Personality of God According to
Saiva Siddhanta Philosophy
BY MR. J. M. NALLASWAMI PILLAI, B.A., B.L.,
It will be interesting to note that it was about 12 years ago we brought out our first work in English on the Saiva Siddhanta Philosophy from Tirupattur, and we have continued to work hard at it ever since, and our translations of Sivagnanabodham, Sivagnanasiddhiar, Tiruvarutpayan, along with our contributions to the Siddhanta Deepika, during the last ten years, and Dr. G. U. Pope's Tiruvachakam form the only bibliography on the subject in English. And we are glad to note that, within the last few years, considerable interest in the subject has been awakened, and several European missionaries have made a special study of the subject, and have discussed if before missionary societies and in the public press. We quote the latest opinion from the Christian College Magazine Vol. XX, 9, from the pen of Rev. W. Goudie.
"There is no school of thought and no system of faith or worship that comes to us with anything like the claims of the Saiva Siddhanta."
"This system possesses the merits of great antiquity. In the religious world, the Saiva system is heir to all that is most ancient in South India; it is a religion of the Tamil people, by the side of which every other form is of comparatively foreign origin."
"In the largeness of its following, as well as in regard to the antiquity of some of its elements, the Saiva Siddhanta is, beyond any other form, the religion of the Tamil people and ought to be studied by all Tamil missionaries."
"We have, however, left the greatest distinction of this system till the last. As a system of religious thought, as an expression of faith and life, the Saiva Siddhanta is by far the best that South India possesses. Indeed, it would not be rash to include the whole of India, and to maintain that, judged by its intrinsic merits, the Saiva Siddhanta represents the high water mark of Indian thought and Indian life, apart, of course, from the influence of Christian Evangel."
And we had remarked in our introduction to 'Tiruvarutpayan or 'Light of Grace:' "And there can be no doubt that we have in these works the brightest and largest gems picked out from the diamond mines of the Sanskrit Vedantic works, washed and polished and arranged in the most beautiful and symmetrical way in the diadem of Indian thought."
Through want of active propaganda, by means of lectures and conferences, the subject is not properly brought to the notice of the English-educated public, and appreciated by them, as it deserves to be; and we are therefore much obliged to the editor for being allowed to contribute a paper on the subject.
Despite the opinion of a few European and Indian scholars, who would trace Saiva Siddhanta to a purely South Indian source, we have all along been holding that Saiva Siddhanta is nothing but the ancient Hinduism in its purest and noblest aspects; and it is not a new religion nor a new philosophy, and it can be traced from the earliest Vedas and Upanishads. We do not hear of any one introducing Saivism at any time into India, and the majority of Hindus have remained Saivites from before the days of the Mahabharata.
The ideal of the Highest God has, from the beginning, been centred round the person of Rudra or Siva, and in the Rig Veda we find Him described as the "Lord of Sacrifices and Prayers," and we find this maintained, in the days of Valmiki, when beliefs in other deities were slowly gaining ground.
Consistently with this position in the Rig Veda, the Yajur Veda declares that; "There is only one Rudra, They don't allow a second." 'Eka-eva-Rudro Nadvitiyaya thasteh,' (ptkanda 8.6.10). "He who is one is called Rudra," "Ya Eko Rudra Uchyati." And St. Tirumular declares accordingly "ஒன்றவன்றானே," "தான் என்னும் சித்தாந்தம்." "God is only one." "Siddhanta declares there is God alone without a second."
The first mantra, it will be noted, is not so well known as the mantra "Ekamevadvitiyam Brahma," occurring in an Upanishad of the Sama Veda; and Max Muller has shown that the use of such words as Rudra, Hara, Siva, to denote the Highest God is much more earlier than the use of such words as 'Brahman', 'Atman and 'Paramatman'; and in fact, these words do not occur in the Rig Veda at all to denote the Highest God. And we may also point out that the word 'Nadavitiyam' occuring in the Yajur Veda is certainly a more ancient and original form of the word than 'advitiyam,' which has been obtained by the elision of the letter 'n'.
