A common question is why there are so many religions. Many religions claim to be the ‘only way’. All of them cannot be correct!
Even within the same dhārmic fold, the dārśanikas disagree with each other. For example, nyāya posits ārambhavada- an effect does not exist in its cause, but only starts to exist at the time of its manifestation. The Vaiṣṇavas disagree and propose satkāryavāda- that an effect exists in its cause even before it manifests. The purva mimāṁsīs insist on the primacy of ritual while the uttara mimāṁsīs emphasize the path of knowledge.
There is disagreement also within the same darśana. Vedānta is split between the advaitavādis and the Vaiṣṇavas. Both follow the same pramāṇas, but differ significantly in their interpretations.
And then among Vaiṣṇavas, there is disagreement. The Madhvā sampradāya and the Rāmānuja sampradāya exalt mukti as the prayojana or goal, while the Caitanya sampradāya exalts prema as the prayojana.
Why so much disagreement?
It is helpful to see the commonalities. Whether it is Hinduism or another religion, the seers of various religions experienced something beyond matter; they experienced something beyond the grasp of the senses.
The type of their experience varied depending on the guṇas in which they were situated and their prayojana or specific goal. The saṁskāras of the seers – their past experiences and their knowledge – colored the experience that became available to them and how they interpreted that experience.
For example, if a dārśanika believes in the primacy of ritual to begin with, then absorption into that prayojana leads to experience of a similar type. Because of total absorption in and commitment to one’s prayojana, the dārśanika is liable to exalt their experience and their path as being the topmost. A karma yogī is not going to budge from their conviction that karma yoga is the topmost sādhana because that is their singular focus. Likewise if a devotee wants to see Bhagavān as Rāma, then tattva manifests as Rāma only and that is the highest goal for them.
Because revelations match in accordance with the seer’s singular desire, and are interpreted according to the seer’s saṁskāras, there is variety in the narratives of the seers. Each seer exalts their path because of their absorption in that path. This is one way of understanding why there is disagreement among the dārśanikas. But there are also key commonalities- they all agree on the existence of a spiritual reality which is presently beyond the grasp of the senses.
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