N THE SEARCH FOR PEACE, ENLIGHTENMENT AND LIBERATION, NO PATH IS MORE TOLERANT, MORE MYSTICAL, MORE WIDESPREAD OR MORE ANCIENT THAN ŚAIVITE HINDUISM. THROUGH HISTORY ŚAIVISM HAS DEVELOPED A VAST ARRAY OF LINEAGES and traditions, each with unique philosophic-cultural-linguistic characteristics, as it dominated India prior to 1100 from the Himalayas to Sri Lanka, from the Bay of Bengal to the Arabian Sea. Here we seek to present the essential features of six major traditions identifiable within the ongoing Śaiva context: Śaiva Siddhānta, Pāśupata Śaivism, Kashmīr Śaivism, Vīra Śaivism, Siddha Siddhānta and Śiva Advaita.
It should be understood that this formal and somewhat intellectual division, however useful, is by no means a comprehensive description of Śaivism, nor is it the only possible list. In practice, Śaivism is far more rich and varied than these divisions imply. Take for instance the Śaivism practiced by thirteen million people in Nepal or three million in Indonesia and fifty-five million Hinduized Javanese who worship Śiva as Batara. Ponder the millions upon millions of Smārtas and other universalists who have taken Gaṇeśa, Murugan or Śiva as their chosen Deity, or the legions of Ayyappan followers who worship devoutly in Lord Murugan’s great South Indian sanctuaries. Consider the fact that only a handful of Kashmir’s millions of Śiva worshipers would formally associate themselves with the school called Kashmīr Śaivism. Similarly, in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, where there are over fifty million worshipers of Śiva, only a well-informed minority would knowingly subscribe to Śaiva Siddhānta.
Our discussion of these six schools and their related traditions is based upon historical information. There are wide gaps in the record, but we do know that at each point where the veil of history lifts, the worship of Śiva is there. In the 8,000-year-old Indus Valley we find the famous seal of Śiva as Lord Paśupati. The seal shows Śiva seated in a yogic pose. In the Rāmāyaṇa, dated astronomically at 2000 BCE, Lord Rāma worshiped Śiva, as did his rival Ravana. In the Mahābhārata, dated at around 1300 BCE we find again the worship of Śiva. Buddha in 624 BCE was born into a Śaivite family, and records of his time talk of the Śaiva ascetics who wandered the hills looking much as they do today.
The Śaiva Āgamas form the foundation and circumference of all the schools of Śaivism. The system of philosophy set forth in the Āgamas is common to a remarkable degree among all these schools of thought. These Āgamas are theistic, that is, they all identify Śiva as the Supreme Lord, immanent and transcendent, capable of accepting worship as the personal Lord and of being realized through yoga. This above all else is the connecting strand through all the schools.
Philosophically, the Āgamic tradition includes the following principal doctrines: 1) the five powers of Śiva: creation, preservation, destruction, revealing and concealing grace; 2) The three categories, Pati, paśu and pāśa: God, souls and bonds; 3) the three bonds: āṇava, karma and māyā; 4) the three-fold power of Śiva—icçhā, kriyā and jñāna śakti; 5) the thirty-six tattvas, or categories of existence, from the five elements to God; 6) the need for the satguru and initiation; 7) the power of mantra; 8) the four pādas: charyā, kriyā, yoga and jñāna.
As we explore the individual schools and lineages within Śaivism, keep in mind that all adhere to these doctrines. Our discussion necessarily focuses on the differences between one school and another, but this is not meant to obscure the overwhelming similarity of belief and practice among them.
Monism, dualism and philosophies in-between are all conveyed in the Śaiva Āgamas. The various schools based on Āgamas similarly vary in philosophic stance. Kashmīr Śaivite tradition says that Śiva revealed different philosophies for people of different understanding, so that each could advance on the spiritual path toward the recognition of the innate oneness of man and God.
Few worshipers of Śiva are now or were in the past familiar with the Āgamas. Reading and writing were the domain of a few specially trained scribes, and today the Āgamas remain mostly on the olai leaves upon which they have been transmitted for generations. Āgamic philosophy and practices are conveyed to the common man through other channels, one of which is the Śaiva Purāṇas. These oral collections of stories about the Gods are interspersed with Āgamic philosophy. For example, the Śiva Purāṇa proclaims: “Śiva is the great ātman because He is the ātman of all, He is forever endowed with the great qualities. The devotee shall realize the identity of Śiva with himself: ‘I am Śiva alone.’ ”
A second channel is the Śaivite temple itself, for the construction of the temples and the performance of the rituals are all set forth in the Āgamas—in fact it is one of their main subjects. The priests follow manuals called paddhati, which are summaries of the instructions for worship contained in the Śaiva Āgamas, specifically the shoḍaśa upachāras, or sixteen acts of pūjā worship, such as offering of food, incense and water. A third channel is the songs and bhajanas of the sants, which in their simplicity carry powerful philosophic import. A fourth is the on-going oral teachings of gurus, swāmīs, paṇḍitas, śāstrīs, priests and elders.
Such matters of agreement belie the fact that Śaivism is not a single, hierarchical system. Rather, it is a thousand traditions, great and small. Some are orthodox and pious, while others are iconoclastic and even—like the Kāpālikas and the Aghorīs—fiercely ascetic, eccentric or orgiastic. For some, Śiva is the powerful, terrible, awesome destroyer, but for most He is love itself, compassionate and gentle. For nearly all of the millions of Śiva’s devotees, Śaivism is not, therefore, a school or philosophy; it is life itself. To them Śaivism means love of Śiva, and they simply follow the venerable traditions of their family and community. These men and women worship in the temples and mark life’s passages by holy sacraments. They go on pilgrimages, perform daily prayers, meditations and yogic disciplines. They sing holy hymns, share Purāṇic folk narratives and recite scriptural verses. Still, it is useful for us all to understand the formal streams of thought which nurture and sustain our faith. Now, in our brief description of these six schools, we begin with today’s most prominent form of Śaivism, Śaiva Siddhānta.
Śaiva Siddhānta is the oldest, most vigorous and extensively practiced Śaivite Hindu school today, encompassing millions of devotees, thousands of active temples and dozens of living monastic and ascetic traditions. Despite its popularity, Siddhānta’s glorious past as an all-India denomination is relatively unknown and it is identified today primarily with its South Indian, Tamil form. The term Śaiva Siddhānta means “the final or established conclusions of Śaivism.” It is the formalized theology of the divine revelations contained in the twenty-eight Śaiva Āgamas. The first known guru of the Śuddha, “pure,” Śaiva Siddhānta tradition was Maharishi Nandinatha of Kashmir (ca 250 BCE), recorded in Pānini’s book of grammar as the teacher of ṛishis Patanjali, Vyaghrapada and Vasishtha. The only surviving written work of Maharishi Nandinatha are twenty-six Sanskrit verses, called the Nandikeśvara Kāśikā, in which he carried forward the ancient teachings. Because of his monistic approach, Nandinatha is often considered by scholars as an exponent of the Advaita school.
