What is the concept of Final Liberation as per the Pashupat sect?


1. Pashupat

        Lakulish is the founder of this sect. He established this sect in the 2nd century B.C.

1.1 Siddhant

        In the Shaiva doctrine pashu, pash and pati are considered the three basic classes (trivarga). These also form the basis of the Pashupat doctrine. Shankaracharya has given five doctrines, that is meanings of the Pashupat sect. They are : 1. action (karya), 2. cause (pati), 3. spiritual discipline (yoga), 4. observance of directives (charya) and 5. end of sorrow.

A. Action : All that which is devoid of energy of its own, that is dependent on another is an action. It is of the following three types – vidya, kala and pashu.

1. Vidya : This is an attitude of pashu (the embodied soul). It is further classified as follows.

  • Bodhasvabhava

    1. Manifest: The vidya which permits realisation, which becomes manifest through the sense organs is referred to as the subconscious mind (chitta), because the manifestation or non-manifestation of an object which materialises due to this energy imparting realisation is actually realised by the subconscious mind.

    2. Unmanifest

  • Abodhasvabhava : This vidya decides the regulations by which the embodied souls have to abide. Embodied souls try to behave righteously and avoid unrighteous behaviour due to these regulations.

2. Kala (nescience) : This being within the control of divine consciousness is itself devoid of divine consciousness.

  • Kala in the form of action : Five elements such as the earth and five attributes such as the form have been elucidated in kala in the form of action.

  • Kala in the form of cause : The thirteen types of kalas in the form of cause are the five sense organs, five motor organs, intellect, ego and mind.

3. Pashu (embodied soul) : The embodied soul which on evolvement always remains dependent on material objects is called an animal (pashu). Becoming an animal means becoming dependent. Animals are further classified as sanjan (सांजन) and niranjan (निरंजन). Sanjan [(स + अंजन) darkness)] means full of ignorance and niranjan means devoid of all ignorance. The former ignorant embodied soul is concerned with the body and kalas while the latter which is pure is not.

B. Cause (the sustainer) : The principle which is responsible for creation, sustenance and dissolution and which bestows favours upon the world is called the cause. The sustainer is the one who possesses both the energies of spiritual knowledge and action.

C. Spiritual discipline : The spiritual practice which unites the soul and The Lord through the medium of the subconscious mind is called yoga.

D. Observance of directives (विधि) : Righteous seekers refer to worldly transactions as observance of directives or established customs. The types of observances are enlisted below.

1. Vowed religious observances : Bathing with holy ash (bhasma), sleeping on holy ash, following restrictions (upahar), chanting, circumambulation are all vowed religious observances. In this context Bhagvan Lakulish has said, ‘One should bathe with holy ash thrice and sleep on it’. There are six types of restrictions (upahar) hasit, gita, nrutya, hudukkar, namaskar and japa. Hasit means uttering ‘h h h h’ loudly moving the neck and lips. Gita is singing the glory of Maheshvar’s attributes according to the norms of classical music. Co-ordinated hand and body movements embellished with facial expressions is nrutya (dance). Hudukkar is creating a sound like the snorting of a bull by touching the tongue to the palate. Rituals performed after a bath such as partaking of food obtained by asking for alms, partaking of leftover food of the deity, using dried flowers (nirmalya) from the idol worshipped as a blessed sacrament (prasad), donning lingas, etc. are complementary to the rituals of the first stage.

2. Doors

  • Krathan: Pretence of a man who is actually awake that he is asleep

  • Spandan: Moving the parts of the body as if one has developed gaseous distension

  • Mandan: Walking as if crippled

  • Shrungaran: Indulging in sexual play imagining that one is sexually aroused by the sight of a lady

  • Avitkaran: Performing actions worthy of criticism by others, like a man without any reasoning between right and wrong (vivek)

  • Avitadbhashan: Speaking antagonistically and meaninglessly.

E. End of sorrow : This is the intense reduction of sorrow. This itself is referred to as the ultimate of the four pursuits (parampurushartha) or the Final Liberation (Moksha). As given above only after the destruction of the five types of ignorance – knowledge of the Great Illusion, unrighteousness, purpose of divine energy, bondage with the Great Illusion (Maya) and being embodied (pashu) by performing yoga or observance of regulations one acquires the Final Liberation in the form of intense reduction of sorrow. Surrendering to Lord Shiva wholeheartedly is also a remedy for Final Liberation. The belief behind it is that these types of ignorance are destroyed and the embodied soul attains the Final Liberation with the blessings of Lord Pashupati.


  • Anatmak Final Liberation: Severe reduction of unhappiness

  • Satmak Final Liberation: Attainment of the divine attributes of spiritual knowledge (dnyan) and action (karma).

1.2 Special features

  • A. In other doctrines the elimination of sorrow is termed as the Final Liberation but in this doctrine realisation of The Supreme God is also termed as the Final Liberation.

