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Magazine Web Edition > October/November/December 2013 > Lineage: The Beliefs, Practices and Path to Liberation in the Srouta Saiva Tradition


Sadasiva: The highest visible manifestion of God in the Saiva Agamas is Sadasiva, also called Pancha Brahma, the five-faced Lord of creation, preservation, dissolution, obscuration and revealment. He is invoked during Siva puja and visions of Him are sought for by devotees.
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The Beliefs, Practices and Path to Liberation in the Srouta Saiva Tradition


“Siva creates the world and all souls. As Shakti, Siva is also the material cause of the world. We are part of the body of God.”


THE SROUTA SAIVITES TRACE THEIR caste lineage to the rishis who first received the Vedas from God Siva, each of whom was the progenitor of a specific gotra, or family group. All brahmin castes similarly regard themselves as descendants of one of these rishis. These gotras form a grihastha tradition in which the teachings flow from father to son, mother to daughter. Thus, the tradition has been passed on for centuries in unbroken continuity.

Historically, twelve teachers among the Srouta Saivites are revered above all others. They are the twelve aradhyas, those “fit to be worshiped,” holy teachers considered to be above even the brahminical caste itself. Born with full awareness of Siva consciousness, they propagated devotion to Lord Siva and taught the Sivadvaita philosophy. Today, male descendents of these aradhyas may act as initiating gurus.

The foremost saint of this tradition is Badarayana, author of the Brahma Sutras, 550 pithy verses which encapsulate the Upanishads, explaining the nature of God, the status of the world and the individual self. Badarayana’s work is a fundamental to all schools of Vedanta.

The next most significant teacher was Nila­kantha Sivacharya, also known as Srikantha, said to have been born in 3100 bce in Warangal, Andhra Pradesh. His commentary on Badarayana’s Brahma Sutras, the Nilakantha Bhashyam, forms the basis for the philosophy of Siva Vishishtadvaita, or, more simply, Sivadvaita. This philosophy, also called Srouta Saiva Siddhanta, regards both the Vedas and the Saiva Agamas as revealed scripture.

Historical evidence for the lineage can be traced back to the 11th century ce, with the most important modern exponent being Sivayogi Mudigonda Nagalinga Shastri (1876-1948). As a young man, he studied in Tamil Nadu with Sri Srinivasa Shastrigal, who gave him a palm leaf copy of Nilakantha Bhashyam, calling it the oldest and most authoritative commentary on Saiva Siddhanta. With his prodigious pen, he consolidated and restated the tradition in over 100 books.

A second key figure, Mudigonda Sanka­ra­radhyula (1851-1924), founded the Saiva Maha Sabha in 1904, a formal institution representing the community. It became Saiva Maha Peetham in 1941. Its current head is Sivasri Sadguru Dr. Kandukuri Sivananda Murthy Garu.

The Srouta community is not a movement, nor does it seek expansion. In fact, it has remained so insulated that few inside or outside of India know of the existence of this important living Sivadvaita tradition. But thanks to the website by Siva Sri Annadevara Subbarao,, and his translation of their books into English, the days of Srouta Saivism’s being hidden are gone.

God, Soul and World

The core Srouta theological tenets can be summarized as follows. Siva is God, Rudra, the Parabrahma of the Vedas and the creator (efficient cause) of the world. As Shakti, He is also the material cause of the world. All souls, too, are Siva’s creation. God, souls and the world are eternal entities. The multiplicity of form and beings is real and not just an appearance. From Siva’s point of view, it is all One. It is Himself. He is the tree of life, and also that which is beyond the tree. One Srouta analogy says, to Lord Siva, souls are like fingers are to your hand. We are part of the body of God.

Srouta Saiva Siddhanta acknowledges the pan-Hindu view of the cycles of manifestation. All form emanates from Siva, and all form will dissolve back into Him at the time of the Great Dissolution, mahapralaya. Souls continue to exist after mahapralaya, but in subtle form, emerging once again in the next cycle of manifestation.

Siva is regarded as having two forms. The murta/saguna, personal form of God is Siva/Shakti, known as Ardhanarishwara, “Half Female Lord.” Following the Saiva Agamas, this supreme personal form is also called Pa­ra­mesh­wara, which manifests Sada­siva, the Five-Faced Lord from whom all beings and creation arise. The amurta/nirguna, formless Siva, is represented by the Sivalingam.

Dear to Srouta Saivites is the Vedic teaching describing the process of anupravesham. Each of us has a vacant space at the top of the heart. This space corresponds to the cosmic heart of Siva, known as daharaksham or chidambaram, the “sky/space of consciousness.” Upon incarnation, the karma-laden soul enters this space with Lord Siva. Therein, Siva acts like a mother, helping the soul fructify its karmas and progress toward liberation.

Personal Practice

Srouta Saivites adhere closely to Vedic prescriptions. These include practice of Gayatri japa, following the rules for one’s particular caste, fulfilling the 18 ritual sacraments (samskaras) that consecrate life’s milestones, and the ritual honoring of one’s ancestors.

Practice includes general guidelines for conduct, such as being truthful, keeping purity (which includes observing rules of untouchability during death and birth periods), straightforwardness, seeing the world as God’s gift, being celibate before marriage and after marriage being faithful to one’s spouse. During the month of Krittika and on Mahasivaratri, food is taken once a day only. Adherents are urged to follow the shastras and teachings of their lineage with determination.

Lingadharana initiation is to be received at an early age. Recitation of Aum Namah Sivaya and Sri Rudram chanting are central. Siva is ardently worshiped in the Linga around one’s neck, in the Linga in the heart and as the Linga that is the cosmos. Stress is placed on wearing rudraksha beads, holy ash and performing puja daily.

Stages of Unfoldment

As one develops a strong desire for liberation, there comes a natural intensification of spiritual practice, including daily puja, offerings and Aum Namah Sivaya japa. Eventually, gaining a deep understanding of God Siva, one enters into nirikshana, a state of yearning for a vision of Lord Siva.

Upon death, the goal is to direct the life forces from the heart through the Brahma­nadi, the spiritual nerve current that runs to and through the top of the head. Leaving the body in this manner, one enters high spiritual inner realms, bathing in the Viraja river and joining Siva in the heaven world. Thereafter, the soul evolves through the final states of exaltation as given in the Saiva Agamas: 1) salokyam—abiding in Siva’s inner world of Kailasam; 2) samipyam, being near God Siva; 3) sarupyam—attaining the same form as Siva and, finally; 4) sayujyam, becoming one with Him and viewing creation through His eyes.


Blessing the Ishta Sivalingas: The small crystal (for men) and black stone (for women) Sivalingas are prepared according to the same scriptural injunctions used when a Siva­lingam is installed in a temple. Here two Lingas receive the nine-grains consecration.
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