Hindu Pluralism

by Elaine M. Fisher | 2017 | 113,630 words

This thesis is called Hindu Pluralism: “Religion and the Public Sphere in Early Modern South India”.—Hinduism has historically exhibited a marked tendency toward pluralism—and plurality—a trend that did not reverse in the centuries before colonialism but, rather, accelerated through the development of precolonial Indic early modernity. Hindu plur...

The Practical Applications of Textual Criticism

[Full title: Philology in the Public Sphere: The Practical Applications of Textual Criticism]

Despite their passing preoccupation with lexicons and retroflexes, sixteenth-and seventeenth-century scholars had become increasingly fascinated with the social significance of public sectarian comportment. Markers of membership in a particular sectarian community became the object of new contestation and critical inquiry, and creativity in the hermeneutic feats employed to justify the usage of these insignia rose dramatically. Take, for instance, the practice of applying the tripuṇḍra—three stripes of ash—to the forehead to publicly signal one’s identity as an orthodox Śaiva.

Early modern Smārta-Śaivas, such as Appayya Dīkṣita and Nīlakaṇṭha Dīkṣita, had adopted a line of scriptural defense for the practice of applying the tripuṇḍra that hinges on a striking interpretation of a verse from the Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad, one that has generated as much controversy among seventeenth-century śāstrin s as among contemporary scholars:

By the power of austerity and the grace of god, the learned Śvetāśvatara
Knew brahman and proclaimed to the atyāśramin s that pure Supreme, worshipped by the company of sages.[1]

The key term in this verse is atyāśramin. Many contemporary translators adopt an additive approach to construing this perplexing term, rendering “ati - āśrama,” as “beyond the āśramas,” that is, having transcended the four stages of life.[2] And indeed, speculation from within the Sanskrit knowledge systems seems to justify this interpretation. Advaitin theologians, beginning with Śaṅkarācārya, adopted terms such as atyāśramin to speak of a class of renunciants, often jīvanmukta s (those liberated while alive), who had passed beyond the strictures of the traditional social order.[3] More recently, however, leading scholars of early Śaivism have discovered that the term atyāśrama, in its original usage, in fact is closely associated with a group of Atimārgic Pāśupatas.[4] That is, Śaiva scriptures, as early as the Niśvāsamūlasūtra (ca. fifth century c.e.), speak of two principal subsets of Śaiva lineages: the Atimārga—in subsequent centuries including such groups as the Pāñcārthika Pāśupatas, Kāpālikas, and Kālāmukhas—and the Mantramārga, commonly associated with Āgamic Śaivism (such as the Śaiva Siddhānta). Among the former, initiates are said to adopt a practice known either as the atyāśrama vow (atyāśramavrata) or the Great Pāśupata vow (mahāpāśupatavrata), an observance that later Śaiva exegetes understand quite rightly to involve smearing the entire body in ash (bhasmoddhūlana).

Among Western Indologists, the recovery of this Śaiva sense of atyāśrama—and the religious sensibilities it was intended to evoke—figures among the more noteworthy discoveries of the past decades. Nevertheless, equal credit must be granted to the Smārta-Śaiva philologians of the early modern period, who themselves had recovered the same historical sense of the term atyāśramin, which had fallen into ambiguity for earlier Advaita Vedānta philosophers. Having amassed Upaniṣadic, Purāṇic, and Āgamic citations that contained the troubling term, Smārta polemicists ascertained correctly that the atyāśramavrata and pāśupatavrata were synonymous and involved the practice of smearing the body with ash. By the seventeenth century, however, Nīlakaṇṭha and his colleagues had added a polemical twist to their interpretation of this problematic term, claiming that atyāśrama literally referred not to the smearing of ash but, more specifically, to the prescription to apply the tripuṇḍra to the forehead, the Śaiva sectarian tilaka. By doing so, they had essentially uncovered a Vaidika proof text for a distinctively Śaiva sectarian practice—a practice, in fact, that publicly demarcated one’s identity as an orthodox Śaiva.