  • B. Principle : The Supreme Soul (Parmatma) and the embodied soul doing spiritual practice (jivatma) are eternal and separate objects. The world, Nature exists because of the Great Illusion (Maya). In the liberated state the embodied soul is able to shed (detach itself) ignorance and weakness and becomes embodied to acquire infinite spiritual knowledge and energy of action (kriyashakti) and thus by the grace of God becomes the great master of the attendants (gans) as Mahadev. (Pashupatsutra 1.38)

  • C. Dr. Bhandarkar has severely criticized this extremist Shaiva sect. In his opinion their paths in the pursuit of realisation of God were artificial and misleading. The deity Rudra-Shiva belonged to the forests and open uninhabitated places. Temples of Lord Shiva were conventionally established away from civilization. The devotees too used to be unrighteous, corrupt and uncultured. This opinion of Dr.Bhandarkar seems to be true to a large extent as these people never seemed to be bothered about protection and growth of the society. They could not conceive that feelings such as auspiciousness and purity develop peace and stability in civic life as they always remained aloof from social interaction. Consequently in the subsequent period, this sect which remained away from society and violated societal norms was outcast by society and new sects came into being accepting only broadminded concepts and behaviour. Although their practices attracted social criticism one must admit that they had reached a state beyond social criticism with the help of these practices.

1.3 Risks

        Followers of the Pashupat sect adopted the dualistic philosophy, that is believed in many manifestations of The Lord. The result of such a dualistic philosophy can be that man can get entrapped in spiritual practice with a materialistic viewpoint. When one accepts a distinction between the Supreme Soul (Parmatma) and the embodied soul (jivatma) one does not feel greatly inclined to cross the chasm of happiness and sorrow between them. In the very concept that the ultimate end of sorrow itself is the Final Liberation (Moksha), is incorporated the duality of happiness and sorrow. Transgressing both these states itself is the true concept of the Final Liberation.

1.4 Comparison between Pashupat and some other Shaiva sects

  Pashupat Some other Shaiva
1. What is the
    concept of the
    Final Liberation
End of unhappiness
and attainment of The
Supreme God,
attainment of The
Supreme Energy and
end of unhappiness
End of unhappiness or
attainment of the Final
Liberation (Kaivalya)
2. Origin of the
The mission is perpe-
tual, e.g. the embodied
From the Great
Illusion (asat)
3. Causes of the
Absent. Maheshvar
carries out His mission
The cause requires an
auxillary cause for the
fulfillment of causation
4. Result of
   spiritual practice
Samip Mukti (no
Attainment of heaven
(hence there is rebirth)

1.5 The divine weapon (pashupatastra)

        ‘The trident in Lord Shiva’s hand is called the divine weapon. It is said that this weapon has the form of fire and is capable of annihilating the entire universe.

Arjun prayed for this weapon to Shankar who imparted him with it. At that time Lord Mahadev said ‘I am bestowing upon you My weapon, pashupat which is very dear to Me. You are capable of sporting, wielding and withdrawing it. However Partha, do not use it on anyone irresponsibly. Should you happen to use it on one who is weak, it shall destroy the entire universe. The one who sports this can destroy his enemy with a mere glance, mental energy, speech or bow and arrow.’

2. Kapalik, Kalamukh and Aghor

        ‘An ancient Shaiva sect like the Pashupat, Kapaliks are followers of the Path of Distressing Energy (Vammarg), are fearsome by temparament and worship Lord Shiva. Kapali means Lord Shiva who sports a skull. His devotees are known as Kapaliks. They too use skull bones and partake of wine, meat etc. through it. Slaying man, partaking of meat and blood and residing in the crematorium are special characteristics of the Kapaliks. In the Shiva Puran they are termed as those practising the Mahavrat. The Mahavrat includes such aghori acts as eating in human skulls, sitting in the crematorium, applying ash from burnt corpses, etc. Kapaliks are worshippers of harsh deities such as Mahabhairav and Chamunda. In the spiritual practice of sahajvajrayans, company of women is essential. Similarly the Kapaliks too consider the company of women to be very essential. There is not much difference between the Kapaliks and Kalamukhs. At the most one may say that the Kalamukhs are harsher than the Kapaliks.’

Aghor (अघोर) is derived from a (अ) and ghoraha (घोर:) which means ‘one who has no worries (ghor) at all’. These generally undertake spiritual practice in the crematorium; hence they are also known as smashan (crematorium) aghoris.

3. The Shaiva sect according to the Agam scriptures

3.1 History

        The Agam scriptures are the origin of the doctrines of the ancient Shaiva sect. The total number of Agam scriptures is considered to be twenty-eight. In South India this Shaiva sect according to the Agam was widely preached. The Shaivites of the Agam school of thought were different from the Shaivites professing faith in the Vedas and the Upanishads. In their view Vedic scriptures did not have significance. They claim that the twenty-eight Agam scriptures described by Lord Mahadev are more sacred than the Vedas which are deemed to have originated from the very breath of Lord Brahma. The Shiva whom they worship is the five faced one with the Names Sadyojat, Vamdev, Aghor, Tatpurush and Ishan. The Agam scriptures have originated from these five faces. Probably all the Agam texts have been written in the ninth century. One should remember that the followers of the Agam philosophy have incorporated many a mantra and rituals of worship from the followers of the Vedas.

3.2 Doctrines

        The Shaiva doctrine describes four parts and three substances. The four parts are spiritual knowledge (vidya), actions (kriya), spiritual discipline (yoga) and behaviour (charya) and the three substances are the master (pati), the animal (pashu) and the bondages (pash). The section on spiritual knowledge (vidyapad) describes the master, animal and the bondages as well as mantras and their importance.

A. Pad (chapter) 1 – Vidyapad

  • Master : The master refers to Shiva. Shiva creates destiny as well as the objects of pleasure or pain according to the destiny of the embodied soul. Thus His energy of creation is dependent on the actions of human beings. The Divine Energy (Shakti) has five mantras commencing with Ishan to conceptualise the parts of The Supreme God. These five mantras represent His five energies and His five different forms. With the help of these He performs functions such as creation, sustenance, dissolution, enveloping with the Great Illusion (tirobhav) and initiation (anugraha).

  • Animal : An animal refers to the embodied soul doing spiritual practice. Although the embodied soul acquires the nature of Shiva yet it does not become independent but remains in the company of the ever free Shiva. There are three types of animals.

    1. Those with a tendency to acquire spiritual knowledge (vidnyankal): Those who have nullified the impressions of their past deeds with the help of spiritual knowledge and yoga and have detached themselves from all the transitions (kalas) and those in whom only ignorance (mala) persists.

    2. Those with a tendency for dissolution (pralayakal): Those whose attitudes (kalas) are destroyed with dissolution of the universe. These seekers are liberated from action (karma) and ignorance.

    3. Those with all tendencies (sakal) : One bound with ignorance, action and the Great Illusion (Maya).

  • The noose (pash) : The four types of nooses are ignorance, action, the Great Illusion (Maya) and the binding energy (rodhashakti).

    1. Ignorance: That which covers the spiritual knowledge of the soul and the energy of action akin to the husk of grain is called ignorance.

    2. Action: That which an individual performs with desire for results is termed as an action. Both Righteousness (Dharma) as well as unrighteousness are included in it. Actions have been continuing like seeds and their sprouts since times immemorial.

    3. The Great Illusion: This is an energy in which the entire creation dissolves at the time of dissolution of the universe and is recreated it at the time of creation of the universe.

    4. The binding energy (rodhashakti): This is an energy of Shiva. It is present in the other three nooses and obscures the true nature of the animal. Hence it too is considered as a noose. Since it is the energy of speech it performs its functions and is responsible for naming of objects.

B. Pad (chapter) 2 – Kriyapad

In this are included perfection of mantras, the ritual of sandhya, ritualistic worship (puja), chanting (japa), offering oblations through the fire (havan), routine actions for the acquisition of permanent Bliss, ritualistic bathing (abhishek) of the teacher and seekers and the ritual of initiation for spiritual upliftment and attainment of The Supreme God by the seeker. Namaha Shivaya is the five lettered mantra used in their ritualistic worship. In this sect primarily those renouncing the world would be granted initiation. Prior to obtaining such an initiation he had to acquire the grace of the female deity (devi). This initiation by the female deity is itself the transfer of energy (shaktipat).

C. Pad (chapter) 3 – Yogapad

In this, 36 principles, their presiding deities, the presiding deities of various regions (lokas), the embodied soul doing spiritual practice (jivatma), the Supreme Soul, the Divine Energy (Shakti), the creator of the universe, the Great Illusion (Maya and Mahamaya) are described. It also includes supernatural powers for the worldly person such as acquiring a subtle, miniature form, pranayam, introversion (pratyahar), concentration (dharana), meditation (dhyan) and the superconscious state (samadhi) as well as the description of the states of the chakras commencing from the Muladhar or the navel.

D. Pad (chapter) 4 – Charyapad

Here austerities, purificatory ceremonies, the nature of a Shivalinga and its installation, a visible linga of Uma and Maheshvar, Ganapati, Skanda, Nandi, a japamala (rosary) and the ritual for ancestors (shraddha) are described. It is seen that behaviour contributing to the actions described in the Kriyapad are complemented in this Charyapad. Actions which are forbidden are described here as follows.

  • Partaking of an offering of food (prasad) of other deities

  • Criticising the rituals done with expectation (sakam karmas) described in the Shaiva philosophy, enjoying The Lord’s creation, animal sacrifices, etc.

4. Shuddha Shaivites

        In South India another sect known as the Shuddha Shaivites was established in the later period. ‘Qualified non-duality (Vishishtadvait) ’ maybe described as the special characteristic of this sect. This is also said to be due to the influence of the philosophies propounded by Ramanujacharya and Yamunacharya. The ‘Vayaviya Sanhita’ a part of the Shiva Puran is the principal holy text of this sect. Just as Vaishnav teachers came to the fore deriving inspiration from the devotional poetry of Alvars and propounded the Vaishnav sect and philosophy so also, the Shaiva teachers (naynars) of the south granting prominence to the hymns of devotees like Namtara, etc. began to propagate the doctrines of their sect.

 Reference : Sanatan Sanstha’s Holy Text ‘Shiva’

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