Monistic Theism with Pluralistic Theism compared
Views of Reality
Whoever has found and has awakened to the Self that has entered into this perilous inaccessible place, the body, he is the maker of the universe, for he is the maker of all. His is the world. Indeed, he is the world itself.
Śukla Yajur Veda, Brihadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad 4.4.13. upr, 276
What Are Śaiva Siddhāṅta’s Two Schools?
There are two Śaiva Siddhāṅta schools: pluralistic theism, in the lines of Aghoraśiva and Meykandar, and Tirumular’s monistic theism. While differing slightly, they share a religious heritage of belief, culture and practice. Aum.
Here we compare the monistic Siddhāṅta of Rishi Tirumular that this catechism embodies and the pluralistic realism expounded by Meykandar and his disciples. They share far more in common than they hold in difference.
In South India, their points of agreement are summarized as guru, preceptor; Linga, holy image of Śiva; saṅga, fellowship of devotees; and valipadu, ritual worship.
Both agree that God Śiva is the efficient cause of creation, and also that His Śaktī is the instrumental cause.
Their differences arise around the question of material cause, the nature of the original substance, whether it is one with or apart from God. They also differ on the identity of the soul and God, evil and final dissolution.
While monistic theists, Advaita Īśvaravādins, view the 2,200-year-old Tirumantiram as Siddhāṅta’s authority, pluralists, Anekavādins, rely mainly on the 800-year-old Aghoraśiva Paddhatis and Meykandar Śāstras.
The Tirumantiram inquires:
“Who can know the greatness of our Lord? Who can measure His length and breadth? He is the mighty nameless Flame of whose unknown beginnings I venture to speak.” Om Namaḥ Śivāya.
What Are the Two Views on Creation?
Monistic theists believe that Śiva creates the cosmos as an emanation of Himself. He is His creation. Pluralistic theists hold that Śiva molds eternally existing matter to fashion the cosmos and is thus not His creation. Aum.
Pluralistic Siddhāntins hold that God, souls and world—Pati, paśu and pāśa—are three eternally coexistent realities.
By creation, this school understands that Śiva fashions existing matter, māyā, into various forms. In other words, God, like a potter, is the efficient cause of the cosmos. But He is not the material cause, the “clay” from which the cosmos is formed.
Pluralists hold that any reason for the creation of pāśa—āṇava, karma and māyā—whether it be a divine desire, a demonstration of glory or merely a playful sport, makes the Creator less than perfect. Therefore, pāśa could never have been created.
Monistic Siddhāntins totally reject the potter analogy. They teach that God is simultaneously the efficient, instrumental and material cause.
Śiva is constantly emanating creation from Himself. His act of manifestation may be likened to heat issuing from a fire, a mountain from the earth or waves from the ocean. The heat is the fire, the mountain is the earth, the waves are not different from the ocean.
The Vedas proclaim:
“In That all this unites; from That all issues forth. He, omnipresent, is the warp and woof of all created things.” Om Namaḥ Śivāya.
God, soul and world are the sum of existence. In Śaiva Siddhāṅta, God is called Pati, meaning lord or master, shown as an animated Śiva. Paśu, meaning cow or beast, is the soul. Pāśa, the world which binds the soul, is the rope in Śiva’s hand.
What Are the Views on God and Soul?
For the monistic theist, the soul is an emanation of God Śiva and will merge back in Him as a river to the sea. For pluralists, God pervades but did not create the soul; thus, God and soul remain separate realities forever. Aum.
Pluralistic Siddhāntins teach that Śiva pervades the soul, yet the soul is uncreated and exists eternally. It is amorphous, but has the qualities of willing, thinking and acting.
It does not wholly merge in Him at the end of its evolution. Rather, it reaches His realm and enjoys the bliss of divine communion eternally. Like salt dissolved in water, soul and God are not two; neither are they perfectly one.
