Saivam is classified into four stages, Suddha Saivam, Asuddha—Saivam. Marga Saivam and Kadum Suddha Saivam
Suddha Saivar are those who can distinguish between Sat, Asat, and Sadasat, and keep their minds unalterably fixed on Sat. They read what must be read and seek to attain Gnana through the aid of Yoga. Asuddha Saivar engage themselves in Sariyai and Kiriyai, that is, going through preparatory processes such as doing menial service at holy shrines and performing acts of worship. Marga Saivar, who have received correct instruction on ritualistic performances, on theological and metaphysical issues. Yogic exercises etc., are well equipped to grasp the nature of Sadasivam, and are in the state of Sivogam. Kadum-Suddha-Saivar need pay no attention to outward appearances: their Malas are quiescent; they live in beatific state in their contemplation of the divine bliss that is Siva.
Margas are four: Sariyai, Kiriyai Yoga and Gnana. Sariyai shows the way of reaching His feet by worshipping at holy shrines, bathing in holy tanks and rivers etc. Kiriyai is the stage when the Siddhantin is engaged in his sole occupation of performing sacred tasks, when he resolutely sets his face against entangling himself in worldly pursuits. The eight parts of Yoga have already been described. Yoga may also be broadly divided into four stages : Samaya Yoga; Visesha Yoga; Nirvana Yoga Abhisheka Yoga. Samaya Yoga is to ponder over the yogas: Visesha Yoga is to perform them; Nirvana yoga shows the emergence of Sakthi: Abhiseka Yoga is the attainment of Siddhi. Gnana is True Knowledge. Those possessing such knowledge constitute the cream of mankind. Their thinking faculties are ever kept at the highest pitch. (Gnana has four levels: Gnana whithin Gnana, Kiriya within Gnana, Sariya within Gnana and Yoga within Gnana).
Initiation is also fourfold: Gnana Samaya, Gnana Visesha, Gnana Nirmana and Gnana Abhisheka, meaning, respectively, knowledge of the self, knowledge of the world, knowledge of His benevolence and knowledge of Guru
Sariyai is analogous to a servant’s devotion to his master, and is, therefore, styled dasamarga. His functions at this stage are: lighting, scrubbing and cleaning, gathering flowers etc. This type of devotion helps to some extent in dissipating the Pasa. It raises the devotee to the spiritual level of Saloka.
Kiriyai is known as Satputra—marga, and the approach here is that of a son to his father. His functions: Mantra-Japa, systematic and repetitive recitation of certain letters and words of spiritual import; study etc. The spiritual level attained is Sameepa.
Yoga is called Sagamarga, and may be compared to friendship between friends, who share joy and sorrow together. The state attained is Sarupa, that is, the same form as that of Siva.
Gnana is Sanmarga, which means oneness with God, unaffected by Pasa. The state attained is the highest, Saujya (also called Saivam or Sivanandam), the state when the seeker, the sought and the instrument of seeking cease to exist separately as such, and become that which is sought.
Souls that have gone through the above four stages are bestowed with Sakthi-nipatham, the grace of Sakthi (Energy). Sakthi nipatham has four aspects: mandharam, mandham, theeviram and theeviraratham, indicating respectively the stages when Sakthi illumines the soul; when it dwells in the soul; when it enables the soul to solve the riddle of life and death and see God: when it appears as Guru, removes Pasa and makes the soul lie quiescent and formless in the illmitable expanse of space.
There are several systems of thought. Of these, the Saiva Siddhanta system teaches one to comprehend that Siva is God, and to acquire True Knowledge, unlike certain systems which halt on the way and do not reach completeness and perfection of structure and content. God is not accessible to those who become haughty and pride themselves on their vast learning. He showers His grace, however, on those who possess humility and patience. Only such men are genuine aspirants, to whichever persuasion they might belong. For, the same God is the object of all religions and metaphysical systems, and genuine adherents of Saiva Siddhanta accept this proposition. God laughs at fanatics who claim infallibility for their respective systems. It does not matter much if a man belongs to this faith or that; it does not matter if a system dose not possess the virtues claimed for it; what matters most is that one who seeks True knowledge should possess the Spirit of detachment and equanimity, the frame of mind that weighs issues and reaches conclusions with unswerving objectivity.