Philosophy of Shaiva Siddhanta (2461 Words)

Read this article to learn about epistemology, metaphysics, liberation and its means and the conclusion of Shaiva Siddhanta philosophy!

Shiva Siddhanta occupies an important place among Indian Philosophers. Its chief basis is the Shaiva religion which is one of the oldest religions.

Lord Shiva is the chief deity of this religion. Since Vedic times, one finds eulogising of Shaiva in Sanskrit literature. The Rudra of Vedic times was later on known as Shiva, Hara, Mahadeva, etc.

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Among the worshippers of Shiva, the notable cults are those of Pashupata, Kapalika or Kalamukha, Veer Shaiva or Lingayat cult, Kashmiri Shaiva and Shiva Siddhanta. The Agamas have mentioned four types of Shaivaites viz., Shaiva, Pashupata, Soma and Lakul. Of these Shaiva have been called mild and Pashupata as extreme.

Shaiva, again, have been divided among Siddhanta, Dakshina, Vama and Mixed. The Vama or leftists are worshippers of Shakti which include Kapalika, etc. Among followers of Dakshina cult or rightists, Bhairava is worshipped. It includes Kashmir’s Triku Darshana. The Mixed cult includes the worshippers of seven mothers viz., Brahmi, Maheshwari, Vaishnavi, Varahi, Narsinghi, Kauma and Chamunda. Shaiva Siddhanta has admitted the testimony of both Vedas and Agamas.

It has strictly followed the Vedic path and avoided the extreme practices of other forms of Shiva worshippers. It has been said that Shaiva Siddhanta is the name for 28 Shaiva Agamas. Besides Agamas, there have been independent thinkers also known as Samayacharyas and Santanacharyas. The former include devotees of Shiva who have translated Shaiva Agams into Tamil. The latter include philosophers of Shaiva Agamas.


Like Samakhya system Shaiva Siddhanta admits three valid testimonies viz., Perception, Inference and Scriptures. Testimony of Pramana is a state devoid of all doubt, illusions and false memories. Shaiva Siddhanta thinkers have criticised those who consider senses, sense contact or sense data as valid knowledge.


All these are one-sided views since no knowledge is possible without consciousness. They have also rejected the Buddhist view that knowledge having functional power is valid. Though it agrees with Advaita Vedanta in admitting that knowledge, it involves contact of the consciousness with the object yet while advaita admits non-dualism.

Shaiva Siddhanta accepts a certain dualism between consciousness and its objects. Similarly, Vritti is also not valid knowledge since it is material. Therefore, the Chitta consciousness alone is valid.

1. Perception:

When the consciousness is united with the object through the sense organs, perception occurs. Since senses are the medium of the contact of consciousness with object, they are the mediating cause of perception. This perception is of three kinds viz., sense perception, mental perception and perception without senses or mind. Sense perception is sense conditioned perception. Men­tal perception is that which is perceived by the self through the mind. The third type of perception is free from all contacts and conditions. This alone is the valid knowledge. Shaiva Siddhanta has also accepted the Sankalpa and Nirvikalpa distinction of perception.

2. Anumana:

‘Anu’ means after and ‘Mana’ means knowledge. Thus Anumana is after or later knowledge. As a means of knowledge it helps in the achievement of this type of knowledge. Thus Anumana is both a means as well as a testimony of knowledge. Shaiva Siddhanta does not distinguish between knowledge as result and testimony as means. Therefore, inference here can be used in both the senses.


Inference, according to Shaiva Siddhanta, is the indirect knowledge through vyapti. They, however, do not admit Linga Paramarsha, Linga Darshan or knowledge of Vyapti as valid knowledge. They do not admit either of them as invariable antecedent of knowledge through inference. First, there is perception sign, then knowledge of pervading quality and finally inference.

Vyapti means an unconditional relation between ends and means. This relationship is neither contradicted nor broken. Shaiva Siddhanta admits two types of Vyapti viz., Anvaya Vyapti and Vyatireka Vyapti. Anumana has been divided into Svar- thanumana and Pararthanumana. The later involves five steps.

3. Sabda:

Agama works where perception and inference fail. There is no means of knowing the ultimate reality except the scriptures. Therefore Agama pramana has been discussed after these. Shaiva Siddhanta accepts knowledge by Apta words as valid knowledge. Apta is he who sees and speaks the truth. His words-are known as Sahda pramana. Such words have been distinguished as Laukika and Vedic.

While the former are the valid statements of worldly scholars, the latter are the statements of lord Shiva known through Vedas. Both Vedas and Agamas, according to Shaiva Siddhanta are statements of Lord Shiva. Vedic statements have been divided into Statements of Vedas and Statements of Shaivagama. Both these have been accepted as Sahda pramana. Shaiva Siddhanta philosophers have criticised other forms of sabda pramanas accepted by other Indian thinkers.

The above-mentioned three testimonies include all types of valid knowledge. Upamana has been included in the above three pramanas. Similarly, Arthapatti and Sambhava have been included in Anumana. Atihya has been included in sabda and anuplabdhi in perception. All these testimonies are self-evident and they give knowledge on their own basis.

Metaphysics of Shaiva Siddhanta:

Tattva means the ultimate reality, that beyond which there is nothing. It remains uncontradicted in all times, Shaiva Siddhanta admits three ultimate sub- stances viz., Pati, Pashu and Pasha. These are eternal substances. Pati means the lord Shiva, Pashu is the jivatma while pasha is the bondage.

Pashu is bondage and Pasha is unconscious. Thus Pati alone is ultimate Reality. This Ultimate Reality has been called by various names in Shaiva Siddhanta such as Shiva, Rudra, Hara, Mahadeva and Pashupati etc. Shiva is the deity of universal happiness and peace. He has been called Rudra in Vedas. Mahadeva means the highest and the most superior among deities. He is known as Pashupati as He is the protector of all beings from Brahma to the lowest beings.

1. Pati:

Pati has two eternal powers viz., knowledge and activity, known as Swarupa lakshana and Tatastha lakshana respectively. Pati is pure, self il­luminated, Existence, Consciousness and Bliss, all-pervading, free, subtle, eternal and beyond subject and object. Shiva has Panchakriya karitva as his characteristic.

He always performs five activities viz.. Creation, Sustenance, Destruction, Elimina­tion and Grace. Of these the first four are of the nature of enjoyment while the fifth is of the nature of liberation. Thus all the activities can be summed up into Bhoga and Moksha. Why does Paramatma performs five functions?

According to Shaiva Siddhanta the self contented Paramatma due to His grace upon the living beings performs these functions for their enjoyment and liberation. He removes the impurities of the jiva through creation, sustenance, destruction and annihilation and awards liberation by His grace. Thus, the proof for Pati is the world itself.

The scriptures also support His existence. Agama testimony includes Vedas and Agamas equally. But the question is how can Pati become doer without body? In answer to this Shaiva Siddhanta points out that Paramatma has got a mantra body since if He has physical body He will be subject to impurities.

Therefore His body has pure knowledge and activity. Shivagra Yogi has solved this problem in a different way. According to him, doer is of two types. Firstly, there is action due to senses and other organs and secondly there is voluntary action. This second again, has been divided into two classes first; activity as mental process and second, activity due to more contact. The example of the first is in Brahma while that of the second is in Shiva.

Therefore, there is no impurity even after activity. The doer, again, is of three types according to conditions such as Shakta, Udyukta and Pravratta. While all the prapancha is busy in dynamism, Shiva retains the power to act, He is, therefore, called Shakta that is one who can. While His power is urged towards activity.

He is known as Udyukta or one who is tendentious. And finally, when He has already performed an activity He is known as Pravratla since His power has already acted. Shivagra Yogi has divided doer into nine typos. These distinctions of the doer are due to the uniting power of the Shiva. This power has been divided into two forms viz., Samavayiniand Parigraharupa. Samavayini is conscious, untainted and liberating.

Parigraharupa power gives results. The relation of Shiva with Shakta is Bhedabheda just as that of sun with the rays. Shakti is the attribute while Shiva is the attributed and the two have non-dual relationship. Again, the attribute as attribute is different from the attributed. Therefore, the relationship of Bhedabheda among Shiva and Shakti has been admitted.

Is Pati the efficient or the material cause of the world? All the Shaiva Siddhanta scholars do not agree over this problem. Uma Pati, analysing three different causes, accepts Shiva as the efficient cause, while Shivagra Yogi holds a different view. Criticising all other theories of creation, Shaiva Siddhanta accepts the view that creation is a tendency of the creator’s Vratti of Shiva. While creating, Shiva does not move or undergo transformation. He creates the world by His mere presence. Shaiva Siddhanta challenges advaita view of the world as appearance of Brahman.

2. Pashu:

Pashu is conscious though non-different from Pati. He is different from body, etc., eternal, pervading, material, many, cosmic, covered with im­purities, doer and under bondage. He is neither body nor senses, nor vital, etc. He is not momentary. Thus Shaiva Siddhanta does not admit materialism, momentarism or atomism, etc. Since he enjoys fruits of his actions and is a doer, he is different from the Purusha of Samkhya.

Shaiva siddhanta, after establishing these characteristics of the individual soul, proves pluralism. This pluralism has been proved by arguments similar to those advanced by Samkhya to establish pluralism. If Pashu is one, the liberation of one person should lead to liberation of all but this is not a fact. Therefore, it is clear that they are many.

Is Jivatma formless or has he a form? In answer to this question Shaiva Siddhanta establishes the view that Jiva is formless. Thus while Ishwara is self contented and the matter cannot be the doer, the existence of jivatma should be admitted to explain activity, enjoyment, etc.

3. Pasha:

Pasha is the principle of bondage. It is of five types. The first is Anavamala which is eternal and which hinders the knowledge and activity of the self. This is known as Anava or atomic as it converts all pervading self into atomic self. It is like darkness which neither lights others nor itself. This has been known by inference. The self effulgence of the self is hindered by atomic impurities. Since Atom, Bindu, Maya and Karma all the four are material, the activity is not possible without the Maheshwari power of the Shiva. Therefore, she is also known as Pasha.

Besides Atom and Maheshwari, Bindu is the pasha. Bindu is the material cause of pure word and pure meaning. Bindu starts these five elements viz., Shiva, Shakti, Sadashiva, Ishwara and Suddha Vidya. Therefore, he is known as the material cause of suddhadhva. Maya is one and yet creates many activities. She, on the other hand, is imperishable and eternal.

Karma is the fifth and the last pasha. It is of the nature of merit-demerit Merit leads to pleasure while demerit results in pain. As creator of Jati, Ayu and Bhoga, Karma is of three types. With dharma or with adharma, Karma is bound to create pleasure and pain. Therefore, it has been classified as a pasha.

The evolution of the above elements, according to Shaiva Siddhanta has been divided into three stages. The first five elements viz., Shiva, Shakti, Sadashiva, Ishwara and Suddha Vidya have been called suddhadhva or that created by Bindu or Suddha Maya. These are also known as Shiva elements as it has prominence of good.

The second stage of evolution includes seven elements viz., Vidya Tattva, Maya, Kala, Avidya, Raga, Niyati and Purusha. This stage is known as suddhasuddha and its doer is ananta. The third or the last stage in creation is that of Atma Tattva ‘. This includes twentyfour elements from Prakriti to Prithvi. These have also been admitted by other Indian philosophers.

Body is composed of twenty-one elements. Sukshma Sharira or subtle body is composed of eight elements viz., Mind, Intellect, ego and five tanmatras. This subtle body is the vehicle of transmigration.

Liberation and Its Means:

According to Shaiva Siddhanta the Pashu is covered with impurities since eternity. Its power of knowledge and action has been covered by impurities. His traits of all pervasion and all activity become limited and He is devoid of bliss. Liberation requires annihilation of all pashas. It is a condition of identity with Shiva.

Thus liberation is the enjoyment of identity with Shiva. Now, how can the eternal, liberated and omniscient Shiva be identical with the bonded and ignorant Pasha? According to Shaiva Siddhanta the identity of Shiva and Pashu is possible like the identity of attribute and attributed, light and its source.

By the elimination of the obstructing pasha the jivatma becomes one with Shiva and enjoys the other worldly eternal bliss. This liberation is only gradually achieved. After equanimity of actions and removal of impurities this involves Shaktipata by Ishwara which leads to faith in the realization of the ultimate end and renunciation due to knowledge of the evils of the world. After renunciation the aspirant receives the grace of the teacher Shiva and follows all the Dharmas. This leads to his right for liberation.

There is more intense Shaktipata in the aspirant which results in elimination of impurities and achievement of real knowledge. This leads to self-realization and now the aspirant leads his bodily life due to remaining karmas but he is not attached to karmas. Though still receiving pleasure and pain he is not influenced by them. This is known as liberation while living in which identified with Shiva the Jiva enjoys the eternal bliss.


In epistemology, Shaiva Siddhanta resembles Samkhya in number and Nyaya Vaisltesika in traits. It resembles Nyaya in the discussion of perception and inference. In sabda it is near to Vedas. And yet there is no lack of originality. According to it consciousness alone is the pramana in all types of knowledge.

In Metaphysics it admits three ultimate elements—Pati, Pashu and Pasha. But Pashu and Pasha are not as eternal as Pati since Pashu is in bondage and Pasha is material. Though like Pati in knowledge and activity, the Jivatma is not identical with it. The creation does not defile Pati as the world is created by His nearness. The world is real not an illusion. Liberation is not absence of pain as it is in Nyaya Vaishesika and Samkhya Yoga but enjoyment of ultimate bliss in unity with Shiva. Thus, Shaiva Siddhanta is a synthesis of Vedic and Agamic traditions.

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