A notable feature of the magnificent temples of medieval India is the erotic scenes sculpted on the temple walls known to gawking tourists and giggling schoolchildren. Erotic sculpture on medieval and later temples is a common feature, still seen on temples in the South, though little remains in the North, largely due to temples being destroyed.

Although never proven, there could indeed be a connection between Tantrism and the coital couples (maithunas) of pleasure. Particularly sexual pleasure or kama, has a long history as one of the four legitimate goals of life (purusartha) along with dharma, prosperity (artha) and liberation (inoksa).  While one of the key texts of tradition, the Bhagavad-gad, is virtually silent on the subject of kama, it is nevertheless treated systematically and deeply in other literatures, most notably the kamasastra, of which the most famous text is the Kamasutra. But even Sanskrit erotic poetry, demonstrates the importance and legitimacy that sexual desire was perceived to have in classical Indian civilisation before the rise of Islam and the advent of puritanical colonialism. Liberation, by contrast, was traditionally a transcendent (visvottirna) state achieved by world renouncers through asceticism and celibacy; the reversal of the flow of the body outwards towards the objects of desire. Sanskrit literature is replete with sages falling from their austerities due to being seduced by beautiful women, usually sent by gods such as Indra fearing the power created by their abstinence and austerity; demonstrating the tension between cultural values and the difficulty in transcending worldly concerns.

Part of the ideology of tantric traditions, particularly the more philosophical accounts, is that liberation and the world-affirming value of desire are not incompatible, but desire can be used to transcend desire. Following the previous (p.1-3) general overview, as indicated,  I will next  detail, at least  the five most important, traditions in Tantric lore starting underneath with the Saiva Siddhanta Doctrine.

The Saiva Siddhanta is `dualistic' in maintaining an ontological distinction between self and transcendent Lord, though it might more accurately be called pluralistic in maintaining not only this distinction, but a distinction between self, Lord and universe which itself comprises innumerable particularities (although these particularities stem from a common substrate). Bhojadeva in his Illumination of the Categories (Tattvaprakasa) sums up the doctrine in his opening verses, that in the Saiva scriptures (saivagama) the principal topic is the triad of Lord (pati), bound soul or beast (pasu), and universe or bond (pasa). The soul is likened to a cow tethered by a rope, to be freed from its tether by the Lord. This bond has five components, which the commentator Sri Kumaradeva, citing a scripture, lists as pollution (mala), action (karma), illusion-power (maya), the universe, that arises from that illusion (ma),otthamakhilam jagat) and the power of concealing (tirodhanakar saktih). The innumerable souls, although in reality distinct, are bound within the universe from which they may be freed (mukta) by Siva's grace (prasada). Once freed they realise themselves to be Sivas or to be like or equal to Siva (sivatul),a, sivasamaya), but they remain ontologically distinct. Only Siva has always been free (anadimukta).

The general cosmological function of the five components of past is to bind souls into the cycle of transmigration through the innumerable worlds of the cosmos. Bhojadeva - as Saiva Siddhanta texts generally - classifies kinds of souls according to their degree of entrapment by these bonds, namely (and I follow Goodall's reading here") those who are separated from fetters because of knowledge or consciousness (vijnana-kevala), but still entrapped by impurity (nmala); those who are separated from fetters due to the cosmic dis­solution (prala),a-kevala); those who are entrapped by both impurity and action (karma); and those who are not separated from all bonds and possess the power of limited action (sakala), entrapped by all three - pollution, action and illusion-power (maya). The first two of these categories are also known by the names vijnanakala or vijnanakevalin and pralayakala or pralayakevalin.The degree of entrapment is their degree of impurity. Ramakantha in his commentary says that the term pasu only refers to those souls (atman) who are subject to impurity (samala). Of these, he says, there are two types, those who have the force called kale and those who do not. Those who possess the power of kale are in turn of two types, those with subtle bodies (suksma-deha) and those with gross bodies (sthula-deza). Those without kale are also of two types, those without kale because of knowledge or higher awareness, the vijnanakevalins, and those without it because of cosmic dissolution, the pralayakevalins-The term kale in the sense here is rendered by Goodall as `power of limited action', although it is also used on a broader cosmological canvas to refer to levels of the hierarchical cosmos within which the tattvas operate (see below).This power of limited agency shows that the sakala souls have the power of action and can accumulate new karma through their action in the lower worlds, while the vijnana and prayala souls, on this account, are devoid of the power of agency and only reap the fruits of their actions.

The consciousness-only souls are further subdivided by Bhoja into those whose impurity is completely finished (samaptakalusa) and those for whom it is not (asamaptakalusa). Out of the former Siva makes eight `Lords of Wisdom' (vidyesa or, more commonly, vidyesvara) and out of the latter a countless number of mantras.

For the Saiva Siddhanta the structure of the universe is linked to the degree or level of concealment of Siva. The universe unfolds in increasing degrees of coagulation, from subtle to gross, which increasingly entrap the soul, who becomes lost within it and subject to suffering due to pollution, karma and illusion-power. As with other Hindu systems, the Saiva cosmos is created, or rather manifested from a quiescent state, and destroyed or reabsorbed over and over again over vast periods of time. Through his energy or Sakti, the Goddess, Siva acts upon pure substance in potential called the `great power of illusion' (mahama),a) or `the drop' (bindu), which then develops the `pure' levels of the cosmos. From bindu then emerges the material substrate of the lower universe, the power of illusion or maya, from which emerge the elements that comprise the lower or impure universe. Bindu and maya are the material causes (upadana) of the worlds.;' After a period of time the universe is reabsorbed back to the level of maya, and in a great dissolution back to the level of bindu. After a period of sleep the process begins over again. I have rendered ma ya as 'illusion-power', which, although somewhat dissatisfactory, conveys the idea of maya as a lower emanation of Sakti, a power that conceals Siva and entraps lower souls through the operation of the `coverings' (kancuka) that include limited agency and time. For the Saiva Siddhanta maya is a substance (vasturupa), the eternal (nit),a) root (mula) of the universe, says Bhoja. As substance it is not in itself illusory or unreal, but is rather the cause and context of the soul's illusion that it is entrapped in the lower worlds. Indeed, the Kirana-tantra calls maya a `seductress' (mohini' because through her the soul has experience (bhoga) of externa' objects (vis(ya), although we must not forget that maya is not a conscious being for the Siddhanta, but a form or force that insentient (jada). The Saiva Siddhanta presents a realist ontology in that the cosmos is a real substance that entraps the soul.


A number of terminologies are used to describe this process of unfolding. Perhaps the most important is the system of the categories or tattvas. The Saivas add eleven to the twenty-five Samkhya ones (see figure). This is most important because it is an attempt to explain in detail the unfolding universe and the soul's entrapment within it, and is also integral to Saiva soteriology and the ritual system. The cosmos unfolds in order that souls can experience the results of their actions, and so tattva hierarchy describes that entrapment. Yet through understanding this entrapment and, above all, through the ritual reabsorption of the tattvas, the soul can become free. The tattvas are therefore the cause of both bondage and liberation in one sense, although the ultimate cause is Siva's grace.

Prakrti becomes a lower manifestation or reflection of mdya, which itself is a lower manifestation of bindu. Bindu is identified with the first, the Siva-tattva from which emerge the other pure tattz•as, namely Sakti-tattva, Sadasiva or Sadakhya-tattva, Isvara­tattva and Suddhavidyd-tattva. Maya, itself classed as a tattva, produces those in `mixed' creation, and the prakrti tattva produces the lower categories as described in Samkhya.3i While thirty-six is a standard number in the texts, there is some variation of content.

The -Ilatangaparamesvaragama, an upagama of the Paraniedvardgama, lists the twenty-five Samkhya tattvas replacing matter (prakrti) with the 'unmanifest' (av),akta) and `quality' (guiia), and in the pure creation listing dissolution (la),a), joyous experience (bhoga), governance (adhikdra), pure knowledge (vidya), and maya.Other texts have some variation on the thirty-six and the Mrgendraganta lists thirty-nine.

The tattvas are not in themselves sentient but are categories that comprise the bodies and coverings of souls, and are also levels of experience for those souls. Thus the Siva-tattva is not to be confused with Siva, the transcendent efficient cause of creation. There are, therefore, a number of English renderings of the term tattva whose semantic field incorporates the notions of `reality', `essence', `principle' and `category'. While interpreting the tattvas in a non-dualist way as emanations of consciousness, the non-dualist Saivas nevertheless adopt the Siddhanta system. Their readings of the tattva hierarchy are illuminating. For the non-dualist theologian Abhinavagupta, tattva designates a constituent of a level of reality (vastu, prameya), a principle underlying reality or a level of it (for example, in the sense of earth being an appearance of an underlying principle of hardness), and a category of perception (padartha). These are furthermore integrated into a system of correspondences with other hierarchical cosmological schemes, all of which become important in ritual procedures.

