Philosophical Anthropology in Saiva Siddhanta by Jayandra Soni

Philosophical Anthropology in Saiva Siddhanta

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Philosophical Anthropology in Saiva Siddhanta
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Saiva Siddhanta is a religion philosophical system of Hinduism under the rubric of Saivism and Sivagrayogin (16th century) is one of its accredited representatives. Although Sivagrayogin's profound contribution to the tradition is undisputed, not much, if any, special study has been done on what can be called its magnum opus, the Sivagrabhasya.

This work is a commentary to the Sivajanabodham, perhaps one of the shortest religion philosophical treatises, comprising only twelve two-line verses. In drawing largely from the commentary this book attempts to present Saiva Siddhanta through Sivagrayogin's ideas, albeit concentrating on one specific central problem of the entire system, viz, the notion of citman/pasu, which comprises the tradition's philosophical anthropology insofar as it is directly related to what constitutes a definition of man in the world. A definition is furnished which accounts for both man's situation in the world and the condition of the possibility of unhindered expression and manifestation of man's essential nature. It is in this sense that Sivagrayogin makes a significant contribution to the basic issues of philosophical anthropology.

The book puts into perspective the fundamental concepts and presuppositions of the Saiva Siddhanta tradition and develops its thematic study on the basis of a clear presentation of the terminological framework supporting Saiva Siddhanta philosophical anthropology.


About the Author

JAYANDRA SONI retired in May 2012 from the Department of Indology and Tibetology, University of Marburg, Germany where from 1991, he had taught Indian languages (Sanskrit, Hindi and Gujarati) and Indian philosophy. Born and brought up in South Africa where he did his B.A., University of Durban, Westville (1972), he studied further at the Banaras Hindu University, India (Ph.D. 1978) and the McMaster University, Canada, for his second Ph.D. (1987). He now lives in Innsbruck, Austria, continuing his own studies and teaching at the University of Innsbruck as a part-time lecturer.



Saiva Siddhanta is a religio-philosophical system of Hinduism under the rubric of Saivism. The origins of Saivism are not very distinct, although the worship of Siva is traceable to the Vedas.' The development of Saivism is associated with the supreme position given to the god Siva and, in the philosophical writings of the tradition, to the various interpretations of the relationship between the absolute principle called give and the individual beings in the world. A distinctive feature of Saivism marking its development independent of the Vedic branch of Hinduism, is, among other things, the body of authoritative literature called the Agamas.2 Saivism shares with Vaispavism and Saktaism the possession of vast Agama literature, which only since fairly recently has attracted the attention of scholars (due particularly to the efforts of the French Institute of Indology in Pondicherry, India).

The Agamas of Saivism have a traditional fourfold classification: the Soma Agamas, the Lakula (or Nakula) Agamas, the Pagupata Agamas and the Saiva Agamas. The last of these is further divided into three, groups: the left-hand (vama) Agamas of the Aghoras, Kapalas and Kalamukhas (the works of the last two are apparently lost to posterity); the right-hand Agamas of Kashmir Saivism or the Trika system, based on the Svacchanda and other Agamas; and the twenty-eight Agamas of Saiva Siddhanta beginning with the Kamika-Agama. Geographically the home of Pagupata Saivism is Gujarat; that of Vira Saivism (probably a continuation of the Kala.mukhas) is Karnataka; that of Kashmir Saivism is Kashmir; and that of Saiva Siddhanta is Tamil Nadu. The dating of the earliest Agamas is a matter of great uncertainty but on the basis of the evidence in the extant Agamas, the earliest ones may have been composed sometime around A.D. 400.

The term Saiva Siddhanta is used by the Agamas themselves (e.g., Kamika Agama 1:1, 113 and 119; Suprabheda Agama 1:56, 16 and 2:1, 12) to stand for the doctrine they teach and is especially adopted by the Tamil works which also form a substantial portion of the tradition's corpus of literature. The Agamas of Saiva Siddhanta have been preserved in Sanskrit in the Grantha script, a script invented by the South Indians and one which bears a close resemblance to the characters of the Tamil language. One of the most significant landmarks in the literary development of Saiva Siddhanta is the emergence of the so called Meykantha Siistra, i.e., those works in Sanskrit and Tamil that were composed through the influence of Meykantha (twelfth century). He is credited with having composed a work in Tamil called the Sivafriartabodham. There is considerable debate over the origin of this work, viz., whether it belonged to the Raurava Agama and thus was originally in Sanskrit or whether it is in fact a Tamil original (see also p. 38). In the absence of any conclusive evidence the matter cannot be finally decided at the present time. None-the less, the text is extant in both the Sanskrit and the Tamil with several voluminous commentaries in both languages. Sivagra-yogin's Sivagrabhasya is one such commentary in Sanskrit on the Sanskrit version of the Sivajnanabodham.

Sivagrayogin and his time

Sivagrayogin is reputed to have lived definitely in the latter half of the sixteenth century, although his exact dates are un-certain. He is one among the line of commentators who were well versed in both Sanskrit and Tamil with access to source material in both languages. It would seem that Saiva Siddhanta philosophical fervor was particularly strong during his time with model expositions of the tradition being given by him and his contemporaries who left behind insightful treatises, especially Maraijilana lika and Nirambavalagia, the last of whom wrote only in Tamil. Like some of his contemporaries (e.g., Jrianaprakaga) Sivagrayogin shows clear evidence of the enormous influence of Vedanta on the Indian philosophical scene. It is in this context that the Sivajnanabodham takes on a significance in Saiva Siddhanta which corresponds to the status given to the Brahmasiitra in Vedanta. Thus, for example, the scholastic differences evident in the brands of Vedanta arising from commentaries on the Brahmasittra hear striking resemblances to those in Saiva Siddhant arising from the commentaries on the Sivajnanabodham. Hence, the view of Jnanaprakasa, for instance is regarded as Sivasamavada because of his doctrine that the atman is equal to sivam in all respects whereas sivagrayogin teaches the doctrine of bheda-abheda, a unity in difference.


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