[Advaita-l] shaDdarhana and other unorthodox schools

Ramesh Krishnamurthy rkmurthy at gmail.com
Thu Jan 25 12:02:46 CST 2007

Namaste Sri Ram Garib,

Apologies for the delayed response.

The West has its own cultural & religious context in which there is a
fairly strong separation between 'culture', 'religion', 'philosophy',
etc. We dont have this compartmentalization. So if some or even most
Western philosophers dont think of our schools as systems of
philosophy, that is because of their own cultural & religious context!
This is their problem, not ours. Why should we accept their context?

Ram-ji, when I tried to distinguish between philosophical schools &
sects, I was emphatically NOT trying to separate philosophy & religion
in the Western sense of these terms. To that extent, I think you have
misunderstood my intent. I was only trying to explain (as I have
understood it) the nature & structure of the various schools in the
Hindu tradition, with no reference whatsoever to the West.

So instead of philosophy & sect, let me use 'darshana' & 'sampradaya'.
Even the usage of these terms can differ depending on the context, but
for the present discussion, let me provide very limited definitions
for these as follows:
darshana = a system that has a definite view on the problem of human
liberation and a methodology to achieve it
sampradaya = a system (actually a guru-shishya lineage) that has its
own distinct set of followers, with its teachings on most (not
necessarily all) of the following - behaviour, rituals, worship,
liberation, etc

Typically, every darshana would have a core sampradaya associated with
it, but there can be other sampradaya-s who essentially follow the
same darshana but differ from the darshana's core sampradaya on
various aspects of religious practice.

For example, the dashanami sannyasi-s constitute the core sampradaya
for Advaita-Vedanta. However, there are several non-dashanami
sampradaya-s (sannyasi-s as well as grihastha initiates) who follow
Advaita in significant measure, such as several lineages tracing their
origin to Bhagavan Dattatreya. A good contemporary example of this is
the Avadhuta Datta Peetham in Mysore, whose head, Ganapati
Sacchidananda Swamiji, is quite well known. Nisargadatta Naharaj is
another example of a non-dashanami sannyasi from a traditional lineage
that follows Advaita-Vedanta. Most of these groups have high regard
for Sankara, though the extent to which they actually use the
Upanishads or Sankara's works can vary considerably. After all, there
are many Hindu texts that explain Advaita quite well, such as Avadhuta
Gita, Ashtavakra Gita, Yoga Vasishtha, Tripura Rahasya, several
Tantric works, etc.

Similarly, there were several different groups that followed the Nyaya
darshana. In the sarva-darshanasangraha, Swami Vidyaranya mentions
Nyaya as well as Pashupata, even though the Pashupata-s also followed
the Nyaya darshana.

The oldest Hindu tradition, to my knowledge, is the mantra-shaastra,
which is essentially a system of sadhana. Many sampradaya-s have
evolved around different types of mantra-shaastra (including Bauddha &
Jaina sects also). In fact, for the most part, the differences between
sects are not on account of the darshana followed but on various
aspects of practice, including mantra-shaastra.

Kashmir Saivism is a relatively rare example of a Tantric school whose
philosophy evolved into something unique enough to merit being called
a separate darshana. Otherwise, most Tantric schools that have evolved
since Sankaran times follow Advaita-Vedanta quite closely in their
jnAna portions. And even Kashmir Saivism is quite close to Advaita in
many ways.

Therefore, there is indeed a distinction between a philosophical
school and a sect in the Hindu tradition, though the distinction would
depend on the context and is certainly very different from what is
observed in the West.


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