[Advaita-l] Shankara, smarta and shanmata

Shyam shyam_md at yahoo.com
Sat Sep 26 22:15:19 CDT 2009

Dear Michael-ji
The following excerpt where in you find the Sage of Kanchi His Holiness Chandrasekhara Mahaswamigal explains at great length, and with breathtaking profundity, the concepts of shrouta, smarta, sanmatham etc may prove useful to you.
The Advaitins, who follow Sri Adi Shankara Bhagavatpada, are known by
the name `Smartas'. Nowadays, many Smartas are unaware of this title.
They refer themselves as 'Iyer' only!

Vaishnavas or Vishistadvaitins are known as Iyengars. Dvaitins are
addressed as Raojis - i.e. they attach Rao or Achar as their
surnames. As they follow Sri Madhwa, we call them as Madhwas. They
also are devotees of Vishnu. But, whenever we come across the
term 'Vaishnavas', we tend associate that only with the followers of
Ramanuja's Siddhanta. As Madhwas have 'Achar' as their surname, Sri
Vaishnavas also have 'Acharya' as surname. They have two variations
in this, such as 'Rajagopala Iyengar' or `Rajagopalacharya'.

As the Madhwas are widely known based on the name of Sri Madhwa, the
followers of Sri Shankara Bhagavatpada or Sri Ramanuja are not
referred to, by the names of their respective Acharyas. The
term 'Sankaraadvaitin' may be present in some English philosophy
books; may float in lectures, but not in vogue in day-to-day life. In
practice, we commonly have Dvaitins as Raos, Vishistadvaitins as
Iyengars and Advaitins as Iyers.

Generally, Smartas alone have Shastry, Sharma etc. as their surname.
Even those who have 'Dikshitar' as their surname are invariably a
small segment of Smartas in Tamil Nadu. The title of Dikshitar is
awarded to one who conducts Yagnas and to his family. In general,
Advaitins consider themselves as those belonging to Iyer sub sect. We
thus conclude, based on the surname in vogue.

This generation doesn't use the sub sect as surname. This has become
a taboo! Even in the previous generation, others didn't employ the
sub sect name as much as Raojis did. If we go a generation or two
backwards, we can conclude that we are grandson(s) of either an Iyer
or Iyengar or a Raoji. Even those who had 'Achar' as surname did not
refer to themselves as those belonging to 'Achar sub sect' - they
referred themselves only as Raos or Madhwas. Similarly, Vaishnavas
with 'Acharya' surname don't refer themselves as belonging to Acharya
sub sect - but consider themselves as Iyengars only! Smartas refer
themselves as Iyers, not as those belonging to Sharma sub sect or
Shastry sub sect.

As much as followers of Sri Shankara Bhagavatpada are not aware of
their being Smartas, they are equally unaware of another important
fact! Even many Advaitins do not know the fact that Adi Acharya
hasn't identified any particular deity as an exclusively chosen one
for them and instead advocated to view all of them equally with equal

Thinking that Adi Acharya has chosen Paramashiva as their 'Upasana
mUrthy', they identify themselves as Shaivas. There appears to be a
reason for this line of thinking.

Both Dvaitins and Vishistadvaitins are followers (Upasakas) of
Vishnu. It appears that the Smartas of today who happened to be
Advaitins, consider themselves to be Shaivas as they differ from the
other two sub sects. But, this reasoning is wrong. Iyer, Iyengar or
Rao are not Sanskrit names. Hence, when an Iyengar refers to his sub
sect, he introduces himself as a Vaishnava; Raoji does as a Madhwa.
There is nothing wrong in their such identification. But, only this
Iyer who happened to be an Advaitin, refers to himself as a 'Shaiva'.
Even others seem to hold this wrong notion!

Even I'm considered to be a Shaiva Acharya by many. A professor from
Japan (Hajme Nakamura) had come to me. He said, "I've studied Adi
Acharya's sutra Bhashya, Gita Bhashya etc. In all of them, only
Advaita is elaborated but no mention had been made at all about Siva"
and asked me "How is that you remain a Shaiva?"

I asked him back, "On what basis do you consider me a Shaiva?" He
replied," You are wearing only Vibhuti? You are doing Shiva Pooja
(Chandramouleshwara Pooja). All other Shankaracharyas are also
Shaivas like this. When Adi Acharya hasn't found any difference
between Shiva and Vishnu, why is that you and those of other Shankara
Maths wear Shaiva symbols and do Shiva Pooja?" I answered him thus.

Which religion or how many of them were there in this land, before
the advent of Acharyal? It becomes known from the 'Shankara Vijaya'
texts that there was the Vedic religion of Sanatana dharma and there
were other seventy-two heterodox sects. But, among the non-Vedic
faiths, the predominant one was only Buddhism. The majority of the
general public and of the intellectual class, which carried out the
philosophical research, has been either with the Sanatana Vaidika
dharma or with Buddhism. Other faiths had only a small group of
following here and there. Though the small groups of followers of
these splinter faiths had very vigorously embraced and followed their
respective paths - Even now, are we not witnessing the adherents of
various 'isms' and 'schools' following their ideologies rather
vigorously though the size of following in terms of numbers could
rather be meager - in general the religious scene then was such that
it could be divided into two big groups such as Vaidika Mata and

Those who followed this Sanatana – dharma – Vaidika Mata are known by
the name - 'Smartas'. The word `Smartas' means those who follow the
Smriti. Smriti means dharma Shastras. The work that properly
collects, collates, classifies the dharma enunciated at various
places in Vedas and cogently presents them as a single source of
information so as to guide different sections of the society,
regarding their code of conduct - prescribing the dos and don'ts for
a Jiva right from its conception in the mother's womb to its birth,
growth, learning phase, marriage, procreation and finally till its
cremation after the death - through a set of rules is dharma Shastra.
They are also known as Smritis. Those who follow them are Smartas.
The followers of Vedic religion, addressed today as 'Hindus', were
originally known only by this name, Smartas.

Neither the 'exclusive' Upasana of Vishnu nor the 'exclusive' Upasana
of Shiva had been advocated by dharma Shastras. All the 'Veda
Pratipadya' deities (those mentioned in the Vedas) are considered to
be equal here. There is nothing wrong in choosing any one of them for
Upasana. It would be creditable, if the Upasana is carried out with
the basic understanding that all the deities are essentially one in
nature. Smartas do Pooja for five deities such as Surya, Ambal, Maha
Vishnu, Ganapathi and Parameshwara as indicated by the
verse, 'Adhithyam-ambikAm- vishnum-gananAtham- mahEshwaram'. As five
deities are worshipped, this is known as 'Panchayatana Pooja'. One
can have additional devotion (prIthi) towards one's favorite (ishta)
deity. In the same family, Paramashiva could be the ishta Devata for
the elder brother while Maha Vishnu could be for the younger one.
They wouldn't get separated into two different faiths such as Shaiva -
Vaishnava, because of this difference. Without getting split into
two distinct sub sects, both Shiva and Vishnu Upasakas had even
matrimonial alliances between them. The common ground for all of them
was - Vedas. The 'karmAnushtAnAs', advocated therein were also the
common basis for them.

It is advised in the Vedas that all should conduct the Yagna
karmAnushtAnAs and should wear the resulting 'Homa Bhasma' (Ashes
obtained from the Homa). That is why, initially, all Smartas did only
Bhasma dhAranam (smearing of the Vibhuti), including those who
worshipped Vishnu as their favorite deity. Even now, when Yagas are
conducted, both Vaishnavas and Madhwas have to wear the Homa Bhasma.

