There are many schools of Saivism, six of which are Saiva Shiddhanta, Pashupata Saiva, Kashmir Saiva, Vira Saiva, Siddha Siddhanta and Siva Advaita. They are based firmly on the Vedas and Saiva Agamas, and thus have much in common, including the following principle doctrines: 1) the five powers of Siva — creation, preservation, destruction, revealing and concealing grace; 2) The three categories: Pati, pashu and pasha ("God, souls and bonds"); 3) the three bonds: anava, karma and maya; 4) the three-fold power of Siva: icçha shakti, kriya shakti and jnana shakti; 5) the thirty-six tattvas, or categories of existence; 6) the need for initiation from a satguru; 7) the power of mantra; 8) the four padas (stages): charya (selfless service), kriya (devotion), yoga (meditation), and jnana (illumination); 9) the belief in the Panchakshara as the foremost mantra, and in rudraksha and vibhuti as sacred aids to faith; 10) the beliefs in satguru (preceptor), Sivalinga (object of worship) and sangama (company of holy persons).
Saiva Siddhanta first distinguished itself in the second century bce through the masterful treatise of a Himalayan pilgrim to South India, Rishi Tirumular. It is Saiva's most widespread and influential school. Pashupata Saiva emerged in the Himalayan hills over 25 centuries ago. Ancient writings chronicle it as a Siva ascetic yoga path whose most renowned guru was Lakulisha. Kashmir Saiva, a strongly monistic lineage, arose from the revelatory aphorisms of Shri Vasugupta in the tenth century. Vira Saiva took shape in India's Karnataka state in the 12th-century under the inspiration of Shri Basavanna. It is a dynamic, reformist sect, rejecting religious complexity and stressing each devotee's personal relationship with God. Siddha Siddhanta, also known as Gorakshanatha Saiva, takes its name from the writings of the powerful 10th-century yogi, Shri Gorakshanatha, whose techniques for Siva identity attracted a large monastic and householder following in North India and Nepal. Siva Advaita is a Saivite interpretation of the Vedanta Sutras, based on the writings of Srikantha, a 12th-century scholar who sought to reconcile the Upanishads with the Agamas.
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