India (1134 - 1196) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu : Shaivite (Shiva)
Poems by Basava
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The Virasaivas were a Shiva bhakti movement that rejected the elaborate ritualism and strict caste system of orthodox Hinduism which favored the wealthy, and instead emphasized direct mystical experience available to all through deep devotion to God. In this sense, the Virasaiva movement was a mystical protestant movement that also asserted social equality and justice for the poor. As Lingayatas they worship Shiva in the form of a linga, the stone symbol that represents God as creative generator of the universe or, more deeply, as a representation of the Formless taking form.
Basavanna was orphaned at a young age but adopted by a wealthy family with political connections. He received a good education but rejected a life of comfort and prestige to become a wandering ascetic dedicated to Shiva.
He received enlightenment at a sacred meeting of rivers. This is why all of Basavanna's poems include a reference to Shiva as "the lord of the meeting rivers." This also has a deeper, esoteric meaning relating to the subtle energies awakened in the yogi's awareness.
However, he soon was given a divine command to return to worldly life. Basavanna initially resisted, but eventually yielded and returned to his adopted family. Before long he attained high political office while, simultaneously, forming the new populist mystical movement of Virasaivas into a coherent, egalitarian community. This community fostered many other great poet-saints, including Akka Mahadevi and Allama Prabhu.
This utopian community began to be seen as a threat to the orthodox religious and political forces, however, and they used the marriage between an outcaste man and a brahmin woman within the community as an excuse to kill several of its members. Basavanna urged a non-violent response, but the reflex for revenge was too strong among some of the community's members. In the tense aftermath, the community couldn't safely hold together and its members went in different directions.
Basavanna once again left politics and returned to his focus on the inner spiritual life.
Poems by Basava
- Don't make me hear all day
- Make of my body the beam of a lute
- The eating bowl is not one bronze
- The pot is a God
- The Temple and the Body
- The waters of joy
- Where they feed the fire
A brief biography of Basava, along with other information on Lingayathism within the Hindu tradition.