And St. Meikandan comments on this mantra in the following verse:-
ஒன்றென்றநீ பாசத்தோடு ளைகாண் - ஒன்றின்றால்
"The Vedic text means there is only one Supreme Being without a second. And this one is the Lord. You who say 'there is one', is the Pasu bound up in Pasa. The word 'second-less' means that, beside God, nothing else will exist, as when we say that there will be no other letters (consonants) when the vowel is not."
No consonant sounds can possibly be formed unless the vowel sound is uttered at the same time; and this will justify us in stating that vowel is alone, without a second; and yet the vowel is not the consonant nor the consonant the vowel. When we utter the consonant sound (மெய் எழுத்து
உடல் எழுத்து) the vowel and consonant is linked in a peculiar, inseparable and eternal manner. This is the link or relation between our own human body and the mind (உடல் or மெய் and உயிர்). And from anology we say there is a similar link between God and the world (including souls). And this link relation is called in the Saiva Siddhanta 'the advaita and the philosophy postulating this peculiar link between God and man is called the 'Advaita Siddhanta philosophy.'
But how does the One link himself to the many, and become the many, and divide himself among the many as it were, St. Tirumular postulates ஒன்றவன்றனே இரண்டு அவன் இன்னருள்." This division of Him is brought about, because He is also Grace of Love. His second is His Sakti. He is one with His Sakti or Love.
அன்பே சிவமாவதாரு மறிந்திலார்
"The ignorant say Love and God are different.
None know that Love and God is the same.
When they know that Love, and God is the same,
They rest in God as Love."
And accordingly, also, St. Maikandar postulates his second Sutra, in which he declares that God is one and different from the world and souls, as He is one with His Agna-Sakti, which is all Power, all Intelligence, and all Will and all Love. And in the last argument he shows that as God is Pure Intelligence, this oneness or union with the world or omnipresence is possible. If He was not intelligent, but material or Jadam, this cannot be possible.
As such, Sivagnanabotham contains the shortest definition of God as Siva-Sat or Chit-Sat or Sat-Chit. Sat denotes God as pure Being in which aspect He can never reach us; Chit or Arul or Love denotes His aspect in which he can reach us and we can know him. Sat is the Sun, which we can never comprehend. Chit is the Light, one ray of which is enough to remove our darkness and enlighten us; and but for which one ray of light, we can never know the Sun.
All other conceptions of God follow from this essential definition of God as 'Sat Chit' and, if true, must conform to it. If not, they must be rejected as false.
From the fact that He is intelligent, it follows also that God can will and act.
உய்த்திடுமிச்சைசெய்தி யிவை ஞானத்துளவோவென்னின்
வைத்தலான் மறைப்பின்ஞானான் மருவிடுங்கிரியையெல்லாம்.
"The form of this Sakti is umlimited Intelligence.
If asked whether supreme Will and power are aslo found in this Intelligence,
We answer yes. Wherever there is intelligence there is will and power.
As such Power and Will will also be manifested by this Chit Sakti."
And He wills to create the worlds and creates them, and resolves them, and reproduces them again and again. He could not do this purposelessly or out of His mere whim and pleasure; and, as we know, He is all love, He could do it only out of such love, to help to lift up the erring and ignorant souls, by giving them their bodies and senses, so that they themselves may will and act, and taste the bitter fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, and be chastened and purified by suffering and sorrow, and learn to submit their will to the will of the supreme.
And Kalidasa in his Kumara Sambava declares:-
"No selfish want e'er prompts a deed of mine:
Do not the forms - eight varied forms - I wear
The truth of this to all world declare."
And these eight forms he mentions in his invocation in Sakuntalam.
Isa' preserve you! He who is revealed,
In these eight forms by man perceptible-
Water of all creation's works the first;
The fire that bears on high the Sacrifice,
Presented with solemnity to Heaven;
The priest the holy offerer of Gifts;
The Sun and Moon those two majestic orbs,
Eternal Marshallers of day and night.
The Subtle Ether, vehicle of sound,
Diffused throughout the boundless universe,
The earth, by sages called the place of birth,
Of all material esssences and things,
And air which giveth life to all that breathe."