The practice of wearing 'nAmam' and in that, wearing with 'pAdham'
and also with out it came in to vogue due to Vaishnava Acharyas, who
came later than Shankara is known from their guru Parampara stories
themselves, as retold by Vaishnavas. Later, when a separate religion
and a sub sect were established based on Vishnu as the sole presiding
deity, it became a necessity to give a new identity to the converts
of this faith.

Similarly, Madhwas employed `gOpi chandhan' and `chAndhu', when their
new 'sampradaaya' came into existence as a separate (social) group.
For those, who didn't choose to follow any of these new faiths but
continued to practice the original Vedic path as advocated by
Bhagavatpada, no new names such as Vaishnava or Madhwa were given.
The same old title Smartas continued. Similarly, the practice -
advocated by Vedas from the very beginning and employed from
generation to generation - of wearing Vibhuti (Bhasma dhAranam)
stayed back with Smartas. A Vedic mantra for recitation exists, only
for mixing Vibhuti with water and smearing.

Though a wrong impression that Smartas are Shaivas as they wear
Vibhuti, has gained currency in present days, it can be said that, in
reality the practice of Vibhuti dhAranam of Smartas has got nothing
to do with Shiva; but is based on its Vedic roots.

Before the establishment of Vishishtadvaita as a separate sampradaaya
by Sri Ramanuja, even the Vaidikas who worshipped Vishnu with all
devotion, as their ishta Devata would have been Smartas wearing only
Bhasma. A Sanyasi does not have the right to conduct Yagnas. Hence,
he cannot conduct a Homa and wear the resulting Bhasma. Even then, he
will sport the Vibhuti. During the 'pAncha rAtra Diksha', the
Vaishnavas have to wear the Homa Bhasma even today.

Buddha objected to the Vedic religion. He opposed Yagnas and
karmAnushtAnAs. He made no mention of Ishwara. Hence, there is
neither (Vedic) karma nor Bhakti in Buddhism. During his days,
Smartas engaged in a lot of karmAnushtAnAs. If Buddha didn't speak of
Ishwara, then, there were a section of followers of the path of
(Vedic) karma, who believed, "What if Ishwara existed? Or what if He
didn't? We have the karmas enunciated in Vedas. We'll benefit by
simply practicing them". They are known as pUrva mImAmsakAs. They
believed only in karmas and neither in Bhakti nor in

Jnana. They abhorred the principles of Jnana Marga such as
contemplating the absolute truth continuously, doing Atma vichAra,
becoming a Sanyasi by renouncing all karmas and remaining always in
the thoughts of Atman etc.

Even now, starting from the school textbooks to every conceivable
context, there is reference and elaboration only about Buddha, while
it has been ensured that even the names of Kumarila Bhatta and
UdayanAchAryA are not known to anyone. During the British rule, they
did this deliberately. Their desire was to somehow belittle the Vedic
religion and convert everyone to Christianity. The objective was," It
is all right, even if it is not possible to attract Hindus to
Christianity. At any cost, Vedic religion has to be belittled. It has
to be ensured that the Hindus, ruled by us, don't remain proud of
their religion and culture." The fact that the 'subjugated' Hindus
had reached the pinnacle of civilization and cultural glory even in
the remote past during which they themselves were yet to evolve into
a civilized society - continued to remain as a thorn in their flesh.
That is why they thought thus.

They took efforts, systematically, right from the elementary school
level, to ensure that Hindus don't become aware of the greatness of
their Vedic religion and also of the great personalities who hailed
from that religion. Hence, they popularized amongst the children, in
a big way, only the establishment of a 'Veda Viruddha' (heterodox)
religion by Buddha, right from their school days through their
curriculum. But, left out, all the references about the 'mahAns' of
Vedic religion.

Kumarila Bhatta emphasized the nature of Vedas as PramAna (Veda
pramAnyam) and the importance of Vedic karmas and criticized Buddhism
for having differed on these two counts. Udayana criticized the
Buddhist's argument of 'nirIshvara vAdam' and established the
existence of Ishwara. Out of the triad of karma – Bhakti - Jnana,
only after the Buddhist principles regarding karma and Bhakti were
demolished (nirAkaranam) by these two, our Bhagavatpada, who re-
established the Jnana Marga in accordance with Vedic principles, took
the avatar on this earth.

Vishistadvaitins and Dvaitins who object to both Buddhism and Advaita
do so based on the perceived similarities between these two schools
of thought, in the realm of Jnana. They used to even abuse our
Acharyal as a Buddhist in disguise - 'Prachchanna BauddhA'. But, this
perception is not at all correct. Even though Acharyal Himself is
accused of having been a 'Bauddha in disguise' (based on issues such
as both Buddhism and Advaita claim the world to be a Maya and in
Advaita, at a very high stage of Jnana as even the Ishwara Upasana
drops out), on deeper analysis it will become clear that this
accusation is quite invalid.

While claiming the world to be a Maya, Acharyal never meant any thing
to be a Shoonya of Buddhists. He considered the world to be only a
temporary truth and emphasized that it shouldn't be construed to be
an absolute truth. He clarified that this Maya Loka doesn't dissolve
itself into Shoonya; instead when the realization that this world is
not an absolute truth dawns in us, it'll also be realized that this
Loka and even we, who realize this world to be a Maya, also are the
absolutely true and complete (Purna) Brahman itself. The Moksha of
Buddhist - the nirvana - is a substratum less empty Shoonya. On the
other hand, the Moksha described by Acharyal is Advaita, which is
becoming one with the complete state of the highest truth, knowledge
and bliss - i.e. sat-chit-Ananda. Equating these two (Buddhism and
Advaita) to be identical is wrong!

What is the greatness of Acharyal? It is His accepting all paths and
Siddhantas at different levels and establishing that all these
together, at their highest level, lead to Jnana Marga. Bauddhas are
those who not only renounced 'Vedic karmas', but also those who even
objected to them. While Acharyal was the one who went out-and-out in
support of the practice of Vedic karmas. The very starting verse of
His 'upadesha sAram' is vedo nityam adhIyatAm tat udithama karmasu

As a prelude to the dawn of the knowledge, the mind has to remain
focused. Bhakti Upasana is essential for achieving that one-
pointedness of the mind. As the mind will remain absorbed only in
Bhagavan, Acharyal has incorporated Bhakti as a pre-requisite.
KarmAnushtAnam is a very essential step prior to this stage of
Bhakti. He observed that the impurities of the Chitta would be
cleansed off, only when the mind is always engaged in doing karmas
advocated by Vedas. Only when one engages more and more in Vedic
karmas, the mind will become purer. The mind thus purified, when
immerses itself in Bhakti, will become focused or one-pointed. Only
after that, such a focused mind will be able to lose itself and
dissolve into the Juana, which is the absolute truth. Thus, Acharyal
has given us a very well ordered step-by-step path for spiritual

Vedic karmas advocated by pUrva mimAmsa, the principle of Ishwara
established by Nyaya and Dhyana - vichAra practiced by Buddhism which
negated both karma and Ishwara, exist as different phases/parts of
Acharya's Advaita. However, when these schools of thought focused
only on a particular phase/level of spiritual evolution and got stuck
at that phase itself, Acharyal gave His school of thought, which
accommodated each one of them at its suitable level.

