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Saiva Siddhanta A Path of Devotion and Meditation

Bodhinatha provides information on various sects of Saivam and then describes the padas of Nalupadasaivam which "are what each human soul must pass through in many births to attain its final goal of moksha." Mahavakyam of Sivayogaswami which include summa (silence) are bestowed.

Unedited Transcript:

But first there's some research I did which is related to that when I was preparing a talk a few years ago. I was searching in our Tamil Lexicon--big dictionary, it's about that long on my shelf, University of Madras--and it's the most interesting dictionary I've ever found because it has so many fascinating religious words. You know you go through the normal English dictionary and not very much is religious. But you go into this dictionary and quite a bit of it is religious, so this has to do with Saivam, Saivism. Saivism in Tamil is Saivam. "The religion which regards Siva as the Supreme Being [that's a good definition right?] and is exclusively devoted to his worship [oh that's even better, OK] of sixteen sects." So what they're calling sects are really different, a different focus, approaching Saivism from different points of view. Looking at different practices as important so there's sixteen of them, so how many did I mark? One, two, three, four, five, six, eight. I marked half as speaking to our particular practices. One above all. I'll save that one for last but, so here's a different, common approaches to practicing Saivism. (Excuse my pronunciation sometimes.)

"Urttha Saivam: A sect that emphasizes the fact that Siva is above all tattvas." So we do that, we say Siva is atattva.

"Abeda Saivam: A Saiva sect which holds that the initiates should meditate on Siva as one with himself." Sounds good right?

"Antara Saivam: A sect which holds that Siva should be contemplated as eminent in the whole universe." That one sounds good too.

"Nirguna Saivam: A sect which holds that Siva should be contemplated as the Attributeless Being." So that's the Self, Parasiva. So we certainly hold to that one.

"Yoga Saivam: A Saiva system under which the initiate practices Ashtanga Yoga and attains the eight siddhis." Sounds good.

"Jnana Saivam: A Saivite sect which holds that deliverance [meaning moksha] consists in the inseparable union of the soul with God, attained by the practice of Samadhi." Now that's one of my favorites. I'll read that one again, you know this is just in the dictionary right, you know? "Jnana Saivam. [OK.] A Saiva sect which holds that [moksha] deliverance consists in the inseparable union of the soul with God attained by the practice of Samadhi."

"Kriya Saivam: A sect which gives prominence to rights and ceremonies."

and then

"Nalupada Saivam: A Saiva doctrine that the initiate should pass successively through charya, kriya, yoga and jnana stages and thence obtain moksha."

So if we had to choose one we'd choose that one, even though some of the others are really great, because that's the overall path. You know, we don't want to focus on just a part of the path, it's important to remember the whole path. So, Nalupada for those who don't know, Nalu is four that's simple. Pada is stages. So the Saivism of four stages. And of course that refers to charya, kriya, yoga and jnana. But it's so nicely said. "The initiate should pass successively [you know one at a time, pass successively] through charya, kriya, yoga and jnana stages and thence obtain moksha." Nalupada Saivam.

So moving on to the talk, starts out with Yogaswami.

Sivayogaswami was both the consummate Sivabhaktar and Sivayogi, a great devotee of Lord Siva as well as a profound meditator. This combination of devotion and meditation is unique to the path of Saiva Siddhanta. Other Hindu traditions focus on either devotion or meditation but not both. In Saiva Siddhanta deep devotion to God is in fact considered a prerequisite to meditation. And meditation is considered a practice that all need to eventually take up after devotion has awakened.

As we mentioned Sivayogaswami was a great yogi and he would sit for hours, even days, in deepest meditation. He would also stress the importance of meditation to his devotees and formulated a key teaching, or mahavakyam, to help them meditate:

"Summa Iru": Be still.

He incorporated this concept into the Sivathondan Nilayam he had built on KKS Road in Jaffna where the entire second story hall is dedicated to silence.

Here are some of Yogaswami's sayings on remaining summa--remaining still:

"Practice remaining summa for ten minutes."

"Without remaining summa, the mind is running here and there. That is its nature."

"Remaining summa is the best exercise."

"Now we don't control the mind. We remain summa with a controlled mind."

"The atma is summa. Movement is for the body and mind."

"Bliss will come if you remain summa."

"You sing and learn because you are unable to remain summa." (That's a little scolding there.)

"There is nothing to know--remain summa."

"On the highest level you do not have to control even the mind, because to control the mind there must be a second. There will come a time when the mind becomes quiet by itself."

Turning now to the disciplines of Saiva Siddhanta.

There is a very useful term that is an alternate name for Saiva Siddhanta which is Nalupadasaivam. It literally literally means Saivism of four stages. The concept of Nalupadasaivam directs our attention to the practices of Saiva Siddhanta which of course are the four padas of charya, kriya, yoga and jnana. The University of Madras "Tamil Lexicon" defines Nalupadasaivam as the doctrine that the initiate should pass successively though charya, kriya, yoga and jnana stages and thence obtain moksha.

These four padas are quite similar to the four yogas of Vedanta: karma yoga, bhakti yoga, raja yoga and jnana yoga. However, there is one key difference. Whereas in Vedanta you can choose to follow just one of the yogas, in Siddhanta we need to pass through all four padas.

A simple analogy will illustrate the difference: The goal is to walk across a shallow stream on a path of river rocks. Vedanta gives us four separate rock paths to choose from, one for each of the four yogas, all of which lead across the river. Siddhanta gives us only one path for crossing the river which consists of four stones: charya, kriya, yoga and jnana.

The four padas are progressive in that in accomplishing each the soul prepares itself for the next. This sequence of the soul's evolutionary process was compared by Gurudeva to the natural development of a butterfly from egg to caterpillar, from caterpillar to pupa, and then the final metamorphosis to butterfly.

Nalupada Saivam, Saivism's four stages, are what each human soul must pass through in many births to attain its final goal of moksha. This is described in Tirumular's Tirumantiram (Verse 1478): "The peerless Master Nandi of Saivam honored high, showed us a holy path for soul's true redemption. It is Siva's divine path, Sanmarga's path for all the world to tread and forever be free."

Everyone in the world is on the spiritual path in that they are spiritually evolving through experience. True too is that we did not all start this process at the same time. Thus we have old souls and young souls. Old souls are unselfish and are naturally drawn to religious practices and feel a need to experience God's Grace in their life. Young souls avoid religious practices, are selfish and feel no need at all for divine blessings.

When young, the soul is immersed in the lower nature, the anava marga, or self-centered path; bound in fear and lust, hurtful rage, jealousy, confusion, selfishness, consciencelessness and malice. Then it awakens into charya, unselfish religious service, or karma yoga. Once matured in charya, it enters kriya, devotion or bhakti yoga, and finally blossoms into kundalini yoga. Jnana is the state of enlightened wisdom reached toward the path's end as a result of Self Realization through the Guru's grace.

Gurudeva describes this process of spiritual evolution in other terms as well. He says: "In the beginning stages, we suffer until we learn. Learning leads us to service; and selfless service is the beginning of spiritual striving. Service leads us to understanding. Understanding leads us to meditate deeply and without distractions. Finally meditation leads us to surrender in God. This is the straight and certain path, the San Marga, leading to Self realization, the inmost purpose of life, and subsequently to moksha, freedom from rebirth."

A few years ago we were visited by Dr. Seshagiri Rao, (This is many years ago at this point, ten years ago?) who in discussing-- editor of the Encyclopedia of Hinduism--who in discussing this project with the editorial staff of Hinduism Today Magazine, made the insightful comment that Hinduism not only informs but it also transforms. Gurudeva himself often described Saiva Siddhanta as the path of personal, spiritual transformation.

What causes this transformation to take place? Does it come when we pilgrimage to a sacred place such as Chidambaram once? Does listening to one lecture of a swami cause it to occur? Neither of these, of course, are sufficient. Transformation comes from an individual performing spiritual disciplines regularly. This practice is called sadhana and one following it is on the sadhana marga, a term used by Paramaguru Sivayogaswami to name his prescription for seekers of Truth--a path of intense effort, spiritual discipline and consistent inner transformation, as opposed to theoretical and intellectual learning.

So then it goes through charya, kriya, yoga and jnana.

Charya, literally "conduct," is the first stage of religiousness and the foundation for the next three stages. It is also called the dasa marga, meaning "path of servitude," for here the soul relates to God as servant to master. The disciplines of charya include humble service, attending the temple, performing one's duties to community and family, honoring holy men, respecting elders, atoning for misdeeds and fulfilling the ten classical restraints called yamas. It is the stage of overcoming basic instinctive patterns such as the tendencies to become angry and hurtful. Right behavior and self-sacrificing service are never outgrown. The keynote of charya, or karma yoga, is seva, religious service given without the least thought of reward, which has the magical effect of softening the ego and bringing forth the soul's innate devotion. The Tirumantiram (verse 1502) describes the charya pada: "The simple temple duties, lighting the lamps, picking flowers, lovingly polishing the floors, sweeping, singing the Lord's praise, ringing the bell and fetching ceremonial water--these constitute the dasa marga."

So there's two terms which mean the same thing. Charya pada and dasa marga, two names for the same thing. So each pada has a marga name as well.

