canon of "Saiva Siddhaanta

Dominic Goodall dominic.goodall at WOLFSON.OXFORD.AC.UK
Sat Apr 18 12:52:13 UTC 1998

Response to questions about the "Saiva Siddhaanta

Assertions in secondary (and primary) literature to the effect that there
are 28 basic Siddhaantatantras are common.  Early lists of the names of
these (and of other related tantras) survive, and manuscripts (almost all
from Nepal, Kashmir or southern India) transmitting texts with these names
survive.  The texts, all in Sanskrit, vary considerably in tone, style,
subject-matter, theology, etc.  Some are transmitted both in southern
India and in the north (e.g., Mata"ngapaarame"svara, M.rgendra,
Svaayambhuvasuutrasa"ngraha, Sarvaj~naanottara); a few now survive only in
northern manuscripts, but used to be quoted by Southern authors (e.g.
Moha"suurottara/cuu.dottara); by far the largest number are transmitted
exclusively in southern manuscripts (e.g., Ajita, Raurava,
Diipta, Kaamika, A.m"sumat, Yogaja, Maku.ta, Suprabheda).  In this last
group alone are found tantras whose focus is on temple ritual and tantras
in which the influence of Vedaantic Advaita is marked.  The formative
thinkers of the school---Sadyojyoti.h, Naaraaya.naka.n.tha, Raamaka.n.tha
II---were dualists, and their works are not concerned with public temple
worship (paraarthapuujaa).

The suspicion is therefore natural that some tantras in this last group
may be compositions that postdate those thinkers.  (It seems not unlikely
that the once pan-Indian and anti-Vedic "Saiva Siddhaanta should in this
milennium and in South India have, on the one hand, compromised with the
prevailing orthodoxy and, on the other, should have seen the need to teach
ritual for a thriving temple culture.)  It might be thought tendentious,
however, to argue just from content and theology that certain tantras must
be late.  Incontrovertible, though, are the following three kinds of

1) a tantra's being transmitted not just in South Indian, but also in
early Nepalese and/or Kashmirian manuscripts.

2) the existence of substantial attributed quotations by demonstrably
early authors that are still traceable in the extant work that bears
the same name

3) the survival of early commentaries.

Using these criteria we can arrive at a (shortish) list of
pre-tenth-century Siddhaantas.  These too are disparate in theology
and style and may have been composed over a number of centuries and in
widely separated parts of India.

The problems of the stratigraphy of the Saiddhantika canon are adverted to
in the more recent articles of Mme. Brunner (e.g. `The Four Paadas of
"Saivaagamas', pp.260--78 in The Journal of Oriental Research, Madras
1986--92) and in Professor Sanderson's `The Doctrine of the
Maaliniivijayottaratantra', an article in <Ritual and Speculation in Early
Tantrism---Studies in Honour of Andre' Padoux> edited by Teun Goudriaan
(SUNY 1992).  (The same article, by the way, shows how difficult it is to
talk about `Kashmiri Saivism' as though it were a single and entirely
separate tradition and in part answers your question about its earliest

A fuller discussion and a presentation of some evidence is to be found in
my own book (in press)  esp. on pp.xxxvi--xlvii:---

Bha.t.ta Raamaka.n.tha's Commentary on the Kira.natantra---volume I:
chapters 1--6---critical edition and annotated translation.
(Publications du de'partement d'indologie 86.1). pp. cxxv, 487.

Dominic Goodall

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