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The World and Theism

The Saiva Siddhanta concept of the world is presented as well as bhashya on monism, theism, maya, moksha, dharma, mukti, the role of the householder and the renunciate and then the development of a profound relationship with Lord Murugan, which is required for advanced yogic practices.

Unedited Transcript:

[NOTE: The first part of the audio has been cut off. Bodhinatha reads from Dancing with Siva as the microphone is being set up. Audio begins at last 2 sentences of Bhashya.]

Sloka 45 from Dancing with Siva

Does the Universe Ever End? Is It Real?

The universe ends at mahapralaya, when time, form and space dissolve in God Siva, only to be created again in the next cosmic cycle. We call it relatively real to distinguish it from the unchanging Reality. Aum Namah Sivaya.


This universe, and indeed all of existence, is maya, Siva's mirific energy. While God is absolutely real, His emanated world is relatively real. Being relatively real does not mean the universe is illusory or nonexistent, but that it is impermanent and subject to change. It is an error to say that the universe is mere illusion, for it is entirely real when experienced in ordinary consciousness, and its existence is required to lead us to God. The universe is born, evolves and dissolves in cycles much as the seasons come and go through the year. These cycles are inconceivably immense, ending in mahapralaya when the universe undergoes dissolution. All three worlds, including time and space, dissolve in God Siva. This is His ultimate grace--the evolution of all souls is perfect and complete as they lose individuality and return to Him. Then God Siva exists alone in His three perfections until He again issues forth creation. The Vedas state, "Truly, God is One; there can be no second. He alone governs these worlds with His [audio begins here] powers. He stands facing beings. He, the herdsman, after bringing forth all worlds, reabsorbs them at the end of time." Aum Namah Sivaya.

So, then shifting to a talk I sometimes give on this area.

Let's look for a moment at the Saiva Siddhanta concept of the world, which is referred to as maya or mayai, Tamil word. In the beginning of Gurudeva's book "Dancing with Siva" he describes our experience of the world in this way: "We are immortal souls living and growing in the great school of earthly experience in which we have lived many lives." So it's a school.

In Yogaswami's "Words of our Master" there are two statements that beautifully echo Gurudeva thoughts.

The first is: "The world is a training school. Some are in kindergarten, some are in the B.A. class."

The second is: "The world is an ashram, a training ground for the achievement of freedom. Each one does his part according to his own measure. There is nothing that is evil."

The point that both Gurudeva and Yogaswami are making is that we need to look at the world as an ashram, a training school for spiritual advancement.

Another view of the world--of maya--held by some Hindus is the perspective that the world is an illusion. This is the view that for spiritual progress to occur, the world must simply be renounced. For advanced renunciate monastics, this can be a helpful perspective. But for the rest of Hindu humanity, it is definitely not a helpful perspective as it keeps us from engaging in the world with a positive spiritual attitude toward it.

Looking at the world as illusion is like a school boy or girl looking at school as an illusion. He or she will definitely miss the value of the experience.

So, that's the point it's leading up to that: It's fine for the world to look a little transparent now and then, but we don't want to think that it's not important. It's through positive interaction in the world that we spiritually mature, not by dropping out of the world. So, I like to say you know if you go live in a cave prematurely, you won't make any spiritual progress at all. You know it has to be the right time to be a cave dweller. You know for most of us it's not the right time. So we need to engage positively in the world, interact with people and in doing so, that's where the spiritual progress comes from.

The Tirukural has a chapter on "Nilaiyamai, Impermanence of All Things." The chapter does stress the transitory nature of the world. However, the Kural's section on Aram or dharma has two parts, one for the householder and the other for the renunciate. The chapter on "Nilaiyamai, Impermanence of All Things" is in the renunciate section and therefore is clearly an attitude for a renunciate, not for a householder.

So sometimes these two dharmas get mixed up and you have householders that are following the renunciate dharma in some way. They think they should be poor and they think the world is illusion and they shouldn't be involved in it. But well that's fine but they should be a monk if they want to do that. It's mixing up the dharmas, taking the goals of a sannyasin and trying to live them as a householder. So the wrong goals, even sometimes in textbooks you see this. So whenever I go to a school, like I've been to K.C.C. a few times, not in recent years but two or three times over the years; I addressed that concept that there's this idea that Hindus all believe the world is illusion and therefore it's unimportant. So I explain that Hindus are just like anyone else. They're pursuing love and wealth. They're movie stars and you know just ordinary people. They're not different than you are. And try and get rid of that false concept that all Hindus are totally unworldly and think the world is illusion. That's just for renunciates.

