Saiva Vidyas

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By Shankara Bharadwaj Khandavalli

Saiva is another ancient and vast school of Mantra Vidyas. Siva is worshiped in various forms. There are Agamic and Vedic vidyas in Saiva. Though there is mention of Siva/Rudra in Rig Veda, it is Yajurveda which is primarily associated with Siva. He is the lord of yajna and His praises for this reason, are found in Yajurveda. Sri Rudram or Rudradhyaya or Sata Rudriya as it is variedly called, is found in the middle of Yajurveda. It is found with slight variation, in Sukla and Krishna Yajurveda. There are two parts of Sata Rudriya, called Namaka (as “namaH” recurs in the hymn) and Camaka (as “ca me” recurs in the hymn). The former is praise of Rudra while the latter is prayer to grant gains worldly and other worldly. Namaka mantra which appears in the middle of namaka is the central to many vidyas in Saiva. Besides, there are twenty eight Saiva Agamas. They come in two forms, Siddhanta Saiva and Kashmir Saiva. Kashmir Saiva follows Pratyabhijna darsana.

There are different levels in which Rudra/Siva is worshiped. In general Siva means auspicious, and He is the giver of auspiciousness. There are all kinds of Vidyas in Saiva – Para, Kamya and Astra. In general it is said that victory over desires, vairagya and peace develops with the worship of Siva, though one can achieve anything he wants through such worship.

Though Siva is worshiped in many forms, He is not primarily an incarnation deity the way Vishnu and Devi are. His forms are His aspects rather than incarnations.

Rudra and Maha Kala

There are three worlds, prithvi (earth), rodasi (sky) and antariksha (space). The rulers of these are Vasus, Rudras and Adityas. There are eleven Rudras; however Rudra is referred to in singular too, as a representative of all of them. There are different listings of the eleven names; one of them is Bhava, Kapali, Pingala, Bheema, Virupaksha, Vilohita, Shastra, Ekapada, Ahirbudhnya, Shambhu and Chanda.

He is the destroyer, and the ruler of the slain/departed. For this reason He is also said to roam in the burial grounds, wearing skull garland. However, Rudra is cosmic form and His attributes have deeper significance.

Any jiva after leaving the body is said to go to Candra loka or the world of Candra/Soma. Rudra is the ruler of this world. The being lives here for a year according to human scale. Each day in this world is as long as a month in human scale, with Sukla paksha as the day and Krishna paksha as the night. (This is the reason departed souls are offered food once in a month for a year after departure, because that would amount to feeding them every day in their scale.) At the end of the year, they enter Aditya loka. Aditya/Vishnu is the ruler of this world. Here the jiva assumes divine body. Each day in this world is as long as a year in human scale, with uttarayana as day and dakshinayana as night. (This is the reason after a year after departure pitris are offered food once a year - because that would amount to feeding them every day in their scale.)

Thus Rudra delivers jiva from the world of death to the world where there is no death. He is also the one who can grant immortality and liberation, by delivering from the cycle of happening. For this reason He is called Mrutyunjaya. In Bhakti schools He is called Kapali because He “wears” or resides in the kapala of devotees. In cosmology He is said to behead Brahma and wear the skull of Brahma, and the number of skulls in the garland He wears represents the number of kalpas that elapsed so far. This is the reason He is also called Maha Kala. The feminine form of Kala is Kali, a form in which Devi is worshiped.

The concept of time as a destroyer of everything is visible in this symbolism. Time and space are two important aspects of eternal, from which the transcendental concept takes root. Being the destroyer of everything, He is Himself without destruction. He is the third of the three Gods that preside over creation, sustenance and dissolution. Wearing tamas as the form that represents dissolved state, He is Himself beyond the qualities Satva, Rajas and Tamas.

The epithets like Vyomakesa (having space for hair) and Digambara (having directions for clothes), Visvarupa (having universe for His form) indicate the infinite nature of Rudra. Thus these epithets and Kala epithet together portray the space-time continuum of the Universe, and the Universe as the physical form of Rudra.

In general, Rudra delivers between causation and the One beyond cause. He is also the transformer between eternal and transient, infinite and finite. This is depicted in different ways in different stories. The Siva Linga itself is a symbol to represent transformation between un-manifest and manifest. Ganga’s descending from heaven to earth and Siva bearing and delivering Her to earth, is another instance. In the journey of jiva Rudra soothing the soul and delivering to heaven is another.

Thus Rudra is essentially the transcendental principle and the means to transcendence.

Sadasiva and Isvara

In Saiva-Sakta parlance, there are five activities in the cycle of creation – srusti (creation), sthisi (sustenance), laya (dissolution), tirodhana (veiling) and anugraha (unveiling). The Devatas responsible for these are Brahma, Vishnu, Rudra, Isvara and Sadasiva respectively.

The last three functions, of laya, tirodhana and anugraha are performed by three aspects of Siva – Rudra, Isvara and Sadasiva. Siva is worshiped in all these forms. Rudra is the time/destroyer aspect. Isvara is the lord of universe, the causal being. Sakti is His consort. He resides in causal space. It is through Sadasiva’s grace that one realizes Brahman. Sadasiva Himself is Brahman the eternal, and is beyond gross subtle and causal. In Mantra yoga as the seeker evolves, he worships Rudra, Isvara and Sadasiva respectively, and eventually unites with Sadasiva.

Mantra Rupa

Siva is usually portrayed as holding damaru, from which all the creation is said to have emerged. It is also the abode of Nada and the alphabet. Siva is said to be Omkara Himself. There are two main forms in which He is worshiped – as Sakala and as Nishkala. He is Sakala when He is associated with Kala or Devi. Nishkala is pure Omkara, in the absolute un-manifest form or Brahman.

