Shaiva Siddhanta is the oldest, strongest and most practiced of all the shaivit schools in India today, its has millions of adepts, thousands of active temples, and dozens of monastic and ascetic traditions.
Despite its popularity, its glorious past as a pan-Indian movement is barely known nowadays. Furthermore, it is wrongfully identified during our times with its tamil form, present in the southern part.
The term “Shaiva Siddhanta” means “the final (established) consciousness of Shivaism”. It is the formed theology of divine revelations, which were gradually recorded in the form of 28 shaivit agama-s.
The first famous guru of the pure (shuddha) Shaiva Siddhanta tradition was the great Kashmir sage (maharishi) Nandinatha (approx. 250 b.C.), mentioned in Paninis grammar book as the teacher of the great masters (rishi) Patanjali, Vyaghrapada and Vasistha.
The only surviving work of the great maharishi Nandinatha is composed of 26 Sanskrit verses, named Nandikeshvara Kashika, in which he continued the ancient spiritual teachings.
However, due to the monist approach (the denial of the primordial aspect of any duality and the explanation of manifestation by rapport to a unique element), Nandinatha is often considered by researchers as an exponent of the Shiva Advaita school.
The next guru worth mentioning is the sage (rishi) Tirumular, a siddha from Nandinathas lineage, who came from the Kashmir valley to southern India to preach the sacred teachings of the 28 shaivit agama-s.
For the first time, in his profound work “The Holy Incantation” (Tirumantiram), he gives the overwhelming writings of the agama-s and of the pure philosophy (Shuddha) Siddhanta in the sweet tamil language.
As his predecessor, the sadguru (guru seen as Absolute God), the great sage maharishi Nandinatha, he preaches a monist theism in which Shiva is simultaneously the material and effective cause of creation, and His presence is both immanent and transcendent in rapport with creation.
According to this teaching, Shiva creates the individual souls and the universe through an emanation from Himself, and in the end, He absorbs them back into His oceanic being.
“Tirumantiram” presents Siddhanta as a progressive path, with 4 “compartments”: virtuous and moral living (carya), worship in the temple (kriya), inner transformation and worship (yoga) and union with the Supreme Absolute (Paramashiva), through the grace of the sadguru – leading to the state of complete knowledge (jnana) and freedom.
After attaining ultimate spiritual freedom, the individual soul continues to exist until total union with God – when the being (jiva) becomes Shiva.
The pure (Shuddha) spiritual lineage Shaiva Siddhanta of Tirumular has the same roots, when going further back in time, with the spiritual lineage Siddha Siddhanta of the great yogi and spiritual master (mahasiddhayogi) Gorakshanatha, as they are both Natha spiritual lineages.
However, Tirumulars lineage is known as Nandinatha Sampradaya, and Gorakshanathas lineage is known as Adinatha Sampradaya (sampradaya = group, sect).
Shaiva Siddhanta blossomed in southern India as a powerful devotional movement (bhakti), infused with siddhayoga elements.
In the VIIth to the IXth century, the saints Sambandar, Appar and Sundarar, wandered from temple to temple singing Shivas majesty. They were essential factors in defending Shaivism against the Buddhist and jainist “threats”.
Little after that, a prime minister of the king, Manikkavasagar, renounced a world of riches and fame in order to dedicate himself entirely to seeking and serving Shiva. His touching verses, “Tiruvacagam”, are filled with visionary experience, love and effort to reach the Truth.
The songs of these four saints are part of a compendium named “Tirumurai”, which, together with the Vedas and the Shaivit agama-s form the scriptural basis of Shaiva Siddhanta in Tamil Nadu (the tamil provence).
Besides saints, philosophers, and hermits, there were many spiritually free people siddha-s, people intoxicated with Shivas majesty, who continued on the path along the centuries as saints, guru-s and worshippers, even though they were sometimes mocked at and cast away.
Shaiva Siddhanta claims all these men and women who have devoted themselves entirely to Shiva. Nonetheless, their presence and revelation crosses any school, philosophy or lineage, as they have preserved the genuine Shaivic spirit on earth.
These spiritual people (siddha-s) were the main source of power that promoted religion through the ages. Their names are very familiar to the devotees, and include the sages Agastya, Bhoga, Tirumular and Gorakshanatha.
They are “claimed” by the Siddha Sidantha as devotees, by the Kashmir shaivit people and even by certain Nepal branches of Buddhism.
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