Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Smartas - The Eclectic Hindus

In our quest for our roots, most of us have an interest in knowing about the Smarta religion. But there is very little research material on the subject. Another major problem is that though the tenets of the Smarta religion are followed all over India, only in South India we call ourselves Smarta.

The basic tenet of the Smarta religion is non-Sectarianism. It is eclectic in belief. We believe in all Gods/Goddesses. It is this Smarta belief which is Hinduism to most of the Hindus all over the world. Again Smarta are not Vedantins. They believe in all the six Dharshanas or the systems of philosophy.

I would like to start with the evolution of Smarta religion.

Hinduism has been plagued by sectarianism for a long time. This sectarianism made Hinduism weak. We all know about the fight between the Shaivites and the Vaishnavites in Tamil Nadu. That is history. To look at some sectarian beliefs you have to only visit any of the sectarian web site. Shiva and all other Gods/Goddesses are not even Gods. They are only demi-Gods. Frequent rants against Adi Sankara forgetting the historical fact that but for him, there might not have been any Hinduism at the time of founding of many of these sects.

You can very well imagine how it must have been in the middle ages when sectarianism ruled the roost.

There was another problem also with sectarianism in the middle ages. Saivism and Vaishnavism in those days were both Agamic. The Pancharatra Vaishnavism and Kalamukha and other brands of Saivism. These did not lay emphasis on the Vedas or Vaidic practices.

So it was felt that a non sectarian religion was required to unify Hinduism, and also to revive Vaidic practices. And it was also felt necessary to bring the different warring philosophies together since different sects followed different philosophies.

Now this bringing about the unity has been attributed to Adi Sankaracharya. But scholars have questioned whether Adi Sankaracharya the exponent of pure Advaita could have been the founder of a religion which emphasized on all the six Dharshanas. Whether it was one or many Sankaracharyas does not matter for us. The fact is that it is the Sankaracharyas and the mutts established by him which played a major role in this unification.

Now I expect some of the Smartas to object to my classifying the Smartas as following all the six Dharshanas or systems of philosophy. This may seem contrary to the widespread belief that they are Advaita Vedanta followers.

[To be continued]

1 comment:

  1. Jai Ma

    As far as i know, SriSri MahaPeriyava clearly said that the Smartas are VAIDIKAS in the true sense, because all the Vaidika devatas, Rudra, Vishnu, etc. are accorded equal position and all Smartas MUST accord the Holy Panchayatana Devatas worship without partiality, since each is a transformation of the other.

    He did NOT say, but i am suggesting, the Vaidika terms like Vaivasvata Yama, Asura, Varuna, Indra, Maghava, etc. that have fallen into disuse are nothing more than synonyms for Parama Purusha or the Iexpressible, especially, Vaivasvata Yama or Varuna, Indra or Agni.

    It is humbly and respectfully suggested with prostrations to the holy Gurunathas, and SriSriMahaswamigal, that meditation on such terms as vRtti, and "yA devi .....vRttirUpeNa..." would clearly reveal the nature of yajna, agniSomiiya, praNa, mAtarishvA, agni, soma, nivRtti and so much else, including the holy Vaivasvata Yama.

    The holy Mahaswamigal goes on to say that the Mahabharata clearly mentions the division of religions or practices as Vaidika, PAshupata, PAncarAtra, etc. Surprisingly, Mahaswamigal, clearly says, and please correct me if I am misquoting him from the English translation, that this differentiation made by the Mahabharata points to the idea that the Pancarata, Pashupata, etc. are NOT Vaidika, per se.

    Given his loving relations with the many acharyas of the Ramanuja group, this would not have sat easily with them, including the present Jeer of the holy Ahobilam shrine, and the several holy Mukkur swamigals who were closely associated with him.

    The holy temple of Bhagavan Tirupati is conducted according to Pancaratra rites, and the Vaishnava faith of northern and southern India has become based largely on the Pancaratra.

    The Srivaishnava tradition clearly speak of the UBHAYA VEDA, that gives equal status of the VEDA to the Tamil tradition(s). Likewise, the Chidambaram and other Shaiva margas of Tamil Nadu place equal weight to the Tamil liturgy as to the Veda(s). I don't know what SriSri Mahaswamigal would explicitly say to these deeply-entrenched traditions, that include very many highly orthodox brahmans in their fold.

    As with the holy Guru Guhai Namah Shivaya, Kumara Deva and others, this argument of whether the Pashupatas, Lingayatas, Shaiva Siddhantas, and such are to be accepted as the equal of the orthodox, has continued for long. I have no skin in the game, as these ideas are meaningless to me.

    But i can sympathize with SriMhaswamigal to an extent since my ow orthodox feathers are ruffled when various Sai Baba images begin to be worshipped in Panchayatana temples or Dashanami institutions. No disrespect intended, but i have no objection to a separate building being constructed and consecrated for the specific worship of these saints, even in the same compound. Same goes for Santoshi Mata, a creation of Bollywood. A Panchayatana temple has been consecrated to those deities, and no additional ones should be added for any reasons, overwhelming piety or enterprising greed included. In India, one is never quite sure where the boundary between the two exists!!

    I have drifted a bit far from the topic of Smartaism being the true representative of modern Hinduism, but some of the points made do speak to trends within modern Hinduism that Smartas should need to address within their own communities. Bengalis, for example, hav no idea who they are, and Bengali Brahmins have no real idea of any Vaidika or smarta culture. They are more interested in hedonism, attacking the Sanatana Dharma, being ignorant of all aspects of Sanatana Dharma as Sri Sankara, the blog owner can testify, cooking biryani and becoming Muslim, or having sex with Muslims and then converting, than in any other single pursuit. These are their only goals in life. If some rare scoundrel does try to learn the Vedas, he would go on the Youtube and regurgitate utter and vile nonsense. Where have we fallen? O Holy Mother, please look with Mercy on us.