Vedas are eternal. And as per Vedas' teachings, in every yajna we offer and worship every God. And No God is inferior or superior than the other. However, later Sanatana Dharma segregated into multiple sects which shouldn't have happened as per Vedas.

So my question is, How did this sect thing start? What was the real source of this segregation?

  • 4
    Ekam Sat Vipra Bahuda Vadanti (Truth is one but the sages know it in different ways) - Rig Veda 1.164.46
    – user9969
    Apr 11, 2019 at 13:02
  • 4
    @TheLittleNaruto Surya's comment is an answer. That is the reason we have many interpretations and sects. People see that one god in a different way. As simple as that. Puranas and Upanishads are not the real reason. Apr 11, 2019 at 14:44
  • 6
    @Sarva Nope that can't be a reason. That's just your perception.
    – TheLittleNaruto
    Apr 11, 2019 at 15:12
  • 5
    @Sarvabhouma when they see one god in different way, they wont reject or refute or say wrong in other philosophies specially if that also leads to God realization!!!! So this is purely your perception!!! Apr 12, 2019 at 2:45
  • 2
    @TheLittleNaruto Perception is the reason for difference. Are you predetermined with the reason and want to see something else as the reason? Viz Puranas are the reason? Say that I will post it as an answer. Apr 12, 2019 at 4:34

3 Answers 3


Sect in Sanskrit is called SampradAya. And, it is the backbone of the Tantras. So, sects are widely mentioned in Tantras.

Sects are also mentioned in PurAnas as well as in some Smritis.

The reason why various sects should exist is that the amount of knowledge is infinite, the mantras are numerous and the doctrines and philosophies are also many.

So, given the vastness of the knowledge, it makes good sense to classify it under several groups. This helps in smooth flow of the knowledge which are finally handed down to us through definite Guru ParamparAs.

An etymological definition for the word SampradAya is given by Lord Shiva as follows:

SamsAra-sAra-bhutatvAt prakAsh-Ananda-dAnatah |
Yashah saubhAgya-karanAt sampradAya itiritah ||

Because it is the essence of life in the world (SamsAra), because it yields light, joy, prakAsha-Ananda-dAnatah, because it brings fame (Yasas) and good fortune, it is called SampradAya.

KulArnava Tantram 17.47

Whatever knowledge it is, or mantras, are potent only when handed down to us through a definite Guru ParamparA related to a definite SampradAya. So, without SampradAyas, there is no way the Tantras (i.e. the Tantric knowledge) can flourish or propagate.

DikshA purvam kuleshAni pAramparyakramAgatam |
NyAya lavdhashcham yo mantrah sa cha siddho na samshayaha ||

The Mantra, which is legally obtained through DikshA and handed down through a Tradition (ParamparA), O Goddess of the Kulas, is fit to be mastered without doubt.

KulArnava Tantram 15.15

That is why we have many sects related to particular Gods and their doctrines.

The following verse mentions few such sects.

Shaiva vaishnava-daurga-arka-gAnapatya-indu-sambhavAn |
Sarva-mantrAn sa jAnAti parAprasAd-mantravit ||

One who knows the ParA prAsAda mantra is aware of all the mantras of the various sects - Shaiva, Vaishnava, Daurga, Saurya, GAnapatya and ChAndra (related to the Moon God or Indu).

KulArnava Tantra 3.82

People have different inclinations and depending on those they chose various sects and practice the SAdhanas prescribed in them.

In the Tantras, from the Adi Guru or Lord Shiva's five faces emerge five Amnayas of Tantras and which are the sources for various SampradAyas.

In short, the purpose of sect is to classify and organize the huge amount of knowledge that exists into small groups so that it can be assimilated by us.

But, that purpose is not to promote hatred etc.

The Nityotsava (one of the manuals for the Sri VidyA sect), for example, clearly states (in the first Chapter) that one should not censure other's doctrines. That is never a part of a spiritual aspirant's discipline.


