The Saiva Siddhanta School of Shaivism
Siva And Tattvas
Satyam Sivam Subham Sundaram Kantam
The Saiva Siddhanta system is the distilled essence of Vedanta. It prevailed in
Southern India even before the Christian era. Tinnelvelly and Madurai are the centres
of Saiva Siddhanta school. Saivites elaborated a distinctive philosophy called the
Saiva Siddhanta about the eleventh century A.D. Even Saivism is a very popular creed
in South India. It is a rival school of Vaishnavism.
Tirumular’s work—Tirumantram—is the foundation upon which the later structure of
Saiva Siddhanta philosophy was built. The twenty-eight Saiva Agamas, the hymns of
the Saiva saints form the chief sources of Southern Saivism.
In the books which treat of Saivism, there is a reference to four schools, viz.,
Nakulisa-pasupata, the Saiva, the Pratyabhijna and Rasesvara.
Lord Siva is the supreme Reality. He is eternal, formless, independent, omnipresent,
one without a second, beginningless, causeless, taintless, self-existent, ever free,
ever pure. He is not limited by time. He is infinite bliss and infinite intelligence.
Lord Siva pervades the whole world by His Sakti. He works His Sakti. Sakti is conscious
energy of Lord Siva. She is the very body of Lord Siva. The potter is the first
cause for the pot. The stick and the wheel are the instrumental causes. The clay
is the material cause of the pot. Similarly Lord Siva is the first cause of the
world. Sakti is the instrumental cause. Maya is the material cause.
Lord Siva is the God of love. His grace is infinite. He is the saviour and Guru.
He is engaged in freeing the souls from the thraldom of matter. He assumes the form
of a Guru out of the intense love for mankind. He wishes that all should know Him
and attain the blissful Siva-Pada. He watches the activities of the individual souls
and helps them in their onward march.
In the Saiva Siddhanta, there are 36 Tattvas of which 24 are known as Atma Tattvas,
7 as Vidya Tattvas, and the remaining 5 as Siva Tattvas. The 24 Atma Tattvas are
the 5 elements, ether, air, fire, water and earth; the 5 Tanmatras, sound, touch,
form, taste and smell; the 5 sense-organs, ear, skin, eye, palate and nose; the
internal organ; the 5 motor organs, speech, hand, foot, anus and the generative
organ; and Ahankara, Buddhi and Guna. The 7 Vidya Tattvas are Purusha, Raga (love),
Vidya (knowledge), Kala (art), Niyati (order), Kaala (time) and Asuddha (impure)
Maya. The 5 Siva Tattvas are Suddha Vidya, Isvara, Sadasiva, Sakti and Siva.
Maya evolves into the subtle principles and then into the gross. The individual
soul experiences pleasure and pain through Vidya. Siva Tattva is the basis of all
consciousness and action. It is undifferentiated (Nishkala) Suddha. Maya, the Sakti
of Siva starts her activities. Then Siva becomes the experiencer. Then He is called
Sadasiva known also by the name Sadakhya, who is not really separate from Siva.
The Suddhamaya becomes active. Then Siva, the experiencer becomes the Ruler. He
is then Isvara, who is not really separate from Sadasiva. Suddhavidya is the cause
of true knowledge.
The five activities (Pancha-Krityas) of the Lord are Srishti (creation), Sthiti
(preservation), Samhara (destruction), Tirobhava (veiling) and Anugraha (grace).
These, separately considered, are the activities of Brahma, Vishnu, Rudra, Mahesvara
In the five-lettered Mantra (Panchakshari) ‘Namassivaya’, Na is the screening power
of the Lord that makes the soul to move in the world, Ma is the bond that binds
him in the Samsaric wheel of the births and deaths, Si is the symbol for Lord Siva,
Va stands for His grace and Ya stands for the soul. If the soul turns towards Na
and Ma he will be sunk in worldliness. If he associates himself with Va he will
move towards Lord Siva.
Hearing the Lilas of Lord Siva and the significance of Panchakshara, is ‘Sravana’.
Reflection on the meaning of Panchakshara is ‘Manana’ or ‘Chintana’. To develop
love and devotion for Lord Siva and meditate on Him, is ‘Sivadhyana’. To become
immersed in ‘Sivananda’, is ‘Nishtha’ or ‘Samadhi’. He who attains this stage is
‘Pati’ is Lord Siva. It is the object of all the Vedas and the Agamas to explain
the concepts of Lord (Pati), bound souls (Pasu) which really means cattle, and bondage
(Pasa). Lord Siva is infinite, eternal, one without a second. He is changeless and
indivisible. He is the embodiment of knowledge and bliss. He energises the intelligence
of all souls. He is beyond the reach of mind and speech. He is the ultimate goal
of all. He is smaller than the smallest and greater than the greatest. He is self-luminous,
self-existent, self-contained and self-delight.
