Vīra Śaivism: History and Literature | Part 2


History and Literature of Vīra Śaivism.

Part 2

A later Āgama probably of the thirteenth century called the Vīra-śaivāgama speaks of the four schools of thought: Śaiva, Pāśupata, Vāma and Kula.

Śaiva is again divided into Saumya and Raudra. The Saumya is of five kinds including demonology and magic as antidote to poison. The Śaiva school is called Dakṣiṇā, and the cult of Śaktī is called Vāma. The two can be mixed together as Vāma and Dakṣiṇā, and regarded as one school.

The Siddhānta śāstra is called pure Śaiva belonging only to Śiva. There is, however, another sect, or rather three schools of a sect, called Dakṣiṇā, Kālamukhas and Mahāvrata.

Bhandarkar has suggested that the Kāla-mukhas and the Mahāvratadhārins are one and the same. The Siddhāntas again are divided into three sects: Ādi-śaiva, Maha-śaiva and Anta-śaiva. These subdivisions of Śaivism have sprung from the Pāśupata-Śaivism.

The writer of the Vīra-śaivāgama says that Śaivism scattered itself into infinite variety of schools of thought or bands of devotees and had a huge literature for supplementing their position. All these sects have now practically vanished with their literature if they had any.

From the testimony of the same Āgama it appears that Vīra- Śaivism was not a part of the older Śaivas, but it originated as a doctrinal school which accepted four ligas in the four pontifical seats, the worship of Śiva as ṣaṭ-sthala and their special rites and customs.

This view may be correct, as we cannot trace the Vīra- śaiva as a system of thought in any of the earlier works on Śaivism.

We have a number of Vīra-Śivāgamas such as Makuṭāgama, Suprabhedāgama, Vīra-śaivāgama and the like in manuscript.

But none of them, excepting the Basava-rājīya called also Vīra- śaiva-sāroddhāra (manuscript) with the bhāṣya of Somanātha, make any reference to Basava or even the Vīra-śaiva philosophy.

The Basava-rājīya also speaks of Basava as being the incarnation of the bull of Śiva and the patron of Śaivas. But the author of the work does not say anything about the philosophical doctrine of Basava, but only describes the idea of ṣaṭ-sthala in an elaborate manner.

Professor Sakhare in his introduction to Liga-dhāraṇa- candrikā of Nandikeśvara quotes a passage from Svāyabhuvāgama in which the mythical origins of Revaṇa-siddha from Someśa- liga, of Marula-siddha from Siddheśa-linga, of Paṇḍitārya from Mallikārjuna-liga, of Ekorāma from Rāmanātha-liga, and of Viśvārādhya from the Viśveśa-liga, are described.

We have no further evidence of these teachers or the nature of their teachings. We do not even know if they called themselves Vīra-śaivas. This account does not tally with the description found in the Vīra- śaiva-guru-paramparā, or with the other Vīra-śaiva texts published or unpublished with which we are familiar.

The gotras and the pravaras of the Vīra-śaivas, given in the Suprabhedāgama as emanating from the unknown past, are quite fanciful and need not further be discussed. Such a discussion could shed no historical light on the origin and development of the Vīra-śaiva philosophy and dogmatic.

We have seen before that there is a tradition which links Agastya, Reṇuka or Revaṇa-siddha, Siddha-rāma and Reṇukācārya, the author of the Siddhānta-śikhāmaṇi.

Śrīpati mainly bases his arguments on the Upaniṣads and the Purāṇas, but he also refers to Agastya-sūtra and Reṇukācārya.

He does not, however, refer to Basava and the contemporaries who were associated with him, such as Allama-prabhu, Cannabasava, Mācaya, Goga, Siddha-rāma and Mahādevī.

This seems to show that the Vīra-Śaivism had two or more lines of development which later on coalesced and began to be regarded as one system of Vīra-śaiva thought.

From Basava’s vacanas it is difficult to assess the real philosophical value of the faith that was professed by Basava.

In the Prabhu-liga-līlā and the Basava-Purāṇa we find a system of thought which, in the absence of other corroborating materials, may be accepted as approximately outlining the system of thought which was known as Vīra-Śaivism in Basava’s time.

We find that the doctrines of sthala and linga-dhāraṇa were known to the author of the Prabhu-liṅga-līlā.

But though in one place, where instruction was being given to Basava by Allama-prabhu, a-sthala is mentioned, yet the entire emphasis through­out the book is on the doctrine of unity of the self with Śiva, the ground of the reality.

In the above passage it is held that there are double knots associated with the gross, the subtle and the cause, in accordance with which we have the six sthalas in three groups of a pair of each.

