Truth is One Paths are Many
A Comparative Study of Various Traditions
& Philosophy of Several World Religions
Will Some One Tell Me What the Great Religions Believe?
A Primer of World Religions - What they are & What they believe
Comparing the Four Sections of Hindu Religion
Saivism, Sāktism, Vaishnavism and Smārtis
The spectrum of Hindu religiousness is found within four major sects or denominations:
Saivism, Sāktism, Vaishnavism and Smārtism.
Among these four streams, there are certainly more similarities than differences.
Many of the Slokas and bhāshyas of Dancing with Siva (Sivena saha Nartanam):
Hinduism's Contemporary Catechism (Sanātana Dharma Prasnottaram)
have shown how they concur as well as differ.

All four believe in karma and reincarnation and in a Supreme Being who is both form and pervades form, who creates, sustains and destroys the universe only to create it again in unending cycles. They strongly declare the validity and importance of temple worship, in the three worlds of existence and the myriad Gods and devas residing in them. They concur that there is no intrinsic evil, that the cosmos is created out of God and is permeated by Him. They each believe in māyā (though their definitions differ somewhat), and in the liberation of the soul from rebirth, called moksha, as the goal of human existence. They believe in dharma and in ahimsā, noninjury, and in the need for a satguru to lead the soul toward Self Realization. They wear the sacred marks, tilaka, on their foreheads as sacred symbols, though each wears a distinct mark. Finally, they prefer cremation of the body upon death, believing that the soul will inhabit another body in the next life. While Hinduism has many sacred scriptures, all sects ascribe the highest authority to the Vedas and Ćgamas, though their Ćgamas differ somewhat. Here, now, is a brief comparison of these four denominations.


On the Personal God/Goddess

Saivism: Personal God and temple Deity is Siva, neither male nor female. Lords Ganesa and Kārttikeya are also worshiped.
Sāktism: Personal Goddess and temple Deity is Srī Devī or Sakti, female, worshiped as the Divine Mother: Rājarājesvarī, Pārvati, Lakshmi, Sarasvati, Kāli, Amman, etc. .
Vaishnavism: Personal God and temple Deity is Vishnu, male. His incarnations as Rāma and Krishna are also worshiped, as well as His divine consort, Rādhā Rānī.
Smārtism: Personal God and temple Deity is Čsvara, male or female, worshiped as Vishnu, Siva, Sakti, Ganesa, Sūrya, Kumāra & Krishna or any other form of Deity of devotee's choice.

On the Nature of Sakti

Saivism: Sakti is God Siva's inseparable power and manifest will, energy or mind.
Sāktism: Sakti is an active, immanent Being, separate from a quiescent and remote Siva.
Vaishnavism: No special importance is given to Sakti. However, there are parallels wherein the divine consorts are conceived as the inseparable powers of Vishnu and His incarnations: e.g., Krishna's Rādhā Rānī and Rāma's Sitā.
Smārtism: Sakti is a divine form of Čsvara. 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 sādhana.
Sāktism: The Goddess Sakti 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.
Smārtism: Čsvara appears as a human-like Deity according to devotees' loving worship, which is sometimes considered a rudimentary self-purifying practice.
On the Doctrine of Avatāra
Saivism: There are no divine earthly incarnations.
Sāktism: The Divine Mother does incarnate in this world.
Vaishnavism: Vishnu has ten or more incarnations.
Smārtism: 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 Truth by God Siva's grace.
Sāktism: The Divine Mother, Sakti, 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.
Smārtism: Čsvara and man are in reality Absolute Brahman. Within Māyā, the soul and Čsvara appear as two. Jńāna dispels the illusion.
Spiritual Practice
Saivism: With Bhakti as a base, emphasis is placed on sādhana, tapas and yoga. Ascetic
Sāktism: 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.
Smārtism: Preparatory sādhanas are Bhakti, Karma, Rāja yoga. Highest path is through knowledge, leading to Jńāna.
Major Scriptures
Saivism: Vedas, Saiva Ćgamas and Saiva Purānas.
Sāktism: Vedas, Sākta Ćgamas (Tantras) and Purānas.
Vaishnavism: Vedas, Vaishnava Ćgamas, Purānas and the Itihāsas (Rāmāyana and Mahābhārata, especially the Bhagavad Gītā).
Smārtism: Vedas, Ćgamas and classical Smriti-Purānas, Itihāsas, especially the Bhagavad Gītā, etc.
Regions of Influence
Saivism: Geographically widespread, strongest in South and North India, Nepal and Sri Lanka.
Sāktism: Geographically widespread, most prominent in North India, especially Bengal and Assam.
Vaishnavism: Geographically widespread, especially strong throughout India, North and South.
Smārtism: Geographically widespread, most prominent in North and South India.
Please read this part after you have completed all the pages listed here
Truth is One :: Paths are Many
A study comparing the essential beliefs of World Religions