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 saiva philosophy in the vayaviya-samhita of the shiva-mahapurana: a concept having historical value dating from ancient India. This is the second part in the series called the “the shaiva philosophy in the puranas”, originally composed by Surendranath Dasgupta in the early 20th century.

Part 2 - Śaiva Philosophy in the Vāyavīya-saṃhitā of the Śiva-mahāpurāṇa


The Śiva-mahāpurāṇa seems to be a collection of seven treatises, called saṃhitās, dealing with different aspects of the worship of Śiva, myths of Śiva, and philosophy of Śaivism. Though there is a general agreement on the fundamental patterns of Śaiva thought in the various systems of Śaivism, yet these patterns often present marked differences, which ought to be noted for the sake of a detailed study of Śaivism. This is particularly so, as no other system of thought which had spread so far and wide all over India from the days of the hoary past has suffered so much mutilation and destruction of its literature as did Śaivism. We have some older records in the Vedas and the Upaniṣads, and also in the Indus Valley Civilization period, but the systematic Śaiva thought has lost most of its traces from pre-Christian times, until we come to the ninth or tenth centuries A.D. Most of the Āgama works written in Sanskrit and in Dravidian are not now available, and it is even difficult to identify the systems of Śaiva thought as referred to by Śaṅkara in the eighth century A.D. Our treatment of Śaivism can therefore be only gleanings from here and there, and it will not have any proper historical perspective. Even writers in the eleventh or the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries are unable to indicate the proper texts and their mutual relations, at least so far as Sanskrit works are concerned. Much of what is written about the Dravidian texts and their authors is either mythological or largely unhistorical. Even the Śiva-mahāpurāṇa seems to be a composite work written at different times. It consists of collections of thought more or less different from each other, and points to different levels of attitude of Śaiva thought. It is not therefore possible to give a consistent account of the whole work of the Śiva-mahāpurāṇa; I have accordingly attempted to give an estimate of Śaivism as delineated in Chapters II, iv, vi and vii. But as the philosophical level of the seventh saṃhitā, the Vāyavīya-saṃhitā, seems to be somewhat different from that of the Śiva-mahāpurāṇa, I shall try briefly to review the contents of the Vāyavīya-saṃhitā, which may be regarded as a school of Pāśupata Śaivism. I shall try later on to give estimates of other forms of Śaivism so far as they have been available to me.

In VII. 1. 2. 19 of the Vāyavīya-saṃhitā, the ultimate God is regarded as being the original cause, the cause of maintenance, as the ground, and also as the cause of destruction of all things. He is called the ultimate puruṣa, the Brahman, or the paramātman. The pradhāna or the prakṛti is regarded as His body, and He is also regarded as the agent who disturbs the equilibrium of prakṛti[1]. He manifests Himself in twenty-three different categories and yet remains absolutely undisturbed and unchanged. Though the world has been created and maintained by the supreme Lord, yet people do not know him under the delusion of māyā or nescience.

In VII. 1. 3 it is said that the ultimate cause is that which is unspeakable and unthinkable, and it is that from which the gods Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Rudra have sprung forth, together with all gross matter and sense faculties. He is the cause of all causes and is not produced from any other cause. He is omnipotent and the Lord of all. The supreme Lord stands silent and rooted in one place like a tree and yet He pervades the whole universe. Everything else in the universe is moving excepting their final cause, the Brahman. He alone is the inner controller of all beings, but yet He Himself cannot be recognised as such, though He knows all. Eternal power, knowledge, and action belong naturally to Him. All that we know as destructible (kṣara) and indestructible (akṣara) have sprung from the supreme Lord, by whose ideation they have come into being. In the end of the māyā, the universe will vanish with the disappearance of the individual souls[2]. The supreme Lord, like an omnipotent artist, has painted the canvas of world appearance, and this appearance will ultimately return to Him. Every being is under His control and He can only be realised through supreme devotion (bhakti). Only the true devotees can have any real communication with Him. The creation is gross and subtle, the former is visible to all, and the latter only to the yogins, but beyond that there is a supreme Lord of eternal knowledge and bliss, and unchangeable. Devotion to God is also due to the extension of grace by God. As a matter of fact, the grace is produced out of devotion and the devotion is produced out of grace, just as the tree grows out of a seedling and a seedling grows out of a tree.When one tries to think oneself as being of the nature of the supreme Lord, then His grace is extended to such a person and this increases his merit and his sins are attenuated. By a long process of attenuation of sins through many births, there arises devotion to God, as the supreme Lord with the proper consciousness of it. As a result of that there is a further extension of grace, and in consequence of that one can leave off all desires for the fruits of one’s action, though one may be working all the same.

By the renunciation of the fruits of karma, one becomes associated with the faith in Śiva. This can be either through a preceptor or without a preceptor. The former is much preferable to the latter. Through knowledge of Śiva one begins to discover the sorrows of the cycles of birth and rebirth. In consequence of that there is a disinclination to all sense-objects (vairāgya). From this comes emotion (bhāva) for the supreme Lord, and through this emotion one is inclined to meditation, and one is then naturally led to renounce actions. When one thus concentrates and meditates on the nature of Śiva one attains the state of yoga. It is through this yoga again that there is a further increase of devotion, and through that a further extension of the grace of God. At the end of this long process the individual is liberated, and he then becomes equal to Śiva (. Uva-sama), but he can never become Śiva. The process of the attainment of liberation may be different in accordance with the fitness of the person concerned.

In VII. i. 5 Vāyu is supposed to say that the knowledge of paśu, the individual souls, pāśa or the bondage, and pati, the supreme Lord, is the ultimate object to all knowledge and faith, and this only can lead to supreme happiness. All sorrows proceed from ignorance, and they are removed through knowledge. Knowledge means limitation by objectivity. This objectivisation through knowledge may be with reference to material objects and nonmaterial things (jaḍa and ajaḍa). The supreme Lord controls them both. The individual souls are indestructible and are therefore called akṣara; the bondage (pāśa) is destructible and therefore called kṣara ; and that, which is beyond these two, is the supreme Lord.

