Ishtalinga

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ĀCHRĀPRABHĒDA (manifold conduct) [ಅಚಾರ ಪ್ರಭೇದ]

The term ‘āchāra’ ('ಅಚಾರ') refers either to a religious act like worship, uttering mantra, or to a moral act like keeping one’s promise, etc. In a wider sense, it is also used to refer to certain acts, which are, strictly speaking, neither religious nor moral. However, the term is also used in a still wider sense to mean an attitude, which is not yet expressed in the form of an act or speech. The Lingāyatas regard āchāras (acts or conduct) as a necessary requirement, as mere beliefs (e.g. that Paraśiva is the creator of the world) are not enough, though necessary. Cennabasavaṇṇa has a made an exhaustive list of (fifty) āchāras, which are as follows:

1. One must not make eyes at others’ women.
2. One must not steal others’ money or property.
3. One must not tell lies.
4. One must not deceive those who trust us.
5. One must not injure animals.
6. One must please the devotees of God (śiva).
7. One must not give up religious and moral vows even at the cost of one’s life.
8. One must kill those who hate the devotees of God (śiva).
9. One must not have relation with wicked people.
10. One must not discontinue companionship with the virtuous people.
11. One must turn one’s back to the worship of other deities.
12. One must believe that God (śiva) is the most supreme deity.
13. One must not discriminate between the devotees of God (śiva).
14. One must wish the welfare of all.
15. One must do good to all.
16. One must not brush teeth until the stick (or twig) used as brush is offered to God (śiva).
17. One must wash all parts of the body well.
18. One must not cook in a place whose walls do not have an imprint of lińga
19. One must not wear cloths, which do not have the imprint of ‘OM’ on them.
20. One must not feed the newborn baby with honey or breast milk before an Iṣṭalińga (ಇಷ್ಟಲಿಂಗ) is tied to it.
21. One must not go back on one’s words.
22. One must not deny the truth after telling it.
23. One must protect cattle.
24. One must milk only those cows on which the emblem of Linga is printed on them.
25. One must collect cow dung uttering mantra and reduce it to ashes while uttering mantra.
26. The ash so collected must be made into balls by using pādōdaka.
27. One must wear chain of rudrākṣa beads in proper parts of the body according to rules.
28. One must enquire into the ways and means of attaining the experience of God (śiva).
29. One must not speak in a hurting manner.
30. One must understand the nature of linga before worshipping it.
31. One must know from the Guru about the real nature of man.
32. One must overcome the six enemies of spiritual life (lust, anger, greed, infatuation, arrogance and hatred) so that one progresses steadily in the six staged spiritual life.
33. One must be mindful in all the three angas (bhõgānga, tyāgānga and yõgānga). (ಭೋಗಾಂಗ, ತ್ಯಾಗಾಂಗ, ಯೋಗಾಂಗ)
34. One must not be indifferent to Iṣhṭalinga on the assumption that it is just a piece of stone.
35. One must not enquire about the caste of Jangamas.
36. One must not neglect smearing oneself with vibhüti (holy ash).
37. One must not wear rudrākṣa beads without ritually purifying them.
38. Pādõdaka (ಪಾದೋದಕ) must be regarded as holy and blemishless.
39. One must not be inquisitive about the taste in prasāda.
40. One must not put mantra to evil use.
41. One must not dine without worshipping Iṣhṭalinga.
42. One must worship Iṣhṭalinga after burying the dead body of the Sharana's (devotees of God (śiva)).
43. One must commit suicide if found guilty of being unfaithful or unjust to Iṣhṭalinga.
44. One must commit suicide if found guilty of being unfaithful or unjust to Jangama.
45. One must kill him who is disloyal to Iṣhṭalinga.
46. One must kill him who is disloyal to Jangama.
47. One must understand the necessity of ashtāvarana.
48. One must be convinced of the non-difference between oneself and Paraśiva.
49. Having understood one’s real nature one must instruct others about it in order to make them like oneself.
50. Practising all the above forty-nine codes regularly and without fail is the fiftieth code.

A careful observation of the above list reveals that the word āchāra is used in two senses –
(a) ‘knowing from the guru the real nature of man’ (31st conduct), ‘one should not be indifferent to Iṣhṭalinga on the assumption that it is only a piece of stone’ (34th conduct), and 35th conduct are intellectual lessons and do not constitute acts in the usual sense of the term, and yet they are called conduct (āchāra).
(b) Conducts like 1, 2, 3, 41, 42, 43, 45, 46, etc. are clearly bodily acts. Ultimately this means that a conduct is not just a mechanical act, but also an attitude, which is often expressed in acts.

These codes of conduct can be divided into three groups.
(1) Those enjoining worship of Iṣhṭalinga, wearing of rudrākshi, sipping of holy water, etc. are clearly religious acts. In the context of Lingāyatism they are religiously technical acts, acts peculiar to Lingayat.
(2) The codes which preach abstention from injury to animals, telling lies, not keeping promise, etc. are clearly moral; they can be practised by people of other religions as also by those who have no religion.
(3) The codes pertaining to cleansing all parts of the body, wearing cloths without the syllable of “Om” on them, etc. are neither religious nor moral.

One who aspires for freedom from bondage must practise all the three. One must know the real nature of oneself; i.e., that he originally belongs to Paraśiva as part to the whole. This knowledge is essential to understand and evaluate one’s present predicament. The present status is a contrast, i.e., man realises that he is perennially subjected to pain and suffering. This contrast arouses in him a desire to overcome the perennial suffering and realise one’s original (real) nature. It is this aspiration that makes our conducts meaningful. Otherwise we would be engaged in religious and moral practices mechanically. If we perform mechanical acts diligently even in numberless lives we will not attain freedom.

Merely practising religious codes without practising morality leads us nowhere. When Basavanna asks, “Can there be religion which does not include compassion?” what he means is that morality is as much essential to religious life as the technical acts and no religion is complete without it.

Though the other acts (such as wearing cloths with imprints of the syllable “om” on them, etc.) are neither strictly technical acts nor moral acts, one must obey them. The faithful may observe them in the beginning and the spiritually advanced may not; and may even shun them.

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