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Ethics Of Lingayatism



Are there great men who profess 'I am superior, you are superior?
What was the result of their superiority? And inferiority,
He who is free from complexes of superior and inferiority,
Is alone a Sharana O Guheshwara

-Allama Prabhu

Allama Prabhu, the president of the Anubhava Mantap, sums up the ethical ideal of Lingayatism in the above vachana. The ethical good of a Sharana does not lie in the superiority of superiors, nor in the inferiority of inferiors, but in the equality of common people. The Lingayat ideal is the equalization of the high and the low without the elimination of individuality. It is the golden mean of the Aristotelian ethics-

"Every act accomplishes something as its work; but a work is imperfect either in defect or in excess. The act itself, therefore, will be similarly imperfect either by defect or excess; nor will an act be perfect, unless it attains to a right proportion; to the due middle between too much and too little. Virtue in general, then, may be defined as observation of the due mean in action, not the arithmetical mean, the mean in itself, but the mean for us....

"Neither virtue nor happiness, according to Aristotle, can be attained by the individual himself. Moral development and moral activity, as well as the procuring of the necessary external means, are conditioned by a regulated life in common, within which the individual obtains education in the good, the protection of the law, the assistance of others and opportunity for the practice of virtue. Even by nature man is born for a life in common; he is a political animal; life for him is only possible with his fellows. The state, then, is higher than the individual, higher than the family; individuals are only accidental parts of the political whole. Aristotle at the same time is far from entertaining the abstract conception of this relation which belongs to Plato; the latter's politics, rather, he expressly opposes. With him also the business of the state is to rear its citizens into good men, to raise human life its perfection; but without prejudice to the natural rights of the individual and the family, of the thine and the mine, of personal liberty. The state, he says, is not a unity, but essentially a plurality of individuals and smaller communities; this it has to recognise and it has to effect also by law and constitution that virtue, humanity, shall become as universal as possible, as well as that political power shall remain in the hands of the virtuous citizens. Of the various political forms, Aristotle gives the preference to constitutional monarchy and aristocracy, i.e. to the state in which not riches and not number of heads rule but all such citizens as are possessed of competent property, as have been educated in all moral integrity and as are capable of protecting and administering the whole. The state is the best in which the virtue, whether of one or of many, governs."

The moral government of Aristotle finds a parallel in the Lingayat Kalyan State instituted in the religious Parliament called Anubhava Mantap. The basis of the Lingayat State was ethical. The soci-political state was based on broad moral principles. In fact a moral ideal was not only the background of the Lingayat religion but also the backbone of its socio-economics and politics. But in contrast to Aristotle's aristocratic state, Basava founded a social- democratic state. The Anubhava Mantap was itself such a one. Though moral good was the basis of both states, virtue will be practiced more freely in a democratic state than in an aristocratic one. The concept of Aristotle's state would be dictatorial and authoritarian, while that of Basava's was democratic and social. Basava, though a minister to the king, was not afraid of him. "May I fear that Bijjala as I fear you, O Lord Kudalasangama." Consequently Basava's revolutionary state began to shake the foundation of 'Bijjala's government. Bijjala's monarchy received a rude shock. Finally Basava had to revolt against Bijjala's rule. That is the ideological background of the revolt of the Lingayat leader Basava against the Jain King Bijjala. Decadent Jainism could not tolerate the rising tide of the reforming Lingayat Movement. In political terminology, it was a struggle between monarchy and democracy.

The moral philosophy of Lingayatism is based on Monotheism which was a progressive force in those days. Montheism was set up through the combination of rationalism and empiricism. The polytheism of the Vedas and Agamas was examined at the bar of reason (vichar) and experience (Anubhava) and was found reactionary. What was established through reason (vichar) was put to a test by experience (anubhava). In other words intellectual conviction was verified by experience. Hence a Sharana observes:

Can fire hidden in wood enkindle itself?
Can the spark of fire latent in a stone, know its brightness?
In the same way, false devotion and renunciation of a hypocrite can not be believed in, without verifying them.
One should not come to a conclusion without examining through direct experience.
(Pratyaksha pramana) what is truth and falsehood.
The devotion and renunciation of one who does not examine the concepts of Guru, Linga, Jangam etc. is blind, not genuine.
So one should practice virtue or do any work by becoming pure in thought and feeling.
This is the happiness that a Sharana derives from the company of Lord Bhogabankeshwar.

How is the purity of head and heart brought about? The Lingayat Saints combined in themselves both the qualities of preaching and practicing their principles. Basava summarises all moral principles in the following.

Steal not, kill not,
Speak not untruth,
Be not angry, insult not others.
This is the way of keeping your character and conduct pure
And is the only way of winning the favor of God.

