Shaivism and its beliefs and practices


One such widely followed practice in Hinduism is Shaivism. The diversity in the religion gives a brief understanding of its beliefs and practices which are divided into categories accordingly. 

Shaivism is the organized worship of the Hindu deity Shiva along, with Vaishnavism and Shaktism, which is one of the three principal systems of modern age Hinduism. It comprises of varied movements like the extremely philosophical Shaiva-Siddhanta, the socially different Lingayat, also ascetics like the dashnami sannyasins, and lastly innumerable folk alternatives.

Shiva Hindu God

The Vedas tell us about the mysterious, strange deity Rudra who is also known as the Howler, whose name then became a description of Shiva which means The Auspicious One. The Shvetashvatara Upanishad believes in Shiva as the paramount god, and Lord Shiva is an important deity in the two precious Sanskrit epics, which are the Mahabharata and the Ramayana.

Yet it was not seen to be in existence until the 2nd century BCE and the 2nd century CE and with the rise of the Pashupata group that the planned religious worship formed. After that, temples and festivals devoted to Lord Shiva, the religious institutes for Shaiva renunciants, and Shaiva places of journey succeeded in the country of India.

There are many schools of modern Shaiva practices, starting from pluralistic realism to absolute monism. Firstly, the Shaiva-Siddhanta has three main principles that are the Pati, which is Shiva, the Lord; Pashu, the discrete soul; and Pasha, the bonds that define the soul to earthly presence. The aim set for the soul is to get free from its bonds and attain shivatva which is the nature of Lord Shiva.

The ways leading to that aim are charya (which are the external acts of worship), kriya (the practice of intimate dedication to God), Yoga (meditating), and jnana (wisdom). Similar to the other forms of Hinduism Shaivism, also extends to other regions of Southeast Asia, comprising of Java, Bali, and Cambodia.

Shaivism is the division of Hinduism that worships Lord Shiva as the highest god. It is one of the main divisions in Hinduism. The supporters of Shaivism are called Shaivas. They have faith that Shiva is the final being and highest god. According to their belief, he is the maker, demolisher, protector, covering, and the one who reveals.

It is one of the most ancient and belongs to the four main sects in Hinduism. Many popular rulers of early India like Kushanas, the Guptas, the Barasivas, and the Cholas were passionate followers and worshippers of Lord Shiva. They had an important part in conserving the culture of Shaivism and extending it.

The Concepts of Shaivism

Pati

It means the husband or the god of this whole creation. He takes care of the five vital parts as the creator, destroyer, covering, reveler, and preserver. He is accountable for forming the net of Ma or delusion upon the inhabitants of the world that he has made.

Pasu

It is a Hindi word that means animals. It comprises every mammal and life form and also humans that are living on earth. These creatures or Jivas are responsible for three types of impurities that are ego, illusion, and attachments. These living beings are linked to the world that they live in by their wants and attachments.

Pasa

It means or refers to the attachments created by living beings to other things or beings. These bonds are created by inner desire and frequent interaction with things. This connects the being to their world and is the cause of their sorrow. To get liberty and true freedom, a being must get detached from earthly wants and attachments.

Prakriti

The meaning of Prakriti is nature is taken to be a part of Shiva as well as a sovereign god called Shakti. It is accountable for revealing parts of itself into this world to make and transform it. It is believed to be the reason for this creation.

Lord Shiva is the most vital, well-known, old, and respected deity of Hinduism. Since history, people in the Indian subcontinent have been adoring him, and according to some of the historical findings, it is also seen that he was worshipped in other regions of the world under varied names. Shaivism was mostly the first opposing movement against Vedic casteism, which long before the rise of Buddhism as a difficult religion.

The facts we know about Lord Shiva are much lesser than what we do not know about him. His worship is seen back in the prehistoric times. While several historians and literate Hindus mistakenly praise the Vedic civilization as the ultimate cause of Hinduism, the truth is that Shaivism is its heart. A lot of significant concepts of Hindusim, and many of its spiritual, austere, tantric and ceremonial traditions were brought in from it.

It is seen that in the early parts of Vedic civilization, Shaivism stayed as an outsider division, and possibly for a while, the two cultures clashed before their disputes were reunited and a merged culture came out of them. The fight between Daksha, who was a supporter of Brahma and Shiva is perhaps an untrustworthy reference to the battle between the two traditions. In the war between Brahmanism and Saivism, the latter is to have won.

His succeeding endurance in a reduced form was because of the kindness and mercy of Lord Shiva. It further concluded in the weakening of the Vedic deities and the growth of the Saiva pantheon. Up until modern times, Saivism was the most known division of Hinduism, a place currently appreciated by Vaishnavism primarily because of the support it got from the teacher traditions of Brahmanical roots and the marketing that goes with it.

The Brahmanas who skilled in Vedic rituals converted to Vaishnavism for their living after the decline of the Vedic gods. In Lord Vishnu, they discovered the sattvic traits that they were seeking for and the cleanliness which previously they credited to Agni, who is the fire god.

However, in Vaishnavism, Brahmanas consistently preside as the priests, in Shaivism, there is no constraint. In a caste focused society of Hinduism, Shaivism demonstrates the right way to behave with people from all castes and cultures with equality. This division on Shaivism is an offering to Lord Shiva, who is the blessed God of all.

Beliefs of Shaivism

The Pashupata Shaivism

The Pashupata is the oldest Shaivist community made of austere monks. The name is gotten from the word ‘Pashupati’ which means to be the lord of animals. It is also believed that the followers of the Pashupata Shaivism wandered in the entire the country, creating the dust of the roads rise, and carried with them their solid cans, had oiled and wild hair, or tied in a loop with their faces scorching with powerful dedication, and having intense eyes that see Lord Shiva more than the world around them.

They dressed in deer leather or bark on their waists. The viewpoint of the Pashupata group was arranged by Lakulish in the 2nd century A.D. The primary texts of the institute are Gaṇakārikā, Rāśikara-bhāshya and Pañchārtha bhāshyadipikā.

They were the dedicated followers of Lord Shiva and were believed to be his white magicians divided from priest dominant Vedic society. The Pashupata recognized associates from any caste but favoured Brahmin caste over the other. Their way was difficult and blessed the followers with karunya or Shiva’s mercy.

The sadhana they practised probably begun with the developing of an ethical code, the pronunciation being put on brahmacharya, ahimsa and tapas. It was a way of self-sanctification, of elimination of the ego, removal of the want to be approved by the society, and to insert within the subconscious the thought that liked or disliked, right or wrong, all the contraries are equal if one’s adoration for Shiva is truly prevailing. This phase of the preparation was made to break the attachments with the society and self.

Kashmiri Shaivism

Kashmiri Shaivism came forth from the northern parts of India in between the 700 to 1100 c.e. Kashmir was the sacred, cultural, and knowledgeable centre for some of the most educated spiritual experts of that time. Kashmir Shaivism took birth from the understanding of these devoted Trika Yoga performers, who also were well skilled in voicing their experiences.

The encouraged writings and observations by these philosophers, poets, and artists show much of the work that we in this age see as the personification of their rich tradition. As per the traditions of Kashmir Shaivism, Lord Siva initially set forth sixty-four organizations, or philosophies, some solo, some dual and some monistic theistic.

However, these were lost, and Shiva ordered Sage Durvasas to recover the wisdom. Sage Durvasas’ “mind-born sons” were given the responsibility to teach the values of Tryambaka, Amardaka and Shrinatha. Therefore, Tryambaka at an unidentified time laid a new basis for Kashmir Saiva beliefs.

It is also said that Lord Siva felt the necessity to resolve contradictory understandings of the Agamas and pledge the invasion of dualism on the historic monistic principles. In ancient times, Shri Vasugupta was residing on Mahadeva Mountain close to Srinagar. History says that on a night Lord Siva was seen by him in a dream and voiced him of the situation of a great verse carved in a rock.

After waking up, Vasugupta hurries to the location and found seventy-seven concise sutras carved in stone, and he named them as Siva Sutras. Vasugupta explained the Sutras to his supporters, and slowly the philosophy was spread out.

On this scriptural basis arose the institute called as Kashmir Saivism, Northern Saivism, Pratyabhijna Darshana or Trikashasana. The Trika, or three, denotes to the school’s three-fold treatment of the Holy: Siva, Shakti and soul, and also the three parts of scriptures and several other triangles.

The supporters of Kashmiri Shaivism originated to see the world as complete Consciousness, which they called as Shiva. They focused on the inner self. This realisation was believed to be the fundamental ‘I’, or sacred self as it was free, artistic and self-reflective.

They saw the reality of the greatest form as clean realisation. As per them, existence had no boundaries of energy for Consciousness and a festivity of the creative energy in every being and the acknowledgement of every being’s authority of free will. Consciousness is believed to be both passive and energetic. This is as life is not just still, but also moving and has vitality. The Kashmiri Shaivists believe deity is an energetic stillness.

Gorakhnath Shaivism

Gorakhnath Shaivism was originated by Gorakshanatha who existed in about 10th century AD. He was believed to be a follower of Matsyendranatha who belonged to Nepal. The supporters of this group believe that wisdom and understanding of their culture were given by Matsyendranath right from Lord Shiva himself. Gorakshanatha is praised with such deeds as Viveka Martanda and Siddha Siddhanta Paddhathi.

