The Three Temperaments

THE Tantras speak of three temperaments, dispositions, characters (bhava), or classes of men namely, the pasu-bhava (animal), vira-bhava (heroic), and divya-bhava (deva-like or divine). These divisions are based on various modifications of the gunas as they manifest in man (jiva). It has been pointed out (1) that the analogous Gnostic classification of men as material, psychical and spiritual, correspond to the three gunas of the Samkhya-darsana. In. the pasu the rajo-guna operates chiefly on tamas, producing such dark characteristics as error (bhranti), drowsiness (tandra), and sloth (alasya).

It is however, an error to suppose that the pasu 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 pasu, 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 pasu comes from the root pas, “to bind”. The pasu is in fact the man who is bound by the bonds (pasa), of which the Kularnava-Tantra enumerates eight namely, pity (daya), ignorance and delusion (moha), fear (bhaya), shame (lajja), disgust (ghrna), family (kula), custom (sila), 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 pasu is also the worldly man, in ignorance and bondage, as opposed to the yogi, and the tattva-jnani. Three divisions of pasu are also spoken of – namely, sakala, who are bound by the three pasas, 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 S’iva Himself. The Devi bears the pasa, and is the cause of them, but She too, is pasupasa-vimocini,(2) Liberatrix of the pasu from his bondage.

What has been stated gives the root notion of the term pasu. Men of this class are also described in Tantra by exterior traits, which are manifestations of the interior disposition. So the Kubjika-Tantra (3) says:

“Those who belong to pasu-bhava are simply pasus. A pasu 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.(4) He lacks faith in the guru, and thinks that the image is but a block of stone. He distinguishes one deva from another,(5) and worships without flesh and fish. He is always bathing, owing to his ignorance,(6) and talks ill of others.(7) Such an one is called pasu and he is the worst kind of man.” (8)

Similarly the Nitya-Tantra (9)describes the pasu as – “He who does not worship at night nor in the evening, nor in the latter part of the day,(10) who avoids sexual intercourse, except on the fifth day after the appearance of the courses (11) (rtukalam vina devi vamanam parivarjayet); who does not eat meat etc., even on the five auspicious days (parvana)”; in short, those who, following Vedachara, Vaisnvacara, and Saivacara, are bound by the Vaidik rules which govern all pasus.

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 classess of vira.

1. Richard Garbe, “Philosophy of Ancient India,” p, 48, as also before him, Baur,
2. Lalita-sahasra-nama (verse 78).
3. Chapter VII.
4. Instead of being Devata. Similarly the Nitya-Tantra (see Pranatosini, 547 et seq).
5. Not recognizing that all are but plural manifestations of the One.
6. That is, he only thinks of external and ceremonial purity, not of internal purity of mind, etc,
7. That is, decrying as sectarian-minded Vaisnavas do, all other forms of worship than their own, a common fault of the pasu the world over. In fact, the Picchila-Tantra (chap. XX) says that the Vaisnava must worship Paramesvara like a pasu,
8. All the Tantras describe the pasu as the lowest form of the three temperaments. Nitya-Tantra, and chap, X. of Picchila Tantra, where pasu, bhava is described.
9. See Prana-tosini, p. 547.
10. As Tantrika vira do.
11. Taking their usual duration to be four days. This is a Vaidik injunction, as to which sea post. The Vira and Divya are not so bound to maithuna on the fifth day only; that is as to maithuna as a part of vinacara.