The Hermeneutic Analysis of Religious Experience as Expounded in Jnanamirta Kattalai


1.0 Introduction: Scientific Analysis of Religious Experience

Within the last few centuries the world has seen many great advances. The most visible ones are the technological breakthroughs that have shrunk the wide world into a village. The modern world has achieved what the ancients only dreamed of or enjoyed only in fantasies. There are also advances made in fields outside the technological but equally important in the long intellectual history of man. Man has thought about himself for a very long time. Philosophies, religions, social and cultural norms and so forth are products of man's reflecting about himself and his understanding of how the psychological nature of man can be changed for the better, the destructive forces within can be regulated for the betterment of everyone in the community. With the birth of psychology as a scientific discipline in the nineteenth century, speculative ideas, dogmatic assertions, unfounded hunches and beliefs, superstitions and so forth have given way to a more rational understanding of man. This breakthrough in the approach to understand man himself has not reached its full growth yet. But it is growing steadily as more and more of the social sciences develop and expand. The educational field and modern psychiatry are two good examples of the manner in which the scientific bent of mind is slowly gaining grounds even in areas where man is the focus. Here we are not referring to the positive sciences but rather to the newly emerging hermeneutic or interpretive social sciences, that form of science that developed in India from ancient times with a rigour unknown in the West. {1}.

Religions have remained till today either indifferent or unaware of the possibility of such scientific approaches to deepening religious experience and channeling the religious motivations of man into productive expressions. A number of major religions have even built impregnable barriers to safeguard the central dogmas so that they remain unchallenged by the adventurous social scientists. The main objectives of such people seem to be to safeguard what they have inherited at whatever cost rather than to deepen and further our knowledge about the deeper recesses of human mind and thereby pattern the social behavior of the community on the basis of a true knowledge of man's real nature .

But fortunately not all religions are organized to be impervious to the scientific approach to its problems. The chief attraction of Saivism to the modern world appears to be precisely this openness to challenges of whatever kind, all in the interest of gaining a true knowledge about man and his essence. The goal is not preservation of beliefs and dogmas enunciated by some significant individuals in the past but rather knowledge about man and the world that is not further challengeable and discoveries of procedures and practices that are unfailingly efficacious in improving the psychological nature of man. The modern Saivas have inherited millenniums of effort in this direction of a group of people who have contributed significantly to enrich world culture. As such it is highly possible that among the philosophical and psychological theories that have evolved within the fold of Saivism, there are some that are universally true and hence possibly the terminal knowledge about the essence of man. Among the ancient Tamils, there arose a school of thought precisely with this claim - the claim that they have reached the terminal phase in the open ended and hermeneutic investigations about the psychic constitution of man. It arose after living through great religions such as Buddhism, Jainism and a host of minor Hindu religions. Of course, here I am referring to the Saiva Siddhanta school of thought that was the Saiva foundations for the bakti movement in the 5th century that regained Hinduism for India and South East Asia. The rational foundations of this great religion was brilliantly expounded by Meykandar in the 13th century initiating a very remarkable intellectual revolution in India particularly among the South Indians. This process of reexamining the foundations of religious experience continuously, in order to gain an understanding of it without denying its reality and its essential character has continued to this day and in this long march many brilliant individuals have written numerous treatises making significant advances.

It was my good fortune that I came across a brilliant treatise belonging to this school which summarizes in prose, the essential advances made in this school of thought. The importance of the text is as follows. It is probably one of the most brilliant expositions of the theistic interpretations of religious experience without any recourse to dogmas and revelations. As such one could say that it reveals the essentials of a universal framework for a scientific and objective understanding of the phenomena of religious experience , the philosophical and psychological foundation for not only understanding religious experience but also patterning it both as an individual and collective experience in directions that are efficacious and beneficial.

We are living in a world where several religions coexist. Any understanding of the deep seated commonness beneath the superficially differences will pave the way for a better understanding among the individuals, a greater acceptance of each others cultural norms or values. In view of this, one of the best things I could do in the opportunity that is given to me now is to present the essentials of this text with the hope it would serve as a foundation for reflecting further upon the universal aspects of human religious experience.


2.0 Jnanamirta Kattalai

The text I am referring to is 'Jnanamirta Kattalai' [2] one of the basic kattalai literature of Saiva Siddhanta held, very justifiably, in high regard. Nothing definite is known about the author and the date. But from the internal evidences and the fact that Saiva monasteries are very favorably spoken of, the author could be taken to be one of the members of the Saiva monasteries.[3] This also allows us to infer that the text was probably written sometime in the 17th or 18th century, periods in which the monasteries were great centers of scholarship.

The first three sections are strikingly similar to another kattalai literature viz. 'Siddhanta tattuva laksanam'. It is possible to conclude that the text under study is an elaboration of this earlier text, filling in details and adding additional explanations to generate a text that is reasonably comprehensive. The outcome is a superb text, with an impressive sweep and depth with all the different portions hanging together with a logical coherence that is characteristic of the major texts in the Indian philosophical tradition.

Though it is termed 'Jnanamirta kattalai' it is not simply restating in prose the essentials of Jnanamirtam, a 12th century Saiva Siddhanta classic. There are many new ideas in the body of the text reflecting the advances made not only in the philosophical analysis but also in aesthetics and other fields. The reference to Jnanamirtam could be due to the prominence given by the author to Civa as the Intelligent Agent of the cosmic activities that are elaborately argued in that text (akaval 53, 54, 56 and 57) Or alternatively it may be named so in order to indicate that Civajnanam, absolute illumination, is really the ambrosia that ensures longevity.[4]


3.0 The Concept of Absolute Liberation[Paramoksa]


In order to delineate the logical framework of the form of inquiry revealed in this text, it is best to begin with the author's concept of paramoksa with which he deals in the penultimate section of the text. The earlier sections lead up to that, the last section is a follow up of what is accomplished here.

The author's analysis of paramoksa appears to be as follows:

It is the existential state of an individual where his ego is permeated completely by the intrinsic and blissful nature of Civa thereby eliminating the ego functioning as a being delimited by the confounding and finitizing constraints that have been afflicting it from primordial times.

This analytic understanding presupposes the following:

a) Paramoksa is a transformed and ultimate existential state of an individual, the highest way of Being that is ever possible.

b) It is an existential meaning [ purasartta ]and hence that which gives the ultimate significance for human existence, the ultimate or overriding meaning of all human (and animal) endeavors.

c) It is a form of objective knowledge or understanding , something intuitableand hence something that can be articulated or communicated somehow and being agreed upon by many.

Armed with these conceptual delineation and understanding of paramoksa, the author then enters into a polemic and refutes the contrary views expounded by the other schools of Indian philosophy - The Carvaka, Buddhists, Samkhya, Yoga, Jaina, Vedanta and so forth and also the Pasupatas, Mahaviratas, Naiyayikas and so forth.[5]. The views of some Buddhist sects where paramoksa is defined as the annihilation of the body or the mental mechanisms (that are the causes of miseries and so forth) are criticized on the ground that they deny the experiential nature of paramoksa. The ego is annihilated in such a definition and where there is no ego there is no being as such and experiencing.

