Saturday, January 31, 2015

Smartas - The Eclectic Hindus- III

Two important points to be considered now.

1. How do I say that most of the Hindus are Smartas?

Take the case of Bengal. Sri Ramakrishna's family deity was Raghubir (Rama). His Tantrik Guru was Bhairavi Brahmani a Vaishnavite Tantrika. He worshiped Krishna and Kali. This is Smartaism. Most of the Brahmins in Bengal are like this.

Kerala: The Nambhoodiris claim to be Purva Mimansa  followers. But see the worship. Shiva, Devi and Krishna temples are all over Kerala. Everyone goes to all these temples. Swami Chinmayananda spent his lifetime spreading the message of Bhagavd Gita. But in all his Ashrams the central temple is Shiva's temple. This is Smartaism.

2. Some one might say that "But there is proof that Smartas are Saiva, Vaishnava". This is exactly what you are supposed to believe. Smartism is Saivism for Saivas and Vaishnavism for Vaishnavas. All things to all people is the name of the game. We cannot claim that Smartas are pure Advaita Vedanta people. Pure Advaitins reject Purva Mimansa. They do not subscribe to Sri Vidya practices which basically believes in Saguna Brahman.

I would also like to point out the all important role of the Sankara matams and thousands of other matams which are loosely affiliated to these matams. These matams have spread the idea of non-sectarian Hinduism all over India. They have also revived the Vaidic practices.

Again India has been known for the millions of wandering renunciates. Smarta religion brought some order here also by creating the Dasanami Sampradhayas of Sannyasis. They created a semblance of an organization. But this affiliation is only nominal. They do not even have a uniform practice of dealing with the dead bodies of Sannyasis.


If Smarta religion is so good and has strengthened Hinduism how come no one is talking about it?

Here lies the crux of the matter. Smarta called themselves Smartas because they wanted to emphasize the role of the Smiritis/Dharmasasthras. Dharmasasthras are founded on Varnashrama Dharma. So the Smartas have been accused of propagating the Varnashrama Dharma.

But this criticism does not take into account the seminal role played by the Smartas in strengthening Hinduism and preventing it from becoming divided into a number of warring sects.


The vision shown by Adi Sankarachrya or Sankaracharyas is unparalleled in the history of Hinduism. We can only pray that such a visionary will be born in India again who will unite all the castes together, so that the caste name would signify only a tradition or culture. A Dalit should say proudly of the Brahmins "Here are the people who have kept OUR Vedic traditions alive."

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Smartas - The Eclectic Hindus- II

I do not know how many of you are aware of the titles of the Matathipathi of Sankara Matams. These titles are recited by people who consider the Sankaracharya as their personal Guru.

Shad Dharsana sthanapachaya (Founder of all six dharshanas or systems of Philosophy)

Sankyathraya prithipadaka (Establisher of Sankhya)

Vaidhika Marga Pravarthaka (engaged in Vaidhika marga)

Another sloka 

Sasthram sarira Mimansa devasthu Parameswara

Acharya Sankaracharya santhu me janma janmani

Why did the Smartas do it? Tamil Smartas always talk about Shanmadham, but not about Shad Dharshana.

The basic idea of Smarta religion was to reestablish Vaidic practices. Vedas are non-sectarian unlike the Puranas.  There are verses in praise of all Gods. Indra, Varuna, and other Vaidic Gods. Then we have Rudraprasna, Narayana Suktham and Sri Suktham among others. In these verses the god to whom the verses are addressed is considered the Supreme God. Again the Vaidic practices are basically from Karma Kanda  and follow Uttara Mimansa. Advaita is Gnana Kanda. Then Yoga has become a part and parcel of Hinduism. Sankhya is the basic philosophy of the Sakthas.

You can not bring about a unity among different sects or revive the Vaidic practices without bring together the six systems of Philosophy.

So Smartaism became Shan Madha and Shad Dharshana. Though it is not stated clearly, Smartas also absorbed the concept of Bhakthi. The various slokas attributed to Sankaracharya are evidence of this.

The followers came from all the sects. Initially we did have sub-classifications of Smarta-Saiva, Smarta-Vaishnava and Smarta-Sakthas. But this disappeared over a period of time. The best part of Smarta religion is that you could continue your sectarian worship. The Panchayathana Puja was a compromise. But here the central deity could be Shiva, Vishnu, Sakthi, Skanda or the Sun. The Smartas went to the extent of even allowing sectarian marks. That is how we have Nama Iyers for example.

[To be continued]

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]