Sankara SampradhAyam - 9
Anand V. Hudli
anandhudli at HOTMAIL.COM
Fri Sep 10 09:53:20 CDT 1999
On Fri, 10 Sep 1999 03:41:54 -0400, Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM>
>On Wed, 1 Sep 1999, Dr. S.R.Marur wrote:
>> Among such people, even the hardcore/hyper (thIvira) Vaishnavaites
>> remained as advaitins. How [*I*] got to know this is through a
>> fact, hitherto unknown to you, which I'll share with you [*now*].
>> There are few, who hail from such an advaitic-vaishnava-paramparA,
>> exist even today. They hold only me as their AchAryA. If [*you*]
>> ask about their siddhAntham, [*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'.
>This is fascinating stuff. Didn't Anand once mention he belonged to a
>sampradaya of Advaitin Vaishnavas? Is this the same thing?
What I was referring to is the bhAgavata sampradAya as prevalent
among, especially, brahmaNas of Maharashtrian origin. Bhagavatism,
understood as Vishnu worship, is itself very ancient and can be traced
back to the R^ig and other Vedas. This BhAgavatism, however, was later
given a special meaning- the teachings of the bhAgavata purANa, said to
have been written by vyAsa himself. The bhAgavata purANa was a very
powerful force that produced such movements as the one by Krishna
Chaitanya in Bengal whose followers are, of course, the gauDIYa
vaiShNavas. Indeed, the bhAgavata had an important role to play in
the teachings of all VaishNava AchAryas, excepting RAmAnuja. But some
shrIvaishNava AchAryas who came later have written on the bhAgavata
in glowing terms. I have also heard that the bhAgavata occupies an
exalted position the system of Vallabha.
In Maharashtra, there was for about five centuries beginning from
Sant Jnaneshvar, an intense bhakti movement whose main deity was
ViTThala of Pandharapur. This place is also called bhU-vaikuNTha
(the abode of VishNu on earth) in the region. Some of the other
saints were Namdev, Eknath, and Tukaram. This movement can perhaps
be called the "bhAgavta movement" in that region. And it drew people
from all castes and tribes. One can find bhAgavatas not only among
brAhmaNas but also among other castes. There is some conjecture that
the bhAgavata movement in Maharashtra was influenced by the Bengal
movement. But I am not aware of any conclusive study in this regard
and would be grateful if someone has some references.
Among smArtas, the bhAgavatas in the region differ in some respects
in customs and religious observances from the other smArtas. Again,
I am not sure if these smArta-bhAgavatas are followers of the more
ancient bhAgavatism or were influenced by the bhAgavata movement or
both. As far as I remember, the main differences are:
1) the smArta-bhAgavatas follow a different method of calculating
the ekadashI than the other smArtas. That is why, in panchangas,
you will sometimes see ekadashI's mentioned on different dates
for smArtas and bhAgavatas.
2) the ekAdashi fast, at least the shukla-ekAdashI, is mandatory
for all smArtas (as it is for vaishnavas). But there are
shaivas and shAktas also among smArtas. For example, the priest
at the local temple here (who also teaches Yajur veda) is a
shAkta-smArta. Regardless of whether one is a shaiva or shAkta or
a bhAgavata, the ekAdashI fast is mandatory among smArtas. But the
main worship on that day may be offered to shiva by the shaiva-smArtas
or devI by the shAkta-smArtas. The bhAgavata smArtas should worship
3) The bhAgavata smArtas must worship the icons of ViTThala and
His consort Rukmini as part of their personal pUjA everyday.
There is no such requirement for other smArtas.
4) The bhAgavatas apply the bhasma, as per the bhasma-dhAraNa-vidhi,
during sandhyAvandana, yajnas, homas, etc., but during pUjA and
later they may apply gandha (sandalwood paste) or Gopi-chandana.
For example, when they visit a temple, they may be wearing a gandha
mark. But this mark is not the same as the Urdhva-puNDra mark worn
by vaishNavas. The mark worn by smArta-bhAgavatas is "ardha-chandra".
5) The bhAgavatas should strive to undertake yAtra (pilgrimage) to
Pandharapur and worship ViTThala and Rukmini. There is no such
requirement for other smArtas.
Except for these, there seems to be no difference between the
bhAgavatas and other smArtas.
MadhusUdana sarasvatI of advaita-siddhi fame is also said to be from a
vaishNava family. Certainly, his devotion to VishNu shows in his
writings. Also, the commentator of GauDa-brahmAnandi, ViTThalesha
upAdhyAya, is said to have finished his learning in vArANasI, but
settled down in Pandharapur.
It is clear that there are among smArtas who are primarily worshippers
of VishNu or Shiva or shakti or GaNapati. The difference between
a smArta who is, say a bhAgavata, and a vaishNava, apart from the
adherence to advaita principles, is that the smArta-bhAgavata will
accept that all deities are representations of the same Brahman.
The vaishnavas, shaivas, shAktas, and gANapatyas find this difficult
bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam
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