The definition that it is the attainment of a steady stream of consciousness without any openness to disturbances is also found to be inadequate on the grounds that it undermines the illuminated character of paramoksa. It is not strictly speaking an attainment or achievement - it is essentially a happening, a bestowal. It is a state an individual is transposed or elevated to by forces and powers beyond his jurisdiction. One can aspire, endeavor to attain it but it is not in itself a product of endeavors and aspirations. It is what may happen to an individual in the course of his endeavors perhaps unconsciously and which discloses the workings of ARUL.

In the Samkhya view moksa is the attainment of kaivalya - the decoupling of the ego from the evolutes of prakirti that constitute empirical existence. This decoupling and attaining a disengagement also results in the ego becoming the Purusha, the indestructible spiritual being that remains unaffected by the evolutes of prakirti. Clearly such a conception is inconsistent with the view that paramoksa is a transcendence of psycho-metamorphoses, the end phase of the transformations of the psyche where it ceases to act anymore as a constrained and delimited ego. Decoupling or disengagement is an attainment while paramoksa is a happening to a psyche whereby its being is transformed by agencies other than itself, so that Being is now characterized by absolute universality.

In yoga moksa is seen as the augmenting the catvika guna and simultaneously repressing the rajasic and tamasic gunas. To be dominated by catvika guna is seen as the inherent potential of all creatures and hence moksa here will mean the attainment of what is inherent to all.

Clearly the objection to this will be that coupling oneself to the catvika guna is still being bonded to the 'material' evolutes and hence though it could be a lower level of moksa, it could not be paramoksa, the absolute moksa as defined by the author which is a state of Being free of any attachments or bondage a state of absolute autonomy.

A similar kind of objection is raised to the concept of moksa as calokam, camippyam, caruppyam and cayucciam entertained in the theistic schools of ganapatiyam and so forth which are varieties of being in the image of God.[6]

The pasupatas, mahaviratas and others belonging to the 'inner' schools of thought expound moksa in terms of attaining powers of various sorts thereby equaling Civa himself or His archetypal presentations (i.e. murtties)[7]. These conceptions are also seen faulty for they are seen to contradict the characterization of Civa-In-Itself (corupam) as the most powerful with complete regulatory power over all, without excluding any and hence the anma remaining subservient to CIVA even on attaining moksa.

The moksa where there is cessation of all activities so much so that the individual is like a corpse is also not true moksa for it denies the view that it is a state of consciousness, of understanding , of supreme illumination.

The critique of the concept of moksa of mayavati, i.e. the Advaita Vedanties focuses on the concept of avidya. Avidya as explained by Sankara is neither real nor unreal - it is simply anirvacana, something that is beyond linguistic description and understanding. As such it is quite different from anavam that is postulated in Saiva Siddhanta for accounting for the delimited and finite nature of human functioning. Anavam is a real, non-intelligent stuff that is the root cause of the ego acquiring egoity and karma and hence a psychological nature and phenomenal presence. One aspect of paramoksa as defined by the author is that it frees the ego from phenomenality - the need to be born and die in the world repetitively. The concept of avidya as defined in Advaita Vedanta does not lead to such a view of the relation between ego and karma and hence an understanding the phenomenality of the ego. If phenomenality cannot be explicated then obviously paramoksa as liberation from being a phenomenal creature cannot also be explained.

In this way the author throws away the above views of paramoksa, by pointing out inconsistencies, contradictions and inadequacies with the understanding of it he articulates. This throwing away contrary views is an act of episodisation i.e. sangkaram, a philosophical activity that lets a better informed view emerge.


4.0 The Technologies for Moksa

Having conceptualized paramoksa thus and criticized contrary views roughly as above, the author ventures to consider the technologies for realizing it. In this the author shows considerable originality. The impact of the developments in Saivism and Vaishnavism in the Tamil country up to the 16th or 17th century is clearly noticeable.

He classifies the technologies recommended into jnanam, prapatti and vairakkiam, in this different from the standard cariyai, kriyai, yogam and jnanam. He grades them also in the order of difficulty with vairakkiam as the easiest, prapatti a little more difficult and the jnanam the most difficult. However the sense in which these technologies are difficult is not explained. It should be noted here that the terms prapatti and vairakkiyam are used as techical terms in Sri Vaishnava and Vedantic circles respectively.

The jnanam technology is the standard prescription in Saiva Siddhanta whereby an individual through a variety of diksas, studies of sacred texts, yogic meditations and so forth under the guidance of a Guru, acquires paramoksa through transcending a number of intermediate stages. These intermediate stages are traditionally considered ten in number: gaining a knowledge of the tatvas (tattuvarupam), sighting the tatvas (tattuvataricanam), disengaging oneself from the tatvas (tattuvacutti), gaining a knowledge of the ego (anmarupam), sighting the ego in itself (anmataricanam), disengaging from the ego the afflicting constraints (anmacutti), gaining a knowledge of Civa (civarupam), sighting Civa Himself (civataricanam), uniting in the Being of Civa (civayokam), and being transformed into 'Experiencing-As-Civa' (Civapokam).[8]. There are numerous texts describing these stages in greater detail. The Tukalaru Pota Kattalai of Tattuvaprakasar provides a more detailed account of these stages of progressive development. These technologies are related to the hermeneutically oriented phenomenology of perception; an individual is LED TO SEE for himself and UNDERSTAND the meaning of CIVAHOOD through an hermeneutic analysis of existence in which transendences are bestowed in accordance with the stage of readiness that has acquired.

The technology of prapatti which is recommended for those who find the above rather difficult, (perhaps too intellectual?) is the route followed by the baktas such as Manikkavasakar and so forth. Seeking a Saiva monastery and reciting mantras and so forth are included in this.

The third, the technology of Vairakkiyam, is recommended for those who find even prapatti rather too demanding. It consists in the individual surrendering himself to a guru and abiding as he commands through an unquestioning acceptance of his leadership and guidance.

Given the concept of paramoksa of the author, his critique of the contrary views appear to be valid and the recommendations of technology reasonable. The crucial question however is : how does he arrive at and justify his understanding of paramoksa? It is here as nowhere else the author's originality is most evident. It also makes the text of current relevance not only in philosophy but also in psychology and sociology. We can state the central feature as follows: He takes it as absolutely true that human beings (and other creatures) act, i.e. take actions and do this and that for accomplishing, achieving , attaining this and that., in other words behaviour or the wordly human praxis is intentional. The concept of paramoksa as purasartta is arrived as through seeking to determine the absolute goal of all these human (and creature) activities - the END towards which all are moving through their activitie, i.e the FUNDAMENTAL INTENTIONALITY.. The paramoksa is the meaning of human existence conceived of as doing this and that and so forth and hence an END-IN-SIGHT, though only dimmly perceived, already there governing all human activities.

The methodology employed is phenomenological-hermeneutical analysis of human existence, a methodolgy that has been in the Tamil tradition from at least the days of Tolkappiyam (circa 300 B.C) Parmoksa as articulated here is there in the bosom of all individuals, hidden perhaps deep deep down in the unconscious. The understanding of man must be explored archeoductively to bring out that PULL or PUSH, the TELOS that's already there manifesting itself as ordinary desires of various kinds under ordinary circumstances. One must endeavour to gain a conscious understanding of this in order to found authentic existence.


