Tantra Magazine

In central India, the Shaiva Siddhanta of the Sanskrit tradition was institutionalized for the first time by Guhavasi Siddha (approx. 675 A.D.). The third successor on this lineage, Rudrashambhu, also known as Amardaka Tirthanatha, founded the monastic order Amardaka (approx. 775 A.D. in the Andhra Pradesh province).

Ever since, these monastic orders were essential in spreading the Shaiva Siddhanta philosophy all throughout India. Besides the Amardaka order, (identified with one the the holy cities of the shaivism, Ujjain), there were also the Mattamayura order, in the capital of the Calukya dynasty, near Punjab, and the Madhumateya order, in central India.

Each of these developed numerous sub-orders with a missionary spirit and they have used the influence of their royal protectors in order to spread their teachings in the neighboring areas, especially in southern India. The Mattamayura order established monasteries in the areas Maharashtra, Kainataka, Andhra and Kerala (approx. 800 A.D.).

Of many guru-s and spiritual teachers, (acarya) who followed and spread Shaiva Siddhanta throughout India, two siddha-s Sadyojyoti and Brihaspati from central India are said to have systematized the theology in the Sanskrit language.

Sadyojyoti, initiated by the Kashmir guru Ugrajyoti, preached the Siddhanta as they were specified in Raurava Agama. His successors were Ramakantha I, Srikantha, Narayanakantha, and Ramakantha II, each of the writing many treaties on the Shiva Siddhanta.

Later on, the king Bhoja Paramara from Gujarat (approx. 1018) summarized the massive corpus of scriptural texts Siddhanta that preceded him in a concise metaphysical treaty named Tattva Prakasha, considered as the most important Sanskrit scripture of the Shaiva Siddhanta lineage.

Asserting the monist vision of the Shaiva Siddhanta, Shrikumara (approx 1056 A.D.) indicated in his commentary, Tatparyadipika on Bhija Paramaras works the fact that pati, pashu and pasha (God, the being and the bonds) are in the end one, the essence of everything. Shrikumara kept the idea that Shiva is simultaneously the material and effective cause of the universe.

Shaiva Siddhanta was quickly accepted wherever it spread in India, and continued to blossom until the Islamic invasions which virtually annihilated any trace of the Shaiva Siddhanta in northern and central India, limiting its unhindered practice to the southern areas of the subcontinent.

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In the XIIth century, Aghorashiva had the mission of unifying the northern Siddhanta Sanskrit tradition with the southern Tamil one. As the leader of a monastic branch of the Amardaka order of Cidambaram, Aghorashiva gave a unique direction to the Shaiva Siddhanta tradition, preparing the path for a new pluralist school.

Refusing any monist interpretation of the Siddhanta, Aghorashiva brought a dramatic change in the understanding of God, classifying the first five principles (tattva or nada, bindu, saddashiva, ishvara and shuddhavidya) in the category of pasha (bonds), indicating that they were the effects of a cause and that inherently they were elements with no consciousness.

This was clearly a deviation from the traditional path, which presented the five elements mentioned above as being part of Shiva. Thus, Aghorashiva laid the foundation for a new Siddhanta, independent from the original Shaiva Siddhanta, which was monist and originated from Himalaya.

Despite his pluralist vision of Siddhanta, Aghorashiva was very successful in preserving the priceless Sanskrit rituals of the ancient agama-ic tradition in his writings.

Until today, the Siddhanta philosophy of Aghorashiva was followed by almost all the priests of the temples belonging to this lineage, and his texts, paddhati, on the agama-s have become the standard ritual manuals.

His work Kriyakramadyotika is a wide work, covering almost all the aspects of the Shaiva Siddhanta rituals, including the traditional puja-s diksha , samskara, atmartha and the instalment of the deities.

In the XIIIth century, another important achievement in the Shaiva Siddhanta appeared when Meykandar wrote the 12 Shivajnabodham verses.

This work, like those written after it, formed the theoretical basis of the Meykandar Sampradaya group, preaching a pluralist realism, where God, individual souls and the universe co-exist from the very beginning of things.

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They saw the individual soul uniting itself with Shiva, as salt dissolves into water, an eternal unity, which is at the same time also a duality. This school dominated through its literature the research that followed to such an extent that Shaiva Siddhanta is often identified with an exclusively pluralist school, which is of course wrong.

Actually there are two interpretations, one dualist and one monist, of which the first is the original philosophical premise, also found in the scriptures preceding Meykandar, the Upanishads included.

Shaiva Siddhanta is rich in its traditions related to the temples, religious festivals, sacred arts, spiritual culture, priesthood, monastic orders, and spiritual lineages. All these are still in flower.

Today, Shaiva Siddhanta is the most prominent spiritual path amongst the 60 million tamil shaivits who live mostly in southern India and Sri Lanka. Here, as anywhere, the societies, temples and monasteries are numerous.

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