Ajita Agama, fifth of the 28 Saiva Agamas, deals mostly with temple construction, Deity installation and worship. Here we excerpt chapter two of the introduction, "The Nature of Siva." As with all Agamas, the text is in the form of a dialogue, in this case between Siva as Rudra, the teacher, and Lord Vishnu, the student. In this chapter, Rudra alone speaks. The bond of anava, mentioned twice in the text, means the "impurity of smallness, " the individualizing veil of duality that enshrouds and binds the soul. Anava is a key concept of the Agamic Saiva Siddhanta philosophy.

Only that One who is Siva, superior to all, the stable, Supreme Soul, Great Lord, whose form is existence, consciousness and bliss, who is free from existent and non-existent manifestations, and who is all-pervading, only He is named by the sages with the word Brahman.

He is the gross, the subtle and the supreme; the manifested, the unmanifested and that which is both; the external, the internal and that which is external-internal; the eternal; the non-eternal and that which is eternal and non-eternal; the male, the female and the third entity which is non-male and non-female. He is wakefulness, dream and deep sleep; the past, the present and the future; the instrument of knowledge, the knower and the known; the bonds of anava, karma and maya.

This Lord Siva is all that. There is nothing different from Him. Only He can be the Lord. He is I and you. He is God, i.e., Brahman, the creators, Kasyapa, etc. He is the seven sages, the Moon and Sun, the planetary lords. He is the king of Gods (i.e., Indra, Kubera, Varuna, Yama, Agni), all the chiefs of the Ganas, the eight Vasus, the eleven Rudras, the other excellent Gods and demons, the eight-fold celestial species, the five-fold animal one and the human one. Siva is revealed to be the entire universe.

The four Vedas with their secret section (the Upanishads) speak of Him. In the Siddhanta, the Tantras, the eighteen Puranas, the six branches of the Vedas, in the treatises of yoga and all sciences, whatever any of those sages, after examination, have said to be the true reality, this same eternal Lord of gods named Siva is that.

In the Saiva tradition, Siva is known as free from beginning, middle and end; free by nature from the bonds of the soul (i.e., anava, karma, maya); powerful, omniscient, endowed with plenitude. He is non-limited by directions of space, time, etc.; beyond the range of speech and mind; free of manifestation; immutable; all-pervading; always seeing everything.

The worship of Him can be the inner worship, which is especially suited for yogis. Men who take pleasure in the practice of yoga, whose mind is purified by the eight components of yoga–yama, niyama, etc. worship Him in the middle of the lotus of their heart. The action of worshiping Him is superior. Without His worship as part of any other rite, there is no benefit for embodied souls.

Some are entitled to perform the inner worship; those who have little knowledge are entitled to perform the outer worship. Being aware of this, this Lord of Gods, Siva, who stands inside everything, who desires to extend His grace to all and gives creatures experience and liberation, this Siva becomes Sadasiva whose body is manifested as the five brahma mantras (ie, becomes God with a worshipful form). From Him was born Ishvara, the origin of all the manifested Gods, free from decline. The consciousness that inhabits Siva should be celebrated as Maya.

The Ajita Agama has been translated by N. Ramachandra Bhatt, Jean Filliozat (1906-1982), and Pierre-Sylvain Filliozat. Jean Filliozat is the founder of the French Institute of Pondicherry, at which N.R. Bhatt worked for many decades. Bhatt collected the original ola leaf bundles in which the Saiva Agamas were recorded and produced several printed Agamas. Pierre-Sylvain is Jean Filliozat's son, and like Bhatt, now retired. The entire Sanskrit text with English translation of Ajita Agama was published in 2005 by the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts and is available from Motitlal Banarsidass Publishers (mlbd.com [http:/www.mlbd.com]).

The Agamas, like the Vedas, are divinely revealed and revered scriptures, sruti, of Hinduism, likened to the Torah (1,200 bce), Bible New Testament (100 ce), Koran (630 ce) or Zend Avesta (600 bce). There are many Agamas and subsidiary texts for each of Hinduism's principle denominations–Saiva, Sakta and Vaishnava. The Agamas are ancient, but dating is uncertain.