Saivite Philosophy- Anava, Karma, and Maya

Saivite Philosophy

According to Shaivites, the soul is infinite.

However, it is subservient to Shiva.

Shiva is the Lord and protector of the souls (Pasu).

Thus he derives his name “Pasupati” or the “Benefactor of living entities.”

Anava, Karma and Maya

There are three kinds of impurities that bind the spirit soul.

These three together bear a common name- “Mala”, which means impurities. They are-

1) Anava-This is The first impurity. In Anava, The Jiva thinks that it is ‘Finite’ or ‘Limited.’

2) Karma- Karma is the second impurity.

This bondage of Karma “Bandhana”, makes the living entity distorted through its reflected actions.

The living entity is something else, but on account of its actions, it appears as something else.

Owing to good and bad actions, the spirit soul, identifies itself with the body.

This is also a reason for Anava or limitedness.

3) Maya- The third Mala is Maya. Maya is the material cause for the identification of the spirit soul.

Owing to Anava and Karma, the soul comes under this illusion that it is material and finite. This is illusion of the highest kind. In Shaivism, it is called ‘Maya.’

Due to Maya, the knowledge of the spirit soul becomes stunted or highly limited. It gets confined to material boundaries, although the true nature of life, is much beyond the material cause.

Nature of Material existence

Material existence or Samsara is full of agony or pain.

It is transitory or ephemeral by its very nature.

The soul can break this material bond only through the realization of “Shiva” or the Supreme Cause.

When man comes to understand this limitation, through the experience of Samsara, slowly he gravitates towards Shiva.

Thus, he attains Vairagya or dispassion towards material life.

Finally, through Vairagya, he grows in Viveka or spiritual wisdom.

This wisdom helps discriminate the Real from the Unreal.

Shaivism and Vaishnavism

For Shaivaites, Jnana becomes the primary path, unlike the Vaishnavas who take to unalloyed Bhakti.

In Shaivism, Jnana becomes the preliminary step towards Bhakti while in Vaishnavism, Bhakti becomes the preliminary step towards Jnana. Here, Jnana is the supreme means of salvation.

It is the attainment of the final beatitude for the Shaivite.

Karma and other means are only subsidiary to it.

Nonetheless, in pure Shaivism, unlike Advaita Vedanta, attaining “Shivatva”, does not mean merging in Shiva.

Here, the liberated Shiva Bhakta, never loses his personal “soul identity”, akin to the Vaishnava.

Thus, a Shiva Bhakta is ever keen to serve his dear Lord “Shiva”.

The soul “attains” Shiva, but never “becomes” Shiva.

Three categories of the soul

In Shaivism there are three categories of the soul. They are

1) Vijnanakalas- Vijnanakalas have only the Anava Mala (egoism).

They have resolved Maya and Karma.

2) Pralayakalas- They are free from Maya alone, in the stage of Pralaya.

3) Sakalas- They have all the three Malas.

The jeeva attains Shivatva or Liberation only when it purges all the three Malas.

Hence, such beings who transcend the three Malas are called Siddhas.

It is hence impossible to attain ‘Shivatva’ without shredding Maya through Sadhana and Shiva Kripa. Consequently, the soul realizes its eternal and all-expansive nature.

The cycle of birth and death can end only when Karma gets completely annihilated.

The Malas only exist in Jivas. Siva is ever free of the three Malas.

How to destroy Anava, Karma and Maya?

Three channels can destroy the three bonds of Anava, Karma and Maya.

Each of these channels are equally important and are instrumental for the soul’s release.

They are

1) Tapas or Sadhana,

2)The mercy of the Guru or spiritual preceptor


3) The Grace of Shiva, which happens through Tapas and the Grace of the Guru.

How to attain the grace of Lord Shiva?

When the aspirant earnestly practices Charya (Proper physical and mental disciplines that cover Yamas and Niyamas), Kriya (Follows the path provided by the Spiritual preceptor) and Yoga (advance in attaining the Grace of Shiva), he finally obtains the grace of Lord Siva.

Then the Lord instructs the soul, reveals Himself, and illumines him.

Thus, the soul realizes its nature as Siva.

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