DarshanAntarAnAmanindanam --- Do not censure the Darshanas that others follow.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – The Destroyer
    Apr 12, 2019 at 12:34
  • "Because it is the essence of life in the world (SamsAra), because it yields light, joy, prakAsha-Ananda-dAnatah, because it brings fame (Yasas) and good fortune, it is called SampradAya." why is it that the samsara of tantra is essence of life in the world but compared to a slushy mire outside it, particularly in Vedanta? Then are they both different? Samsara of tantra & the samsara of vedanta ?
    – TheLittleNaruto
    Apr 12, 2019 at 18:41
  • Also Rickross check my edited part of the question.
    – TheLittleNaruto
    Apr 12, 2019 at 18:41
  • 1
    @TheLittleNaruto , there is a difference between offense and defense even in debates. if someone goes around to pick fights, that is offense. Vedantins don't go around doing that. But if someone else starts to propagate an idea opposite to theirs, then to defend your belief from their attack, defense is needed. Otherwise people will get mislead. Tantra/Yoga practioners need not care about that because self-realization is their main goal. But Vedantins have the additional responsibility of leading others to realization also. That's why the acharyas did dig-vijayam (world tour of debates)
    – ram
    Sep 15, 2020 at 17:50
  • 1
    @Rickross, so if anybody does any debate, that is bad according to you ? vedantin is not 1 single group that it will be debate-less. by your logic, hindus (vedantins and tantriks and sankhyas) debate among themselves, so hinduism itself is bad
    – ram
    Sep 16, 2020 at 7:58

The sanskrit word for sect is 'sampradAya'.

According to sanskritdictionary.com, 'sampradaya' means

bestower (Monier-Williams, Sir M. (1988)) any peculiar or sectarian system of religious teaching (Monier-Williams, Sir M. (1988)) established doctrine transmitted from one teacher to another (Monier-Williams, Sir M. (1988)) presenter (Monier-Williams, Sir M. (1988) So 'sampradAya' is a concept as old as that of 'Guru'.

The 'ParasurAma-kalpasutra' (https://www.scribd.com/doc/130237345/Parasurama-Kalpa-Sutra-in-English-First-30-Verses) (1/2) writes

sampradAyah guruparamparA-achara-anusaranam, meaning: SampradAya means the following of the religious rituals in accordance with the lineage of the gurus.

sampradAya-vishvAshAvyam sarva-siddhih (Ibid, 1/9) meaning that following the sampradaya and having faith is the root of success.

There are some branches of the Vedas, like the 'KAnva' branch which could be seen as the origin of the lineage system or sampradAya.

Another source is the Mantra-yoga-Samhita, which states

AkAshasya-adhipo vishnur agnes cha api maheshvari/vayor agnir kshiter isho jivanasya ganAdhipah.Meaning : The Lord of the Akasha-Tattva is Vishnu [and so the individuals in whom AkAsha-tattva is dominant would worship Vishnu ie be 'Vaishnava' etc], of Agni-tattva is Mahesvari, of Vayu-tattva is Agni or Surya, of kshiti-tattva is Shiva and of jala-tattva is Ganesha.

An able Guru gives mantra judging the dominance of the tattvas in the spiritual body of the disciple and according one can be Vaishnava or Shakta or Saura or Shaiva or Ganapatya.

So 'Sampradaya' can be named after the Gurus, like Sankara sampradaya, Ramanuja sampradaya (or the Vedic KAnva branch) or can be named after the chosen deity, like Vaishnava sampradaya or Shaiva sampradaya. Both are accepted in the Sanatana Tradition.

Here, the concept :'ekam sad viprA vahudha vadanti' of the Vedas is very clear.The same God is named differently according to the inclinations of the devotees and there is NO scope of degrading any form of God, as you mentioned in your comment. To make the devotees mind one-pointed, different scriptures have sung glories of the different forms and the 'Supremacy' is actually dependent on THE DEVOTEE'S SANSKARA and NOT ON THE REAL SUPREMACY OF ANY FORM. This is known as 'na hi nindA-nyAya'. This is the real source of 'Sect'.

