What's New

Lesson 1What's New

Saivism in a Nutshell

Written by Swami Sivanandhi Adikalar

1. Saivaite Hinduism believes in Lord SIVA as the supreme Godhead, who is worshipped both in the formless state, symbolically as Siva-Linga or in His various manifestations with form; such as SIVA (Nataraja, lord of dance), Vinayaka (Ganapaty), Murukan (Skanda), Uma (Skakti)-each form exalting one glorious aspect of the single Godhead.

2 Saivite Hinduism is a living, popular FAITH followed by over 200 Million people in the world today, but its traditional bases are in India, particularly South India, North and East Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore and other Southeast Asian countries. Western interest in Saivaite Hinduism has grown steadily over the last 50 years. The DANCE OF SIVA is well known in the world today..

3. Although Saivism and the Linga worship of SIVA goes back to the period of the Indus civilization (c. 2500 B.C) and even beyond, the philosophy of Saiva Siddhanta crystallised only during the BHAKTI period in South India (c. 600. A. D to 900 A. D.) dominated by the four NAYANMAR-SAINTS , the Founder Preceptors of Saivism -St. SAMBANDAR, St. APPAR, St. SUNDARAR, and St. MAN ICKA VACAKAR.

4. SIVAJNANA BODHAM-the Jnanapada of the Agamas.

The School of Saiva Siddhanta Philosophy (also called Southern Saivism) may be said to have gradually evolved from the Saiva Agamas and from the Hymns of Karaikkal Ammaiyar, Tirumular and the four leading Nayanmar Saints. But it was Sri Meikanda Tevar (circa 1250 A.D.) the illustrious saint and author, who systematised the doctrine of Saiva Siddhanta through his original Tamil work: Siva Jnana Bodham, giving an epistemological basis to the whole range of philosophical thought. It is a Tamil text in the form of Sutras, only 12 in number with some explanatory verses.

The Sutras were elaborated in marvelous verses by Meikandar's Guru turned-disciple, Sri Arulnandi Sivacarya in his work:

Sivajnana Siddhiyar. These Sutras are to the Saiva Siddhantas what Brahma Sutras of Badarayana are to the Vedantis. The Sivajnana Bodham has a voluminous commentary in Sanscrit by Sivagra Yogi (circa, 1564 A. D) from which Sivajnana Swami (d. 1785) drew inspiration to write his learned Bhasya in Tamil prose called Sivajnana Mahapaatiyam.


Sri Meikanda Tevar appeared at a time when there was much confusion and controversy due to the conflicting interpretations of the eminent Acharyas like Sri Sankara (Advaita), Sri Ramanuja (Visistadvaita), Sri Madhava (Dvaita), Sri Srikanta (Sivadvaita) and other lesser schools of bheda-abheda (that were in vogue during his period).Meikandar's task was to explain the Saiva stand point in regard to the fundamentals, like Pathi, Pasu, Pasa or God, Soul and universe; their interrelation; the true function of Maya; the destiny of the soul; the doctrine of Grace and finally the nature of Mukti..

The aspects of God's transcendence and immanence explained as one, different, and being together, is definitely the most satisfying interpretation of advaita 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 - a grand manual of the philosophy of religion which appeals to theist and monist alike. In fact the Sivajnana Bodham covers the whole gamut of Indian philosophic thought and set the SAIVA standpoint crystal clear in relation to other systems. The word SIDDHANTA means 'FINAL CONCLUSION' as contrasted with 'Purvapaksha', which is 'prima facie argument'..


The Bodham and Sidhiyar, and 12 other pre and post-Meikandar works form the wellknown 14 Siddhanta Sastras, otherwise called Meikanda Sastras, (the philosophical texts revealing True Knowledge). Although these constitute the doctrinal basis of Saiva Siddhanta Philosophy, it is useful to remember that they only underline and systematise the Saiva religious insights enumerated in our PANNIRU THIRUMURAI (the 12 Holy Books of Saivism) Tamil Hymnal literature codified in the eleventh century by Nambi Aandar Nambi and by Cekkizhar in the twelfth century.

