The Five Stages of Pashupat Shaivism
There are said to be five stages in Pashupat sadhana. I do not know if this has been arrived at by latter day scholars and practitioners, or whether it was originally intended. I do not see anything definitive regarding five stages within the sutras themselves, although there are prayers at certain junctures that separate five sets of sutras. Still, the first of these five sets appears to be an overall synopsis of the sadhana. On the other hand, with an overview of the complete text, it is possible to identify five teachings on the subjects of residence, sustenance, practices and actions, and gains, that can be summed up something like this:
Residence: a house.
Sustenance: begging alms.
Practices and actions: strength-celibacy, eight-limbs practice [see Yoga Sutras of Patanjali], actions like laughter, song, dance, etc., and bath in ashes.
Gains: removal of impurities and attainment of wisdom.
Residence: the world at large.
Sustenance: whatever is offered.
Practices and actions: appearing foolish, eccentric, and a lunatic.
Gains: merit, demerit destroyed, purification, withdrawal of the senses from objects of sense.
Residence: a vacant house or a cave.
Sustenance: alms while living like a cow or a deer.
Practices and actions: remembrance, surrender to God.
Gains: purification, complete introversion of the senses and the mind.
Residence: a cremation ground.
Sustenance: accepting whatever comes or can be obtained as chance provides.
Practices and actions: purification of states that cause one’s constant remembrance to slip.
Gains: direct contact with God.
Residence and Sustenance: the mode of living like a rishi (sage).
Practices and Actions: carefulness and grace of God.
Gains: the end of sorrows.
I leave it to you to try to convert this wisdom into present day understanding that is both useful and true to the original teachings. I believe this can be done, for this is a scripture and it is the nature of scripture to be timeless.