Advaita and Vaishnavam

Ravi miinalochanii at YAHOO.COM
Fri Jul 30 18:49:22 CDT 1999

>   Another request for clarification. Atleast, in the South ( I hail
> from TN ), Smarthas
> have a decidedly Shaiva slant. In TN, most Smarthas that I have seen
> wear Shaiva sectarian
> marks on their foreheads. In fact, growing up, I was always told that
> the primary difference
> between Iyers( Tamil Smarthas) and Iyengars( Tamil Sri Vaishnavas) is
> that the former
> is Shaiva and the latter is Sri Vaishnava. Why is this so?

aiyar-s are smArta-s as you yourself say in brackets. They are not
shaivites. It is indeed a popular misconception to consider them as
shaivites. I was under such a misconception many years back.  As you
might have observed aiyars worship nArayaNa and shiva with equal
fervour. As shrI appayya dIkShita says for most of them ambaaL,
nArAyaNa and shiva are ratna trayI. BTW most of the aiyars follow
either kAnchi or shR^ingagiri maTha.

Since shrIvaiShNava-s hold their religion is a vaidika, it naturally
prompts greater debates and philosophical clashes between aiyars and
aiyangars. OTOH, majority of the shaivites are not inclined on that,
they are quite content worshipping Lord shiva and muruga (especially in
TN). Even the ignorant shrIvaiShNava who has no clue of sanksrit and
have not read brahmasUtra would often come up with the criticism based
on hear-say knowledge that shankara misterprets brahma sUtra. Tell me,
that is enough to start a clash.

The discussion I had with some of my shaivite friend is they often feel
that aiyar-s are not loyal shaivites. But the fact is aiyar-s not
shaivites or vaiShNavites for that matter. They also have the complaint
that aiyar-s don't hold the shaiva thirumurai (much more voluminous and
equally or more beautiful in language and content than nAlAyira
divyaprabhandam) as thamizh veda-s. You might have heard aiyangars
referring to tamil vedam. One call such and such thing a Tamil vedam,
Tamil Bible or Tamil Koran, it does not make it one. There is nothing
comparable to Veda-s exist in Tamil. If at all anything that comes
close to that splendour is thirukkuraL.

shaiva-vaiShNava problem runs for many centuries and literally smArta-s
(aiyars) hold the middle ground (or trapped in between!!). Sometimes
they get aligned with shaivites. Often I find worshipping the same God
is more binding than the philosophical issues. You may see that
mAdhva-s and shrIvaiShNava-s do not have that much philosophical
clashes, because as long as viShNu alone is held supreme that is fine.
But viShiShTadvaita is so different from dvaita, if at all it is
dangerously close to advaita.

Fortunately, the tamil country had kAnchi periyava who not only
sanctified that land, but also brought down the differnces between
aiyars and aiyangars. I was told that more aiyangars followed and
revered kAnchi periyava than any of their jIyars. Even today I see
aiyangars following to kAnchi maTha.

But this aiyar-aiyangar problem is quite deep and many many aiyars (at
least my friends) do not realize that they are smArta-s and align
themselves with vaiShNava-s. I did that once. I used wonder once (in
the past) why there are so many Narayanans and Srinivasans in my family
why we dont stay loyal to shiva and keep his name. As often, fanatacism
is rooted in ignorance. Later as I learned more, I grew out of it. And
God was merciful to give so many good iyengar friends, to heal me of my
inner inconsistencies  in this regard.

One greatest beauty of advaita-vedAnta is whether one worships allaH,
christ, shiva or viShNu fanatically, we can peacfully go to his mosque,
church, or temple, and worship the One supreme being that name and

I will stop here, as this one problem I have personally gone through I
still have those vAsana-s left in me. Whatever said in this post only
reflect my state of ignorance at this point of time.

nArAyaNa karuNamaya sundaravadanAravinda govinda

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