A_Gupta wrote:RRMR wrote about the Hinduism he experienced:From considerations like these it has been that I (although born a Brahmin and instructed in my youth in all the principles of that sect), being thoroughly convinced of the lamentable errors of my countrymen, have been stimulated to employ every means in my power to improve their minds, and lead them to the knowledge of a purer system of morality.
Living constantly amongst Hindoos of different sects and professions, I have had ample opportunity of observing the superstitious puerilities into which they have been thrown by their self-interested guides, who, in defiance of the law as well as of common sense, have succeeded but too well in conducting them to the temple of idolatry; and while they hid from their view the true substance of morality, have infused into their simple hearts a weak attachment for its mere shadow.
For a chief part of the theory and practice of Hindooism, I am sorry to say, is made to consist in the adoption of a peculiar mode of diet; the least aberration from which (even though the conduct of the offender may in other respects be pure and blameless) is not only visited with the severest censure, but actually punished by exclusion from the society of his family and friends. In a word, he is doomed to undergo what is commonly called loss of cast.
On the contrary, the rigid observance of this grand article of Hindoo faith is considered in so high a light as to compensate for every moral defect. Even the most atrocious crimes weigh little or nothing in the balance against the supposed guilt of its violation.
Murder, theft or perjury, though brought home to the party by a judicial sentence, so far from inducing loss of cast, is visited in their society with no peculiar mark of infamy or disgrace.
A trifling present to the Brahmin, commonly called Prayaschit, with the performance of a few idle ceremonies, are held as a sufficient atonement for all these crimes; and the delinquent is at once freed from all temporal inconvenience, as well as all dread of future retribution.
My reflections upon these solemn truths has been most painful for many years. I have never ceased to contemplate with the strongest feelings of regret, the obstinate adherence of my countrymen to their fatal system of idolatry, inducing, for the sake of propitiating their supposed Deities, the violation of every humane and social feeling. And this in various instances; but more especially in the dreadful acts of self-destruction and the immolation of the nearest relations, under the delusion of conforming to sacred religious rites.
I have never ceased, I repeat, to contemplate these practices with the strongest feelings of regret, and to view in them the moral debasement of a race, who I cannot help thinking, are capable of better things; whose susceptibility, patience and mildness of character, render them worthy of a better destiny. Under these impressions, therefore, I have been impelled to lay before them genuine translations of parts of their scripture, which inculcates not only the enlightened worship of one God, but the purest principles of morality, accompanied with such notices as I deemed requisite to oppose the arguments employed by the Brahmins in defence of their beloved system. Most earnestly do I pray that the whole may, sooner or later, prove efficient in producing on the minds of Hindoos in general, a conviction of the rationality of believing in and adoring the Supreme Being only; together with a complete perception and practice of that grand and comprehensive moral principle - Do unto others as ye would be done by.
1. Is RRMR's description of contemporary Hindoos accurate (obsessed with the morality of diet but not of murder, perjury, etc., etc.)?
2. Assuming that the description is correct, is RRMR's diagnosis correct - that this Hindoo degeneration is because of their polytheism and idolatry? That they are misled by Brahmins?
3. Likewise, is RRMR's treatment correct - namely if Hindoos return to a strict monotheism, their morals will improve?
From my perspective, when Arsha Vidya's Dayananda Saraswati said that one does not need any religion to be a good person, it does not seem relevant how many gods you worship or don't worship and what rituals you perform or don't perform. So I don't understand RRMR's diagnosis or treatment. My modern day diagnosis would be that Hindoos at RMRR's time did not understand Shruti or Smriti. On the other hand, my view is no doubt derivable from the changes that RMRR wrought. So I wonder if the Hindoos of RMRR's time would recognize me as a Hindoo, or would straight out "induce a loss of cast".
For that matter, for you Hindoos here -- would your ancestors of the 1800s accept you as you are today, or "induce a loss of cast"? If you answer the latter, then I think criticism of RRMR needs to be more nuanced; you are after all criticizing him as a Hindu, when Hindoos of his day would not recognize you as one, and the only reason you are recognized as a Hindu today is because of the reforms RRMR and others brought about.
"ek ghare" or social outcast used to be the norm for anyone going against orthodoxy. It was draconian. And it took a lot of time to go, part of it was prevalent even 100 or 50 years before. Why go so far, when was untouchability in hindu society completely iradicated?
People going by scripture and "primary sources" are simply not aware of the ground situation that practice is different from written theory.