"Non- thieving- to restrain from thieving others property, is a great virtue." Lingayat Saints were not content with this statement. They went further and said that to earn more than what they requied for their subsistence was theft. Saint Maraya used to maintain himself by picking up rice grains in the street every day. One day when he had brought home more rice than was required, his wife rebuked him and caused him to throw away the excess rice in the street. To keep the excess rice was as good as depriving others of food. All these saints followed some particular profession or other to maintain themselves. The idea of self-help and self-reliance was felt by them as of great value. To rely on others for their livelihood was considered by them as a great sin. They did not even stoop to touch other's silver and gold. Basava says,

O God! I swear by your name that I won't touch a gold ornament or cloth lying in the street, for that is your command to me.
If I fail in this duty and desire others self,
O God! Throw me into the everlasting hell and depart from me.

To help others in their difficulties or distress is charity. Christanity exhorts us to regard our neighbors as ourselves but does not state the cause thereof. Lingayatism says that we regard our enemies and neighbors as ourselves because the souls of all are one and the same. Even the birds and beasts assemble at a distressing call of any one of their group. Basava exemplifies this social virtue in his saying:

Does not the crow call its entire group at seeing a morsel of food?
Does not the cock make a call for its kith and kin at seeing a few grains?
A devotee of Shiva, who has no such feeling, is worse than cocks and crows.

"Further, not to cause pain to others either by evil motive or by words or by action is defined as harmlessness (Ahimsa). Saint Akhandeswar says: 'When wise men speak to us, we should humbly reply to them. God departs from the place wherein hard words are exchanged just as fire arises when two stones meet with force' This saying lays emphasis on humility as a precious virtue. Purity of words and actions presupposes a pure mind. Basava says: 'How can God trust a man whose inner self is not pure?' Basava has condemned animal sacrifice and has expressed pity for the animal thus: 'O Goat! Weep for your fate.' He again says:

A fisherman takes enjoyment in catching fish and killing them.
Why does he not take pity on them as he does for the death of his own child!
Is not that man worse than a butcher, who, being a devotee of Shiva, yet slaughters living beings?

Basava has laid down a precept that 'compassion towards all living beings is the foundation of all religions'

Truth and non-violence were the ideals of the Lingayat movement. But Basava gave them a practical interpretation. To achieve social and moral good non-violence and truth become means. We should achieve good through non-violent and truthful means. The moral and the social good in those days could be achieved by freeing society from the Brahmanic hegemony. In fighting the old order of Brahmanism, Basava had to refute its Vedic theology and sociology. It may be argued that Basava and his followers had to use harsh words against the Brahmin domination. Was there not violence in their words and arguments besides, the movement of Basava was itself a revolt against the system of Brahmanism. Does not revolt violence? Of course it does. But Basava as a true revolutionary reformer held the practical view that violence or non-violence is a means to the social good. When nonviolent means of achieving the good are exhausted, then violent methods should be resorted to. Basava did not dogmatise about non-violence like Mahatma Gandhi. Basava saw a lot of slaughter and violence in the then existing society. He discovered the root cause of violence in the Brahmanic hierarchy. So he fought against the Brahmin class domination. That class domination was responsible for social tyranny and animal slaughter. Hence he did not mind using harsh and violent expressions while refuting the Brahmin theology. No man can be non-violent and true in word, thought, feeling, expression and action literally. Basava did not keep nonviolence and truth as dogmatic ideals but held them to be the means in the practical sense hence he opines:

It is said that Brahma is the creator and Vishnu, the protector.
Why was Brahma not creating his head?
Why was Vishnu unable to protect his own son?
Our Lord Kudala Sangama is the punisher of the wicked
And the protector of the virtuous.

That is the practical attitude of Basava towards violence and non-violence. Further to bring about social and moral good, he had to fight social ills. He had to resort to social means like organisation and mobilization of the masses. So he set up the religious parliament, Anubhava Mantapa. We may sum up Basava's ethics on non-violence thus: He was neither an advocate of non-violence out and out, nor an apostle of violence, but a dialectician and parliamentarian. Was he not premier to the king Bijjala?

If ethics is the basis of politics in Lingayatism, metaphysics is the background of its moral philosophy. The Lingayat metaphysics is known as Satsthala Sastra. That is, self-realization is achieved through six stages i.e. Satsthalas. A devotee has to pass through these stages to attain the summum bonum. The stages are Bhakta, Mahesha, Prasadi, Pranalingi, Sharana and Aikya. A devotee performs different functions in different stages.

