By Swami Harshananda
Āṇavamala literally means ‘impurity of being atomic’.
The Śaiva schools of philosophy including the Pāśupata, Pratyabhijñā and the Vīraśaiva, consider Śiva as the supreme Deity. He is the Pati (the Lord) whereas the jīvas (individual souls) are paśus (animals, the bound ones). Though the jlva is similar to Śiva, the Paśupati, he is not identical with Him.
The difference is rather in quantity than in quality. It is pāśajāla (web of bonds) that makes him small, limited, bound, and forces him to transmigrate. The first of these pāśas also known as malas or impurities—is avidyā or ignorance which makes him feel he is aṇu, small, finite and limited. Hence it is called ‘āṇavamala.’
Due to this, the jiva, though he is pure consciousness, imagines himself finite, confined to the body and of limited knowledge and power. The other two are:
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore