Influences and reasons
Hinduism is the third largest religion in the world after Christianity and Islam. It is also believed to be the oldest living religion (Morgan & Sarma, 1953). Hinduism with its powerful scriptures, laws and philosophies has been accepted as well as criticised by millions. Like every other religion, this one too underwent serious changes and corruption by leaders in power. Hence, it was ultimately subjected to reformation. This short essay aims at analysing the Hinduism Renaissance and few significant questions related to it.
Causes behind Hinduism Renaissance
Hinduism was a religion with high morals and chaste philosophies. But the priest and elite classes did contaminate it with corruption and malpractices, for their own selfish motives. There was freedom of faith and worship (Dogra & Dogra, 2003) in Hinduism but priests made the ignorant common folks follow it with austerity. The Varna System was used to socially categorise people based on their occupation, without any notion of disrespect for any category; it was soon metamorphosed into a system based on birth, rather than occupation, hence making it the root cause of inequality and evil practices in society (Nadkarni, 2003). The elite and priest classes billed themselves as the highest position-holders in the caste hierarchy and initiated the exploitation of those who were kept in the lowest social position. Women, which were once considered to be divine creation, were confined to domestic chores and social malpractices like child marriage and Sati Pratha (burning a widow on dead husband’s pyre).
Hinduism Renaissance aimed at eradicating these evils introduced by corrupted people in power (Bhatt, 2001). It was evidently, a movement to stamp out corruption from religion. But, one of the most important reasons behind this movement was to exalt the status of Hinduism and its authentic philosophies in global scenario because it was being
misunderstood and demeaned by Westerners.
Hinduism Renaissance and Protestant Reformation
Both of these reformations have one reason in common: To get rid of the corruptible influences and move towards an improved and radical religious outlook. The power of certain leaders and priests in Roman Catholic Church too had led to corruption and malpractices in West. Many ecclesiastical rules and rituals were considered to be inappropriate by the Protestant Reformers like Martin Luther, John Wycliffe and Jan Hus (Spitz, 1997). Hence, both the reformations have some similar reasons behind the uproar, like systemic corruption and social malpractices.
Effects on European colonialism on Hinduism
There are two faces of colonialism here- in the religious context. On one hand, many European officials in British India appreciated social reformation and assisted the Indian reformers like Raja Ram Mohan Roy and Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar. On the other hand, the caste system born out of corruption by certain Hindu people in power- it was utilised to the fullest by British in India for their divide and rule policy to spread the colonial wings. It is believed by many that European Colonialism led to misuse of prevailing religious malpractices in India to weaken the social unity (Heath, 2012).
India, a secular state- right or wrong
In a personal opinion, India should be a secular state only. No matter how many arguments are presented in the favour of declaring India as a Hindu state, one cannot deny the fact that it has followers of multifarious religions and cultures living in one society. Minor clashes apart, these religious followers add to the kaleidoscope of Indian diversity. Also, it is always logical to be tolerant and secular, no matter which country it is. It is the country where religions like Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism and Jainism were born. It has to be a secular state always.
The Hinduism-based NRM’s in America
Evidently, there has been an avalanche of New Religious Movements in The United States of America in the recent years. Out of those, there are almost a dozen of NRM’s based on Hindu rituals. Arya Samaj, Brahma Kumaris, Sahaja Yoga, Art of Living Foundation etc. all pertain to Hinduism basically. There are advantages as well as disadvantages of such movements. The brighter side says that it is making more of people inclined towards spiritual enlightenment. The divergence from original Hinduism seems justifiable if it is helping someone understand ways to a simpler and happier living. Ultimately, the goal is to live a productive life. If a NRM fosters spiritual balance in a follower and does not drive the person eccentric in the name of religion, it is acceptable.
The dark side too must be taken into account. The global population is already divided into enough groups and sects with walls etched between them. If such NRM’s add to social inequality and give rise to more and more social imbalance, it is better not to let them breach the perimeter of authentic philosophies. One more con here is the meaningless addition to the already sprawling religious history of world.
In the end, there are four conclusions: The Hinduism Renaissance, like Protestant Reformation was an endeavour for more logical religion. It was also influenced by European Colonialism in India. In spite of all odds, it is best that India chooses to be a secular state. And restricting NRM’s from proliferating is something beyond social control no matter how many pros and cons of it are analysed. But above all, the conclusion should be that every major religion was created to organise people better and help them achieve a spiritual balance. So, instead of illogically judging it by the malpractices introduced by corrupted followers, it is better to have a radical outlook towards it.
- Bhatt, C (2001). Hindu Nationalism: Origins, Ideologies and Modern Myths, Berg Publishers
- Dogra, R.C, Dogra, Urmila (2003). Let's know Hinduism: the oldest religion of infinite adaptability and diversity. Star Publications. p. 5
- Heath, B (2012). The impact of European colonialism on the Indian caste system. Retrieved from Web n 7 July 2013 http://www.e-ir.info/2012/11/26/the-impact-of-european-colonialism-on-the-indian-caste-system/
- Morgan, K. W & Sarma D, S (1953). The Religion of the Hindus.
- Nadkarni, M.V. (2003-11-08). "Is Caste System Intrinsic to Hinduism? Demolishing a Myth". Economic and Political Weekly.
- Spitz, L.W (1997). The Protestant Reformation: Major Documents. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House.