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Showing posts with label basavanna. Show all posts
Showing posts with label basavanna. Show all posts


The Rebel Saints of Shaivism

History has showcased many types of Bhaktas who have searched for Lord Shiva through their lives. They have taken to different schools of thought and within Shaivism itself we see these variants. While the Pasupatas live in silence and mysterious solitude, the aghoris lead a esoteric lifestyle too far to fathom. 

And then there are the popular saints who have defined Shaivism for the ordered society. While Kannappa Nayanar and Karraikkal Ammaiyar found place in the list of 63 Nayanars, Adi Shankaracharya rephrased the laws of divine worship to the society we know today and this tradition has come down to us as accepted, agreeable and conformist to today's social principles. There are the other great poets and mystic writers like Sundarar, Thirugnanasambandar, Thirumular and Manikkavachakar who turned their love for Lord Shiva into divine rhythmic poetry and defined the Shaiva Siddhantas and continued to propagate worship as we know it.

Few have lived in our times, rekindling the laws of spiritualism during their lives. While Paramacharya Sri Chandrasekhar Swamigal brought back the joys of good living, humility and renunciation to the throne of the Shankara at Kanchi Mutt, Ramana Maharishi keeps the fire growing at Thiruvannamalai. And so Shaivism was defined, while Lord Shiva himself defines the truth of the self without the presence or the need of ordered society, we, who are within this system have tried to tame the wild side of Shaivism into the claws of social acceptance.

Little do we know that there was a movement of Shaivism that rocked the social landscape around the 11th century A.D. and this firey sect came to life as the Virashaivas more commonly known as the Lingayats. Few have been taught the path of spiritualism re-described by this sect for these great Kannada poets of the Virashaiva sect preached Shaivism without social rules or discrimination towards the weaker sex. Unlike the Brahmana order where women do not hold equal seat as men, in the Virashaiva order, Lord Shiva is accessible to all. Gender didn’t matter and society was always scorned for its hypocritical ways.

The Vachanas of Basavanna, Mahadeviakka and Allama Prabhu have resounded through the ages, bringing rebellion into conformist lifestyle. I am a rebel, and as I understand the suffering of these great saints in a small way, and I have come to love them for their thirst for the real truth. I remain speechless as I realize how much they have lived their lives fighting society and its many rules and finally have found freedom in the power of Shiva Bhakti.

Lord Shiva played with their minds, he was the unattainable supreme power to some and the elicit lover to some others. They lived their lives in the perennial game of hide and seek, looking for the Lord everywhere within and beyond. They defied the rules of ordered living, scorned at society for its misguided rules and even reduced the achievements of great tantriks and siddhas to ash.

This sect of great gurus, these super saints in their own right, describe spiritualism to be a lonely road beyond the powers of occult worship and warn of self destructive egoism with every candy bar of siddhis achieved. They awaken us to the fact that yoga gets us a superior body, alchemy achieves superior metal, knowledge and vedas give us superior control over a beautiful string of words, tantra achieves superior physical love but the spirit of Shiva Bhakta is scarcely available in any of these methods.

Quoting from "Speaking of Siva" translated by A.K.Ramanujan [Page 147]

The Vachana of Allama Prabhu goes as follows...

With your alchemies,
you achieve metals,
but no essence.

With all your manifold yogas,
you achieve
a body, but no spirit.

With your speeches and arguments
you build chains of words
but cannot define the spirit.

If you say
you and I are one,
you were me
but I was not you.

Drastic though this school of thought may sound to the ordered social environment we live in, I would believe this is meant for superior souls who have already been blessed with spiritual insight. For the lesser mortals like me who still struggle with the basics of spiritualism, siddhis and perfect yoga seem miles away in my list of spiritual achievements. Where does one like me go in search of the Lord in this vast spiritual landscape where every powerful thought I conquered only raises another question on my beliefs formed so far? 

Photo courtesy:
Talking to God in the Mother Tongue
A.K. Ramanujan