Vāyu, in further explaining the subject, says thatprakṛti can be regarded as kṣara, and puruṣa as the akṣara, and the supreme Lord moves them both to action. Again prakṛti is identified with māyā and puruṣa is supposed to be encircled by māyā. The contact between māyā and the puruṣa is through one’s previous deeds by the instrumentality of God. The māyā is described as the power of God. The impurity or mala consists in its power to veil the nature of consciousness of the souls. When divested of this mala the puruṣa returns to its original natural purity. The association of the veil of māyā with the soul is due, as we have said before, to previous deeds and this gives the opportunity for enjoying the fruits of our actions. In connection with this, one should also note the category of kalā which means knowledge, attachment, time, and niyati or destiny. The individual person enjoys all this through his state of bondage. He also enjoys and suffers the fruits of his good and bad deeds. The association with the impurities (mala) is without a beginning, but it may be destroyed with the attainment of liberation. All our experiences are intended for experiencing the fruits of our karma through the gates of our external and internal senses and our body.

Vidyā or knowledge is here defined as that which manifests space and action (dik-kriyā-vyañjakā vidyā). Time or kāla is that which limits or experiences (kālo’vacchedakaḥ), and niyati is that which determines the order of things, and rāga or attachment impels one to do actions. The avyakta is the cause consisting of the three guṇas ; from it come all objects and to it everything returns. This prakṛti, called also pradhāna or avyakta, manifests itself in the form of pleasure, pain, and numbness. The method of the manifestation of the prakṛti is called kalā. The three guṇas, sattva, rajas and tamas come out of prakṛti. This is distinctively a new view, different from the classical Śāmkhya theory. In the classical Śāmkhya theory, prakṛti is merely the state of equilibrium of the three guṇas, and there prakṛti is nothing but that which is constituted of the equilibrium between the three guṇas. These guṇas permeate through the prakṛti in a subtle state as oil permeates through the seeds of sesamum. It is out of the modification of the avyakta or pradhāna that the five tanmātras and five gross matter-elements, as well as five cognitive and five conative senses and the manas, come into being. It is the causal state as such that is called the unmanifested or the avyakta. The effects as transformations are called the vyakta or the manifested; just as a lump of clay may be regarded as the unmanifested and the earthen vessels made out of it are regarded as the manifested. The manifold world of effects find their unity in the unmanifested prakṛti, and all bodies, senses, etc. are regarded as being enjoyed through puruṣa.

Vāyu, in further explaining the subject, says that, though it is difficult to find out any proper reason for admitting a universal soul, yet one is forced to admit a universal entity which experiences the enjoyments and sufferings, and which is different from intellect, the senses, and the body. This entity is the permanent enjoyer of all human experiences, even when the body perishes (ayāvad-deha-vedanāt). It is this universal entity to which all objects of experience appeal, it is called the inner controller in the Vedas and the Upaniṣads. It pervades all things, yet it manifests itself here and there under certain circumstances and is itself unperceivable. It cannot be seen by the eye nor by any of the senses. It is only by the right wisdom of the mind that this great soul or Ātman can be realised. It is unchangeable in all changes and it is the perceiver of all things, though it cannot be perceived itself. Such a great soul is different from the body and the senses, and those who consider it as being identical with the body cannot perceive it. It is by being associated with the body that it undergoes all impurities and suffering, and is drawn to the cycles of births and rebirths by its own deeds. As a field that is flooded with water soon generates new shoots, so in the field of ignorance the karma begins to shoot up and produce bodies which are the source of all miseries. Through the cycle of birth and rebirth one has to experience the fruits of one’s karma and so the process goes on. This universal entity appears as many and manifests various intellectual shades in different persons[3]. All our human relations are accidental and contingent, like two pieces of floating wood drawn together by the waves and then separated again. All beings, from the plants to Brahma, are the paśus or manifestations of this puruṣa. It is the puruṣa that is bound by the ties of pleasure and pain, and is like the plaything of the great Lord. It is ignorant and impotent, and cannot provide for its pleasure or arrange for the dispelling of sorrow.

We have already seen the nature of the paśu and the pāśa. The pāśa is the energy or śakti of Śiva manifesting itself as prakṛti; it evolves the material world, the subjective world, as well as pleasures and pains, which fetter the universal soul, the paśu, appearing as many under different conditions and circumstances. We cannot fail to note that the puruṣa or Ātman here is not many as the puruṣas of the Sāṃkhya or the Atmans of the Nyāya, or of some other systems of Śaiva thought. The idea of the Vedāntic monism is eclectically introduced here, and we are faced with the conception of on e puruṣa which appears as many in different bodies under different conditions. This one puruṣa is all-pervading, and it is on account of its being reflected through various conditions that it appears in various divergent forms of things, ranging from Brahma to a blade of grass.

But the supreme Lord who possesses an infinite number of excellent and attractive qualities is the creator of both the paśu and the pāśa. Without Him there could not be any creation of the universe, for both the paśu and the pāśa are inanimate and without knowledge. We must remember that according to Sāṃkhya the puruṣas are nothing but pure consciousness, but here they are regarded as the reflection of one conscious entity appearing as many through its being reflected in various conditions or environments. Beginning from the prakṛti down to the atoms, we have only the inanimate things entering into various modifications. This could not have been if they were not created and moulded by an intelligent creator. This world consisting of parts is an effect, and must therefore have an agent to fashion it. The agency as the supreme Lord, the Creator, belongs to Śiva and not to the soul or to the bondage. The soul itself is moved into activity by the motivity of God. When an individual thinks of himself as the agent of his action, it is only a wrong impression of the nature of causality (ayathā-karaṇa-jñāna). It is only when one knows oneself to be different from the true motivating agent that one may ultimately attain immortality. The kṣara and akṣara, that is, the pāśa and the paśu, are all associated with each other and they are both maintained by the supreme Lord in their manifested and unmanifested forms. The so-called plurality itself is pervaded by the supreme Lord. God alone is the Lord of all and the refuge of all. Though one, He can uphold the universe by His manifold energies.

