View Full Version : Hindu Sects?

November 12th, 2005, 06:05 AM
I thought maybe we could have a thread to list the different paths just in hinduism. I mean cause I just find this religion huge and sometimes overwhelming and it might be a little easier to grasp it broken down a bit. Not that I really know them all...but I would like to know what is out there.

I know there's Hare-krishna worship is that the same as ISKON or does it break down further?

There's also seems to be different sects for different gods. It also seems a religion where you can believe in as many gods as you want or as little...is that true?

Also what things stay consitant through-out the different sects?

Ok I full of lots of questions...and this forum needs some more life. ^_^

November 12th, 2005, 01:05 PM
Sects is a difficult term - in sanskrit the closest term is Sampradaya, which describes a group of people following a particular God in a particular way.

As for the specific question - yes the "Hare Krishnas" are ISKCON, although ISKCON itself is a modern version of the Gaudiya Vaisnava Sampradaya, which was founded by Shri Chaitanya Mahapradhu - there are numerous other "versions" of this sampradaya, as well as numerous other sampradayas worshipping Vishnu, or his various avatars.

In general Hinduism is too complex and diverse to break down into neat little chunks - but as a rough outline any definition should include -
Polytheistic Vedic Religion. As well as the honouring of vedic divinities, this may also include the practice of Yajna, as well as the worship of numerous Gods - Worship directed towards a number of Gods - The common practice of pancayata-puja, offers worship to five deities (often listed as Surya, Shiva, Vishnu, Parvati, and Ganesha), and other Hindus talk about the significance of the Trimurti (often rather misleadingly referred to as the “Hindu Trinity”) of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.
Advaita Vedanta. Meditative, monistic, & intellectual
Vaisnavism & Saivism. Bhakti (devotional cults) - usually dedicated to Vishnu, Shiva, Shakti (the goddess, in one or other form). These are the sampradayas that I referred to earlier, although there is no necessary link in either practice or doctrine between them - take, for example the Vira-Shaiva Sampradya, which to all intents as purposes is similar to the kinds of practices as ISKCON, merely directed elsewhere, and the Aghori or Kapalika Sadhus, who are extreme in their anti-nomian devotion to Shiva Bhairava - the angry and wrathful form. Of course, each Sampradaya usually has a favourite form of the divinity on whom they concentrate - thus Shaiva cults may focus upon the linga (such as the lingayats), Shiva Mahayogi, Shiva Nataraja, Shiva Bhairava etc.
Saktism. Goddess worship, which may either be temple based, well organised, and theological, or local and sacrificial.
Tribal religions. That is, the religions of both the traditional inhabitants that may have been given a "Hindu spin", or traditional semi-shamanic practices that are "outside" most definitions of Hinduism
Syncretistic religions. Such as forms of Buddhism & Sikhism that are close to Hinduism, as well as Tantric religious practice that may be Hindu.

I doubt this helps, but I hope so.

November 12th, 2005, 04:23 PM
Well here are the traditional ones--

Smartism (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smartism)
Vaishnavism (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vaishnavism) -- worship Vishnu
Shaivism (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shaivism) -- worship Shiva
Shaktism (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shaktism)-- Worship Devi and the Goddesses

* There is also Vedism and Tantricism as well.

Each of Hinduisms four major denominations share rituals, beliefs, traditions and personal deities with one another, but each sect has a different philosophy on how to achieve life's ultimate goal (moksha, salvation) and on their concept of God (Ishwara). However, each denomination respects all others, and conflict of any kind is rare. Infact, many Hindus will not claim to belong to any denomination at all.
Contemporary Hinduism is now divided into four major divisions, Vaishnavism, Shaivism, Shaktism, and Smartism. Just as Jews, Christians, and Muslims all believe in one God but differ in their conceptions of Him, Hindus all believe in one God but differ in their conceptions. The two primary form of differences are between the sects of Vaishnavism which conceives God as Vishnu, and Shaivism which conceives God as Shiva. Shaktism worships the Goddess Devi or alternatively (where it is viewed as a subsect of Shaivism) as the energy of Shiva. Smartism, in contrast, believes in all paths being the same and leading to one God or source, whatever one chooses to call the Ultimate Reality. The Trimurti concept (also called the Hindu trinity) of Smartism denotes the three aspects of God as Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver, and Shiva the Destroyer. A number of reform movements have also given rise to sects like Swami Dayananda Saraswati's Arya Samaj which condemns iconolatry and focuses on the Vedas and the Vedic fire-sacrifices (yagna).

from Wikipedia.


