Sampradayas (Hindu lineages) & Evolution

Authors: Rami Sivan & Shivashankar Rao

Lineages (Sampradayas) in Sanatana Dharma and its evolution

Author: Rami Sivan (Hindu priest and teacher of Indian Philosophy)

Here is a chart I’ve prepared with the main traditional Sampradayas (lineages) and their philosophy – I may be mistaken on some of them but I trust my learned readers to correct my errors and I thank them in advance.

These are the major modern Sampradayas and they vary in their philosophical leanings.

  • Adi Dharm / Brahmoism
  • Brahmo Samaj
  • Sadharan Brahmo Samaj
  • Ananda Marga
  • Ayyavazhi
  • Brahma Kumaris
  • Chinmaya Mission
  • Divine Life Society
  • Hanuman Foundation
  • Himalayan Institute of Yoga Science and Philosophy
  • Hindutva
  • Isha Foundation
  • Mahima Dharma
  • Matua Mahasangha
  • Prarthana Samaj
  • Ramakrishna Mission / Ramakrishna Math
  • Sahaja Yoga
  • Sathya Sai Organization
  • Self-Realization Fellowship / Yogoda Satsanga
  • Shri Ram Chandra Mission
  • Sri Aurobindo Ashram
  • Swadhyay Parivar
  • Transcendental Meditation

Evolution of Lineages

Indians are among the most argumentative people on the planet. The philosophical systems of India are all grounded in logic and the art of the argument and debate.

How does an organism evolve? It evolves through constantly being challenged. So philosophical and theological attitudes also change when they are constantly attacked and challenged by others.

There is an ideal in Hindu philosophy of a process known as dig-vijaya — The conquest of the directions. A philosopher=theologian would spend years writing a commentary on a sacred text and honing his particular view point (darśana) once completed would set out with his disciples to challenge other schools and philosopher and test the validity of his ideas.

A stage would be set up and all the locals would be invited. The two teams would then engage in vigorous debate adjudicated by a panel of judges (some actually included women theologians like the famous Gargi). The rule was that the losing side would then adopt the philosophical position of the winner.

So it I thus that Hinduism evolved from simple animism and polytheism through nascent philosophical speculation, to culminate in the final three positions — dualism (a tiny minority), qualified non-dualism (a sizable group of adherents) and non-dualism/monism (the majority of modern philosophers).

The final dispute in Hinduism is between the adherents of the latter 2 groups of thinkers – Non-dualists and Qualified Non-dualists. But this came to a stalemate in the 1300’s when the great philosopher Vedanta Desikan wrote Shata Dushani (the 100 defects of the Advaita philosophy). His arguments were all refuted by an Advaiti scholar Mahamahopadhyaya Ananthakrishna Sastry who wrote a rejoinder named Shata Bhushani (the one hundred ornaments of the Advaita).

Since then neither side has managed to defeat the other significantly. The two sides are now settled and entrenched – a modern Hinduism is a kind of melange of the ideology of both sides.

Philosophy, Theology or mythology ?

Philosophy and theology are mixed in Hinduism and are known by the term DARSHANA – which means “A View” of reality. Hinduism acknowledges that there are different “views” of reality which are conditioned by many factors such as the personality (svabhāva), the level of education and experience (bhūmika) and capabilities (adhikāra) of the viewer.

Some views are simply wrong and others are just different, but no single “view” has a monopoly on truth. Darshana is the core and the bedrock of Hinduism which is a fellowship or co-operative of many different sects with varying views.

Mythology is merely a vehicle for philosophy and theology. Its a pictorial and narrative form for conveying teachings in an entertaining and attractive way to the common people. The sages realised that most people are captivated by entertainment (note the proliferation of “gaming”) and so they wove philosophy, theology, ethics, common sense teachings etc. into charming and entertain narratives and legends and propagated them for the masses. These myths were turned into themes for dance, drama and song and in this way popularised and introduced the lofty teachings even into the huts of the poorest people.

The same teachings can be delivered neatly, efficiently and succinctly when stripped of all the mythology. This is being done by all the modern Vedānta and Yoga institutes around the world.

Hinduism stripped of its mythology still shines in all its glory – but is a lot poorer for it I think.

Myth As a vehicle of Philosophy

In Indian literature there are legends about great kings and sages, griping narratives to entertain, love stories to delight and myths that convey moral teachings and philosophical tidbits for the common folk.

As an example there is a story about Arjuna and Krishna walking along and Arjuna asks Krishna about the concept of Māyā. Krishna stops and takes a seat under a tree and asks Arjuna to fetch him a drink of water from the nearby village.

Arjuna hops down to the village and at the well he meets this gorgeous girl with whom he is smitten in love, she invites him home to meet her father and he is requested to stay for a few days (he completely forgets who he is, who Krishna is and the reason for coming to the village.) He stays for a few days and then his marriage is arranged with the hot babe, he has kids and lives contentedly in the village.

Then one day out of the blue he remembers who he is and why he came to the village originally – he leaps up and rushes out and finds the tree – and there he sees Krishna resting comfortably and patiently waiting, decades have passed. Arjuna begs his forgiveness and Krishna smilingly says – “now you know about Māyā!”

This is what we mean by MYTH – it is a charming story which teaches a profound philosophical doctrine.

Now some fundamentalist folks would start investigating and arguing about if it really happened, what was the date of the event, in which Yuga did it take place, what was the name of the village and is there any archeological evidence of either the tree or the house in which Arjuna lived? What the names of his kids were, are there any descendants, was the water sweet or brackish? What were their families doing in their absence since so many decades had passed, what was the economic set up in the village – all of these questions are pointless and in fact ridiculous.

