Guru Basavanna was the idea, force, and architect behind the great spiritual revolution of the 12th century. As an integral part of this revolution, Basavanna enabled a unique community of spiritual aspirants known as Sharanas. The literary meaning of the word Sharana is a person who has surrendered himself, generally to God. In Basavaism, a Sharana is one who has transformed his mortal life to that of a life proffered to God; Sharana is one who has evolved from a human into a person with divine experience; and Sharana is one who has offered his body, his mind, his possessions, and his very life to God. The essence, purpose, and goal of Basavaism is to illumine the path for transforming human being imprisoned in this mortal life to a Sharana, the liberated soul.
Enabling an environment that fostered and guided aspirants in their spiritual pursuit, Basavanna welcomed everyone with open arms to be part of this movement. Millions of aspirants took advantage of this great opportunity and transformed their lives into a blessed one. Living in this community with their families, Sharanas enjoyed a novel lifestyle that was beyond the turmoil of the mortal life. Sharanas developed a universal quality moving beyond the confines of religion, gender, social status, country, and race. To them the entire creation was theirs; everything and everyone belonged to a fellowship under God. Sharanas were productive members of the society working sincerely and paying their social dues, yet theirs was a evolved life not touched by the sorrows of the mortal life.
Sharanas evolved beyond the experiences of sorrow and pleasure. Realizing that the mortal life of Samsara is filled with misery, they mastered the art and science of living that was above the turmoil of Samsara. This was a life with God at the center. The tigers and bears of the jungle of Samsara dare not touch the Sharanas!
While the Sharana movement was envisioned and headed by Basavanna, it was a collective work enriched by many mystics. Basavanna nurtured fellowship amongst Sharanas and made sure that all were active participating members of the community and not mere followers. Basavanna welcomed many great yogis and accomplished mystics like Allama Prabhudeva, Chennabasavanna, Madiwala Machidevaru, Akka Mahadevi, and Siddharameshwara to be part of this great movement. With grace, Basavanna gave credit to other Sharanas and enabled the revolution to blossom to its fullest. Many of his and other Sharana’s Vachanas reveal that there was a divine purpose behind the birth of Basavanna. Other Sharanas joined Basavanna to assist him in his divine mandate.
Despite coming from various backgrounds, tendencies, and convictions, Sharanas worked in unison towards achieving their goal of enabling divine experience to one and all. People from all walks of life - cobblers to royals, farmers to scholars, housewives to yogis participated with equal dignity in this utopist society. Basavanna made sure that all Sharanas were respected and encouraged each to blossom to their fullest potential. Many of the Vachanas reflect the mutual respect, fellowship and bond Sharanas shared. Each had an important role to play in this monumental revolution. Under the able guidance of Basavanna, Sharanas assumed their roles with grace and dedication.
Basavanna established Anubhava Mantapa, the Abode of Experience, in the city of Kalyana the center from where the ideas and notions of Sharana movement developed. Many Sharanas moved to Kalyana and participated in the activities of Anubava Mantapa. While, Kalyana was the center of Sharana society, Sharana community was distributed across the land. Following Sharana’s message from their own homes, villages, and towns, many aspirants transformed their lives and became an integral part of Sharana community.
Sharana community was an ideal society that had evolved beyond the mortal life of Samsara. While living and participating in the society, Sharanas found a way of leading an idealistic life with God at its center.