St. Appar has the following verse:-
இயமானனா யெறியுங் காற்றுமாகி
"As Earth, Fire, Air and Ejaman (of sacrifice), as Moon, the Sun and Akas, as Ashtamurthi, as goodness and evil, as male and female, himself, the form of every form, as yesterday and to-day and to-morrow, my Lord with the braided hair stands supreme."
St. Manickavachaka has the following verse:-
புலனாயமைந்த்னோடு எண்வகையாய்ப் புணர்ந்துநின்றான்
Earth, Water, Air, Fire, Sky, the Sun and Moon,
The sentient man, these eight forms, He pervades
The seven worlds, Ten quarters, He the One
And Many, He stands so, let us sing.
He pervades these eight forms; they form His eight bodies and hence Siva is called Ashtamurti. By this is established His antaryamitvam or Omnipresence, or Immanence in all nature, as He is Chit. But he is beyond all these forms and beyond all nature and man.
The famous passage in the 7th Brahmana of the 3rd chapter in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad deals with God being immanent in nature and in man.
Beginning with the verse, 'yasya prithivi sareera, &c.* * He who dwells in the earth, and within or different from the earth, whom the earth does not know, whose body (sarira) the earth is, and who rules the earth within, He is thy Atma, the ruler within, the immortal," and giving similar statements regarding water, air, fire, &c.* * it ends with "He who dwells in Vignana (soul) and within or different from Vignana, whom Vignana does not know, whose body Vignana is, who rules Vignana within, He is thy Atma, the ruler within, immortal.
That God is different from all nature and man is further brought out by the famous 'Neti, Neti' verse of this same Upanishad (3-9-26) which Paranjoti Munivar translates and expands in the following lines:-
அல்லையீதல்லை யீதெனயன்மைச் சொல்லினாற்றுதித்தி ளைக்குமிச்சுந்திரன்,
பூதங்கள் அல்ல பொறியல்லவேறு புலனல்லஉள்ளமதியின்
பேதங்கள் அல்ல லிவையன்றிநின்ற பிறிதல்லவென்றுபெருநூல்
வேதங்கிடந்த தடுமாற வஞ்சவெளியென்பகூடன்மறுகிற்
பாதங்கணோவவளை யிந்த னாதிபகர்வாரையாயுமவரே
"'God Sundara who is described as 'not this, not this,"
"The sages declare, He is not the five elements, not the senses
nor sensations, nor the andakaranas, nor the soul;
He is the deceitful 'nothing' which the Vedas fail to discover."
The Supreme is adored as the Creator, Hara: as protector, Samkara; as destroyer, or producer, Rudra; and as Bliss-giver, Siva. God is called (எண்குணத்தான்) as possessing eight attributes and they are as follow:- Self-dependence, Purity, Self-knowledge, Omniscience being ever free from Sin, Supreme Graciousness, unlimited Bliss.
Then follow questions whether God should be said to possess form or no form, whether He should be regarded as Saguna or Nirguna Personal or Impersonal, and so on.
In regard to the question of form or no form, the Siddhanta is positive that God is neither Rupi nor Arupi nor Ruparupi. "சிவன் அருவுருவுமல்லன் சித்தினோட சித்துமல்லன்" "God is neither Rupa nor Arupa, neither soul nor matter." It recognises that all Rupa and Arupa are forms only of matter which is objective to our senses, and God can never be objective to us, and cannot possess any of these material forms or bodies. The nature of matter is to limit and God is the illimitable and can never be found by any material forms. Some would say God is Arupi, not realizing that matter is also formless as air, and nothing is gained by calling Him Arupi. The fact to be clearly borne in mind is that God cannot be objective to us, and possess material form.
But if it is pointed out that Saiva Siddhanta religion recognises forms of God and His appearances and acts, it is answered that these forms of His are not materials but are purely spiritual forms formed of His great love and grace, and to be perceived not by the human mind but with the divine grace, "அவன் அருளாலே அவன்றாள் வணங்கி" St. Arulnanthi says:-
வருமேனி யதுவுங் கண்டோ மருவுரு வானபோது
திருமேனி யுபயம் பெற்றோம் செப்பிய மூன்றுந்ந்தம்
கருமேனி கழிக்கவந்த கருவினையின் வடிவுகாணே.
