Lakulisha-Pashupata (Philosophy and Practice)

by Geetika Kaw Kher | 2012 | 86,751 words

This study discusses the dynamics between the philosophy and practice in the Lakulisha-Pashupata order. According to the cave temples of Elephanta and Jogesvari (Jogeshwari), Lakulisa was the 28th incarnation of Shiva, and Pashupata Shaivism his doctrine, of which the Pasupatasutra represents the prominent text detailing various ritual practices (v...

Overall Structure and Methodological considerations

Pre Lakulisa Pasupata developments

Before one starts to ask questions about Lakulisa and the order founded by him one needs to look into any possible precedents of Pasupata thought. Embarking on this journey one encounters an intriguing character “Srikantha”, who is considered as the original founder of Pasupata school. In later traditions he is completely deified that his having been human being has been questioned by various scholars. We should remember it is the same tradition which has deified Lakulisa to an extent that scholars had to go to great lengths to assert his humanity.

R.G.Bhandarkar who along with D.R Bhandarkar played a great role in bringing the Lakulisa-Pasupata school to forefront and pleaded that Lakulisa was a human teacher,somehow for whatever reasons best known to him downplayed the humanity of Srikantha. He rather considered him an incarnation of Lord Siva and only one of the nomenclatures used for the Lord in Lakulisa-Pasupata system.

He remarks[1] :

Lakula was the general name by which the Saiva sects were called …this general name has for its basis the historical fact that a person of the name of Lakulin or Lakulisa founded a Saiva system corresponding to the Pancharatra system which the Vayu and Linga Puranas consider to be contemporaneous with it”.

But the tradition preserved in authoritarian texts[2] like Tantraloka,Sivadrishti, the Brihadyamala, Pingalamata and Siva Purana have a different story to tell. Tantraloka mentions Srikantha and Lakulisa as only two authorities on Siva Sasana and Srikantha as a unique teacher on the earth. Further it mentions a text “Mangalya Sastra” in which Srikantha discussed the nature of Sakti and Saktiman.

Hence to assert that the Pasupata order existed before Lakulisa, I have dedicated a small section to Srikanthacarya who comes across as a great authority on Siva Sasana.

For my enquiry this section is of tremendous importance because it roots Lakulisa in an existing tradition and provided important insights in its connection with Tantrik and Siddha tradition which will be thoroughly explored in the second chapter. All these examples go on to prove that the seeds of Pasupata thought or order were already sown probably much before Lakulisa emerged. Yet the importance that the latter got in the system points at him as being a very influential and unificatory factor, a systematize of sorts, someone who managed to create a theology, philosophy and practices which had its own separate body of literature. His significance lies in providing a framework to what appears to have been a complex and scattered system and this is clear by the didactic and strict approach that the aphorisms of the Pasupata Sutra employ for the aspirants. It seems that some practices followed earlier were not favored by the author and he wanted his disciples and followers to get rid of them.

Historicity of Lakulisa

After this the next section will deal with the “Historicity of Lakulisa

From the list of the periodic doctrine of Pasupata Saivism as given in Linga Purana 1.24 we can glean that Lakuli was the 28th incarnation of Siva, incarnated in 28th cycle Dwapar/Kali Yuga in the Varaha Kalpa. That doesn”t talk much about the historicity of the figure but the fact that the list includes incarnations like Sveta (twice), Atri, Somasarman who have been known as the important sages responsible for creation of various texts or starting a spiritual lineage, points towards the fact that Lakulisa was a human teacher, a great sage later deified by his followers. Moreover traditions mentioned in Tantraloka and various other tantric texts strengthen this contention.

Vayu Purana with its lower limit dated to 5th BCE by Dikshitar[3] contains the earliest textual reference to the Lakulisa-Pasupatas.

According to the catalogue of Sanskrit manuscripts in the library of India Office (Pt. V.ed by Julius Eggling,1896) there are a good number of mahatmyas which profess to the part of the Vayu Purana and among these we have The first chapter of Mahatmaya of Karvan or Kayavarohana which gives the story of birth of Lakulisa.

The other three chapters of the Mahatmaya are included in Siva Purana.

Vayu Purana interestingly preaches the “path of yoga” to realize the oneness of Isvara, Mahesvara, Narayana, AdiBrahma and so on. It moreover alerts the reader that the Siddhas or yogins wander in different disguises in the world and the man of wisdom must take care to offer puja to them whenever they come to them. Virtually three chapters are devoted to the elucidation of Pasupata yoga.