The next prominent guru on record is Rishi Tirumular, a siddha in the line of Nandinatha who came from the Valley of Kashmir to South India to propound the sacred teachings of the twenty-eight Śaiva Āgamas. In his profound work the Tirumantiram, “Sacred Incantation,” Tirumular for the first time put the vast writings of the Āgamas and the Śuddha Siddhānta philosophy into the melodious Tamil language. Rishi Tirumular, like his satguru, Maharishi Nandinatha, propounds a monistic theism in which Śiva is both material and efficient cause, immanent and transcendent. Śiva creates souls and world through emanation from Himself, ultimately reabsorbing them in His oceanic Being, as water flows into water, fire into fire, ether into ether.
The Tirumantiram unfolds the way of Siddhānta as a progressive, four-fold path of charyā, virtuous and moral living; kriyā, temple worship; and yoga—internalized worship and union with Paraśiva through the grace of the living satguru—which leads to the state of jñāna and liberation. After liberation, the soul body continues to evolve until it fully merges with God—jīva becomes Śiva.
Tirumular’s Śuddha Śaiva Siddhānta shares common distant roots with Mahāsiddhayogi Gorakshanatha’s Siddha Siddhānta in that both are Nātha teaching lineages. Tirumular’s lineage is known as the Nandinātha Sampradāya, Gorakshanatha’s is called the Ādinātha Sampradāya.
Śaiva Siddhānta flowered in South India as a forceful bhakti movement infused with insights on siddha yoga. During the seventh to ninth centuries, saints Sambandar, Appar and Sundarar pilgrimaged from temple to temple, singing soulfully of Śiva’s greatness. They were instrumental in successfully defending Śaivism against the threats of Buddhism and Jainism. Soon thereafter, a king’s Prime Minister, Manikkavasagar, renounced a world of wealth and fame to seek and serve God. His heart-melting verses, called Tiruvasagam, are full of visionary experience, divine love and urgent striving for Truth. The songs of these four saints are part of the compendium known as Tirumurai, which along with the Vedas and Śaiva Āgamas form the scriptural basis of Śaiva Siddhānta in Tamil Nadu.
Besides the saints, philosophers and ascetics, there were innumerable siddhas, “accomplished ones,” God-intoxicated men who roamed their way through the centuries as saints, gurus, inspired devotees or even despised outcastes. Śaiva Siddhānta makes a special claim on them, but their presence and revelation cut across all schools, philosophies and lineages to keep the true spirit of Śiva present on Earth. These siddhas provided the central source of power to spur the religion from age to age. The well-known names include Sage Agastya, Bhogar Rishi, Tirumular and Gorakshanatha. They are revered by the Siddha Siddhāntins, Kashmīr Śaivites and even by the Nepalese branches of Buddhism.
In Central India, Śaiva Siddhānta of the Sanskrit tradition was first institutionalized by Guhavasi Siddha (ca 675). The third successor in his line, Rudrasambhu, also known as Amardaka Tirthanatha, founded the Āmardaka monastic order (ca 775) in Andhra Pradesh. From this time, three monastic orders arose that were instrumental in Śaiva Siddhānta’s diffusion throughout India. Along with the Āmardaka order (which identified with one of Śaivism’s holiest cities, Ujjain) were the Mattamayūra Order, in the capital of the Chālukya dynasty, near the Punjab, and the Madhumateya order of Central India. Each of these developed numerous sub-orders, as the Siddhānta monastics, full of missionary spirit, used the influence of their royal patrons to propagate the teachings in neighboring kingdoms, particularly in South India. From Mattamayūra, they established monasteries in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra and Kerala (ca 800).
Of the many gurus and āchāryas that followed, spreading Siddhānta through the whole of India, two siddhas, Sadyojyoti and Bṛihaspati of Central India (ca 850), are credited with the systematization of the theology in Sanskrit. Sadyojyoti, initiated by the Kashmir guru Ugrajyoti, propounded the Siddhānta philosophical views as found in the Raurava Āgama. He was succeeded by Ramakantha I, Srikantha, Narayanakantha and Ramakantha II, each of whom wrote numerous treatises on Śaiva Siddhānta.
Later, King Bhoja Paramara of Gujarat (ca 1018) condensed the massive body of Siddhānta scriptural texts that preceded him into a one concise metaphysical treatise called Tattvaprakāśa, considered a foremost Sanskrit scripture on Śaiva Siddhānta.
Affirming the monistic view of Śaiva Siddhānta was Srikumara (ca 1056), stating in his commentary, Tatparyadīpikā, on Bhoja Paramara’s works, that Pati, paśu and pāśa are ultimately one, and that revelation declares that Śiva is one. He is the essence of everything. Srikumara maintained that Śiva is both the efficient and the material cause of the universe.
Śaiva Siddhānta was readily accepted wherever it spread in India and continued to blossom until the Islamic invasions, which virtually annihilated all traces of Siddhānta from North and Central India, limiting its open practice to the southern areas of the subcontinent.
It was in the twelfth century that Aghorasiva took up the task of amalgamating the Sanskrit Siddhānta tradition of the North with the Southern, Tamil Siddhānta. As the head of a branch monastery of the Āmardaka Order in Chidambaram, Aghorasiva gave a unique slant to Śaiva Siddhānta theology, paving the way for a new pluralistic school. In strongly refuting any monist interpretations of Siddhānta, Aghorasiva brought a dramatic change in the understanding of the Godhead by classifying the first five principles, or tattvas (Nāda, Bindu, Sadāśiva, Īśvara and Śuddhavidyā), into the category of pāśa (bonds), stating they were effects of a cause and inherently unconscious substances. This was clearly a departure from the traditional teaching in which these five were part of the divine nature of God. Aghorasiva thus inaugurated a new Siddhānta, divergent from the original monistic Śaiva Siddhānta of the Himalayas.
Despite Aghorasiva’s pluralistic viewpoint of Siddhānta, he was successful in preserving the invaluable Sanskritic rituals of the ancient Āgamic tradition through his writings. To this day, Aghorasiva’s Siddhānta philosophy is followed by almost all of the hereditary Śivāchārya temple priests, and his paddhati texts on the Āgamas have become the standard pūjā manuals. His Kriyākramadyotikā is a vast work covering nearly all aspects of Śaiva Siddhānta ritual, including dīkshā, saṁskāras, ātmārtha pūjā and installation of Deities.
In the thirteenth century, another important development occurred in Śaiva Siddhānta when Meykandar wrote the twelve-verse Śivajñānabodham. This and subsequent works by other writers laid the foundation of the Meykandar Sampradāya, which propounds a pluralistic realism wherein God, souls and world are coexistent and without beginning. Śiva is efficient but not material cause. They view the soul’s merging in Śiva as salt in water, an eternal oneness that is also twoness. This school’s literature has so dominated scholarship that Śaiva Siddhānta is often erroneously identified as exclusively pluralistic. In truth, there are two interpretations, one monistic and another dualistic, of which the former is the original philosophical premise found in pre-Meykandar scriptures, including the Upanishads.