"All these forms of His are assumed out of His supreme grace for destroying our evil bodies." And how this is possible is shown in the following:-
"As He does not possess the defect as an object of perception, and as He is possessed of absolute intelligence and power, as He is not possessed of likes and dislikes, the Nirmala God can assume any form out of His grace. And these forms are described in the following verse. His form is Love; His attributes and knowledge are Love. His five functions are Love; His organs like arms, feet &c., and His ornament like the crescent moon, &c., are also Love. These things are assumed by the Nirmala God, not for His own benefit but for the benefit of mankind." With which compare the following verse from the Taitraya Upanishad:-
"His head is surely Love; joy His right wing; delight His left,
Bliss is His self, Brahman whereon He rests.
The following beautiful hymn from St. Appar, and the text from the Manduka Upanishad may also be read:-
மயானத்தான் வார்சடையான் மாசொன்றில்லான்
ஓரூரனல்லன் ஒருவனும் யில்லி
யப்படியான் அவ்வுருவன் அன்வண்ணத்தன்
அவனருளே கண்ணாரக் காண்பதல்லால்
இப்படியன் இவ்வுருவன் இவ்வண்ணத்தன்
இவனிறைவ னென்றெழுதிக் காட்டொணாதே
"The lord with the braided hair lives in the Kanchi burial ground, with His beautiful Uma with pencilled eyebrows. He has no sin. He is not one of the mortals, and is not to be compared with any of them. He has no place, and is incomparable unless we can with His grace as our eye perceive Him, His form and nature, none can paint Him, in His real form and nature."
This Atma is not attainable by explanation nor yet yet by mental grasp, nor by hearing many times. By him whom He chooses - by him is He obtained. For him, God His proper form reveals. (Manduka-3,2,3) It is to be noted also that the various forms in the temple are mere earthly symbols, necessary in our view for the ordinary human mind to grasp and follow the divine ideals, until the soul has advanced to a very high stage indeed. A missionary friend of ours wrote to say that as regards the use of symbolism, he found it necessary for the educated people, but as regards its salutary effect on the illiterate people, he felt not convinced. This opinion will be found opposed to the common current of opinion on the subject, but yet it is true, in so far as it postulates the necessity of the use of symbols even as regards highly educated people.
And we regard the various conceptions of God, as He, she and it, as also conceptions derived from material forms, and as such not appertaining to His real essence, but the forms are necessary for our own easy conception of God:
"பெண்ணாணலியாகிப் பிறங்கொலிசேர், மண்ணாகி விண்ணாகி யித்தரையின் பெண்ணாணலியெனும் பெற்றியன் போற்றி"
"He is male, female and neuter, earth and heaven and none of these."
"Praise be to Him who is female and male and neuter."
Further, the words Saguna and Nirguna are usually translated as personal and impersonal and we have often pointed out how vaguely and loosely these words are used, and protested against translation. We will first consider the words Saguna and Nirguna. It literally means "with guna," and "without guna." One school of people would interpret it as meaning 'with good qualities,' and 'without bad qualities,' and that is absurd is seen from the fact that the two words are made to mean the same thing. The word 'Guna', however, does not mean any good or bad quality, but is a technical word as used by the Sankhya and Vedanta schools and as occurring in the Upanishads, Gita, etc. It means the three gunas, Satva, Rajas, Tamas, the qualities of Prakriti or Pradhana or matter; and as such the words would mean 'with material
qualities' or 'without material qualities.' St. Tirumular uses the phrase 'முக்குணம் நிற்குணம்
mukkuna-nirgunam,' so that no mistake may be made of the word Nirgunam itself.
வாய்த்த விராசத மன்னுங்கனவென
ஒய்த்திடும் தாமத முற்ற சுழுத்தியாம்
மாய்த்திடும் நிர்க்குண மாசில் துரியமே.
