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The word Shatasthala is derived from “ Shat means six and ‘ sthala which means stage. The latter in the philosophical context means God. What is currently being practiced by ardent Lingayaths was expounded, propounded and systematized some 800 years ago by the Lingayathism saints. The practice of path enables one to achieve one’s final goal of eternal union of the Anga (body) with the Linga (God). The Shatasthala is not just a lofty religious principle but a path, which permits one to accomplish life’s ultimate goal. There is a close relationship between Shiva, the human being and the world. A Bhakta becomes Shiva by breaking the bondage created by ignorance, as accrued by unrighteous deeds and desires.

Shatsthala is composed of six phases or steps or stages. In the first place, the "Sthala" means a phase (stage) of the soul in its endeavor towards its active identity with the Supreme. The Bhakta Sthala is the first Sthala, where the soul conceives the Guru, Jangama, and Linga as separate entities and worships them in order of precedence. In the second Sthala, Maheshvara Sthala, the seeker worships Guru, Linga, and Jangama. In the third Sthala, Prasadi Sthala, seeker considers all creation as the gift of God and therefore returns what he/she has received to Him through Jangama and considers everything he/she receives is as His gift. The soul that has reached this stage is known as Prasadi. In the fifth Sthala, Pranalingi Sthala, the soul sees Linga in everything and everything in Linga. At this stage, the soul is called Sharana. The Aikya Sthala is the last stage, where soul is merged into Shiv by leaving the physical body.

Various needs of earthly life are grouped into six classes:

  • Thirst, Hunger (biological needs)
  • Affection, Grief ( psychological needs)
  • Birth, Death ( Physical needs)
These are the six enemies (three impurities) that can be conquered through the practice of Shatsthala. The devotee has to be free from these impurities in order to fit for the Shatsthala, which is accomplished through the guidance of an able spiritual-master (Guru). Parameshvaratantra of initiation (Diksha) also describes the detail qualities of both devotee and Guru, when the Guru places his hand on the devotee's head, and further gives minute details relating to the ceremony of Istalinga and Pranalinga. Ashtavarnas are explained as eight aids to Shatsthala. Besides this external bliss, the creation of the world by Brahma is explained at length; the living and non-living creation, the relation between the Jiva (individual) and the Atma (soul), and the indivisible unity of duality principle Shiv-Shakti.

The Shatsthala occupies premier position in the religion. The 12th century Sharanas practiced it perfectly. It is considered to be the brain child of Channabasava, who was entrusted by Basava with the responsibility and the task of expanding, expounding and explaining the Shatsthala path to the laity. It should be noted here that Kamiagama, the first of the Shivagamas, mentions the terms Lingayat and Istalinga . Both the Kiranagama and the Yogajagama state that a person without the Ishtalinga becomes unfit to receive the Prasada (consecrated food offering to God). The Vatalagama, the Veeragama and the Parameshwaragama provide detailed descriptions of the Shatsthala path. It begins by explaining that, an aspirant must have Shivabhakti in his/ her heart (Munavalli S. 2002: Pp111-113)

The following Vachana gives a beautiful and concise description of Shatsthala.

"If he is a Bhakta, he should be
Free from the desires of mind and body.

If he is Maheshvara, he should avoid
Another's wealth, Another's concern, another's wife.

If he is a Prasadi, he should forget
The pleasures of taste and Keep his body pure.

If he is a Pranalingi, he should renounce
His body and merge with Linga.

He who enjoys, not self, but Him
In everything is a Lingaikya…"

" We are not immortal, we have not drunk nectar, we have not taken the elixir of life, this is our last chance for achieving salvation." Therefore, any stage should be a Shatsthala stage. In these words, Channabasavanna has explained the secret of Shatsthala

1. Bhaktasthala
2. Maheshasthal
3. Prasaadisthala
4. Pranalingisthala
5. Sharanasthala
6. Aikyasthala

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