As other Siddhantas stopped at a particular level, He argued with
them too. Vaidika karmas, no doubt, are acceptable to Acharyal. The
stand of pUrva mimAmsakAs that neither Bhakti nor Jnana is required,
however, was not acceptable to Him. He advised, "The karmas you do
cannot yield fruits by themselves. Karma is a jada vasthu. Therefore,
the person who bestows the 'phala' for the karmas is only Ishwara. It
is He who has ordained so many karmas through Vedas, in order to
carry out the activities of this Loka. The fruit of any karma done,
therefore, should be offered to Him only. We have to engage in
karmas, which are given to us, to be carried out, for the welfare of
the whole world and offer the fruits thereof back to Him. Only when
we do that, more than the direct fruit of the karma, due to the
renouncing of the karma-phala, we will get the greatest fruit of all -
Chitta Suddhi (purity of mind).

Similarly, He argued with NaiyAyikAs, "It is not sufficient to
establish the existence of Ishwara by logic alone. That logic has to
result in direct experience. The direct experience of Ishwara has to
lead to the realization, in the end, that there exists nothing that
He is not. The culmination of Bhakti, at its zenith, is the Advaita
realization that even we don't exist as a different one from Him". If
we engage always in the vichAra/dhyAna such as, "Who are we? What is
the Truth? What is grief? Etc.", overcoming the pulls and pressures
of attachments, then we may also get the clarity/revelation such as
the one Buddha had got. There is also a viewpoint, which
says, "Buddha has not mentioned about Ishwara directly. Though he
hasn't defined nirvana exactly, he hasn't objected to Ishwara
explicitly either. Therefore, it could be possible that he could've
obtained the Advaita Jnana; only that he couldn't express it in words
properly". Even then, is it possible for every one to engage in
Dhyana and vichAra? Does one not require having pre-requisite
spiritual maturity? Yes, it is required. That is why Vedic dharma has
prescribed karma and Bhakti as a prelude to Jnana. Only after
obtaining purity (shuddhi) and one-pointedness of the mind through
karma and Bhakti respectively, one can engage in Jnana vichAra about
the truth.

The Vedas and Smritis have classified the karmas based on the
maturity of varieties of jivAs and also for the welfare of the world
and prescribed them as Varna-dharma and Ashrama-dharma. Based on the
adhikAri bhEdham - when such and such a section of the society
engages only in such and such a vocation, not only they'll obtain
benefit, but also contribute to the welfare of the world - various
karmas and Upasana mArgams have been classified and prescribed by
them. As Buddhism overlooked all these factors, rejected the Vedic
karma, Upasana etc and prescribed dhyAna-vichAra for all without
taking the 'adhikAri bhEdham' into consideration, the activities of
the Loka would be disturbed; except for a rare one or two like
Buddha, as others may not get enlightenment by such an approach,
Acharyal condemned even Buddhism. As mentioned earlier, AchAryAl
completed the condemnation of Buddhism, carried out in a massive
scale earlier by both Kumarila Bhatta and UdayanAchArya.

After the decline of Buddhism due to the efforts of this trio -
Kumarila Bhatta, UdayanAchAryA and Shankara, only the school of our
Acharyal got established in this land. The Sanatana Vedic religion,
also known as Smarta sampradaaya - whose ultimate state is the
Advaita Jnana, given by Upanishads and established through the
elaborate discussions by Acharyal - alone got stabilized once again.
However, the advaitAnubhavam is not feasible for every one. By and
large, people were engaged in Vedic karmas and Ishwara Upasana. But
they did not carry them out, like pUrva mImamsakAs, with an
attitude, "karma is every thing; Even a svAmi is not required to
grant the fruits". As shown by Acharyal, they accepted the Ishwara
and engaged in karmas with the sense of dedication of phala to Him.
Whenever we do any karma, don't we say nowadays, during the sankalpam
at the beginning, that it is being done for the prIthi (pleasure) of
Paramatman (Parameshwara prIthyartham)?


Before Him, the sankalpam was not like this. He designed the
sankalpam this way to avoid such misinterpretations as, 'the fruits
of a karma belongs/goes to the kartA himself and one can obtain the
fruits directly from the karma instead of being bestowed by an
Ishwara'. He got all Vedic karmas - right from a simple karma to
Yagna - dedicated to Ishwara (IshvarArpanam). When the original Vedic
religion started adopting the smrithis or dharma Shastras, which
depend on and follow the Vedas, it came to be known as Smarta
religion. They are not different. The Vedic religion itself is
smartham. The karmas prescribed in Vedas are to be carried out, only
with a sense of dedication to Ishwara, for obtaining 'Chitta
shudhhi'. Only the pUrva mImAmsakAs, who came later created the
confusion. Acharyal has just rectified that. In other words, He
rejuvenated the 'original' and ancient Smarta religion and re-
established the same again.

Similarly, even in the sphere of Upasana, Vedas don't proclaim
either `Vishnu alone is superior or Shiva is inferior' or 'Shiva
alone is superior and Vishnu is inferior'. Vedas consider all the
deities as the manifestation of the same Paramatman and view all of
them equally. In Rudram, every thing would have been referred to as
the Shiva swaroopa. Purusha Sukta may see every thing as Vishnu
swaroopa. In some other place, Varuna himself would have been
referred to as Paramatman; Indra would have been identified as
Parameshwara; Agni as the only primordial godhead; Surya as the
primordial God etc. Thus, it can be seen that, whenever Vedic Suktas
refer to any deity, they identify it as the Paramatman Himself. In
fact, Vedas have unequivocally concluded that 'There exists only one
Satyam; many names have been give to it by Jnanis' (Ekam-sat-viprAH-

Even the dharma Shastras (smrithIs), which follow exactly the Vedas,
don't subscribe to the exclusive superiority of any particular deity -
neither of Shiva nor of Vishnu nor of Ambal nor of any other Vedic
deity. But still, both Sruti and Smriti approve of the principle of
ishta Devata worship of any deity, towards which the mind naturally
flows and gets absorbed in, out of Bhakti, as the primordial godhead.
Following this advice, while doing Upasana especially for their ishta
Devatas, Smartas offered worship to other Devatas also, without
engaging in any nindhanA, through Panchayatana Pooja. As the karma
theory of Vedas got into a loop of misinterpretation and confusion by
the stand of mImAmsakAs that, "Every thing is karma", in the later
days even the Vedic path of Upasana got trapped into a similar
situation wherein fights regarding the superiority of respective
ishta Devatas became quite common.

Thus, when both the paths of karma and Bhakti were in a state of
confusion due to wrong interpretations and practices and when even
the Jnana mArga was brought down to a similar state by Buddhists, our
Acharyal took avatar and rectified and brought every thing back to
its original shape/position and gave a step-by-step procedure for
spiritual evolution i.e. karma-Bhakti- Jnana. ACHARYAL HAS NOT
i.e. the Vedic path. When the path of Sanatana Veda dharma, also
known as Smarta sampradaaya, became ridden with stones and thorns, HE
JUST CLEANSED THAT SMARTHA WAY, by removing those stones and thorns;

For those who accepted the Vedic dictum of ishta Devata Upasana -
gANapatyAs who worshipped Ganesha as the primordial godhead, KaumArAs
who worshipped SubrahmanyA, Shaktas who worshipped Ambal, Shaivas who
worshipped Ishwara, Vaishnavas who worshipped Vishnu, SaurAs who
worshipped Surya - He cleansed all their paths and practices and
brought them under the Vedic fold. That is why He is known as
Shanmatha sthApanAchAryA. He establised this to facilitate the
worship of one's ishta Devata without having to indulge in the abuse
of anya- Devatas. As shown by the verse 'Adithyam-ambikAm-viushnum-
gananAtham-Maheswaram', He got all the Smartas to do Panchayatana
Pooja for these five mUrtis, as it was in vogue originally. (As all
the Vaidika karmAnushtAnAs related to Agni are said to reach
Subrahmanya, one of the deities of the shanmathA, it can fairly be
concluded that Acharyal has chosen not to include Him (Subrahmanya)
in the Panchayatana).

No new Sampradaaya such as `Shankara Sampradaaya' has ever got
created. When the original Smarta Sampradaaya or the Vedic path got
dilapidated in between, Srimadacharya rejuvenated it. Therefore, if
any one refers to it as 'Shankara sampradaaya', then it is wrong;
even if I had referred to it that way, then also it is wrong.

As the ShiShTas of today, amongst us, think, "If somebody proposes a
new path/ philosophy, we should not accept it directly; it has to be
checked whether it follows the tradition or sampradaaya", so also our
Acharyal has given utmost importance to our sampradaaya through out
His Bhashya. He used to refer with great respect that 'this is the
sampradaaya; this is how the sAmpradAyikas opine; hence this alone is
acceptable'. It is said about Jesus Christ that, 'He hasn't come to
eliminate the earlier religions; but only to make them complete'.
Even Acharyal had come only to get the original – Vaidika –Smarta -
sampradaaya back on its rails rather firmly and He didn't establish
anything new. He would consider referring to His as 'Shankara
sampradaaya' as an 'apachAram' itself! He has established even His
final conclusion - Advaita - only based on the pramAna of texts,
handed down by the tradition, such as Upanishads, Gita and Brahma
sutras and wouldn't have mentioned any where anything as His own,
even by mistake. That is why, the followers of our Acharyal did not
get any new name; the title 'Smartas' remained.

Before the advent of Ramanuja and Madhwa, even among Smartas, a set
existed which considered Vishnu as their 'ishta Devata'. There is a
funny aspect to this! There were people among Smartas who didn't have
the spiritual maturity to engage in Panchayatana Pooja with special
Upasana for their ishta Devata and without indulging in 'para Devata
nindhA', as advocated by Acharyal. That is, they considered only
their favorite deity as the primordial Godhead though at the
philosophical level they seemed to have accepted Advaita. Among such
people, even the hardcore/hyper (thIvira) Vaishnavas remained as
Advaitins. There are few, who hail from such an Advaita–Vaishnava-
Parampara, existing even today. They hold only me as their Acharya.
If you ask about their Siddhanta, they'll say that it is Advaita
only. They won't wear the nAmam. They won't wear Vibhuti either, as
it is considered to be associated with Siva. Rejecting both the nAmam
and Vibhuti, they wear only the 'gOpi chandan'.

Wearing neither the 'vada kalai nAmam' nor the 'then kalai nAmam',
there is a sect, referred to as "kItru nAmak kArargal" (those wearing
kItru nAmam), which continues to be Advaitins. However, these
Advaitins are hardcore (vIra) Vaishnavas, when compared to those who
hail from Sri Ramanuja sampradaaya. Even in the present days, when
the Ramanuja - Vaishnavas visit Siva temples, these Advaita -
Vaishnavas, who consider me as their Acharya, never enter a Siva
temple! I pointed out to that Japanese professor, "It follows from
this itself that, what a great mistake it is to consider me a
Shaiva". Similarly, there are Advaitins even among the Virashaivas.
Though they have accepted the Advaita of Acharyal as a philosophy,
they could not take His advocated equanimity towards all Vedic
deities at the Upasana (theological) level and had ended up holding
the exclusive superiority of Siva.

Even then, there is an important reason for the prevalence of the
general perception that Advaitins are Shaivas. After Bhagavatpada,
Ramanuja propagated Vishishtadvaita. Ramanuja was of the conviction
that 'Jiva and Brahman cannot become one and be an Advaita reality.
Even in the state of Moksha, the Jiva remains as a different entity
other than the Brahman and realizes that the very Brahman itself
exists as antaryAmi within him and also activates him. Even the
Brahman is not an attributeless and action less 'Nirguna vasthu', as
advocated by Shankara. That possessed virtuous attributes (sagunam).
That engages in action too. The one that propels even the Jiva to
engage in action is that Brahman only'. Till this, it remains only as
a philosophical thought, applicable to devotees worshipping any Vedic
deity. But, Ramanuja added here that, 'Such a Saguna Brahman is Maha
Vishnu only; neither Shiva nor any other deity' and thus made
Vishishtadvaita acceptable only to those who held a particular deity,
theologically, as their 'ishta Devata'.

Those who embraced the Siddhanta of Ramanuja, till then, were Smartas
only. Even the Vaidika matham or Hindu matham itself, till His days,
was only the Smarta matham. So, those who got converted to His
Siddhanta, which proclaims Vishnu as the sole primordial Godhead,
should have been from Smartas only. Some would have become His
followers purely based on His philosophy. More than the philosophy,
at the theological level, as the 'ishta Devata' of many - Maha
Vishnu - is established as the highest, many Smartas would have opted
for Ramanuja sampradaaya.

Later, Madhwa, VallabhA and ChaithanyA propagated their Siddhantas,
which differed philosophically from each other. Madhwa didn't even
accept the concept of Paramatman remaining in the Jiva as antharyAmi
and established that both are quite different. That is Dvaita. Even
in the Madhwa thought, only Vishnu is the Paramatman. Krishna alone
is Brahman or Paramatman, even for the other two (VallabhA and
ChaithanyA). Hence, these paths too are based on Vishnu Upasana.
People have migrated even to these sampradaayas, only from Smartas.
Among those converts, in addition to those who opted for the new path
purely based on the philosophy, would there not have been Smarta -
Vaishnavas, who chose the new path exclusively because, a highest
place had been accorded to their favorite deity Vishnu?

Summing up, only from the Smarta sect, people had moved later to all
the Vaishnava schools such as Ramanuja Siddhanta, Madhwa Siddhanta,
Vallabha Siddhanta, Chaithanya sampradaaya etc. Therefore, among
those who stayed back as Smartas, the proportion of Vishnu devotees
would have gradually reduced and wouldn't that of devotees of Siva
have increased in due course? That is why the popular notion that
Advaitins are Shaivas had gained currency!

>From the days of British raj, when the documents were written and
registered, Smartas were found to refer to themselves as those
belonging to 'siva mathAm' than to Smarta sect! It is not only the
present generation Smartas, who are totally ignorant of our religion,
are under the impression that they are Shaivas; even during the last
century, they have referred to themselves as such, even in the
documents accepted and honored by the government. Not only this. Long
time before this English rule, even during the period when Ramanuja
had stabilized the Vaishnava sampradaaya; when many of the Smartas
having Vishnu as their 'ishta Devata' started adopting His path, the
term Advaitin seemed to have given Shaiva connotation.

Why I say so is because the saint SrikhantAchAryA is said to be a
contemporary of Ramanuja. He view is philosophically similar to that
of Vishishtadvaita. But, He is quite closer to Advaita on the
question of state of Moksha. Theologically, Siva is His main deity.
As Narayana is the Paramatman for Ramanuja, Siva is the Paramatman

SrikhantAchAryA. Though He had thus established a 'Shaiva -
Vishishtadvaita' path, the number of Smarta –Shaivas (Smartas having
Parameshwara as their ishta - Devata) who adopted the Shaiva
Siddhanta of srI KantA is abysmally low compared to the Smarta -
Vaishnavas who embraced the Siddhanta of Ramanuja.

This could be due to the self-perception of the Smartas, mainly as
Shaivas, after the exodus of Vaishnavas towards Ramanuja. That is
why, when a religion was established as Shaiva Siddhanta itself, it
appears, they didn't have the inclination to switch over to that.
Moreover, as the Moksha of Shaiva Siddhanta was quite similar to that
of Advaita, many would have questioned as to why to change over to a
new but a similar school, leaving Advaita. Philosophy is important
(or appealing) only to a select few. What are important to the vast
majority are Bhakti and the Upasana mUrthy. That is why there had
been many instances of migration of ardent Smarta devotees of Vishnu
to those schools, which held Vishnu in an exalted position.

Purely because of this, Advaita had come to be seen as a sect
considering Siva as its main deity and when a new school with Siva
Himself as its central principle was started, Smartas (i.e. ardent
devotees of Siva) didn't choose to join this, in large numbers. It
has come to such a pass, nowadays, that Advaitins are taken for
granted to be Shaivas, per se, by those unaware of our tradition.

If it is pointed out that in all Shankara madams, only the
Chandramouleshwara Pooja is conducted, then the answer is that it is
because of a specific reason. Parameshwara Himself gave five Sphatika
lingams to Acharyal and wanted Him to ensure the ArAdhanA for them,
forever, in this Loka. Acharyal had ensured that uninterrupted
ArAdhanA by keeping the two out of five in the madams at Sringeri and
Kanchi and the remaining three at the temples of Nepal, Kedaranath
and Chidambaram. When we say 'Shankara Madams', should there not
be 'uniformity' amongst all of them? That is why He introduced
Chandramouleshwara Pooja in all His madams.

Lakshmi Narasimha gave a 'Salagrama' to Acharyal. As Ishwara Himself
had given a Sphatika Linga, which is considered to be His Swaroopa,
Narasimha also gave a Salagrama, which is of His Swaroopa. As He has
kept the Sphatika lingam in the Pooja of the madam, He has kept that
Salagrama too in the Pooja.

He doesn't entertain the Siva-Vishnu Bhedham, even a bit. As He has
done the Spahtika lingo prathishtA at Chidambaram, He has done the
Narayana prathishtA at Badari. There itself, He had established a
math. Among the places where He had established the madams, Puri
JagannAth and Dwaraka are important Krishna Kshetras. He has not
commented on Siva Sahasranama; instead He wrote a Bhashya only for
Vishnu Sahasranama. Though there are many gItas in our Puranas such
as Siva Gita, Devi Gita etc, He has chosen to give a Bhashya only to
the Gita, presented by Krishna Paramatman. As He has composed
devotional hymns towards Ishwara and Ambal, He composed on Maha
Vishnu, Sri Rama, Krishna and Maha Lakshmi also. As all these points
are not properly considered, He is interpreted to be a Shaiva albeit

What is being conducted daily in Acharya's madams is not only an
exclusively Siva Pooja. As I mentioned in the beginning, the very
Panchayatana Pooja is the Pooja of the madam too. Acharyal is the
combined avatar of Ishwara and Ambal; Uma and Maheshwara themselves
gave Him the Pancha lingams at Kailasa; that is why He established
Ishwara and Ambal as the main deities of the Pooja of the madam. But
still, as per Siva Panchayatana, even Maha Vishnu, Ganapathi and
Surya are also present in the Pooja. Here in the matam, similar to
Siva rAthri and nava rAthri, we celebrate Rama navami, gOkulAshtami,
Narasimha Jayanti etc also in the same scale.

Whenever srImukams are issued, from the matam, what do we say? In
that, we say, for a particular activity, "kriyathE nArAyana
smrthihi". That is, any book or an activity (sacred or secular), for
which this srImukam is issued as a token of blessing, to become a
success, we say that 'we remember Narayana'. We don't say that 'we
remember Siva'.

What do I say when you prostrate before me? I say only, "Narayana
Narayana". All the Shankaracharyas also say only so. This is the rule
made by the Adi Acharyal Himself. In order to get the good and
auspicious things to happen to this Loka, He has ordained the
remembrance of Narayana only, as He is the sustainer of this world
(jagat-paripAlana-karthA). For so long, I was talking about the
existence of the impression that Advaitins are Shaivas. Diagonally
opposite to this, there are some who hold that Shankara worshipped
only Maha Vishnu. They quote this Narayana smaranam and Vishnu
Sahasranama Bhashya etc as the supportive evidence for their claim.
In addition to that, they also point to the fact of establishing the
Ishwara or the Saguna Brahman, which does all these Loka - vyavahAra,
to be none other than Narayana Himself, by Acharyal, while
elaborating about Ishwara in His Bhashya.

Even then, the very identification of AchAryAl either as a saivaite
or as a sAkthA or as a vaishnavaite, is nothing but viewing Him in a
very narrow prespective. It is not correct to categorise Him, thus,
as a bhakthA of a particular deity alone.

If it is asked as to why He has identified the saguna bhrahman as
NArAyanA, in His bhAshya granthAs, it is because MahA Vishnu has been
entrusted with the responsibility of lOka rakshanAm, during the
division of three primary activities. He has referred to the one who
is incharge of protection [*of this creation*] as the very energy
which takes care of this entire 'prapancham'.

Acharyal is a Shaiva and also a Vaishnava and Shakta too. We, the
Smartas also should be like that. The one who remains as a role model
for all Smartas is Sri Muthuswamy Dikshitar. He has viewed all the
deities as the swaroopa of Paramatman and worshipped all of them
through kIrthanAs. The only Paramatman, appearing as various deities
is our objective. The attitude to view all of them with equanimity
should be cultivated in us. Though, it is pointed out that even among
Advaitins, there existed Veera Shaivas and Veera Vaishnavas, actually
it such groupings that are not in conformance with the manObhAva of
Acharyal and also with His advice/ instructions to us.

There is nothing wrong in having extra-ordinary devotion towards any
particular ishta - Devata like Appaya dhIkshitA who remained a devout
Shaambhava (devotee of Siva) and LIlA sukar who was a devout
Bhagavata having deep love for Krishna, to quote a few from among
Advaitins. But, as these saints dissolved themselves in their Bhakti
for their ishta Devata without indulging in the 'nindhA' of other
deities, we should also develop deep devotion towards our ishta
mUrthy, without resorting to any criticism of any other deity. This
is one of cardinal principles of the Vedic religion known as Smarta
matham. While denigrating the other deity, if one's Devata is claimed
to be 'the' Devata, then it cannot be considered to have the
acceptance of Veda. Going by this test, only we - the Smartas, who
follow the Acharyal alone, are 'Purna Vaidikas'.

I don't say thus. It is wrong, if I say so. It may appear as though
I'm talking quite high of it, because it is my sampradaaya.
Therefore, this is not my opinion. It happened to be the opinion of
three great personalities of yore.

Even the opinion of the mUla purushA of Dvaitins, Advaitins and
Vishistadvaitins - Vyasa Maharshi Himself- was this. In the
anushAsana parvA of Bharata, when He lists out the names of five
mathams, that were in existence from time immemorial, through BhIshma
pithAmaha, He says, sAnkhyam yOga: pAncha rAthram vEdhA: pAshupatham
thathA: In these, 'Veda:' is the Vedic religion; Smarta matham of
later days. It contains arAdhana for all Devatas. The triad of karma-
Bhakti- Jnana also is there in the Vedic religion. The school of
thought, which does the philosophical research, the Sankhya, is also
a part of that. Even the yoga Sadhana is a part of Vedic Dhyana. All
these things do exist in the Smarta sampradaaya also, which was
rejuvenated by our Acharyal.

