The reason why I have been often talking about religion is that during the time I have devoted for social welfare, I have learnt that human progress is obstructed only by the activities carried on, in the name of religion. It is said that everyone must have a religion. If that is right the religion to which a man belongs must be able to bring him some practical benefits.
But, what we find in our country is that, a man is bound to follow the conventions of his religion though that religion may be utterly useless to him in practical life All religions including Parseism, Christianity, Islam, Saivaism, Vaishnavism and others subject their followers to some restrictions.
The followers of different religions, whom I have met have all spoken about the compulsive rules and regulations of their respective religions; none of them has spoken about how he follows the moral principles of his religion. No religion advises followers to conduct themselves truthfully to the best of their knowledge.
The people are only told that entertaining any thought against the principles of their religion is sinful. Expressing such a thought is irreligious and making any attempt to get doubts clarified is atheistical. Therefore, a religion that allows its followers to conduct themselves according to the level of their understanding and their natural tendencies is very rare in the world.
In fact, very few people understand the nature of their religion and the need for it. Those who follow a religion blindly because it is ancient and their ancestors followed it are in the majority.
These people are totally ignorant of the implications of their religious practices and of the restrictions that are imposed on them. They do not try to understand the truth about their religion but try to justify their attitude saying that they must follow the practice of their elders otherwise they would be committing a sin.
The purpose for which religions claim to serve does not appear to be served at all. Asking a man, “What is your religion?” has become a formal question like, “Do you have your wife and children at home? or What is your educational qualification?”
If we ask ourselves, “Why do we have religion? When did it arise? Is it permanent or frequently changeable or is it something which can be newly organised?” and think deeply about these questions, it will be clear to us that like everything else in the world, Religion or one’s religious attitude is changeable.
It cannot be said that a man’s involvement in a particular religion is something permanent and that it cannot and should not change. According to the changing tunes, some principles of social life are evolved to enable people to live together and some people compel others to follow those principles which are conveniently called religious tenets.
This evolved ‘religion’ and is supported by concocted evidence and miracles. They might have been totally trusted in the past. The ‘religious’ people of today do not care to examine whether the principles evolved in the past suit the present time.
In connection with each religion many entities like god, the incarnation of god and the messenger of god are mentioned. If we are told that all these were necessitated by the primitive nature of ancient society, we may accept the statement.
But the continuation of that tendency in far worse forms and saying that god appeared in the world in human form and said this and that and that Azhawars, Acharvas and Nayanmars came into the world, performed many miracles and taught us this and that, causes a lot of trouble and difficulties to us and in addition makes people utterly stupid.
My final stand is this for a man who aims at being serviceable to others without causing any inconvenience to them, religion is not necessary and he does not need the son of god, Nabi, Azhwars, Acharyars, Nayarmars, their sanctity and their miracles. I don’t think that at present, there is any religion which advocates social service.
If anybody makes a deep search into old records and says that service mindedness is advocated in them, I will only say that they are quoting from moth-eaten records and that no religion or community lays emphasis on service to others. Inspite of there being so many religions and branch religions, none of them helps a man to live a happy and useful life; one who wishes to lead such a life will have to find some other means to help him. Unless this awareness comes to all people in a society, it will be difficult for them to live with mutual kindness and independence
We find new religions and new interpretations for the ancient religions coming up at frequent intervals and countless discourses on these are going on endlessly, but nobody seems, to devote time to consider how our society should be constituted and how far these religions and their interpretations will help our society. Thousands of people might have written about thousands of principles based on religions: we are not bothered about them.
We can accept as a good and truthful principle only that which is practicable and useful. The principles and restrictions which are imposed on people in the name of Siva, Vishnu, Jesus, Nabi, Buddha, a rishi or Manu, but which are difficult to practise in everyday life, are not going to benefit the world at any time.
Any religion which preaches doctrines which are contrary to human nature should be discarded. The problems and difficulties which human society is subjected to, in the name of virtue, sin, religion and moral principles, are countless. I will firmly declare that all the injustices and anti social activities found in the world take place only in the name of religion and god.
Puranas and epics have recorded that religions and gods permit theft, debauchery, falsehood, murders. Drinking and living lazy lives, exploiting the labour of others. They have also recorded that god has approved of these weaknesses and that he has also indulged in to them.
In the name of religion, are there not dirty fictitious stories, supposed to be based on the puranas and the Vedas which depict some gods as finding pleasure in drinking, indulging in debauchery and theft and living in comfort by torturing the poor? People will find comfort and happiness only when such useless religions and gods are rid of.
Men will get such a thought only when they develop the courage to find happiness by getting rid of the obstacles. But before men develop such a thought, many restrictions and obstacles tempt them away from such an aptitude. If men are to succeed in finding happiness, they should refuse to be bound by any kind of restrictions and should be prepared to rebel smashing all obstacles.
Men should aim at finding happiness for themselves and at the same time help their neighbours and avoid subjecting them to hardships. Further, the religions which are designed to enable small groups of people to exploit and deceive the rest of the population through religious compulsion and restrictions should be buried deep in to the earth. The books which are supposed to support these exploiters should be set to flames and the ashes should be thrown into the sea.
Some people will be unhappy at what I say about religion. They will be unhappy because they have got used to looking at everything from the angle of the Hindu religious principles which aim at deceiving and cheating the common people. I am not bothered about anybody who is attached to any religion.
But those who are attached to any religion must answer an important question. “How has this religion benefited this country and mankind in general?” Lazy people may be singing proudly that life starts from the grass level, then the plant level is reached and after that come the animal level and then the human life and that when man reaches a higher level, he is near god.
The stupid people may believe that a few men live as Azhvars and Nayanmars. It is said that man has a higher level of intellect than other beings, but we actually find the intellectual level of most men lower than that of non human creatures. In addition, they have their sufferings and difficulties.
If the intellectual level of human beings had been the same as that of other creatures perhaps they would not have realized their difficulties as difficulties. There is no religion which teaches man to realize his real condition or to live a contended life serving his neighbours. For those who do not reach this level of understanding will be forced to live a life of continuous dangers and sufferings, like worms and insects.
All religions, including Hinduism are replete with conditions and restrictions which will ruin a country or a society. Actually, the Hindu religion and the principles associated with it are worse than other religions and their principles, in deceiving man and subjecting him to all kinds of restrictions and compulsions.
The principles of Buddhism are reputed to be better in a way than those of other religions. They are said to be broad and liberal, conforming to human nature and experience. These remarks should not be taken to be based on deep investigation on my part. Generally people associate many good things with Buddhism and that has enabled me to form a good impression of this religion.
We have to necessarily find out; “why the big religions of the world have not prepared the people to observe high principles in everyday life?” If we ask, why the majority of the people have not accepted a particular religion which is claimed to satisfy one’s intellect and experience, the advocates of that religion reply, “The cunning schemes of enemies is responsible for this.”
The supporters of all religions speak only like this. If we look for a religion which has entered the lives of people and shaped them perfectly, we find that there is no such religion. None of the activities carried on in the name of religion helps to change people to be really human.
Therefore, it would be advisable to embark earnestly on the humanising project and evolve principles which people can easily practise and in which fact, they will be obliged to practise in everyday life. In order to succeed in this effort, we have to identify the practices and theories which obstruct the humanising project, firmly get rid of them and clear the way for the development of basic human qualities in men and women.
Success in this work will make all people in the world free and happy. There is no religion called Hinduism – this is the conclusion to which my thinking powers have enabled me to come. But, some people say that Hinduism comprises many religions like Saivaism, Vaishnavism and others. I don’t think that it is true. The two religions Saivaism and Vaishnavism which together bear the common name of Hinduism, have been raised on untruths.
It is said that there is evidence to show by whom Islam and Christianity were started and when they were started. But there is no evidence about who started Saivaism and Vaishnavism and when they were started. These two religions have developed out of the ignorance of people and actually prevent the people from being united.
I have been observing the views and explanations given by people belonging to these two religions. Our big society is disunited and is subjected to many hardships because of these religions. People sink into the depths of ignorance because of the pretentious and false nature of religions.
Though people in some parts of this country are highly civilized and rich, the people in general, are only at a sub-human level because of the untrue nature of religion. We may not be able to overcome big obstacles, but we must try to get rid of the petty obstacles. Mahatma Gandhi toured through the country widely in order to establish brotherhood and equality among the people, but finally he left them in a helpless state and the people felt as if they were chained and thrown into a ditch.
By the recent changes brought about by him he has done great harm to the world. Though Ramanujar is said to have worked hard to establish equality among the people, his religion has introduced differences among people who were living on terms of equality. Though Sankaracharya stated that there is no difference between one man and another, actually he created large differences among people and ruined their lives.
In this way, other religious leaders and religious teachers have led people only towards confusion. If we analyse the Hindu religion and subject it to close scrutiny, we can understand clearly that difficulties and nasty situations have multiplied in its name and that it has actually subjected the people to great hardships and disgrace.
Therefore there is no need for any new religion or principles. In the principles and practices now in vogue, whatever is contrary to nature, our experiences and also against human qualities must be got rid of. It is foolish to think that in order to achieve all this, some gifted person is going to be born. Everyone should realize that he has got the liberty to smash undesirable practices.
( A translation from Kudi Arasu, 15th April 1928 by
Thiru R.Sundara Raju and published in the book
‘Religion and Society’)