Most urban Hindus follow one of two major divisions within Hinduism:
Vaishnavaism: which generally regards Vishnu as the ultimate deityShivaism: which generally regards Shiva as the ultimate deity.
However, many rural Hindus worship their own village goddess or an earth goddess. She is believed to rule over fertility and disease -- and thus over life and death. The priesthood is less important in rural Hinduism: non-Brahmins and non-priests often carry out ritual and prayer there.
http://www.religioustolerance.org/hinduism2.htm (http://www.religioustolerance.org/hinduism2.htm)

There's also seems to be different sects for different gods. It also seems a religion where you can believe in as many gods as you want or as little...is that true?

Yes, there are different traditions/demonimations for certian Gods.
Hindus see the Gods as all connected-- as part of Brahman . They are part of each other. Kali, Saraswati, Lakshmi for example are all seen as part of Devi, the Great Goddess. It's like a ribbon of energy that connects them all.
So in that sense one could honor only two or one and it is seen as honoring Brahman-- the Ultimate Source.

Also what things stay consitant through-out the different sects?

The only things that I would see as differing are festivals, rituals, prayers and things like that.
The basics-- the foundation of Hinduism is still going to be there. The Holy scriptures, the tenents, beliefs, myths...

ETA: I found this site:
The major beliefs of Hinduism:

1) I believe in the divinity of the Vedas, the world’s most ancient scripture, and venerate the Agamas as equally revealed. These primordial hymns are God’s word and the bedrock of Sanatana Dharma, the eternal religion which has neither beginning nor end.
2) I believe in a one, all-pervasive Supreme Being who is both immanent and transcendent, both Creator and Unmanifest Reality.
3) I believe that the universe undergoes endless cycles of creation, preservation and dissolution.
4) I believe in karma, the law of cause and effect by which each individual creates his own destiny by his thoughts, words and deeds.
5) I believe that the soul reincarnates, evolving through many births until all karmas have been resolved, and moksha, spiritual knowledge and liberation from the cycle of rebirth, is attained. Not a single soul will be eternally deprived of this destiny.
6) I believe that divine beings exist in unseen worlds and that temple worship, rituals, sacraments as well as personal devotionals create a communion with these devas and Gods.
7) I believe that a spiritually awakened master, or satguru, is essential to know the Transcendent Absolute, as are personal discipline, good conduct, purification, pilgrimage, self-inquiry and meditation.
8) I believe that all life is sacred, to be loved and revered, and therefore practice ahimsa, “noninjury.”
9) I believe that no particular religion teaches the only way to salvation above all others, but that all genuine religious paths are facets of God’s Pure Love and Light, deserving tolerance and understanding.

Hinduism, the world’s oldest religion, has no beginning—it precedes recorded history. It has no human founder. It is a mystical religion, leading the devotee to personally experience the Truth within, finally reaching the pinnacle of consciousness where man and God are one. Hinduism has four main denominations—Saivism, Shaktism, Vaishnavism and Smartism. The above nine beliefs form a common ground for all Hindu sects.

From HERE (http://www.sistersofembracement.org/hinduism.htm)

November 12th, 2005, 09:37 PM
*shaks fists* The others got here before I did.

In truth Sylver, there are as many sects as there are Gurus. Every major God has it's cult also, and those different cults are either connected or soemhow related to the major sects. Becasue of the shere population of India, Nepal, Sri lanka and Bangladesh...there are a huge number of worshippers available to be in each sect.

I'll give a few examples of reletivly small sects that have distinct worshippers:

Cult of Santoshi maa, is focussed around the reletivly new Goddess Santoshi who appeared at first as word of mouth among women in small villages in northern India. Her symbolism is around the trials of a woman, and her appeal was increased when the Bollywood movie "Jai Santoshi Maa (1979?)". Worshippers honour her for her boon giving powers, and also her symbolism as a Goddess offering Moksha through dharmic devotion to the family. http://jaisantoshimaa.com/default.asp

Cult of Ayyapan: Ayyapan, or Ayyappaa Deva is strictly speaking a southern deity. His origins are a little vague, yet he appears to be based upon an old Dravidian vegetation spirit. Through soem form of mythalogical assimilation, he has been tied to Shiva, and is regarded as the third unknown son next to Ganesha and Skanda. His main worship revolves around celibacy, and his chief legend talks of how he wwas found by a Noble Kshatriya family and raised, and then saved the village from a demon. http://www.ayyappan-ldc.com/