‘Pasus’ are the individual souls who are sunk in the quagmire of Samsara. They assume
bodies to work out their good and evil actions and are born as lower and higher
beings according to their nature of Karma. They do virtuous and vicious actions
in the course of experiencing the endless fruits of their Karma and have countless
births and deaths. Ultimately they attain the grace of Lord Siva through meritorious
acts and their ignorance is dispelled. They attain salvation and become one with
‘Pasa’ is bond. The web of bonds is distinguished into Avidya or Anavamala, Karma
and Maya. Anavamala is egoism. It is the taint due to the false notion of finiteness
which the soul has. The soul imagines itself to be finite and confined to the body
and of limited knowledge and power. It erroneously identifies itself with the perishable
body and mistakes the body for its reality. It has forgotten its essential divine
‘Karma’ is the cause of bodies and manifold bodily experiences and births and deaths.
It is beginningless. It is the cause of the conjunction of the conscious soul with
the unconscious body. It is an auxiliary of Avidya. It is done through thought,
word and deed. It takes the form of merit and sin and produces pleasure and pain.
It is subtle and unseen (Adrishta). It exists during creation and merges into the
substratum of Maya during Pralaya. It cannot be destroyed. It must work out its
Maya is the material cause of the world. It is unconscious or unintelligent, omnipresent,
imperishable. It is the seed of the world. The four categories, viz., Tanu, Karana,
Bhuvana and Bhoga beginning with the bodies, spring up from Maya. It permeates all
its developments and causes perversion in the Karmic souls. During Pralaya it is
the basic resort of all souls. It is itself a bond for the souls. All these processes
in it are due to the energising influence by Lord Siva. Just as the trunk, the leaf
and the fruit grow from the seed, so also the universe from Kala to earth, springs
The real Nada, the root of sound is evolved from pure Maya by the will of Lord Siva.
From Nada, the real Bindu springs up. From it, the real Sadasiva originates and
gives birth to Isvara. Suddha Avidya is developed from Isvara. The world originates
from Bindu and develops into various forms.
One will develop love and devotion for Lord Siva if he is freed from egoism. Chariyai,
Kiriyai, Yoga and Jnana are the four Sadhanas or steps to kill egoism and attain
Lord Siva. Erecting temples, cleaning them, making garlands of flowers, singing
Lord’s praises, burning lamps in the temples, making flower gardens constitute Chariyai.
Kiriyai is to perform Puja, Archanas. Yoga is restraint of the senses and contemplation
on the internal light. Jnana is to understand the true significance of Pati, Pasu,
Pasa and to become one with Siva by constant meditation on Him after removing the
three Malas, viz., Anava (egoism), Karma (action) and Maya (illusion).
The worship of the all-pervading, eternal Supreme Being through external forms,
is called Chariyai. The requisite initiation for this, is Samaya Diksha. The worship
of the cosmic form of the Eternal Ruler of the universe externally and internally,
is called Kiriyai. The internal worship of Him as formless, is called Yoga. For
Kiriyai and Yoga, the requisite initiation is called Visesha Diksha. The direct
realisation of Lord Siva through Jnana Guru, is called Jnana. The initiation that
leads to it, is called Nirvana Diksha.
The aspirant should free himself from the three kinds of Mala, viz., Anava, Karma
and Maya. Then only he becomes one with Lord Siva and enjoys ‘Sivanandam’. He should
thoroughly annihilate his egoism, free himself from the bondage of Karma and destroy
the Maya which is the basis of all impurities.
Guru or the spiritual preceptor is very essential for attaining the final emancipation.
Siva is full of grace. He helps the aspirants. He showers His grace on those who
worship Him with faith and devotion and who have childlike trust in Him. Siva Himself
is the Guru. The grace of Siva is the road to salvation. Siva lives in the Guru
and looks with intense love on the sincere aspirant through the eyes of the Guru.
Only if you have love for mankind, you can love God.
If the aspirant establishes a relationship between himself and Lord Siva, he will
grow in devotion quickly. He can have the mental attitude or Bhava—Dasya Bhava or
the relationship of master and servant which Tirunavukarasar had, or the Vatsalya
Bhava wherein Lord Siva is the father and the aspirant is the child of Lord Siva
which Tirujnanasambandhar had, or the Sakhya Bhava or the relationship of friend
(Lord Siva is regarded as the friend of the aspirant) which Sundarar had, or the
Sanmarga wherein Lord Siva is the very life of the aspirant which Manikkavasagar
had, which corresponds to the Madhurya Bhava or Atma Nivedana of the Vaishnavites.
The devotee becomes one with Siva, like salt with water, milk with milk, when the
three Malas (Pasa) are destroyed, but he cannot do the five functions of creation,
etc. God only can perform the five functions.
