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What Is Saivite Hinduism

Path to Siva Commentary, Lesson 8

Bodhinatha reviews the main characteristic of Saivite Philosophy with an indepth focus on the four stages of religions evolution, chariya, kriya, yoga and jnana. This highlights how different Saivite Hinduism is from the modern practice of Vedanta

Path to Siva, Lesson 8

Unedited Transcript:

Good morning everyone.

Path to Siva, Lesson 8

"What is Saivite Hinduism?

"Saivite Hinduism is the world's oldest religion. Worshiping God Siva, the compassionate One, it stresses potent disciplines, high philosophy, the guru's centrality and the path of bhakti and raja yoga, leading to oneness with Siva within. Saivism is ancient, truly ageless, for it has no beginning. It is the precursor of the many-faceted religion now turned Hinduism. Scholars trace the roots of Siva worship back more than 8,000 years to the advanced Indus Valley civilization. But sacred writings tell us there never was a time when Saivism did not exist. There are six schools of philosophy and tradition within Saivism..."

They are? [laughter]

Yes, it's hard to remember all six, isn't it? So Saiva Siddhanta, remember that one, huh? Kashmir Saivism, that's easy to remember. Pashupata Saivism, that's an older one. Vira Saivism is the lingayats, Karnataka. Siva Advaita and Siddha Siddhanta.

"They differt in many ways philosophically, historically, linguistically and geographically. Still they share an overwhelming similarity of belief and practice. In addition to the Vedas, the Saiva Agamas are the shared scriptures of all six schools. All six identify Siva as the Supreme Lord, both immanent and transcendent, worshiped as the personal Lord and realized through meditation as the Absolute, Parasiva beyond all form. All hold these principle agamic doctrines..."

And we get to the eight doctrines here.

"1) The five powers of Siva (creation, preservation, destruction, concealing and revealing grace."

I was thinking this morning about Iraivan Temple and The Five Powers of Siva and remembering the niches. I don't know if any of you follow that sadhana in the sadhana booklet. But, it's to pretend dandas are in their niches and remember which one is which and go around and worship the five having them as separate bronzes I think will strengthen that idea that Siva has five actions, five powers. You know, of course it's all symbolized in Nataraja but Nataraja being a one murti, we not, we don't tend to think about it as much. But I do feel that they're separate. On the left, if you're going around from the left front, the left front is, don't tell me, Tatpurusha, there we go. Then it's Aghora and then it's Sadyojata in the back. Vamadeva is on the right back and then Ishana is on the right front. When we go around we have all five and so we haven't figured out a puja out there. It's likely the puja will go around to all five and you know, just do a simple arati, maybe the chant, we have a short chant for the action. Maybe a short, that short action chant, go around each one. So it'll just impress in our mind this agamic idea that God Siva performs all five actions. It's going to be very nice.

"2) The three primary elements of existence. Pati, pashu and pasha--God, souls and bonds."

That's common to all Hindu teachings. We have God, soul and then something which causes bondage.

"...The three bonds, or malas --anava, karma and maya..."

So it's, we're not, we don't believe in the doctrine of illusion when we say: anava, karma and maya. We, we believe in the existence of the world. And when anava is present, then we look at the world as a very real phenomena and we look at ourselves as a person, as a very real person and the drama of life takes off. Well you need it, maya's a stage, you know and anava's the actor and karma is, helps determine the plot. Looks like free will for a while but then that karma starts coming back to you. Anava, karma and maya.

"...the three-fold energy --iccha, kriya and jnana... "

Here it's translated love, action and wisdom, which is good. You can also translate iccha as desire which is, in some of Gurudeva's writings and I copied that idea. I say iccha, kriya and jnana not only applies to God it applies to the soul. And it's describing the mechanism. We have a desire, if the desire is strong enough it'll cause us to act. Iccha, kriya and then, depending how that actions works out, if it works out well or works out poorly, you learn from it, jnana. So iccha, kriya, jnana. And if it works out poorly the idea is we learn in a former period not do it again. Cause we don't, there's no reason to make the same mistake twice for someone on the spiritual path. You know, we should be observant enough to note: This didn't work out. What can I do differently next time so it works out? Or, should I avoid the action altogether. Iccha, kriya, jnana.

"...the thirty-six tattvas..."

Which are?

You've studied those some during some of our classes, the chart on it. But thirty-six tattvas is distinctive in that some systems have twenty-four. Such as yoga philosophy and the philosophy yoga is based upon Sankhya. They only have twenty-four tattvas. They don't go into the deeper ones. The first twenty-four are the same but then Saivism has twelve more which goes into the deeper ones. So we won't focus on those.

"...the need for a Satguru and initiation..."

So diksha is very important.

"...power of mantra" is number seven, absolutely.

"...the four padas or stages of spirituality -- charya, kriya, yoga and jnana..."

I thought I'd say something on those. Doing some research for the webinar. The webinar, think it's called: Stages of Evolution in Saiva Siddhanta. Something like that. Meaning charya, kriya, yoga and jnana. Sometimes we think of them just as a practice but it's also a stage of the evolution of the soul. To be joyfully engaged in that practice reflects the stage the soul is at. So, it's, it's not just the practice, it that this is what you like to do. That shows it's a stage.

We have the University of Madras, it's still called that on the website too. It doesn't say University of Chennai so I haven't changed the reference, University of Madras, Tamil Lexicon. In print it takes that much space on my bookshelf. And it's also on line if you could figure out how to find things. And it's amazing how many words from Saivite Hinduism are in this lexicon. And these are technical words.

So one of them, I mentioned it in passing in one of my talks, it's more in a humorous sense, is this idea of charya and charya, kriya and charya, yoga and charya, jnana and charya, charya and kriya, kriya and kriya, yoga and kriya, jnana-kriya, etcetera. So each of the four, charya, kriya, yoga and jnana has four subdivisions of practice.