Śaiva Siddhānta is rich in its temple traditions, religious festivals, sacred arts, spiritual culture, priestly clans, monastic orders and guru-disciple lineages. All these still thrive. Today Śaiva Siddhānta is most prominent among sixty million Tamil Śaivites who live mostly in South India and Sri Lanka. Here and elsewhere in the world, prominent Siddhānta societies, temples and monasteries abound.
The Pāśupatas (from Paśupati, a name of Śiva meaning “Lord of souls”) are the oldest known sect of Śaivite ascetic monks. They wandered, pounding the dust with iron tridents and stout staffs, their oily hair snarled in unkempt coils or tied in a knot, faces wrinkled with intense devotion, piercing eyes seeing more Śiva than world, loins wrapped in deer skin or bark. The Pāśupatas were bhaktas and benign sorcerers of Śiva, estranged from the priest-dominated Vedic society. Religious turbulence in India intensified as the dual waves of Śaivite Āgamic theism and Buddhism washed over the Gangetic plain.
The ways of the Pāśupatas were chronicled by several sometimes hostile contemporary commentators of that distant period, leaving us with a mixed impression of their life and philosophy. They originally allowed anyone to follow their path, which was not caste-discriminative. As the popularity of the Pāśupata lineage rose, high numbers of brāhmins defected to it to worship Śiva in unhindered abandon. Eventually it was preferred for a Pāśupata to come from the brāhmin caste. The relationship between these Pāśupata monks and the ash-smeared sādhus of Buddha’s time, or the makers of the Indus Valley seal depicting Śiva as Pāśupata, is not known. They are perhaps the same, perhaps different.
The Pāśupata sādhus evoked sheer religious awe. Theirs was a brave, ego-stripping path meant to infuse the seeker with Lord Śiva’s kāruṇya, “compassionate grace.” Their austerity was leavened with pūjā rites to Śiva, with a profound awareness of the cosmos as Śiva’s constant becoming and with an almost frolicsome spirit of love toward Him. Sādhana began with a strict code of ethics, called yamas and niyamas, stressing brahmacharya, “continence;” ahiṁsā, “noninjury;” and tapas, “asceticism.” As detailed in their scriptures, their discipline was practiced in stages. First they assumed vows and practiced special disciplines among themselves which included Śiva-intoxicated laughing, singing and dancing.
Next they dispersed into mainstream society, living incognito. Here they perpetrated outrageous acts to purposely invite public censure, such as babbling, making snorting sounds, walking as if crippled, talking nonsense, and wild gesturing. This sādhana was a means of self-purification, of rooting out egoism, of getting over the need to be accepted by the public, by friends or by neighbors, and to fully establish in the subconscious the knowledge that like and dislike, good and bad and all these human ways of thinking and feeling are equal if one’s love of Lord Śiva is sufficiently strong. This was designed to break their links with human society and with their own humanness that came with them when they were born.
Returning to overt sādhana, they practiced austerities, then abandoned all action to perform kuṇḍaliṇī yoga and so to achieve perpetual nearness to God Śiva. When union matured, they acquired supernatural powers such as omniscience. The Pāśupatas believed that when a person is firm in virtue and able to accept with equanimity all abuse and insult, he is well established in the path of asceticism. Sri Kaundinya wrote in his sixth-century commentary, Pañchārtha Bhāshya, on the Pāśupata Sūtra that the Pāśupata yogī “should appear as though mad, like a pauper, his body covered with filth, letting his beard, nails and hair grow long, without any bodily care. Hereby he cuts himself off from the estates (varṇa) and stages of life (āśramas), and the power of dispassion is produced.”
Pāśupatism is primarily an ascetic’s path that rejects dialectical logic and prizes sādhana as a means to actuate Lord Śiva’s kāruṇya. Seekers embrace strict yama-niyama vows, their sādhanas graduating from “action” to “nonaction.” Worshipful action includes pūjā, penance, Namaḥ Śivāya japa, wearing sacred ash and showing abandoned love of God Śiva.
The sect was said to have been founded by Lord Śiva Himself, who imparted the doctrines to certain mahāṛishis. Around 200 CE, Pāśupata’s most historically prominent satguru, Lakulisa, appeared in what is today India’s state of Gujarat. According to the Kāravaṇa Māhātmya, he was born to a brāhmin family, but died in his seventh month, after displaying remarkable spiritual powers. His mother cast his body into a river (a traditional form of infant burial), and a group of tortoises carried it to a powerful Śiva shrine. There the boy returned to life and was raised as an ascetic. By another account, Lakulisa (“lord of the staff”) was an anchorite who died and was revived by Lord Śiva, who entered his body to preach the Pāśupata Dharma to the world. The site of his appearance is a town known today as Kayavarohana (“incarnation in another’s body”). The miracle is still festively celebrated. Two stone inscriptions in the village honor the names of this satguru’s four main śishyas: Kuśika, Gargya, Maitreya and Kaurusha.
Satguru Lakulisa was a dynamic Pāśupata reformist. In his sūtras, outlining the bold codes of conduct and yoga precepts, he restricted admittance to the three higher castes (vaiśya, kshatriya and brāhmin) in an attempt to link this school with Vedic orthodoxy. A popular householder path arose out of this exclusively ascetic order. Today numerous Pāśupata centers of worship are scattered across India, where Satguru Lakulisa as Śiva is often enshrined, his image on the face of a Śivaliṅga, seated in lotus posture, virilely naked, holding a daṇḍa in his left hand and a citron fruit in his right. Their most revered temple, Somanath, is in Gujarat, a powerful, active temple which has endured several cycles of destruction and rebuilding.
A seventh-century Chinese traveler, Hsüen Tsang, wrote that 10,000 Pāśupatas then occupied Varanasi. The Pāśupata tradition spread to Nepal in the eighth century, where the now famous Pāśupatināth Temple became a prime pilgrimage center and remains so to this day. At its medieval zenith, Pāśupatism blanketed Western, Northwestern and Southeastern India, where it received royal patronage. In the fifteenth century, it retreated to its strongholds of Gujarat, Nepal and the Himalayan hills.
Traditionally, the deepest Pāśupata teachings have been kept secret, reserved for initiates who were tried, tested and found most worthy. Central scriptures are the Pāśupata Sūtras (ascribed to the venerable Lakulisa), Kaundinya’s commentary on them, Pañchārtha Bhāshya (ca 500) and the Mṛigendra Āgama.
The Pāśupata philosophy prior to Lakulisa was dualistic. Little is known of it, as no writings remain. But scholars have discerned from references to Pāśupata by other ancient writers that it regarded Śiva as only the efficient cause of the universe, not the material. It posited five primary categories—cause, effect, union, ritual and liberation. The latter category was somewhat unusual, as the Pāśupatas believed the soul never merged in Śiva and that liberation was simply a state with no further pain. They taught that God can create changes in the world and in the destinies of men according to His own pleasure. God does not necessarily depend upon the person or his karma (actions).
