Saiva Siddhanta Church

Saiva Siddhanta Church
(est. 1957)
   Founded in 1957 in San Francisco, California, by Satguru SUBRAMUNIYASWAMI (1927–2001), the Saiva Siddhanta Church promotes temple worship and propagates the teachings of SHAIVITE Hindu-ism through a temple/school complex.
   The church serves Shaivism worldwide by initiating monks, publishing the writings of Sub-ramuniyaswami and other Shaivite teachers, lead-ing pilgrimages to holy sites of Shaivism, and promoting the study of Hinduism among Hindus and non-Hindus. Since 1957, centers have been established throughout the world. The Sri Subra-muniya Ashram in Alaveddy, Sri Lanka, begun in 1949 by Subramuniyaswami, serves the needs of the Shaivite community near Jaffna.
   In the first years of the church in San Fran-cisco, monastics lived in apartments near the church on Sacramento Street and were self-sup-porting. Later, as the church grew, monks were able to live lives of cloistered study.
   At their inception, the temple and school in San Francisco offered Hindu education through classes taught by Subramuniyaswami. The church transcribed and printed the lectures and sermons of their leader and disseminated these in a series of lessons, called the San Marga Master Course. As part of its mission to promote contemporary understanding of Shaivism’s scriptures and teach-ings, the church also established the Himalayan Academy, its publishing house. Today the SAN-NYASIS (renunciants) of the church design, typeset, and illustrate the publications of the Himalayan Academy in Kapaa, Hawaii.
   Temple worship is fundamental to Shaivite practice and has been central in the history of the church. Worshippers are encouraged to develop devotion (BHAKTI) to the congregation in each family’s shrine room, and in daily life. In addi-tion to the Ganesha Temple, dedicated in 1957 in San Francisco, California, Subramuniyaswami founded Kadavul Hindu Temple at Kauai Aad-heenam on the island of Kauai on March 12, 1973. A number of images of deities from the Shaivite tradition are in the temples, and PUJA is celebrated several times each day. All major Shaivite festival days are observed through the year.
   Publications include a partial translation in American English of Saint Tiruvalluvar’s Tiru-kural, a book on Lord GANESHA, a progressive four-part series of premonastic and monastic vows concluding with the vow of SANNYAS (total renun-ciation), and a catechism and creed for Shaivite Hindus, which are Lessons One and Two of the San Marga Master Course.
   In the early years of the church, families lived largely in and around the city of San Francisco, but, with increasing publications and dissemina-tion of the teaching, the church has expanded to other areas, including Hawaii, Canada, and New York. As of 1980, two Dharmasalas, formally organized groups of church families, were in exis-tence—one in Flushing, New York, and the other in San Francisco, California. Following the pat-terns of the American church structure, members of the Dharmasala work together to strengthen their lives through education, religious obser-vance, shared culture, and economic cooperation. Their organization is overseen by a senior group of elders and a council on ministries.
   A core group of church members formed in Alaveddy, Sri Lanka, the site of Subramuniyas-wami’s first ASHRAM. The ashram serves the Sri Lankan community through its children’s school of religion, English classes, courses in Shaivite culture, and a full-fledged religious and cultural center for adults. At present, the church has mem-bers in many countries, including England, Mau-ritius, Canada, Sri Lanka, Thailand, India, South Africa, and Australia. The entire church member-ship now is made up of approximately 70 percent born Shaivites and 30 percent converts.
   Further reading: Hinduism Today (1979–present); Sat-guru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, Dancing with Siva: Hinduism’s Contemporary Catechism (Concord, Calif.: Himalayan Academy, 1993); ———, Loving Ganesa: Hinduism’s Endearing Elephant-Faced God (Kapaa, Hawaii: Himalayan Academy, 1996); ———, Merging with Siva: Hinduism’s Contemporary Metaphysics (Kapaa, Hawaii: Himalayan Academy, 1999).

Encyclopedia of Hinduism. . 2007.

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