For monistic Siddhāntins the soul emerges from God like a rain cloud drawn from the sea. Like a river, the soul passes through many births.
The soul consists of an uncreated divine essence and a beautiful, effulgent, human-like form created by Śiva.
While this form— called the ānandamaya kośa or soul body—is maturing, it is distinct from God. Even during this evolution, its essence, Satchidānanda and Paraśiva, is not different from Śiva.
Finally, like a river flowing into the sea, the soul returns to its source. Soul and God are perfectly one.
The Vedas say:
“Just as the flowing rivers disappear in the ocean, casting off name and shape, even so the knower, freed from name and shape, attains to the Primal Soul, higher than the high.” Om Namaḥ Śivāya.
A monistic theist explains to a pluralist that the soul emerges from Śiva just as a cloud arises from the sea. The river of life sweeps all things along, into and out of existence. Ultimately, the soul merges with God, like the river re-joining the ocean.
What Are the Differing Views on Evil?
For monistic theists, the world of māyā is Śiva’s perfect creation, containing each thing and its opposite. For pluralistic theists, the world is tarnished with evil; thus māyā could not be the creation of a perfect God. Aum.
Pluralistic Siddhāntins hold that the world of māyā is intrinsically evil and imperfect, for it is clearly full of sorrow, injustice, disease and death. The soul, too, is beginninglessly tainted with āṇava, or limitation.
Pluralists contend that if God had created māyā—the material of the world—or the soul, surely He would have made them flawless, and there would be no evil, for imperfection cannot arise out of Perfection.
Therefore, they conclude that āṇava, karma and māyā have always existed and the soul has been immersed in darkness and bondage without beginning.
Monistic Siddhāntins hold that when viewed from higher consciousness, this world is seen as it truly is—perfect. There is no intrinsic evil.
God Śiva has created the principle of opposites, which are the means for the soul’s maturation—beauty and deformity, light and darkness, love and hate, joy and sorrow. All is God Śiva Himself, in Him and of Him. A perfect cosmos has issued forth from a perfect Creator.
The Tirumantiram says:
“All manifestations of nature are His grace. All animate and inanimate are His pure grace. As darkness, as light, the Lord’s grace pervades.” Om Namaḥ Śivāya.
Nothing is more heinous than brutal killing, and Hindus know that all violence committed against others will return, like a purifying fire, to those who cause pain and suffering. We know that everything and its opposite is part of Śiva’s perfect universe.
What Are the Views on Mahāpralaya?
Monistic theists hold that at Mahāpralaya, cosmic dissolution, all creation is withdrawn into Śiva, and He alone exists. Pluralistic theists hold that world and souls persist in seed form and will later re-emerge. Om Namaḥ Śivāya.
Pluralistic Siddhāntins contend that after Mahāpralaya—the withdrawal of time, form and space into Śiva—souls and world are so close to Śiva that, for all practical purposes, He alone exists.
Actually, they say, both world and souls continue to exist, not as things, but as “potentialities.”
As if in a deep sleep, souls, now in a bodiless state, rest. Individual karmas lie dormant to germinate later when creation again issues forth and non-liberated souls are re-embodied to continue their spiritual journey.
Monistic Siddhāntins believe that souls persist through the lesser pralayas of the cosmic cycle, but hold that only Śiva exists following Mahāpralaya.
There is no “other,” no separate souls, no separate world. The universe and all souls are absorbed in Śiva. Pāśa—āṇava, karma and māyā—is annihilated.
In the intensity of pre-dissolution, when time itself is accelerated, all souls attain complete maturation, losing separateness through fulfilled merger with Śiva. Yea, Jīva becomes Śiva.
The Vedas boldly decree:
“By His divine power He holds dominion over all the worlds. At the periods of creation and dissolution of the universe, He alone exists.” Om Namaḥ Śivāya.
The extinction of the cosmos is often regarded as an act of destruction, with volcanos erupting, planets crumbling and oceans churning. It is, in fact, an act of supreme grace, for when outer forms dissolve, all souls, all worlds, merge fully in Śiva.