Lakulisa’s Pāśupata system retained the idea of five categories, but regarded the goal of the soul as attainment of divine perfection. Further, he put God as the material cause of the universe, effectively moving the philosophy from dualism to dual-nondual. The soul, paśu, is prevented from closeness to Śiva by pāśa, “fetters.” The soul retains its individuality in its liberated state, termed sāyujya, defined as closeness to but not complete union with God. Lord Śiva has no power over liberated souls.
The Kāpālika, “skull-bearers,” sect developed out of the Pāśupatas and were likewise—but perhaps justifiably—vilified by their opponents. At worst, they are portrayed as drunken and licentious, engaged in human sacrifice and practicing the blackest of magic. Other portrayals are more benign. For example, in the early Sanskrit drama Mālatī-Mādhava, a Kāpālika says with great insight, “Being exclusively devoted to alms alone, penance alone and rites alone—all this is easy to obtain. Being intent upon the Self alone, however, is a state difficult to obtain.” Even today, followers of this sect are found begging food which they accept in a skull, preferably that of a brāhmin. Some scholars see a connection between the Kāpālikas and the later Gorakshanātha yogīs.
In the seventh century, another sect developed out of the Pāśupata tradition, the Kālāmukhas, “black-faced,” who established a well-organized social structure with many temples and monasteries in what is now Karnataka and elsewhere. Like the earlier Pāśupatas, they suffered vilification at the hands of hostile commentators. Nothing is left of their scriptures, hence details of their philosophy and life is obscure. However, the esteem in which they were once held is reflected in an 1162 inscription on one of their temples stating, in part, that it was “a place devoted to the observances of Śaiva saints leading perpetually the life of celibate religious students, a place for the quiet study of four Vedas,… the Yoga Śāstras and the other kinds of learning, a place where food is always given to the poor, the helpless,…the musicians and bards whose duty it is to awaken their masters with music and songs,…and to the mendicants and all beggars,…a place where many helpless sick people are sheltered and treated, a place of assurance of safety for all living creatures.” The Vīra Śaiva school is thought by scholars to have developed out of and eventually replaced the Kālāmukhas, apparently taking over their temples and āśramas. Today’s reclusive Pāśupata monks live in Northern India and Nepal and influence followers worldwide.
Vīra Śaivism is one of the most dynamic of modern-day Śaivite schools. It was made popular by the remarkable South Indian brāhmin Sri Basavanna (1105‒1167). Adherents trace the roots of their faith back to the ṛishis of ancient times. Vīra, “heroic,” Śaivites are also known as Liṅgāyats, “bearers of the Liṅga.” All members are to constantly wear a Liṅga encased in a pendant around the neck. Of this practice, Thavathiru Santalinga Ramasamy of Coimbatore recently said, “I can say that Vīra Śaiva worship is the best form of worship because Śivaliṅga is worn on our body and it unites the soul with the Omnipresence. We are always in touch with Lord Śiva, without even a few seconds break.” Followers are also called Liṅgavāntas and Śivaśaraṇas.
Like the sixteenth-century Protestant revolt against Catholic authority, the Liṅgāyat movement championed the cause of the down-trodden, rebelling against a powerful brāhminical system which promoted social inequality through a caste system that branded a whole class of people (harijans) as polluted. Going against the way of the times, the Liṅgāyats rejected Vedic authority, caste hierarchy, the system of four āśramas, a multiplicity of Gods, ritualistic (and self-aggrandizing) priestcraft, animal sacrifice, karmic bondage, the existence of inner worlds, duality of God and soul, temple worship and the traditions of ritual purity-pollution.
Vīra Śaiva tradition states that Basavanna was a reflective and defiant youth who rejected much of the Śaivism practiced in his day, tore off his sacred thread, yājñopavīta, at age 16 and fled to Sangama, Karnataka. He received shelter and encouragement from Isanya Guru, a Śaivite brāhmin of the prevailing Kālāmukha sect, and studied under him at his monastery-temple complex for twelve years. There he developed a profound devotion to Śiva as Lord Kudalasaṅgama, “Lord of the meeting rivers.” At age 28, Basavanna arrived at the insight that the brotherhood of man rests on the doctrine of a personalized, individual Godhood in the form of IshṭaLiṅga (“chosen, or personal Liṅga”). This spiritual realization gave rise to the central Vīra Śaiva belief that the human body is to be revered as a moving temple of the Lord, to be kept in a perpetual state of purity and sublimity.
Near the completion of his studies at Sangama, Basavanna had a vivid dream in which the Lord Kudalasaṅgama touched his body gently, saying, “Basavanna, my son, the time has come at last for your departure from this place. There is Bijjala in Mangalavede. Carry on your work of building a just society from there.” Having received these inner orders, he journeyed to Mangalavede and sought service in the court of Bijjala. He rose to become chief officer of the royal treasury, minister to this mahārāja in his troubled Śaivite country at odds with Buddhism and Jainism. This position led to the swift spreading of Basavanna’s revolutionary message of a new, visionary religious society.
Basavanna wedded two wives, taking on the householder dharma, exemplifying his teaching that all followers—not only renunciates—can live a holy life. He gave discourses each evening, denouncing caste hierarchy, magical practices, astrology, temple building and more, urging growing crowds of listeners to think rationally and worship Śiva as the God within themselves. Here Basavanna lived and preached for twenty years, developing a large Śaivite religious movement. The function of gathering for discourse became known as Śivānubhava Maṇḍapa, “hall of Śiva experience.”
At age 48 he moved with King Bijjala to Kalyana, where, joined by Allama Prabhu, his fame continued to grow for the next fourteen years. Devotees of every walk of life flocked from all over India to join with him. Through the years, opposition to his egalitarian community grew strong among more conventional citizens. Tensions came to a head in 1167 when a brāhmin and śūdra, both Liṅgāyats, married. Outraged citizens appealed to King Bijjala, who took ruthless action and executed them both. The unstable political situation further deteriorated, and the King was shortly thereafter murdered by political opponents or possibly by Liṅgāyat radicals. Riots erupted and the Liṅgāyats were scattered far and wide. Basavanna, feeling his mission in the capital had come to an end, left for Sangama, and shortly thereafter died, at the age of 62. Leaders and followers transferred the institutional resources created in the urban Kalyana to the rural localities of Karnataka.
In spite of persecution, successful spiritual leadership left a legacy of sainthood, including many women saints. If Basavanna was the faith’s intellectual and social architect, Allama Prabhu was its austerely mystical powerhouse. The doctrines of these two founders are contained in their Vachanas, or prose lyrics. Vīra Śaiva spiritual authority derives from the life and writings of these two knowers of Śiva and of numerous other Śivaśaraṇas, “those surrendered to God.” Roughly 450 writers of these scriptures have been identified. The Vachanas, “the sayings,” scorn the Vedas, mock ritual, and reject the legends of Gods and Goddesses. The authors of these verses saw formal religions as the “establishment,” static institutions that promise man security and predictability, whereas they knew that religion must be dynamic, spontaneous, freed of bargains extracted in exchange for salvation. These scriptures reject “doing good” so that one may go to heaven. Allama wrote, “Feed the poor, tell the truth, make water places for the thirsty and build tanks for a town. You may go to heaven after death, but you’ll be nowhere near the truth of our Lord. And the man who knows our Lord, he gets no results.” The Vachanas are incandescent poetry, full of humor, ridicule and the white heat of Truth-seeking, bristling with monotheism, commanding devotees to enter the awesome realm of personal spirituality.
