Smaarthas and Advaita

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM
Sun Feb 2 21:14:03 CST 1997

On Sat, 1 Feb 1997, H. Krishna Susarla wrote:

> Can anyone provide a definition of the term "smaartha" and its relation to
> advaita? I understand that smaarthas are caste braahmins who practice
> advaita. Is this essentially correct? Are all smaarthas advaitists by
> definition? Does the term smaarthas apply only to those who are
> householders, or is it used to describe sannyaasis and brahmacaaris as
> well?

Smarta means a follower of smriti or vedic tradition in its entirety as
opposed to a particular God though this doesn't mean Smartas don't worship
Gods, just not one exclusively.  I don't know what you mean by a caste
brahmin (There isn't any other kind) but the term is usually applied to a
particular caste of Dravida Brahmans.  Then again I am a Gujarati
Vallum Brahman and our family calls ourself Smarta.

It doesn't seem to make a lot of difference as far as I can detect.  We
calculate the dates of Ekadashi and Shivaratri slightly differently from
the Vaishnavas and we wear a tripundra and rudraksha mala while they wear
a urdhvapundra and tulasi mala  but thre is certainly nothing like
marriage barriers etc.  I understand the situation is different in the

All the Smartas consider Shankaracharya as our acharya but he taught
Shrividya (a form of tantra) and Panchayata puja (worship of Shiva,
Shakti, Vishnu, Ganesha, and Surya Bhagwans) as well as Advaita Vedanta.
Vedanta is really only the concern of Sannyasis who are beyond caste
and the ritual injunctions and therefore don't refer to themselves as
Smartas anyway.  Although Shankaracharya founded a Matha in Gujarat in
Dwarka it is small and non-descript and ignored by the vast majority of
the pilgrims who are more interested in the next door Dwarkadishji mandir
to Krshna Bhagawan.  Again, the situation may be different in the south, I
don't know.

Jaldhar H. Vyas [jaldhar at]   And the men .-_|\ who hold
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