efore we speak of social reform and religious dogma we must be clear about which the society is and which is the religion we speak on. To begin with I will take human society and all the religions known to be practised in the world. Later, if there is the need, I may refer to a particular society and a particular religion.
What are known as religions, faiths and creeds, if they are taken in a favourable sense, have been established for social welfare. They give a blue print for human life.
Just as the members of a reading room or a recreation club or any association formulate rules for the functioning of the outfit, people living in a region formulate on their own or make a leader or a wise man put down rules and regulations for their social living and for carrying on their life properly, without any hitch or causing hardships to their fellow beings. These are made in accordance with the times and the regions and the intellectual level of the members. However, when people were not able to understand even the pros and cons of those rules, certain myths were created to induce people into compliance.
If parents or guardians were to believe that their child is not in a position to protect itself, and not even in a position to understand the conditions laid down even if they are explained in detail, the parents or the guardian would, in order to ensure the safety of the child, create a bugbear or monster and exaggerate the imaginary danger adding a sign language to their narrative, all in order to ensure the compliance of the child out of fear.
In the same manner when men do not follow the rules meant for their well being for lack of understanding of their necessity or significance, then the so called wise men of the day try to scare them into obedience by relating something that is beyond the people’s understanding. This is how people have been made to live in accordance with religious dogmas and discipline.
Heaven, Hell, Yama (the god of death), rebirth, karma, fate – hellish punishment and all those scriptures and mythology which go to authenticate them – all these come under the category of scare, and conditioning. After these scriptures were written it was felt that they might not be believed if people knew that they were human creations. Hence they were attributed to gods and rishis and such other superhuman beings. Those who believed in these sayings were sure to go to heaven, and those who failed to follow them would be sent to hell. It is in this way that people were made to believe in religious dogmas.
Innocent people as well as pundits who learnt to make their living through those dogmas held to these dogmas stubbornly and vehemently blocked the development of intellect in keeping with changing times. This resulted in the birth of many religions as per the need of the times.
Those religions which gave room to change, flourished whereas those who were rigid withered away. If people accept any religion subject to the above condition and exercise their right to change it according to the changing time and in accordance with the development of knowledge, an intelligent man must welcome such a religion, whatever it is.
If we take the Indian society or the Hindu religion, it is not easy to deal with them. The Indian society has a feeling that it has been created mostly for protecting Hindu religion. Another funny matter is that the society has given the go by to all the principles meant for social welfare, but is clinging fast to the meaningless and imaginary myths fabricated purely the sake of luring and scaring the people into compliance.
The Indian society has been denied the opportunities for deriving knowledge and the right to use their reason in their conduct. Without giving a thought to questions like ‘What is the aim of religion?’ ‘Why were the religious dogmas created?’, the Indian religion is still unable to reform itself or plan for its development.
If you look round you will find that the fundamental mindset and the way in which one behaves with the others are similar for people of all religions. Only the men folk sport some indication to reveal their religion, from which you can identify whether the person is a Saivite, a Vaishnavite, a Smartha, a Hindu, a Muslim or a Christian. But their behaviour, on the other hand, will be similar irrespective of their religion.
After these scriptures were written it was felt that they might not be believed if people knew that they were human creations. Hence they were attributed to gods and rishis and such other superhuman beings.
Therefore, religion or creed for everybody is in the outward appearance and not in their principles which they have given up altogether. Because, religious preaching in today’s world is confined to the outward marks and appearances and not to ensure whether their tenets are followed. As all the religions stop with outward appearances it has become impossible to discern religious way of life in them.
Hence, nobody cares about whatever tenets are formulated by religions. It is owing to this reason that it has become impossible to find true tenets of religion in the followers of any religion. No one cares about any principle presented in the name of religion.
Since people are assured of their position in the religion even through such externals and such rewards like heaven, divine grace and a rewarding rebirth, they devote all their concentration upon external appearances and ignore the main preachings of religions. Hence, if religion has to become really useful to people all the frightening notions and fabricated narratives must at once be discarded. Heaven, hell, fate god’s reward – all these ideas and external signs and markings must be done away with.
Otherwise even the religion with the best philosophy will fail to yield any results. Principles, reasoning and real experience must be harmonized and people must be allowed to behave in accordance with their own reasoning. I strongly believe that religions that depend upon mere fairy tales will be of no use in the present day.
Let us take an example. In the olden days when there was little education and less worldly knowledge, people were induced to travel outside their place by invoking ideas like divine grace, heavenly position or reward in the next birth if they travel to a particular place. Tales were written to augment this notion. Out of compassion, people had to be prevented from overburdening animals by using them for travelling. So people were advised that pilgrimage on foot would earn them god’s blessings. Are all such tales necessary in these days of newspapers and so much of transport facilities? We have been blindly following many such things in the name of religions and got steeped in ignorance, poverty and subjugation.
If we want to free people from such miseries we must boldly proclaim the real philosophy of our religion and courageously exterminate all false notions. Besides, all such deviants like temples, tanks, worship, god’s grace, rebirth which form the basis for fabrication must be totally exterminated. Otherwise there is no freedom, liberation or redemption for mankind. One may point out that such deviants and falsehoods are common for all religions. But all these are at their peak in Hindu religion and among Indian people and impede any progress or reform. People of other countries and other religions are boldly modifying their religious tenets, remove the obstacles and are marching towards progress and liberation.
Hence, young men, I appeal to you to think about all these things deeply, find your own solution so that you bring about social progress and make your religion support such move.
Speech delivered at Pachayappa’s College, Chennai – Source: ‘Kudi Arasu’ – 25th January 1931.
Translated by Prof. A.Ayyasamy