These poems, written in the Kannada language, are central in the religious life of Liṅgāyats. Here are some samples. Ganachara wrote, “They say I have been born, but I have no birth, Lord! They say I have died, but I have no death, O Lord!” Basavanna exclaimed, “Lord, the brāhmin priest does not act as he speaks. How is that? He goes one way, while the official code goes the other!” Allama Prabhu said, “Then, when there was neither beginning nor nonbeginning, when there was no conceit or arrogance, when there was neither peace nor peacelessness, when there was neither nothingness nor nonnothingness, when everything remained uncreated and raw, you, Guheśvara, were alone, all by yourself, present yet absent.”
Ironically, in the centuries following these days of reform, Vīra Śaivism gradually reabsorbed much of what Basavanna had rejected. Thus emerged temple worship, certain traditions of ritual purity, giving gifts to gurus, and the stratification of society, headed up by two large hierarchical orders of jaṅgamas—resulting in the institutionalization of the crucial guru-disciple relationship, which by Vīra Śaiva precept should be very personal. Efforts were made to derive Vīra Śaiva theology from traditional Hindu scriptures such as Āgamas and Sūtras—a need rejected by the early śaraṇas. To this day, by rejecting the Vedas, Liṅgāyats continue to put themselves outside the fold of mainstream Hinduism, but in their acceptance of certain Śaiva Āgamas, align themselves with the other Śaiva sects. Vīra Śaivites generally regard their faith as a distinct and independent religion.
The original ideals, however, remain embedded in Liṅgāyat scripture, which is of three types: 1) the Vachanas, 2) historical narratives and biographies in verse and 3) specialized works on doctrine and theology. Among the most central texts are Basavanna’s Vachanas, Allama Prabhu’s Mantra Gopya, Chennabasavanna’s Kāraṇa Hasuge, and the collected work called Śūnya Sampādane.
The monistic-theistic doctrine of Vīra Śaivism is called Śakti Viśishṭādvaita—a version of qualified nondualism which accepts both difference and nondifference between soul and God, like rays are to the sun. In brief, Śiva and the cosmic force, or existence, are one (“Śiva are you; you shall return to Śiva”). Yet, Śiva is beyond His creation, which is real, not illusory. God is both efficient and material cause. The soul in its liberated state attains undifferentiated union with Śiva. The Vīra Śaiva saint Renukacharya said, “Like water placed in water, fire in fire, the soul that becomes mingled in the Supreme Brahman is not seen as distinct.”
True union and identity of Śiva (Liṅga) and soul (āṅga) is life’s goal, described as śūnya, or nothingness, which is not an empty void. One merges with Śiva by shaṭsthala, a progressive six-stage path of devotion and surrender: bhakti (devotion), maheśa (selfless service), prasāda (earnestly seeking Śiva’s grace), prāṇaliṅga (experience of all as Śiva), śaraṇa (egoless refuge in Śiva), and aikya (oneness with Śiva). Each phase brings the seeker closer, until soul and God are fused in a final state of perpetual Śiva consciousness, as rivers merging in the ocean.
Vīra Śaivism’s means of attainment depends on the pañchāchāra (five codes of conduct) and ashṭāvaraṇa (eight shields) to protect the body as the abode of the Lord. The five codes are Liṅgāchāra (daily worship of the Śivaliṅga), sadāchāra (attention to vocation and duty), Śivāchāra (acknowledging Śiva as the one God and equality among members), bhṛityāchāra (humility towards all creatures) and gaṇāchāra (defense of the community and its tenets).
The eight shields are guru, Liṅga, jaṅgama (wandering monk), pādukā (water from bathing the Liṅga or guru’s feet), prasāda (sacred offering), vibhūti (holy ash), rudrāksha (holy beads) and mantra (Namaḥ Śivāya). One enters the Vīra Śaiva religion through formal initiation called Liṅga Dīkshā, a rite for both boys and girls which replaces the sacred thread ceremony and enjoins the devotee to worship the personal Śivaliṅga daily. Liṅgāyats place great emphasis on this life, on equality of all members (regardless of caste, education, sex, etc.), on intense social involvement and service to the community. Their faith stresses free will, affirms a purposeful world and avows a pure monotheism.
Today Vīra Śaivism is a vibrant faith, particularly strong in its religious homeland of Karnataka, South-Central India. Roughly forty million people live here, of which perhaps twenty-five percent are members of the Vīra Śaiva religion. There is hardly a village in the state without a jaṅgama and a maṭha (monastery). On the occasion of birth in a Liṅgāyat family, the child is entered into the faith that same day by a visiting jaṅgama, who bestows a small Śivaliṅga encased in a pendant tied to a thread. This same Liṅga is to be worn throughout life.
Kashmīr Śaivism, with its potent stress on man’s recognition of an already existing oneness with Śiva, is the most single-mindedly monistic of the six schools. It arose in the ninth century in Northern India, then a tapestry of small feudal kingdoms. Mahārājas patronized the various religions. Buddhism was still strong. Tantric Śāktism flourished toward the Northeast. Śaivism had experienced a renaissance since the sixth century, and the most widespread Hindu God was Śiva.
According to the traditions of Kashmīr Śaivism, Lord Śiva originally set forth sixty-four systems, or philosophies, some monistic, some dualistic and some monistic theistic. Eventually these were lost, and Śiva commanded Sage Durvasas to revive the knowledge. Sage Durvasas’ “mind-born sons” were assigned to teach the philosophies: Tryambaka (the monistic), Amardaka (the dualistic) and Srinatha (monistic theistic). Thus, Tryambaka at an unknown time laid a new foundation for Kashmīr Śaiva philosophy.
Then, it is said, Lord Śiva Himself felt the need to resolve conflicting interpretations of the Āgamas and counter the encroachment of dualism on the ancient monistic doctrines. In the early 800s, Sri Vasugupta was living on Mahādeva Mountain near Srinagar. Tradition states that one night Lord Śiva appeared to him in a dream and told him of the whereabouts of a great scripture carved in rock. Upon awakening, Vasugupta rushed to the spot and found seventy-seven terse sūtras etched in stone, which he named the Śiva Sūtras. Vasugupta expounded the Sūtras to his followers, and gradually the philosophy spread. On this scriptural foundation arose the school known as Kashmīr Śaivism, Northern Śaivism, Pratyabhijñā Darśana (“recognition school”), or Trikaśāsana (“Triple Doctrine”). Trika, “trinity,” refers to the school’s three-fold treatment of the Divine: Śiva, Śakti and soul, as well as to three sets of scriptures and some other triads.
