Śaiva Philosophy | 4. Liberation
The release of the soul is accomplished through four means which are called caryā, kriyā, yoga and jñāna . These are, respectively, the paths of the dāsa, sat-putra, sakhā, and sat.
The soul that goes by the path of caryā (observance) behaves as the servant (dāsa ) of God:
Cleaning the temples of God, rendering service to the daily worship of God’s images, singing the praise of God and serving God’s devotees are some of the forms which caryā takes.
When the soul enters the next path which is kriyā (rites), it becomes more intimate with God and considers itself to be his good son (sat-putra).
Its service to God becomes closer; it offers him its love and praise. Yet the acts of service are external in character, though the changed relationship between God and soul enables the latter to march forward and get nearer its Lord.
At the next stage which is yoga (contemplation), the soul regards God as its friend (sakhā). The path of contemplation enables it to withdraw its senses from their respective objects and concentrate its mind on God.
The three paths we have now described, caryā, kriyā and yoga, are preparatory disciplines which make the soul fit to receive unto itself the nature of God.
These are different stages in the pilgrim’s progress towards perfection:
The first is called sālokya, i.e. residence in the realm of God, which is attained by the path of caryā.
The second is sāmīpya, i.e. attaining the nearness of God, which is the fruit of kriyā.
The third is sārūpya, i.e. acquiring the form of God, which is the result of yoga. With this, however, the goal has not been reached.
The supreme end is sāyujya, union with God, which is to be gained by jñāna or wisdom. As the root of bondage is āṇava or ignorance, it has to be removed by jñāna.
The path of jñāna, or san-mārga (good path) as it is otherwise called, is the last stage in the soul’s journey to God. At the end of it, the soul becomes completely free of mala and attains perfection.
The modus operandi which makes the soul fit for receiving God’s grace is elaborately set forth in Śaiva-Siddhāṅta literature:
The soul must first learn to equate empirical good and evil. This is called "iruvinaiyoppu,” equating the two types of karma, i.e. the good and the bad. That is, the soul becomes indifferent to both merit and demerit, realizing that merit is bondage even as demerit is.
When the soul gets settled in such an attitude, the mala which had obscured its vision becomes fit for the divine surgeon’s operation.
The maturation of mala is called mala-paripāka. The soul at this stage no longer cognizes with the evolutes of a-śuddha-māyā, nor with its own feeble and flickering intelligence.
It has no use now for pāśa-jñāna and paśu-jñāna. It is now filled, through contemplation, with the glory of God. And God’s grace descends on it. This is known as śakti-nipāta, the descent of God’s power.
With the on-set of divine grace, Śiva reveals Himself to the soul and imparts to it the jñāna that liberates it. The state of the soul in the jñāna-mārga is the śuddha-avasthā, which is the state of grace or arul
as distinguished from the kevala-avasthā which is the state of darkness or irul and the sakala- avasthā which is the state of confused knowledge or marul .
The soul in the śuddha-avasthā is, as we have seen, the vijñāna-kalā. To it Śiva reveals Himself as its own inner light; while to the pralayākala He appears in a divine supernatural form, and to the sakala in human form as a preceptor.
By seeing, touching or instructing, God performs the purification (dīkṣā) of the soul, and weans it from association with mala, and makes it realize its own Śivatva. This is Mokṣa or release.
Even after release the soul may appear embodied for a while, due to the residue of prārabdha-karma. But this in no way affects the soul’s perfection.
The soul’s attainment of Śivatva does not mean the merging of its being in Śiva.
The entitative difference of the soul from Śiva is maintained even in Mokṣa. The jīva can claim God’s nature as its own too, but not that it itself is God.
The difference between bondage and release is this: while in the former the soul’s experience is through pāśa (bond), in the latter it is through pati (i.e. Lord).
The soul’s knowledge in the state of release is pati- jñāna—an expression which does not mean the Lord’s knowledge, but the soul’s knowledge through the Lord.
There is also this difference between the released soul and God:
While the soul is now free from mala and enjoys the bliss of Śiva, it does not share with the latter His five functions of creation, sustentation, destruction, concealment and bestowal of grace.
Mokṣa thus is not a state of bare identity; it is the experience of unity-in-duality. God is the giver of eternal bliss; and the soul is the recipient thereof. Without becoming identical with God, the soul enjoys His nature.
This view is described by the Siddhāntin as the true Advaita. What is denied by the negative particle (a-) in this expression is not the existence of two but the duality of two.
The Siddhāntin says: “They are not two,” and not “There are not two.”
Umāpati declares in his Śiva-prakāśam:
“We expound here the beauty of Śaiva- Siddhāṅta, the cream of the Vedānta, whose excellent merit consists in its exposition of the Advaita,
postulating an inseparable relation like body and soul, eye and the sun, the soul and the eye, supported as it is by the dharma of the highest authoritative books
and unlike the bheda and bheda, bheda and a-bheda relations illustrated respectively, by light and darkness, word and meaning, gold and ornament, set forth by the other Schools,
and which is further supported by perfectly logical methods, and is light to the truth-seekers and darkness to others.”