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Saturday was the three-year anniversary of our site. To commemorate this, I created a post here to illustrate the large number of scriptural verses that have been asked about on the site. But now I'd like to highlight another kind of accomplishment of this site: the eradication of ignorance. You can participate by listing misconceptions you had about Hinduism before joining the site.

This should illustrate how helpful the site is in improving people's understanding of Hinduism.

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    interesting Q- bravo. – user1195 Jun 29 '17 at 15:11
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Here are various misconceptions I've had about Hinduism:

  • I thought that Rama was born in the most recent Treta Yuga, or even that he was born in every Treta Yuga. In fact I thought that all the Dasavatara happened in the present Mahayuga. It's only later on that I learned that Rama lived in the 24th Mahayuga of the Vaivasvata Manvantara, i.e. four Mahayugas ago, and that out of the Dasavatara only Balarama, Krishna, and Kalki were or will be born in the present Mahayuga.
  • I thought that the Devas all had Paramatma as their soul, and it's only humans and other animals that had Jivatmas as their souls. It's only later on that I learned that most Devas are Jivas. I did know about humans being able to become the next Indra by doing a hundred Ashwamedha Yagnas, but somehow I didn't generalize that.
  • I thought the question of who is supreme had nothing to do with Brahman. I knew that there was something called Brahman, but I didn't connect it to Vishnu, Shiva, etc. Even though I was always a Vaishnava, I thought of Vushnu as a Deva. I understood the statement "Vishnu is supreme" to simply mean that Vishnu is the supreme Deva, i.e. the most powerful Deva, the oldest Deva, etc. It's only later on that I learned the supremacy issue is not ultimately about who is more powerful or who is the father of whom, rather the issue is about who is Brahman.
  • I thought there was a widely recognized difference between Brahman, Paramatma, and Bhagavan. It's only later on that pretty much only ISKCON sharply distinguishes between these three entities, and that most other Hindus don't make such a distinction, especially between Brahman and Paramatma.
  • I thought that the physical world was an illusion, and that this was a universal belief among all Hindus. It's only later on that I learned that pretty much only Advaitins believed that the world is an illusion, and that most other philosophies saw the world as real.
  • I thought that Advaita, Dvaita, Visistadvaita, etc. were the only Hindu philosophies. It's only later on that I learned that these were only sub-schools of a school of Hindu philosophy called the Vedanta school, and that there were other non-Vedantic schools of Hindu philosophy although they're not very popular today.
  • I thought that Madhvacharya's philosophy of Dvaita saw Jivatma and Paramatma as seperate but equal entities, and as a result I thought of it as a very arrogant philosophy. It's only later on that I learned that Madhvacharya saw Jivas as dependent on Brahman.
  • I thought that the Jivatma originated from Paramatma, in fact at a young age I used to pretend that my toys were Jivatma and Paramatma, and I would separate them to indicate that the Jivatma broke off of Paramatma and had to get back to Paramatma. It's only later oh that I learned that apart from ISKCON, almost all sects of Hinduism believe that the Jiva never originated from Brahman and that it has been in Samsara for infinitely many past births.
  • I thought that Ramanujacharya's philosophy of Visistadvaita simply said that the Jivatma is dependent on Paramatma and that all Jivatmas are part of a larger whole called Paramatma. It's only later that I learned that Visistadvaita also says that Paramatma is the Antaryami or inner self of the Jivatma.
  • I thought that Vyasa's Brahma Sutras are an abridged version of the Vedas. Now it is true that the Brahma Sutras in some sense convey the essence of the Vedas. But it's only later that I learned that they specifically focus on the Upanishads, that they constitute a (wildly successful) attempt to extract a coherent philosophy from the seemingly disparate statements of the Upanishads, and that this philosophy is called Vedanta.
  • I thought that logical reasoning was the only, or at least the primary, basis of true knowledge, and that sensory evidence is not sufficient grounds for knowledge. This belief was derived in large part from reading Western philosophy, and from the misconception I mentioned earlier about Hinduism saying that the world is an illusion. It's only later on that I learned that Hinduism teaches that Pratyaksha or sensory perception is the primary means of knowledge, and that all other means are valid only insofar as they don't contradict Pratyaksha. I still find that hard to wrap my head around given my prior views, but maybe I'll understand things better if I study the defenses of Pratyaksha given in Shabara's commentary on the Purva Mimamsa Sutras and in Kumarila Bhatta's Shloka Vartika.
  • I thought that all Hindus agreed that Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was an incarnation of Vishnu, due to reading ISKCON websites. It's only later on that I learned that pretty much only the Gaudiya Vaishnava sect, the sect founded by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, considers him an incarnation.
  • I thought that only the Samhitas of the Vedas are Shruti, and that the Brahmanas, Aranyakas, and Upanishads are Smriti. It's only later on that I learned that they're all Shruti.
  • I thought that the only scriptures of Hinduism were the Vedas, the Puranas, the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, the Dharma Shastras, and maybe the Alwars' poems. It's only later on that I learned that Hindu scripture also included Agamas, Darshana Sutras, Grihya Sutras, Shrauta Sutras, Shulba Sutras, Vedangas, Upavedas, etc.
  • I thought that Kalki was already born and would rid the world of evil people some time soon. That's not because I thought some modern Swami was Kalki, it's because I found a web page discussing the birth of Kalki which had a date at the top, August 17, 1999. It's only later on that I learned that that was just the date the web page was written.
  • I thought that there was a sharp distinction between Bhumi and Bhuloka. I equated the seven Dvipas with the seven continents and Bhumi with the Earth, and yet I equated Bhuloka with the entire physical Universe. It's only later on that I learned that there isn't a distinction between Bhumi and Bhuloka, and that if you equate the seven Dvipas with the seven continents then you have to equate Bhuloka with the Earth, and conversely if you equate Bhuloka with the physical Universe, then you can't really equate the Dvipas with the continents. I'm still not sure how the Dvipas and Lokas exactly work, but I suspect alternate dimensions or parallel universes may somehow be involved; I don't think that you can reach Swarga in a spaceship.
  • I thought that Patalas and Narakas are one and the same. I thought if your good deeds outweigh your bad deeds, you go to Devaloka, and if your bad deeds outweigh your good deeds you go to some place "Asuraloka". I think this equating of the place of punishment and the place of demons is due to my exposure to Christianity, growing up in America. It's only later on that I learned that the Asuras live in the Patalas, which are hollows within the Earth if you equate Bhuloka with the Earth, whereas the places of punishments are the Narakas, which are below Bhuloka.
  • I thought there was a Loka in which there was a city called Vaikuntha, in which there was a palace called Paramapadam, inside which there was an ocean of milk (!) called Thiruparkadal/Kshirasagara, on which Vishnu lies on a serpent. It's only later on that I learned that the ocean of milk is located in Bhuloka, specifically surrounding Shwetadvipa, the abode of the Vyuha Vasudeva form of Vishnu who sleeps on a serpent, whereas Paramapadam is above all the material Lokas and is the abode of Para Vasudeva, the eternal Vishnu who sits rather than lies down on a serpent.
