Sanatan Dharma

Finding Consistency among Contradictions

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Part VII - Other Important Articles, Chapter 6/6 - Finding Consistency among Contradictions

This is Part VII - Other Important Articles, Chapter 6/ 6

Table of Contents

38. Finding Consistency among Contradictions

Though SD is very flexible still no dharma can be so flexible that it can allow anything that one think. Spiritual path cannot be inconsistent nor can one interpret scriptures in whimsical way. There has to be a consistent approach that does not contradict the basic scriptures. Philosophies of SD is also established in the same way. There are certain rules and regulations which are followed by all āchārya-s.

The First rule is the order of authority of scriptures. Shruti (vedas and upanishads) is considered as the most authentic. Then follows Itihāsa i.e. Rāmāyaṇa and Mahābhārata. Mahābhārata is often quoted by Āchārya-s. Then comes puraṇā-s, then Dharma Smriti-s and Āgama Shāstra-s or Tantra-s. It is customary to put Bhagavad Gītā under smriti though it is a part of Itihāsa. Though Gītā is a smriti it is still considered as authentic after itihāsa or sometimes rated superior to itihāsa as it is the essence of upanishads. Brahma Sūtra, a composition of Veda Vyāsa is considered as the topmost text. It is final text to be studied by the elite. Any contradiction is to be cleared and a philosophy is established only after writing commentary on Brahma Sūtras with quotes from scriptures to prove consistency.

So the order is Shruti → Itihāsa → Bhagavad Gītā → Purāṇa-s → Dharma Smriti-s → Āgama Shāstra-s.

In traditional debates, independent compositions and hymns composed by āchārya-s are not considered authentic.

Hence an Āchārya must prove his philosophy is consistent and cite references from scriptures in support of his claim. Anyone can challenge his views and raise objections. Āchārya must be in a position to defend his philosophy. If he fails his philosophy is rejected.

Use of logic and the six pramāṇa-s are also accepted. Some schools like Vaiṣṇavas only accept 3 pramāṇa-s while advaita and kumārila bhaṭṭa’s pūrva mimāmsā accept all six. prabhākara’s pūrva mimāmsā accept five pramāṇa-s while nyāya schōl accept 4 pramāṇa-s. Philosophy of Nyāya school (one of the six darśan shāstra-s) is widely used in order to establish philosophy on logical basis.

Lets understand this with the help of an example.

Suppose if person ‘A’ claims Krishna is supreme God and person ‘B’ claims that Śiva is the supreme God. In order to decide, we must quote reference. ‘A’ quotes Bhagavad Gītā which says, ‘I (Krishna) is Brahman’ while ‘B’ quotes Śiva Gītā to quote ‘I (Śiva) am Supreme God’.

In this case, claim of A is given more weight as Bhagavad Gītā is a part of ītihāsa while Śiva Gītā is a part of purāṇa. Hence Bhagavad Gītā is more authentic than Śiva Gītā. B needs to give more proofs either from Bhagavad Gītā or from upanishads or vedas to strengthen his claim. If B quotes from Mahābhārata citing an incidence of Kriṣhna worshipping Śiva and undertaking Pāśupata dikshā. The B’s claim is given more weight. Further if B quotes from upanishads like Atharvaśiras or Atharvaśikhā or Kaivalya or Svetaśvatara or say Pancha brahma and even quotes from vedas like Srī Rudram’s verse ‘OM namo bhagavate rudrāya’ and also quotes from skambha sūktam of Atharva veda then B’s claim is stronger than A’s.

Further if A fails to quote shruti-s then A will loose his claim and his philosophy will be rejected.

If both cite verses from all scriptures, then both views are accepted. However the issue of superiority of Śiva or Kriṣhna remains unsolved. If person C manages find a way to reconcile both claims citing support from scriptures, his views are considered as authentic than A or B. Another problem is that in order to prove one God as superior another has to be shown as inferior. Again verses praising the other God are rejected.

In this example, if C says that though both Śiva and Krṣṇa are outwardly different, they are same as Brahman. Śiva tatvam and Krṣṇa (Krishna / kruṣhṇa) tatvam are same in their formless aspect, his argument based on logic and citations from scriptures is considered superior to A and B, as no verse needs to be rejected and vedas, upanishads, purāṇa-s, Gītā, itihāsa and āgama shāstra-s all are fully accepted.