1. BHAKTA STHALA- Fervent devotion is a mark of a devotee in this stage. The disciple should. always follow a pure and proper profession sincerely and offer his earnings to Guru, Linga Jangama (Preceptor, self and universal self). This is the main function of this stage. This will lead to the development of mind, and the enrichment of experience (anubhava). Virtues like affection and tolerance will develop in the devotee. The Sharanas have described the conduct of a disciple in their sayings. A Sharana holds:

One who is well versed in the Gita is not wise;
One who knows the importance of speech is not wise.
But he is wise who has pinned his faith on Linga (the self)
And he is also wise who offers his services to Jangama (human beings and other dumb creatures)

Believing in hims.ilf a man should serve the animal creation.

O you comrades who look into the looking glass look at the Jangama, the universal mirror.
In it is hidden Linga, the individual self.
It is the saying of Kudalasangama that Linga and Jangama are identical.

Having realised the importance of the dictum that 'a hand which has touched the Linga is pure and the body that has worn the Linga is a temple, a devotee should undertake social service. He should not stoop to vices even in his mind but should take to practice virtues. He should not think of caste, creed, and colour among his colleagues who have chosen various vocations in life. Inter-caste marriage and dinners should be unhesitatingly resorted to. Internal cliques and factions are prohibited. This is the noble conduct of a Bhakta.

2. Mahesha sthala- Firm devotion towards Guru-Linga Jangama is Nistha; The Mahesha does not look lustfully at women. He does not touch other's property. He does not rely upon other's luck. He should not go on a pilgrimage. He cannot tolerate the censure at Guru-Linga-Jangama. He has no belief in Astrology palmistry etc. He hates prostitution. He cannot bear the slaughter of goats in the sacrifice. He serves society through teaching, preaching and writing. This practice is Gurulinga. This is the sign of Mahesha. Thus a Sharana sums up the mission of Mahesha.

I begin working for the worship of the Guru.
I undertake business for the worship of Linga and
I will serve others for the social service of the universal creation (Jangama).

3. Prasadi sthala- One should cultivate balanced devotion. By balance of mind the mind is rendered pure. Prasada means the acceptance of the balanced devotion. The remnant of the offering done to Guru-Linga-Jangama is prasada. If touch, smell etc. are purified, then the mind will automatically become pure. By eating the offering a devotee attains spiritual knowledge. He will easily pass the moral test. A prasadi is always cheerful. He is sweet-tongued, generous and modest. His senses are rendered pure by Prasada. In short, his daily routine is purified by Prasada.

4. Pranalingi sthala- One who attains the Jangam-Linga status through experienced devotion is a Pranalingin. A Pranalingin should practice experienced devotion. In the previous stages the trainee's mind was absorbed in external affairs. But in the Pranalingi stage, it is interested in internal matters. The trainee will see the Pranalinga seated in his heart through inner vision. By concentrating on the Pranalinga, a Pranalingi comes to acquire qualities of peace, prudence, truth, non-violence, self-abnegation, concentration and universal brotherhood. By practicing Prananus andhana he will realise Godhood in the lives of all creatures.

5. Sharana sthala: A Sharana regards himself as a wife to the Linga and attains blissful devotion in the Linga. He will realise God very near to himself. He will remain aloof from the snares of worldly existence. The greatness of a Sharana is made manifest in the following Vachana of Basava:

If a tank, a brook and a well were rendered dry,
Then moss shell and conch will appear,
But when the ocean goes dry, then gems and jewels we can see.
If the Sharanas of Kundalasangama speak out with open minds,
Then we can see the Linga.

Saints and Sharanas will get knowledge and experience and God and the world, and regard the service of the whole creation as the best ideal allotted to them. The ideal of a Sharana is the uplift of the oppressed masses what he practices become a guiding virtue.

6. Aikya sthala: The Sharana in this last stage becomes one with Shiva. The individual soul Linga, merges itself in the Universal soul. Jangama, i.e. the Microcosm realizes itself in the Macrocosm. The trainee becomes a trained graduate of the Satsthala philosophy. He feels the omnipresence of God. God pervades the whole universe. This Aikya is God- merciful to his creation. 'I saw the inner soul outside and I saw the outer soul in me. The unification of the inner and the outer is like void (bayalu) merging in to void'. The calm peaceful strength and joy is brought down into the vital and physical bodies. When this is established there is no longer the turmoil of the vital forces. This peace, the silent peace and joy, is our first descent of the Divine power into the Adhara i.e. the Acharalinga is to be made dynamic. That is the summum bonum of the Lingayat metaphysics and ethics. Thus thrills the heart of Basava:

Look! He has scattered the clouds of all darkness.
Kudalasangayya alone apprehends
the effulgence of the unison the shining throne of the morning light.

Source: CHAPTER-VIII from the book THE LINGAYAT MOVEMENT (A Social Revolution in Karnataka): By: S. M. Hunsal, B.A. (B. com); B.T., With forward by Dr. C. Ramlinga Reddy, Kt. Hon. D. Lit., M.L.C, Vice-Chancellor, Andhra University. 1947

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