  • I thought that Punya and Papa work on a "points" system, where Punya grants positive points and Papa grants negative points, and what happens to you is a result of whether your net amount points is positive or negative. It's only later on that I learned that Karmas do not aggregate, but rather each produce their own Phala or fruit, although there are procedures for Prayaschitta or expiation for Papas.
  • I thought that the way to achieve Moksha is to make your Punya far exceed your Papa. It's only later on that I learned that the path to Moksha lies not in accumulating a surplus of good Karma, but rather in destroying all your Karmas, good or bad, and that this can be achieved through either Bhakti Yoga or Sharanagati.
  • I thought that Moksha had no connection to Brahman. I thought Moksha was a state of eternal union with the Devas, involving having all possible experiences at once. It's only later on that I learned that Moksha involves equality of experience with Brahman.
  • I thought that there was a sharp distinction between doing what is right and doing what is easy, and that one should do the right thing even if it led to eternal misery, even if as a contingent fact good actions are rewarded with happiness rather than misery. I thought that there's nothing wrong with being happy but that you should not pursue happiness as your goal in life, instead you should do the right thing and let the chips fall where they may. I think this belief may also be derived in part from reading Western philosophy. It's only later on that I learned that the pursuit of happiness was fundamental to the Hindu philosophical enterprise; the whole point of learning about Dharma from the Purva Mimamsa Sutras is to achieve Aihikam and Amushmikam, happiness in this life and happiness in Swarga. And the whole point of learning about Brahman from the Brahma Sutras is to achieve Nihshreyasam, the bliss of Moksha. I still find that hard to wrap my head around given my prior views, but I may write a medium post to try and clarify things.
  • I thought that Ramanujacharya was against the caste system, and I thought I disagreed with him on that issue. It's only later on that I learned that he supported the caste system, and that the only reason he's considered a social reformer is that he propagated the path of Sharanagati which doesn't haver caste restrictions.
  • I thought that Ramanujacharya believed that Krishna is supreme and Vishnu is an incarnation of Krishna, and so I thought I had another disagreement with him. It's only later on that I learned that Ramanujacharya believes that Vishnu is supreme and Krishna is an incarnation of Vishnu, and it's just an inaccurate Gaudiya mutt translation of Ramanujachaarya's Bhagavad Gita Bhashya in http://bhagavad-gita.org that caused me to think otherwise. (The site http://bhagavad-gita.us by ISKCON is much better.)
  • I thought that the different Darshana Sutras are just different scriptures that are about different subjects, for instance the Nyaya Sutras teaching about logic and the Yoga Sutras teaching about Yoga. It's only later on that I learned that they're the defining texts of different philosophical schools which disagree with one another.
  • I thought that all the tenets of Hinduism, including the existence of the gods, could be proven true through pure logical reasoning. This was derived in part from reading Western philosophy, like Anselm's ontological argument for the existence of God, and in part from reading S.M. Srinivasachari's book on Vedanta Desikan's Tattva Mukta Kalapa in the beginning of high school. Vedanta Desikan's arguments were so beautiful and I thought that those sorts of arguments could refute atheism and other false beliefs. The Nyaya school's logical arguments for the existence of a supreme being made sense to me. It's only later on that I learned that the Vedanta school teaches that the Nyaya school's arguments are invalid that Brahman can neither be known through Pratyaksha (perception) or Anumana (inference), Brahman can only be known through Sabda Pramana or scriptural revelation. And the Apurusheyatva (authorlessness) and Pramanya (authoritativeness) of Hindu scripture is shown in Adhyaya 1 of the Purva Mimamsa Sutras and its commentaries. That seems to be the proper way to prove that Hinduism is true. This too is something I can't quite wrap my head around given my previous views, but further study may remedy that.
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    Most of your (corrected) views are from Sri Vaishnava philosophy :P – The Destroyer Jun 23 '17 at 6:29
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    @TheDestroyer Haha, I listed 26 misconceptions, only a few of them are about Sri Vaishnavism. – Keshav Srinivasan Jun 23 '17 at 6:33
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    I had similar doubt, that Dashaavataras reincarnated in every mahayuga cycle...rather than site chatting with you cleared that misconception....but the first platform for our encounter was this site so credit goes to this site as well! :D – Yogi Jun 23 '17 at 19:28
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    I can relate to how you are still working through some of the unfortunate indoctrination that is a result of a western universalism mindset. Let's keep chipping away at it! – DirghaChintayanti Jun 24 '17 at 5:21
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    "birth of Kalki which had a date at the top, August 17, 1999. It's only later on that I learned that that was just the date the web page was written." LOL. – user1195 Jun 29 '17 at 15:08
  • @moonstar2001 Haha, in my defense the web page was somewhat confusingly worded: web.archive.org/web/20000823033733/http://kalki.avatara.org:80 – Keshav Srinivasan Jun 29 '17 at 16:03
  • "in my defense" nope. this will be used against you forever :-) BTW, I don't think it is the date on which the website was created. I understood it as sravana sukla shashti which must have fallen on august 17, in the year 1999. They are celebrating kalki bhagavan's happy birthday even before he takes avatara. – user1195 Jun 29 '17 at 16:08
  • @moonstar2001 Yeah, that's the thing, they were just saying that August 17 was the date of Kalki Jayanti in the year 1999, the year when the web page was written, but I thought that Kalki was really born on August 17, 1999. – Keshav Srinivasan Jun 29 '17 at 17:58
  • www.bhagavad-gita.org is not ISKCON 's. I checked the guru sishya parampara. It is Gaudiya math' s. I don't know if Bhagavad-Gita.us is ISKCON 's or not. – user16618 Oct 26 '18 at 20:21
  • 'I thought that the Jivatma originated from Paramatma, in fact at a young age I used to pretend that my toys were Jivatma and Paramatma, and I would separate them to indicate that the Jivatma broke off of Paramatma and had to get back to Paramatma. It's only later oh that I learned that apart from ISKCON, almost all sects of Hinduism believe that the Jiva never originated from Brahman' do you think jivas were created at some point of time according to ISKCON? – user16618 Oct 26 '18 at 20:24
  • @RaRa No, what I mean is that ISKCON believes that all Jivas were with Brahman originally, as opposed to all other sects of Hinduism which believe that Jivas have been in Samsara for infinitely many past births. – Keshav Srinivasan Oct 26 '18 at 21:18
  • Yes that is official position only. Inside there are lot of opinions regarding that. Each has their own way of explaining. I think this will not be settled any soon in ISKCON if the topic comes up. – user16618 Oct 27 '18 at 8:51
  • @KeshavSrinivasan In relation to Gaudiya vasihnavs, what I heard is that the original position is with Brahman and it is a mystery why or when Jivas entered samsara. That seems to be pretty much the same view as other samparadayas. – Ambi Dec 1 '18 at 11:52
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Very Good Qn.
To me I had an opportunity to learn about Gita & Mahabharata due to Hinduism.SE.
Following were my biggest misconceptions in general (do not relate directly to religion though):

