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Religious titles in Hinduism: swami, mahamandaleshwar, paramahamsa

Discussion in 'Hinduism DIR' started by Sirona, Oct 9, 2019.

  1. Sirona

    Sirona Hindu Wannabe

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    Dear forum,

    is there a consensus in Hinduism about which conditions (such as religious studies, membership in a religious organization or initiations) one has to fulfil in order to be awarded one of the following titles:

    1. swami
    2. mahamandaleshwar (I hope I spelled this correctly)
    3. paramahamsa

    and 4., for the sake of completeness: acharya

    Looking forward to your replies! :)
     
  2. Vinayaka

    Vinayaka devotee
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    There is a list of Hindu honorifics on wiki: List of religious titles and styles - Wikipedia I feel it needs work though. It's missing a few.

    For the 3 you listed, I can tell you what I know, from my very limited experience.

    For me, swami, is synonymous with sannyasin, someone initiated by another swami into sannyas, and they can be in many orders. Orders are usually set buy their founders, like the Ramakrishna Order, Shankara order, ot Swaminarayan order. Generally celibate monks, although a few others now call themselves swami.

    One of the challenges is that anyone can call themselves anything. There is no overriding system.

    I've rarely heard of mahamandaleshwar, if ever, so have no idea.

    The only time I've heard of paramahamsa is with Yogananda, perhaps with Ramana Maharshi.

    So yes it's complicated.
     
  3. Aupmanyav

    Aupmanyav Be your own guru

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    Acharya is used in two senses. Anyone who teaches another person will be an acharya for that person. The master's degree in Sanskrit is known as the 'Acharya' examination (my grandpa was one). However, Acharya is also used to honorify the greatest philosophers (or great scientists and astronomers) in Hinduism - Sankaracharya, Ramanujacharya, Nimbarkacharya, Vallabhacharya, Madhvacharya, and Chaitanya, who are Acharya even for people who may not follow their philosophy.

    The first Sankaracharya established four seminaries in four corners of India (Dwarika, Jagannatha Puri, Jyotirmatha and Shringeri). In time, a fifth was established in Kanchipuram. The heads of these seminaries are now known as Sankaracharyas.

    Mahamandaleshwar is the chief head of a religious order, accepted in time of Sankaracharya (he established ten) or later (now there are thirteen, three belonging to Sikhs). If the order has branches in other places, their Chiefs would be known as Mahant. There are fake seminaries and fake Mahamandaleshwaras.

    The Sankaracharyas and Mahamandaleshwaras may also be termed as Jagadgurus (Jagat+guru = Teacher for the whole world).

    Maharshi (Maha+rishi = Great Sage) and Paramahansa are not official titles. These are accepted by public opinion, like Gandhi being called Mahatma. One who is a Maharshi or Paramahansa for one, may not be for another. There are fake Maharshis and Paramahansas. I do not accept Yogananda though he was popular in West.

    "Of those who do belong to a group, the thirteen active akharas have been,
    • 7 Shaiva akharas: Mahanirvani, Atal, Niranjani, Anand, Juna, Avahan, and Agni
    • 3 Vaishnava akharas: Nirvani, Digambar, and Nirmohi
    • 3 Sikh akharas: Bara Panchayati Udasins, Chota Panchayati Udasins, and Nirmal
    The ten Shaiva and Vaishnava akharas are also known as the Dasanamis, and they believe that Adi Shankara founded them and one of their traditional duties is dharma-raksha (protection of faith)."
    Kumbh Mela - Wikipedia
     
    #3 Aupmanyav, Oct 9, 2019
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2019 at 12:04 AM
  4. Jainarayan

    Jainarayan ॐ नमो भगवते वासुदेवाय
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    Any particular reason? He had a very universalist approach and appeal. I have a few of his books, and while they're great guides for mental, emotional and spiritual peace, he very rarely addresses anything as specifically Hindu, or Hindu deities.
     
  5. shivsomashekhar

    shivsomashekhar Active Member

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    The short answer is, there is no consensus.

    Titles are created out of devotee sentiment and take hold if the Guru achieves a certain level of popularity. That is all there is to it.
     
  6. Vinayaka

    Vinayaka devotee
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    I've always pondered whether he Christianized it just for his audience, or if he actually thought that way. At that time, the swamis who came to the west were largely speaking to Christians, and 'Hindu' had even more negative connotations that it does today. Regardless the SRF of today avoids the term like the plague.
     
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  7. atanu

    atanu Member
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    Swami is an ascetic or a spiritual/religious teacher. A swami may be initiated or non initiated. Acharya is more a teacher. Paramhamsa is rarely used. Hamsa is Swan that does not get wet while in water. Param means supreme. Paramhamsa indicates no attachment to samsara while being in samsara. Shri Ramakrishna, teacher of Swami Vivekananda, is/was called a Paramhamsa.

    There are overlaps and there are more titles. For example Shri Chandrasekhara Saraswati of Kanchi used to be called Param Acharya.
    ...
     
    #7 atanu, Oct 10, 2019 at 11:45 AM
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2019 at 11:59 AM
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  8. Jainarayan

    Jainarayan ॐ नमो भगवते वासुदेवाय
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    I'm thinking it was to address the western Christian audience. I'm on the fence also wondering if it was his true beliefs. He and Swami Vivekananda, and others must have walked a fine line between introducing Hinduism to the west, bringing people to God, and not "scaring" them off with "exotic eastern mysticism".
     
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  9. Vinayaka

    Vinayaka devotee
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    Vivekananda was different though, as he stuck to his Hindu roots. Far less controversy as well. Things have changed now. Back then North America was very Christian, by percentage. The rise of agnosticism, atheism, and nothingism has changed all that. My own Guru watered it down back in the 50s and 60s. But then in the early 70s that all changed, and His teachings became unabashedly Hindu. (Thank goodness!, for people like me.)

    Still, there is a place for the 'mix'.
     
  10. Aupmanyav

    Aupmanyav Be your own guru

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    (Underline mine) That is the problem. What he wrote or said was for Western audience. As for mental, emotional and spiritual peace, you can find advice in all religions. I have no problem with a universalist approach - I am an advaitist. But when he and his guru say that 'we are ascending towards Dwapara Yuga', then I have problems. That is turning Hindu belief upside down. That is blasphemy. I am an orthodox Hindu and I do not like it. Another thing that I do not like is a cocktail of Hinduism and Christianity. Either be one or the other.
    That is true about Maharshi and Paramahansa or Mahatma. But the other titles are not like that.
    The not initiated should not be addressed as a Swami. Many fakes call themselves as Swami. Then they end up in jail for con jobs or sex crimes.
    Who asked them to make philosophies and Gods exotic? Why should there be mysticism. Hindu belief is quite simple. There are Gods and Goddesses, choose one or many and worship. No nonsence.
     
    #10 Aupmanyav, Oct 10, 2019 at 12:01 PM
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2019 at 9:09 PM
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  11. Jainarayan

    Jainarayan ॐ नमो भगवते वासुदेवाय
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    Thanks... yeah, I pretty much thought so, since I've had my own misgivings. I am Hindu, I am happy to be Hindu, I love my Hinduism, and while I don't preach, I don't hide it. I think there are ways to expose people to it without denying it or melding and blending.
     
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  12. Jainarayan

    Jainarayan ॐ नमो भगवते वासुदेवाय
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    I see that as well. From his writings I discerned his family were devotees of Shiva. In one story he says he was such a naughty (actually, rambunctious) child, driving his mother to distraction, that she said "I prayed to Lord Shiva for a son, and instead he sent me one of his demons". :D

    I don't get the funny looks from people in casual conversation because a white guy is Hindu. Example, I buy a couple of bunches of flowers every week at the supermarket for my puja all week. Someone will invariably remark how beautiful they are . I say something like "I try to give Him the best I can find". "Oh, your partner?" "No, Vishnu... I'm Hindu". "Ohhh, really!?". And the occasional "what made you... ?" People seem to take it in stride nowadays.
     
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  13. Jainarayan

    Jainarayan ॐ नमो भगवते वासुदेवाय
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    That's the ignorance, misconceptions and misunderstandings of the west [edit to add: "and my disdain for the way westerners view anything not western]. If I hear "God of Destruction" or "Goddess of Death" one more time I think I'll commit a random act of violence.
     
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  14. Vinayaka

    Vinayaka devotee
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    We both live in very multi-ethnic places though. They're used to it. In this area of this city, the regular supermarket chains like Safeway, and the other big Canadian ones stock at least an aisle of Indian spices and foods. In Toronto Scarborough the entire fist section of the produce sections were Indian ethnic.
     
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  15. Jainarayan

    Jainarayan ॐ नमो भगवते वासुदेवाय
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    Very true. It would be very different even in southern and northwestern New Jersey. Very redneck area. The supermarket I go to has very basic Indian ingredients... enough for someone to dabble in and become familiar with Indian cooking. Just don't use the jarred biryani curry! :eek:
     
  16. Vinayaka

    Vinayaka devotee
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    When we travel, I'll often google for Indian restaurants along the route. Not good, outside of metropolitan areas, except for the ones at the truck stops (I forgot the chain name right now, but the Sikhs did that.)
     
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  17. Aupmanyav

    Aupmanyav Be your own guru

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    In India, it would be 'Sher-e-Punjab' or 'Kake-da-dhaba' (Lion of Punjab, Uncle's Joint). :)
     
  18. ajay0

    ajay0 Well-Known Member

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    I would like to add here that such titles are necessary as they denote a critically valid degree of scholarship in religious philosophy and methodology.

    In these times of pseudo-scholars and fraudsters out to dupe the gullible with antics, it is important that such religious leaders are there to ensure proper guidance to earnest seekers.

    I had elaborated on this theme in this thread of mine...

    Kabir on the need for critical examination to weed out the false and fraudulent...
     
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