virakta: the word literally means one who has turned away ('vi’) from attachment ('rakta'). In other words a virakta is one who has renounced all worldly desires. He is free from lust, anger, greed, arrogance, etc. Nothing disturbs his ever calm and peaceful mind. He is mindful of liberation and leads a life accordingly.
However, a virakta, according to Lingayatahism, is not a sanyasin of Hinduism. He does not go away from the family or society for living in a remote forest. He lives in the society, sometimes in a matha, but having a greater interest in society and lesser interest in himself. In fact, the Lingayatas insist that one must not leave society in preference to a secluded life in forest [8:1899] . They condemn people who go to forest in order to enjoy the bliss of meditation and the happiness of no-responsibility towards anybody. The Hindū conception of a sanyasin, implies, on the one hand, escapism and, on the other hand, selfishness. Lingayatas insist that a virakta must lead all the fellow beings to the highest goal, which he has actually achieved.
A Lingavanta, a follower of Lingayatahism , is one who opposes practices of rituals prescribed by the Vedas, like burning the food grains, ghee, etc., sacrificing animals in the name of gods and goddesses; because he shuns polytheism and animal sacrifice, and upholds monotheism and advocates surrendering oneself completely to Parashiva, the only God. He does not wear the sacred thread, but only Ishtalinga. He does not utter the Vedic gāyatri mantra, but the only mantra Lingadēvāya ("namahshivāya"). He has no belief in the Hindū way of discrimination between the four castes (Varnas), according to which, Brahmins are the highest and Shūdras are the lowest in the social hierarchy; a Lingayata, in principle at least, makes no discrimination between castes, because for him all followers of Lingayatahism are equal. Nor does he worship the Lingas or any other idol established in temples. He worships nothing but Ishtalinga. A Lingavanta has no rebirth, because if he practices the doctrines of Lingayatahism, the superior most religion, he must attain mōksha (Lingānga-sāmarasya, [ಲಿಂಗಾಂಗ ಸಾಮರಸ್ಯ]).
Therefore, the general belief that Lingayatahism is a branch of Shaivism (which is itself a branch of Hinduism) is wrong and baseless.
[8:1899]:1899th Vachana in the 8th Volume, (Samagra Vachana-Samputa in 15 volumes)
Publisher: Kannada Pustaka Pradikhara Govt of Karnataka, Bangalore, 2001.