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Thread: How different are the sects of Hinduism?

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    How different are the sects of Hinduism?

    Namaste,

    I decided to start this thread based off of something that Eastern Mind said in another thread called "Were the Itihasas actual historical events?". The thread can be found here: http://www.hindudharmaforums.com/sho...4832#post44832
    I have also been thinking about starting this thread for a while now.

    Here is what Eastern Mind said:

    Vannakkam Ranakrishna:

    I an still an agnostic in these matters. Its not part of traditional Saiva lore, just as the Bible (from other threads) isn`t part of SD. But I must say after this thread I am closer to believing it may have happened than before. Such is the reason for discussion. At least now I understand the Vaishnava perspective better. We all have the right to believe whatever we want. I would prefer to focus on commonalities of the many paths within Hinduism. But you have to understand that the sects of Hinduism: Vaishnava, Saiva, Shakta, Smarta, etc, are as different as the Abrahamic religions are to each other.

    If you claim to be a Vaishnava, then my opinion shouldn't matter much now should it?

    I just received a recently published book on the 63 Nayanmars, or Saiva Saints. I don't expect you to want to read it.


    Aum Namasivaya





    My question is, are the different sects of Hinduism really that different? Are they really as different as different religions are to each other? I'm a Vaishnavite, and I believe that Lord Krishna is the supreme and most complete form of God, so I guess that would make me a Gaudiya Vaishnavite (although I am not part of ISKCON). Most of my prayers are to Lord Krishna, however I still do pray to Lord Shiva, Lord Ganesha, and Lord Hanuman. I still do believe that they are valid and true forms of God and are just as worthy of worship as Lord Krishna is. It is just that based largely off of the Bhagavad Gita, I believe that Lord Krishna is the most complete and supreme form of God, and therefore I pray to Him a little more than I pray to Lord Shiva, Lord Ganesha, and Lord Hanuman. My altar does not just have pictures of Lord Krishna and Radha, it also has pictures of Lord Shiva, Lord Ganesha, and Lord Hanuman.

    I do not view the different sects of Hinduism as being that different. To me, it is just a matter of which particular form of God connects with you the most and you feel like worshiping the most. For me, that it Lord Krishna. For others, it may be Lord Shiva, or Lord Ganesha, or Goddess Kali. Now, I do believe that there are some extremes, such as ISKCON (some members at least) that worship only Lord Krishna and believe that He is the only form of God that is worthy of praying to. I am sure there are extremes on the other end as well, with Saivites and members of other sects. I believe that is wrong and goes against one of the most basic yet important tenets of Hinduism, that Lord Vishnu, Lord Shiva, Lord Krishna, Lord Ganesha, etc. are all valid manifestations of Brahman, the ultimate reality, and they are all worthy of being worshiped.

    Now, am I being a Smarta by worshiping Lord Krishna, in addition to Lord Shiva, Lord Hanuman, and Lord Ganesha? Are there other Vaishnavites who also pray to these other forms of God? Are there Saivites who pray to Lord Vishnu and any of His avatars? Does my ideology fit with Smartism since I worship so many different forms of God, even though I still believe Lord Krishna is the supreme form? I understand the other sects of Hinduism, but I am not sure about what Smartism exactly is. How different are the sects of Hinduism, really?

    Lastly, I would be interested in reading your book, Eastern Mind. I am just as interested in learning about the Saiva saints as I am about the Vaishnava saints.

    Hare Krishna

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    Re: How different are the sects of Hinduism?

    Vannakkam Ramakrishna:

    Hers is one link: http://sai-ka-aangan.org/hinduism/th...hinduism/?wap2

    There are many more if you search "Four sects of Hinduism"

    I don't think it is wise to focus on differences. It is best to have respect for each other's traditions, and as I said before, there are many commonalities.

    Still there are a couple of reasons I stand by my statement. One is the avid discussions that happen on HDF. POV's, occasionally controversial often come from a sectarian perspective, and that is partly why the discussions get avid.