Kashmīr Śaivite literature is in three broad divisions: Āgama Śāstra, Spanda Śāstra and Pratyabhijñā Śāstra. Āgama Śāstra includes works of divine origin: specifically the Śaiva Āgama literature, but also including Vasugupta’s Śiva Sūtras. The Spanda Śāstra, or Spanda Kārikās (of which only two sūtras are left), are both attributed to Vasugupta’s disciple Kallata (ca 850‒900). These elaborate the principles of the Śiva Sūtras. The Pratyabhijñā Śāstra’s principal components are the Śiva Dṛishṭi by Vasugupta’s disciple, Somananda, and the Pratyabhijñā Sūtras by Somananda’s pupil, Utpaladeva (ca 900-950). Abhinavagupta (ca 950-1000) wrote some forty works, including Tantrāloka, “Light on Tantra,” a comprehensive text on Āgamic Śaiva philosophy and ritual. It was Abhinavagupta whose brilliant and encyclopedic works established Kashmīr Śaivism as an important philosophical school.
Kashmīr Śaivism provides an extremely rich and detailed understanding of the human psyche, and a clear and distinct path of kuṇḍalinī-siddha yoga to the goal of Self Realization. In its history the tradition produced numerous siddhas, adepts of remarkable insight and power. It is said that Abhinavagupta, after completing his last work on the Pratyabhijñā system, entered the Bhairava cave near Mangam with 1,200 disciples, and he and they were never seen again.
Kashmīr Śaivism is intensely monistic. It does not deny the existence of a personal God or of the Gods. But much more emphasis is put upon the personal meditation and reflection of the devotee and his guidance by a guru. Creation of the soul and world is explained as God Śiva’s ābhāsa, “shining forth” of Himself in His dynamic aspect of Śakti, the first impulse, called spanda. As the Self of all, Śiva is immanent and transcendent, and performs through his Śakti the five actions of creation, preservation, destruction, revealing and concealing. The Kashmīr Śaivite is not so much concerned with worshiping a personal God as he is with attaining the transcendental state of Śiva consciousness.
An esoteric and contemplative path, Kashmīr Śaivism embraces both knowledge and devotion. Sādhana leads to the assimilation of the object (world) in the subject (I) until the Self (Śiva) stands revealed as one with the universe. The goal—liberation—is sustained recognition (pratyabhijñā) of one’s true Self as nothing but Śiva. There is no merger of soul in God, as they are eternally nondifferent.
There are three upāyas, stages of attainment of God consciousness. These are not sequential, but do depend upon the evolution of the devotee. The first stage is āṇavopāya, which corresponds to the usual system of worship, yogic effort and purification through breath control. The second stage is śāktopāya, maintaining a constant awareness of Śiva through discrimination in one’s thoughts. The third stage is śāmbhavopāya in which one attains instantly to God consciousness simply upon being told by the guru that the essential Self is Śiva. There is a forth stage, anupāya, “no means,” which is the mature soul’s recognition that there is nothing to be done, reached for or accomplished except to reside in one’s own being, which is already of the nature of Śiva. Realization relies upon the satguru, whose grace is the blossoming of all sādhana.
Despite many renowned gurus, geographic isolation in the Kashmir Valley and later Muslim domination kept the following relatively small. Scholars have recently brought the scriptures to light again, republishing surviving texts. The original paramparā was represented in recent times by Swami Lakshman Joo. Today various organizations promulgate the esoteric teachings to some extent worldwide. While the number of Kashmīr Śaivite formal followers is uncertain, the school remains an important influence in India. Many Kashmīr Śaivites have fled the presently war-torn Valley of Kashmir to settle in Jammu, New Delhi and elsewhere in North India. This diaspora of devout Śaivites may serve to spread the teachings into new areas.
Śiva Advaita is the philosophy of Srikantha as expounded in his Brahma Sūtra Bhāshya, a Śaivite commentary on the Brahma Sūtras (ca 500-200 BCE). The Brahma Sūtras are 550 terse verses by Badarayana summarizing the Upanishads. The Brahma Sūtras, the Bhagavad Gītā and the Upanishads are the three central scriptures of the various interpretations of Vedānta philosophy. Sankara, Ramanuja and Madhva wrote commentaries on these books deriving three quite different philosophies—nondualism, qualified nondualism and dualism, respectively—from the same texts. Each claimed his to be the true interpretation of the Vedas and vigorously refuted all other interpretations. Sankara was a monist and accorded worship of the personal God a lesser status. Ramanuja and Madhva, on the other hand, developed theistic philosophies in which devotion to Vishṇu was the highest path. There was as yet no school of Vedānta elevating devotion to Śiva to similar heights. Srikantha sought to fill this gap. The resulting philosophy is termed Śiva Viśishṭādvaita and is not unlike Ramanuja’s qualified nondualism. In the process of his commentary, Srikantha put Śaiva philosophy into Vedāntic terminology.
Srikantha lived in the eleventh century. Of his personal life virtually nothing is historically known, so the man remains a mystery. Nor did he catalyze a social movement that would vie with Vīra Śaivism or Śaiva Siddhānta. But from his writings it is clear that Srikantha was a masterful expositor and a devout lover of God Śiva. His influence was largely due to Appaya Dikshita, who wrote a compelling commentary on Srikantha’s work in the sixteenth century as part of a successful multi-pronged attempt to defend Śaivism against the inroads of Vaishṇava proselytization in South India.
According to Srikantha, Śiva created the world for no purpose except out of play or sport. Śiva is the efficient cause of creation. As His Śakti, He is also the material cause. Śiva assumes the form of the universe, transforms Himself into it, not directly but through His Śakti. Yet, He is transcendent, greater than and unaffected and unlimited by His creation. Śiva has a spiritual body and lives in a heaven more luminous than millions of suns, which liberated souls eventually can attain. Srikantha in his Brahma Sūtra Bhāshya said, “At the time of creation, preceded by the first vibrations of His energies—solely through an impulse of will, independently of any material cause, and out of His own substance—He creates, that is, manifests, the totality of conscious and unconscious things.”
Purification, devotion and meditation upon Śiva as the Self—the ākāśa within the heart—define the path. Meditation is directed to the Self, Śiva, the One Existence that evolved into all form. Release comes only after certain preliminary attainments, including tranquility, faith and nonattachment. Bonds which fetter the soul can be shattered in the torrent of continuous contemplation on and identification with the Supreme, Śiva. Liberation depends on grace, not deeds.
