Different schools of Hindu philosophy, like Saankhya Yoga, Paasupata and Vaishnava, came into existence to satisfy the needs of varying temperaments and tastes – rucheenaam vaichitryaat, रुचीनाम् वैचित्रयात् - in the words of Pushpadanta. There have also been subsequent religious reform movements. Though the ostensible purpose of those reform movements was to purify Hinduism, in reality, they were movements to defend Hinduism against the attacks of alien religionists. They came into existence because the truths of our religion were not understood by the generality of our people, for lack of presentation in the proper manner. The Brahmo Samaj, the Arya Samaj and the Theosophical Society began with the object of stemming the tide of Christian and Muslim conversions. Seeing that Christian missionaries ridiculed our Karma kaanda practices, the Brahmo Samajists, unable to justify these practices, came to proclaim that the Karma kaanda is no part of real Hinduism. The Arya Samajists went to the extent of saying that the Veda portion alone was valid in Hinduism and nothing else, not even the Upanishads. Both these movements inveighed against idol worship influenced largely by Christian and Muslim criticisms of it.
It was left to Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and Swami Vivekananda to vindicate idol worship; for, they were devotees of the Divine Mother in her manifestation as Kaali (काळि) and had attained their realization through the worship of the Mother in that form. They accepted the authority and the efficacy of the Vedas, the Vedanta, the Smritis and the Puranas in their entirety. Among modern Hindu religious movements, they are the nearest to classical Hinduism, in spite of a few deviations from the orthodox practices of our forefathers. The Theosophists went to the opposite extreme and said that Varna (वर्ण) differences existed even among astral bodies – sookshma sareera. This is not the traditional view. Mahatma Gandhi subscribed fully to all aspects of Hinduism, except untouchability, which he considered a blot on our religion. When one or other aspect of Hinduism is taken out of context by alien religionists and made the target of attack on Hinduism as a whole, reformers, in their anxiety to defend our religion, dubbed those criticized aspects as “weeds” that had grown in our religion.
None of these accommodations and dilutions of Hinduism will be necessary if one understood its principles perfectly. All the difficulties arise on account of the lack of correct comprehension on our part of our Vedic religion as a whole. But from the days of the Brahmo Samaj and Arya Samaj, we have made considerable progress in our understanding of our religion. Faith in our religion has increased and the younger generation is full of good intentions. But they are unable to discipline themselves along the prescribed forms of conduct. Sraddha (श्रध्दा) and tapas (तपस्) are the means by which enlightenment will dawn in our minds and help us to lead our lives in conformity with that enlightenment.
November 21, 1957.