A Brief Account of Vira Shaivism or Lingayatism
Virasaiva philosophy is only Sakti Visishtadvaita philosophy. It is a phase of Agamanta.
It underwent radical changes in the hands of Sri Basavanna and his colleagues. Basava
was the Prime Minister to a Jain king named Bijjala who ruled over Kalyan (1157-1167)
which is sixty miles from Gulbarga in Karnataka State.
Basavanna was a magnetic personality. He exercised tremendous influence over the
people. He held a spiritual conference. Three hundred Virasaiva saints assembled.
There were sixty women saints also. Akka Mahadevi, the illustrious lady saint was
also present on that grand occasion. Virasaivism became Lingayatism in the hands
of Basava. Lingayatism is the special faith of the Karnatic Virasaivas. Sharanas
are the saints of the Lingayat faith or cult.
Virasaivism or Lingayatism shows the way to attain the Lakshya or Lord Siva. Lord
Siva, Lord Subrahmanya, king Rishabha, Santa Lingar, Kumara Devi, Sivaprakasa had
all expounded lucidly this system of philosophy. Viragama is the chief source for
this system of philosophy. Those who embrace this faith, live in great numbers in
Ordinary Saivites keep the Sivalinga in a box and worship it during the time of
Puja. The Lingayats keep a small Linga in a small silver or golden box and wear
it on the body with the chain attached to the box. Wearing the Linga on the body
will remind one, of the Lord and help His constant remembrance. The Christians wear
the cross in the neck. This also has the same object in view.
Sakti in Virasaiva philosophy is identical with Siva. Sakti works. Siva is the silent
witness. Siva is infinite, self-luminous, eternal, all-pervading. He is an ocean
of peace. He is stupendous silence. Siva illumines everything. He is all-full and
self-contained. He is ever free and perfect. The whole world is an expression of
the Divine Will. In Virasaiva philosophy, the world movement is not an illusion,
but an integral play.
The Eightfold Practice
The eightfold practice of Lingayats include the following:
- Guru - obedience towards Basavanna as Guru,
- Linga - wearing a linga,
- Jangama - worship of Siva ascetics as an incarnation of the Lord himself,
- Pādodaka - sipping the water from bathing the Linga,
- Prasāda - sacred offering,
- Vibhuti - smearing holy ash(created using cow dung) oneself,
- Rudrāksha - wearing a string of rudraksha (holy beads) and
- Mantra - reciting the mantra: Aum Shri Guru Basavalingaya Namah.
Shatsthala - Six phases of spiritual progression
Shatsthala or the concept of six phases of progressive spiritual evolution culminating
in the liberatino of the individual is central to Lingayat philosophy. Shat means
six and sthala means place or plane or level. The six phases are Bhakta Sthala,
Maheshwara Sthala, Prasadi Sthala, Pranalingi Sthala, Sharana Sthala and the Aikya
Sthala. The Aikya Sthala is the final stage where the soul leaves the physical body
and unites with Siva. the concept of shatsthala might have been derived from the
Agama. But it was made popular with the rise of Vira saivism in the south. While
Basavanna held that the souls progressed from one stage to another in a linear fashion,
his nephew Channabasavanna differed with him and held that a soul may attain salvation
in any of the six stages.
Source: Parts of this article is Reproduced, with the general permission, from Lord
Siva and His Worship, WWW edition 2000, By Sri Swami Sivananda © The Divine Life