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 vatula-tantra: a concept having historical value dating from ancient India. This is the seventh part in the series called the “literature of southern shaivism”, originally composed by Surendranath Dasgupta in the early 20th century.


Śiva-tattva is of three kinds:

  1. niṣkala,
  2. sakala and
  3. niṣkala-sakala.

Śiva may be distinguished in ten ways:

  1. tattva-bheda,
  2. varṇa-bheda,
  3. cakra-bheda,
  4. varga-bheda,
  5. mantra-bheda,
  6. praṇava,
  7. brahma-bheda,
  8. aṅga-bheda,
  9. mantra-jāta,
  10. kīla.

Though previously it has been said to be of three kinds, it has three forms again:

  1. subrahmaṇya-śwa,
  2. sadā-śiva and
  3. maheśa.

Śiva is called niṣkala when all His kalās, that is parts or organs or functions, are concentrated in a unity within Him. In further defining the nature of niṣkalatva, the author says that when the pure and impure elements that contribute to experience are collected together and merged in the original cause, and remain there as the budding cause of all powers that are to develop the universe, we have the niṣkala stage. The commentator supports this idea by quotations from many texts. The sakala-niṣkala is that in which the deeds of persons are in a dormant state, and when the time of creation comes it associates itself with the bindu state for the formation of the world. The bindu represents the māyopādāna with which Śiva associates Himself for the creation[2]. These different names of sakala and niṣkala and sakala-niṣkala of Śiva are but different moments in Śiva and do not constitute any actual transformation in Him, for He always remains unchanged in Himself. In Śiva, therefore, there is no change. The changes are to be found in the bindu and the anus[3].

God can only be proved by anumāna as being the instrumental cause of the world. This is taking the old Śaiva view of the Siddhānta, like the Mṛgendrāgama. The agency of God is to be explained by the supposition that by His desire everything is accomplished. He does not take to any instrument or organs for accomplishing any act. Thus when the potter makes his pot, it is through the infusion of God’s power that he can do so. In the case of the potter, the agency is different, because he works with his instruments and organs. Śiva through His energy can know and do all things.

Śiva creates all things by His simple saṃkalpa and this creation is called the śuddhādhva. The author refers to Tattva-prakāśika of Bhoja and the commentary on it by Aghora-śivācārya.

Śakti is the will of God and that is called bindu. From that arises nāda which is a source of all speech[4].

We have given some analysis of some of the important Āgamas just to show the nature of the subjects that are dealt with in these Āgamas. A more comprehensive account of the Āgamas could easily have been given, but that would have involved only tiresome repetition. Most of the Āgamas deal with the same sort of subjects more or less in the same manner with some incidental variations as regards their emphasis on this or that subject. They also sometimes vary as regards their style and mode of approach. Thus the Āgama called Śiva-jñāna-siddhi deals with the various subjects by quotations from a large number of Āgamas. This shows that there was an internal unity among the various Āgamas. From these collective works we can know much of the contents of the different Āgamas. This is important as some of these Āgamas are scarcely available even as a single manuscript.

The date of these Āgamas cannot be definitely fixed. It may be suggested that the earliest of them were written sometime in the second or third century A.D., and these must have been continued till the thirteenth or fourteenth century. In addition to the theological or religious dogmatics, they contain discussions on the nature of the various ducts or nāḍis in connection with the directions regarding the performance of yoga or mental concentration. There are some slight disputations with rival systems of thought as those of the Buddhists, Jains and the Sāṃkhya. But all this is very slight and may be practically ignored. There is no real contribution to any epistemological thought. We have only the same kind of stereotyped metaphysical dogma and the same kind of argument that leads to the admission of a creator from the creation as of the agent from the effects. Thus apparently the material cause, the upādāna kāraṇa, described as prakṛti and sometimes atoms, is different from the instrumental cause, God. But in order to maintain the absolute monistic view that Śiva alone is the ultimate reality, this material cause is often regarded as the śakti or energy which is identical with God. Sometimes the entire creation is described as having an appearance before the individuals according to their karma through God’s power of bondage. The individual souls are all infected by various impurities derived from māyā or karma. These impurities are ultimately destroyed by the grace of God, when the Śaiva initiation is taken.

These Āgamas are also full of directions as regards various religious practices and disciplines, and also of various kinds of rituals, mantras, directions for the building of temples or of setting up of various kinds of phallic symbols, which, however, have to be entirely omitted from the present treatment of Śaivism. But it is easy to see that the so-called Śaiva philosophy of the Āgamas is just a metaphysical kernel for upholding the Śaiva religious life and practices. These consist largely in inspiring the devotees to lead an absolutely moral life, wholly dedicated to Śiva, and full of intoxicating fervour of devotion, as one may find in Tiru-vāchaka of Māṇikka-vāchakar. This devotion is the devotion of service, of a life entirely dedicated to Lord Śiva.

Footnotes and references:


Adyar Library manuscript.


maheśaḥ sakalaḥ bindu-māyopādāna-janita-tanu-karaṇādibhiṛ ātmānaṃ yadā śuddhāśuddha-bhogaṃ prayacchati tadā śiva-saṅgakaḥ sa eva bhagavān sakala ity ucyate.


laya-bhogādhikārāṇāṃ na bhedo vāstavaḥ śive, kintu vindor aṇūnāṃ ca vāstavā eva te matāḥ.


śaktir iccheti vijñeyā śabdo jñānam ihocyate, vāgbhavaṃ syāt kriyā-śaktiḥ kalā vai ṣoḍaśa smṛtaḥ. yā parameśvarasya icchā sā śaktir iti jñeyā, śaktestu jāyate śabdaḥ. Yat parameśvarasya jñānam tadeva śabdaḥ. śabdāt jāyate vāgbhavaḥ. yā parameśvarasya kriyā sā tu vāgbhavaḥ. ṣoḍaśa svarāḥ kalā ity ucyante.

Quoted from Pauṣkarāgama :

acetanaṃ jagad viprāś cetana-prerakaṃ vinā,
pravrttau vā nivṛttau vā na svatantram rathādivat.

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