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    Smartas - The Eclectic Hindus

    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 Saivites and the Vaishnavites in Tamil Nadu.
    That is history. To look at some sectarian beliefs you have to only visit any Hare Krishna
    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 Chaitanya Maha Prabhu.

    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.

    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 sthanapacharya

    Sankyathraya prithipadaka

    Vaidhika Marga Pravarthaka

    A sloka

    Sasthram sarira Mimansa devasthu Parameswara
    Acharya Sankaracharya santhu me janma janmani

    These clearly indicate that Smarta religion follows all the six Dharshanas or systems of
    Philosophy.

    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 Purva 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 bringing 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.

    Now about Vishishtaadvaita and Dwaita. Even here the only problem that the Smartas have is
    the definition of Narayana and Vishnu as the only supreme God. Smartas are not comfortable
    with that. Otherwise the philosophies of Vishishtaadvaita and Dwaita are perfectly
    acceptable.

    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.

    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 (Krishna). 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 Bhagavad 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". We have
    had discussions regarding this. This is exactly what you are supposed to believe. Smartaism
    is Saivism for Saivas and Vaishnavism for Vaishnavas. All things to all people is the name
    of the game. We can not 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 tried
    to bring 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.

    Time-Frame

    Though the formal Smarta religion seems to hve originated in the middle ages, it is very
    difficult to specify the date of the Smarta religion. The Smarta religion with its
    syncretistic tendencies seem to have been in existence for long. There is evidence for that
    like the medieval sculptures of Panchayatana Sivalinga and Harihara. But organizing them
    into a force in Hinduism could be attributed to Adi Sankaracharya.

    Since these are developments which took place over a period of hundreds of years, we do not
    have a time frame for this development.

    Finally

    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.

    Hope

    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."


    Smarta's View of Adi Sankaracharya


    Adi Sankaracharya is universally known as the Acharya who first enunciated the principles
    of Advaita. In Hinduism the ideas always mattered more than the personality. That is why we
    have Advaita, Sankhya, Yoga, Vishishtaadvaita, Dvaita and others. This is totally different
    from the Western way of thinking where the individual is more important than their ideas.
    Thus we have philosophies named after Aristotle, Plato, Kant among others.

    Now Smartas tend to view Adi Sankaracharya as the founder of Shanmadha/Shaddharshana
    religion. He is credited with recovering the glory of the religion of the Vedas.

    These two different views do clash. The historical image of Adi Sankara as the ultimate
    pure Advaitin clashes with the image of Adi Sankara who brought back the glory of the Purva
    Mimansa religion. How could a person who debated the Purva Mimansa people throughout his
    life turn to be a follower of Purva Mimansa? How could he become a Saktha Tantrik and
    author Soundarya Lahari? How could he become a Bhakta and author the various slokas
    attributed to him? The questions are many.

    There is no historical evidence that Adi Sankara was anything but a pure Advaitin.

    It is probable that we are talking not only about Adi Sankara, but also Sankaracharyas who
    have adorned the different Peetams over a period of time. Great men like Abhinava Sankara,
    Vidyaranya. Probable, but not confirmed in the absence of historical records.

    In the early days of the internet this used to be the favorite topic of discussion on the
    Hindu usenet groups. Adi Sankara the Advaitin Vs Adi Sankara as projected by the Smartas.

    The Smartas always defended their stand by saying "We know." Thus it boiled down to
    question of belief and not history.

    Smartas should be aware of this conflict between history and their belief.

    This post is an old one. This article was written to enable the Smarthas to understand their religion.

    It is not against Sakthism, Saivism or Vaishnavism. Or against any Acharyas.

    Last edited by Nacchinarkiniyan; 26-02-2013 at 12:06 PM.
    யாதும் ஊரே யாவரும் கேளிர்.

    நச்சினார்க்கினியன்.
  2. #2
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    Dear Sir,

    Is it correct to call Smarta a religion?

    Isn't it a Matam?

    Closest word in English to describe Matam is a doctrine.
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  4. #3
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    The term religion is used for all sects of Hinduism. Saiva, Vaishnava, Saktha, Ganapathya, Sourya, Koumara and Smartha.

