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...

Philosophical nature of Pasupata-sutra and Pancharthabhasya

Hara[1] suggests that Kaundinya took advantage of the Samkhya philosophy for the formation of his own doctrine. As mentioned earlier, Pasupata-sutra does not have philosophical speculation as its major concern and is essentially theistic in nature and didactic in approach.

Realising 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.

The famous three-fold classification of suffering (duhkha) which is first mentioned in Samkhya-Karika repeatedly occurs in Pancharthabhasya and forms a very important part of the whatever philosophical idea the text furnishes.[2]

Pancharthabhasya p4 line 8-10
Pancharthabhasya p25 lin 8-10
Pancharthabhasya p69 line 4-6
Pancharthabhasya p121 line 3-4
Pancharthabhasya p143 line 12-13

But at the same time the author, Kundinya repeatedly tries to belittle former philosophical system and its adherents.Right in the beginning of the commentary his bias can be seen. Distinguishing between the released souls who have attained emancipation through Samkhya and Yoga schools on one hand and Pasupata system on the other he says[3] :

“Even the people who have attained the highest state of emancipation (Kaivalyaaccording to Samkhya and Patanjali Yoga) are found to have experienced miseries. This preception (i.e. the Pasupata Acarya) is the best of all Acaryas because he has the direct vision of the effect (karya=world) and its cause (karana=Pasupati)”

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 doublts that arose in the minds of the disciples undergoing the rigorous training. The urgent need to set pasupata system as a separtae and superior to others comes across in the following quasi-dialogue[4]

Question:—The question raised that in other systems such as Samkhya and Yoga etc. the state of perfect isolation (Kaivalya) together with sovereignity (aisvarya) is attained by abandoning of effects and instruments just as is taught in our system, so there would be no difference?

Answer:—The difference lies in regard to the means i.e. ati-dana (transcendent giving) ati-yajana (transcendent sacrifice) and ati-tapa (transcendent Asceticism that are to be followed by the disciples of this system-Now since means are differnet goals one is aspiring for has to be different

Again he asks

Question:—What goal does the Brahmin achieve with these transcendent forms of giving, sacrifice and asceticism?

Answer:—In an answer to this,the author categorically states that the goal promised by Pasupata system is much higher than what the followers of Samkhya or Yoga are promised viz. success (abhyudaya acc. to Samkhya) and perfection, isolatio (Kaivalya acc. to Yoga)

The Pasupata aspirant who has attained the transcendent goal (ati-gati) by the transcendent means and thus is united with God (Yukta) not only outshines all the souls released by other systems but also all the gods beginning with Brahma.

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.

Kaundinya 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 man with astigmatism. The correct view is that he (who is united) is simply united and not (yet) released.

Interestingly the released soul (kaivalya) is categorized as Pasu, (soul in bondage) in pasupata system.

Pancharthabhasya p5 line 15-16

“Those who have won the release through Samkhya and Yoga, the gods of Samkhya and Yoga indeed all creatures from Brahman down to animals are called pasu in the true tradition.

Indeed the category of kaivalya, the perfect isolation is clubbed together with profane objectives like artha, kama etc. and thus stating that duty of a pasupata aspirant is to aim at end of suffering (dhukhanta) and he should not care for ordinary purposes of merit, wealth, sensual gratification or even perfect isolation.

Pancharthabhasya p3 line 11-12

Footnotes and references:


Hara Minoru. Pasupata Studies ed by Takashima Jun, Vienna, 2002


Hara p.25,69,121 and 143




Hara p 115

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