The Shaiva Siddhanta School

Basic Information and Related Resources!

Saiva Siddhanta or Siddha Shaivism

Abhaya Shiva

Shaiva Siddhanta is a more traditional form of Shaivism, with its roots in the early Bhakti movement, which took roots in the post Mauryan period. It played an important role in the rise of Shaivism as a major sectarian movement within the historic Vedic fold and the present-day Hinduism. Its philosophy and practice are derived mainly from the Vedas and the Vedic Agamas.

Unlike Kashmiri Shaivism, Shaiva Siddhanta or Siddha Shaivism is a dualistic philosophy (dvaita), which recognizes a subtle distinction between Shiva, the lord of the universe and jiva, the embodied soul. Shiva is the controller, the lord (Isvara), the husband (pati). Bound souls are subject to limitations caused by the impurities of the mind and body. They can gain liberation only through the grace of Shiva, which they can earn through their knowledge, service, devotion, purification and practice of various yogas. The the goal of Shaiva Siddhanta is to become an enlightened soul through Lord Shiva's Grace.

Historic Context

Shaiva Siddhanta was once practiced all over India. During the medieval period as large territories of North India came under the Muslim rule, the sect moved its base to the South, where it interacted with the Tamil Shaiva Bhakti movement as expressed in the devotional renditions of Nayanars. It is in this historical context that Shaiva Siddhanta is commonly considered a "southern" tradition, one that is still very much alive. The Tamil compendium of devotional songs known as Tirumurai, the Shaiva Agamas and "Meykanda" or "Siddhanta" Shastras,[7] form the scriptural canon of Tamil Shaiva Siddhanta. Currently Shaiva Siddhanta has a strong presence in the South, with Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka accounting for ten million adherents. It has thousands of active temples there and numerous monastic and ascetic traditions, along with its own community of priests, the Adishaivas, who are qualified to perform Agama based Shaiva Temple rituals.

Meaning

Siddhi means perfection or accomplishment. Siddhanta literally means reaching the end of perfection or accomplishment, which in this case is liberation or nearness (samipya) to Shiva. Shaiva Siddhanta is that body of knowledge which provides the aspirants with the means to attain or accomplish that perfection. Saiva Siddhanta is not a speculative theory, but a settled, established or validated doctrine or perfected knowledge, which is bound to produce results if it is correctly practiced under the guidance of an adept guru. Therefore, initiation into the path by a guru is an important part of the tradition. Siddha Shaivism or Shaiva Siddhant can be translated as "the settled view of Shaiva doctrine" or "perfected Shaivism."

The origins of the school are unknown. The early Śaiva Siddhānta might have developed somewhere in Northern India as an independent body of knowledge around the notion of a ritual initiation which through transformative practices led to liberation. In the formation of its theory and practice, earlier forms of Shaivism such as the Pashupata Shaivism or Adi Shaivism might have played some role. The philosophical notions of duality, which drew a clear distinction between Shiva and Jiva might have been a later development. However, nondualistic schools of Saiva Siddhanta also exist, who do not perceive any distinction between the individual Self (Atman) and the Supreme Self (Brahman) and consider everything Brahman only.

Monastic orders

Three monastic orders were instrumental in Shaiva Siddhanta's diffusion through India; the Amardaka order, identified with one of Shaivism's holiest cities, Ujjain, the Mattamayura order, in the capital of the Chalukya dynasty near the Karnataka, and the Madhumateya order of Central India. Each developed numerous sub-orders. (see Nandinatha Sampradaya) Siddhanta monastics used the influence of royal patrons to propagate the teachings in neighboring kingdoms, particularly in South India. From Mattamayura, they established monasteries in regions now in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra and Kerala.

Saiva Siddhanta today

Presently, Saiva Siddhanta is practiced by a large number of Saiva's of southern India and Sri Lanka, especially by members of the Vellalar community. It is also prevalent among Saiva's of the Tamil diaspora around the world. Prominent Siddhanta societies, temples and monasteries also exist in a number of other countries. The United States island of Kauai, a part of Hawaii, is home to the Saiva Siddhanta Peetam, an organization that promotes the union of worldwide Hindus, through a publication called Hinduism Today. It was founded by Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami (1927–2001. The lineage, which traces itself back to the Shaiva Siddhars of Northern Sri Lanka, adheres to the philosophical position that the original Shaiva Siddhanta as expounded by Tirumular, was and is monistic, and propagates this teaching as Advaita Saiva Siddhanta. The famous songs of the Sri Lankan Shaiva Sage, Shiva Yogaswami, attest to this view of the nature of God, Soul and World as being ultimately one.

Related Resources

 

1. The introduction is adapted from Wikipedia with necessary modifications and improvements.

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