Gandhiji had done a deep study of Hinduism. He was guided by Shrimad Raichand bhai. By his suggestion he read a lot of books. At last he had a strong idea about Hinduism. When a follower asked some questions on Hinduism. Then he wrote an article on it. Which published in Young India on 8.4.1926.
Hinduism is a living organism liable to growth and decay, and subject to the laws of Nature. One and
indivisible at the root, it has grown into a vast tree with innumerable branches. The changes in the seasons affect it. It has its autumn and summer, its winter and spring. The rains nourish and fructify it too. It is and is not based on scriptures. It does not derive its authority from one book. The Gita is universally accepted, but even then it only shows the way. It has hardly any effect on custom. Hinduism is like the Ganges, pure and unsullied at its source, but taking in its course the impurities in the way. Even like the Ganges it is beneficent in its total effect. It takes a provincial form in every province, but the inner substance is retained everywhere. Custom is not religion. Custom may
change, but religion will remain unaltered. Purity of Hinduism depends on the self-restraint of its votaries Whenever their religion has been in danger, the Hindus have undergone rigorous penance, searched the causes of the danger and devised means for combating them. The Shastras are ever growing. The Vedas, Upanishads, Smritis, Puranas and Itihasas did not arise at one and the same time. Each grew out of the necessities of particular periods , and therefore they seem to conflict with one another. These books do not enunciate anew the eternal truths but show how these were practised at the time to which the books belong. A practice which was good enough in a particular period would, if blindly repeated in another, land people into the ‘slough of despond’. Because the practice of animal-sacrifice obtained at one time, shall we revive it today? Because at one time, we used to eat beet shall we also do so now? Because at one time, we used to chop off the hands and the feet
of thieves, shall we revive that barbarity today? Shall we revive polyandry? Shall we revive child-marriages? Because we discarded a section of humanity one day, shall we brand their descendants today as outcastes?
Hinduism abhors stagnation. Knowledge is limitless and so also the application of truth. Every day we add to our knowledge of the power of atman, and we keep on doing so. New experience will teach
us new duties, but truth shall ever be the same. Who has ever known it in its entirety? The Vedas represent the truth, they are infinite. But who has known them in their entirety? What goes today by the name of the Vedas are not even a millionth part of not real Veda—the Book of Knowledge. And who knows the en ire meaning of even the few books that we have? Rather than wade through these infinite complications, our sages taught us to learn one thing:”As with the self, so with the Universe.” It is not possible to scan the universe, as it is to scan the self. Know the self and you know the universe. But even knowledge of the self within presupposes a pure heart, which in its turn depends on the practice of yamas and niyamas1 —the cardinal and casual virtues.
This practice is not possible without God’s grace which presupposes Faith and Devotion. This is why Tulsidas sang of the glory of Ramanama, that is why the author of the Bhagavata taught the wadashamantra (Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya). To my mind he is a sanatani Hindu who can repeat this mantra from the heart. All else is a bottomless pit, as the sage Akho2 has said. But to come to the other part of the letter. The Europeans do study our manners and customs. But theirs is the study of a critic, not the study of a devotee. Their ‘study, cannot teach me religion. Boycott of beef-eaters may have been proper in the past It is improper and impossible today. If you want the so-called
untouchables to give up beet you can do so only by means of love, only by quickening their intellects, not by despising them. Nonviolent efforts to wean them away from their bad habit are going on, but Hinduism does not consist in eating and not-eating. Its kernel consists in right conduct, in correct observance of truth and non-violence. Many a man eating meat, but observing the cardinal virtues of compassion and truth, and living in the fear of God, is a better Hindu than a hypocrite who abstains from meat. And he whose eyes are opened to the truth of the violence in beef-eating or meat-eating and who has therefore rejected them, who loves ‘both man and bird and beast’ worthy of our doration. He has seen and known God; he is His best devotee. He is the teacher of mankind.
Hinduism and all other religions are being weighed in the balance. Eternal truth is one. God also is one. Let every one of us steer clear of conflicting creeds and customs and follow the straight path of truth. Only then shall we be true Hindus. Many styling themselves sanatanis stalk the earth. Who knows how few of them will be chosen by God! God’s grace shall descend on those Who do His
will and wait upon Him, not on those who simply mutter”Ram Ram”.
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