Further considerations on the pAshupata system

Though it is at the foundation of all the shaiva systems that survive to date, the old pAshupata darshana has all but become extinct. Of the pAshupata sUtra-s we have only 3 reported extant manuscripts thus far: two from vArANasi and one from the va~Nga country. Two of these manuscripts are fragmentary and the third though complete is poorly preserved. There appears to be another possible fragmentary manuscript from the tamil country that has not been studied at all (I have only seen the title and not examined it closely). Using two of the manuscripts our coethnic R. Ananthakrishna Shastri produced the first edition of the pAshupata sUtra-s in the first half of the 1900s. A few years ago, the white indologist Bisschop produced several useful corrections based on the 2nd vArANasi manuscript and other comparisons. These sUtra-s are the only testimony we have of the pAshupata system that bridges the gap between the earlier layers [footnote 1] and the rise of the lAkulIsha pAshupata system and its later kAlAmukha successor. The sUtra-s as we have them come with the bhAShya of a certain kauNDinya, who tradition records to be a successor of lakulIsha. This bhAShya also quotes a version of the sUtra-s that shows differences from the version transmitted as a mUla-sUtrapATha. This shows that the pATha used by kauNDinya was transmitted independently, but accompanied by the mUla-sUtrapATha, without any “gene conversion-like event” to equalize the two readings. Further, given the way the sUtra-s are organized to go along with the bhAShya, it is possible that some of the sUtra-s as we have them are only fragments of more complete sUtra-s that were extracted from an earlier version of the kauNDinya bhAShya or some other pre-kauNDinya bhAShya [It is possible that the more complete sUtra-s resembled the sUtra-like prescriptions of the pAshupata vrata in the AV parishiShTha 40]. This is suggested by the form of certain sUtra-s, where they were clearly parts of longer coherent sUtra-s broken for commentarial purposes:
mUtra-purIShaM nAvekshet |
strI-shUdraM nAbhibhAShet |
yady avekShed yady abhibhAshet |
upaspR^ishva |
prANAyAmaM kR^itvA |
raudrIM gAyatrIM bahurUpIM vA japet |

Here the pAshupata ascetic is prescribed not to see urine or feces and not to converse with women and shUdra-s. If he does see the former two or talk or touch the latter two he performs prANAyAma and does japa of the rudra gAyatrI or the bahurUpI (i.e. aghora) mantra. We notice that in baudhAyana dharma there is a single sUtra: strI-shUdrair nAbhibhASheta mUtra-purIShe nAvekSheta. Similarly, the remaining sUtra-s cited above might also be combined into a single one. Thus, transmission of the sUtra-s as we have them today does seem to be affected by the tradition of commentary and are probably not the original form of them.

Despite these issues we can clearly see that the sUtra-s are of an archaic character and resemble in large part the kalpa sUtra-s with some features of the darshana sUtra-s. Yet unlike the kalpa or darshana sUtra-s they do not bear the name of any author. Though certain traditions mention lakulIsha as an author, there is absolutely nothing what so ever to support this in the form of internal evidence from the sUtra-s. Even kauNDinya’s commentary merely states the following:
tathA shiShTa prAmANyAt kAmitvAd ajAtatvAch cha manuShya-rUpI bhagavAn brAhmaNa-kAyam AsthAya kAyAvata-raNe avatIrNa iti | tathA padbhyAm ujjayinIM prAptaH |
i.e. shiva incarnated in the form of a man by entering the body of a brAhmaNa in the forest of kAyAvata. Then he walked to Ujjain. This account matches those narrated in the puraNa-s and the kArvaNa mAhAtmya where lakulIsha incarnates in kAyAvarohaNa (modern Karvan village some distance north of Baroda). However, unlike the latter accounts the name lakulIsha is never mentioned even though in the subsequent lines kauNDinya mentions that shiva as the brAhmaNa imparted the shAstra to the student kushika. Only in the ratnaTIkA on the gaNakArikA (probably authored by bhAsarvaj~na) do we clearly see a mention of lakulIsha as the founder of the pAshupata system. This raises questions regarding lakulIsha being the actual composer of the sUtra-s.