In works such as SivAnandalahari, Saundaryalahari and shatpadI Stotra
(which is addressed towards srI Maha Vishnu), even our Advaita
Acharyal has accepted Dvaita and Vishishtadvaita at different levels.
In His 'yoga thArAvali', He has completely elaborated the nuances of
Patanjala yoga. Also, He has mentioned the twenty-four 'Tatvas' of
Sankhya, at many places, in His Bhashyas.

Out of the five schools mentioned by Vyasa, the remaining two apart
from Veda, Sankhya and yoga are pAncharAthram and Pashupata. In
pAncharAthram, Vishnu alone is identified as the God; while in
Pashupata, only Siva is seen as the God. These schools denigrate
other deities and hold only specific deities as the supreme Godhead.
As though Vyasa was of the opinion that these two schools are non-
Vedic in nature, He has mentioned the Veda matham separately
as 'Veda:', and grouped these two as sampradaayas, differencing from
Vedas, by making a separate mention as 'pAncharAthram, pAshupatham'.
Sankhya is a mere philosophical speculation (Tatva - vAdam) only. In
that, there is neither karma; nor Bhakti; nor any means to the
experience of Jnana. Though yoga is a school held in very high
esteem, there is no scope for Vaidika Upasana and karma in it. Even
with regards to Jnana, there is not so much clear exposition about
the 'Paramatma Tatva', as it is in Upanishads.

As these four schools are 'apUrnam' in one way or the other, He has
distinguished them from the complete (Purna) Veda matham, which
possesses all the positive aspects of these schools, by naming them
separately. Vyasa is a Maharshi. Absolute Jnani. If His opinion was
like this, there was another - who was a gandharvA, took birth as a
human due to a curse of Ambal, became a great Siva Bhakta, sung in
praise of Ishwara, obtained the very Ishwara as a result and finally
became a permanent resident of Kailasa (nithya-kailAsa-vAsi). His
name is Pushpa dantha. The Stotra that he composed is known by the
name - 'Siva mahimna Stotra'. It means that 'the Stotra that talks
about the greatness of Siva'. Through out North India, starting from
those regions lying to the north of Pune, there would be no bhakthA
(s) who would not know this Siva mahimna Stotra. In our region,
neither ThiruppAvai nor ThiruvembAvai nor Thiru-murugu-Atrup-padai
nor VinAyagar agaval became so popular even after my repeated
persuasions and getting them printed as books and distributing them.
As Vyasa had mentioned in His verse, even in this Stotra, there is a
reference to various schools. This looks as though Pushpa dantha has
composed his Shloka keeping the verse from Mahabharata in
mind: 'thrayI sAnkhyam yOga: pashupathi matham vaishnavam
ithi'. 'thrayI' refers to Veda matham. Then Sankhya and yoga. This
pashupathi matham is the same Pashupata matham that denigrates other
deities and claims that Siva is the supreme lord. Similarly,
Vaishnavam is the one, which refutes (nirAkaranam) other deities and
establishes the supremacy of Vishnu. Vyasa referred this only as

Both Vyasa and Pushpadantha had accepted all these five schools. They
have spoken in praise of them by equating them to five different
rivers, which finally take to the same sea. They have accepted even
those who claimed that 'Only our deity is supreme'. However, as this
attitude was considered to be against the true spirit of Veda matham,
they had chosen to classify these schools as those differing /
deviating, completely from it Veda. In the case of Pushpadantha, it
is quite interesting because, he himself was a great Shaambhava. The
theme of his Stotra is nothing but Siva MahimA. He had even mentioned
that these five schools are five different rivers leading to the
confluence into the same sea of Parameshwara. In spite of all these,
he hadn't considered the Shaiva Pashupata matham to be our Sanatana
dharma, known also as Veda matham. Veda matham is the one that
rejects nothing. As it is the one, which absorbs everything, he had
differentiated it from Pashupata.

The third one is a poet. If there is significance to the utterance of
Vyasa, an important personality for all the three Vedanta schools; if
there is importance attached to the differentiation of the school
which holds only Siva as the supreme from Veda, by the Shaiva
Pushpadantha himself; then there exists a great amount of value to
the outpouring of a poet (kavi-vAkku) who remains totally unbiased
without aligning himself with any particular school, and claiming
neither superiority nor inferiority of any deity. Let us look at the
opinion of such a poet here. Who is that poet? It is the one who
composed the story of Nala as 'naishadham' - Sri Harsha. When he was
attempting to give a simile in a scene with extra ordinary literary
merit, he also touches upon this topic of five schools. The
svayamvaram of Damayanti is going on. She is in love with only Nala.
She is very particular that she has to garland Nala alone, who is
present in the svayamvaram hall. Even the four Devas - Indra, Varuna,
Agni and Yama are pining for her. It is their desire to have her as
their wife. They are also aware of her love for Naln. Therefore, all
of them disguised themselves exactly like Naln and arrived there.
Five Nalns are seated in the hall where the svayamvaram is going on.
How could hamayanhi find the real Nala from these five? It is only
here, Sri Harsha says that similar to the presence of 'true' school
of Advaita in the midst of five mathams, the presence of true Nala
amidst five Nalas caused confusion in her and describes the
astonishment of Damayanti due to her inability to identify him.

"panchama kOti mAthrE ... mathAnAm advaitha thathva iva sathya
tharEpi lOka:". 'tharam' means the comparative degree. The poet
hasn't said the other four schools are invalid/wrong, per se. Similar
to Vyasa and Pushpadanta, he also accepts them to be true and valid.
But still, in comparison with them, as Advaita alone is found to be
superior in expounding the truth exactly, he appreciatively referred
to it as 'sathya thara api advaita'. Similar to the way our Acharyal
has classified the Satyam into three types, Sri Harsha also
categorized it as 'ordinary truth' and 'extra-ordinary truth' (uthama
sathyam) and declared that out of the five schools mentioned in the
Mahabharata, the other four are ordinary truth while Advaita alone is
the extra-ordinary truth.

In the Bharata, in BhIshma vachanam, the term used is not 'Advaita'.
The actual word employed is only `Veda:' But, whenever a school had
set in the process of politicization such as 'Vishnu is the only
Godhead' or 'Siva alone is the supreme lord', it came to be regarded,
then, as differing from the true import of Vedic thought. The same
view is echoed by the words of Pushpadanta. Even in his composition,
the Veda matham has been referred to only as 'thrayI' and not by the
name 'Advaita'. In the post Acharyal period, with the advent of
Shaiva and Vaishnava schools, which invariably denigrate one deity
and affirm the superiority of another deity, it is only the Smarta
matham of Advaitins that had turned out to be the complete (Purna)
Veda matham, accepting every thing. That is why Sri Harsha had
employed the term 'Advaita' itself in his verse, in lieu of 'Veda

Though the wrong notion that Advaitins are Shaivas has gained
currency, the opinion that 'Advaita alone is the complete (Purna)
Veda matham' had also been present, particularly after the
establishment of various Siddhantas by the later day Acharyas, which
differed from Advaita. The continuation of the common title -
Smartas, only for the Advaitins till today is a proof of this. The
root meaning of the word 'Smarta' is neither 'the one who had adopted
Advaita Siddhanta' nor 'the one who follows Shankara'. But, it refers
to the one who follows the completely 'Vedic smrithis' (dharma
Shastras). Similarly, the surnames such as 'Sharma, Shastry' etc have
continued only for Smartas. Even from the Shastra works, which were
in vogue long before the advent of Acharyal, it becomes known
that 'Sharma' is referring to the Brahmin caste. It is a tradition
from Vedic times to refer to a Brahmin as 'Sharma' and a Kshatriya
as 'varmA'. If we say that there was a painter by name Ravi VarmA,
then it implies that he was a Kshatriya.

