The Sanātana Dharma, or “eternal faith,” known today as Hinduism, is a family of religions that accept the authority of the Vedas. Its four principal denominations are Śaivism, Śaktism, Vaishnavism and Smārtism. They share a vast heritage of culture and belief—karma, dharma, reincarnation, Vedas.
Vaishnavism is the name given to the faith and practices of those Hindus who hold Vishnu (Viṣṇu) (“the all-pervasive one”) and the goddess Lakṣmī
Shaivism is a complex body of South Asian traditions centred on the worship of the Hindu male deity Shiva, or Śiva (Sanskrit: “Auspicious One”). -
Vedic Hindu sacred literature is a treasury of hymns, legends, mythology, philosophy, science and ethics. From among this vast body of writings, each lineage recognizes a select portion as its secondary scripture, called smṛiti. Śruti, each sect and lineage defines its own unique set of smṛiti.
In the development of philosophical thought in India there are two main currents, the Vedic and the non-Vedic. The āśramas of the Ṛṣi were the centres for the development of philosophical thought in India, but only from the time of the Upaniṣads. Forests played no part in the pre-Upaniṣad Vedas.
It is the merit of the Viśiṣṭādvaita of Rāmānuja as a philosophy of love that it seeks to reconcile the extremes of monism and theism. It is called Śrī Vaiṣṇavism in its religious aspect. Viśiṣṭādvaita states that God is immanent in all beings as their inner self and at the same time transcendent.
Gaudīya Vaishnavas are the followers of the great Bengali Saint of 16th century - Chaitanya Mahāprabhu – and Theological teachings of Mādhva Āchārya. We know them – those males, clean shaved, and girls – dancing and singing aloud Indian mantras and songs. The theology of Mādhva is Dvaita Vedanta.
Śankara belongs to the 8th century A.D. He describes himself as a student of Govinda, who was himself a student of Gauḍapāda. He lived for 32 years and wrote many works, the chief are his commentaries on the triple basis of the Vedānta - classical Upaniṣads, the Bhagavad-Gītā and the Brahma- sūtra.
Śaivism proclaims: God Śiva is Love, both immanent and transcendent, both the creator and the creation. This world is the arena of our evolution, which leads by stages to moksha, liberation from birth and death. To the Śaivite Hindu, all of life is sacred. All of life is religion. Oṁ Namaḥ Śivāya.