Thus the two knots associated with the gross go by the name of bhakta and maheśvara; those with the subtle as associated with prāṇa are called prāa and prasāda-ligi sthalas; those with the cause are of an emotional nature, and are called śarana and aikya sthalas.

In other works such as Basava-rājīya, Vīra-śaivāgama and Siddhānta-śikhāmaṇi the names of sthalas extend to one hundred and one. But in none of those works is the idea of these different sthalas explained to show their philo­sophical importance.

In Prabhu-liṅga-līlā we hear that Canna-basava knew the mystery of ṣaṭ-sthala, but we do not know exactly what that mystery was. In this connection guru, liga, cara, prasāda and pādodaka are also mentioned. The whole emphasis of the book is on the necessity of realising the unity of the self and, indeed, of anything else with Śiva.

Allama decries the external ritualism and lays stress on the necessity of realising the ultimate reality of the universe and the self with Śiva.

He vehemently decries all forms of injury to animal life, and persuades Goga to give up ploughing the ground, as it would involve the killing of many insects.

Allama further advised Goga to surrender the fruits of all his actions to God and carry on his duties without any attachment.

As a matter of fact the Vīra-śaiva thought as repre­sented by Allama can hardly be distinguished from the philosophy of Śankara, for Allama accepted one reality which appeared in diverse forms under the condition of māyā and avidyā.

In that sense the whole world would be an illusion. The bhakti preached by Allama was also of an intellectual type, as it consisted of a constant and unflinching meditation and realisation of the ultimate reality of all things with Śiva.

This view of bhakti seems to have influenced Reṇukācārya, the author of Siddhānta-śikhāmaṇi, who describes inner devotion (āntara-bhakti) in almost the same type of phraseology.

In his teachings to Muktāyī, Allama says that just as the sucking baby is gradually weaned from the mother’s milk to various kinds of food,

so the real teacher teaches the devotee to concentrate his mind on external forms of worship and later on makes him give them up, so that he ultimately becomes unattached to all kinds of duties, and attains true knowledge by which all his deeds are destroyed.

There is not much use in learning or delivering speeches, but what is necessary, is to realise the unity of all with Śiva.

In his conversation with Siddha-rāma and Gorakṣa, he not only demonstrates the non-existence of all things but Śiva, but he also shows his familiarity with a type of magical yoga, the details of which are not given and cannot be traced in the Yogaśāstra of Patañjali.

In the instruction given by Allama to his pupil Basava, the former explains briefly the nature of bhakti, a-sthala and yoga.

It seems that the restful passivity that is attained by yoga is nothing but complete and steady identification of the ultimate truth, Śiva, with all the variable forms of experience, and our life and experience as a complete person.

This yoga leading to the apperception of the ultimate unity can be done by arresting all the vital processes in the nervous centres of the body at higher and higher grades, until these energies become one with the supreme reality, God Śiva.

It is in this way that the chakras are traversed and passed over till the Yogin settle down in Śiva.

The entire physical processes being arrested by the peculiar yoga method, our mind does not vacillate or change, but remains in the consciousness of the pure Lord, Śiva.

The teacher of Basava, Allama, says that without a strong effort to make the mind steady by the complete arrest of the vital forces, the Vāyu, there can be no bhakti and no cessation to bondage.

It is by the arrest of these vital forces or Vāyu, that the citta or the mind of the Vīra-śaiva becomes arrested and merged in the elemental physical constituents of the body, such as fire, water, etc.

The māyā is a product of manas, and vāyu also is regarded as a product of manas, and this vāyu becomes the body through the activity of the manas.

The existence of the body is possible only by the activity of the vital forces or vāyu, which keep us away from realising the unity of all things with Śiva, which is also called bhakti.

The Vīra-śaiva has, therefore, to take recourse to a process opposite to the normal course of activity of the vāyus by concen­trating them on one point, and by accepting the mastery of the vāyus over the different chakras or nerve plexuses (technically known as the control of the six chakras), which would in their own way be regarded as the six stages or stations of the process of the control of the vāyus, the a-sthalas.

It is thus seen that according to the description given in Prabhu-liṅga-līlā of the doctrine of aṭ-sthala, the process of a-sthala is to be regarded as an upward journey through a hierarchy of stations, by which alone the unity with Śiva can be realised.

The instruction of this dynamic process of yoga is a practical method of a semi-physiological process by which the ultimate identity of God and soul can be realised.

In Śankara’s monistic philosophy it is said that the realisation of the ultimate identity of the self with Brahman is the highest attainable goal of life.

It is, however, said that such an enlightenment can be realised by proper intuition of the significance of the monistic texts such as “thou art that.” It refuses to admit any practical utility of any dynamic course of practice which is so strongly advised in the Vīra-śaiva doctrine of ṣaṭ-sthala as taught by Allama.

Allama had met Gorakṣa in one of his travels.

Gorakṣa, who was also probably a Śaiva, had by his yogic processes attained such miraculous powers that no stroke of any weapon could produce an injury on him. He made a demonstration of it to Allama.

Allama in reply asked him to pass a sword through his body. But to Gorakṣa’s utter amazement he found that when he ran through Allama’s body with his sword, no sound of impact was produced. The sword passed through Allama’s body as if it were passing through vacant space.

Gorakṣa wanted humbly to know the secret by which Allama could show such miraculous powers.

In reply Allama said that the māyā becomes frozen, as does the body, and when the body and the māyā both become frozen, shadow forms appear as real, and the body and the mind appear as one. When the body and the māyā are removed in the heart, then the shadow is destroyed.

At this, Gorakṣa further implored Allama to initiate him into those powers. Allama touched his body and blessed him, and by that produced an internal conversion.

As an effect of this, attachment vanished and with the disappearance of attachment, antipathy, egotism and other vices also disappeared.

Allama further said that unless the self could realise that the association with the body was false, and the two were completely separated, one could not realise the true identity with the Lord Śiva, devotion to whom was the cause of all true knowledge.

It is only by the continual meditation of Śiva and by the proper processes of breath control, that it is possible to realise the ultimate unity.

There is a subtle difference between the proper and practical adoption of the dynamic process of a-sthala and the realisation of unity as taught by the Śankara Vedānta.

In the Śankara Vedānta, when the mind is properly prepared by suitable accessory processes, the teacher instructs the pupil or the would-be saint about the ultimate knowledge of the unity of the self and the Brahman, and the would-be saint at once perceives the truth of his identity with Brahman as being the only reality.

He also at once perceives that all knowledge of duality is false, though he does not actually melt himself into the nothingness of pure consciousness or the Brahman.

In the Vīra-śaiva system the scheme of ṣaṭ-sthala is a scheme of the performance of yogic processes.

By them the vital processes as associated with the various vital forces and the nerve plexuses, are controlled, and by that very means the yogin gets a mastery over his passions

and is also introduced to new and advanced stages of knowledge, until his soul becomes so united with the permanent reality, Śiva, that all appearance and duality cease both in fact and in thought.

Thus a successful Vīra-śaiva saint should not only perceive his identity with Śiva, but his whole body, which was an appearance or shadow over the reality, would also cease to exist.

His apparent body would not be a material fact in the world, and therefore would not be liable to any impact with other physical bodies, though externally they may appear as physical bodies.

A similar philosophical view can be found in the work called Siddha-siddhānta-Paddhati attributed to Gorakṣa Nāth, who is regarded as a Śaiva saint, an incarnation of Śiva Himself.

Many legends are attributed to him and many poems have been composed in vernaculars of Bengali and Hindi, extolling the deeds and miraculous performances of his disciples and of himself.

His date seems to be uncertain. References to Gorakṣa are found in the works of writers of the eighth to fifteenth centuries, and his miracu­lous deeds are described as having taken place in countries ranging from Gujarat, Nepal and Bengal and other parts of northern and western India. One of his well-known disciples was called Matsyendra-nātha.

Śiva is called Paśupati, the lord of animals, and the word goraka also means the protector of the cattle. In the lexicons the word go means the name of a Ṛṣi and also the name of cattle. There is thus an easy association of the word gorakṣa with the word paśupati.

Gorakṣa’s views are also regarded as the views of Siddhāṅta.

This reminds us of the fact that the Śaiva doctrines of the South were regarded as having been propounded by Maheśvara or Śiva in the Siddhāntas, an elaboration of which has elsewhere been made in this work as the Āgama philosophy of the Siddhāntas.

Only a few Sanskrit books on the philosophical aspects of the teachings of Gorakṣa-nāth have come down to us.

There are, however, quite a number of books in the vernaculars which describe the miraculous powers of the Kānphāṭā Yogis of the school of Gorakṣa-nāth, also called Gorakh-nāth.

One of these Sanskrit works is called Siddha-siddhānta- Paddhati. It is there that the ultimate reality of the unmoved, and the immovable nature of the pure consciousness which forms the ultimate ground of all our internal and external experiences, are to be sought.

It is never produced nor destroyed, and in that sense eternal and always self-luminous. In this way it is different from ordinary knowledge, which is called buddhi.

Ordinary knowledge rises and fades, but this pure consciousness which is identified as being one with Śiva is beyond all occurrence and beyond all time.

It is, therefore, regarded as the ground of all things. It is from this that all effects, for example, the bodies, the instruments or the kāraṇas (senses, etc.), and the agents, for example, the souls or the jīvas, shoot forth.

