Saint Mahatma Shri Basaveshwar
In those days religion had become mostly a matter of convention. People were rigidly bound down to certain rituals and formalities. The essence of religion was lost sight of. People forgot that there is only one God and had created several lower gods and goddesses. In the name of religion many castes and creeds had come to be formed. There were many blind beliefs. Birth and profession determined the status of a man. Because of the desire for heaven, life in this world had taken a wrong course.
There is one God. All are his children. They must have equal opportunities in religion. All should live together in love. Kindness is the basis of all religions. It was very necessary to develop these ideas in the minds of people. It was at such a time that Basavanna was born. He took a daring step even in his very child- hood. The child is father of the man. He showed that he was born with a mission to fulfill in future. Thus Basavanna as an independent thinker left Bagewadi in protest against the meaningless conventions.
When he came to Sangama he was most warmly received by the Guru Sangameshwara. "Come, Basavanna," said the Guru affectionately, "I knew that you would come here. Brilliant students like you will surely bring credit to this school and make it more famous. Here you will be near Lord Sangam- eshwara; I am sure that your spiritual personality will blossom out. You will do great things in future for the good of humanity."
Basavanna had left his parents and come away. These sweet words of blessing spoken by the Guru were very soothing to him. He felt happy. His education began under the guidance of the Guru. A new chapter began in his life. Basavanna would get up before dawn. He would meditate on God for some time. It was his practice to gather flowers for worship, before sunrise. The sight of flowers always gladdened his heart. For, he felt the presence of the divine in every flower. When he wor- shipped Sangameshwara he forgot himself completely. So exalted was his state of mind that he felt the presence of God everywhere and in all things-in the linga he wore on his body, in the image of Sangameshwara and in the entire world. All people admired his deep devotion andhis worship of the Lord. Worship was followed by studies. He studied the lessons of the day and also read several books connected with each subject. He had the same concentration in his studies as in the worship. After reading the books he would discuss certain points with his teachers. Then he would go to attend the classes and to participate in other school activities. He enjoyed long walks on the
bank of the river in the evenings.
His scholarship, devotion, modesty and good behavior soon made him the beloved of all. Smart and active, simple and frank, and always cheerful as he was, he was also of a serious reflective nature. Thus his personality was shaping itself most wonderfully. The Guru felt proud of it.
'There were teachers of profound scholar- ship and deep religious convictions in that academy. Students were given both worldly and spiritual education. It was not the type of education that trained the students to pass the examinations and get jobs. The aim of education was to help the
development of the inner self of the students, and prepare them to achieve something great in life. Basavanna got the best out of the school.
Years rolled by. Basavanna made a study of all the branches of learning. He learnt what he needed for his worldly life; and he also gained spiritual learning. He grew up with a sound mind in a sound body. What is the meaning of man's life? What is its final goal? What is his duty? Basavanna
seriously pondered over these questions.
Basavanna's education in the school was coming to an end. Accounts of Basavanna's remarkable personality had spread far and wide Baladeva, a
man of the same area, was a minister in the city of Kalyana. He too heard much about Basavanna.
Kalyana was the capital of the Chalukya kingdom. During Basavanna's time Bijjala of Kalachurya dynasty was ruling. Baladeva was his minister. Baladeva had great reverence for Sangama and also for the Guru in Sangameshwara. Hearing glorifying reports about Basavanna he made a trip to Kudalasangama. He was very happy to meet Basavanna. The Guru also spoke very highly of Basavanna's personality.
Baladeva thought it would be a very good thing if a brilliant man like Basavanna held some responsible office in the court of Bijjala. He felt the prosperity and the fame of the kingdom would grow. He also thought that Basvanna was the best man to marry his daughter. The Guru also
Basavanna had already thought deeply about his career and aim in life. The idea of entering service in the King's court had never occurred to him. Nor had he thought of marriage. He believed that all this would not enable him to achieve his ideal. But his Guru advised him to agree to Baladeva's
proposal. He told Basavanna that it would later help his great mission of human upliftment. Basavanna could not go against the commands of his Guru. He thought that it might be God's will. So at last he consented.
A few days after this, Basavanna traveled to the city of Kalyana. The grace of Lord Sangameshwara, the blessings of his Guru and the best wishes of others went with him, it was about the year 1155A.D.
