The trick to understanding and applying ancient mystical texts is to know how to ask the right questions of yourself. If you can understand the meaning and how it was applied during ancient times, you can then begin to translate the translations into your own time and culture.
The Teachings of the Immortal, Lord Lakulisha,
Twenty-Eighth Incarnation of Lord Shiva.
Translations are in bold
“OR” indicates an alternate translation, also in bold.
Any commentary that follows is my own.
How to Read the Sutras
The language, customs and practices of two-thousand years ago were what they were for a reason, and are still valid. The trick to understanding them is to remember that fact. The trick to applying them is to know how to ask the right questions of yourself. If you can (1) understand the meaning and (2) how it was applied during those times, you can then begin to (3) translate the translations into your own time and culture.
I:1 Therefore, now we shall explain Pashupata Yoga:
“Therefore, now” is a frequent beginning in yoga scripture. Something has gone on before that has brought students to the point of being able to make use of the teachings that are coming up. This causes us to consider what went on before—if it wasn’t this yoga what was it, and do we feel that we are at that point? One way to tell is to read the sutras and see if they have meaning for us……
I:2 Ash bath three periods of the day,
I:3 Sleep in ashes, OR Lie down in ashes,
I:4 Re-bath. OR After bath.
I:5 Pure, OR Sinless,
I.6 Wearer/Bearer of the mark OR Vessel-holder.
This scripture is unlike others I have studied or translated, and has been the biggest challenge to my limited knowledge of Sanskrit. It is so deeply esoteric that I cannot put much in writing, so I have left things in the raw, but I can give you some clues as to how to think about things:
Ask yourself questions like, What are ashes? What do I normally think of when I think of ashes? What is a bath? What is the purpose of a bath, and how does a bath in ashes accomplish this? Or does it? If it doesn’t, start over.
Shaivite vanaprastis (forest-dwellers of the lineage of Shiva) smear themselves with ashes left by a burned out fire and go around without clothing. Some say the ashes help keep the body warm in the foothill climates. Also, persons of various sects usually have some signifier (“bearer of the mark”) that makes it possible to identify other members of that sect.
As to the “three periods of the day,” the idea is that one meditates three times a day. Some Shaivite sadhus can be seen with three horizontal lines (of ash) across the forehead, indicating the completion of meditation at each period of the day. One is placed on the forehead after each meditation (“bearer of the mark”).
The three periods are dawn, the period between dark and light, noon, when the sun is risen to mid-heaven, and dusk, the period between light and dark. These times are traditionally thought to be the best times to meditate. In my experience, each period of the day has a different energy and meditation has a different quality in each.
Three hours of meditation in each time period is nine hours of meditation. “Sleep in ashes” adds the night-time and several more hours. “Re-bath,” bathe again—meditate whenever the spirit moves you between times—adds yet more meditation time to one’s sadhana, until eventually, nearly all one’s time is taken up with meditation, with the exception of a couple of hours for personal maintenance and some time for scripture study. One sleeps (normal sleep) very little as it is not needed.
Because the yoga of Pashupati is for the purpose of ‘purification’, the ‘bearer of the mark’ is reminded that he or she is ‘sinless’, already pure in what it is that he or she truly is, regardless of what comes up in meditation, so there is no need to try to control things during surrender sadhana.
If there is concern about causing harm to others with the surfacing of impurities, be reminded that Perfection Itself is controlling everything. The arising of programs, patterns, conditionings, beliefs and prohibitions learned over time must not be suppressed in meditation. They cannot cause harm to anyone due to the meditation being carried out in isolation and under the guidance of the Perfect One. Forbidden thoughts, feelings and actions arise in mediation for the purpose of their purification and are not acted upon outside of meditation.
In our next installment of the Pashupata Sutram, we will learn more about how this yoga is carried out.
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