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Pāśupata (Skt., paśu, ‘beast’, + pati, ‘lord’). An early Śaiva sect worshipping Śiva as Pāśupati. Their name is derived from the threefold Śaiva doctrine of Lord (pati), soul (paśu, ‘beast’), and bondage (pāśa). Accounts of them are given in the Mahābhārata, the Vayu Purāṇa and the Atharvaśiras Upaniṣad. Their doctrines are known from the later Pāśupata Sūtra and the commentary by Kauṇḍīnya (5th or 6th cent. CE). The Pāśupatas maintained that Śiva is transcendent, and is the instrumental, not the material, cause of the world. The aim of Pāśupata practice, which comprised yoga, asceticism, and mantra repetition, was freedom from suffering, which comes about only through grace (prasāda). The Pāśupatas were celibate (urdhvā retas, ones who ‘keep their semen up’), and ascetic (tapasvin). They also practised anti-social behaviour, such as snoring in public, acting as if mad, and talking nonsensically, in order to court abuse, whereby the karma merit of the abuser would be transferred to the abused. They went naked, with matted hair, covered in ashes, and frequented cremation grounds.

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