Even at the time he came to Kalyana, Basavanna had chalked out in his mind a program of spiritual awakening. Beliefs of high and low had broken the society into pieces. Meaningless rituals had become important. And there was no equality in the society, no social and economical justice But Basavanna studied all these very well. The essence of religion had slipped to the background. Real devotion and virtuous life had disappeared. All did not have the right to perform 'Puja' (worship) or to receive religious education. So Basavanna made the principle of the equality of all, the basis of his religious life.
He formed a new spiritual institution on a democratic foundation. And that was 'Anubhava Mantapa'. Any one, whatever his caste by birth, could become a member. Women, too, were allowed to join it. Piety and good character alone were required of any one who came to Anubhava Mantapa. Everybody was to take up some work or the other for livelihood. They were not to have any caste feelings or feelings of untouchability. These were
some of the principles they were expected to follow.
Anubhava Mantapa soon became popular. Many devotees from different parts of Karnataka and India came to Kalyana and joined the new order. These devotees were provided with food and facilities for puja in 'Mahamane'. The residence of Basavanna. The two wives of Basavanna, his sister Akkanagamma, his nephew Channabasavanna and some other devotees were in charge of various arrangements both in the Anubhava Mantapa and in the Mahamane. Discussions on religious and spiritual matters were held in Anubhava Mantapa. The number of participants increased every day.
People in the King's court who were jealous of Basavanna got an idea. They reported to the King that Basavanna was feeding a large number of his followers -the Shaiva devotees - out of the money taken from the King's treasury. Bijjala asked Basavanna about it. Basavanna's answer was clear: "The expenses of Mahamane are met by the earnings of several devotees. I am a devotee of Shiva and do not want other people's money. If you have suspicions, well, I shall tender my resignation this very moment. Before that let there be a detailed inquiry about these charges. The cash and all accounts of the treasury may be checked this moment."
Upon this Bijjala himself checked the accounts and the cash. Everything was absolutely correct. Bijjala begged to be
forgiven. He also requested Basavanna to continue as the chief officer. Thus the false charges made by the jealous courtiers only established Basavanna's perfect honesty and increased his fame.
After the death of Baladeva, Bijjala made Basavanna his minister. Basavanna proved very efficient in this new office. He led his usual simple life. But his thoughts were always high and his heart was pure. His utterances were like a string of pearls. He was polite and civil, 'with folded hands and
bowed head' while moving with the common people. In matters of justice he was always firm and never yielded to personal considerations. He was fearless even in the face of great difficulty and danger.
Basavanna continued his mission for the formation of a new society, through Anubhava Mantapa. This work was based on certain noble principles. Some of them were as folIows:
There is only one God. He has many names. Surrender yourself completely to Him in devotion.
Compassion is the root of all religions. Treat all living beings with kindness. Live for the welfare of all. Do not live for selfish and personal interests.
Those who are acceptable in this world will be acceptable in the next world too.People should lead a proper life as householders, only then they will be fit for spiritual life. One need not give up the family and become a monk.
No man should be proud thinking 'I give this' or 'I do that'. What a man does he should do not of devotion in his heart. It should not be for the sake of show or publicity; nor even to win public praise.
True devotion and virtuous conduct should be given greater importance than the outward religious formalities. One should lead a clean and good life both within and without. A pure mind is more important than scriptures and conventions.
All people should have equal opportunities for religious life. Birth, profession, position or sex should make no difference.
One should not eat or drink just to please the tongue. Food and water should be taken as 'Prasada' (the gracious gift) of Lord Shiva. Humility is God's love. Never try to show off your power and position; and do not be vain.
Everyone should take up a fair and honest means of livelihood. No one should beg. Out of the daily earnings one should take only as much as is needed for the maintenance of the family. The rest should be offered, by way of service, to God for the benefit of others. Everyone should set right the crookedness of his mind. Everyone should try to rise to the level of Godliness through prayer and meditation. This is the goal of life.
These teachings were not just words in speeches or books. They were practiced in daily life by all the members of the Anubhava Mantapa. There were men and women of different professions and social ranks among them. Basavanna was a minister; Prabhudeva, a shining spiritual leader; Siddharama a Karmayogi (dedicated to work and service); Chan n abasavan na, a scholar of spiritual eminence; Akkamahadevi, a fiery ascetic; Machayya, a washerman; Chandayya, a ropernaker; Ramanna, a cowherd; Muddayya, a farmer; Remmavve, aweaver; constable Ramideva, oil miller Kannayya, physician Sanganna, carpenter Basappa, tanner Kakkaiah, cobbler Haralayya all these were there in the Anubhava Mantapa as brothers and sisters.