All vaidika āchārya-s like Ādi Sankarāchārya jī, Rāmānujāchārya jī, Madhvāchārya jī, Srīkāntāchārya jī (Nilkanṭhāchārya jī) established the superiority of their philosophy and chosen form of God in the same way. They all contributed to our rich vedic culture and covered people of different temperament.

38.1. Refuting Left hand Path and sexual interpretation

Following the above method, any claim or verse that is of non-vedic nature like encouraging sexual relationship in order to excel in spirituality can be rejected as it is not found in vedas nor in Bhagavad Gītā, which is an essence of upanishads and accepted by all. Hence if anyone quotes a verse from any tantra or you find any tāntrika procedure that requires sexual relationship with a partner, it can be easily rejected as tantra-s do not represent mainstream Hinduism.

Alternatively if any verse from purāṇa-s or any other scripture is quoted, attempts should be made to interpret it as a yogic process involving kunḍalini, nāḍī-s, chakra-s and subtle bodies. An example of this type is interpretation of Linga and Yonī.

One of the meaning of Linga is male genital organ and that of Yonī is female genital organ. Hence some may claim that Śiva linga is a symbol of sexual union. We must understand that sanskrit words have more than one meaning. ‘Linga’ as per Linga purāṇa means ‘manifestation (of formless brahman)’. Yonī means prakriti or nature the power of Brahman. Verses describing union of Śiva and Śakti indicating the process of creation does not mean that they copulated and had sex. Creation results from sound OM as described in Linga Purāṇa. Śiva is static brahman and Śakti is dynamic power of Brahman through which creation takes place. Siva linga represents the trinity and all the demigods and demigoddesses. It is symbol of formless brahman in which lies the entire cosmos. Hence though outwardly on first site the verse though look of sexual nature, they are not.

Finally, one must use their head before accepting blindly. A laymen may not have read scriptures, the vedas and upanishads and puranas, but as described earlier one of the definition of practicing dharma is ‘dhi’ i.e. buddhi i.e. intellect. A religion which has a tradition to revere asceticism, chastity, renunciation and tapas cannot encourage sex as an ideal means to salvation. God is always perfect. Stories intent to teach us in a friendly way. They are not created to show that our Gods have no control over themselves or that one God gets humiliated by another and so is inferior to the one who is victorious. Instead of finding faults with our Gods, we must find faults within ourselves. By using our commonsense, one can easily reject such verses as laymen notices that such a convoluted interpretation of Śiva linga is absent when one goes to Śiva’s temple. Alternatively, Śiva must represent formless Brahman, as the linga is called as Śiva linga nd not Śankara linga or rudra linga. Śiva is the formless aspect of Śankara, the deity of destruction, the one of trinity. Śiva is above the trinity.

Similarly the word kāma, often (mis)translated as passion or sexual desire, simply means ‘desire’ or ‘wish’. Even the desire to get moksha is called as kāmanā (desire).

Shrī Santosh jī of Mahāpāshupatāstra Blog has explained the inner meaning of such verses and has refuted the interpretation of left hand paths and convoluted interpretation purposefully done to denigrate Hindu Gods. Please refer to following articles.

38.2. Nāhī-Nindā Nyāya

While going through purāṇa-s one may find that at various instances, one God is defeated by another in one occasion, while it is vice versa on another occasion. For example, Siva might be defeated by Vishnu or Krishna in one story while Rama or Vishnu got defeated by Siva in other story. We must find a way to neutralise these contradictions.

Kanchi Paramacharya asks us to adopt Nāhī-Nindā-Nyaya. The purpose of exalting a particular deity over the other is not to depreciate the latter. The underlying idea is that a person who worships his chosen god has unflinching faith in him and becomes totally devoted to him. Such exclusive devotion is called "ananya bhakti". The idea here, however, is not to regard other devatas as inferior to one's own chosen deity- an example of "Nāhī-Nindā-Nyaya".

Tarka Sastra (science of dialectics, logic and reasoning) proposes “nahi ninda nyaya” to support one’s theory. Glorify your view, but that doesn’t mean that the other view is flawed.

With nyaya, almost all contradictions can be neutralized

Please refer following article to understand Nāhī-Nindā-Nyāya

Contradictory stories in Puranas have 'same moral of the story'

39. Having many canonical texts has it’s advantages

Hinduism is not like Abrahamic religions which have just one book to follow. In Hinduism there are many sects and subsects. Each one focussing on their own chosen canonical texts. This means that you need not stick to one book if it does not appeal to you. Since everything is selective in Hinduism, it difficult to criticize ALL Hindus attacking one viewpoint.

For example, someone will show you a verse from vatsayana’s kAmasUtra and will declare that Hinduism is a sexiest religion. You can simply reject that verse or the whole book. It is not compulsory to read all of literature. Perhaps this book is not found in every home unlike bhagavad gItA. gItA is an essence of upanishads i.e. vedAnta and so an essence of veda-s themselves. brahmasUtra is the topmost canonical text. Many AchArya-s have written commentary, sub-commentary and gloss on both gItA and brahmasUtra. Sex is not promoted in any one of the commentaries.

Another common criticism is that of Siva linga as phallic symbol. While we have already touched this subject, we can simply reject this claim by stating another verse which gives another meaning of the origin and meaning of ‘linga’. Hence the interpretation depends upon the mindset of the interpreter. None of the popular Saiva AchArya-s nor the great nAyannar saints have ever interpreted Siva linga as the phallic symbol of bhagavAn Siva. You can completely ignore or reject the whole of Agama shAstra-s, you can ignore certain purANa-s if they do not match with your thinking. You can ignore parts of purANa-s which talk on topics that do not interest you are are not filled with Siva bhakti. There is enough material for Siva and viShNu and other Gods to worship them and sing their glories.

Yet another criticism that first comes to picture with the name ‘Hinduism’ is ‘caste system’. For those to do not adhere to caste system, no one outcastes them, no one changes their behaviour with them. If you stick to the vocation by birth, no one bothers to change your opinion except that it is harming others or someone has political reasons to take this step. In other words, people do not bother to change customs that do not harm anyone’s life.

In short, no one can say that since ‘x’ verse says somethings that is why ALL Hindus are of ‘x’ type.

40. Three ways to interpret any verse

Vedas are coded with multiple layers. They can be interpreted in many way. Some words’ represent a particular number. For example Fire represents number ‘3’ (three). In other words, number three is substituted by Fire, zero by vacuum (ether), one by moon, two by horseman, eight by Vasu and so on. Please refer to this (video skips to 10.00 minutes). This video explains the verse showing waning and waxing phases of moon which is an encrypted formula. You will understand that our shāstras have encrypted mathematical formula like pi (3.142…). Śankarāchārya of Purī, Jagadguru Srī Bhārati Krṣṇa Tirtha did a lot of research on mathematical formulas hidden in vedas and found 16 formulas (skip to 14 minutes).

From above explanation, we can understand that scriptures have encrypted mathematical formulas. Similarly astronomical calculations are also encrypted. Locating and decrypting such verses is not everybody’s cup of tea. Other than the above, there are three ways to interpret scriptures.

  1. Devotional

  2. Logical / Symbolical

  3. Yogic

Devotional Approach:

This approach is used to instil and increase our devotion. This approach is best suited to those who worship a form of Īshvara or moksha, specifically those having emotional temperament. When one comes across any incident in Purāṇa-s or or Mahābhārta or Upanishads glorifying any form of Īshvara or Īṣṭa devatā emerging as victorious on a battle, devotion naturally cultives in hearts of devotēs. This approach is a valid approach to instil bhakti.

Logical Approach / Symbolical Approach:

People who are intellectually inclined will always try to find rational / logical reason while studying shāstra-s. The same story which is used for instilling devotion has same, a person with rational intellect will try to find moral of the story. For example in which Īṣṭa devatā emerges victorious, the moral of story is that ‘In the end, Good always wins over evil’.

In symbolic approach, characters are interpreted as symbolising a quality or any of the five tatva-s. For example, five Pāṇḍava-s represent positive qualities while 100 kaurava-s symbolize many negative qualities. Though positive qualities are comparatively much less in number, still in the end they win, Īshvara was with them. This idea was explained by a unique āchārya Srī Abhinavgupta jī of Kashmir Saivism in his Gītā commentary Gītārtha Samgrah chapter 1, verse 1 (BG 1.1) gives these meanings. Srī Abhinavgupta explains means of the word ‘kurukshetra’. ‘kshetra’ means ‘region’, here it means ‘Man’s Body’ which is the facilitator of ‘Kuru’ i.e. ‘sense-organs’.

Each of the five Pāṇḍava name has their own meaning. They are also connected with five tatva-s.

Yudhiṣthira = Ākāśa (ākāsha) i.e ether or space

Bhima = Vāyu i.e. air

Arjuna = Agni ie. Fire. Arjuna also represents Jīva tatva.

Nakula = Jala ie. water

Sahadeva = Pṛithvi or Pruthvi or Prithvi. Saha+deva = Sahadeva means ‘one who is one with God’

Krṣṇa (Krishna) = Beyond Tatva-s i.e. Paramātmā . Ādi Śankara BhagavapAda in Viṣṇu Sahasranāma Bhāśya while explaining name #57 says, “ ‘Kṛuṣ’ (kRRuSh, कृष्) means sattā (power) and ‘ṇa’ (Na, ण) means ānanda. Since Bhagavān Viṣṇu has both qualities (bhāva-s) hence [Bhagavān Viṣṇu) is always known as Kṛṣṇa - (Mahā. Bhā. udyoga 70.5)’ - by this statement by Bhagavān Vyāsa jī saccidānanda (sat-chit-ānanda) Bhagavāna is Kṛṣṇa only. In #550 Kṛṣṇa Āchārya explains that Kṛṣṇa Dvaipayana [Veda] Vyāsa is Bhagavān Kṛṣṇa only. (In Sahasranāma some names repeat more than once).

Yudhiṣthira: Yuddha+sthira = Yudhiṣthira. Yuddha means war, sthira means to ‘remain steady’, steady like whom, like ākāsha (ākāśa). Yudhisthira means the one whose mind remains steady [like ākāśa] in battlefield.

Bhima: The one who is powerful like Wind. Bhima killed all 100 kaurava-s including Duryodhana. He was a mighty warrior with strength of 10,000 elephants. Elephant symbolizes strength.

Duryodhana: Duryodhana means dur-yoddha meaning ‘warrior with bad ethics or wicked warrior. This name became famous because of the way he lived and the policies he adopted to get rid of Pāṇḍava-s. His birth name was ‘Suyoddhā’. su means good and yoddhā means warrior. Suyoddhā means ‘Good warrior or warrior with good ethics.

Dusāśana: ‘Duśāśna’ means ‘Bad Ruler’ or ‘Ruler with Bad or wicked ethics’

This approach too is valid way to study shāstra-s.

Yogic Approach:

This approach is more concerned with interpreting any event. For example, (Tripurāntak) Bhagavān Śiva destroying of three cities of Gold, silver and Iron, made by sons of Demon king, is not taken literally. Three cities represent three bodies

  • Iron represents Sthūl̥a Śarira or Gross body

  • Silver represents Sukshma Śarira or Subtle Body and

  • Gold represents Kāraṇa Śarira or Causal Body

Destroying three cities represents destroying of mind and Jīva-bhāva i.e. destroying of Ego or ‘I’-ness. This is mentioned in Thirumandiram by a great Tamil Siddha Yogī Tirumular (or Thirumulaar).

Yogī-s interpret Yajna as inner Yajna, oblation to nāḍī-s, chakra-s and Kuṇḍalīnī devi. The word ‘gau’ or ‘go’ has many meanings. One of them is ‘Cow’. However, as per Ādi Śankara Bhagavadpāda, while commenting on the name ‘Govind’ in Viṣṇu Sahasranāma, explains that ‘gau’ means ‘vāk’ i.e. ‘vānī’ meaning speech. ‘go’ also means ‘Sun’s rays called suṣumṇā’. If we take alternate meaning, which are as much valid as the literal or obvīous one, the entire meaning of verse changes. That verse which can be accused of Cow slaughter is actually a verse offering oblation to the goddess of spēch via sound. One can give oblation to chakra-s by pronouncing particular sound that is assigned to it. Sun’s rays represent trinity or Laxmī which is ātmasvarūpa i.e. Laxmī devī showers prosperity named ātma-vidyā and so she is not different from ātman also known as Brahman. There is no difference betwēn Sun and it’s Rays. Both cannot be separated.

This type of approach is only for advanced Yogī-s as not all are aware of their subtle bodies and chakra-s. There is a reason for restricting teaching of veda-s as wrong interpretation can cause damage, in this case, incurs sin of killing of holy animal cow which needs to be protected and never to be disrespected. This approach is also a valid approach.

40.1. Sticking to Single approach does not help

If one goes on to interpret the whole of śastra-s (shāstra-s) with only literal meaning or taking everything as mythology and interpret it symbolically or try to interpret it an inner yogic process may not find consistency. Hence Āchārya Ādi Śankara Bhagavadpāda has given a solution. In one of the commentaries on Upanishads he has said that in general case, one can take literal meaning, however if one cannot deduce any meaning out of verse one is free to make symbolic meaning.

Hence one has to take meanings literal, implied (indirect reference), symbolic and yogic wherever applicable to interpret the whole of śāstra-s consistently. Implied meaning means that on the face value (i.e. vāchyārtha) a verse may look like it is of dual nature, but the meaning it conveys i.e. the essence (lakshyārtha, laxyārtha) points to non-duality. Examples are four great statements or Mahāvakya-s - tat-tvam-asi, atamātmā-brahman, prajñānam brahma, aham brahmāsmi. (There are other Mahāvākya-s found in upanishads. It is said that each upanishad has at least one Mahāvākya.)

Bhagavān Kṛsṇa was a historical person. Kṛṣṇa, Rāma and Śiva are one as Brahman. We need devotion to progress. Bhakti instils strong faith in us. If we doubt existence of Īśvara (Ishvara), we cannot progress spiritually. Bhakti helps one cultivate strong faith and spiritual attraction for Īshvara. Bhakti is the foundation upon which our spiritual path rests. Yet, we need not take all statements literally, but in a way that helps us apply shāstras in today’s life. Symbolic interpretation and implied interpretation is also helpful. One should know the path and how to walk on path. Knowledge (Jnāna) is necessary for getting clarity. No matter whatever path we follow, Kuṇdalinī gradually rises upto sahasrāra chakra. If chanting of mantra is done in a proper way, it is always helpful.


Āchārya Ādi Śankara considered Jnāna as supreme. Āchārya has also written a gloss on Patanjalī Yoga Sūtra by the name ‘Yoga Tārāvalī). He accepted Yogic path as valid path. His only point was that liberation cannot be a result of fruits of actions. In Yoga there are various energy based processes called as kriyā-s. The reason was the limited effort cannot produce unlimited result. Moksha is permanent Freedom from life and death and attaining immortality by merging in Brahman and staying as pure consciousness. According to him, all paths are valid but the final emancipation can happen through knowledge as a result of direct experience of your true Self. This happens when meditation changes from effort to effortless. Everything happens by itself, desires are destroyed and finally mind and ego are destroyed. This happens by itself and you as an individual has no role to play. Of Course this happens at a very later stage. Other āchārya-s like Srī Madhusudan Sarasvatī and Srī Jnaneshvara (Jnaneshwar / GYAndev) have given Yogic interpretation while commenting on Gītā specially chapter six. Srī Rāmānujāchārya jī and Srī Mādhvāchārya jī has connected teachings Gītā and upanishads with Pancharātra āgama śāstra which is a tantra, a manual of temple worship. Just like veda-s, each tantra has ritualistic (karmakāṇḍa) and knowledge part (Jnānakāṇḍa). Both āchārya-s made Pancharātra very popular. While Ādi Śankarāchārya jī established pure vedic path, Rāmānujāchārya jī and Madhvāchārya jī worked for downtrodden and established a path of bhakti which has a good logical base.

All āchārya-s are true from their POV. They gigantic efforts helped revive and revitalize our sanātana dharma. Beauty of sanātana dharma is to live in harmony with people following different, sometimes contrasting philosophies.

As another great Āchārya Srī Appaya Dikshita has said, “what more can be said if Brahma sūtra (vedānta sūtra) is capable of being interpreted in many ways”. Gītā, Upanishads, Purāṇās, Itihāsa, Āgama śastras all can be interpreted in multiple ways, the only condition is to interpret them consistenly so that no verse or minimum verses are rejected.