This sixth chapter of the first part of the Vāyavīya-saṃhitā deals mostly with the contents derived from the Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad and may be regarded as an expansion of the philosophy of the Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad. The Lord Himself pervades all things and there is no tinge of impurity in Him. Various other texts of the Upaniṣad are also collated with it for the same purpose, and the Brahman is identified with Śiva. In the previous volumes of the present work, attempts have been made to show that the Upaniṣads were interpreted in the Brahma-sūtras, in the Gītā, and also in the commentaries of the various schools of interpreters of the Brahma-sūtras in accordance with the specific views of the relevant authors. In the Śiva-mahāpurāṇa we find also the same attempt to adapt the Upaniṣadic texts for the promulgation of the Śaiva view of philosophy. It is again and again emphasised that there is only one Lord and there is no one second to Him, yet the idea of māyā or prakṛti is introduced to explain the transformation of the world of appearance. We have seen before that māyā is regarded as the energy or śakti of Brahman. But we do not find much discussion about the relationship of this energy with God. It is said also in accordance with the Upaniṣads that God is naturally endowed with knowledge and power. But we have not the philosophical satisfaction to know what is exactly the nature of knowledge and power, and how this power is exerted, and what knowledge can mean in relation to the supreme Lord, who has no senses and no manas.

In VII. 1. 6. 67 the Lord is described as one who produces time and is the Lord of all the guṇas and the liberator of all bondage. A question is raised as regards the nature of kāla or time. In reply to such a question Vāyu says that kāla appears before us in the form of successive moments and durations. The real essence of kāla is the energy of Śiva. Kāla therefore cannot be outstripped by any being whatsoever. It is, as it were, the ordering power of God[4]. The kāla thus is an energy of God that emanates from Him and pervades all things. For this reason everything is under the domination of time. But Śiva is not fettered by time; He is the master of all time. The unrestricted power of God is manifested through time, and for this reason no one can transcend the limits of time. No amount of wisdom can take us beyond time, and whatever deeds are done in time cannot be outstripped. It is time which decides the fates and destinies of persons in accordance with their deeds, yet no one can say what is the nature of the essence of time.

We have so far seen that the prakṛti as superintended by puruṣa evolves as the world before us by the inexorable will and order of God. The order of the evolution of the prakṛti or the avyakta into different categories is more like what we have in the classical Sāṃkhya. The creation is a process of emanation or emergence from the state of avyakta in the well-known classical line of Sāṃkhya, and the dissolution takes place by a process of retrogression, in which the same process is reversed until the whole world of appearance returns to avyakta or prakṛti.

Turning again to the nature and function of Śiva, the supreme Lord, it is said that there is nothing but the tendency for helping others that may be regarded as the essential nature of Śiva. He has nothing to do but help all beings to attain their best through their actions. He is otherwise without any specific character, except to be of service to the world consisting of the paśu and the pāśa. This extension of the grace of the Lord is often described as His ordering will. It is for the fulfilment of the function of the Lord’s will that one has to admit the existence of something for the good of which the will of the Lord goes forward. For this reason God may not be said to be dependent on others for the exercise of His will. It is in and through the function of His will that things come into being and move forward in an orderly process in accordance with karma. The independence of God means that He is not dependent on anything else; dependence means the condition in which one thing depends on another[5].

The whole world is supposed to be dependent on ajñāna or nescience, there is nothing of reality in the visible appearance of the world. All the characters of Śiva as described in the scriptures are only conditional assumptions; in reality there is no form that one can ascribe to Śiva[6].

All that has been said so far about the evolution of the world is based upon logical assumptions, while the transcendental reality of God is beyond all logic. It is by imagining God to be something of the nature of our Ātman that we attribute the supreme lordship to Him. Just as fire is different from the wood but cannot be seen without it, so we ascribe the lordship to Śiva, in and through the persons in whom He is manifested. It is by a similar extension of thought that the image of Śiva is also regarded as Śiva and is worshipped.

Śiva always helps all beings and never does harm to anyone. When it may seem apparent that he has punished somebody, it is only for the good of others. In many cases the punishment awarded by Śiva is for purging the impurities of the beings concerned. The basis of all good and evil deeds is to be found in the ordinance of God, that one must behave in this way and not in the other way. Goodness means abidance in accordance with His will. He who is engaged always in doing good to others is following the commandment of God, and he cannot be made impure. God only punishes those who could not be brought to the right path by any other course, but his punishment is never due to any spirit of anger or resentment. He is like the father who chastises the son to teach him the proper course. He who tyrannises over others deserves to be chastened. God does not injure others to cause them pain, but only to chasten them and make them fitter for the right path. He is like a doctor who gives bitter medicine for curing a malady. If God remained indifferent to the vices and sins of beings, then that would also be improper for Him, for that would be a way of encouraging people to follow the wrong path; and that also would be denying the proper protection to persons who ought to be protected and whom God is able to protect. The Lord Śiva is like fire; on contact with Him all impurities are resolved. When a piece of iron is put into fire, it is the fire that burns and not the iron; so all the inanimate objects of the world are pervaded by Śiva, the supreme Lord, and He alone shines through all the appearances.

The grace of Śiva is not like the ordinary good qualities of friendship, charity, etc., but it cannot be regarded as a good or a bad quality. It means only the will of God leading to the benefit of all beings. Obedience to His commandments may be regarded as identical with the highest good, and the highest good is the same as obedience to His commandments. God, therefore, may be regarded as doing good to all and not merely to one individual. In this manner the individual good is associated with the good of humanity at large, and this can only be effected when all beings follow the commandments of God. The things in the world would behave in their own manners according to their specific nature. It is the function of God to make them grow in consonance with one another as far as their nature should permit. The natural character of things is an important limitation to the scope of this development. One can only melt gold by fire, but not charcoal, so God can only liberate those whose impurities have been purged, but not those who are still in an impure condition. Things which naturally can evolve into some other thing can be made to do so by the will of God. So God’s will is only effective when it acts in co-operation with the natural tendency and the effective limits of the things. The individual souls are naturally full of impurities, and it is for that reason that they pass through the cycle of birth and rebirth. The association of the souls with karma and illusion is really what is called saṃsāra, the passage through the cycle of birth and rebirth. Since Śiva is not associated with any such karma and is absolutely pure, He can be the real agent for the motivation for the development of the animate and inanimate world. The impurity of the soul is natural to the soul and not accidental.