The marxist mob would see a confirmation of socialism – if the two comrades had gone together to the well none of this would have happened. Sexism – why were the women going to the well and not the men? Genderism – why did Arjuna fall in love with the woman and not the transperson or the gay guy or any other bloke. Patriarchy – why did they have go back to the father-in-law’s house and live there? What was the father-in-law even consulted about the matter? Politics – this story is about reaffirming all the evils of a capitalist society!

The story/myth is the VEHICLE of a teaching and its packaging can be discarded once the message is revealed.

There are literally millions of stories like this throughout the library of Indian literature.

Sampradhaya and Culture inline with Environment and Creation

Theoretically the whole of Hindu culture is environmentally friendly.

The environment is mentioned in many sūktas, and prayers are recited for its well-being and peace.

There is a beautiful prayer which every Hindu recites upon waking in the morning and before stepping on the ground:–

samudra vasane devi parvata stana maṇḍale |
viṣṇu patni namas tubhyaṃ pāda sparśaṃ kṣamasva me ||

O Mother Earth, the consort of Lord Vishnu, with the oceans as your skirts and the mountains as your breasts; salutations to you Mother, please excuse the touch of my feet.

Originally plates and bowls were all made from leaves which were disposable and fed to cows and goats.

On trains, cups for tea (in the North) and coffee (in the South) used to be made of clay – now they are all plastic – contributing to a major source of pollution.

During the post cremation rituals there is a ritual called Taru-sthāpanam which means the planting of a tree. Since a tree was cut down for the cremation the family had an obligation to plant another for future generations. This is now seldom done or even mentioned (I still insist upon it.)

Theoretically during rituals everything used has to be useful to some creatures or to the environment – so plates and other containers, decorations are all made from leaves, bark, wood, flowers etc. and when thrown away, decompose and enrich the soil. Nowadays there is a competition to see how many plastic bags and containers can be used and thrown away.

Feeding birds and beasts is a daily ritual before taking food.

Cutting down trees is a major sin, and for tree-cutters a special hell is reserved called asi-patra-vana — a jungle of razor sharp leaves — the one who cuts down trees is forced to walk through this dreadful jungle.

Before cutting down a tree out of necessity, a special ritual has to be performed to request the forgiveness of all the spirits and creatures that inhabit the tree and to reinforce the importance of them. This is now seldom done.

The Balinese still are very strongly connected to the environment and have regular festivals celebrating mother earth.

Are any new traditions getting introduced in this 21st Century

Not much ”new” stuff just popularising of some “old” stuff.

For example there are specific rituals and ceremonies for almost every social event you can imagine from birth to death and farming to constructing mansions, but the majority of Hindus only know of ONE ceremony – Satya Narayana Puja and more especially the wearisome Kathā associated with it!

For every occasion the public now want to do Satya Narayana Puja which is found in Skanda Purana, and when I was a young lad only North Indians did it. Now it is gaining in popularity even among Southerners and it is requested for everything; from birth to death, house building, house renovations, house blessing, weddings etc.

The lay folk think of it like Panadol – good for everything.

In fact if you want to become a priest all you need do is learn this one ceremony and do it for every occasion, try to keep it to maximum 90 minutes – your popularity will be guaranteed.

Natha Sampradaya

Author: Shivashankar Rao
Jan 21st, 2016

Nath-Sampradya started with Lord Shiva (Bhole-Nath) Initiating Lord Dattatreya (Sripad Nath) who in turn Initiated many Others.

Matsyendranath/Matchindranath had got diksha when he was in the stomach of a fish (Matsya) when Shiva was instructing Datta. Matsyendra Nath then initiated GorakhNath who later became the foremost exponent of the Nath Philosophy. Gorakhnath was the one of the greatest tantrik the world has ever seen. Tantrik path has 2 modes, one is soumya and one is aghori. The somya use very mild mantras and tantras to evoke the various powers of Nature while the Vaam-panthi(aghori) do all sorts of ‘forbidden’ things like resorting to alcohol, drugs, sex, non veg food etc. Gorakhnath laid the foundation for the expansion of the Naths. So every tantrik is not an “aghori’. GorakhNath had the knowledge of both these paths and he initiated disciples according to their attitudes. Tamasic were given aghori path while sattvic were given Soumya paths.

Still the highest tantra in the Nath Philosophy is the Tantra of Raj-yoga (Vivekananda has written a book on it) and Kriya-Yoga (Lahari Mahashaya – Yukteshwar Giri – Paramhans Yogananda order). So even after all acquiring of the powers a Nath Yogi has to finally resort to the above two Tantras (methods) to attain Salvation.

Nath Sampradaya infact includes all the Hindu Philosophies…

some Nath sampradayis are Bhaktas like Gyaneshwar who set up the Warakari Sect in Maharashtra that worships Panduranga.

Some Naths worship Shiva, some Krishna…So you can see that Nath Sampradaya is actually all accepting. For a Nath-Yogi nothing is impossible in the universe for he experiences God through all angles as that of a Bhakta because Guru-Bhakti is the

highest Bhakti in Naths, as Nature because Tantriks invoke the powers of Nature, as Alakh Niranjan – the foremost advaita principle, as Karma – Helping the needy is a vow that a Nath takes and all. Do not mistake naths for Aghori Tantriks. Tantra literally means Technology or Method.