So also the Gita speaks of 'Thraigunyo Nirgunaha,' and it stands to reason that God cannot be 'Saguna,' clothed in matter or material qualities, and must be therefore non-material, Nirguna. The Supreme God is, therefore, described in the Upanishads and Gita and Sivagnanabotham as Nirguna and not as Saguna, as in the following passages:-
This one God is hid in every bhuta pervading all, the inner Atma of every atma, Inspector of all deeds (spectator) in whom everything dwells (supporter), the witness, the pure Intelligence and Nirguna Being; the Iswara of Iswaras, the Maheswara, the God Supreme of Gods, the king of kings, the supreme of supreme, the 'Isa' of the universe. (Sveta) 'Beginningless, Nirguna, Paramatmam, Imperishable, though seated in the body, O Kaunteya worketh nor is soiled (Gita 13-31) - Note Ramanujah explains Nirguna as destitute of satva and other qualities.
"Will not the Lord, who is Nirguna, Nirmala, Eternal Happiness, Tatparam (transcending all things) and beyond comparison and appears to the soul when it gets rid of its tatvas such as akas etc. Will not He apper as a far transcending wonder and an inseparable light of its understanding." (Sivagnanabotham ix.2.a) But certain deities are stated to be Saguna, as being clothed with pure Satva or Rajas or Tamasa, and they should not be confounded with the Turiya murti or the Fourth, the chaturtha, the supreme Brahman; these Saguna beings are merely very high powers and possessing still material bodies.
"Shantam shivam advaitam chaturtham" Ramatapini up.
The word Nirguna is the same as the word 'gunatita, 'beyond guna or matter.' The word, therefore implies non material and therefore pure chit. Christian missionaries need not, therefore, shy this word, and they should certainly drop the word 'Saguna, which technically means material. From the passage quoted above, especially from the verse from Sivagnanabotham, it will be seen that God is called 'Nirguna.' Intelligence and Rationality and Consciousness, not denied to Him. This is made further clear in the following verses from St. Maikandan and St. Tirumular.
போகமாய் தான்விளைந்த பொற்பினான் - ஏகமாய்
உள்ளத்தின் கண்ணானான் உள்குவா ருள்கிற்றை
உள்ளத்தாற் காணேனோ வுற்று.
"When the soul becoming one with God and feels Him, He becomes the Supreme Bliss as God becomes one with the soul. So understanding Him, will he not know? with the soul what is understood by the soul."
தானறியான் பின்னை யாரறிவாரே.
That day I knew my God, the same was not understood by the Gods. The bright effulgence lighting the inside of my soul and body, it is said does not know! Who else can know?
Of course, it is also said in these works that God 'cannot know' 'உதியாமரியா உணராமறவா'
and it is pointed out by Sivagnana Swamigal in his Dravida Maha Bashya that this only means that God's consciousness is not like the consciousness of the individual man, which is limited, and cannot become conscious unless it forgets, and can only understand in relation (change is essential to consciousness - Bain). This human consciousness is called சுட்டுணர்வு.
God does not possess this limited
His consciousness is what transcends all limitation and all relation and is absolute, as in His Akundakara, there is no distinction of this and that, there is nothing out of Him 'போக்கிலன் வரவிலன்.'
Coming to the question of God being personal or impersonal, we are not quite sure in what sense our Indian writers use these words, but they mostly take it as meaning Saguna and Nirguna. There is some difference of opinion as regards the connotation of the word among European writers. Some use it as implying individuality and limitation; others use it as not meaning individuality and this is the more prevalent and cultured opinion. We take the following definitions from a vocabulary of Philosophy.
Person: A being intelligent and free, every spiritual and moral agent, every cause which is in possession of responsibility and consciousness, is a person. In this sense, God considered as a creating cause is a person.
"The intimate relation of God, as Being, to all His attributes and to all his essence, constitutes the divine personality; which for God is His entire Being. God only exists for Himself, in a manner infinite and absolute. God has relation entirely to Himself; for there is no being out of Him to which he can have relation is altogether internal. The divine consciousness or personality embraces all that is in God, all of which He is the reason. 'Person as applied to Deity, expresses the definite and certain truth that God is a living being, and not a dead material energy.'
Emerson says that personality signifies true being (Sat) both concrete and spiritual. It alone is original being. It is not limited. It is that universal element that pervades every human soul and which is at once its continent and fount of being. Distinction from others and limitation by them results from individuality. (Ahankara or Anava) not personality (Sat). Personality pertains to the substance of the soul, and individuality to its form. Another Christian writer (Rev. J. Iverach) points out that the absolute and unconditioned Being is Personal is not a contradiction in terms, such as a round square, but that it will be true as when we say a white or crimson square. "When we speak of the absolute, we speak of it as a predicate of pure being; we simply mean that the absolute Personal Being is and must be self-consciousness; rational and ethical, must answer to the idea of spirit. Why may not the absolute Being be self-conscious. To deny this to Him would be to deny to Him one of the perfections which even finite beings can possess."
St. Meikanda and St. Tirumular had stated the same question long ago, as we had shown. This self-consciousness, இயற்கை யுணர்வின்னாதல், and
முற்றுமுணர்தல் as we have shown above, is not to be confounded with the limited கட்டுணர்வு of the soul.
As it is, personally clearly means Sat and Chit. And neither Saguna nor Nirguna. Personality is opposed to Achit or Jada or irrational matter and relates to the substance. Saguna and Nirguna to the form, either as individual or otherwise - God can never become individualised as man, woman or brute, the limitation of the latter class of beings arising from its union with matter of Guna (Saguna). From this view, impersonal would clearly mean irrational, unintelligent and material, and we don't believe any Indian writer would desire to use this word in relation to the Deity, if they only understood its signification.
From the statement that God is Nirguna and not Saguna, it follows that God can neither have birth nor death. This is one of the central doctrines of Saiva Siddhanta, and in this respect it differs from all the existing forms of faith, whether Hindu or otherwise, except, perhaps, Muhammadanism and the Unitarian form of Christianity.
இறப்பிலி யாவர்க்கு மின்ப மருளும்
துறப்பிலி தன்னைத் தொழுமின் தொழுதால்
மறப்பிலி மாயா விருத்தமு மாமே.
The unborn, with the braided hair, supreme grace, the undying, bestowing bliss on all, O thou worship! If worshipped, thy Maya will vanish without doubt.
Of course, it must stand to reason that our soul itself is neither born nor can it die. What is born or what dies is the material body formed of Maya or Guna. These repeated births and deaths occur on account of the peculiar link subsisting between the soul and matter; and therefore, the souls comprising all Sakalars are called Saguna. The same peculiar link does not subsist between God and matter, and hence, He is Nirguna. So it is. God can neither be born in the womb nor die. This peculiar doctrine of Saiva Siddhanta is what should elevate it to the highest rank of philosophy; and the latest discoveries in science could not shake its foundation.
One other feature of Saiva Siddhanta, in regard to the Godhead, we will mention, before we close this paper. And that is, that the supreme Brahman of this school called Siva or Sivam is not to be confounded with the Hindu Trinity. God is peculiarly denoted by the words Sivam, Sankara, Sambha, Rudra (he who removes sorrow) as they express the most spiritual nature of God as Love and all beneficent. And that this is no sectarian conception of the Deity and that the God of the Saiva Siddhantis is the universal God of all the nations and all religions is finally brought out by St. Arulnanthi Siva Chariar in his very first verse in Sivagnana Siddhiar.
குறியது முடைத்தாய் வேதாகமங்களின் குறியிறந்தங்
கறிவினி லருளான் மன்னியம்மையோ டப்பனாகிச்
செறிவொழியாது நின்ற சிவனடி சென்னிவைப்பாம்.
Let me place on my head, the feet of Siva who stands as the goal of each of the six forms of religion, and who stands in the various forms conceived of by the various internal schools of Siva faith, and yet stands beyond the conception of all Vedas and Agamas, and fills all intelligences with His love, and becomes my Heavenly Father and Mother and fills one and all inseparably.
To sum up, according to true Vedanta Siddhanta Philosophy, God is Sat Chit, Ananda, not material nor enveloped in matter, Nirguna and Personal, ever blissful and all Love and all His acts such as creation &c., are prompted by such Love. He is neither He, she or it, nor has He any material Rupa or Aruoa, and He can reveal His grace and majesty to those who love Him. He cannot be born nor can He die and as such, indeed, He is the Pure and Absolute and Infinite Being able to lift up humanity wallowing in the bonds of male, maya, and karma. To know Him as our true Heavenly Father and Mother and love Him as such is the only panacea for all the evils of erring mankind. - The New Reformer.