(Last Updated on : 28/01/2009)
Saivism gradually spread far and wide. With an interesting history and with the copious tradition, Saivism made its presence felt in South India, Kashmir and in other parts of India.
Saivism in South India
Tirumular's Tirumandarim is a highly abstruse work. It elaborates the Saiva doctrine. The author tried to compare the Agamas or Saiva canon with the Vedas. According to him "Becoming Siva is the Vedanta siddanta, Carya, Kriya, Yoga and Jnana are the four stages in the sadhana. When the aspirant has reached the last stage the grace of God descends on him and by that he is released.
The highly sectarian character of Saivism in South India in the time of Tirumular may be inferred from one of his statements in which he says that 'to feed a Sivajani once is more meritorious than to gift of a thousand temples or the feeding of a crore of bramanas versed in the Veda.' He regards the Siva canon as truly the word of God. After Mahendra Pallava became a convert to Saivism, Konchi became a center of Saivism. This great upsurge in favour of Saivism was due to devotional poetry that flows from the lips of the Saiva saints who lived in this age. Appar in the timeframe of A.D. 602-639, Sambandhar or contemporary of Appar, Sundaradramurti and Manik-kavacakam-all were inspired saints, who loaded the country with a great wave of devotional poetry and thus created in the minds of men a disposition for the pursuit of spirituality. These Nayanars or Saiva saints set up Saivism on a strong foundation in South India.
Saivism in Kashmir
Saivism in Kashmir kept clear of the wild and fantastic courses of discipline. It is followed by the other schools and created an honorable place for Saivism among the different systems of religion. This changed aspect of Saivism seems to be due, in no small measure, to the influence of Sankaracarya in the time of C. 788-820 A.D. Sankara met in argument several groups of pseudo-Saivas who were responsible for left-handed practices and quelling them, freed the followers of Saivism from their deadly influence. He cleansed the Hindu faiths of the prominences that had gathered round them due to accidents of history. He composed hymns in praise of the major gods of Hinduism. Several of these glorify Siva as the God of gods.
Kashmir Saivism is a kind of philosophy. It regards the individual soul and the world as essentially identical soul with Siva. It recognizes a triple principle or trika in the form of Sivasakti-anu or the principle of individuation. It is called Spanda Sastra because it believes in the principle of apparent movement or change from the state of absolute unity to the plurality of the world. It is also called pratyabhijna sastra because here recognition refers to the way of realizing the soul's identity with Siva.
Siva sutras, which are the basis of Kashmir Saivism, are said to have been revealed to a sage named Vasugupta who lived towards the end of the eight-century A.D. His pupil Kallata i.e. in the 854 AD wrote the Spandasarvasva. Abhinavagupta in the time period of A.D. 991-1015 wrote glosses on the Spandaarvasva. According to Abhinavagupta the ultimate reality is Sambhu or Siva, the supreme God. Siva is the Atman, the elf of all beings, immutable and ever perfect. This ultimate reality is beyond the reach of thought and language.
Pure consciousness, which is the supreme reality is referred to as Siva and is the material as well as the efficient cause of the universe. For Advaita Vedanta the manifested world is unreal but for Kashmir Saivism it is real.
The supreme aim of this system is to enable the individual to find salvation. The salvation consists in the soul's recognition of its identity with the Ultimate Reality. As bondage is the result of ignorance, release is to be attained through knowledge. Mere human effort will not be of much veil in the path of salvation. What really moves is the Divine Will, besides the three powers of creation. The other two are Sustenance and destruction of the universe. God has the power of concealed from the soul and af-ter the soul has played out its part in amsara. God's grace descends on the individual and the individual is released.
According to this system moksa is return to the original state of perfection and purity of consciousness. Kashmir Saivas do not bring in the idea of God as a constituent cause undergoing development and seem to admit the doctrine of creation out of nothing. The metaphysical conceptions of this school were characterized by bold originality, and the religious practices enjoined by it were healthy and conducive to the growth of spirituality.