    A Matam is a Religious Institution. Like Sankara matam, Ahobila Matam and Gowdiya matam to name a few. Matam is also used for residence. One of my ancestors was known as Thekke Matathu Siva Ramakrishna Iyen. Siva Ramakrishna Iyen of South Matam. It is மடம் not மதம்.
    Last edited by Nacchinarkiniyan; 26-02-2013 at 12:17 PM.
    யாதும் ஊரே யாவரும் கேளிர்.

    நச்சினார்க்கினியன்.
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    Dear Sir,

    Mata/Matam means a doctrine/school of thought/tenet.

    In many verses we do see the word Mama Mata or Me Mata (My thought).

    So I was wondering if the word religion might not be appropriate cos whatever it is every school of thought would have come only from the Vedas even though practices would differ.
    Last edited by renuka; 26-02-2013 at 12:22 PM.
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    Dear Iniyan,

    The term religion is used for all sects of Hinduism. Saiva, Vaishnava, Saktha, Ganapathya, Sourya, Koumara and Smartha.
    A Matam is a Religious Institution. Like Sankara matam, Ahobila Matam and Gowdiya matam to name a few.
    This post is an old one. This article was written to enable the Smarthas to understand their religion.
    It is not against Sakthism, Saivism or Vaishnavism. Or against any Acharyas.
    Could you please provide more info on what Adi Sankara did to establish shan matham or shad darsana? What are these shad darsana? Just for knowing. Thanks

    Cheers.
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  10. #6
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    Shanmadha and Shaddharsana

    Quote Originally Posted by suraju06 View Post
    Dear Iniyan,



    Could you please provide more info on what Adi Sankara did to establish shan matham or shad darsana? What are these shad darsana? Just for knowing. Thanks

    Cheers.

    Shanmadhas are Ganapathyam, Koumaram, Saivam, Sakthism, Souryam, and Vaishnavism.


    Shaddharsanas are Samkya, Nyaya, Yoga, Vaiseshika, Purva Mimansa and Uttara Mimansa also known as Vedanta. Vedata includes Advaita,

    Vishista Advaita, Dvaita and all other later philosophies.

    Both Shanmadha and Shaddharsana are later day concepts which sought to explain the non-sectarian eclectic nature of the Smartas.
    The Smartas accepted the Gods/Goddesses of all the sects and all philosophies. Their main concern was Vaidhika Dharma. Because of this their practices are mainly Purva Mimansa. There is no religion called Shanmadha and no philosophy called Shaddharsana.

    Shanmadha and Shaddharsana are concepts evolved by Tamil Brahmins to explain Smarta beliefs. There is absolutely no historical record of these.


    Adi Sankara who propounded Advaita has nothing to do with these concepts. These six sects existed before his time and even after that. Adi Sankara entered into arguments with the proponents of Purva Mimansa, Sankya and Yoga and is reported to have proved them false. He differed from all these philosophies.


    As I said earlier Adi Sankara of the Smarta Tamil Brahmin has nothing to do with the real Adi Sankara the pure Advaitin.
    யாதும் ஊரே யாவரும் கேளிர்.

    நச்சினார்க்கினியன்.
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  12. #7
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    Syncrectic nature of Hinduism

    The main reason for this article is that Smartas themselves are not aware of their tradition.

    Most of them especially the younger generation are not even aware of the term Smartas.
    They call themselves Iyers which is only one of the surnames of the tradition. Earlier the term Sasthri seems to have been more popular. They surname Sharma is again popular. This is the name used in the Abhivadaye the introduction which all Brahmins give.

    Many people believe that Iyers are Saivites. This belief has grown because the Iyers
    themselves do not know whether they are Saivites or not. Smarta term has been forgotten. The Acharyas emphasize only on Dharmasasthras and Nityanushtana karmas. Very little is written or known about how Smartas worship all Gods/Goddesses.

    The Brittanica on line tends to follow this misconception.


