This section is from the book "Mahanirvana Tantra (Tantra of the Great Liberation)", by Translated by Arthur Avalon (Sir John Woodroffe). Also available from Amazon: Mahanirvana Tantra: Tantra of the Great Liberation.
The Tantras speak of three temperaments, dispositions, characters (bhava), or classes of men, namely, the pashu-bhava (animal), vira-bhava (heroic), and divya-bhava (deva-like or divine). These divisions are based on various modifications of the guna (v. ante) as they manifest in man (jiva). It has been pointed out that the analogous Gnostic classification of men as material, psychical, and spiritual, correspond to the three guna of the Sankhya-darshana. In the pashu the rajo-guna operates chiefy on tamas, producing such dark characteristics as error (bhranti), drowsiness (tandra), and sloth (alasya). It is however, an error to suppose that the pashu is as such a bad man; on the contrary, a jiva of this class may prove superior to a jiva of the next. If the former, who is greatly bound by matter, lacks enlightenment, the latter may abuse the greater freedom he has won. There are also numerous kinds of pashu, some more some less tamasik than others. Some there are at the lowest end of the scale, which marks the first advance upon the higher forms of animal life. Others approach and gradually merge into the vira class. The term pashu comes from the root pash, "to bind." The pashu is, in fact, the man who is bound by the bonds (pasha), of which the Kularnava Tantra enurnerates eight, namely, pity (daya), ignorance and delusion (moha), fear (bhaya), shame (lajja), disgust (ghrina), family (kula), custom (shila), and caste (varna). Other enumerations are given of the afflictions which, according to some, are sixty-two, but all such larger divisions are merely elaborations of the simpler enumerations. The pashu is also the worldly man, in ignorance and bondage, as opposed to the yogi and the tattva-jnani. Three divisions of pashsu are also spoken of, namely, sakala, who are bound by the three pasha, called anu (want of knowledge or erroneous knowledge of the self), bheda (the division also induced by maya of the one self into many), and karma (action and its product. These are the three impurities (mala) called anava-mala, maya-mala, and Karma-mala. Pratayakala are those bound by the first and last, and Vijnana-kevala are those bound by anava-mala only. He who frees himself of the remaining impurity of anu becomes Shiva Himself. The Devi bears the pasha, and is the cause of them, but She, too, is pashupasha-vimochini, Liberatrix of the pashu from his bondage.
What has been stated gives the root notion of the term pashu. Men of this class are also described in Tantra by exterior traits, which are manifestations of the interior disposition. So the Kubjika Tantra says: "Those who belong to pashu-bhava are simply pashu. A pashu does not touch a yantra, nor make japa of mantra at night. He entertains doubt about sacrifices and Tantra; regards a mantra as being merely letters only. He lacks faith in the guru, and thinks that the image is but a block of stone. He distinguishes one Deva from another, and worships without flesh and fish. He is always bathing, owing to his ignorance, and talks ill of others. Such an one is called pashu, and he is the worst kind of man." Similarly the Nitya Tantra describes the pashu as, "He who does not worship at night, nor in the evening, nor in the latter part of the day; who avoids sexual intercourse, except on the fifth day after the appearance of the courses (ritu-kalang vina devi ramanang parivarjayet); who do not eat meat, etc., even on the five auspicious days (parvvana)"; in short, those who, following Vedachara, Vaishnavachara, and Shaivachara, are bound by the Vaidik rules which govern all pashus.
In the case of vira-bhava, rajas more largely works on sattva, yet also largely (though in lessening degrees, until the highest stage of divya-bhava is reached) works independently towards the production of acts in which sorrow inheres. There are several classes of vira.
The third, or highest, class of man is he of the divya-bhava (of which, again, there are several degrees, some but a stage in advance of the highest form of vira-bhava, others completely realizing the deva-nature), in which rajas operate on sattva-guna to the confirmed preponderance of the latter.
The Nitya Tantra says that of the bhava the divya is the best, the vira the next best, and the pashu the lowest; and that devata-bhava must be awakened through vira-bhava. The Pichchhila Tantra says that the only difference between the vira and divya men is that the former are very uddhata, by which is probably meant excitable, through the greater prevalence of the independent working of the rajo-guna in them than in the calmer sattvik temperament. It is obvious that such statements must not be read with legal accuracy. There may be, in fact, a considerable difference between a low type of vira and the highest type of divya, though it seems to be true that this quality of uddhata which is referred to is the cause of such differences, whether great or small.
