Śaiva Philosophy | 2. Canonical Scriptures


2. The Canonical Scriptures

The primary sources of Śaivism are the twenty-eight Śiva Āgamas, of which the Kāmikā is the most important. The authority of the Vedas is also recognized.

Saint Tirumular, author of the Tirumantiram says:

“The Āgama, as much as the Veda, is truly the work of God; the one (Veda) is general and the other (Āgama) special; though some consider these words of the Lord, the two antas, to be different, for the great no difference exists.”

References to Śiva and the worship offered to him in South India are to be found in the earliest extant literature in Tamil, i.e. the works of the Sangam age.

The great period of Śaivism, however, was when the sixty-three canonical saints, called Nāyanārs or Adiyārs lived and showed to the people the way of devotion to Śiva.

Of these, Appar, Tiru-jñāna-saṁbandhar, Sundaramūrti and Māṇikkavācakar, are honoured as the great teachers of Śaiva religion (samayācāryas).

The hymns sung by the first three constitute the Tevāram; of the Tiru-vācakam of Māṇikkavācakar, it has been said that he whose heart is not melted by it must have had a stone for his heart.

The four great saints referred to above did not attempt any systematic exposition of the Śaiva doctrines. This task was left to the teachers who followed them.

The most important of the santānācāryas, as these later teachers are called, are Meykaṇḍadeva, Aruṇandi-Śivācārya, Marai-jñāna-saṁbandha and Umāpati- Śivācārya.

Meykandar’s Śiva-jñāna-bodham (thirteenth century A.D.) is the basic text of the Śaiva-Siddhāṅta philosophy.

The tradition about this work is that it is a Tamil rendering made by Meykandar of the Pāśa-vimocana section of the Raurava Āgama. But this is now disputed by some scholars who believe that the Tamil Śiva- jñāna-bodham is an original work of Meykandar.

There are twelve sūtras (aphorisms) in the Śiva-jñāna-bodham with a vārttika (commentary) written by the author himself.

Aruṇandi's Śiva-jñāna-siddhiyār has justly become famous as the classic of Śaiva-Siddhāṅta:

 In the first part called “para-pakṣa" alien Schools are refuted; in the second part, “supakṣa” (Sanskrit sva-pakṣa), the tenets of Śaiva-Siddhāṅta are expounded, closely following the Śiva-jñāna-bodham.

Marai-jñāna-saṁbandha is not known to have written any work.

But his disciple, Umāpati Śivācārya, wrote several treatises expounding the Siddhāṅta. One of them is Śiva-prakāśam, a book of one hundred verses.