Upon death, the liberated soul goes to Śiva along the path of the Gods, without return to earthly existence. The individual soul continues to exist in the spiritual plane, enjoying the bliss of knowing all as Śiva, enjoying all experiences and powers, except that of creation of the universe. Ultimately, the soul does not become perfectly one with Brahman (or Śiva), but shares with Brahman all excellent qualities. Man is responsible, free to act as he wills to, for Śiva only fulfills needs according to the soul’s karma. Srikantha wrote in Brahma Sūtra Bhāshya, “Śiva associates Himself with the triple energies [knowledge, will and action], enters into the total agglomerate of effects, and emerges as the universe, comprising the triad of Deities [Vishṇu, Brahmā and Rudra]. Who can comprehend the greatness of Śiva, the All-Powerful and the All-Knowing?”
Appaya Dikshita (1554-1626) is a most unusual person in Hindu history. His commentaries on various schools of philosophy were so insightful that they are revered by those schools, even though he did not adhere to their philosophies. An ardent devotee of Lord Śiva, he compiled manuals on pūjā worship which are used to the present day by Śaivite priests. Additionally, he was an excellent devotional poet. Philosophically he adhered throughout his life to the advaita school of Adi Sankara. In his battles to reestablish the worship of Śiva against the Vaishṇavism of the day, his life came under threat numerous times. Śaivism was suffering setbacks in South India in the sixteenth century due largely to the patronage of Vaishṇavism by Ramaraja, king of Vijayanagara, whose territory encompassed an area as large as modern Tamil Nadu. When Ramaraja was killed at the fall of Vijayanagara in 1565, his successors ruling from other cities continued the patronage of Vaishṇavism. Appaya succeeded at this crucial juncture in gaining the patronage of King Chinna Bomman of Vellore, who ruled from 1559 to 1579. Bomman had once been subject to the king of Vijayanagara, but after the city fell, he declared his own independence.
Appaya Dikshita set out to compose commentaries on the various philosophies of his day, including that of Srikantha. Appaya’s commentaries on the writings of the dualist Madhva are revered to this day by Madhva’s adherents. Through his 104 books, Appaya created more harmonious relations with the other systems of thought, promoted Śaivism from several philosophical approaches at once and contributed to the basic devotional worship of Śiva. The patronage of King Chinna Bomman assured the wide spread of Appaya’s ideas through specially convened conferences of up to 500 scholars and extensive travel for both Appaya and the trained scholars who served as Śaiva missionaries. Appaya wrote in one text, “Since the summer heat of the evil-minded critics of Lord Śiva and His worship are awaiting in order to burn out and destroy the sprouts of Śiva bhakti or devotion that arise in the minds of the devotees, for which the seed is their accumulated merit in their previous births, this work, Śivakārṇāmṛita, with its verses made, as it were, of nectar, is written to help rejuvenate those sprouts.”
Appaya Dikshita concluded that the philosophies of Srikantha and those of other dualists or modified dualists were necessary steps to recognizing the truth of monism, advaita. He argued that Srikantha’s emphasis on Saguṇa Brahman (God with qualities) rather than Nirguṇa Brahman (God without qualities) was meant to create, for the moment, faith and devotion in fellow Śaivites, for such devotion is a necessary prerequisite to the discipline needed to know the Transcendent Absolute, Paraśiva, Nirguṇa Brahman. Appaya Dikshita said in Śivārkamaṇi Dīpikā, “Although advaita was the religion accepted and impressed by the great teachers of old like Sri Sankara [and the various scriptures], still an inclination for advaita is produced only by the grace of Lord Śiva and by that alone.”
Śiva Advaita has a small but authentic community of followers today, mostly in Andhra Pradesh, who perpetuate this insightful reconciliation of Vedānta and Siddhānta, which extends back to Srikantha in the eleventh century and was reignited by Appaya Dikshita in the sixteenth century.
Siddha Siddhānta, or Gorakshanātha Śaivism, is generally considered to have issued from the lineage of the earlier ascetic orders of India. Gorakshanatha was a disciple of Matsyendranatha, patron saint of Nepal, revered by certain esoteric Buddhist schools as well as by Hindus. Gorakshanatha lived most likely in the tenth century and wrote in Hindi. Historians connect the Gorakshanātha lineage with that of the Pāśupatas and their later successors, as well as to the siddha yoga and Āgamic traditions. Gorakshanatha adherents themselves say that Matsyendranatha learned the secret Śaiva truths directly from Śiva, as Adinatha, and he in turn passed them on to Gorakshanatha. The school systematized and developed the practice of haṭha yoga to a remarkable degree, indeed nearly all of what is today taught about haṭha yoga comes from this school.
Gorakshanatha, the preeminent guru and author of Siddha Siddhānta Paddhati (“tracks in the adept doctrines”), was a man of awesome spiritual power and discerning practicality. As a renunciate, his early life is unknown, though he is thought to have been a native of Punjab. After twelve years of study under his famed guru, Matsyendranatha, he mastered the highly occult Nātha yoga sciences. Roaming all over North India from Assam to Kashmir, he worshiped Śiva in temples, realizing Him in the deepest of samādhis and awakening many of the powers of a Śaiva adept.
By creating twelve orders with monastery-temple complexes across the face of North India, Gorakshanatha popularized his school and effectively insulated pockets of Śaivism from Muslim dominance. Matsyendranatha had already established it in Nepal, where to this day he is deified as the country’s patron saint. Scholars believe that Gorakshanatha’s yoga represents a development out of the earlier Pāśupata and related ascetic orders, as there are many similarities of practice and philosophy.
To outer society, Gorakshanatha’s siddha yogīs were mesmerizing, memorable men of renunciation—dressed in saffron robes, with flowing, jet-black hair, foreheads white with holy ash, large circular earrings, rudrāksha beads and a unique horn whistle on a hair-cord worn around the neck, signifying the primal vibration, Aum. Muslims called the Gorakshanāthis “Kanphaṭi,” meaning “split-eared ones,” referring to the rite of slitting the ear cartilage to insert sometimes monstrous earrings. Some Muslims even joined the Kanphaṭis, and heads of a few Gorakshanātha monasteries are known by the Muslim title pir, “holy father.” This unusual ecumenical connection was of enormous benefit at a time of general religious persecution.
These Nāthas perceived the inner and outer universes as Śiva’s cosmic body (Mahāsākāra Piṇḍa), as the continuous blossoming forth of Himself as Śakti (power) into an infinity of souls, worlds and forces. Earth and life, human frailties and human Divinity are Śiva manifest. As such, these men expressed spiritual exaltation in mankind and joyous devotion through temple worship and pilgrimage. But their daily focus was on internal worship and kuṇḍalinī yoga. Inside themselves they sought realization of Parāsamvid, the supreme transcendent state of Śiva.
Gorakshanatha, in Viveka Mārtāṇḍa, gives his view of samādhi: “Samādhi is the name of that state of phenomenal consciousness, in which there is the perfect realization of the absolute unity of the individual soul and the Universal Soul, and in which there is the perfect dissolution of all the mental processes. Just as a perfect union of salt and water is achieved through the process of yoga, so when the mind or the phenomenal consciousness is absolutely unified or identified with the soul through the process of the deepest concentration, this is called the state of samādhi. When the individuality of the individual soul is absolutely merged in the self-luminous transcendent unity of the Absolute Spirit (Śiva), and the phenomenal consciousness also is wholly dissolved in the Eternal, Infinite, Transcendent Consciousness, then perfect samarasattva (the essential unity of all existences) is realized, and this is called samādhi.”
