Smartism

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Smartism<ref> Smartism is a new coined term derived from the word smarta by the shaivite scholar Sivaya Subramuniyaswami[1]</ref>, (or Smarta Sampradaya, Smarta Tradition, as termed in Sanskrit), is a denomination of the Hindu religion. The term Smarta refers to adherents who follow the Vedas and Shastras. They mainly follow the Advaita Vedanta philosophy of Adi Shankara. But there have been instances when they have advocated or followed other philosophies.

In Sanskrit, Smārta means "relating to memory, recorded in or based on the Smrti, based on tradition, prescribed or sanctioned by traditional law or usage, (etc)", from the root smr ("remember"). Smārta is a vriddhi derivation of Smriti just as Śrauta is a vriddhi derivation of Śruti.

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[edit] Salient features of Smartism

Smartas are followers and propagators of Smriti or religious texts derived from Vedic scriptures. It is from this that the name smarta is derived. This term is used with respect to a certain specialized category of Brahmins. It was Adi Shankaracharya who brought all the Vedic communities together. He removed the un-Vedic aspects that had crept into them. He said that any of the different Hindu gods could be worshipped, according to the prescriptions given in the smriti texts. He established that worship of various deities are compatible with Vedas and is not contradictory, since all are different manifestations of Brahman. His ideas were accepted as he succeeding in convincing brahmins of his day, that this is exactly what was indicated by the Vedas.

[edit] Advaita Vedanta

Main article: Advaita Vedanta

God, according to Smartas who happen to follow Advaita philosophy, is both Saguna and Nirguna. As a Nirguna he is pure consciousness dissociated from matter. He (the gender itself is meaningless here) has no attributes, and has no form. As a saguna, there is quality that can be attributed. He is infinite and thus can have a multitude of attributes. Accordingly, the scriptures hold that Vishnu and Shiva are ultimately the same. The Smarta theologians have cited many references to support this point. For example, they interpret verses in both the Shri Rudram, the most sacred mantra in Shaivism, and the Vishnu Sahasranama, one of the most sacred prayers in Vaishnavism, to show this unity. Vishnu Purana carries a story about how Maha Vishnu becomes Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. In other words, these forms and names are just different manifestations of Nirguna Brahman- the Ultimate Reality.

One great advaita scholar, Sri Chandrasekhara Bharati (1892 - 1954), commentating on this, said. "you cannot see the feet of the Lord, why do you waste your time debating about the nature of His face?" <ref>Advaita Vedanta FAQ</ref>

It is most essential for Smarta Brahmins to specialize in the Karma Kanda of the Vedas and associated rituals diligently, and to teach the subsequent generations. This is the only reason that these families continue to be called Smartas.

[edit] Shanmata and influence on contemporary Hinduism

Adi Shankara propagated the tradition of Shanmata (Sanskrit, meaning Six Opinions). In this six major deities are worshipped. This is based on the belief in the essential sameness of all deities, the unity of Godhead, and their conceptualization of the myriad deities of India as various manifestations of the one divine power, Brahman. Smartas accept and worship the six manifestations of God, (Ganesha, Shiva, Shakti, Vishnu, Surya and Skanda) and the choice of the nature of God is up to the individual worshipper since different manifestations of God are held to be equivalent. Many Hindus, who may not understand or follow Advaita philosophy, in contemporary Hinduism, invariably follow the Shanmata belief worshiping many forms of God. One commentator, noting the influence of the Smarta tradition, remarked that although many Hindus may not strictly identify themselves as Smartas but, by adhering to Advaita Vedanta as a foundation for non-sectarianism, are indirect followers [2]. Additionally, many of the Hindu teachers of the modern era such as Ramakrishna, with the notable exception of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder of the Hare Krishna movement, all had teachings that were in accord with this tradition. The Smarta view dominates the view of Hinduism in the West. Smartas believe that Brahman is essentially attribute-less (nirguna), all attributes (gunas) equally belong to It, within empirical reality<ref>Advaita Vedanta FAQ</ref>.

