Pashupata Shaivism

Last updated: December 21, 2023

What Does Pashupata Shaivism Mean?

Pashupata Shaivism is believed to be the oldest named sect of Hinduism. It was one of the main schools of Shaivism, which worships Shiva as the supreme deity. The name comes from Pashupati, an incarnation of Shiva as lord of the animals, and Pashupati itself is derived from the Sanskrit pashu, meaning “animal” or “beast.” Pashu also refers to a soul trapped by the bondage of ignorance and the cycle of rebirth. Shaivism means “Shiva’s path.”

Pashupatas were known for such devotional and ascetic practices as meditation and chanting, but they were also known for more extreme practices such as smearing their bodies with ashes and walking around while pounding the earth with iron tridents and staffs as a means of self-purification.


Yogapedia Explains Pashupata Shaivism

Pashupata Shaivism was a monotheistic system that, unlike some of Hinduism’s other schools, did not believe that servitude to a supreme deity would lead to the end of suffering and a state of bliss. Pashupatas believed that such dependence prevented liberation. The mental discipline of yoga, they believed, was the process through which the soul attained divine status. Salvation (dukhanta) was thought to be the end of earthly misery, but even in this state – when the soul contained the attributes of Shiva – the soul would retain its uniqueness.

The philosophy is described in the Hindu epic poem the “Mahabharata,” but the teachings of Pashupata Shaivism were believed to have come directly from Shiva.

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