So there's a related quote here which is really good one. So usually when I explain moksha I go to our lexicon which has a twofold definition from Gurudeva something like: Moksha is achieved when all our karmas have been resolved and Parasiva has been realized. Something like that is what our lexicon says, beautiful definition. But, there's another definition which is equally beautiful which relates to what we're talking about here, so it's threefold. "Moksha comes when earthly karma has been resolved, dharma well performed, [that's the point that the other one doesn't have] and God fully realized." So, dharma well performed. Interesting idea that we can't achieve moksha until we have performed dharma well, which requires involvement in the world, right? How can you do your dharma if you're not actually engaged in the world? So, Gurudeva explains what that means-- dharma well performed. What does dharma well performed mean Gurudeva? It means this: "Each soul must have performed well through many lives of varna dharmas, [varna means caste] or four castes, and lived through life's varied experiences, in order to not be pulled back to physical birth by a deed left undone. All souls are destined to achieve moksha, but not necessarily in this life. Hindus know this and do not delude themselves that this life is the last. While seeking and attaining profound realizations, they know there is much to be done in fulfilling life's other goals: purusharthas-dharma, righteousness; artha, wealth; and kama, pleasure." So that's a really useful definition also of moksha. They're both good, equally good, but this one fits into what we're talking about which is: how do we look at the world?

So I recently got a question from a married man, how old is he? Well he's probably thirty-five, trying to get established, I think you know, I think he's married, I think they both may be in a second marriage or something so it's a little unstable. He's trying to pull it together and he's asking me about moksha. Says: "Can householders achieve moksha?" Said, oh no, here we we go. So I sent him the one on videha mukti which is a pretty good answer, initially, you know which says: "Everyone can achieve moksha at the point of death." It's called videha mukti, if you know, if the consciousness ends up in the right place and they've resolved things and settled their affairs and so forth, and the consciousness is high enough at that point, yes, moksha can be achieved. But, I'm going to send him this one today. Because the point that he needs to focus on is dharma, fulfilling dharma. You know there he is with wife and child and he's trying to think about moksha. But don't forget that it's fulfilling dharma and resolving karma along with achieving realizations of God, all three are necessary to achieve moksha. You can't just abandon your dharma and react to your karma. You know, the world is where our karma comes to us and we need to not react when it comes, and understand it when it comes, not retaliate and in that way dissolve it. We need to fulfill our duties in whatever position we are in life: parent, spouse, relationship to the community and so on. We all have all these duties which we need to strive to do well and only in fulfilling dharma, resolving karma and realizing God; when we have all three going as in the grihastha dharma, then you're on the right track. You understand what it means to live a spiritual life. So it's a very useful statement there. Save that one in my special file, Gurudeva quotes, find it.

So we just went through some meditation classes and they were purely meditation classes. There was no theism. Everything was monism. But you know our path is monistic theism. So when I say everything was monism, not theism, it means that theism means we are worshiping, which is what we do when we attend puja. We're separate from God. I am worshiping God Siva; expressing my devotion, increasing my devotion, asking for Siva's grace. That's our theism. Our monism is: I am meditating on my oneness with God Siva. Which is there if I can find it, you know it's in the center of the soul. I just have to find the center of my soul and then Siva and I are always in oneness there. We don't have to become one with Siva, that's not Gurudeva's teachings. Gurudeva's teaching is that the essence of the soul, which means Satchidananda and Parasiva, is always one with Siva. We just aren't aware of it. If we can become aware of those, of that area, then we're one with Siva. So that's what we try and do in meditation is first identify awareness and then move it, first identify ourselves as awareness and then move ourselves as awareness, into the essence of our soul. And lo and behold, we're one with Siva. So that's what we are focusing on in our classes, so liking to balance all things out in the world, thought I should talk about the theism part of it which is very important, in fact it's a prerequisite.

So this has to do with Murugan so I have two quotes here.

"Sloka 24 from Dancing with Siva

Lord Karttikeya, (Oh, it was also Skanda Shashti so that's why put the two things together; meditation classes and Skanda Shashti equals this reading.) Lord Karttikeya, Murugan, first guru and Pleiadean master of kundalini yoga, was born of God Siva's mind. His dynamic power awakens spiritual cognition to propel souls onward in their evolution to Siva's feet.

Lord Arumugam, the six-faced, six-armed son of Siva, wields many weapons, as He battles the forces of darkness to end wars, large and small. He rides the noble peacock, Mayil, which represents effulgent beauty and religion in its fullest glory."


Lord Karttikeya flies through the mind's vast substance from planet to planet. [So that sounds nice but Gurudeva used to fly with Him which made it more interesting. Gurudeva could do that too with Lord Murugan. He'd get on the side. Fly on your side.] He could well be called the Emancipator, ever available to the call of those in distress. Lord Karttikeya, God of will, direct cognition and the purest, childlike divine love, propels us onward on the righteous way through religion, His Father's law. Majestically seated on the manipura chakra, this scarlet-hued God blesses mankind and strengthens our will when we lift to the inner sky through sadhana and yoga. [Next sentence is the important sentence.] The yoga pada begins with the worship of Him. The yogi, locked in meditation, venerates Karttikeya, Skanda, as his mind becomes as calm as Saravana, the lake of Divine Essence. The kundalini force within everyone is held and controlled by this powerful God, first among renunciates, dear to all sannyasins. Revered as Murugan in the South, He is commander in chief of the great devonic army, a fine, dynamic soldier of the within, a fearless defender of righteousness. He is Divinity emulated in form. The Vedas say, 'To such a one who has his stains wiped away, the venerable Sanatkumara shows the further shore of darkness. Him they call Skanda.' Aum Namah Sivaya."

