Many are familiar with the three faces of Siva, called Trimurthi, where He is depicted as Creator, Preserver and Dissolutioner (Yes, it’s in the Fictionary.)
Fewer know the Five Faces of Sadasiva, also called Pancha Brahma. It is a mysterious, profound depiction of the Divine One, which the monks are preparing a major article in Hinduism Today for Twenty-Eleven. The faces are named Isana, Tatpurusha, Agora, Vamadeva and Sadyojata.
This form of Siva adds two faces to the better-known Trimurthi, and two cosmic powers or potencies: Concealing Grace and Revealing Grace. These five faces are often seen on lingams, with four facing the cardinal directions and the fifth facing upward.
These five faces and powers are central to the Agamas’ understanding of the cosmos, a hidden key to worship and puja, and our sculptors in India are just finishing making five of them in metal, to adorn the five niches surrounding the Iraivan sanctum. Here is the architectís drawing of Vamadeva, and the resulting metal murthi.
Lord Siva is the Supreme Being of the universe, not one of many gods. To Saivites Siva is the supreme being; to Vaishnavites Vishnu is the supreme being. The soul starts with experiencing the world. On one side the soul is pulled by veiling grace toward the world. On the inside the soul is pulled by revealing grace toward God. Resolving karma, maturing in the world, fulfilling dharma, we move toward imperturbability, realization, moksha.