Swami Vivekananda says regarding the origin of sect and secterianism :

There have been sects enough in this country . .and there will be enough in the future, because this has been the peculiarity of our religion that in abstract principles so much latitude has been given that, although afterwards so much detail has been worked out, all these details are the working out of principles, broad as the skies above our heads, eternal as nature herself. Sects, therefore, as a matter of course, must exist here, but what need not exist is sectarian quarrel. Sects must be but sectarianism need not. The world would not be the better for sectarianism, but the world cannot move on without having sects. One set of men cannot do everything. The almost infinite mass of energy in the world cannot tie managed by a small number of people.

Here, at once we see the necessity that forced this division of labour upon us — the division into sects. For the use of spiritual forces let there be sects; but is there any need that we should quarrel when our most ancient books declare that this differentiation is only apparent, that in spite of all these differences there is a thread of harmony, that beautified unity, running through them all? Our most ancient books have declared:  — "That which exists is One; sages call Him by various names." Therefore, if there are these sectarian struggles, if there are these fights among the different sects, if there is jealousy and hatred between the different sects in India, the land where all sects have always been honoured, it is a shame on us who dare to call ourselves the descendants of those fathers.

Lack of understanding of this truth leads to another starting of 'sect' that leads immediately to 'secterianism'. Sri Krishna Prem,(https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krishna_Prem), the famous siddha Gaudiya-Vaishnava writes in this context in His 'The Search for Truth'(1938):

Every belief has the its corresponding doubt lurking somewhere in the shadow.It is for this reason that men of strong religious beliefs become so fanatical. Silently gnawing at their hearts, insidiously whispering in their ears, is an army of doubts..that whispers to lay those ghosts (of doubts) in the basement, that the believer strives with all his might to convert others into his creed...filled with an inner hatred of himself, he vents his explosive anger on others.Thus from a mere fanatic he becomes a persecutor (pages 3-4).

In the above lines, Sri Krishna Prem has explained the meaning of 'sect' which leads to secterianism and hatred and demeaning of Forms worshipped by others. So, while writing on the 'Worship of God', is writes in the same book (page 20)

In the first place, we may set aside the disputes as to whether to worship God as Shiva or as Vishnu, as Rama or as Krishna, because the Shruti has declared and the Mahapurushas have confirmed that all these Forms are forms of the one Supreme 'ekam eva advitiyam'.The choice for any one of them as one's Ishta is one that depends on 'samskaara'. All worship should be directed towards the one Supreme Reality, and ,whichever Form be selected, it should be conceived as an embodiment of the Supreme and Changeless One.

Forgetting the above gives rise to 'sect(arianism) and so ignorance is one origin of 'sect'. Swami Vivekananda therefore warned us :

Sectarianism, bigotry, and its horrible descendant, fanaticism, have long possessed this beautiful earth. They have filled the earth with violence, drenched it often and often with human blood, destroyed civilisation and sent whole nations to despair. Had it not been for these horrible demons, human society would be far more advanced than it is now.

He repeatedly reminds us about the dangers of 'Secterianism' and provides a beautiful solution to smash it also :

There is no salvation for man until he sees God, realises his own soul. Therefore, above all, let us understand this, and the more we understand it the less we shall have of sectarianism in India, for it is only that man who has realised God and seen Him, who is religious. In him the knots have been cut asunder, in him alone the doubts have subsided; he alone has become free from the fruits of action who has seen Him who is nearest of the near and farthest of the far. Ay, we often mistake mere prattle for religious truth, mere intellectual perorations for great spiritual realisation, and then comes sectarianism, then comes fight. If we once understand that this realisation is the only religion, we shall look into our own hearts and find how far we are towards realising the truths of religion. Then we shall understand that we ourselves are groping in darkness, and are leading others to grope in the same darkness, then we shall cease from sectarianism, quarrel, arid fight. Ask a man who wants to start a sectarian fight, "Have you seen God? Have you seen the Atman? If you have not, what right have you to preach His name — you walking in darkness trying to lead me into the same darkness — the blind leading the blind, and both falling into the ditch?"

