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I am a new user and I have been reading through many questions and answers and observing the moderation process.

It appears to me that this site encourages or enforces a reductionist approach to answering questions. What I mean is basically a cut-and-dry approach of rigid scripture-quoting, without any wiggle room for some meta-analysis and bringing out deeper insights. The feeling that comes to mind is that of dissecting a dead body rather than interacting with a living person (lol).

Hinduism is a living, breathing tradition of spiritual seeking, and it cannot be reduced to some purely academic and pedantic book-based study. In this respect it is diametrically opposite of Abrahamic religions for whom their Bible or Quran is the one and only authority, and if the book doesn't say anything, then that thought is itself forbidden. Hinduism is an open-architecture system. Although scripture provides a fundamental basis, Hinduism is greater than the sum of its parts. There are many different sources of information. A vast portion of knowledge is also gained from listening to lectures of scholars, who quote only contextually from various scriptures, and for me, as someone who gathers a lot of diverse information from various sources, it may not always be possible to find a single line in a single book to reference in my answers.

As Adi Shankara himself says in his poem Bhaja Govindam, "na hi na hi rakṣati ḍukṛñkaraṇe" :-)

What is the general opinion of others in this respect?

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  • Reductionist ? I would say far from it. What has happened over the years is that we have been looking to reinvent Hinduism to fit with what is flavor of the day/week/month/year/decade/century. This is the only site that has several learned users providing facts - whether we like it or not. If a religion has to be revisited in order to fit with modern times, then might as well discard it and start something new. Also just because Hinduism has more than one book does not mean that books are contradicting each other. Neither does it mean that Hinduism is less dogmatic than Abrahamic faiths. – Carmen sandiego Jun 28 at 8:33
  • As far as I understood, the rigid rules were designed by people, in the earlier stages of this site, belonging to one particular sect. Majority of the members also belong to that particular Sect. And, they don't want new ideas to be projected here in this site other than what they believe in. That is the crux of the many problems being faced by other members in this site. – Srimannarayana K V Jul 3 at 5:31
  • Shastras are the defining code for how to live life happily. So, without a commonly accepted rule book, it'll degenerate to just people's self-thought opinions (Both conservatives and liberals are guilty of this). On the other hand, none knows all shastras, nor do all shastras have an online "link" to refer/cite. So, what's the middle ground ? If you can quote online-available Shastras, write an answer. If you can't, write a comment. Maybe one day those word-of-mouth shastras will find an online presence too. – ram Jul 3 at 6:47
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    @srimannarayanakv, that is just mud-slinging. Exactly what part of "backup your answer with references" is sectarian ? – ram Jul 3 at 6:51
  • Quoting scholars is already allowed on this site. – user17987 Sep 19 at 3:33
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What is the general opinion of others in this respect?

I was not around when this site was formed but after reading the following meta posts, it became evident that people who are not happy with Yahoo Answers, Quora, Wikipedia articles and blog posts on Hinduism where "my grandma told me so" is considered a valid answer could come here and get a clear answer from Hindu scriptures. Since not all topics related to Hinduism, especially questions with tags , , etc., are covered in scriptures, various kinds of references are allowed.

Hinduism is greater than the sum of its parts. There are many different sources of information. A vast portion of knowledge is also gained from listening to lectures of scholars, who quote only contextually from various scriptures

Which is why the site allows quoting from works of scholars, gurus, acharyas, etc. E.g., one could quote from The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda.

it may not always be possible to find a single line in a single book to reference in my answers

If you don't recollect where you read or heard a certain line you want to cite, you could leave a comment under the question saying so. There is no urgency to write an answer. Also, not everything stated in an answer needs to be backed up; it's usually the part that addresses the central question that needs references.

Hinduism is a living, breathing tradition of spiritual seeking, and it cannot be reduced to some purely academic and pedantic book-based study.

Please keep in mind that this Stack Exchange site is about Hinduism. It's a knowledge base. It doesn't need to imitate Hinduism in how it functions. While it's true that current site rules are different from how the majority of Hindus perceive or practice Hinduism, the rules are in place for a good reason: to deter low-quality answers. Imagine a scholar writing a paper on a certain aspect of Hinduism but with no citations or bibliography of sources consulted. Will you take the paper seriously?

