A History of Indian Philosophy Volume 5

Southern Schools of Śaivism

by Surendranath Dasgupta | 1955 | 79,816 words | ISBN-13: 9788120804081

This page describes the philosophy of shiva-jnana-bodha: a concept having historical value dating from ancient India. This is the third part in the series called the “literature of southern shaivism”, originally composed by Surendranath Dasgupta in the early 20th century.

Part 3 - Śiva-jñāna-bodha

By Meykaṇḍadeva

This is a brief work of twelve kārikās (sometimes called sūtras), and taken from Rauravāgama, as has already been pointed out. It has a number of commentaries. Its Tamil translation forms the basic work of the Śiva-jñāna-siddhi school of thought, and has been elaborated by many capable writers. The general argument of the Śiva-jñāna-siddhi is as follows:

This world, consisting of males, females and other neutral objects, must have a cause. This cause is not perceivable, but has to be inferred. Since it has come into being in time, it may be presumed that it has a creator. Moreover the world does not move of itself and it may, therefore, be presumed that there must be an agent behind it.

The world is destroyed by God and is re-created by Him to afford proper facilities to the malas for their proper expression. The position, therefore, is that though the material cause (upādāna) is already present, yet there must be a nimitta-kāraṇa or instrumental agent for the creation and the maintenance of the world. At the time of dissolution the world-appearance becomes dissolved in the impurities or malas. After a period, the world again reappears through the instrumentality of Śiva. Śiva thus on the one hand creates the world, and on the other hand destroys it. It is said that as in the summer all roots dry up and in the rains they shoot up again into new plants, so though the world is destroyed the impressions of the old malas remain inlaid in the prakṛti, and when the proper time comes they begin to show themselves in diverse forms of world creation according to the will of God. The creation has to take a definite order in accordance with the good and bad deeds of persons. This creation cannot take place spontaneously by compounding the four elements.

God is the instrumental agent through which the functions of creation, maintenance and destruction take place. The Śaiva view of Meykaṇḍadeva is entirely opposed to the purely monistic theory of Śaṅkara. The jīva cannot be regarded as identical with Brahman. It is true that in the Upaniṣads the individual soul (or jīva) and Brahman are both regarded as self-luminous and inner-controlled, but that does not mean that the self and the Brahman are identical. The instrumental agent is one. The individual souls being bound by bondage or pāśa cannot be regarded as being identical with the ultimate agent or Brahman.

The deeds of a person do not automatically produce effects. The effects are associated with the person in accordance with the will of God. The deeds themselves are inanimate and they cannot therefore produce effects spontaneously. All effectuation is due to God, though it does not imply any change of state in the nature of God. An analogy is taken to illustrate how changes can be produced without any effort or change in the changeless. Thus the sun shines far away in the sky and yet without any interference on its part, the lotus blooms in the lake on the earth. So God rests in His self-shiningness, and the changes in the world are produced apparently in a spontaneous manner. God lives and moves in and through all beings. It is only in this sense that the world is one with God and dependent on Him.

The very denial of the different assertions that the self is this or that proves the existence of the self through our self-consciousness. We thereby assume the existence of an unconditioned self, because such a self cannot be particularised. It is easily seen that such a self is not the same as any of the visible organs or internal organs or the manas.

The self is different from the inner organs, the mind and the senses; but yet they can be taken as forming a joint view of reality, as in the case of the sea. The waves and billows and the foam and the wind form one whole, though in reality they are different from one another. The malas which are supposed to be mainly embedded in the māyā, naturally stick to our bodies which are the products of māyā, and being there they pollute the right perspective as well as the right vision of all things. The commentator, whose name is untraceable, adduces the example of the magnet and iron filings to explain the action of God on the world without undergoing any change. It is the power of Śiva working in and through us by which we can act or reap the fruits of our action according to our deeds.

Śiva is to be known through inference as the cause which is neither visible nor invisible. His existence thus can only be known by inference. The acit or unconscious material passes before Śiva, but does not affect it, so that Śiva is quite unconscious of the world-appearance. It is only the jīvas that can know both the world and Śiva[1]. When a saint becomes free from impurities of three kinds, the āṇava, māyika and kārmaṇa-mala, the world appearance vanishes from before his eyes, and he becomes one with the pure illumination.

