Svetasvatara Upanishad and its Significance in Shaivism
One of the most significant Upanishads of the Vedic literature is the Svetasvatara
Upanishads, which heralded the emergence of Saivism as a dominant force in Vedic
religion, signifying the integration that happened with in the Vedic tradition and
the internalization of the Vedic ritual as a symbolic act of personal sacrifice
to attain liberation.
The Svetasvatara Upanishad describes Rudra, a popular epithet for Siva, as the very
Brahman. According to this Upanishad the Highest Reality is verily Rudra who is
without a second. In one of the verses we come across this firm declaration
of truth, "Eko hi rudro na dvitiya tasthur." It means, Rudra is truly
one and there is no place for a second. A concept that subsequently became the premise
for the Non-dualistic (Advaita) school of thought.
According to the Upanishad, Siva rules (isata) these worlds with His enormous powers
(isanibhi). He stands apart from all creatures (pratyan janan) and He is the
protector of all the worlds (visvabhuvana gopa). At the end of creation He withdraws
these worlds into Himself. (3.2).
He is the source and origin of all gods, the ruler of them and as Iswara gives birth
to Hiranyagarbha, the golden germ. (3.4).
White in color (aditya varnam), beyond darkness and ignorance (tamasa parastat),
He alone can take us beyond the cycle of births and deaths. There is no other
path that can help us. (3.8).
There is nothing else that is higher or smaller than Him. He alone pervades
the whole universe. (3.9). "Sa bhagavan tasmat sarva-gatas sivah." He
is the Lord and He, Siva, is therefore found everywhere. (3.11).
The Purusha of the Samkhya school is identified in this Upanishad as none other
than Siva. As Purusha He controls maya which is but Prakriti (Mayam tu prakriti
viddhi, mayinam tu maheswaram).
The Svetasvatara Upanishad reflects the sentiments and the spirit of the age in
which it was composed. Saivism must have already been a popular cult in many parts
of ancient India and this fact was amply established by the composer of the Upanishad
through his personal spiritual experience.