Nīlakaṇṭha Dīkṣita explores the matter in some detail in his Saubhāgyacandrātapa, his unpublished manual of Śrīvidyā ritual, outlining the scriptural injunctions for the application of the tripuṇḍra:

In the Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad, it is revealed:

“By the power of austerity and the grace of god, the learned Śvetāśvatara,
knower of brahman, proclaimed to the atyāśramin s that pure Supreme, enjoyed by the company of sages.”[5]

On this matter, at the end of the procedure for applying the tripuṇḍra is revealed the following statement in the Brahmottarakhaṇḍa:

“Supreme gnosis, capable of severing transmigration, belongs to those alone
By whom was practiced long ago this atyāśrama dharma.

The fact that the bearing of the tripuṇḍra is established here to be expressed by the term atyāśrama is corroborated by the following praise of instruction in the knowledge of brahman in the Kālāgnirudropaniṣad, which establishes [the bearing of the tripuṇḍra] as a prerequisite knowledge of brahman:

“He should make three straight lines: this śāmbhava vow is described by the knowers of the Veda in all the Vedas. One who desires liberation should practice it for the cessation of rebirth. Whichever learned celibate student, householder, forest dweller, or ascetic makes such a tripuṇḍra with ash is purified of all unforgivable sins.”[6]

Vaiṣṇavas, as one might imagine, were by no means satisfied with this line of reasoning and took great pains to provide alternative explanations.

Take, for instance, the celebrated Mādhva scholar Vijayīndra Tīrtha, who, in his Turīyaśivakhaṇḍana, expresses some trepidation regarding the prevalent Śaiva interpretation of the term atyāśrama:

“Some people, however, accepting the meaning of the term atyāśrama as stated in the smṛti s on the force of contextualization and so forth, say that it refers to the eligibility for a certain kind of knowledge. Suffice it to say that we will explain when deliberating on the statement from the Atharvaśiras why smearing with ash, bearing the tripuṇḍra, and so forth do not constitute a prerequisite for the knowledge of brahman.”[7]

Vijayīndra Tīrtha, it appears, was well aware of the ground Śaivas sought to gain through their philological endeavors, and had taken steps to counter their claims. By his use of the phrase prakaraṇādivaśāt (on the force of contextualization and so forth), Vijayīndra again appears to prefigure Nārāyaṇācārya in expressing a distrust of Mīmāṃsaka strategies of interpretation, which, as Nārāyaṇācārya had claimed, facilitate counterintuitive—and often simply unreasonable—construals of scripture. By way of reply, he proposes a much more conservative interpretation, founded not on historical precedent but on the strictures of Pāṇinian grammar. Compounded from the prefix ati and a well-known word for the Brahminical stages of life, a term such as atyāśrama, according to Vijayīndra, cannot plausibly be interpreted in a sense so distant from its historical etymological derivation.

Drawing on Pāṇini’s Sūtra 1.04.095 (atir atikramaṇe), he maintains that,

“in the Kaivalya Upaniṣad, the word atyāśrama as well, appearing at the beginning and end of the text, ought reasonably to be construed as referring to the stage of life of the ascetic. It is not reasonable to hope to prove on the strength of even this term that the Kaivalya Upaniṣad is about Śiva.”[8]

And yet Vijayīndra’s words of caution did little to restrain the philological inquiry of his Śaiva opponents; in fact, Śaivas of the next generation would take their inquiry a step further, launching a comprehensive inquiry into the historical attestations of the term atyāśrama in śruti and Purāṇic narrative. Echoing Nīlakaṇṭha’s own position, a remarkably similar argument surfaces perhaps a century later in a lengthy polemical tome titled the Īśavilāsa, composed by one “Appayya Dīkṣita”[9] —most likely not identical with the sixteenth-century polymath of the same name. The author of the Īśavilāsa presents an exhaustive study of the relevant scriptures,[10] establishing from his encyclopedic array of citations that the terms atyāśramavrata, pāśupatavrata, and śirovrata are synonymous, and that they refer to the practice of applying the tripuṇḍra as well as to smearing the body with ash. Building on this philological apparatus, however, he takes his conclusion a step further. This Appayya Dīkṣita arrives at the conclusion that those who wish to know brahman are not only enjoined explicitly by scripture to apply the tripuṇḍra but also expressly forbidden from applying any other sectarian insignia, including the ūrdhvapuṇḍra, the Vaiṣṇava sectarian tilaka.

