Few guidelines for answering questions about Hinduism:
An answer is most acceptable and authentic when it is based upon Vedic scriptures
and gives proper reference to the source. Some of the credible
scriptures are as below:
- Vedas and the primary Upanishads
- Smrutis (Bhagavd Gita, Manu Smurti, etc.)
- Puranas (18 puranas by Veda Vyasa)
- Itihasa (Mahabharat, Ramayan, Harivamsa, etc.)
- Sastras and Sutras (Dharma Sastra, Artha Sastra, Brahma Sutra, Nyaya Sutra, etc.)
In the absence of any scriptural reference, written works of scholars, researchers and popular personalities can be used which must be providing a relevant answer.
If no such text references are present, then users can provide answers which they have learned or heard about the culture from parents and others. (If their answers are authentic then other users might be able to provide references to their source scripture.)
Due to the nature of the subject every one can have an opinion about certain subjective questions. But users should be discouraged to provide answers only depending upon what they feel and think without having any genuine experience or valid source of knowledge to back it up. For example, let’s consider the question “Why is river Ganga considered holy?” Users may answer it like below:
Someone may say, “It is considered holy because it washes away every one’s sin”
The follower of Vishnu may say “I think it is considered holy because it has originated from the lotus like feet of Lord Vishnu”
The follower of Shiva may say, “I think it is considered holy because it has been touched by the head of Shiva during its descendence on Earth”
All these answers can be correct, but it will be considered credible when it cites some verse or text from a scripture which explicitly mentions that point. However, because not all of us might have read the vast number of scriptures that we have in our religion, it can be difficult to provide such reference. In that case, users should only provide answers that they are completely sure about. Mere opinions and personal thoughts should be discouraged to maintain the quality and correctness of the information being made available. Information about a religion or culture is a serious thing and can affect people’s thinking, life and outlook. So users should take care to provide only correct information as much as possible instead of posting personal opinions. Also, to keep his karmic account clean he should cite the original author or scripture instead of plagiarizing.
Since it is not about programming where an answer can be checked for its correctness simply by executing it in a computer, reference to scriptures, sources, examples, etc. should be given to make a point for certain philosophical questions. Generally the prasthanatryai (Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, and Brahma Sutra / Bhagavatam) are used to draw conclusions for questions related soul, life, God, etc.
It is possible that users of other communities will also take interest in this site. So we will try to provide the English meaning of any Hindi or Sanskrit sentence we will use. It would be better if we can format words properly by italicizing the non-english words. It would be even better if we use IAST for sanksrit words.
DIFFERENT AND CONTRADICTING ANSWERS
There can be multiple definitions and answers for certain questions as different scriptures define them differently. In that case all answers are valid, only their contexts are different. For example, one may ask, “What is Yoga?” Users can answer it differently like below:
Yoga is derived from the Sanskrit root yuj which means to join or to unite.Hence, yoga means union of two things.
Yoga is equanimity. (samatvam yoga ucyate – Gita 2.48)
Yoga is cessation of the mental tendencies (yoga citta vriti nirodha – Yoga Sutra 1.2)
Yoga is skillfulness in action (yogah karmasu kausalam – Gita 2.50)
Like these there can be many different and contradicting answers from various texts. But even though contradicting, all statements of the scriptures are valid and correct (manu – 2.14). So users should be encouraged to provide many such different answers from different scriptures and the questioner should accept the one that fits to his context.
Like for a program there can be many different logic but only one can be the most efficient, for certain questions there can be many different answers but only one will fit the given context. For example, the first definition of yoga suits for grammarians and scholars. The second definition suits for a jnani. The third definition is suitable for a dhyana yogi and the fourth one for a karma yogi.
THOU SHALL PROMOTE NO GOD
Many of us might have some god, goddess or guru whom we like and admire. But it would be better if we keep our love affair only to our about me section of the profile pages. What I mean is, we shouldn’t be expressing our love and respect for our personal gods or gurus on the bottom of our answers. Many times out of respect and love we like to leave a generic message like Jai Shri Krishna, Om Sai Ram, Guru Guranga Jayate, Jai Hanuman, Jai Shri Radhey, Om namah Shivaya, Om Shanti, Jai Jagannath, Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinha (May all be happy), and so on. But I believe all SE users wish welfare of others and don’t need to mention it explicitly. Secondly, this is a platform for authentic information, not for any cult or god’s promotion. If however anyone wants to do so and show off how much he is a fan of some god, then he can do so in his profile page. This way we can keep the site clean and concise unlike any other cluttered forums found on the Internet.
Similarly, while asking a question you should not give priority to answers that are from your own sect or belief system. If you want answers from your own sect or belief system only, then explicitly mention it rather than undermining answers from the users other sects. It's because other users might also be right from their point of view.
LET THERE BE
Fortunately or unfortunately, Hinduism is a very open system like an open source software. There is no single authority who rules the system. Anyone can check in and checkout thoughts, practices and philosophies. That’s why it grew so rich and prosperous as various sages enriched it with their own ideas, knowledge and findings. But at the same time it gave rise to many disputes also. Our acharyas in the past argued and engaged in verbal fights with other acharayas and established their own school of thought by defeating others in debates and arguments. That’s how Advaita Vada, Dvaita Vada, etc. came into existence. So as per Hinduism, everyone is free to provide their own opinion and personal thought on certain argumentative questions as long as it is in accordance with the scriptures. But Stack Exchange is not a place for such arguments and discussions. So users should keep such fights (arguments, disagreements, etc.) out of here and only shed light on the question by providing proper answers.
FOR THE LOVE OF
MONEY REPUTATION IS THE ROOT OF ALL EVIL
Reputation is the natural outcome of asking good questions and providing good answers. So the focus should not be on reputation, but on the content and quality of the post. If you make reputation your objective, then for earning it you'll tend to ask or provide any question and answer possible, even by copy pasting it from somewhere else and even when it's not necessary. While high reputation is a good thing, it doesn't necessarily mean the user is an expert in Hinduism. Real experts are probably busy enough to use the Internet (perhaps some even don't know how to use a computer). So let us be honest with ourselves and instead of trying to pretend something that we are not, let's adopt the attitude of learning. So while using the site we should focus on content and community rather than reputation and ego. Unless there is a valid reason, don't do something (upvote, downvote, re-edit, etc.) only because you don't like it or it hurts your ego. Let us focus on the big picture and be honest and open. That way we can build a nice community of awesome users around here. At the end of the day, everyone is special and everyone has something to share.
These are some guidelines that can be followed while answering the questions. If we do these then we will certainly get a very good site about Hinduism with correct and valid information. Please feel free to suggest and add other useful points. Thanks.