Hinduism has so many sects because each person in Hinduism… The caste system is very strict but as far as thinking is concerned you are absolutely free. If you are born in the house of a shoemaker you cannot change it, you will have to remain a shoemaker. No other profession will allow you in. You cannot move from one caste to another caste; that movement is absolutely closed.
So for centuries your forefathers and their forefathers and their forefathers and their forefathers were all making shoes – so you will make shoes. If they were weaving clothes, you will weave clothes; you will be a weaver. If they were carpenters, you will be a carpenter. There is no movement as far as your business, trade, lifestyle is concerned, but as far as thinking is concerned there is no bondage. You could move from being a follower of Shankaracharya and you could become a follower of Vallabhacharya, another spiritual head, a contemporary of Shankaracharya’s and against Shankaracharya.
Sanskrit is such a language that with just a little logic everything can be interpreted in many ways. Each word has many meanings; that gives beauty to it. It gives it poetry because you can play with the word in so many ways, it does not have a fixed meaning. But it is also dangerous: you cannot write signs in Sanskrit because then there will be so many interpretations, and that is what has happened. On the Gita there are one thousand famous commentaries, to say nothing about non-famous commentaries! – there will be many thousands more. But there are one thousand very famous commentaries.
It is thought that anyone who writes a commentary on three of the scriptures – the Vedas, Badarayana’s Brahmasutras and Krishna’s Shrimad Bhagavadgita – becomes an acharya, a head: he can create a following. Now it is not very difficult to write commentaries on these three scriptures.
Many commentaries are available. Shankara wrote one in his own time. Vallabhacharya wrote differently, a totally different interpretation. Ramanujacharya wrote one, different again from both. Nimbarkacharya wrote one different from them all – not only different but quite the opposite. But the Gita is capable of being looked at from any angle. It gives tremendous freedom to think, to comment, but it also creates great confusion.
So Hinduism is not a religion like Christianity, Judaism or Mohammedanism. In Mohammedanism there is one prophet, one god, one book – that’s all. In Hinduism there are thousands of scriptures, all of tremendous value; and on each scripture there are thousands of commentaries, and every commentary has some value, some insight. Then there are commentaries upon commentaries…
Shankara writes a commentary on the Gita; then among Shankara’s followers one follower writes one commentary on Shankara’s commentary, and another follower writes another commentary on Shankara’s commentary – because the commentary is also as vulnerable to interpretation as the original. Then their disciples go on writing more commentaries.