7. 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 posted to exist in the effect.

b. The metaphysical 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 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 TATUVAS can be explained in a logical and rational way;realities established through empirical analysis.

e. It is a religion of Bakti and of life - affirmation of immense practical significance in daily life.


The three fundamental categories or entities called the tripadarthas (pati, pasu, pasam) or the ontological status of god, soul and the world according to Saiva Siddhanta are as follows:

All three are real and co-eval but their onto-logical status is different:-.

a. God is sat and sit (Existence and knowledge).

b. Soul is satasat and sitasit

c. Bonds are asat and asit.

The soul wakes up from its slumber state of Kevala, to the half-awake state of Sakala and eventually of the purified state of Suddha avastha - it is through its very association with Maya that the soul can ultimately be freed from its bondage.

9. The role of SAKTI as the power of Siva

Having posted three eternal entities (Tripadartas), Saiva Siddhanta explains certain experiences utilizing the category of Sakti. When paired with Siva it allows the sovereign over souls or the World by indirect contact through its Sakti. If the three realities are bricks then Sakti is the mortar that binds them. Further, SIVA is pure intelligence existing by itself while Sakti, which as instructor, is in contact with other objects, as the sun, through the sun light.

10. BLISS or ANANDA is one of the attributes of God, like Existence (sat) and knowledge (cit) Hence, God is called Sat ChitAnanda as he is the embodiment of these qualities. The AIM OF HUMAN LIFE, in Saiva Siddhanta, is to attain Bliss (also called Mukti or freedom from sorrow) through Prayer and Devotion, BHAKTI, for Gods GRACE which alone can give release to bound soul. This concept of Grace is fundamental to the Saiva Siddhanta Bhakti philosophy.

11. Prayer and worship is normally offered to the Deity installed in Hindu Saiva Temples built strictly according to the Saiva Agamic Rules. Temple worship is central to the bhakti tradition in the souls evolution through the four stages of Sariyai (Karma), Kiriyai (Temple rites), Yoga (internal worship), and Gnana (Wisdom paths to salvation).


Pasam is the three-fold bondage which prevents the soul from realizing God:-

a. Maya is the primordial matter which constitutes successive phenomenal worlds.

b. ANAVAM is the soul's egoism,manifesting as I-ness and My-ness.

c. KARMA is the composite of deeds and their effects.

The bearer or support of Karma is maya alone. That man suffers is evidence of his inherent freedom - this question of freedom and the individuals responsibility for it, is what the law of karma encodes. Anavam as the root impurity (moola mala) is connote to the soul, even to the liberated soul, although powerless at that stage), whereas the bonds of maya and karma pertain only to the bond soul.

13. The corner-stone of the PLURALISM of SAIVA SIDDHANTA rests on the concept of SUDDHA-ADVAITAM the three-fold advaita relationship in which God stands with the souls and the material world in:-.

1. Identification: as in body and soul.

2. Difference as salt and water in sea-water.

3. Togetherness: as in fruit and its essence..

This dynamic concept is unique to Saiva Siddhanta philosophy.


A collection of 12 Books of hymnal literature (including the Thevaram and the Thiruvacakam ref fered to as TOTIRA LITERATURE, ment for prayer and recitation.

The philosophy of SAIVISM is contained in the MEIKANDA SASTRAS, 14 in number with the leading work known as the SIVA-GNANA-BOTHAM of SRI MEIKANDAR the SYSTEMATISER of Saiva Siddhanta Philosophy.

15. According to Saiva Siddhanta, in Mukti or Liberation, the soul only attains the bliss of oneness in union with God SIVA, but not oneness in identity. Thus even in Mukti God and soul retain their individualities intact.

16. The catholicity of Saiva Siddhanta is expressed in its positive attitude of inter-faith co-operation through understanding their insights to enrich our total understanding of religious thought. We are guided by the true spirit which proclaims " I know other religions must be true because I know my own religion is true". This only means that given their respective standpoint and perspective each one has its validity.