Essays About Shaivism

History, Philosophy, Beliefs and Practices of Shaivism,

Shiva and Vishnu in Hinduism


A Saivite is a devotee of Lord Siva. A Vaishnavite is a devotee Of Lord Vishnu. Upasana means worship or sitting near God. Upasaka is one who does Upasana. Upasana or Aradhana leads to realisation of God. A bigoted Virasaivite entertains hatred towards Lord Vishnu, Vaishnavites and Puranas which treat of Vishnu. He never enters a Vishnu temple. He never drinks water from a Vaishnavite. He never takes food with a Vaishnavite. He never repeats the name of Hari. He speaks ill of Lord Hari, Vaishnavites and Vishnu Purana. He thinks that Lord Siva is superior to Lord Vishnu. He never reads Vishnu Purana. Is this not the height of folly? Is this not extreme ignorance? He has not understood the true nature of Lord Siva. He has no idea of true religion. He is a fanatic, a bigot, a man of little understanding, a narrow sectarian, with a very small constricted heart. He is like a frog in the well which has no idea of the vast ocean.

A bigoted Vira Vaishnavite entertains hatred towards Lord Siva, Saivites and Siva Puranas which treat of Lord Siva. He never enters a Siva temple. He never makes friendship with a Saivite. He never drinks water from the hands of a Saivite. He also behaves exactly like the Virasaivite. The lot of this man is also highly deplorable.

There is a temple in Sankaranarayanar Koil in the Tirunelveli district (Tamilnadu), where the idol has one half of it depicted as Siva and the other half as Vishnu. The inner significance of this is that Lord Siva and Lord Vishnu are one. Sri Sankaracharya also has said in very clear terms that Siva and Vishnu are the one all-pervading Soul.

On one occasion, a Virasaivite entered the temple in Sankaranarayanar Koil to worship the Lord. He offered incense. He plugged the nostrils of Vishnu with the cotton as the fumes were entering His nose also. After that a Vira Vaishnavite entered the temple and he also offered incense. He plugged the nostrils of Siva as the fumes were entering His nose also. Such is the bigotry and narrow-mindedness of sectarians. A devotee should have a large, broad heart. He must see his tutelary deity in all aspects of the Lord and in all forms. He can have intense love for his Ishtam in the beginning, to intensify his devotion for that particular deity (Prema-nishtha), but he should have equal devotion to the other forms of the Lord also.

Siva and Vishnu are one and the same entity. They are essentially one and the same. They are the names given to the different aspects of the all-pervading Supreme Soul or the Absolute. ‘Sivasya hridayam vishnur-vishnoscha hridayam sivah—Vishnu is the heart of Siva and likewise Siva is the heart of Vishnu’.

The sectarian worship is of recent origin. The Saiva Siddhanta of Kantacharya is only five hundred years old. The Vaishnava cults of Madhva and Sri Ramanuja are only six hundred and seven hundred years old respectively. There was no sectarian worship before seven hundred years.

Brahma represents the creative aspect; Vishnu, the preservative aspect; and Siva, the destructive aspect of Paramatman. This is just like your wearing different garbs on different occasions. When you do the function of a judge, you put on one kind of dress. At home you wear another kind of dress. When you do worship in the temple, you wear another kind of dress. You exhibit different kinds of temperament on different occasions. Even so, the Lord does the function of creation when He is associated with Rajas, and He is called Brahma. He preserves the world when He is associated with Sattva Guna, and He is called Vishnu. He destroys the world when He is associated with Tamo-Guna, and He is called Siva or Rudra.

Brahma, Vishnu and Siva have been correlated to the three Avasthas or states of consciousness. During the waking state, Sattva predominates. During the dream state Rajas predominates and during the deep sleep state Tamas predominates. Hence Vishnu, Brahma and Siva are the Murtis of Jagrat, Svapna and Sushupti states of consciousness respectively. The Turiya or the fourth state is Para Brahman. The Turiya state is immediately next to the deep sleep state. Worship of Siva will lead quickly to the attainment of the fourth state.

Vishnu Purana glorifies Vishnu and in some places gives a lower position to Siva. Siva Purana glorifies Siva and gives a lower status to Vishnu. Devi Bhagavata glorifies Devi and gives a lower status to Brahma, Vishnu and Siva. This is only to instil and intensify devotion for the respective deity in the hearts of the devotees. In reality, no deity is superior to another. You must understand the heart of the writer.

May you all realise the oneness of Siva and Vishnu! May you all be endowed with pure subtle intellect and proper understanding!


Source: Reproduced, with the general permission, from Lord Siva and His Worship, WWW edition 2000, By Sri Swami Sivananda © The Divine Life Trust Society