Prabhu is not a mere metaphysician but a real master of excellence and perfection. The peculiar excellence of man is his power of thought by which he surpasses and rules all forms of life. As the growth of thought gives him his supremacy, so its development gives him fulfilment and happiness. The chief condition of happiness is the life of reason which represents the specific glory and power of man. Prabhu does not discard the life of reason, on the contrary, it finds its full expression in his life and action. He does not spare chastising even Basava for his one sided attachment to sham Jangamas. He upholds virtue which implies a masculine sort of excellence. For him virtue depends upon self-control, symmetry of desire and artistry of means.
Prabhu, who is otherwise known as Allama, Allayya, Allama Prabhu or Prabhu-deveru, was probably born in the very beginning of the 12th century. The exact date of his birth is neither known nor has it been ascertained by any of his biographers. The biographers can be divided into two groups: one holding all too human and the other all too divine view of him. Both views are wrong, for both lack the historical perspective and predominantly represent a mythological view. Yet out of this legendary outlook we can glean a few historical facts. Prabhu was undoubtedly born of the human parents at Ballegavi, a village near Banavasi. His father’s name was Nirahankara, and his mother’s, Sujnani. Karavura seems to be his family name. Ballegavi was set in the midst of palm trees, water-pools and rice fields. The temple of Goggeleshwara or Guheshwara adorned this inspiring setting. His parents were a devout couple and Goggeshwara was their family deity. Sujnani had often visitations from God, Goggeshwara in her dreams. Nirahankara was the head of a dance school and was well versed in the three branches of music. But a secret longing was gnawing at their hearts. It was the longing for a child. In her daily prayers, Sujnani appealed to God to bless her with a child. One day she dreamt that she had been possessed by the God. In the temple opposite her house the image of Shiva quickened to life under her own eyes. A ray of light penetrated to the depth of her being. In course of time, she conceived and gave birth to a child. The child, whom the world was to know as the Vairagya Chakravarti, (the supreme renunciate) was named Prabhu. He was a little boy full of fun and life. Nobody imagined what giddy heights, what tremendous depths lay hidden in the little body of this charming child. His artistic temperament and prowess were revealed when he was only six years old. He had inherited from his father’s artistic temperament. A passionate instinct for the beautiful was the first channel which brought him in contact with God. But there was a rich undercurrent of asceticism which occasionally peeped through his demeanour. The mutually conflicting instincts for the artistic and the ascetic and for the beautiful and sublime struggled within him for supremacy. In the end the ascetic instinct got the upper hand and turned him into a renowned “Renunciate”.
The child, Prabhu, matured into boyhood and attained youth. He was tall, square shouldered, broad chested and well built. He had a rosy complexion, a round face and a pair of lustrous eyes. The grace and dignity of his bearing, the irresistible charm of his eyes, the splendid music of his rich deep voice, and his artistry in playing the mradanga would enthrall anybody that came in his contact. Prabhu could captivate the hearts of his listeners, but his heart was irresistibly drawn to God. He was therefore seized with unrest, as unrest born of an anguish or the pangs of separation from God. The pangs of separation deepened into an alternate joy and sorrow, and began to flow in sayings through his poetic heart. His youth was not all smooth. It seems that Maya often tempted him, but happily he did not succumb to her temptations. He beguiled Cupid, the God of Love, by his self-devotion to his ideals. He emerged triumphant out of the ordeal set in his mind by the conflicting trends of the pangs of separation from God on the one hand, and of the temptations of Maya on the other. His triumph over temptation is well expressed in the following saying:
“Strike not Thy arrow, Oh! Cupid
Thou art stupid.
Canst thou burn me
Already burnt by the pangs
Of separation from Guheshwara.”
Prabhu left home in the prime of his youth in search of God and Guru. This event is not an isolated act of heroism, but it proceeds from a habit of heroism cultivated in secret, preparing itself unconsciously for the sudden call. Though the method of preparation cannot be traced, we may give a rational account of his life, as he prepared himself for his work in the world. “What is a golden deed?”, asked Miss Charlotte Younge. She answered her question by saying that “the true metal of golden deed is self-devotion, the spirit that given itself for others, the temper that for the sake of religion of a country, of kindred, nay of pity even to a stranger, will dare all things, risk all things, endure all things.” Miss Younge is speaking of golden deeds only, but we are dealing with golden life of Prabhu, not as revealed in an isolated notion but as disclosed in a sustained career of self- devotion. Prabhu is eminent for the self-devotion which is the pure gold of heroism. He devoted his whole life to the noble cause of realizing God; and God is more than family, more than country, more than humanity. The devotion to a noble cause will confer a thousandfold more benefits on the world than devotion to wife, family, friend or country. To suffer or strive for conviction, to dare all and to risk all, trusting in the evidence of things not seen, as did Columbus who discovered America, is indeed a test of heroism. Prabhu has passed this test which enabled him to realize the spiritual life in its finest phases of realization. He exhibits an upward tendency not only to pass into an ineffable calm, but also a contrary tendency to bring down a genial ray from the height of luminous consciousness to infuse the whole being with it and to diffuse its effect all around to benefit the humanity. This indeed was possible in the case of Prabhu, who could preserve a continuity between the unfathomable depth of being and the ordinary normal consciousness. The spiritual opening in many of us is occasional; the flicker of light comes and goes. But in Prabhu, it was all opening; because of this constant opening, he could freely move both in the spheres of spiritual silence and of secular expression.
Prabhu, as a Jangama, in his itinerant rounds, withdrew the veil of ignorance directly from a Sadhaka and revealed the potentiality of a life Divine. Himself, a direct centre of spiritual dynamism, he could readily remould the initiate and effect immediate conversion of character. Testimonies to such powers have been held by many illustrations in the Shunya-sampadane and by persons who came under the spell of his spiritual influence. Prabhu saw that the law of spiritual inversion speaks of the identity of the human and the Divine in essence; thereby he reposed trust in transcendence as the supreme form of spiritual experience. He could feel that his experience presupposes all other experiences and has in it something which is unique. But he was not all for transcendence; he was eager to open into humanity the chapter of spirituality sealed in the bosom of the Divine. The transcendence which became the all-absorbing concern with Shankara and the play which was the be-all and end-all with Chaitanya, demanded equal attention from Prabhu. He realized transcendence, tasted the sweetness of the play, felt the interference of the Divine in the cosmic affairs of men and enjoyed the grace of the Divine which would give itself to save humanity from ignorance.
The Divine Grace alone has the power to intervene and change the course of universal justice. The great work of the Master or Guru is to manifest the Divine Grace upon earth. To be a disciple of the Master is to become an instrument of the Grace Divine. Prabhu became the disciple of Animisha, the great Master of the embodiment of the Divine Grace. The Divine Grace that descended from Animisha and rushed into Prabhu enabled him to change the course of justice and challenge the callousness of Karma. Prabhu became entirely free from Karmamala. There are three kinds of Karma: namely Sanchita, Prarabdha and Agami. Karma gathered in past lives admits of a twofold division Karma that still lies accumulated (Sanchita). In addition to these two kinds, there is another Karma known as Agami which is being gathered here in this life. The Vedanta opines that knowledge of reality destroys the second kind and prevents the third and thus makes rebirth impossible. But the first kind which has already borne the fruits cannot be prevented. Hence the present body, which is the effect of such Karma runs its natural course and ceases to exist, just as the wheel of a potter comes to a stop only when the momentum imparted to it becomes exhausted. The Vedanta admits that knowledge of reality cannot destroy Prarabdha, for its effects can only be worn out by enjoying fruits. But the verdict of mysticism is that the Divine Grace is powerful enough to destroy even Prarabdha Karma, for the Master, who is an embodiment of the Divine Grace, can dispense of the absolute mechanism of universal justice.
The meeting of Prabhu with Animisha took place under strange circumstances. In a temple buried underground Animisha was seated in a lotus position with Linga in his palm and lost in meditation. Meditation is the very soul of life; for by meditation the mystic can converse with God, solace himself on the bosom of the Divine Mother, bathe himself in the river of Divine joy, bask himself in the Divine Sunshine and view the mansions of eternity. No soul can preserve the bloom and delicacy of its existence without lonely musings and silent meditation, and the greatness of this necessity is in proportion to the greatness of mystic’s advance in spiritual pursuits. Animisha was a master mystic because he was merged in meditation so profoundly that all his consciousness rose to the superlative degree attended with a diffusion of the spiritual light. The light was so resplendent and so remarkable that it permeated his whole body, every cell of which was surcharged with divine electricity. Scarcely did Prabhu enter the temple when he was suddenly transformed into the divine man by the transcendent light of Animisha. The life-force of Animisha left his body and lingered in Prabhu through Ishtalinga. Since then Prabhu remained steadfast in the superconscious state without reverting to the ordinary state of blundering consciousness. Prabhu was never remiss in realizing the irresistible power of the Divine Grace that descended through Animisha and almost in a poetic vein he describes its effect.
“When Grace strikes,
A clod of earth is turned to a pile of gold.
The common stone is charged with alchemy
When Grace strikes
The Fortune that for years and years I sought,
Look now flashes in my sight;
There, in a temple buried in earth,
I have seen a Gem,
And cast my past behind me,
Forever, Oh! Guheshwar;”
“The creeper I sought so long is now
About my leg entwined.