In the theory of the classical Sāṃkhya as represented in the kārikā of Īśvarakriṣṇa or the Sāṃkhya-sūtra, the teleology is made to abide in the prakṛti, which out of its own necessity impels the prakṛti to evolve in the twofold scheme of the psychical and the physical world for serving the puruṣas in twofold ways of the experience of pleasure and pain, and the attainment of liberation through knowledge. In this sense prakṛti is supposed to move for the fulfilment of the purpose of the puruṣas. In the Pātañjala school of Sāṃkhya, called also the Yoga-sūtra as explained by Vyāsa and Vācaspati, the guṇas forming the prakṛti have a natural obstruction which limits their scope of development. It is admitted that there is the permanent will of God, that things would evolve in particular directions in accordance with the karma of the individuals. The energy of the prakṛti or the guṇas flows naturally in the direction from which the obstruction has been removed. God does not of Himself push the prakṛti to move in a particular direction. The function lies in the removal of obstructions in the way of the development in particular channels. Had there been no such obstruction or if all obstructions were removed, then every thing could have become every other thing. There would be no definite order of evolution and no limitation to various conditions and by time and place. In the system that we are now dealing with the natural obstructions of individuals are frankly admitted as being due to the existence of impurities, and it is held that by the all-pervading nature of God the souls can be emancipated only when the natural obstructions are washed off. For this purpose the individual persons have to exert themselves and through the near proximity of God, the process of pacification is held; this is called the grace of God, not grace in the ordinary sense of the term, but a cosmic operation which helps all things and persons to develop in accordance with their respective deserts. The commandment of God is not like the commandment of a Mosaic god, but it simply means the carrying on of the cosmic process for the good of all. In the carrying out of this process some people must suffer for their own good and some people may attain rewards according to their merits. God Himself transcends all the appearances of the world; He does not actually exert His will to effect anything, but the very fact that all things are pervaded by Him produces the removal of such impurities as are consistent with the development of the cosmos as a whole.

Though the soul is the same, yet some of the souls are in bondage, as also, there are others who are in a state of liberation. Those who are in bondage may also be in different conditions of progress and may have accordingly different kinds of knowledge and power. The impurities associated with the soul may be regarded as green (āma) and ripe (pakva), and in these two forms they are responsible for the commission of all actions leading to birth and rebirth. But even though all souls are associated with mala or impurities, they are pervaded in and through by Śiva; and as the malas are purged, the proximity of Śiva becomes more manifest, and the individual becomes more and more pure, until he becomes like Śiva. The differences of the souls are only due to the conditioning factor of the mala. It is in accordance with the nature and condition of the mala that one soul appears to be different from the other. The root cause for all the suffering in the world is the impurities, and it is the function of the divine doctor, Śiva, to lead us through knowledge far away from the impurities. Knowledge alone is a means by which all sins may be removed. It may be objected that, since God is all-powerful He could liberate human beings without making them undergo suffering. To this question it is suggested in reply that misery and suffering constitute the nature of the saṃsāra of birth and rebirth. It has already been stated before that God’s omnipotence is somehow limited by the natural conditions of the materials on which the will of God operates. The nature of the malas or the impurities being of the nature of sorrow and pain, it is not possible to make them painless, and for this reason, in the period in which one passes through the process of the expurgation of malas through saṃsāra, one must necessarily suffer pain. The individual souls are by nature impure and sorrowful, and it is by the administration of the order which acts as medicine, that these individuals are liberated. The cause of all impurities that generate the saṃsāra is the māyā and the material world, and these would not be set in motion in any way without the proximity of Śiva. Just as iron filings are set in motion by the presence of a magnet without the magnet’s doing anything by itself, so it is by the immediate proximity of God that the world process is set in motion for its benefit. Even though God is transcendent and does not know the world, the fact of His proximity cannot be ruled out. So He remains the superintending cause of the world. All movement in the world is due to Śiva. The power by which He controls the world is His ordering will which is the same as His proximity. We are reminded of the analogical example introduced by Vācaspati in his commentary on the Yogasūtra-bhāṣya, where it is said that though the puruṣa does not do anything, yet its proximity produces the special fitness (yogyatā) on account of which the prakṛti moves for the fulfilment of the purposes of the puruṣa. The example of the magnet and the iron filings is also given in that connection. As the whole world is but a manifestation of Śiva’s own power, we may quite imagine that when there was nothing in the world, He alone existed with His majestic order of will and there in the functioning of that will He was not in any way polluted by the worldly impurities.

In this connection Vāyu is supposed to say that knowledge is of two kinds, mediate (parokṣa) and immediate (aparokṣa). That which is known by reason or by instruction is called mediate knowledge. Immediate knowledge, however, can only dawn through practice of a high order, and without such immediate knowledge there cannot be any liberation.



In the present section of the Vāyavīya-saṃhitā vii. 2, we find a modification of the philosophical view as expressed in the previous section, and this deserves some special attention. In the previous section it was stated that the impurities of the individual souls were natural to themselves, and God’s will had to refashion them or remould them or purge the impurities through the cycles of birth and rebirth, in accordance with the natural limitations of the individual souls, so that though God’s will operates uniformly through all, the development is not uniform. The sufferings of human beings are due to the obstacles and resistance offered by the inherent impurities of different souls. For this reason it is not possible for God to liberate all souls without making them undergo the cycles of birth and rebirth and sorrow.

