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Texts and scriptures in Hinduism are very vivid and vast. Many times they are incorrectly labeled and quoted to mislead people. This has created a sense of distrust amongst some regarding how legitimate these texts really are. Some questions I often see floated around are:

How do we know the Mahabharata happened?

How do we know if Ramayana, Bhagvad Gita, etc. are not simply literature from ancient India relying on fictitious elements?

Is it true that Hindu texts described atomic bombs, aeroplanes, etc?

How do we believe in Hinduism if there are so many different sects each with different belief systems and varied retellings of the events mentioned in the texts?

These are just some of the questions I could find. I would like to know of some concrete and authentic sources to address the issue. How do we know what is written in the texts is true, and occurred in the past? In other words, how do I know that Hinduism isn't just an archaic system of beliefs?

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Hindu scriptures have told us how to read and understand them.

A Hindu should do what he thinks is right and not blindly follow ancient texts. You should remember that Hinduism has no centralized organization to check errors in scriptures. Ancient Christians had the Church to select the texts that were considered to be correct and dump texts that did not reflect Christian teaching. Similarly one of the righteous Caliphs, companion of the Prophet, Uthman burnt down all variants of the Koran and commissioned a scholar to write the most authoritative version of it. Since Hindus do not have any such organization they have to look at scripture to see what it says about this issue. Hindu scriptures ask Hindus to do internal consistency checks before accepting any scriptural statement as valid. Hindu scriptural verse must survive three checks in order to be acceptable.

Reason

Even the words heard from an ignorant person, if in themselves they be fraught with sense, come to be regarded as pious and wise. In days of old, Usanas said unto the Daityas this truth, which should remove all doubts, that scriptures are no scriptures if they cannot stand the test of reason.

Mahabharata Shanti Parva Section CXLII

Acharya Shankara says:

The appeal to the infallibility of the Vedic injunction is misconceived. The infallibility in question refers only to the unseen forces or apurva, and is admissible only in regards to matters not confined to the sphere of direct perceptions, etc ... Even a hundred statements of sruti to the effect that fire is cold and non-luminous won't prove valid. If it does make such a statement, its import will have to be interpreted differently. Otherwise, validity won't attach to it. Nothing in conflict with the means of valid cognition or with its own statements may be imputed to sruti.

REF: Srimad Bhagavad Gita Bhasya 18.66 of Sri Sankaracarya translation by Dr. A. G. Krishna Warrier

Non-discrimination

If a holy act is against the interest of other members of the society, it should not be practiced. It is Dharma which is the source of Artha and even of Kama.

Kurma Purana I.2.54

If a scriptural verse does advocate discrimination then don't follow that verse.

Conscience

The whole Veda is the (first) source of the sacred law, next the tradition and the virtuous conduct of those who know the (Veda further), also the customs of holy men, and (finally) self-satisfaction.

Manu Smriti II.6

Bhishma said, ‘He is said to be conversant with duty who knows duty as depending on four foundations.’

[four foundations, i.e., as laid down in the Vedas; as laid down in the Smritis; as sanctioned by ancient usage and customs; and as approved by the heart or one’s own conscience.]

Mahabharata, Santi Parva, Section CXXXII

Hindu scripture can’t override reason and conscience. Nor can Hindu scripture be used to discriminate against a community.

The Smriti texts and the Puranas that we have today reflect the attitude of people who lived many centuries ago. Most of these texts have been revised many times. These texts teach us to adapt these teachings to modern times and in fact discard any teaching that seems obsolete today..

However, discard the desire (kama) and material wealth (artha) if contrary to Dharma; as also, any usage or custom or rules regarded as source of Dharma if at any time they were to lead to unhappiness or arouse people's indignation.

(Manu Smriti 4.176)

A Hindu should only take the essential teachings and not be a fundamentalist.

Essential Teachings

An intelligent man should seek the essential teachings of all scriptural texts of varying importance, just as a honey-bee sucks the essence of all flowers.

Srimad Bhagavata Purana XI.8.10

We have discussed the general approach to understand the teaching of Hindu scripture. Now let us answer the specific questions asked.

How do we know the Mahabharata happened?

Archaeology suggests that there is some historical truth in the Mahabharata. Modern scholars find less certain evidence for Ramayana compared to Mahabharata. None of the major Ramayana sites has been clearly identified. That is not the case with the Mahabharata.

The Mahabharata is much more real than the Ramayana. And, therefore, much more fascinating. Every conceivable human emotion figures in it, which is the reason why it is possible to identify with it even today. The text itself states that what is not found in the Mahabharata, will not be found anywhere else. Unlike the Ramayana, India is littered with real places that have identifications with the Mahabharata.(Ayodhya or Lanka or Chitrakuta are identifications that are less certain.) Kurukshetra, Hastinapura, Indraprastha, Karnal, Mathura, Dvaraka, Gurgaon, Girivraja are real places: the list is endless. In all kinds of unlikely places, one comes across temples erected by the Pandavas when they were exiled to the forest. In some of these places, archaeological excavations have substantiated the stories.

The Mahabharata critical edition Introduction by Bibek Debroy

How do we know if Ramayana, Bhagavad Gita, etc. are not simply literature from ancient India relying on fictitious elements?

Unlike Mahabharata, archeological evidence for Ramayana is scanty. Bhagavad Gita is a moksha sastra and thus a philosophical text. Any fictitious element has no influence on it's philosophical teaching.