I was thinking about that and I was saying: Well we don't write on that in any of our current publications. Take a look in the dictionary. So it's in the dictionary. It's a one word in Tamil. Charya is "sariyai" and kriya is "kiriyai" in Tamil. So "sariiyaiyit ariyai" -- charya in charya. "Kiriyaiyitsariyai" Kriya in charya. So it's a word right in the dictionary. So it's a phrase in English, it's a one word in Tamil.

So I thought I'd read, though this is actually Sabaratnam's, Sabaratnam Sivacharya's rendering but it's exactly the same as the dictionary. It's obviously very standardized. You know it's not a difference of opinion. The first two charya, the four stages of charya and the four stages of kriya which is all we'll look at because of the time factor.

So, just think for a minute. What would charya and charya be? What we think it would be. What would the first practice you're supposed to do be? Don't say it. Just think about it. This is the first practice.

"Doing various services in the temple such as sweeping the interior and corridors, mandapams and the like. Besmearing the ground with cow dung, collecting the flowers and so on."

That's the first practice. So, obviously, if you don't have a temple, you're out of luck. You can't even start. So I, I read the comment here that, say top story.

"Saiva Siddhanta is temple oriented from the very first level of practice, charya and charya."

In other words we don't focus on an altruistic activity that is not at the temple such as helping clean the local park, you know. That's nice but in terms of purely religious practice, the idea is it should be done at the temple. So doing the chores at the temple that's the first practice and it's so basic it's in the Sri Lankan Children's Course a number of times. I've got the course, except grade seven, in a big PDF file. And you can tell from the text and the pictures, I think about four times, in different, different of the eleven grades. And there's the picture sweeping the temple, doing this, doing that. From a very young age, it's encouraging the kids to do the chores at the temple.

"Kriya and charya. Having chosen a particular form of Siva (Among the twenty-five forms, Sabaratnam's little parenthesis there.) to worship it regularly in the temple as guided by the guru. It's not the form of Siva, he may worship Ganapati or Skanda."

So worship is the second practice in the temple. It's not the first practice; it's the second. We're supposed to do the chores first and then that leads up to attending the puja.

"Yoga and charya. Meditating on the chosen form of the Lord."

"Jnana and charya. To be an intuitive experience resulting from such meditation."

This is Gurudeva's idea and it's in the seminar. Don't have time to present it this morning but in the seminar that it's very important to, if the temple is conducive to it, you know not super busy, where you can only stand in front of the deity for five seconds, to sit and meditate after the puja. So that's yoga and charya. Stay after the puja is over and meditating. And if you're successful in your meditation, you're actually experiencing something inside yourself, that's jnana and charya.

So very, very interesting. I won't go through kriya quickly.

"Sariyiayyitkiriyai" Charya in kriya.

To collect all the necessary substances and tools needed for the daily worship of Sivalinga and offer them to the guru or to the devotee involved in such worship."

So this is the home shrine. It doesn't say home shrine but it means, it's clear from the next one. So doing the same thing for the home shrine worship is... because charya is based on the temple, kriya is based the home shrine. Yoga is based on going within. So...

"Kriya in kriya (of course). To do the purificatory ceremonies enjoined in the Agamas and then to perform the worship of Sivalinga systematically after getting initiated into that worship."

Sound familiar? So, "kiriyaiyitkiriyai"

"Yoga in kriya. To perform internally the worship."

So that's the idea of our vigil. Daily vigil. We do a puja or attend a puja and then we sit and meditate. So that's yoga in kriya. And then again if that meditation, find something inside, then you're jnana in kriya. Well isn't that interesting. I thought that was interesting, should put that in some publication. Either this, this is Sabaratnam Sivacharya's rendering of it or we could just take it right out of the lexicon which ever one I prefer. They almost say exactly the same thing. They both use this phrase "according to the Agamas." Have to worship according to the Agamas.

Well what do we learn there, besides that I'm overtime? We learn, how different Saivite Hinduism is from Vedanta. At least as it's taught today. You go into the Ramakrishna Mission, in the Ramakrishna Missions, plural in India or in the Vedanta societies in North America, what do you encounter? Shrine to Ramakrishna. He's not on the deity list here. Siva, Ganesha, Muruga, right? There wasn't any Ramakrishna. Totally different. Totally different approach, they've made a, the founder, a wonderful person, Ramakrishna, wonderful teachings. But he's become the avatar of the modern age, that's what they call him. Avatar of the modern age and there he is right in the shrine. Well imagine if you have Ramakrishna in your home shrine, you know this would really feel kind of strange. The idea, the guru from long ago as the image; it's just a totally different feeling.

And Chinmaya mission, they don't have Swami Chinmayananda in their shrine but they don't really have a temple. They have just a simple shrine, it's more like a home shrine in their center cause it's not that important to them. And it's not by the Agamas. So the whole emphasis of Vedanta is not on an agamic temple. There is no agamic temple in either of those institutions. They're not trying for one. Some of their swamis don't even know what the Agamas are. It's not part of their training -- the Agamas.

So we can see a big difference between Vedanta and Siddhanta. And we can also see how, you know, why, when the Flushing Temple came up in the U.S., it's the first Hindu temple in, built like an Indian temple and it's looks and with priests from India. So we encourage dmembers to go there, to have that experience. So that, you know, real start out Saiva Siddhanta in the way you're supposed to start. Helping, helping clean, helping take care of an agamic temple. So was it very nice.

Wonderful day.

Aum Namah Sivaya.

Photo of  Gurudeva
Through temple worship, the three worlds become open to one another, and the beings within them are able to communicate. By means of the mystical arts of puja, the worlds act in concert, and prayers are received.