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    Although I agree for the most part about quoting references from scriptures, the point that I have to keep coming back to is that Hinduism is a dynamic, living tradition. If, as you say, this site is "about" Hinduism, it is meaningless to say "doesn't need to imitate Hinduism in how it functions". It's like saying, I'm going to write an article about a tree, but I'm not going to write how the tree functions. It's an artificial argument. – RamAbloh Jul 3 at 3:46
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    The impossibility of writing down everything in a book has been accepted by even the great Manu in his Smriti. In 12.108, he says that in situations which are not described in a text, the advice or knowledge of learned people should be used. He even includes "village grandmas" as sources for knowledge of topics that cannot all be covered in books. So "my grandma told me so" is a very acceptable source of information.This is my main point, that by insisting on references even when there is consensus about the answer, and marking down the answer, we are losing out on valuable insights. – RamAbloh Jul 3 at 3:49
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    My personal opinion is that an internet forum cannot be presumptuous to claim to call itself "Hinduism" when it does not reflect complete picture of Hinduism. – RamAbloh Jul 3 at 3:54
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    The problem with just comments is that first of all it is character-limited without all the features that the answer field provides. And second, visibility of comments is much lower, and valuable insights into the topic would be as good as lost in the comments section, from what I have seen. – RamAbloh Jul 3 at 3:56
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    Also I think the analogy of a scholar citing sources is a bit naive, without defining the objective of the scholar and their peer group. There is an entire area of Indo-European origin studies where scholars reference and quote from their own circle of mutual back-scratchers. Citing each other's sources and approving and supporting their vested-interest-theory does not do anything for building new knowledge. I have learned a lot from some lectures that bring out original insights into old areas without resorting to quoting every word uttered. – RamAbloh Jul 3 at 4:16
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    And there are such vast areas of knowledge in Hinduism that it is nearly impossible to gather a reference for each statement. As I have said above, hundreds of little tidbits are gathered from lectures, articles, and other sources. For example, the area of yajnas and karma kanda is extremely vast, and even scholars would quote only bits and pieces, and a tertiary speaker or writer would assimilate all those bits and pieces into an answer. – RamAbloh Jul 3 at 4:20
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    To conclude, my perception is that this site is taking the "Q&A" format quite seriously and literally. In other words, people reading material here would be able to win a trivia quiz on Hinduism, as a subject, without necessarily embodying the philosophy of Hinduism. – RamAbloh Jul 3 at 4:27
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    'The impossibility of writing down everything in a book has been accepted by even the great Manu in his Smriti. In 12.108, he says' - again, this is a Stack Exchange about Hinduism, so better not compare functioning of the site with Hinduism. You can read this Meta SE post to know which sites currently have a 'back it up' rule of some kind. If you spend enough time on the site and see a lot of low quality answers on a regular basis, you'll realize why this site needs this rule. @RamAbloh – sv. Jul 3 at 17:59
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    :) You're just repeating the same "about Hinduism" argument. Sure, I read the Meta SE and I see Hinduism in the list, so what? I am questioning the status quo. It's like you apply for a job, and the hiring manager sees your resume, and only accepts your degree because it has a certificate, but rejects all your real-world work experience. – RamAbloh Jul 7 at 20:56
  • 'the hiring manager sees your resume, and only accepts your degree because it has a certificate' - well, don't most companies also conduct an interview to test your real-world experience? This SE is not so rigorous, resume (citation) is good enough. If we don't insist on any kind of references, tomorrow, some user claiming themselves to be an avatar of some god starts writing answers citing their personal experiences. And before you know the site will turn into a blog. @RamAbloh – sv. Jul 7 at 22:17
  • There's nothing wrong in changing status quo, but you have to offer something which is better for the site in the long run. This search query currently returns 747 answers with a citation notice. E.g., take a look at the two answers under this question from the early days of the site when there was no such rule. @RamAbloh – sv. Jul 7 at 22:45
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    Like I said in my first comment, I'm not against references. But I'm just suggesting a more enlightened, informed and wise approach to marking down answers which show an obvious derivation from sources but just don't have the exact quote. – RamAbloh Jul 8 at 18:41
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    The question you linked above may not have an answer based on scriptures, because the vast majority of Hindu scriptures were written in times when there were no proselytizing religions like Islam and Christianity. New challenges demand new thought and new actions. This is what Hindus did when Buddhism challenged Hinduism. They brought out new logic and new ways of thought to defend the ancient old way seen in scriptures, which did not know about Buddhism. In the process they wrote new scriptures which then became standard. – RamAbloh Jul 9 at 0:08
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    " If we don't insist on any kind of references, tomorrow, some user claiming themselves to be an avatar of some god starts writing answers citing their personal experiences." -- According to this rule, people like Ramana Maharshi and Ramakrishna Paramahamsa are frauds because they didn't quote a single scripture but only expressed their personal experience. – RamAbloh Jul 9 at 0:12
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    Without an informed approach, this site would be like a museum documenting dead relics, not a living home. If this site were about Egyptian religion, I would not have any objection to relying only on inscriptions, written documents, etc because nobody is living and breathing and embodying Egyptian religion. – RamAbloh Jul 9 at 0:17
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I think that there are actually two separate issues here, reductionism referred to in the title, and the requirement to base answers on scriptural reference or other authoritative references from sages, which is forms the core of the body of your question. I shall make an attempt to address both these concerns.


