Tracing some Shaivism traditions and beliefs

Shaivism traditions and beliefs are not as commonly seen or known as other Hinduism practices, but are held in high regard by those who revere our Supreme Lord. Some of the most popular rulers of early India such as the Guptas, Cholas, and the Kushanas were passionate worshippers of Shiva, and had a host of traditions that they would follow. Those practices have evolved over the years, but have managed to conserve and spread the culture of Shaivism everywhere.

Today, there are many schools of modern Shaivite practices. The major Shaivite tradition is the Shaiva-Siddhanta, which has three principles of Pati(Shiva), Pashu(the soul), and Pasha (the bonds that tie the soul to earth). According to the Shaiva-Siddhanta practitioners, the primary aim in life is to set the soul free from its earthly bonds and attain Shivatva – the nature of our Lord Shiva.

There are also many traditions and rituals associated with this practice of Shaivism, including external acts of worship, Yoga and meditation, attaining wisdom, and devoting oneself fully and wholeheartedly to Him in order to become conscious of the highest truth. Followers of this practice believe in giving service to Shiva in religious places through tasks of cleaning, cooking, giving water, and more. They also sing holy songs and chant mantras, and believe in delivering the message of Shiva through His stories.

Apart from the Shaiva-Siddhanta practice, there are four more Shaivism schools of thought, practised not just in India, but across the world where Shiva believers reside.

  • Pashupata Shaivism

  • Kashmiri Shaivism

  • Gorakhnath Shaivism

  • Vira Shaivism


Pashupata Shaivism

Pashupata is believed to be the oldest community of Shaivites, and comprises austere monks. The name Pashupata comes from the word ‘Pashupati’, the lord of animals. It is said that followers of Pashupata Shaivism are one of the most dedicated followers of Lord Shiva, and the sadhana they do is centred around being brahmacharya, and practicing ahimsa and tapas. This practice is the way of purifying oneself, eliminating the ego, and removing all ill-will and unwanted desires from the mind. The Pashupata Shaivites’ adoration for Shiva prevails over everything else, and that is how they believe they will be able to reach Him.


Kashmiri Shaivism

Kashmiri Shaivites are concentrated in the northern regions of India, and the concept took birth from the understanding of devoted Trika Yoga(a yogic system of six limbs) performers. At that time, Kashmir was considered the sacred hub of cultural knowledge for spiritual experts, hence Kashmir became an integral part of the Shaivism movement. The Kashmiri Shaivism practice is a personification of some of the richest traditions of philosophers, poets, and artists. Kashmiri Shaivites see the world as ‘Complete Consciousness’, which is Shiva, with a focus on the inner self. Moreover, they believe in acknowledging every being’s authority of free will.


Gorakhnath Shaivism

Gorakhnath Shaivism came into existence through Gorakshanatha, a follower of Matsyendranatha of Nepal, a saint and yogi in a number of Buddhist and Hindu traditions. The Shaivites of this school of thought believe that the wisdom of their culture was given by Matsyendranath, who received it directly from Lord Shiva. The Gorakhnath Shaivites followed many of the rituals of Pashupata Shaivism. Apart from that, this particular Shaivite practice found beneficial insights of hatha yoga, kundalini yoga and the Samadhi. Their main focus was on expanding their lifetime and attaining immortality by practising yogic forms. They also believe that Shiva is the sole power behind creation, and the soul always comes back to Him after deliverance. Through the practice of Samadhi, they believe they can get unity with Shiva.


Vira Shaivism

Confined mostly to the region of Karnataka, Vira Shaivism adores Shiva by his most prominent symbol, the Linga. According to Vira Shaivites, also known as Lingayats, they believe in Sat-sthala Siddhanta, a six-stage way of dedication and devotion that leads to unity with the Supreme Lord Shiva. By embarking on each of these phases, the devotees come closer to Shiva, ultimately becoming one in a state of unending Shiva-consciousness.