Shaiva Upanishads (A Critical Study)

by Arpita Chakraborty | 2013 | 33,902 words

This page relates ‘The Concept and Worship of Shiva in the Upanishads’ of the study on the Shaiva Upanishads in English, comparing them with other texts dealing with the Shiva cult (besides the Agamas and Puranas). The Upaniṣads are ancient philosophical and theological treatises. Out of the 108 Upanishads mentioned in the Muktikopanishad, 15 are classified as Saiva-Upanisads.

7. The Concept and Worship of Śiva in the Upaniṣads

[Note: Cf. Śiva in the Vedic texts]

In the Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad Lord Śiva was elevated to the status of Brahman, by the sage who composed it, after he had a vision of Lord Śiva as the Absolute and Supreme Brahman. He is described as the god who wields the power of māyā or delusion by which he controls the world. He is also the indweller (antarātman) of all. Some basic concepts of Śaivism are clearly mentioned in the Upaniṣad. Another important Upaniṣad, though belonging to a much later date than the Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad is the Atharvaśira Upaniṣad which mentions the many names of Śiva and recommends the performances of certain rituals such as smearing of the ashes to obtain the grace of Śiva and achieve liberation from earthly life. Bṛhajjābāla Upaniṣad and Bhasmajābāla Upaniṣad are other minor Śaiva Upaniṣads dealing with some important concepts and aspects of worship of Śiva.

The other Śaiva Upaniṣads[1] continue the same thought and identify Rudra with the absolute. He is the lord (pati) of souls (paśu). There is no real difference between God and soul. The difference is only apparent, brought about by avidyā. At the onset of knowledge, ignorance disappears, and the individual recognizes his real self as Śiva. A good part of these Upaniṣads is taken up with a detailed description of the visible marks of a Śaiva, viz., the rosary of Rudrākṣa - beads and the sacred ash; the mode of wearing them and the mantras to be used are explained. These external marks are regarded as auxiliaries to the Brahman-intution. They are helpful in the path to perfection.

Footnotes and references:


Upaniṣads page 223-233.

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