1. 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.

The above is taken from this answer, which was written during the early days of the site's existence (in 2014 to be precise).

It says in the absence of scriptural reference one can use works by "popular personalities".

  • Who precisely are these personalities and how are their opinions authoritative on a site on religion?

  • Also, who are the scholars mentioned? Who are the researchers? Who all are qualified to be called a scholar on the topic of religion, spirituality and Hindu Dharma?

We need to fix this up, because it can be grossly misused due to the vagueness of the guidelines. The point to note that, the answer was written six years ago, when we hardly used to find a properly sourced answer. Things have improved a lot since then so how about updating this post too?

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    Yes, this will be really helpful. How about a wiki answer below? I don't think we can fully agree with an individual here. – Mr_Green Sep 22 at 10:11
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    You can write your answer with your arguments. But there is no denying the fact that the guidance is vague and needs to beupdated with clarification. @Mr_Green – Rickross Sep 22 at 12:35
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    I asked [hinduism.stackexchange.com/q/40771/661] and [hinduism.stackexchange.com/q/40754/661] question due to this reason only. – hanugm Sep 25 at 10:24

I have read only a few books/articles of modern authors on Hinduism. Hence, I do not know whether I am qualified to write an answer on this subject. Still, I am offering my opinion.

I am reproducing the guideline mentioned in the question content.

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.

As far as I understood, the phrase in the above sentence - In the absence of any scriptural reference, is an elusive statement.

It is because

    1. The member, who posts an answer to a question, might not have read all available scriptures properly. Still, he/she may claim that no such reference is available in the scriptures. Who is going to judge the claim of the member?

For example, let us consider an imaginary question - Whether Krishna, son of Devaki, mentioned in Mahabharata and Puranas, was mentioned in the Veda, brAhmanAs, Upanishads?

Let us assume that the questioner is not interested in whether same Krishna that was mentioned in Mahabharata and Puranas had been mentioned in the above scriptures.

Not many members might not have read Upanishads, brAhmanAs, leave alone the Veda. Majority of the members may not be knowing the answer.

At this juncture, a member may quote a modern day scholar's article, in which the author might have made some denigrating remarks on the very existence of Krishna, the son of Devaki.

So, in the above scenario, though there was a mention in the Chandogya Upanishad about Krishna, the son of Devaki, in the scenario of ignorance of a particular Upanishad, may leave majority members speachless and have to accept the denigrating remarks of the modern day scholar.

Is it acceptable? I will leave it to the judgement of the majority of the members.

    1. Now let us take another scenario.

A modern day scholar, who is very keen in knowing about Sanatana Dharma aka Hinduism, might have visited many times, discussed the many aspects of Hinduism with the then available Gurus/scholars of India. That scholar at a later date may write many books in highlighting the noble SPIRITUAL concepts, as enunciated in the Veda, Brahmanas, etc.

I am referring to authors like David Frawley.

Are we allowed to accept the reference to those books, in our answers?

Let members decide. I stop here.

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  • As I stated in my answer, I am talking about a situation. I encountered similar situation but couldn't remember the question right now. Hence, I had mentioned in general terms. If it is not acceptable because of non-providing of a reference to a particular answer, it can be deleted. @idolworshipper – Srimannarayana K V Sep 23 at 2:05
  • "In the absence of any scriptural reference, is an elusive statement." -- So you agree that the line must be removed/updated? @SrimannarayanaKV – Rickross Sep 23 at 6:10
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    Yes please @Rickross – Srimannarayana K V Sep 23 at 6:14
  • Good to see such statements coming from you: "Is it acceptable? I will leave it to the judgement of the majority of the members" . Slowly you're learning. :) – TheLittleNaruto Sep 25 at 7:22
  • The discussion is about upgrading existing rules @TheLittleNaruto. Hence, my answer is in that line, as I am not the deciding factor in that area. If it is the question of expressing my opinion on a particular subject, my answer will be different.\ – Srimannarayana K V Sep 25 at 7:38

I agree as SrimannarayanaKV stated that it is an elusive statement.

Though I used to agree that works of modern gurus shouldn't be considered for the gist of the same as explained by Srimannarayana above, I feel it shouldn't be so now. Let me explain..

People who visit here or post any questions are not always looking for scriptural references.

  • Their question might be specific to a guru to know what is their thoughts considering the XYZ scenario.
  • Their question might be about a ritual that is specific to a region or some other context and where a gurus work might be the sole understanding available.
  • Some people just ask generally to know the answer - They don't really care whether the answer is as per scriptures or as per a guru (of any time). They might be looking for an answer which looks simple enough to them.
  • Some people ask questions looking for answers from Scriptural references.