1. Siva
2. Sakti
3. Sadasiva 4. Nvara
5. Suddha Vidya


five coverings or kancukas

7. Kala - particularity of authorship 8. Vidya - limited knowledge 9. Raga - passion/ attachment to. Kala - limited time i i. Niyati - spacial constraint
12. Purusa - limited self
13. Prakrti - matter/ nature 14. Buddhi - higher mind 15. Ahamkara - ego 16. Manas - mind
organs of cognition
17. Hearing
18. Touching
19. Seeing
21. Smelling
 organs of action
22. Speech
23. Handling
24. Locomotion
26. Generation
 subtle elements

27. Sound
28. Touch
29. Form
31. Smell 

gross elements

32. Space
33. Air
34. Fire 20. Tasting 2$. Excretion 30. Taste 
35. Water
36. Earth

The Six Paths

The cosmological schemes are collectively known as the `six paths' (sadadhvan); they are found or mentioned in most texts.The term designates different paths of emanation and reabsorption of the cosmos that the soul takes on its symbolic journey in ritual back to and beyond the source of the cosmos. These paths are named varna (phonemes), mantra, pada (words), kala (cosmic regions), tattva, and bhuvana (worlds). Both the Saiva Siddhanta and the non-Saiddhantika systems maintain the doctrine of the six paths. For the monistic Saivas these are manifestations of consciousness paired in a hierarchical sequence, kale with varna, tattva with mantra, and bhuvana with pada, whereas for the realist Saiva Siddhanta, as Brunner-Lachaux observes, they are traced in matter (maya and bindu) and must be understood as parallel to each other and not in a hierarchical sequence.
Path of Sound (vacaka)
varna (phoneme)
pada I (word)
Path of Objects (vacya)
kala (power)
bhuvana (world)

There is no space to describe them in detail (for which see the work of Brunner and Padoux), but the idea can illustrated with a brief account of the path of the worlds, the bhuvana adhvan.
The path of the worlds (bhuvana) is particularly interesting as it clearly illustrates the idea that the body contains within it the cosmos and that the ritual dissolution of the cosmos in the body is a dissolution of all possible realms of experience into which a soul could be born. The Siddhanta texts formally contain 224 worlds, so many in each kala, although there are many more, this number . being notional. Indeed, the listing of worlds that beings inhabit is an important and interesting feature of some Tantras, which allows us to understand the vast cosmological imagination of the composers of these texts and enables us to see how later developments of tradition or new traditions did not abandon the old but built up further worlds upon the old. For example, in the nivftti kala the Rauravagama contains rob worlds, beginning with the lowest of Kalagni,}which are recapitulated with some variation in other Agamas and in the Somasambhu paddahti.

The non-Saiddhantika Tantras of the north follow the same structure and list many of the same worlds. For example, the non-Saiddhantika Malinivijayottara-tantra lists among the various worlds in the nivrtti-kala six types of beings in the community of beings (bhutagrama) who inhabit the material world, namely those of the vegetable kingdom (sthavara), insects and other crawling things (sarpjati), the birds (paksajati), wild (mrga) and domestic (pasava) animals, and the human world (manusabhuvana).Indeed, the Malint may have been a dualist text like those of the Siddhanta.

While the basic pattern is fairly simple in the sense that the scheme represents the two dimensions of the hierarchical universe, time and space, word and object, with all the paths parallel to each other and each path arranged in a graded sequence from supreme to subtle to gross, the details of the paths are nevertheless quite complex and each path is pervaded by the others.

Although there is no doubt an explanatory dimension to the six paths, the function of this whole complex structure lies primarily in ritual. It is only in the ritual context that the scheme comes to life and becomes embodied. As the universe is populated with multiple worlds, levels and beings, so the practitioner's body is populated with worlds, levels and beings, themselves derived from the textual sources of the tradition. The destruction of the six paths within the body enacted in daily ritual leads to the soul's liberation at death or the soul becoming a Vijnanakevalin until its final liberation at a great dissolution. The body is the meeting point or mediation between the universal and the particular, in that it enacts the particularity of revelation, of text, and at the same time enacts the proclaimed universality of the cosmic structure revealed in the texts. The entextualisation of the body makes the body particular to text and tradition, but this is also understood as the universalisation of the body through locating the universe of beings within it.

The Ritual Process: Initiation

Initiation conducts the soul to perfection from the human condi­tion (pumsbhJca) in which the soul is located at the level of the pun usa-tattva,by purifying the six paths within the body. This purification overcodes the vedic body with the tantric cosmology; indeed some texts claim that Saiva initiation eradicates caste. The Rauravagama, for example, lists a number of Saiva groups and seems to say that simply following and adopting the ways of the Saiva are sufficient and that this constitutes initiation. In constructing the body through the Saiva rites (siz'asamskdra) and following the Saiva path one thereby deconstructs the vedic body, and the Brahman and outcaste can both become Sivas. Adopting the bodily habitus of the Saiva ensures liberation:

While the Rauravagama is unusual in not seeming to advocate here a, acting like a Saiva generally means not only wearing a chignon or shaved head and bearing the marks of a Saiva, but having undergone formal initiation and consecration. Most Saiva texts follow almost the same ritual sequence as we found in the Jayakhya-samhita. Generally absent from the Saiddhantika and more closely aligned vedic traditions is the sexualised ritual of the non-Saiddhantika traditions, although it is not wholly absent; sexual imagery is clearly present in visualisation and worship of the Siva linga, the phallic representation of Siva embedded in its pedestal throne (pitha) or vulva (yoni).

