By Jayaram V
There are two fundamental approaches to the worship of
Lord Shiva, the right hand method and the left hand method. In the
right hand method, Shiva is worshipped in the most traditional manner
with prayers, chants, offerings of flower, water, light, incense,
honey, milk, sandal paste, saffron, clothing, and food. The methods
are very similar to the ones practiced in the Vedic tradition by
the Vaikhasanas and Pancaratras.
Although in some right hand methods substances such as ashes
from the graveyards, etc., are used, the approach is more Vedic
than tantric and confirm to the prevailing social norms. In some
cases, the worshippers use substitute material in place of forbidden
substances to perform the worship.
The most ancient sect of Saivism which follow the right methods
of worship is known as Adiva Saiva sect. Members of this sect do
not wear Sivalingas on their bodies. They also cremate the dead
bodies according to the Vedic injunctions. Although the priests
belonging to this sect who perform the worship of Shiva on the Saiva
temples are called Shiva Brahmanas, they may actually come from
different castes, and not necessarily from Brahmana caste only.
The left hand methods of worship are extreme in nature and followed
only by a very limited number of followers in tantric traditions
of Saivism. Some of them are extremely disgusting and generally
despised by the public. For example, some Aghoris eat excrement
as part of their penance and indulge in antisocial behavior. In
the more formal methods of tantric rituals, worshippers offer panca
makaras, the five forbidden substances, namely, meat, liquor, sexual
intercourse, parched grain and fish.
Saivism considers devotional worship and services secondary and
preparatory for liberation, compared to the more superior methods
which involve the use of knowledge, yoga and meditation. Tantric
spiritual methods of worship (sadhana) involve the following well
known practices: initiation (diksha), chanting of sacred mantras
(mantra), use of mystic symbols and drawings (yantras), special
hand postures (mudras), postures (asanas), concentration and meditation
(dhyana), the use of trance inducing substances, energy transference
(shaktipat), and similar methods.
Suggested Further Reading