Even now, when a Brahmin boy prostrates, after his Upanayana, by
telling his Vedic sAkhA, sutra and gOthrA, we ask, "what is your
sharman?" Even he tells his name as 'such and such sharman'. This is
applicable even for Iyengars and Madhwas. But, the one who always
uses this 'Sharma' as a surname, indicative of his caste, will
invariably be an Advaitin. This shows that he is the only complete
(Purna) follower of Vedic matham. 'Shastry' means the 'one who
follows Shastras'. The word Shastra refers only to Veda-dharma
Shastras. Only the Advaitin Smarta uses even this as a surname. As an
exception, either a Madhwa or a Vaishnava may rarely have 'Sharma' as
his surname. But, in general, by the mere mention of names such
as 'D.S. Sharma' and 'Right Honorable Shastry', we infer that these
persons are only Smartas.

If one is said to be a follower of Ramanuja Siddhanta or that of
Madhwa, the mUla Purusha of Shaiva Siddhanta madams, then it one's
following is not an issue, dependent only on his birth into one of
the families of followers and his personal faith on any of these
paths. By merely being a son of an Iyengar or a 'puthran' of a rAoji
or having been born in a family, affiliated to a Shaiva madAlayam,
one is not considered to be a follower of any of these faiths. Nor
does he become one, even after a self-declaration that he completely
accepts a school with total faith. I don't say so. The very Acharya
Purusha-s themselves, of these sampradaayas, say so. "It is not
sufficient to be born as an Iyengar; nor is it adequate to have
personal faith in Vishishtadvaita; one who is born thus, should have
got 'mudhrAdhAranam' (of sankha and Chakra) on his body; should have
been initiated into a mantra of Maha Vishnu. Only when he does
the 'samAchrayanam' thus, he becomes a Vishistadvaitins" - thus spoke
Vaishnava Acharyas.

In Vaishnava sampradaaya, it is sufficient to have this
samAchrayanam, done once. On the contrary, one has to get the 'pancha-
mudhra-dhAranam' done, according to Madhwa Siddhanta, every time one
has the Darshan of his Acharya. Even they Madhwa have mantrOpadEsam.
Though there is no mudhrAdhAranam in Shaiva Siddhanta School, one has
to get 'Panchakshari upadEsam'. They refer to this as 'dhIkkai'. It
is the transformed form in Tamil of 'Diksha'. Even in other
sampradaayas, only when some Samskara(s) is thus carried out, one
will be considered to have become a follower of it. Neither the birth
nor the professed faith alone would make one a Vaishnava or a Madhwa
or a Shaiva. One has to mandatorily do a Samskara, exclusively for
that. This has been emphasized by the respective Acharyas themselves.
If it is so, then there are many, amongst those wearing nAmam and
sporting Vibhuti, who have not got samAchrayanam or mudhrAdhAranam or
Diksha etc. and what could be the sampradaaya, to which they can be
said to belong? All such people are only Smartas. It is a rather
unknown fact to many!

Now, a person is a Hindu. He gets converted to Christianity. How does
he do it? A 'Father' of that religion conducts the ceremony of
baptism for him. Only when it is done, he'll be considered to be a
Christian. Otherwise, will he not continue to be a Hindu? Similarly,
only when Siva-dhIkkai or samAchrayanam or mudhrAdhAranam is done, a
person becomes a Shaiva Siddhanti or a srI Vaishnava or a Madhwa. A
person who gets converted to Christianity, leaves our Veda -
Shastras. On the other hand, the one who adopts other Siddhantas,
except Advaita, follows the respective schools, while retaining Veda -
Shastras. Even the Acharyas of these sampradaayas are the ones who
have accepted the pramAnA of Vedas and smrithis. However, they insist
on some rites, in addition to those prescribed by Vedas and smrithis.
Only when these rites are carried out, one would be considered to
have become a Vaishnava or a Shaiva or a Madhwa.

Otherwise, he continues to be a Smarta; it can even be concluded that
he is the follower of Shankara Bhagavatpada. Arguing thus, am I
trying to grab more number of people to my sampradaaya or what? If
Acharyal had ever recommended any new Samskara to be done for an
Advaitin, then what I said could be wrong. But, Acharyal had never
suggested any thing like that. He had never segregated any one as an
Advaitin. He let His devotees' continue to follow the immemorial
Smarta sampradaaya and the Purna Vaidika matham. He never introduced
any separate Samskara for an Advaitin. Therefore, all those who have
not undergone any new Samskara, are His followers, by default.
Neither the Diksha nor mudhrAdhAranam nor samAchrayanam had been
mentioned in the Vedas. What is recommended in Vedas is only the
Gayathri upadEsam after Upanayana, as a pre-requisite, before the
starting of Vedic education, for those belonging to the first three
Varnas, qualified to have this knowledge. Only Upanayana is suggested
for 'Brahma – kshathra - Vysyas'. Even that is not there for the
fourth Varna. Even without this, he the one belonging to the fourth
Varna is accepted to be the follower of Veda matham. Acharyal had
retained the same framework of Vedas. He has not introduced any new

Smartas-s should not feel bad that they don't have any new Samskaras
prescribed. Whatever is mentioned in Vedas is more than sufficient
for us. Is there any reference either to the mudhrAdhAranam or
samAchrayanam or siva-dhIkshai of srI RAmachandhra mUrthy or Krishna
Paramatman in texts such as Ramayana, Bhagavata etc? No. If other
Siddhantis argue that such rites are not applicable to them as they
are avatar Purushas, then that is not a correct logic. Why because,
it is mentioned in Ramayana that Rama along with His brothers had
done Veda - adhyayanam. Adhyayanam is possible only after the
Upanayana. From this, His Upanayana becomes an explicit fact.
Similarly, there is a reference to the Upanayana of Krishna
Paramatman, being conducted by Vasudeva and DEvaki, immediately after
their release from 'kArAgruham'. Subsequently, Krishna is said to
have started His guru-kula-vAsam under a Brahmin known as Sandipini
and completed the Veda -adhyayanam like any other ordinary student of
His times. Why are only these things such as Upanayana, guru-kula-
vAsam, adhyayanam etc required for avatar Purushas? On their own,
within a moment of their willing, could have they not mastered all
the Veda - Shastras?

Why should Rama learn asthra – Shastra - abhyAsam, `Bala and Atibala'
mantras from Vishwamitra? So, it becomes clear from the above
instances that they have got Upanayana done and completed the Veda
adhyayanam to set an example regarding an ideal way of life for the
mankind. Whatever they had done is adequate for us. Sri Bhagavatpadal
has enjoined that anything that is in excess of/more than what has
been said in the Vedas and also in smrithis, the creation of
Maharshis by closely following Sruti, is not at all required for us.
Though the Acharyas of other sampradaayas have introduced new
Samskaras while accepting the Veda -Shastras, their followers are
forced to relinquish many things that have been prescribed, without
any Siva Vishnu bhEdham, by Shastras, due to their philosophy. So,
though there are few new additions, some of the earlier Samskaras do
get dropped. We can be satisfied that we have neither of these. Our
Acharyal had advocated 'Do not add anything to the immemorial
Shastras! Nor miss out even a single element of it in practice!'. He
removed only the newly accumulated dOshA-s, cleansed and brought it
back to its original form.

