While reading the article "Ahimsha and Vegetarianism in Kashmir Shaivaism" on the Kamakotimandali, i came across the concept of "Shadjanma Pashu" ( Shad=six; Janma=birth; Pashu=an animal).

It is referring to an animal which is sacrificing it's life for six successive lives to attain God Consciousness. Such is it's heroism it's also called by the name of "Vira Pashu" or "the Heroic animal".

I am quoting some parts from the article below which is relevant to my question here and also some extra parts which provide the context of the discussion:

And that sheep must be very strong, healthy, young; not an old male sheep. He must be young and healthy because he is being sentenced to god-consciousness.

parokṣe.api paśāvevaṃ vidhiḥ syādyojanaṃ prayi | praveśito yāgabhuvi hatastatraiva sādhitaḥ | cakrajuṣṭaśca tatraiva sa vīrapaśurucyate || (Tantrāloka 16:52)

‘In previous births also, this sacrifice has been done by this paśu. But the master has to see in his samādhi, that he is a vīrapaśu (heroic sheep). Then, when the vīrapaśu enters the maṇḍala, he is slaughtered there without any botheration. He does not cry, he does not jump, he does not want to move. He just welcomes this treatment’.

This elevating of the sheep is done through the subtle transfer of prāṇa, and this can only be done by an elevated master. Outside of this, the taking of meat for the purpose of sense gratification or taste is strictly prohibited.


Agniṣṭomīya is the vedic sacrifice where sheep are slaughtered, but that is not an act of butchery. This is a divine act which is not sin.

On the contrary,

na haṭhena paśuṃ hanyānnārtibhāve kadācana | nacodeśena subhage yagapūrvaṃ vidhānavit ||

Such slaughter is allowed only on the occasion of Putraka Dīkṣā in the context of Kashmir Shaivism.


Having accepted Abhinavagupta’s point on the sacredness of rituals, Jayaratha raises the question concerning the position of the sheep that is to be slaughtered.

‘Now we have accepted that paśu yāga (animal sacrifice) on this occasion is divine, but still, to cut the throat of a paśu on that occasion is always disliked by the sheep. He will not like it since cutting his throat is not a joke’.

To this objection, Abhinavagupta puts forth this answer:

‘This is great blessing and great help that you cut his throat on this occasion. This is a great service to this paśu. No matter if he will not like it at the time of slaughtering, it will not be appreciated by that sheep’.

To clarify, Abhinavagupta gives the following example. When you are overwhelmed with some peculiar disease, the doctor prescribes a mixture and fasting; but fasting you don’t appreciate, mixture also you don’t appreciate because it is not sweet, it is sour. But this is a great service to that diseased being. So this is a kind of drug we are giving the sheep, and this drug is a terrible mixture for getting rid of the disease of rebirths - birth and death, birth and death, in continuity.

Jayaratha then raises the following objection:

“If it is true that by cutting his throat he will be liberated, then what is the purpose, what is the sense, what is the meaning in initiation then? You just cut his throat and he will be liberated. Why undergo all these cycles of procedures of rituals, just cut his throat and he will be liberated’.

In answer to this objection, Abhinavagupta quotes from the śāstras:

‘In Mṛtyuñjaya Tantra (Netra Tantra), in the section of pāśaccheda it is said by Lord Shiva - when you cut the bindings of an individual to liberate him from repeated births and deaths, at that precious moment, āṇava, māyīya and kārma malas are also removed along with his body. So, he will not come into this wretched cycle of existence again, he will not be born again - because when both good and bad karma are exhausted, then there is no question of birth again. So this is not slaughtering the sheep, we are initiating the sheep, this is one way of dīkṣā.’

And this is a kind of initiation for duffers who cannot understand. For instance, if I teach a sheep to breath in and out, in and out, and watch the center of this cycle, will he understand? So, this is the way to teach him. Gross slaughtering is when you simply cut the throat of a sheep, or any being - in this case āṇava, māyīya and kārma mala are still there, you commit a sin there.

But when you cut the throat and there are no malas left, that is initiation, that is upliftment, that is divine way of initiation. This is where you sentence him to higher worlds, higher elevated cycles of the universe.

Now Abhinavagupta says that the master has to understand in which incarnation the sheep is residing.

When he is initially slaughtered and offered through havana, then he has again come back in birth and six times he is offered. That sheep, in the sixth cycle of his birth is called ṣadjanmā. And adepts can calculate and understand through meditation that this paśu who is grazing grass is ṣadjanmā paśu, and that is called vīrapaśu’.

Once again it is emphasized that the fate of this vīrapaśu is liberation.

My question- Which scriptures (possibly the Agamas will) describe about this heroic animal called the Shad Janma Pashu?

Basically, i want to know more about this heroic animal.

  • 1
    Welcome to KS club mate :) – Rakesh Joshi Nov 12 '17 at 21:04

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