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The Vachana-writers, like the Upaniṣadic [ಉಪನಿಷತ್] thinkers, have used the word ‘dharma’ in more than one sense, some of which can be mentioned here:

1. In “to burn is the dharma of fire” the word connotes the special nature of fire.

2. In “protection of the country is the dharma of a Kṣatriya” [ಕ್ಷತ್ರಿಯ] the word refers to the duty (of a Kṣatriya).

3. The word is often used in the sense of morality also.

4. More often than not, the word is used in the sense of religion which covers beliefs (in God, soul, creation, mōkṣa [ಮೋಕ್ಷ] , etc.), practice (religious practices like worshipping, uttering mantra, etc.) and moral acts (like truthfulness, performance of dāsōha, etc.) and having religious experience.

DĪKṢĀ (initiation): [ದೀಕ್ಷಾ]

The word dīkṣa (initiation) means a ritual act that gives the initiate permission to do a religious act (such as worshipping an idol or some symbol or offering prayer at a particular place, etc.). In the context of Lingayathism the word means only Ishtalinga-dīkṣa. Ishtalinga-dīkṣa [ಇಷ್ಟಲಿಂಗ ದೀಕ್ಷೆ] is a complex ritual, which involves many smaller rituals (see HASTA-MASTAKA-SAṂYŌGA).

GURU: [ಗುರು]

Man because of his metaphysical ignorance believes that he is separate from Parashiva and that sensual pleasure is the highest goal of life and therefore, in order to satiate his senses he is involved in all kinds of activities that bind him to saṃsāra [ಸಂಸಾರ] in which he perennially suffers. When he realises the worthlessness of the worldly life in general he turns to spiritual life. Since the latter is not familiar to him he approaches a guru for guidance. The guru in this sense plays a major role in the spiritual life of the aspirant.

Three important functions are attributed to a guru.
(1) He has to impart to the aspirant that every man is united with Linga (Parashiva) as part with a whole and can realise this union by means of mystic experience (ANUBHAVA).
(2) He offers in the form of a ritual the Ishtalinga to the aspirant and teaches him the nature and significance and the way of worshipping the Ishtalinga.
(3) He is eligible to guide him in the various stages of his spiritual life as he has himself undergone the spiritual discipline leading to cessation of suffering and realisation of Parashiva.

It is small wonder that the Vachana-writers praise the guru in superlative terms for these invaluable favours. His importance can be realised if we imagine the Buddhists’ spiritual life without a guru.

It is important that the guru must be proficient in not merely the philosophy of Lingayathism or not merely the art of worshipping, etc. He must in addition to these be one who has already realised the goal by means of the discipline, which he seeks to impart to the aspirant. If he has not realised Parashiva but entrusts to himself the function of leading others to Parashiva-realisation it would be like one blind man leading another.

Guru is generally held as equal to the Linga (and Jangama) for the reason that he has identified himself with Linga (Parashiva). Just as the Linga is the symbol of Linga (Parashiva), so is guru who identifies himself with Parashiva is a symbol of Parashiva. One who has had mystic experience naturally destroys his individuality or ego and considers himself as an indistinguishable part or a vehicle of Parashiva. Such a one has compassion towards all those who are suffering in saṃsāra, and offers them Ishtalinga compassionately in the hope that by worshipping it they become eligible for divine grace.

Depending upon his functions guru is called dīkṣa-guru, śiīkṣa-guru, or mōkṣa-guru [ದೀಕ್ಷಾ ಗುರು, ಶಿಕ್ಷಾ ಗುರು, ಮೋಕ್ಷ ಗುರು]. The guru, who compassionately offers Ishtalinga, imparts its significance and necessity, the method of worshipping it and the various forms of moral and spiritual conduct (āchār) is dīkṣa-guru. The one who often examines the devotee’s loyalty to the teachings of Lingayathism and, if found guilty, punishes him is śiīkṣa-guru (punishing guru). The aspirant, in addition to worshipping Ishtalinga and leading a moral life, must also learn the way of treating everything as the Prasaada of Parashiva, the way of meditating on Ishtalinga and of establishing it in every part of his body, the practice of total submission to Parashiva and uniting with Parashiva. The one who teaches this is mōkṣa-guru (liberating guru).

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