Regarding the Lakulisa-Pasupata system the Purana says that in the 25th mahayuga when Visnu incarnates himself as Vasudeva on the earth, Siva takes the incarnation of Lakuli by Yogamaya and enters a certain dead body in the burial ground of Kayavarohana, a Siddha Ksetra. The mention of the area as Siddha Ksetra points that there was yogic activity already being taking place before the emergence of Lakulisa. The interesting query here would be what set Lakulisa apart from the other siddhas whose name got lost in oblivion while the former became an important aspect of early Saivism. Further the text informs us about the four pupils of Lakulisa viz. Kausika,Gargya, Mitraka and Rusta who will be initiated into what is known as Mahesvara Yoga and who will ultimately find solace in Rudralokam. With some slight difference the story is mentioned in Linga Purana and Kurma Purana too. The story finds mention in the late Nakulesvara-Mahatmaya section of 17th CEtext Vishwamitri Mahatmaya professing to be a part of Skanda Purana thus pointing at a continued tradition.

The dating of Lakulisa

From there on a section is dedicated to the dating of Lakulisa and opinion given by various scholars and reasons furnished for considering 2nd BCE as the probable date for emergence of Lakulisa. Various inscriptional, textual and iconographic evidences will be furnished to strengthen the contention.

Iconographical study of Lakulisa

This subsection will discuss the visual representations of Lakulisa found from various places and also it will trace the antiquity of the icon as well as the attributes associated will the help of numismatic and artistic sources.

A manuscript of the Visvakarma Vastusastram[4] in the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Poona gives a prescription for the form of a Lakulisa image,according to which Lakulisa should be represented with urdhvamedhra (ithyphallic),either resting on a lotus seat or in padmasana and holding a citron in his right hand and staff in the left. It also indicates that the Matulinga (citron), an attribute of Lakulisa represents many atoms of the universe. Such figures are common in Orissa, especially in Parasuramesvara temple and seem to be later.

The early iconography of Lakulisa did not show the matulinga and the earliest known images of Lakulisa with matulinga do not appear before 6th C AD.-7th C.AD. That the earlier images of Lakulisa showed the Danda and the Kalasa or a rosary in both his hands can be inferred from the images at Jogesvari, Ellora and the like; the two hands could also be seen in Vyakhyana mudra with the danda supported in the crook of one elbow which stressed the image of Lakulisa as that of a Yogacarya. Formalistic Iconographical similarity with Buddha and Jina images is unmistakable.

Special attention will be paid to two Lakulisa murtis attached to the linga found at Karvan near Baroda and antiquity of such images emerging out of or merging in the linga will be traced right from Guddimallam linga. The philosophical, ritualistic and mythological importance of such figures will be studied in detail in the chapter of Siva-linga. Here only formalistic and iconographical analysis will be done.

The Spread and Transition of the Lakulisa-Pasupata order

The next section “The Spread and Transition of the Lakulisa-Pasupata order” is broadly based on the chart prepared to show various links and connections between different cults and orders and analyzing the different lineages which mention Lakulisa in it. Studying the essential similarities and differences between these systems of thought is inspired by Structuralism methodology though it does not follow any one in particular and has been presented in this format for the sake of convenience and easier understanding of complex data available from various sources. This section has majorly benefited by enlightened works on religion and Tantricism by Pt. Gopinath Kaviraj.

The methodology followed will be based on step by step analysis of the chart and studying the visual and verbal data available in the light of various traditions mentioned. Puranas also talk about the four disciples of Lakulisa viz. Kusika, Garga, Maitreya and Kaurusya who were responsible for establishing four schools of Lakulisa-Pasupata system The statement as found in the Puranas is corroborated by a stone slab inscription dated to 1274-96 AD which originally belonged to Somnath temple in Kathiawar but is now in Portugal at Cintra. Whether all these four immediate disciples started a lineage or a gotra of their own is difficult to say as all four of them feature in the same lineage started from Lakulisa. What one can definitely say is that the Kusika lineage carried on at least till 5th CE when Rasikara (Acarya Kaundinya wrote his commentary on Pasupata Sutra) and this lineage can be considered as the primary one emerging from Lakulisa tradition as Kusika is mentioned to have interacted with Lakulisa and got the diksa right from him.

This chapter will focus also on Siddha Yogesvari tradition, Kaula tradition and Natha-Siddha tradition and the impetus they have given to the development of art and iconography. The connection with obscure cults like that of Ajivikas and highly esoteric ones like Vajrayana Buddhism will be presented in detail. Both sections will largely draw from data collected and arguments presented in my two research papers[5] on Harwan monuments and its possible Ajivika leanings and Role of Buddhist Siddhacaryas in developing Vajrayana iconography.

“The Ritualistic Context largely draws from Mircea Eliade’s idea of a“homo religiosus”, an imaginary religious person and describes how this homo religious would view the world. This does not mean that all religious practitioners actually think and act like homo religiosus. Instead, it means that religious behavior "says through its own language" that the world is as homo religiosus would see it, whether or not the real-life participants in religious behavior are aware of it.

With respect to religious studies rituals can be described as time-honored patterns of sacred activity rooted in the psycho -cultural consciousness of a people, wanting to link the mundane or natural reality with the divine or transnatural. By invoking the sacred and transcendent with a series of mental, physical and verbal actions these acts tend to achieve a symbolic character which confer a completely novel significance and implication to them.

As Krishna[6] has pointed out:

rituals transform the biological cycles which is the most fundamental of all cycles into a cultural cycle. That is why in all cultures birth and death are not just biological phenomenon but profound cultural events associated with a lot of ritual and ceremonies which transform the biological into the cultural.”

The rites and ceremonial processes which are responsible for this transformation of the natural or the casual into the cultural are closely allied to the attitude of the practitioners to time and space and to the symbolism extant in the order which they follow

The Lakulisa-Pasupata rites in the world of Saivite rituals

The next section deals with locating the Lakulisa-Pasupata rites in the world of Saivite rituals. The extremely important body of literature which can throw major light on the ritualistic practices and modes of worship in Saivism are the Saivagmas with their threefold categorization viz. dualistic, dualistic cum monistic and monistic.This Agamic literature, deriving its essence from practitioners of Saiva Sadhana comprises of a well organized body of thought with its own intrinsic logic and rationale

They talk about various pooja paddhatis (methods of worship) and also throw major light on the temple building and temple art. Rather than standing for any particular book or treatise they stood for a system of thought and a body of practices which were verbally transmitted from guru to his disciple and commited to the memory. Thus here the knowledge seems to have been essentially a confidential affair between the initiated practitioner and his master. Later when these Tantric and Agamic texts were penned down then took the language used was so cryptic and symbolic that one had to be in the lineage of the disciples to understand the actual meaning of the text.

Literal reading of such texts can be an extremely futile and many a times misleading exercise and in Drabu’s[7] words,

They are written in a language which can be read by all but understood by few”.

The actual import of these words was understood by me when I started going through the text of Pasupata-sutra considered and emphasized as a Tantra by Kaundinya. It made absolutely no sense in the beginning and I realized if we didn”t have access to Kaundinya Bhasya which contextualize these sutras these aphorisms would be totally obscure. Following the same order as Lakulisa the commentator had access to the verbal injunctions that go with the sutras and hence he could throw light on the discussions which were accompanied while transmitting these sutras.

The reference of Agamic tradition can be found as early as in Atharvaveda and its ancillary tract known as Atharvaveda parisista is filled with mention of Saiva practices. Ucchusmakalpa (Parisista 36) which talks in detail about the fire sacrifice to achieve supernatural ends that invoke Ucchusma Rudras with esoteric Saivite mantras.

Major importance here is paid to the Pasupata vow to which a whole Parisista is dedicated (Parisista 40: Pasupatavrata). The literature of the Agamic Saivas is dominated by the prescription of rituals through which the Saivas initiated candidates into their religious discipline (Diksa), consecrated successors to office (Abhisekah), installed images and other objects of worship (Pratistha) and performed the repeated services of worship (yagah) and propitiation (Mantrasadhana)[8] .

By studying such literature related to Lakulisa-Pasupata system, which extends from spiritual texts claiming the authority of divine revealation e.g. Pasupata-sutra to commentaries and treatises on these texts e.g.(Pacarthabhasya) to manuals (Paddhatih) of both transregional and local reach e.g. (Ganakarika, Eklingamahatmaya, Visvamitri mahatmaya) we can make out a detailed picture of comparative analysis arrive at some understanding to how these model rituals changed overtime, were adapted in different regions and were related to those of the similar systems of ritual seen in the literature of Pancaratrika Vaisnavas, Mantrayan or Vajrayana Buddhist and ascetic sects like Ajivikas.

An Insight into Asceticism

The next section titled “An Insight into Asceticism” traces the antiquity of asceticism and importance of penance in various philosophical and mythological texts. It will trace evidences right from Kesi Sukta of Rg Veda to Epic-Puranic mythology thus finding a continuity and intrinsic logic.. Epics and Puranas are full of stories which suggest the power of tapas. Indra got rid of Brahma-hatya by meditating upon Pasupati and performing severe austerities for thousand years. Ravana is known to have worshipped Siva in the most difficult ascetic methods and received the boon of invulnerability in return. Visvamitra the Ksatriya compelled the gods to grant him the birth and rights of a Brahmin by performing severe austerities. Importance of asceticism in Lakulisa-Pasupata tradition will be studied in detail and the injunctions given to the aspirant to follow harsh practices will be analyzed in proper context. The panel depicting Parvati Panchagni Tapas depicted in Ellora cave 21 (Ramesvara cave) will be analyzed in detail.

Initiation Rites (Diksa)

This will be followed by a section on Initiation Rites (Diksa)

The teaching of Pasupata system is for the total annihilation of all kinds of sorrow and this teaching can only be communicated to proper disciples. When the disciple follows the ascetic practices recommended by the lord he attains liberation through His grace. So the most important step is to get initiated in the system which is termed as Diksa.

Diksa: Diksa is defined as a process of imparting real knowledge (jnana) and a perceptorial instruction which removes the karma-vasana (acts-latencies) of a pasu as mentioned in Tantraloka, Ahnika I. Guided by the guru a Sadhaka applies himself to passing successively beyond the behavior patterns and values meant for pasu (the bonded soul). In order words the social and moral rules which apply to a layman on longer apply to the aspirant. Infact diksa is a process which witnesses a transformation to another mode of being who strives towards a spiritual upliftment by following the rules and rites of the order in which the person is initiated. It is supposed to “kill the pasu” in jiva and to lead him to moksa. It creates so to say a new body, “a mystical body” which enables the aspirant to enter the transcendent mode of being. The incarnation of Siva as Lakulisa by entering a corpse is probably the best mythical example of this rite. One has to be dead to the world to rise as Siva.

Broadly speaking the diksa for the ascetic aspirants of this order comes under the heading “Jnana diksa “which aims at the purification of an aspirants karna rooted in his consciousness (samvit) and thus emancipating jiva from its animality (pasutva). To reach such a stage the ascetic has to undergo vigorous practices and do exactly the opposite of what human nature normally forces one to do. The vidhis or the rites mentioned in Pasupata-sutra will be understood better if seen in the light of these speculations, rather than studying them independently as some aberration and irrational behavior. From here the antiquity of such harsh rites will be traced to Ajivikas and the same will be compared and contrasted with the rites of Kanphata Yogis who trace their lineage to Gorakhnath.

The divine preceptor

The nature of a Guru in Lakulisa-Pasupata tradition will be explored in the next section titled, The divine preceptor. Siva in his form as a teacher of yoga, music and other sciences is known by the name of Daksinamurti. He is called so because he is believed to have imparted the knowledge of yoga to rishis while facing the south.

Pasupata Sutra 1.9 says: “Mahadevasya Daksinamurteh” and to explain Kaundinya[9] writes:

Here daksina is in the sense of a quarter or direction. The Sun divides the quarters.The quarters again divide the image. The image here means that form which the Sadhaka, seated near on the right side of the Lord with his face turned north realizes and which is characterized as Vrsa-dvaja (the bull symboled) as Sulapani (with trident in his hand) as Mahakala and as Urdhava-linga(with penic raised up)etc. Or the people go the temple of Mahadeva and so there the Sadhaka should worship. The Daksinamurti being taken, the images on the east, north and west are to be discarded.

The last line clearly suggests the importance of Daksinamurti, i.e. Siva in form of a teacher in the Lakulisa-Pasupata order. Vidya, knowledge being of prime importance for a Lakulisa-Pasupata aspirant, the guru automatically assumes a significant position and is identified with Siva himself. The merger with Siva is what a guru is supposed to achieve after he leaves his mortal frame. The Daksinamurti Upanisad and the Suta-Samhita give the esoteric meaning of this icon.

We don’t find direct reference to Initiation rites in Lakulisa-Pasupata system but the commentary on Pasupata Sutra does furnish information about the discussion between Lakulisa and his immediate disciple Kausika which throws considerable light on the nature of such an initiation. R A Sastri elaborating on Pasupata-sutra (p11) notes that Lakulisa went to Ujjain and taught a Brahmin called Kusika who had come from Brahmavarta country (near Cawnpore) to receive formers blessings[10] . The teaching he further suggests were in the form of present sutras hence connecting them directly to the initiation process. All the five sections of the Sutras are devoted to instruct students how to pray to God and to reach the lord Rudra (Rudra Sayujya) hereafter.

From here the chapter moves on to the analysis of various ritual practices “Vidhi”. According to Kaundinya, Vidhi or behavior constitute those activities which bring about merit (dharma). That is to say that yoga cannot be attained only by gaining knowledge but a certain course of action has to be followed by the aspirant to make him realize the fruits of yoga. Vidhi is of two orders, the principal comprising of direct religious practices “carya” and the subsidiary one comprising of purificatory rites.

Use of Ashes: Meanings and Metaphors:

Lakulisa-Pasupata’s had invented a new set of Niyamas in which they included rites and practices related to ashes in a big way. Hara believes that ashes were used by the ascetics of this order primarily for cleansing and purification purposes. Kaundinya too suggests the importance of this concept in his commentary on Pasupata-sutra 1.2,1.3 and 1.4)[11]

The fact that bathing with ashes is classified along with purity of mind by removing desires and purity of soul by courting dishonor points at its importance as a major purificatory rite. This triple division of purity is also seen in the Ratnatika on Ganakarika by Bhasarvajna though he uses the words kaya sauca, antahkarana sauca and atman sauca instead of the ones used in Pasupata-sutra. This purificatory device is taken to a metaphysical and mystical level becomes evident by this passage again cited from PBh which quotes from scriptures from other orders and traditions.

The section will be followed by smaller sub-sections on daily practices, and unusual behavior shown by the aspirants of this system. The concepts such as feigning sleep, acting mad and nudity will be studied here.

The Philosophical Context

The fourth chapter “The Philosophical Context” critically looks at the philosophical material provided in the important texts like Pasupata Sutra and Ganakarika. The thought is compared and contrasted with thoughts from other Saiva and non Saiva system. A special attention is paid to the concept of “Ati-Marga Saivism” and a certain form of Monotheism propagated by this order

The only way to reconstruct the theology and ritual of the Lakulisa-Pasupatas, the highly diffused sect of early Saivism, is to resort to their basic texts, the Pasupata sutras (Pasupata-sutra), along with its commentary, the Pancharthabhasya (Pancharthabhasya) by Kaundinya (Trivandrum Sanskrit Series (TSS) 143 (1940) and Ganakarika (Ganakarika) with the ratnatika (Ratnatika) by Bhasarvajna. Gaekwad’s Oriental Series (Gaekwad’s Oriental Series) 15 (1920).

Philosophical data gleaned through Pasupata Sutra:

Kaundinya in the beginning of his bhasya offers adoration to Pasupati who has created the whole world beginning from the Brahman for the good of all.

He says that the five subjects of discussion in the Pasupata system are:

  1. Karya (effect)
  2. Karana (cause)
  3. Yoga (meditaion)
  4. Vidhi (behavior)
  5. Dukhanta (cessation of sorrows)

The teaching of Pasupata system is for the total annihilation of all kinds of sorrow and this teaching can only be communicated to proper disciples. When the disciple follows the ascetic practices recommended by the lord he attains liberation through His grace.

Reading Pasupatasutra and Pancharthabhasya in the light of other schools of Indian philosophy one is struck by the similarities in various concepts and terminologies with Samkhya philosophy. As for the main text Pasupata-sutra, it comes across as a manual of rituals pertaining to Pasupata Saivism and the main philosophical discussions are presented in the commentary. Sutras as we shall see were small formulas, holding a wealth of knowledge in them but only for the pupils who could manage to decode and expand the meaning. Reading Sutras without its commentary can prove to be an entirely futile attempt because meaning is quite cryptic. Unless one knows the context and the verbal instructions that are supplied along with these formulas one is at complete loss in making out any sense out of these aphorisms.

Pasupatasutra is divided into five chapters and the nomenclature of this chapter is based on five mantras from Taitirriya Aranyaka viz.

  1. Sadyojata
  2. Tatpurusha
  3. Isana
  4. Vamdev
  5. Aghora

Hara[12] suggests that Kaundinya took advantage of the philosophy for the formation of his own doctrine Realizing that his system would look similar to Samkhya and Yoga system, the author right in the beginning starts to differentiate between them and his own doctrine. Hence both these systems become object of his harsh criticism while the Pasupata claims its superiority.

Pancharthabhasya has been written in a question answer format i.e. the author asks a question and goes on answering the same. It sort of reminds us of FAQ sections in various books and websites that we come across. Probably the questions were the doublets that arose in the minds of the disciples undergoing the rigorous training. The urgent need to set Pasupata system as a separate and superior to others comes across in the following quasi-dialogue. Taking the dialogue further the Pasupata aspirant is supposed to have true knowledge while the ones released according to Samkhya and Yoga are here mocked as those who are in a swoon (sammurchitavat)-as they lack knowledge of themselves or anyone else and hence are misled.

He goes on as far as stating that the aspirants who claim to have been released and to have attained peace through these systems are wrong. It is like seeing of two moons by a dharana man with astigmatism. The correct view is that he (who is united) is simply united and not (yet) released (Summarized from Pancharthabhasya p115 line4-13).

The next section goes on to explore the concept of Siddhi in Pasupata Sutra and compares and contrasts it with the same concept elaborated in Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. According to Jacobi as the Samkhya ideas formed the scaffolding of the Pasupata doctrinal edifice, so also the yoga ideas constituted a similar scaffolding of its practical (ascetic and meditative edifice). The text, Pasupata-sutra is replete with the Yogic terms of self control and meditation. Terms such as yama, niyama, pranayama, ahimsa, sauca, tapas, and others repeatedly appear throughout the Text, though the semantic content is not always the same as in Yoga-sutra of Patanjali

As mentioned earlier the word “yoga” has different connotation in Pasupata-sutra and is not similar to the ones in Yoga-sutra. It is broadly explained as “union” between pasu and pati and is one of the five fundamental concepts “pancarthas) of Pasupata theology.

Here the aspirant approaches the god through his religious practices (Pancharthabhasya p41 line 12, Sarvadarsanasamgraha line 79)

While the god approaches him by codana etc (Pancharthabhasya p6 line 10)

Hence Pasupata yoga means a sort of communion for it is said that by virtue of this yoga the pasupata aspirant partakes of the attributes of the god Mahesvara (Pancharthabhasya p41 line 17-18)

The aspirant who practice the pasupata yoga vidhi diligently attains ashtsiddhi and also eightfold siddhi-laksana appear to him. But at the same time Pancharthabhasya warns the ascetic not to get too excited by attainment of such miraculous powers because it is not the ultimate goal and indulgence in them might even prove dangerous.

Hence in a nutshell it is by avoiding the dosa of harsa (delight) by apramada (intoxication) and being protected by the guna of Mahatmya that aspirant can advance further. Such aspirants attain the infinite power as much as Siva and their position is distinctly mentioned by Kaundinya when he says that Pasupati is the lord of all pasus except the Siddhesvaras and the liberated soul is beyond the jurisdiction of Pasupati.

Pasupata-sutra V.47 karanadhikara-ivrtti)

and he possesses the excellence of Mahesvara.

(Pasupata-sutra V.40 tatha vartamanena Mahesvaramaisvaryam praptam

It is also stated that he becomes the master of all powers of Siva, except that of creation.

The use of prefix ati and classifiction of the system as an Ati-margika one:

The height of asceticism practiced in the system becomes clear by studying the concepts of ati-dana, ati-yajana and ati-tapas in detail. After warning the aspirants of the hazardous nature of siddhi the text proceeds to explain the means (upaya) to attain the highest goal.

In answer to the question of there is any qualification concerning giving “dana” Pancharthabhasya says

“The dana or gifting of material objects is worthless and scripturally it is considered as wrong path (Pasupata-sutra4.18) The actual and true dana is the transcendent giving (ati-dana) and it is nothing but offering of oneself (atma-pradana) This leads an aspirant to Rudra(rudrasamipa) finally and absolutely as it brings about the final non-return (anavrtti) to the cycle of transmigration.

Apparent Monotheism

The last and important section of this chapter will discuss the “Apparent Monotheism” seen in Lakulisa-Pasupata system.

Now the question arises how exactly the Pasupata system is different from other schools if it preaches almost the same concepts. The difference as far as I have understood lies in the total theistic flavor of the system as opposed to full or partial philosophical nature of other systems

Trying to put the history of Indian theism in a simple perspective Swami Hiranmayananda observes that Vedic polytheism soon developed into sort of Henotheism, where each god was elevated to a supreme position by his devotees. In the due course this led to a kind of Monotheism which on further philosophical speculations culminated in Monism. One can probably place Lakulisa pasupata system somewhere in the transition period between monotheism to monism as its philosophy is neither completely dualistic nor monistic. It has been classified by scholars as “dual cum non dual Saiva system”

According to Lakulisa Pasupata system God is seed cause, the instrumental cause of the entire world and his will is at the root of all activities of this pasu world. Siva is also considered to be the absolute cause and the actions of the pasus (individuals) are effective only insofar as they are in conformity with the will of Siva. Hence theory of Karma so important in later Indian thought is not given any importance in this system. The pasus are but His manifestations, all effects of the same God who is omnipotent and omniscient. He grants liberation to all who properly undergo the Pasupata discipline. The final dukkhanta” (final deliverance from sorrow) is attained only when the pasupata ascetic passes through the different stages of sadhana and reaches Rudra. What is “mukti” to other systems is “Sayujya” to the pasupata. The liberated souls do not get merged in God, as the Vedantins aim but become united i.e. eternally associated with Siva. They remain by their mental steadiness, in perpetual contact with Siva and they never return to the cycle of birth and death.

It is important to note that the pasupata system of the Pasupata-sutra hardly considers the importance of prakrti (the female principal) as energy (sakti), as we find in Puranic pasupata system. None of the categories of Samkhya appear to be of any relevance regarding the creation of the world.Even the concept of yoga in Pasupata-sutra is different from the Puranic concept or Yoga-sutra of Patanjali. Here in Pasupata-sutra as we have seen the word yoga itself has been used in the sense of continuous contact with the almighty while in the Patanjali yoga-sutras it is taken as suppression of all mental states (citta-vrttinirodha) which precedes Kaivalya. The Yogasutras of Patanjali do not try to establish Isvara of God but only accepted it as one of its necessary postulates.Rather interestingly none of the Indian philosophical systems have tried to establish God by any logical means except Naiyayikas who according to tradition are Saivas. Hence such an overarching importance given to the supreme deity in the pasupata system comes across as an interesting point for speculation.

The overarching role of Pasupati the protector of all is envisaged in Kaundinya’s remark that the liberation from sorrow i.e. dukkhanta cannot be attained by knowledge (jnana), disinclination or total renunciation (vairagya), virtue (dharma) and giving up of one’s miraculous powers (aishvarya tyaga) but only by the grace (prasada) alone. While on one hand such a statement points at complete monotheistic nature of the sect on the other it covertly criticizes the other ascetic systems like Jains and Buddhists. This ultimate image of Pasupati reminds one of the so called Pasupati seals from Indus valley where we see various animals flanking a horned human figure,in some cases an ithyphallic figure identified by scholars as Proto Siva. Are the animals symbolic of Pasus (the fettered soul) aspiring for the divine grace which would lead them to final redemption from all kinds of sorrow is worth asking?

“The Mythological Bridge” delves into important mythological narratives which provide an interesting link between the philosophical expositions and the ritual practices. The mythological stories narrated in important texts like Karvan Mahatmaya,Skanda Purana, Eklinga Mahatmaya, Visvamitri Mahatmaya,Vayu Purana and Linga Purana will be analyzed in detail and connection will be drawn with available artistic depictions found at various sites. A section on the panels found at Elephanta caves and parallels found at other sites will be studied at length. The mythological explanation will be sought for existence of various rituals and iconographical depictions.

Siva-linga, an iconological study” forms a seminal part of the entire thesis and will utilize material from earlier chapters to formulate new hypothesis. Dealing with a topic which aims at understanding the dynamics between ritual and philosophy in the Lakulisa-Pasupata order the interdisciplinary study of history, philosophical meanings and the ritual practices related to this potent symbol have proved to be very useful.

The idea that this practice was simply a fertility rite followed by” less civilized and barbaric people” has long been rejected. The more scholars have worked on the levels of meanings it conveys, more they have been convinced of dangers of too simplistic or literal a reading.Now this does not go to say that all phallic symbolism associated with it is just a farce. On the contrary the visual representation is definitely phallic but its meaning is not limited to fertility and reproduction. Man creates symbols according to his ideas. The idea of creativity and procreation is associated with sexual organs. Here one is reminded again of Upamanyu’s discourse with Krsna (from Mahabharata) where he categorically specifies that it is Siva and Devi that are the true gods because we all humans are marked by their symbols, rather born with them while you don”t see a child born with a conch or a chakra. That is to say the most fundamental characteristic that we as humans share with the supreme reality is the process of creation and hence anything which is responsible for such a similitude becomes worth worshipping sheer by the law of synecdoche and assumes automatically assumes a mystical and awe-inspiring aspect.

Unfortunately the sexual symbolism here has selectively been associated with eroticism and its other more important function as the creative principle has not been given much thought by early scholars of Indian Art and culture. The apologetic Indian scholars too joined the gang and openly disowned this disturbing symbol and blamed it on so called “Non Aryan” people who were untouched by highly philosophical expositions of Veda’s. They elaborately quote from Rg Veda’s mention of Sisna deva the only example but repeated again and again to emphasize the otherness of Linga worship.Sayana in his commentary has clearly explained Sisna devas,as licentious people and not as people who worship linga.

I have tried in this section to compile all that I have seen, read and to analyzed as it has strong links with the developmental stage of Saivism i.e. Lakulisa-Pasupata order. Siva linga being the main object of veneration for the aspirants of this order its esoteric meaning has been delved deeply in their literature. Moreover in this tradition Siva as well as Lakulisa himself are shown as Ithyphallic, a concept which will be looked into in detail.

Coming to the word “linga”, we need to historically contextualize it before pondering about its ritual and philosophical meanings. Przyluski who on basis on a linguistic study suggests that the terms like Linga, Langula etc. were originally Austric words and the “Aryans” borrowed them from pre-Aryan population of India has also lost its currency as the term has been used extensively and meaningfully in early Vedic literature and does not come across some haphazard word borrowed from another civilization.

Interestingly it is in Epic Mythology, to be precise in castration myth narrated in

Sauptika Parvan of Mahabharata (10.17) that the word linga is associated with Siva’s organ for the first time. When Brahma asked Mahadeva to create but the latter preferred to do tapas in water instead. Failing to convince Mahadeva Brahma created Prajapati and asked him to create, whence he created creatures of various species. When Siva arose from his meditation and saw the beings were already created he tore his “linga in anger and placed it on the ground and again went to perform austerities. It is interesting to see how a myth functions to create links between an object and a symbol which probably earlier had nothing to do with the object. By an imaginative approach the character of “golden phallus” from Samhita literature is attributed to Siva and thus he automatically gets transformed into the omnipresent and omnipotent creator.

This is further substantiated by a rather long but thought provoking passage by Srinivasan[13] in which she asks the fundamental question and answers it by quoting various texts:,

If linga expresses the theological belief in the immanence of the transcendental in nature, in a subtle form, why does that form take the shape of a realistic phallus?

And she answers:

An instructive Vedic passage indicates that already in the Samhitas,the phallus is the sign symbolizing the Creator’s capacity for unlimited productionThe passage occurs in the Atharva Veda,hymn 10.7, a hymn to Skambha. (lit.prop,support,pillar) Skambha is the cosmic generative force whence the entire material world originates. However Skambha is not postulated as the active demiurge who gives rise to phenomenality. Rather Skambha is the cause which gives rise to the agent who in turn takes over the creative process. As such, Skambha generates Prajapati. It is thus of more than passing interest that a vetasa-hiranyaya (a golden phallus) standing in the water represents the hidden (guhya)Prajapati. Indeed what is being said is that the first evolute of cosmic creative energy is a hidden, or unperceivable progenitor symbolized by a golden phallus in water.”

Hence it provides the distinct use of phallic symbolism in Vedic literature thus at once providing a paradigm shift in the study of Saivism. Moreover sexual symbolism was not a taboo in Vedic literature as we were given to believe and Dange[14] has profusely quoted from various Vedic texts like Satapatha Brahmana, Aitareya Brahmana etc. to substantiate his point.

Here I would cite a few examples occurring in the ritual context:

In the new moon and full moon sacrifice the after offerings are three sisna, in the Caturmasya, the kraidina oblation is the male organ, in Pravargya, the cauldron is the penis and the two handles are the testicles, in the preparation of the Ahavaniya in the Agnicayana, the pestle is the sisna, the mortar the yoni…Upon close analysis, the union between male and female, mithuna, is allegorically described throughout the Vedas.”

An interesting passage narrated in Mahabharata throws light on the worship of Siva in both anthropomorphic form and linga form. Here Vyasadeva explains to Asvatthama that he faced defeat by Krsna-Arjuna because they worshipped Siva in the potent form of linga while he paid his homage to Siva’s image. (Tabhyam

Linge”archito Devas-tvaya”rchayam yuge yuge..)This clearly points at some kind of superiority attached to linga worship. The next two verses further elaborate that one who is spiritually advanced and can realize Siva in all forms and see linga as the source of all creation is only entitled to worship the linga.

Sarva-bhuta-bhavam jnatva Lingam-archati yah prabhoh

This passage hints at the highly esoteric and subtle meanings associated with linga worship which probably was not meant for lay folks who needed an image to concentrate. (Lainge sukshma-sarire archayam pratimayam) (Mbh 7.200.92) suggesting that linga is the subtle body or form while the image (pratima) is the “archa”.

A detailed chronological analysis of Lingas found from various parts of the country will be done with a focus on development and changes occurring in the form and its importance in Lakulisa-Pasupata system. The emergence and development of “Mukhalingas” will be studied in detail both its philosophical and mythological aspect. The concept of Pancamukha-linga’ will be analyzed at length and its esoteric relevance will be studied.

Footnotes and references:


Ibid, p 115


Pathak V.S, “History of Saiva cults in Northern India from Inscriptions, Varanasi, 1960, p 5-6


Dikshitar V.V.R, “Some Aspects of the Vayu Purana”, Bulletins of the Dept. of Indian History and Archeology No. 1, Ed. By Nilakantha Sastri, University of Madras,1933


Choubey M.C, Lakulisa in Indian Art and Culture, Delhi, 1997, p.116


An enquiry into the sectarian affiliation of the ruins at Harwan: Published Proceedings of the seminar organized by IGNCA in “Heritage of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh”, ed by G.L Badam and K.K Chakravarty, Research India Press, New Delhi, 2010 Vajrayana Art and the role of Buddhist Siddhacharyas: presented in the International Seminar on “Buddhist Heritage” organized by MSU and Government of Gujarat, Jan 2010, publication awaited


Daya Krishna, Prolegomena to Any Future Historiography of Cultures and Civilizations,Delhi,PHISC Series,p.8


Drabu, B.N, “Saivagamas, A study in the Socio-Economic Ideas and Institutions of Kashmir, New Delhi 1990, p 58-59


Sanderson Alexis, The Lakulas: New Evidence of a system intermediate between Pancharthika Pasupatism and Agamic Saivism. Sanderson Website


Chakraborti Haripada, “Pasupata Sutram with Panchartha Bhasya of Kaundinya,1969, Calcutta, p-62


R.A Sastri ed.,Pasupata Sutra p11


Chakraborti Haripada, “Pasupata Sutram with Panchartha Bhasya of Kaundinya,1969, Calcutta, p 56-58


Hara Minoru, “Pasupata Studies”ed by Jun Takashima, Vienna, 2002, p18-19


Srinivasan Doris Meth, “Significance and Scope of Pre-Kusana Saivite Iconography, in “Discourses on Siva” Ed by Michael W Meister, p 40-41


Dange S.A, “Sexual Symbolism from the Vedic ritual, Delhi,1979 p 88

Help me keep this site Ad-Free

For over a decade, this site has never bothered you with ads. I want to keep it that way. But I humbly request your help to keep doing what I do best: provide the world with unbiased truth, wisdom and knowledge.

Let's make the world a better place together!

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: