Lingayat Practical Philosophy

This past weekend, Satya, myself, and his parents went to the temple together.  This gave me the opportunity to learn more about their beliefs and how they practice their religion. 


Here are some of their observations and mine:


“Any nice day is a good one to go to the temple,” This was said by my mother in law.  One of the hardest things for me to understand is that there is nothing like the Sabbath or Sunday to them.  People go to the temple whenever they feel the need or desire to do so. 


“Too much ritual, not enough devotions,”  This was said by my father in law.  The central god of the temple we attended was Venkateswara*.   There was a ceremony taking place there in addition to the usual ceremony with the aarti, the hat put on people’s heads for a few moments (Shiva temples don’t do this, but this was a Vishnu temple), the coconut drink, and the prasad.  This ceremony involved bathing the idol with milk, showing the god the offerings, etc.  The priests chanted in Sanskrit.  Satya was able to translate a little of this…prayers for peace, prayers for the cars of the believers, prayers for North America, etc.  After hearing the chant for peace, Satya and his dad were ready to leave, but then the ritual began again.  Also, at one point the priests came out and led a procession around Venkateswara.  The people carried their offerings (lots of milk, coconuts, and bananas) behind the priests.


Lingayats are a bit like Protestants or Quakers believing in simplicity. 


*A note about Lingayats and Venkateswara…according to Lingayat lore, Venkateswara stole money from one of the Lingayat gods.  To this day, Venkateswara is known as a rich god and at some temples there will be Lingayats chanting for the return of the money.  Despite these things, Satya’s mother was sitting right in the midst of the crowd during the ritual in intense contemplation.  Satya, his father, and I were sitting more off to the side.


“Do your best and whatever happens, happens for the best,”  and “Do your best, and leave the result to God,” common sayings by members of Satya’s family, including himself.  This covers things large and small.  For example, when Satya was in high school and was taking the tests that determined which school he was eligible to attend, his English score got messed up (he spoke English from the age of 2 and went to English medium schools, so I believe him that the score was a mix up.)  Anyway, that meant his cumulative score was one point shy of qualifying.  Was he bitter?  Nope.


“What do you do?” and its close relatives, “What can I do?”  and “What to do?”  This follows the above.  Some might call this resignation or a bit of cynicism, but usually signifies a recognition that not everything is in one’s control.  I hear a version of this everyday.


“Take the prasad, it is very important and carries blessings,” said by his parents.  Many believers will bring milk, cocunuts, or bananas to the temple.  These will be taken by the priests to be blessed.  Then, some will be returned to the giver.  Some will be offered to temple visitors.  Satya was hesitating about taking these, but his mother took a banana and split it into four parts for all of us.  I’ve heard that at some temples in India, free meals are given to visitors.


Learning about Lingayatism in particular and Hinduism in general is an ongoing process for me.  I learn tidbits here and there.