5.0 Types of Descriptions and Explanations

The main body of this text is concerned with:

a) A phenomenological description of human (and animal) existence in terms of behavior, in terms of acting, taking of actions, doing this and that.

b) An ontological or meta-phenomenological description of persons and bodies in terms of ultimate constituents that make such behaviors phenomenality possible.

c) A metaphysical explanation of the meaning of human (and animal) existence as described above.


The first three sections are concerned with providing a phenomenological description and justifying it. From the fourth to the fourteenth sections we have ontological description. The metaphysical explanation is interspersed in the above sections. The metaphysical here, it shoud be noted, does not mean beyond the physis, beyond experience as it does in Western philosophical traditions. The metaphysical is experiential but absolutely transcendental, the BEYOND but nevertheless the GROUND of all that's phenomenal.

We can distinguish two levels in the phenomenological description viz.:

i) Surface level description and

ii) Deep level description.


The surface level description is the description of the world tha is observable true the senses and their extensions verifiable purely on perceptual grounds. Deep level description is interpretive and invokes the validity of agentive causal principles. Where such a agentive causality is not allowed, the validity and hence the acceptability of the deep level description is undermined.

Such forms of description are possible, it should be noted, when whatever that's taken for description is also seen as TEXT with its attendant DUALITY of structure.

What we have termed ontological description seeks to explain the being-there-as-objects the complexes that constitute the world. It is here as nowhere else the phenomenoligical-hermeneutical methodology is most evident. The ontological realities, the deep structure elements are termed tatvas and such investigations are traditionally known as tattuva vicaranai i.e investigations into tatvas, the elements there the serve to weave as a TEXTS the phenomenal realities.

The metaphysical explanation is concerned with elucidating the meaning, the human (or creature) significance of the world as understood through the phenomenological and ontological descriptions, to which it is very closely linked. It seeks to locate the FUNDAMENTAL INTENTIONALITY, if any, underlying the world process.


5.1 The Phenomenological Description

It is the contention of the Saiva Siddhanta school or thought that without the assumption of the reality of Pati, pacu and pacam, a valid description of the world is impossible. On the assumption that this FUNDAMENTAL ONTOLOGY needs to be reestablished the author describes the distinguishing characteristics (laksanas) of these three types of entities, the logical premises for invoking these entities and the manner in which they interact or stand in relation to each other constituting the phenomenal world. The provision of logical premises for the reality of these three categories hinge on the observation, as already mentioned, that creature behavior is essentially one of acting, taking of actions, doing this and that for a variety of reasons, and the possibility of extending such an observation to the cosmos as whole, i.e. the possibility of a homology, a structural similarity, between the creatures and the cosmos. The unifying notion is that of TEXT, that which is analysed in the hermeneutic sciences.

The special feature of this is the impressive logical coherence with which the author proceeds in this task. But we must add, though impressive in a way but not as profound as that of Meykandar , Arunandi or the other great masters.

First let us consider the logical premises or evidences in the form of observable and hence nonproblematic features he adduces for establishing the metaphysical realities of pacus, pacas and Pati.

As a fact of empirical observation, we can distinguish between intelligent activities and non-intelligent activities. Intelligent activities are those that are done by intelligent creatures (cetanapporul), non-intelligent activities are those by non-intelligent entities (acetanapporul). Now a person (or creature) acts, takes actions and so forth, and in view of the fact that he/it initiates actions, clearly what actually does the action, or acts could not be the body or any constituent of the body for they are non-intelligent (catam) and non-intelligent entities, though can have actions of various sorts, cannot initiate an action or act to accomplish something , i.e. be intentional. Once we cannot make this distinction, then we cannot also maintain the distinction between intelligent and non-intelligent activities.

This appears to be the purport of the passage (2.10).

This argument requires a deeper analysis in view of its centrality for Saiva Siddhanta. As Alan R.White [9] has observed , to act is to bring about something, to cause something to happen; an action is the bringing about something. An agent or author is that which brings something about. This elucidation of the meaning of action does not allow us to conclude that given that a particular happening can be truly described as being the doing of an action then the agent is necessarily an intelligent entity. For in this view it is perfectly possible for materials to be the agents. Poisons can kill plants and animals, the sun can dry up rivers and lakes, storms can uproot trees, destroy houses and so forth. To attribute or ascribe an action to something or someone, as White [10] observes, is only to ascribe causation for what is brought about. A human action then, on this view will be an action whose author is a human being. But stopping at this level of analysis will not do for the kinds of inferences the author of this text makes and he obviously does not do that.

In order to affirm that an activity is the activity of an intelligent agent, it would become, on this view necessary to independently affirm whether a particular agent is intelligent or not. The problem is that this may not be possible for frequently it is the action done and the aspects associated with it, the observable surface structure features, that allow us to conclude whether the agent is intelligent or not.

What characteristics of actions themselves would allow us to conclude that the agents are intelligent or non-intelligent? What aspects of behaviour lead us to understand that as being executed by an intelligent agent? What aspects of the Surface features would alloww us to deduce the presence of an inteligent entity in Deep Structure as the real causal Agent?

Clearly this is a basic question in Saiva Siddhanta and the author of this text succeeds somewhat in providing this criteria. But before we come to that let us consider some possibilities that have been suggested by Western philosophers. White (1962) has provided a brief survey of these views:

a) The grammatical category of verb could be used as such a criteria. One could say that what is expressed by a verb is an action. Tolkappiyar distinguishes between vinaikurippu (intentinal or intransitive verb) and vinaimurru (completional or transitive verb) and defines vinaimurru as a term that signifies a deed, tense, gender and number. Clearly such grammatical characterizations are inadequate and mistaken. 'Viluntan', for example, is a vinaikurippu but vilutal (falling) is clearly not an action. Tolkappiyar seems to be aware of this for he has a separate sutra to define tolil (deeds) in terms of basic constituents (tolil mutalnilai). The basic constituents he lists are: agent or author (ceyvatu), deed (vinai), object on which action is effected (ceyapatuporul), location (nilam), time, tense (kalam), instrument (karuvi) and the knowledge that this action brings about that effect (innatarku itu payan) or intention. [11]

Clearly these are neither necessary nor sufficient. Some of these elements at least appear to be optional, e.g. instrument, object and the knowledge of consequences. Jumping is an action but it is not effected on something, nor an instrument used for that purpose. Furthermore one need not always jump with the knowledge that it brings about something. One can jump simply for the pleasure of it.

b) Aristotle seems to have given such criterial features as 'kinesis', 'energeia', 'praxis' and 'poiesis' to distinguish actions from non-actions. However White points out quite clearly their inadequacy. There is kinesis (e.g. become, be moved) and energeiai (e.g. understand, be happy) but these are not actions; there is kinesis (build) and energeiai (listen) which are actions.

c) Some philosophers offer the following explanation: To say X is a human action is not to describe anything that happened but to 'ascribe responsibility' for it. The attempt to provide criteria seems to have shifted from the characteristics of the processes themselves to the quality of the relationship between the agent and what is done. However there are difficulties even in this criteria. Some of these, as mentioned by White, are as follows: One could be responsible for not only to actions but also deeds that are not actions, e.g. successes. It also does not serve to distinguish being responsible for a happening (e.g. damage to a window) and being responsible for one's action in bringing about a happening, e.g. breaking a window. Also it appears to be perfectly reasonable to ascribe responsibility to inanimate objects without any animistic feelings. We can say the storm is responsible for the destruction of the city and so forth without implying that the 'storm' is an animate kind of entity.

Also 'A' is responsible for 'X' and 'A did X' are not the same in meaning for clearly there are many instances where a man can be held responsible for but which are not things he has done. We have the distinction 'kariakarutta' and 'karanakarutta' in Tamil grammar to distinguish between these two senses in which a person can be related to an action.

d) Some antecedents may be cited as constituting the definitive criteria for distinguishing human actions from others. In the West these antecedents have been termed 'the will'. A human act or action is taken to be a bodily movement following from or caused by the will, a volition or an act of will.

The criticisms directed against this view can be summarized as follows:

i) It fails to distinguish between an act and a voluntary act. Not all acts are voluntary. To say that a happening is not an act is rather different form saying that it is an act but not a voluntary act. The distinctions of 'voluntary' and 'obligatory' are distinctions of conditions of doing something and hence presuppose the doing something.

ii) Doing something voluntarily is not the same as doing something preceded by a volition or act of will. To do X voluntarily is to do X with the knowledge that one has other choices open to one. It presupposes a decision to do X with the knowledge that one could decide otherwise. Where one does something without being preceded with such a decision, e.g. doing X unintentionally, unknowingly, inattentively and so forth, though one could be said to do something, it need not at the same time be something done voluntarily or involuntarily.

iii) Such antecedents as effort of will, resolution, intention, decision and so forth are contingent rather than necessary antecedents. It happens to be the case in a number of occasions but are not universally the case. We often do things without any effort of will, without any deliberations or planning, intention or purpose. Also it is not clear in what sense such prior processes can cause or bring about bodily movements.

e) The possibility of qualifying certain events or happenings in certain ways has been offered as a means of distinguishing human actions from others. Such adverbial characterization as: impulsively, deliberately, intentionally, automatically, thoughtlessly, unwittingly, reluctantly, knowingly, unknowingly and so forth have been suggested. Also it can be praised, sanctioned, approved, disapproved, morally censured and so forth. It can be right or wrong pitied or blamed and so forth.

The possibilities of such qualifications do not offer laksanas for distinguishing actions from non-actions or even human actions from non-human actions. They do not indicate that the 'mutalnilai' of actions are being voluntary, intentional, purposive, conscious, moral, immoral and so forth. It may be right to consider such things as above given that a particular happening is already taken to be an instance of human action. Even this possibility does not tell us what exactly it means, does not isolate that distinguishing characteristic of human actions.

With this preliminary survey let us come to our author's analysis and the criteria he offers. The distinction of interest for Saiva Siddhanta is first of all that distinction between the actions of intelligent and non-intelligent agents.

First let us consider the author's concept of action. This is available in his discussion of karma (3.7-3.13).

The word 'karma' is used in the sense of 'action' and the 'causal' basis of action more appropriately labelled 'mulakarma' and so forth elsewhere. He classifies them into kayikam (<kayam; body), i.e. bodily or physical, vacikam (<vac: speech), i.e. verbal acts and manasam (<manas: mind), i.e. mental acts. Under kayikam he would include beating someone and so forth and worshipping the devas, i.e. the cariyai type of (religious) performances.[12]. By vacikam the author means not only scolding and so forth, i.e. the speech acts of J.L. Austin but also such performances as teaching, expounding, reciting and so forth of sacred literature, uttering loudly or softly the mantras and so forth. By 'manasam' the author means the thinking of doing this and that, and hence planning, contemplating, wishing; and also yogic contemplation on the nature of Parasiva, avoiding 'mentally', absorption in the lower forms of thought and so forth. Clearly the author is quite contemporaneous in his concept of action. It should be noted that only recently with the works of the Oxford philosopher J.L. Austin the West has come to consider actions done with words, i.e. speech acts as a species of acts. The concept of mental act or cognitive act is again a very new concept; even now it is being entertained only by a group of cognitive psychologists who have utilized the computer as a model for investigating the mental processes of creatures (cf. Shotter and Gauld p. ix).

How did the author arrive at such a remarkable concept of action ahead of even very recent developments in philosophy, psychology and sociology? First of all it should be recalled that the concept of speech act is very ancient in the Tamil country. The bulk of Porulatikaram of Tolkappiyam (3rd century B.C.), termed kurriyal (Study of speech acts?) by Nakkirar, the Commentator of Irayanar Ahapporul (8th century A.D.?) can be considered as a very extensive empirical study of speech acts, i.e. kurru. Tolkappiyar himself mentions that utterances (kilavi) are capable of effecting a variety of acts ('palveru ceyti' col. 456). He also lists a grammatical category 'munnam' which is explained as the stating of who speaks to whom under what kind of circumstances (Por. 508). We have also the distinctions between ahattinai and purattinai terms used to classify the verbal and non-verbal happenings in the world. In one sense it means the domestic and public (or political). In another sense they can be taken to classify happenings or events into 'inner' or private and 'outer' or publically observable. The 'inner' cannot be observed directly and has to be inferred through observable changes in behavior. This is very clearly stated in the sutra:

puratinai marunkin poruntin allatu

akattinai marunkil alavutal ilave

(por. aham)


In the chapter on 'meyppatu' we have equivalents of what are currently being investigated under the label 'non-verbal' acts. These are acts done by using the body or the body parts - the face, the hands, the fingers and so forth. Such acts may be unconscious but nevertheless they are actions as they succeed in communicating something.

In the ancient Tamil country there was a species of literature known as 'Natakat Tamil', i.e. texts concerned with the grammar of dramas and the language of plays. Except for brief sketches in Cillappatikaram and Manimekalai, no complete texts have come down to us from those early periods. In the commentaries there are some sutras available but no complete texts or even sufficiently large chunks of it have survived. The earliest Natakat Tamil we possess is that given in the commentary on Viracoliyam. A number of texts seem to have been written within the last five or six centuries. 'Paratacenapatiyam', 'Paratasankirakam', 'Mahaparata Cutamani' and so forth have been published. There are a few more that still await publication. What is of absorbing interest about these texts is that they contain, among others, an exhaustive analysis of different kinds of acts executed by dancers and actors in the dramas. The author of this text has availed of himself the extensive analysis of acts available in these texts. The technical terms kayakam. vacikam and manacam are not standard terms in Saiva Siddhanta texts but are so in the Natakat Tamil texts mentioned above. In order to gain an understanding of the full sweep of the author's concept of action, the analysis available in Mahaparata Cutamani, reputed to have the most exhaustive analysis among all the texts in India, is sketched briefly.

'Pavam' is defined as the communicative act executed by a person by moving the neck, eye brows, eyes and other such body parts. In Paratacenapatiyam this term is restricted to mental acts and is equated with manacam (cf.manacam bavam sut. 11). This appears to be the case even in the Sanskrit 'Tacarupakam'.

The communicative acts are further classified into anubavam, vibavam, catvikabavam. vibapicaribavam and stayibavam. Acts communicative of inner feelings (antarankam) are anubavam. These are also subclassified into a variety of different types. By anubavam is also meant the observable aspects of the act in contrast to vibavam, the cause or inner stimulants of the act.

Catvikabavam are acts or happenings expressive of inner psychological states.

Viyapicaribavam are transitory or momentary acts that occur as component processes in the context of anubavam.

Stayibavam is a subclass of the above different types of acts that brings about supplementary and related processes in the context of anubavam.

Stayibavam is a subclass of the above different types of acts that brings about happiness or pleasurable feelings.

Abinayam is defined as the act of the dancer that communicates the meaning of the songs and is consistent with the rhythms (tala) being produced. It is further classified into ankikam, vacikam, akariyam and catvikam. Ankikam is what is done with the body or body parts, vacikam that which is done through words; akariyam through attire and other decorations and catvikam through dance postures and so forth.

All these are further subdivided into minute categories in terms of body parts used, movements executed, meanings conveyed, speed of execution, style of execution, feelings aroused and so forth (for details see 1st section of Mahaparata Cutamani).

It is not necessary to go into the details for the purposes at hand. These brief sketches of the contents of Natakat Tamil is sufficient to indicate that the author has utilized such texts and his concept of action is a very comprehensive one indeed.

By 'action' he means not only beating, cutting, breaking and so forth but also reciting, speaking, reporting, narrating, studying, interpreting texts, expounding, instructing, guiding, performing pujas, the various cariyai and kriyai, thinking, meditating, contemplating, discriminating, delving deeper into lower levels of consciousness, communicating through gestures, words and so forth feelings, ideas, emotions and so forth, gesturing, signaling, enacting, acting out a theme, singing, dancing and doing an enormous number of things in that context, dramatizing and communicating through the attire chosen, postures assumed and so forth.

All these are considered actions for no matter what kind of action they have something in common - they bring about something, they effect something. The term 'karyam' is used to mean both 'action' as well as the 'effect', i.e. what is brought about by the action. This aspect is the criteria or laksana that distinguish actions from non-actions. There is then agreement with White (1962) with respect to the identification of the criteria.

But still we are not clear as to the criteria the author uses to distinguish intelligent agent of actions from non-intelligent ones. For this purpose we have to examine very closely what the author means by describing Civa as Cattar, Uttiyuttar and Piraviruttar. What is immediately obvious is that these are not alternative terms for Brahma the creator, Vishnu the protector and Rudra the destroyer.[13]. The Cattar and so forth are descriptions of one and the same Civa and they are descriptions of the agentive aspects of Civa in relation to his activities that has brought about the universe and existence with whatever characteristics they have. Catter is the pre-intentional phase, the state of Civa purely as a potential agent. The Uttiyuttar is Civa as one who has already thought of, decided to bring about, inclined towards actualizing the universe and so forth. The Piraviruttar is Civa as the doer, as the one currently effecting, actively bringing about, carrying out the actions that actualize the universe and give whatever characteristics it truly has. The Piraviruttar form is Siva as in the world simultaneous with the phenomenal processes.

Cattar is also Civa with undifferentiated pure Power; it is Civa with power not yet directed or channelled into anything. In other words we could say that Cattar is Intelligence-Power purely as a potential from the point of view of agency.

Uttiyuttar is Civa with a decision, intention, inclination to bring about the universe or the WILL. This indicates a consciousness of what to bring about and the activity of doing so, i.e. having in consciousness such-and-such. In other words now there is differentiation of Power into consciousness and Activity with Consciousness- Power being dominant. Uttiyuttar is then (Intelligence- (Consciousness>Activity) with consciousness excelling over Activity.[14].

When the Activity-Power becomes dominant, we have Civa as Piraviruttar, i.e. Civa as (Intelligence- (Consciousness<Activity)).

What this analysis seem to imply is that while action is effecting something, the agent is intelligent provided that the act or activity is indicative of conscious exercise of power. There must be evidence indicative of the simultaneous presence of consciousness, and regulativity. When the dynamical aspects are indicative of directed movement towards something that is intuitable as the goal, then we have evidence for the action to be that of an intelligent agent. The requirement that there be consciousness along with activity, it must be noted, rules out even modern challenges to the concept of intelligent activity that come from computer simulation studies. No doubt computers can simulate a number of activities that are customarily assigned only to living creatures and in particular to human beings. However computers, no matter how complex, are automatons and while it is true that they act, their actions are not guided by forms of awareness or consciousness. Computers are not the sorts of 'devices' that generate states of consciousness or awareness in the light of which activities are begun, maintained or terminated. For an acitivity to be intelligent the must be an END-IN-SIGHT towrds which there is episodisation i.e. terminating the ongoing in order to make present something latent.


It must be mentioned that the above concept of intelligent activity and the view that the cosmic processes are in fact intelligent activities is as old as Saivism itself. Civa is the exerciser of power, the episodiser, the sangkara karanan, the pure Intelligence in any intelligent exercise of power that constitutes the action of an intelligent agent. Sakti is the pure ground that allows the exercising of power and hence all activities. No intelligent activity will be actualisable with Civa alone or Sakti alone. This is a common knowledge among Saivites who put it as 'Civaminri Sakti Illai, Saktiyinri Civam Illai (No Civa without Sakti, No Sakti without Civa). It is the union of Civa and Sakti, i.e. Civa-Sakti, Ammai-Appan and so forth that make intelligent activities possible and hence the cosmos and the whole of existence, a reality.


A number of objections can be raised now. Granted the correctness of the criteria for intelligent activities, one could not still conclude that the cosmic processes are controlled by Civa for they may be just processes proceeding blindly in a mechanical sort of way indicating that there is no Intelligence whatsoever behind it at all. While the basic texts of Saiva Siddhanta - Civajnana Botam, Civajnana Citti and so forth deal with such and similar issues very extensively it is sufficient to indicate one or two features of the counter arguments to make sense of the assertions of the author of the present text, i.e. what he offers as the premises for such conclusions as the above (sect. 1.8):


a) The universe is a complex of countless number of individuals with distinctive characteristics. It is a differentiated wholeness with no logical reason whatsoever to be so. From this it can be concluded that the universe, a complex of this and that is a product, an outcome, an effect of intelligent activities of cosmic proportions. For the individuals being non-intelligent, could not effect the kind of actions or activities that could have resulted in the generation of such a world with each individual having such distinctive characteristics.

b) An examination of the cosmic processes indicate that there is transformation of something from being subtle to gross, i.e. bringing forth into existence a variety of objects; maintaining them in existence or what is the same preventing them from being annihilated; terminating their existential state after a variable lengths of duration. In addition to that there are creatures afflicted with ignorance or blindness who are led gradually towards enlightenment. This indicates that there are processes that submerge creatures in ignorance or in something that causes such an ignorance to prevail in understanding and processes that illuminate them and liberate them from ignorance. . Clearly such processes could not be 'natural' processes. They are activities or actions indicative of an intelligent exercise of power or episodisations. They are intelligent processes that enable the creatures to learn and acquire knowledge and thereby liberate themselves from the delimiting constraints that afflict them and bring pains and miseries in their existence. There are in the world, processes that are pedagogical on account of this. In fact everything in the world have a pedagogical purpose, that of illuminating the creatures immersed in a primordial DARKNESS.


In order to fully understand the premise (b) above, the central logical features of the second section, the section on pacus will be considered very briefly. More extensive discussions are available elsewhere [15].


In Siddhanta both the cosmic processes and the bulk of the happenings attributed to creatures, including human beings, are intelligent activities. By the same canons of logic, from the premise that creature-activities are intelligent, it is concluded that there is a ego or psyche as the exerciser of power in such activities. The problem has been and perhaps still is, whether there is such a psyche distinct from Civa or not. There are many schools of thought ranging from the Saiva Vedantic position that there is no such a distinct and real ego to the Siddhantic position that there is. It must be noted here that what is termed 'Saiva Vedanta' is not the same as the mayavada of Sankara. For Sankara the reality of actions and the cosmic processes are questionable and are bracketed out and along with it the absolute reality of anything other than Brahman. Among the Saiva Vedanties we do not have this mayavadam but only the denial of the absolute distinctness of the psyche from Civa. The psyche is only the empirical self and when the 'empiricalness' of experience is no more, the empirical self is evaporated or disappears into Civa, the absolute Self.The Saiva Vedanta denies the absolute distinction between SIVA and anma at the metaphysical level only.


In order to see the rationale of the Siddhanta position, we must recall that Civa as Uttiyuttar and Piraviruttar is Intelligence- (Consciousness > Activity) and Intelligence-(Consciousness < Acitivity). In other words in the analysis of the agency of Civa, the power to Desire this and that is not brought in at all. This emerges however as an important feature of the analytical definition of creature agency. The individual psyches are agents but their agency is to be seen as 'Intelligence-( Desire-Consciousness-Activity)'. The creatures act and in that respect they are similar to Civa. But their actions are desire based, are purposive, intended to secure something for the benefit of the creature and so forth. In other words there is a qualitative difference in the agency of the creatures and Civa, a difference that indicates that the intelligence in the creatures is not Civa - not even 'reflections' of Civa in a complexly organized material substratum as Civaprakasar would assert in his Siddhanta Sikamani perhaps following the Samkhyas.

What is the primary reason for this claim? As the author of this text would put it (Sect. 2-8), the creatures experience pleasures and pains that are, we may add, psychological, moral, emotional and so forth - aspects of experience impossible if the agent is Civa Himself. Civa does not act for himself - though His activities are intentional, what is intended is not the satisfying of some kind of need, desire, lack and so forth. Civa is an integrated wholeness completely without any needs and therefore he has no reason to act for attaining something for himself. Such a reason exists only for the creatures causing them to be not only distinct from Civa but also phenomenal beings who have to execute a variety of acts to fulfill myriad of wants and wishes, desires for this and that and so forth.

Now since the experiencing of the pleasures and pains of all sorts are not uniform, varies from individual to individual, it also follows that we do not have one psyche in all the bodies but rather different psyches in different bodies. The psyches are different as their desires are different (sect. 2.7).

With such considerations as the above, the Saiva Siddhanta maintains the metaphysical difference between Civa and the psyches. The pacas, the third category of objects in fundamental ontology, are derived in the context for accounting for these differences and explaining the temporal history or historicity of the creatures and cosmos. The pacas derived thus are classified into anavam, kanmam and mayai. A few words must be said about the kinds of considerations that force us to accept the reality of these substances.

The servitude of the psyches, the bound delimited restricted, nonautonomous nature of their behavior lead to the view that there must be a stuff inherently present in the constitution of the psyches accounting for such forms of behavior. This stuff is termed anavam and is said to be present in the psyches from the beginning. It is also anati, nonoriginary and hence uncreated in the sense that there does not exist another stuff by transforming which or episodsing which anavam is generated; it is an ultimate category of objects just as Pati and Pacu. Any view contrary to this will lead to obfuscating the distinctions between Pati and Pacu contradicting whatever analytical clarity and philosophical perspicuity that have been attained so far.

The laksanas of anavam are derived from the fact that the psyches are ignorant knowledgewise, that they do not have any knowledge or understanding whatsoever unless they learn, and that too only if they are instructed, taught somehow . Primarily then anavam is a 'blocking' stuff - by its presence in the innermost constitution of the psyches, it causes the absence of knowledge, a DARKNESS to prevail. It also continues to act against any acquisition of knowledge, against the psyches attaining any enlightenment. Anavam reduces the psyches to utter servitude to something else for the acquisition of knowledge. That constitutes its chief characteristics. It is with the need (perhaps unconscious) to liberate themselves from this servitude that the psyches desire this and that, do this and that, move hither and thither becoming vulnerable to the vicissitudes of existence. There comes to be because of this, pleasures and pains, triumphs and failures, happiness and misery and such other existential states.


Such are the considerations underlying what the author says in sect. 3.1. The struggles of the psyches to liberate themselves from the obscurant anavam through various forms of episodisations has brought about the psycho-physical nature or the phenomenal presence of the psyches. As a consequence of such struggles they have become phenomenal creatures, earthly things with births and deaths, belonging to this or that species or genus, having this or that personality. These realities indicate that over and above anavam but certainly as a result of it, the psyches are afflicted with additional 'chains' or constraints. These are identified as 'karma' and 'mayai' (sect. 3.3-3.13).

The account of karma by the author is somewhat different from what is available in the canonical texts.

The author uses the term 'karma' in two distinct senses. One as a term for denoting actions that are further subclassified as kayikam, vacikam and manacam; the other as equivalent to 'mulakarma' or 'iruvinai', i.e. the causal karma latent schemata that is the flexible determinant of the psycho-physical or psycho-biological nature of the psyches. The section 3.7 contains the details of the author's view on this. Conceptually it appears to be similar to the genetic code of the biologists or more generally the 'program' of the computer scientists as applied to the psycho-physical 'bodies' of the psyches. It must be recalled here that Meykandar has described the individual creature as a psyche in a body that is a complex machine like entity [16]. Karma is the 'formulae' inscribed or written in the primordial stuff that underlies the generation of psycho-physical bodies of innumerable structures and forms. It is termed 'karma' for it is generated out of the actions done; 'atittam' for somehow it remains inscribed in the material substratum, and become operative at the appropriate time, 'canakam' for it regulates the generation of the physical bodies; tarakam for it is a basis along with others for the generation of the bodies; and 'pokiyam' as it is 'worked out' 'digested' in the course living or existing as a psycho-physical being. The author also concludes that it is dharma-adharma, i.e. psychic-nonpsychic for it is produced as a result of the interactions of the psyche with matter.


Though the issue is not discussed with any appreciable clarity, this causal karma is also taken to be the causal basis of the moral functioning of the ego, i.e. equivalent to the 'iruvinai' of Meykandar and Arunandi. The paragraph (3.11) closely parallels what Arunandi says about such issues in the Civajnana Cittiyar. This mulakarma, along with being the immediate cause of all kinds of fortunes and misfortunes, happiness and miseries, the quality of life, life expectancies and so forth is also the cause of the moralistic functioning of the creatures, the need to consider the moral worth of actions and issues in ordinary existence. This is seen as an aspect of servitude, bondage, a fall from the state of being fully autonomous or free. A moralistic individual, no matter how much he exceeds in doing good or the virtuous as opposed to evil, is still not autonomous in being tied down by moral reasonings. It is a chain that restricts an individual from full autonomous functioning.


The concept of karma as akin to formulae, a code implies that it's reality coincides with the reality of another stuff distinct from the Pati, pacu, anavam and 'work' and generate myriad of psycho-physical objects. This distinct stuff is termed mayai, the physical basis of all things, psychologica, ideational and psycho-physical. As the author argues for its separate identity and reality (para. 3.6), karma could not subsist within the psyche as a part of its constitution (like anavam?) and if taken to be so then, the psyche will not be an intelligent entity capable of intelligent (though delimited) actions.


This mayai is subdivided into cuttamayai and acuttamayai with cuttamayai higher in the hierarchical organization. From the observations that cuttamayai is the basis for the origination of the phenomenon of language, mantras and so forth, it can be concluded that it is the stuff out of which are generated the various forms of consciousness - the contents of the semantics of language symbols, signs and other forms of meaning. It is the stuff that makes cognitions and hence the various mental processes and functions possible. It is the basis for the forms of realities that are expressions of intelligence though in itself it is non-intelligent. It is said to permeate all material objects for otherwise the cognitive functions of the psyches that are in different material bodies could not become realities. From the observation that cuttamayai forms the basis for the 'body' of the vinnanakalar type of psyches, i.e. psyches that are delimited only by anavam, it follows that it is the stuff of the psychological nature of the psyches that are not due to karma, acuttamayai and so forth.


The acuttamayai, the 'lower' type of mayai is the primordial matter out of which the physicality of physical objects is generated. It also allows for the concretization of the psyches and other objects of world. The primary reason, as stated in para. 3.6, for postulating such an abstract stuff is the need for a receptacle to hold the karmic formulae and so forth during the cosmic involution, i.e. when the world as a whole is episodised. For unless there is such a receptacle, the regeneration of the cosmos and the continuation of the cosmic activities will not be possible. This acuttamayai is also the basis for psychic experiences of illusions, being misled, developing specific desires and so forth.


What we have said so far could be said to be the philosophical or ontological component of the first three sections. But they also contain observations that are not strictly speaking philosophical. Perhaps they could be considered as psychological or biological or more inclusively biophysical. Descriptions of this sort are what we have termed Deep Level constituent analysis and they are the sorts of studies undertaken in the hermeneutic sciences. The surface level structures require, for their description at least three distinct categories of metaphysical objects - pati, pacu and pacam. The Deep Level Description seek to describe their individual behavior, interactive processes, temporal histories and so forth in relation to causal agencies of elements in the deep structure.

The methodological principles employed can be seen as ontological analysis, analysis carried out with the question : What is there as real in the phenomena underlying it and agentively causing it? A phenomenal entity - an individual in the world or even the whole universe is assumed to be a complex of distinct elements with changes in state, activities and so forth to be accounted for in terms of changes of various sorts in the compositions or in the interrelationship among the deep Structure elements. The guiding principle in this form of constituent analysis is that they must explain and not explain away what are stated in surface level descriptions. They must serve to explain, account for the observable 'behavior' of the universe, the creatures and other individuals and the quantitative and qualitative changes that are seen. Of particular importance is the need to provide an account of the developmental progress of the creatures and the linkages that exist between the development and the actions done.


The elements of this Deep Structure are termed tattuvas, which incidentally is a Sanskrit adaptation of the Tamil 'mey' meaning 'body' , 'stuff 'and 'truth'. The term is very ancient and occurs approximately in this sense in Sumerian (i.e. before 2000 B.C.). The following are examples of such usages.


From 'Lamentation Over the Destruction of Ur', we have


16. an-ra a-i-bi-ma me-e he-im-ma-na-de

To Anu the water of my eye verily I poured.

an-ra a(l) imai (em) ma mey-ye ituyimmana

(an>annal, a>al, am: water, ibi>imai: eyes,

ma>emma: me>mey: truely, de>idu: make)

The 'me' here means 'truly', 'verily' and so forth, a sense that is true of Ta. 'mey' even now.


From 'Exaltations of Innana' composed by Enhuduanna, which is actually a hymn to Kotravai, we have the following lines where 'me' occurs in the sense of tattuvas.


1. nin me sar-ra u dalla-e-a

Lady of all me's resplendent light

(nin mey carva ol tella-yi-a)

sar-ra > carva: all (>sk. Sarvam), u>ol, oli: light,

dalla > tella, tellia: clear, resplendent


5. me-imin-be su-sa-du-ga

Whose hand has attained (all) the 'seven' me's?

(mey imin (?) pe cey cutuka)


6. nin-mu me-gal-gal-la sag-kesda-bi za-e-me-en

oh my lady, you are the guardian of all the great me's.

(nin mo mey kal kal la canu kattupi aye man)


7. me mu-il me su-zu-se mu-e-la

You have picked up the me's you have hung the me's on your hand.

(mey mo iyal mey cey nuvcey mo ilai)


8. me mu-ur me gaba-zu bi-tab

you have gathered up the me's you have clasped the me's to your breast.

(mey mo or mey pakam nuv taippi)


su>cey>key,kay: hand; sag>can>cenni: head; kesda>

kattu: bind; il>iyal: to move; e-la> ilai: to wear; ur>

or: to gather up; gaba> pakam (meta thesis): chest; tab>

tai-p/t: to pin up

Even today 'mey' is used in this sense in the Tamil philosophical literature. In third millenniums B.C., the number of mey's identified was seven. In recent past it has increased to ninety-six.


Many more evidences can be adduced to show quite convincingly that the type of ontological analysis so characteristic of Indian philosophical tradition is native to the Dravidian people of India and was already in a matured form even in the third millenium B.C. in the lands of Sumeria, Elam and Meluha (i.e. Indus Valley).Such tatvas are arrived at through at first securing a true phenomenological description of the world and later seeking to disclose the relatively permanent underground elements that fabricate the phenomenal realities. The mey or tatvas are these underground elements that serve to explain the observable.


The sections under the heading 'An Account of Creation' seek to provide a description of the origination, structural changes in state and behavior and so forth in terms of a finite number of tatvas without violating the surface level descriptions discussed above. The tatvas appear to be something like force fields in physics interacting in myriad of ways and thus though finite in number but giving rise to an infinity of objects, processes, and events. This section contains what we have termed the generative description.

Since the contents are self explanatory, we shall not discuss the features but go on to the third question the author deals with.


6.0 The Metaphysical Explanation

Heidegger takes it that the basic question of metaphysics is: Why are there essents rather than nothing? Why are there essents, why is there anything at all, rather than nothing?[17] The question is said to loom in moments of great despair, in search of a new meaning for existence when the older ones lose their weight and become obscured. This is the most basic, most comprehensive of all questions for it includes even nothingness, not because it is something but because it is nothing. "This 'why' does not move on any one plane but penetrates to the 'underlying' realms and indeed to the very last of them, to the limit; turning away from the surface, from all shallowness, it strives toward the depths; this broadest of all questions is also the deepest."[18]


In the context of Indian philosophy this question was posed as the basic question of what is meant by 'mukti', 'nirvana', 'samadhi' and so forth. In Saiva Siddhanta, as the author of this text is abundantly clear, this same question is asked as the basic question of existence. But in view of the specific descriptions the system has justified for understanding the being there of the existents constituting the world, this basic metaphysical question is posed with a specific structure of its own.


Why the cosmic activities of Civa-Sakti, the Supreme Intelligence-Power creating myriad of forms out of mayai with births, deaths, pleasures and pains and so forth?


Why are the psyches, countless in number, permeated through and through with anavam? And hence acquire the chaining, delimiting, binding karma and maya?


What is the ultimate meaning of all human (and animal) endeavors, struggles?


Why the Dance of Civa at all?


The concept of paramoksa as purusartta, attempts to answer such metaphysical questions. The objective world is as described. The surface level and deep level structural descriptions which one may call an integrated and coordinated philosophical and scientific (in the broadest sense) descriptions, tell us how the world is. But such descriptions do not unearth the meaning for the world to be and to be thus. The phenomenological descriptions describe the objective world and provide a faultless understanding but since the meaning of existence is not a constituent of the cosmic process, it becomes beyond the power of such descriptions to unravel the meaning of existence. The question then necessarily becomes meta-physical, i.e. beyond the descriptive understanding of the world.


But the answer to it could not be independent of how we understand the existents, how we describe the objective world. Yet the 'meaning' of existence is not implied by the objective description - the linkage between the two is not logical. The objective description provides constraints for selecting one among a multitude of possibilities. It provides an insight that allows us to intuit and affirm one among the many possibilities as the possibility for oneself. And this is affirmed when the FUNDAMENTAL INTENTIONALITY is sighted and owned as one's own as well.


The possibility that is affirmed by the author and shared by all who live by Saiva Siddhanta, is the gaining of absolute freedom, liberation from servitude, bondage and so forth that the beginningless permeation of the ego with anavam has brought about by doing things that would increase the flow of Arul from Civa-Sakti into the innermost being of the psyche. The meaning of existence is to liberate ourselves from anavam, that stuff that has been within our psychic constitution throwing us into utter darkness, complete blindness, absolute ignorance. The Dance of Civa is there for enabling us to extricate ourselves from the clutches of anavam, if we so desire. Without that Dance, we cannot learn, acquire knowledge and thereby reduce the hold of anavam bit by bit. Without that Power that manifests itself as Desire, Consciousness and Movement and exercised by Civa, we cannot act and learn and hence acquire knowledge.


Becoming a psyche without karma, maya and ultimately the anava chains with the Grace Power of Civa is the ultimate meaning of existence. We can strive towards this absolute freedom, absolute autonomy that only Civa himself has by worshipping Him intensely and thereby transforming our selfhood and assimilating into the 'selfhood' of Civa himself so much so that we become indistinguishable from Him. In this terminal phase of our existence, in 'selfhood' we can become identical with Civa. We can exist without any blemish, completely free and autonomous, without the slightest inclination towards samsara, completely away from the gateway to phenomenality, full of Love for all creatures who are still struggling, endeavoring consciously or unconsciously to liberate themselves.

What the hermeneutic investigations of the world processes disclose to us is this possibility for us to own and appropriate as our own possibility. This possibility which is there in the world is opened up for us, disclosed for us to seize upon and live by it or reject and seek others. There is no compulsion but only an illumination, a disclosure that an individual can always choose to reject though he would be immensely foolish to do so.

In Saiva Siddhanta, the phenomenological description of the objective world and the metaphysical explanation of the meaning of existence hang together as one piece. This kattalai, brief as it may be, is a comprehensive literary piece that brings out very clearly the internal coherence that is so distinctive of Saiva Siddhanta.




[1] The sciences that were developed by the Tamils are essentially hermeneutic sciences that's emerging also in the West at the moment. The methodology was established at least by Tolkappiyar (300 B.C) if not by some unknown linguists even earlier. In Tol. it is termed Nul Neri, the way of textual analysis, which when translated into Sanskrit became Tantrika (Tantra :text) which later as Tantrism not only lost its original rigor but also degenerated into bizarre forms.


[2] By 'kattalai' is meant philosophical, scientific treatises in prose that are at the same time concise. Before such treatises were written all such texts were in verses. The earliest prose text is probably Tukal Aru Potak Kattlai dated around the 14th cent. There are now in existence about 30 such texts. Some were even produced in the 19th cent.

[3] Saiva Adheenams. Madams or monasteries were in existence from very ancient times. But it appears that only after the 16th cent. they became devoted to Saiva Siddhanta as expounded by Meykander. They simultaneously became centers of higher learning attracting many brilliant scholars to its' fold.

[4] 'Jnanamirtam' literally means the Gnostic ambrosia, i.e. supreme illumination that ensures deathlessness.

[5] This section is certainly very brilliant but unfortunately too concise. It is worth isolating this part and subject it to more intense and exhaustive study.

[6] calokam: existence in the same divine world; camippiyam: approaching the Deity and being in greater intimacy; caruppiyam: losing the human identity and assuming divine qualities; cayucciam: being identical in form with Deity.


[7] murtti: manifestation forms of the Deity; archetypes.

[8] There are many texts devoted to a more detailed expositions of these ten stages of Gnostic development of an individual called Dasa Karyam. The Siddhas who were also Saiva Siddhanties however developed different theories of development that were not sanctioned by the established monasteries.

[9] 'The Philosophy of Action' (Ed) Alan A. White, Oxford Readings in Philosophy. See the Introduction.

[10] ibid. p. 3

[11] Tolkappiyam; Collatikaram, Sutra.113.


[12] Such technical terms are also given their meanings where unusual. Common terms are retained if suitable English translations are not possible.

[13] These are technical terms used more frequently in the Saivagama texts in Sanskrit. They are also given prominence in Jnanamirtam, a philosophic classic in Tamil probably belonging to the 12th cent. A.D

[14] By such unusual phrases as (Intelligence- (Consciousness> Activity)) and so forth we want to describe the different states of Being of Parasiva in which the three constituent elements are in different orders of dominance.


[15] Tukal Aru Potak Kattalai, another prose text belonging to this school, deals more extensively with this question.

[16] Civajnana Botam, Sutra 3; maya iyantirat tanuvil anma: the psyche exists in a machine like physical body.


[17] Martin Heidegger: Introduction to Metaphysics, p.1

[18] ibid. p. 3


1. White, Alan.R (Ed)

The Philosophy of Action

Oxford Readings in Philosophy

2. Heidegger, Martin

Introduction to Metaphysics

Anchor Books edition: 1961

3. Avvai, Duraisamy Pillai (Ed)


Annamalai University Publications, 1964

4. Meykandar

Civa Jnana Botam

(with brief com. by Civajnana Yogikal)

5. Arunandi Civaccariyar

Civajnana Cittiyar

Kazhaka Publications