‘Basava Jayanti’ is observed every year to commemorate the birth of one of India’s greatest sons, philosopher, doyen of the Bhakti movement and Dharmic Guru Basavanna.
However, for those aware of Basavanna’s life and work, each of his vachanas are guiding light in everyday life. Notwithstanding the recent machinations of political forces to identify Lingayats as a separate religion, Basavanna is one of the foremost Hindu Gurus of India who, through his vachanas, provided philosophical insights into various aspects of life and work. His teachings are above the confines of castes, sects or religions.
Basavanna was one of the guiding lights of the Sharana Movement of 12th Century Karnataka. He was also the finance minister of King Bijjala of the Kalachuri dynasty, who ruled in Kalyana, Karnataka, between 1130-1167 CE. Basavanna and other Dharmic gurus (sharanas) of this movement propounded Bhakti towards god as the mainstay while striving for the dignity of labour, ending social evils that discriminate people, and extolling the virtues of communion with a personal God.
Basavanna was a true visionary and a realist. He did not deal with the Utopian binaries that many of his political usurpers attempt today. He had realized the prevalent social conditions, and instead of blaming one group or the other, he strove to unite people under the ‘Anubhava Mantapa’, literally meaning an experience centre. ‘Anubhava Mantapa’ was an academy of saints, Dharmic gurus, philosophers and common people of all castes and creeds and deliberated on issues of faith, society, god, etc. on the same platform. The deliberations did here created a vast treasure of Vachana literature.
Vachanas played a major role in the Sharana and Bhakti movements. The Vachana literature of Basavanna and other Sharanas is a treasure trove of teachings for anyone in every walk of life. Basavanna’s vachanas conveyed philosophical teachings in simple and lucid poetry in vernacular languages. One of his famous vachanas says,
“You shall not steal nor kill,
Nor speak a lie,
Be angry with no one,
Neither scorn another man;
And never glorify thyself and insult others
These are the means to inward purity
These are the means to outward purity!”
The importance of probity in one’s life and its relation to self-realization is the core message of this vachana. Such vachanas have struck a chord with people for centuries and continue to do so even today. His vachanas not only provided rational and esoteric meaning towards life but, given its universal nature, also united people. In a prominent Vachana most relevant today, Basavanna writes,
“Don’t make (me) think, Whose is this man? Whose is this man? Whose is this man? Make (me) think, This is our man, This is our man, This is our man. Oh the Deity of kudala samgama, make (me) think that I am a son of your house.”
Conveying the message of oneness of all. It is sad that Basavanna, who united people from every background, is being used today for political purposes to divide people.
Today when the country seems to be in the grip of various forces that aim to divide the society, it is only pertinent that we recall the teachings of Basavanna. His prominent Vachanas listed below should be enough to drive home the point.
1. Every human being is equal, irrespective of caste and class.
2. All forms of manual labour are equally important.
3. It isn’t birth but behaviour that determines a true saint.
4. The path of direct, personal devotion (bhakti) leads to a liberated, righteous life
5. The devotional worship, through personalized direct worship of Shiva, will ensure an almighty presence to everyone at all times.
6. What is static? For instance, a temple will fall. What is moving or seeking, for example, the work will stay forever.
On this auspicious occasion of ‘Basava Jayanti’, let us all raise the ‘Basavanna’ in us.