Vaishnavism vs Shaivism
Vaishnavism and Shaivism are two types of religious sects that prevail in India. These two sects show some differences between them. The followers of Vaishnavism are called by the name Vaishnavaites. On the other hand, the followers of Shaivism are called by the name Shaivaites.
Vaisshnavism believes in the supremacy of Lord Vishnu over all the other Gods. On the other hand, Shaivism believes in the supreme power of Lord Shiva. This is one of the main differences between the two religious sects.
Vaishnavism was jointly founded by many great religious leaders, but the credit goes to Ramanujacharya who lived in the southern part of India. He is said to have lived in the 12th century AD. He is said to be the founder of the Visishtadvaita philosophy that explains the principles of Vaishnavism. In addition to him, there were several other leaders and philosophers who propounded the religion of Vaishnavism. These leaders included Yamunacharya and Vedanta Desika.
Shaivism on the other hand, was extolled in the philosophy of Advaita founded by Adi Sankara of the 8th century AD. He gathered a few disciples and disproved some of the principles of Mimamsa to establish the Advaita philosophy. Shaivism believed in the one-ness of living beings and it believed in the fact that the oneness was brought about by the innate power of the supreme soul called the Brahma.
On the other hand, Vaishnavism believed in the principles of qualified monism. Sankara says that everything in the universe is the element of the Supreme Brahma. He says that the human being is Brahman too. The body alone perishes but the soul within the body has no death. It cannot be burnt, made wet or cut into pieces. He describes the theory of Karma and Maya as well. He says that the dual appearance of nature is due to Maya or illusion. Man fails to see the real nature of the Brahman due to the illusory aspect that prevails in his perception.
Just as a person sees a serpent in a rope, and later realizes the true nature of the rope, in the same way a man fails to see the real nature of the Brahma in the beginning and sees the illusory aspect of nature and thinks that it is the truth. This is the underlying principle of the religious sect of Shaivism. Hence, Shaivism is based on the philosophy of Advaita. Lord Shiva is spoken of as the Supreme Brahman or the Supreme Self that gives birth to many individual selves.
In the Vaishnavism sect of religion, Lord Vishnu is considered as the Supreme Brahman who gives birth to several individual selves. Lord Vishnu is the supreme God according to the Vaishnavaites. He is the protector of the universe. He sustains the universe. He sustains all the living beings in the universe. Lakshmi is his consort. She lives in his heart. He stays in the Vaikuntha. He reclines on the serpent bed of Adi Sesha and is accompanied by his consort. This is how Lord Vishnu is portrayed in the Vaishnavaite texts.