Reference : Satramulak Bharatiya Shaktisadhana,Upendrakumar Das, RMIC, vol. 1.


In the Brahma-Sutras, we find mention of the Pasupata and Pancharatra sects and both have been called Non-Vedic.Thefore in real sense, the sect in the Vedic Culture seem to have started with Gaudapada of the Advaita School.He was the first human Acharya of the Advaita sect.

The division of the Vedas among various sages for the proper preservation of the Veda-mantras and as a result the emergence of the various sakhas (like the Kanva Sakha I mentioned) can be theoretically taken as the origin of the concept of Sect, because that is also starting of some lineage.

Except these two, I think we have no evidence in the Vedic or Vaidantic literature about the origin of the sects.

  • "SampradAya means the following of the religious rituals in accordance with the lineage of the gurus." Can you add a real example ?
    – TheLittleNaruto
    Apr 12, 2019 at 11:47
  • But that Ramanuja or Sankara Sampradaya, but were is Shaiva or Vaishnava or Shakta etc ?
    – TheLittleNaruto
    Apr 12, 2019 at 11:57
  • @TheLittleNaruto Reply to both added in answer
    – user17294
    Apr 12, 2019 at 12:20
  • who is that siddha ? Apr 12, 2019 at 16:42

Sectarianism exists because not all think dispassionately and without prejudice.

The cause of dispute is not about worshipping gods in yajnas, it is about who is Supreme or what the conclusion of the Vedas is. Even Vaishnava groups in Vedic yajnas invoke other gods as well. But, they are seen as acting under the will of Vishnu, not independent.

This dispute has always existed and will continue to exist. You can see many instances in puranas as well.

The fact that truth is sectarian can be seen in below Gita verses:

7.3 manuṣyāṇāṁ sahasreṣu kaścid yatati siddhaye yatatām api siddhānāṁ kaścin māṁ vetti tattvataḥ

Out of many thousands among men, one may endeavor for perfection, and of those who have achieved perfection, hardly one knows Me in truth.

7.19: bahūnāṁ janmanām ante jñānavān māṁ prapadyate vāsudevaḥ sarvam iti sa mahātmā su-durlabhaḥ

After many births and deaths, he who is actually in knowledge surrenders unto Me, knowing 'Vasudeva is all that is'. Such a great soul is very rare.

Shri Madhvacharya gives the reason why different faiths continue to exist in all ages. Screen Shot from “Acharya Madhva – Life works” by Banneje Govindacharya translated in English by Dr. U.P Upadhyaya.

To a possible question why, in spite of such a spirited defence of the well-established ancient truth, so many different faiths have survived in the world, Acarya has given a very satisfactory answer:

daurlabhyad-Buddha-buddhlnarn bahulyad-alpavediniim duragraha-grhitatvat vartante samayab, sada.

"People who are capable of thinking clearly, dispassionately and without prejudice are always rare in any age. It is those who know only unbaked ideas and who flaunt their half-baked knowledge that form the majority in this world. Besides this everybody tends to believe that the religion into which he has been born is the best of all religions of the world. Thus however much you might proclaim the superiority of truth there will always he some untruth that cannot be wholly erased. So, all religions exist in all ages"

enter image description here

Also, it exists because people don’t get the import of these below verses.

As Ballaveya Sruti says:

Namani visvani na santi loke yadavirasit purusasya sarvam Namani sarvani yamavishanti, tam vai visnum paramamdaharanti

“All names that exists among mankind have come out from Him, the Purusa(and so primarily apply to Him). Him denote all the names, they all declare the Supreme Brahman the Lord Vishnu”

  • 1
    Part of the answer sounds supporting particular samprayada has been removed. Use chat-room for further discussions.
    – Pandya
    Apr 23, 2019 at 4:06
  • @Pandya seems like many have looked at the answer with sectarian lens.. Anyways, thanks for the edit. Apr 24, 2019 at 8:54

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .