SAIVISM AND ITS UNIVERSAL CONCEPTS OF RELIGION AND CULTURE

Swami Siva Nandhi Adikalar
Head of London Meikandar Aadheenam and Chairman, World Saiva Council.






Religion is about thanks giving to God and his creation and so, I begin with thanking the organisers of this great Conference for enabling us all to thank once again the Almighty Lord Siva. On behalf of the L.M. Aadheenam and the W.S.C., I warmly congratulate the general organising committee and all those who helped them in many ways, on this noble and laudable initiative in organising this historic World Saiva Conference in this beautiful city of Durban in the newly emerging free democratic South Africa. I pray to Lord Siva to bless this conference with all success and I am confident that the research papers, talks and discussions to follow will produce new ideas and insights for enriching the future of Saivism as a world faith on its own.

Our Saiva view of life is universal. 2000 years ago, our Sangam Tamil classic : Puranaanooru, proclaimed to the whole wide world : “Yaathum Uure, Yaavarum Keelir” - words fit enough to be engraved in gold at the portals of the United Nations in New York today - the world is my abode because all are my kinsmen. Our Saiva scripture, Thirukkural, outlined a four fold path of positive life-affirmation based on Aram, Porul, Inpam and fulfillment leading to a Saiva religious way of life without recourse to meaningless rituals and foolish blind faith. “Vaiathu valvangu" living well the earthly life is the aim. And Saivism has echoed and re-echoed the sentiments of well-being of all. "ellorum inbutrirukka ninaippathuve..." Let there be prosperity for all!

THE ORIGINS AND DEVELOPMENT OF SAIVISM : Tamils - 5000 Years of Civilization

The Prehistoric Dravidian Siva

The recent, computer-aided decipherment of the Indus valley scripts and excavations of the sites of Mahenjodaro and Harappa have presented us with evidence for a reassessment and new interpretation of India’s pre-Aryan civilization and religion which now strongly point in the direction a Dravidian (perhaps Tamil) Civilization following a SAIVA cult going back in time to at least 2500 B.C. even beyond. (See Mortimer Wheeler, the civilization of the Indus Valley, London 1966, 37 - 41)

We know from the Rig Veda that the SIVA-LINGA (Phallic) worship belonged to the non-Aryan people.

Dr. K. Loganathan more recently, through careful linguistic research of Sumerian literature has noted a close affinity so that not only Sumerian the proto-Tamil language but also the repertoire of Saiva Agamic traditions then in vogue in the Sumerian Temples. This important discovery makes our Saiva-Tamil Dravidian heritage almost contemporaneous or forerunners to the Babylonian and other ancient cultures in ancient Middle East , considered the cradle of human civilization.

Let us all be proud of our ancient heritage and we appeal to scholars everywhere, particularly the South Indians to continue their research into these areas which will be a source of encouragement to Saiva posterity , the world over. To recover our rightful place in world history Sumero-Dravidian studies is a must.

The Universality of Saiva Siddhanta

Saiva Siddhanta believes in graded forms of worship to suit the cultural and religious level of the various groups of individuals that form the community. The catholicity of Saiva Siddhanta is very beautifully expressed in the following verses :-

St. Arulnandi Sivachariyar in Siddiyar says:

Whatever God you worship, even as Him the consort of Uma (Siva) will appear there.

"Yathoru theivang kondeer ath theivamaghi yaange, Maathoru paaghanar tham varuvar"

St. Thayumanavar says:

The path proclaimed by all saints who have had the true vision, is the same everywhere

"Kanggul paghal atra thiruk katchiyarghal kanda vali, yengu moru valiye yenthai paraparame"

St. Sundarar says:

I am the servant of those devotees even of other lands,

who have reached the feet of God.

"appalum adi sarntha adiyerkku madiyen"

Our freedom to pray in our sacred mother tongue is our birthright. Let us make it crystal clear that our crusade is not against our Brahmin friends but it is against Brahmanism - just as our Saints Appar and Sambanthar fought against the imposition of Sanskrit and the caste system; just as Mahatma Gandhi fought and won against British Imperialism and just as you fought and won against the Apartheid system in South Africa.

The Saiva - Tamil Contribution to World Civilization

The following works of art and literature are among the most remarkable contributions of the Tamil creative genius to the world’s cultural treasure and should be familiar to the whole world and admired and loved by all in the same way as the poems of Homer, the dramas of Shakespeare, the pictures of Rembrandt, the cathedrals of France and the sculptures of Greece:-

a) The ancient Tamil lyrical poetry compiled in the eight Anthologies which are so unique and vigorous.

b) The Thirukkural, one of those singular emanations of the human heart and spirit which preaches positive love, forgiveness and peace.

c) The Epic poem : Periya Puranam which by the charm and magic of its lyrical parts belong to the epic masterpieces of the world.

d) The excellent literary expressions of the school of Bhakti which is one of the most sublime efforts of man to grasp the absolute in the works of : Manickavasagar, Gnanasampanther, Appar, Sundarar and Thayumanavar.

e) The philosophical system of Saiva Siddhantam which may be ranked among the most perfect systems of human thought.

f) The South Indian Bronzes of the Chola period particularly the Nadarajah figures and images of the Saiva Saints recognised now as among the masterpieces of the world.

g) The Dravidian temple architecture of which the chief representatives are perhaps the temples of Tanjore, Chidamparam and Madurai.

h) Pann Isai is a distinct Tamil contribution to the world of music. As early as the 7th Century, St. Sampanthar’s Tevarams were set to Pann Isai. Swami Vipulananda the distinguished author of Yaal Nool has identified 103 Panns and 120 kaddalais (Rhythmns). The present Carnatic system is only a poor distortion of this ancient Tamil Pann system.

i) In the field of religion, Tamil schools of personal religious devotion (Bhakti) have been important in Hinduism. South Indian classical dance Bharata Natyam owes much to the Tamils who are masters and teachers of these arts, which are integral to Saivism.

Tamil Saiva Bhakti Movement Was Reformist

Our Saiva Saints initiated the1500 year old crusade against Sanskrit and foreign culture as well as against the degrading system of caste, colour and creed imposed by Brahminism, a crusade that is still going on even today in 1996. Guided by the lofty universal concepts “Onre Kulam Oruvane Thevan”, "Yaathum Uure, Yaavarum Keelir”, the whole movement is an impassioned cry against the ossified ceremonial religion of the Brahmans and the ideal of “passionlessness” that they shared with the Buddhists and Jains. It was against the last that they launched their passionate crusade in the name of the One True God, Siva. In the following stanzas Appar, perhaps the most moving singer of them all, denounces the hollowness of purely mechanical religion in terms that bring to mind the much later reformers.
Why the meaningless chatter about the scriptures?
What do you really gain by the meaningless castes and lineages?
"sathiram pala pesum salakkarghaal, kothiramum kulamum kondhu en seiveer?"

Why bathe in Ganges’ stream, or Kaviri?
Why go to Comori in Kongu’s land?

"Gangai aadilen kaviri aadilen? engum yeesan enaathavarkku illaye?"

Saiva Siddhanta introduces a new element through bhakti, the dimension of sharing, communion, total surrender to the will of god so that God abides in his devotees and they in Him. Bhakti, here, is the natural culmination of any mystical theory which makes room for the many as well as the One—Love manifesting as the universal mutual attraction of all things to their centre, the Lord, and through the Lord to each other. “Anbe Sivam” - “Love itself is God-Siva” is the central theme of Saivism as elaborated in Thirumular’s THIRUMANTHIRAM.

A typical concomitant of bhakti is a sense of reliance on God’s Grace, on his gift rather than the devotees’ own effort. Quite different from the members of the Vedic pantheon, bhakti’s deity cannot be manipulated. He is in charge, a free agent who dispenses or withholds favour in accord with his own designs. It is said that by means of the creator’s grace, one sees the Lord and is freed from sorrow. “AVAN ARULAALE AVAN THAL VANANKI” says MANIVACAKAR.

What is historically relevant is that the long-standing Tamil Bhakti tradition, both Vaishnava and Saiva, represent the Tamil protestant crusade starting from the 5th century onward to maintain our Saiva universal concepts of human equality (onre kulam) and God is love (~ ) against the imposition of the caste system and untouchability by Brahminism designed to undermine and destroy Tamil culture just like the old apartheid system of South Africa. This is why we proclaim ourselves as Saivites and our religion as Saivism - we have nothing to do with Hinduism ridden with caste and untouchability. This is our present crusade. In the name of Saint Kannappar; in the name of Mahatma Gandhi let us proclaim as Saivites “Onre Kulam, Oruvane Thevan.”

Science, Spirituality and Shiva’s Dance

The dance of Shiva is the dancing universe; the ceaseless flow of energy going through an infinite variety of patterns that melt into one another.

Thus the artistic symbol and focus of Saivas displaying the eternal DANCE OF SIVA, represents SIVA as the Panchakritya showing the dynamics and flow of life through the five-fold divine functions of creation, protection, obscuration, destruction and redemption through His Grace. It also potrays the unique, underlying unity of the worlds of man, mind and matter, pulsating in unison with the source of cosmic energy which is God himself.

Tirumular in his Tirumandiram writes “ let the dance of Lord Siva take place in the heart of every individual”.
"engum sithamparam, engum thirunattam, engum sivasakthi"
The Shiva-Shakti principle pervading the whole Cosmos thus provides a logical and consistent insight into the subtle forces of creation and destruction continuously going on in the whole Cosmos.

The Universality of the Shiva-Shakti Principle

All these forces and energies are ultimately found to be integrated in “Shiva-Shakti is a two-dimensional unity known also as “Ardha-Naari-Nateshwara” (half-female and Half-male Lord of the Universe), in which the male represents Consciousness and the female, Pure Cosmic Energy. The Whole Universe is a manifestation of SIVAM brought about by this dual principle. Shiva is the static power potential while Shakti is the active energy of movement and change, actualizing in the various phenomena. Shiva is related to space, and Shakti to time.

Dr. Fritjof Capra further explaining the Shiva-Shakti principle, points out: “The most spectacular aspect of subatomic physics is the creation and destruction of material particles. Modern physics shows that, movement and rhythm are essential properties of matter; that all matter whether here on earth or in outer space, is involved in a continual dance. This dynamic view of the Universe is similar to that of modern physics and, consequently, finds its most beautiful expression in India in the image of Shiva Nataraja”.

The dance of Shiva is for the welfare of the world. The object of His dance is to free the souls from the fetters of Maya.

The Scientific and Rational Approach of Saiva Siddhanta is evident from its reliance on the following eternal principles:-
a. It is based on the scientific principle of SAT KARYA VADAM - what is in the cause must be found in the effect and nothing that is not in the cause can be posited to exist in the effect.
b. The experimental analysis of all that exists into three eternal realities, including the world of Maya, to gain an insight into Reality.
c. The use of logic, psychology, and daily experience, both to underline the fact that Truth is always the golden mean between two poles and also to ensure that Truth can be experienced by all.
d. The classification of the 36 TATTUVAS can be explained in logical and rational way.
The Unique Interpretation of the Term “ADVAITA”

The aspects of God’s transcendence and immanence explained as one, different, and being together, is definitely the most satisfying interpretation of advaitta commented on and realised in the experience of saints and given expression to in hymns and formulated by Sri Meikandar in his Sutras which set out the Jnanapada of the Agamas, together with the sadhana for Mukti. So it is called the crown and fulfillment of philosophic thought - grand manual of the philosophy of religion which appeals to theists and monists.
f) The Uniqueness of Realistic Pluralism of Saivism
The three-fold bondage of Anavam, Kanmam & Maya or Pati-Pasu-Pasam

Human Bondage called Pacam or Malam is the most common and most general Saiva Siddhanta category designating what ails mankind. Along with pati (the supreme being Siva) and pasu (the individual soul) it is one of the three elements of reality which are eternal and uncreated. This tripartite ontology is central to Saiva Siddhanta philosophy. Pacam consists of three strands or aspects, viz : Anavam, Kanmam and Maya.

Conclusion

Brothers and sisters and fellow Saivites of South Africa : In the words of Thiruvacagam of our great St Manickavacagar, I too thank Lord Siva and rejoice in your holy company,:” as we are all united and single minded as devotees of Lord Siva : "adiyen un adiyar naduvul..." As I near the end of my talk, I would like you all to read and carry out as far as you can, the 10 point plan approved at the Colombo conference.

As this Durban Conference is concerned, I would like to leave you with four new ideas for your consideration.

1. First and foremost is the need for an all round Saiva Education both for young and old. This spiritual rejuvenation, based on a sense of belonging to a rich ancient and yet highly scientific Saiva heritage, holds the key to our vision for the 21st century. Saiva devotees must be educated to understand (a) that our Lord Siva cannot be manipulated by money or ritual and that He can be reached only by a melting heart ("Avan arulale avan thal vananghi") The Periapurana story of St. Kannappar’s is proof of this, is proof were needed that prayer is the mother-tongue that induces real Bhakti.

2. The second most important point is Saiva Social Service to the poor and destitute in our midst - "yavarkkumam unnum pothu oru kaipidi” Although charity begins at home, we must progress from that to be magnanimous because there is no high and low in creation - "nadamadum theivam nambarkku ondru eyin"

3. Every Saivite worthy of his name should be familiar with at least three Saiva books which are well known with translations ; (1) Thirukkural as a guide for daily life (2) Siva-gnana-bhodam for Saiva Philosophy and (3) Thirumurai for Prayer devotion and Mantras.

4. Our vision of a glorious future for Saivism rests on the shoulders of the Saiva Youth of South Africa - boys and girls who will not only learn all aspects of Saivism and practice it, but also live and work with the courage and conviction that Lord Siva’s Grace will guide and inspire them in their service to Saivism world wide.


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