The Brahma Suthra of Sri Vyasa Maharshi is the basis of Vedanthic philosophy, widely followed by all Hindus. Hinduism accepts all genuine spiritual paths - from pure Monism or Advaita [God alone exists] to theistic dualism or Dvaita [when shall I know His Grace?]. Based on this, there are two main Vedanthic philosophies -  Advaita and Dvaita.


Advaita implies that  God and the Souls are the same entity. There is One formless God or Nirguna Brahman. He manifests through His Yoga Maya as the Saguna Brahman in the material Universe created by Him and He takes the various forms for our understanding. We are created as a part of His Divine spirit which goes through endless cycles of rebirth until it is purified to be liberated and united with the Divine.

The first systematic exponent of Advaitha is Gaudapada, who is said to have lived in the 8th century AD. His pupil Govinda became the teacher for Sankara who has revived this school of thought. Sankara's teachings closely follow the traditions of Smarthas.

Adi sankara

madhvacaryaDvaita implies that God and the Souls are different entities. The individual souls do not attain equality with God but only serve Him to reach His abode as ultimate liberation from the cycle of Samsara, of birth, death and reincarnation. The greatest exponent of Dvaita philosophy is Acharya Madhwa in the 13th century.

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Acharya Madhwa



There are four main sects or practices Hinduism - Shaivism, Saktism, Vaishnavism and Smarthism

Shaiva Sect

Om Namah Shivaya.

Worship of Shiva, the compassionate One, is the oldest form of Hinduism that is still practiced. Shaivism is ageless and has no beginning, probably preceding the Vedic times.

There are mainly six sub-sects of Shaivism as seen in the modern times. They are:

  1. Shaiva Siddhanta,

  2. Pahsupatism,

  3. Kashmir Shaivism or Trika,

  4. Vira Shaivism or Lingayats,

  5. Siddha Shaivism and

  6. Shiva Advaitism.

A profound system of temple mysticism and an enlightened view of man’s place in the universe as well as Siddha yoga form the basis of Shaivism. The final goal of Shaivism is realizing one’s identity with Shiva in perfect union and non-differentiation (monism) and based on Advaita philosophy.

The path for Saivites is divided into four progressive stages of belief and practice called Charya, Kriya, Yoga and Jnana. The soul evolves through Karma and reincarnation from the instinctive - intellectual sphere into virtuous and moram living, then into temple worship and devotion, followed by internalized worship or yoga and its meditative disciplines. Union with God Siva comes through the grace of the Satguru and culminates in the soul's maturity in the state of jnana, or wisdom. Saivism values both bhakthi and yoga, devotional and contemplative sadhanas.

Smarta Sect                                                                                            Top

Om Namah Shivaya.

Smarthism is an ancient Brahminical tradition reformed by Sankara in the ninth century. The word Smartas means those who follow the Smriti or dharma Sastras. Smartas follow the Smriti literature, particularly Dharma Shastra, Puranas and the Ithihasas. They worship five forms of God and also revere the Vedas and the Agamas. These are Shiva, Vishnu, Ganapathi, Surya and Shakti and this system is called Panchayatana.  Sankara reformed the sect and today the sect is synonymous with Adi Shankara’s monistic, meditative and philosophical theories. Kumara was further added by Shankara’s reform. The five-sect system of Smartas is that in which the deities can be chosen as one’s own personal and preferred deity (Ishta Devata). Smarta sect is the liberal branch of current day Hinduism that believes in attainment of salvation through mainly Jnana yoga. However other Yogas like Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga and Raja Yoga are also believed to bring enlightenment. Jnana Yoga involves the study of scriptures (shravana), reflection (manana) and sustained meditation (dhyana).

Most Smarta - liberal Hindus believe that moksha is achieved through Jnana yoga alone - defined as an intellectual and meditative but non-kundalini-yoga path. Jnana yoga's progressive stages are scriptural study [sravana], reflection [manana] and sustained meditation [dhyana]. Guided by a realized guru and avowed to the unreality of the world, the initiate meditates on himself as Brahman to break through the illusion of Maya. Devotees may also choose from three other non-successive paths to cultivate devotion. accrue good karma and purify the mind. These are Bhakthi yoga, Karma yoga and Raja yoga, which certain Smatas teach, can also bring enlightenment.

Shakti Sect

Om Chandikayai Namah.

The worship of Mother Goddess in her fierce or gentle form is the basis of Shaktism. Shaktas use mantra, tantra, yantra, yoga and puja to invoke cosmic forces and awaken the Kundalini Power. Worship of Mother Goddess is perhaps as old as the worship of Shiva. However it was more organized in the fifth century.

Today it has four different expressions i.e.

  1. Devotional,

  2. Shamanic,

  3. Yogic and

  4. Universalist.

The devotional Shaktas makes puja rites to invoke Sri Chakra Yantra to establish intimacy with the Goddess. The Shamanic Shaktas - usually with the help of a medium - use magic, tantra and trance as well as fire walking and animal sacrifice for healing, fertility and power. The Shakta yogis seek to awaken the sleeping Goddess Kundalini and unite her with Lord Shiva in the Sahasrara Chakra. The Universalists follow the reformed Vedantic teachings and traditions. The Shakti sect worships Kali, Durga, Pravathi, Devi, Ambika, Chandi and Yoni . Shakti worshippers consider the Goddess as the manifested form of the deity, the worship of who leads to the masculine unmanifested form or Shiva, thus attaining salvation.

Vaishnava sect                                                                                    Top

Om Namo Narayanaya.

Worship of Vishnu and his various avatars especially Rama and Krishna in a profoundly devotional form is the basis of Vaishnavism. God is like an emperor in his glory, condescending on his subjects in a stern manner (similar to Bodhisattva, looking down in love and pity, with the intent of helping all creation). Three important forms of Vaishnavism emerged over the centuries and are practiced even today. They are:

  1. Vishishtadvaita of Ramanuja (Sri-vaishnavism),

  2. Dvaita of Madhva (Sadh-vaishnavism)   and

  3. Achintya Bhedabheda of Chaitanya (also known as Gaudiya).

Intense devotion to a personal god, Vishnu through Bhakti yoga is the path to salvation. Vaishnavism is based on the Dvaita philosophy and recognises Vishnu as the Supreme Being.