    Another is just witnessing the temples and devotees in my own city. When someone says, "That place is not a REAL temple", I personally don't take it as an insult. All they are really saying is "That place is not the same sect of Hinduism I am familiar with." Yet it happens and it can be insulting even.

    There is also a lot of 'overlap' as you might imagine, especially towards Smartism. That would be you, I believe. But here again, its just my POV.

    The best example in Saivism I can think of is Murugan. What Vaishnava, especially from the north, has even heard of Murugan. Yet some Saivas of the "Murugan cult" within Saivism, worship Murugan almost solely.

    I do not view Murugan or Ganesha as Godhead like a Smarta would. They are, to me, like Siva's Big helpers, Ganesha taking care of the world, and Murugan being the celestial overlord of Yoga.

    So it is complex. We all have our POV, and I can't stress enough that nobody is right or wrong. We have what we have because that is what makes the most sense to us as individuals. For me, my first encounter with serious religion at all was Saivism. I felt my search to be over than and there. So it must have been my karma, or destiny, if you will.

    Aum Namasivaya

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    Re: How different are the sects of Hinduism?

    As Devotee will tell you, Ramakrishna, many Hindus do not belong to any particular sect. Believing that Krishna is the supreme form of God does not make you a Gaudiya Vaishnava. Followers of Vallabha and Nimbarka's sampradayas believe the same things as well. To be a Gaudiya Vaishnava, you have to believe that Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is the Golden Avatar of Krishna, who came to spread the chanting of the Holy Name of Krishna throught the world. You are not being a Smarta because Smartas have very strict rules that must be followed. They believe that God has five forms: Shiva, Vishnu, Ganesha, Devi and Surya (the Sun God). In the South, Murugan is added to this pantheon. Most Smartas believe that conversion to Hinduism is not possible and one must be born a Hindu, so they are unlikely to accept converts to Smartism.

    As Devotee will tell you, most Hindus are not sectarian. It took me a long time to discover this. Most Hindus do not see themselves as Saivites or Vaishnavas. From what you wrote, you seem to fit the mould of a non-sectarian Hindu. You don't need to classify yourself as a member of a particular sect.

    To answer your question, there are many Hindus who pray to a variety of Gods, both Saivite and Vaishnava. They just don't identify themselves as members of a particular sect. My wife's grandfather is primarily a Murugan devotee, however, he has a picture of Hanuman on his shrine. The temple near where I stayed in Malaysia had a Deity of Hanuman, and it was a Saivite temple.

    There is a sect that believes that Ganesha is the Supreme Lord (Ganapatyam). There is a sect that believes that Lord Murugan is the Supreme Lord (Kaumaram). However, most Hindus who choose to pray to Ganesha or Murugan as their ishta devata are not Ganapatyas or Kaumaras. They are simply Hindus who worship those Gods.

    I do not view Murugan or Ganesha as Godhead like a Smarta would. They are, to me, like Siva's Big helpers, Ganesha taking care of the world, and Murugan being the celestial overlord of Yoga.
    Malaysian Saivites have a different view. This is from the book Hinduism for Students by Gomathi Thiruvasagam.

    "Next we worship Lord Ganesha. He is just another form of the formless God Siva and traditionally he is considered to be the power of Siva who removes all obstacles in the various activities of our life."

    Most Hindus that I encountered in Malaysia (except the ISKCON ones) seem to consider Ganesha and Murugan to be forms of God.

    So I think that it would be best to stop trying to fit yourself into different sects, since many Hindus don't identify with a particular sect.

    I also think that many of the external differences you might notice are due to different geographical regions of India, rather than sectarian differences. South Indian Vaishnava temples look the same as their Saivite counterparts, with large gopurams over the gateways with carved figures, and Deities made from black granite. North Indian Saiva temples have large towers over the main altar, with the Deities made of marble.

  4. #4

    Re: How different are the sects of Hinduism?

    Namaste Eastern Mind,

    If you don't mind me asking, do you ever pray to Lord Vishnu or any of His avatars? Or do you solely pray to Lord Shiva, Lord Ganesha, and Murugan? This is just out of curiosity, and I understand your perspective. I had never heard of Murugan before.

    Quote Originally Posted by Eastern Mind View Post

    There is also a lot of 'overlap' as you might imagine, especially towards Smartism. That would be you, I believe. But here again, its just my POV.
    When you say this, are you saying that my views align with Smartism and I would be a Smarta, from your POV?

    Hare Krishna

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    Re: How different are the sects of Hinduism?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ramakrishna View Post
    Namaste Eastern Mind,

    If you don't mind me asking, do you ever pray to Lord Vishnu or any of His avatars? Or do you solely pray to Lord Shiva, Lord Ganesha, and Murugan? This is just out of curiosity, and I understand your perspective. I had never heard of Murugan before.



    When you say this, are you saying that my views align with Smartism and I would be a Smarta, from your POV?

    Hare Krishna
    Vannakam Ramakrishna: Yes 99% of the time I pray to only Siva, Murugan, and Ganesha. At the temple I go to there is no Venkateshwara. it is a Saivite temple, and it is written that way in the constitution. And yes, from my POV you would be Smarta.

    Murugan is incredibly popular in South India. The Thai Pusam festival in Malaysia gets 2 million people each year. Palani Hills temple in TN northwest of Madurai is second only to Tirupati for the queue, or so I've read. When I was there last the shortcut expensive line took about an hour for 3 seconds of darshan. Priceless, from my POV. There are more temples for Murugan in the south than any other God.

    I differ a bit with Scottji's interpretation in that I believe that most Hindus don't know their sect, not that they aren't of one. It has to be learned. The tern 'Hindu' is fine for most everyone. When you say you are of no particular sect, and then when actually questioned about some of the beliefs, you can discover it. But I agree that it is not important. We all have the same or similar goals in life.

    I also believe in what my Guru termed 'Hindu Solidarity' that we should respect all paths within Hinduism.

    Aum Namasivaya

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    Re: How different are the sects of Hinduism?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eastern Mind View Post
    And yes, from my POV you would be Smarta.
    For a start, Smartas follow Advaita Vedanta. If Ramakrishna considers himself to be a Gauidya Vaishnava, then he would have to be a Dvaitin. Smartas also practice sandhyavandanam, recitation of certain portions of the Vedas three times a day. Some Smartas also perform daily agnihotra, the Vedic fire sacrifice. They also follow a sattvic diet, which means no meat.

    Murugan is incredibly popular in South India. The Thai Pusam festival in Malaysia gets 2 million people each year. Palani Hills temple in TN northwest of Madurai is second only to Tirupati for the queue, or so I've read. When I was there last the shortcut expensive line took about an hour for 3 seconds of darshan. Priceless, from my POV. There are more temples for Murugan in the south than any other God.
    I was told by an Indian national living in Malaysia that Thaipusam is much bigger in Malaysia than India.

    I differ a bit with Scottji's interpretation in that I believe that most Hindus don't know their sect, not that they aren't of one. It has to be learned. The tern 'Hindu' is fine for most everyone. When you say you are of no particular sect, and then when actually questioned about some of the beliefs, you can discover it. But I agree that it is not important. We all have the same or similar goals in life.
    What sect would someone who prayed to both Shiva and Vishnu be? What about someone who prays to the Goddess but is a strict vegetarian and against usual Shakta practices?

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    Re: How different are the sects of Hinduism?

    namaste everyone.

    It seems that there are more shiva-viShNu temples in the USA than in India! It is understandable because the Hindu diaspora in the USA and other countries needs to have an overall religious identity than individual sectarian.