  • Bhishma was merely a spectator during Draupadi's insult after the infamous dice game
    (Bhishma spoke much more sense, which was also politically correct)
  • The war of Mahabharata happened due to Draupadi's insult following the dice game
    (in reality, mostly PAndava-s didn't want Kurukshetra war; the war happened for unjust larceny of Indraprastha)
  • After hearing the 'death' of Aswhatthama, Drona immediately dropped the weapons & sat in Yoga state; He was killed when Drishtadyumna decapitated him
    (actually Drona still fought for considerable amount of time, even after hearing about the death [hoax] of his son; Later he attained Moksha within Yoga state; Hence he was already dead before Drishtadyumna attacked him)
  • Bhima completed his oath by severing an arm of DushAsana & then drinking his blood
    (Bhima neither severed any arm of DushAsana nor drank his blood in reality, though he inacted to do so)
  • Kaurava-s & PAndava-s had grey shades as portrayed in modern popular culture
    (whatever I read in sacred-text, I deduce just black & white; Mostly PAndava-s were right & Kaurava-s wrong)
  • During Gita, when Krishna referred "I/Me", he meant "himself"
    (Krishna meant everyone's "I/Me" only OR "self" to be precise)
  • Gita is about bringing positivity & is helpful in successful life
    (It's all about distancing oneself from the "Prakruti" & attain complete disappearance, such that one never returns)
  • Social equality & feminism are good. Manusmriti is bad.
    (Manusmriti, whose many concepts are also found throughout Mahabharata, is usually vilified in modern times. Slowly through this site I learned that, "Manusmriti" tries to treat unequal people in unequal manner to derive fairness. While current modern thinking is more about treating unequal people in equal manner, which is disastrous)
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    Your last point is very apt and good. – The Destroyer Jun 23 '17 at 16:55
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    -1 ManuSmriti is bad, +1 During Gita...he ment himself...so 1-1=0; :) – Yogi Jun 23 '17 at 19:24
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    @Yogi "Manusmriti is bad" was my misconception, which got resolved after visiting this site. Now like few others I respect the views of Manusmriti. :-) – iammilind Jun 24 '17 at 1:12
  • @Yogi lol :D... – Ankit Sharma Jun 28 '17 at 7:31
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    @iammilind very nice – user1195 Jul 1 '17 at 2:36
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There were several misconceptions I had about Sanatana Dharma:

• I thought all Hindus accepted Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Ramakrishna Paramhamsa as incarnations of Vishnu. It was only later I found only Gaudiya Vaishnavas and followers of Vivekananda considered them as incarnations of Vishnu.

• I thought Jivatmas originate from Brahman. It was only later I learnt that almost all Hindu sects believe that Jivatmas are never created.

• I thought Upanishads were seperate from the Vedas. It was only later I found Upanishads were parts of the Vedas along with Brahmanas, Aranyakas and Samhitas.

• I thought all Hindus except ISKCON saw Krishna as an incarnation of Vishnu. It was only later I learnt that all Gaudiya Vaishnavas along with Nimbarkites and Pushtimarga Vaishnavas saw Vishnu as an incarnation of Krishna.

• I thought that the Hindu scriptures only mention ten incarnations of Vishnu. It was only later I found that Hindu scriptures mention more than ten incarnations of Vishnu.

• I thought there was only one type of Moksha- Salokya. It was only later I learnt that they are other types of Mokshas- Kaivalya, Sarupya, Sampiya and Sarsti.

• I thought only Brahmanas had the right to undergo Upanayana (that's what happens in Bengal). It was only later that I found that even Kshatriyas and Vaishyas are eligible for Upanayana.

• I thought that the Puranas were highly unreliable since each Purana had a different version for the same story. It was only later I found that each of the Puranas correspond to a different Kalpa where the same event occurs with slightly varying differences.

• I thought the term "Devas" translated as "Demigods" in English. It was only later I learnt that only except ISKCON, nobody saw the term "Devas" to be translating to "Demigods".

Whew! There might have been more misconceptions which I can't remember right now. Will add them once I recall.

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