    Smarta sect (Hinduism) -- Britannica Online Encyclopedia


    Just because they are called Sankara Matams many people swear that they are followers of
    Advaita. You go thorugh any number of web sites where Samrtas claim to followers of Advaita.

    Frankly Smartas are not aware of the history of their religion.


    This is what happens when you try to erase or twist History to suit your own ends. Then
    how many Hindus know or bother about their religious history?

    Hinduism could not have survived for thousands of years but for the the syncrectic nature of Hinduism. This syncrectic nature is the basis of Smarta religion.


    Syncretism is the combining of different (often seemingly contradictory) beliefs, often while melding practices of various schools of thought.


    Syncretism involves the merger and analogizing of several originally discrete traditions, especially in the theology and mythology of religion, thus asserting an underlying unity and allowing for an inclusive approach to other faiths. Syncretism also occurs commonly in expressions of arts and culture (known as eclecticism) as well as politics (syncretic politics).
    Last edited by Nacchinarkiniyan; 02-03-2013 at 12:02 PM.
    யாதும் ஊரே யாவரும் கேளிர்.

    நச்சினார்க்கினியன்.
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    Mr. Nacchi,
    Very good explanation of Smartha ways. I fully agree with you. I did not know that there was this much misinformation about smartha. I can understand that some Iyangars do not understand the Smartha way.
    The water in the pot may not understand the ocean, but ocean understands all waters.

    That is how we have Nama Iyers for example.
    Can you explain this a little more.
    Thanks
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    I do not blame the others when the Smartas themselves are not aware of their tradition. There have been a few threads in this forum where members have raised this question about what Smartas are.

    The other name for Smartas is Vaidhika Brahmanas. Now-a-days his term has become common. The Mathas also seem to prefer this.

    Nama Iyers is the local term used for a group of Iyers from Palakkad who put Trichurnam instead of Vibuthi on their foreheads. Sri. T.N. Seshan belongs to this group.

    I am posting a video of the speech of His Holiness Paramahamsa Parivrajakacarya Gaudapadapithadhiswara Anantasri Dr. Swami Prajnanananda Saraswati, Vedantacarya, Vyakaranatirtha, Sastracakravarti, Mathadhisa, Sankara Matha, Ramrajatala, Howrah, West Bengal, at Sankara Hall, Calcutta. The Sankara math at Ramrajtala runs the famous Rama temple at Ramrajatala, Howrah.

    Swami Prajnanananda Saraswati_Sankara Jayanti Speech_Part 1 - YouTube

    You cam listen to the Swamiji replacing the usual obeisance of "Sadhasiva samarambam Sankaracharya madhyamam ... with "Narayana samarambam Sankaracharya madhyamam ..."

    This Sankra Math is affiliated to Shringeri math.

    யாதும் ஊரே யாவரும் கேளிர்.

    நச்சினார்க்கினியன்.
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    Quote Originally Posted by prasad1 View Post
    Mr. Nacchi,
    Very good explanation of Smartha ways. I fully agree with you. I did not know that there was this much misinformation about smartha. I can understand that some Iyangars do not understand the Smartha way.
    The water in the pot may not understand the ocean, but ocean understands all waters.


    Can you explain this a little more.
    Thanks
    hi
    i myself belong to Nama iyers sect...we wear namam like vaishnavas ..but belong to vadama iyer sect....even though we

    are Nama smarthas....we worship/ kula deivam vishnu....we never use vibhuti.....we belong to srirangam matam.....

    not any smartha matam....we use srirangam panchangam tooo...so we called Nama iyers...mainly three agraharams

    belong to Nama iyers....2 in tamilnadu 1 in palakkad ,kerala.....i think pallipuram/thirunellayi in kerala...singanallur in

    coimbatore...one agraharam in tanjore....there is proverb in tamil.....வடமன் முத்தி வைஷ்ணவன் ....this applicable to us...
    Last edited by tbs; 03-03-2013 at 04:08 AM.
    asato maa sadh gamayaa, tamaso maa jyotir
    gamayaa, mrityor maa amritham gamayaaa..
    om shanti, om shanti, om shanti...upanishad
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