He also made the 12 ascetic orders all over Northern India in a purpose to sustain the Adinatha culture and tradition. This group followed many rituals of the Pasupatha sect. It also had Muslim supporters initially that who then became the main authority of the sect. This group found insights of hatha yoga, kundalini yoga and the Samadhi which helped them create their significance. They also took part in mystic sciences and siddhis or unusual powers.

The bhakts supposed that one could expand their lifetime and attain immortality by practising yogic forms. Only those in the group knew about these practices. They also considered that Lord Shiva is the reason for the creation and that after deliverance the soul comes back to Shiva. Furthermore, they could also get unity with Shiva in a deep state of Surrender or Samadhi. Being one with Shiva can be seen by serious followers of yoga in a dedicated state of Samadhi.

This group is still found in many regions of India and foreign countries and its supporters range from vagabonds and street magicians to the vaguest monks residing in the Himalayas. The well-known of hatha yoga, pranayama, holistic medicine, kundalini yoga, astrology and Ayurveda in today’s world can be credited to this culture.

Vira Shaivism

Vira Shaivism is vastly practised in the region of Karnataka. It was originated by Sri Basaveshvara. The Vira Shaivists began a movement that came against Vedic authority, caste system, the four stages of life, and worship of a multiplicity of deities.

They thought of Shiva as the highest god and adored him by linga. The main reason for Vira Shaivism was to get unity with Lord Shiva by the linga. This was known as linganusandhana or the inner diffusion of Lord Shiva via the linga. Because of this, they were also known as Lingayats or the carriers of the linga.

Vira Shaivists are again the worship of Shiva in any other form than the linga. The guru also gives the student the eight symbols of faith which help the follower in a good place in his spiritual life.

 These eight symbols that help to attain spiritual life are obeying to the guru or teacher, worship of the linga (the essential practice), respect for the jangama or Vīraśaiva gurus, putting on of the holy rudraksha, use of the blessed ash holy to Shiva, contributing in the guru’s prasad, sanctification by holy water called tīrtha, and reciting repeatedly the six-lettered mantra Om Namah Shivaya, which means ‘Respect to Shiva’.

The viewpoint of the Vīra Shaivism is known as the Sat-sthala Siddhanta. Its core is the reception of the sat-sthalas, which is a six-stage way of dedication and devotion which leads to unity with Shiva. Each of these phases brings the devotee and Shiva nearer, until they become one together in an ultimate state of unending Shiva-consciousness, as the rivers unite with the ocean.

Saiva Siddhanta

The Saiva Siddhanta came into existence from the twenty-eight Saiva Agamas, the dedicated works of many saints of Saivism tradition, and the literature of various philosophers and scholars. The first teacher of Saiva Siddhanta culture was Nandinatha, who existed in around 250 BC in Kashmir.

He had written twenty-six Sanskrit verses known as the Nandikesvara Kasika, in which he mentioned the basic doctrines of the Saiva Siddhanta school. The next important character of this tradition was Tirumular, who wrote Tirumandiram in Tamil and presented the Nandinatha tradition 1 of this school to the followers in southern India. He had a vital part in expanding Shaivism.

The Saiva Siddhanta believed that Shiva is the highest being and god of all creation. He was the one who had cast Maya in this world and kept the beings disheartened. As per their beliefs, true freedom could be received by the practising of charya, yoga, kriya and jnana.

  • The ways of Charya comprise giving service to Lord Shiva in a temple or religious places by executing tasks like cleaning, cooking, giving water, collecting flowers, etc. This is known as dasa-marga or the way of the servant. By this track, one attains entry into Kailas or the world of Lord Shiva.
  • The way of kriya comprises practicing dedicated tasks such as adoring the idol of Shiva, singing holy songs, repeating the mantras, telling stories about Shiva. This is known as sat-Putra-marga or the pathway of a good son. By walking on this path, one attains nearness to Lord Shiva.
  • The way of yoga comprises the practice of yoga exercises and meditating and inspection. By walking on this path, one gets a chance to live continually with Lord Siva and become his mystical companion. Thus, this way is known as Sakha-marga, or the pathway of friendship.
  • The way to knowledge is the 4th path. In this path, jnana or wisdom is the source. It is known as sat-marga as it takes the jivas near to Sat or Truth and makes it likely for them to understand or become conscious of their true Siva realization.

After freedom, the liberated soul recognizes that it is similar to Shiva but not exactly like Shiva or the High Self. It goes through certain forms of duality while relishing the true realisation given from all bonds.

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