The fact that Acharyal had not come to propound any thing new; but
only to renovate the thing Veda matham that existed before, becomes
known even from a statement of a Purana. There are many Puranas and
Itihasas, which claim our Acharyal to be an avatar of Parameshwara.
In one of such Puranas - the kUrma Purana- in a context which
describes,' when the kOlAhalam of kali yuga would peak, the Ishwara
Himself would take an avatar to contain the flow (pravAham) of
adharmA', there appears a Shloka as,
karishyathi avathAram svam shankarO nIla lOhitha: |
sroutha smArtha prathistArtham bhakthAnAm hitha kAmyayA ||

'Sroutha' refers to the one that closely follows the 'Sruti' or
Veda. 'Smarta' points to dharma Shastra, which were blessed by the
rishI-s, based on the remembrance of their deep contemplation on
Vedas. This saying of kUrma Purana goes to describe that the Shankara
who is also nIlakanta (shankarO nIla lOhitha chose to take an
avatar Himself (karishyathi avathAram svam) to re-establish the Veda –
dharma - Shastra (sroutha smArtha prathistArtham) due to His desire
to do the good to His devotees (bhakthAnAm hitha kAmyayA).

It is important to note here that this slOka, instead of mentioning
either the advaitha prathishtA or shanmatha prathishtA (the two
important aspects which we associate with our AchAryAl, at the very
mention of His name, nowadays) refers only to the sroutha smArtha

Similarly, even in the Shloka recited as Acharya vandhanA,
sruthi smrithi purAnAnAm Alayam karunAlayam |
namAmi bhagavadh pAdha shankaram lOka shankaram ||

There are references to Sruti and Smriti. Here also there is no
mention about Advaita or shanmatham. But, it describes our Acharyal
as the repository of Vedas, dharma Shastras and Puranas. If Smritis
are those texts, which formulate the laws based on Vedic dictums,
then Puranas are those which convey the essence of Vedas through the
medium of stories so that the mind could imbibe them. Acharyal is
described to be an 'Alayam' of this triad - Sruti, Smriti and Purana.

As the very mention of 'Veda matham'or 'Smarta sampradaaya' implies
the Advaita which establishes the 'abhEdham' between the Jiva and
Brahman; as the concept of shanmatham which emphasizes the 'abhEdham'
between all the Devatas, is a part (angam) of Advaita itself, it
appears that there is no specific mention of either Advaita or
shanmatham in this Shloka as well as in kUrma prana. Shanmatham is a
part of Advaita. If Advaita is mentioned, then there is no need to
separately refer to shanmatham. When it is claimed that Jiva and
Brahman are one, is it not implied in that, that all the Devatas are
also one, which is the 'thAthparyam' of the scheme of shanmatham ? As
shanmatham is a part of Advaita, Advaita is the part of smArtham and
vaidhIkam. Amongst all the philosophies of Vedas, Advaita occupies
the highest position. We observe in Vedas, the view that all the
Devatas are indeed the very same Paramatman. That is why Advaita and
shanmatham are none other than the paths which completely follow
Vaidika and Smarta sampradaaya. Only following? No. They are, verily,
one and the same. The very 'Vaidika matham' implies Advaitin's
sampradaaya. Advaita means only Vaidika. Does Sri Harsha not
similarly substitute, Advaita wherever he has to refer to Veda
matham, in naishadham.

Therefore, all those who have not undergone the specific Samskaras of
Dvaita, Vishishtadvaita and Shaiva Siddhanta are followers of Sri
Shankara Bhagavatpada only. Even though they might have migrated to
other sampradaayas and left Acharyal, it doesn't mean Acharyal had
left them. Accepting all those Siddhantas at different levels is His
Siddhanta. Acharya's parama guru (guru's guru) Gaudapada had
written 'mAndUkya upanishad kArikA'. 'kArikA' is one of the types of
Bhashyas. (Even in Tamil, there is a work called 'yApparuNGalam'. The
book that was written explaining the details of the former is known
as 'yApparuNGalak kArikai'). Gaudapada says in mAndUkya kArikA
that 'Many Siddhantas differ from each other and oppose one another.
But, our Advaita never views any of them with a sense of enmity':
parasparam vrudhyanthE thairayam na vrudhyathE |

The path given by Acharyal to us is this: an attitude, which doesn't
see any enmity, sense of oneness and 'samarasam'. We should always
follow these. Though we may be separated while engaging in different
types of actions which are prescribed by Vedas, Smritis and later by
Acharyal and also in 'AchArams' which are required and conducive for
carrying out those Vedic kAryAm-s, without entertaining any sense of
difference in the mind, all of us should remain united through mutual
affection, as Acharya's children. Let us pray to Acharyal Himself to
do this Anugraham also.

Hari OM
Shri Gurubhyoh namah

--- On Sat, 9/26/09, Michael Shepherd <michael at shepherd87.fsnet.co.uk> wrote:

> From: Michael Shepherd <michael at shepherd87.fsnet.co.uk>
> Subject: Re: [Advaita-l] Shankara, smarta and shanmata
> To: "A discussion group for Advaita Vedanta" <advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org>
> Date: Saturday, September 26, 2009, 5:43 PM
> Thank you. I was wondering whether
> Shankara had left any recorded details
> about the work which he did so abundantly, according to
> accounts. Or should
> we simply deduce this from his comments on the BS and his
> 'Objectors' and in
> the Sahasri etc.?
> I was also confused about Smarta, which seems now to have
> been formulated
> into a wider definition, or even into an organisation, than
> its original one
> allows for(e.g. as per the Wikipedia account, which makes
> Ramana Maharshi a
> 'Smarta'). There would seem now to be no distinction
> between Smartas and
> Shrautas. Though I can imagine that the establishment of
> the shanmatha could
> be associated loosely with smarta ?
> Regards,
> Michael
> -----Original Message-----
> From: advaita-l-bounces at lists.advaita-vedanta.org
> [mailto:advaita-l-bounces at lists.advaita-vedanta.org]On
> Behalf Of Uma and
> Ramakrishna
> Sent: 26 September 2009 17:40
> To: 'A discussion group for Advaita Vedanta'
> Subject: Re: [Advaita-l] Shankara, smarta and shanmata
> Michael ji,
> The shanmatha is an extension of the panchAyatana, that
> brings in the
> Worship of Skanda or Subramanya in to the integrated fold
> of worship.
> As you may know, at the time of Shankara, there was a
> fragmentation of
> Faith - vaishNavaites, shaivites, gANapatyas, souras and
> shAktya; In some
> parts of the country, especially in the erstwhile
> Tamilnadu, there were
> worshippers of SubramaNya. To bring unity among people and
> integrate their
> Living, Shankara instituted the panchAyatana puja and
> shanmatha.
> I have not come across smarta associated with Shankara.
> Regards,
> Ramakrishna.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: advaita-l-bounces at lists.advaita-vedanta.org
> [mailto:advaita-l-bounces at lists.advaita-vedanta.org]
> On Behalf Of Michael
> Shepherd
> Sent: Friday, September 25, 2009 6:53 AM
> To: advaita vedanta
> Subject: [Advaita-l] Shankara, smarta and shanmata
> friends,
> Please could you tell me more about Shankara, smarta and
> shanmata ?
> Did Adi Shankara encourage the six aspects of worship
> simply by writing
> hymns etc to each deity, or are there recorded statements
> by him about
> smarta and shanmata ?
> The references to this I have found so far lack chapter and
> verse !
> And I suspect that this is important in relation to certain
> writings being
> 'written off' as not Advaita Vedanta !
> Michael
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