Why do enlightened people contradict each other? For example, Adi Shankara was enlightened and he taught Advaita Vedanta, while Mahavira (founder Of Jainism) was also enlightened and he taught and Jainism.

One accepted the Authorities of the Vedas and other rejected the Authorities of Vedas.

Both of them realized the truth, and both of them were enlightened.

If two people realize the absolute truth, then they should not contradict each other.

Why did two people who realized the truth, and became enlightened, contradict each other?

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – TheLittleNaruto
    Commented Mar 10, 2021 at 17:46
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    Rama Krishna said all (ALL) sages know the same thing. But the truth is beyond words
    – Al Brown
    Commented Jul 27, 2021 at 10:06
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    They do not contradict. They give different paths for people of different gunas. e.g. one rishi says climb steps 1 step at a time. Another rishi says climb it 2 steps at a time. Another says, climb 1 then 2 then 1 then 2.. Are they contradicting each other ? Yes - in the journey. Are they contradicting each other ? No - in the destination.
    – ram
    Commented Jul 29, 2022 at 6:31

3 Answers 3


The Ultimate Reality is infinite. An enlightened person may not have experienced the whole of this Reality. The partial experience of the Reality leads to apparent contradictions.

Let me give here the experience of Totapuri, the Advaita Vedanta Guru of Sri Ramakrishna. Sri Puri has had the Advaita moksha experience after 40 years of effort. He did not accept the reality of Hindu Devatas.

From Sri Ramakrishna Totapuri had to learn the significance of Kali, the Great Fact of the relative world, and of maya, Her indescribable Power.

One day, when guru and disciple were engaged in an animated discussion about Vedanta, a servant of the temple garden came there and took a coal from the sacred fire that had been lighted by the great ascetic. He wanted it to light his tobacco. Totapuri flew into a rage and was about to beat the man. Sri Ramakrishna rocked with laughter. "What a shame!" he cried. "You are explaining to me the reality of Brahman and the illusoriness of the world; yet now you have so far forgotten yourself as to be about to beat a man in a fit of passion. The power of maya is indeed inscrutable!" Totapuri was embarrassed.

About this time Totapuri was suddenly laid up with a severe attack of dysentery. On account of this miserable illness he found it impossible to meditate. One night the pain became excruciating. He could no longer concentrate on Brahman. The body stood in the way. He became incensed with its demands. A free soul, he did not at all care for the body. So he determined to drown it in the Ganges. Thereupon he walked into the river. But, lo! He walks to the other bank." (This version of the incident is taken from the biography of Sri Ramakrishna by Swami Saradananda, one of the Master's direct disciples.) Is there not enough water in the Ganges? Standing dumbfounded on the other bank he looks back across the water. The trees, the temples, the houses, are silhouetted against the sky. Suddenly, in one dazzling moment, he sees on all sides the presence of the Divine Mother. She is in everything; She is everything. She is in the water; She is on land. She is the body; She is the mind. She is pain; She is comfort. She is knowledge; She is ignorance. She is life; She is death. She is everything that one sees, hears, or imagines. She turns "yea" into "nay", and "nay" into "yea". Without Her grace no embodied being can go beyond Her realm. Man has no free will. He is not even free to die. Yet, again, beyond the body and mind She resides in Her Transcendental, Absolute aspect. She is the Brahman that Totapuri had been worshipping all his life.

Totapuri returned to Dakshineswar and spent the remaining hours of the night meditating on the Divine Mother. In the morning he went to the Kali temple with Sri Ramakrishna and prostrated himself before the image of the Mother. He now realized why he had spent eleven months at Dakshineswar.

The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, Introduction, Tota Puri by Swami Nikhilananda

  • The untimate reality is infinite means Brahman is infinite, why did buddha reject this untimate reality. Commented Mar 9, 2021 at 12:54
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    Did Buddha reject Brahman? I don't think so. Read the Tevijja Sutta where he even talks about unity with Brahman. He seems not to have accepted the self. Commented Mar 9, 2021 at 13:14
  • @DarkKnight Buddha believed in the Unmanifest, unconditioned, unborn, ultimate. He did not think there is only the conditioned existence.
    – Al Brown
    Commented Jul 27, 2021 at 10:05
  • Buddha came to a different conclusion.
    – WillyWonka
    Commented Jul 27, 2021 at 19:40

Swami Sivananda writes in his "May I answer That" book, Page 93, Question 247 -

Prophets are born from time to time to remove a catastrophe and establish Dharma. They preach according to the time, place, conditions and requirements. Lord Buddha preached, “Don’t kill”. Guru Govind Singh preached, “Kill”. When Buddha was born, people were sacrificing many animals. He had to preach Ahimsa to stop killing. Guru Govind Singh had to infuse chivalry in man. One prophet preached, “Renounce and go to the forest”. Sri Ramanuja preached, “Enjoy at home. Have no attachment. Worship Vishnu”. The teachings are not contradictory in reality. They are needed to suit the occasion, time and nature of men.

  • Okk but the problem is one taught there is no supreme God or perfect entity Mahavira but adi taught there is perfect entity and Supreme God. Commented Mar 9, 2021 at 5:24
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    @DarkKnight Swami Vivekananda says "Each soul is potentially divine. The goal is to manifest this Divinity within by controlling nature, external and internal. Do this either by work, or worship, or mental discipline, or philosophy—by one, or more, or all of these—and be free. This is the whole of religion. Doctrines, or dogmas, or rituals, or books, or temples, or forms, are but secondary details." Commented Mar 9, 2021 at 5:27
  • sorry but didn't understand what your are try to say. Commented Mar 9, 2021 at 5:31
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    Please refer to my Skanda Purana Quote in this answer hinduism.stackexchange.com/a/45044/19211 Its too long to paste in comments. Commented Mar 9, 2021 at 5:35
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    @Blue here we are speaking different philosophy and its followers. The Abhramic Religion is different question, first it doenst have concept of reincartion or rebirth. So there is no connect with indic religions. All this non indic religion is propogated for the good of people living there according to their intellect.
    – Prasanna R
    Commented Mar 19, 2021 at 2:59

It is true that enlightened people may contradict each other. In simple words, the reason for such apparent contradiction is the presence of vasanas, which are not harmful to the realization, in those people. And those people may not eradicate them voluntarily.

This answer is totally based on the words of Dattatreya from chapter 19 of the scripture named Tripura Rahasyam.

#1: Different behaviors by enlightened people may lead to apparent contradictions

Although the state of moksha is the same for all enlightened people, they tend to exhibit different behaviors, which sometimes lead to contradictions. The following words of Dattatreya clarify this. Dattatreya enumerated a list of enlightened people with different sorts of behavior.

O Scion of Bhrighu's lineage! There are apparent differences in the characteristics of Jnanis, caused by the aspects and attitudes of intellect and the varieties in its activities. Such differences are quite obvious in Brahma, Vishnu and Siva who are Jnanis by nature. That does not mean that jnana admits of variety. These attitudes depend on their vasanas (dispositions) and environments. They are Lords of the universe and all-knowing. Their jnana is pure and uncontaminated by what they do. Whether a Jnani is fair or dark in complexion, his jnana neither shares these qualities nor the qualities of the mind. See the difference in the three sons of Atri, namely, Durvasa (said to be of the aspect of Siva and reputed to be exceedingly irritable), Chandra and myself (Dattatreya, of the aspect of Sriman Narayana or Vishnu, reputed to be the ideal of saints, roaming nude in the forests, etc.). Vasishta never fails in the strictest adherence to duty as prescribed by the scriptures; whereas Sanaka, Sananda, Sanatsujata and Sanatkumara are types of ascetics totally indifferent to any action, including religious rites; Narada is the ideal of bhakti ; Bhargava (Sukra, the well-known preceptor of Asuras, who incessantly fight against the gods) supports the enemies of the gods, whereas the equally great Sage Brihaspati supports the gods against their enemies; Vyasa is ever busy in codifying the Vedas, and in propagating their truth in the shape of the Mahabharata, the Puranas and the Upapuranas; Janaka famous as the ascetic-king; Jadabharata looking like an idiot; and many others.


It is evident that Sukracharya contradicts gods. And there are also different behaviors between the realized people. The sole reason is that some kind of vasanas can continue after self-realization also.

#2: Enlightened people do not care about the vasanas they possess as they are not harmful to the realization

There exist certain kinds of vasanas that are not harmful to the realization. Those vasanas are called kama vasanas or vasanas of desire.

Sages with subtle and clear intellect have not considered it worthwhile to eradicate their desire, etc., by forcing other thoughts to take their place, because desires do not obstruct realisation. Therefore their desires continue to manifest even after realisation, as before. Neither are they tainted by such vasanas. They are said to be emancipated and diverse-minded. They are also reputed to be the best class of Jnanis.


The vasanas not inimical to realisation are not weeded out by the best class of Jnanis because they cannot seek new ones to crowd the old out. Therefore the old ones continue until they are exhausted and thus you find among them some highly irritable, some lustful and others pious and dutiful, and so on.


Thus the enlightened people can differ in behavior and other aspects due to the kama vasanas. It is important to note that this answer does not contradict the other answers as the kama vasanas can be due to niyathi. You can observe it from the first quote of this answer.

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