The Kubjika Tantra describes the marks of the divya as he "who daily does ablutions, sandhya; and wearing clean cloth, the tripundara mark in ashes, or red sandal, and ornaments of rudraksha beads, performs japa and archchana. He gives charity daily also. His faith is strong in Veda, Shastra, guru, and Deva. He worships the Pitri and Deva, and performs all the daily rites. He has a great knowledge of mantra. He avoids all food, except that which his guru offers him, and all cruelty and other bad actions, regarding both friend and foe as one and the same. He himself ever speaks the truth, and avoids the company of those who decry the Devata. He worships thrice daily, and meditates upon his guru daily, and, as a Bhairava, worships Parameshvari with divya-bhava. All Devas he regards as beneficial. He bows down at the feet of women, regarding them as his guru (strinang pada-talang drishtva guru-vad bhavayet sada). He worships the Devi at night, and makes japa at night with his mouth full of pan, and makes obeisance to the kula vriksha. He offers everything to the Supreme Devi. He regards this universe as pervaded by stri (shakti), and as Devata. Shiva is in all men, and the whole brahmanda is pervaded by Shiva-Shakti. He ever strives for the attainment and maintenance of devata-bhava, and is himself of the nature of a Devata.
Here, again, the Tantra only seeks to give a general picture, the details of which are not applicable to all men of the divya-bhava class. The passage shows that it, or portions of it, refer to the ritual divya, for some of the practices there referred to would not be performed by the avadkuta, who is above all ritual acts, though he would also share (possibly in intenser degree) the beliefs of divya men of all classes, that he and all else are but manifestations of the universe-pervading Supreme Shakti.
According to the temperament of the sadhaka, so is the form of worship and sadhana. In fact, the specific worship and sadhana of the other classes is strictly prohibited by the Tantra to the pashu.
It is said in this Tantra and elsewhere that, in the Kali-yuga, divya and pashu dispositions can scarcely be found. It may be thought difficult at first sight to reconcile this (so far as the pasha is concerned) with other statements as to the nature of these respective classes. The term pashu, in these and similar passages, would appear to be used in a good sense as referring to a man who, though tamasic, yet performs his functions with that obedience to nature which is shown by the still more tamasic animal creation free from the disturbing influences of rajas, which, if it may be the source of good, may also be, when operating independently, the source of evil.
The Commentator explains the passage cited from the Tantra as meaning that the conditions and character of the Kali-yuga are not such as to be productive of pasha-bhava (apparently in the sense stated), or to allow of its achara (that is, Vaidikachara). No one, he says, can fully perform the vedachara, vaishnavachara, and shavachara rites, without which the Vaidik, Pauranik mantra, and yajna are fruitless. No one now goes through the brahma-charya ashrama, or adopts after the fiftieth year that called vana-prastha. Those whom the Veda does not control cannot expect the fruit of Vaidik observances. On the contrary, men have taken to drink, associate with the low, and are fallen; as are also those men who associate with them. There can therefore be no pure pashu. Under these circumstances the duties prescribed by the Vedas which are appropriate for the pasha being incapable of performance, Shiva for the liberation of men of the Kali Age has proclaimed the Agama. "Now, there is no other way." The explanation thus given, therefore, appears to amount to this. The pure type of pashu for whom vedachara was designed does not exist. For others who though pasha are not purely so, the Tantra is the governing Shastra. This, however, does not mean that all are now competent for virachara.
It is to be noted, however, that the Prana-toshini cites a passage purporting to come from the Mahanirvana Tantra, which is apparently in direct opposition to the foregoing:
Divya-vira-mayo bhavah kalau nasti kada-chana
Kevalang pasha-bhavena mantra-siddhirbhavennrinam.
"In the Kali Age there is no divya or vira-bhava. It is only by the pashu-bhava that men may obtain mantra-siddhi."
This matter of the bhava prevalent in the Kali-yuga has been the subject of considerable discussion and difference of opinion, and is only touched upon here.