Associate Deities

Siva’s closest associate is Devi, His dynamic aspect. She is Kali when He is Nishkala, Maya when He is Isvara, Rudrani when He is Rudra and Parameswari when He is Sadasiva. Thus She is always complimentary to Him and inseparable. She conducts the cosmic sport inspired by and to please Him.

Rudra represents tamas, and in Veda the deities representing Satva-Rajas-Tamas are Agni-Aditya-Vayu. Thus Rudra is associated with Vayu. This is further indicated through the arrangement of Sri Rudram into forty nine sections, which is actually the number of Maruts (that represent Vayu).

Siva is also called Krittivasa and is thus related to Agni. He holds Agni in His right hand and is called Jataveda Pani. Devi is Agni Sikha too, and Kumaraswamy is Agni Himself.

Major Saiva Vidyas

Siva Pancakshari

Siva Pancakshari or the five lettered Vidya of Siva is the most popular of Saiva Vidyas, and is said to be the most effective. This is actually a part of namaka mantra, but composed with different procedures (nyasa etc) and verses for meditation.

There are variants to Pancakshari Vidya, such as Sakti Pancakshari.

Sri Rudram

While Pancakshari is the Vidya meant for japa, Sata Rudriya is the primary hymn for the procedural worship of Siva consisting of japa, homa, abhisheka. While the entire Rudram is done usually, there are different compilations with each Mantra from Namakam and applied for different purposes like prosperity, victory over enemies, curing diseases, attaining liberation and knowledge and so on.

Homa or Abhisheka with Satarudriya is said to be the best way to get Siva’s grace. Uniqueness in Rudram is that while there is a Purascarana for every Mantra vidya, there is nothing of that sort for Rudram.

Ajapa

As the name suggests, “Ajapa” is meditation without japa, or seedless meditation. However there is the entire procedure of nyasa, dhyana and mantra for this, to take one into the state of ajapa-aradhana. Ajapa is a relatively rare Vidya. While most Vidyas worship a Devata for revealing self, Ajapa is the worship of self or hamsa. This is done in the advanced stages of sadhana.

Nishkala

Nishkala is the worship of absolute, the un-manifest form of Brahman. It is also called Para Nishkala or Suddha Pranava. Usually only sanyasis are initiated into this vidya. In Saiva traditions, this is an advanced initiation and though one is not a sanyasi, this can be given with specific initiation as an advanced deeksha.

Pasupata

Siva is called Pasupati because He is the controller of Pasus. Pasu is one that is bound by Pasa. He delivers jivas from their bindings.

Pasupata uses namaka mantra with various other mantras for different purposes. There are a variety of Vidyas in Pasupata, like Kanya Pasupata, Pasupata Astra and Mrutyunjaya Pasupata. This is central set of Vidyas in Saiva, consisting of Kamya Astra and Para - all forms.

Mrutyunjaya

Siva is called Mrutyunjaya because He grants immortality to jivas. This Vidya is practiced to get liberation, and is thus a Para vidya.

Dakshinamurty

Dakshinamurty is primarily worshiped by seekers pursuing jnana marga. Dakshinamurty is a satvic form. He gives knowledge. He teaches Brahma Vidya to rishis through silence. The questions His disciples have, they find those already answered by Him, by flashing the answers in their minds without their asking. Holding Agni in one hand, He is in Samadhi always. Dakshinamurty is also praised as one who delivers devotees from the faults of kali yuga. He is worshiped in multiple forms, like Medha Dakshinamurty, Sakti Dakshinamurty. These forms are worshiped for different purposes, such as sastric knowledge, spiritual wisdom, wealth and liberation. Besides, the combination of Dakshinamurty vidya with Sri Vidya is called Sri Vidya Dakshinamurty.

Candramauleeswara

Candramauleeswara is a pleasant form of Siva. He has moon adornment, and holds a deer in His hand. The deer is symbolic of the jiva bewildered at the cosmic play, and He soothes it.

While some of the Saiva vidyas are said to be for men only, Candramauleeswara can be worshiped especially by women.

Bhairava

Bhairava is the male aspect, having Bhairavi for His consort. Bhairava is a widely practiced set of Vidyas. Though Bhairava is essentially a terrible form, there are a different Vidyas in this – like Ananda Bhairava, Kala Bhairava, Asitanga, Ruru, Bhishana, and Samhara Bhairava.

Veerabhadra

Veerabhadra is a terrible form of Siva. Veerabhadra is described in different forms, as a leader of one of His armies, as an aspect of Siva and also as an incarnation of Siva.

One of the stories about the incarnation of Veerabhadra is found frequently in Purana as well as Tantra. When Siva comes to know that Sati burnt Herself in the fire of tapas, unable to bear the insult put on Her by Her father Daksha, Siva performs a dance out of anger. Then He takes one from His matted hair and creates Veerabhadra out of it. Veerabhadra goes with His armies, destroys Daksha's abode and beheads him. Siva again, after prayed to by the Devatas, gives new life to Daksha by attaching to him the face of a ram.

As the name suggests He is Veera, the ferocious, and Bhadra – the protector. Bhadra Kali is His consort. Apart from being worshiped as an aspect of Siva, Veerabhadra is also found as the ruler of shrine-towns (Kshetra Palaka) where Siva is the presiding deity. There are both prayoga and sadhana oriented vidyas in Veerabhadra.

Sarabha

Sarabha is said to be the most terrible of Siva’s forms. This form is half-bird and half-lion. He is also called Sarabheswara or Sarabha Saluva. Sarabha is a more prayoga oriented Vidya.

While there are different stories about the incarnation of Sarabha, one of them is that after Narasimha killed Hiranyakasipa, the Devatas were afraid of pacifying him. Then Rudra in the form of Sarabha Saluva came flying, carried Narasimha with Him and took to a lonely place, then pacified Him.