HINDUISM AND SOCIAL REFORM.
IF THERE is one religion more than another that cannot be easily defined – it is Hinduism no doubt. There has been a good deal of controversy of late years as to who are Hindus and who are not. Some thinkers have suggested too that the name Hindus should be changed to that of Vedantists or Vydiks.
One thing however is certain that we quite understand who Hindus are and what Hinduism is though we are at a loss to define these terms to the satisfaction of the learned savant. Hindus are those who believe in the Sanatana Dharma, who hold to the Vedas as well as the Agamas the Revelation of God, who know something of the inexorable Law of Karma, who must believe in the Transmigration of Souls and who also in one sense or another believe in the dependence of souls on the absolute Supreme.
Anybody can be a Hindu. The theist, polytheist, pantheist, deist, even atheist are all there. They are one and all tolerated and they each represent a certain development of the mind of man in relation to the origin and source of all existence phenomenal as well as noumenal.
Idolatry may be said to be neither condemned nor upheld since necessity for it is felt in stage of one spiritual development while it is unfelt in another. Symbolism is the feature of almost all religions in the early stages of their growth; and for the most part people have to worship images sometimes of clay and metal and at other times of the mind stuffs. Of course some people need not want these extraneous help to perfect themselves and they are not compelled to any particular mode of worship. For instance Buddha severely left out of account the question of the existence of a personal Deity. Still Buddha is and has been regarded as an avatar by many Hindus. Buddhism is thus considered by the thoughtful Brahmo Samaj movement itself is only one reading of this ancient religion which has well stood its ground in the midst and in spite of all the political and social upheavals that took place in the country for thousands of years. What then is its chief ethical note which has kept this heterogeneous mass intact all this time. "Ahimsa Paramo Dharmaha" is the key note of all its ethical books and teachings. 'That one should refrain from doing any injury to any creature we have almost imbibed with our very existence. Viewed from this standpoint the position of the reformers is clear enough. They saw the sufferings of the child - wife or the virgin – widow. They saw the former subjected to the strain of child-bearing and the responsibilities of nursing almost before she had herself ceased to be a child. They saw the latter condemned to the life of penance and peril of a widow even before she had become a wife. They recognized the evil, realized the injustice, they resented the wrong and rose up in arms against these unjust and injurious social institutions. They saw the evil of the present system of caste, they recognized the obstacle that it places in the way of social progress by seeking to regulate the distribution of the different functions to regulate the distribution of the different functions of social life among the members of the community not by the natural law of capacity and competence but by the fortuitous conditions of birth and lineage only, and they rebelled against these. We might dig deeper and expose other evils of a like nature but we shall stop here for the present. They have as shown above been demanding all these years a recasting of these old and injurious arrangements. Andy why not!
Or friends may not have accomplished much but we should remember they are as much concerned with a speedy cure of the malady as an accurate diagnosis of it. At all events we don't understand the cant of some people who imagine that Hinduism does not and cannot tolerate Social reform. There is nothing whatever in our religious books which discountenances Reform and such an idea wherever entertained should be religiously discouraged.
We can never become Spiritual giants or even for that matter intellectually great unless and until our social disabilities are altogether removed.