As our author writes,

“Thus, because the vow of the tripuṇḍra and of the smearing with ash literally prohibits bearing another puṇḍra, the numerous other statements prohibiting the ūrdhvapuṇḍra based on this, found in the Vaśiṣṭha and Liṅga Purāṇas, the Parāśara Upapurāṇa, the Mānava[dharmaśāstra], the Sūtasaṃhitā, and the Sāmba Purāṇa are not written here so as to avoid prolixity.”[11]

Among the verses “Appayya Dīkṣita” cites in defense of his argument is an intriguing narrative episode he unearthed from the Kūrma Purāṇa, in which the sage Śvetāśvatara himself—notorious from the original attestation of atyāśramin in the Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad, described here as the “Mahāpāśupata”[12] —arrives wearing only a loincloth, his body smeared with ash, and instructs King Suśīla in the practice of the atyāśrama vow, which the texts equate with the “entire essence of the Vedas.”[13] From this Kūrma Purāṇa passage, our author concludes the “Pāśupata” and atyāśrama vow refer commonly to a single practice that involves the bearing of ash, mandated by a veritable constellation of reliable scriptures and incumbent on members of all castes who wish to attain knowledge of brahman.[14] While partisan in the extreme, Appayya’s argument speaks to a genuine philological perseverance—a willingness to return straight to the sources to uncover the roots of sectarian practice in his own day and age. This, in fact, is precisely what he discovered. The Kūrma passage in question provides us with a remnant of a Vedicized Pāśupata lineage that derived its own authority from the sage Śvetāśvatara, an ideal figurehead, as the Vaidika scripture named for him provides a genuine defense of Pāśupata Śaivism.[15] As a member of a much later movement of Vaidika Śaivas, “Appayya” came to this same conclusion, marshaling his text-critical analysis in support of the polemical ambitions of his contemporary sectarian community.

Bearing the tripuṇḍra, in other words, was fashioned as a foundational precept of public orthopraxy through the textual inquiries of public philologians. But how would this precept apply to those who had adopted esoteric religious commitments? In other words, among orthoprax Smārta-Śaivas, what mark ought a practitioner of Śrīvidyā to display? Nīlakaṇṭha addresses the issue at some length in his Saubhāgyacandrātapa:

Now one might object: “Bearing the tripuṇḍra applies to worshippers of Śiva, but devotees of the goddess ought not to apply ashes.... If such is argued, then because the tripuṇḍra of ash is prescribed as a component of the worship of Śiva along with the goddess [Sāmba] in the Kaivalyopaniṣad,... and since I myself will establish in the fourth chapter that Śrīvidyā practitioners are in fact worshippers of Śiva along with the goddess, it is absolutely necessary for them as well to apply the tripuṇḍra.

Or, if one were to ask as well whether the restriction to smear one’s body with sandalwood paste ought to be accepted by devotees of the goddess, I say no. For as is well known, one ought to bear whatever signifiers are appropriate to the deity one worships, since the essence of the Tantras enjoins these things: the bearing of garlands of forest flowers and such by Vaiṣṇavas, and the bearing of rudrākṣa s by Śaivas. This principle is known in worldly affairs also, as among the retinue of the king and so forth. Thus, in this instance, devotees of the goddess, known as the “Ornamented Queen,” auspicious by her full ornamentation of yellow sandal paste, ought also to generally adopt such ornamental attire; this is the essence of the Śākta Tantras.... And this attire should not be understood as forbidden to Smārtas.

But, as it is stated in the Kūrma Purāṇa,... attire that unsettles worldly people is forbidden. Whatever attire upsets worldly people in a particular place or at a particular time ought to be abandoned, accepting [attire] insofar as it serves the welfare of the world. Thus, in a region populated by simpletons, one should evoke all of this only mentally—one need not show anything externally. It is with this very intention that the Lalitopākhyāna stated, “Or, mentally visualized ornamentation.”[16]

Nīlakaṇṭha’s concern for public appearances in this passage is striking, and all the more so as he appears to be dialoguing directly with an actual group of Śākta contemporaries who were somewhat more exclusivist in their interpretation of Śākta scripture and, certainly, more overt in their public proclamation of identity. As Nīlakaṇṭha himself, on the other hand, is both a devoted practitioner of Śrīvidyā and a staunchly orthodox Śaiva Brahmin, his aim is to synthesize the two categories to whatever extent possible both in theory and practice. Not only does he believe that Śrīvidyā practitioners ought to comport themselves purely as orthodox Smārta-Śaivas in public, bearing only the tripuṇḍra and adopting no other external display of their identity, but he also goes so far as to make the categorical claim that Śrīvidyā practitioners simply are Smārta-Śaivas by definition.

