Friday, 19 August 2022

Difference Between Shiva, Sadashiva and Paramashiva

Shiva, Sadashiva, Paramashiva. How do these forms differ from one another? We have to first understand the concept of tattvas in Shaivism.

तस्य भावः तत्त्वम् 

tasya bhāvaḥ tattvam 

 A tattva is something that holds a particular aspect/state of an entity. For example, something which has the nature of Shiva is said to possess 'shiva tattva'.

 So what is the nature of Shiva? It is declared in the Taittiriiya Upanishad of Yajur Veda.

सत्यं ज्ञानं अनन्तं ब्रह्मा

satyaṃ jñānaṃ anantaṃ brahmā

This means, God is the embodiment of absolute truth, wisdom and infinitude.

Anandavalli, second chapter of Taittiriya Upanishad by my whatsapp Veda class student Ishani Paul.

 The same truth is expressed in another Upanishadic verse as 'satchitananda'. You find this in the Ganapati Upanishad of Atharva Veda.

त्वं सच्चिद्-आनन्दाऽद्विती-योऽसि

tvaṃ saccid-ānandā'dvitī-yo'si

This refers to the Lord ( Ganapati, who is an embodiment of the absolute consciousness as per this Upanishad ) as the manifestation of the state of experiential truth and awareness of Godhood.

Nada & Bindu

 Shiva tattva is also nada. Shiva is pure consciousness. When we map this to the observable Universe, it is vibration. The entire cosmos is reverberating. This is why we say Lord Shiva's body is a mantra-maya sharira ( a body made up of mantras ). This is also why the Vedas which are knowledge downloaded from the cosmos, were received in the form of mantras.

 Bindu refers to Shakti tattva, which is responsible for the play of the Universe. It is like the momentum playing through varying forms of the Universe as planets, beings, galaxies, etc. Shiva is the underlying common skeleton on which different 'bodies' of the Universe are adorned.


 Sadashiva tattva refers to the state of equilibrium between Shiva's Jnana Shakti ( energy of knowledge ) and Kriya Shakti ( energy of action ). The form of this equilibrium is Sadashiva. 

 Sadashiva has 5 heads and this is the form invoked in Shaiva rituals. In any puja, homa or avahanam, we invoke and install Lord Shiva in the form of Sadashiva, with 5 heads. This includes a Shiva Linga. The 5 heads represent the panchakritya ( five-fold action ) of creation, sustenance, dissolution, obscuration and liberation.

 So technically, in a Shiva temple, the acharya must attend to all five faces of Sadashiva. For instance, when offering Naivedyam, he has to make 5 offerings, each to one face of Sadashiva. 

 Achamanam ? ...15 times ( 3 times for each head ).. yes, it is very tedious.


 Paramashiva simply means ' the supreme Shiva'. This actually refers to Maha-Sadashiva ( Great Sadashiva ). We never invoke this form in any deity. In fact, you can only find this form of Shiva, with the glorious 25 heads, 50 hands and 75 eyes as a sculpture in the gopuram of a temple. This is the only place where this form can be seen or worshiped.

This form is clearly described in the Charya Pada of Makuta Agama:

चर्यापादे प्रथमः पटलः
कैलासवासी भगवान् महादेवो महेश्वरः । 
महाकैलासनिलयं महाकारुणिकोत्तमम् ।।१।। 
पञ्चपञ्चमुखं देवं पञ्चाशद्भुजमण्डितम् ।
 पञ्चब्रह्ममयं शान्तं पञ्चकृत्यपरायणम् ।।२।।
caryāpāde prathamaḥ paṭalaḥ
kailāsavāsī bhagavān mahādevo maheśvaraḥ | 
mahākailāsanilayaṃ mahākāruṇikottamam ||1|| 
pañcapañcamukhaṃ devaṃ pañcāśadbhujamaṇḍitam |
 pañcabrahmamayaṃ śāntaṃ pañcakṛtyaparāyaṇam ||2||
( Makuta Agama,Carya Pada Chapter 1 ) 

 Bhagavaan – the Mahadeva, the Maheshvara, the ruler of MahaKailaasa, the supreme among all merciful beings residing Kailasa.
He has 25 faces and fifty hands and is endowed with the nature of the Pancha Brahma mantras. He is immutable but is ever engrossed in performing the pancakritya ( 5 fold actions ).

 This 25-headed form is also referred to as 'Mahadeva' and 'Maheshvara'.

 The 25 heads represent an expansion of the pancha-kritya. For example, the facet of creation ( which forms one face of Sadashiva ) itself has 5 components to it:

(1) creation being created
(2) sustenance of creation
(3) dissolution of creation
(4) obscuration of creation
(5) liberation of creation.

so, apply this to all 5 faces of Sadasashiva and you have, 5x5= 25 heads of Mahasadashiva.


Ishvara tattva is born when there is a non-balance between Jnana and Kriya Shakti. When there is a higher percentage of Kriya Shakti and a lesser of Jnana Shakti, the form is Ishvara. Shiva needs this form in order to do the five-fold action to sustain the Universe. 

 This is why the term 'Ishvara' denotes a ruler or leader. Ravana was called Lankeshwara ( Lanka Ishvara ) because he was the king of Lanka.


Shuddha Vidya tattva is the state of non-equilibrium, where there is a higher percentage of Jnana Shakti and a lesser percentage of Kriya Shakti.



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