So that introduces the idea, the yoga pada begins with the worship of Him. What does that mean? Well pada means of course means the third stage, charya, kriya, yoga and jnana. So the yoga pada, or the third stage of the practice of Saiva Siddhanta requires some good theism. Requires the blessings of Lord Murugan which means we have to have devotion to Lord Murugan. So in Gurudeva's teachings the two things aren't separate. We just don't meditate. To meditate deeply, which means the kundalini is active, we have to have the blessings of Lord Murugan. So our theism and our monism mix at that point. Our theism, devotional worship of Lord Murugan, impacts our monism--our ability to meditate deeply.

So one more quote on that. I had the quote and I didn't know where it was from so I looked it up. Goggle! Goggle is wonderful, find everything. Our own books. Go out on the World Wide Web you come back in you own books you know, very interesting. So it's in "Merging with Siva" lesson one. I said: "Oh, what an appropriate place." This is "How to Realize God." So the first lesson, "How to Realize God" in "Merging with Siva" has a similar quote which is even more direct.

"To attain even the permission to perform yoga one must have the grace of Lord Ganesha and the grace of Lord Muruga. Lord Murugan is the God of the kundalini, of the advanced yogic practices. Unfoldment all happens within the kundalini and the chakras within our subtle bodies. Once a profound relationship is developed with Lord Muruga, then with the guru's permission and guidance, true yoga may commence. Otherwise, no matter how long one sits in meditation, no matter how hard one tries, it is just sitting. It is just trying. There is no fire there, no shakti, no power, no change. It is the Gods who control the fire. [Fire means the kundalini.] It is the Gods who control the fire and at this stage help the devotee immensely, bringing him closer and closer to the supreme God, Siva. Quite often the yogi in his deep internalized state may see in vision the feet or form of God Siva before he begins to blend into the mind of God Siva, called Satchidananda. It is God and Gods in form that help us to find the formless God."

So, "Once a profound relationship is developed with Lord Muruga true yoga may commence." So that's our tradition. And that's why we pilgrimage to the six Murugan temples to deepen our relationship. Whatever it is we can make it deeper with Lord Muruga. That's why we do puja to Lord Murugan, twice a day. Festivals like the recent one. It's a very, Skanda Shasthi's an excellent time to develop, to deepen one's relationship with Lord Murugan; poured greater profundity, because it's six days long, not just one day. So you kind of get into a rhythm for six days and you can do a different, do a discipline all six days. You know so doing it for six days in a row has more benefit, or more effect than simply doing something for one day. So, it's a wonderful time to accomplish that. So that's my standard paragraph that I have saved and so the question that the paragraph is in answer to is--particularly to a monk--you know says: "Well my meditations aren't that deep, what can I do to deepen them?" I pull out that paragraph, say: "Here, here's the answer." You know, develop a profound relationship with Lord Murugan, very simple.

"How do I do that?"

Well do regular puja, learn some Muruga bhajans, learn some Muruga chants. You know work at it on a daily basis to deepen it and particularly during festivals, it's an excellent opportunity to receive blessings from Lord Murugan. In other words we can express our devotion every day of the year with no, you know, lets, we can do that. But, in terms of receiving blessings back that happens better on a festival day. So Skanda Shasthi, Thai Pusam, Vaikasi Vishakham I believe are the three we celebrate here. So those are excellent times for getting blessings from Murugan cause it's two way. Other words to develop a profound relationship, any relationship is two sided right? Can't have a relationship that's one-sided. If you've ever tried to make someone your friend and they don't respond, you don't get a relationship right? Relationships are two-sided. If you step forward, the other person has to step forward in order for a relationship to develop. So, relationship with the deity is the same way. You step forward by doing puja, by chanting, so forth but then Murugan has to step forward and bless you. So the best time for that is during festivals and when you have both sides then you have a relationship. When a relationship gets deep enough then you have a profound relationship. So, let me read that sentence, it's our last thought.

"Once a profound relationship is developed with Lord Muruga, then, with the guru's permission and guidance, true yoga may commence." So this is talking about deeper experiences. It's not talking about what we call the forth dimension or the basic meditation practices; that just requires being able to detach awareness from consciousness, get into the forth dimension and benefit. This is for deeper experiences what we're talking about here you know, like a really strong experience of the inner light or going even deeper than that. That's what it's talking about. But if we can detach awareness from consciousness we can accomplish all the basic practices like kamsatyamne and so forth. This is for a deeper experience requires a profound relationship.

[End of transcript.]

Photo of  Gurudeva
As we come closer to the wonderful Gods of Hinduism, we come to love them in a natural way, to be guided by them and to depend on them more than we depend on ourselves.