Sringeri Sharada Peetham

Sringeri Sharada Peetham

Sri Sringeri Sharada Peetham is one of the important Hindu Advaita maţhas. It is located in Sringeri. The heads of the maţha are known as Śankarācharyas. According to some historical sources, it is the first of the four original maţhas traditionally said to have been established by Śri Ādi Śankara.

Location

The maţha is in the temple town of Sringeri (also spelled "Shringeri"), on the banks of river Tunga, in the Chikmagalur district of the Karnataka state, India. It is about 105 kilometres from Mangalore.

History

The origin of the maţha is described in various traditional sources, including the "Śankara Vijaya" of Mādhava. Śankara is said to have lived here for twelve out of his short life-span of thirty-two years.

According to legends, Śankara and his four disciples, accompanied by Bharati, an incarnation of Goddess Sarasvati reached Sringeri on an exceptionally hot noon, and as they proceeded to the river Tunga for their ablutions, they saw a frog struggling in the blazing sun to be delivered of its spawn. A cobra, a natural enemy of frogs, had raised its hood to provide the frog with shelter and protection from the ravages of the tropical sun. Śankara was greatly moved by the sight. If there was paradise on earth, here it was, where the lion and the lamb, the tiger and the cow, the cobra and the frog lived in mutual amity and peace. He turned round when, as she had already stipulated, Bharati, known also as Sharada, decided to stay for good at Sringeri on the banks of the sacred river Tunga.

Vishwarupa, assuming the name of Suresvaracharya, was installed here as the successor of Śankarācārya before the latter resumed his tour to found his three pithas at Puri, Dwaraka and Badrinath. Thus the maţha traces its lineage from Suresvaracharya.

The Sringeri maţha records its tradition from the 8th century onwards. The history of the Sringeri Maţha since the period of Sri Bharathi Tirtha (I) and Sri Vidyaranya (14th century) onwards has been extensively documented. Most of the names from the Sringeri lineage up to Vidyaranya are also found in the "Sri Guru Charitra", a 15th-century Marathi work by Gangadhara Saraswathi. Sringeri maţha sources report that Śankara was born in the fourteenth year of the reign of Vikramaditya. Some believe this Vikramaditya to be the Vikramaditya II of the Western Chalukya Dynasty, which ruled from Badami in Karnataka. Others believe him to the Vikramaditya of the 1st century BCE.

The maţha continues to flourish to this day, and governs many institutions.

Philosophy and traditions of the maţha

The maţha gurus follow the philosophy of Advaita Vedanta. Following the tradition initiated by Śankara, the maţha is in charge of the Yajur Veda (the Krishna (Black) Yajurveda is more prevalent in South India, over which the maţha has authority in the Smarta tradition). The gurus of the maţha teach that all the demigods (devas), described in the Vedas and the Puranas, are mundane manifestations of the same one cosmic spirit, called Brahman. Moreover, the innermost self of the human being is also not different from Brahman. They subscribe to the Vedic phrase "Aham Brahma Asmi", which means: "I am the Universal spirit". The gurus wear ochre robes, smear their forehead with sacred ashes or "vibhuti", and worship God for many hours every day. They practice intense penance and meditation, which they believe helps in the control of the mind. They sustain themselves on an optimum diet and minimal sleep. They meditate on the Rudraksha beads and worship Shiva Linga every day. To an Advaitin, Shiva is Vishnu and Vishnu is Siva. Both are one and the same. The Sringeri gurus advocate that an individual must not merely revere a guru and listen to his teachings, but imbibe the good habits of the guru in their own life. Some of the things advocated by the gurus are:

# Satvic habits which include vegetarianism, cleanliness, discipline, etc.
# Regular worship of God and development of "bhakti".
# Giving importance to learning and knowledge.
# Good conduct, honesty, generosity, and adherence to scriptures.
# Austerity and simplicity.
# Love, respect, and responsibility towards one's family or community.
# Destruction of pride and ego.

The material world is considered as "maya", or temporary, like a dream, so they believe that one should be involved in the material world only in order to fulfill one's responsibility. Although they adhere to the teachings of Śankara, they read other secular and religious works. Within the recorded history of the last two centuries, every one of the gurus at Sringeri has been a polyglot and a scholar with knowledge of a wide range of subjects. They do not advocate religious conversion, and believe that individuals must follow the religion of their own birth properly and correctly.

Followers of the maţha

The maţha has a huge following, especially among the Vedic community. People of all castes from all over India visit the Śankāracharya at the maţha, but the majority of followers are Smartha Brahmins of South India and Maharashtra. Succession to the Śankāracharya title is through disciplic selection by the existing Śankāracharya. The successor to the maţha is usually named at a young age, from among the Vedic Brahmana community.

Activities of the maţha

A number of Vedic schools and temples are maintained by the maţha. Besides this, the maţha also runs a hospital and a few colleges. It has established branches in many parts of India. The Sharada Temple at Sringeri is managed by the Sringeri maţha. There is also a library in Sringeri, with rare Sanskrit volumes, which is managed by the maţha. The maţha has also played an important role in preserving the natural beauty of Sringeri.

Relationships with other maţhas and institutions

The maţha has enjoyed patronage from many kings and rulers. Its sage Vidyatheertha was contemporary with the founders of Vijayanagar Empire, and the maţha was given lavish grants of land by the Vijayanagar Kings. Vidyaranya another maţha head, was the founder of Vijananager empire and also served as advisor to the Vijayangar King. Tipu Sultan, the famous Muslim ruler of Mysore, also respected the Sringeri Acharyas, and helped it to sustain itself. Even in modern times the maţha has had good relations with the State and Central Governments, as it has always been politically neutral and non-controversial. In Independent India, however, with the coming of land reforms, the Sringeri maţha lost much of its traditional land and sources of income, and at one time was struggling to maintain itself. With the increase in donations by NRIs, however, things have turned for the better.

The maţha maintains good relationships with the three other maţhas believed to have been founded by Śankara, located in Puri, Dwaraka, and Jyotirmath (near Badrinath). In addition, over the centuries, the successive heads of the Sringeri maţha had established branch institutions, many of which continue to function, with their own collateral lineages. In the interests of preserving all the traditions derived from the Vedas, the Sringeri maţha also maintains cordial working relationships with institutions belonging to other Vedanta schools, such as the Sri Vaishnava and Madhva institutions.

Guru Parampara

Head of the maţha

The head of the maţha is usually chosen as a Brahmachari, educated in the Vedas. The existing head of the maţha decides upon a worthy disciple, initiates him as a sannyāsin, and appoints him as the head. The present head of the maţha is Sri Bharati Tirtha Swaminah.

Recent Jagadgurus

"See: Jagadguru of Sringeri Sharada Peetham for the full list of Jagadgurus"

The below table is about the last four "Jagadgurus", including the incumbent Sri Bharati Tirtha Swaminah [See http://www.jagadgurus.org and http://www.sringeri.net for detailed biographies of the Jagadgurus] .

NameYears as JagadguruPlace of BirthPurvashrama name [Purvashrama name refers to the name of the Jagadguru before taking Sannyasa.]
Sacchidananda Shivabhinava Narasimha Bharati1872-1912MysoreShivaswami
Chandrashekhara Bharati1912-1954SringeriNarasimha Sastri
Abhinava Vidyatirtha1954-1989BangaloreSrinivasa Sastri
Bharati Tirtha1989-PresentMachilipatnamSitarama Anjaneyulu

Notes

External links

* [http://www.sringerisharadapeetham.org Official Website of Sringeri Sharada Peetham]
* [http://www.tattvaloka.com Tattvaloka monthly magazine of Hinduism published by Sringeri Sharada Peetham]
* [http://www.shankaracharya.org Shri Acharya Shankara's Life and Works]
* [http://svbf.org/sringeri Sringeri Vidya Bharati Foundation, USA]
* [http://sites.google.com/site/shankarasringeri/ Shankara Sringeri]


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