Firstly, regarding the apparent promotion of a reductionist approach on the site. You elaborate upon this aspect here:

What I mean is basically a cut-and-dry approach of rigid scripture-quoting, without any wiggle room for some meta-analysis and bringing out deeper insights. The feeling that comes to mind is that of dissecting a dead body rather than interacting with a living person

I think that you'might be confusing reductionism with excessive reliance on authority. Your actual complaint seems to be with the referencing requirments which you feel are excessive.

Regardless of the validity (or lack thereof) of that complaint, reductionism per se should not be a problem for the site. After all, reductionism is nothing other than the method of trying to explain complicated problems or questions in terms of simpler or more general things. It might seem slightly strange to some to accept it on a site on Hinduism, because reductionism is an integral principle of, and therefore generally associated with science.

However, who is to say that Hindus cannot accept scientific methods of thinking? And even if one rejects science, there is no reason why he or she cannot use a reductionist approach in other areas, independent of its application in science!

My point is that, reductionism is not inherently harmful, and therefore its mere presence on the site is not something bad in and of itself. Therefore, since it doesn't seem to be your actual compliant, you might even consider editing this term out of your post to avoid confusion.


Coming to the main issue highlighted by you, which is that of the requirement of answers being based on scriptural or otherwise authoritative references, there are some good reasons why such a requirement is not necessarily bad, but in fact a good thing for a site like this one:

  • One thing that we can all agree on is that despite the validity of individual opinions and traditions, respected sages/ gurus and holy texts hold much more weight than something only opined by you, me or some random person. There may possibly be some exceptions, but this certainly holds as a general rule in almost all situations. Thus, relying on the authority of say, the Vedas, makes any answer much more reliable and useful.

  • Requiring that answers be based on scriptural sources also helps in reducing spam and other deliberately useless/ incorrect answers. When there is no such requirement people might be tempted to make up answers based on their own imagination, or put up something incorrect based on half-remembered things as if it were the absolute truth. It is easy for even well-meaning people to make serious errors this way. The expectation of backing from respected authority serves as a strong moderating force. As it is said in Bhagvat Gita 6.16, Ati sarvatra varjayet!

  • The fact that there are a wise variety of schools and opinions based on various texts and gurus, all respected on their own and allowed to disagree, makes this an even better solution! Instead of relying on a single book that is be-all, there is scope for presenting varied viewpoints from many wise people. This reduces the problems caused by the citation restriction.

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    As you may have seen my extensive comments on the answer above, I'm not against quoting scriptures, but Hinduism is not just scriptures. The difference is between mere information vs. wisdom. Wisdom takes information and makes it a lived embodiment via experience. Wisdom means not getting stuck in pedantic details which are of no consequence. I have seen many many questions here (even from people who have gathered 1000s of points) that pertain to completely trivial and irrelevant details, and ask for scriptural reference for such ridiculous questions. – RamAbloh Jul 7 at 20:38
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    Your answer talks about things that are tangential to my OP. The question is not about "scientific thinking" etc. It is about representing Hinduism as it is, and not reduced to just the words written in scriptures. Every great guru, acharya and jnani has said that the anubhava of an individual is more important than parroting scriptures. Lived experience and wisdom is gathered from one's own experience, and the integrative way in which wisdom works is often unsystematic but consistent. Unsystematic means they may not be able to always quote a line, because their experience... – RamAbloh Jul 7 at 20:43
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    ... is a sum total of all scriptures. For example people like Ramana and Ramakrishna never read any scriptures and never quoted any scriptures, but their anubhava proved all the Vedas. The Veda itself says that anyone is capable of reaching that highest experience, so Hinduism does not depend only on books. In fact, Upanishad itself says that the highest truth cannot be realized by reading scriptures without internalizing the wisdom. – RamAbloh Jul 7 at 20:48
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    So my point is that always asking for a source with chapter and verse and page number is ridiculous. There are so many wise people who have so many deep brilliant insights that are valuable for understanding the truth, but who wouldn't be able to quote a book. It is the loss of this site if such people are rejected. – RamAbloh Jul 7 at 20:50
  • @RamAbloh Maybe I didn't make myself clear enough. Apologies for that. My thrust is this: It is certainly true that there exist many knowledgeable people who can give us many deep and brilliant insights. However, we have no way of directly distinguishing these people from other people who may either unknowingly or maliciously provide misleading or wrong things. Of course, we can often judge a persons character when we get to know them, and sufficiently wise and enlightened people may immediately tell right from wrong. But the users here are all effectively strangers to each other. (1/4) – Devashsih Kaushik Aug 1 at 16:45
  • @RamAbloh And at least I would not count myself wise enough to tell the truth of unsupported claims by people I do not know. There are two exceptions to this difficulty - the Shastras whose authority is accepted on principle, and reverend gurus, whose authority has been confirmed by people at large. (2/4) – Devashsih Kaushik Aug 1 at 16:46
  • @RamAbloh I agree with you there will be other people whose opinions are very valuable, but without support from one of the above two, and only their guide us, there are few who can judge their validity, and fewer of them will be on this site. I agree that this it is not a perfect situation for us to require these conditions. But this is clearly a trade -off and I've provided reasons in my answer for why requiring sources is a better option. (3/4) – Devashsih Kaushik Aug 1 at 16:47
  • @RamAbloh About your concern of my answer going into issues tangential to the question, I agree completely that your question is not related to science at all. That is exactly why I thought this issue needed to be addressed. Reductionism or the lack of it has no relation with your actual concerns about the requirement for citation. And I feel that the prominent mention of it detracts and distracts from your actual points. I hope these address your concerns. – Devashsih Kaushik Aug 1 at 16:47
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Have you ever observed this advisory notice, on the TOP right side, when you enter into main site?

Like any library, Hinduism Stack Exchange shares great information, but does not offer personalized advice, and does not take the place of seeking such advice from any Acharya, Pundit, astrologer, Guru or other trustworthy Counselor.


This particular word Library, is a myth/mirage, as far as this site is concerned. This particular notice, often misleads many a novice member into thinking that the site is really offers great information.

As I stated above, it is a MYTH/MIRAGE.


What will a library offer?

It will offer access to all types of ideas on different subjects from various authors, without demeaning any idea.

For example take the subject Ramayana:

There are many books on this single subject. The Library will contain the original version of Valmiki Ramayana, Tulasidas Ramayana, Jain Ramayana, etc.

It can also contain books authored in an eccentric way by people like Devadut Patnaik or by Western writers or people under the influence of Marxism.

Whether the opinions expressed by different authors have basis in scriptures? I don't think so.

So members have wide choice of selecting books of their choice, reading and forming opinions.


Here, in this site, the majority of the members belong to one particular sect or believe in a limited literature from Hinduism as authentic. :-).

Naturally, they will not allow ideas of other sects/way of thinking to flourish here. Be it a question posted in Main site or here in this Meta site, they will see that it has been discouraged by downvoting or closed.

I am giving reference my own Meta post - Why don't we start a sect-wise SEs in Hinduism?, which was downvoted by 12 members.

Why should a Meta post be downvoted? Is not a Meta post for discussion purpose?

Remember Moderators are dormant here.

I am giving reference to my answer for this question Do Vedas mention that Vedas ALONE are to be followed and Itihasa/Purana should be discarded?, which received 5 downvotes.


If the post, be it a question or an answer, is promoting violence or instigating other sects or projecting obscene or vulgar ideas, etc, then it can be removed altogether.

However, when the moderators are claiming that this site will act as a Library for Hinduism, that idea should have been materialised in real sense.

That is not happening here. That is why neither this site is able to attract new members with varied ideas or nor is it retaining earlier members.

This site is shrinking.


Edit 8-7-2020

2 members accused me of the following, in the comments section:

  • Carmen sandiego stated - I don't understand your obsession with the sect

  • ram stated - that is just mud-slinging. Exactly what part of "backup your answer with references" is sectarian ?

I would like to answer point-wise.


  1. I don't have any obsession with the sect. I stated in my answer as follows:

.. the majority of the members belong to one particular sect or believe in a limited literature from Hinduism as authentic. :-).

Naturally, they will not allow ideas of other sects/way of thinking to flourish here.

I had sufficient grounds for stating so. In fact, the rules framed by members, who were in the initial stages or a little later, have obsession with the literature pertaining to particular sect. This is my experience in this site in 2015 and from May 2019 onwards.

These members will see that answers/questions that go against their valued literature will either be removed/deleted or downvoted.


So it is the obsession of members pertaining to one sect, causing irreparable damage to this site.

Edit 20-7-2020

Basically, the core area of Sanatana Dharma aka Hinduism is Spirituality but not ritual practices, as commonly misunderstood by many in this site.

Rig Veda encourages probing deep into one's own self, which is the prerequisite for Spirituality.

it is necessary to impose certain restrictions with respect to ritualistic questions so as to make many answers authentic.

Spirituality is an ABSTRACT thing.

Can we give references to LOVE, HATRED, HAPPINESS, etc, which emotions and ABSTRACT? We can only experience them.

It is too childish to expect answers to questions on Spirituality to be backed with reference. And, closing questions with respect to Spirituality, on the pretext of opinion based, is much more childish.


Many of the members in this site refer to Bhagavad Gita.

What does BG 4.34 say?

तद्विद्धि प्रणिपातेन परिप्रश्नेन सेवया।

उपदेक्ष्यन्ति ते ज्ञानं ज्ञानिनस्तत्त्वदर्शिनः।।4.34।।

This you should learn [from those, endowed with knowledge], by prostration, by iniry and by service [all offered to them]; those who are endowed with knowledge and are capable of showing the truth will give you the truth nearby;

Why should a Realised soul like Sri Krishna say परिप्रश्नेन instead of प्रश्नेन? Why should Sri Krishna use the word the Wise, indicating many wise people?


A sage explained once that परिप्रश्नेन indicates not mere questioning for the sake of questioning, but questioning with an intention of clearing doubts and getting wisdom.

He used the word the wise, to indicate that wisdom can be obtained from many people and including inanimate things, as was mentioned in Avadhutopaakhyanam of Bhagavatam.


So SPIRITUALITY does not always offer references from scriptures. Wisdom that emanate from deep pondering cannot be substantiated with scriptural references.

I repeat, expecting answers on SPIRITUALITY to be always backed with scriptural references, is mere childishness.

And, closing questions on SPIRITUALITY, on the pretext of opinion based, is much more childishness.


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  • I am the OP who wrote that question you linked to. You're correct - I do not know Sanskrit. I do not know Veda mantras. So what ? Did I make a claim that "ONLY ITIHASA/PURANAS MUST BE LEARNED, NOT VEDAS" ? Nope. Whereas others made a similar and opposite claim (That Vedas must only be learned, not Itihasa/Puranas). So when someone makes a claim, it is my right and duty to question where they got that authority from. This has nothing to do with sects. Your answer got downvotes because you now attempted to question my knowledge. Which makes no sense, because I made no claims that need defense. – ram Jul 3 at 6:54
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    I don't understand your obsession with the sect. There are great answers written by members not belonging to the sect. And I bet they will also not be happy if answers backed by Devdutt's work become the norm here. – Carmen sandiego Jul 4 at 1:22
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    Funny. You crib about questions being closed by members of the sect , but I could not identify anyone as being part of the "sect" that voted to close your Vishnu Sahasranama question..... And then you wonder why you come across as someone obsessed with the sect – Carmen sandiego Jul 11 at 4:28
  • @Carmensandiego: Apart from finding my observations as funny and wondering about my assumptions, you can also flag my answer as offensive with respect to one sect, so that my answer can be deleted by the biased moderators of this site. Go ahead and do it. – Srimannarayana K V Jul 11 at 11:04
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    Cry me a river. Continue playing the victim for all I care. The so called sect have deep knowledge of the texts relevant to them. Some members have successfully countered the sect - not by playing victim but sharing knowledge from texts that they follow which may or may not be common. And as far as I can tell even within the sect they do not see eye to eye in every matter. Bottom line is one should argue on merits . – Carmen sandiego Jul 11 at 11:50
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    This answer is exceedingly fragmented. I don't even know where the OP's titular question is answered. – user9440 Jul 20 at 13:17
  • @Brahadeesh - for him everything in scriptures is mystical, allegory and abstract notions - these kind of interpretations work for a verse or two and maybe even an incident or two, but fall apart miserably when scriptures are taken in entirety . In other words the scriptures have been reduced to bunch of Aesop fables clubbed together. Now if anyone disagrees with these type of answers then he or she is labelled as "members of a sect". He says "members of sect" believe in limited literature but the same person has repeatedly rejected Puranas. – Carmen sandiego Jul 21 at 3:15

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