Sivajnana Siddhiyar of Arunandi Sivacharya - A Review
We have been privileged to see and advance copy of the English translation of Sivajnana Siddhiyar by that talented exponent of Saiva Siddhanta, Nallaswami. The translation originally appeared in the pages of the Siddhanta Deepika and is now published in book form, royal octavo of 280 pages, with an introduction of 40 pages, notes and glossary. The introduction gives a succinct of the antiquity account of the Saiva Religion, with apt quotations from the Vedas and the Upanishads, and establishes beyond doubt that the prevailing Religion of ancient India was the Saiva cult; thus setting at rest all opinions as to the regency of the Saiva Siddhanta Philosophy. The erroneous notions of some who would identify Paramasiva, the God head of the Saiva Religion with the Rudra of the Trinity, and with Sankara's Saguna Brahman are ably exposed and the universality of the Saiva Siddhanta, which comprehends all phases of thought from the lowest to the highest, and shows the ladder way of the gradual unfoldment of the Spirit is clearly pointed out therein. The note on the author is exceedingly interesting and instructive and is followed by a list of the Agamas and the Upagamas.
The book itself comprises 3 sections. Book the first, deals with Alavai or Logic, which is essential for the establishment of truths and the exposure of fallacies. Book the second, is devoted to the Para Paksha – the foreign side – to the statement and refutation of all schools of thought foreign to the principles of the Saiva Siddhanta. Book the third, contains the one's own side – the Supaksha – the statement of the truths of the Siddhanta according to the division of the subject adopted in the principal treatise of Sivajnana Bhodam. Sivajnana Siddhi is, no doubt, a popular treatise in Tamil, owing to its lucid expression and exposition of the valid subjects. Any careful student will after the study of this book, be sufficiently well informed of all the shades and phases of thought in the ancient and modern Religion of India and what is more beneficial to himself, be trained gradually and unconsciously to reason out everything for himself. The present translation into English, it is noteworthy, does not lack that attractiveness but possesses in a marked degree, the clearness of diction, rhythm and style, characteristic of the translator.
One without the least idea of the Indian Religion will find himself quite at home on the very first reading; even the technical terms are well explained in a copious Glossary.
The indispensability of this book to the modern student of Religions is evident from another feature of it, namely from the valuable notes added at the foot of each page and at the end of each chapter or book. One cannot fail to come across the contrast drawn between the Eastern and the Western thoughts, ancient and modern, and the beautiful exegesis on the Pauranic episodes, such as Tiripura Dakana, Durga Puja or Navaratri, Dakshayajna, Tarukavana incident, bringing out the inner meaning hidden from the popular notions of the uninitiated. It is our humble opinion that this part of the work is invaluable in view of the lasting benefits it will shower on the nation or nations shaping the thoughts and aspirations nearer the Truth. The notes on the misunderstanding of Western scholars as regards the Quietism or Fatalism of Indian thought, on the errors of the Sabda Brahma Vadin and on the definition of Sat and Asat, are deserving of careful study.
There is interesting reading to the Buddhists and the Christians too. The chapter on Nirvana, the ideal of Buddha, shows the true import of the teaching in the light of the Hindu doctrines; that on the Teachings of Christ confirms the oft expressed opinion that the Hindu alone can truly appreciate and understand the lofty ideals of Christ. The greatest principle of the Advaita Jnana is certainly involved in the utterances of that Mahatma, whose teachings are misread and mis-understood by those who profess to follow him. The recent advance of Religious Thought in the West fails more in line with the Eastern principles and it will certainly take a long time before it is adopted and assimilated by the Christian brethren on this hemisphere. 'Christ was the Son of God' the Christian brother says and the Hindu says 'yes.' He was more, he was a great jnani and Mukta and accordingly God Himself, as all Muktas are so to say and all must attain that state of Christhood which is the complete surrender to the will of the Father, so that they may be one with the Father even as Jesus was one with Him? There are ample quotations on the subject from Western writers.
Another point should not be overlooked. The incompetency of the Western scholars to read the Vedic and Upanishadic text in the true light is aptly pointed out in several places and now is so interesting as the notes on the characteristics of Rudra, which are well compared and contrasted with various texts. The notes on the Panchamantras, on the other Saktis, Diksha and on the soul are equally based on Agamic and Upanishadic texts.
No adequate compliment can be paid to the great worker Nallaswami who has been ceaselessly working for the Siddhanta for more than two decades. What is surprising is that he is not yet tired. He holds out the hope of soon giving the world all the 14 Siddhanta Sastras in English.
It will not be out of place to observe that the present trend of modern thought is towards the Advaita doctrine and it will require many a worker in this field not workers who will be tired by exertion and exhausted by hunger, but workers of adamantine strength, born of unselfish love towards the suffering humanity, workers who will sacrifice all comforts for the uplifting of the fallen and the depraved souls fallen from the True Advaita Anubhava of the Blissful Lord, depraved by self-seeking thoughts and desires, workers who will toil on for the world regardless of the fruits of their labor. The Saivites themselves have to be roused to a sense of the present situation. A large majority are biting at the husk, not knowing that it is only a covering for the kernel inside. The inside is now more open to the view of the non-Saivites than for the Saivites themselves and when attempts are made to misrepresent the inside, the man at the husk believes too, instead of trying to know the truth himself. It has become the fashion now for preachers from pulpits and platforms to quote largely from Sivajnaanbodam, Siddhiyar, Tayumanavar etc., with approval and bring up the rear by a statement that the completeness of the teachings is found only in the pages of the Bible. The days when the other religions were looked upon as Satan's, are gone and we have now the refreshing advance of thought that there is Truth in each Religion, but the complete Truth is in the Bible. It is a good sign of development, but it behooves each inheritor of the Agamanta, and follower of the universal principles of the Saiva Siddhanta, to understand the highest aspect of the Truth himself, and to enlighten the Saivites of their great inheritance. If all or most of the Saivites understand their religion the rest will understand it too. And then each will begin to laugh in his sleeve when it is said to him 'the day dawns because my cock crows.'
We have no quarrel or dispute with any other religionist. Our teachings have expressly stated that all religions are essential for the development of man, and that the one aiming to be universal should be comprehensive enough to provide the ladder way of spiritual evolution from the lowest to the highest of thinkers. Then why quarrel with each other being on different rungs;
'Come on brother, come, you will see the next rung soon when you stand firm on that' should be the word of each sensible Saivite and if possible and needed, assist in discriminating between the rungs, our of love, in loving words. This is the work before us and sensible, patient, forgiving, humble and persevering workers are needed by hundreds and thousands at the present day. It was surprising to hear that the truths of the Panchakshara were preached, for the sake of curiosity and criticism, to the Christians by their Preacher, with quotations from the Sanskrit.
Will not this alone rouse my brethren to a sense of the present trend of activity. While the Christian Preacher is doing our work (although in a caviling spirit) of spreading Truths, we sleep and lounge biting at the husk when it pleases us
We have known long enough that the sun rises and sets; there are many who would not be disturbed from this belief. Let them abide by time. There are others who will begin to see that the sun does not rise and set if truths are put before them. The truths are imbedded in the Agamas and the Siddhanta Sastras and the true import and character of the teachings are not understood or practiced by the majority of our own people.
What are the characteristics of a Saiva, ask a passerby. He says "Why sir, rise early, have bath, perform Sandhyvanana, wear ashes and Rudraksha, if you please and if available, some silk clothes, witness Puja in the Temple, and be a vegetarian, if you can; it is only for the few, you see, and if convenient take vegetable diet on Friday. But of course it is bad to take fish or flesh on fasting days. Your marriages etc. must be celebrated by the Priests according to custom. Observe the rites usually followed for house warming, Shraddha etc., and listen to the reading and the expositions of Puranas, attend the important festivals, say the Car festival Suranpor etc., don't you know.'
This in a nut shell is the life of a good member greater is the number of those who are ignorant of even this much. Can one be seated with folded hands, as an unconcerned witness of this degeneration. Have the noble teachings of our Lord through His Servants been buried so deep that they are now only the past times of pundits and pastors. This shall not be O ye, men, women and children, the noble inheritors of the sacred treasures of the Agamanta! A Saiva is one who owes allegiance to Siva, the Bountiful, the Graceful and the Blissful. His bounty and grace is to be evident in his thought feelings and actions towards all beings and his bliss in the satisfaction that he is unswerving in his allegiance to the Lord who is his Guardian and Guide. "Let no thought go forth from me to the injury or prejudice of all my fraternity on earth much less a word or deed to harm another – instead, let me extend to all the fellowship of my hand, to raise the fallen, to assist the raised, and to enlighten and enrich the less favored. I care not for praise or reward, abuse or ingratitude. I can bear the offences of the less enlightened as does a mother bear the kicks of her own child. All I call "mine" I owe to my Lord, I watch for him until He sends His servants to take charge. All my powers I owe to him; let me know Him and love Him making my body and myself, His Temple, so that all hate and love, good and evil on the differential plane may have no charm for me. I shall be all Love and All Good in the United plane. There, no wind blows, no tempest rages, no darkness or light, all serene and calm, over following in Grace and Wisdom with complete surrender to the will and being of my Lord. I will be one with Him, lost in the ocean of bounty, Grace and Bliss. Such is the ideal of a Saiva." He is not the self-seeking quarrelsome neighbor, not the land grabber, not the flesh eating beast, nor the fish eating whale, not the proud high caste Prabhu nor the down trodden low caste Pariah, not the wearer of ashes and Rudraksha nor the worshipper at shrines. A Saiva is God on Earth, clothed in flesh to be loving and loveable. His eyes are not of erring flesh but of enlightening Grace. His mind is not of bewitching Maya but of liberating Light. His body is not the Store of vice and wickedness but the mirror of the Light Within.
What a gap between this state which must be attained sooner or later, and the one in which we are. Reader! Ponder well now you can improve yourself day by day, your improvement and culture is your nation's and when you are sufficiently introspective see what you can do towards the attainment of this ideal. There is not one who cannot do something in this cause. Be true to yourself and to Lord, you will see light wherever you set foot and in that light keep yourself and the rest. The task is done and that is Sivajnana Siddhi. Brothers and sisters, come and sing the praises of Siva, know His Grace, and dwell in that Grace – and that in Sivajnana Siddhi-
R. S. Subramaniyan.