Mr. President, Sisters and Brothers:
Generally and especially, among the people of Hindus, hardly one person among a thousand has knowledge and that too limited knowledge about what is God, what is proper protection of values, what is religion and what is the moral order or dharma to be followed. There is nothing more degrading than this state of affairs in a society. What do most of these people think about God? Many think God is also having a human form, that he is also having wife, son, parents, place of residence, properties, pleasures: that God also has marriage, nuptials, bedroom, seemantham (a ceremony when the wife is several months pregnant), childbirth, etc. They think that there are thousands of Gods with thousands of names: and devotion to God means nothing but to perform to the figurine of God abhishekam, offerings, worship, showing lighted camphor or conduct festivals and processions.
Similarly when they think of religion, they think Hinduism is applying on the forehead namam, sacred ash, or sandal paste and categorising each another as high caste and low caste people. They think that conducting festivals, to construct places of rest for those who come to such festivals i.e., construction of mutts, and feeding them is dharma or high moral act. To do these things, they indulge in propagation, perform such activities and spend public money, which they consider as fulfilling and protective.
The basic crime (flaw) in Hindu society—weakness in its foundation itself—is our own perception about God and religion. So long as this understanding or attitude persists, there is no chance for society to be put back on the right track. We must give up the habit of attributing every activity to God’s will, and also to having the crazy, greedy thinking that all our requirements can be had without proper effort by cheating God. God is living in some place with hands, legs, eyes, nose just like a man, if we think of him or prostrate before him, breaking the coconut or offering fruits, food and worship him or giving money to the priest—thinking and doing all these, we feel that we have discharged our duties for having been born as men and that all the mistakes done by us are wiped out. Nothing is more foolish than such acts and thoughts. The reason for people doing so many atrocious things is that they do not understand what God is, and even those who think that they have understood God are under the impression that God would forgive them of all their misdeeds if they worship and ask for excuse. Even among those who think that there is a God and that he is aware of everything, it is very rare to see even one in a thousand leave everything to the will of God. The reason for all these is ignorance about laws that are inimical to nature and incorrect perception about God.
We also find that what is referred to as God’s command differs from place to place and from caste to caste. How, then, can these be respected as God’s command? Similarly acts of sin and good deeds also differ from country to country, religion to religion and caste to caste. Even in our marriages, customs differ in different religions and castes.
Some people marry their father’s elder or younger brother’s daughter. Some marry the daughter of father’s sister or mother’s brother. Some marry anybody without any differentiation.
In the matter of taking food, some think it is sin to eat the flesh of cow. Some think eating the flesh of pig is a sin. Some consider it a sin to partake any form of poultry. Even among the Hindus some say that it is no harm to beat a cow and extract work from it, but it is sin to beat or kill a snake. Some say that no animal should be harmed in any way. Others say that all animals were created just to be consumed by man! What is true in all these? What is God’s orders? How can one come to the conclusion which is sin? If anybody wants to find out by research, the truth about these, he is dubbed as ‘atheist’, non-believer and is told: “Why are you concerned with all these? Just lead a life according to what elders (wise men) had said and had lived.”
If you want to find out who the elders (wise men) are, there is no end to difficulties in coming to a conclusion on that. And if you deeply consider what they said and how they lived, the difficulties and contradictions multiply.
For example, some one will say there is veda and everybody must follow its dictates. “If we ask, what is said in it, can we look into it?” they say, “It contains God’s utterances: it is a sin for you to read and hear it. You just obey what we say.” How many Gods could be there in the world! They say there is only one God. In that case, should it not be accepted as such by people all over the world?
Why then has God not made it acceptable to Christianity and Islam—and all other countries in the world to accept it? Therefore, it is a lie to say that God has said this. If someone has to point this, he would be branded as “Veda Brashta” (outlawed by veda). In this way, in the name of Hindu religion, principles contrary to nature, experience, honesty and transparency are abound and are ruining the edifice of a great society. In the name of protecting and administering this, precious time, intelligence and money are squandered.
A separate God for each religion? Separate God for each caste? Different scriptures for each religion? Different concept of sins and good deeds for each religion? Are there separate worlds for God, heaven and hell? It can never be like that. Just as a child seeing the elders folding their hands and offering worship in a temple, also imitate the same without having anything in mind, without any understanding, so also words like God, religion and dharma have become ingrained in our minds, hearing them many times from others.
Similarly words like bhakti (devotion), service and non-violence are in use without any meaning. If you think about it, the love we show towards our fellow beings is fit to be called devotion to God. Serving them is service to God. Liberating them (from many bonds) is the real liberation or heaven. To show kindness to them and keep them without pain is ahimsa or non-violence. Mere avoidance of meat is not non-violence. Not to harm people who have rationality, not to cause any pain to them, to strive for removing their difficulties and slavish conditions, are acts of non- violence. Not eating meat, but making the bull draw the cart daily with enormous weight and make it suffer is non-violence. Similarly giving, difficulties and inflicting cruelties to other living things in any form is non-violence.
To even see another man is sin; if some people walk on certain streets, it is a sin; saying such things but adorning the forehead with huge vaishnavite mark, wearing the dhoti in a traditional manner and chanting words like “Ram, Ram”, it cannot become an acceptable way and proper devotion.
When people around us, in crores, live without any roof over their heads, cannot afford to have a good meal even once in two days and live in dire penury, will it be dharma or righteousness to construct mutts and choultries (free residential places) for lazy people and prostitutes, or in the name of performing samadharana (holy offer of food), give feast to people who complain that ‘fine varieties are not given, more cashew nuts must have been put in delicious food’, etc.? Instead of having proper perspective, believing in what has been written in obscene writings of selfish people for their selfish interests we waste our money, time and intelligence.
People called Hindus or Hindu Acharyas (religious heads) do not have any worries, lead a life based on these ideas to sustain their lives. Because such behaviour is advantageous to some individuals and some castes or groups, their cunningness to cover up such obscenities and the ignorance of others help them to lead such lives.
If it is said that in our Madras Presidency, in the name of Hindu religious rituals, Hindu religion and in the name of Gods more than ten crores of rupees are annually spent, it is not an exaggeration. That is if you take into consideration the number of pilgrimage centres, the number of propitiating centres, festival centres, the number of festivals, etc. the amount, if calculated, would be many times that of 10 crores. What are the benefits accrued from these?
Our people put with up with such difficulties; incur expenditure just for getting satisfaction derived from blind faith while those groups or communities, which get benefits from such spending live merrily. Look at the enormity of the growth of slavish mentality due to these?
Translated by Prof.T.Marx
(Lecture given at Balya Nadar Sangham, Annual Day at Ezhayiram Pannai, on 16, 17-5-1926. ‘Republic’ ( kudiarasu) 30.5.1926)