Suradantācārya in his Vyākhyāna-kārikā repeats the above ideas, but holds that Śiva through His omniscience knows all about the world and the experiences of all beings, but He is not affected by them[2]. Another fragmentary commentary of an unknown author, who had written a commentary on Mṛgendra called Mṛgendra-vṛtti-dīpikā, which sometimes refers to the Svāyambhuvāgama and the Mātaṅga-parameśvara-āgama, discusses some of the main topics of Śiva-jñāna-bodha in the work called Paśupati-pāśa-vicāra-prakaraṇa.

Paśu is defined as pure consciousness (cinmātra) covered with impurities. The paśu goes through the cycle of birth and rebirth, and it goes also by the name ātman. It is all-pervading in space and time. The pure consciousness is of the nature of jñāna and kriyā. The Āgamas do not believe that the soul is one. It is pure consciousness that appears as distinct from one another by their association of different kinds of mala which are integrated with them from beginningless time[3].

Its body consists of all the categories, beginning with kalā and running up to gross matter. The soul is called anĪśvara because it may have a subtle body, but not the gross one, so that it is unable to enjoy its desire. The soul is regarded as akriya or devoid of action. Even when through knowledge and renunciation it avoids all action, the body may go on by the successive impulses of previous actions (tiṣṭhati saṃskāra-vaśāt cakra-bhramavad-dhṛta-śarīrah). Though there are many souls, they are spoken of in the singular number as paśu in the universal sense.

The mala is regarded as being included within pāśa. It is not therefore a different category. The pure self-consciousness is entirely different from the impurity or mala. How can then the mala affect the purity of the pure consciousness? To this the reply is that as pure gold may be associated with dross without affecting its nature, so the pure consciousness that constitutes the Śiva within us may remain pure, even though it may be covered with mala from beginningless time. The mala thus does not affect the nature of the self as Śiva.

It is by the grace of Śiva, attained through proper initiation in Śaivism by a proper preceptor, that the impurities can be removed, and not by mere knowledge as such. The mala being the nature of substance, it can be removed only by an action on the part of God. Mere knowledge cannot destroy it. The malas being beginningless are not many but one. According to different kinds of karma, the malas have distinct and different kinds of bondage. The different distinctive powers and obscurations made by the mala serve to differentiate the different selves, which basically are all Śiva. Liberation does not mean any transformation, but only the removal of particular malas with reference to which different individual entities as jīvas were passing through the cycle of birth and rebirth. This removal is effected by Śiva when the Śaiva initiation is taken with the help of proper preceptors[4].

The malas consist of dharma and adharma, and may be due to karma or māyā ; they also constitute the bondage or the pāśas. This Āgama refers to Mṛgendrāgama, the doctrines of which it follows in describing the nature of pāśa, mala, etc. The pāśa is really the tirodhānaśakti of Śiva.

The pāśas are threefold:

  1. sahaja, those malas with which we are associated from beginningless time and which stay on until liberation;
  2. āgantuka, meaning all our senses and sense-objects; and
  3. sūṃsargika, that is those which are produced by the intercourse of sahaja and the āgantuka mala.

The creation and the manifestation of our experiences take place in accordance with our karma as revealed by God. Just as a field sown with seeds does not produce the same kind of crop for every peasant, so in spite of same kinds of actions we may have different kinds of results manifested to us by God. The karmas and other things are all inanimate, and thus it is only by the will of God that different kinds of results are manifested to us. The Śaiva view thus upholds the satkārya-vāda theory and regards God as abhivyañjaka or manifestor of all our experiences and karmas.

Footnotes and references:


nācit-cit sannidḥau kintu na vittas te ubhe mithaḥ,
prapañca-śivayor vettā yaḥ sa ātmā tayoḥ pṛthak.


  ...śivo jānāti viśvakam,
sva-bhogyatvena tu paraṃ naiva jānāti kiñcana.


anena mala-yukto vijñāna-kevala uktaḥ. saṃmūḍha ityanena pralayena kalāder upasaṃhṛtatvāt samyak mūḍḥaḥ.
(Aḍyar Library manuscript).


 evañ ca pāśā-panayanad ātmanah sarva-jñatva-sarva-kartṛtvātmaka-śivatvābhivyaktir eva mukti-daśāyām, na tu pariṇāma-svarūpa-vināśaḥ.

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