The longing of my heart is now
Within my grasp
Like a poor man stumbling upon a trove,
With a seeker’s tireless steps I have come
And seen the Inconceivable;
And beheld the sweep of my consciousness;
My whole being, within and without,
Bathed in supernal splendour,
I have gazed at the Source of all light;
I have seen my Supreme Master
With his gaze of unfathomable wonder
Concentrating upon the emblem on his palm.
And having seen, I have been saved,
The meeting of Prabhu and Animisha, as Prabhu himself relates, was like the meeting of mutes; for, as Animisha was lost in trance, he remained without speech and action. Prabhu was eager to have his initiation, but Animisha was silent-bound. How could it be effected? It was effected through the silent transmission of power, through the transfer of Linga from the palm of one’s hand to the palm of another. The Linga, charged with power touched Prabhu and turned him into an adept by emptying him of Karmamala.
“Oh! Guheshwaralinga, by removing
All the contents of the unconscious,
You emptied me into the superconscious.
Where is the cuckoo, and where the mango tree?
And yet they meet.
Where is the myrobalan, child of the hills,
And where the sea-bred salt?
And yet they meet;
Even so have we met, you and I
In Veerashaiva terminology Linga is the grace of Guru formulated. It cannot be gainsaid that the grace of Animisha wrought a miraculous change in Prabhu. Animisha, a marvel of silent dynamism and magnetic personality attracted Prabhu. He was steeped in God consciousness from which he radiated silent light which sparks out a Gospel of silence that goes in the heart of Prabhu. Animisha neither speaks nor acts, yet he has moved Prabhu intensely in the realm of the Divine. The silent communion has been effected by one inspiring the other. Of course words fail to express this intimate communion. Prabhu, being freed from the fetters of malatraya by virtue of his self-discipline and the Divine Grace of Animisha, became a pure man, a perfect man, a superman, a cosmic man. Such a one is termed Sharana or Jangama in Veerashaivism. Sharana in virtue of his essence is the cosmic thought assuming flesh and connecting the Absolute with the world of nature. While every appearance shows some attribute of Reality, Sharana’s microcosm in which all attributes are united, and in all its diverse aspects. To state it otherwise, the Absolute having completely realized itself Sharana returns into itself through him. God and man become one in the perfect man – the enraptured prophet or saint whose religious function as a mediator between man and God corresponds with his metaphysical function as the unifying principle by means of which the opposite terms of reality and appearance are harmonized. Hence the upward movement of the absolute from the sphere of manifestation back to the unmanifest essence takes place in and through the intuitive experience of Sharana. So there is an exchange of philosophy for mysticism.
Prabhu is not a mere metaphysician but a real master of excellence and perfection. The peculiar excellence of man is his power of thought by which he surpasses and rules all forms of life. As the growth of thought gives him his supremacy, so its development gives him fulfilment and happiness. The chief condition of happiness is the life of reason which represents the specific glory and power of man. Prabhu does not discard the life of reason, on the contrary, it finds its full expression in his life and action. He does not spare chastising even Basava for his one sided attachment to sham Jangamas. He upholds virtue which implies a masculine sort of excellence. For him virtue depends upon self-control, symmetry of desire and artistry of means. It is not the possession of the simple man nor is it the gift of God, but the achievement of experience in the fully developed man. In one of his sayings he explains to Muktayi the characteristics of Sharana – ” A Sharana is he who has realized himself, having divested of his ego consciousness, but retaining his conscience.” The annihilation of ego consciousness, the retention of conscience and the realization of self are the three features of mysticism. It has been urged by critics that mysticism tends on the one hand to a life of amoralism and on the other, to a life of passivity. But the sayings of Prabhu in which retention of conscience is emphasized as one of the characteristics of mysticism renders this criticism invalid. Prabhu does not preach the effacement of all distinctions between right and wrong; he insists on the development, nay, the perfection of moral virtues as a prelude to the spiritual realization. The moral life then is not a by-product of instinctive urges, but it is a necessary outcome of the life of reason. We agree with Whewell when he says: “We deny the doctrine of the ancient Epicureans, that the pleasure is the supreme good; of Hobbes, that moral rules are only the work of man’s mutual fear; of Peley that what is expedient is right, and that there is no difference among pleasures except their intensity and duration; and of Bentham , that the rules of human actions are to be attained by counting up the pleasures which actions produce. And we maintain with Plato, that reason has a natural and rightful authority over desire and affection, with Butler that there is a difference od kind in our principles of action; and with the general voice of mankind, that we must do what is right at whatever cost of pain and loss; what we ought to do we should do, and that we must do though it brings pain and loss.
And why? Because, it is a right thing to do.”
This article – ‘Allama Prabhu – His Life’ – is taken from H.H.Mahatapasvi Shri Kumarswamiji-s book, ‘Prophets of Veerashaivism’.