God is a spiritual Being without any form or shape. This is a truth accepted by all religions; but I cannot say if this truth is explained by them all.
Name and form pertain to the plane of limitation, and the unlimited God who transcends that plane cannot therefore be said to have any name or form. Form does not mean only a visible body. Electricity cannot be said to have any visible body, still it cannot be said that it is without any form. Forms may be said to be of two kinds – sensible and insensible forms. Sensible forms are those that can be comprehended by our senses and insensible forms are those that cannot be so comprehended. Anyhow both are forms, and they are known in Tamil a
மூர்த்தம். Whether sensible or insensible, every form is a feature of limitation, and this cannot be predicted of God. Not only name and form, but thought and action are themselves features of limitation which belong to the Mayavic plane, and cannot therefore be attributed to God. In fact no thought or action is possible without form, and every thought or action implies a form. God is beyond the Mayavic plane in His transcendent nature and He cannot therefore be said to have any name or form, or thought or action.
But the Jagat or the universe shews ample signs of Divine energy and design without it is altogether impossible to postulate the existence of the Jagat. So that, here are two facts opposed to each other. On the one hand we have it that God cannot think or act, and on the other hand we have it that without His will and action the existence of the Jagat cannot be accounted for. It must also be noted in this connection that if God is beyond the range of limitation without any name or form, or thought or action He can be of very little use to the conditioned Souls. What then is the solution of this difficult problem?
According to the Saiva Siddhanta, although God is beyond the limitation of thought and action, still the effects of His influence over Maya is such that by influence, the whole Jagat evolves out of Maya and moves in His grand presence. This influence of God is referred to as His Sakti in order to discriminate His transcendent nature from the effect of that nature on Jagat. The transcendent nature of God is known as His சொரூபலக்கணம், while the effect of that nature on Jagat is known as His தடத்தலக்கணம். Although God is transcendent and infinite, He is at the same time Gracious and Blissful, and the effect of this Grace and Bliss must certainly be seen on the conditioned Souls according to their own capacity. It is this effect that is known as SIVA-RUPA to the conditioned souls.
It is highly essential that the effect of Divine Grace should be clearly seen or fully realized by the souls in order to be benefitted thereby. They may not of course be able to see the transcendent nature of God, or what we may call His சொரூபலக்கணம், but they must necessarily see the influence of that transcendent nature on themselves. It is in order to enable the souls so to see the influence of the Divine Grace, that Grace manifests itself at the beginning of every cycle of creation, and it is this manifestation that is propounded by the scriptures as SIVA-RUPAM.
When at the beginning of a cycle, the Gracious influence of the transcendent or Suddha Siva starts to manifest itself in a very very subtle manner, it is called Sivam. When this Sivam exhibits signs of activity, it is called Sakti – the second stage. When the influence of this Sakti reflects on the primordial element called Suddha Maya, the sound principle called Nadam or vibration exhibits itself. This is the seed or germ of all name or Nama, that is otherwise known as Sabdappirapancha. From this germ of name evolved the germ of form or Rupa which is known as Bindhu. These four forms of Sivam, Sakti, Nadam and Bindhu are known as the Arupa forms or shapeless forms of Siva. The fifth form called Sathakkaia then manifested itself, combining in it the principles of both name and form, and this manifestation is said to be Ruparupam or quasi form and is known as Pranava or the seed of all material forms with name and form. From this quasi form of Pranava evolved the fully developed form of Mahesvara, from Him Rudra, from Him Vishnu, and from Him Brahma – each form being grosser than the preceding one. The four fully developed forms of Brahma, Vishnu, Rudra and Mahesvara are called Rupa manifestations of the Divine grace and are the agents of the four actions of creation, preservation, dissolution and obscuration, while the fifth action of bestowal of grace belongs to the quasi form of Sadasiva or Sathakkia.
The influence of the transcendent nature of God, or in other words, the effect of His grace on the conditioned souls, shews itself out in nine different forms of varied stages and are called by the Siddhanta school as the Nava Bedam of the Divine manifestation.
Siva Rupam may again be found essential for the evolution of the Jagat. God is absolute and all-in-all, and there cannot be anything outside Him. Every atom exists in Him, and as such everything must proceed from Him. In order to impress this truth on the conditioned souls, Siva assumed a form, and issued the whole Jagat out of that form. The form so assumed by Him is the Siva Rupa known as Siva Linga and this is the origin of all material world.
Siva Rupa is again necessary for the salvation of souls in various ways, and every religion may be found to speak of some Divine incarnation or other of the Great God in the interests of the souls under His care.
Says the Saiva Siddhanta:-
படைப்பாதித் தொழிலும் பந்தர்க்கருளும் பாவனையுநூலும்,
அடைப்பானாமதுவுமுத்தியளித்திடு மியோகும் பாசந்
துடைப்பானாமதுவுமேனி தொடக்கானேற் சொல்லொணாதே.
Conditioned as we are, we certainly require a medium in the shape of a Divine manifestation to serve us as a ladder to the unconditioned state, and such a manifestation may be found indispensable for the five actions of God performed in the interest of the conditioned souls.
It must, however, be understood that the form assumed by God is not one of flesh and bones as ours are, nor is it subject to hunger and thirst, lust and passion. That form itself is beyond the Mahavic plane and the three Gunas of limitation known as Rajas, Tamas and Satva cannot be heard of in that form. That form is one of pure Grace, and every portion of that form is a transformation of our Lords unlimited LOVE.
உருவருள் குனங்களோடு முணர்வரு ளுருவிற்றோன்றுங்,
தருமருளுபாங்க மெல்லாந் தானரு டனக்கொன்றின்றி,
அருளுருவு யிருக்கென்றே யாக்குவனசிந்தனன்றே.