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Who am I? – Answer In Lingayat Teachings

To the oldest philosophical question ‘Who am I?’ the Vachanakaras of Lingayat answer: ‘I am Linga, my origin is Linga, and my destination is Linga. I am not the body that carries with it the senses and antahkaranas; I am not even the empirical self subject to the six enemies of spiritual life, but am Shiva himself. However, because of ignorance, I am not aware of my true nature and wrongly think that I am an individual independent of others and Para-shiva.’

Though the soul is bound to the body, mind, and senses, it is not limited by them, because being conscious it can control and direct them either for selfish or for spiritual purposes. But it is also a fact that it depends on them, being unable to see or think or perform any act without them.

One of the functions of the jivatman is to receive the sensations reported by the senses, hold them together, subject them to analysis and synthesis, and compare and contrast them to reach appropriate conclusions. The jivatman perceives by means of the senses and analyses and synthesizes by means of the antahkaranas. This means that it is the central processing unit, to which the senses and mind, as well as motor organs like legs and hands, are related. They cannot function without it, just as it cannot know or act without them. The jivatman and the body interact in such a manner that the happiness of the soul is dependent on the well-being of the body.

The Lingayat doctrine of the division of Nishkala-Linga into innumerable angas implies that plurality of selves is not merely an appearance, as held by the doctrine of Advaita, but a reality. However, though the limited nature of the soul is real, reunification with God and indistinguishably merging with him is the coveted aim of a spiritual aspirant.

Many Lingayats claim that Lingayatism does not entertain the doctrine of karma and rebirth. Before we answer this claim it is necessary to distinguish between the two statements that the Lingayats are not subject to the law of karma and rebirth and that they do not believe in it. That they do believe in the law of karma is amply evidenced by their Vachanas, which state that they are born again and again due to neglect of their moral and religious duties in previous births. They also say the non-Lingayats — bhavis, those who are reborn — are subject to this same law. But they believe that the very fact that they are born in a Lingayat family ensures their liberation — freedom from karma and rebirth — provided they lead the life of a perfect Lingayat.

Source – excerpts from article titled ‘Lingayat Philosophy and Vedanta’ by Prof. N G Mahadevappa in the 2010 issue of Prabuddha Bharata Magazine.