Ritual in an Oscillating Universe

Ritual in an Oscillating Universe: Worshipping Siva in Medieval India

Richard H. Davis
Copyright Date: 1991
Pages: 216
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    Ritual in an Oscillating Universe
    Book Description:

    Saiva liturgy is performed in a world that oscillates: a world permeated by the presence of Siva, where humans live in a condition of bondage and where the highest aim of the soul is to attain liberation from its fetters. In this account of Indian temple ritual, Richard Davis uses medieval Hindu texts to describe the world as it is envisioned by Saiva siddhanta and the way daily worship reflects and acts within that world. He argues that this worship is not simply a set of ritualized gestures, but rather a daily catechism in which the worshiper puts into action all the major themes of Saiva philosophy: the cyclic pattern of cosmic emission and reabsorption, the human path of attaining liberation, the manifestation of divinity in the world, and the proper interrelationship of humanity and god. In re-creating the convictions and intentions of a well-versed worshiper of the twelfth century, Davis moves back and forth between philosophical and ritual texts, demonstrating the fundamental Saiva belief that the capacities of humans to know about the world and to act within it are two inter-related modalities of the unitary power of consciousness.

    Originally published in 1991.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6238-2
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Abbreviations
    (pp. xv-2)
  7. INTRODUCTION Locating the Tradition
    (pp. 3-21)

    This is a study of the inner world of the Hindu temple: the world, that is, constructed and acted upon by the priests who perform the liturgical rounds that animate and maintain a temple as a living place of worship. To comprehend this world, we will reenact the central ritual of temple Hinduism, seeking as we do to reconstruct as well the metaphysical setting within which this ritual makes sense and from which it derives its efficacy for those who perform it.

    “Daily worship” (pūjā, nityapūjā) is the ubiquitous Hindu ritual form by which devotees of a divinity regularly offer...

  8. CHAPTER ONE Ritual and Human Powers
    (pp. 22-41)

    Śaiva ritual is grounded in and grows out of the world that is known metaphysically through Śaiva siddhānta philosophy. It is within this world that the worshiper acts ritually. Accordingly, we must begin our reenactment of pūjā by comprehending in a preliminary manner how that world is fashioned: its fundamental constituents, the situation of human beings within it, the most important goals of human endeavor, and how purposeful action such as ritual may enable one to gain these goals. This preliminary description delineates a Śaiva “theory” of ritual, or, to put it more accurately, a matrix of propositions that constitute...

  9. CHAPTER TWO Oscillation in the Ritual Universe
    (pp. 42-74)

    The universe oscillates. It comes and goes, emerges and disappears. This is a basic cosmological tenet for many schools of Hindu thought: the universe as we know it undergoes an endless cycle of creations and destructions. Within each cycle, the cosmos begins as an undifferentiated “something” from which evolves, in orderly sequence, the multiplicity of creation that we see all around us. In time the cosmos exhausts itself, and all this multiplicity merges once again into its undifferentiated source. A period of cessation or sleep follows, and then the cosmos begins its evolution again in the next cycle. In this...

  10. Plates
    (pp. 75-82)
  11. CHAPTER THREE Becoming a Śiva
    (pp. 83-111)

    The fundamental goal for the Śaivite, as for adherents of many other Hindu systems of thought, is to attainmokṣa(“final liberation”), the highest state of being that can be achieved by the human soul. For Śaiva philosophy, the central drama of the cosmos is that of the human soul, immersed in a state of bondage, moving gradually towardmokṣathrough Śiva’s grace. All else revolves around this. The entire oscillating universe, say the texts, is emitted and reabsorbed just to facilitate the soul’s progress toward liberation. All of Śiva’s five fundamental activities are oriented to enabling the soul to...

  12. CHAPTER FOUR Summoning the Lord
    (pp. 112-136)

    The Lord Śiva is not limited the way we humans are. Theological descriptions of Śiva emphasize that the many limitations we experience as embodied human beings in a state of bondage do not in any way affect Śiva. Human beings are limited in time; Śiva is eternal, without beginning, middle, or end. Our human bodies are confined in space; Śiva is pervasive, omnipresent. Aspaśus,we are constrained by fetters; Śiva is eternally withoutmala,liberated without beginning. Humans are characteristically agitated by psychic disturbances, alternately attracted and repulsed by the things of the world; Śiva is completely calm. We...

  13. CHAPTER FIVE Relations of Worship
    (pp. 137-162)

    “The worship of Śiva consists in delivering over to a Śiva-liṅga or the like purified substances according to one’s own volition, with faith, and accompanied by activities of mind, speech, and body, such as particularly meditations, mantra recitations, andmudrās, and accompanied also by the various auxiliaries of worship preceding and following it” (ŚSPbhp. 37). As in many Hindu schools of ritual, the Śaiva author Sūryabhaṭṭa defines pūjā by its core action: the “delivering over” (samarpaṇa) or “presentation” (dāna) of substances to the god. He regards other ritual actions such as self-purification and invocation, which have occupied our attention...

    (pp. 163-164)

    In the final section of theŚivapurāṇa,after the wind-god Vāyu has given the eager sages of the Naimiṣa forest preliminary instruction in theśivajñāna,he concludes his discourse with a statement about the character of knowledge.

    Knowledge is said to be of two types, indirect (parokṣa,literally “beyond one’s own sight”) and direct. Indirect knowledge is unstable, they say, while direct knowledge is very firm. Knowledge acquired through reasoning and instruction is considered indirect knowledge; direct knowledge will arise through the most excellent practice of ritual. Deciding that you cannot obtainmokṣawithout direct knowledge, you should exert yourselves...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 165-180)
  16. Glossary
    (pp. 181-188)
  17. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 189-194)
  18. Index
    (pp. 195-200)