The view that the souls are by nature impure is found also among the Jainas and among the followers of the Pañcarātra school[7]. In the Vedānta view, as explained in the school of Śaṅkara, the individual souls are no doubt regarded as the same as Brahman, but yet it is believed that the individual souls are associated with the beginningless nescience or Avidyā which can be destroyed later on by the realisation of the true nature of the Self. Thus in a way, the individual souls remain within a covering of impurity from beginningless time. But in the second section of the Vāyavīya-satnhitā that we are now dealing with, it is said that God Himself binds all beings through the impurities, the māyā and the like, and He alone can liberate them when He is pleased to do so in accordance with the devotion of the beings concerned[8]. All the twenty-four categories of Sāṃkhya are to be regarded as being due to the action of māyā[9], and they are called the viṣayas or objects which are the bonds or ties by which the individuals are bound. By binding all beings, from the blade of a grass up to Brahman, the highest god, the great Lord makes them perform their own duties. It is by the order of the Lord that the prakṛti produces the buddhi for the service of the puruṣas, and from buddhi there arise the ego, the senses, the subtle matters (tanmātras), and the gross matter. It is by the same order that the different beings are associated with different bodies suitable to them. The world order is maintained in its uniform process by the will of God. This will or order of God cannot be transcended by anybody. It is in accordance with the same commandment of God as controlling all processes that one attains riches and knowledge through the performance of meritorious deeds, or that the sinners are punished. The parable of the Kena Upaniṣad is quoted to show that the powers of all deities and natural forces are derived from God. The whole world thus may be regarded as manifestations of Lord Śiva.

In different forms and functions and superintendence Lord Śiva is called by different names. Thus, when He enjoys the prakṛti and the puruṣa He is called īśāna. This īśāna appears in its eightfold form, technically called aṣṭamūrti; these are: earth, water, fire, air, the ākāśa, the soul, the sun and the moon. So these are the forms of Śiva as performing different functions and called by different names such as śārvī, bhāvī, raudrī, etc. Raudrī is the form in which the whole world is vibrating. The soul itself, as we have seen above, is a form of Śiva.

The proper worship of Śiva consists in giving protection from fear to all people, to do good to everybody, and to be of service to everybody. It is by satisfying all people that God becomes satisfied. Any injury done to any living being is an injury done to one of the forms of God itself.

We have seen above that the whole world is a personification of God. This pantheistic doctrine should be distinguished from the monism of the Vedānta as explained by Śaṅkara and his followers. In the Vedānta the reality is Brahman as sac-cid-ānanda, and everything else that we perceive is but an imposition on the reality of Brahman. They are ultimately false and their falsehood is discovered when the person attains liberation. So the world appears, but there may be a time when it may absolutely disappear before a liberated person. Here, however, the material world as such in all its various forms of the living and non-living is regarded as but different real forms of God, which are controlled by God, and are set in motion by God for the benefit of the souls, which latter again are but forms of God.

In this connection the question is raised as to the way in which God pervades the world as the male and the female powers. In reply to such a question Upamanyu is supposed to have replied that the energy or śakti called the great female Deity (mahādevī) belongs to mahādeva, the Great Lord, and the whole world is a manifestation of them both. Some things are of the nature of consciousness and some things are of the nature of the unconscious. Both of them can be pure or impure. When consciousness is associated with the unconscious elements, it passes through the cycles of birth and rebirth and is called impure. That which is beyond such associations is pure. Śiva and His śakti go together, and the whole world is under their domination. As it is not possible to distinguish the moon from the moonlight, so it is not possible to distinguish the śakti from Śiva. So the śakti or the power of the śaktimān, the possessor of the power, the supreme Lord, are mutually dependent. There cannot be śakti without Śiva, and there cannot be Śiva without śakti. It is out of this śakti that the whole world is created through the process of prakṛti or māyā and the three guṇas. Everywhere the operation of the śakti is limited by the will of Śiva and ultimately this goes back into Śiva. From the original śakti as inherent in Śiva, there emanates the ‘active energy’ (kriyākhyā śakti). By the disturbance of the original equilibrium there arises nāda, and from that arises bindu, and from bindu arises sadāśiva, and from sadāśiva arises Maheśvara, and from him arises true knowledge (śuddha-vidyā), and this is called the logos or the power of speech. This also manifests itself in the form of the alphabetical sounds. From this manifestation of māyā comes kāla or time, niyati, kalā and vidyā. From this māyā again come out the three guṇas constituting the unmanifested (avyakta). From the avyakta there evolve the categories as described in the Sāṃkhya. In brief it may be said that as the body is permeated by the inner controller, so the whole world is permeated by Śiva in His form as śakti. For this reason all the living and the non-living are but manifestations of the śakti. It is the supreme Lord that is associated with knowledge, activity and will, and through them all the supreme Lord controls and pervades the world. The order of the world and the world process is also determined by His will.

That which is imaginatively perceived by the supreme Lord is put into a fact by His will; so, just as the three guṇas arise in Him as the three manifested energies, so the whole world, which is identified with Śiva, is also the form of His energy, because it has come into being through His energy[10]. This śakti of Śiva is the māyā.

The Śiva-mahāpurāṇa refers to the Śaivāgamas as being instructions given by Śiva to Śivā. It seems, therefore, that the Śaivāgamas were written long before the Śiva-mahāpurāṇa, and it is the substance of the Śaivāgamas that is collected in the Śiva-mahāpurāṇa in the elucidation of the Pāśupata view. The instructions of the Śaivāgamas are supposed to have been given as the means for the attainment of the highest good through the mercy of Śiva, for the benefit of the devotees of Śiva[11].

Turning to the practical side of the attainment of direct or intuitive knowledge, we find that Śiva says that He is only properly approached through sincere faith in Him (śraddhā) and not by tapas, chanting, or various postures of the body (āsanas), or even by instructional knowledge. Faith is the basis on which one should stand and this faith can be attained by following the natural duties of the four varṇas or castes and the āśramas or the stages of life. Faith is thus regarded not as a spontaneous emotion but as the consequence of a long traditional practice of the duties assigned to each caste and to each stage of life.

