While the pAshupata vrata described in some Agamas and Tantras are described as unfit for dvijas by authorities such as shAtAtapa, hemadri etc. based on scriptures, its anuShThAna is considered equally important to earn the grace of mahAdeva. For those who accept the pramANa of those shAstras which reject pAshupata vrata with phrases such as pAShaNda, vrAtyAshrita etc., [vrddha shAtAtapa, parAshara, rAmAnuja etc.], a method of the vrata suitable for shrotriyas is described in the pAtALa khaNDa of padma purANa. Its anuShThAna can be seen in the shrine of pashupatinAtha. Though the internal pAshupata vrata has a greater significance, rightly indicated by the term pAshupata yoga, the use of the external vrata to discipline the body and the mind cannot be ignored. This vrata is said to be based on the teachings of bharadvAja, and not lakulIsha or other later teachers. The original form of worship of pashupati is rooted in atharvaNa veda and not solely in bhairavAdyAgamas that describe practices which seem ridiculous and unsuitable for dvijas. Admonition of pAshupata by Acharyas including rAmAnuja is specific to those modes and hence those arguments should not be incorrectly associated with anything and everything related to pAshupata. In the shrIkrama followed in our lineage, without aShTa pAshupata dIkShA, it is believed that pAshAShTaka cannot be severed and hence pAshupata dIkShA is one of the primary thirty-two dIkShas. The six, eleven and fifteen lettered mantras, described as laghu pAshupata, pAshupata and mahApAshupata, respectively associated with rudra, sadAshiva and paramashiva, are mantras of great potency.
The vrata should be commenced on shukla chaturdashI of the desired month. The most desirable day would be a chaturdashI that falls on an ArdrA yukta somavAsara. One should perform bhUta shuddhi and contemplate on the laya of the elements in their reverse order of evolution. One should perform sankalpa for the vrata and establish agni according to svashAkhA. One should fast, adorn himself with white clothing, upavIta etc.
upoShitaH shuchiH snAtaH shuklAmbaradharaH svayam |
shuklayaj~nopavItashcha shuklamAlyAnulepanaH ||
He should then perform homa (samidAjyacharUniti dravyatrayam) with the virajA mantras:
prANApAnavyAnodAnasamAnA me shuddhyantAm jyotiraham virajA vipApmA bhUyAsaM svAhA || etc.
The samaropaNa of the agni into the Self should be performed with the mantra yA te agne yajniyA tanUH. The Homa bhasma should be collected and clarified with the mantra, agniriti bhasma. The bhasma should then be worn on lalATa and other body parts.
shivamantreNa vA dhAryaM gAyatryA praNavena vA ||
One can use shaiva mantra, gAyatrI or shuddha praNava (yathAdhikAra) to wear the bhasma. According to sampradAya, sapraNava panchAkShara mantra, prAsAda dvitaya, laghu pAshupata and mahApAshupata are the mantras used to wear bhasma on the twelve body parts. One should then recite the mUla mantra (or gAyatrI) followed by shiva sahasranAma (padma purANa gives a version (vedasArAkhya) and it seems logical to assume that the instruction here refers to reciting that particular version). This is the bhasma snAna prescribed for a dvija and is capable of destroying all sins.
agnivIryaM yato bhasma vIryavAn bhasmasaMyutaH |
bhasmasnAnarato vipro bhasmashAyI jitendriyaH |
sarvapApavinirmuktaH shivasAyujyamApnuyAt ||
rudrAkSha dhAraNa, shivalingArchana etc. are other aspects of this vrata. However, pAshupata dIkSha, which is described variously, should be taken from a competent guru before undertaking the sacred vow.
aShTAdashabhujaM dhyAyenmahApAshupateshvaram ||