The term shastra (śāstra) is used in all Hindu traditions to signify any holy book or scripture. The term is derived from the root śās which means to rule, to command or to govern. From a religious perspective, this is a most appropriate term and derivation because it is the holy scriptures that instruct us on correct behavior and guide us onto the right path.
In Shaivism, the term shastra (śāstra) and its derivation take on an additional layer of meaning, especially when applied to the Shaiva Agamas. If one examines the Shaiva Agamas, one finds that almost all of them are in the form of a divine dialog where Shiva is the Guru, who imparts the doctrines unto a shishya (disciple). Many-a-times the shishya is Shakti, but in other cases the shishya may be Kartikeya, Garuda, Vishnu, Rudra, a blessed Rishi or Deva, etc. Though the format of the Agamas is a divine interlocution, it is always made clear that the teaching is meant for us. This is especially apparent because the questions posed by the disciple in earnest are those that are pertinent to us, to foster our understanding, practice and ritual. As every instruction in the Shaiva Agamas is given by Shiva Himself, He is the primal Guru and all the Agama Shastras are His divine teachings. Every ritual, every philosophy, every belief, every doctrine, every practice, every word of the Agama (śāstra) is a command (śās) to us from the Lord.
For Shaivites, therefore, the entire religion of Shiva with all its branches, the whole of Shaiva Agamic canon and theological-philosophical tradition is Shiva-Shasana (Śiva-Śāsana), the Commandment of Shiva. It is for this reason that we honor our Agamas so highly, and consider them on par with the Vedas, and never inferior to the latter. The Vedas are His breaths, the Agamas are His words. Just as in chanting, the words (mantras) ride on the breaths (see: The Unchanted Mantra), so the glorious tradition of the Shaiva Agamas rides on the holy tradition of the Vedas.
Never may we forget the Commandment of Shiva!
Aum Namah Shivaya.Agnideva © 2008. All rights reserved.