Having achieved samarasattva (or samarasa), the yogī remains continually aware of the transcendent unity of God, even while being aware of the ordinary material world. This is the supreme achievement of the system. The school is noted for its concept of kāya siddhi, extreme physical longevity, and even the claim of immortality for some. Indeed, Gorakshanatha himself and many of his followers are considered to be alive today, carrying on their work from hidden places. The precise methods of this are not delineated in their texts, but are taught directly by the guru. Among the central scriptures are Haṭha Yoga Pradīpikā by Svatmarama, Gheraṇḍa Saṁhitā, Śiva Saṁhitā, and Jñānāmṛita, which are among forty or so works attributed to Gorakshanatha or his followers. Most deal with haṭha yoga.
The Siddha Siddhānta theology embraces both transcendent Śiva (being) and immanent Śiva (becoming). Śiva is efficient and material cause. Creation and final return of soul and cosmos to Śiva are described as “bubbles arising and returning to water.” Siddha Siddhānta accepts the advaitic experience of the advanced yogī while not denying the mixed experiences of oneness and twoness in ordinary realms of consciousness.
Through the centuries, a large householder community has also arisen which emulates the renunciate ideals. Today there are perhaps 750,000 adherents of Siddha Siddhānta Śaivism, who are often understood as Śāktas or advaita tantrics. In truth, they range from street magicians and snake charmers, to established citizens and advanced sādhus. The school fans out through India, but is most prominent in North India and Nepal. Devotees are called yogīs, and stress is placed on world renunciation—even for householders. Over time and still today, the deeper theology has often been eclipsed by a dominant focus on kuṇḍalinī-haṭha yoga. Values and attitudes often hold followers apart from society. This sect is also most commonly known as Nātha, the Goraksha Pantha and Siddha Yogī Sampradāya. Other names include Ādinātha Sampradāya, Nāthamaṭha and Siddhamārga. The word gorakh or goraksha means “cowherd.” (The name Gorkhā denotes an inhabitant of Nepal and is the same as Gurkhā, the famous martial tribe of that country.)
Today this Nātha tradition is represented by the Gorakshanātha sādhus and numerous other venerable orders of Himalayan monks who uphold the spirit of world renunciation in quest of the Self. Millions of modern-day seekers draw from their teachings, treasuring especially the sixteenth-century text by Svatmarama, Haṭha Yoga Pradīpikā, “elucidation on haṭha yoga.” From these strong, ancient roots, yoga schools have arisen in major cities in nearly every country of the world. They are aggressive. They are dynamic. They produce results, physically, mentally and emotionally. They usually do not include Hindu religion but for a minimal presentation of pūjā, guru, karma, dharma and the existence of an all-pervasive force, called energy. Because of this loosely-knit philosophical premise and the pragmatic results gained from the practices of haṭha yoga, prāṇāyāma and meditation, a large following of seekers from all religious backgrounds ever expands. Today these schools encompass āyurveda, astrology and various forms of holistic health practice. Advanced meditation is taught to the most sincere. Thus the ancient wisdom of Siddha Siddhānta survives in the modern age to improve the quality of life for mankind and aid truth seekers everywhere to attain their goal.
Today, in one form or another, each of these six schools of Śaivism continues unhindered. Their leaders and gurus have reincarnated and are picking up the threads of the ancient past and bringing them forward to the twenty-first century. Seekers who worship Śiva are carefully choosing between one or another of them. Gurus, initiated, uninitiated or self-appointed by the spiritual forces within them, find themselves declaring God Śiva as Supreme Lord and aligning themselves with one or another of the Śaiva lineages. Non-Hindus have been attracted to the profound Śaiva philosophy, serving as unheralded missionaries. Many have fully converted to Saivism as the religion of their soul. In this modern age, toward the end of the twentieth century, Śaivism has gained a new strength and power. The schools of Śaivism relate and interrelate in love, kindness, compassion and understanding, share their strengths and fortify each other’s weaknesses.
Our most exalted God Śiva knew His creations were not all the same. In different moods He created different kinds of souls at different times. Similarly, in His supreme wisdom, He created these six approaches to His grace upon one common Vedic-Āgamic foundation—one for yogic ascetics, one for heroic nonconformists, one for kuṇḍalinī mystics, one for the philosophically astute, one for immortal renunciates and one for devotional nondualists. None was forgotten. Yea, even today, Lord Śiva is ordaining leaders within the boundaries of these six philosophical streams to preach His message in sacred eloquence.
The following are concise philosophical summaries of the six schools of Śaivism, along with maps showing the primary areas of origin or present-day influence and concentration of each school in India’s states.
Śaiva Siddhānta: In Ṛishi Tirumular’s monistic theism (ca -200), Śiva is material and efficient cause, immanent and transcendent. The soul, created by Śiva, is destined to merge in Him. In Meykandar’s pluralistic realism (ca 1200), God, souls and world are beginningless and eternally coexistent. Śiva is efficient but not material cause. Highlighted are Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka.
Pāśupata Śaivism: This school, traced to Lakulisa (ca 200), is bhedādbheda, simultaneously monistic and theistic, emphasizing Śiva as supreme cause and personal ruler of soul and world. The liberated soul retains individuality in its state of complete union with God. Final merger is compared to stars disappearing in the sky. Noted areas of influence (clockwise) include Gujarat, Kashmir and Nepal.
Vīra Śaivism: Made popular by Basavanna (1105-1167), this version of qualified nondualism, Śakti Viśishṭādvaita, accepts both difference and nondifference between soul and God, like rays are to the sun. Śiva and the cosmic force are one, yet Śiva is beyond His creation, which is real, not illusory. God is efficient and material cause. Influential primarily in Karnataka.
Kashmīr Śaivism: Codified by Vasugupta (ca 800), this mildly theistic, intensely monistic school, known as Pratyabhijñā Darśana, explains the creation of soul and world as God Śiva’s shining forth in His dynamic first impulse. As the Self of all, Śiva is immanent and transcendent, a real but abstract creator-preserver-destroyer. Founded in Kashmir.
Śiva Advaita: This monistic theism, formulated by Srikantha (ca 1050), is called Śiva Viśishṭādvaita. The soul does not ultimately become perfectly one with Brahman, but shares with the Supreme all excellent qualities. Appaya Dikshita (1554-1626) attempted to resolve this union in favor of an absolute identity—Śuddhādvaita. Its area of origin and influence covers most of Karnataka state.
Siddha Siddhānta: Expounded by Rishi Gorakshanatha (ca 950), this monistic theism is known as bhedābheda, embracing both transcendent Śiva Being and immanent Śiva Becoming. Śiva is efficient and material cause. The creation and final return of soul and cosmos to Śiva are likened to bubbles arising and returning to water. Influential in Nepal, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal.