I have been active on Mathematics SE for nearly 5 years, and I really enjoy the Q&A format of Stack Exchange. I came across Hinduism SE in the list of sites around 3 years ago, and signed up because I am from India brought up in the "Hindu" tradition (whatever that means in its generality).
My participation in this site has been quite limited until recently, for reasons I will try to elaborate on below.
Firstly, I sense that this is a unique community in certain ways — from the way questions and answers are formulated, and the nature of discussions in the comments and on Meta... It's very Indian — noisy, with vivid disagreements, and a huge amount of curiosity in every aspect of Hinduism, however minor.
All this made me hesitant to plunge into the site immediately. I'm the kind of person who prefers to hang around at the back in a huge party, minding my own business quietly, unless someone I know grabs my arm and helps me socialize. In this aspect, I guess I have to thank @TheLittleNaruto for helping me take my first steps here by answering questions.
Secondly, I feel that this site is populated with questions (and answers) of a certain flavour that are not very interesting to me personally. (I elaborated a little about it in a conversation with @TheLittleNaruto in the main chatroom.) Briefly, I feel that questions here are mainly focussed on whether textual justifications exist for commonly accepted practices and beliefs. There is value in this, no doubt, but I find them personally uninteresting. Answers to such questions involve citing the relevant parts of the scriptures, and stop at that.
Don't get me wrong, I think it's fantastic that this site strictly enforces the rule on providing proper sources in the answers. This prevents the site from degenerating into a sea of personal interpretations of Hinduism. I also think that if a question is satisfactorily answered by quoting the relevant part of a scripture, then there is no need to add fluff and extra commentary.
However, these kind of questions are largely uninteresting for me because I am interested in questions such as:
- What is the meaning behind a certain shloka or a certain belief / practice?
- Why does a certain belief, practice or custom exist?
- What advantage/disadvantage is there in following certain practices in order to achieve the larger goals of life?
- How do I correctly incorporate certain practices correctly in order to achieve the larger goals of life?
These are vague and broad, but I hope they convey the picture I'm trying to paint here. Hinduism is a living, breathing tradition, not bound by the words in scriptures, though heavily rooted in them. I would hope for this site to reflect that truth, and not just be a library of dry scriptural facts.
For example, say that I am reading the Bhagavad Gita and I want to know why Krishna uses a certain word, or what the meaning behind some particular shloka is (that is, the deeper meaning beyond the surface one). I would like to turn to this site to find insightful answers. Such Q&A would be more interesting to me than asking a question about whether Krishna says such-and-such in the Gita, which can be simply answered with a quote of the relevant scripture and nothing further.
As another example, say that I am interested in pursuing enlightenment and I am trying to follow Swami Vivekananda's words in his book Karma Yoga — if I have any questions about the process, especially about implementing them in my life, I would expect Hinduism SE to be a resource I can go to. I would expect to receive insightful answers from similar practitioners here. There are countless other scenarios of this kind that I can think of. For reference, my impression is that Buddhism SE functions along these lines, and I find it very fascinating to browse through the questions and answers there.
To address a few objections that immediately come to mind:
- Yes, Hinduism appears to have many more diverse traditions than Buddhism, and this could be a reason why it might be difficult to find experts to answer such questions.
- Yes, such questions are necessarily opinion-based which may not fit well in the SE format.
- Yes, I can ask these "interesting" questions on my own without complaining that others aren't doing so. But please know that my "criticisms" are more of a wish-list for what needs I would like this site to satisfy.
I am still wavering on what my level of participation should be on this site. Hopefully, I can find an equilibrium soon, but I expect it to be a very casual involvement unless I find an interesting niche for myself here.