Kriya Pada: Saivism demands deep devotion through bhakti yoga in the kriya pada, softening the intellect and unfolding love. In kriya, the second stage of religiousness, our sadhana, which was mostly external in charya, is now also internal. Kriya, literally "action or rite," is the stirring of the soul in awareness of the Divine, overcoming the obstinacy of the instinctive-intellectual mind. We now look upon the Deity image not just as carved stone, but as the living presence of the God. We perform ritual and puja not because we have to but because we want to. We are drawn to the temple to satisfy our longing. We sing joyfully. We absorb and intuit the wisdom of the Vedas and Agamas. We perform pilgrimage and fulfill the sacraments. We practice diligently the ten classical observances called niyamas. Our relationship with God in kriya is as a son to his parents and thus this stage is called the satputra marga. The Tirumantiram (verse 1496) describes this pada: "Puja, reading the scriptures, singing hymns, performing japa and unsullied austerity, truthfulness, restraint of envy, and offering of food--these and other self-purifying acts constitute the flawless satputra marga."

Yoga, "union," is the process of uniting with God within oneself, a stage arrived at through perfecting charya and kriya. As God is now like a friend to us, yoga is known as the sakha marga. This system of inner discovery begins with asana and pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and finally over the years, under ideal conditions, the kundalini fire of consciousness ascends to the higher chakras, burning the dross of ignorance and past karmas. Dhyana finally leads to enstasy--first to savikalpa samadhi, the contemplative experience of Satchidananda, and ultimately to nirvikalpa samadhi, Parasiva. Truly a living satguru is needed as a steady guide to traverse this path. When yoga is practiced by one perfected in kriya, the Gods receive the yogi into their midst through his awakened, fiery kundalini. Tirumantiram (verse 1457) describes the yoga pada: "The course of Kundalini through centers six, to singleness of aim direct the mind, like a wooden stake they sit immobile; Impervious to tickle or to thrust, to the wise yogins who thus set their purpose high, the Lord His grace grants." That's a good goal for meditation huh? "Like a wooden stake they sit immobile."

Jnana is divine wisdom emanating from an enlightened being, a soul in its maturity, immersed in Sivaness, the blessed realization of God, while living out earthly karma. Jnana is the fruition of yoga tapas. Through yoga one bursts into the superconscious mind, experiencing bliss, all-knowingness and perfect silence. It is when the yogi's intellect is shattered that he soars into Parasiva and comes out a jnani. Each time he enters that unspeakable nirvikalpa samadhi, he returns to consciousness more and more the knower. He is the liberated one, the jivanmukta, the epitome of kaivalya--perfect freedom--far-seeing, filled with light, filled with love. One does not become a jnani simply by reading and understanding philosophy. The state of jnana lives in the realm of intuition, beyond the intellect. Tirumantiram (verse 1470) describes the jnana pada: "Brahman shall be his impregnable abode, Universe, his kith and kin, diverse paths the world present all, all shall be his, for verily he has realized the pure Jnana, free of doubt."

In conclusion, the concept of Nalupada Saivam, focuses on the need to progress through these four padas of religious practice through first understanding what the sadhanas of each stage are and then performing these sadhanas regularly. This is what causes spiritual transformation to take place and brings us ever closer to God. Described in Tirumantiram (verse 1507)--this is a very nice verse particularly in Tamil: "In charya, the soul forges a kindred tie in "God's world." In kriya it attains "nearness" to Him. In yoga it attains "likeness" with Him. In jnana the soul enjoys the ultimate bliss of identity (sayujya) with Siva."

Let us ever remember the great Satguru Sivayogaswami and his attainments for he is the epitome of the path of Saiva Siddhanta both a consummate Sivabhaktar and Sivayogi. A great devotee of Lord Siva as well as a profound meditator.

So as you can probably tell this was written for a group of Yogaswami devotees, that's why it's more focused on Yogaswami and not Gurudeva. But that's an important point, I made the point somewhere in our meditation classes is I think we were reading from "The Clear White Light" Gurudeva has all of these beautiful descriptions one of them is: "When you get to a certain depth you may see the face of a Master staring into yours." But then he goes on to say: "which represents your own potential." You know it's a very interesting statement by Gurudeva. So he doesn't want us to look at a great soul like Gurudeva himself or Yogaswami, put the soul up on a pedestal and put ourselves down here always so far away you know that the attainment of Yogaswami, Gurudeva, any great soul is our own potential attainment, eventually. So we want to strive toward it as something we ourselves are developing more and more of those qualities over time. It's our own potential.

Aum Namah Sivaya

[End of transcript]

Photo of  Gurudeva
We neither fear death nor look forward to it, but revere it as a most exalted experience. Life, death and the afterlife are all part of our path to perfect oneness with God.