Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Smartas (followers of Smartism) accept and worship all major forms of God, (Ganesha, Siva, Sakti, Vishnu, Surya and Skanda). Following a meditative, philosophical path, the denomination is generally considered to be liberal and non-sectarian.
In Smartism, devotees pray to whatever form of God a devotee prefers, (or as monists prefer to call, Ishta Devata, i.e., the preferred form of God) and ask for God's grace in order to achieve Moksha, end of the cycle of rebirth .
The Ishta-Deva concept has confused outsiders and hence made them perceive Hinduism as polytheistic as Smartas are monists, and view multiple manifestations of the one God or source of being. Hindu monists see one unity, with the personal Gods, different aspects of only One Supreme Being, like a single beam of light separated into colours by a prism, and are valid to worship. This view of Smartism, the Ishta-Deva concept, has colored the perception of what Hinduism is to the outsider, when in fact the other denominations, do not strictly espouse the belief and more closely adhere to a more conventional Western perception of what a monotheistic faith is.
Notably, Shakti is worshipped to reach Shiva, whom for Shaktas is the impersonal Absolute. Additionally, Shaivites and Vaishnavites often 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 Siva, the Astamurti . Additionally, Ganesh and Skanda for them, would be aspects of Shiva and Shakti. According to smartism, most Hindus worship Saguna Brahman as Vishnu or Shiva.
- Additionally, see below referenced web sites.
- http://www.hinduism-today.com/archives/2003/10-12/44-49_four_sects.shtml (Description of Smartism among the four major divisions of Hinduism.)
- Vaishnava.com's site on facts about Hinduism that features a good overview of the four divisions of Hinduism and 9 core Hindu beliefs.
- http://www.kamakoti.org/hindudharma/part14/chap9.htm (oneness of God and also see chapter 10.)
- http://www.advaita-vedanta.org/avhp/ad_faq.html#8 (oneness of God, through the six forms.)
- [http://www.ikashmir.org/hindudharma/7.html Overview of the three major divisions,
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