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According to the Vachana-writers, Parashiva on deciding to create divides himself into two – Angasthala and Lingasthala where the former means the individual soul, and the latter the universal soul. In fact, these terms are relative, in the sense that the individual soul is the worshipper (pūjaka) [ಪೂಜಕ ] of the Linga-sthala (pūjya [ಪೂಜ್ಯ], the worshipped). The Vachana-writers also believe that the anga (the individual soul) has to realise Linga (Parashiva) in six stages (sthalas). And just as the spirant of the six stages has six different names, Parashiva whom he realises at six different stages have also six different names. These are as follows.

(Devotee’s spiritual stages)


1. Bhakta [ಭಕ್ತ] Āchāra-Linga
2. Mahēsha [ಮಹೇಶ] Guru-Linga
3. Prasaādi [ಪ್ರಸಾದಿ] Shiva-Linga
4. Prānlingi [ಪ್ರಾಣಲಿಂಗಿ] Jangama-Linga
5. Sharana [ಶರಣ] Prasāda-Linga
6. Aikya [ಐಕ್ಯ] Mahā-Linga

It should be noted that just as the aspirant of the six stages is one so also Linga (Parashiva) whom he worships and realises at six stages is one.

The aspirant in the first stage, called bhakta, believes that he is different or divided (bhakta) from, or other than, Parashiva. It is believed that man normally acts, according to the evil influence of the Kriyā-Shakti and that therefore, the bhakta must convert the Kriyā-Shakti into Shraddhā-bhakti, such that the organs made out of Kriyā-Shakti begin to help the aspirant spiritually. In other words, he uses them for spiritual purposes. As a result he begins to offer, for example, the smell into the ‘mouth’ (Sādākhya) of Parashiva, called Āchāra-Linga. (See SĀDĀKHYAS)

The aspirant of the second stage, called Mahēsha (also sometimes called mahēshvara or māhēshvara) [ಮಹೇಶ್ವರ ಅಥವಾ ಮಾಹೇಶ್ವರ ], has developed moral and spiritual convictions. It is believed that Jnyāna-Shakti has evolved into the sense of taste and that Guru-Linga is established at the gate (mouth) of that organ (at the tip of the tongue). Mahēsha must offer taste to Guru-Linga before he enjoys it. That is the only way of converting the Jnyāna-Shakti (the material cause of the tongue) into a spiritual force called nishtā [ನಿಷ್ಠಾ]-bhakti.

The aspirant of the third stage, called Prasādi, has a more stable devotion, whose essential characteristic lies in his treatment of everything as Prasaada of Parashiva (see PRASĀDA). He is continuously aware that he owes everything to Parashiva and that he must repay all the debts to him. This awareness is called avadhāna-bhakti (attentive devotion)[ಅವಧಾನ ಭಕ್ತಿ], and is the result of converting the Ichā-Shakti. Though, technically speaking, he is said to offer form (colour, size and shape) into the mouth of Parashiva called Shiva-Linga (who is at the gate of the eyes), he offers everything into the mouth of Parashiva.

Prānalingi, the aspirant of the fourth stage, has learnt meditation by means of which he is able to treat his entire body as a temple of Parashiva. Just as prāna (the life-force) pervades our entire body, so also Linga (Parashiva) pervades the Pranalingi’s body entirely. The aspirant has converted the Ādi-Shakti into anubhāva-bhakti [ಅನುಭಾವ ಭಕ್ತಿ] (mystical devotion) as a result of which he has realised Jangama-Linga. All the experience he receives through skin is offered into Parashiva’s mouth called Jangama-Linga.

Sharana (one who has surrendered), the aspirant of the penultimate stage, surrenders himself completely to Parashiva as he has realised that he is just a vehicle of Parashiva. The special characteristic of a Sharana’s devotion is bliss (ānanda) [ಆನಂದ], which is the result of converting Parā-Shakti. He is said to offer sound into Prasāda-Linga who is at the gate of his ears. Strictly speaking, he cannot offer anything to Parashiva, as he has already become an egoless vehicle of Parashiva. Sometimes he regards himself as a faithful wife of Parashiva. That is, just as a faithful wife considers her husband’s pleasure as her pleasure, so also the Sharana thinks that Parashiva’s pleasure is his pleasure. So, he speaks, thinks and acts only for Parashiva – but effortlessly, unconsciously and unselfishly.

Aikya (one who has united), the aspirant of the final stage, can hardly be distinguished from Sharana. He always thinks that he is an inseparable part or body (anga) of Parashiva. Ordinarily we believe that our body is used as an instrument by the individual soul for its enjoyment. But an accomplished devotee thinks that his body, mind, etc. are used by Parashiva for His enjoyment. Just as a pregnant woman does not eat twice, once for herself and the second time for her infant in the embryo, so also the aikya does not treat Parashiva as ‘the other’. He is no more a bhakta (separated from Parashiva), he is aikya – one who is in Parashiva and in whom Parashiva resides. Technically speaking, he has offered his sense of fulfilment (trupti) [ತೃಪ್ತಿ] into the mouth of Parashiva called Mahā-Linga. His devotion is called sāmarasya (harmony)[ಸಾಮರಸ್ಯ]-bhakti, the purer form of Chit-Shakti [ಚಿತ್-ಶಕ್ತಿ].

The spiritual discipline, which passes through the six stages mentioned above, is called Shatasthala (six-staged) [ಷಟಸ್ಥಲ] (see BHAKTI).

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