The tripuṇḍra, as it turns out, was by no means the only sectarian marker that had become an issue of broad public contestation. A similar controversy was generated by the practice of bearing of the signs of Viṣṇu branded on one’s body, or taptamudrādharaṇa, a practice adopted by the Mādhva Vaiṣṇavas that garnered extensive critique both from other Vaiṣṇava traditions and from Smārta-Śaivas. These branded insignia generated a widespread public controversy, as theologians from each camp returned to their scriptures to interrogate the legitimacy of the practice of branding among orthodox, Vedic Hindus. In fact, even Appayya Dīkṣita himself is reputed to have authored a work titled the Taptamudrākhaṇḍana, “The Demolition of Branded Insignia.” One particularly poignant diatribe on the issue was composed by a certain Vijayarāmārya, titled the Pākhaṇḍacapeṭikā (The slap in the face of heretics).

It does not take much perusal to glean something of the vehemence of his stance:

And thus, through recourse to groundless statements that contradict scripture, fabricated by the Mādhvas and others and having the mere semblance of Vedic orthodoxy, fools practice the bearing of branded insignia, their minds deluded by the impressions produced by great sins amassed in previous births. Thus they attain a low caste status; at the end of the cosmic dissolution they will enjoy all the fruits of hell.

And that is precisely why there are a thousand statements existing in various locations that prohibit those with Vedic eligibility to bear branded insignia and prescribe an expiation for bearing them, indicating that hell, and so forth, will result when one fails to perform this expiation. Among these, we exemplify only a sampling.[17]

In short, abstract as they may be on paper, or palm leaf, these philological projects hold major implications for our understanding of the public religious culture of Hindu sectarianism. Whether branded on the arm or smeared on the forehead with ash, sectarian insignia were no small matter for the many southern theologians who were committed to advertising the Vaidika orthodoxy of their chosen sect in public circles. These tilaka s, borne directly on the foreheads of sectarian affiliates, delineate a polarized public space in which dialogical partners move not as equals but as embodied signifiers of their religious identity. Bodily displays of identity—and their associated performances—I suggest, served as a primary point of transference between the realms of theology, as a strictly textual enterprise, and religious culture as enacted by practitioners. As a result, the vast upsurge in interest we witness in philological topics, such as the textual foundations of the tilaka and branding, confront us with the potential ability of theological debate to shift the terrain of religious community formations. Far from constructing a valueneutral space of public exchange, the philological inquiries of Smārta-Śaivas and their rivals visibly demarcated the boundaries between competing sectarian communities. Individuals could instantly distinguish coreligionists from outsiders on the basis of such insignia, which served as indexical signs of one’s community of affiliation. As a result, echoes of the exchanges between Śaiva and Vaiṣṇava scholars have left an indelible impression on the religious landscape of south India, fostering a visual demarcation of religious difference.

What, then, is new—or, one might even say, modern—about the sectarian marks borne by Śaivas and Vaiṣṇavas in the seventeenth century? In fact, such insignia were used to mark the bodies of practitioners of both Brahminical Hinduism and non-Brahminical religions from the earliest stages of Indian history. The tripuṇḍra, for instance, as our Smārta-Śaivas came to recognize, descends directly from the practices of early Pāśupata ascetics, Śaiva renunciants whose ash-covered limbs were instantly emblematic of their social identity. And yet a closer look reveals a crucial shift in the function of bearing ash between the height of Pāśupata asceticism in the early first millennium and the seventeenth century. As renunciants, Pāśupata ascetics engaged in a soteriological practice aimed at liberating the individual soul from the chains of human existence, and the bearing of ash itself was among the tools designed to sever those chains. Pāśupatas chose to bathe in ash and, likewise, to feign insanity, engaging in lewd displays in public places, not to inform outsiders of their identity, but to cultivate a particular state of being divorced from social reality, which, they believed, would lead directly to liberation. In fact, more advanced Pāśupata practitioners were instructed to conceal the signs used to mark the body in order to maintain their internal state without the support of external signifiers. What Pāśupata were engaging in, then, was a process of mimesis—of first imitating, then internalizing the characteristic features of the god Śiva in order to transform the initiate into Śiva himself.

