It has become a new fashion with the educated Hindu to turn up his nose and sneer in contempt at the very mention of his religion in any discussion. Personally, I too belong in my sympathies to these critics of our religion. But when this thoughtless team begins to declare that we would benefit ourselves socially and nationally by running away from our sacred religion, I pause to reconsider my own stand.
At the present state of moral, ethical and cultural degradation in our country, to totally dispose off religion would be making our dash to ruin the quicker. However decadent our religion may be, it is far better than having none at all. My proposal is that the wise thing would be for us to try and bring about a renaissance of Hinduism so that under its greatness – proved through many centuries – we may come to grow into the very heights of culture and civilization that was ours in the historical past.
No doubt, in India, Hinduism has come to mean nothing more than a bundle of sacred superstitions, or a certain way of dressing, cooking, eating, talking, and so on. Our gods have fallen to the mortal level of administration officers at whose altars the faithful Hindu might pray and get special permits for the things he desires; that is, if he pays the required fee to the priest!
This degradation is not the product of any accidental and sudden historical upheaval. For two hundred years Hinduism has remained an unwanted orphan without any patronage of the state and little encouragement of the rich. Once upon a time, the learned philosophers were rightly advisers of the state. But the quality of the adviser class (Brahmin) and the ruler class (Kshatriya) deteriorated. By slowly putrefying themselves in the leprous warmth of luxury and power, they have taken us to the regrettable stage in which we find ourselves now. The general cry of the educated class is really against this un-religion. However, it is only the thoughtless, uninformed leaders who call this Hinduism.
Certainly, if Hinduism can breed for us only heartless lalas (shopkeepers), corrupt babus (clerks), cowardly men, loveless masters and faithless servants; if Hinduism can give us only a state of social living in which each man is put up against his brother, if Hinduism can give us only starvation, nakedness and destitution; if Hinduism can only encourage us only to plunder, to loot and to steal; if Hinduism can preach to us only intolerance, fanaticism, hard heartedness, and cruelty; then I too cry, “Down, Down ” with that Hinduism.
And yet the above is a realistic picture of the sad condition and plight into which the Hindu people, as a nation, have allowed themselves to fall. This is the tragic picture of the great Hindu disaster in the present day India.
But Hinduism is not this external show that we have learned to parade about in our daily lives. Hinduism is a science of perfection. There is in it an answer to every individual, social, national, or international problem. But, unfortunately, the religion which we have come to follow blindly, is not the grand true Hinduism. It is only the treacherous scheme thrust upon us some time in the past by the selfish, arrogant, power-mad priest class whose intention was to make us slaves of their plans and our own passions. The present day Hindu ignoramuses prove the tragic success of these religious saboteurs. With their guidance we overlook the fundamental tenets in our sacred scriptures that are the very background of Hinduism. True Hinduism is the Sanatana Dharma (Eternal Truth) of the Upanishads.
The Upanishads declare in unmistakable terms that in reality man – at the peak of his achievements – is God Himself. He is advised to live his day-to-day experiences in life in such a systematic and scientific way that hour by hour, he is consciously cleansing himself of all the encrustation of imperfections that have gathered to conceal the beauty and divinity of the true Eternal Personality in him. The methods by which an individual can consciously purify and evolve by his self – effort to regain the status of his True Nature is the content of Hinduism. Hinduism in its vast amphitheater has preserved and worshipped, under the camouflage of the heavy descriptions contained in the puranas, shastras (scriptures), and their commentaries of thousand different interpretations. This overgrowth has so effectively come to conceal the real beauty and grandeur of this tiny temple of Truth that today the college educated illiterates, in their ignorance of the language and style of the ancient Sanskrit writers, miss the temple amidst its own festoons.
To inquire into the very textbooks of our religion with a view to knowing what Hinduism has to teach, and how its message can be used to save us as we face the problems of our daily lives, is the aim of the One hundred days’ Upanishad Gnana Yagna, which is now proposed to commence on December 31, 1951, here in Poona.
Religion becomes dead and ineffectual if the seekers are not ready to live its ideals. For that matter, is there any philosophy – political, social, or cultural – which can take us to its promised land of success, without our following its principles in our day – to – day living?
However great our culture might have been in the past, that dead glory, reported in the pages of history books, is not going to help us in our present trials. If the barbarous cavemen of the unexplored jungles want to become as civilized as the men of modern nations, they cannot achieve this total revolution through mere discourses, or even through an exhaustive study of the literature describing the ways of the modern civilized nations. They will have to know and then live the civilized values of life. A mere knowing of it will not help them. They can claim the blessings of their knowledge only if they are ready to live what they know. In order to live as civilized men, they will have to renounce completely their ways of uncivilized thinking and acting.
In fact, without renunciation no progress is ever possible. We must renounce the thrills of our childhood games in order to grow to be young men of noble actions. Again, unless we renounce our youthful spirit, we cannot come to the reverence of old age.
Unless we are ready to renounce the low animal values of material life and replace them with the noble values of the truly religious life, we cannot hope to gain the blessings of religion. A study of a cookbook, however thorough it might be, will not satisfy our hunger. No matter how long we meditate upon and repeat the name of the medicine, we cannot get the cure we need until we actually take the medicine. Similarly, the blessings of religion can be ours only when we are ready to live the recommended values. To condemn unpracticed religion is as meaningless as those cavemen sitting around their open fire, and querulously decrying advanced civilization.
During these one hundred days of the Upanishad Gnana Yagna, we shall be trying to discover the Eternal Happiness and Bliss that is the succulent essence of all true religions. In light of the principles of Truth declared in the Upanishads, we shall be trying to get at the scientific significance of the various practices that are considered part of our religion. In a spirit of communal living for these one hundred days we shall come to discover the science of perfection, the true essence of Hinduism.
Let us know what Hinduism is! Let us take an honest oath for ourselves, not only for our own sake, but for the sake of the entire world:, that we shall, when once we are convinced of the validity of the Eternal Truth, try honestly to live as consistently as possible the values advocated by this ancient and sacred religion.
Let us be Hindus, and thus build up a true Hindustan (Home of the Hindus) peopled with thousands of Shankaras, hundreds of Buddhas, and dozens of Vivekanandas!
Om ! Om ! Om !