Meditate on the Lord as the object of meditation, for by the Lord the whole world is set to activity.
Brāhma, Vishnu, Rudra and Indra have been brought forth by Him; similarly, all faculties along with creatures.
His divine majesty has become the Cause, the Universe, the Blissful, as the ether standing unshaken in the mid-air.
Atharva Veda, Atharva Śikhā Upanishad 2. upb, 782
All the sacred books, all holy sacrifice and ritual and prayers, all the words of the Vedas, and the whole past and present and future, come from the Spirit.
With māyā, His power of wonder, He made all things, and by māyā the human soul is bound.
Know, therefore, that nature is māyā, but that God is the ruler of māyā, and that all beings in our universe are parts of His infinite splendor.
Krishna Yajur Veda, Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad 4.9-10. upm, 92
The seer sees not death, nor sickness, nor any distress. The seer sees only the All, obtains the All entirely. For the sake of experiencing the true and the false, the great Self has a dual nature. Yea, the great Self has a dual nature. Yea, the great Self has a dual nature!
Krishna Yajur Veda, Maitrī Upanishad 7.11.6 & 8. uph, 458
Inconceivable is this supreme ātman, immeasurable, unborn, inscrutable, unthinkable, He whose Self is infinite space.
He alone remains awake when the universe is dissolved, and out of this space He awakens the world consisting of thought.
Krishna Yajur Veda, Maitrī Upaniṣad 6.17. ve, 667
He Himself fashions all worlds in minute detail. He fashions life, conferring birth. He fashions things big and small—the cauldron, the pitcher and the pot. He fashions these and more—He, the Architect Almighty.
Tirumantiram 417. tm
The Primal One, the indivisible great, Himself into several divided. As form, formless and form-formless, and as guru and as Śaktī’s Lord. In forms numerous He immanent in Jīvas became.
Tirumantiram 2481. tm
That intelligence which incites the functions into the paths of virtue or vice am I. All this universe, moveable and immoveable, is from Me.
All things are preserved by Me. All are absorbed into Me at the time of pralaya. Because there exists nothing but Spirit, and I am that Spirit, there exists nothing else.
Śiva Saṁhitā 1.34. ss, 6
You and He are not two separate; you and He are but one united; thus do you stand, freed of all sectarian shackles; adore the feet of Parapara and with Śiva become One—that the way Siddhāṅta fulfills.
Tirumantiram 1437. tm
Always my action is your action. I am not other than you, because the essence of myself which I call “I” does not exist apart from you. Herein lies the natural harmony between Vedanta and Siddhāṅta.
Tayumanavar 2.5. nt, 8
As wide Earth, as fire and water, as sacrificer and wind that blows, as eternal moon and sun, as ether, as the eight-formed God, as cosmic good and evil, woman and man, all other forms and His own form, and all these as Himself, as yesterday and today and tomorrow, the God of the long, red hair stands, O Wonder!
Tirumurai 6.308.1. ps, 113
It cannot be seen by the eye, and yet it is the eye within the eye. It cannot be heard by the ear, and yet it is the ear within the ear. It cannot be smelt by the nose, and yet it is that which makes the nose to smell.
It cannot be uttered by the mouth, and yet it is that which makes the mouth to speak. It cannot be grasped by the hand, and yet it is that which makes the hand to grasp. It cannot be reached by the feet, and yet it is that which makes the feet to walk.
It cannot be thought by the mind, and yet it is the mind within the mind. It is the Primal One without past or future. Its form is free from age and sickness. It manifests as father and mother. It blossoms as the Self-Existent. It cannot be described as one or two.
No artist can portray It. It is that which lies ’twixt good and evil. It ever abides in the hearts of the wise. It permits no distinction between Vedanta and Siddhāṅta. It is That which dances at the zenith beyond the realm of sound.
Natchintanai, “That" NT, 87