What Is the View of Monastic Theism?

Trilogy Commentaries, Dancing with Siva, Lesson 144


The teachings of Saiva Siddhanta includes both monism and theism called Advaita Ishvaravada. Vada means a doctrine. Advaitavada means monism, Ishvaravavada means theism. Each of Saiva Siddhanta's four padas: charya, kriya, yoga and jnana have an attainment or a patavi. The four padas can be divided into 16 subdivisions. Yoga in charya is meditation after the puja is over, the first form of meditation described by Gurudeva, taking all the energy of the Deity into your nervous system, absorbing it, enjoying the bliss of what you've received.

Master Course Trilogy, Dancing with Siva, Lesson 144

Unedited Transcript:

Good morning everyone.

This morning reading from one of the Master Course lessons of the last few days, very important concept.

"What Is the View of Monistic Theism?

"Monistic theism is the synthesis of monism and dualism. It says God is transcendent and immanent, eternal and temporal, Being and becoming, Creator and created, Absolute and relative, efficient and material cause.

"Bhashya (Fortunately here is a bhashya, right? A lot of terms, literally.)

"Both strict monism and dualism are fatally flawed, for neither alone encompasses the whole of truth. In other words, it is not a choice between the God-is-man-and-world view of pantheistic monism and the God-is-separate-from-man-and-world view of theistic dualism. It is both. Panentheism, which describes 'all in God, and God in all,' and monistic theism are Western terms for Advaita Ishvaravada. It is the view that embraces the oneness of God and soul, monism, and the reality of the Personal God, theism. As panentheists, we believe in an eternal oneness of God and man at the level of Satchidananda and Parasiva. But a difference is acknowledged during the evolution of the soul body. Ultimately, even this difference merges in identity. Thus, there is perfectly beginningless oneness and a temporary difference which resolves itself in perfect identity. In the acceptance of this identity, Monistic Theists differ from most Vishishtadvaitins. The Vedas declare, 'He moves and He moves not; He is far, yet is near. He is within all that is, yet is also outside. The man who sees all beings in the Self and the Self in all beings is free from all fear.'"

So that's the first part, say a few words about that. There's an overabundance of philosophical terms, that's for sure. But the basic idea is simple and we have two prominent ways of looking at Hinduism. One is theism and the other is monism. Well you take for example two groups. I remember I was giving a satsang in Southern California, in a home just a few days after I had attended the kumbabhishekam for the BAPS temple in Chino Hills, Ca. Southern California. So of course, BAPS is an offshoot of Vaishnavism in its thinking and its philosophy and therefore is theistic. God and man are separate. And as is customary in the groups that emphasize theism the temple is very important. So, the two things go together. An emphasis on theism and worshiping the Deity in the temple through pujas.

At the satsang there were a number of devotees of Chinmaya Mission, San Diego were there. And of course they are monists and they don't put an emphasis on worshiping the Deity in the temple in their centers. They have a shrine but they're not, it's not as central to what they're doing and their philosophy is one of, it focuses more on scriptural study and the oneness of the soul and God or monism. In other words, organizations are generally one or the other. That's the point I'm leading up to. The organization is either monistic or theistic. But, our teaching is both. So that's one of the things that's unusual about it; it combines monism and theism.

There's a beautiful quote which if I had remembered it when I went over these notes I would have included it. In 'Guru Chronicles' Gurudeva's describing the teachings of Saiva Siddhanta as he understood them just at the time he was going from Colombo up to Jaffna in 1949. So he's summarizing the beauty of Saiva Siddhanta. And he says it's, it contains all the mysticism of the temple, the worship of the deities, the understanding of the inner worlds and it has within it the advaita philosophy as well and the practice of yoga to achieve that philosophy. So, it has both monism and theism. And that's what's called Advaita Ishvaravada. So, vada just means a doctrine. So, Ishvaravada means theism and Advaitavada means monism. So monistic theism. The doctrine of monistic theism is what Advaita Ishvaravada means or in English monistic theism or panentheism.

Part two. Was doing some research in a Saivite scripture, just touching into it a little bit I found a nice translation of it much to my surprise. It's on the web; it's pretty obscure.

Sivagnana Bodha Mapadiyam or Sivagnana Bodha Padiyam by Sivagnana Munivar. Pretty obscure.

So I asked our expert Sabharathnam Sivacharyara was this a reliable book and how is it looked at? He said: "It's an excellent book." Very insightful scholar who wrote in the 18th century so it's more modern than a lot of the writings on Saiva Siddhanta. So I thought I'd just read a few verses from it.

Perhaps you remember the term: patavi. Patavi means attainment; it's not something we use in our own literature or, we just use the word attainment. But in the scriptures, in the scriptures it's called patavi, the attainment. So you have the four padas, charya, kriya, yoga and jnana. And each one has an attainment or a patavi. So this is just describing the first three patavis. Similar to the one I was using so the first pada, charya has the patavi of salokya. So, in other words the way I was explaining it was in reference to the TV series Downton Abbey. When I mention this in London everyone says: Oh, yes, yes. We can relate to that.

So Downton Abbey, a typical house of a wealthy English family, all the servants are downstairs. Only the head servants even go upstairs. So the servants, you know, they know the family of the house is upstairs. You know they hear them walking around and all. They're in the same house but they don't see them, they're at a distance. So that to me I thought of as salokya. You're in the same house as God, the same world as God but you're not very close. Well that's better than where you were before, you weren't even in the same house or the same world, you know, you're just kind of wandering around.

So it, so Sivagnana, Sivagnana Munivar says: "Of the four kinds of results, (that's his word for patavi, results) the result of charya is to enter the world of the Deity and have the freedom like that like that of a servant to move everywhere in the world and enjoy the fruits thereof."

This is salokya. So very similar, surprised how similar it was to the idea I developed. And of course in kriya, the patavi, the attainment is samipya.

So he says: "Samipya is more than that. The worshipper has the freedom of a son to reside near the Deity and enjoy the fruits thereof."

So, isn't that nicely said? It's the freedom of the son to, so the son is a lot closer to the family than the servant is. So you've moved a lot closer. And like at the yoga pada, the attainment, patavi is sarupya.

"Sarupya is higher than that. The worshipper has the freedom of a friend and enjoys having equal form, ornaments and blissful existence."

Very nice. Then he summarizes it.

"Since these three results are like those of a servant, son and a friend respectively in the matter of privilege, the means, charya and others which enable one to have these results are respectively called the paths of a servant, son and friend." (Dasamarga, Satputra marga and Saha marga).

I'm still working on the last one. Sayujya. His explanation's a little more complicated.

Also, working on a better description of the sixteen subdivisions. In other words you have four divisions. Charya, kriya, yoga and jnana. And then you have, can divide that into sixteen. So you have charya in charya, kriya in kriya, sorry, charya in charya, kriya in charya, yoga in charya, jnana in charya, charya in kriya, kriya in kriya, yoga in kriya, jnana in kriya etc. So you have sixteen subdivisions. Well you're breaking each of them down into four parts or four practices.

So he has a nice, nice clear description of the first two I thought. Charya in charya, etc.

"Of these, the cleaning of the house of God, like removing the dust and washing it with water is called charya in charya. (Okay, cleaning the temple). Worshipping any one of the twenty-five forms of Siva or Lord Ganesha, etc., one of the forms found in the surrounding temples is called kriya in charya. Meditation of one of these forms is yoga in charya. The experiential knowledge gained by these services is called jnana in charya."

Very nice way of explaining what jnana in charya means. So, the experiential knowledge gained by doing these actions is what jnana means. Jnana in charya is the knowledge you gain from performing the three types of actions of charya.

And kriya, similar. So kriya, the difference between charya and kriya of course is, charya means attending the puja in the temple. That's the basis. Kriya is performing the puja in the shrine room.

Charya etc. in kriya:

"The collection of all the aids required in Sivalinga worship is charya in kriya. The worship offered to Siva in the form of Sivalinga as prescribed in Siva agamas with the preliminary five purifications, is kriya in kriya. The same worship performed mentally by adopting three places in the body for the respective divisions of worship is yoga in kriya. (And then again) The experiential knowledge gained by these services is called jnana in kriya."

There's a quote I use in a longer presentation and I've also sent it to some individuals when they've asked about meditation. Meditation is something that sounds great, so you try and do it and then you realize, it's really hard to control the mind. It looks easier on paper than it does when you try and do it.

Well in Saiva Siddhanta there's a progressive way of doing that and first one is yoga in charya. So it's, said another way, yoga in charya means meditating after the puja is over. That's a simple way of explaining the basic or the most elementary form of meditation in Saiva Siddhanta is just meditating after the puja is over. And Gurudeva describes that as taking in all the energy, internalizing the vibration. A beautiful description of it in the Master Course. Just taking in all the energy of the Deity into your nervous system and absorbing it and then closing your eyes and enjoying the bliss of what you've received. And that's easy to do and it's beneficial. In other words, the idea isn't: Puja's over, run off and eat the prashadam. Ideally you can sit quietly if the temple allows it. Sometimes of course temples are too busy to sit quietly but ideally can find some quiet corner at least to sit and some temples even have a dhyana mandapam, a small place for meditation where you could sit after the puja and not be interrupted. So that 's the first form of meditation described by Gurudeva and technically we could call it yoga in charya.

Have a wonderful day.

Photo of  Gurudeva
Sadhana allows us to live in the refined and cultured soul nature, rather than in the outer, instinctive or intellectual spheres.
—Gurudeva