[edit] Comparison with other Hindu denominations

By contrast, a Vaishnavite considers Vishnu to be the true God who is worthy of worship and other forms as his subordinates. See for example, an illustration of the Vaishnavite view of Vishnu as the one true God, at this link. Accordingly, Vaishnavites, for example, believe that only Vishnu can grant the ultimate salvation for mankind, moksha. See for example, this link. Similarly, many Shaivites also hold similar beliefs about Lord Shiva, as illustrated here and here.

Notably, Shakti is worshipped to reach Shiva, whom for Shaktas is the impersonal Absolute. In Shaktism, emphasis is given to the feminine manifest through which the male unmanifested, Lord Shiva, is realized. Additionally, Shaivites and Vaishnavites often regard Surya as an aspect of Shiva and Vishnu, respectively. For example, the sun is called Surya Narayana by Vaishnavites. In Saivite theology, the sun is said to be one of eight forms of Shiva, the Astamurti. Additionally, Ganesh and Skanda for them, would be aspects of Shakti and Shiva, respectively. According to smartism, most Hindus worship Saguna Brahman as Vishnu or Shiva.

[edit] Smarta practices

[edit] Daily routine

The Smartas hold practice of Dharma more important than beliefs. This is a distinct feature of the Dharmic religions. The practices include mainly Yajnas. The daily routine<ref>A day in the life of a Brahmin</ref> includes performing

The last two named Yajnas are performed in only a few households today.

Brahmacharis perform:

instead of Agnihotra or Aupasana.

The other rituals followed include Amavasya tarpanam and Shraddha.

See also: Nitya karma and Kaamya karma

[edit] Panchayatana Puja

Most Smartas worship at least one of the following Gods: Shiva, Vishnu, Ganesha, Surya, Durga, and/or Skanda.

Adi Shankaracharya recommended the Smartas to follow Panchayatana worship. This puja or worship includes the worship of the first five deities mentioned above. (In Tamil Nadu Skanda is also worshipped). In this form of worship, the favorite family deity is placed in the center. All other Gods were placed around this central God and worshipped.

There are different sets of rules for each stage of an individual's life. The stages of life prescribed in the Vedic scriptures are Brahmacharya Ashrama, Grihastha Ashrama, Vanaprastha Ashrama and Sannyasa Ashrama.

[edit] Other practices

All Smartas who take up the Brahmacharya Ashrama by undergoing Upanayana, are expected to learn the Vedas and Shastras besides leading a celibate Life. They are expected to eat satvik food and adhere to other rules of the Smriti tradition of their respective families.

Smartas are recommended to follow the Brahma form of Vedic marriage (a type of arranged marriage). The marriage ceremony is based on Vedic prescriptions. Women acquire the traditions of her husband's family.

[edit] The Shrauta Tradition

Main article: Shrauta

Traditionally the Smartas also follow the Shrauta tradition. The Shrauta tradition emphasises on performance of Yajnas which are described in the Vedas. The number of Smartas who follow Shrauta tradition is quite less today. However in the southern states the Shrauta tradition is held to be strong.

[edit] Religious institutions

The few of the traditional Smarta religious institutions are:

Some modern Hindu missions that can be said to follow Smarta tradition are:

[edit] Contributions

[edit] Advaita Vedanta

The Smarta worldview is influenced by Advaita philosophy. Adi Shankaracharya, who founded the Advaita Mathas in Sringeri (Sharada Pītha), Dvaraka (Dwaraka Pītha), Puri (Govardhana Pītha) and Badrinath (Jyotirmaţha Pītha)kama, is considered to be the fountainhead of the Smarta tradition as it stands today. All the Jagadgurus (heads) of the Advaita Mathas (also known as Shankara Mathas) are Smartas.

[edit] Prominent advaitins

Some of the prominent Smarta Advaitins are:

Some of the later advaitins include:

See also: Jagadguru of Sringeri Sharada Peetham

[edit] Carnatic music

The Music Trinity (Sangeetha Mummoorthigal, in Tamil) are Smartas, Sri Muthuswamy Dikshitar, Sri Shyama Shastry, Sri Tyagaraja are Smartas. The famous song on Krishna, alaipayude is by Utthukadu Sri Venkatasubba Iyer, a Smarta. Many major carnatic musicians including Semmangudi Srinivassa Iyer, Lalgudi Jayaraman, Violin maestro Kunnakudi, Veena Balachandar, Balamuralikrishna, Maharajapuram Santhanam, D.K Pattamal and Mandolin Srinivas are Smartas.

[edit] Other philosophies

  • Sreekanta was the founder of Siva Advaita.
  • Tyagaraja, a Smarta, was a Bhakti Saint and musical genius who inspired Hindus of many different sects. Deeply immersed in Bhakti, this devotee of Lord Rama, was acceptable to even non Smartas. In his compositions, the Saint is a simple and humble Bhakta. In one of his compositions he asks which one is better "Dvaita or Advaita?". He leaves the question open. He belonged to that category of saints who believe in Bhakti as the path to God. In this sense his teachings were suitable to people of all the three major south Indian sects- Smartas, Sri Vaishanavas and Madhvas. His music was said to be so enchanting that even people of all sects, castes and creeds flocked to listen to him.
  • The modern philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti, who was born in a Smarta Muluknadu family, refused to be tied down by his own tradition. Initially influenced by theosophy, he later moved away from even this. He believed in independently evaluating all spiritual questions and refusing to be tied down by any sect or tradition.
  • Besides these there were a number of other Non Advaitic Scholars among Smartas prior to Shankaracharya. Ramanujacharya, Madhavacharya, Vallabhacharya were only some of the Smartas who broke away from the parent group and founded their own sects. The philosophy of the new sects was directed against the teachings of Advaita philosophy. The new sects distinguished themselves and separated from Smartas. These new groups followed different philosophies like Dvaita (dualism) and Vishishtadvaita (qualified monism) and also changed their rituals. Appaiah Deekshita, a Smarta Iyer, followed Sreekanta's Sivadvaita philosophy in his early days. This philosophy was similar to Vishishtadvaita of the Sri Vaishnavas. Siva Advaita, however, considers Shiva to be the supreme God. Communities like the Sri Vaishnavas, Madhvas and Veera Saivas are some of the other Hindu sects which have branched/broken away from the Smarta stream. A distinctive feature of these communities is the fact that none of them subscribe to Advaita. Some of these sects have also accepted people who came from outside the Smarta Brahmin fold; indeed, the Veera Saiva community includes non-Brahmins. Another feature of these sects is that they follow rituals recommended by their lineage of Gurus, which are different from the rituals of the Smartas.

[edit] Scriptures followed

Smartas follow the Hindu scriptures. These include:

The Vedas (Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda and Atharva Veda). These are considered primary spiritual resources; every Brahmin family is affiliated to one or more of the Vedas. The Upanishads, which are part of the Vedas, are often mentioned separately, given their especial importance as products of past intellectual ferment. The Smritis" are religious books based on Vedas and are written by important Sages/Rishis of the past. Each of them contains recommendations and practices unique to itself. The Book an individual followed depended on his family. Thus, ritual practices sometimes varied from family to family, depending on family tradition. Some of the more common religious law books were the Manu Smriti, the Apastamba Smriti and the Bodhyayana Smriti. The Puranas contain the lore and explanations of the theology of the Vedas. They are basically a collection of sacred historical events that were passed from one generation to the next in the form of mythological stories. Smarta philosophers use the puranas to get a better understanding of Vedas, but do not consider them as completely authentic texts. However, the eighteen Puranas are revered by Smartas, just like any other Hindus. Today the Puranas are the main inspiration for many Smartas.

Smartas also recite Shlokas or Stotras (devotional hymns) composed by various Hindu saints and poets.

See also: Shastras

[edit] Communities

Smarta communities of South India are:

See:Kannada brahmins

[edit] See also

[edit] Notes

<references/>

[edit] External links

Smartism

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