In the Western context, a similar process has been discussed by the theorist Giorgio Agamben, who locates a direct parallel between the outward appearance of early Christian monastics and their spiritual state of being, both represented by the word habitus. Agamben writes,

“To inhabit together thus meant for the monks to share, not simply a place or a style of dress, but first of all a habitus. The monk is in this sense a man who lives in the mode of ‘inhabiting,’ according to a rule and a form of life. It is certain, nevertheless, that cenoby represents the attempt to make habit and form of life coincide in an absolute and total habitus, in which it would not be possible to distinguish between dress and way of life.”78

Much like the Pāśupatas, early Christian monks, according to Agamben, adopted external signifiers, such as the habit, to integrate their way of life with their external appearance. The result, for both, was a personal transformation predicated upon their embodiment, quite literally, of a system of values. In subsequent traditions, however, such as the Franciscan community, theologians began to distinguish between the rules of monastic life, strictures that were meant to be obeyed, and the way of life or inner disposition cultivated as a component of monastic practice. It is this conceptual distinction, Agamben argues, between one’s chosen way of life and the rules one follows in public that laid the foundation for the emergence, in the Western tradition, of the idea of public space. This shared public space, in Enlightenment Europe, came to be governed by a common set of rules, adhered to by all participants regardless of their inner convictions. In the Hindu context, early Pāśupata theologians would have found such a concept completely antithetical to the aims of their soteriological practice. And yet this idea of public space is not so distant from the religious public that seventeenth-century Śaiva theologians aimed to cultivate through their public theology.

In essence, there was something distinctly new about the role that sectarian markers, such as the tilaka, played in defining the boundaries of public space. Unlike in the European case, however, we can speak most accurately not of a public sphere but of publics in the plural, as theologians of each community took initiative in reshaping the rules that governed public engagement of devotees and their interactions with those outside the tradition. With this distinction in mind, we begin to find a resolution to the contrast with which we began the present chapter: namely, the bifurcation of Nīlakaṇṭha’s religious commitments, privately a devotee of the goddess, publicly a proponent of Smārta-Śaiva orthodoxy. To be a practitioner of Śrīvidyā had little impact on the public comportment of an orthodox Śaiva Hindu, in the mind of Smārta-Śaiva theologians such as Nīlakaṇṭha Dīkṣita. One could bear the tripuṇḍra, the Śaiva tilaka, in public while maintaining one’s personal devotion to the goddess as foundational to one’s sense of religious identity.

But if the public theology of the seventeenth century was in fact something new, was it also in any meaningful sense modern? The religious publics shaped by Nīlakaṇṭha and his colleagues are just that—religiously inflected public spaces defined almost exclusively by practices most scholars would consider decidedly religious in nature. In the canons of classical theory, however, modernity is habitually associated with a teleological trajectory of secularization, such that the terms public and secular have become prescriptively equated with each other in Western discourse. Even in more recent years, theorists have attempted to define the singularity of modernity, epitomized by the European Enlightenment, as founded upon the limitation of religion in public space. Take, for instance, the work of Charles Taylor (2007), who contends that “almost everyone” would characterize our moment in time as a fundamentally secular age, regardless of one’s geographical and cultural point of reference. The secularity of a society, Taylor argues, may imply a virtual evacuation of religion from public space; or in some cases, it may imply the establishment of a socially sanctioned option to eschew belief in a higher power or participation in religious ritual, an option exercised by a significant percent of the population. And yet in the context of early modern India, as well as India today, the character and function of public space diverges sharply from either of these criteria.

In the post-Enlightenment Western world, an individual is said to engage with the larger social world as an unmarked citizen, a position of agency unaltered by the individual’s identity, whether social, cultural, or religious. While this concept of the universal individual has rightly come under fire by Western theorists in recent decades, it is safe to say that, in India, one typically engages with society not as an unmarked but as a marked citizen, qualified by features of caste, gender, regional, and religious identity. In south India, by wearing a Śaiva tilaka, a person visibly marks himself as a participant in a certain religious public, as one who is likely to frequent certain temples, observe certain festivals, and accept the authority of certain sacred texts. It tells us little, however, about other aspects of his religious identity, aspects that may prove more integral to understanding his conception of the world or the experience of the divine he professes. It tells us little about the personal ritual practices he has adopted to structure his daily life, or about the saints or deities with whom he cultivates a particular relationship. In the case of Nīlakaṇṭha Dīkṣita, his public appearance would tell us nothing about his devotional relationship with his preceptor, Gīrvāṇendra Sarasvatī, or about the Śrīvidyā Tantric ritual he practiced to bring about a union with the divine in the form of the goddess Lalitā Tripurasundarī.

Thus, while themselves cultivating a particular devotional experience, theologians such as Nīlakaṇṭha worked in public circles to constitute the boundaries of a community of marked individuals: Śaivas in public, but very possibly something else in the privacy of their homes. What, then, do scholars of religion have to gain by understanding this layering of public and private religion, a key feature of Hindu religious identity since the early modern centuries? These religious publics, shaped by sectarian Hindu communities, point to an important qualification for our efforts to define Hinduism as a unitary religion. By examining the emergence of the distinct religious publics of early modern south India, I aim to demonstrate that in a fundamental sense, Hinduism has not been homologized. With its multiple religious publics coexisting in the same geographic space, and with its division between public and private modes of religiosity, Hinduism is a religion structured around diversity and bifurcated identities. In modern Indian society, these multiple religious publics make room for difference not by erasing religion in the public sphere but by publicizing it, so to speak, to facilitate the coexistence of diverse realities. The Smārta-Śaiva tradition, in short, epitomizes a popular adage, circulated for centuries, that encapsulates the multilayered experience of Hindu religious identity: “A Vaiṣṇava in public, a Śaiva in the home, a Śākta in the heart”.

Footnotes and references:


tapaḥprabhāvād devaprasādāc ca brahma ha śvetāśvataro ‘tha vidvān | atyāśramibhyaḥ paramaṃ pavitraṃ provāca samyagṛṣisaṃghajuṣṭam || (ŚvetUp 6.21)


For instance, Patrick Olivelle (1996, 265) translates the verse in question as follows: “By the power of his austerities and by the grace of God, the wise Śvetāśvatara first came to know brahman and then proclaimed it to those who had passed beyond their order of life as the highest means to purification that brings delight to the company of seers.”


See Olivelle (1993, 222–234), for a thorough discussion of the concept of transcending the varṇāśrama system in Advaita Vedānta. The term atyāśramin itself rarely occurs in these Advaita Vedānta sources, although a handful of intriguing usages occur in the work of Śaṅkarācārya himself, who does interpret the term as “one who has transcended the āśrama s.” Other theologians, whom Olivelle cites, often use alternative terms such as ativarṇāśramin, a word that itself reveals the exegetical work it has been poised to accomplish in its modification from the original. We can observe that, by the time of Vedānta Deśika, opponents of Smārta-Śaivas had begun to return to the original term atyāśramin, advancing the interpretation of Śaṅkarācārya, astonishingly, in order to counter his Śaiva interlocutors who had recovered an understanding of word’s original meaning.


On the history of the terms Atimārga and Mantramārga, and on the attested usages of the term atyāśramavrata, see Alexis Sanderson (2006, 156–164). The Niśvāsamūla, as well as the Svacchanda Tantra, employ a model in which five principal streams of religious practice emerge from the five faces of Śiva: in graded hierarchy from lowest to highest, the Laukika, Vaidika, Ādhyātmika (i.e., Sāṃkhya and Yoga), Atimārga, and Mantramārga.


As is noted in the Sanskrit original below, Nīlakaṇṭha’s treatment of this verse preserves a variant reading from the one cited above.


śvetāśvataropaniṣadi śrūyate—tapaḥprabhāvād devaprasādāc ca b rahmavic chvetāśva-taro ‘tha vidvān | atyāśramibhyaḥ paramaṃ pavitraṃ provāca samyagṛṣisaṃghajuṣṭam || iti. tatra tripuṇḍravidhānānte śrūyamāṇe—ayam atyāśramo dharmo yaiḥ samācaritaḥ purā | eṣām eva paraṃ jñānaṃ saṃsārachedakāraṇam || iti brahmottarakhaṇḍavacanenātyāśr amaśabdavācyatayā siddhaṃ tripuṇḍradhāraṇam anūdya brahmavidyopadeśakīrtanena tad uktaṃ brahmavidyāṅgatvasiddhau—tiryak tisro rekhāḥ prakurvīta vratam etac chāmbhavaṃ sarvavedeṣu vedavādibhir uktam. tatsamācaren mumukṣur apunarbhavāya. yad etat tripuṇḍraṃ bhasmanā karoti yo vidvān brahmacārī gṛhī vānaprastho yatir vā samastamahāpātakopapātakebhyaḥ pūto bhavatīti.


kecit tu smṛtyuktarītyā atyāśramaśabdārtham aṅgīkṛtya tatsthasya prakaraṇādivaśād vidyāviśeṣe ‘dhikāram āhuḥ. yathā ca bhasmoddhūlanatripuṇḍradhāraṇādīnāṃ na brahmavidyāmātrāṅgatvaṃ tathā ‘tharvaśirovākyavicāre vakṣyāma ity alam. Turīyaśivakhaṇḍana, pg. 53.


kaivalyaśrutāv upakramopasaṃhāragatātyāśramiśabdo ‘pi yatyāśramapara eva yukta iti na tadbalenāpi kaivalyaśruteḥ prasiddhaśivaparatvāśāyuktā. suḥ pūjāyām atir atikramaṇe ca iti hi pāṇinisūtram. Turīyaśivakhaṇḍana, pgs. 52–53.


This work (see Īśavilāsa, TR. No. 291) is traditionally ascribed to one “Appayya Dīkṣita” but is not generally accepted as one of the works of the sixteenth-century polymath. It is certainly possible that the text was composed by one of his descendants, many of whom adopted the same title as their nom de plume.


Sources cited include the Atharvaśiras, Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad, Kālāgnirudropaniṣad, Muṇḍaka Upaniṣad, Kaivalya Upaniṣad, Kūrma Purāṇa, and numerous others.


evaṃ tripuṇḍroddhūlanavratena arthād eva puṇḍrāntaraniṣedhāt tanmūlakāni ca ūrdhva puṇḍraniṣedhakavākyāni vāsiṣṭha-laiṅgaparāśaropapurāṇa-mānava-sūtasaṃhitā-sā mbapurāṇādiṣu bahutarāṇi vistarabhayān na likhitāni. Īśavilāsa, fol. 385.


The term Mahāpā ś upata in early Śaiva often refers to practitioners of the Kāpālika lineage or, in this instance, may distinguish the Pāśupatas in question from the Lākulīśa Pāśupatas. Because of the Vedicized inflection in this passage, it is not likely that this is in fact a Kāpālika source. See for instance Sanderson (1991, 3). The term appears in Śaiva sources as early as the Niśvāsamūla.


athāsminn antare ‘paśyan samāyāntaṃ mahāmunim | śvetāśvataranāmānaṃ mahāpāśupatottamam || bhasmasandigdhasarvāṅgakaupīnāc chādanānvitam | tapa sākarṣitātmānaṃ śuddhayajñopavītinam || śiṣyatve pratijagrāha tapasākṣīṇakalmaṣaṃ | so ‘nugṛhya ca rājānaṃ suśīlaṃ śīlasaṃyutam || [emended from śilaṃ saṃyutam] sānyāsikaṃ vidhiṃ kṛtsnaṃ kārayitvā vicakṣaṇaḥ | dadau tadaiśvaraṃ jñānaṃ svaśākhāvihitaṃ vratam || aśeṣavedasāraṃ tat paśupāśavimocanam | atyāśramam iti khyātaṃ brahmādibhir anuṣṭhitam || (Īśavilāsa, pg. 379). I cite here the readings of the author of the Īśavilāsa, rather than those of any published edition of the Kūrma Purāṇa. The passage in question is KP 1.13.31–38.


The passage in question is slightly corrupted, but the sense is clear: bhasmadhāraṇasya purāṇābhipretatvād atyāśramapāśupatavratayoḥ samānaprayogatvāvagamād ekaphalāvacchinnaikaprayogasaṃbandhino brahmavidyādhikārī phalayor muṇḍaka-kaivalyavākyābhyāṃ pratyabhijñānānūṇḍakaivalyātharvaśiraḥśvetāśvatarakālāgnirudropaniṣadvihitānāṃ śirovratapāśupatavrata-atyāśramavratānām ekatvam avagamyate. I suggest emending it to: brahmavidyādhikāritvaphalayoḥ, and pratyabhijñānāṃ muṇḍakavailyātharvaśiraḥ-.


This Kūrma Purāṇa passage has been discussed by Mark Dyczkowski (1989, 24) as evidence for an early Vedic lineage of Pāśupatas who opposed themselves to more antinomian traditions.


nanu bhavet tv etat tripuṇḍradhāraṇaṃ śivopāsakānām. ambikopāsakānāṃ tu nedaṃ bhasmadhāraṇaṃ kartavyam.... iti ced ucyate kaivalyopaniṣadi.... iti sāmbavidyāṅgatvena bhasmatripuṇḍravidhānāt, śrīvidyopāsakānāṃ ca sāmbaśivopāsakatvasyāsmābhir eva caturthaparicchede ‘py avasthāpayiṣyamāṇatvena teṣām apy āvaśyakam eva bhasmatripuṇḍradhāraṇam.... nanv evam api kim ambikopāsakānāṃ candanāṅgarāgādiniyama ādaraṇīyaḥ, neti brūmaḥ. tathā hi yo yaddevatopāsanas tena taddevatālāñchanavatā bhavitavyam iti hi tantrāṇāṃ hṛdayaṃ yato vidadhaty etāni—vaiṣṇavānāṃ vanamālādidhāraṇam, śaivānāṃ rudrākṣadhāraṇaṃ ca. rājabhṛtyādiṣu cāyaṃ nyāyo lokānām api vidita eva. tad iha śṛṅgāranāyiketisamākhyādivyāpitasakalaśṛṅgāramaṅgalāyā bhagavatyā upāsakair api śṛṅgāraveṣaprāyair bhavitavyam iti śāktatantrāṇāṃ hṛdayam.... sa ca veṣaḥ smartṛbhir aniṣiddha eva grāhyaḥ. kūrmapurāṇe—... ityādinā lokodvegakaraṃ veṣaṃ niṣedhantīti. yasmin deśe yasmin kāle yena veṣeṇa lokā udvijante tatra tatra taṃ parityajya lokasaṅgraho yāvatā bhavati tāvad eva grāhyam. ataḥ pāmarabahule loke manasaiva sarvaṃ saṃbhāvanīyam. na kiñcid bahiḥ prakāśanīyam. idam evābhipretyoktaṃ lalitākhyāne—saṃkalpabhūṣaṇo vāpīti.


evaṃ ca vaidikābhāsamādhvādikalpitaśrutiviruddhanirmūlavākyāvalambanena pūrvopārjitamahāpāpajanitasaṃskārasammohitadhiyo mūḍhās taptamūdrādharaṇaṃ kurvantītyāhāntyajatvam upagamyate pralayānte sakalanarakabhogabhājino bhavanti. ata eva vedādyadhikāriṇāṃ taptamudrāniṣedhakaṃ taddharaṇe prāyaścittavidhāyakaṃ prāyascittānanuṣṭhāne narakādibodhakaṃ vacanasahasraṃ tatra tatropalabhyate tatra diṅmātraṃ pradarśayāmaḥ (Pākhaṇḍacapeṭikā, pg. 2). Devoted entirely to demolishing the practice of branding on the basis of scriptural precedent, the Pākhaṇḍacapeṭikā, although preserved today in manuscripts housed in Calcutta, shows enormous influence from southern strategies of sectarian debate. As the issue of taptamudrā concerned southern theologians as well, it must be concluded that the author was either a southerner himself or directly influenced by formative models of sectarian debate developed in south India 78. Giorgio Agamben, The Highest Poverty, 16.

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