finite, limited and ignorant. They are called paśu because they have pāśa (bonds).

The three malas that bind the soul to the course of transmigration are āṇava-, karma- and māyā-.

1. Āṇava-mala is a connate impurity. It is in the Śaiva-Siddhāṅta what avidyā is in Advaita-Vedānta. It deludes the soul and makes it a victim of saṁsāra.

It is called āṇava because on account of it the infinite soul becomes finite or atomic (aṇu), as it were. It is a positive entity which is beginningless and resides in the soul, like the green patina on copper.

It is called mūla- mala, because it is the original cause of the soul’s bondage. It is described as the impurity of darkness (irul-malam), because it deludes the soul.

It is non-intelligent; and so it has to be operated upon by the Lord through his power of obscuration (tirodhāna-śakti), which for that reason is itself called a mala.

2. Karma-mala is the bond forged by deeds. The soul, with its cognitive and conative powers limited by āṇava, acts and enjoys— acts in order to enjoy the fruits of its deeds, and enjoys the results of its past works.

Prompted by appetite and aversion, the soul acts in certain ways and acquires merit and demerit which constitute the impurity of karma .

The soul's transmigratory course is conditioned by karma. Since karma is a blind force, it needs the guidance of Śiva. And it is through the grace of Śiva that the soul could gain release from the stronghold of karma.

3. Māyā-mala, which is the third impurity, is the material cause of the universe. It endows the soul, as we have already explained, with a psycho-physical organism and provides it with worlds and objects of enjoyment.

The three malas together constitute the bondage of the soul; they are in beginningless association with it. Like the bran, husk and sprout of paddy, they bind the soul differently, and are to be distinguished from one another.

The Siddhāntin classifies souls into three groups: 1.sakala, 2. pralayākala and 3. vijñānākala.

Kalā means a part or particle; and here it refers to the conditions of empirical existence.

 The sakala-jīva is the soul which is endowed with all the empirical conditions of existence, and is associated with all the three kinds of bonds.

The pralayākala is the soul as it exists in pralaya (i.e. the period of cosmic dissolution) rid of māyā and its evolutes.

Because of the continued presence of karma besides āṇava, the pralayākala becomes sakala again when there occurs fresh creation.

The vijñānākala is the jīva from which karma too has been removed, besides māyā; and only āṇava remains for it.

It resides in the world constituted by śuddha-māyā, and has no need to return to empirical existence. It is in a state fit for release, which it attains when through the grace of Śiva the impurity of āṇava is removed from it.

The states of the three classes of souls are called, respectively, sakala-avasthā, kevala-avasthā and śuddha- avasthā.

One of the characteristics of the jīva, according to the Siddhāntin, is that it assumes the nature of the entity with which it is associated. Meykandar speaks of it as adu-adu-ādal (becoming that and that).

The soul, like a crystal, reflects whatever it is united with. It takes on the colour of its environment. When in bondage it reflects the nature of mala; when in release it acquires the nature of Śiva.

For this reason, the soul is described as sad-asat. It becomes a-sat when it leans towards mala, and sat when it inclines towards Śiva. In the kevala-avasthā it is a-sat; in the sakala-avasthā it is sad-asat; in the śuddha-avasthā it is sat.

The jīva is related to Śiva as body to soul. God's relation to the soul is also explained by the analogy of the relation of the letter a to all other letters.

The Siddhāntin describes this relation as a-dvaita, by which expression he does not mean non-difference (a-bheda) but only non­-separateness (ananyatva).

As an entity, the soul is different from God; in nature, it is similar to God. Even in release it retains its entitative distinctness. The argument for the plurality of souls which is advanced by the Siddhāntin is the familiar one based on the distinctness of body, mind, etc., for each soul.