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In Hinduism, a sampradaya (IAST sampradāya) can be translated as ‘tradition’ or a ‘religious system’.[note 1] It relates to a succession of masters and disciples, which serves as a spiritual channel, and provides a delicate network of relationships that lends stability to a religious identity.
Sampradaya is a body of practice, views and attitudes, which are transmitted, redefined and reviewed by each successive generation of followers. Participation in sampradaya forces continuity with the past, or tradition, but at the same time provides a platform for change from within the community of practitioners of this particular traditional group.
A particular guru lineage is called parampara. By receiving diksha (initiation) into the parampara of a living guru, one belongs to its proper sampradaya. One cannot become a member by birth, as is the case with gotra, a seminal, or hereditary, dynasty.
Membership in a sampradaya not only lends a level of authority to one’s claims on truth in Hindu traditional context, but also allows one to make those claims in the first place. An often quoted verse from the Padma Purana states:
And another verse states:
As Wright and Wright put it,
If one cannot prove natal legitimacy, one may be cast out as a bastard. The same social standard applies to religious organizations. If a religious group cannot prove its descent from one of the recognised traditions, it risks being dismissed as illegitimate.
Nevertheless, there are also examples of teachers who were not initiated into a sampradaya, Ramana Maharshi being a well-known example.[web 1] A sannyasin belonging to the Sringeri Sharada Peetham once tried to persuade Ramana to be initiated into sannyasa, but Ramana refused.
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According to the Padma Purāṇa, one of the eighteen main Purāṇas, there are four Vaishnava sampradayas, which preserve the fruitfull mantras:[note 4]
Each of them were inaugurated by a deity, who appointed heads to these lineages:
|Main Guru||Lineage||Acharya||Primary Mathas||Linked sampradaya|
|Śrī Devī (Laksmi)||Sri Sampradaya||Ramanujacharya||Melukote, Srirangam, Vanamamalai, Tirukkurungudi , Kanchipuram, Ahobila, Parakala||Ramanandi Sampradaya|
|Brahma||Madhva Sampradaya||Madhvacharya||Sri Krishna Matha,
Gaudiya Math, ISKCON
|Rudra||Rudra Sampradaya||Viṣṇusvāmī/Vallabhacharya||Pushtimarg sect|
|Four Kumāras||Kumara sampradaya||Nimbarka||Kathia Baba ka Sthaan, Nimbarkacharya Peeth, Ukhra Mahanta Asthal, Howrah Nimbarka Ashram|
Various sampradayas emerged from these four, which are quite different from them. There are also other sampradayas, such as Swaminarayan Sampradaya, which are not linked to these four sampradayas.
The lineage of Sri Bramha Madhava Gaudiya Sampradaya founded by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu falls under the lineage of Bramha sampradaya.
There are three main saivite sampradayas states themselves as "Kailaya Parampara" (Lineage from Kailash)- Nandinatha Sampradaya, Adinath Sampradaya and Meykanda Sampradaya. They trace their initiation at Nandi, the guardian and the first student of Shiva. There were eight disciples of Nandi, known as Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanatana, Sanatkumara, Sundarananta, Vyagrapada, Patanjali and Sivayoga Muni sent to various parts of the world to spread the truth of Saivism all over the world. Saiva Siddhanta Church of Hawaii identifies itself as the Sundarananta descedent of Nandinatha Sampradaya(Tirumular→→→Nandinatha Maharishi (Unknown)→Kadayil Swami→ Sellappa Desikar→ Svayoga Swami→Sivaya Subramuniyaswami) Tami Shaiva Siddhanta philosophy is known as the descedent from the teaching of Sanatkumara, one of the Kumaras.(Sanatkumara→Satyanjana Darshini→Paranjyoti rishi→Meykandar.
|Sampradaya||Gurus||Sect nowadays||Principle Mathas||Note|
|Nandinatha Sampradaya||Tirumular||Tamil Shaiva Siddhanta||Saiva Siddhanta Church of Hawaii||Tirumantiramis one of the significant holy book along with other saivite text.|
|Meykandar Sampradaya||Meykandar||Shaiva Siddhanta||Saiva adheenams in South India||trace its origin at Sanatkumara|
|Adinath Sampradaya||Matsyendranath, Gorakshanath||Siddha Saivism (Nath Sampradaya)||Nisargadatta Maharaj and International Nath Order||Connected with Inchegiri branch|
|Trika Sampradaya||Durvasa Vasugupta||Kashmir Shaivism||Swami Lakshmanjo Academy  and other Kashmir Saivite Mathas||Also known as Ragasya Sampradaya and Trayambaka Sampradaya. Starts its gurus at Srikantha, Vasugupta, and Somananda. Sometimes Durvasa also included.|
Nandinatha and Meykandar Sampradayas are associated with the Shaiva Siddhanta while Adinath Sampradaya is associated with Nath Shaivism. Other popular Saivite sampradayas are Lingayat Sampradaya and Srouta Sampradaya
Dashanami Sampradaya, "Tradition of Ten Names", is a Hindu monastic tradition of Ekadandi sannyasins (wandering renunciates carrying a single staff) generally associated with the Advaita Vedanta tradition. They are distinct in their practices from the Saiva Tridandi sannyāsins or "trident renunciates", who continue to wear the sacred thread after renunciation, while Ekadandi sannyāsins do not.[note 5]
The Ekadandi Vedāntins aim for moksha as the existence of the self in its natural condition indicated by the destruction of all its specific qualities. Any Hindu, irrespective of class, caste, age or gender can seek sannyāsa as an Ekadandi monk under the Dasanāmi tradition.
The Ekadandis or Dasanāmis had established monasteries in India and Nepal in ancient times.[web 2] After the decline of Buddhism, a section of the Ekadandis were organized by Adi Shankara in the 8th century in India to be associated with four maṭhas to provide a base for the growth of Hinduism. However, the association of the Dasanāmis with the Sankara maṭhas remained nominal.
Advaita Vedanta sampradaya
Adi Sankara founded four Maṭhas (Sanskrit: मठ) (monasteries) to preserve and develop his philosophies. One each in the north, south, east and west of the Indian subcontinent, each headed by one of his direct disciples.
According to Nakamura, these mathas contributed to the influence of Shankara, which was "due to institutional factors". The mathas which he built exist until today, and preserve the teachings and influence of Shankara, "while the writings of other scholars before him came to be forgotten with the passage of time".
The table below gives an overview of the four Amnaya Mathas founded by Adi Shankara, and their details.[web 3]
|Padmapāda||East||Govardhana Pīṭhaṃ||Prajñānam brahma (Consciousness is Brahman)||Rig Veda||Bhogavala|
|Sureśvara||South||Sringeri Śārada Pīṭhaṃ||Aham brahmāsmi (I am Brahman)||Yajur Veda||Bhūrivala|
|Hastāmalakācārya||West||Dvāraka Pīṭhaṃ||Tattvamasi (That thou art)||Sama Veda||Kitavala|
|Toṭakācārya||North||Jyotirmaṭha Pīṭhaṃ||Ayamātmā brahma (This Atman is Brahman)||Atharva Veda||Nandavala|
The current heads of the mathas trace their authority back to these figures, and each of the heads of these four mathas takes the title of Shankaracharya ("the learned Shankara") after Adi Sankara.
According to the tradition in Kerala, after Sankara's samadhi at Vadakkunnathan Temple, his disciples founded four mathas in Thrissur, namely Naduvil Madhom, Thekke Madhom, Idayil Madhom and Vadakke Madhom.
- The word commands much more respect and power in the Indian context than its translations in English does.
- Sampradayavihina ye mantras te nisphala matah
- The original Sanskrit text found in Sabda-Kalpa-Druma Sanskrit-Sanskrit dictionary and Prameya-ratnavali 1.5-6 by Baladeva Vidyabhushana states: sampradaya vihina ye mantras te nisphala matah
atah kalau bhavisyanti catvarah sampradayinah
sri-brahma-rudra-sanaka vaisnavah ksiti-pavanah
catvaras te kalau bhavya hy utkale purusottamat
ramanujam sri svicakre madhvacaryam caturmukhah
sri visnusvaminam rudro nimbadityam catuhsanah
- Quoted in Böhtlingk's Sanskrit-Sanskrit dictionary, entry Sampradaya.
- ek=one. ekadandi=of single staff. tridandi=of three staffs.
- Gupta 2002.
- Wright 1993.
- Ebert 2006, p. 89.
- Apte 1965.
- Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami (2003) "Dancing with Siva: Hinduism's Contemporary Catechism" Himalayan Academy Publications ISBN 9780945497899
- [Civañān̲a Mun̲ivar (1985) "Sivajñāna Māpādiyam" Page 40]
- Hawaii Saiva siddhanta Church article
- Mathew Chandrankunnel (2008) "Philosophy of Quantum Mechanics" P. 720 ISBN 8182202582
- Nisargathatta maharaj
- International Nath Order
- Lakshmanjo Academy
- P. N. K. Bamzai (1994) "Culture and Political History of Kashmir"
- V. N. Drabu (1990) "Śaivāgamas: A Study in the Socio-economic Ideas and Institutions of Kashmir (200 B.C. to A.D. 700) Indus Publishing ISBN 9788185182384
- Journal of the Oriental Institute (pp 301), by Oriental Institute (Vadodara, India)
- Indian Sadhus by Govind Sadashiv Ghurye
- Advaitic Concept of Jīvanmukti by Lalit Kishore Lal Srivastava
- A History of Indian Philosophy by Jadunath Sinha.
- Nakamura 2004, p. 680.
- Nakamura 2004, p. 680-681.
- Sri Ramanasramam, "A lineage of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi?"
- Mathas of the Dasanami-sanyasis of Lalitpur
- "Adi Shankara's four Amnaya Peethams". Archived from the original on 2006-06-26. Retrieved 2006-08-20.
- Apte, V.S. (1965), The practical Sanskrit-English dictionary: containing appendices on Sanskrit prosody and important literary and geographical names of ancient India, Motilal Banarsidass Publ.
- Ebert, Gabriele (2006), Ramana Maharshi: His Life, Lulu.com
- Gupta, R. (2002), Sampradaya in Eighteenth Century Caitanya Vaisnavism, ICJ
- Michaels, Axel (2004), Hinduism. Past and present, Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press
- Nakamura, Hajime (2004), A History of Early Vedanta Philosophy. Part Two, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Private Limited
- Wright, Michael and Nancy (1993), "Baladeva Vidyabhusana: The Gaudiya Vedantist", Journal of Vaisnava Studies