Is it true that Hindu texts described atomic bombs, aeroplanes, etc?

There is mention of devastating weapons whose described impact could be compared to the impact of atomic bombs, but their constitution is not mentioned. And vimana are mentioned, description of whose activity is identical to aircrafts (flight), but these devastating weapons and vimana are of divine construction and not a permanent part of human civilization.

How do we believe in Hinduism if there are so many different sects each with different belief systems and varied retellings of the events mentioned in the texts?

You read through the literature of the various sects then decide for yourself the correctness of the sectarian teachings. Hinduism leaves it to the reader to decide.

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I am going to try to keep this as short as possible so that it is readable in a sufficient amount of time.

Q) How to verify validity of Hindu texts and scriptures. Is Hinduism really scientific. Due to so much diversity, is it a reliable system of beliefs?

And) Hinduism is a very broad and diverse religion. It is a culmination of many beliefs and cultures across the entire Indian subcontinent, unified under the concept of Tridev or Brahma Vishnu Mahesh, the Creator, Preserver and Destroyer.

Though such vastness and diversity is not the reason for our texts to be wrongly quoted by others. No doubts, we have a library of scriptures, be it the 18 Puranas, 4 Vedas or 108 Upanishads. It is very difficult for a person living in today's tedious world to read all of them as it requires intense patience and hardwork.

But there are some basic and necessary books which provide humanity a summary of what is written in all of these, The Bhagwat Geeta. Gita is not simply a literature, but a culmination of morals and an ocean of infinite knowledge. The Gita teaches one how to live, what to do, how to do and everything one needs to succeed in life.

A popular shloka from the book goes as follows:

Karmanye Vadhikaraste Ma phaleshukadachana Ma karma phal heturbhu, marte sangostva karmani.

Lord Krishna, in this shloka tells Arjuna that while a civilized person (Someone who is honest and not a menace) performs any action, he must not get bewitched to the fruits that his actions shall bear. In simpler words, one must not think about the consequences of the actions one performs.

Upon deep thinking, I, when I heard realized how crucially these lines affect me. People often think about doing task which shall help them achieve their goal. People work hard for it day and night, and yet sometimes fail to achieve it. Whilst fantasizing about when their hardwork shall pay off, one often forgets that there is a chance they never achieve it. If their hardwork fails to ripe fruits, they lose hope, get disappointed and stop working hard. This is why Krishna says to stop the thought of achieving the goal itself from coming to mind.

This is just one of the 701 Shlokas in the Bhagvat Gita, all being a provider of knowledge.

Similarly, apart from the Puranas, which we ourselves do not consider as a reliable source for events which might have occurred, the Vedas and the Upanishads, both provide us knowledge on how to live life like an honest and a happy person.

The diversity of our religion is what should make us believe in it more firmly. We have so many cultural differences among ourselves, yet we are all united under the Supreme Tridev. We are the oldest and have thrived for the longest amount of time. We must not forget that it is us that the islamic invaders wipe out and the Christian missionaries wished to convert, yet even after so much diversity, we thrived. I don't ask my the person sitting beside me if he worships lord Krishna or not. The diversity we have is for giving everyone a choice. You can worship the god that you relate to the most. If you like naughty children, you worship Krishna. If you like someone who is embodiment of righteousness, your worship lord Rama. If you fear ghosts, Lord Hanuman saves the day for you. It is your choice who you wish to worship, as all are same. All gods are just form of the supreme divinity and deity, which we refer to as Paramabrahma.

The Mahabharat and the Ramayana are the only two texts in Hinduism which are referred to as Itihasa (History in English) as these are the only two texts which consider to be history, actual events of the past.

  1. The accuracy with which the texts describe the flora and fauna of a pre-historic period, is one clue as to the validity of the texts.

  2. The Rama Setu is an actual bridge made up solely of stones, which still links Sri Lanka and Southern coast of Tamil Nadu.

  3. Countless ancient temples found in the middle east. An inscription of King Vikramaditya, whose empire rang the bells of Europe, covered the entire middle east was found on a gold dish in Mecca.

  4. Remains of dwarka, the kingdom ruled by shri Krishna, are still present in the Gulf of Cambay, 36 meters below the ocean. The descriptions of the structure are exactly similar to what is mentioned in the Mahabharata.

The presence of the method to make an atomic bomb, being present in our scriptures is an incorrect claim, as of the scriptures discovered yet. Though, models the physics behind the working of an airplane are indeed there in our scriptures. The diameter of earth, distance between Earth and Sun, the diameter of sun are all very accurately predicted in our scriptures.

I hope that wraps up all of your questions. As a Hindu, it is our moral duty to ask questions and not believe anything blindly, as blind faith gives rise to social evils as we have seen ourselves. Fake Babas have tainted the purity of Hinduism, making us questions the reliability of our religion. Even when god came upon earth in Krishna avatar, we didn't hesitate to question them, and only when we got a satisfactory answer, is when we started their worship. As famously referred,

Blockquote

India is not a land of believers, but a land of seekers.

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  • As it’s currently written, your answer is unclear. Please edit to add additional details that will help others understand how this addresses the question asked. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
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    Commented Jun 4 at 10:58
  • You have presented a nice analysis. Your views are similar to mine and I believe one must always seek to learn more.
    – Sahaj
    Commented Jun 4 at 11:49

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