    South Florida, San Diego:
    http://www.shivavishnu.org/

    Livermore, California:
    http://livermoretemple.org/hints/

    Greater Cleveland:
    http://www.shivavishnutemple.org/

    Lanham:
    http://www.ssvt.org/

    Georgia:
    http://hubpages.com/hub/shivavishnutempleofgeorgia

    List of Hindu temples in the USA:
    http://www.hindumandir.us/east-coast.html
    http://www.hindumandir.us/west-coast.html
    http://www.hindumandir.us/

    Australia:
    http://www.hsvshivavishnutemple.org.au/SVT/Home.aspx

    *****

    Here is a link that tells stories of shiva-viShNu aikyam--unity:
    http://moralstories.wordpress.com/20...va-and-vishnu/
    रत्नाकरधौतपदां हिमालयकिरीटिनीम् ।
    ब्रह्मराजर्षिररत्नाढ्यां वन्दे भारतमातरम् ॥

    To her whose feet are washed by the ocean, who wears the Himalayas as her crown, and is adorned with the gems of rishis and kings, to Mother India, do I bow down in respect.

    --viShNu purANam

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    Re: How different are the sects of Hinduism?

    Our temple has Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, Goddess Durga and Lord Ganesha as well as Lord Hanuman, Radha-Krishna and Seeta-Rama. I think they're trying to include both Saivite and Vaishnava Deities so both Saivites and Vaishnavas will be able to worship there.

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    Re: How different are the sects of Hinduism?

    Vannakkam Saidevoji:

    The primary reason that the west has these combined temples is financial. They try to appease everyone at the same time, and in the course of doing so, break many of the agamic or architectural rules, causing the temple to lose some of its power if you will. They can always find a sthapati who for the right price will tell you oh yes, its totally by the shastras. I'd like to see the Indian temple that has two moolasthanams. Rameswaram is the only one I can think of off hand, and I'm not even sure about that. One side is probably a later addition. I can imagine the response if people from Palani asked if they could install a Palaniandavar inside the Tirupati temple.

    Its like grabbing a little piece of India from each state and culture and sect, then putting it all together within one building. Many but not all western temples have basements, by construction code, need washrooms, and in many ways go against the shastras. Then they hire two or three priests of different lineages who do the puja different using different slokas
    etc.

    Even sometimes they confuse the yantras, so much is lost. At one temple I know of, when they received yantras, they put them all over. When an older wiser knowledgible priest came along, he saw and noticed the energies of the temple swirling around like a storm, so had to rearrange all the yantras so that Siva's was with Siva etc.

    So basically there has been a forgetting of the sanctity, the mysticism of and in a Hindu temple. I have been to quite a few. Some 'feel' nice, and some just don't. But of course this is just my personal take. I would rather see two separate structures, like they did in Atlanta. Same land, but 2 temples. Then you know who you are worshipping when you go inside. (No pun intended)

    I just think something is lost in the mixing, like mixing milk and orange juice.

    Aum Namasivaya

  10. #10

    Re: How different are the sects of Hinduism?

    Quote Originally Posted by ScottMalaysia View Post
    Our temple has Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, Goddess Durga and Lord Ganesha as well as Lord Hanuman, Radha-Krishna and Seeta-Rama. I think they're trying to include both Saivite and Vaishnava Deities so both Saivites and Vaishnavas will be able to worship there.
    My local mandir is more or less the same.

    Inside the mandir are murtis (what's the correct plural of murti?) of the Lords and Ladies Shiva, Parvati, Durga, Ganesha, Radha-Krishna Hanuman, Sita-Rama, and Lakshmi, as well as a Shiva Lingam.

    It's nice like that, it reminds me of Harihara in some way.

    I can't say I've seen a murti of Kali Maa there, which is a bit of a shame, because she is one of the Hindu deities I like most.

    Quote Originally Posted by Eastern Mind View Post
    The primary reason that the west has these combined temples is financial.
    Sadly, I'm inclined to agree with you here.

    Can you explain about the agamic rules to me, sometime please?

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