Using the pAshupata sUtra-s one can look for key features of the pAshupata ritual described in it in the earlier texts to trace the early evolution of the shaiva system.
1) yoga and sAMkhya: As we have discussed before on these pages the practice of yoga goes back to the earliest shaiva layer in the form of the shvetAshvatara and even there is accompanied by the philosophical framework provided by sAMkhya. This connection to yoga continues through the atharvashiras and the epic period (MBH13.14 shiva is identified with the puruSha of sAMkhya). yoga remained a persistent and central theme of shaiva practice which eventually gave rise to the yoga of the mantra mArga. Beginning around the time of the pAshupata sUtra-s, elements of vaisheShika are adopted by the system. Eventually nyAya-vaisheShika comes to dominate the atimArga shaiva thought while sAMkhya remains at the foundation of most mantra-mArga shaiva philosophy.

2) The rite of bhasma snAna: The pAshupata sUtra prescribes the practitioner to smear himself with ashes. This rite is also found in the atharvashiras and the AV-pari 40 suggesting that it was an old ritual of the shaiva system which probably evolved from the vedic ritual of smearing with ashes of a homa seen in the gR^ihya daily offering. It is not specifically mentioned in the shvetAshvatara. It persisted amongst all later shaiva branches.

3) Iconic and temple worship of shiva: These are clearly present in the pAshupata-sUtra-s. We see a similar mention of iconic shiva worship and temples in the pAshupata vratra of the AV-pari 40. In both these texts we note that: a) the pAshupata wears rudra nirmAlya; b) he dances, sings, plays musical instruments and laughs loudly; c) he is asked to hangout at rudra shrines. However, the fire worship is a major component in the rite of the AV-pari 40, and one of the places the pAshupata might hang out is a fire house (agnyAgara). In the account of the pAshupata Ashrama in the Mbh13.14 (vulgate) we encounter the presence of large fire altars with kusha grass strew around them (vishAlaish chAgni-sharaNair-bhUShitaM kusha saMvR^itam) and the mention of divine women singing songs. In the same section rudra himself is described as dancing, singing and playing instruments. There is no sign of iconic worship in the atharvashiras or the SU. The early iconic worship as suggested by the AV-pari 40 appears to have mirrored those found in the late gR^ihya texts like those of vaikhAnasa and baudhAyana. Throughout later Hindu history shiva temples of pAshupata-s were prominent monuments on the landscape of bhAratavarSha and even left their impression on the visiting nAstika chInAcharya-s. Interestingly, the survival of classical music and dance in dakShiNapatha might have hugely benefited from the patronage they received from the kAlAmukha successors of the pAshupata-s.

4) Male brAhmaNa-s only: The original pAshupata vrata appears to have been a solely male brAhmaNa affair. This is attested in both the PaS and the AV-pari 40. The SU and AS also appear to be brAhmaNa productions indicating that it arose specifically amongst brAhmaNa vedic ritualists (not even other dvija-s). Only in the post-lakulIsha phase of its development it opened up to include the 3 other varNa-s. By the kAlAmukha phase we notice the involvement of women as patrons and dancers in the temples.

5) Wearing of li~Nga: We note this first in the PaS 1.6 [li~NgadhArI]. We see no mention of this in the AV-pari 40 or the earlier upaniShad texts. The earliest allusions to the li~Nga as an emblem of rudra appear in the great epic (anushAsana parvan). It is hence conceivable that the PaS belongs to this period when li~Nga worship had come to the fore amongst the shaiva-s.

6) Observance of govrata/pashuvrata: This is mentioned in PaS 5.9 [godharmA mR^igadharmA vA]. It finds a mention in the epic anushAsana parvan version of the pAshupata practice (Mbh 13.14 vulgate) where it is described that some pAshupata-s observe the govrata and others the mR^igavrata just as in the PaS. However, these vrata-s are not described in the AV-pari 40 or the earlier upaniShad-s.

7)pa~nchabrahma: A key feature of the pAshupata sUtra-s is their link to the pa~ncha brahma-mantra-s around which a number of comparisons can be made. Each of the five sections of the pAshupata sUtra-s end with one of the brahma-mantra-s. However, the pa~ncha brahma mantra-s have distinct origins. The rudra gAyatrI is part of the shatarudrIya of both the maitrAyaNIya and kaTha saMhitA-s, whereas the aghora (bahurUpI) is part of the shatarudrIya of the maitrAyaNIya-s. These two mantra-s are used in these kR^iShNa-yajurvedic traditions as a part of the shrauta ritual of the pacification of rudra after the 5th layer of the agni-chiti is laid out in a soma sacrifice. They are known by the technical names rudra sAvitrI and bahurUpI in the pAshupata system. Both of them are deployed in the AV-pari 40 pAshupata ritual but the other 3 brahma mantra-s are not mentioned in this version of the ritual. The mantra of sadyojAta occurs as a kumAra mantra in the atharvavedic tradition as a part of the skanda-yAga but is not deployed in rudra worship in any parishiShTha tradition. Only in the taittirIya AraNyaka (mahAnArAyaNopaniShat) and its atharva-vedic counterpart the 5 brahma-mantra-s are seen as a group. In the former it is occurs after the li~Nga sthApana mantra-s, but this group of li~Nga mantra-s is missing in the AV-mahAnArAyaNa. In ritual terms, the first mention of the pa~ncha brahma mantra-s is seen in the sections on iconic worship of rudra in the baudhAyana gR^ihya sUtra-s. Here, three rituals for the iconic worship of rudra are described (BGS 2.16-18). The first two for the installation and daily worship of rudra images cite several rudra mantra-s but not the pa~nchabrahma.Interestingly these have mantra-s similar to those deployed in the AV pari-40 pAshupata rite. The third of these, termed ritual of the bathing of rudra (the precursor of the famous mahAnyAsa) provides the deployment of the pa~nchabrahma: the sadyojAta mantra is used in AsanaM, pAdyaM, arghyaM, the vAmadeva in sarvopachAra pUja, the aghora mantra in installing the benign form of rudra, the tatpuruSha in japa and IshAna in seeking the grace of rudra. A further ritual for the pacification of rudra on aShTamI evenings known as the IshAnakalpa (BGS 3.15) also does not mention the pa~nchabrahma even though it deploys several rudra mantra-s.The absence of the 5 brahma mantra-s as a pentad in the AV pari-40 pAshupata system, but the presence of only the two older members of the brahma mantra-s in this system points to an internal evolution within the pAshupata system. The brahma-mantra-s as a group are seen only in the baudhAyana rudrAbhiSheka and the mahAnArAyaNa upaniShat-s of the taittirIya tradition (i.e. TA) and the AV (without li~Nga) among the vedic texts. Hence, it appears quite possible that the brahma mantra-s as a group emerged in the context of the early iconic worship of rudra (not necessarily as a li~Nga) in the late vedic tradition after the foundation of the initial pAshupata system. The pAshupata sUtra-s specifically share only with the taittirIya AraNyaka both the brahma-mantra-s and the li~Nga worship. This suggests that the beginning of the pAshupata sUtra tradition is later than that of the AV pari-40 and specifically emerged amongst the taittirIyin-s. To further test this conjecture let us look at the brahma-mantra-s as transmitted by the pAshupata sUtra-s and its bhAShya:

sadyojAtaM prapadyAmi sadyojAtAya vai namaH |
bhave bhave nAtibhave bhavasva mAm bhavodbhavAya namaH ||

sadyojAtaM prapadyAmi sadyojAtAya vai namo namaH |
bhave bhave nAtibhave bhavasva mAm bhavodbhavAya namaH ||

kauNDinya bhAShya:
sadyojAtaM prapadyAmi sadyojAtAya vai namaH |
bhave bhave nAtibhave bhajasva mAm bhavodbhavaH ||
(Regular anuShTubh)
PSu, TA:
vAmadevAya namo jyeShThAya namaH shreShThAya namo rudrAya namaH kAlAya namaH kalavikaraNAya namo balavikaraNAya namo balAya namo balapramathAnAya namaH sarvabhUtadamanAya namo manonmanAya namaH ||
kauNDinya bhAShya:
vAmadevAya namo jyeShThAya namo rudrAya namaH kAlAya namaH kalavikaraNAya namaH| balapramathAnAya namaH sarvabhUtadamanAya namo manonmanAya namaH ||

PSu, TA:
aghorebhyo.atha ghorebhyo ghora-ghoratarebhyaH | sarvebhyaH sarva-sharvebhyo namas te astu rudrarUpebhyaH ||
kauNDinya bhAShya:
aghorebhyo.atha ghorebhyo ghoraghoratarebhyash cha |
sarvataH sharva sarvebhyo namaste .astu rudrarUpebhyaH ||
(Regular anuShTubh)
PSu, TA, kauNDinya bhAShya:
tatpuruShAya vidmahe mahAdevAya dhImahi | tanno rudraH prachodayAt
PSu, TA:
IshAnaH sarva-vidyAnAm IshvaraH sarvabhUtAnAM |
brahmAdhipatir brahmaNo.adhipatir brahmA shivo me astu sadAshivOm ||

kauNDinya bhAShya:
IshAnaH sarva-vidyAnAm IshvaraH sarvabhUtAnAM |
brahmaNo.adhipatir brahmA shivo me astu sadAshivaH ||
(Regular anuShTubh)

There is some variation even within the different transmissions of the taIttirIya AraNyaka 10 but the version here is the most widely used oral tradition in bhAratavarSha. It is immediately apparent that the version in the pAshupata sUtra-s is closest to the version in the TA 10. This further supports the specific relationship between the pAshupata sUtra-s and the TA 10 pAshupata tradition. This version of the mantra-s can also been seen in the li~NGa purANa (2.27.245-256) in the context of the famous jayAbhiSheka rite performed by a shaiva mantravAdin for a rAjan desiring victory over his enemies. While all mantra-s are not given in full here, those that are closely match the PSu form indicating that this transmission continued to exist in the shaiva world outside of the TA and the PSu. In contrast, the version transmitted by the bhAShya is: 1) in the form of metrically regular anuShTubh-s, were relevant and 2) closer to other texts than the TA. In the case of the sadyojAta and aghora mantra-s the bhAShya form follows the reading in the dhUrta kalpa of the AV pari-20 and the maitrAyaNIya saMhitA respectively. Further, other major transmissions of the brahma mantra-s in the mantra-mArga shaiva and vaiShNava pA~ncharAtra systems closely resemble the version in the bhAShya. In the early siddhAnta tantra the niHshvAsa saMhitA, where the mantra-s are cited in full, they follow the bhAShya version. The Indonesian mantra manual (now extant only in Bali) also gives these mantra-s in a form close to the bhAShya version. The Indonesian manual is derived from a mantra-mArga shaiva source, most probably a siddhAnta tantra, supporting this version being transmitted by the saiddhAntika-s. The version transmitted by the pA~ncharAtrika sanatkumAra tantra also reads very close to the bhAShya version. Thus, kauNDinya was not using the form given in the mUla-sUtra pATha or the TA but his own version that has also widely been transmitted in successor texts. There is a hint that kauNDinya was not a taittirIyaka and did not know of that these mantra-s were part of the taittirIyaka shruti. In explaining the sUtra 1.39 (atredaM brahma japet | in PSu; atrachedam brahma japet | in bhAShya) he says (for the word idam):
idam iti pratyakShe | niyoge vA | idam eva brahma japatavyam | R^ig-yajuH-sAmAnItyarthaH |
idam means in the current place an injunction (niyoga) to do japa of this [i.e. sadyojAta] mantra and not a R^ik, yajur or a sAman. Thus, it appears that he does not consider the sadyojAta mantra a vedic one. Elsewhere, he does consider it R^ik in the sense of being a metrical formula (e.g. in bhAShaya to Psu 5.21) suggesting that in the above case he means it is not a mantra from one of the 3 veda-s supporting the idea that he was unfamiliar with the TA 10. Thus, interestingly kauNDinya’s transmission is independent of the PSu, which belongs to the same tradition as TA 10.

In conclusion, we note that the pAshupata sUtra-s are not the beginning of the pAshupata system but are preceded by a number of pre-sUtra pAshupata teachings. The textual comparisons show that PSu pAshupata darshana is closest to the version practiced in the mAhAbharata and shows distinct links in the form the brahma mantra-s and the li~Nga worship with the taittirIya AraNyaka’s last section. Though, the pAshupata system arose early from the ancestral Indo-Aryan ascetic tradition, it appears to have interacted with the developing iconic worship of shiva, particularly in terms of incorporating the brahma mantra-s. In terms of the evolution of the brahma mantra-s, we note that the bahurUpI and the rudra-gayatrI were recruited earlier and the sadyojAta mantra emerged in the iconic worship of kumAra. But the brahma mantra-s as group appears to have been put together in the late vedic period for the iconic worship of rudra. This tradition of worship with the pa~nchabrahma appears to have been particularly vigorous amongst the taittirIyaka-s and was incorporated into their vedic corpus. It is from this taittirIyaka tradition that the mUla-sUtra pATha that we have appears to have emerged. But the presence of distinct sUtra and pa~nchabrahma readings in the kauNDinya bhAShya indicate that there was a transmission independently of the taittirIyaka-s that was partially normalized in the post-kauNDinya transmission. The great epic pashupata system is likely to have been coeval or post-dated the Ur-pAshupata sUtra-s but predated the kauNDinya bhAShya with the narrative of shiva animating a brAhmaNa’s body.

development text of first appearance
bahurUpI, rudragAyatrI kR^iShNa yajurveda
worship of rudra as a great god nIlarudra, shvetAshvatara
practice of yoga shvetAshvatara
identification of rudra with puruSha of sAMkhya. brahman of vedAnta shvetAshvatara, kena
rite of ash atharvashiras
pAshupata vrata atharvaveda parishiShTha-40
iconic worship of rudra atharvaveda parishiShTha-40, baudhAyana gR^ihyasUtra-s, taittirIya AraNyaka 10
singing, music, dancing atharvaveda parishiShTha-40
bearing lakuTa, daNDa, khaTvA~Nga atharvaveda parishiShTha-40, ancestral saMnyAsopaniShat
pa~nchabrahma mantra-s taittirIya AraNyaka 10, baudhAyana gR^ihyasUtra-s, AV-mahanArAyaNa, pAshupata sUtra-s
li~Nga worship/wearing taittirIya AraNyaka 10, pAshupata sUtra-s, mahAbhArata
govrata/mR^igavrata pAshupata sUtra-s, mahAbhArata, ancestral saMnyAsopaniShat
simulated madness/huddukAra pAshupata sUtra-s, mahAbhArata, ancestral saMnyAsopaniShat
shiva animating brAhmaNa’s corpse kauNDinya bhAShya
lakulIsha and his iconography purANa-s

footnote 1: In our reckoning the first proto-pAshupata layer is represented by the late vedic material such as the shvetAshvatara (early first layer; of course the parallel nIlarudra is drawn from the AV-P saMhitA itself ) and atharvashiras (late first layer; perhaps also includes the sAmavedic kena). The pAshupata ritual of the AV-parishiShTha appears in the form of sUtra-like prescriptions and might correspond to a pashupata practice immediately subsequent to the first layer. This was then followed by the pAshupata system described in the great epic. The system in the AV-pari 40 also appears to represent a precursor of the system expounded in the pAshupata sUtra-s. (see above for further discussion).

This entry was posted in Heathen thought, History. Bookmark the permalink.