The Śaiva dharma consists of knowledge, action, rigid conduct, and yoga. The knowledge is the knowledge of the nature of souls, the objects, and the supreme Lord. Action is the purification in accordance with the instruction of the preceptor. Caryā or the right conduct means the proper worship of Śiva in accordance with the caste rights as instructed by Śiva. Yoga means the arresting of all mental states, excluding the constant thinking of God. Knowledge arises from vairāgya or disinclination towards worldly things, and from knowledge comes yoga’, sense-control, called jama, and niyama remove the sins and when a man is disinclined to worldly objects he gradually turns to the path of yoga. In this connection, universal charity, non-injury, truthfulness, abstention from stealing, and supreme faith, teaching, performing sacrifices and meditation on one’s identity with God are regarded as natural accessories. For this reason those who wish to attain liberation should keep themselves away from virtue and vice, merit and demerit. Those who have attained the state in which the stone and gold are of equal value, or have no value, need not worship God, because they are liberated beings.

Purity of mind is a hundredfold better than purity of body, because without the purity of the mind nobody can be pure. God accepts only the internal states of man (bhāva) ; that which is performed without any sincere emotion is merely an imitation. Devotion to God ought to be spontaneous, not practised for any advantage. Even when a man is attached to God for the attainment of some advantage, it may please God according to the depth of the emotion which is displayed by him. We find that the external expression of emotion as manifested in bodily movements, interest in listening to the adoration of Śiva, the choking of the voice, the shedding of tears, and the constant meditation and dependence on God, are regarded as the significant signs of a true devotee, whatever may be his caste and status in society.

We have already seen that the practical way towards liberation should be through the attainment of knowledge of the nature of souls, the objects that bind them and the supreme Lord. This knowledge should be supplemented by action in accordance with the direction of the Teacher, who in Śaiva cult is to be regarded as the incarnation of Śiva. This action called kriyā is to be supplemented by the prescriptive duties allotted to the different castes and stages of life in the scriptures, and the duty which consists of the worship of God goes by the name of caryā. This has further to be supplemented by a process of devotional meditation, with Śiva as the centre of attention, when all other mental states have been inhibited. The scriptures dealing with these subjects are twofold, one of Vedic origin, the other of independent origin. These latter are of twenty-eight kinds (like the Āgamas), called Kāmika, etc., which also go by the name of Siddhānta[12].

In VII. 1. 32 certain esoteric and obscure physiological processes are described by which one can bring oneself in contact with immortality as inherent in Śiva, the Mahādeva[13].

In VII. 2. 37 the yoga is described as being of five kinds: mantrayoga, sparśayoga, bhāvayoga, abhāvayoga and mahāyoga. The mantrayoga is that in which by constant repetition of certain mantras the mental states becomes steady. When this is associated with breath control it is called sparśayoga. When this state is further on the progressive scale and becomes dissociated from the necessity of chanting the mantras, it is called the bhāvayoga. By further advancement of this yoga process, the world appearance in its various forms entirely disappears, and this is called the abhāvayoga. At this stage the yogin is not concerned with the world. He thinks of himself as being of the nature of Śiva, and of being one with Him, and he is dissociated from all conditions. This is called the state of mahāyoga. At this stage one becomes disinclined to all worldly objects of attachment, whether as experiences by the senses or as prescribed by the scriptures. Of course, this practice of yoga includes the practices of yama and niyama as prescribed in the Yoga-sūtras, and also the practice of the different postures, the breath-control (prāṇāyāma), the holding back of the mind from other objects (pratyāhāra), the practice of concentration on particular objects (dhāraṇā), and also meditation (dhyāna), and becoming one with the object (samādhi). The processes of the different kinds of yoga and their accessories are described in the Śaiva scriptures, and also in the Kārnika and the other Āgamas. So far as the Śiva-mahāpurāṇa is concerned we do not find much difference between the practices of the different accessories such as yama, and niyama, āsana, etc., and those that are described in the Yogaśāstra of Patañjali. The only important difference is that, while in Patañjali’s yoga the mind has to be concentrated first on the gross objects, then on the subtle entities or tanmātras, then on the ahaṅkāra or egohood, and then on buddhi, here in the Śaiva yoga, the yogin has to meditate on the divine nature of Śiva. In the Yogaśāstra also it is prescribed that one may meditate upon Īśvara, and it is through devotion to him that liberation may be granted to any yogin. The treatment of a yogin in Yogośāstra may take a twofold course: one meditation on Īśvara, the other the ascending scale of meditation on subtler and subtler categories, as a result of which the mind becomes absolutely shorn of all primitive tendencies and impressions, and becomes ultimately lost in the prakṛti itself, never to return again. The Yoga of Patañjali, therefore, seems to be a double synthesis of associating the Sāṃkhya doctrine and Sāṃkhya metaphysics with the pre-existent system of yoga- practice which we find in Buddhism, and the association of the theistic cult of Īśvara, who hangs rather loosely with the yoga system.

The Śiva-mahāpurāṇa goes on with the description of prāṇāyāma, consisting of: pūraka, the filling of the body with air through the nose; recaka, the expelling of the air out of the body; and kumbhaka, the process of keeping the body still after inflating it. By the processes of prāṇāyāma one may leave the body at will.

The advancement of prāṇāyāma is made gradually by lengthening the respiratory and inhibitory time. In this way there are four different classes of prāṇāyāma called kanyaka, madhyama, uttama, and para. That which is associated with the emotional expression of sweating, shivering, etc., is due to the expression of the sentiment of bliss on account of which tears flow spontaneously and there is sometimes incoherent speech, swooning. It should be noted that such states do not occur nor are recommended in the yoga of Patañjali.

In this connection the discussion about prāṇāyāma is introduced and we hear of the five vāyus or bio-motor forces called

  1. prāṇa,
  2. apāna,
  3. samāna,
  4. udāna, and
  5. vyāna.

The prāṇavāyu consists of five other types of vāyu, namely nāga, kūrma, kṛkara, devadatta, and dhanañjaya which performs the different functions of the prāṇavāyu. The apānavāyu is the bio-motor force by which all that is taken in by way of food and drink is assimilated and drawn down to the lower cavities. The vyāna is the bio-motor force that pervades the whole body and develops it. The udāna is that which affects the vital glands and the body. The samāna is that which provides the circulation through the body. When the functions and the forces of these vāyus are properly co-ordinated in accordance with the will of the yogin, he is able to burn up all the defects and maladies of the body and preserve his health in the proper manner, his power of assimilation becomes greater and his exertions become less. He becomes light in body, can move about quickly, and has energy and excellence of voice. He suffers from no diseases and has sufficient strength and vigour. He has power of retention, memory, usefulness, steadiness, and contentedness. He can perform asceticism and destroy his sins and perform sacrifice and make gifts as people should.