IMO, all such questions are valid on this site. Now, we have two kinds of experts on this site: Ancient scriptural experts and Modern book experts (or a mix of both). The answers from these two experts should be allowed on this site. It should be on the OP to accept it or not. Now, if the modern answer is contradicting with thoughts of many experts on this site or with ancient scriptural references, we can just downvote it and an ancient scriptural expert can post their answer in detail. Eventually, as time goes by, the original answer will get more votes than the accepted one (or the contradictory answer). In all SE sites, some answers are wrong and still accepted - we should digest this here as well.

It is on experts to keep this site healthy - Afterall, their answers hold value on this site. On occasions, two or more experts don't agree with each other's answers. This is completely fine. They can just downvote and post a comment to state their understanding but not start a sect group war or be sarcastic unnecessarily with others.

Some comments from mods which I agree: link1 & link2

Well, certainly if a question is asking for scriptural references then quote a modern-day figure would not be appropriate. But for the purpose of a general question like "Why do Hindus wear Vibhuti on their foreheads?" then citing Ravi Shankar or even citing a Western Indologist would meet the standard of citing sources in your answer.

I think it can be allowed as source on the site. But yet Sastric definition may be recommended over Political authors.

About the above comment, as per my understanding, Sastric definition is recommended but not enforced. Other answers are allowed too but again we should be active enough to downvote it.

To conclude,

All referenced answers are allowed. We can downvote if we don't agree. SE has greyed out feature if there are more than 3 downvotes. So, all good.

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  • 'but again we should be active enough to downvote it' - voting on SE sites is usually done on how best an answer addresses the question. E.g., this answer received 6 downvotes for presenting a particular guru's opinion on homosexuality & directly answering the question, downvotes in this case were totally unnecessary. Now if one asks a generic question, Is homosexuality a sin? and someone posted Vishwananda's opinion as an answer, then like you said, people who disagree with the guru can downvote. A gay person on the other hand may upvote it. – sv. Sep 27 at 17:05
  • yes, can't do much in this case, IMO. The majority wins always but all will set as time goes by. (Maybe those negative votes will become lesser in future?) – Mr_Green Sep 27 at 17:55
  • We know referenced answers are allowed but not all references are allowed. Guru, whether modern or ancient, both can be quoted but Irawati Karve, Mahatma Gandhi some sceptics, Indologists, historians etc. etc. are not Gurus. Their works can not be used as sources. If a Q can't be answered without some of them, then that Q does not belong here. It should be migrated to some other sites, like History.Se or Sceptics.Se depending on what the Q is about @Mr_Green – Rickross Sep 28 at 7:16
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    I wish it could have been simpler like you mentioned. For example, some people do think Mahatma Gandhi as an actual guru or even Irawati Karve. Those people are still Hindus. In other words, we can't just draw line in the sand. Though from an individual's perspective a set of gurus are valid which are highly unlikely the other person to agree completely (maybe 99.99% but not 100%). Keeping these things into consideration, it is better to let grow the site and accept all references of gurus. – Mr_Green Sep 28 at 8:58
  • It is actually very simple to draw the line. If you want to be strict then you can easily be very strict. Who are the Gurus in Hinduism is not a subjective thing to decide. Like who is a doctor , who is a scientist, a mathematician etc. are not subjective things to decide. @Mr_Green – Rickross Sep 28 at 9:21

I would like to contribute a partial answer too, to add to what the others have said. Please correct if there’s something objectionable or anyone disagrees. The quote says:

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.

Generally as the site accepts, scriptures provide the fundamental basis for our belief system. The works of scholars and famous personalities would too have to have some basis. Ideally, this basis should be the scriptures. The works of such personalities maybe subject to their own interpretation (which can be relied upon as secondary support for answering, as a user pleases), but cannot deviate from scriptures.

For example (though not a very good example)- Various Vedanta schools interpreted the same scriptures in different ways - Advaita, Dvaita, Vishishtadvaita, etc. but their primary support was scriptures.

Since a scholar/ personality’s work will be on the basis of some scripture, the question of ‘In the absence of any scriptural reference’ does not arise. Accordingly where a so called scholar or personality gives fictitious statements without a scriptural basis, his works cannot be used to give authentic answers. It will be merely counted as his imagination.

Thus to sum up:-

Who precisely are these personalities and how are their opinions authoritative on a site on religion?

Also, who are the scholars mentioned? Who are the researchers? Who all are qualified to be called a scholar on the topic of religion, spirituality and Hindu Dharma?

A scholar/ personality who bases his work on scriptures, having a different interpretation may be a qualified person. Whereas a person who does not use scriptures must not be considered.

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    Dayananda Saraswati has rejected idol worship, Puranas and several other things. So Dayananda Saraswati's works can be quoted on this site or not? If yes, what if an independent scholar also arrives at the same conclusions? Or are you proposing both shouldn't be allowed as a reference? – sv. Sep 26 at 22:03
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    Nobody has objections against the acharyas being quoted who are definitely the scholars about Hinduism. But since that line is present in a post (that has been made a FAQ) written 6 and a half years ago, certain users are using that an excuse to quote just about anybody in their answers. The users main motive is to demean/disprove Hindu beliefs by quoting those sceptics. This site is called Hinduism.SE, but right now I feel it should be renamed to "What sceptics/atheists feel about Hinduism".SE. – Rickross Sep 27 at 5:54
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    Agree with Rick Ross – Archit Sep 27 at 11:56

I want to make a partial answer here. The quote is saying that

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.

The emphasized lines clearly says that the opinions of others (scholars, researchers and popular personalities) are only allowed in the case of absence in all the scriptures.

So, any answer that does not prove about the absence of the answer in scriptures cannot be accepted. Thus, any answer using opinions of others need to proved about the absence in scriptures.

Some questions need answers that may not directly present in scriptures. But needs valid reasoning to reach conclusion. I mean, scriptures contain the answer, but in indirect form. For example, we can compare these answers: By me, by other user.

Some users are posting the opinions of scholars etc., without taking the burden to prove about its absence in scriptures both directly and indirectly, which should not be encouraged.

Since it is almost infeasible to prove about the absence of an answer in scriptures, it is better and even necessary to remove that particular quotation, which is allowing many partial knowledge users to post answers that are not encouraged. Partial knowledge in the sense that the users does not have expertise of Hindu scriptures, but search for opinions of researchers.

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  • Thanks .. A very valid point you have raised, I have also thought about it .. that we are to use those other sources only when there is absence of references in scriptures .. but it is a nearly impossible task to show for anyone of us that references are really absent in scriptures.. but anyway, I think that those guidelines from a FAQ post needs to be either removed or updated with sufficient clarification. Otherwise, people might be quoting opinions of even film stars and as a support of their action might cite this FAQ. – Rickross Sep 22 at 12:33
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    @Rickross Yeah, I also want to remove that particular quotation since people do not follow it seriously and allows some kind of ambiguity. – hanugm Sep 22 at 12:59
  • The other answer (answer by other user) is simply giving opinions of various persons .. as someone and you also have rightly point out (in comments there)... And its only this vague guideline from FAQ that they are misusing the most. – Rickross Sep 22 at 13:00
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    Yes right .. it should be removed and we have to remember also that it was posted more than 6 years ago .. a lot of things have changed/improved on this site since then. – Rickross Sep 22 at 13:01

I believe we all have come across the following epistemic authority structure mentioned in scriptures (descending order)

  1. Srutis (Vedas and Tantras)
  2. Smritis (including Itihasas and Puranas)
  3. Collective wisdom of learned men
  4. Own conscience

And I believe we should keep in mind the above when responding to questions.

So technically speaking we hit #3 when one does not find answer in #1 or #2. Now in such a scenario the pertinent question is how do we recognize someone as learned. IMO, scriptures have specifically asked us to rely on "collective wisdom" of learned men and not individual. So if someone is relying on #3, it needs to have buy-in of several learned folks.

On a related note, if someone specifically wants an opinion of a traditional acharya or a modern age guru on a particular matter then that would in any case be explicitly stated in the question. So there is no ambiguity to begin with,

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  • Einstein, Rabindra Nath Tagore are also learned men I guess. So are you okay with them being quoted in answers? – Rickross Sep 30 at 11:47
  • @Rickross - I specifically mentioned that it is collective wisdom and not individual opinion. If Einstein, Tagore etc were providing same commentary on a point that was not addressed by srutis and smritis then why should I not consider it – Carmen sandiego Sep 30 at 12:04
  • And, who will determine "that something is not addressed in Srutis and Smritis"? I don't think Einstein or Rabindranath are capable of doing that. – Rickross Sep 30 at 12:29
  • The "learned men" you are referring to in the answer are actually men who are learned in the laws of Dharma. Basically they are referring to either Rishis or persons who are well versed in scriptures. So, Einstein etc. won't be counted in that list. – Rickross Sep 30 at 12:33
  • @Rickross - which basically means one should not consider their opinion when it comes to matters pertaining to hinduism. Therefore what I am trying to say is that I would rather leave questions unanswered on hse than attempt to answer it on the opinion of single person who may or may not be well versed with scriptures – Carmen sandiego Sep 30 at 12:37
  • Okay point noted – Rickross Oct 1 at 7:33

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