I'm currently reading Ancient History of India and I have the following question - It has been widely documented that religion is divided into sects on account of differences in the interpretations of scriptures/teachings of their founder. so, Why is it that the language of the texts or their ideas weren't represented in a clear and ambiguous manner so that there arise no future conflicts? why keep texts or teachings that opens up to multiple interpretations (not that multiple interpretations are bad since we have an enormous diversity of thought and intellect) in a way which invariably lends itself to differences in opinion on what "ought" to be the case and to head in a direction which is in direct opposition to what its founder intended. For eg- Shia-Sunni under Islam, Jains too were divided into two sects on account of differences in opinions. How to resolve this? I think it is like the constitution of the country where it is widely interpreted differently to evolve with society and hence, stay relevant. Is it the same with religion too? But my primary concern remains how to ward off the animosity that grows between the two sects? Please, share your thoughts and knowledge. This question is literally bugging me up.

Grateful and Thank you

  • Difference of opinion is a universal human trait not specific to religion, and attempts to exorcise it are futile, those unhappy will simply reject "clear and unambiguous words" outright. It is better to have a big tent that can be most things to most people, with diverging interpretations but also a common core, than violent break-ups and even more atrocious conflicts between backers of irreconcilable rigid dogmas. Christianity vs Islam during the Crusades would be an illustration of the alternative. – Conifold Jan 12 '20 at 1:37
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    Interesting as this question is, I doubt if philosophy throws light on it. Sociology and psychology hold more promise. – Geoffrey Thomas Jan 12 '20 at 2:09

First, lets make one point clear... Spiritual 'truths' are matters of pointing, not teaching. No one can teach a spiritual truth; one can only point in the direction of it in the hope that people will follow the gesture and see for themselves. It's the old Buddhist parable of the finger pointing at the moon brought to life; we want to follow where the finger is pointing, not get fixated on the finger itself, or the act of pointing. But that is far more difficult to do in practice than to talk about in theory.

Imagine that you walk into a field where there are dozens of people pointing at the moon. Whose finger do you follow? Are they all pointing at the same thing? Until you've seen the moon itself those questions are unanswerable; once you've seen the moon, those questions become irrelevant. That is the nature of the beast. Conflicts arise between people who have not yet seen the moon — conflicts over which finger to follow, and what the moon will look like when we follow the right finger and see it — and that is an unfortunate and unavoidable consequence of ignorance the tries to lead ignorance.

People who see are as clear as they can be, but there is no wisdom that can withstand misinterpretation. Sects evolve because people point in different ways, and insist that their way of pointing is correct above and beyond the wisdom they are pointing at. It's up to us to discriminate.


To understand the religion of India you would have to understand why there are many flavours and schools. Thus the question here is not really answerable in an internet post but only by following the teachings and acquiring knowledge. The answer by Ted Wrigley covers some of the ground but there is more.

A number of factors are in play.

First, all the sciences are surrounded by a halo of misunderstandings and pseudo-science and especially where the science is subtle and complex, as with QM for instance. This is true for all religion. If we examine modern science we find there are people who believe the earth is flat, that relativity is a Jewish conspiracy and that the theory of evolution is the work of the Devil. Yet we do not ask why there are so many sects in the natural sciences. We study the subject and soon learn to distinguish the good stuff from the nonsense.

Second, generally-speaking Indian religion teaches that the true nature of reality is beyond conceptual fabrication. This means that while we can point to it we cannot describe it, and this leads to ten thousand misunderstandings. Thus those who have not realised truth must rely on speculative interpretations and these may vary considerably. Meanwhile the truth would be beyond imagination and only available to those who have done the experimental work.

Third, as you dig into the heart of all these sects you'll find that they begin to merge. Often they are different approaches and methods, for each of us has our own personality and preferred approach, but not mutually inconsistent doctrines.

The crucial distinction between religious teachings is between those that help us discover the truth and those that tell us what to believe. The latter approach is not popular in the Indian tradition, although even there many believers are happy to believe rather than investigate. .

Fourthly, the nature of Reality would be such that our language cannot convey it. You ask why teachers do not explain more clearly the nature of reality, but once one grasps what it is they are saying it can be seen that they could not explain any more simply and clearly. They are doing their best to explain simply and clearly and often succeeding, but it will not appear this way if we do not understand what they are saying. The language of Unity and non-duality is non-ordinary and easily mistaken for a muddle, but once 'grokked' it is simple and clear.

Fifthly, people will believe any old thing if it suits them. To compare religions, sects and schools it would be important to dig into them and find the expert writings and teachings, for these will always be surrounded by the dodgy views of students and muddled scholars. But their correct interpretation cannot be discovered from merely reading texts, just as we cannot interpret the word 'pain' by merely reading a book.

Sixthly, religious teachings are a game of Chinese Whispers. As time goes by they become subject to various different readings. In my view Roman Christianity and its departure from the original teachings would be a paradigm case.

There are sects in Buddhism, notably Therevada and Mahayana, that disagree quite violently. In the second-century Nagarjuna demonstrated a logical proof of reality in order to settle these disputes and it should have worked. But even all this time later the Theravadans won't budge. People will believe what they want unless they are truth-seekers. Philosophers have the task of sorting the wheat from the chaff. It can be done, but only by abandoning speculative interpretations and ungrounded beliefs for logic and experience, which is what most the mainstream Indian sects advise us to do.


All phenomenon, as premised upon certain axioms, entropy through a progressive regression into various other axioms due to entropy, be it religion, or philosophy.

This entropy, while grounded in physics occurs abstractly as well considering the point particles which form physical phenomenom share a common bond with atomic truths as points of awareness.

The whole a priori and a posteriori dichotomy of Kant falls apart in face of point space as point space is the same in physics as well as the nature of inherently empty assumptions from a point of view.

Thus the laws of physics, while subject to physics, have similar laws corresponding in psychology.

It is the divergence of axioms, through reflection, which allows for a new convergence of these axioms into a different form as am adaptation to chaos. Nietzches eternal reoccurrence comes to mind as well as Lucretius' "The Nature of Things".

Applying this directly to your statement, all beliefs entropy and refortify into new beleifs upon an exposure or adaptation to chaos, or an antithetical element. If you look at Christian history each divergence into a new sect was over an interpretation resolving from an antithetical perspective (sola scriptura vs tradition is one example).


In my view, this happens primarily due to two reasons.

(1) Different people have spiritual experiences with different rituals. Religions (almost) always have rituals. But in any religion, there are people who cannot experience anything spiritual with the existing rituals and when they realize that they can also have spiritual experiences with different rituals (and when they are in sizeable numbers) they start a new religion (which is almost always a new sect within an existing religion) with those new rituals.

(2) The other reason is common for the disintegration of political parties (especially leftist parties that are based on voluminous doctrines). People interpret texts differently, people come up with new ideas, people change their believes, people drop existing assumptions & adopt new assumptions, etc. and this type of epistemological reasons also contribute towards the emergence of sects within existing religion.

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