The liberated soul is called a Jivanmukta. Though he lives in the bogy, he is one
in feeling with the Absolute. He does not perform works which can produce further
bodies. As he is free from egoism, work cannot bind him. He will do meritorious
acts for the solidarity of the world (Lokasangraha). He lives in the body, until
his Prarabdha Karma is exhausted. All his present actions are consumed by the grace
of the Lord. The Jivanmukta does all actions on account of the impulsion of the
Lord within him. Glory to Lord Siva and His Sakti!
Siva is spoken of as being in eight forms (Ashtamurti). The eight forms of Siva
are the five elements, the sun, the moon and the priest who performs sacrifice.
Vishnu appeared in the Mohini form after the churning of the milk-ocean. Siva embraced
Vishnu in that form. Sasta is the offspring of Siva and Mohini. Sasta is called
also by the name Hari-Hara-Putra or the son of Hari and Hara.
Appar wanted all Saivas to regard Vishnu as only another aspect of Siva.
According to Appar, there are three aspects of Siva. (1) The lower Siva who dissolves
the world and who liberates Jivas from their bondage. (2) The higher form is called
Parapara. In this form Siva appears as Siva and Sakti (Ardhanarisvara). It has the
name Param-Jyoti. Brahma and Vishnu were not able to comprehend this Jyoti. (3)
Beyond these two forms is the Param, or the ultimate being from whom Brahma, Vishnu,
Rudra originate. It is purely the Saiva form. It is formless. It is the Sivam of
the Saiva Siddhanta. It is Para Brahman of the Upanishads and Vedantins.
The Mahavishnu of Vishnu Purana corresponds to Param of Saiva Siddhantins. Narayana
or the higher Vishnu corresponds to the Param-jyoti of Appar or Saiva Siddhantins.
The lower Vishnu does the function of preservation. He corresponds to the lower
What is the inner meaning of all the Saiva allusions about Vishnu worshipping Siva
and all the Vaishnava allusions about Siva worshipping Vishnu? The lower Siva must
take Narayana, the Parapara or Param-jyoti as his Superior. The lower Vishnu must
take Param-jyoti or the Parapara as his Superior. The higher Vishnu and higher Siva
are identical. They are inferior to Param, the Highest.
In that highest condition called Siva Mukti, there is no duality. No one can see
anything. One merges himself in Sivam or the Highest. If you wish to see, you will
have to come to the stage immediately below the Highest.
The Siva Murti or manifestation is inferior to the real ‘Sivam’ which is formless.
According to the Saiva Siddhanta philosophy, the Tattvas are reckoned as ninety-six.
They are as follows:
24 Atma Tattvas, 10 Nadis, 5 Avasthas or conditions, 3 Malas or impurities, 3 Gunas
(Sattva, Rajas and Tamas), 3 Mandalas (Surya or the sun, Agni or the fire and Chandra
or the moon), 3 humours (Vata, Pitta and Sleshma), 8 Vikaras or modifications (Kama,
Krodha, Lobha, Moha, Mada, Matsarya, Dambha and Asuya), 6 Adharas, 7 Dhatus, 10
Vayus, 5 Koshas and 9 doorways. The twenty-four Tattvas are the 5 elements (Bhutas),
5 Tanmatras (Sabda, etc.), 5 Jnana-Indriyas, 5 Karma-Indriyas and 4 Karanas (Manas,
Buddhi, Chitta and Ahamkara). All these 96 relate to the body. Over and above these
96, there are the 5 Kanchukas or coverings. They are Niyati, Kaala, Kala, Raga and
Vidya. The five enter the body and cause weariness to the Tattvas of the body and
afflict the body.
The Suddha Saiva does not attain the final emancipation by Kriya (Kiriyai) alone.
He attains only Salokya. Jnana in Kriya leads to Salokya, the world of Siva. Jnana
in Charya (Chariyai) leads him to Samipya (proximity to Siva). Jnana in Yoga bestows
on him Sarupya (likeness in form). Jnana in Jnana leads him to Sayujya, merging
‘Ambalam’ means ‘open space of the heart’ or Chidakasa or Chidambaram.
And Lingam is the Visvarupa or the God’s form of the Universe.
He who brings about the destruction of the world is Siva or Rudra. That is the reason
why He is held superior to Brahma and Vishnu.
The Siddhantins divide Jivas or Pasus into three orders, viz., Vijnana Kalar, Pralaya
Kalar and Sakalar. Vijnana Kalar have only the Anava Mala (egoism). Pralaya Kalar
have Anava and Maya. Sakalar have all the Malas, Anava, Karma and Maya. The Malas
affect only the Jivas and not Siva. Those who are freed from the Malas or impurities
become identical with Siva. They are Siddhas or perfected beings.
Source: Reproduced, with the general permission, from Lord Siva and His Worship,
WWW edition 2000, By Sri Swami Sivananda © The Divine Life Trust Society