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Indian schools of philosophy are traditionally divided into two categories, Astika and Nastika. Astika schools accept the authority of the Vedas as divinely revealed truth (shruti), whereas Nastika schools, like Buddhism, Jainism, and Charvaka, reject the authority of the Vedas. Generally members of Astika schools are the ones that are called Hindu, whereas the Nastika schools fall into the broader category of Dharmic faiths. In any case, here are the traditional Astika schools of philosophy:

  1. Samkhya

  2. Yoga

  3. Nyaya

  4. Vaisheshika

  5. Mimāṃsā

  6. Vedanta

But it seems to me that one school is vastly more popular than the others: the Vedanta school, which derives its tenets from the philosophical teachings of the Upanishads, as expounded in Vyasa's Brahma Sutras. Here is Wikipedia's chart of the various Vedanta philosophies:

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From what I can tell, almost every popular sect of Hinduism subscribes to one of these Vedanta philosophies. Smarthas, for instance, believe in Adi Shankarachatya's philosophy of Advaita Vedanta, according to which Jivatma (the individual soul) and Paramatma (divine soul or supersoul) are identical. Sri Vaishnavas believe in Ramanujacharya's philosophy of Visistadvaita Vedanta, according to which Jivatmas are distinct parts of Parmatma but Paramatma extends beyond them. And Gaudiya Vaishnavas believe in Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's Vedantic philosophy of Achintya Bheda Abheda, according to which there is a simultaneous unity and difference between Jivatma and Paramatma that is inconceivable.

So my question is, what is the percentage of Hindus who belong to a sect which subscribes to the Vedanta school of philosophy? Note that when I say "Hindu" I don't mean Buddhists and the like, I just mean people belonging to the Astika schools. I'm wondering how many Hindus belong to the Vedanta school, compared to how many Hindus belong to the other Astika schools like Purva Mimamsa.

My guess is that the percentage is significantly greater than 95%, but have there been any statistics collected on this?

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    oh I see. :) Not sure if there would be a statistic because unlike the other sects I believe that the sects in Hinduism are not really conflicting, but one can choose to follow several of these together. – Sai Sep 24 '14 at 15:49
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    @Sai Well, you can worship both Vishnu and Shiva, but people don't generally identify themselves as both Sri Vaishnavas and Smarthas, for instance. So it would certainly be possible to collect statistics on the sect that people self-identify as. – Keshav Srinivasan Sep 24 '14 at 15:53
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    perhaps (and Im not saying that it is not :D) not in the way you mentioned. But I could certainly call myself both a Yogi (focusses on conentration and meditation) and a Vedanti (focusses on inner meaning of scriptures). I could also be both a Vaisheshikist (hehe) (one who believes in scientific experimentation) as well as Nyay-ist (hehe) ( believes in logical reasoning). Perhaps within those schools of thought there may be some conflicting beliefs. Just my opinion – Sai Sep 24 '14 at 15:58
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    @Sai Yeah, I could provide definitions for the different schools. But in any case, I'm not asking about how many Hindus would self-identify as Vedanta, because most people haven't even heard of the word "Vedanta". Rather, I'm asking how many people belong to a sect of Hinduism which subscribes to Vedanta. People would presumably know if they're Sri Vaishnava or Smartha, for instance, and based on that you can place them in one of the six Astika schools. So all I really want is a breakdown of Hindus by sect, not by philosophy, and then a breakdown by philosophy can be inferred. – Keshav Srinivasan Sep 24 '14 at 17:08
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    Most of the people don't even know the names of the Astika schools let alone subscribing to them. "My guess is that the percentage is significantly greater than 95%" It is not even close to that. The percentage is less than 5%, that also I think is way too much. The real figure is in the range of 0.45% to 0.75%. Of course, this is all speculation but I strongly believe this is the correct figure. – Chinmay Sarupria Feb 20 '16 at 5:51
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If the question is about Hinduism at present, then I think it is faulty. Of the six Astika schools—Sankya, Yoga, Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Mimangsha, Vedanta, each which differed a little bit in their philosophy—are all dead except the Vedanta. Hence, Upanishad means Vedanta now. Later, various philosophies emerged from Vedanta, namely Advaita, Bishista advaita, Dvaita, Suddha advaita, Dvaita advaita, and Achinta Veda Aveda.

This later gave rise to present sects like Shaivas, Vaishnavas, Shaktas, Smartas, Vedics (who don't use effigies), and devotees of other Gods or Avtaars.

  • Welcome to Hinduism Stack Exchange! I have taken the liberty of editing your answer to enhance its readability. In future, please be sure to add spaces after periods (.) and commas (,). Also, as we want to make sure we have top-notch answers, please reference your sources. – Rubellite Yakṣī Apr 30 '18 at 5:31
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There is a different way of classification within Asktika i.e. those who accept the authority of vedas.

Astikas can be classified into 2 groups:

  1. Vedanta / YogaVedanta, all the schools (including vedanta) mentioned in the question above fall under this category.

  2. VedaAgama / Agama: ShaivaAgamas(Shiva), ViashnAgamas(Vishnu), ShaktAgamas(Shakti) (maybe more) are different traditions under this category. Each of these agamas have numerous different sub-branches and philosophies.

The primary difference between the 2 schools is the scope / role played by Guru.

In all vendanta based traditions reading/learning from text is sufficient. An acharya or Guru is a force multiplier or a mentor but not essential.

On the other hard in Agama based tradition initiation by enlightened Guru is essential. And they prescribe a very specific lifestyle and rituals for individuals and communities. For eg temples are central to Agamic lifestyle.

From the point of view of Agamas, Vedas are as "pure science" and Agama are "applied technology"

Majority of hindus, gurus and priests follow some vedanta/YogaVedanta tradition. Many priests whose earlier generations were practitioners of Agamic tradition now follow a vedantic tradition. Agamic traditions are harder to follow as it calls for specific "actions" to be performed which is much tougher to follow.

PS: the wikipedia gives an impression of Agamas vs vedas which is incorrect.

PPS: NeoVedanta school being started by Sri RamaKrishna and Swami Vivekananda is "incorrect" at best.

PPS: When AdiShankara when up to Kashmir from Kerala he was a vendatin but was initiated into Agamas by AbhinavGupta in Kashmir. Since then his discourses was based on Agamas (which also consider Vedas as supreme)

Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.

  • I did not get about neo-advaita, where and what is incorrect. – Julio Olivieras Apr 30 '18 at 22:45
  • NeoVedanta is attributed to SriRamaKrishna and SwamiVivekananda ... neo-vedanta is a mis-appropriated / decontextualized version of their teachings created much later by certain groups ... You can read "IndrasNet" by Rajiv Malhotra to understand it further – Akhil May 1 '18 at 16:41
  • You should cite some sources. – Pandya May 13 '18 at 5:09
  • @Pandya most of the Hindu literature is not digitized, its a massive problem. The knowledge is passed on in the traditional way or via Gurus – Akhil May 14 '18 at 14:07
  • @Akhil when you say "NeoVedanta school being started by Sri RamaKrishna and Swami Vivekananda is "incorrect" at best." do you mean calling the philosophy of Shri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda "NeoVedanta" is wrong rather the concept propounded by them. Please do make this careful distinction as there is a possibility of people assuming that you are accusing the philosophy of Ramakrishna mission as wrong instead of the nomenclature of it. – Chakrapani N Rao Nov 7 '18 at 10:42
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It is my understanding that Karma Kanda and Upasana Kanda are portions of Vedas where there is identity with specific Ishta Devata. In Vedanta the identity shifts to nature of self in this there are various schools of philosophy where in duality , monism etc are discussed as the nature of Self. So there cannot be a connection between shan-Matha and Vedanta

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