It is by its spontaneity that the so-called God as well as His powers are manifested.

In this original state Śiva shows itself as identical with His śakti. This is called the sāmarasya, that is, both having the same taste. This ultimate nature is the original ego, called also kula, which shows itself in various aspects.

We should distinguish this ultimate nature of reality, which is changeless, from the reality as associated with class concepts and other distinguishing traits.

These distinguishing traits are also held up in the supreme reality, for in all stages of experience these distinguishing features have no reality but the ultimate reality, which holds them all in the oneness of pure consciousness.

Since the distinguishing characteristics have no further reality beyond them than the unchangeable ground-consciousness, they ultimately have to be regarded as being homogeneous (sama-rasa) with ubiquitous reality.

The concept of sama-rasa is homogeneity. A thing which appears as different from another thing, but is in reality or essence the same, is said to be sama-rasa with the first one. It is also a way in which the bhedābheda theory of the reality and the appearance is explained.

Thus a drop of water is in appearance different from the sheet of water in which it is held, but in fact it has no other reality and no other taste than that sheet of water.

The ultimate reality, without losing its nature as such, shows itself in various forms, though in and through them all it alone remains as the ultimately real.

It is for this reason that though the ultimate reality is endowed with all powers, it does not show itself except through its various manifesting forms. So the all-powerful Śiva, though it is the source of all power, behaves as if it were without any power.

This power therefore remains in the body as the ever- awaking kundalini or the serpentine force, and also as manifesting in different ways. The consideration of the body as indestructible is called kāya-siddhi.

We need not go into further detail in explaining the philo­sophical ideas of Gorakṣa as contained in Siddha-siddhānta- Paddhati, for this would be to digress.

But we find that there is a curious combination of Hatha-yoga, the control of the nerve plexuses, the idea of the individual and the world as having the same reality, though they appear as different, as we find in the lecture attributed to Allama in Prabhu-linga-līlā. It also holds a type of bhedābheda theory and is distinctly opposed to the monistic interpretation of the Upaniṣads as introduced by Śankara.

The idea of ṣaṭ-sthala must have been prevalent either as a separate doctrine or as a part of some form of Śaivism. We know that there were many schools of Śaivism, many of which have now become lost. The name ṣaṭ-sthala cannot be found in any of the sacred Sanskrit works.

We have no account of Vīra-Śaivism before Siddhānta-śikhāmaṇi. Descriptions of it are found in many works, some of the most important of which are Prabhu-linga-līlā and Basava-Purāṇa.

We also hear that Canna-basava, the nephew of Basava, was initiated into the doctrine of ṣaṭ-sthala. In Prabhu- linga-līlā we hear that Allama instructed the doctrine of ṣaṭ-sthala to Basava.

We also find the interesting dialogue between Allama and Gorakṣa in the Prabhu-linga-līlā.

We have also examined briefly some of the contents of Siddha-siddhānta-Paddhati of Gorakṣa, and we find that the ṣaṭ-sthala doctrine preached by Allama was more or less similar to the Yoga doctrine found in the Siddha-siddhānta-Paddhati.

If we had more space, we could have brought out an interesting comparison between the doctrines of Allama and Gorakṣa. It is not impossible that there was a mutual exchange of views between Gorakṣa and Allama.

Unfortunately the date of Gorakṣa cannot be definitely known, though it is known that his doctrines had spread very widely in various parts of India, extending over a long period in the Middle Ages.

The interpretation of ṣaṭ-sthala is rather different in different works dealing with it.

This shows that, though the ṣaṭ-sthala doctrine was regarded as the most important feature of Vīra- Śaivism after Basava, we are all confused as to what the ṣaṭ-sthala might have been. As a matter of fact we are not even certain about the number.

Thus in Vīra-śaiva-siddhānta we have a reference to 101 sthalas, and so also in Siddhānta-śikhāmaṇi. But elsewhere in Śrīpati’s bhāṣya Anubhava-sūtra of Māyi-deva, and in Prabhu-linga-līlā and Basava-Purāṇa we find reference to six sthalas only.

In the same way the sthalas have not been the same in the various authoritative works. The concepts of these sthalas are also different, and they are sometimes used in different meanings.

In some works sthala is used to denote the six nerve plexuses in the body or the six centres from which the power of God is manifested in different ways;

sometimes they are used to denote the six-fold majestic powers of God and sometimes to denote the important natural elements, such as earth, fire, air, etc.

The whole idea seems to be that the macrocosm and microcosm being the same identical entity, it is possible to control the dissipated forces of any centre and pass on to a more concentrated point of manifestation of the energy, and this process is regarded as the upward process of ascension from one stage to another.