Pratyāhāra is effort of mind, by which the mind controls itself in relation to the objects to which the senses may be attracted. One who desires happiness should practise the virtue of disinclination and also try to attain true knowledge. It is by controlling one’s senses that one can raise oneself up. When in this way the mind can be steadily attached to some object we have the state of dhāraṇā. This object to which the mind should be steadily attached is nothing but Śiva. In the proper state of dhāranā the mind should not be dissociated even for a moment from its object, Śiva. It is from the steadiness of the mind that dhāraṇā can proceed. So by continuous practice of dhāraṇā the mind should be made constant and steady. The word ‘dhyāna’ is derived from the root dhyai denoting the thinking of Śiva with an undisturbed mind. Therefore this state is called dhyāna. When a person is in the state of dhyāna, the object of his meditation is constantly repeated in the same form without the association of any other idea. This constant flow of the same sort of image or idea is called dhyāna[14]. It is remembered that one should perform tapa or chanting the name or the mantras and pass into dhyāna, and when dhyāna is broken one should go on with tapa and from that again to dhyāna, and so on until the yoga is firmly attained. Samādhi is regarded as the last state of yoga in which the mind is illuminated with intuitive wisdom (prajñāloka). It is a state which itself seems to be nothing in essence and where the object alone shines like a limitless, wave-less ocean[15]. After fixing the mind on the object of meditation, the saint looks like a fire which is being extinguished, he does not hear nor smell nor see nor touch anything, nor does his mind think. He does not understand anything, he is like a piece of wood. So when one’s soul becomes lost in Śiva one is said to be in the state of samādhi. It is like a lamp that burns in a steady flame. From this state of samādhi the saint never breaks off.

It must, however, be noted that in the course of the practice of this yoga many obstacles come in, and they have to be conquered. Some of these are indolence, troublesome diseases, carelessness, doubt as to the proper object of meditation, inconstancy of mind, absence of faith, illusory notions, pain, melancholia, attachment to objects. Indolence refers both to bodily and mental laziness. The diseases, of course, come through the disturbances of the three dhātus—vāyu, pitta, and kapha. Carelessness (pramāda) comes through the non-utilisation of the means of performing the yoga. A doubtful inquiry as to what may be the true object of meditation is called sthāna-samasyā. Absence of faith means the continuance of the yoga process without the proper emotion. All sorrow comes through false knowledge. These sorrows are divided into three classes, in accordance with the classical Sāṃkhya classification, as ādhyātmika, ādhibhautika, and ādhidaivika. Disappointment is the frustration of one’s desires, and causes mental troubles which are called daurmanasya. When the mind is drawn to various objects of desire it is said to be in a state of flirtation. When these obstacles are overcome then come other obstacles in the way of the appearance of miraculous powers.

The word ‘yoga’ in the Pāśupata-yoga is used as a derivative from the root ‘yujir yoge,’ and not from ‘yuj samādhau,’ as we find the word used in Patañjali’s Yoga. The true yoga can only arise by the proper integrative knowledge of the meditation, the object of meditation, and the purpose of meditation. In meditating on Śiva one should also meditate upon the energy of Śiva, as the whole world is pervaded by them both.

Among the miraculous powers which are regarded as obstacles in the progressive path of yoga one counts pratibhā, which means the power of knowing subtle things, things that are passed, and things that are obscure from our eyes, and things that are to come in future. In the Nyāya-mañjarī Jayanta mentions the word pratibhā in an entirely different sense. He means by pratibhā there an inexplicable intuition as to what may occur in the future, for example, “tomorrow my brother will come.” It also includes the power of understanding all kinds of sound without effort, all that may be communicated by any animal in the world, and also the power of having heavenly visions. So by these miraculous powers one may taste heavenly delights and exquisite pleasures of touch and smell of a higher order. So one may attain all kinds of miraculous powers, and one has a full command of all things that one may wish to have. It is unnecessary for us to dilate further on the various types of miraculous powers which the yogin may attain, and which may detract him from his onward path toward attaining the mahāyoga or the highest yoga, that is, the union with Śiva.

But it is interesting to notice that the same chapter on the Pāśupata-yoga introduces certain methods which are not to be found in Patañjali’s Yoga. Thus in VII. 2. 38, in a description of a particular posture of yoga, one is advised to fix one’s attention on the tip of the nose and not to look at one side or the other. One sits down unmoved, like a piece of stone, and tries to think of Śiva and Śakti within oneself, as if they were installed in the seat of the heart, and meditates on them. One may also concentrate on one’s navel, throat, palatal cavity and the spot between the eyebrows. One should think of a lotus having two, six, ten, twelve or sixteen petals, or a sort of quadrangle wherein one may place the Śiva. The lotus in the spot between the eyebrows consists of two petals which are as bright as lightning. So in the case of other lotuses having a number of petals the vowels are associated with each of the petals from the bottom upwards. The consonants beginning with ka and ending in ta may also be regarded as being associated with the lotus, and should be meditated upon. In rather an obscure manner the different consonants are supposed to be associated with the different petals of the imaginary lotuses, and one should steadily meditate upon Śiva and Śakti as associated with the letters of the petals.

In order to proceed on the path of yoga it may be necessary to meditate upon some of the recognised images of Śiva, such as the different gross images of Śiva mentioned in the Śaiva scriptures.

