Ishtalinga Puje

Istalinga: Symbolic representation of formless God, presented by a Guru (preceptor) in the form of Deekshe (consecration) always worn on the body. Centre theme of Lingayat religion, worshipped to attain oneness with God).

The Istalinga worn on the body by the Lingayaths. The Istalinga is Linga the gross or physical, the third of the first three modifications of Ghanalinga. (The three forms of Linga are Bhavalinga, Pranalinga and Istalinga ) The Istalinga gives the worshipper that entire he desires to be worshipped and is, there fore, worshipped every day in devotion.

The Linga is tied to the body at the time of birth, as is the custom. The Linga is always on the body of a person till his death. The person should never lose his Linga , because to lose it is to lose his life. The daily worship of the Linga , before the Deeksha ceremony of a person is performed, may be informal but necessary for the person, so that he may be imbibed with deep reverence for the God and impressed with the significance of spiritual discipline. Though informal, it has its own significance. It makes the wearer and worshipper conscious of his duty to God on account of his uncertain position in worldly life. It makes him aware of the necessity of religious life and spiritual discipline in the way of Mukti. The real worship of Linga as the religious exercise begins after the Deeksha ceremony performed by the Guru , who initiates a person into the secrets of religion.

In general and even at well-educated a misconception is going on that worship of Istaliga (Istalingapuje) is one type of Idol worship. There is not necessity to think about idol worship because Istalinga worship is not at all Idol worship. Main intension of this writing is to clear off the illusion of Istalinga worship as Idol worship. It is cent percent true Idol worship is not at all necessary to Lingayat religion or Basava Dhrama there. Italinga is not a symbol of divine personality or Vedic culture; it is symbol of inception social equality. Istalinga is nothing but representation of formless God; it is the only worship able by Lingayat religious people of the shape of round as universe.

  • Istalinga has universal acceptable, scientific, ethical background; it is instrument for worship formless, form of formless. There is no significance in the scientific view for the worship of Individuals such as Vishnu, Shiva, Rama and others, as they are unable to give concept of formless.
  • Worship of Istalinga is worship of being, for this we can refer the following Vachana of Basavalinga Real Sharana who know the supreme reality, Who worship himself in his own hand the Istalinga as light of the heart without any difference! So Istalinga worship is worship of existence of self, Idol worship is worship of someone else. Idol worship never matches the Istalinga Worship which is the worship of inners self only.
  • Worship of Istalinga is worship of being, for this we can refer the following Vachana of Basavalinga Real Sharana who know the supreme reality, Who worship himself in his own hand the Istalinga as light of the heart without any difference! So Istalinga worship is worship of existence of self, Idol worship is worship of someone else. Idol worship never matches the Istalinga Worship which is the worship of inners self only.

Difference between Istalinga worship and Idol worship

Istalinga worship

Idol worship

Worship of formless in form Worship of form
Worship of symbol of supreme Worship of the Idol of hero’s
Worship of realization provider Worship of persons achieved
Worship of always welfare provider Some Worship for show put up
Worship of Shivadvaita (dual with shiva) Worship of Dvaita (Dual)
It has provision to Yoga (with worship) it has only option of worship
Has bliss of oneness Oneness is not possible
Worship in the shape of world Worship in form, man animal etc.,
No discrimination of Gender Bifurcates by Gender
Mixture of knowledge and devotion Superstitious devotion
Monotheism Polytheism
Worshipped on body Worshipped at temple and etc.,