Saiva ritual - as with all tantric ritual - is classified as daily rites (nit)la-karman), occasional rites (naimittika-karman) and rites for a desired goal (kamya-karman). This classification provides all that is necessary for somebody to live the life of a Saiva Siddhantin and to form their life in accordance with the tradition.

The Saiva Siddhantin is constructed through the rites, with the texts of tradition being mapped on to the body. The occasional rites refer especially to initiation (diksa) and funeral rites (ant)yesti) which reflect the former. Most important for the Saiva Siddhantin is initiation, for through this he is given access to the tradition, its texts and rites, and guaranteed eventual liberation.

Initiation presupposes the master. The master of the tradition, called the acar-Ya, guru or desika, is crucial in the transference of power to the disciple and in teaching the rites and mantras. The master has knowledge of Siva and the traditions, and mediates be­tween the practitioner and transcendent goal.'} This is not a comment on the inner awareness of the master; rather, the master is socially defined as having himself undergone a particular kind of consecra­tion (the dcarYdbhiseka) that is itself indicative of his degree of traditional knowledge and ability to install icons, consecrate temples and perform initiations. It is less the intellectual and moral quali­ties of the master that are important (although these are desirable, along with no bodily impurities) and more the ability and authority (adhikara) to perform the correct rites at the correct time; the ability to act as a channel for the transmission of tradition. This ability is a formal, socially acknowledged qualification that functions independ­ently of the inner qualities or personality of the teacher. Indeed, during the rites of initiation the master becomes Siva. It is Siva who initiates the disciple through the master. The most important quality that the disciple (sisya) should possess is the quality of devotion to the master (gurubhakti), which is thereby devotion to Siva.

The Tantras contain many kinds of initiation, and there is vari­ability in the texts from formal acceptance by the master with mini­mal rites to more elaborate ritual procedures. In some texts, those of the Saiva Siddhanta among them, initiation is formalised with no anticipation of the disciple's inner condition; in others the disciple is required to display signs of possession by the deities of the mandala, such as trembling which reflects important differences within tantric traditions. Somasambhu, basing his account on Saiva revelation, describes three initiations - the general (sama),a), particular (vi. esa) and liberating (nirvana) - although Brunner-Lachaux shows how the particular is assimilated into the general and how the distinction into three initiations is later." The general initiation (samaya-diksd) provides entry into the tradition, while the liberating liberation (nirva?7a-diksd) ensures final liberation at death. The structure of initiation follows the pattern of types of disciple as we have seen in the Pancaratra. Thus one who has undergone the samaya-diksd is called a samayin and one who has undergone the nirvana-diksd is a putraka, a son of Siva. There can be one or two further stages in the development of the disciple, should he become a teacher (acasya) through the rite of consecration (acar)idbhiseka)," which means he then has the authority to initiate disciples. Alternatively there is formal recognition for someone to become a seeker of power and pleasure in higher worlds, a sddhaka, through that consecration (sadhakabhiseka).

The distinction between the acdrya and sadhaka reflects an important distinction between seekers after liberation (murnuksu) and Goddess of Speech (Vagisvari), who has been installed in the fire." He is then born from her. While symbolically he is clearly a `son of Siva', as Siva in the form of Vagi§vara is her consort, he is not technically termed a putraka until after the next level of initiation, the nirvana-dzksa.

The nirvana-diksa is the most important rite in the Saiva Siddhanta, which grants access to eventual liberation. Once having undergone this rite there is no turning back. The ritual itself takes two days, as described by Soma§ambhu; the first day comprises preliminary rites (adhivasana), followed on the second day by the initiation (diksa) itself." The adhivasana rites are performed in a sacrificial pavilion (rnandapa), the same as for the preliminary initiation. It is here that we begin to see the explicit entextualisation of the disciple's body. The main feature of this rite is that the master installs in the body of the disciple the totality of the cosmos contained in all the levels, and the entextualised body is then itself transferred to the substitute of a cord that extends his whole length. In his visualisa­tion the master enters the central channel of the disciple's body through the aperture at the crown of the head. Having gone down to the heart, the master then leaves the body by the same route in his imagination, taking the disciple's soul with him along with the constitutents of the universe. He brings the soul and constitutents of the universe into his own heart through the aperture at his own crown, and finally emits them from there, establishing the disciple's soul and cosmos on the cord. This cord (pasa), which represents the universe that binds his soul also represents the hidden channel (nadi) that pervades the vertical axis of the body. All the levels of reality need to be purified, which means detaching them from the soul. In theory any of the six ways can function to purify the soul in this way, but Somasambhu gives the purification by the way of the kalas. The five kalas are established by the master in the body and transferred on to the cord through nyasa; their purification is the purification of all the other paths as well. As Brunner-Lachaux remarks, the rite is very long because the master must extract each of the kalas from the disciple's body to place on the cord and must extract the disciple's very soul, to be placed in the cord also. The cord thus prepared is the image of the disciple, with his atman imprisoned by bonds (hence the name pasasaitra, cord of bonds)The disciple spends the night in the pavilion, and the diksa proper commences the next day after the master has interpreted his dreams. If the dreams are inauspicious, the effects are redressed by expiatory rites (pra)iascitta).

The second day of the rites comprises a repetition of the first initiations, after which the cord is suspended from the topknot of the disciple and each kala is purified in turn, beginning with nivrtti, so enacting the reabsorption of the cosmos. This involves the master imaging all the different worlds that the disciple could be born into, within that realm. The master visualises the sexual union of Siva and Sakti in the forms of Vagi vara and Vagisvari and places the soul of the disciple into the womb of Vagisvari.

In this way the master extracts the soul from the disciple, places it in himself, transports it to the realm of Siva and then into the womb of the Goddess Vagisvari, who is located in the sacred fire. This visualisation is accompanied by the appropriate section of the cord being cast into the flames. In entering Vagisvari's womb, the disciple's soul is entering all wombs, and being born from her represents the end of all other births in that realm. This birth is accompanied by three rites, which completely consume all remaining karma appropriate to that level, namely the rites of adhikara ('rank', `authority'), bhoga (`enjoyment', `experience') and lava ('dissolu­tion'), which we are familiar with from the 7aydkhya-samhita (see pp. rob-19). The master provokes the soul's birth, its correct place in the cosmic order, its experiences, and its erroneous identification with sense objects, through visualisation, through ritual gesture and, especially, through uttering the appropriate mantra. The following rites eradicate all trace of the soul in the realm of nizrtti, detaching all exhausted karma, parts of mated, and partially the power of mala. The master cuts the appropriate section of the cord representing nizrtti and burns it in the fire. He then retrieves the soul of the disciple from the fire and places it in the next, higher section of the cord. The process of purification occurs over again for the remaining four kalas. With the burning of the last kald, santyattta, the soul is purified and replaced in the disciple's body.

The passage from Somasambhu's text, quoted above, is striking in a number of ways. It is rich in references, indicating the semantic density of ritual action. The rite is a construction of the self, or rather the construction of a new self, whose bonds of action, illusion and pollution - at least at the level of nivrtti-kala - are destroyed, so that all that remains are the fruits of action that the disciple needs to work out in his present life as one initiated (and so ensured of liberation in due course). The term used for this construction is samskara, `put together', the same term used in the vedic ritual construction of the rites of passage. There is an implicit identi­fication of the rites of passage with the ritual procedures in the nirvana-diksa.68i The model for the tantric rite is provided by the vedic samskaras, although the process is speeded up and condensed into two days. Although a `construction', initiation is in fact the elimination of most of the bonds that keep a being bound in the cycle of birth and death. The Kirana-tantra asks a pertinent ques­tion of Siva: if all bonds are removed by initiation, then how can the body remain? The Lord answers that as a potter's wheel still turns even after the making of a pot is completed, so too the body remains. The seeds of action of many existences (sancita-karma) are burned by the mantras at initiation and the acquiring of future action (agamin) is also blocked, but that which sustains the body in the present life (prarablada-karma) has to be exhausted through experience." The exhausting of karma is also a journey through the levels of the cosmos. The womb of Vagisvari, which represents all wombs at the respective levels to be purified, signifies the myriad births through which a soul must pass or would otherwise pass were it not for initiation. The journey along the cord is a journey through the cosmos and through the body.

The Ritual Process: Daily Rites

Having undergone the nirvana-diksa, although in one sense superfluous because the disciple is guaranteed liberation, he must nevertheless pursue a rigorous regime of daily rites (nits a karman). These use up his remaining karma so that at death he will go to liberation with Siva's grace. Many texts give details of the procedures and generally follow a pattern of purification through various kinds of bath (water, ashes, mantras), the purification of the body and its revitalisation, followed by inner and outer ritual. Some texts, such as the Raurazagama, do not give full ritual details for they assume the reader's knowledge of other sources (although the Rauravaganza does give details for visualising Sadasiva).It is important within the tradition that pollution is a substance that is erased through action rather than cognition. Yet while this is the general standpoint, there are passages in Siddhanta texts that stress cognition within the buddhi as having liberating force, although such statements do not necessarily contradict the position in that even thought is a mental action, but generally after initiation it is ritual that destroys pollution with Siva's grace.

The Rauravagama says that there are two kinds of daily ritual, either performed for oneself (atmarthapuja) or for the sake of others (pararthapizja) in public rites before the icon of Siva (linga) in the temple.In both we see the text mapped on to the body. The general pattern of daily rites is to purify oneself or one's body and ritual environment before going on to worship through visualisation followed by physical offerings. The Raurav tgama lists purification of the self/ body (atmasuddhi), purification of the place (sthanaiuddhi), purification of ritual implements and substances (drazyasuddhi), purification of the Siva linga, and mantra. One should praise the Lord of the heart (Sadasiva) with the mind first, followed by external oblations.In the daily rite described in the Soznasaznbhu paddhati we have, as in the Sayakhya-samihita, morning ablutions, evacuation of bodily impurities (listed in the Saiva text), bathing rites,-" followed by the sequence we are now familiar with, of purification of the body, creating a divine body through mantra, mental worship and external worship. The text gives precise details on purification, more detailed than the 5ayakhya, and again closely akin to the vedic smrti texts on correct behaviour.There are precise details about ablutions, excretions, and activities such as cleaning the teeth. We are a long way from any idea of spontaneous expression and bodily abandon: the Somasanzbhu, as with the Jayakhya, presents a picture of establishing a regime for the strict control of the body and restriction of the senses.

The preliminary rites in the Somaiambhu involve mantra repetition and empowering the body even before the bhutaszzddhi proper. The `pilgrimage sites' or `crossing points' (tirtha) are established on the hands, in a process familiar from the Jayakhya. Thus the ancestors (pity) are established on the index finger, the deity Prajapati on the little finger, Brahman on the thumb and the other gods at the ends of the fingers. Offerings of purified water are made to Siva, to the gods, and to the ancestors within one's family lineage (gotra) from father to paternal grandfather up to the father of the father of the paternal grandfather. Offerings are made to the equivalent temporal distance on one's mother's side.This in itself is interesting in showing how the practitioner sees himself within a continuity of generations and wholly integrated through the daily ritual sequence into his family, which is in turn a part of the cosmic order. The narrative of the practitioner's life, its daily routines and mundane activity, from the very beginning forms part of the narrative of his family lineage, which itself is a part of the cosmical hierarchy, with Siva at the top. There is a flow of power through the cosmos, through one's ancestors, to oneself.

The Iscnasivagurudeva-paddhati and Somasambhu-paddhati use the term dehasuddhi, along with bhutasuddhi, for the purification of the body and Isanasivagurudeva follows the account given by Somsambhu. As in the Sayakhya, self-purification (atmasodhana) occurs through the purification of the elements (bhutasuddhi), which is the first in a series of purifications in the Saiva system, along with a purification of the place, of ritual material, of mantras and of the linga, the `phallic' image of Siva used in worship. For the bhutasuddhi, the Somasambhu prescribes facing north with a self whose passions are subdued (vinitatman). The practitioner - and here we have the explicit description of new elements entering the process - visualises two hollow tubes from the big toes of both feet running up the legs and joining a central channel, which then goes to the crown of the head. Along this central channel that traverses the body's vertical axis are cosmological blockages or `knots' (granthi) at the heart, throat, palate, between the eyes and in the aperture of the absolute (brahma­randhra) at the crown of the head, which prevent the soul from rising to its freedom through the crown of the head to the dvadasanta. These blockages need to be broken (granthiprabheda) through the rising power of the self along the body's subtle channel, a process which occurs in the imagination or inner vision in the context of the initiate's daily ritual. The soul (i`iva), shining `like a star in the cave of the heart (tarakakaram jivam hrdayasamputam), travels up the central channel, imagined in the form of a drop (bindu), to Siva at or outside the crown of the head." (There are two dvadasantas or `end of twelve fingers'. Sometimes this is identified with the brahmarandhra, the length of three times four fingers' width from the centre of the eyebrows, and sometimes it is twelve fingers above the brahmarandhra.) Through uttering seed syllables (baja) the self is dissolved (lina) in Siva; then one must perform the purification of the subtle body (suksma-deha-suddhi) by mapping the categories of the cosmos, or tattvas, on to it and reabsorbing them, each into its cause in inverse order of their manifestation, up to their origin, the cosmic substance known as the `drop' or bindu (also known as

The Isanasivagurudeva is in complete concord with this account in describing the breaking of the `knots' at the heart, throat, palate, between the eyes, and on the head, and visualizing Siva at the crown of the head, twelve fingers' length above the point of the meeting of the eyebrows (dvadasanta). The adept should meditate upon the cutting of the `dark and filthy knots, which are pierced with the exhaling of the breath, to allow energy to flow in the esoteric channels (nadi). He should imagine his soul, identified with the mantra HAMSA, in the pure lotus of the heart. By the force of the air (va),u) in the central channel he should lead the soul up to Siva, located in the dvadasanta at the crown of the head, seated in the centre of a lotus. The adept then meditates upon his own body as an inverted tree whose roots are in his head, pervaded by the thirty-six categories that make up the cosmos (tattva), disolved in imagination, each into its cause. The sequences in the Somasambhu and Isanasivagurudeva are in some ways more complex than those in the J'ayakhya. Only then does the text begin an ac­count of the bhutasuddhi, and we are back on territory familiar from the Jayakhya. This suggests that an elaboration and complexification of the rite has occurred in which a stripped-down version of the bhutasuddhi has been embedded in a complex sequence of visualisation. which occurs in the imagination or inner vision in the context of the initiate's daily ritual. The soul (Viva), shining `like a star in the cave of the heart (tarakakaram jivam hrda),asamputam), travels up the central channel, imagined in the form of a drop (bindu), to Siva at or outside the crown of the head.There are two dvadasantas or `end of twelve fingers. Sometimes this is identified with the brahmarandhra, the length of three times four fingers width from the centre of the eyebrows, and sometimes it is twelve fingers above the brahmarandhra.) Through uttering seed syllables (bija) the self is dissolved (lina) in Siva; then one must perform the purification of the subtle body (suksma-deha-suddhi) by mapping the categories of the cosmos, or tattvas, on to it and reabsorbing them, each into its cause in inverse order of their manifestation, up to their origin, the cosmic substance known as the `drop' or bindu (also known as nnahama)'a).

The Isanasivagurudeva is in complete concord with this account in describing the breaking of the `knots' at the heart, throat, palate, between the eyes, and on the head, and visualizing Siva at the crown of the head, twelve fingers' length above the point of the meeting of the eyebrows (dvadasanta).The adept should meditate upon the cutting of the `dark and filthy' knots, which are pierced with the exhaling of the breath, to allow energy to flow in the esoteric channels (nadi).He should imagine his soul, identified with the mantra HAMSA, in the pure lotus of the heart. By the force of the air (va),u) in the central channel he should lead the soul up to Siva, located in the dvadasanta at the crown of the head, seated in the centre of a lotus.The adept then meditates upon his own body as an inverted tree whose roots are in his head, pervaded by the thirty-six categories that make up the cosmos (tattva), dissolved in imagination, each into its cause.The sequences in the Somasambhu and Isanaiivagurudeva are in some ways more complex than those in the Jayakhya. Only then does the text begin an account of the bhutasuddhi, and we are back on territory familiar from the Sayakhya. This suggests that an elaboration and complexification of the rite has occurred in which a stripped-down version of the bhutasuddhi has been embedded in a complex sequence of visualisation. While the map of the subtle body has become more complex with the Saiva Siddhanta, with additional Saiva cosmological overlays, much in the accounts of the bhutasuddhi in the Somasambhu and Isanasivagurudeva is recognisable from the Jayakhya, and the general process of the upward movement of the self from bondage to liberation remains the same. To illustrate the high degree of consistency with the Jayakhya let us consider a passage about the first stage in the process of purifying the earth element.

As in the Jayakhya, the earth diagram is a golden square marked by the `sign of thunder' (vajra) and associated with the sense of smell, but unlike the Jayakhya it is associated with the tattvas, with one of the five cosmic regions (kala) called nivrtti, and pervades the entire body, rather than from feet to knees. But this pattern is not wholly consistent within the Saiva Siddhanta; the Vamadevaipaddhati follows the Sayakhya model with the earth pervading from  feet to knees. The other elements follow the same general pattern, using the same symbols (the crescent moon for water, a red triangle for fire marked with swastikas, air as a hexagonal form marked by six drops (bindu), and space as symbolised by a round crystal). As in the jayakhya, the adept burns the body in imagination and then floods it with the water arising from his meditation in order to create a pure, divine body for worship. The text follows the same pattern as the Somasambhu, on which it heavily relies.
A general picture therefore emerges of the bhutasuddhi as a shared ritual substrate that becomes identified with particular Saiva cosmologies. On the one hand the actual visualisation represented in the texts has become minimised, from the Jayakhya's elaborate visions of each element to Somasambhu and Isanasivagurudeva's rather formal representation. On the other hand, more elaborate cosmological overlays have occurred. Indeed, the system of the bhutasuddhi has become identified with an independent system of the five `knots' along the central channel of a subtle anatomy, and the five elements have become associated with the five faces of the aspect of Siva called Sadasiva.We can therefore see strong continuity of ritual representation, although with later structural elaboration.

Following the symbolic destruction of the physical, elemental body in the imagination, the adept then creates a pure body made of mantras through imposing them in sequence upon himself, the sakalikaraua sequence with the aizga mantras on the hands, in the way that we have seen in the 5ayakhya. The Somasambhu then describes a rite purifying the place of ritual (sthanasuddhi), although in other sources this follows the stage of mental worship. But let us take up the account of mental worship and the construction of the throne of the deity in the imagination. This throne is virtually identical in its formation with the lions identified with the constituents of the buddhi and so on in the Jayakhya, although there are nevertheless textual variations.

Having established the throne, the practitioner then visualises the deity (deva) Sadasiva upon it. His body is made of `knowledge' (z•id)'asarira) and is without taint like a pure crystal. He has three eyes on each of his five faces (Sadyojata, Vamadeva, Aghora, Tat-Purusa and Isana), each of which is associated with a particular colour, mantra and cosmic function (creation, maintenance, destruction, concealment and grace). He has ten arms and holds a lance, a trident and so on. Furthermore, the vertical axis of the body is identified in the practitioner's imagination with the levels of the cosmos, the thirty-six tattvas, thus the throne corresponds to all of the tattvas up to Suddha Vidva, and Sadasiva to the tattvas up to Sakti. Again, external worship follows internal worship or making offerings to Sadasiva in the imagination, followed by the fire ritual, which Somasambhu presents in great detail. Other rites dealt with in the texts are occasional ritual such as festivals and rites for a desired end .The entextualisation of the body can be seen not only in the specific, daily and occasional rites prescribed for the Saiva but also in daily comportment. The tradition is internalised by the initiate adopting Saiva observance, dietary restriction and communal behaviour (samanyacara). In the section on comportment (car yapada), the Mrgendragama tells us that Saivas fall into the categories of master (desika), mantra specialist or sadhaka, putraka and samayin , some of whom might follow a specific observance (vrata) and some who do not. The term `observance' or `vow' (vrata) indicates a specific kind of asceticism in varying degrees of intensity taken on for varying periods of time, often for a specific purpose. The Mrgendra defines an observer of vrata as someone who has given up meat, women and honey (possibly fermented beverage), who sleeps on the ground and is solitary, carrying a pot for water. He must avoid young women, garlands and similar things. These are standard prescriptions for the ascetic, and those who follow such asceticism should indicate their Saiva affiliation through wearing matted locks in a chignon or going with shaved head and making the body white with ashes, although sudras women, the sick and the lame cannot wear the matted locks (jata). Those who wear matted locks are themselves divided into the two groups, the bhautika, whose observance is limited for a specific period of time and the highest or nasthiika, namely gurus, putrakas and sadhakas, whose observance is throughout life. Some Saivas, says the text, are without observance (avrata), which seems to indicate that they are householders, although, as Brunner observes, no Saiva is completely without vrata throughout life. Indeed, all Saivas must perform ritual obligations daily at the junctions of the day and at junctures of the year marked by the moon (parvan), namely rites on the eighth and fourteenth days of the month, at the solstices and equinoxes.

Apart from ritual obligations Saivas must follow a mode of conduct generally in consonance with vedic orthopraxy. The Mrgendra presents the requirements of the master in terms that would find a place in the most orthodox of contexts, and the disciple too should study, listen to the scriptures, abandoning pride, jealousy, hypocrisy and frivolous activity. He must also behave in specific, deferential ways before the master.Even the sadhaka, by definition interested in obtaining pleasure and power, should behave in appropriate ways, not menacing anyone, begging for food, mentally reciting his mantra, and keeping silence.If he sins voluntarily or involuntarily, such as interacting with a woman, or commits a great sin (mahapataka) such as killing a Brahman, drinking alcohol or having sex with the master' wife, he must do a penance of reciting eleven mantras ten thousand times. Indeed, the sadhaka in the Mrgendra does not appear to be so different from any Saiva ascetic and makes the contrast with the transgressive ascetics of the non-Saiddhantika traditions even more striking.

Observant readers might have noticed that there are very striking similarities with both the Buddhist Tantras as practiced in Tibet and the above plus also with the Daoist mountain schools where the visualizations were said to bring 'immortality'.