Pashupat Sutras — Chapter 3, Sutras 1-11
There is a teaching in Pashupat Shaivism about trying to attract abuse in order to seize the merit of the abuser and give him your demerit, thus putting yourself in the position of gaining “power” over him and seizing his spiritual “merit.” This has always smacked as thievery to me, a violation of both ahimsa and asteya, but I guess it could be understood as a simple play of cause and effect: karma. However, the way it is translated sits awfully close to the line where abuse could easily become rationalized and carried out on others in the name of sadhana. This is the kind of thing that gets misinterpreted in scripture so often and so easily.
I have been over the Sanskrit of this text many times. I am not an expert in Sanskrit, but for the life of me, I cannot see where this attracting of abuse and assault is an absolute as a teaching, for there are often many definitions to one word in Sanskrit. In one case, where a translator has used the word “abuse” it does not actually appear to be defined as such in Sanskrit. In another case, the word “sin” is used for a Sanskrit word that seems to have more to do with things not going smoothing.
To give you an idea of what I mean, beneath my own (current) translations of each of the eleven sutras below, I have added two other translations (labeled A and B). After looking these over, you will see why I tell you to get as many editions of a text as possible, and why a teaching lineage is such a better idea than an organized religion where, once a “belief” is settled upon, everyone in that religion goes into agreement with it and acts on it. (An eye for and eye, comes to mind as another problematic teaching for the same reasons.)
Remember the Ten Keys (yamas and niyamas) and assume that they are not being disregarded in these teachings. With this in mind, how do you understand these sutras? At this point we are, of course, out of context and are looking at only a few sutras, so don’t settle on any permanent interpretations, but do let us hear what you think.
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1 Injunction of secrecy.
A — He will be of unmanifested marks.
B — Of nature and characteristics unrevealed.
2 Evolved practices as by injunction of the teacher.
A — He is of manifested practices.
B — With conduct or action revealed or expressed.
3 [One] will not be taken seriously [or, he will be disregarded or scorned]
A — Insulted.
B — Disregarded
4 Among all the people.
A — Among all created beings.
B — In all living beings
5 One should go on anyway, disregarding [such] opinions.
A — He should wander while being assaulted.
B — One should go on with his duty even if ignored or disregarded
6 [By this practice] harm, misfortune and sorrow* [get] destroyed
A — He gets all sins destroyed.
B — With sins removed or destroyed.
7 Quickly, because of their slander and blaming,
A — Because of the abuse made by others.
B — From blaming or finding faults with others.
8 And thus, overcoming harm, misfortune and sorrow in this way [is] a gift,
A — He gives them sin.
B — He hands over his sins.
9 And merit** [good fortune] [is] acquired.
A — And he receives their merit (born of [their] good deeds).
B — He snatches their pious acts.
10 Therefore, on account of that,
A — On account of that
B — Therefore.
11 Go about like a ghost° [vocalizing like a ghost]
A — He should wander like a Preta [ghost].
B — One should move about like a departed spirit or a ghost.
[Presumably, this is in order to attract more abuse and assault to acquire more merit.]
* Harm, misfortune and sorrow. This comes from a Sanskrit word (papam) that encompasses everything from pain to difficulties of all kinds.
** Merit. This comes from from a Sanskrit word (sukam) that translates as “having a well-oiled axel wheel” and refers to all kinds of good things from ease and comfort to happiness, good fortune and religious merit (which is meant as money in the bank for doing sadhana successfully).
° Ghost (preta): Departed, deceased, dead, a dead person, the spirit of a dead person (especially before obsequial rites are performed), a ghost, an evil being.