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Pashupata Shaivism(Sanskrit: Pāśupatas) is the oldest of the major Shaivite schools. The philosophy of Pashupata sect was systematized by Lakulish (also called Nakuliśa) in the 2nd century A.D. The main texts of the school are Gaṇakārikā, Pañchārtha bhāshyadipikā and Rāśikara-bhāshya.
The date of foundation of the school is uncertain. However, the Pashupatas may have existed from the 1st century AD. Gavin Flood dates them to around the 2nd century AD. They are also referred to in the epic Mahabharata which is thought to have reached a final form by 4th century CE. The Pashupata movement was influential in South India in the period between the 7th and 14th century, but it no longer exists.
Pashupata Shaivism was a devotional (bhakti) and ascetic movement. Pashu in Pashupati refers to the effect (or created world), the word designates that which is dependent on something ulterior. Whereas, Pati means the cause (or prinripium), the word designates the Lord, who is the cause of the universe, the pati, or the ruler. To free themselves from worldy fetters Pashupatas are instructed to do a pashupata vrata. Atharvasiras Upanishsad describes the pashupata vrata as that which consists of besmearing one's own body with ashes and at the same time muttering mantra — "Agni is ashes, Vayu is ashes, Sky is ashes, all this is ashes, the mind, these eyes are ashes.
Haradattacharya, in Gaṇakārikā, explains that a spiritual teacher is one who knows the eight pentads and the three functions. The eight pentads of Acquisition(result of expedience), Impurity(evil in soul), Expedient(means of purification), Locality(aids to increase knowledge), Perseverance(endurance in pentads), Purification(putting away impurities), Initiation and Powers are —
|Acquisition||knowledge||penance||permanence of the body||constancy||purity|
|Expedient||use of habitation||pious muttering||meditation||constant recollection of Rudra||apprehension|
|Locality||spiritual teachers||a cavern||a special place||the burning ground||Rudra|
|Perseverance||the differenced||the undifferenced||muttering||acceptance||devotion|
|Purification||loss of ignorance||loss of demerit||loss of attachment||loss of interestedness||loss of falling|
|Initiations||the material||proper time||the rite||the image||the spiritual guide|
|Powers||devotion to the spiritual guide||clearness of intellect||conquest of pleasure and pain||merit||carefulness|
The three functions correspond to the means of earning daily food — mendicancy, living upon alms, and living upon what chance supplies.
Pashupatas disapprove of the Vaishnava theology, known for its doctrine servitude of souls to the Supreme Being, on the grounds that dependence upon anything cannot be the means of cessation of pain and other desired ends. They recognize that those depending upon another and longing for independence will not be emancipated because they still depend upon something other than themselves. According to Pashupatas, spirits possess the attributes of the Supreme Deity when they become liberated from the 'germ of every pain'. In this system the cessation of pain is of two kinds, impersonal and personal. Impersonal consists of the absolute cessation of all pains, whereas the personal consists of development of visual and active powers like swiftness of thought, assuming forms at will etc. The Lord is held to be the possessor of infinite, visual, and active powers.
Pañchārtha bhāshyadipikā divides the created world into the insentient and the sentient. The insentient is unconscious and thus dependent on the conscious. The insentient is further divided into effects and causes. The effects are of ten kinds, the earth, four elements and their qualities, colour etc. . The causes are of thirteen kinds, the five organs of cognition, the five organs of action, the three internal organs, intellect, the ego principle and the cognising principle. These insentient causes are held responsible for the illusive identification of Self with non-Self. The sentient spirit, which is subject to transmigration is of two kinds, the appetent and nonappetent. The appetent is the spirit associated with an organism and sense organs, whereas the non-appetent is the spirit without them.
Union in the Pashupata system is a conjunction of the soul with God through the intellect. It is achieved in two ways, action and cessation of action. Union through action consists of pious muttering, meditation etc. and union through cessation of action occurs through consciousness.
Differences with other schools of Indian philosophy 
Cessation of suffering in other systems like Sankhya occurs through the mere termination of miseries, but in Pashupata school it is the attainment of supremacy or of divine perfections. In other philosophies, the created world is that which has come into existence, but in this system it is eternal. In other schools of thought, birth in paradise involves a return to cycle of rebirth, but in this system it results in nearness to the Supreme Being.
Rituals and spiritual practices were done to acquire merit or puṇya. They were divided into primary and secondary rituals, where primary rituals were the direct means of acquiring merit. Primary rituals included acts of piety and various postures. The acts of piety were bathing thrice a day, lying upon sand and worship with oblations of laughter, song, dance, sacred muttering etc. Postures involved absurd actions such as, snoring or showing signs of being asleep while awake, limping, wooing or gestures of an inamorato on seeing a young and pretty woman, talking nonsensically etc. Secondary rituals involved bearing marks of purity after bathing.
See also 
- For the Pāśupatas as the oldest named Śaiva group, see: Flood (2003), p. 206.
- Cowell and Gough, p. 108.
- For dating as first century AD, with uncertainty, see: Michaels (2004), p. 62.
- For dating from probably second century AD, see: Flood (2003), p. 206.
- Buitenen (1973) pp. xxiv–xxv
- Lorenzen, David N. Śaivism. An Overview, [in]: Gale's Encyclopedia of Religion, vol. 12, 2005, ISBN 0-02-865981-3
- For Pāśupata as an ascetic movement see: Michaels (2004), p. 62.
- Cowell and Gough, p. 104-105.
- Indian Histoty,v.k.agnihottri,2003.ISBN 81-7764-393-2.
- Cowell and Gough, p. 103
- Cowell and Gough, p. 106
- Cowell and Gough, p. 107
- Cowell and Gough, p. 109-110.
- Cowell and Gough, p. 108-109.
- Cowell, E. B.; Gough, A. E. (2001). The Sarva-Darsana-Samgraha or Review of the Different Systems of Hindu Philosophy: Trubner's Oriental Series. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 978-0-415-24517-3.
- Flood, Gavin (Editor) (2003). The Blackwell Companion to Hinduism. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing Ltd. ISBN 1-4051-3251-5.
- Michaels, Axel (2004). Hinduism: Past and Present. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-08953-1.