Smartha Vs Vaishnava Traditions; And their Ekadasis

Posted: February 26, 2012 in Ekadasi, Hare Krsnas, Hinduism, Hindus, ISKCON, Smartha Ekadasi, Smartha Sampradayat, Smarthas, Vaishnava Ekadasi, Vaishnavas

If you have been observing Ekadasi fast, you might have, quite like a multitude of other Hindus, come across consecutive days on your Hindu calendar marked as “Ekadasi”: the first day will usually be “Smartha Ekadasi” and the next “Vaishnava (or Bhagavat) Ekadasi.

What is the significant difference, if any, between the two?

SmarthasWhat and who is a Samrtha
Before we could see what is the difference between the two, let’s start with what “Smartha” (which sometimes spelt “Smarta”) is.

It is a Sanskrit word, which denotes the “smartha sampradayat”, a liberal or nonsectarian tradition or denomination of the Vedic Hindu religion, which accepts all the major Hindu deities as forms of the one Brahman, in contrast to Vaishnavism, Shaivism, and Shaktism, the other three major Hindu sects, which revere Vishnu, Shiva, and Shakti, respectively, as the Supreme Being.

The adherents who follow the Vedas and Shastras are, in this regard, called Smarta. Smartas are, therefore, followers and propagators of Smriti or religious texts derived from Vedic scriptures. Smarta religion is practiced by people who believed in the authority of the Vedas as well as the basic premise of puranas.

Smartas believe that the worshiper is free to choose a particular aspect of God to worship, to the extent that the worship practices do not contradict the Vedas and the Smritis. So, in that sense, an orthodox smarta is unlikely to view gods of non-vedic religions favorably, even though he may hold the religion acceptable to its own traditional followers.

Sri Adi Shankaracharya

Sri Adi Shankara fathered the Smartha sampradayat. He reintroduced a purer form of Vedic thought. His teachings and tradition form the basis of Smartism and have influenced Sant Mat lineages. He is the main figure in the tradition of Advaita Vedanta. He was the founder of the Dasanami Sampradaya of Hindu monasticism and Sanmata of Smarta tradition. He introduced the Pancayatana form of worship.Adi Shankara is believed to have propagated the tradition of Shanmata (Sanskrit, meaning Six Opinions). In this six major deities are worshipped.

This is based on the belief in the essential sameness of all deities, the unity of God, and their conceptualization of the myriad deities of India as various manifestations of the one divine power, Brahman.

Smartas accept and worship the six manifestations of God, (Ganesha, Shiva, Shakti, Vishnu, Surya and Skanda) and the choice of the nature of God is up to the individual worshiper since different manifestations of God are held to be equivalent.

Some of the prominent Smarta Teachers:

  • Mata Sri Amirtanandamayi
  • Appaya Dikshitar
  • Swami Sivananda
  • Swami Haridoss Giri
  • Swami Gnanananda
  • Paramahansa Yogananda
  • Swami Rama
  • Govinda Bhagavatpada
  • Sri Ramakrishna Paramhahamsa
  • Swami Vivekananda
  • Brahmananda Saraswati the Shankaracharya of Jyotir Math, the Guru of Transcendental Meditation.
  • Jagadguru Swami Sri Bharati Krishna Tirthaji Maharaja. Vedic Mathematics.
  • Madhusudana Saraswati
  • Jagadguru Sri Sacchidananda Shivabhinava Nrusimha Bharati, Sringeri Sharada Peetam
  • Jagadguru Sri Chandrasekhara Bharati III, Sringeri Sharada Peetam
  • Jagadguru Sri Abhinava Vidyatirtha, Sringeri Sharada Peetam
  • Jagadguru Sri Bharati Tirtha, Sringeri Sharada Peetam
  • Chandrashekarendra Saraswati, Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham
  • Srimad Raghaveshwara Bharathi Swamiji of Ramachandrapura Mutt, Hosanagara
  • Swami Chinmayananda
  • Dayananda Saraswati (Chinmaya Mission)

Why Hare Krsnas Say that There is the Only True Way?

Hare Krsnas
By contrast, the Vaishnavite regards Sri Krishna (or Krsna) or Vishnu as the only true God, who is worthy of worship, and that all other forms as his subordinates. Accordingly, the Vaishnavite, for example, believe that only Krishna or Vishnu can grant the ultimate salvation for mankind, “moksha”.

The Saivites

In the same manner, many Saivites (the worshipers of Lord Shiva) too hold similar beliefs about Lord Shiva. Notably, many Saivites believe that Shakti is worshiped to reach Shiva, whom for Saktas is the impersonal Absolute.

In Saktism, emphasis is given to the feminine manifest through which the male un-manifested, Lord Shiva, is realized.

The Different Schools of Thoughts — Their Unity and Diversity
The Smartas, like many Saivites and Vaishnavites, consider Surya an aspect of God. Many Saivites and Vaishnavites, for example, differ from Smartas, in that they regard Surya as an aspect of Shiva and Vishnu, respectively.

For example, the sun is called Surya Narayana by Vaishnavites. In Saivite theology, the sun is said to be one of eight forms of Shiva, the Astamurti. In addition, Ganesh and Skanda, for many Shaivites, would be aspects of Shakti and Shiva, respectively.

Most Hindus Today Are Smarthas

These differences and the understanding of these differences are now generally diminishing between the Hindus, and the current practitioners of Hinduism are converging towards the Smarta philosophy, where Shaivites accept and pray to forms of Vishnu and vice-versa. That Vishnu, Shiva and Shakti are all forms of the same principal divinity is slowly gaining understanding and acceptance.

Smarta EkadasiNow, having discussed at length what a “Smartha” is, we are now ready to see the difference between “Smarta and Vaishnava Ekadasis”.

Smarta Ekadasi is based on the calculation that when the sunrises if it is the Ekadasi day then it is Smarta Ekadasi.

Ekadasi has two rules: Smartha and Vaishnava. The Smarta rule is simple – ekadasi should be visible at the time of local sunrise. The vaishnava follows ekadasi that is not contaminated by Dashami thithi. In other words, to the Vaishnavaites, ekadasi should be prevailing two hours before sunrise.

Bhagavata, or Vaishnava, Ekadashi observance is based on the rule that Dasami or the tenth day during a lunar fortnight should have ended before Arunodaya (96 minutes period before sunrise on the Ekadasi or the 11th day in a lunar fortnight). Vaishnava fasting day might be one day after of Smartha fasting day.
Other Notes on Ekadasi: Ekadashi fasting spans for three days. Devotees take single meal in the afternoon a day before fasting day to make sure there is no residual food in the stomach on next day. Devotees keep strict fast on Ekadashi day and break the fast on next day only after sunrise. Eating of all type of grains and cereals is prohibited during Ekadashi fasting.
  1. SACHIN says:

    thanks a lot for the detail information

  2. Srujana Kona says:

    thanks for the most informative article….

  3. treadmarkz says:

    Thank you. I have recently begun viewing my path as more Smarta than Vaisnav, and this was helpful to clarify a few things, put a few things in perspective, etcetera ad infinitum.

  4. I started ekadasi by mistake on a day previous to Vaishnawa ekadasi, which is smartha ekadasi. Now what should I do as Prayaschita ? pleae advise. Thank you.

    • antaryamin says:

      Hari bol!

      To get a human birth is a rarity; even after getting one, it is even rarer for one to yearn for spiritual life—unless one has the blessings of mahatmas or has acquired countless merits, one can’t and will never think of attaining God. Hence, do not get caught up in inconsequential sectarian and bigoted ideologies. As the article has explained, the different observances came about because of different perspectives and interpretations of the scriptures. What’s most important is, whether one observes the Smartha or Vaishnava ekadasi is, the constant remembrance of the Lord on the day when one performs the austerity.

      The Lord, who is described in the scriptures as Antaryamin(=inner Ruler), knows one’s innermost intentions, and He is also called “Anumanta”(=the permitter), without whose control nothing could happen. Let us not circumscribe that “avang-mano-gochara”, the Jnanasvaroopa, who is beyond speech and mind, within man-made errors.

      In sum, please continue to observe your vrata on either tradition’s days. That’s all there is to it. We have to go from the level of “apara-bhakti”(=lower devotion) to “para-bhakti”, with a view to attaining “Avyabhicharini bhakti” by the time we leave this loka.

  5. I did an Ekadasi fast on 30th june 2016 (Thursday). Is it ok for me to fast again on 14th July 2016, which is an Ekadasi? I am a married woman, living with my husband and two kids. Please advise me

    Om namo Narayana!

    • antaryamin says:

      Hari om!

      I am not sure in which part of the world you’re living. Anyhow, Ekadasi fasts occur twice a month. And, one can fast on both days. In point of fact, serious spiritual aspirants will fast on BOTH days. The 30th of June was an Ekadasi day; but, according to the almanac, the 14th of July (at least in South East Asia) isn’t an Ekadasi.

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