Book: Hindu Dharma, Written by Swami Chandrashekarendra
Our religion consists of two major divisions, Saivism and Vaisnavism.
doubt arises as to whether we are speaking here of two separate faiths
of a single one.
Christianity too has two major divisions but people belonging to both
conduct worship in the name of the same God. In Buddhism we have the
Hinayana and Mahayana streams but they do not make two separate
faiths since both are based on the teachings of the same founder, the
Do Saivas and Vaisnavas worship the same god? No. However it be with
ordinary Vaisnavas, their acaryas or teachers never go anywhere near a
Siva temple. Their god is Visnu, never Siva. In the opinion of the
worshippers of Visnu, Siva is also one of his (Visnu's) devotees. There
extremists among Saivas also according to whom Visnu is not a god but a
devotee of Siva. How then can the two groups be said to belong to the
Are they to be regarded as belonging to the same faith by virtue of
having a common scripture? The divisions [sects] of Christianity have
common scripture, the Bible; so too is the Qur'an the common holy book
for all divisions of Islam. Is such the case with Saivas and Vaisnavas?
Saivas have the Tirumurai as their religious text, while Vaisnavas have
Nalayira-Divyaprabandham as their sacred work. For Saivas and Vaisnavas
thus the deities as well as the scriptures are different. How it be
that both belong to the same religion?
Though divided into Saivas and Vaisnavas, we have been saved by the fact
that the white man brought us together under a common name, "Hindu".
But for this, what would have been our fate? In village after village,
would have been fragmented into separate religious groups- Saivas,
Vaisnavas, Saktas, worshippers of Muruga, Ganapati, Ayyappa, and so on.
Further, in these places followers of religions like Christianity and
would have predominated. Now two regions of our subcontinent have
become Pakistan, Had we not been brought together with the label of
Hindu, the entire subcontinent would have become Pakistan. The very
same men who created Pakistan through their evil design and sowed the
seeds of differences among us with their theory of two races- Aryans and
Dravidians- unwittingly did us a good turn by calling us Hindu, thereby
bringing into being a country called "India. "
So are we one religion or are we divided into Two faiths? The belief
Saivas and Vaisnavas have separate deities and religious works does not
represent the truth. Though the present outlook of the two groups
suggests that they represent different faiths, the truth will be
we examine their prime scriptures. The saints who composed the
Tirumurai of the Saivas and the Nalayira-Divyaprabandham of the
Vaisnavas never claimed that these works of theirs were the prime
religious texts of respective sects. Nor did they regard themselves as
founders of any religion. Vaisnavism existed before the Azhvars and so
too there was Saivism before the Nayanmars.
The original scripture of both sects is constituted by the Vedas. Saivas
describe Isvara thus:
Vedanathan, Vedagitan, aranan kan
Similarly, the Vaisnava texts proclaim, "Vedam Tamizh seytaMaran
Sathakopan. "If we pay close attention to their utterances, we will
discover that the Vedas are the prime scripture of both sects. The
Tevaram and the Nalayaira-Divyaprabandham are of the utmost
importance to them (to the Saivas and Vaisnavas respectively); but the
Vedas are the basis of both. The great saint-poets who composed the
Saiva and Vaisnava hymns sing the glories of the Vedas throughout.
Whenever they describe a temple, they go into raptures, saying, "Here
the air is filled with the sound of the Vedas and pervaded with the
of the sacrificial fire. Here the six Angas of the Vedas flourish. " In
songs of these hymnodists veneration of the Vedas finds as much place as
devotion to the Lord.
The Vedas reveal the One Truth to us in the form of many deities. The
worship of each of these divine beings is like a ghat on the river
Vedas. Sekkizhar says the same thing: "Veda neri tazhaittonga mihu
Saivatturai vilanga. "
Apart from Saivism and Vaisnavism, there are a number of sectarian
systems like Saktam, Ganapatyam, Kaumaram, and Sauram (worship of
Sakti, Ganapati, Kumara or Subrahmanya and the Sun God). The
adoration of these deities is founded in the Vedas, according to the
relating to them: "Our deity is extolled in the Vedas, " each system
contains such a declaration.
Thus we find that there is but one scripture as the source common to the
different sects and schools of thought in the Hindu religion.
This source includes the Upanisads. On ten of them (Dasopanisad) the
great teachers of the Saiva, Vaisnava, and Smarta traditions have
commentaries. The Upanisadic texts proclaim that the Brahman is the
one and only Godhead: In the Kathopanisad it is called Visnu; in the
Mandukyopanisad it is called Sivam. All the deities mentioned in the
Samhitas of the Vedas- Mitra, Varuna, Agni, Indra and so on - are
different names of the same Truth. So it is said in the Vedas: "Ekam sad
vipra bahudha vadanti. "
It emerges that for all the divisions in our religion there is but one
scripture- a scripture common to all- and one Godhead which is known by
many names. The Vedas are the common scripture and the Godhead
common to all is the Brahman. Thus we can say with finality, and without
any room for doubt, that all of us belong to the same religion.
The Vedas that constitute the scripture common to all and which reveal
the Godhead that is common to us also teach us how to lead our life,
is important- they do us the ultimate good by showing us in the end
the way to become that very Godhead ourselves. They are our refuge
both here and the hereafter and are the source and root of all our
different traditions, all our systems of thought. All sects, all schools
religion, have their origin in them. The root is one but the branches
The Vedas are the source not only of various divisions of Hinduism, all
religions of the world may be traced back to them. It is our bounden
to preserve them for all time to come with their glory undiminished.