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periyar 540Generally, the words religion and pathways are taken in good sense, and they were originally brought into existence for the common welfare of the human society.

Religion and Pathways (marga) are for laying down norms for the betterment of human life.

            Just like the members of a library, recreation club or any association, to decide upon the nature and conditions of that particular group’s administrative requirements, frame their rules and regulations, just as people living in a particular area or territory, in order to live together without any obstacles and to avoid giving undesirable hindrances to others, have laws for governing themselves for collective living, similarly religious tenets have been laid down by a leader or a scholar.

            These were also laid down taking into consideration the period, place, the stage of development of the people and other relevant factors. But these doctrines also had the aim of instilling a fear in the people, who could not discern much about the good and evil consequences of many actions, people who were not much developed intellectually, to force them to conform to some norms suited to the creators of such norms, who had no hesitation to use a number of myths for that purpose.

            This is something similar to the action of the parents or guardians, who know that a child cannot protect itself, cannot even follow if correct procedures were explained to him and in order that the child should not go out and face any danger, frighten the child by saying, “If you go out, you will be carried away by ogre (Poochandi)”, “You will be carried away by ghost,”, “A man with the baton will carry you away”, and the like and also grimacing the face in many ways and by gestures indicating horror, so that the child is confused and become frightened not to go out at all. So also, when it was thought that people were not in a position to understand and follow norms and religious practices required for proper living, the “scholars” of that time made people accept certain norms by telling them incomprehensible things and frightening them into submission.

            Those conditions like, threats and regulations are today’s concepts like liberation, hell, Yama, next birth, karma, fate, being squeezed in the mill. Also in similar vein, ideas were implanted in the minds of the people through sastras, puranas, itihasas by insistence of such thinking.

            Not only that. Having said and written many things like the above, knowing that people will not believe if told that these written by so and so, they resorted to saying that these were uttered by God (Bhagawan), Rishis and Munivars (sages and saints) —that is to impress upon common people that these were uttered by people who were far above ordinary human qualities, so that they can be compelled to follow them: also telling them that believers would go to heaven, non-believers would go to hell, will be born as donkeys, etc. Ordinary people who believed them and some pundits who utilised these for leading a comfortable life, gripped them firmly like monkeys. Such was their grip that after quite some time, nothing could be changed or modified taking into consideration the changes in times and development of the people: as a result, new religious appeared to meet such needs, Those religions that adopted modifications according to changed times expanded their base while those stood obstinately without yielding to the times, began to wither away.

Therefore, if any religion based on the above logic accepts modifications based on time, place, attending circumstances, etc. and is amenable to proper changes according to developments of the people and the times, such religion can be accepted by intelligent man.

            On the contrary if it is considered that man must live according to religion instead of understanding that religion has been created to better the worldly life of man, that too, has to be conditioned by changes in the time and growth of intelligence, and if it is further considered that the only duty of man is to protect such religion, and that irrespective of its nature, nobody has a right to be critical of it or modify its tenets; it is the duty of each individual who clamours for human social reforms to destroy such a religion. Religious duties are subject to such duties of general social welfare.

Translated by Prof.T.Marx

(Lecture in Pachaiyappa’s College, Chennai – ‘Republic’ ( kudiarasu) 25.1.1931)

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