The word 'Śharana' has been used in the Vachanas at least in two senses. In one sense, it is an honourable way of addressing people by using it as a prefix to their names, whatever their spiritual status. In this sense, the use is comparable to the use of prefixes like “comrade” among the Communists. A name with such a prefix may refer to Non- Linayatas as well as Lingayats. In the other, the technical, sense the word refers only to the aspirant of the fifth stage of spiritual journey (see BHAKTI). “Śharana” (= “the one who has completely surrendered himself to Parashiva”) used in this sense refers to one who treats everything as Prasāda [ಪ್ರಸಾದ] (God-given) of Parashiva and returns (surrenders) everything including his own self, to Parashiva. He also treats himself as a wife of Parashiva.
There is also a third sense in which the word has been used, through rarely, by the Vachana writers. When Tōntada Siddhalinga śivayōgi [ತೋಂಟದ ಸಿದ್ಧಲಿಂಗ ಶಿವಯೋಗಿ] says “in the beginning there was only the Formless Substance, and in that Formless Substance arose the great consciousness; the same consciousness having taken the form of unborn Śharana . . . ” [11:38]; " . . . From that cit-Śhakti [ಚಿಚ್ಛಕ್ತಿ] was produced Śharana” [11:44], etc., what is meant is that, Śharana is the first product in the process of creation, that he was the purest form of man and all men are imperfect copies of that Śharana.
That the Śharana typifies the ideal devotee of Parashiva is reflected by statements like "can the golden ornament be different from gold?" Similarly, can Sharanas who have emanated from Parashiva be different (in form) from Parashiva? Because they are essentially alike, they unite with Parashiva indistinguishably in Lingānga-sāmarasya (see LINGĀNGA-SĀMARASYA: [ಲಿಂಗಾಂಗ ಸಾಮರಸ್ಯ]).
[11:38] : 38th Vachana in the 11th Volume, (Samagra Vachana-Samputa in 15 volumes)
Publisher: Kannada Pustaka Pradikhara Govt of Karnataka, Bangalore, 2001.
[11:44]: lbid 44th Vachana.