The worship of Istalinga is not the worship of an image. The image is merely a substitute of a deity. But the Istalinga is not an image of the Lord but the Lord Himself. The devotee is also a modification of Lord and is called Anga. Thus the Anga and the Linga being modifications of the Almighty Lord (Ghanalinga) in His Upasyoopasakaleela, the worshipper and worshipped are face to face with each other in the worship. The idea underlying the Upasanas that the Upasaka is in no way different from the Upasya, the Linga . This is Ahamgrahopasana, in which the devotee starts with the idea that he is a part and parcel of Lord. Hence, the truth expressed by “Ahambrhamasmi”is put into practical form. This is sahamarga or the path of fellowship or friendship of the worshipper with the lord. Here the worshipper is taught that he is Swaroop of the Lord; and pure subjective worship of Lord is inculcated in him. The Anga looks on the Linga as his associate, a friend and a protector, not living apart from him, as in the case of image worship, but living with and in him and making him a part and parcel of himself, the all-powerful Lord. Anga is the microcosm of the lord, the macrocosmic Linga . The Anga has become Anga by being cooped up with the body by the working of Jaadimaya, the Shakti of the Lord. And to be free from the narrow limitations of the body he has to worship the Linga , the superior modification in relation with himself but identical with Ghanalinga, the macrocosmic soul. He has to worship with the conviction that he will attain his natural or original conditions of Lordship by pure subjective worship of Lord. This is Ahamgrahopasa. The Anga is taught that his real station is the Lord, in whom he lives, moves and has his being.

The Istalinga , as the Upasyadevata, is the object of contemplation. The Anga, the worshipper and associate of the Lord, fixes his attention on the lord, with a view to become one (samaras) with Him ultimately. The Chitaikagrata or the thought of the Lord by the subjective worship and subjective Eshwarapranidhan with the idea of “Aham Bahamas” is the highest spiritual ideal that deserves to be carefully and assiduously cultivated. Instead of fixing one’s attention on something only with a view to concentrate the mind without allowing it to go back, so that it may be brought under full control, it is very much better that the mind fixed on the Lord in meditation as the ultimate resort and the object of attainment.’

In the preparatory stage Linga or Parashiv is Swaroop of the devotee. He is, therefore, his intimate friend and associate. But later the devotee gradually moves towards the higher ideal of Samarasya in the advanced stage. In the preparatory stage the Bhakt is in the Savikalp Samadhi; and in the advanced or perfected stage he is in the Nirvikalp Samadhi.

Linga , the Upasya, is the only representation of the Bhakt in his meditative posture. Thus the Anga is reflected in the Linga . This makes the idea of Aahmgrahopasana actual. The Linga and Anga are, therefore, the adverse and reverse of the same thing. The Anga realizes that Linga is macrocosmic because it is free from all limitations; while itself is microcosmic being confined to the body. He has to expand himself by tearing off the limitations. To attain the ideal and objective, he has to seek the Highest in himself by developing the power in himself. That power is Bhakti, the modification of Lord’s Shakti, that Bhakti, without the sincere devotion and attachment to the Lord, nothing is possible. That is the root cause of self expansion.

The real Linga in its various forms is in the body. The six centre of nerve power, called the Adharas of Shakti by the Shaktas and the followers of Raja yoga, are the six places that the Lingas occupy. The worship of those Lingas to develop the human power into a vast all-reaching spiritual power is the real worship. This is internal worship and the superior or the only form of worship. But this is very difficult in the beginning before inculcating a theistic and spiritual attitude and cultivating the habit of devotion to the God with the conviction that is in him. For most men are of the emotional temperament and can be easily attracted to the path of Bhakti. Men of severe intellectual temperament living on the hollow pabulum of abstractions are always rare. An intellectual attitude has to be prepared for giachaally by emotion. And devotion to the God in some concrete form is necessary. Istalinga does this; and herein lies the real significance of Istalinga as the gross form or modification of Ghanalinga.

Hence the propriety of that is necessary for gradual psychic culture. The worship of bahya (outer) Linga , leads to the worship of Atmalinga in due course. The Istalinga , taken to be the gross form of Ghanalinga is to be filled with Shivakala or spirit of Ghanalinga; and the Anga, a part and parcel of the Godhead, is also to be inspired with the sincere spirit of devotion at the same time. The Anga is to be taught that the highest is in him and in the Istalinga . So the Bhakta starts with the worship of Istalinga that he is Shiva and Shiva is Jeeva. This is Ahamgrahopasana pure and simple.

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[1] From the book "Vachana", pub: Basava Samiti Bangalore 2012.