Cult of Murugan: Strictly speaking, Murugan is well known and quite powerful in both the South and also in Sri lanka, where his names include Kartikeya (a eference to the six pleaid nymphs who fostered him), Murugan (I believe dealing with his association with the killing of a demon named Muru), Skanda, Kataranga (where he is linked with a regional vegetation God)...and the list goes on. in hindu literature, he is seen as the Divine warrior, and leader of the Deva Armies. He is the first or soemtimes second son of Shiva, and is most likely derived from the same regional war God. Symbolism in worship, Im not really sure about but I did find this: http://murugan.org/ayyar_1.htm

Ganapatyas: The cult of lord Ganesh. I found this but I cant speak to it as I havnt really have not looked into the Ganaptyas: http://philtar.ucsm.ac.uk/encyclopedia/hindu/devot/ganap.html

It is important to note that soem followers within these smaller sects are influenced by Smartism....others see a more polytheistic role.

Then you get into the individual sects related to monastic Gurus such as Sai Baba. His sect if you can call it that, is huge...indeed many other organizations are as big, for example Sri Sri ravi Shankar, Ammachi of Kerela...and the like.

SOOOOOOOOO.....ask away E :D



November 13th, 2005, 07:10 AM
Belle Terre -
I would take issue with your section on the "Key beliefs of Hinduism"; such a list is bound to be contentious, given the nebulous definition of "what Hinduism is".
Hinduism, like Paganism, is not really a coherent religious structure that we can identify like that, and while many of those statements may be agreeable to particular individual Hindus, or sampradayas, to suggest that they are universal would be less than accurate. If we are going to suggest simple definitions for Hinduism, then I would actually suggest that the following, from Von Steitencron, would be the most useful - "a civilisation formed and enriched by a group of Hindu religions, which developed a particularly liberal way of co-existence and interaction". Anything beyond that runs into the difficulty of the fact that it excludes individuals and sampradayas that, while obviously being part of Hinduism, don't fit in with our particular definition.

Let us not forget, after all, that "Hinduism" is itself an imposed construction - initially by the Persian Mughals, then by the British - it was not a term that Hindus used about themselves until the 19th century Hindu Rennaissance, when it underwent reinterpretation to satisify new discourses of identity - either Saraswati's nationalist Hindutva discourse, which proscribes a very narrow definition of what Hinduism is, or Ramarkrishna and Gandhi's universalist discourse.

November 13th, 2005, 05:56 PM
Belle Terre -
I would take issue with your section on the "Key beliefs of Hinduism"; such a list is bound to be contentious, given the nebulous definition of "what Hinduism is".

That is fine. I did not write it, I only found it. To me for those who have little knowledge of Hinduism [the original poster maybe, I don't know] and what the main beliefs are, it seemed helpful. ::shrug::
I understand what you mean though.

Here is a verison of "What do they believe" from beliefnet


November 14th, 2005, 06:21 AM
yeah sects was the closest term I could think of. And I did realize there...were a ton...I mean cause isn't there like 1001 or more gods...I'm sure there's just as many different ways to follow. But this was what I wanted. Just what you guys were familiar with. Paracelsus that almost seems straight out of a history book...do you have any good books on developmental history of the religion/s (not sure if that's phrased right). The history is kinda what first sparked my interest.

And as far as what's consitant...I guess I meant for most...put things like pujas...and going to festivals are those pretty standard things...or are there groups that don't do those things. Would some groups not celebrate certain holidays? Are the mythologies accepted by everyone? that kinda of stuff.

Thanks ^_^

November 14th, 2005, 01:50 PM
Well, I can certainly recommend a few books - but if you can wait until next July, then my text book for A level and Undergraduate students, which is designed to give a broad introduction to Hinduism is published in the UK. If you can't wait that long, I would be happy to e-mail you some (or all) of it, if you pm me with your e-mail address.

November 14th, 2005, 04:27 PM
At the time, would you consider shipping those textbooks abroad to those in Europe and N. America? I would be interested in purchasing one...what are you including, for interests sake?



November 14th, 2005, 11:29 PM
A text book would be awesome...and I could wait that long...just don't know if I could afford it....would it be under 100 dollars?

November 15th, 2005, 01:36 PM
Well, I think it's going to be about £14 - no idea what that is in dollars (though I'll be able to get you a cheap one). Its subject matter is based upon the ideas that the A level examiners want - so it is a little random to anyone familiar with the tradition - Chapter 1 Deconstructs the whole concept of Hinduism.
Chapter 2 looks at the Indus Valley Civilisations, and various versions of the Aryan Invasion / Migration / Indigenous theories.
Chapter 3 looks at Vedic religion & Yajna.
Chapter 4 at the teachings of the Upanishads,
Chapter 5 at the three main schools of Vedanta (though I've had to tone that down!).
Chapter 6 looks at the Varna system, Karma, Dharma etc.
Chapter 7 Looks at the Ashramas.
Chapter 8 looks at the Principal Gods,
Chapter 9 at Bhakti Yoga (concentrating upon it's manifestation in the practices of ISKCON).
Chapter 10 at Samkhya Yoga.
Chapter 11 at the Hindu Renaissance.
Chapter 12 at Gandhi
Chapter 13 at BAPS & ISKCON.
Chapter 14 at the main teachings of the Gita.
So, as you can see, plenty of stuff left out...
But that is true of any book on Hinduism.

November 15th, 2005, 01:43 PM
now I wanna take a history class...lol...sounds good...and that's I think a lot cheaper than I thought...so yeah definately interested. It was actually a history class that got me interested in Hinduism in the first place.

November 16th, 2005, 12:52 AM
Hmmm, it does seem a little random, but at the same time each article on it's own will be quite good Im sure. Lets see, if my memory serves, 14 pound is 36 in Canadian, and around 16 in US. Will we be able to get personalized signed copies?? haha :)



November 16th, 2005, 01:03 AM
I found a money converter online, it's pretty cool.

14.00 GBP United Kingdom Pounds = 28.9756 CAD Canadian


14.00 GBP United Kingdom Pounds =24.2634 USD United States Dollars

Here's the site: http://www.hausheidi.com/currency.htm


November 16th, 2005, 03:41 PM
Wow was I wayyy off :)...thankyou hun!


December 15th, 2005, 11:03 PM
I'll emphasize on something here. There are as many sects as there are deities and there are millions of deities.

farm girl
December 27th, 2005, 06:53 PM
I quite agree with Belle Terre's list of Hindu beliefs. I do not know one Hindu scholar who would not agree with it. A matter of fact, several have made lists like that which are similiar. When majoring in religion, Hinduism was my area of focus. I worshipped in a Hindu temple for almost a decade and worked with the group at Hinduism Today magazine.

When going deeper into Hindusim, I do not recommend reading a text book. Text books are very dry and often the writers of text books do not really understand the Hindu mind. I would get a book, written by a Hindu, or better yet, visit a temple. There is no better way to learn about something, than hands on. Westerners often have difficulty truly understanding Hinduism until they immerse themselves into it. You won't regret it, if you do. It is such a journey!

http://www.hindu.org/ is a great resource site
The Himilayan Academy has many great books as well.

May 5th, 2006, 09:37 PM
I just found a site that has a great summary of the sects and their beiefs.

On the Personal God/Goddess
Saivism: Personal God and temple Deity is Siva, neither male nor female. Lords Ganesha and Karttikeya are also worshiped.
Shaktism: Personal Goddess and temple Deity is Shri Devi or Shakti, female, worshiped as Rajarajeshvari, Parvati, Lakshmi, Sarasvati, Kali, Amman, etc. the Divine Mother.
Vaishnavism: Personal God and temple Deity is Vishnu, male. His incarnations as Rama and Krishna are also worshiped, as well as His divine consort, Radharani.
Smartism: Personal God and temple Deity is Ishvara, male or female, worshiped as Vishnu, Siva, Shakti, Ganesha and Surya or any Deity of devotee's choice, e.g., Kumara or Krishna.

On the Nature of Shakti
Saivism: Shakti is God Siva's inseparable power and manifest will, energy or mind.
Shaktism: Shakti is an active, immanent Being, separate from a quiescent and remote Siva.
Vaishnavism: No special importance is given to Shakti. However, there are parallels wherein the divine consorts are conceived as the inseparable powers of Vishnu and His incarnations: e.g., Krishna's Radharani and Rama's Sita.
Smartism: Shakti is a divine form of Ishvara. It is God's manifesting power.

On the Nature of Personal God
Saivism: God Siva is pure love and compassion, immanent and transcendent, pleased by our purity and sadhana.
Shaktism: The Goddess Shakti is both compassionate and terrifying, pleasing and wrathful, assuaged by sacrifice and submission.
Vaishnavism: God Vishnu is loving and beautiful, the object of man's devotion, pleased by our service and surrender.
Smartism: Ishvara appears as a human-like Deity according to devotees' loving worship, which is sometimes considered a rudimentary self-purifying practice.

On the Doctrine of Avatara
Saivism: There are no divine earthly incarnations of the Supreme Being.
Shaktism: The Divine Mother does incarnate in this world.
Vaishnavism: Vishnu has ten or more incarnations.
Smartism: All Deities may assume earthly incarnations.

On the Soul and God
Saivism: God Siva is one with the soul. The soul must realize this advaitic (monistic) Truth by God Siva's grace.
Shaktism: The Divine Mother, Shakti, is mediatrix, bestowing advaitic moksha on those who worship Her.
Vaishnavism: God and soul are eternally distinct. Through Lord Vishnu's grace, the soul's destiny is to worship and enjoy God.
Smartism: Ishvara and man are in reality Absolute Brahman. Within maya, the soul and Ishvara appear as two. Jnana (wisdom) dispels the illusion.

Spiritual Practice
Saivism: With bhakti as a base, emphasis is placed on sadhana, tapas (austerity) and yoga. Ascetic.
Shaktism: Emphasis is on bhakti and tantra, sometimes occult, practices. Ascetic-occult.
Vaishnavism: Emphasis is on supreme bhakti or surrender, called prapatti. Generally devotional and nonascetic.
Smartism: Preparatory sadhanas are bhakti, karma, raja yoga. The highest path is through knowledge, leading to jnana.

Major Scriptures
Saivism: Vedas, Saiva Agamas and Saiva Puranas.
Shaktism: Vedas, Shakta Agamas (Tantras) and Puranas.
Vaishnavism: Vedas, Vaishnava Agamas, Puranas and the Itihasas (Ramayana and Mahabharata, especially the Bhagavad Gita).
Smartism: Vedas, Agamas and classical smriti Puranas, Itihasas, especially the Bhagavad Gita, etc.

Regions of Influence
Saivism: Geographically widespread, strongest in South and North India, Nepal and Sri Lanka.
Shaktism: Geographically widespread, most prominent in Northeast India, especially Bengal and Assam.
Vaishnavism: Geographically widespread, especially strong throughout India, North and South.
Smartism: Geographically widespread, most prominent in North and South India.

Paths of Attainment

Saivism: 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 moral 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 bhakti and yoga, devotional and contemplative sadhanas, or disciplines.
Shaktism: The spiritual practices in Shaktism are similar to those in Saivism, though there is more emphasis in Saktism on God's Power as opposed to Being, on mantras and yantras, and on embracing apparent opposites: male-female, absolute-relative, pleasure-pain, cause-effect, mind-body. Certain sects within Shaktism undertake "left-hand " tantric rites, consciously using the world of form to transmute and eventually transcend that world. The "left-hand " approach is somewhat occult in nature; it is considered a path for the few, not the many. The "right-hand " path is more conservative in nature.
Vaishnavism: Most Vaishnavites believe that religion is the performance of bhakti sadhanas, devotional disciplines, and that man can communicate with and receive the grace of the Gods and Goddesses through the darshan (sight) of their icons. The paths of karma yoga and jnana yoga lead to bhakti yoga. Among the foremost practices of Vaishnavites is chanting the holy names of the Avataras, Vishnu's incarnations, especially Rama and Krishna. Through total self-surrender, prapatti, to Vishnu, to Krishna or to His beloved consort Radharani, liberation from samsara (the cycle of reincarnation) is attained.
Smartism: Smartas, the most eclectic of 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 (shravana), 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, Absolute Reality, 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 bhakti yoga, karma yoga and raja yoga, which certain Smartas teach can also bring enlightenment.

THE SITE: http://www.hinduism-today.com/archives/2003/10-12/44-49_four_sects.shtml

May 7th, 2006, 11:03 AM
Here you go -

May 7th, 2006, 11:22 PM
Ooo, so shiekh and shiny...very nice :) well done, sir.