Meditation should at first commence with an object, and later on it becomes objectless. But the learned people always discard the state of meditation in which there is no object, and it is said that dhyāna consists in the stretching out of an intellectual state[16]. For this reason, in the state of dhyāna it is the mere buddhi, or the intellectual state that flows on, which may often be regarded as having no object. So what is called an objectless (nirviṣaya) dhyāna is only meditation on subtle entities. It is also often said that when meditation is upon some particular form of Śiva it is called saviṣaya, and when this is in a formless state as an extension of the knowledge of self, it is called nirviṣaya, This samṣaya dhyāna is also called sabtja, and the nirviṣaya dhyāna is called nirbīja. As a result of prāṇāyāma and meditation, the mind becomes transparent, and then thoughts of Śiva continually recur. As we have said above, dhyāna means nothing more than the constant flow of an intellectual state (buddhi) of the form of Śiva. It is this continuous flow of an intellectual state that is regarded as an object of dhyāna[17]. Both happiness and liberation come from dhyāna ; for this reason, one should always try to practise dhyāna. There is nothing greater than dhyāna[18]. Those who perform dhyāna are dear to Śiva, not those who only perform the rituals.

Footnotes and references:


namah pradḥāna-dehāya pradhāna-kṣobha-kāriṇe,
trayo-viṃśati-bhedena vikṛtāy-āvikāriṇe.
VII. i. 2. 19.


bhūyo yasya paśor ante viśva-māyā nivartate.
. VII. 1. 3. 13.


chāditaś ca viyuktaś ca śarīrair eṣu lakṣyate,
candra-bimba-vad ākāśe taralair abhra-sañcayaiḥ,
aneka-deha-bhedena bhinnā vṛttir ihātmanaḥ.
VII 1. 5. 56 et seq.


niyogarūpam īśasya balaṃ viśva-niyāmakam.
VII. 1. 7. 7.


ataḥ svātantrya-śabdārtḥān anapekṣatva-lakṣaṇaḥ.
VII. 1. 31. 7.


ajñānādhiṣṭhitaṃ śambhor na kiñciḍ iha vidyate,
yenopalabhyate ’smābhis sakalenāpi niṣkalaḥ.
VII. 1. 31. 9 et seq.


See the relevant portion of Jainism in Vol. I (pp. 169 et seq.) and the philosophy of Pañcarātra, especially of the Ahirbudhnya-saṃhitā in Vol. III (pp. 21 et seq. and 34 et seq.).


mala-māyā-dibhiḥ pāiaiḥ sa badhnāti paśūn patiḥ,
sa eva mocakas teṣāṃ bhaktyā samyag-upāsitaḥ.
vii. 2. 2. 12 et seq.


Māyā is twofold: the prakṛti and the śuddhamāyā. From the latter spring up the deities Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Rudra. The former is the prakṛti of the Sāṃkhya into which all beings return, and for that reason prakṛti is called liṅga, whereas the classical Śāmkhya restricts the term to the mahat and calls prakṛti the aliṅga. There mahat is called liṅga, as it points to some original cause behind it and prakṛti being the ultimate cause does not point to any other original cause behind it. See ibid.VII. 2. 34. 7 et seq.


evaṃ śakti-samāyogāc chaktimān ucyate śivaḥ,
śakti-śaktimadutthaṃ tu śāktaṃ śaivam idaṃ jagat.
VII. 2. 4. 36.


śrīkaṇṭhena śivenoktaṃ śivāyai ca śivāgamaḥ,
śivāśritānāṃ kāruṇyāc chreyasām ekasādhanam.
VII. 2. 7. 38 et seq.

It is difficult to say whether this is a reference to the Mahākāruṇika school of Śaiva thought, as referred to by Śaṅkara in the bhāṣya in the penultimate topic of the criticism of Śaivism. Brahma-sūtra II. 2.


H. W. Schomerus in his Śaiva-siddhānta, p. 3, says that there are six and sixteen schools of Śaivism, according to a commentary on Śiva-jñāna-bodha which we shall refer to later on. These schools as referred to by Schomerus are:

I. Pāśupata, Māvratavāda(P), Kāpālika, Vāma, Bhairava and Aikyavāda.

II. Ūrdhvaśaiva, Anādiśaiva, Ādiśaiva, Mahāśaiva, Bhedaśaiva, Abhedaśaiva, Antaraśaiva, Guṇaśaiva, Nirgunaśaiva, Adhvanśaiva, Yogaśaiva, Jñānaśaiva, Anuśaiva, Kriyāśaiva, Nālupādaśaiva(?) and Śuddhaśaiva.

We do not know what were the contents of these different schools of Śaivism and we cannot also identify any particular texts giving the views of any of these schools of Śaivism. In our treatment we have noted different types of Śaivism, and many of them go by the name of Pāśupata-Śaivism, but whether this Pāśupata-Śaivism was also divided into different schools having different names, it is impossible for us to judge for want of definite materials, either published or unpublished.


See verses 45-56 (VII. 1. 32).


dhyeyācasthita-cittasya sadṛśaḥ pratyayaś ca yaḥ,
pratyayāntara-nirmuktaḥ pravāho dhyānam ucyate,
sarvam anyat parityajya śiva eva śivaṅkaraḥ.

      Śiva-mahāpurāṇa VII. 2. 37. 52-3.


samādhinā ca sarvatra prajñālokaḥ pravartate,
yad-artha-mātra-nirbhāsaṃ stimitodadhi-vat-sthitaṃ,
svarūpa-śūnyavad bhānam samādhir abhidhīyate.
VII. 2. 37. 61-2.


tatra nirviṣayaṃ dhyānaṃ nāstīty eva satāṃ matam,
buddher hi santatiḥ kācid dhyānam ity abhidhīyate.
VII. 2. 39. 5.


buddhi-pravāha-rūpasya dhyānasyāsyāvalambanam,
dhyeyam ity ucyate sadbhis tacca sāmbaḥ svayaṃ śivaḥ.
VII. 2. 39. 19.


nāsti dhyāna-samaṃ tīrthaṃ nāsti dhyānasamaṃ tapaḥ,
nāsti dḥyānasamo yajñas tasmād dhyānaṃ samācaret.
VII. 2. 39. 28.

Help me keep this site Ad-Free

For over a decade, this site has never bothered you with ads. I want to keep it that way. But I humbly request your help to keep doing what I do best: provide the world with unbiased truth, wisdom and knowledge.

Let's make the world a better place together!

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: